Head Coach Joe Judge
Opening Statement: Today we'll pick up on our preparation for Washington. When you talk about this team, defensively it really starts up front. They have a lot of talent on this defensive front. (Washington Defensive Coordinator) Jack (Del Rio) and (Washington Head Coach) Ron (Rivera) do a great job of getting these guys after the passer. You talk about the inside pressure they give, obviously the speed off the edge. Their 'backers are playing very productive right now, playing downhill behind that front, and the secondary is doing a really good job of playing that off-quarters coverage and man coverage and really taking opportunities to jump the ball.
Offensively, I think (Washington Quarterback Taylor) Heinicke has done a really good job of extending plays, improvising on his feet. (Washington Running Back Antonio) Gibson is obviously one of their top targets as a runner, a screen catcher and then also a receiver out of the backfield. Then, you watch obviously (Washington Running Back J.D.) McKissic being gone from the lineup is a change for them, but (Washington Wide Receiver Terry) McLaurin is obviously still an explosive player for them in terms of how he plays.
In the kicking game, it's about the specialists. They've got some big-leg specialists and explosive returners. (Washington Wide Receiver DeAndre) Carter has done a good job this year as a returner, really a one-cut downhill runner. We've got to do a good job protecting against their size, covering against their speed.
It's going to take a good week of preparation right now. Most of the guys are in the building. We have a number of guys that are stuck right now in traffic that have been there for about three hours or so. Really all the guys coming from the city, Hoboken, Weehawken type of areas. We have a number of guys that have been sending us pictures off their phones for about the last three hours or so that they've been stuck. We've had a coach in the same situation, so we're moving on through the day as much as we can and we expect them to be here for the afternoon to catch them up with whatever they missed. That being said, I'll go ahead and open to any questions you have.
Q: Sometimes there's a no excuse thing – if you're late, you're late. But in a situation like this, is it like you couldn't have done anything?
A: With the circumstances these guys are dealing with, the tractor trailer that's crossing off both directions of traffic, from what we understand and from the pictures we're seeing – we've had players that were talking about getting out of their cars and walking. We told them to stay in the vehicle, stay with it, it'll clear on out. We've had coaches that were stuck, as well. The roads were definitely slick today. Definitely with the time we got the messages from the players that they were stuck in traffic would have been well ahead of the attendance time, so this wasn't a deal where we had squad at 7:30 and people were texting at 7:25. This was 6:45 in the morning, everyone saying, 'Look, I've been stuck for about a half hour or so. What do you want me to do?' We just told them, 'Drive safe, stay patient. When they get you out, we'll get you over here.' Some of the guys have tried to stay in through meetings through their speaker phone and things of that nature. We'll get them caught up when they get here.
Q: For the last game of the year, what do you expect from your club in terms of focus, in terms of effort, in terms of execution?
A: The same thing I would expect from the first game, the absolute same thing I'd expect. We tell the guys all the time, 'Come in, be locked in. We're playing for each other as a team.' I expect to see them in the meetings fully prepared. Done a good job this morning of that. Expect to see them in the practices going out there and practicing with intensity, energy and urgency working on fundamentals, making sure we correct any mistakes as we go through the week from the film study and the next day corrections. And I expect to see the effort from the opening kickoff to the final whistle from our team. That's how we play around here.
Q: You made a comment after the game on Sunday about fistfights on the sideline. Is that a reference to what happened with Washington a couple weeks ago?
A: No. I just made a comment toward any outward disfunction – my focus is on getting our team ready right now for Washington. You can make a lot of a lot of comments I've said in the past. Right now, I'm focused on getting the team ready for Washington this weekend.
Q: Have you heard about that from within? Have you talked to ownership or anybody about what you said?
A: I talk to ownership a good bit all the time. In terms of anything I've said, no.
Q: Are there any changes in the COVID situation?
A: (Defensive Lineman) Woodrow Hamilton is one of our practice squad players that's been placed on the list. Other than that, all the players are back in, ramping up and getting ready to go ahead and return. We'll see where they are physically as far as their return. They were in the building yesterday with the trainers as far as moving along that path. They'll continue with the ramp-up today and then get them back on the field as soon as we can.
Q: As far as the players delayed, are any of the quarterbacks in that traffic situation?
A: They are not. The quarterbacks are not involved, but there's a number of defensive players, a lot of those guys live in that area.
Q: What made you decide to cut (Offensive Lineman) Isaiah Wilson?
A: We make roster moves all the time. I don't go into every specific individual move. I appreciate what Isaiah did for us, wish him the best of luck. I think he has an opportunity to be a professional football player and I wish him the best wherever he goes. Obviously, for all the players that play here, any help that you may need down the road, we'd be available for.
Q: Is (Wide Receiver) Kadarius (Toney) on the field this week?
A: Yeah, he's going to be going through the walkthroughs today. We'll see how he progresses. He's dealing with that injury, but we'll see how it kind of progresses throughout the week and see if he has an opportunity to get out there. But we do expect him today and to practice with us.
Q: Just because there's nothing on the other side of this game, will you push him a little further even if he's not quite ready just to get him out there?
A: I make this clear all the time, the medical staff has to tell us somebody is cleared to go on the field to play aggressive and protect themselves. Beyond that, I expect guys to play when they're healthy enough to play, point blank. I only ask one question, 'Is it injury risk or pain management?' That's an assessment the medical team has to make. That's not my decision to make. In terms of me pushing someone to get on the field, that's not my call.
Q: This is the last chance this year for your team to play in front of these fans at home. What do you want the fans to know about this group that you worked with this year?
A: That these guys have gone through a lot of adversity this year. There have been a lot of times that they could have tapped out, but this team has emptied the tank every week in preparation. They emptied the tank for each other and for the fans, to represent them every time they take the field.
Q: Is there anything Kadarius can do in the offseason to prevent the injuries?
A: There are a number of things every player deals with. The nature of the National Football League is it's a long year. For every rookie in this league, it's a much longer year than they've ever had to deal with. There are much different physical demands because of the week-in and week-out demands you have without the gaps. This isn't college where you may play The Little Sisand they don't play guys in the second half. Then, all of a sudden you get a bye week, then you play the rivalry game on Thanksgiving weekend, then you get a six-week break for the bowl game, then Winter break, you come back and it's Spring. The breaks aren't as chopped up for the guys in this league, so just the constant managing their bodies, learning how to manage their bodies through the length of the season. That's something all these guys have to learn throughout the year. We've seen a number of our guys do a really good job, but none of them are where they're going to be further down the road as a pro because they've just got to learn their bodies more and more. The best thing for them to do is take the instruction and direction of the people in this building that are going to help them on the training staff, our strength staff, our sports performance staff, the older players who are leaders on this team who set the example in terms of how they take care of their bodies. The best thing you can really do is learn from those people and then push forward to stay healthy and on the field. In terms of Kadarius, he's had a number of injuries. I wouldn't say there's been anything that's been – they've all been legit injuries. There's nothing that he's stayed off the field for for an extended amount of time that he couldn't play through. You saw this guy return from an ankle injury after Dallas, played through until he couldn't. The Rams game, got hurt. Had an issue in the Tampa game, where he had the pulled muscle with the oblique. He worked to get back on the field and when he was able to come back, he came back and ended up having another injury. These are all things that just happen. I think the biggest thing for any player to do is just train their body in the offseason as much as they can to build that base of muscle and build that recovery for your body. The more you train, the easier your body recovers, but there are bumps and bruises and you have to learn to just manage your body throughout the season. That's for any rookie.
Q: For (Running Back) Saquon (Barkley), how much do you believe in the second year off the ACL where guys are significantly better or how it takes kind of one year to really get back?
A: I think it's dangerous to go ahead and group anybody under one category with any injury. Everybody's different, every body is different, every injury is different. I can tell you from experience being a much lesser athlete than Saquon of having a very similar injury to my knee that there is a length of time that it takes to get back to a certain feel and movement. I can't speak directly for Saquon, so I can't tell you exactly how his body feels. I know this guy has worked through a lot of things. He has dealt with different injuries throughout the year. He's played hard through a lot of things. I've seen a lot of toughness and grit from him this year. In terms of what next year brings, we'll have to see when it comes, but I know he's going to work, train and put himself in the position to have the best year possible.
Q: Do you think for him it's just a matter of getting healthy? We haven't seen Saquon at what he was in 2018. Is it just a matter of 'We just need to get him healthy and 100 percent'?
A: That's probably a better question to ask Saquon directly. What I can speak on is what I've seen from him in terms of how he's worked on and off the field to do everything for the team. Of that, we're very pleased.
Q: How beneficial for him can an offseason without rehab, without going through that extended ACL rehab be?
A: For any player coming off of an injury, the following season of having an offseason without that rehab process is very beneficial. It's just that's naturally what it is where you can go out there and train your body. You're on a different schedule in terms of what you can do. The rehab and recovery is a very exhausting, strenuous process. It really is. It's not that you just come in, lay up all day, get ice on your knee or whatever it may be and then all of a sudden you get out there back on the field. You've got to work extremely hard on everything, but the process of coming back from something like that takes a lot of physical and mental toughness to push through it. People don't realize that when you go through injuries like a lot of these guys deal with that ends their season, that the season is over as far as the fans seeing them, but the process for them getting back on the field is really just beginning when you get hurt and it never really stops. Once you have an injury like that, the rest of your career you're always doing something preventive for it. Any time a guy has a soft tissue injury, we talk to them about always treat it like your hamstring or calf or whatever it is is always hurt. You've got to treat that on the front end to make sure it doesn't become an issue. When a guy's coming off something that requires some kind of reconstructive surgery, they've got to always make sure they take time and they take the right process to support everything around that injury to keep everything else stronger. The work that goes in only gets volume up and amplified as you go through your career. When you come off that second year as far as just the offseason and the approach, it's a whole lot different than that previous year with the rehab.
Q: Last year you went into the last game with a chance to make the playoffs and you knew you had to win, and other things had to happen. In New England, you always went into the last week going into the playoffs. How difficult is this for you and for a team that knows this is the end, knows you're going to be going home and you've never done it before?
A: We always talk about playing every game, regardless of the situation or circumstance, playing every play, every series, every game the same way. This is no different. I'm not going to be hypocritical in front of the team. I talk about playing every situation the same way with the same intensity, urgency and effort and then turn around at the end and say, 'Well, this is just different.' We're only given 17 games a year, that's all you're given. You get 17 opportunities to go out there. You have to make the most of every opportunity. That's what I expect of the team, that's what I expect of the coaches.
Q: Is it human nature — is it easier said than done? Do you have to work harder? With these guys, do you have to kind of make sure they're invested knowing that they're packing up after this game?
A: That's all the work you do throughout Spring, training camp and the first part of the season. That doesn't come into Week 18, where now you're trying to go ahead and convince guys to go. You've got to build a team a certain way. I talked very openly the other day about that. When you build the base the right way in the front end, you're not concerned about, 'Are guys going to show up to work this week?'
Q: You're a coach who believes in practicing in the elements and obviously this morning you're inside. Can you just take us through the process of what you decided?
A: Real simple, frozen fields. It's the only thing we're staying off right now with the pace of practice going on today. The fields are frozen in the middle, so we'll do the first walkthrough today inside and let the fields defrost. Hopefully, we'll be back outside today. There's a forecast for possible rain this weekend, so any opportunity we get to get outside and use the wet balls, we're going to look to go ahead and use. We hear there may be snow on Friday, so we'll see if we can have some fun in that, as well.
Defensive Lineman Leonard Williams
Q: Going back to (Head Coach Joe) Judge's postgame comments, what did you think of how strongly he indicated that guys, teams before under previous regimes might've checked out, but that this program is stronger at this point in the season when you guys are eliminated?
A: I think that's really important, building a culture and identity like that, especially in a year like this where guys are obviously disappointed in how things turned out. Everybody – the team, fans, all of New York is obviously upset about how the season played out. But things like that are something that we can see the light in, and I think it does make a big difference, especially in a losing season. It's easy to find the good things in a winning year, but it's like in a down year like this, you get to find what is working for you. I think what's working for the team is knowing that we have a lot of guys that are willing to fight all the way to the end, whether that's the end of the game, end of the half, end of the season or whatever it is. I think having a lot of guys like that creates a good culture around.
Q: If no one's tapping out, why aren't you guys tapping out?
A: I'm not sure, I think it's a combination of the type of guys that the people higher up are bringing into the building. I think Coach talks a lot about we have a lot of second-chance guys or things like that, where people have probably been on the streets or turned down by another team or second-chance guys he would call it. Having those type of guys around creates a certain identity and a certain culture and a certain fight – a blue collar type, everyone has a chip on their shoulder type of guy. I think those are the type of guys who don't have any quit in them. We're obviously disappointed about not getting those wins and as many wins as we needed to go to the playoffs or have a winning season, but just having that culture is a big deal.
Q: First of all, I wanted to congratulate you. I'm sure you heard that you were named our 2021 Good Guy Award winner, which we named after George Young and Ernie Accorsi, so*congratulations*on that. Thank you very much for the entire season of insightful and thoughtful answers that you gave to our many questions.
A: Thank you. I'm actually surprised about that one. I'm not going to lie (laughs).
Q: Oh, really? Nobody's told you? I thought (Safety) Julian (Love) told you on the way out there.
A: Oh, no, no. I found out about it today, but I was just surprised that out of everybody that I won the award because sometimes when I'm being brought in, I give (Director of Football Communications) Dion (Dargin) and some of the staff a hard time about talking to the media. I feel like the whole incident about talking about the fans and stuff like that, I just didn't think that I would be the Good Guy (laughs).
Q: Well, we don't let Dion vote, so that's why (laughs). I actually had a question, how long ago does the first Washington game feel to you guys? When you pop on the tape are you like, 'Oh, yeah, that's right. I remember back then. I remember that game'?
A: Yeah, that does feel really long ago, actually. Now that this week has come up, I was almost thinking the other day like, 'Wow, the season kind of flew by.' But then there are times where you think back at games like that, where you're like, 'Okay, it actually didn't fly by. That was like a really long time ago.' It's a whole different team compared to what we played the first time, whether that's different scheme, different guys, different weather, all types of stuff. It's all going to be a whole different ball game. It's interesting how long ago that was.
Q: Do you look back at that game and you say, 'Boy, things could've really been a lot different if we had figured out a way to win that game'?
A: Obviously, I think about that about a lot of games. There's always a play, there's always a score or something like that that you just wish you would've gotten back. A game or something like that you wish you would've got back. You just have to keep going forward and make sure you learn from those type of plays or situations or downs or games or whatever you want to call it and just try not to leave anything out there on the table.
Q: You mentioned about why this team is not quitting, tapping out and things like that. You've been here for a little bit of time now. In the past coaching regime at the end of the season like this, did you feel that? Did you sense it that you guys were kind of sliding down and this year you're not? Was it different a couple of years ago?
A: You're saying with the coaching staff that was here before?
A: It's kind of hard to compare it just because I got traded midway through the season and even though I had like eight games, which should've gave me enough time to kind of get a sense of what's going on around here, it was a lot going on for me during those eight weeks individually – being traded and focusing on myself individually like learning a new system and learning new teammates and all that type of stuff, that I didn't really get a grasp on everything else around me in my environment. So, it's kind of hard to talk about them both. I've definitely been on teams before in general or I've been around guys in general, especially older vets like sometimes tap out when things start to get hard. We pretty much know we're not going to the playoffs now and a lot of people would be like we're playing for nothing at this point, whereas guys are still breaking down the huddle today and after practice and saying, 'We've got one more opportunity.' That's what I love about this team is we see everything as an opportunity, and we want to take advantage of every opportunity we get.
Safety Julian Love
Q: Second-place finish in Good Guy voting. Does that sting or is that positive for you?
A: I do not know what that means. Good Guy voting, can you explain?
Q: We in the media every year we vote for the good guy, the player who's the most cooperative and helpful for us every year.
A: Who was first?
Q: Who do you think? You guess.
A: (Kicker) Graham (Gano)? I don't know.
Q: (Defensive Lineman) Leonard Williams.
A: Oh, no. Dang that hurts. USC guy, too. That stings (laughs).
Q: Steering to football, how do you guys lock in especially as a defense and give this team energy this week given how difficult it's been?
A: It's saying a lot. I think after the game, especially in the secondary, guys were talking with each other like, 'We've got one more shot, why not give it your all,' in everything, not just on Sunday. We want to just have the best day we could possibly have today, give it your all. You never know when this group will be together again individually as people, as players, so that's kind of our mindset, just really give it everything we have.
Q: How was almost missing that game in Chicago last week because of COVID? Did that change your approach to anything or your appreciation of playing in these games?
A: Yeah. It was an emotional week for me. My family and my fiancé, just off of protocols, we weren't able to be together for Christmas, so that was before the Philly game and it's just us two out here. That stunk. It wasn't ideal, for sure. Made it through, found a way. It was good through Philly. When I tested positive, I was upset. I have a great support system of people back home in Chicago, so I just wanted to help represent them in any way I could. It was all meant to be when it was meant to be because obviously that day or the next day the CDC passed the five-day thing and the NFL soon after passed their appeal to it. I'm just very fortunate to not miss a game. I pride myself on playing and being available. I don't want to be a guy who lets anybody down. Kudos to our coaching staff for kind of getting me ready, getting me dialed up and giving me a chance to at least compete in some aspect of the game in my home.
Q: (Head Coach) Joe (Judge) was speaking the other day about not seeing golf clubs in the locker room, not hearing guys planning for vacations. You guys know the season is over after this. I'm sure there's some kind of planning or in your head you know what you're doing after the season, and players talk about that, correct?
A: I would say I don't know. I actually don't know what a lot of guys are doing after this season. I think everyone is kind of just getting a grip on what this season has been to them. There's been a lot of reflecting, especially for the secondary on defense, reflecting on kind of what we need to improve on, what we can do. We have a lot of pieces going forward. I think that's been the main topic of conversation. I haven't heard too much of what's going on in the offseason. I know somebody told me that he mentioned in years past that it was like that. I can attest to that being here for a few years now. I think thankfully you're not seeing that. You're not seeing guys lose focus. You're seeing guys, like I said, be attentive to this game and just really giving it your best. It's a prideful thing. You don't want to just fold, so I think that's what we are discussing.
Q: When you say you can attest to that, give me examples. What did it look like in years past in Week 16-17 in the locker room?
A: It's not every guy, but you see those one-offs of some guys the very next day on a trip to a vacation spot and kind of just immediately getting out of the facility, getting out of New Jersey. I think it's partly because Joe kind of really wanted us to feel one with the community. I would say that I was a guy that a few days after I would close out everything, go back home. I'm hanging around Jersey a little bit this year because I just don't want to come to grips with the end of this season, the end with my team. I know I can attest to all of the DBs and what we're doing. We plan to see each other soon after the season ends and to kind of not just all go separate ways.
Q: Joe mentioned that he heard some teams had tapped out. The Giants in the past a couple of years ago had tapped out. What does that mean, 'tapped out,' do you think?
A: I don't know, I think it's calling it in. Phoning it in, kind of just trying to get through the days. I know from my perspective I always felt I've got something to prove, dating back to two years ago when I was playing the last five games of the season on defense, so I couldn't afford the opportunity to just take it easy because I was demonstrating my abilities. Last year too, I feel like I'm always trying to show who I am as a player. I think it's important. I think as players, you take pride in things and that's what you get. Thankfully, a lot of other guys are taking that approach. They're trying to put their best foot forward for the team, for Joe, for the community.
Q: This season you're going to the final game as opposed to last year when you had a chance to make the playoffs. Is this a disappointing year because there's nothing there?
A: As a whole, we're not where we want to be, in no aspect. I think to come to grips with that, I try to pick and choose what was good and what was bad about the year. We had some good games where we really fought and came together. We had some games where we left a lot out there on the table. Very directly, we're not where we want to be at all. I'm disappointed just because I feel like I wanted to do more to help the team succeed. So yeah, that's my take on it.
Q: How tough was it getting to the building today?
A: Man, I was on Route 3 for four hours this morning. It was very unfortunate. Thankfully, I made it in safe, kind of made some plays on the road – I wouldn't advise against. But thankfully I'm here and I tell I everybody I hope everybody is safe and just kind of praying for everybody.
Quarterback Jake Fromm
Q: Is this like a chance at redemption for you? How do you look at it?
A: For me, any opportunity to play in the NFL is a great opportunity. Obviously, I'm looking forward to having a good week of practice and going out and playing to the best of my abilities, and how I think I can.
Q: Did the last game bother you for a while, or are you one of those guys who can just put it in the rearview mirror?
A: You can't change the past, so you just learn from it. You move on and try to do better next time.
Q: What did you learn from that last experience?
A: For me, it's how important putting together a good week of practice is, coming out to the game and executing early, getting a rhythm, and scoring a few points. That's going to be the focus for me this week, have a good week of practice and getting off to a fast start.
Q: Does it feel different? I know that there's been times where you've been QB1 in practices and things like that. Does this feel different when you look around and (Quarterback) Mike (Glennon) and (Quarterback) Daniel (Jones) just aren't even around?
A: I mean, yes and no. For me, it's an opportunity. I'm going to be me regardless. Whenever I step in the huddle, hey, it's go-time. From then on, it's playing football and having fun.
Q: You obviously played in a ton of big games at Georgia in your career. The NFL is a cutthroat business and games like this, like coaches, people's jobs can be on the line based on how seasons go. Do you feel any kind of pressure to perform, not only for yourself, but just to kind of protect what's going on here? Do you feel the pressure of people's jobs on the line with you being the starting quarterback?
A: For me, the only pressure I feel is going to be pressure on I put on myself to go out and perform. Obviously, I want to go out and play the best I can for me, but for my family, my teammates in the locker room and for this organization. Yeah, I'm going to go out and I'm going to give it all I can. Trust me, I want to win more than anybody does.
Q: I kind of wanted to change the subject slightly here. Obviously, the college football National Championship Game is coming up on Monday, a rematch between Georgia and Alabama. I just wanted to kind of (ask about) any memories you had of that game? Also, have you talked to any of your former teammates, obviously, you have a few on the Giants, about the game, the rematch coming up?
A: Yeah. Obviously, most of the focus for me is going to be on the Washington Football Team, but that was a fun game, one I'll remember for a long time. It didn't necessarily end the way we wanted it to, but it was a fun game, great atmosphere. I wish those guys the best.
Q: What was the ending of that like? How painful was that?
A: It was tough. Especially being there as a freshman, you kind of take for granted how hard it is to get back and how big of a moment that was, so it was a tough pill to swallow. You wish you could have it back and have a do-over.
Q: Two quick questions. One is at Georgia, you seemed to have good numbers running. Did they not put as much running into the offense when you started?
A: Are you talking about me as a runner?
A: For me, I don't think of myself as a (Ravens Quarterback) Lamar Jackson by any means. I'm not that kind of guy, but I think I'm an athlete, and I can get it done whenever I need to.
Q: The other question I have is how difficult was it to get to the stadium today?
A: For me, from where I was coming from, it wasn't that bad. I got here pretty early, but I know that if you were coming across the bridge, it was really bad, so just prayers for everybody involved. Hopefully, there were no big accidents.
Q: Just to go back to the College stuff, I know there's a lot of Georgia guys on the team now. Is there a lot of conversation with (Safety) Xavier McKinney about this game?
A: Nothing yet, but we'll see as the week goes on if there's any kind of wagers or any kind of betting going on, so we'll see how that goes.
View rare photos of the all-time series between the New York Giants and the Washington Commanders.