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Quotes 9/11: Coach Joe Judge, TE Evan Engram, S Jabrill Peppers

Head Coach Joe Judge

Opening Statement:I appreciate your patience. Sorry, I ran a little over on a meeting this morning, so that's what delayed me right there. But our guys are getting ready for practice right now and I came as fast as I could. That being said, I'd like to open it up to any questions. 

Q: I know other people are going to ask you about practice yesterday. I wanted to ask you a bigger picture question. I know you're obviously focused on game prep, but have you taken a moment at all just to reflect on the dream come true of coaching your first NFL game on Monday night? How might you and your family mark the occasion?

A: To be completely honest with you, no, I haven't really spent much time thinking about individual things, especially personally. At some point maybe later down the road, I'll stop and look back on a lot of things. But my mindset is always kind of looking ahead at what's coming up, and right now, we have the Steelers rolling into town. Any kind of personal or individual things that may be special to anyone directly in my family individually, that's for down the road for me. 

Q: Since it was left on the tee for me, can you just talk about what happened at yesterday's practice, and how you thought the guys responded to that?

A: It really wasn't much. Sometimes I schedule a second stretching period after the first couple periods of individuals, so a normal day for us right there… No, hey listen, I thought the guys responded really well. We actually had a really productive, really good practice. I was happy coming off the field. Sometimes we just have to go ahead and keep in mind that it's important that we lock in and start fast. 

Q: C.J. Board, why did you guys claim him? What did you see in him? What do you think his strengths are as a wide receiver, what he gives to your team as a whole?

A: I think he gives us a lot of versatility. First off, he's got top-end speed. That's definitely something that sticks out to you. But he's a guy with a real good work ethic, he's made plays, he's been productive in practice. We have several coaches on staff who have had past experiences with him in other organizations, so he was somebody that was familiar with our coaches. But he's somebody that has a skillset to really work with and develop. We're glad we have him here.

Q: With Monday rapidly approaching, how excited are you about bringing this unit and how equipped are they for the opener in your mind?

A: I think at this point, we've been hitting each other long enough. Everyone is getting anxious for Monday night. We still have some work to do. We still have a lot of prep to do. There's a process that we have to continue to go through leading up to the game, but obviously, it's game week. As game week goes on, everyone's heart starts pumping a little bit more. Listen, first chance we get to get guys on the field, there's going to be a lot of excitement. 

Q: You talked at the beginning of camp about how rookies are never ready when they show up to their first NFL training camp. You're at the end of the training camp now. How much closer to ready is Andrew Thomas in particular?

A: I'll tell you what, I think they've all made significant gains. That being said, the rookies still don't know what to fully expect. They've been taught, they've been told, they've seen examples, they've felt the speed of practice. But the reality is, you can't truly simulate the full speed of a game until you play in a game. Because they haven't tasted that yet, they don't know yet. Now, it's our job to get them mentally, physically and emotionally ready for that game. But until they get out there and get hit in the mouth for the first time, they really don't know. 

Q: How about Andrew Thomas in particular? How much improvement has he made since he first stepped on the field with you?

A: Yeah, he's a guy that's gotten better every day for us. This is a guy that's very coachable, he's very attentive in meetings. You hit him on some kind of technique or aspect of communication, he improves every day on that. I'm very pleased with how he's come along. But I think he's the same as all the other rookies right now in that until they get out there and get that first taste of game action, they're not truly going to know what it is to play in the NFL. 

Q: How has Golden Tate looked coming back from that hamstring injury?

A: He's moving well right now. We've been mixing him into some of the things we have been doing in practice. Individuals, a little bit of team work, some group work. He looks like he's coming along nice. He's working hard every day and doing what he can to get back. 

Q: How much did you watch last night and kind of watch how everything was going to work? What do you take from that?

A: To be honest with you, I didn't have time last night to watch any of the game. I will watch it later today when I get a little bit of time. Some of our coaches are going through the game and breaking down different aspects as to how the flow of the game went. Maybe some things we can expect by seeing two other teams compete. I will watch it later on, I haven't had a chance yet. 

Q: I would be remiss if I didn't ask you about the FDNY hat and the significance of today. How much have you spent with the team reflecting on 19 years ago?

A: To be honest with you, this is always a significant day in American history. We talked to the team this morning about it's not about what happened to the country on 9/11, it's about how the country responded. I think that's the lesson everyone has to take with how resilient this country is. You look at a lot of the things going on across the country, how divided a lot of people seem. It's amazing how much this country can truly work together and respond when needed. I think watching from afar, at the time I was down south, I was a thousand miles away, you watch the way the city of New York came together in this time of crisis. Now, I'm looking across the river at a city right there exactly where the tragedy happened. If you listen to the stories of today of the guys who were in the building the day it happened and how they could see the smoke coming from the city, it puts a much different perspective on it. To me, it's a significant day. I'm very big into American history, I'm very big into what the people who came before us have done, fighting for our freedom, the first responders, how they are there and they have our back. To me, today is a day we need to have appreciation for what everybody does, for the sacrifices they make. We can't forget what happened on 9/11, we can't forget the people who are willing to respond, the Todd Beamers of the world and the action they took on the flight to bring down the third plane and save more American lives. I think it's significant, people have to remember it's not just a day. There were actions taken on that day that brought this country close together. I think if we can focus more on how we can respond as a nation and work together, we will get past a lot of this crap (divisiveness) that we are dealing with right now. 

Q:  Just bringing it back to football real quick. You obviously came into this building and this team and your introductory press conference and laid down the gauntlet that you wanted to have a physical team, a blue collar team and all of those things. After a training camp with so much physicality and some unorthodox ways of bringing that about, where do you think you guys are in terms of establishing that culture and setting that tone heading into the opener?

A: I don't think anything is ever a finished process. I think we're always working on refining and improving as a team. I'm pleased with the way the guys have worked. We have had a physical training camp, we have been hard on the guys. That's to get them physically, mentally, emotionally ready for the games they are going to play. Especially a game like playing the Pittsburgh Steelers. These guys practice hard now. You talk to the guys who have played or coached in Pittsburgh, Mike (Tomlin) gets the guys ready. They have a hard training camp. They hit on each other a lot, they get after it. They don't back down from contact. That's the culture and the identity they've had as an organization for as long as they have been around. In terms of us and our own culture, our identity is still being formed. That will keep on being formed throughout this year. Like I said, we're always looking to improve. We're always looking to build on what we've done. You never arrive, you're never settled, you're never satisfied. It's important for us to go out every day, like we did yesterday and like we are going to do today and improve on the day before.

Tight End Evan Engram

Q: What's the mood of the team right now? You're a couple of days away from the opener. Is there excitement? Do you guys feel like you're ready for this?

A: Definitely. Before I answer that question, today is a real important day in our history, especially in this area. 9/11 was a terrible tragedy that happened in our country, and a lot of lives were lost. I think it's important that we remember those lives, remember the heroes during this day 19 years ago. I'll forever offer and give my condolences and prayers to the families and people involved in this tragedy years ago today. But as a team, we're really excited to get back on Monday night primetime. It really doesn't get any better than that to start off the year. We're practicing really well this week, really hard, preparing for the big game. 

Q: What can you do as a tight end, Andrew Thomas is probably going to be lined up at left tackle as a rookie starter, what can you do as a tight end when you're next to him to help him?

A: Communicate. That's the biggest thing, especially with… I remember my rookie debut. It was definitely butterflies and eyes flying around everywhere. It's normal to feel that. He'll definitely have some nerves, but I think just communicating, being on the same page, and being successful and physical with him in the run game, and give him confidence in moving the ball down field to kind of get him in a groove. We plan on doing that as an offense, and we're going to plan on doing that all together Monday.

Q: I was wondering, as Saquon (Barkley) was talking yesterday, saying the team was going to get together and talk about how they want to approach things like the anthem and things like that, I was wondering if you can fill us in on if you made any decisions?

A: Honestly, that's definitely in-house right now. We're keeping that in-house between the team. It's definitely an important subject, but right now, we're focused on this game. Those discussions are being had, but it's definitely going to stay in-house. 

Q: Just curious, did you get a chance to watch much of the game last night at all?

A: Yeah, I got about a quarter in, the first quarter, then I shut it down. 

Q: The reason I was asking was just it seemed like the perception was that it was not as sloppy as people thought. With how the offseason went and the way you kind of had to restrict training camp, no preseason games, there was a thought that early on in the season, the quality of football would not be where it was. I was just curious if you saw something early on in that game last night and maybe it took you back a little bit and said 'you know what? Maybe it's not going to be as sloppy as people might think. We have to really zero in on making sure we get everything right because we know this quality could actually be there on the field right from the jump'?

A: That definitely is a perception going into it, not really having any live preseason games to kind of get that feel and iron out some things. But I think it's going to be on us. It's going to be on execution and our attention to detail and how fast we come out. It's definitely not something that we're expecting on either side of the ball. We're expecting the Steelers to come out very sharp, fresh and ready to go. We have to do that ourselves as well.

S Jabrill Peppers

Q:Practice yesterday, we heard it got off to a little bit of a rocky start. How was it today in your opinion?

A: Rocky start, yeah. It just wasn't up to the standard. We know on Monday there is no do-over. Today, I think we came out focused, great attention to detail and I think we stacked another great day. 

Q: Obviously, it's been a while since you played. How do you balance coming out with enough energy but not coming out too overhyped to where you start making mistakes and getting sloppy from all the excitement?

A: At this point in our lives, I think we all know what it takes to get the job done. I think that excitement before games has always been in us. Me, since Pop Warner. Every guy is different, everybody has different processes that they go through on game day. We all want to come out knowing what we have to do and ready to play at a high level.

Q: The other day Coach Judge said he wouldn't rule out using you on offense. How would you feel about having a role with the offense this year?

A: I'll do whatever it takes to win.

Q: Would that be fun for you since you played some at Michigan?

A: Absolutely, absolutely. Definitely. 

Q: Losing Xavier McKinney back there, now you have Julian Love beside you. Is there anything you can do with all the new faces back there to kind of get everybody on the same page heading into Monday night?

A: In this business there are guys always in and out the door. It's kind of easy to gel together because we all know we're all here for one common goal and that's to win. Football is football, things don't change. Just the terminologies and things like that do. It's not as challenging but it does take a little while to build that cohesion. I think we're doing a great job.

Q: Obviously you spent two years in the same division as Ben Roethlisberger. What kind of challenge do he and that offense present?

A: Ben's been doing it for a while. I'm sure you guys don't need me to tell you what threats he poses. Big, strong arm, he's more mobile than most people think. Tough, willing to sit in the pocket. He extends plays and those guys do a great job getting open for him. We know we have a tall task at hand, but we're ready for it. 

Q: How did it feel when you were named captain? Are you excited that Thomas McGaughey basically told us the other day that you are going to be used in punt return a lot this year? Kind of like a flashback you your Michigan days, how did that feel when you heard that?

A: Me personally, I believe that being named captain is one of the highest honors in football. Especially voted by your peers, it's a tremendous honor, I take great pride in that. It was actually a goal of mine my rookie year to become a captain. I know what it means to wear that "C" on your chest, especially here in New York. I'm going to do my due diligence to make sure I abide by that. That's something he told me since virtual spring zoom meetings. I will be featured a lot more back there. I'm ready, I'm ready to accept the challenge. I'm ready to do what I can to help this team win ball games. 

Q: You're a Jersey guy. I know you were probably only like five years old, but does 9/11 hold any special significance because you are from the area and this area was hit.

A: Definitely. I still remember that day very vividly. Prayers go out to the families that were affected by 9/11. I personally know a couple who had their dad in there, their uncle, their sister. I definitely remember this day very vividly. Being from here, it definitely does hit a little bit harder. I definitely want to send my condolences and my prayers out to the victims of 9/11.

Q: Do you recall what you were actually doing at the time you heard about it?

A: I was actually in school and they stopped school. You could kind of see the smoke from across the Hudson. Safe to say they let us out early and then you go home, and you see everything on the news. It was just a crazy day.

Q: What's it like to have the football in your hands? You don't get to do that very often as a safety and a defensive back. When you do get the ball in your hands, does something change inside of you?

A: Definitely, you have to have an offensive mindset. For me, I get an exhilarating feeling. I don't know, there's just something about having the ball in your hands, the importance on it. You basically have the fate of the team in your hands. It's up to you whether you do something positive with it or you do something negative. Just that adrenaline, it gets my nerves going. It's something I like to do and I look forward to. It brings good feelings, to answer your question.

View photos of the history between the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers.


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