Head Coach Pat Shurmur
Opening Remarks: Victor Cruz. He retired today. What a great Giant. I remember playing against him when I was in Philly and we were certainly well aware of the impact he could have on a ball game. I had a chance to meet him and be around him, and he certainly doesn’t need an invite from me, but much like all the ex-Giants, I look forward to seeing him at practice any time he wants to be here. So, congratulations to him. With that, I’ll take your questions.
Q: That’s one the things we read that you did when you first started, you reached out to (Michael) Strahan and Tiki Barber. What is the importance of involving the former players?
A: I think what’s important is they understand what it means to be a Giant from a player’s perspective, and they understand what it takes to win Super Bowls. I talk to everybody, not just players. I called some former (Giants) coaches as well, because I think it’s important to hear their perspective, and I’m always looking for perspective. Maybe there’s something that they say that might help me message the team, or maybe they’ll tell me something that was really special to them as they were building a champion, and so I think it’s important to embrace the great players from the past.
Q: You talked yesterday about moving the offensive linemen’s lockers together. Obviously there were some issues in this locker room in general last year. How big of a believer are you in team chemistry and how are you trying to foster that this year?
A: Yeah, it’s the ultimate team sport and team chemistry is one of the most important things, and that’s why it’s so important. Players can train off on their own and then we could come together and put something together and play, but the ability to train with each other and build that bond that they care about one another and they’re doing what they do for their teammates. I talk about team all the time, and I’m very fortunate here that we’ve got guys that find team things to talk about. Today I showed the team just a quick little blurb on Derek Jeter when he was talking when they had their 20 year reunion of the 1998 team, and he had a little video he showed to his teammates because he didn’t make it to the event because it was his daughter’s first birthday, and it was a great team message. Just an example of how I’m constantly talking about team and I really do believe if we’re going to get where we need to go, we need to be a really galvanized group of guys.
Q: We saw Eli (Manning) and Odell (Beckham) during practice work behind the group. What’s the goal there? What causes them to do that at that time?
A: They just want to get on the same page, and at this point, we’re still practicing with all 90 guys. Some of the general reps together aren’t as many, and I can see right now through the window they’re out there doing it again. But I’m used to that. Typically a quarterback will say, ‘hey, listen, after practice let’s get a stop nine. After practice, let’s get this, let’s get that.’ They’re out there doing it now, which is a good thing.
Q: How vital is it to what you want to do as an offense that come September 9*th* and moving on from there that Eli and Odell are on that same page?
A: I think it’s very critical. Two of our best players and two guys that are going to hopefully touch the ball a lot, so it’s important that they know what they’re doing.
Q: They go about it in such different ways, but is it possible both are perfectionists?
A: They’re definitely both perfectionists. I think they’re not from the same generation, though. You have Odell and then you have Eli. They give me grief because I talk about his age. It’s real – unless they faked his birth certificate, I think he’s 37. Odell is much younger. Because of that, there’s a difference in how they look at things, but they’re both perfectionists.
Q: You’ve seen obviously situations like Odell’s over the years that have turned into bigger issues than this one has with the contracts. Is that something you’ve done to minimize the distraction, something Odell’s done, or is that just generally not a big deal?
A: I think going back to when I first got here and it’s one of the things on my list I wanted to do this time around from the last time, is just start to build relationships with the players, and the players understand how important team is. They understand how important presence is, how important a good performance in practice is, and so those are things you talk about and hopefully you head off problems because there’s a pre-existing relationship there. If we just go about our business and all show up, and pretend like we’re just going to do our jobs and then move on willy-nilly, well, it doesn’t work that way.
Q: When you do the period with the cards, how does evaluation work? I know you’re in camp mode, but are you only looking at one side of the ball more there?
A: No, we’re looking at the effort on the other side of the ball, but we’re trying to mock up what the other team does. It’s probably hard for you, if so and so made a play on so and so, it probably screws up your calculations, but we’re looking at obviously the execution of the team working against the cards, but it’s also making sure that we get the good effort. And that’s part of it really at this point, because when the season starts, these are drills where they need to be competitive, but it’s for the offense, the ball goes up and we’ve got to make sure the offense makes a play, and when it’s for the defense and the ball goes up, we disrupt it. There’s learning involved so that once we get to the season, we can do that and get as much out of it as possible.
Q: So they’re running until the end of the play, the team that’s on cards?
A: No, they’re going 100 percent, but then the ball in the air, they’ll fight for it to some degree. I’d be careful when you’re clicking off who beat who, I’ve been told that happens once in a while.
Q: Being new to the area, how indoctrinated are you to Jets-Giants – I don’t know if “rivalry” is the right word, but the way the fans feel about each other, the way the franchises feel about each other?
A: I don’t know that. I’ve heard a little bit, but I’m also a guy who thinks you can root for the Yankees and then root for the Mets. But you know I’m a little off center. We’re going to go out and compete with the Jets and try to do what we can to get our team right, and do what we can to try to win the game. That runs parallel, and I’ve heard there’s a little bit of a rivalry here, so we’ll deal with it. I’ve got a lot of respect for Todd Bowles and, certainly, we’ve already talked about one of their players, so we don’t need to go into that anymore. I’ve got a lot of respect for what they are as an organization and I think we’re both going to play this game with the same thing in mind – get our team better, find out what our team is all about.
Q: The play down the left sideline where Odell seemed to have a few steps on Jackrabbit, and then the ball was underthrown and Jackrabbit tipped it away. Is that simply an underthrown ball?
A: We just didn’t connect. It was a good route, good throw, good defense.
Q: Two-part questions. Is Odell going to play on Friday night?
A: We’ll see. It’s good to piggy-back another question because you knew I was going to give you a real short answer on that one.
Q: Is he physically ready to play in a game?
A: He’s doing really well in practice here, so we’ll see where he’s at. Again, coming back from injury, so we’ll try to be smart with him.
Q: How’s Saquon (Barkley)?
A: Coming back. As we all know, he tweaked his hamstring, and he’s training really well and doing more and more each day. We like the path he’s on.
Q: Do you feel like you need to see him in another preseason game or are you going to let it play out the way it has?
A: We’ll see how it plays out.
Q: Is it safe to say you can be more conservative in the preseason than you would be in the regular season when it comes to certain injuries?
A: Conservative? I don’t know about conservative. I think we would want to always try to be smart. I’m not really fond of the word conservative. I just think we want to be smart.
Quarterback Eli Manning
Q: How did you feel about not playing the other night?
A: He kind of told me early on I probably wouldn’t play. So, I knew I had to get the most out of the practices with Detroit, which I thought we got some good work. I always want to be out there and play, but I understand it. I look forward to this week getting out there.
Q: When you and Odell work with each other before and after practice, what is the goal you’re trying to accomplish between you and Odell?
A: Just work on some things – work on a route that maybe we missed, or a new route maybe we missed in practice. Or maybe I work the other side of the field, because of the coverage, we didn’t get the work there. Just because we missed some time in the spring, just try to make sure you get those routes, kind of get that throw so when you get in a game, it’s not the first time you’re throwing it. Just get an extra rep on a few things.
Q: How does he look to you physically in terms of breaking out of cuts, release, and speed?
A: He looks the same, he looks the same as he’s always looked, and looks great, and ready to go.
Q: If you don’t have any game action with Odell and Saquon until the opener, will there be any concerns heading into the opener?
A: Not concerned with Odell, just because we got years of experience and you get a lot of reps in practice, which is important and nice. We’ve had game experience together. Now Saquon, that’s different, just because he’s a rookie and missing some valuable time. So, I know he’s getting mental reps. It’s different than practice reps, it’s different than game reps. Hopefully, he can get back soon.
Q: (Former Giants WR) Victor Cruz retired today. Do you have any thoughts about his career?
A: Yeah, obviously Victor had a terrific career and a great Giant, and a guy who kind of exploded onto the scene in this preseason game versus the Jets coming up in 2010. He kind of got injured, missed that whole year. 2011 is when he came on and really just had a great feel for the offense, for his routes in that slot, and he was tough to cover. Running down the field, breaking in, we gave him a lot of options. He mastered some of those concepts and gave him a great opportunity to get open and make big plays for us. Tremendous player, and a great guy. He was in the locker room a few weeks ago. I got to talk with him and hang out with him. Obviously, I wish him all the best going forward. I think he’s gone to the dark side and has gone into the media (laughter). I wish him all the best going over there.
Q: How similar is (WR) Sterling Shepard to Victor Cruz?
A: Similar, just in the sense of quickness off the ball, getting in and out of breaks. Both of them are great when they get the ball in their hand, and that’s kind of where Victor excelled. You get the ball in his hands, making the first guys miss, throwing short passes and making big plays out of them. I think Sterling has some of that same ability. Similar style receivers.
Q: What’s one play by Victor Cruz that stands out to you?
A: Obviously, the Jets game 2011, second to last game of the season. A 99-yarder just on a little option route. Catch it 10 yards and make the corner miss, and then outrun the safeties for a huge play at the time – leading to us making the playoffs in the first place. Obviously, the touchdown in the Super Bowl over the middle. There’s too many, a lot to choose from, a bunch of huge plays.
Q: Saquon (Barkley) has a reputation of asking a lot of questions, and he has said that he’s asked you a lot to the point where he thinks he probably bothers you, but is there something that he can ask you in this period when he’s actually not able to practice but still staying engaged?
A: Yeah, I think it’s a good way to stay engaged. It obviously shows that he’s watching practice, he’s listening to the game plan and so he wants to understand what his route would be on this concept or on this check and this and that. So it shows he is engaged, he is listening. He has good questions, so it’s clear in his mind and that’s a great thing to have, I encourage all those rookies, ‘ask questions. If you don’t know, ask. That’s what we’re here for, don’t go out there not knowing what your assignment is, ask us and go do it right and play fast, we always want you to do that.’
Q: So he doesn’t bother you?
A: No, not at all.
Q: Does this game mean anything to you other than being the third preseason game?
A: No, in all honesty, I look at it as the third preseason game and a chance for us to go out there and play for an extended period, against a good defense and a good team. You want to go out there and execute well and feel good about where you are.
Q: Cody Latimer told me early in camp that he promised you the first day he met you that you were going to get a better Cody Latimer than he gave Peyton (Manning) as a rookie, what have you seen?
A: I think since Cody, since he’s got here, has had the right mindset. He’s worked extremely hard, been in the quarterback room drawing up plays with us, we were trying to learn the plays and he was learning it. He wanted to do the same thing. Know what every spot, what every route was, what everybody was doing, where he would be on the field and in what spot, he wanted to make sure he knew all the route combinations. I think he’s worked extremely hard picking everything up and also on his routes, his technique and being sharp on that, I think he’s done a good job, he’s made some big plays for us.
Q: (Pat) Shurmur just made a joke about you being from a different generation than Odell (Beckham), Saquon (Barkley), (Sterling) Shepard, (Evan) Engram. What do you do away from the football field to relate to those guys who maybe have different cultural tastes than you do?
A: I do a lot of dancing. (laughter) I think I have a good relationship with all the guys, and I’m not trying to act like I’m 22, I act my age and make fun of myself a lot, and they add to it probably and so that’s fine. I’m good with that. I have a good relationship with all those guys and have some fun with them.
Q: Are you still changing languages on the phones for them? (Manning’s teammates)
A: I haven’t done that as much. You know, they all have pretty good, secure passwords. Odell’s (Beckham’s) isn’t ‘1313’ anymore, so they’re starting to change their passwords on me a little bit, I have to regroup and find a new system. (laughter)
Q: On a serious note, does that jokester, prankster personality help that you have?
A: I think so, you’ve got to have fun with them and connect with them. There’s times where it is serious and you’re talking ball, they always know by the way I approach them whether I have something serious to talk about, a route or a concept or something. There’s (also) times where we get to goof off and kind of get to know the lighter side of them.
Q: Are there times where they’re talking about stuff and you just have no idea what is going on?
A: Yes, again, there’s a lot of dancing going on, a lot of dancing, which, I find very curious. The music, I miss out on some of the music and social media, some of the things they’re on. For the most part, I can figure it out.
LB Mark Herzlich
Q: (About the helmet hit)
A: That’s not the intent of the rule. I’m not necessarily going to do things differently from that standpoint, but we do have to be careful to know what the intent of the rule is and what plays you can’t do, so there’s no real… You never want to be hitting with your head down anyways in any situation. It’s good when it comes to players’ safety.
Q: Do you think by the time the regular season comes around they will have seen that play in which you were penalized and realize that’s not a penalty?
A: I know that every single game we play we send in different calls that the coaches have questions on, so we’ll get clarification on that at some point, maybe within the week, I’m not sure exactly. I know the league looks at every single play, regardless of a penalty or not.
Q: The way that the rule is written, would you prefer it if it becomes a reviewable play?
A: I’m not exactly sure what is going to make it work correctly. If it’s easier for the refs to see it as a reviewable play, that’s one thing. If it’s the type of rule where they’ve got to see it fast motion, that’s kind of how it goes. But that becomes two very different penalties where you can stop and take a replay of a flag like that. That would be very different than a bang-bang play.
Q: Wouldn’t have it been smarter to maybe consider the old spearing rule and just maybe been looking for that a little more closely than to actually create a new rule with new wording?
A: Obviously looking back and saying (inaudible) this is a rule that is there for us, right, so we have to now play with that rule. To me, at the end of the day, the spirit and the purpose of this rule is right. We want our players to be safe, we don’t want to be – we want to take the head out of the game. You see in preseason a lot of times when you get certain holding calls on punt return emphasized, it’s called a replay. This could be a situation where they are overcalling it right now so you get used to it, but as players, we do have to know that they are out there.
Q: It’s kind of like the play that anybody is talking about. Have you heard from players around the league? Anybody text you, former players?
A: On social media after the game, I looked at it, people were saying things. I don’t have time to watch TV right now, so I don’t even know what they’re talking about.
Q: Just for you, individually, coming back after missing all last season, kind of where you feel you’re at after these first couple preseason games?
A: I feel pretty good, I’m getting back. I’m loving working with these guys on this defense and it’s great working with coach (James) Bettch. We got Bill McGovern aa linebacker coach. I really love our room. It has been exciting.
Q: That fourth down stop that you had, is that kind of indicative of the way you guys have played against the run the first two games?
A: I got the tally on the stat sheet, but four guys were hitting him. That’s what we want. You’re not looking to have a one-on-one fourth-and-one stop, you want to have three or four guys hitting him at the same time. Collectively, that’s a great defensive play.
Q: Every year that you’ve been here, it has been kind of a battle to make the roster. How did you approach this year coming off the injury and everything?
A: Same way I did rookie year. I treat every single preseason camp as if I’m a rookie and in order to make this team as an undrafted free agent, you have to make sure you know more than everybody, you have to do extra because you’re not a shoo-in and I’m never going to be a shoo-in. I want to come out here and work as hard as I possibly can, add the most value at every position I can.
Q: You ever feel comfortable?
A: I feel comfortable because I feel comfortable with me. I don’t think, in terms of a roster spot, I never am confident I have one, but I’m comfortable with who I am, what I do, so at the end of the day, I know as long as I’m doing everything I can and I believe that I can, then it will take care of itself.
Q: In a nutshell, what’s the biggest difference between the position playing inside linebacker in the 3-4 versus a middle linebacker in a 4-3?
A: It’s not too different. The last couple of years with coach Spags, especially in our base defensive fronts, we had Devon Kennard playing on the line of scrimmage in basically a 3-4 defense, so you’re seeing a lot of the same run fits and every single defense has a little bit of quirks here and there. Linebacker is linebacker at the end of the day.
Q: More pass coverage?
A: Honestly, it’s about the same. You got to cover guys in both.
Q: How much does the players association stuff take away from what you do here or do you have to find time to fit it in?
A: There’s no ‘oh, by the way, I’m doing union stuff.’ You got to fit it in. We’ve had calls throughout training camp and you get on phone calls after our last meetings at 10 p.m. and you just got to get it in when you can.
Q: Anything said on anthems and things like that?
A: We’ve had the discussions with the owners and those discussions are progressing and we just are hoping to figure something out with them to have a mutually beneficial resolve for this.
Q: You’ve been around for a number of years here, so the Jet-Giant game, which is a fan kind of rivalry. Anything to it for you at all? Do you tell some of the guys ‘hey, we’re playing the Jets, it’s kind of fun?’
A: Just so happens that the Jets game is also the third preseason game, which is our first game plan game. It’s just a different feel for the week where we’re trying to learn about what they’ve done in the previous two games, so you’re getting in a more of a schematic type thing when you’re going out on the field. That’s exciting on its own because you’re not going in the game as blind as you were in the first couple. This is kind of the big game regardless of who we’re playing, honestly, in the third preseason game. This becomes the big one.
Linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong
Q: Where do you see yourself fitting into this defense now?
A: I’m going to do whatever the coaches ask me. For myself personally, I feel like I have a lot athleticism, a lot of versatility. I can play whatever they ask me. Right now, I’m just doing what the coaches ask.
Q: Last year you were the second-leading tackler on the 49ers and they cut you, what kind of effect did that have on you?
A: I wouldn’t say it had an effect on me here. Like you said, I was the second leading tackler, I didn’t understand why but it is what it is. They made their decision, I’m here now. I’m trying to make the best of my opportunities here.
Q: Did you ever reflect on that?
A: It’s something that will always be in the back of your mind. You thought you were doing well for someone, and then all of the sudden you’re not there anymore. When I came here I had to erase that and put it in the back of my head and keep moving forward.
Q: You came here after a season that was kind of lost, how was that compared to how it is now?
A: It’s a complete 180, everything is different. From top to bottom, the coaches they push everything to you and encourage you. They want you to play with enthusiasm and its contagious, it rubs off on everyone. When we come out here we play with a lot of energy and put the past in the past, we are moving forward trying to be good this year.
Q: Is it a process to go through during your career, when you go from trying to make a team, to finding a role, to eventually being in a position to play a lot of snaps?
A: I’ve always had confidence in myself from the get-go that I can compete at a high level in this league. It just that those were the cards I was dealt, but now being a veteran going into my sixth year, I’m trying to be comfortable with the position. I was coming from safety before I started at the linebacker position, I’m comfortable now. Just keep pushing forward and try to get better as a linebacker overall.
Q: You were a safety at Miami. Were you ever a safety in the NFL
A: No, I played safety in college, but as soon as I got to the league, I played linebacker.
Q: How does that help you in pass coverage?
A: Absolutely, it helps a lot. Playing safety, you have to cover a lot of skill guys, guys with speed who are great in space. Moving to linebacker, you are pretty much just on tight ends and running backs. There are not too many tight ends in the league like Evan Engram, he’s pretty much like a glorified receiver, He’s real fast, can catch and do everything as a tight end. There are not many of those out there that can really hurt you.
Q: Now that you have had OTAs and training camp, do you feel this is a better situation for you even though it’s a new defense?
A: Absolutely, this was a brand new defense for everyone. We came in here and picked it up at the same tempo. Just like you said, coming in and doing OTAs and getting comfortable with the position, different checks and small technique stuff that you need to perform at a high level, it’s a lot better now.
Q: Do you feel comfortable speaking up in the defensive huddle, I know you have a guy in Alec Ogletree who makes the calls?
A: Yeah, no doubt. Just like you said, Ogletree is the leader of the defense, but he can’t do it by himself. If I see something that needs to be corrected, I’m going to speak on it, and the same way with them. We all have to accountable and hold each other up to that standard.
Q: Can you walk us through the interception last game?
A: It was a tipped pass. I believe it was the rookie Grant that tipped it. We work on that drill all the time in practice, he tipped it up and if the ball is in the air, it belongs to the Giants. I was trying to make a play on it and try to get it down as far as possible so our offense could punch it in.
Q: Watching your teammate at Miami, Olivier Vernon, make the switch from defensive end to linebacker, have you been able to help him make that transition?
A: It’s been a smooth transition. The position they have him playing, he’s not dropping back into coverage too often. He (coach) wants a guy like him going after the passer. The transition wasn’t too difficult for him, he picked it up and ran with it. He looks smooth out there when he has to drop back.
Q: You mentioned coverage, that’s something you look comfortable with, do you attribute that to your safety days?
A: I would say me playing safety throughout the years, I’ve always been a skill position guy, I’ve always played safety. On offense in high school, I played quarterback and wide receiver. Growing up playing different positions has helped me out now.