Head Coach Brian Daboll
Q: This is your first gig in the NFL as a head coach. Can you talk about your experience so far in the first few months, has there been any surprises? Basically, can you talk about what it's been like to be a head coach for the past few months.
A: Yeah, just part of the organization, just like everybody else. Obviously, you have some more responsibility in your role with different organizational things, structuring, scheduling, those types of things. You have to stay ahead just like you did when you were a coordinator. But today was a good start. You know, we had our first team meeting and then we split up offensively and the defensive players worked out and then the defense is just finishing up right now and I had a chance to go in everybody's meeting room and kind of talk to them about expectations and standards and get to know them a little bit. It's been a good start. We've been busy.
Q: Are you happy with the attendance of the players that showed up today?
A: Yeah, we've had good attendance. Obviously, everything's voluntary, we understand that. But there was a packed house.
Q: What do you think overall about the make-up of your team? Obviously, you haven't done a lot of things yet and I'm not asking for a prediction, but just an overall feel for this roster.
A: Yeah. I think you just said it, you answered your question. We haven't done a whole lot yet. This is the first day where we're all back in the building and can get to know one another. I mean, there's a lot of things that we have to install in terms of schematics. But we also have to talk about expectations and standards and get to know one another. There's a little over five months until we end up playing and a few months before training camp starts. So, this is really just the foundational piece to a long year ahead. We just try to get better each day and do the things that we need to do. Can't look too far down the road on this thing, it'll get you pretty quick.
Q: I don't think we're speaking to you before the draft, so I wanted to ask you this. I know the answer is probably both, but when you're evaluating offensive tackles, is it more important to you to have a guy who's a great pass protector or run blocker? Is it one of those you find easier to develop at this level?
A: Yeah, I think – that's a good question. I think depending on where they come from and what they've been asked to do, that's usually where their strengths lie for the most part. There are some teams in college that are very pass heavy. There are some teams in college that only get into a two-point stance. There are other teams that decide that they choose to run the football. Look, the job of an offensive lineman, particularly for our tackles, is going to be to be able to keep the width of the pocket, protect them inside out and get movement at the line of scrimmage. Those are the two main things we look for in our offensive linemen and that's what we're going to continue to look for. I don't think there's…some guys are better at one than the other thing, but at the end of the day, they have to be able to do both to be an effective player for us.
Q: I got a question for you about the pro days. It doesn't seem like you've been at any of them. Why? It seems like your assistant coaches are going, not just the scouts. What's that like, do they ask you to go, do they ask the scouts? Why is it important for assistants to go and why haven't you been at any?
A: Yeah, I think it is important for our coaches to go, whether that's a pro day or an individual workout, whatever that may be. There are also other methods of evaluations with the Zooms and things like that. Try to get as many eyes on the players as we can. I've had quite a bit of things on my plate relative to getting things prepared to get going here at the start of phase one, and phase two. They film them all. I watch all of them along with the Senior Bowl stuff or any all-star games, the tape they've been in. I think we have a good process of how we've been doing things up to this point. These next few weeks will be critical to dig in a little bit deeper. Plus, the visits are going to start happening.
Q: You talk about how full your plate has been. I'm curious, how have you managed the idea of splitting your time between everything you need to get going with your coaches, I would imagine the playbooks, I mean, you haven't installed yet with the players, but I would think you want to do that, and then obviously the draft now is going to kick into another gear going forward.
A: I think that we've done a good job in terms of scheduling, how we meet, when the defense is meeting, and the offense is meeting, and I'll try to pop into those rooms the best I can along with the kicking game. I'd say, you know, another thing with the coaches being out on the road and we've had considerable out on the road, that's given me some time to just sit in my office and dig in on these college guys and watch tape and catch up in that regard. But I think it's time management and you hire good people to do their job. And then you make a schedule to try to accommodate the things you need to accommodate to get your work done.
Q: Did (Cornerback) James Bradberry report today and can you kind of update us of what the status is on a stance with the team right now?
A: Yeah, I know we talked about that a few days ago. I'd say we had good attendance and I understand the question, I'm not going to get into who was, who wasn't, I'd just say we've had good attendance and I told the guys how much I appreciate that, knowing that it's all voluntary.
Q: To jump off that, for guys that don't show up since you're installing a new program, will they fall behind the eight ball by not being there? Do you view it as a negative if they're not here today?
A: No, I view it as it's voluntary. The guys that are here, we're going to work with, with the time allowed that we can work with them. When the other players are able to come in, you know, there's a variety of reasons here – we're on April 4th – but we'll work with them and catch them up as best we can.
Q: You talked about expectations and standards. What are they and how did you outline those to the players?
A: To try to win each day. Look, we're not playing for five months. Improve from one day to the next, talked about some of the attire and the dress that I expect them to wear in the meeting rooms, team first attitude, be a pro, which there's a lot that goes into that in terms of accountability, dependability, resiliency, didn't get too far ahead of things. I'd say it was a 20-minute meeting to start out, and I'd say 10 minutes of those 20 minutes I let other people speak – trainers, strength coaches. It was a good introductory meeting.
Q: Was that a big moment for you? You've been waiting 20 years to get in front of your own team.
A: Yeah, 25 (years). It was exciting for me, but again, I know we're on April 4th here, so let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. Let's do what we can do. We have two weeks here for phase one and let's have a good phase one.
Q: When you said you're digging into these guys, these prospects, how good do you think you are at evaluating players? I mean, coaches have to do a lot of things on the field, hands on, but you know, you're not a scout. Do you feel really confident in your ability to watch this tape and say, look, that's a guy I want, that's a guy I don't want, this guy will fit, this guy won't fit?
A: Look, I've been coaching or evaluating players for a long time and, you know, you're going to have some hits and you're going to have some misses. I've learned that along the way. But I think you understand what you're looking for and the positions that you're looking at and you try to take what they've done, whether that be in college or the all-star games, the combine, the pro days, there's a lot of things to evaluate. At the end of the day, you kind of look at the player, you know the strengths and the weaknesses, the way you see it, and you give an honest evaluation of what he can do. There have been plenty of guys that I've evaluated along the way, whether that be college players or free agents that we've hit on. And obviously there are some that you don't hit on, but you do your due diligence and you explain what you see. We know what we're looking for in terms of the positions, whether that be in the kicking game, offense or defense.
Q: During this phase of the offseason, how much time do you expect to spend in the quarterback room? Will you be in there a lot and or will you leave that to (Offensive Coordinator) Mike (Kafka) and (Quarterbacks Coach) Shea (Tierney)?
A: No, I'll be in there. Today I was in every meeting room. We started out together as a team and, like I said, that went about 20 minutes. Then the offense met when the defense lifted, and Mike kept the offense in the offensive room and met with them and I stayed in the offensive room. Then when they broke and went into individual meetings, I went to each individual group and sat in their meetings for about five minutes. Then when (Defensive Coordinator) Wink (Martindale) came over and did the defense, I stayed in the defensive room, said a few things in the defensive room. Then when they split up individually, I went into all the meeting rooms today. Again, I'm still trying to get to know these guys. It's the first day, you're talking about some base stuff, but as we get more into the playbooks, I'm going to be really in every room as much as I can be. But the quarterbacks, I'll certainly be in there, yes.
Q: You look at the receiving corps last year, neither (Wide Receiver) Kenny Golladay nor (Wide Receiver) Kadarius Toney scored a touchdown. You guys only had three touchdowns caught by receivers. What are you hoping to see from that group as this offseason program goes along and how do you get more out of them this season?
A: Yeah, see if they can learn our installs and pick up our stuff and play fast. Look, the receiver position, or I'd say the offensive position that catches passes, it can be a variety of people – you can line them up in different spots. I think the biggest thing that you can do as that skill type of pass catcher is really see the game through the quarterback's eyes. We have a lot of different route adjustments and things like that, and that's going to be an important part for those players to get on the same page with the quarterbacks and vice versa. That's the only way the pass game works.
Q: You mentioned there's an attire and dress code for meeting rooms. I'm curious what that is? I thought you were pretty casual on the dress inside the building.
A: Yeah, it's casual.
Q: That's the dress code?
A: Yeah, they wear Giants gear when we get in here, whether that may be…
Q: So that's kind of what you're referring to?
A: Yeah. It's not like you're going to a private high school and having to wear a tie and stuff like that. It's come in…
Q: You were the one that mentioned that you had a dress code for the players.
A: Yeah. It's really dress code – wear Giants gear, come in ready to go.
Q: Last year Kadarius Toney wasn't really in the building for the spring, then he got injured. It was almost like he was sort of chasing the whole season. I'm wondering how big an offseason is this for him considering everything with kind of how it went last year with what you heard or have seen so far?
A: Yeah. I'd say this really with every player, it's a clean slate. There's a lot of information right now to consume for these players once we get through the introductions and the standards and the things like that, in terms of playbook wise. So, each person's going to be responsible to make sure that they're on top of the information, the coaches are here to help them and then we'll have a good spring there in terms of the weights. Then when we can get out on the field, keep it going from there.
Q: Looking ahead to the draft, I know that ideally you want to go into any draft and just take the best player available, the next guy on your board, but being in this situation you're in with no more cap room with some seemingly obvious starting jobs and holes to fill, does that change your approach at all knowing that there might be a situation where you have to come out of this draft with starters at a couple of positions? Does that change your planning or your approach at all when you go into those meetings?
A: Ideally, we're going to try to select the best player available. We're going to start our meetings with the scouts here toward the end of the week with the coaches' evaluations and the rankings of the players the way we see it and sit down with the scouting department and (General Manager) Joe (Schoen) and their staff and talk about it. At the end of the day, you set the board and we've always said let's draft the best available player. Let's not reach for a position just because it's a position of need to build our roster. When those two match, a position of need and the best available player, that's what we're looking for.
Q: In the last three months have you guys gone over with the training staff – last year you were pretty decimated by injuries. I mean, have you guys taken a novel approach to try and avoid injuries this year? Or how are you handling that?
A: Yeah, we've had plenty of meetings on that. Look, we're going to do whatever we can do as a coaching staff and as an organization to help that – whether that be soft tissue injuries, whatever that is, that's what our job is to help the players in that regard. But we've had plenty of meetings in that regard. Went back the last few years and took a look at it. You look at how you schedule practice, how you ramp guys up when they get here for phase one, to phase two, the hydration portion of it, the teaching aspect of it, we've looked at really all the areas that encompass injuries. You're never guaranteed, but we're certainly going to try our best to make sure that our players are as healthy as they can be for us on Sundays.
Q: A lot of coaches come in, they have an idea of how they want to run their program and they kind of stick to it. I'm wondering how flexible are you with adjusting your program and are you talking major changes if something changes, like let's say your roster gets decimated by injuries, how flexible are you to change your program as you go along in this as your first year? Are you going to stick to a template?
A: No, I think you have to be flexible really in every aspect of this job, because there are going to be things that pop up that you're not anticipating. It's no different than game planning for an opponent week to week. Those things change. I think you have to have flexibility in the job that I'm in right now. How many people are hurt at the secondary position versus how much we ran with the GPS at the receivers. I think you have to really take a day-to-day approach and evaluate where you're at and do the best thing for your players.
Q: Regarding (Quarterback) Daniel Jones, what is your checklist for him this spring? I guess if you could just cite a few specific things that you're looking to get out of him, obviously these are not going to be contact practices, but as he learns the offense and you get a chance to see him kind of live on the field, what are the particular things you're looking for him to accomplish this spring?
A: Yeah, I've answered this really the same way the last four years with (Bills Quarterback) Josh (Allen), it's an all-encompassing job. It starts with you just being able to communicate effectively in the huddle or run the no-huddle operation well. Really get to know your players and the body languages of each player, receiver, or the things that we're asking him to do. Have some input on what he likes and doesn't like, and then ultimately evaluate his decision making and try to put him in as many different situations as we can to teach him off of the situations that we can learn from and hopefully he can retain that as we're playing. Look, it might not come up until Week 3 of the season, but you're trying to hit all those things for the quarterback to make sure that he's on point in that regard.
Q: I wanted to ask about the (Cornerback) Adoree' Jackson restructure, why did you guys go to that kind of move so quickly and does it reflect that you view him as a foundational piece of your program?
A: Yeah, I think Adoree', I got a chance to talk with him one time within the past month just saying hello and introducing myself. I think he's a good player for us and you know, the restructures and all of that stuff, I think that's probably a better question for Joe (Schoen). I'm just happy he's here, he's energetic, it was good being around him this morning.
Quarterback Daniel Jones
Q: What does it mean that the team has made a strong commitment to you for this season and that they believe in you? What's your overall reaction.
A: I'm excited to get going here and I appreciate the support. It's my job to do my role, prepare this team, prepare myself, play as well as I can, and put the team in a position to win games. So, I take that responsibility very seriously and that's what I'm focused on.
Q: And are you focused just on the present or thinking about a contract in the future?
A: Yeah, I think we've got new coaches, we've got new teammates and there's certainly plenty to focus on right now and work to prepare and take advantage of each day. Right now, we're preparing for training camp and that's what we're focusing on. That's certainly what I'm focusing on right now is the present, making sure we have the best workouts and OTAs as we can.
Q: "We've done everything we can to screw this kid up since he's been here." That was the quote of the off-season so far from John Mara. What did you think when you heard that, had you heard that before, and do you agree with it?
A: As I said, my focus is on preparing myself, and I take full responsibility for how I've played, and we haven't won enough games. We haven't scored enough points. We haven't done things well enough. I take responsibility for that. As a quarterback, you play a big role in those things. So, that's what I'm focused on. I'm working on improving and making sure that myself as well as the offense, as well as the team, is ready to go and we're improving daily.
Q: Do you think that the new coach and coordinator who have come in can help you get back to the level that you want to be at?
A: Yeah, I think so. We're still pretty early on. We're a day into this offseason stuff. There's a lot of learning. There's, like I said, meeting people and getting on the same page, but I'm excited. I'm excited to learn it, excited to work with everyone here and I'm looking forward to all of it.
Q: Daniel, did you think it was the right decision to clean house and fire the last coaching staff?
A: None of those decisions are on my plate. My job is to play quarterback and play well and like I said, lead the offense. That's not my job or my responsibility to evaluate those kinds of decisions or really worry about that. As I said, my focus is now and the present and what we're doing to improve every day here.
Q: Is there any doubt in your mind that you'll be healthy for the start of week one?
A: No. I'm feeling good and ready to go.
Q: This is your third offense now, new offense. Your predecessor, Eli Manning, was in one offense for a decade and a half. How challenging, difficult, and exciting is that for you? Everyone says continuity is very important. The second year in an offense is better than the first year, and you have not had that luxury. What do you think of this playbook?
A: I think it's great. I think it's a tremendous opportunity for me to learn a lot of different ways to do it and to see a lot of approaches. You know you can pick up things from each system, but obviously this system has had a ton of success. They had a ton of success in Buffalo with it and there's a reason. So, I'm looking forward to finding out what those reasons are, learning the offense, and then building it around what we do well as a team with the guys we got here. That's what's exciting to me. I think it's an awesome opportunity for all of us here.
Q: You're just getting the first chapter of a book here. Is there anything you can look at right away and say, I like this, I think this is going to work for me?
A: Yeah, I think as you said, we're one day into it. We've had a couple of hours of meetings and, you know, most of that's introductory information. We're pretty early on, but you see things, you know when you're watching film of other teams and watching games on TV, and as I said, the system has a lot and can do a lot of different things. That's what's exciting to me and I'm looking forward to learning.
Q: When they put this coaching staff together, did you take it upon yourself to go back and break down the Bills offense, maybe take a look at what the Chiefs did with [Offensive Coordinator] Mike [Kafka] there, just from that perspective for what's available to you, did you kind of look at what's happened in different spots?
A: Yeah, I did. You know watching a lot of those playoff games for both those teams and you try to watch and pick up little things, but until you're really in the system, learning from the coaches and hearing them talk it through. We're not quite there yet, so I'm looking forward to that piece of it. Like you all see, like everyone sees, these offenses have scored a lot of points, created a lot of explosive plays, and had a lot of success. Dabs has said, we'll build it around the people here, the skill guys we got and what they do well, and the offense in general. I'm looking forward to that and looking forward to getting going.
Q: I was wondering what was your reaction when they brought Tyrod Taylor in and have you had a chance to interact with him much and how do you see that relationship between you guys growing?
A: Yeah, I'm excited. He's a guy with a lot of experience in this league. He's played at a high level in this league for a long time. I'm looking forward to learning from him and working with him. I talked to him when he signed and here today again, so looking forward to continuing to build that relationship. I think that'll be great for both of us, great for our offense, and great for our team. [I'm] looking forward to having him.
Q: Have you had conversations about that fifth-year option and how do you feel about that as that decision is looming with the deadline in May?
A: There'll be a time and place for those conversations, so we'll see. We'll take care of that. We'll do that when it comes up, but I'm focused on what we're doing here; preparing and taking advantage of every day we have here together.
Q: You said you're feeling good and ready to go. Does that mean you've been cleared? I know there's no contact until August, but have you gotten word from the doctors that you'll be cleared to play whenever the time comes?
A: Yeah, I'll be cleared and ready to go.
Q: You talked about looking at the Chiefs' offense and the Bills' offense. When you look at those, do you sit there and go I'm Daniel Jones? I have to be myself when I run those offenses and not Josh Allen or Patrick Mahomes.
A: I think as a player you never want to be in a situation where you're trying to be someone else or you're doing things that aren't you, or you're comparing yourself in certain situations. I think any player at any position in any sport, I think that's when you get into trouble. So, I think there are things you can pick up. Obviously, there are things that those two guys have done really well to help their teams be successful these past few years. So, studying those things and more just looking at the system, something Dabs just talks about a lot, like I said earlier, building it around what we have here and our guys and what we do well as a group. I think as we get going that'll be a big part of this spring and on into training camp.
Linebacker Blake Martinez
Q: Before we talk about the future, I just want to ask what you thought of the organization's decision to fire the last staff. You had the relationship with (Former Defensive Coordinator) Patrick Graham coming in and were a captain with them. So just wondering what you thought of them, that whole decision, whether it was the right one.
A: Yeah, I think for me, I'm just a player. I don't get to be in those decisions. For me, it's just one of the things about the business. I learned that early on in my career. Obviously great relationships, like you, said, with all those guys, I will continue to have great relationships with them and now it's moving forward and I'm excited for OTAs.
Q: Just curious for an update on your timeline with your injury. Do you have a target date you can get back to a hundred percent on the field?
A: Yeah, for me right now, it's just focusing day by day, trying to get each checkpoint, doing the things the trainers have me doing for rehab and then all of the strength staff, what they have me doing in the weight room. All I can say is it's going well and just excited to keep chopping wood and make that progress.
Q: There's a lot of talk from other players from other teams about the MetLife turf. When you look back at your injury, is that something you wondered? Was it something to do with the turf? Is that something you can diagnose or figure out after the fact?
A: Not too much. I think for me, I think it was more my cleats. I wore those I think a little bit too long and my foot was sliding in it. So, I just planted awkwardly with the kind of worn-out cleats and it caused it to kind of happen.
Q: I was wondering what you think about going into (Defensive Coordinator) Wink Martindale's defense, obviously he's known for being pretty blitz-happy. I'm just curious if you're excited about the prospect of getting at the quarterback a little more?
A: Oh yeah. Everyone loves to make sacks, and make big plays. Super excited. Wink, it's the first day with him today, just being able to see the culture and his mindset and just the way he kind of commands the room. I think it was just a great start to OTAs today and kind of, as I said before, just excited moving forward with it.
Q: Obviously you had to restructure your contract here to come back. Can you take me through that process? Were you insulted by that? Did you feel that it was part of the business? Did you consider saying no and maybe taking your shot in free agency? How did that go?
A: I mean, it was definitely a difficult decision. But I think for me, it all came down to my family. I think being able to have the structure and the ability to have my daughters in the schools they're in and have that situation handled. I just love playing football and I knew what the coaches brought here from my time being rehabbing here and those types of things and then interactions. I just felt confident knowing that I can go out there and prove the type of player I am coming back from my injury.
Q: You had such a good relationship with Patrick Graham, are you concerned or excited about being able to do that with Wink? Do you think Wink wants that from you? How does that new dynamic happen, and you've got to also rehab and prove you can do all the things on the field that they would want you to?
A: No, 100%. I think that's the part that came into my decision as well. I think for me, I always wanted to be the person that thrives in the uncomfortable because I could have possibly easily left and gone somewhere that's comfortable and those types of things, people I knew or people that I played with before. But being able to go here and come back from my knee injury, go show Wink, and as you said, build that relationship with him throughout training camp, all the process, OTAs, and everything is I think going to be that much more rewarding when it happens.
Q: They obviously asked you to take a pay cut, but did they also tell you that, 'We think you can lead our defense,' was there that give and take? Or was it kind of like, well we'll wait to see?
A: I think their big motto is that obviously, they wanted me to stay here. I think it was mutual on both sides and I think for them, they just basically told me, hey, everyone's going to earn their spot. Obviously, you're coming back from a knee injury, coming out here and showing us that you could be the Blake that you were before is obviously what we're looking for.
Q: You talked about being able to get back to being the Blake Martinez you were before, how difficult a challenge is that for you? I mean you're in a year where, as you alluded to, you've got to prove yourself to a new coaching staff, to maybe earn a new contract in the future. At the same time, you have to get healthy first to do any of that. How big of a challenge is that that you're facing this season?
A: Yeah, I think for me, it's part of the business and I know for myself what I've accomplished through my six years going on my seventh year, I always have to take a step back and look at those things. I think for me, it's just taking it one step at a time and not getting ahead of myself. I think just going through the process of rehabbing my knee, doing the things I need to do, and taking each checkpoint in open strides, I'm going to be able to be happy with what I'm turning myself into regardless of the Blake of the old or this new Blake that I'm forming right now.
Q: You renegotiated, (Wide Receiver Sterling) Shep renegotiated, (Cornerback) Adoree' (Jackson) renegotiated, (Safety) Logan Ryan was let go, (Cornerback) James (Bradberry) looks like he's being shopped around. I mean, when you look at all of this, is there a reason to be excited about the prospect of this year based on what's gone on in the last five?
A: I mean, that's one of the things it's just, you can't look at one thing similar to the other and you can't dwell on the past going into the future. I think for us as a team, we're all excited with the coaching staff that's come in. Obviously, we got to have our actual football moments today on the first day. You could just see the excitement, the enthusiasm, the want to just make us better to be a better team. I think that's what kind of every single person's going to go off of is that everyday instance. Then obviously when the season comes around, everyone wants to win and that's what it comes down to. And when those things happen, everything else is going to line up in the right direction.
Safety Xavier McKinney
Q: Your third year in the NFL is your first actual offseason training program because of the pandemic and everything and it's probably your first time to see the Giants facility where the field house is the field house, and the weight room is the weight room and all that. What's it like being there and coming back this week?
A: Man, it's different, but I love the energy. I feel like it's a whole new energy, a whole different energy. It's really up right now and I'm sure it will continue to be that way, but I love it. Obviously, I haven't gotten to see a lot of stuff. Like I didn't even know where the position rooms were. So that was new for me, but I like being back how it should have been and being back to normal.
Q: I would imagine you looked at a lot of Baltimore Ravens defense. How excited are you to be in (Defensive Coordinator) Wink's (Martindale) system?
A: I think I'm really excited for it, I think we all are as a defense, just coming into it knowing it's going to be something new, knowing that it's an aggressive play style. We'll all be prepared, and we'll be ready for the challenge, but I think it'll be really fun being in this new defense.
Q: What was your reaction to (Safety) Logan Ryan's release?
A: That's my guy. We had conversations, we talked, and you know, it sucked. I've actually seen a lot of different things throughout my two years. I was actually talking to (Cornerback James Bradberry) JB a day ago and I told him these two yearsm, it has felt like I've been in the league for six years, just with all the COVID stuff and just the staff movements and things going around in the organization. But like I said, I talked with him and that's my guy and you know, we're brothers, but I was happy for him with whatever he was going to do, and he's at the Bucs now. I'll keep it at that.
Q: Does it put more on your shoulders to step into that leadership role? He was obviously a big leader, does it put more on your plate to step into that void?
A: Yeah, my goal has always been the same from day one. I've always wanted to be and was going to be a leader, that has not changed no matter who's here, who's not here. So that's how I see it and that's how I go with it.
Q: You mentioned Bradberry. I'm curious, obviously there's a lot going on with him, how much do you guys need him here as a top corner in this league? How much do you guys want him to be here? You already lost Logan. I can imagine how you guys would feel about losing another top player in your secondary…
A: Yeah, those are my guys. So, obviously that's not any of my control. We control what we can control, and I do the same as well. But like I said, we talk all the time, and we're really close. Obviously, those guys have taught me a lot and I actually told JB, I told him I was going to continue to just talk with him and try to get some knowledge from him just because he's been in the league for so long – or longer than I have, just playing wise and just in general in life. Whatever happens, happens, but that's nothing in my control. That's just what it is.
Q: I feel like I ask you this every April, I guess that's the blessing of going to Alabama, any of these guys that you're really close with in this draft? I know you're a couple years older, but (Alabama Wide Receiver John) Metchie or if you had any interaction with a young (Alabama Offensive Tackle) Evan Neal – any of these guys you're close with and can tell us anything about?
A: Yeah, I'm pretty close with Metch. I obviously got to play a little bit with some of those guys there. I haven't talked to them in a while, but I'm pretty close with them. I don't know what they're doing right now. I'll stay in touch with them. Those are my brothers, so, that's my answer to that.
Q: You're entering your third year in the league, and you mentioned it a little bit, but is it really time for you to step into that leadership role and are you really looking forward to that?
A: Like I said, from day one I've been a leader, so nothing changes. It doesn't matter who's here, it doesn't matter who's gone, I've been the same. I'll just continue to improve and get better. I pride myself on consistency and being able to improve myself, my game, and how I lead each and every day. That's the steps that I'm going to take forward with it. Like I've said, I've been a leader for a very long time, so this is nothing new to me. I don't see it as something that's bigger than what it was before because it's just who I am. There's no added pressure or anything like that. It's who I am and it's what I do.
Q: You talk about last year as a whole for you individually and what your goals are. Do you feel like you've laid the foundation now to know who you are as a player at this level, and now you can kind of attack where you want to go beyond what you showed last year?
A: Yeah, I definitely do. I think I've done a lot of good things very well. I think I've figured out a lot of things. Obviously, I still have a lot of improvement to continue to grow. But as far as laying a foundation wise, I think I've done that. I think I've learned a lot. I've seen a lot of different things throughout these two years that I've been here. Now I think it's time to kind of step it up a notch and go a little bit further with it and just keep building on from what I've already built.
Wide Receiver Sterling Shepard
Q: What are your initial impressions of Brian Daboll's offense? Have you gotten your hands on the playbook before today? If so, what do you think? If not, I'm sure you looked at some film of his offense, right, so what are your initial impressions of what it'll mean for you guys?
A: Yeah, it's first day so I just got my hands on the playbook, just got our iPads today. Got to look through some stuff for only a couple minutes. I mean, we had to break up the day, I've seen guys in the offense, you've got (Wide Receiver) Cole Beasley, (Bills Wide Receiver) Stefon Diggs, and those guys I've seen those guys operate. It has a chance to be explosive. We just have to do our part and work hard.
Q: I'm curious what the business side of this off season was like for you with the pay cut. Obviously new regime comes in and that's kind of your first impression. So, what was that like going through that?
A: Yeah, I mean, they wanted me here, I wanted to be here. We were able to work something out that made sense for both sides and, you know, I've moved on from it. Just looking forward to getting to know these guys and getting to know this playbook and trying to do my part and win games.
Q: Did you think it was the right decision to fire the last coaching staff? We haven't really talked to you guys since so just wondering, as somebody who gave it all for that staff, what you thought of that decision by the organization?
A: I mean that's a little bit over my head. I didn't partake in that decision. That's not in my pay grade. I'm here with this new staff and that's all I'm focused on right now.
Q: How do you balance the joy and excitement of still being here, and being a senior member of the team and the sadness of missing some of the guys that you've gone to war with?
A: Yeah, I mean, that's just a part of the game. I've had guys that I played with throughout my career that I've built a bond with. You talk about (Jaguars Tight End) Evan Engram, that's like my brother. I've been with him the last five years and to not see his face in the building today it's tough on me, but at the same time, I'm happy for him and his new journey. I still have great contact with him and a lot of the other guys that I played with, but that's just the nature of the beast.
Q: I'm guessing you didn't want to take a pay cut and I know that's a tough thing for a player to accept. I also know you know the reality of your injury situation. Did you consider at all saying no and taking your chance on the free agent market? Also, how tough is that to deal with to know that that's your only avenue to come back to the team?
A: Yeah, it's tough, man, but I did the pros and cons and the pros outweigh the cons by a landslide. I did a lot of talking to my family and ultimately it was the best situation for me and my family. I was super happy that we were able to come to an agreement and if everything goes the way that I hope that it goes, hopefully I'll be here for a little bit longer. Like I said, I'm focused on right now, doing everything in my power to get better, get back on the field and stay on the field and learn this book right now. That's where my head is and where my focus is.
Q: Where are you physically right now and what kind of a timeline are you looking at to getting back –Training camp, start of the season? Do you have any idea?
A: No, I really don't have an idea. I'm taking it day by day and just listening to the trainers, doing everything they ask of me. I also do some extra stuff when I get home. Like I said, I'm doing everything in my power to get back on the field and get back out there with my guys.
Q: On the injury itself, for you physically, I know it's a lot easier for someone to kind of put a blueprint in front of you to come back from that injury, but considering where you've been your entire career, what you've gone through, how much of the emotional component was involved here? Do you feel like you've worked through that to kind of get back to where you want to be and need to be in order to compete, to get to where you want to be?
A: Yeah, for sure. I went through a lot mentally at first and emotionally at first, but I'm kind of past that and just want to focus on getting better. I did a lot of talking with my Mom about the early parts of me being injured. Like I said, my focus is every day just trying to get better at something. I've been listening to the trainers and hearing what those guys have to say and doing everything that they ask of me. So that's all I can do, and that's what I'm focused on.
Q: Have there been any changes that you've noticed in the team about how they're trying to prevent injuries this year?
A: No, I mean, this is our first day back, so I haven't really heard much on that. Actually, in the team meeting today we went over some stuff about what guys can wear on the field and stuff. You know, head injuries is something that has always been a thing in the league and I know they have those caps and stuff now that guys can choose to wear. That's pretty much all that is, but we've only been in here for a couple hours, so I haven't really gotten into detail on any of that stuff.
Q: The first press conference with (Head Coach) Brian Daboll it was pretty interesting to see you there waiting for him, shaking his hand and you're on crutches. This new group, this new GM and this coach, when you've seen a guy like Logan Ryan who was healthy, choose not to come back for whatever reasons they have, they wanted you back. What does that say to you? How they value you on the field, off the field, in the locker room, because this new group, as you know, could easily have just moved on from you if they wanted to.
A: Right, and that was a part of my decision on coming back. I mean, I wanted to be around a group of guys that wanted me there and wanted me to be around the team. That's the grasp that I got from those guys when talking to them. It's always great to be wanted. You take your chance in free agency. You don't know where you're going to end up, you don't know some of the people – I still have ties with a lot of people in this building, they're new, but I know (Senior Vice President of Football Operations and Strategy) Kevin Abrams, I know (Director of Football Operations Ed) Triggs, I know a lot of people in here, so there was some familiarity for me. Ultimately, I wanted to go somewhere where I was wanted and that's what I got from those guys when I talked to them.
Q: Initially, did you wonder about that? Did you wonder if maybe they are just going to move on?
A: Yeah. I mean, you never know what's going to happen in this business. That thought actually did run across my head, but everything works out for a reason and I felt like this was the best place for my family and I, and I'm happy we worked it out.
View photos from the voluntary offseason workout program at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.