EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Like all head coaches, Joe Judge would excuse a player from practice only under extraordinary circumstances.
And that's exactly what defensive back Logan Ryan faced this week.
Ryan was departing MetLife Stadium following the Giants' loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 1 a.m. Tuesday when he received a phone call from his wife, Ashley. She had flown to Florida, where they have a home, so she could vote in the presidential election.
We'll let Ryan pick up the story from there.
"She was telling me about some pain she had in her stomach," said Ryan, who has a daughter, Avery, and a son, Otto, with Ashley. "She wanted to sleep it off. She was in extreme pain, but she said she'll wait until the morning. I talked to one of our trainers about the symptoms. He said, 'No, she needs to go to the ER.' My wife ended up going to the ER, and they ended up catching (an) ectopic pregnancy, where the egg was in the wrong place in her fallopian tube and it was about to burst. She ended up going into emergency surgery. … They ended up saving her and ended up preventing a lot of what could have been done. That was a trainer on our team, Justin Maher, telling my wife to go to the ER at 1 a.m. and could have saved her life or saved a lot of internal bleeding there. That's the type of organization we have here. My kids are okay, my wife is recovering well, she's okay."
Ryan was just as gratified with Judge's response to his family's situation later in the day as he was with Maher's initial reaction.
"Joe said, 'If you need to fly to Florida, don't worry about football,'" Ryan said. "That's who Joe is as a man and as a coach. I know we care about X's and O's and winning and losing, but there are really good people here. That's why I came here. There are really good trainers here, there are really a lot of people behind the scenes that are working really hard for us to get wins. I'll do everything I can to play for a coach like that and play for an organization like this because if that wasn't the case, I don't know if my wife would be here today. Honestly, I'm extremely grateful for this organization and for Joe, and for everyone to understand that there are things bigger than football, especially this year."
Judge isn't seeking plaudits for the sensitivity and understanding he displayed toward the Ryans.
The first-year head coach of a struggling team traveling on a short week to face a division opponent (the Washington Football Team) instructed his second-leading tackler and one of his most valuable defensive players to do what was necessary to take care of his family.
"I think you need to keep things in perspective," Judge said today. "There are some things that a guy may come to you and you say, 'Hey look, we can't miss practice or a game for that.' There are other things that are real life critical. You have to have relationships with your players that you understand what makes them tick, and they have to have a relationship with you to understand that you have their best interests at heart.
"We're very demanding of our players. I don't apologize for that. I'm not going to apologize for that. I'm very critical of our guys and I'm very blunt and honest with them. But at the same time, if you generally care about the players you're coaching, then you can coach them hard and you can be critical, because they understand at the end of the day that you're coming from a genuine place and you're being sincere to try and help them."
When Ryan, an eight-year veteran, signed with the Giants on Sept. 4, one of the reasons was the chance to work again with Judge. Ryan spent his first four NFL seasons with the New England Patriots from (2013-16), when Judge was an assistant coach with the team. They developed a mutual respect that has continued in their new affiliation with the Giants.
"There comes a point where you have to keep in perspective that your job, no matter what the profession is, is your job and your family is your family," Judge said. "You have to take care of your family first. I've known Logan for some time. He's a tremendous family man. But for any player in our locker room, if they have a similar situation, it's always going to be you put your family first. That's something I played and worked for a lot of coaches that have always put those priorities in line. The few exceptions that I've been around, more in the avenue of assistants that didn't put those things in priority, it was tough to buy into what they were trying to sell to me in the position room, to be honest with you. They kind of lost me pretty fast as a player.
"I always took that with me when I got into coaching that you can't make it all about the X's and O's. As a coach, I can't ever let players feel any kind of pressure that we may feel as coaches. That's not their job. It's our job as a team to perform and improve. But I'm a very big believer in relationships within a team. It kind of ties in a lot to what I said yesterday in terms of keeping things internally. That helps as far as keeping these relationships strong and building that trust we need to get through a lot of situations."
Including those that involve a serious health issue in a player's family.