Head Coach Joe Judge
Q: Just a couple of sort of logistic questions now that we're into Week One. You guys moved back to the facility I take it. I'm curious how that went and what kind of adjustments? I know you really liked the setup you had at the stadium.
A: Everything has been pretty smooth so far. What we've done so far as the spacing and everything is we're actually using the inside of Quest, where we've always had all of our meeting rooms. We've also transformed half of our indoor facility into meeting areas as well. The defense will do pretty much everything that they have meeting wise outside (in the field house). The offense has a T-room out there. Then the offense will use some meeting rooms inside as well. There's a little bit of back and forth for some of these guys, but it's been a smooth transition so far.
Q: I know we're going to be out at practice in a few minutes, but just in case guys aren't out there, I wanted to just check with you. All the guys you claimed yesterday and then like Logan Ryan and the corner from Denver you traded for (Isaac Yiadom), who is going to be out there and who's still in the process of getting on board?
A: We have a couple of guys we claimed, the three guys we claimed, they're actually quarantining today and they have to get their physicals (Tuesday). Some of the guys that are in transition, they're going to be doing some physicals or quarantining. We should have everybody out there Wednesday with us. Today we're still a couple of guys short. But you'll see, Logan (Ryan) should be out there and Isaac (Yiadom) should be out there today. You'll see some of the new guys.
Q: What about the guys you cut on Saturday and then brought back? I think it's (Brandon) Williams and (Eric) Tomlinson. Are they right back out there today or do they have to take a step back or anything?
A: No, they've been good with us. They stayed within the testing protocols, so that kept everything on track.
Q: As you prepare for this game, how much do you intend to coach the man, and I mean Mike Tomlin, on the sideline across from you? You have our own game plan and what the Steelers like to do, but then how much do you coach the coach across from you, what his tendencies are, how much you know about him and how you scout him?
A: Yeah, every coach has different tendencies and philosophies within the game. It's our job to know our opponents. It's our job to make sure our game plan fits what they do well and try to give our players an edge. In terms of knowing how different coaches call the game and how they build their team through training camp and how they operate throughout the flows of the season, that's all of our jobs to make sure we operate to give our players the best chance right there.
Q: When you look at this opener, because it's so unusual with no preseason, what do you look at as far as how you're going to deploy your players? Can you expect any player to play 80, 90 snaps, 95 percent of the snaps, as maybe in a normal game you would? Do you look at this and say 'it's almost like we need to give everybody minutes here'?
A: I think it's a combination of number one, we want to use all of our players actively within every game anyway. Also, along with that, just because the limits on the numbers you can have at games anyway, we're expecting players to have to play the full length. We'll spell guys as far as we can, but we're going to have to make sure that we have the best guys on the field at all times to execute the plan in place. Obviously, for everyone in the league, this will be a challenge. No one has been able to time wise to this point put their team through any kind of situation that replicates the entire length of a game, whether that's the three hours of competition, the hour-plus leading up to it. We just haven't been allowed that amount of time by the league, and that's just the way it is. Everyone is dealing with the same challenges right now. We placed a big emphasis on conditioning within our program, trying to get our players acclimated and healthy. That's something that we have to push on going forward.
Q: If for instance you have 75 snaps on offense, the offensive linemen are going to have to push through and play 75 snaps on offense if need be?
A: Yeah, someone has to be out there. Again, if we can spell someone for a play here or there, we can rotate it through, great. That will be part of the plan as we get through the later part of the week. As of right now, everyone is preparing to play every snap.
Q: In sort of looking around the league, usually at this time of year, we see some football that's not quite as sharp as we see after 2 or 3 weeks of games. Do you expect this year in particular will be pretty sloppy to start out with, especially given the no preseason games and all the things that you guys have had to deal with?
A: I think when you watch NFL football in September, regardless of the year, you see a degree of bad football out there on the field. Turnovers, penalties, some mental errors. You see some things within the flow and the operation of the game that isn't the way it looks later in the season. That's just the truth of the National Football League every year. Obviously, we're coaching to eliminate bad football. That's my goal as a head coach. I don't know if this year will be any different. I can't turn around and say it's going to be better or worse. But I think in September, you always see your share of bad football as it turns up on tape.
Q: Do you know what you're going to do with captains yet?
A: We'll announce them later on. We voted on them this morning as a team. Before I announce it publicly, I'll tell the players first. But yes, we have our captains.
Q: What do you look for in a captain? What do you want to see from your captains?
A: I think it's important to me, for the head coach, to have someone who's a voice of the team that can communicate for everyone in the locker room. I stress to the players, leadership is about doing your job well, it's about putting the team first, and it's about being unselfish. You have to be able to bring people with you to actually be a leader. Otherwise you're just up there giving speeches and kind of rah-rahing. We just preach to the players that make sure you take your time and decide who you want to represent you. It's not a popularity contest. You're picking people to represent you when we meet on a weekly basis with the captains.
Q: When we asked you a couple of weeks ago about your competition at center, you said it was scratch even. I certainly don't expect you to tell us who you're starting center is going to be on Monday night yet, but have you made a decision with the way that competition has played out between Nick Gates and Spencer Pulley?
A: There's been a push back either way. Both guys competed hard, made some gains throughout training camp. We're going to go through another day or so. I'm going to talk to the players before we go ahead and decide anything internally.
Q: But in your mind, do you have who you want to be your starting center Monday night, or are you still determining?
A: We're still going to work on deciding that. We're going to let another day go through right here. There are some things we're going to work on today.
Wide Receiver Sterling Shepard
Q: We haven't heard anything definitive but let's play a hypothetical. If you were voted a captain or if you're announced as a captain in a half hour, what would that mean to you?
A: If that's how my team views me, then I'd be happy to take that role. But if not, I'm also happy to take a different leadership role, just because you're only allowed so many guys to be captains and I clearly understand that. Pretty much my whole career, I've never been voted a captain. But I've always been a leader in my own way, so that's what I'll continue to do.
Q: In years past in the league, you come back from Labor Day weekend, you hit the practice field and when it's down to 53, you almost get that sense that 'alright, now the season is beginning.' I'm curious with the extra guys on the practice squad, being out there for a little bit, it didn't seem like you guys were cut down as much as maybe the numbers would suggest in the past. Did it feel that way, or does today feel like the first step towards the regular season?
A: I'd say it definitely looks like a cut down. But if you look at the wide receiver room, it didn't look like much changed at all. If you look at it from my eyes and going into my meeting room, yeah, I felt like not much changed. But when I got to the team room, yeah, you could kind of tell it was cut down.
Q: I know we asked you earlier in camp about the younger guys, the younger receivers, a lot of the rookies, first-year guys. As someone that's been a part of this, do you like the fact that your room is almost as intact as it was in camp? The way that guys performed, does that say a statement about a position how well these guys did?
A: Yeah, they had a lot of tough decisions to make. There's no doubt about that. But I'm very excited to see some of the guys in here because I know how hard they worked. I saw the talent whenever they walked into the door. Yeah, I'm happy to have those guys.
Q: A lot of people look at the Steelers and they think and are predicting they will be the best defense in the league. Obviously, the circumstances this year are a little bit crazy. To have to face that defense Week 1, how are you guys viewing that?
A: It's a great test for us. They've been good on that side of the ball for a long time, so that's nothing new. We're excited. We've been preparing. We started today, and we'll continue throughout the week to prepare for them. But we're looking forward to it.
Q: How much is it a chance for you guys to make a statement also?
A: Like I said, we're just taking it one day at a time. That's what we're focused on. We're taking it one day at a time, doing what we have to do before the game so we can have the outcome that we want to have. It's going to take that narrow-minded focus on each day at a time.
Q: Do you guys feel ready? You have a game in a week, a week from tonight now. Do you feel like you're ready for that?
A: We still have a week to go. We haven't really gotten into game prep, but as far as camp, camp went well. I felt like guys made some major strides on building our identity of the team, and we're still building that. But I feel like we've made some major strides. We're ready to put our best foot forward and get this season underway.
Defensive Back Logan Ryan
Q:I know that you are a versatile player, you play safety, you can play inside, you can play outside. Just curious if it comes down the line this season that the Giants need you at outside corner regularly, is that something you are willing and able to do?
A: Yeah, good question. I'm one hundred percent prepared to and learning all the positions for sure. Where I line up from week to week will definitely be G-5 classified, team first. Joe Judge will tell you later type of answer. I'm prepared, I played outside corner a lot of years in this league. I started at outside corner in the Super Bowl before. I've had experience at it, I played outside corner at Rutgers for four years right down the road, so I definitely have experience at the position for sure. If the team asked me to play that, I'll definitely do that.
Q: Kind of a follow up on the last question, can you describe your evolution a little bit. I know it came out that you view yourself as a safety, how has that gone for you as your career has progressed?
A: It's been a lot of fun. I think the evolution is to be a DB and study all the positions and the arts of it. Like we talked about, I played perimeter corner a lot in my career and obviously played the slot position, safety. It's a part of my game and whatever the team needs me to do from week to week. I think it gives us great versatility with myself, Jabrill Peppers. Julian Love is a former corner playing safety. I think that gives us position flexibility. Honestly, this is a matchup league. This isn't 1980's football where you go out there and you have four positions, you run a four three which is two safeties and two corners. I think the game is evolving a little bit and I think the more positions flexibility you have, I think it gives you the ability to do more stuff on defense.
Q: Obviously you agree a week ago, what has been the timeline for you since then? How much of a catch up game have you tried to accelerate in terms of getting for this playbook? Were you in here this weekend trying to catch up? Give us a scene setter of what this last week has been like for you?
A: Obviously I agreed to terms a week ago. With COVID testing and all that, I begged for an iPad, they gave me one. I've been studying film about 20 hours a day, a variety of positions. I got to see my mom who lives an hour south obviously. She's scared to death of the sun right now because of COVID. I got to see her for a half hour and then right back to the film. My wife and kids are back home in Nashville where they're at. I'm up here by myself. I have nothing to do but watch a ton of film and start preparing for the Steelers. Lack of film won't be an issue for me. I'm going to do everything I can preparation wise. Luckily, I have played for Pat Graham, I've played for Joe Judge before. It's a system that I'm familiar with. I played in the system before in my career, so I think that helped me a little bit with the terminology and things of that nature.
Q: Obviously the first time went through free agency it was a much different experience than this time. What was it like, the last five months? Was coming home always really your preference deep down?
A: Yeah, the last five months has been 2020. It's been that for me, it's been that for everybody. It's been a crazy year, you never know where you will end up, you never know how it's going to go. Coming home was definitely something that I always thought about. Joe Judge, playing for him and the familiarity with him and Pat Graham like I said, was definitely a huge swing in that favor. COVID gave me a ton of perspective. Like everybody, you're not at work, you get to stay home a little more. I obviously haven't been working for five months, it was Harley and my two kids. They're used to having daddy. I'm the Phys Ed teacher, at my daughter's kindergarten class. I do science, I do art and I do Phys. Ed and my wife does the other stuff. We just play all day. I really enjoyed being home with my family, enjoyed that time. Obviously been a grinder in this league for a lot of years. Going into my eighth year here, I've played for some tough coaches, tough programs, played in a lot of big games. It was good to have that little mental break. I've been preparing the whole time. I put myself through my own training camp with no cameras on me. Being able to come home and play 20 minutes from Rutgers and an hour from where I grew up, it's a dream come true. I'm so grateful for the opportunity honestly.
Q: Has Greg (Schiano) been in touch with you at all? When you're with a new team do you feel like the odd man out for X amount of time?
A: Greg meaning Schiano, Coach Schiano reached out. He congratulated me, happy to have me back in the area and I was ecstatic. We definitely exchanged texts and talked about that, I thanked him for that. I think Rutgers is excited to have me back. I look forward to helping their team out when I get the chance. I wasn't in the virtual meetings with these guys. I'm a team first guy and obviously I play a variety of positions and do what the team needs me to do and try to make plays for the team. I lay my body on the line for the team. It was kind of hard not being around a team, especially a new team. I definitely had my outfit picked out, first day of school. I definitely had it laid out for me. I got in the building, I think we didn't have to be here until nine or ten, I definitely was in the building by six or seven AM. I was a little early, I think that's a good thing. I definitely had my outfit picked out. I'm definitely excited man. Hopefully, I made a good first impression on these guys. Hopefully it's a good impression and I can be a good teammate and help this team.
Q: From one Rutgers alum to another, welcome. Coach Judge has spoken often about having players represent the area. Having played for Rutgers and having appreciated what it's like to represent the area, what does that mean to you? What do you think you can bring to contribute to that goal?
A: First, for any kid in New Jersey who is working hard on the football field or in a park with their dad, throwing a ball, I played quarterback in high school, I played corner in college. I was an athlete. Then I'd come to the NFL and I played this position, that position. It's just work ethic. Hopefully I can show them that if they work hard from the area, you can come play for the home team and bring that familiarity and that humility home to the Jersey kid. I'm just a hardworking kid. I was raised that way. I went to Rutgers out of New Jersey, and we worked hard for every win and for every loss. I got drafted in the third round in New England. I wasn't guaranteed a thing. I worked hard every single day. When you're 21 years old, leaving Rutgers as a junior and you're on the practice field with Tom Brady a few months later, you have to grow up quick. I had to take those losses against Tom Brady and it really grew me up, and here I am. My career has been going by in a flash. Eight years in but I feel like I have a lot of great football left in me. It's just my hard work and my preparation. I'm just a guy with average ability who worked really hard at it.
Q: You've known Joe for quite a while here. When we see him, we see this intense coach, yelling and getting on guys. I'm curious what was a younger Joe Judge like when he first came to New England? What have you seen in that evolution?
A: His language didn't clean up. He definitely spoke the same, he definitely used a couple of profanities every other sentence.
Q: He came in day one and he was getting on guys? You guys must have been like 'wow this is pretty intense.'
A: Yeah, day one he was definitely like that. He was intense. He was the assistant special teams coach and I was on special teams a lot as a rookie in New England, so we spent a lot of time together. He was detail oriented; he was serious. But he's more of a players' guy than he might want to come off as. I think he can relate to the player, and he does a good job of connecting to you and your family. We talk about our kids; we talk about where we're living. I'm trying to find real estate right now in North Jersey. It's impossible. I'm trying to rent. If anybody's out there in Hoboken, please allow my pit bulls and my dogs to rent your place. They're great dogs. I do a lot of animal rescue. I'm trying to find a place to stay. It's really hard in this market right now to find a place, so I hope I have somewhere to sleep this season. But we talk about those things. I've known him for a long time. He's seen me grow up in this league and I've seen him grow as a coach. We believe in one another. I truly believe that this place believed in me more in free agency than any other team out there. For that, for Joe Judge, for (Dave) Gettleman, for Pat Graham, I'm going to give it my all. I told Joe when I signed up, I'm going to come in, I'm going to do whatever you need me to do, whatever position that may be. Whether that requires leadership or practicing every play or taking every snap, I'm willing to do that for the team and for this city, because this is where I'm from. This is what I represent. I'm thankful for the opportunity, and I'm trying to show that in every single practice right now.
Q: How much did Joe actually contribute to you signing here then? You just said that was a big factor, right?
A: Yeah, it was. The Giants were not the only team interested. It was not my only offer. Having a conversation on the phone definitely steered it his way and Pat Graham as well. We talked a lot about what I can bring and how they believed in me. I think this gave me the best ability to make plays and just showcase my talent for the team. 100 percent, it had a huge significance.
View photos of the Giants' active roster as it currently stands.