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Quotes 10/31: Coach Joe Judge, WR Sterling Shepard

Head Coach Joe Judge

Q: Can you give us an update on Saquon (Barkley)?

A: Beyond anything official, Ronnie (Barnes) gave me a call last night and let me know that he talked to the surgeon. It sounds like it was a positive deal right there. Obviously, we'll know more as time goes on and his rehab starts. But it seems like he's in good spirits. We're looking forward to getting him back over here on this side of the country.

Q: Have you decided without Will (Hernandez) who's starting, if it's Shane Lemieux? If not, is Chad Slade a viable option?

A: We're going to consider all the guys right now. We're going to go through that today after practice and kind of go through how the week went and what's going on. We have a lot of install to go today with some red area and two-minute. Without having a lot of those guys on Wednesday, it's kind of backlogged some of the things we've had to do. There are still some decisions to be made there.

Q: We asked you a lot on Monday before Markus (Golden) got traded about the trade deadline. I don't think you've been asked since. Do you expect it to be quiet between here and Tuesday? I know you have a game to focus on. Do you expect trade deadline stuff to be quiet or are you guys still looking into stuff?

A: I'm sure there are some conversations going on throughout the league right now. That's kind of really no different than on any other week. It leads up to the trade deadline. Right now, my focus is on the Buccaneers, and that's really the only thing I've been concentrating on this week.

Q: I was wondering if you could recall any times when you were with the Patriots when a team came in to face you guys and sort of lost before they even got on the field because they were so much in awe of probably Bill (Belichick) and Tom (Brady)? For a young team like yours, how do you prevent that? Obviously, you have a lot of guys in the building that know Tom very well, but how do you sort of prevent gawking?

A: To be honest with you, I can't think of any times that we knew before the game that they lost because they were in awe. I think there were times we played that we knew they had lost based on either how they were going to handle the situations with the weather, maybe the wind, something like that. There were other times we saw teams that kind of came in too overconfident and too over-focused on just a couple of people. I can recall games with Buffalo kind of circa 2014, '15, '16, that area right there. There were a lot of times it was kind of almost too much stuff pregame. You just kind of understood they're not really tuned into the game. They were just kind of worrying too much about some kind of matchup or something they may have heard or read about in the headlines that week. They're not really focused on the game. Normally when I see that from teams and you know they're not locked in for 60 minutes, of the situations that come up and the adjustments within the game, that to me is always the trigger. To me, the emotion within the game is something you have to balance. We talk to our players all the time, we have to be physically ready, and that comes down to how we take care of them at practice and how they take care of their bodies in recovery. We have to be mentally prepared, which comes into how we study and prepare and learn the opponent. We have to be emotionally prepared as well and understand what kind of game it's going to be going in. That ties into knowing what kind of team you are yourselves and how you have to play and win games. But there are a lot of teams that kind of came into games where you may see them early in warmups, and maybe they're a little bit too overexcited, a little bit too hyped up. Sometimes it's funny, you see a team even in Super Bowls where they're ridiculously long games, and there's just a different flow and feel to that game overall. You see teams come out two hours before the game, they're running around, they're sweating a lot, they're very adrenaline and amped up. You kind of look at them and just think 'they can't sustain that.' That's just kind of something I've learned over time, that to me, sometimes it's not the coming in awe of a team, but coming in overconfident or coming in focused on the wrong things. We're always trying to bring it back with our players to you have your job, your responsibility, to focus on. Keep it to that. Let's make sure we focus on the keys and the techniques we have to execute within the game. If we can tie that together for 60 minutes, some of the results are pretty good. Look, obviously, we have things as a team right now that we have to keep improving on, keep working. But we always try to bring it back to those principles.

Q: With the decision at guard with Will not being there, I'm just curious, I know what you've said and what you guys have shown at tackle when you've put Matt (Peart) in there and subbed out different series at tackle. Can you treat an interior spot the same way? Does it affect continuity on the interior because now you're not just worried about the guy on the left, but you're also worried about the guy on the right, or does that not matter to you in this situation?

A: Are you referring more to like moving Kevin (Zeitler) to the left guard and plug in the right guard with someone different? 

Q: Actually no, I was really more talking about having guys swap series. You have someone in for one series, and then the next series you put in that guy and you kind of rotate the way you've done at tackle with Matt and Cam (Fleming) and obviously with Andrew (Thomas) and Matt.

A: I think right now, we're okay to rotate guys on through, to be honest with you. I think it's kind of very similar to the tackle position that we have to move some guys on through. That's really been part of the plan anyway to get some of these other guys involved throughout the program and make sure throughout the course of this season that we see enough of them and let them develop. I've talked about that before with the young players with Matt and Andrew, how they rotate a lot. A lot of that is because of just it's early in the season. We didn't have a preseason. We want to make sure everyone gets exposure to develop, and an opportunity to really work on it. I see the guard position the same way. We've been slower to get to that point to this point. But obviously now we'll have a number of guys that will really be involved a lot more. I don't ever really have a hesitation of going ahead and rolling guys through the positions within a game. I really don't. They all practice, they all prepare. To me, if they're not going to be ready to play, I shouldn't have them at the game. If you're at the game, we have confidence in you to go in there and do your job. In terms of the inside versus the outside, I think it's just kind of six in one, half a dozen of another. Whether you're talking about the guards with the center working together, or whether it's a guard and a tackle, you still have to account for the same number of multiples, even though it's not the same exact kind of looks and twists and games inside between the two positions. But you still want to have some kind of continuity. That doesn't always mean it's the same players playing next to each other. To me, it's just enough consistency with how you prepare them and how you practice them to get them in a position that when they play in a game, that they're ready to go.

Q: I have a couple different ones here. First, what have you seen this week from Devonta Freeman and Sterling Shepard in regard to how they're looking? Does Devonta have any chance to make it this week?

A: Yeah, I'd say both guys have a chance at this point. They both have been moving around throughout the week. We've had different levels of practice. Tuesday was more of almost like a Giants Day, as we called it. A little more focused on us, it was kind of on and off the field quickly. We had a heavy emphasis on the passing game and the pass defense that day. Then you go into Thursday with the weather situation out there working around, that changed a little bit of how we prepared and what we focused on that day, along with the offensive line situation. Then yesterday, we kind of built on what we didn't get on Wednesday and kind of tried to incorporate, sorry I'm a day off there. But our Thursday into Friday, combined the two days right there. To me, I see both guys working hard. We'll check with the trainers and see where they are really through this practice and see where they go into this weekend. No decision has been made either way on either one of those guys.

Q: Is that turf toe just something that Sterling is going to have to deal with? Or is that not really the problem right now?

A: Look, this guy is working hard through whatever he's got. I think there's not a player in the league who is 100 percent at this point. Everyone is nicked up, everyone is banged up. That's true in our locker room as well as the other locker rooms. One thing I'll say for Sterling, he's a tough dude. He's very strong-willed and he wants to play. He'll give himself every opportunity to get out there and play.

Q: I'm just curious, you've obviously had a chance this week to watch a lot of the tape against Tampa Bay. I'm sure last year, Daniel's (Jones) first start. When you look back at that now, what do you see when you see Daniel and how much of a difference do you see from that Daniel and the one that is now, what, 19 starts later?

A: You look at it from the aspect of the matchups really than so much the scheme part right there. Todd's (Bowles) really evolved a lot in what he's doing. Bruce's (Arians) offense with Byron (Leftwich) and some of the players they have down there is completely different. Asking specifically about the offense players and Daniel, I think there's some differences within the system. I see growth in both avenues in what he's doing. There are some things we have to keep on improving. But look, I'm very happy with the way Daniel's working right now and getting in the system. He's shown progress throughout the season, especially these last few weeks, so we have to keep on building with him and give him opportunities to help this team win.

Q: I don't think we've asked you since the news came out about Will Hernandez. How is he doing?

A: To be honest with you, I can't really speak for Will in terms of how he's personally feeling right there. I would just say I know he's been in contact with our training staff. I have not seen him personally. Obviously, we've all been isolated from him. We'll check back in and see how he's doing. Any health ailments, they go directly through Ronnie Barnes. To me, no news is good news when it comes to our players and situations like this. I'll check back in with Ronnie after this like I do every day before I hit the field with some of the injuries and see what we're dealing with right there. Hopefully he's doing well. We hope for a speedy recovery for him.

Q: Then in a situation like this, beyond obviously the medical support, since this is such a devastating type of situation, the virus and whatnot, what kind of additional support is given to a player or staff member in terms of counseling or anything like that, to kind of keep them from thinking the worst?

A: Well, we do have in-house counseling for any player that may need it. That's all on a volunteer basis. It's also the job of the coordinators and the position coaches to identify their players and where they're at, to keep in touch with them. I think our locker room has done a tremendous job throughout the year being very connected. That kind of started back in the spring with the virtual process, going through training camp. In terms of our guys staying in touch with each other and being connected, I know a lot of them have reached out to Saquon over the last couple days, wishing him good luck and, obviously, thoughts and prayers going into the surgery. I followed up with the captains yesterday afterwards. A number of them had spoken to him through text and other ways. These guys try to stay connected with all of their teammates, whether they're in the building or outside the building. But I'd say this, obviously, what you're referring to, it is different being isolated, being on your own for a series of multiple days up to over a week at some points. To me, being connected through the building, he's involved with our meetings on a daily basis through the Zoom process. That kind of gives him a window into the football part of it right there. It keeps him connected in what we're doing so that when he gets back, he's not really having a slower process and learning what we've put in since he's been gone. He's mentally involved. The physical separation is something that we all just have to deal with him not being around and him being by himself.

Wide Receiver Sterling Shepard

Q: How are you feeling? Is there any doubt in your mind that you're going to be ready to play this week? They listed you as limited earlier this week.

A: I feel pretty good. I'm going to give it a go this week.

Q: Is there anything that's still bothering you? Is the turf toe just something that you're going to have to deal with or is that all better? How does that stand at this point?

A: I'm just listening to everything the trainers are saying right now and just going with what they say. Yeah, I'm probably going to have to deal with it, but I'm listening to them and doing my recovery there.

Q: Was it hard to get integrated back to the offense last week? It seemed like you did a pretty good job with it if it was.

A: No. They've been having me in meetings and everything throughout the time I was out. Just staying in-tune with everything and all the different changes that we made throughout that four-week period that I was out. It helped me out whenever I returned.

Q: Was there a physical adjustment? You hadn't really had a full practice before you even played in the game since the injury anyway.

A: Yeah, the trainers did a great job of keeping me in shape in different ways. Running in the pool, running on different treadmills, not to put so much body weight on it, so I got to keep my wind up.

Q: I don't think we talked to you at all during the weeks you were out. What was the frustration level like there, especially after what you went through last year? I know it's a totally different injury, obviously, but just like a 'here we go again'? We know how effective you are when you're out there, but to miss games again, what was the frustration level?

A: Yeah, it was pretty frustrating because the way it happened. I've been tackled like that a bunch of times. It just so happened my foot was in an awkward position. But that's just the way the game goes. You just have to kind of take your lumps and keep pushing forward. I tried not to look at the situation I was in negatively. I tried to learn as much as I could about the offense and what I needed to do whenever I got back. It's helped me.

Q: What have you seen from Golden Tate? Obviously, you're going to be here for the long term. He's a guy who is a veteran guy, he's older than you. Obviously, his name keeps coming up as a possible trade target. Have you seen that affect him at all or is it the same old Golden?

A: I don't know anything about that situation. I love playing with Golden and that's the bottom line for me. He's one of my favorite receivers that I've played with throughout my time in the NFL. I'll be excited to keep learning from him. I don't know about all that other stuff.

Q: It looked like you were in that video Friday. Do you have anything to say in response to what you guys did in terms of preparing to make sure you were following the protocol or the reaction since then?

A: That's something that we have dealt with internally and we talked to coach about. That's all I have to say about that.

Q: I don't think anyone questions your toughness. In terms of the turf toe injury, I'm not sure when you hear turf toe injury you think of the pain that I've heard is associated with that. How do you compare that to things you've played through. How much do you learn from that injury and how debilitating can it be?

A: Yeah, I didn't know much about it at all. Anybody that's had it will tell you it's nothing to play with. If you don't have your big toe, especially for a skill position guy, it's hard to get your job done in any way, shape or form. It's one of the more frustrating injuries that I've had. I've come a long way and I thank the trainers for that.

Q: We know you're close with Saquon. How's he doing?

A: He's doing good. He's in good spirits. I talked to him yesterday after the surgery, he seemed to be doing great to me.

Q: What was he like beforehand? What was his involvement with the team like these past 5 weeks?

A: Coming in and getting treatment just like all the other IR guys. He was in here every day getting treatment. Stopping in and talking to the running backs a little bit to show his face. That's pretty much it.


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