Head Coach Joe Judge
Q: (Xavier) McKinney, his progress during the week, do we expect to see him Sunday?
A: I'm going to give him one more day of moving around out there. I would say I'm encouraged with the way he's moved around and looked so far. The little bit that we were able to see of him rehabbing before this, he looked like he was in shape to come back. I'd say that everything has been on track with him being on a timely return. Today is going to be a big day for him in terms of situations and how he can handle it. There's more to it than just being able to run around out there. We have to make sure mentally he can fire on the same page as everybody else. But we're going to make the decision after practice today.
Q: Tae Crowder, how's he looking for Sunday?
A: Tae's been very similar in terms of Xavier. He's had a good week of practice. We've worked him in, we've bracketed him in with some other guys in case he can't go that we can get somebody else involved in that spot as well. But he's taken his share of reps. We're really looking to see right now how he responds from a harder day yesterday and see where he's at physically. That kind of tells the tale of a lot of these guys coming off the IR, is how their body bounces back so we can see what kind of shape they're really in so that we don't put them out there in a position to be hurt again. But I'm encouraged with how he's moving around.
Q: I saw Logan Ryan is leading the voting for free safeties in the NFC for the Pro Bowl. Obviously you had a relationship with him before he got here. What has been his impact on this team and on this locker room? It seems like he's really kind of taken to his role as a leader on a young team.
A: First off, I don't keep up with the voting. But I would say this, I'd say this guy is very deserving of everything he's earned. He really impacts our team on and off the field in a very positive manner. I'd say on the field, it starts with his communication. That really ties a lot of things together back there. You really have to call the defense from the backend on a lot of things we do, and he's kind of the unifying voice on a lot of the sets we have. That being said, he's developed a very good relationship with his teammates back there, whether it be Julian (Love) or (Jabrill) Peppers or the corners who are working on the perimeter. He's really done a good job of getting everyone on the same page. I'd say that being said, he ties in a lot of experience not only in this system, but just in the league in general and builds in some of that savviness that allows him to do different things within the concept. He's a fun guy to watch at practice because Pat (Graham) can install a concept, and he knows where he's got to get to on the snap or post-snap. He may show it a little bit different pre-snap, but he knows where he's getting to. You have to kind of let him go ahead and be a player and let him kind of have a little bit artistic freedom, if you would, right there. Look, this guy in terms of being a player, he has good instincts, he has good production for us, he's a good tackler for us, he's tough as nails, and he's been able to overcome a lot of adversity off the field. I'd just say he's a guy that we love having in this program. He's a very good player for us, he's a very good leader in the locker room. I can't say enough positive things about him.
Q: Any fines for the day after weigh-in? Do the coaches have to get on the scale too or what? How does that go?
A: Well, if the coaches jump on, everyone's Christmas is going to be a little bit worse off, so we're going to kind of lay off that right now. No, we're going to check in with (Craig) Fitz(gerald) and their staff in a little bit, kind of check on the guys. For the most part, I think all of our guys have been pretty good. Most of the guys, the staff here for the most part had to-go boxes ready to go. I saw most guys walking out with that. We kind of encourage them to take more than their heaping helping to go home with, so they did pretty good with that.
Q: How have you seen the offensive linemen respond this week with a new coach and given the last two weeks and what's happened?
A: No different than any other week. These guys have come to work every week, they've worked hard, been very resilient. Right now, their focus is on the Bengals, and that's what the entire team's focus has been on right there. They've had a good week of practice. We have a very important day today, so we have to come out today feeling confident going into the weekend. We don't want to come out of this practice today with a lot of things we have to clean up. But they've come to work and had a real productive day.
Q: Your last two games, you played teams coming off the bye and beat them. What are the signs you look for as a head coach with teams coming off a bye? Are there danger signs with a team, just rust, getting out of the routine, because some teams do it well, some teams don't? You just beat two teams who didn't respond that well off a bye.
A: I think you can make too much of it sometimes. We've looked at that from both sides. We've kind of looked at it, what does Philly do coming out of a bye? What did Washington do coming out of a bye? All that stuff. You tie back into Ron's (Rivera) history in Carolina, you look at what Doug (Pederson) has done in the past as well. To me, it's all based on how you handle the game week. The bye is very important. It's really important for getting physically refreshed, mentally refreshed. It's also big for self-scout and getting a jumpstart on some of the opponents coming up. We did everything we were capable of doing last week to help the team. I'd say the biggest thing for me when you get into the game week of not kind of walking into it. You have to get back into working that routine you referenced, that's very important to me. That being said, you can kind of slice it through the league, it's probably close to fifty-fifty across the board in terms of teams coming out of bye weeks, and I think that's more about how they prepare in that game week, and then execute for those 60 minutes on Sunday, more than the week off beforehand.
Q: Is rust an excuse or is that not a part of your vocabulary?
A: No, there is no excuse to that at all. Everyone has a bye week at some point. We don't write anything off just saying that something is going to be an excuse. We have to use it to our advantage. It's up to us to come to play with the right mentality.
Q: Any update on Graham's (Gano) status?
A: I think we should get to see him a little bit today out there kicking. He was with the trainers independently yesterday swinging his leg a little bit. I just asked him how he felt today. He said he felt good overall. I'm going to watch and see how sore he may or may not be and obviously see him. He wasn't backing up too far in the hotel room to test his range. We'll have to kind of move him around a little bit today of we're allowed to. I'm going to check with Ronnie (Barnes) in a second. Very optimistic about his chances this weekend. We'll see where he is though.
Q: As far as the O-line, do you want to have a rotation at guard on Sunday?
A: Yeah, absolutely. Again, like the same thing I have talked about before, we want to play all of our guys. Keep them fresh, keep them rotating. We feel we have multiple capable players at those positions. We're going to go ahead and use them all.
Q: You had guys out there the other day in old-time jerseys. We heard the story behind that. You're a guy who is very into the moment. Why is it important for you to talk about the past and bring up the past?
A: Yeah, that's just something that's very personally important to me. When I came to this organization, that's something I expressed with ownership. They looked at it the same way. To me, the history of this organization is very important. It's very important for all of our players coming in here to understand that this team has been here a lot longer than they have been around. It's up to us to understand the history of this organization and who has come before us to make this a great place to be. We can't walk freely through the building all the time right now, but there's signs all around our building about the area. That's very important. We want to embrace where we live and represent the area. There's pictures and there's sayings all over the building that reference players who came before, coaches who came before. It's important that we understand who those players are and why they're significant. Who those coaches are and why they're significant. Again, it's up to us and it's our responsibility to understand who those great players are. It would be absolutely devastating if we ever had a current player run into a guy who's in the Ring of Honor and not understand who he is or why he's significant. Those guys have made tremendous contributions. Every one of us is working at this point to do something to make a contribution to this organization long term.
Q: Where did you get the idea for this?
A: Actually, I was talking with Kevin Abrams at one point. I think it was last week or the week before. He brought it up, I thought it was a good idea. We kind of bounced it off each other in terms of how we can tie it together and how it would work. It kind of evolved into using the practice players of the week. We had been putting them in different color jerseys to kind of just signify what they are. I thought maybe it's a good idea to put them in some really significant jerseys. We have no names on our jerseys, that's by design. The name that you put on your back, it's not yours, you have to represent that player in terms of how they played and how they practiced on a daily basis.
Q: Will (James) Bradberry be at practice today? Are you expecting him to play? Who is your third tackle if it's not Matt Peart?
A: We're still mapping out the third tackle position. We're rolling through Chad Slade, (Jackson) Barton, and (Kenny) Wiggins and a few other guys. We have multiple options at the third tackle. We'll look and see how that shakes out today. In terms of Bradberry, yes, we do expect him at practice today. All signs would indicate that he should play for us. Obviously, we'll give every player the opportunity to go out there and practice and show it today at practice. He had a personal issue. I'm not going to go into his personal issue publicly. Something we encouraged him to go ahead and take part of. He was able to arrange it, that he stayed within the cadence, he followed all the rules. He was back last night. He's been in all the zoom meetings for install throughout the week. In terms of meeting wise, he hasn't missed anything with us. He's obviously missed the on-field practice time. This is something right here we want to make sure that he can take care of. It's very important to us.
Assistant Head Coach / Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham
Q: The Bengals losing Joe Burrow is a devastating loss for them. In terms of their offense, does much change because they lose him and now, they are going with maybe a lesser experienced quarterback? Is it pretty much you go back and look at the tendencies and you expect everything to kind of be the same?
A: I felt bad for Joe to lose his season like that. He's a good player, good kid. I'm sure he's going to fight back and get back to it next year. When you look at the scheme, I'm looking at what Zac (Taylor) is calling. You see how they evolve during the season. We had the bye week, so we had a chance to go back through all the tape. You could see elements of some of the pass plays he's put in. Mixed in with some new stuff from what they're doing in Cincinnati. We played them last year when I was at Miami. You're seeing a little sprinkle in of a bunch of different, not a bunch of different systems, it's what they do. I'm not sure what they're doing to do. That's the fun part of it. We have to prepare for all of it. What's (Brandon) Allen do? We have to make sure we know what the quarterbacks do and see how it's going to play into the system. To be honest with you, I don't know what he's going to do. We have to prepare for everything. I know this, they've been pretty successful doing some of the stuff they've been doing. You think about the weapons they have and the blockers they have for those guys. You have elite receivers all over the field. I heard somebody at some point referred to (Gio) Bernard as a backup back (running back). I'm like, 'backup, what are you talking about?' Again, we'll see if he is ready for the game or not. All those backs have been successful in the league. It's going to be interesting. I'm looking forward to it. I'm sure it's going to be a challenge on Sunday.
Q: Obviously, Bret (Bielema) has a history with (Brandon) Allen. I'm just wondering how much can that help you with possibly having to prepare for him?
A: You have to remember how we look at the league and how we look at when we're looking at the opposing team. It is a people game and we want to know about the person, too. I'm not saying we have to know who his girlfriend was in high school, I could care less. Any insight you have on the person, it does help. That's one thing we gather information where guys have been different places. The film is the film and you have to really go off of that. It's useful if somebody struggled with a certain thing in their past, it might play into it. It's really based off of the film and us adjusting on Sunday.
Q: Joe (Judge) was talking earlier about what Logan (Ryan) has brought to the table in terms of his leadership with the young guys and what he allows you to do with his versatility and stuff. What has it been like coaching Logan? What have you learned spending all this time around him?
A: I was with Logan earlier in my career; the diligence, the smarts, and the consistency, I think that's a big part of it. The thing that stands out to me, the questions. Thankfully, our whole staff, we're comfortable with our players asking questions. That's a part of it. Here's the thing, we try to teach the fundamentals that Joe wants us to teach. We practice for them to get better at the fundamentals of what we want to do. We implement game plans to take away what the other teams do and try to win situationals. When it comes down to it, it's the players' defense, it's their defense. They take ownership of it. Now does it happen at the beginning? No, but at some point, they take ownership of it. As they take ownership and they feel that ownership of the defense, here come the better questions. 'Pat, why are we doing this, what are we thinking here? What if they did this? I might have forgot that, let me go over that.' Logan has no problem doing that. It's a great thing. When you're dealing with some of the younger players, they are a little hesitant sometimes to ask those questions. I'm like, 'hey, let's talk about what if they did this. If they lined up in this bunch, if they lined up in this stack.' That's one of the best things about Logan to me. He's not afraid to ask those questions and get the answer. He might already know the answer. He's trying to get it for the guys that wouldn't ask. I think that's a huge thing for a young team. Also, in a new system with a new coordinator, new coaches, that helps.
Q: Logan was talking to us the other day about disguising coverages. He made a point that there are times when you disguise so much that sometimes you need to remember to play it straight. Whatever you're lined up in, maybe you have to show that to the quarterback, to lose the scent of what you're trying to do. How important of a component is that when you're trying to disguise? The idea of making sure you do play it straight sometimes.
A: Each game is different. I'm not trying to get philosophical or smart or anything. Each series is different, each situation is different, each play is different. You look at all that. Sometimes the smart way to go, if you're going to play split safeties, show split safety and let them see split safety. That's what you have to do sometimes. If it's single high, show it to him. If you're always disguising, what's going to happen, you get into a pattern. Single high, oh every time it's single high, it's going to split safety. If it's split safety, it's going to single high. We combat that by going through it. Above all else, any coach will tell you this, it's nothing unique to us, when we talk about that ownership and giving players ownership of the defense, as we go through the disguises, don't let a disguise screw up you doing your job, period. Don't let a disguise screw up you doing your job. I can't speak for Logan, but to me, the whole disguise deal where you are just trying to go through it as a coordinator, as a position coach, it's playing that delicate game there. How much do we disguise? I don't know. I can tell when we're doing stuff, they're not that good at it.
Q: I know third down defense was kind of a sore subject earlier in the season. Why has it gotten so much better in the last handful of weeks and obviously against Philly?
A: It starts with the players. The players have taken ownership of it and doing a good job. After that, it goes to the coaches. Jerome Henderson, he does a great job of laying out exactly what those guys are going to do. Giving that to the players. Before it gets to the players, Jerome does a good job with the other coaches presenting it. Jerome presents it to the coaches. In turn, we all look it. All the other coaches watch it, too. Bret (Bielema) and (Sean) Spencer involved with the rush. Kevin (Sherrer) is kind of in between the two, involved with the rush and the coverage. We take the input there. I'm just sitting back. I've got my opinions of what I saw on tape. I'm taking the input and feedback from those guys, then we draw up the plan. It's really because of what the assistant coaches do in terms of presenting the information. Then we go out there as a group and we give it to the players. Tell them what they're doing. Tell them what we need to do, and they take ownership. It's been better. Does that mean anything for this week? Absolutely not. This week is about executing against a team who has all types of weapons around the field. Whether it's the backs, tight ends, now you have the receivers. It's all about execution. To answer your questions, it starts with Jerome giving it to us, the coaches giving it to me. Developing the plan, giving it to the players, them taking ownership.
Q: What would Xavier McKinney bring to this defense if he comes back?
A: The thing that we saw in training camp and what we saw on tape, good athlete, smart player, situationally aware. The thing is, he's been grinding this whole time. Unfortunately for him, it's been in the classroom. I feel bad for him. Now with the chance to possibly play, the thing he brings, he's a good football player out there. That's the simple way to put it, with some position flex. This guy can play in the deep part of the field. He can play down low. He can play all over the field. It's always good to have those pieces. On top of that, the thing is this, he's still young. We can't put too much on him. If he plays and whatever snaps he plays, he's going to earn those snaps. He's got a ways to go right now. I'm glad to have him back in the fold in terms of practicing and stuff.
Q: You're basically saying you intend to bring him along slowly?
A: Whatever snaps they get, they earn. Let's not expect, okay, we're going to throw the kitchen sink at him. I'm not going to do that because he hasn't played yet.
Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett
Opening Statement: Happy Thanksgiving everybody. Just before we get started, I'd love to send my condolences to Heidi Paul and the Paul family. We're all really saddened by the tragic death of Markus Paul. I know Markus was here with the Giants organization for a number of years. He was with us in Dallas the last couple of years, but I've known him for a long, long time. He played on those great Syracuse teams of the late '80s with Daryl Johnston and so many other guys. Anybody who has had the great fortune of being around Markus Paul knows the kind of person he was. The positive impact he had on so many people's lives, he really had an amazing spirit. We all continue to be saddened by his death and are there for his family as they go forward. A very sad and tragic situation.
The other thing I just wanted to touch on is the situation with Marc Colombo. I know Coach Judge has talked about that and addressed that, so I don't see any reason for me to talk about it much further. Joe took care of all that, and we're focused on what we have to do this weekend against Cincinnati. Thank you.
Q: I wanted to ask you about Daniel Jones. Has he gotten more responsibility as he grows with his comfort level in this offense? Can you speak to what type of growth he's had as far as his responsibilities in the offense?
A: Daniel's a really smart person and he's a really smart football player. He's getting more and more experience here over the first couple years of his career. The more experience he gets as a player at this level and also in this offense, the more exposure and responsibility he'll have. But there's never been a minute with him that you say, 'boy, he can't handle it mentally' or 'he can't handle it physically.' It's just more about having experience. I think we've grown as an offense over the course of the year. I think individuals have grown, I think collectively we've grown. Guys are settling into what we're asking them to do. The more experience and the more reps we get at things, I think we're executing them at a higher level. That applies to Daniel, but really it applies to everybody across our offense.
Q: You do have a new offensive line coach now. It's unusual to bring in a new one in the middle of a season like this. I'm curious how you see that transition going and if there's any concern with all these young offensive linemen, bringing in somebody that maybe teaches different techniques than Marc did coming in?
A: Yeah, we had a really good week. I think the growth and development of the offensive line over the course of the year has been significant. They've gotten better and better and better, and it's really to that same point that we were talking about with Daniel. They're young players and they're growing in the offense. They're growing just by playing at this level, individually and then playing together. They go about it the right way and they're learning from their experiences. Anybody who's watched us play has seen the progression with those guys upfront blocking much better in the running game, the protection has improved as the year has gone on, and we've played better as an offense as a result. That's just going to continue. Dave (DeGuglielmo) has coached in this league for a long time, Ben Wilkerson has been around this league for a long time. Those guys are in good hands, and they hit the ground running this week. Excited about this opportunity against Cincinnati.
Q: Speaking of, since 2007, you've been nothing but on the field on Thanksgiving Day. Was it weird being home?
A: It was a little bit different. When I was playing with the Cowboys in the '90s, we played on Thanksgiving every year back then as well. I've been really fortunate to play on Thanksgiving a lot throughout my life, and those are great experiences. But it was a little bit different yesterday. A little bit more of a traditional Thanksgiving, and that's pretty good, too.
Q: Were you aware of the plan to bring in DeGuglielmo to consult? Did you agree with that decision, especially when you were just saying yourself you feel like the line has been getting better? So, was that something you were aware was happening and something you agreed with as well?
A: Again, Joe touched on that whole situation earlier in the week, so I'm going to let his word stand. Again, we're excited about the growth and development of the line. They're in good hands right now. We're excited about this opportunity on Sunday against Cincinnati. It'll be a good challenge for everybody.
Q: Just one follow up, if I may. There was a report that Joe Judge and some of his former Patriots assistants are acting arrogantly in the building as if their way works and others doesn't. What is your perception of that? How would you respond to an accusation like that?
A: I don't know anything about that. I know we're excited about this opportunity to be here as players and coaches, and I do think our team has gotten better over the course of the year. That's what we try to do. We try to come in here and try to improve, try to create an environment for our players to improve and take advantage of the opportunities on Sunday. We have a good one in Cincinnati.
Q: You said the offensive line was improving. I think that's probably what caught so many people off guard with the timing of everything. Why do you think the offensive line has been getting better in the last couple of weeks?
A: I think the biggest thing that we try to do is create an environment for those guys to improve individually and collectively. But then if you have the right kind of guys, hopefully they learn from their experiences. When you're playing young guys or playing guys who have been playing different positions, the opportunity to grow each week is significant. Sometimes you grow when you have positive experiences that you can build on, and sometimes you learn from negative experiences or adversity. If you have the right kind of guys on your team who love ball and want to work at it and want to learn, you have a chance to get better. We certainly have a team made up of those kinds of guys. We're not even close to where we need to be. We all recognize that. But guys are working hard the right way. I think that approach is helping us improve each week.
Q: I asked Joe this, I should ask you this. How would you characterize your relationship with Joe? Because obviously, he let go of one of your friends and we talk all the time about how this is a personal business. I'm sure there were some personal feelings there. How would you characterize your relationship with Joe right now?
A: I think I have a great relationship with Joe. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him, like I said, from afar when he was coaching in New England. All the people that I know that have been around him had great respect for him. My time with him in New York has been a really positive experience for me. I've learned a tremendous amount from him. I like the program that we're trying to build here with our team and how we go about it. I have nothing but great respect for him and appreciate the opportunity to coach for him here in New York.
Q: If I could ask one non-Colombo question, the way Wayne Gallman is running the ball right now, how impressive is that considering he was inactive for you guys Week 2? How much of his success right now is you changing the play-calling from maybe the kind of runs you envisioned with Saquon (Barkley) to the kind of runs that fit Wayne best?
A: I'd probably answer it the same way I answered the earlier questions. Wayne is essentially a young player. With the guys that he's played behind here, he hasn't played that much football at this level. He's played a lot, don't get me wrong, but he's playing more and more as a starter for us. He's exactly what I'm talking about in terms of a player who goes about it the right way. Wayne is a great person. He's a talented guy and he wants to be a great player, he wants to be great for our team. He works very hard at it and he learns from his experiences. You can see him gaining confidence as he goes, building on some of the positive things he's done. Then when he's had an adversity or a setback in some way, he tries to understand what happened and learn from it and grow, and he's done that. He's embracing the opportunity. We're lucky to have him.
Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
Q: Hey Thomas, what did [Kicker] Graham [Gano] show you today?
A: He's out there being Graham, kicking balls around. No, he was good, it was good to get him back on the field. He was his normal self, no different.
Q: Would you expect him Sunday or would you expect to have both of them available just in case?
A: Both guys will be available, so it'll probably be a game day decision. We'll probably just monitor Graham, see how he feels and just kind of go from there.
Q: We don't know much about [Punter] Ryan Santoso. If you had to go down that route, what would you be getting and how much would it concern you that you'd have a guy who's never really kicked field goals in a game?
A: Ryan's very talented. We've been watching him here all year. We brought him in because he has a ton of talent and he's gotten better since he's been here. I would expect Ryan to do the same thing he does in practice, just make kicks. Is he perfect? Absolutely not. Is he inexperienced? Absolutely he is. But this kid has a ton of talent, he will kick in this league one day. Ryan's a very talented kid, hard worker and we'll see what happens, but Ryan's talented, make no mistake about it.
Q: The one thing I do know and I can just see with my naked eye is that he's a big dude. Does that correlate to his range as well? Does he have eye-opening range?
A: Yeah, long levers are strong levers. I ain't going to let the cat out of the bag, but he has a big leg. He's got an extended driver – 6'5", 260, he's a big man.
Q: Obviously [Punter] Riley [Dixon] and [Long Snapper] Casey Kreiter are off the list now, but if we were talking to you Wednesday when you had your kicker, your punter and your long snapper on the Covid list, what was your reaction on Wednesday?
A: You know the Emoji eyes with the big ole (eyes), that's what you would have gotten from me. We've always known because of the nature of these guys, they're always around each other, we encourage them to spread out. Specials are tight, those guys, they sit in the locker room all day with each other, they're talking to each other, they're in the players' lounge, they're always around each other, they're working around each other, so we always knew there was a possibility because of the contact-tracing stuff. [Long snapper] Carson [Tinker] and Ryan and all those guys do a good job of trying to keep themselves spaced out, we've got them in different locker rooms. If you would've gotten me earlier we would've been a little nervous.
Q: You guys are detail-oriented, we've been hearing about it since [Head Coach] Joe [Judge] got here. When you guys put that plan together in the summer to make sure you have a long snapper and have a guy who can kick and punt on the practice squad just in case, what does that reenforce – that the foresight almost came into being this week and became the reality for you guys, and you were prepared for it?
A: Absolutely. That's why Joe gets paid the big bucks, right? He had a plan in place and we talked about it from the spring because you don't want to be in a situation where you don't have the specials, whether it's a punter or kicker you don't ever want to be put in that spot. We had the forethought to bring the guys in and have them in, and really it's been a blessing in disguise because you've been able to work with guys and see a guy like Ryan Santoso get better and just know you've got Carson TInker there if something were to happen. It's been really good for all those guys.
Q: Hey Thomas, most special teams coaches worry about losing guys during games because of injuries. This week you might have a plethora of guys coming back. Does that make your list too long or how do you handle that?
A: The list can never be too long for a special teams coach. We're going to take every hand we can get, but you're right, you have to juggle a lot of balls and, again like I talked about before, we just make the gumbo – whatever we have, we use the ingredients and we make it work. It's always good to have to make those hard decisions which is good for our football team. When you start to get your best players back and guys that can help you, young guys that are ascending, those are things that you want, those are conversations you want to have. It doesn't bother me at all we're getting these guys back, it's great for our team.
Safety Xavier McKinney
Q: What have these last couple months been like for you, especially in those days and initial weeks that you hurt yourself? I'm sure you were really excited about your rookie season and a chance to play in the NFL. You kind of had that ripped from you for a little bit there. What was it like in the beginning? How has it been in the months that you've progressed?
A: I would say it was really tough kind of when I got the news. I kind of figured that something was going on, but once I got the news, it was pretty fast. I had to kind of process it really fast. I actually got surgery the same day that I heard it. In the beginning stages of it, in my head, it was a little… it started out as a rough start for me. But I just saw it as another opportunity for me to get better for myself, to learn more, and also to make sure my body was up to par with what I needed to be doing to get back right and to come back. It was tough in the beginning, but as time went on, I just kept working, trying to improve my game.
Q: I know Jerome Henderson had mentioned that he was giving you like homework assignments. 'Study this quarterback, this tight end.' How helpful was that to keep you engaged? How much do you think you learned being able to take a step back maybe and watch a lot of film and stuff?
A: Yeah, I think I've learned a lot. They make sure that they gave me something every week. It wasn't always big stuff. Sometimes, it was kind of like little minor things that maybe I could pick out and tell them about maybe that they didn't see. Just kind of being able to sit back and, like you said, watch film, I was able to watch film on my iPad, and also I was able to watch the actual game copy, because I would watch the games at home sometimes. I was able to watch it on TV just to see certain situations, certain formations, certain routes that I've maybe never seen or something new to me. It was also good for me to be able to study the QBs and different QBs that we played to kind of just get a feel for how they played and what reads and what they kind of did.
Q: You kind touched on it at the top there. What exactly happened? Because it seemed like you maybe… was it something that happened gradually or was it something that happened one time, you broke a bone?
A: It was just something that kind of just gradually got a little worse as time went on. It was getting a little sore here and there. We would kind of ease off it a little bit. Then that one practice, I think we were on the grass first and we went in to the turf, and it just happened while we were doing some tackling circuits. It just kind of happened at that moment, but it was something that kind of gradually just happened.
Q: How tough was it, you kind of touched on this too, but you had that timeline where it's basically three months. Was it tough to stay focused? Like you are still going to get a chance, and obviously, that time is now?
A: For me, no, it wasn't really tough to stay focused because going into the season, of course I was really excited about my rookie year. I had big, high goals that I set for myself that I wanted to achieve. Once I got hurt, yeah, mentally it got to me at first. But at the end of the day, I knew I still wanted to be as best as I could in my rookie year, whether I was playing or wasn't, which I haven't been and I've been out. I've been making sure to stay in meetings, ever since the day I got hurt and had surgery. Of course, I was out a couple of days. They didn't want me to come in. But once they gave me the green light to go, I was in the meeting room just trying to be there as much as I could for my team and get better for myself.
Q: Back in camp, I remember you, I think it was in the red zone, like jumping a route and leaping behind the defense and picking the ball off. You don't see rookies kind of identify something really that early. Is that the kind of player you are? Instinctive, aggressive? Do you think that the game can slow down for you as a rookie watching and studying off the field, or do you need to play in these games and see it live to know that you can play at this speed that these games are happening?
A: It definitely helps to be able to actually see everything off the field, because you get a better feel for it. But I do think that obviously, it's a lot different when you can actually go out there on the field and you get the speed, especially with me being out for as long as I've been out. I'm not used to the speed. I'm trying to get back adjusted to it, which I've been doing a pretty good job of doing. I think for me, I'm really an instinctive guy. I try to make as many plays as I can for the defense and for the team when I can and wherever I can. It can be a little different when you come back from being off for so long, so it definitely does help to be out there, to get going, that way you get used to it and acclimated to it.
Q: Thinking about it, you had surgery and I think it was the next day that Logan (Ryan) signed. Wednesday, this past Wednesday, was probably at least from my estimation the first time you were actually on the field with him together. Is that right?
A: Yeah. Well, we actually were on the field on a Monday, but it was a light practice.
Q: I'm curious from that perspective, when a guy comes here, and we've all talked a lot about the impact he's had on this defense, his leadership, from afar, and maybe even getting together with him. How much have you tried to glean from a guy like Logan Ryan, and what will it be like when you get out there with Logan and Jabrill (Peppers)? It's kind of a different combination than maybe you envisioned back in August.
A: Yeah, it's definitely been… Well first of all, it's been great to be back out there on the field in general. I've been waiting for this moment. I've been really excited for it. Not just Logan, but all the guys. You have Logan, Pep, JB (James Bradberry), Ike (Isaac Yiadom), you have all these guys out there that help me out, that I've been able to learn from. For me being a rookie, it's always good to learn from them, kind of see what they do, how they prepare for certain stuff, just the way they carry themselves, whether we're in meetings or whether we're out on the field. It helps me in the long run because it helps me kind of find out what type of routine I need to use going on down the line. They've definitely been helpful for me. It's been great being back out there with them.
Q: Obviously, there's a difference between being in shape and being in playing shape. I'm curious where do you think you stand? Do you think you're going to play this week? Do you think you're ready to play this week on Sunday?
A: I've been making good progression throughout the week. Each day, I just try to focus on making sure that I'm doing my job and doing it correctly. As far as playing wise, I just leave that up to my coaches and obviously, the medical staff here. I think they've done a great job while I've been hurt of making sure that I've been doing well and making sure I've been staying up to par with my conditioning and other things, such as giving me little tasks every week and making sure I stay up on the playbook. But I'm definitely ready to go. I feel good. Like I said, I've been progressing each day. Everything has been good.
Q: When you do get back, whenever it is, this week, next week, whenever, where do you think you fit into this defense?
A: That's up to the coaches. Wherever they want to put me, wherever they think is best for the team and best for the defense, then that's what I'll do. I've been saying this for a long time. I said it even before I actually got up to New York. Wherever the team needs me, wherever the defense needs me, I'll play and I'll be able to adjust.
Center Nick Gates
Q: How awkward was it to have your position coach and Head Coach argue over what your technique should be? And how difficult is it as players to have a change at your position coach midseason?
A: (Head Coach Joe) Judge already addressed that with you guys. We're here to just focus on Cincinnati and I'll take those questions.
Q: What's the emotion of the offensive line like right now? Obviously, it was a strange week for you guys.
A: It was difficult news. Again, Judge already talked about it.
Q: Going forward, how are you guys feeling about where you're at?
A: Just got to put one foot in front of another and keep going. We can't skip a beat.
Q: What's your first impression of (Offensive Line coach) Dave (DeGuglielmo)?
A: He's a good guy, he's a good coach. I'm excited to work with him and see where things go.
Q: Are you doing what you've been doing technique-wise for the first 11 weeks, or are some things different now?
A: There's some different things that he wanted to change, that he changed up. Little bit different.
Q: Is it tough to adjust on the fly?
A: It's things I've been taught in the past, multiple coaches have different techniques, so you kind of get a little bit here, and a little bit there. Not too bad.
Q: Obviously, the offensive line has been playing pretty well lately, why do you think you guys have made such big strides?
A: I think we all came together and figured each other out. It was all brand new to us, and we didn't have OTA's or things like that so it takes a couple games for everyone to mesh with each other and figure each other out.
Q: How different are the run plays now with Wayne Gallman, who's a very different runner than Saquon (Barkley) versus what you guys thought you would've been running when Saquon (Barkley) was there?
A: We tried the outside zone with Saquon (Barkley), because he gets there, and one cut and he's up the field; but with him getting hurt, we have been trying to stick the ball up in there and get on double teams and get guys out of there. We would've ran the same plays with Saquon (Barkley), too. Still got to do the same things no matter who is back there.
Q: From the outside looking in, if you look at the numbers, that (Cincinnati) defensive front isn't as potent as some of the units you have faced. That said, are the numbers deceiving, are they still a unit that is very formidable?
A: Definitely. Mike Daniels, Geno Atkins, all of those guys are veterans that are really good. They don't necessarily have the sack numbers, but their QB hits are up, and their pressures are up, and things like that. So you still have to get ready for them even though their sack numbers and things like that aren't up.
Q: Do they do a lot of stunts and twists and things like that to confuse an offensive line?
A: I wouldn't say a whole bunch, but they do a good amount of them. They try to get your eyes moving and try to get guys free.
Q: How much different do you expect the offense to look with a new (offensive) line coach? Do you expect to see a visible change?
A: I don't think the outside observer will really notice. We still have the same system, same plays, we have the same agenda we're going to follow. Jason (Garrett) is still going to be calling the same plays, and we're still going to be running them.
Q: Just in general, as an offensive line group, what's the reaction been? How have you guys processed everything?
A: Just got to take it and go with it. Can't do much about it, so we just got to keep moving on and put one foot in front of the other.
Q: This has been such a weird year, you're 3-7, but if you win on Sunday, and Philly loses to Seattle, you're in first place. Do you sit there and shake your head?
A: Yeah, it's crazy. This division has been a toss-up all year and we've gotten lucky in that aspect, because we can win a couple more games and be right there in the hunt. We just got to take care of Cincinnati, do our jobs, and hopefully the Seahawks can do it, and we'll be in first place.
Q: Do you see yourselves as a team on the rise?
A: Definitely. You guys have seen the last two, three games. We've come a long way since game one, so I think we can throw a couple more games together and hopefully make the playoffs.
Q: What do you think about your guys' play as a line that (Joe) Judge felt the need to coach you guys more directly himself? As an offensive lineman, does having a new voice in your ear mean a whole lot?
A: The first four or five weeks, I mean, you guys saw, the whole offensive line was not playing well, we couldn't run the ball. Judge said a couple things here or there that he thought would help, and we had to try to do our best and work with it. He's the Head Coach, so he has say in everything that goes on in the building.
Cornerback Isaac Yiadom
Q: I just want to know after getting an opportunity early in the season and then taking a step back, and now being the regular starter on the outside again, what do you think you've done better in this second opportunity? How much more have you grown in that role compared to maybe early in the year when you got here so late in camp?
A: When I got here after they completed camp, I don't blame that. I think I caught up to the playbook pretty fast. The coaches got me up to speed. When we changed with Ryan Lewis playing a little bit, it didn't really affect me too much. I was just trying to stay ready to play. I was working on my craft, whether I was doing scout team reps or just watching them and seeing what JB (James Bradberry) and Ryan Lewis were doing, trying to build my game off of their corrections. I've just been doing the same thing since day one I got here, just working hard and trying to be the best version of me. Then once my chance is called, staying ready.
Q: Let's talk a little bit about this matchup specifically. I know Logan Ryan and Coach Judge both called this maybe the best receiving group in the NFL. Do you see it that way? Because I don't think a lot of people think of the Bengals trio that way.
A: I think a lot of people do see it like that. They have three guys who can be number ones on basically any team in the NFL. We're preparing like it. They're a good group of guys, so we have to make sure we're on our stuff.
Q: How much does that help a young quarterback? Obviously, you guys are going to face either (Brandon) Allen or (Ryan) Finley. There are probably a lot of things you could do to a young quarterback, but do those receivers take the pressure off him?
A: Yeah, I played with Brandon Allen last year in Denver. He's a good dude. He's a good player. He can make all the throws. We're preparing like he's the starter and he can make all the throws, like I said. We just need to go out there and not care who's at quarterback, just do our job.
Q: Does that make you like the most important man on the defense who can tell the other 10 guys about your ex-teammate, Brandon Allen?
A: Man, all I know from him is just when he was on the practice squad with us. That's all I really know. Like I told a couple of my teammates, he can make all the throws. We're not taking him lightly.
Q: Going back to how late you were acquired here, this was such a crazy situation this season. Guys deciding whether to play, opt out, whatever. Then you decide you're going to play, then you get traded after camp is over to another team. You have to travel to another city. Just wondering how much of that uncertainty was jarring and how quickly you kind of got settled with it all?
A: After that night after I got traded, I was kind of really passed that. It didn't take me too long to process it. But I was excited to come here and be a Giant. I knew I was coming in to a good situation where I'd be able to play, help this team. I'm excited to be here.
View photos of the history between the New York Giants and Cincinnati Bengals.