EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants will experience something both very new and very familiar when they face the Dallas Cowboys Sunday in AT&T Stadium: playing a game with fans in the stands.
The Giants' first four games – two in MetLife Stadium and one each in Chicago and Los Angeles – were played in empty stadiums. But Dallas is one of the few NFL cities in which fans are permitted at games.
Last weekend, a total of 92,696 fans attended a game in eight stadiums. The largest crowd by far - 25,021 - watched the Cowboys lose to the Cleveland Browns. Now the Giants will hear yelling and cheering in a stadium for the first time in the 2020 season. And though it will be in the home an NFC East rival, they look forward to it.
"To be honest with you, it's exciting," coach Joe Judge said today. "I think there's a part of football that obviously we all want fans there. There's a different kind of energy home and away, but I think both energies really add to the atmosphere and add to the environment. I'm looking forward to playing Dallas this week. It's a bonus that there are going to be fans there as well. That's just added incentive to it."
The Giants players are also eager to play in front of a crowd, even one that is hostile.
"I'm excited," safety Logan Ryan said, "even though I do not like the Cowboys personally. Growing up in New Jersey, no matter what team you root for, you root against the Cowboys. I love the energy the fans bring, the good and bad. Nothing is worse (for the home team) than quieting a road stadium. I think it will be fun. I wish we had fans here in New Jersey, they bring a lot of energy to the game. I'm excited for it, but we have to do something to quiet those fans. We have to play well and that's the best thing we have to do. I'm focused on playing first and foremost. I never mind the crowd, the bigger the better. I feel like that's when I perform my best."
The crowd Sunday didn't help the Cowboys, who fell behind the Browns by 27 points in the third quarter before losing, 49-38. Dallas coach Mike McCarthy believes having fans in the stands is not just beneficial for the Cowboys, but for the opposition, as well.
"I'll be honest with you, I think it's good for everybody because it's not loud enough to create a crowd noise advantage for our team," McCarthy said. "I think it really creates a better atmosphere for both teams. Just to compare having fans to having no fans, it's clearly night and day. I think our fans do a great job, but I think the offenses of the opponent still have an ability to communicate."
Few of the fans who attend the game Sunday will root for the Giants. The question of whether it is fair for some teams to have fans while others cannot as the pandemic continues unabated has been raised in league circles. Judge considers it a non-issue.
"I don't think we need any pats on the back to be motivated to go out there," he said. "But look, there are obviously rules state by state. We respect those rules, and whatever atmosphere we're allowed to play in, we're going to embrace that."
View rare photos from the historic rivalry between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys.
*Although several teams, notably the Tennessee Titans, have had players test positive for Covid-19, the Giants – who have had zero recent positive tests – are not changing their regimens.
"Our message to the players now is the same as it's been since day one of training camp," Judge said. "There are protocols in place, there are things that we have to respect and follow. We've been diligent as an organization. The players have been very receptive, they've been very obedient to everything going on. As coaches, we have a responsibility to make sure that we kind of keep these guys aware of what's going on around them. They are very aware of what's going on, but we've done a pretty good job as an organization. I'm happy with the progress our players have made."
Has Judge considered asking his players to isolate themselves from family and friends when they are not at the Giants' headquarters?
"I think the league has already established protocols and rules, and it's just our duty to follow those," he said. "I'm not a doctor, although I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. But just right now, make sure we follow what they put in place."
*Quarterback Daniel Jones was asked what he's learned over his first 16 career starts, the equivalent of a full season.
"I've learned a lot of football and feel like I've improved as a player as far as my understanding of the game, my understanding of situational football and when you want to take advantage of certain opportunities, when to get the ball out of my hand," Jones said. "It's something I'm continuing to work on and improve. But I certainly feel like I've improved and made a lot of progress up to this point.
"I realize this is my second year and I do have a lot to learn. I'm always learning and improving. But I don't think you use that ever as an excuse. I'm expected to play well, understand what we're trying to do and execute it. I'm certainly learning, always learning, and trying to improve. But you can't see it as an excuse, and I certainly don't."
*Safety Jabrill Peppers returned to the field today as the Giants held what Judge called a "walkthrough practice." Peppers did not play in Sunday's loss to the Rams due to an ankle sprain.
Linebacker Oshame Ximines (shoulder), who left the game in Los Angeles, did not practice. Linebacker Kyler Fackrell (neck) and safety Adrian Colbert (neck) were also limited.
*The Giants today re-signed Sean Chandler to their practice squad. Chandler was waived from the active roster yesterday when tight end Eric Tomlinson was re-signed. Chandler has been signed to the practice squad four times this season. He has appeared in three games and played 16 special teams snaps on Sunday in Los Angeles.
*Four Cowboys players did not practice: tackle Tyron Smith (neck), center Joe Looney (knee), and defensive ends Dorance Armstrong (knee) and Tyrone Crawford (ankle).