Quotes (4/18): TE Evan Engram, RB Saquon Barkley, WR Golden Tate

TE Evan Engram

How would you look back and judge the course of your career?

“Definitely a lot of growth. Definitely a lot of learning. Had a pretty solid rookie year. I’m definitely kind of coming into this year getting into that routine, and kind of finding my footing in this league. Last year, I had some adversity and a lot of learning. It was definitely a well-needed learning experience. I felt a lot of growth. I felt a lot of maturity with mental, and off the field, and also on the field. I’m definitely excited with learning all of that going into year three.”

What do you expect from (QB) Eli (Manning), and how much confidence do you still have in him?

“I have the utmost confidence in Eli. He’s our leader, he’s our vet, and he’s a two-time champ. Whenever you bring that to the table, no matter what year you’re in, that’s definitely a big asset to the team. He’s always getting us right. We’re going into year two in this offense with a little more comfortability, and able to find some more details and find some more ripples in our offense to make us even better. So, I’m really excited to get back to work with him, and go into this year with him, as well.”

What was your initial reaction to the (Browns WR) Odell Beckham Jr. trade?

“I get asked that a lot. I’m not a fan of the game, I’m on the team, so I can’t really be shocked or surprised. This league is a crazy business. At the end of the day, I‘m still a New York Giant. I was in the middle of my training, and I know it was big news and everyone was talking about it, but I was focused on bettering myself and bettering my team, and going forward with the guys we have.”

When you guys re-signed (WR) Sterling Shepard last week, what message did that send to the locker room?

“I think the big thing that Shep brings to this team is a dog mentality, and that mentality that we hate to lose. That’s Shep on and off the field. Seeing him get that contract and re-signing with us and him finding that security, I was very happy for him. That sends a message to our locker room that we need more guys like that. We need more guys with that mentality, that work ethic, and the ability to do whatever we need and whatever we can on the football field to win, and that’s Sterling Shepard.”

As a young guy yourself, was it important to see that happen after letting (Redskins S) Landon Collins go and trading Odell?

“I didn’t really think deep into it. Like I said, we need guys in our locker room like Shep, and like I said, I was just happy for him to get that deal, and for him to have that security for him and his family.”

Without Beckham, do you think you have enough weapons offensively?

“Definitely -- I think Odell is a one-of-a-kind talent. I think he’s the best receiver in the league, hands down, but we got guys ready to step up. We got guys ready that are here now that are going to come in here and make this team better. Like you said, the message to the locker room is for guys to prepare and get ready for the big opportunities that are going to come with him gone.”

Other than being more comfortable in the offense, where did you personally take the biggest leap in your game?

“Just like I said with the learning experiences. Just kind of slowing my game down, playing more under control, getting more confidence in myself and finding that groove and finding that formula that can help me be successful. Just kind of that end of that year, and me staying healthy, and me kind of turning on, and me kind of getting opportunities within the offense. It was definitely a big learning curve for me, positively. I’m just excited to get back and work with my teammates. I had a great offseason training, and getting ready to bring everything I’ve learned into this next year.”

How curious are you about the draft with the team having two first-round picks?

“Our front office and coaches, they know what they’re doing. The rookie class that came in here last year was definitely really mature. Were kind of natural leaders, and they stepped up to the plate. I know those guys are doing their jobs up there, and their scouting, and hanging out with these guys. Whoever we bring to the team, whoever we bring in the draft, are going to be the guys that belong here, and deserve to be here, and are going to help us win more games.”

One of your issues last year was being hurt. Is there anything you can do in the offseason to prevent injuries?

“With that, it’s a year-round thing -- offseason, in season, and I’m definitely going to take a bigger approach with just trying to do as much as I can with taking care of my body, and staying more healthier. That’s eating better, sleeping better, that’s being more active in the training room. I don’t even have to be hurt, but just staying on top of things. We do have a hard workload and we run around a lot. We do get nicks and banged up a little bit. It’s that maturity that I talked about, and it’s that responsibility and the discipline that I’ve learned, and I’ve definitely learned to take hold of that, and going to be really important with that this year.”

RB Saquon Barkley

Q: How do you feel about your football team heading into this season?

A: This team, I’m excited. I think we have a lot of potential. We have added some new faces and we were able to sign some guys and lock them in, like Shep. Just been training with these guys and competing. I was not here for this part last year, I was in the draft process, so to be here, working out and running, I am really happy with what we got and I am excited for the future.

Q: How do you look at your responsibility for this team?

A: To continue to grow every single day as a player and a person. Take my leadership to another level. That is pretty much it. 

Q: What is your reaction to the Odell trade and how do you see this team competing without him?

A: My reaction was, everyone said they were shocked. He called me right before it got out to the news. He talked to me and was a big brother like he always was. He gave great advice. To see him go, it sucks, but like I said in the interview with Taylor Rooks, it is sad to see people go but we have to keep it moving. We have to continue to get better and continue to grow. That is where we are at as a team right now. We have to continue to believe in each other and take it to another level next year.

Q: Can this team be better next year with him not here?

A: Yes, I think we can. That is the team we have right now. That is our team right now and we have to believe in each other. We have to believe in the coaches that we have, the system, and continue to compete against each other right now because we cannot play anyone else. When the season comes around, take it to another level.

Q: When you came here, Odell was 25 and you are a young guy. Did you say that Odell and yourself are going to be great for many years with the Giants and now that you are not, does it tell you something about the Giants or the business?

A: Definitely. It talks about the business. I did not need the Odell trade to open my eyes up to the business. Your first week coming to the NFL, all over the league, guys are getting cut and moved around. Like you said, Odell is a really good friend of mind. We expected to have a great career with each other but unfortunately, that does not happen. It does not change anything with our friendship. He is in Cleveland and I am in New York. We are one phone call away and not that many miles away. That is not going to change our friendship, but for the team, one thing we can focus on is the team right now. Just like in Cleveland, he has to focus on Cleveland and we have to focus on ourselves right now, continue to get better and move on.

Q: You talked last year about wanting to take that next step. How, if at all, does the trade and Odell not being here change that and what added responsibilities do you feel?

A: It does not change anything for me. That was my mindset. Just have to continue to grow. That is how I am as a competitor. Find new things and challenge myself. That is what I am going to continue to do throughout my career. Obviously there are many things on the field, whether it is pass blocking or catching the ball. Off the field, fill more of a leadership role. Being more vocal, stepping up and challenging people. I was not able to be part of this phase last year. Now I am part of it. Do what I know, work, compete and when I’m out there, challenge Wayne (Gallman), have Wayne challenge me, challenge Evan (Engram) to take our team to another level.

Q: Is it important to you to become the best running back in this league?

A: No. Obviously, my competitive nature would love to be the best player in the league and the best running back in the league, but I think you could make an argument that I was one of the best running backs in the league last year and we went 5-11 to account for it. My mindset is whatever it takes to take this team to another level and compete for a championship, whether that is 2,000 yards, 1,500 yards or 800 yards.

Q: What top guys have reached out to you in this draft class as you have been through this last year and what have you told them?

A: Not really anyone reached out to me. The only people that have are my old college teammates. I have been around some of those guys. I train with a lot of quarterbacks and I trained at UCLA, so I got to see a lot of those guys in there. The only advice I would say, no matter what pick, whether it is the first round, second, seventh or undrafted, at the end of the day, it does not matter. Just come in and be ready to work and compete. The rest will take care of itself.

Q: What do you see in Dwayne Haskins’ game?

A: I got to see him on TV against Penn State. I was into that game. It was a heartbreaking loss at home for us. Me and Dwayne go way back. He was actually the Rivals Quarterback MVP and I was the Rivals Running Back MVP. He was the guy that was throwing to me at that Maryland Camp. He is young and talented. He has a great career ahead of him and wherever he ends up, I wish him the best.

Q: What is the culture in the locker room like?

A: It is early, but it feels no different. We are still in there and making jokes on each other. Playing Connect Four and competing. That is what you need. You need a team and a core that believe in each other not only on the field but off the field. Whether that means doing more activities off the field like bowling, playing pool, going to eat. Those things are what help build a team and shape a team. It is early but we have to continue to take those steps throughout the year.

Q: What is your message for frustrated Giants fans?

A: Why? Why would they be frustrated? In my opinion, we have a great team, a great quarterback, great offensive line, great running back and great wide receivers, so on and so on. We figured it out somewhat in the second half last year. We have that mindset and that belief about team, toughness and together. We could have a great season this year.

Q: Will you watch the Draft?

A: No, I will not watch. The draft is long. For me, I got out there the second pick and it felt long for me. I could not imagine a Lamar, who had to wait till the 30th pick. Will I watch? Probably not. I will probably spend more time with my family or with the guys. I am anxious because there are some new teammates that are going to come in. It is obviously above my pay grade, so I have no idea who we are going to be drafting but I hope whoever we draft they are ready to come in and compete.

Q: What are you hoping they accomplish this draft?

A: Just guys that love the game. That is the biggest thing I have learned so far in my one year in the NFL. Just guys that love the game and love competing, whether you are 2-14 or 14-2. I know I sound like a broken record because I said it before, but it is truly what it takes. If you look at the Patriots last year, obviously Tom Brady gets all the love and the praise, but there are so many people around him that just love the game and it is the system they operate over there. My mindset is why not? Why not take that approach? I don’t care who we draft, if it is a quarterback, running back, tight end, defensive end, whatever. As long as they are guys that are willing to come in and work and buy into what we have here as a team, they can help us win.

Q: Do you understand that people still think they should have taken a QB over you?

A: Yes. I understand that. I don’t care for their opinions or anything, I can’t change those opinions. Not being cocky or anything, but if a Rookie of the Year doesn’t sway that mindset, then I don’t know what will. My mindset is to continue to prove to the people in this locker room and in this building that they got the right guy. Not only the right guy because I can break off an 80-yard touchdown, because there are a lot of people in the league that can do that, but as a guy that can buy in and take that leadership role, I believe that I have been able to show that so far and I have been able to take that to a whole different level.

Q: What is your sense one year in with Eli?

A: I think he can do it all. I believe he can do it all. A big thing for me is that film doesn’t lie. It doesn’t lie. If you go back and watch the second half of the year when we all started playing at a high level as a team, you started seeing how he played, how I played, how the defense played and the offensive line played. That’s what it is. It isn’t going to take one guy to win the game. I know we like to put the blame on one guy when it comes down to it, I know I sound like a broken record, but I will say this for the rest of the year, it is all about team, toughness and together. Having that mindset and being bought in.

Q: How much pride do you take in being part of this organization?

A: A lot of pride. This is the team that drafted me and gave me the opportunity to live my dream. For me, my dream was to be in the NFL and to play at a high level. I am blessed and fortunate enough to play at a place like this. You look behind us and you see the Super Bowl wins and the guys on this wall. I want to be a part of that one day. I am going to do whatever I can to be a part of that.

WR Golden Tate

Q: What’s the first week around the building and your new teammates been like for you?

A: “It’s been fun. Really just trying to focus on how to get to my locker, how to get to the cafeteria, where to park, all the things that will hopefully become natural in a few weeks. It’s been great. You can already tell we have a really, really good, solid locker room. Speaking for receivers, who I’ve spent most of my time with working out and in meetings, those guys have done a phenomenal job of welcoming me, trying to help me with any guidance I need, with living situations, or understanding the material that we have so far. It’s been great. I just look forward to keep building relationships with these guys, because these are the guys I’ll be spending most of my time with over the next four years. We have high expectations for our group individually. We’re just going to work.”

Q: How much pride do you take in being able to play all three receiver positions?

A: “I’m a strong believer in the more you can do, the better off you’re going to be. That’s what I like about this offense, is that all of us are going to be interchangeable. We all can do a lot of things the way it sounds. Early on, I’m just trying to stay ahead of the work I have, the playbook as much as I can. Just try to not only make myself the best receiver I can be, but also help the younger guys around me. We’ve got some tremendous young talent here. I want to see everybody do well and catch a bunch of balls, and help us win. If that’s going to make it easier for (QB) Eli (Manning), we’ll be a better overall team.”

Q: Do you feel any extra motivation after how it went for you in Philadelphia? How they struggled to incorporate you in the offense, as their offensive coordinator even admitted. Do you feel any pressure to make a strong first impression here?

A: “No, not really. I’m going into my 10th season. I’m just going to be who I am. I have a lot of confidence in my ability and what I can bring to a team. I think I’m in a better situation here, because I have an entire offseason to learn the offense. I’m not hitting the ground running in the middle of the week having to prepare to play Sunday. It’s kind of a different scenario this time around. I’m excited to be able to play ball, and get out here and play for a great fan base, a great city. I guess representing two states is kind of cool. Just win a bunch of games. I know my expectations are high for this organization, and I just want to keep help build those championships that I used to watch.”

Q: How much does that interchangeable part of your game help you? Do you feel as if you play better when you’re in multiple spots on the field?

A: “I’m excited, I’m going to have an opportunity to line up in a bunch of places. Just looking at the Giants over the past years, we have some incredible guys in our meeting room who can be moved outside, inside, at tight end, whatever it may be. When I got into the league, and specifically when I got to Detroit, in two-receiver sets, I was the ‘Z’, and in three-receiver sets, I was ‘X’, and I was all over the place, which required me to learn it all, and have high endurance, and hopefully have the opportunity to just be moved around. I’m going to trust that Coach (Shurmur) is going to put all of us in the best situation to win ball games, and also to allow us to be the best individuals that we can be. We’ll see what happens.”

Q: As a player, does being traded put a chip on your shoulder at all?

A: “No, I just kind of move forward with life. I haven’t even thought about it enough to be honest, because everything just happens so quickly. I think my entire career, I’ve kind of had a chip on my shoulder. A lot of people have try to downplay my ability and what I’ve achieved in this league, which is fine with me. I just continue to show up and play ball. As far as I’m concerned, I feel like I’ve been one of the more reliable receivers over the past decade, and I take a lot of pride in that. I think it’s important to be available and durable. I think I’ve done a good job of that. I don’t need the team to do that. I feel like my hands and my routes have been pretty good. My statistics have been pretty consistent for the most part. So, I’m just going to continue to do that, in addition to help winning games.”

Q: You said after a few days here, that this is a very solid locker room. How does a veteran know that after only a couple days being here?

A: “Just speaking with the receivers, those guys just absolutely welcomed me in. Sometimes, you deal with envy and instant competition within the group. Everyone in the locker room I would introduce myself and right away I’m having chats with guys that lasted two or three minutes, because we didn’t have enough time. You can see the guys who want to be here, the guys who want to win, and that’s important. That’s just what I can sense after four days.”

Q: Hasn’t that always been the case, regardless of the locker room? How guys want to be here and want to win, or is it just more noticeable here?

A: “Yeah, I would say that’s usually the case, especially in April, but looking at the work ethic and just hearing about what guys were doing before April, what they were doing to get better to come in and give themselves the best chance to compete at a high level. You can tell, for instance, (WR) Cody Latimer, one of the guys I was sitting next to, and he’s just absolutely worked his ass off this offseason trying to get back. You can just see it in his eyes. Before he does a set of exercises or reps in the weight room, or after he gets done, he’s like, ‘I’m not playing this year, I’m ready.’ You can see that fire. Some people you can just see the fire, and that’s what you can see with him, and a few other guys. (Sterling Shepard) Shep came in in tip-top shape, seems like he’s in tip-top shape, (WR) Russell Shepard has been awesome. If you ever get to talk to him, he is hilarious. Guys are just working. You can tell that they didn’t start working out just on Monday, which tells your ‘give a crap level’ is high.”

Q: Do you think you all have enough components offensively? Do you feel as if there are enough weapons there?

A: “This is still my first week, but I’ve seen some highlight films. We’ve got some serious talent. I think we’re going to surprise some people, but I don’t think it’s just going to happen. I think we’ve got to keep our head down and just work, just work and make it harder on ourselves so it’ll be easier come the season. I’ve seen teams with a lot of talent over the years, and didn’t do too well, and I’ve seen teams where, in my mind, that didn’t have the best talent, but had a winning seasons. I think as long as you’re working hard and showing up with a purpose every single day is going to be important for us, and not ever really thinking we’ve got it figured it.”

Q: How difficult is it to make sure everyone across the team has that same hard working mentality that you bring?

A: “I think in order to play this game, you’ve got to have a little bit of dog in you. Point blank, end of story, or else you’re not going to survive. That’s how I feel personally. There’s going to be some guys who are going to be the “hooray” guys, and some guys are going to be the ones who just go out there and make plays. Ultimately, I want everyone to be themselves. I want to them to be the player that they envision themselves being, and I want to help bring that out. I’m going to try to motivate guys. I’m going to, literally, pour all the knowledge that I have into them to give them the best shot, and I hope guys feel like they can talk to me about all of that. If we get into the psychology of it, I can give you how I address situations, and how I prepare, and what my mindset is going to practice and games, and let them pick and choose what’s important, and hopefully it helps them. There’s more than one way to be that dog, or to bring the fierce competitor out of each guy.”

Q: What’s your first impression of (RB) Saquon Barkley?

A: “I get caught staring at that dude, I’m not going to lie to you. This dude is, just over the last four days, over the top competitive, and I love it. I’m talking about -- we’re doing broad jumps, he’s over there, ‘How much you broad jump? Oh, I got you.’ Bench press, ‘Oh Russ, what did you do here? Oh, I killed that.’ We were playing Connect Four yesterday, and he beat me in five tries. I haven’t played in a while. I wanted a rematch, and he beat me again. You can see that guy is competitive with everything. It reminds me of a young me. It’s either you’re competing, or you’re not competing in everything you do. You can just see it. Hopefully, that catches on to other guys. We’re a team full of competitors. I think it’s great, healthy competition that he’s bringing, and that’s what you want. The guy is obviously a phenomenal talent. I think he has the potential to be one of the best backs to ever play the game. He’s bringing the mentality and the mindset that a championship type organization needs.”

Q: How much can your blocking help Saquon and the running game?

A: “Oh, yeah, my mentality is ‘not my man’ to make the play. There’s no doubt that we have a guy that once he gets to the second level, he might not be caught, and it would be a shame that my guy catches him from the backside, or my guy -- what should’ve been a 75-yard touchdown to a 30-yard first down. I think we all understand how important it is, and you don’t know which play is going to be the big one, especially with Saquon with the ball. Saquon with the ball in his hands, you just don’t know. So, always be prepared. Watching some of the film that I’ve see already, you see Shepard down the field blocking is just as important as catching a pass in this offense, I believe.”

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