EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – No outside observers were present to witness it, but the Giants experienced a training camp milestone today – their first full-squad practice, including players wearing helmets, under Joe Judge.
On Friday, the players will wear shells for the first time and the first full-pads practice is scheduled for Monday.
"We're now in Phase 2 activities with the entire 80-man squad on the field," Judge said in a post-practice Zoom call. "We were out there for a 90-minute window. Generally, what that is, we're split up offense and defense. We can't come together or do anything competitive against each other. But it's an opportunity to get on the field and work football drills full speed. Get the guys out there, start working on some timing within the execution of our individual fundamentals and scheme, and build them to Phase 3 activities, which are really coming up starting Friday with practice on the field."
In recent years, NFL training camps have become less grueling for the players compared to the twice-daily, full-pads practices once common throughout the league. Full contact in camp is increasingly rare or on some teams, non-existent.
But with no preseason games to help him evaluate players or prepare the players for the physical combat that awaits them, Judge is running a challenging camp reminiscent of past football summers.
"We're basically going to have an intrasquad scrimmage of some type every week of training camp," Judge said. "The first one will be on this next Friday coming up - not in two days, but next Friday (Aug. 21). Look, for everyone kind of familiar with football, that will look a whole lot like every high school and college scrimmage in America. Offense on one sideline, defense on the other. We'll create situations on the field and let them play live football all the way through.
"We have to get an opportunity to let our guys play at full speed. Let them go out there and experience the game and demonstrate they can operate when coaches aren't yelling in their ears and trying to make corrections. We just have to get them out there and let them play."
The introduction of more full-speed hitting and intense practices will again highlight the NFL safety protocols mandated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Judge has seen his players go about their business for more than a week and is confident they are acting responsibly. That in turn enables them to concentrate on their practice assignments and preparing for the season.
"I think the thing we did early on in this training camp was we just established the rules and protocols we're all going to follow, and that's it," Judge said. "We don't have to make a big issue of it every day. We know what it is, we're working for each other's safety and health, we're following the rules, and when we do that, we can think about football all day.
"I've been coaching football every day here. Listen, if you like football, you truly love being on the field with the players. That's the most fun part. Being on the field with the players, interacting, getting to coach, getting to feel their energy on the field, that's what's fun. Today being the real, first, true experience of having everyone on the field together, from the start of stretch right there, getting them moving, until the end of practice with conditioning, it was just a great opportunity to be out there with the guys. They get a feel for us, we get a feel for them. You're out there coaching. They love football, we love football. Meetings are necessary to make sure we know what to do on the field, but practice is what the day is all about."
And those workouts will soon get much more interesting and competitive.
"I hope to see an improvement and a level of intensity from everyone on the field," Judge said. "Look, we're going to be moving at a fast pace come Friday, and then again on Sunday when we come back from the day off. They're going to be moving fast, we're going to be intent, we're going to have an intensity in how we work. When the padded practices start on Monday, it will reduce to a 90-minute practice per league rules. We're going to build everyone to make sure that now that we're in pads, we can execute with the right fundamentals to play aggressive but safe. At all positions, receiver, D-line, it doesn't matter. When the pads go on, you have to see intensity ramp up."
Just like the old days.