EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Fundamental football includes blocking and tackling, running, throwing and kicking, but Joe Judge today pledged the Giants will begin with something even more basic when they hold their first full-squad training camp practice tomorrow.
"Conditioning is part of football," the second-year coach said on a Zoom news conference today. "We're not going to go ahead and say, 'Hey, listen, don't worry about the quarterback's footwork through individual period. Just go out there and coach (during) team and get all his footwork fundamentals.' (Conditioning) is a fundamental. We're going to work on that extra so that it carries over into team periods and it can help keep our players healthy and on the field."
Judge led several weeks of spring workouts that prepared the players for the rigors of camp and the season to follow and will not let up on that aspect of preparation in the six-plus weeks until the season begins on Sept. 12 against the Denver Broncos. The players are all in on that focus because of its proven benefits.
"We're getting our players' bodies to stay healthy," Judge said. "One thing we do is a lot of research and self-scout. We went back after last year and we showed it to the players themselves and then came back in spring to explain why we practice the way we do. It was reflected in a decrease in injuries across the board within this organization as well as relative to the league. We were one of the healthiest teams last year in the league and the healthiest this team has been in a long time."
Judge hopes for similar results this year but knows the Giants won't get them if they regress in their conditioning.
"Look, you can't put a player on the field and tell them to play 100 percent for 60 minutes if you haven't trained them that way," Judge said. "To me, there's a difference in practicing and training. We talk to our players all the time, we say, 'We're going out for practice,' but we're really going out to train. We're trying to get their bodies ready to go ahead and perform how they have to in a game and the most dangerous thing you can do for a player is skimp on how you practice. Whether that's conditioning to get their bodies in the right position and build up that callus within their muscles so that they don't have soft tissue injuries on the field. Whether that's practicing things like live hitting and live tackling and making sure that when they go out there and the pace of the game is actually faster that they're in a position to be prepared to do it safely and effectively. So, anything they're going to have to do in a game, we're going to make sure that we practice, correct, repeat, practice again."
"I think guys see on the field how they play and as they improve throughout the year. Plus, it's about keeping yourself on the field and healthy, and I think that's the best example you can give to a player of, were you able to go out there and play last year or were you limited through something that maybe you weren't in shape to do? You know, we have a very open relationship with our players around here, we tell them the 'why' in everything we do, we explain why we're doing what we're doing."
Judge's commitment to ensuring everyone is in optimal shape to compete on the field extends beyond his day job.
"In terms of conditioning itself -- look, I was a player," he said. "I've got a 15-year-old son, the first thing he wants to tell me about every day I pick him up at practice is what they did for conditioning. I have to explain to him, 'I really don't care. What did you do for football?'"
It's a question he never stops asking.
*The Giants have six players on the physically unable to perform/active list: running back Saquon Barkley (knee), center Jonotthan Harrison (hamstring), tackle Matt Peart (back), tight end Kyle Rudolph (foot), linebacker Oshane Ximines (hamstring) and rookie cornerback Aaron Robinson (core muscle), the team's third-round draft choice.
When asked a question about Peart, the presumptive frontrunner to be the team's right tackle this season, Judge offered a general response.
"With all the guys that are on PUP, we just took the approach of anybody who's not 100 percent from day one that we're going to put them on the PUP list," Judge said. "This wasn't anything unique to one player, just an approach we're taking with every player. With the PUP list, we can pull them off (to practice) at any point. We're optimistic with all the players that are on it currently, they're all working with our training staff and making a lot of progress. I'm not going over any one person's individual injury at this moment, but I've got a lot of confidence in the way that he's working and going day by day."
*Wide receiver Kadarius Toney, the Giants' first-round draft choice, has been removed from the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Two players were placed on the list: linebacker Blake Martinez, the team's leading tackler last season, and safety Joshua Kalu.
"(Toney is) with us today in the building, so he's back with us," Judge said. "We have a number of guys for different reasons that we're actually going to take them a little bit slower. Obviously, coming off of that protocol as we learned last year with the number of players on our team throughout the season, we're going to go and move them around the field and make sure that he's ready to go, then we'll start integrating with our team. We're not going to go ahead and rush anything to get in the process. He'll be in the meetings with all our players. He'll be able to go out there and operate in some of the – some of the meetings we get a little bit more on our feet.
"But in terms of practice itself, we're not going to do anything with him on the field with the team until we know he's fully ready to go. His timetable will be different, I'm sure, than a lot of the guys last year that we learned from. One thing we really took away from last year was these things are all very specific to each person, what their symptoms were or what their exposure was, but that time away from training is what's critical."
Judge was asked about the team's vaccination rate.
"Every staff (member) and coach is fully vaccinated," he said. "That, I can tell you. In terms of the team itself and the number rate, I'm not going to get into rates. I would say that since the end of spring, we've had a number of players who have either started or finalized the vaccination process. We've had a number of meetings with our players that they understand that if they're not vaccinated, the protocols that are tied into that."
View photos of the team reporting for the start of training camp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.