EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – In some respects, Joe Judge is no different than the rest of us. He has no access to his office. He's quarantined with his family and has a front row seat as his four children are schooled at home. Judge has picked up some new skills and even cut his own hair on the deck of his family's Massachusetts home.
"I got some clippers and I experimented on my back deck," Judge said. "It took a little while longer than a normal haircut. To be honest with you, I kind of had that quarantined hair falling over my ears for a little bit. My wife cut my youngest son's hair and it looks like he got in fight with a broken bottle. I did my own a little bit."
Despite his common man privations, restrictions and duties during these strange and uncertain times, Judge is unique in one public respect. As the Giants' head coach, he is tasked with preparing his team for the 2020 NFL season. And he must do it without seeing the players in person or watching them work on a football field, and not knowing when training camp will begin or even if it will be held at the team headquarters.
But three weeks into the Giants' virtual offseason program, Judge is impressed with the players' progress and work ethic.
"I'm very pleased in how they come every day prepared," Judge said on a Zoom interview with reporters. "I'm pleased with how they come every day with a lot of urgency. We're getting great feedback and communication through the meetings with the players themselves. As far as building camaraderie with them, probably the best part of the day is when you can click on the Zoom and everyone has their screens unmuted and you just hear the guys talking. That's probably the best part. It took about a week for everybody to get comfortable enough to do that.
"I think they kind of realize as coaches, we're laughing listening to them talk and then they got a little bit more comfortable and really started breaking it down. It's fun seeing all of the personalities really emerge and the connections. Today was the first day we had the rookies in the meetings with the vets, so you could tell right away, a couple guys saw some new faces and you heard a couple others, 'Rookies in here today.' I'm sure they'll be asking them for a joke by tomorrow."
Judge has spoken more than once recently about the importance of the players bonding with one another. But as a first-year coach, he must also develop a rapport with each player. Judge said he's making progress on that front, despite communicating with them electronically.
"I'll tell you what, we found different ways throughout the meeting times to work together," he said. "I found time to grab certain players out of the meetings. I'm going to work my way through the team as we go throughout the rest of spring, making sure I get face time with each one of these guys. Leading up to this, I spent some time talking to these guys on the phone really just checking on them and their family. I had the opportunity to meet a lot of these guys in person when we were still in the building. They were still around working out.
"I would say one of the interesting things about this whole process is just like we're doing right now, as somebody else is speaking, really everyone has the freedom to look around right now and really observe how people are. When there's an assistant coach presenting, everybody in there is also presenting themselves and how they conduct themselves in a meeting. You're looking around, how's the guy set up in his house? Is it a quiet setting? How is he dressed? What's his eye focus like? Are his eyes down? Is he trying to text? We haven't had a lot of that. We've had a lot of guys with great urgency. You have the opportunity in this setting here to really see your players in a meeting standpoint where they really can't hide. Right now, we're on a one by one box on this screen, but we're all face to face. You don't know who's looking at who at this time, so everything you're doing at all times is really what you're being evaluated on."
Judge has a detailed offseason calendar, which might have to be reworked depending on what the state of New Jersey and the NFL permit the Giants to do.
"We're assuming right now that we're going to continue working virtually with the players," Judge said. "We'll wait for further clarity from the league. We were told to plan through May 18, so that's what we're doing right now."
And likely much longer. Because New Jersey remains locked down, Judge was asked if he would consider moving to a location that would enable him to hold practices this spring. But he is not going to expose anyone to potential danger so he can see Daniel Jones throw a football.
"I don't know that we necessarily have an option to do it in the spring unless the league gives a thumbs up on that," he said. "I think right now with the climate of the country, one thing we have to consider is first off, the safety of our players traveling across the country. Getting on flights, traveling through cars. There is a lot of mandated quarantines that come with that as well, so the timeliness factor of getting players, having them travel, the amount of time they're quarantined, getting them in the building, can we secure that they're going to be quarantined along with all of the staff and coaches that are surrounding them, whether that's in our facility or somewhere else? There are a lot of logistical things we have to consider.
"The first thing we talked about in all of these conversations is are we 100 percent certain the players are going to remain healthy and we're not putting anybody at risk. I have a tough time right now asking a player to fly across the country from California when I probably wouldn't be the first one most willing to throw my two sons on a plane to go the other way. We talk about this, we have to consider the big picture of what's going on. Look, I would love to have them in Jersey right now. I would love for us to have setup remote camp if that's what was necessary. But getting them to the campus and making sure that while we're there, they're not exposed to anything, we have to consider that as well."
The Giants have held training camp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center for eight consecutive and nine of the last 10 summers. But if New Jersey remains closed and the NFL is open for business, it's possible they will hit the road to prepare for the season.
"In terms of relocating, our Ops department is doing a great job right now mapping out a lot of different scenarios in terms of, if for some reason we have to relocate, they're making connections around the area, around the country, as to whatever we may need to do," Judge said. "We're waiting on direction from the league in terms of when we'll make decisions on that. Hopefully in a perfect world, we're all back together in New Jersey training sooner than later. But we're planning for a lot of hypotheticals to make sure if they come up, we're not caught by surprise.
"I've mapped out training camp based on the calendar leading up to our opening game right now. Any adjustments we have to make based on that, we'll make accordingly. That's my job to be prepared and have contingency plans for the team to operate. We've talked through different scenarios, but right now we're mapping out training camp assuming that we're opening up on September 14 with the Steelers. We're looking forward to that."
View photos of the Giants' 90-man roster as it currently stands.