Head Coach Joe Judge, Running Back Saquon Barkley and Wide Receiver Sterling Shepard spoke to reporters Thursday on a video chat press conference. Here is what each one had to say.
Head Coach Joe Judge
Q: There are a lot of practices around the league today being cancelled. What were the conversations like this morning with your team and how did that process go?
A: I spoke briefly with the leadership council today. We're going to continue the conversations later this afternoon. We have a gap in our schedule. We're treating today like a day before a game. Obviously, we had a morning practice. That's a little bit different from what we do on a normal Saturday before a Sunday game. We have a chunk of time until we lead up to evening meetings. We're going to reconvene later tonight before we kick off the special teams and unit meetings. We're letting the players think about what they want to do. We're going to have conversations as a coaching staff and ownership tonight, and we'll have more answers then.
Q: Was cancelling practice a realistic option or was it sort of a continuation from yesterday when you said that they told you that they wanted to practice because of, as Leonard (Williams) said, the shortened preseason and shortened training camp and all?
A: The players voiced that opinion. They wanted to continue going with it. We had conversations with them two days ago and then again yesterday. These guys have been very urgent on continuing on work. That doesn't detract at all from what we're doing in the community, from the action we're taking as a team, for how we're staying organized within the social justice groups. We have the Team of Teams program. We're just making sure that we allot time within a day that we have that as a team to work going forward.
Q: Your two-minute offense today, some good things, some sloppy things. Overall this camp, how do you feel (Daniel) Jones is running your two-minute offense?
A: I think the unit is making a lot of improvement. Two-minute, four-minute situations are things that teams have to really get a feel for each other. Look, for me and Jason (Garrett) as head coach and coordinator, me and Pat (Graham) in four-minute situations, the offense with the personality of the play-calling and then understanding each unique situation, this is why we're practicing on a daily basis, to make sure we iron out any kinks. But I think the progress has been very good. I'm pleased with the way it's going.
Q: We didn't see (Blake) Martinez out there today. Any update on him?
A: He's just checking with the trainers on something. We'll have more updates later. We'll let you guys know.
Q: Matt Peart, saw him getting some work with the ones. What has he shown to impress you?
A: He's a guy who comes to work every day with a lunch pale and he's improved going along. As we said early in camp, we're going to move our line around. We're going to work guys at different spots and make sure we build in versatility and position depth. We had to move some guys around today for that purpose. He's a guy who's improved every day.
Q: When Sterling (Shepard) makes that great play and tosses the ball, and you kind of ask him to just clean it up. How important are moments like that that just no matter who the player is, that you're just kind of reinforcing the way that you need things to go?
A: Look, every practice is a mini game. You have to learn from the experiences going forward. He made a tremendous play on the play and then he threw the ball. That's a 15-yard penalty. We're going to have the ball on the 10-yard line, the penalty is going to put us on the 25-yard line. That's not something that we're going to accept from any player on the team. It's a learning lesson that he's got to take and go forward. But it's important that everybody else learns from that same lesson that we don't have to repeat the mistake.
Q: Who was the player you just met on the field late? Was that (Brandon) Williams or (KeiVarae) Russell? Who was that?
A: It was neither of those guys. It was no one I'm going to give by name right now. But it was neither of those guys you named.
Q: You said you're going to have extensive conversations with your team later today moving forward. Does that mean there's the possibility that the scrimmage tomorrow night might not be played? I know some teams around the league have cancelled that. Just curious where you guys stand with yours?
A: I can't really live in the hypotheticals right now. Right now, we're planning on having the scrimmage tomorrow. We'll continue the conversations with our team later on and we'll see where that takes us.
Q: You mentioned ownership was involved in these conversations. What kind of a role has John (Mara) played in this?
A: John's been active since the spring in terms of voicing to the players his support. But I'll really let John speak for himself on that. I think John's been a key figure, obviously. Him and Steve (Tisch). But starting back in the spring, they've been active and present in meetings we've had, whether it's through Zoom, and now as we meet in person with them, it gives us an opportunity to all get together.
Q: How are you going to split up the roster tomorrow for the scrimmage? Is it going to be offense vs. defense or are you going to kind of mix them up?
A: It will be. We'll have the special teams, it will be full offensive units and full defensive units. But otherwise, it'll be offense vs. defense. We explored the possibility of splitting the team into two teams. We felt it was really best for the offensive and defensive coaches and units to get used to the communication that they're going to have on the sideline together, to keep all the offense and defense together. We can still accomplish everything we want to, but we're just going to go one sideline offense, one sideline defense.
Q: Assuming you have the scrimmage tomorrow, is it going to be scripted or is it going to be kind of a free for all? Pat's going to call his side, or how is it going to work exactly as far as what you want to see and how it's going to be formatted?
A: There are certain scenarios I want to make sure that we build in. At some point, I may want to see a two-minute end of half, two-minute end of game, a four-minute situation. I may want to see some low red zone work if that doesn't come up. I have the freedom to kind of flex it and say spot the ball at a certain point. But I'm going to start with the mentality that we're going to go out there and play ball. We're going to simulate this game as much as we can and we'll let it be natural. Start with a kickoff, kick return, wherever the ball lies, we're just going to play it from there. It'll be offense vs. defense. If they go three and out, we punt, we bring out the twos, they go ahead and play.
Q: I know you said you're still waiting to hear from the trainers, but is there a chance the Martinez issue is serious or are you not too concerned?
A: At this moment right here, I'm not overly concerned. He's just kind of checking on something right now. We'll let you know more information as we go.
Running Back Saquon Barkley
Q: First of all, what was your reaction, your emotions, when you saw the shooting video there of Jacob Blake? Going forward, do you think the NFL or NFL teams would do something like the NBA teams did last night, the Bucks, and say 'we're not going to play'? Just a two-parter there. Thanks for your time.
A: First, my thoughts and prayers go to Jacob Blake's family. On the video, words really can't describe how you feel. It makes you sick, especially being a Black man. I know how my parents raised me. Just when you see those situations happening and continuing to happen, like I said, words really can't describe it. But going on with what the NBA did, I definitely commend them for doing that. The WNBA, the ladies, did it too. I want to commend them for standing up, using their platform and using their voice. But for us to say, the Giants and the NFL, that's the stuff that's part of our discussions going on. We've been given an opportunity for our leadership group and to be able to talk to the team and try to figure out things we can do to try to help.
Q: I saw the video you retweeted, kind of bringing awareness to the on-going hypocrisy and racial injustice and the differences in these situations. How emotional does this make you? Obviously, this is one of many different instances that we have to watch and that these people have to experience. How emotional are you on a daily basis seeing this and knowing you have this platform and kind of tossing it around in your mind of what you are going to do and how you are going to use that platform?
A: Yeah, it's just sad. You look at it like what if that was my brother? I know my father went through a similar situation when I was in college. In that little situation right there, you can lose someone that you really care about. I think when you look at it, you can't look at it as, 'Oh, it's Jacob Blake.' Obviously, I know he didn't pass away. But you can't look at it like that. You have to put yourself, what if I was in that situation? What if it was your brother? What if it was your cousin? What if it was (Sterling) Shep? What if it was Golden (Tate)? All those guys. That's kind of the way I look at it. Then how it makes me think and makes me feel, I understand that God put me in a position to be able to have a platform and to be able to use my voice. I've been big on knowing my history, especially with the athletes and the Bill Russells of the world, Colin Kaepernicks of the world. How they were able to handle those situations using their voice. It creates a conversation that you have to have yourself. What can you do? What can you do? That's just the start. You have to start those conversations, and then take action. Find ways you can do, and that's what we're trying to do with our team. We can continue to find the right things to do and we can continue to do it.
Q: I'm wondering if you can elaborate on what you just said about your dad's situation, or if you have anything you can share about a situation you might have been in where you felt the effects of racism or were uncomfortable around police, maybe when you were younger before you were a celebrity?
A: My father was kind of just mishandled by police officers. It was a situation when I was in college. I remember that phone call that I got from my parents, well from my mom, that my dad was basically mishandled and mistreated. At the time, they thought my dad was wrong, but they kind of worked through it and found out that my dad was right, which obviously, I knew. But in that moment when I got that phone call, I'll never forget it. I was walking to the Lasch Building at Penn State and my mom called me. My mom was really worried and concerned. My dad had a heart condition and got tased in the heart. I remember how I felt in that moment. It hurt me. It hurt me. That's why every single day, I try to go out, work, try to push myself and try to go out there and show my work ethic, show my talent, and just try to be an inspiration for others. Hopefully, I can continue to do that throughout my play.
Q: Obviously, a bunch of teams didn't practice today. You guys had practice. I'm just curious your thoughts on why it was a good idea for you guys to practice?
A: Yeah, I saw a lot of teams cancelled practice. We had that conversation. We felt that we wanted to be able to continue to go out there and practice if we were all in the right mind space, which we all agreed that we were. Obviously, we've been talking. We're going to come up with something that we want to be able to do. Hopefully, it's soon.
Q: It seems like a lot of this has kind of been put in the players' hands to sort of drive the conversation. What has Joe's (Judge) role been in this? Is he kind of letting you guys sort of drive it?
A: Yeah, I would say he is. It's always, obviously, led by the coaches, but it's always a player-driven team. Those are the teams that want to be great. Obviously, there's a situation going on in this world that needs to be fixed. It's not just going to be solved in one day. We try to find ways how we can impact our community and do things where we start doing our community and challenge other teams to do in their communities so we can spark a change. Coach Judge has been doing a really great job. All the coaches have been doing a really great job of hearing us, listening us out and being on board with us.
Q: When you guys made that video in the offseason, there was a lot of collaboration throughout the league. Has there been any communication among the top players in the league so far on what the reaction is going to be right now, or is it pretty much team by team?
A: I think it's really right now team by team. The video that we did sparked a conversation. It showed that… it kind of challenged the NFL that we have a platform as players, and we would love for you guys to be behind us. Obviously, we can't go out there and be the one to put them in handcuffs and do that, but we can use our platform and the NFL can use their platform, too, and just continue to raise awareness and continue to try to have a great impact on our community to hopefully spark change in the future.
Q: I know one of the reasons you guys want to continue to practice is to give the younger guys a chance to make the team, to get as many reps as possible. Once the rosters are set and the regular season comes around, can you foresee a situation where one team or the individual teams or maybe even the whole league decides not to play one weekend?
A: I can't really just go and speak on behalf of the whole league. But for us, that's something that we're going to talk about within our groups, within our team. What's talked about in meetings, in players' meetings, stays in players' meetings.
Q: My question is kind of simple. A lot of people talk about the leadership council. Is that a group of players that Joe picked or is that a group of players you all picked? How was that assembled?
A: That's a great question. I guess you could say… I can't speak for Coach Judge, I can't say he directly picked them. But it kind of started through Zoom. With everything going on, a group of players, we kind of all got together and started talking about things we could do. I guess that's how it kind of started.
Q: Is it a group of 5 or 10?
A: To be honest, it may sound like a leadership group, but say if there is 10-12 of us, every time we go and we make decisions, it's the whole team. We go and we talk in front of the whole team, because obviously, if you want to revert not just what's going on in this world but just obviously in our sport, too, it's going to take a team effort to get the job done. It's going to take a team effort for us to have change, smart change in our community. That's the way we're going to do it.
Wide Receiver Sterling Shepard
Q: First of all, what was your reaction to the shooting in Wisconsin? What was the vibe in the team meeting last night in terms of what was said? Also, the NBA obviously had teams deciding not to play. Could you envision that happening when the season gets going in the NFL?
A: That's something that we're going to talk about as a team. I'm not going to comment on that until we do so. But yeah, when I saw the video, it's unfortunate. It's really sad to see another senseless killing. My thoughts and prayers go out to Jacob Blake and his family. Not a senseless killing, sorry. But a senseless shooting.
Q: How emotional of a time is this for you as players though? I know you don't want to speak much on what you guys are going to do next, but how emotional is this, especially when you look around and see how much action the Lions, the Milwaukee Bucks, the NBA are taking? I know you guys have a plan for action, but here and now, what is going through your heart and your mind?
A: Like I mentioned to you guys last time I was on here, I kind of use football as an escape. It's been real hard to use it as an escape when you see what's going on around the world. As far as what we're going to do and the steps we're going to take next, that's something that we're in discussion about. It's sad that we have to take the time away from football and prepare for a season that is coming up here pretty soon to talk about these things, another senseless shooting that's happened. It's sad that it has to be that way. But yeah, as far as what we're going to do next, I'm going to talk to my teammates and the leadership group and the coaches and we're going to come up with a plan.
Q: I know you are planning a lot of work and have been in the community, but do you think something like boycotting a game… Is everything on the table, including something like that, because of the severity of the situation in the country?
A: Do I think boycotting a game is possible?
Q: Yeah is that on the table as an option as far as what you're discussing?
A: Like I said, I'm going to talk to the team and we'll come up with something. That will be that, whatever we come out of that.
Q: I know you were involved in that video this summer. I think you guys seemed like you were pleased with sort of how (Roger) Goodell responded. What do you want to see from the league? Because obviously, they're not in law enforcement. What do you want to see the league do to satisfy, or I don't know how to word that? Do you know what I'm saying?
A: What do I want to see the league do for us? As far as the video, I feel like it got a great response and we got what we were looking for in a way. As far as now, I don't really know how to answer that question. I don't know. What do I want them to see?
Q: Just what role do you think a sports league can play in impacting change?
A: It's such a big platform. We can make a huge impact on whatever we do, as players and as a league. Using that platform. Just use it.
Q: Has there been much communication between teams, among the leaders throughout the league? Have you guys gotten together and talked about what you want to do maybe all as one group, or is it pretty much team by team right now?
A: I haven't spoken with anyone, but I don't know about some of the other guys within our locker room. I don't know if they've been speaking to other guys or not. Me personally, no.
Q: Do you feel like you have John Mara's ear? I know he's been involved in some of these discussions.
A: Yeah, he's been great, letting his team talk and really coming up with a plan. That's what we're in the process of doing. We're going to talk about it as a team again. He's been great and very supportive of all of us.
Q: I wonder how much have you guys talked about all these other teams cancelling practice today and what your thoughts are on, I know it's not your decision and this team's decision, but on seeing that around the league?
A: I'm not going to comment on what our thoughts are. You guys will find out whenever we decide to do whatever we're going to do.
Q: I'll ask you an actual football question. You've seen this offense, you know what Saquon's (Barkley) skills are and what his ability is. We saw what Zeke (Elliott) did in this offense. What kind of damage can Saquon do?
A: Saquon's going to be Saquon. He's a tough runner. He's a very elusive runner. I expect him to be him in any offense. He's standing right here.
Q: Another one, football related. What was that conversation like with Joe Judge there when you tossed the ball about 30 yards, but then he kind of asked you to go get it?
A: Yeah, it would have been a 15-yard penalty in a game and that's what he told me. I thought about it and that is true. When you make a big play at practice, you tend to do stuff that you might not do in a real game. But that's stuff that we have to keep in mind. Sometimes, emotions get high in a game. Yeah, I need to think about those things before I do them.
Q: Is it tough to swallow your pride as a guy who's been in the league several years, kind of being instructed to do something like that? It has to be different.
A: No. You have to take coaching in every way, shape and form. I need somebody to stay on me. You never have it figured out. That's something that we learned in our team meeting yesterday. You can be a 10-year vet and think you have everything figured out, but you really don't. It keeps you grounded. I appreciate having a coach like Coach Judge.
Q: Last week, the NFL announced there were 23,000 COVID tests for players and zero positives. I'm wondering if you're impressed with how serious the guys are taking it, and if there was some point, maybe in March or April, that you didn't think the season was going to happen and now here it is two weeks away?
A: Yeah, I'm very pleased to see the numbers and seeing zero cases as far as the players go. That's reassuring. Hopefully it stays that way. Hopefully everybody still does their part whenever the season starts and we can get through the season clean, safe and healthy.