Head Coach Joe Judge
Q: When we asked you earlier in the week, you said you didn't want to announce a starting center at that point. Do you have a decision at this point?
A: We're going to give it another day or so. It wouldn't be much fun for you guys if you just knew the answer right away. We're going to see how today's practice goes and hopefully we have an answer by tomorrow.
Q: I have a general question regarding players who come into camp late or who will be joining the roster now. On defense, obviously, it's going to be kind of hard for them to go back and re-capture everything that was taught going back to April. I'm wondering what is the approach with those guys? Do you have them focused specifically on the game plan and then give them a reader's digest version of the concepts behind it? How exactly do you guys approach that?
A: Yeah, you actually just summed it up right there. You have to focus on the things that are specific to what they have to do that week. Then you want to go ahead and make sure you bridge that with the background of the concepts we're running. You can't give everyone the entire playbook on a weekly basis when they first get there. Now to be honest with you, from Adrian (Colbert) to Ryan Lewis, they at least have a background in the system, both working under Pat (Graham) at different times. I was with Ryan in New England for a short period as well. They at least have a little bit of a jumpstart on what we're doing, the terminology, and some recall there. But if it's any other player where they're just off the street and we have no background with them, we can't go and start from square one and build them up. You have to build that vocabulary over time, but really the first thing you start with is what is a priority for that player on that week. Just make sure that's what they're focused on working on so they can go out there, have success, get the repetition and feel confident going into what they have to do in the game. That was a great summary right there. That was perfect.
Q: Looking at the past five or six months, how challenging has it been getting this team ready during a global pandemic? An overview.
A: They've come to work every day urgent with great effort and attentiveness. Look, they've been a pleasure to work with. When you have guys that come to work every day to get better, you make progress, and I've seen a lot of progress in our team so far. We have another big day to get ready for the Steelers today, and then obviously, we'll tie it up with a couple quick days on the field the next couple days. But they've made a lot of progress and I'm very proud with how they've worked.
Q: Can you just talk a little about using starters and important players on offense and defense on special teams? I know that's obviously something you did in New England. It seems like something you're bringing here. We saw, obviously, Jabrill (Peppers) was named a special teams captain. That's not the first role that jumps out in a lot of peoples' minds when they think about him.
A: I think one thing specifically on Jabrill is the versatility he brings to you. He's a guy that obviously plays a large number of roles for us on defense. He's also handled core roles on coverage units, he's been a returner in the past. He's a guy that loves football. Really what he is, he's kind of that kid in the classroom who won't sit still. He keeps wiggling. So, you have to keep him busy all the time, otherwise he gets disruptive. His involvement on special teams a lot of times is just to make sure he stays out of the other coaches' hair for about 10 minutes of each period. But he's definitely a guy who comes to work every day, the guy I see has passion and a love for football, he's willing to do anything the team asks of him. I think that's reflective when the team voted on captains, why he got such a large number of votes. Really on special teams, that's a great way of really showing it's not just the offense or the defense, but that bridges across all avenues of the team and the units. Now, specifically on using starters on special teams, I'm a firm believer in using the best players for every situation possible. Hey look, I don't care if you're playing 60 plays on defense or 60 plays on offense. If we need you on a unit for special teams and that's best for the team, then that's where you can make an impact.
Q: T-Mac (Thomas McGaughey) talked a little about how LT (Lawrence Taylor) used to play on special teams. This is a Giants team that also knows about Jason Sehorn's history with special teams. How do you balance sort of the risk-reward there?
A: It's football. The thing we have to understand, you only take 46 guys to a game. When you have limited numbers, everyone has to play. That's the kind of thing everyone always asks me about starters. To me, in the National Football League, you don't have starters. You just have players. Everyone has to play. Everyone has a role. Whether you're playing in the dime package on third down on defense or you're playing on the goal line offense as the extra blocking tight end, maybe you're an offensive lineman that has to fill that role, everybody has a key, significant role to the game plan and for success. Whether that's playing on the punt team, the hands team, playing 70 snaps on defense, every snap is critical. We want to make sure that we have the best players in place to give our team the best chance for success. But I'm going to be honest with you, Lawrence Taylor playing on field goal protection and playing on punt protection, these are things I've used in the past on different teams. Sometimes you get a guy from a college program where he didn't have to play on special teams because that was something they let somebody else do so they get a varsity letter. Lawrence Taylor played that because he loved football and he made an impact for the team. When you kind of point out 'ok, you think you're too good to play on any unit, whatever the team needs you to do? You know Lawrence Taylor, he wasn't too good for that. He was out there to win and he had a lot of success doing it.' It kind of puts the teams in perspective. There have been different illustrations that I've used in the past of great teams and some of their better players playing on multiple units, as starters and special teamers. Again, to me, it's football. Football players who love the game will play on any phase with the same amount of passion and effectiveness because they want to win the game.
Q: Connected to Jabrill, would you use him on offense as well? He handled the ball a couple times last year, and every time he did, he either scored or made a big play. He's obviously done it his whole life, and that's part of the reason you have him on punt return. Would you use him on offense?
A: Yeah, I wouldn't limit anything we would do with Jabrill, to be honest with you. If he can add something to our team, whether it's a situational play, whether it's a full-time player in a certain area of the field, absolutely. Anyone that can help the team, I have no problem doing it. Again, I kind of came up in this league with certain players who played both ways of football. Whatever the team needed, they had a lot of success doing it. Guys like Troy Brown, who played both ways of football. I was able to coach Julian Edelman for a few years. Jules played the nickel on the defense in the last drive of the AFC Championship Game in 2011. Then he flipped over and played receiver on offense, he was a punt returner, he covered kicks. It's kind of whatever it takes. One of the phrases that we use with the players all the time is 'the more you can do.' The more you can do, the more valuable you are to the team, more chances you have to get on the field and make an impact and help this team win.
Q: You've had an opportunity now to sort of look at your team on the field, in practice, padded practices. What do you view as the strengths of this team?
A: I really view the strength of the team right now as their passion for the game and the way they can play together through adversity. We've gone through a lot of situations this offseason. I never heard one player complain, I never heard any two players have a disagreement that carries over and affects the way they work for the rest of the day. I think the strength of our team right now is we have a team, and that's something to be proud of. There's a lot of teams out there with a lot of talent that are split in different directions. I like when I see our guys and I see everyone moving in the same direction. There are going to be a lot of things we need to progress on and improve on throughout the year, but right now, I'm proud of the way our guys come to work every day, work together to get better, support each other and challenge each other on a daily basis.
Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham
Q: I just wanted to ask what you saw at the beginning of training camp from Devante Downs, a guy who had three career NFL tackles, that made you put him where you did? What have you seen in the weeks since that have made you keep him seemingly where he is?
A: The one thing about him that showed up with him that I would say stuck out was just even looking back at the tape, his athletic ability. His ability to play on his feet and not be on the ground. He has some good speed, good burst. What we were looking for was like okay, then you got a chance to meet him. He had the right demeanor that you are looking for at the linebacker position. It was all about building his confidence. I'm not saying he didn't have confidence. To be at this level, you have to have some confidence. Building his confidence in terms of, I think he can do this. Do you know you can do this, let's do it together. I'll say this, this guy has worked his tail off this camp and leading into this first week of the regular season. I'm talking about everything we have asked him to improve upon, he's really worked hard at. He still has a ways to go, we all do. There's been steady improvement, especially with the things on the checklist. You try to give these guys reachable goals within the week or the month of training camp. He's trying to hit those points on the checklist and he's doing a pretty solid job. We just have to see how it plays out when we get to the real deal out here.
Q: Joe judge had mentioned at the opposite outside corner spot that there is a chance you guys could have a rotation and maybe even ride the hot hand is the way he described it in certain games early on. Does Corey Ballentine get a chance to try and lock that down? Do he and Isaac Yiadom end up in a rotation? Will you end up putting Logan Ryan over there if need be? How are you approaching that?
A: I can't speak for Joe. I think we have a pretty good competitive situation at the outside corner spot. Overall, just the defensive back spot. I know this, Corey has been here every day working hard. Showing physicality in the run game, showing the ability to play press coverage or play off coverage in the passing game. I really like where he's gone as a young player, he's really growing knowing he spent a lot of time in the slot last year. For Ike, he just got here, Isaac sorry, his nickname is Ike. He just got here, the thing that stands out about him, he's long, he's physical, he can run. We have a pretty competitive situation. To be honest with you, the way the league is, especially leading into this game, we're talking about the Pittsburgh Steelers coming into town. Ben Roethlisberger, he has a bunch of wide receivers, think about how many defensive backs we are going to need out on that field. I don't know if there is one spot. We can't think about the traditional two corner deal. They have speed all over that field, all those guys. A matchup against these guys is hard because of all the speed they have on the field. All the wide receivers potentially, the backs are fast who play like receivers. It's going to be tough, it's going to be a competitive situation. We'll do what we think is best that week, without giving away anything, I can't do that. We have some guys from Logan to those guys that we feel confident in their ability. We have to practice today, we're working through that, they are still competing.
Q: Can Isaac contribute right away even though he got here so late?
A: If you're long, you're fast and you get your hands on the receivers, for me, I vote yes. We'll see how it plays out. The competition starts, but based on the skill set, yes. We just have to see how everything plays out.
Q: You've spent a whole summer with Joe Judge through training camp and now getting ready for the regular season. Is there anything that's surprised you about him in terms of how he prepares to be a head coach and just tackling this new challenge?
A: In the summer, I spent a lot of time with him. Our offices were near each other when we worked together. Here's what I know about Joe, he's one of the best teachers I've ever been around. I used to sit in meetings at times and be amazed. Special teams coordinators have a short period of time and they have to get a lot of info in and just amazed at how quickly and how effectively he could get the information to the guys. In terms of surprised, no. He's organized, he's smart, he's tough on his players, demanding, he knows football, to me, I'm not surprised. He has good leadership skills. No real big surprises from me so far. He'll be the first one to tell you, we all are, we're trying to get better every day. No real surprises for me.
Q: There's this perception on the outside that because he has a special teams background and spent time talking in front of the entire team before, never really called plays on either side of the ball before, that he's kind of a CEO as a head coach. What's his role like in the defensive meetings and defensive game plans. We didn't really get to see any of that.
A: I believe this wholeheartedly, when Joe did the opening press conference and expressed how he wanted the New York Giants to look, it's the vision of the head coach. Whether it's offense, defense, special teams, anything we call that's out on that field is a reflection of the vision of the head coach. That's my job. His input is priceless. Whether it's specifically making a play call or not, I don't know. His input is priceless because I want it to be reflective of what he wants. That toughness that we talk about in the area. Especially when you are talking about dealing with the Pittsburgh Steelers, a tough football team. They're fast, they're tough, they're smart. We have to be ready to match that. Being the visionary that he is, Joe has probably outlined that from the jump, knowing where we had to get to for this game. I know this, he's the head coach of the New York Giants. He laid out the vision pretty clear and now we're trying to work to make the vision come to fruition for him. His input on the defense, I can't speak for offense or special teams, is priceless. We talk about the scheme all the time.
Q: How do you envision that dynamic going between you and Joe on Monday night? With you calling the plays and him being the coach. How has your relationship grown since this is a different relationship now that he's the head coach and you're the defensive coordinator than when you were working together in New England?
A: We'll see how it plays out for the game. There is a flow of communication between us because we know each other and it's my job. I'm the defensive coordinator, but like I said before, it has to be a reflection of what the head coach wants. I don't think any assistant coach would tell you otherwise. How has the relationship grown? We've always talked football, whether we were QC's and we were eating breakfast, we were talking football. Football and our families, that's what we were doing. Again, this week is much more football. I think we've caught up on the family thing over the last month. We're worried about Pittsburgh right now. It's about how we're going to cover the receivers, how we're going to defeat blocks up front against this talented offensive line even though they have some guys injured. How we're going to tackle their running backs and tackle everybody else in space. The relationship grows any time we're around each other because we're talking more ball and we're talking less about the family right now, but more ball right now.
Q: How do you feel about having a top corner travel with an opponent's top receiver?
A: When you think about that, game plan wise, over the history of the defensive schemes I've been in, I think it's a week to week basis what you want to do. I think it's my job to put our guys in the right spots to be successful. The years we've done that, it was because we thought it was the best thing for the game plan. What you will find from me, I'm willing to do whatever the head coach tells us and what we think is best for the game plan for that week. That's probably as clear as I could define it. If it involves me staying up a little bit later and the coaches working a little bit harder to get the guys to understand it, we'll do that. I know this, these players are smart men. They don't get here being dumb, they are smart men. If we put in a little wrinkle here and there, these guys can learn it. You give them six days to learn it, they will learn it. Especially if it's putting them in the right spot. Especially if it's going to help them be successful on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays. It's really game to game to me, if that answers your question.
Q: With a guy like Ju-Ju Smith Schuster, who is their number one receiver and spends a lot of time in the slot, does that change that dynamic? Maybe some of your corners don't want to go inside?
A: The good thing about our guys, we talk about it all the time, we want guys to put the team first. We've been lucky to have all the guys on the roster from Darnay to JB (James Bradberry) to Ike that's new, Corey, B-Wil-slim, all the guys here, they are selfless guys. I can't speak for them but whatever we think is best for the team, I think they are willing to do that. Luckily, for my career, I've been around guys like that. It might be uncomfortable, but you know what, they got here being uncomfortable. It's never comfortable to be the best in the world. The work you have to put in, I just think about the strain that you have to go through for that. They are used to it. At such a young age, that's why it's such a pleasure to be around them.
Q: You rattled off some names, who is slim?
A: (Brandon) Williams, sorry. I keep using the nicknames. I'm right before practice, I'm ready to go.
Q: I wanted to ask you about facing Ben Roethlisberger coming off a year where he really didn't play and coming off that major surgery. Are you kind of curious as to what you are going to see? What might you expect from him on Monday?
A: I tried to shave so you guys wouldn't see all the gray hair this week is causing. I'm curious and we will have to figure it out. We'll have to adjust. I know this, he is one of the best to ever do it. He can throw the ball anywhere, he's tough. That's the thing that stands out. He is one of the toughest players to ever play in this league. For a young team that we have, we try to explain to them, listen, no play is over. He can get the ball anywhere. He'll make the right decisions in the run game. When you are dealing with these veteran quarterbacks, I wish there was a stat or somehow (track), the decisions they make in the run game, the yards there. Take all the 50,000 or whatever many yards passing, how many yards do they contribute in the run game by getting you into the right check? I've been hit real bad by this guy over the years several times. They have the backs and the people to block and the receivers willing to block to do it. There's so much he brings to the table and we're just going to keep studying. It's Thursday now, we have until Monday. We are going to use all that time to keep studying. Going back on tape and seeing what they are doing. The beauty of it and also the hard thing about it, once the game comes, we have to adjust. Then they are going to adjust, and we have to adjust again. That's what we get paid to do and it's fun.
Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett
Q: I'm just curious how refreshing it is for you to get back to coaching at more of the ground level instead of the macro level? It's been a while since you've actually called plays in a game.
A: I've been really fortunate in my player and coaching career to really enjoy every role that I've been in, whether it's been a backup player, a number three guy, a backup quarterback, I started games, position coach, coordinator or head coach. There really has never been any role that I've had that I haven't really tried to embrace and try to grow and develop in. That's really my mentality now as the offensive coordinator. Obviously, a lot of responsibility, big picture responsibility, on the offensive side of the ball. But also some hands-on coaching opportunities. When you're a head coach, you try to do those same things. Obviously, you're involved with the comings and goings and the functioning of the entire football team. But even when you're in that role, I always felt it was important to get involved and coaching guys individually, technically and fundamentally, and certainly getting involved with conversations with the coordinators talking about schemes. Every person on a team has a different role. My experiences have been dive in and embrace what your role is and do it to the best of your ability.
Q: Can you tell me when the last time was you called a game?
A: I think it was 2012 the last time I called. We had a couple of different coordinators, play-callers, since then. Scott Linehan and Kellen Moore, guys who came in and did it for us. But again, as a head coach, you want to be involved in all aspects of your team on all three sides of the ball, if you will. Certainly, I was still involved with the offensive side of the ball even as Scott and Kellen were calling the games.
Q: When you go into a situation like this where you have a center who has never played a game before at that position, hasn't had any preseason games, do you have to do things to help him out? Maybe give the guard some of the checks at the line. Is there anything you can do for a guy like Nick Gates to help him because this is a new position for him?
A: Nick's done a great job, as has Spencer Pulley. Those guys have been the ones working at the center position for us this week. That competition throughout training camp has been good for us and those guys have embraced their reps and their opportunities playing in there. We'll get those guys ready, and really everybody across the board, that's what you're trying to do all week long. Get them ready to play and function as well as they can regardless of their experience level. That not only applies to the offensive line but everybody throughout our team. Obviously, it's a new system for us. We're trying to get everybody on the same page, trying to maximize our opportunities to work together. That applies for everybody throughout the offense.
Q: Hypothetically, if you had to go with a new center, can you help a new center in some ways on the sideline?
A: Yeah, I think that's what you're trying to do with all of your players. As you go during the week in terms of your preparation and then certainly for the three hours on game day, you want to make sure you're communicating with them and getting them into the best situations, whether it's responding to something that happened or something that's going to happen in a ball game. You try to prepare the best you can and then get ready to adjust. Communication is a big part of it. In relation to the offensive center position, obviously, that's a leadership position on the offensive line. Those guys have to be great communicators and do a great job identifying the front, potentially the linebacker, a MIKE ID, if you will. Those guys working together up front, working with the quarterback, that's a big part of playing offensive football at a high level.
Q: Do you think you have enough weapons, enough components, in this offense going into this season?
A: Oh, we're excited about this group. Obviously, it's been a very different and challenging offseason for everybody in pro football. But our guys have embraced every experience we've had, starting back in the spring with our Zoom meetings, and then once we got together in training camp. I'm excited about the group that we have. It's a mix and a blend of some guys who have some experience and then we have some young guys. The common theme is that everyone is new together. It's a new system, but guys have worked hard to learn it, to understand it, understand the x's and o's but beyond that, the nuances. Really, the way you grow as a player, as a unit and as a team is just having experience together. Again, without preseason games, that becomes a challenging situation. But we did have scrimmages. We did have training camp practices. Their approach from day one has been outstanding. Excited to work with this group, excited to see them play, really proud of how they've worked up to this point.
Q: Earlier, Patrick Graham said that everything that he calls on defense is a reflection of the vision of Joe Judge. I was wondering if you kind of feel the same way as the offensive coordinator, that you're enacting his vision? How do you envision that dynamic kind of playing out on Monday night for the first time?
A: I think that's a great way to say it. We have a vision for our program here with the Giants. You have a vision for your football team, the kind of guys you want to have on your team, what the team is made up of. Then you have a vision for how you're going to win games and what that looks like on offense, defense and the kicking game. Then how those complement each other and how you play complementary football each week to try to win a ball game. You have a vision for how you want to play that game. You have to be able to adjust as the game goes on. I think a lot of this comes back to just the core values that you have as coaches, and making sure those values are aligned in terms of how we're building our program, how we're building our team, the kind of guys we want on our team and how that reflects schematically. That stuff started with the interview process back before we all got hired, and what we believe in and what we value. Then it starts to get enacted when you get together. That's been the process we've gone through since all the way back in February. That continues, and continues in different environments. Again, whether it's over Zoom, whether it's a training camp practice or a scrimmage and now into the season.
Q: Kind of piggybacking on what was just asked, you have now spent a whole summer with Joe Judge. Has there been anything that's surprised you about him moving up to this new role as a head coach for the first time? You've been a head coach in this league for a long time yourself. Is there any advice you can maybe give him going into his first game in his first year?
A: It's just been a great experience for me to work for Joe. Great respect for him from afar. A lot of people that I know who have been around him just said such great things about him. That was a big draw for me coming to New York and taking the position that I have. It's been great to get to know him. Again, going back to the vision of the program, vision for the football team, just understanding what that is, having conversations with him about that and what we value together as a coaching staff and as a football team, it was really important. He's done a great job outlining that for all of us and getting everybody on the same page. Alignment within an organization is critical. Everybody on the same page from ownership all the way through the organization, personnel people, coaching staff, players, staff people, getting everybody on the same page. That's such a big piece in having success. We've talked a lot about that. I've learned a lot from Joe about that. We tried to craft that to help build our program and our football team. In terms of advice, I have no advice to give. It's just been fun working for him and trying to understand how we want to build this team, and then doing it together. I've really enjoyed every minute of it.
Q: When you were a backup quarterback, the preseason games, those were your times to shine. For a lot of the guys, that's really the only time they get to work on the field. How do you get Colt McCoy ready just in case now, and how did you do it throughout training camp?
A: Again, it's the situation that we're all in. Everybody across the world, whatever your field or endeavor is, these are different and challenging times. Something we've talked about right from the start is a lot of people talk about you have to somehow find a way to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Our experience is the people who are best at what they do, they thrive when they're uncomfortable, and that's what we've tried to do. These are uncomfortable and challenging situations, but in every situation, every turn, we've tried to maximize our opportunity and thrive and be our best. That's how it applies to a backup player like Colt. Sure, we'd rather have preseason games. We'd rather have reps. But this is the situation that we're in. We can't lament otherwise. We just have to go to work and take advantage of it. Talk about a guy who's a pro, a guy who comes in and is prepared, is ready to go, is an experienced player, but he has a young mind. He wants to learn and understand what we're asking him to do, and he's really done an outstanding job. Maximize the opportunities you do have. He's certainly done that, Cooper Rush has done that, and hopefully those guys will be ready if called upon.
Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
Q: Peppers was named a special teams captain. Is he going to going to be involved with the punt return game a lot this year?
A: Pep being named a special teams captain is an all-encompassing thing. He's involved in all phases of special teams. Whether it be a primary or a backup. The reason why he was named a captain is because of his leadership ability, how he works every day and who he is as a person. Yes, is he is going to be involved heavily.
Q: I think we asked you a little bit about this last week about using starters in those roles. It seems like this coaching staff isn't going to shy away from that. Putting guys who are on the field for normal first, second and third downs on there for fourth downs.
A: Yeah, that's what it is. When you look at the history of this organization and where Joe was raised, Bill Belichick coached special teams here and on the punt team was a guy named Lawrence Taylor. If a guy named Lawrence Taylor, who is arguably the greatest football player of all time, at least on the defensive side, can play on special teams, it's a part of playing the game, it's a part of winning. You want to put your best foot forward every phase. You just don't want to spend your time in one phase or the other. That's not how this game is played. It's a complementary game. You have to play complementary football. The only way you are going to do that is you have to play all three phases and play your best players in those phases.
Q: Is there an advantage to rotating or changing up returners on punt return or kickoff return? In an ideal world, would you rather have the same guy doing that consistently?
A: I think consistency is key in anything. Obviously, you would like to have a guy perform at a high level and doing it all the time. Like I talked to you guys before, my job is to adjust. Whoever is back there, whoever is the guy that's best for that week, that's the guy that we go with.
Q: We haven't really talked to you about Graham Gano and there were no preseason games. I'm curious what you saw from him in camp? Does he look kind of back to pre-injury form?
A: He looks exactly the way I remember him. He had a great year last time I was with him. Nothing has changed with Graham, he is getting back into his groove. He's enjoying himself. He is just acclimating himself to the building and how we operate here. I'm looking forward to great things from Graham.
Q: I have a big picture question that I should have asked before game week. Seeing Joe, a special teams coordinator, get a head coaching position, I'm sure you have aspirations down the road. Does that serve as an inspiration to you? What does it mean to you to see a special teams coordinator get this job?
A: It's awesome. Any time you see one of our colleagues, as far as being special teams coordinators, get a job, it's awesome. It's been such a great experience for me. I've learned more football in the last six months probably than I have learned in the last 10 years. This guy has been outstanding. I can't wait to see him grow as a coach. I know I've said that before, but I can't reiterate enough, he's been awesome.
Q: Why do you think more special teams coordinators don't get tabbed for head job?
A: I think it's just the stigma of what we do. People think we just coach kickers and punters. They don't understand that we coach all 53, actually now it's 69. We coach all positions and all players. There's no one on the roster, other than the head coach, no one on the staff that's going to know the roster other than ourselves and the head coach, and the strength coaches because we're with the guys every day. It's a business. We just have to make sure when we get these opportunities, we make the best of them.
Q: I know a couple weeks ago we talked when Cody Core got hurt about the importance of gunners. How hard is that, it looks like you guys have been rotating guys through trying to see who can do it. I would imagine there is a skill set involved, it's not just running down and go make sure the ball gets pinned inside the 10-yard line. Where are you guys with how challenging a position it is to get the right guys to be in that position?
A: That's part of the evaluation process. We have to put guys out there and see who is going to make plays. The hard part about it is you haven't been able to cover any live punts. You won't know until you get out there and see it done live. That's the hard part of our situation. You just have to make the best of it. We have some good candidates. We just have to see who is going to make plays, that's it.
Q: I guess the other part of the question for me would be you obviously have guys on the practice squad, you are preparing for situations that may come up. How do you work your week? It's hard enough I would imagine to get opportunities for your front line guys. How are you keeping guys on the practice squad fresh, ready to go just in case they have to be there on game day and ready to contribute.
A: They're no different than the guys up on the 53. We're coaching them all in these situations. These times we're coaching everybody on a daily basis. When they get scout team reps, those are their team reps, so they have to treat them as such. We rotate the guys through so guys are getting work. We do individual work, we do all kinds of things. That's part of the process. That's the era that we're in right now, that's the time that we're in. We're constantly coaching these guys. That's part of our jobs as coaches. To continue to try and see who are the best guys out there, who has the most upside and who can make plays for us.
Q: When you talk scout team reps just in terms of the long snapper, Carson is there on the scout team now. If you don't have another long snapper, I would imagine those reps go to Casey. Does that take away from the reps he normally would get? Is it harder to balance that when you have two guys there?
A: Again, you just have to manage it. We've had guys that have been on the practice squad before that are long snappers. They take scout team reps, they take reps on the side, they take our own individual reps. They are with us all day anyway, so they are getting reps. It's not an issue. We just coach them, we let them get their reps and reps are valuable. They are doing a good job. It's one of those deals where you keep working, you keep repping. When a situation comes up, you adjust on the fly.
Q: Along the lines of not getting a lot of reps, not getting a lot of live action, you haven't gotten much in the way of kickoff return either. We looked at the depth chart, the name that jumped out to me is Darnay Holmes. What do you see from him, what makes you think that he can do that job?
A: He's done it before. The thing about Darnay and all the rest of those guys, we have guys with experience. That's a good thing for us. We have guys that have done the job before. They are capable of doing the job. We'll see what happens. You just never know with the flow of the game. If you have been around and watched us the last three years, we put a multitude of guys back there. We rep guys in practice, we rep multiple guys in practice. We're able to make those adjustments when they come.
View photos from Thursday's practice heading into Monday Night Football against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Running Back Saquon Barkley
Q: There's been a lot of conversations about Black Lives Matter, the response from players going into this season. Have you guys talked about that as a team? What is your thought on kneeling for the national anthem and such topics?
A: Obviously, the conversation that's been going on with what's going on in this world, we wanted to try to find a way where we could help. That's kind of the way we developed our Team of Teams, where we kind of pick places in the tri-state area where we can go and see how we can have an impact on our community. Yeah, the conversation of kneeling for the national anthem is a conversation that needs to be had, and it will be had. I believe myself and all the other captains are going to have that conversation today with the team. We want to have a focus that we want it to be team-oriented, where we find a way, which way we can do it in the right way and continue to still have an impact. That's a conversation that I believe is going to be had today.
Q: Your thoughts on Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin making the comment he made a couple weeks ago about unity and just trying to come together?
A: I didn't hear that. But Mike Tomlin is a well-respected coach. He's been doing it for a very long time. This is not his first rodeo with the kneeling. Obviously, it started in 2016 with Kap (Colin Kaepernick), and every team handled it differently. We're trying to be respectful to both sides and respect peoples' opinions, especially the ones on your team, and have that conversation and find a way where we can do it as a team to still have an impact and do it in the right way that we believe. Whatever way that is is going to be the way that we believe as a team to do it.
Q: How did you feel about having to start practice over today? Did you think that was necessary?
A: I love it. I love it. That's something that we knew we were going to focus on. Everything we do is going to have purpose behind it. Coach (Judge) didn't like how we started off, so we had to start over. As captains and as leaders of the team, we had to step up to the challenge and I think that we responded. The thing is that on Monday, there won't be any restarts. We have to find a way to have that energy and find a way to have that purpose from the beginning. It shouldn't take a restart for it to happen. But that was the case, that was a challenge that Coach presented us with and I believe we responded the right way as a team.
Q: You've mentioned previously in the past your goal of being a complete back and how much that drives you. I'm just curious what is your definition of being a complete back? When you were growing up learning the position, who was the complete back that you wanted to emulate?
A: When I think about it, everyone knows personally my favorite running back is Barry Sanders. But when I think of a complete back, the best complete back, the backs that come to my mind are the Walter Paytons, the Marshall Faulks. When you think of Walter Payton, if you see clips or highlights of his in-between tackles, outside tackles, catching, blocking, there are even times he's throwing the ball. I'm not saying I can throw the ball as far as Walter Payton. I'm not hitting a trick play coming up. But those are things. I don't want to be just a special interior running back. I don't want to be just a special outside the box running back, catch the ball here and there. I truly believe that with my God given ability and the work that I put in that I can be special in all phases. All phases, not just one dimensional. That's something that I've been working on. I want to be elite in running the ball. I want to be elite in outside the tackles. I want to be elite in pass pro. Be elite in catching the ball. Those are things that I truly believe I can be, and those are things I'm going to continue to work for and strive to be.
Q: Going into your third year now, what kind of gives you that confidence that this year can be different from a team perspective in terms of the wins and losses and being there late in the season?
A: You never can really just go out and be like, 'oh, this is how many wins we want, this is how many losses.' You can't predict that. But the things you can handle, it's how you come to work every single day. I think the approach that this team has taken and the response we have taken to Coach Judge's methods have been great. Obviously, we're a young team. There's going to be some adversity we're going to face throughout the season. There's going to be some adversity we're going to face on Monday night. But it's the way that we respond and the way that we continue to come to work and improve every single day.
Q: Considering what challenges the pandemic has brought over the past six months or so, what do you think it's going to be like for the area to have football back?
A: I think it's going to be amazing. I see memes and stuff all the time on social media of players crying and stuff like that and realizing it's the last Sunday or Thursday that we're going to go for a very long time without football. Football is a special sport. It's a special sport. It brings people together. You get to go out there and see 11 guys put it on the line every single play. Twenty-two if you really count both teams. But you see us go out there and put it on the line. It's going to be a lot. It's going to be a lot. Obviously, it's been a tough thing going around the world with the pandemic and obviously with the Black Lives Matter movement. But for us to be able to go out there and put on a show for everyone and all the fans, obviously, we wish that they were there in the stands with us, but hopefully soon in the near future, they are. But still able to watch on TV and we'll go out there and show them all the hard work that we put in.
Q: You talked about being one of those complete backs and being dominant as a receiver and in pass protection and all those things. What did you do in the offseason to kind of build on your skillsets in those areas? What gives you the confidence that you can take your game to another level as a receiver this season?
A: My coaches. I would say no disrespect to any coaches I've had in the past. Right now, the coaches, with Coach (Burton) Burns and Stephen (Brown), they just bring two different dimensions in the way that they've been challenging me. Coach Judge and everyone, it's been probably I would feel like the hardest offseason that we've had between putting the work in and putting the grind in. I think that's going to translate to the football field. I'm a big believer in what you do in practice and what you do in the weight room translates over to the football field. I think, I don't think, I know we've put a lot of hard work in, so that's why I believe that the work that I put in will translate over to the season.
Q: Do you feel like you're about to be unleashed as a receiver, because it seems like the last couple years, there weren't a lot of designed routes for you. Do you feel like this system and these coaches and the way they're using you now, you can kind of be featured as a receiver as much as being a runner?
A: Like I said, I want to be elite overall, whether that's in the pass game or the run game. But at the end of the day, it's about winning games. If I can do that by helping my team in the pass game, then that's the case. If that's by helping them in the run game, then that's the case. If it's by stepping up and making that key block, we might throw the ball 40 times a game and I might have to be responsible for key blocks, then that's what I have to do. It's not just focusing on just me being elite. It's whatever it takes to help the team win.
Q: How will you know when you're there? How will you know? Will it be MVP awards? Will it be rushing titles? Will it be total yards? What's going to signal that to you?
A: I will never be there. I'm going to be completely honest with you. I keep saying I'm going to work for it and work for it, but the way I view myself and the confidence I have in myself, the goal for me to be elite is so high that I don't think I will ever honestly reach it. But if I come anywhere near close to it, I know that I put the work in every single day. I personally can look myself in the mirror at the end of the day and know whenever I am done with this and wrapped it up knowing that I put everything I had. Whatever that is, if it's awards, if it's Super Bowls, if it's not, I know for myself internally the work that I put in. I can be satisfied with that one day.
Q: When Mike Tomlin started talking about the Giants offense the other day, the first two words out of his mouth were "Saquon Barkley". Have you come to expect that, and do you almost sense that they're going to focus on you or what?
A: Yeah. One, that means a lot coming from a guy and coach like Mike Tomlin. Just growing up and being a fan of the game of football, I always had much respect for Mike Tomlin and his teams and have so much respect for the team right now. Tremendous players all around, from their defense to the backline. They're disruptive. The guys make plays in the backend, the linebackers move well, tackle well in space. To be able to have that compliment from a coach like that definitely does mean a lot. Yes, I feel like… I think it took until really the first game my rookie year to put on display to people who understand the type of talent that I have. I don't have any surprises that coaches are or might be keying in or dialing in on me. But I just have to use that to my advantage. When plays come, you have to take advantage of the plays. Hopefully it's able to open up things for other people, and we have to take advantage of it.
View photos of the history between the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers.
Linebacker Blake Martinez
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about what you've learned about Devante Downs over the past month?
A: It's kind of a funny story, my wife's brother played with him in college. So I kind of got a early kind of synopsis of him just personality wise. I knew he was a great guy. Football wise, he has kind of shown up every single day. Whatever it is, run, pass, blitzing, communication wise, it's been awesome to work with him this camp.
Q: Earlier in training camp you had talked about trying to learn this defense, trying to become the guy that was the calming factor for the group. Where are you in the process, and how comfortable are you entering Week 1?
A: I feel really comfortable moving in this week. Pat's done a great job installing throughout training camp and all the stuff we've put in this week to get ready for the game on Monday. It's made it pretty easy to be that calm, cooling factor for the group. Obviously, there are some guys that are starting for the first time, it's going to be a big component for me to be able to do that for the game.
Q: Joe Judge was talking yesterday, and we were asking him about game planning for game week. A lot of attention always goes to how much does the quarterback get involved. He made a point that he wants to be really in sync with all of his signal callers. He included you obviously and then across the board for special teams. I'm just curious, for you on game week, is that something new for you? That you would kind of be involved, that the coaches would bounce ideas off of you. What you like, what you don't like. I'm just curious what that process has been like for you with Pat and obviously Joe.
A: I had Pat my third year, as you guys know. He kind of brought that to the system I was in previously, so I kind of got used to it. Having meetings and things like that to kind of go over anything that's confusing or anything that's doing really well. Random feedback and stuff like that. I've been used to it. It's just been awesome to have and moving forward keeping that going.
Q: Is it an interesting situation going into Week 1 where this is the first time? I would imagine in Week 4 you kind of have a better idea of what you have a good handle on as a group, what you don't. Now you are going into Week 1, what was that conversation like? Do you break out your list and say alright here's what I think from three weeks ago?
A: I think that's the tough part right now. Obviously, we don't have preseason. Normally you can kind of get little things here and there just off what guys are doing, at least this year. Going into this, it was kind of like Joe Judge has always said these four weeks is all fundamentals and situational football. At that point, it's just focus on what we can control and what we can do every given play and execute it as much as we can.
Q: What did you think of the energy of today's practice. It seemed like Joe kind of huddled you guys up and almost made you start over. Is that kind of how it went down?
A: It was one of the moments where we didn't come out the right way and we needed to kind of refocus and get things going again. We did that and had to bounce back and show our resolve and our ability to adapt. As a team, understand what we're doing wrong and come back and fix it.
Q: How rare is that? Have you ever been at a practice in the NFL where you had to kind of reboot?
A: That was definitely the first time. It was really cool how everybody took it in a positive way. It wasn't kind of like here we go, why are we doing this. It was just like, hey, this is what we need to fix, we need to make sure we get this right. I think we all understand how big this first week is to kind of set a statement for ourselves as a team and what we want to be moving throughout this season.
Q: What's it like playing for a head coach who is in his first season? What have you gotten from him? What do you think that he's tried to relay to you guys as a team?
A: Ever since the first time that I've had a team meeting with Coach Judge, been in the same room as Coach judge, whether it's zoom or actually in our facility, to me, it's never seemed like he's a first-year head coach. Every single day he has come with certain things fundamental wise, situational, every position he is able to coach individually, as a group. You feel like he knows so much about football. That's the biggest thing that I've gotten from this. I've gotten so much better as a player in this past month of training camp than I ever have. In the ability to understand why we're doing certain drills, how it's going to incorporate into the game. Just overall as a player, just my awareness every given down whether it's first, second, third down to know what's coming and what to expect.
Q: Are you healthy? Is this injury that you have been dealing with going to prevent you from playing on Monday? How are you feeling going into the game?
A: I feel good. I practiced today. Keep taking it one day at a time. Getting ready for Monday.
Q: Given the fact that Joe Judge has never been a head coach before. Is there anything that has surprised you about him, working with him for the first time? What has stood out?
A: I would say the biggest surprise for me was, obviously like you said, first-year head coach. You kind of wonder how they are going to be. Are they going to try and be something different? Change things up all the time, whatever you want to say. All over the place, but he never was. It was always, hey, this is how I'm going to be every single day. There was no switching up. It wasn't alright if you are the star player or you are an undrafted free agent, he was the same way to every single person. If you were doing it wrong, you knew you were doing it wrong and he was going to tell you in front of everybody no matter what your status was. I think that was as big surprise to me and it was awesome to have. It shows how he wants the team from top to bottom to be.