EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – When an NFL team, 12 days before its season opener, signs a player who started 15 games for it the previous season, the initial conclusion is that team is unhappy with the player's replacements at that position.
But coach Joe Judge said that deduction is misplaced regarding the Giants today re-signing center Jon Halapio. It is instead reflective of Judge's and the organization's desire to have as many options in as many position groups as possible. It does not mean Judge is displeased with Spencer Pulley or Nick Gates, who have split first-team reps, or rookie Tyler Haycraft, who is rapidly and impressively learning to play center.
"Absolutely not," Judge said when asked if today's move was a statement about the players on the roster. "It's just an opportunity for us to add another good player to the roster. It gives us some depth and versatility inside. Jon's a guy who can play center, but he can play guard as well. Again, it's about position flexibility inside. You can only keep so many guys on the roster. The more players you keep inside that can play multiple positions, it gives you strength as a team right there.
"So no, that's no indication on anything we feel about our current players on our roster. I have a lot of confidence in Nick and Spencer and Tyler. They've done a really good job. Shane's (Lemieux) coming along. We're working on developing him in time. He's been playing a lot more at guard due to our current situation, but he's working as a center as well. We're developing all of our guys the best we can at multiple positions."
*Pulley and Gates are familiar names to Giants fans. Haycraft, not so much. He is a rookie free agent who didn't earn a scholarship at Louisville until his junior season in 2018. Last year, he started each of the Cardinals' 13 games…at right tackle.
But here he is playing center for the Giants.
"I think the biggest thing right now is the way he's mentally handled it," Judge said. "He's been able to make the calls inside and have good command. For a young guy, that's not always the easiest thing. He's really excelled in kind of some of the zone run schemes for us early on. He's shown his ability to match up against some size guys inside and play above what his size is. He's done a good job progressing on a daily basis. He's fun to have in the meeting room, too. He's a good guy to have around."
*Judge led the team in a fun exercise to conclude practice yesterday, hosing down and muddying up a section of the field and having the rookies dive on footballs in the muck. Officially, it was a fumble recovery drill. Just as important, it was a bonding exercise that had the players and coaches howling and laughing. And the last guy to get down and dirty – and soaked – was Judge.
What did it all mean?
"It means I've still got it in ball security, so I'm not going to let that thing slip away," said Judge, who played collegiate football at Mississippi State.
But Judge also saw the big picture as it related to the drill.
"We have a lot of fun as a team, we really do," he said. "It's a great group of guys. We wake up every morning as coaches, we're going to work them hard, we're going to work them long, but we're going to make it fun when we can. We're going to make sure that they understand that as we're pushing them and we're demanding, there's a 'why' to what we're doing. It's important they understand what that 'why' is. These are intelligent young men that when you explain there's a purpose to it, they can not only do it with confidence, but they can make the right decisions in game action when something's different.
"But look, it was just an opportunity for us to work on some fundamentals, have a little bit of fun together. This part of camp right here, you have to go ahead and change up a little. We've been staring at each other too long. Normally, you have preseason games coming, you have a chance to hit somebody else. At this point, they all want to hit me, and that's okay with me. But we need to make sure we keep it light sometimes and take time to keep it in perspective."
The New England Patriots run that drill and Judge took a humorous dig at his former boss when asked if Bill Belichick would pounce on the ball as he did. But Judge also showed he's not reluctant to credit others for a good idea.
"He (Belichick) doesn't have nearly the ball security technique that I do, so I wouldn't put it on camera, either," Judge said. "Actually, that was something that yesterday, (defensive coordinator) Pat Graham (also a former New England assistant coach) kind of grabbed me at practice. We were kind of talking and he said, 'Hey, what do you think about doing the fumble recovery drill?' We've been talking about some opportunities to do the turnover drills. We had a rain day the other day. Sure enough, the sun comes out and dries up all the rain and we wouldn't get a chance to do it as a whole team. But we took the opportunity yesterday. With the tempo of practice and what it was, we thought it was a good way to end practice and kind of get these guys rolling a bit."
*The Giants tomorrow will hold their third intrasquad scrimmage and second in MetLife Stadium. It will be their final such exercise before they begin preparing next week for their Sept. 14 season opener vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"This is going to be set up a lot more like a situational practice for us," Judge said. "We've kind of made that decision based on where we've gone as a team. We got a lot of good work in. We still want to put them out there in the stadium tomorrow and get used to the atmosphere, the surroundings, so we can work as coaches and we work with the team in terms of substitution, breaks in the action, still building that game flow that we can create. But the majority of what it's going to be tomorrow is just simulated situations of the games, some move the field periods where we'll put the ball down and let them play. But we're going to limit some of the action and exposure we give some of these guys tomorrow just based on workloads they've already had."