EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Joe Judge and Danny Shelton spent two seasons together in New England, so the Giants' coach knows that everything about his new defensive linemen is extra-large – his size, his performance and his personality.
"I see the same thing from my time with him in 2018 as I do now, and that's a guy who, first off, comes in every day with a huge smile," Judge said. "Nice guy, loves life. I don't want to speak for Danny on that, but just from being around him, he's always smiling. He's a great teammate. Anything you ask him to do, he does at 100 percent, whatever is best for the team. He's a guy that will talk to a vet as well as a young player in terms of trying to help them with something he may have some knowledge on. He's a guy that's really good as far as building culture and a rapport with an individual position, and also within the unit. I think guys who come to work and love football and care about their teammates, that's natural for that energy to spread and guys that have tight bonds in the locker room."
Shelton was with New England in 2018-19, when Judge was the special teams coordinator (and the wide receivers coach in his final season). The 2018 Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII.
In 2020, Shelton played in 12 games for the Detroit Lions. He missed four games with a knee injury, returned for the season finale and promptly suffered a triceps injury. Shelton signed with the Giants on March 29.
"It's been a different offseason for me," Shelton said. "I had my injury obviously and had to go through rehab and go through being released and picked up by the Giants. It's a new experience for me, but a great learning opportunity and feel like it's been great so far."
Shelton is essentially a replacement for Dalvin Tomlinson, a four-year starter who joined the Minnesota Vikings as a free agent. At 6-2 and 345 pounds, Shelton is about 25 pounds heavier than Tomlinson. And like his predecessor, he is a superb run-stopping defender. Shelton has 247 career tackles and joins with Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence to give the Giants three former first-round draft choices on their front.
"We've just been focused on this season and building this team and getting ready for pads coming up," Shelton said today. "It's really just communicating and everybody working and everybody getting better.
"The way I look at it is I got an opportunity to work, so coming in and wherever they need me, I'm going to be ready. Whether it's me getting in the playbook, me getting in the weight room, cardio, conditioning, I'm just going to do everything I can to get on the field and help the team win."
In his two seasons with Judge in New England, Shelton played in 29 regular-season games with 15 starts and totaled 82 tackles (40 solo) and 3.0 sacks. He added nine tackles in three postseason games.
"He's obviously a big, athletic man," Judge said. "You see the way he showed up at initial tests -- which you (reporters) weren't there for, but you see a guy with that size run the way he did and work through the summer on some things he had to overcome, and work through from some spring injuries and some nicks and bumps that he couldn't go through all the way. It showed his commitment and work ethic to what he's pushing himself to do. This guy has really changed his body throughout his career, he really has. I mean a lot of big guys accept being big. We try to impress on all our players that conditioning has to be an advantage for us. You watch the way Danny prepares and practices, that definitely shows up his understanding of how he fits in our system."
Shelton is just as happy to be reunited with Judge as the coach is to add him to the defense.
"I think Joe's just a great guy," Shelton said. "I mean, he's the same person, really. He always has energy. He always has that fieriness about him. He's like one of the guys that you just want to play for, you don't want to let him down. I was on field goal for him and I messed up a couple of times. I hated that I did that and tried to get back on field goal and tried to prove myself. But now seeing him as the head coach is awesome and he's a hard-working coach and really cares about football and winning and just the guys. Getting everybody on one page."
View the best photos from Friday's training camp practice at Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
*The Giants are in a holding pattern with left guard Shane Lemieux, who was carted off the field Thursday with a knee injury. He did not practice Friday.
"I'd say for the next, call it, 24-48 hours we'll really kind of understand exactly where he's at," Judge said. "I'd say the worst-case scenario looks to have been avoided, we're happy about that. But, in terms of trying to come out here and try to make a diagnosis on Shane, we've got to see where he's at."
Lemieux, a fifth-round draft choice last year, started the final nine games in his rookie season. He entered the lineup after Will Hernandez, who had started 39 consecutive games at left guard, was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Hernandez is currently the right guard. Lemieux is impatiently waiting to rejoin him on the field.
"The thing I'll tell you for Shane, he's kind of like a wild animal," Judge said. "He'd chew his leg off through a bear trap if he had to, so him not being out here is kind of driving him nuts. He's already been in my office today talking about the fastest way to get back and, look, my message to him is always when the trainers say you're 100 percent healthy to go on the field, we'll put you on the field."
*Unlike some coaches, Judge requires his linemen to wear knee braces.
"The message to our team is, look, as much as they hate wearing knee braces - and trust me, they do - they hate having an injury and being out for the season even more if something happens," Judge said. "So, until we can practice at the right tempo together and everyone is staying on their feet, we're going to keep the knee braces on. And anytime we go full pads, live contact, we'll always have the knee braces on in practice."
*The Giants will practice Saturday evening in Eddie Moraes Stadium, a renovated facility in Newark, N.J. that will be the home of the East Side High School football program. The school played on the same site in what was then known as Ironbound Stadium, which was closed by the federal government in 1987.
Judge is expected to address the crowd of approximately 2,000, which will be comprised predominately of youth and high school football players. It will be the Giants' first public practice since 2019.
"We haven't had a chance to really interact with the fans and that's a different element," Judge said. "The key focal point of this program is we're going to be a strong community. We're going to be very involved with the community and show support for the people who show support to us. That's something they want. From day one, I've talked about community service is very important to us and even last year, all our guys made great contributions and strides with being tied to the community.
"It was all remote, it was all virtual. This is the first exposure we've had, although there's other COVID protocols. We can't be touching hands on. It's still the first time we get to be face to face with them, to address the fans and speak to them. And it's very important for us that, you know, not everybody has the opportunity to see us. It's important for me, it's important for this organization that we're going to come to you. We're going to make the effort and make sure that we can get to you and make sure you get the opportunity to see the team that you cheer for. We're going to come to your community because, ultimately, your community is our community."