Head Coach Joe Judge
Q: (Wide Receiver) Kadarius Toney last night tweeted that he thought it was 'goofy' that people were publicly criticizing Henry Ruggs for that incident. What are your thoughts on that and have you addressed that with Kadarius?
A: The answer is that I have spoken to Kadarius. I've spoken to the entire team on this issue. The one thing that's unique about this situation with Henry is the amount of relationships he has throughout this league, whether you're from the state of Alabama and you know him from playing through high school competing against him, you were a teammate of his at Alabama, which a significant number of those guys are playing in the NFL. When I talk to my team about the situation, I'm literally looking in guys' eyes, (and) it's not a headline to them. It's a friend of theirs, it's a teammate of theirs, it's something different. I think the important thing that we express is that our prayers are with everybody involved with this. It's a terrible thing to happen. I've got to be very, very careful about how I comment on any of this because it is still an ongoing legal matter and it's not right for anyone to really sway publicly one way or another or anything. I talked to Kadarius. It's important that we understand how we articulate our words and put them out there. Ultimately, our prayers are with everybody. This is a situation no one wants to see happen to anybody. No one wants to be in this situation. While no one is in any way, shape or form dismissing the consequences at all, it's horrible on both sides. It's absolutely horrible. As some players on the Raiders and (Raiders Quarterback) Derek Carr have voiced, as well, it's a terrible incident. You've just got to make sure that you still have prayers for everybody involved. The important thing is we articulate our words and we watch what we say at the same time.
Q: I just wanted to get back to your team a little bit with the COVID stuff. It sounds like you plan to get most of those guys back. What does missing these practices mean for (Running Back) Saquon's (Barkley) availability though? Obviously, he's still dealing with the ankle injury.
A: I know a lot of times we have to see how they really move and not having him available to be here with the trainers on a regular basis and kind of seeing if we can get him into practice, I would say that's something we wouldn't eliminate at this point based on where he's at physically, but I couldn't say that it's moving in a direction to give us a definite answer in a positive way. Again, we'll see where he's at. I would say with all these tests, all but one has come back as negative. We're actually getting a lot of players back who tested positive this morning and then re-tested negative that we're getting back in before practice. We've had a number of coaches as well that we had to send home this morning that are now back in the building and working. This has been, obviously, a different type of day. We've kind of flowed with it pretty well, I think, as an organization. We got the meetings accomplished virtually. It was kind of like stepping back into last season. We've got the players coming over right now. We've got a gap between the meetings and we're having a walkthrough at 1:30 p.m. We'll walkthrough up until 2:00 p.m., practice at 2:00 p.m. and then we'll recap the tape tonight virtually again just to make sure we follow the entire flow of the day virtually. The feedback we're getting right now from our training staff is, as we get more information, be patient. We told every player to be ready, that we expect everyone to be completely focused in and locked in and available for this game. No one has been ruled out completely as a player at this point. There are still some players that are going to miss practice today – not a large number. There are some players that are going to miss practice today while we're waiting on follow-up tests and things of that nature. I'd say right now the only person who I would say is out for the game would be (Running Backs Coach) Burton Burns, the coach. Right now, he and his wife are getting some additional treatment right now that (Senior Vice President of Medical Services) Ronnie Barnes has set up for them and making sure he's taken care of. We've talked with him several times today to check in and see how he's feeling. We're taking every precaution to make sure he gets every step possible. In terms of the players who haven't been with us coming off injuries, Saquon as well as some others, I'd say just having missed time in the day whether you're doing anything IR or not to be part of this game anyway or someone who's trying to see if they can get to this game, a little bit of lost time does affect you. Not having the full morning available for treatment, strength training or whatever is going to get your body back does affect you. That being said, the silver lining of this is we're getting ready right now to go out on the field and practice, so there's still going to be guys moving around and making progress. Some of the other guys you're going to ask about in terms of (Wide Receiver) Kenny (Golladay) and those guys, we plan on those guys being more involved in practice and seeing where they go. They did the PM walkthrough with us last night and we'll see how they move. I'd say (Wide Receiver Sterling) Shep (Shepard) will start out today with the trainers more than anything. I think this will be a deal where coming out of the game, this is really a game week Wednesday. We don't have a lot of answers for them yet anyway. Obviously, it's Thursday getting close to a Sunday game, but we'll see if there's a chance with him moving around and how he progresses throughout the day, and see if it's realistic or not.
Q: What were the numbers on the positives today you got back? I know you said you had 13 on Tuesday. What were the numbers yesterday and today? Do you know?
A: I don't have that off the top of my head. I know it was a good amount. There were a number of guys, where it was coaches, staff members, players, even some people in the media yesterday that went through a similar thing in terms of getting a positive then getting a negative later on and saying you're cleared to come back to work. It's something we're working through operationally that as we keep getting results and guys are cleared to come back in the building, we will. There are a couple cases of guys who are unvaccinated where they're a little bit more in limbo because there's a little bit more extensive testing for those guys and clearance methods. No one has been ruled out. We're getting everybody ready, whether that's virtual meetings or however we have to do it. We'll keep everyone ready and up for the game, and when we have final answers, then we'll go ahead and plow forward. Until we find out whether we have to test tomorrow or continuously throughout game day, I've told the coaches and players that everyone's got to be ready. I've told the coaches, we could get to Sunday morning and they could tell us we lost a dozen people. I don't want to hear any excuses, have the next guy ready to go, have a game plan ready that includes changing personnel, changing scheme. Whatever we have to do, be very fluid in this. That's our job as coaches, make sure we have the best plan available regardless of who's available.
Q: So Saquon's involved in the virtual meetings. Do you know if he's working with a trainer? Is he just standing around at his house doing nothing? Is he able to physically move around so that theoretically if he rejoined you guys Friday or Saturday he has any chance to play or is that unrealistic?
A: In terms of what the trainers are doing with these guys while they're removed, there's some things they can do with them. There are also some limitations while a guy is in the COVID protocols. You don't know if he's got the virus or not, so in terms of what the trainers are doing with them, that's kind of between those guys. Anyone who's in the virtual meetings, it's not much more exciting than we are right here (with this zoom call), just kind of sitting still and watching and being a part of the meetings as far as talking. He's not up doing rehab while we're talking, if that's what you're referring to right there. But while we're in the virtual meetings throughout the day, for that two-hour period we had this morning he was in there, he was fully involved, he was part of the game plan, he's listening to what's going on, the systems, the checks, the adjustments, obviously the things specific to the Raiders that we have to be alert for. Mentally, he's being prepared and physically, the trainers will handle the rest of it and we'll see if we get an opportunity to get him out there and progress him towards Sunday. Again, that could be affected based on just the timetable from the league. A lot of that is based on what we get from testing results.
Q: You said you mentioned you had positives this morning, do you know how many positives you had this morning in regards to players and coaches?
A: To give you an exact number, I'd have to actually go back and check my notes. It was a pretty solid number, I'll give you that right now. It wasn't like a quick glance-over number.
Q: Also, how does it affect guys when there's a false positive if they're unvaccinated compared to when they're perhaps vaccinated?
A: I'd say the biggest thing is based on the second test they get back, the other rapid test and they get the PCR, which is more of that kind of swab and later in the day, overnight type of test getting back. There's a little bit of a difference in terms of that. I'd say the biggest difference is the exposure, the close contacts. So, if you're vaccinated and the guy next to you is not vaccinated, if both of you are close contacts of someone who pops up positive, the unvaccinated player is going to have to go through a lot more strenuous steps to get back in the building, whereas if you're vaccinated, you really just have to wear a mask and test for five consecutive days to make sure you're clear. I was a close contact myself a couple of weeks ago from an interview I did and that was something right there where you had to put a mask on when you talk to the team, when you're inside. On the field, I didn't have to wear a mask. I had to test for five consecutive days, so that was really kind of my experience with being a vaccinated close contact. It doesn't remove you from the office necessarily. It doesn't remove you from the field. If you're unvaccinated, it can take you out of action if they deem that you were at risk as far as being a close contact. A close contact can come anywhere from being in the locker room, being in the meeting room, being on a bus traveling, being on a plane too close to somebody on the trip back. There's a number of places this can come from.
Q: Regarding Kadarius, you've had several instances now where you've had to pull him aside and explain to him either why he can't do something or say a certain thing. Is it concerning to you maybe that it's not getting through to him, that he seems to leave and basically say whatever he wants the next time, or do you think he understands the ramifications of what he says?
A: Kadarius is a very intelligent person and every time we've had a talk, he's fully understanding and we've been in a good place with that. In terms of what he tweeted out, I know where his heart was with that. I think sometimes it comes across that obviously you read it and you say, 'Okay, this doesn't really sound the right way.' I think it's more about making sure we articulate our words. I know he included in there in terms of – we talked as a team yesterday about our prayers should be with everybody involved and that's the truth and that's what I believe and that's what I've expressed to the team. I know a lot of players feel the same way. In terms of his growth, one thing I'll tell you right now is KT's a good kid – and I shouldn't call him a kid, he's not a kid. He's a good dude. He really is and he's got a good heart. This guy's a hard worker and a team-first guy. I'd say just from a personal standpoint, I'm glad that everything I did when I was 21, 22, 23 isn't fully documented. With that being said, we've got a group of guys from this generation who are in a position where everything they have is and they allow it to be documented in a lot of ways because we put it out there ourselves. We've got to make sure we keep doing a good job, especially when it comes to social media, making sure we articulate our point the right way, that we never have to clarify or defend it. That doesn't always come across the right way the first time. We've got to keep educating all of our players. We keep working with our players all the time. To me, it's always important to understand someone's heart. Sometimes guys are going to make a mistake in terms of how they articulate or verbalize something. When you understand the core of what someone's trying to say and you talk to a guy and you understand the relationship and maybe he didn't get the point across exactly, you understand he's coming from the right place. We've got a number of guys who are in the same situation with a lot of different situations. No one's more aware of what goes on out there because I get (Director of Football Communications) Dion (Dargin) and (Senior Vice President of Communications) Pat Hanlon and all these guys give me a list of different things that go out there and sometimes it's like, 'Does this have to come across my desk?' and other times it's like, 'Yeah, I've got to see this.' When something comes up and I have to talk to a player, I talk to them. I address it. I don't hide from issues. We don't put our head in the sand around here. We take things head on and if a player needs to be corrected on the field or off the field, we do that. If there has to be discipline at some point, then we take discipline where it's measured, but there's a point of trying to appease the crowd sometimes with discipline, there's a point of knowing what's the actual point you're going to get out of it. I think with Kadarius specifically, this guy's a really, really good person, he really is. He really is. He's a good teammate. He's very coachable. He's got great intentions in the building with what he's trying to do to help this team. This guy's a tough dude, he plays through a lot of stuff, so in terms of this guy and his character, I have no questions about this guy's character. I think it's important people understand that – I talk about it all the time, I can deal with personalities. Now, that doesn't mean at some point you don't have to address something with somebody. That doesn't mean people don't have to address things with me. My personality can be abrasive at times. My personality rubs people the wrong way all the time. It's something I'm very self-conscious or self-aware about, but I like people who are themselves and that includes understanding and accepting their personalities. He's a young player and we've got to continue to help this guy grow as a professional and he's doing everything he can on the field and he's making a lot of progress off the field, as well. I'm really proud of the way this guy's working on a daily basis to be the best he can.
Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham
Q: Last week, you had (Cornerback) James Bradberry on (Chiefs Tight End Travis) Kelce a good amount of the time – you can tell me how much. What is it about his skillset that you think works there and can it work this week against a guy like (Raiders Tight End Darren) Waller?
A: Last week, that game plan – really, the Kansas City Chiefs, what they would do, they got in a lot of what we call a trey formation, where they're in 11 personnel, they put the three receivers on the field, and they kept Kelce on the backside. A lot of teams do that formation kind of to ID you and see what coverage you're in. So, it worked out for us to have JB back there. The thing for his skillset – I mean, you're dealing with a big tight end like Kelce and then you're able to match him up with a big corner. It's no different than what we used to do back in the day with Aqib Talib. We would do that sometimes. I remember in 2013 against the Saints when (Patriots Head Coach) Bill (Belichick) and (Patriots Senior Football Advisor) Matty P (Matt Patricia) came up with that game plan and Aqib followed him around and that ended up being good for us that day. When you get a chance to use a big corner on a tight end like that, sometimes the matchup plays out like that, whether we're matching him up or the alignments and we're trying to guess right. That could be advantageous for us as a defense when that happens. So, when you look at Waller this week, we'll probably have two to three people in man situations end up covering this guy, but I'm sure JB will get a chance at him at some point. Anytime you've got a big corner, their skillset working with receivers or going against receivers, and then you add that size element versus a tight end, I think it potentially helps us.
Q: This kind of reminds me of last year when you guys on defense seemed to struggle for the first handful of games, then it almost looked like something clicked midseason. You guys carried it through to the end of last year, it's been that way through the last two games certainly. I'm wondering big picture, what is it that you feel like your defenses click midseason? And moving forward, do you have to change something earlier in the season to make it simpler, so this turnaround happens earlier?
A: To me, I think what ends up happening is we end up playing better and I end up calling the game better. Obviously, you would like that timetable to be a little bit faster. It's obviously not acceptable. Even Monday night was not acceptable – we lost the game, so I obviously could have done more and I'm sure the players felt like they could have done more. Thankfully, we have an opportunity this week against Las Vegas. I think really the thing that happens naturally with defenses is the communication becomes better over time, you get more and more comfortable working with one another. Again, I've got to obviously speed up my process in terms of figuring out where to put guys in the right spot. I think all that comes into play. It'll be interesting to see this week because with Las Vegas and their offense, the quarterback is playing at a pretty high level. Again, we're going through a string right now where we're going to be seeing a lot of good quarterbacks – last week, (Chiefs Quarterback Patrick) Mahomes, you've got (Raiders Quarterback Derek) Carr this week, when we get back off the bye we have (Buccaneers Quarterback) Tom (Brady). But Carr (went) 31 of 34 the last time they played. After he threw that pick, he was pretty much perfect in terms of his QB rating. He has weapons all over the field, so it's going to be a challenge, but we'll see if it's clicking. Again, we've got two wins on the season. We've got to do everything we've got to do this week to win another game. We've got to play well on defense, and we've got to do what's necessary to keep them off the scoreboard. What we've got to do is make sure they don't score more points than our offense, so we've got to do a better job of that.
Q: Is that hard when the offense isn't scoring like most NFL offenses score? 20 points against the Kansas City Chiefs – I know you're going to be hard on yourself – but 20 points against the Kansas City Chiefs is usually good enough for a win?
A: We operate independently. In terms of defense, that's our job description – stop them from scoring more points than our offense. So, it doesn't really matter what the offense does because then you have games where the offense scores 30 points and we give up 33. To us, it's a team effort and our job description is to make sure they score less points than our offense. So, it doesn't really matter because there are going to be good days and bad days on both sides of the ball. We've got to get that done.
Q: You got (Cornerback) Aaron Robinson on the field the other day for the first time and it looked like maybe there were a couple plays where he was a little bit lost or a little bit confused. How would you assess his debut and what can he give you going forward?
A: In terms of his feelings and everything, you'd have to talk to him about it. I'm sure, Monday Night Football, Kansas City, you're out there, the lights are on, the whole nine yards and you line up and there's (Chiefs Wide Receiver) Tyreek Hill and Kelce. I mean, I don't know, but I assume as a rookie in your first game, I'm sure there are some butterflies. What you saw out there, you saw a young player who can run around. He has good speed. I don't know if he had any tackling opportunities, but he has good speed. I really enjoy working with this guy and I think he's just going to grow from here. In terms of your first game to go up against that offense and be in the slot, and all of a sudden you look across and there's Kelce or (Chiefs Wide Receiver Mecole) Hardman, those guys like that – that's a tough one. We'll see how it plays out this week. We've got another good group of players. You've got (Raiders Wide Receiver Hunter) Renfrow, you've got (Raiders Wide Receiver Bryan) Edwards, you've got (Raiders Wide Receiver) Zay Jones, you've got Waller. Again, as a young player you just get in there and start playing some football. It'll come for him, it'll come for him.
Q: Wanted to ask you about a couple guys who made some plays the other day that we haven't really talked to you about, (Linebacker) Quincy Roche and (Defensive Back) Keion Crossen. Both had a couple nice plays. What have those guys shown you? I know they were guys that kind of came to you late in the process this year, but what have they shown you?
A: Real quick on Q – Q's gotten better every week and he's doing what we ask him to do. Again, not coach speak, I can take you through the progression of what (Linebackers Coach) Kevin (Sherrer) and (Assistant Linebackers/Special Teams Assistant Anthony) Blev (Blevins) do in terms of just the sled work – I'm talking about the sled and what we call 'Big Bertha,' the pad. You just look at the progression over the last seven weeks of how he's been able to improve there with his hands in front of his eyes, playing with better pad level. He's worked really hard to get better and he's listened to the coaching, so that's one thing. We anticipated this guy being able to make plays and we shared that, expressed that with everybody and he went out there and did it, so it's a credit to him working hard. As far as Keion – Keion's been in this league, he's been a productive player in this league primarily on special teams, but he's been a productive player in this league and he always lets us know, 'Hey, I'm ready. I'm ready.' Quite honestly, just late in the week we were trying to think of a way to get him involved in probably going to get Mahomes. There is a text group or exchange between myself, Kevin and (Defensive Line Coach Sean) Spence (Spencer) and we said, 'Hey, we put it together,' and we knew there was going to be a moment where we needed it and he got it done. Kudos to him in terms of he's always ready. He's always ready and he's a professional, so we'll see how that plays out this week.
Q: I assume with all that's gone on the past two days that you have to be wondering who you're going to have on Sunday. How do you approach that?
A: Absolutely. From the unfortunate situation with Las Vegas, you're game planning, you get on the plane after the Monday night game and you're like, 'Okay, here's my plan for this particular player,' then all of a sudden you have the unfortunate incident there. Then, you get to our plan and all the stuff going on, and you're trying to figure stuff out. Thankfully, we're used to a little bit of the chaos, a little bit of the change happening all the time. This league is funny like that, the game is like that, sudden change. So really in terms of being equipped to deal with it, I think we're in that environment already. Does that make sense? You're kind of on the fly making adjustments and thankfully the staff, we've been together for two years, so it's a little bit easier to do that. As soon as we get the players around us, I think because of some of the veteran leadership we have it makes it a little bit easier to adjust on the fly when this stuff happens. We're able to not make any excuses and just keep plugging away.
Q: So, whoever is up is up, and you'll use them?
A: Yeah. Hey, I'm used to that. I like that. We've got to coach everybody. We've got to coach everybody and get them ready to go. Like I always say, I know this, Las Vegas could care less who's up for us or who's down for us. They're going to show up at one o'clock and play the game, and we've just got to be ready to go with whoever's there.
Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett
Q: Last game it seemed like (Tight End) Evan Engram was doing a lot of pass pro. Was that part of the plan or was that an adjustment you made in the first half?
A: Obviously, we ask our tight ends to get involved in protection at different times, particularly against a really good defensive front when you think about (Chiefs Defensive End Frank) Clark and (Chiefs Defensive Tackle Chris) Jones. They're really talented guys as rushers, so we've asked our guys, both the tight ends and the backs, to get involved at different times to do that. At other times, we get them out. That's just part of our plan week to week as to what we feel like we need to get the job done.
Q: Two-pronged question – number one, as a play caller, a coordinator and then as a head coach, you've kind of always been known as a guy who was tight-end-friendly. Would you agree with that or was that more of a product of having (Former Cowboys Tight End) Jason Witten for all those years?
A: No, I love tight ends. Tight ends are a big part of the offense and really because of their versatility, like we talked earlier, we're going to ask them to do a lot of different things. They're going to run block. They're going to pass protect. They're going to run routes at different levels, and we like to get them involved in what we're doing.
Q: You had no touchdowns from your tight ends before last week and then you got one from Evan and one from (Tight End) Kyle (Rudolph). I'm sure you want more of that. Was there frustration earlier about not getting those guys in the end zone and a real satisfaction of finally getting them into the end zone last week?
A: To be honest with you, I didn't really think about that, specifically. We love those guys. Rudy has been a darn good player in this league for a long time. We're excited to have him on our team and, obviously, we love Evan. He's been a guy who's made a lot of little plays for us and some big plays for us. I have a lot of respect for those guys, and (Tight End) Kaden Smith when he's involved and his role, he does an excellent job as well. Whatever we ask those guys to do, they embrace, and last week they did a really good job. Those are nut-cutting plays down in the end zone. The fourth-and-one to Kyle, he ran a really good route and I think we had a third-and-four to Evan, and both those guys got in the end zone for us. Really love those guys and love their approach and how they're handling and taking advantage of the opportunities they do get.
Q: With everything that's going on, what's this like for you trying to game plan – I guess specific to (Running Back) Saquon Barkley's ankle and now COVID list? Do you expect him back? With guys who might not be there, how are you game planning for not knowing if you'll have guys?
A: You just control what you can control. That's been our mantra really all year long. We've had a lot of different moving parts on offense and I really challenged the guys to embrace what the opportunities are. If a guy's not available to play, the next guy has got to be able to step up in there and play for us. That's happened on the offensive line. It's happened with our tight ends, receivers, our quarterback and also our running backs. I think each of those guys have had the opportunity to come in and they've embraced their opportunity and they've done a good job. They've been prepared. They've been ready and they've gone out and done it. Obviously, we'd love to have Saquon Barkley back. He's one of the best players we have, and we love the guy. A real tribute to him and how he's improved coming back from his knee injury. I think we saw him get better from week to week to week in the early part of the season. Now, he's dealing with the ankle injury and he's working his hardest to get back from that. Whatever the circumstances are, as coaches, we have to be ready for him or to have our other running backs take those roles.
Q: Do you get the sense your guys still enjoy playing in front of the home crowd? They've been kind of hostile to you guys lately. Even the win against the Panthers, there was early game booing. Do you get the sense they enjoy it? Do you consider that at all, like we have to be aggressive to start this game when you're scripting plays just to get like the fans on your side, if that makes sense?
A: Again, I don't really think much about that. We love playing and coaching for the Giants and one of the reasons we do is because our fans are passionate about football and we love that. The biggest thing that we try to focus on is that playing, coaching to the best of our ability and what we need to do each day to prepare to do that on Sundays, regardless of where we play and who we play and when we play. That's what our job is, and I thought our guys did a really good job the last time we played at home against Carolina. It was a good outing for us. It was a good team win and they're excited to play at MetLife again this weekend.
Q: On that third-and-four down by the goal line, you have a pass play for two yards. Was there a mix-up on the route there? Did you think you guys were going for it on fourth down? What happened there?
A: (Wide Receiver) Sterling Shepard will be the first one to tell you that he probably needs to push the depth a little bit more. We felt like we had a good look there that that route was going to give us first down depth. Unfortunately, it came up a little short on that one. But again, Sterling has been such a good player for us in those critical situations. Unfortunately, we came up short on that one.
Q: My second question is about (Wide Receiver) Kenny (Golladay). Obviously, he was a big addition in this offseason and hasn't really done much on the field for you guys in terms of being 100 percent healthy. Is that frustrating at all and do you almost have to kind of wash this year, take this year as a wash on him and hope that he can come back fully healthy next year?
A: Oh, I would say absolutely not. Kenny has dealt with some injuries, but his approach has been outstanding. When he's had opportunities to be out there and practice and then play in games, he's doing everything we're asking him to do. The biggest thing for him is to get himself healthy and then once he does, we'll get him back integrated on the practice field and then hopefully on game day. His approach has been great. He works hard. He's been a damn good player when he's been healthy for us. He's made a lot of good plays for us and we expect that again this year. He just has to take it day by day and get himself back and ready to go. Once he does, he'll be a big part of what we do.
Q: I know we talked about next man up, but with (Running Backs Coach) Burton (Burns), I mean is there any chance he's back Sunday or who's the next man up?
A: You're talking about Burton Burns?
A: Well, he's certainly involved in everything we're doing. He's been remote, but he's involved in all our staff meetings and he's in our meetings. He just hasn't been able to be out on the field. Freddie Kitchens, the senior assistant for us, so he's going to work more with the running backs, along with (Offensive Assistant) Jody Wright. Those guys will handle that, but Burton is still a part of everything we're doing every day.
Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
Q: What was the lesson for (Wide Receiver) Kadarius (Toney) on that punt return? Should he have fair caught that?
A: Yeah. It's the same thing I told him as soon as the play happened, the one thing about being a punt returner, you have to be patient, you've got to let plays come to you. You can't chase plays as a punt returner. That's just a young guy making a mistake, trying to make a play in the moment, wants to do well for his team. It's like anything else, I tell him all the time, sometimes you win, sometimes you learn, you never lose. He won in that situation because he's learned a valuable experience. Don't chase plays, let them come to you.
Q: You guys signed (Wide Receiver) Pharoh Cooper this week and I don't know if he'll be up for you this week on Sunday, but tell us what you know about him and what you think he might bring.
A: Pharoh Cooper, former Pro Bowl returner, been around the league, veteran guy, dependable, hardworking guy from all reports I've received from other places he's been, and he's all ball. You can see it from the first day he walked in. We look forward to working with him and any time you get a chance to work with a guy like that, that's a professional and all ball all the time, you embrace that opportunity.
Q: The Chiefs had no return yards in that game – punt or kickoff. Obviously, I'm sure that was part of what your plan was, what do you give up to do that? Are you kicking the ball shorter to make sure they're not having return yards? Obviously, if you can have no return yards every game, you would, so I imagine that there is something you have to trade off there to make sure they don't have any return yards.
A: The tradeoff is potentially tackling them inside the 20 on the kickoff, but you're weighing your options there with one of the perennial top five, if not top return group, in the league with explosive returners. You weigh the chances of them potentially making a game-breaking play as opposed to just taking them completely out of it with a guy like (Kicker) Graham Gano, who can kick balls out of the back of the endzone. You weigh your options on that. Punt wise, obviously you've just got to go cover punts. (Punter) Riley (Dixon) has to give us good direction, we've got to get down there and go cover. Got to give us hang to distance and that's just the reality of – that's how you create that situation where you have zero punt yards. I was proud of our guys for doing that and to be able to execute at that level. Forcing a fair catch with the gunners and being able to put them in situations where they're scrambling a little bit, trying to find another way to make a play in the kicking game.
Q: I assume Riley's last punt at the end was not designed to be that short.
A: No, no, no. He'll tell you just like everybody else will tell you. It just wasn't a good punt by him. It's just like anything else. Sometimes the ugly stuff is good. Couldn't get to it and you just never know. These guys are explosive. (Chiefs Wide Receiver) Mecole Hardman, you saw what he did on offense. Anytime a guy gets his hand on a ball in space, they're explosive. They have explosive returners. That's just part of football.
Q: What are the teaching points for (Linebacker) Cam Brown. You mentioned Riley's last kick which you would want a little deeper and then you don't want a five-yard penalty to give them five more yards to set up for a game winning field goal. What is the teaching point on that play?
A: Luck. The ball is coming directly back into his path as he's coming back into the field of play. The ball's literally coming right at him and I think it was just a reaction thing. As soon as he did it, he knew he screwed up. We talk about this stuff all the time, we drill it, we go through it and stuff happens at times. Not to give the kid an excuse, but that's just the way football is sometimes. Sometimes young players are going to make mistakes. He's still learning and he's learning and winning in that situation because he knows the next time he's in that situation, he can't do it. There's no excuses, just can't do it.
Q: Have you ever had a run of returners getting hurt so much?
A: Actually, my first year here, we went through a few of them. That's football. It happens sometimes. You get guys that get nicks and soft tissues and broken bones. It's football. It's unfortunate, but we're going through our run here of guys, so we've just got to make sure that we can keep them upright and we don't have any bones broken or soft tissue injuries. It's just the luck of the draw sometimes. This is football, it's not tennis or golf. It's a collision sport and sometimes those collisions are going to cause injuries. Keep trying to do the best you can with what you have and just coach up guys and protect themselves and sometimes that stuff happens.
Q: You offering hazard pay?
A: (Laughs) I wish. My youngest boy right now is going through rehab of an injury that he had literally trying to put his hand down to brace himself on just carrying a football. He's been dealing with it for a while, it's almost been a whole year now. Sometimes you have those injuries and, in this game, it's just when you play it, you know when you walk out on that field, there's a possibility that injuries can occur. You've just got to keep plugging along, try to get back healthy and go back out again.
Defensive Lineman Leonard Williams
Q: What's been the mood of the team with the testing situation going on? I know there are a lot false positives. Do you guys kind of hold your breath every time you go into that trailer?
A: I think it's unfortunate that some people have tested positive or false positive or whatever the case may be, but I think we have some experience with the COVID stuff going on. All of last year, we had to get tested every day, we did virtual meetings at times, had no fans – so I think we've dealt with some of these things before. I think because we have experience, we know not to let that be a distraction throughout the week.
Q: Is this a week where you say, 'Man, I'm glad I got that vaccine,' not only to protect yourself, but because it's easier to come back from it if you're a close contact or something like that within the league rules?
A: I've heard you can still catch it with the vaccination obviously, but they say that the symptoms are not as bad. At the same time, everyone has their freedom to do whatever they want to do, whether they get it or not. I guess I am a little more excited that I got it.
Q: Can you take me back to the Panthers game a couple weeks ago and what it was like once you guys started playing well and the crowd got behind you, and they were cheering instead of booing, which they had been for the previous couple of games? Did that feel like a homefield advantage to you? How different is that emotion when that's the reaction from the fans versus what you were experiencing previously?
A: Honestly, I didn't think too much about the fan situation. I was more excited to see the way we started the game and the way we ended the game and everything in between. (Head) Coach (Joe) Judge talks about eyes a lot, and I think I'm pretty similar in that aspect where I'm observant – I'm observant of my teammates and my coaches and I had just seen how throughout that game it felt like we knew we were going to win it. Guys were playing that way, guys were making less mistakes, they were capitalizing on opportunities that were coming their way and we were celebrating together as a team. We just had a lot of infectious energy and contagious energy going on.
Q: Do you think it's coincidence that now if I talk to you about the Chiefs game or the Seahawks game last year that some of the better games for this team have been on the road? Does this team have a road warrior mindset or is it coincidence?
A: Honestly, I haven't looked into it too much to know if it's a road warrior type of mindset or if it's coincidence, but I think we do like stepping up to challenges, whether that's a challenge to us or not being in a road game or not. I think we're definitely the type of team that we want to step up to the plate and step up to a challenge.
Q: Obviously, you guys had a big play last week that was negated by an offsides penalty. Who is that on? Not (Linebacker) Oshane (Ximines) specifically, but is that a player responsibility? Is that a coach responsibility? Who's to blame for penalties like that?
A: I think as a player we always want to point at ourselves if we're going to point out someone to blame. If I jumped offsides, I'm obviously going to look at myself. It's no one else's fault for moving besides my own, but at the same time I think he's going to learn from that situation. We definitely work on situational football and knowing that there could possibly be a hard count in that situation. Obviously, those type of small mistakes get blown up even more as the game gets closer to the end. I even had an offsides earlier in the game that didn't get blown up as much because the defense was allowed to get off the field. His was blown up because it was possibly one of the last plays of the game and it's obviously a bigger situation. It just looks different, and I think as a team and as coaches and as players, we just need to learn and grow from these situations.
Q: If I can just ask sort of a big-picture question, we're about halfway through the schedule. What do you want to see from this team in the second half? What are you looking for?
A: The same thing kind of Coach Judge told us, I think it was against the Rams when we were down pretty bad at halftime, he wanted to see guys keep fighting, no quit. Obviously, I don't want to compare, but similar to last year, I think we had that same type of mindset of not quitting and keep fighting. We ended up being one game away from going to the playoffs. I think if we continue to fight knowing that this is a long season and our best football is ahead of us, this is the time to try to make a run.
Q: I don't know how to properly ask this question, but is it hard to be a football player? You talked about not being distracted by COVID, but you guys have that issue, the Raiders have the issue of (Former Raiders Wide Receiver) Henry Ruggs. Does society kind of get into football too much? How do you keep everything separate?
A: I think it's hard to take society out of football because at the end of the day, we're still humans. We still deal with every day human problems. People have mental disorders, mental health issues. People have family situations going on. They have friend situations going on, whatever you have, and the COVID situation now. Like every human is dealing with in the world, we deal with it as well. I think because we're in the spotlight you see it more. I'm sure there are a lot of situations that have happened to us that happen to everyday people and it's more heightened because we're in the spotlight.
Tight End Evan Engram
Q: Tell us what it's like in the building today and at practice. It seems like a good amount of scare every time you get a test to see if you'll get a positive result.
A: Yeah, I mean, it's a little adjustment. Some things change, a little sudden change. Some unfortunate stuff that we're not really in control of. We just have to abide to the rules. Everybody is in here taking care of business, following the rules and we just got some good work in on the field. We just have to finish off the day.
Q: It seems like every time you play at home, the fans are restless. We know what happened with (Defensive Lineman) Leonard Williams and the fans a coupe of weeks ago. It seems like they are restless and if you get off to a bad start, they are ready to boo. Does this team still enjoy playing at home? Do you feel like you have a home field advantage?
A: Yeah, we enjoy playing at home. It's our home field and I think the fans were pretty electric last home game against Carolina. We got things going, defense played well, and we dug out a win. Yeah, we enjoy playing at home. We just got to be consistent with our play and giving them good product on the field. They'll be the good fans that they are.
Q: It seems with (Running Back) Saquon (Barkley) out, (Running Back) Devontae (Booker) is starting to get his stride as the running back. How do you think he has played, and do you think this game means any more for him considering it is against the Raiders?
A: Yeah, I never really thought of that. I don't want to speak for anybody else, but I know (Devontae Booker) Book has been in here doing everything he is asked. He's doing it at a high level and he's definitely hit the ground running. Last week on Monday night, he made a number of big plays for us and got us down the field on a couple of drives. I think he's looking to continue that and build on that and try to do whatever he can to help us win.
Q: Were you surprised it took so long to get your first touchdown of the year?
A: No, I wasn't surprised or anything. Obviously, I'm looking to make plays and score every week. Just a matter of time, my number was called last Monday night and made a play. Don't really look at it that way, just ready when my number is called.
Q: Kyle Rudolph scored too. Is that a coincidence that both tight ends scored in the same game? Was it something you saw specific to Kansas City? DO you expect to be more involved in the red zone down the stretch? What do you make of both tight ends not scoring then scoring as we go forward?
A: I thought it was pretty cool. We actually had a goal of trying to get three touchdowns before the game. We were just kind of warming up, getting ready, talking about us all getting in the endzone. We missed out on (Tight End) Kaden (Smith), but we'll try to get him in there soon. It was cool, we've all been working hard doing everything we've been asked. For us to get in the endzone as me and (Kyle Rudolph) Rudy and as a position group, that felt good.
Q: You guys had (Cornerback James) Bradberry covering (Chiefs Tight End Travis) Kelce last week on defense. As a tight end, what are the challenges when they put a cornerback on you and a physical guy like James?
A: Yeah, the corners man, they see receivers. They see all the speed. They're out on the island and they've seen the hardest matchups. Obviously, Travis Kelce is no easy matchup. He's seen it all from all different types of receivers. For him to be as physical and as big as he is, that's exactly how he played the game. He was physical and stayed in front and I thought he did a hell of a job. He had a big task and did it really well. It presents a challenge going against a corner because they're the more experienced guys in coverage and especially in man coverage. I was glad he was on our team and he was playing out there and not guarding me.
Q: Because of that challenge are you surprised that that doesn't happen more often? The cornerback on the tight end.
A: Yeah, it depends on what kind of defense or what kind of coordinators that they're working with. Yeah, if you're trying to matchup with on of their best receivers or best threat, I think it's smart to do that. I think it was a smart move by our defense and our staff and James did a good job in the game.
View photos from Thursday's practice as the Giants prepare for their Week 9 matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders.