Head Coach Pat Shurmur
August 3, 2018
Opening Remarks: It’s [week 2], Training Camp Friday – another morning practice, and tomorrow what we’re going to do is we’re going to go back to the afternoon and then we’re going to have a little barbeque after that for the families. But, good work. You’ll notice I took the pads off them. Four days in a row here, I thought we banged really well the last two days, very physical, went back today to a lot of individual, a lot of isolated drill work, some ball security, ball disruption stuff, stuff you work on all the time but we put a little bit more of an emphasis on it. Then we got some good team work, especially stuff we did in the red zone. So, productive day, I thought it was very competitive, thought there was good energy, and now we’ll keep moving on.
Q: You seem to have pads on more [than] we’ve seen in the last few years. What’s your thinking behind that and what are you trying to accomplish/trying to balance there?
A: Yeah. I think pads, it’s important that you play the game in pads. We’ve talked about it in this setting before, but there are certain guys that run really fast and then all of the sudden they put on a helmet and shoulder pads and some of that restrictive gear, and they can’t keep that. Plus, that’s the only true way to see, except for going to the ground, how a guy might respond in 11-on-11 game situations. So I think it’s important, I also think it’s important and part of the exercise today was as you go through the season, you can’t practice in pads, so what’s important is, in terms of the player’s body position and coming off the ball and defending blocks and doing all the things you need to do in the game, you have to learn how to train yourself without pads on to get the work done, and so that’s what we did.
Q: The situational period that you guys do at the end, I noticed the last few days you kind of have a little meeting before that. Are you not telling guys what the situation is going to be until that meeting?
A: Sometimes, sometimes not. Today it was fast field goal, so today I was just telling them, OK, here’s the scenario: there’s 0:22 left, it’s third-and-15, the ball’s at this spot, and we’re going to complete a pass. It’s not past the first down marker, so we’ve got to run the field goal unit on. So, I’m just reminding them of the situation, and then we go through it. There are sometimes when I surprise them with the situation, so that the coaches then have to respond to it, but that was a drill that involved special teams, so I wanted to make sure they saw the full picture.
Q: You had the last few days William Gay taking first team reps at safety. I guess the consensus when you signed him was for maybe playing slot corner. Is he part of the competition at free safety?
A: I think we’re trying to make sure we do what’s best in the secondary. We really still feel like he could play corner, but we also feel like we want to take a look at him at safety and see if he can give us something there. It’s what we’re doing with a lot of players. You’ve seen John Jerry at right tackle, you saw us flip [Chad] Wheeler over and play left tackle, so at this point, after the first week where they kind of groove themselves in pads in the spots that they’re at, by design in the next couple of weeks, we see if they can play multiple positions like that.
Q: What have you thought of what you’ve seen out of Gay at safety?
A: I think he’s very instinctive, he’s a good player, very veteran player, and we’re trying to take advantage of the fact that he’s played a lot of football.
Q: We have spent so much time asking you about the offensive stars. Now as the head coach, are there guys on defense that have flashed to you? Are there guys that have had good camps on the defense?
A: I do, I do. That’s very broad. I would ask you to ask me specifically.
Q: Do you think [Eli] Apple had a good day today?
A: I think Apple had a good day. Another one. No, I thought Eli did a nice job. He disrupted a couple balls. He has fun competing out there, I think you can see that, and I’ve enjoyed being around him and I think he’s acting like a pro, as I said earlier.
Q: I guess I would specifically ask you about the linebacker corps.
A: It sure would help me if you target somebody.
Q: In terms of, obviously we know the starters Barwin, Vernon – the other guys?
A: I could click off the whole list of pass rush outside backers as guys that are making progress, and then on the inside, the same could be said. You got B.J. [Goodson] and Alec [Ogletree] in there, but Ray-Ray [Armstrong] is doing a good job, Tae Davis. I think they’re competing. I think when you watch practice, again it’s always the tale of the tape – this guy got beat, this guy won. But I think when you watch practice, I feel like they’re all making progress and I think that’s what’s important.
Q: We’ve seen [Olivier Vernon] and Nate [Solder] work together, even after practice. When you have players like that, what do they get out of each other, going head to head in certain situations?
A: I think they share what they know, and I think that maybe OV would say, hey when you set like this, this is what I’m going to do, or Nate Solder may say when you take this path, this is how I’m going to punch it, just that type of stuff.
Q: What’s your reaction when you’re walking off the field and you see so many different groups staying out doing extra work?
A: I think it’s good. I think especially when older players are helping younger players, it shows me that they care and that’s the most important thing.
Q: You’re trying William [Gay] at safety – I was wondering where you stand at the free safety spot, if any of those guys have stood out to you or are sort of separating themselves at this point?
A: I think they’ve all stood out. I think the preseason games will probably tell us much, much more.
Q: [Aldrick] Rosas didn’t miss a field goal in training camp last year, then in the regular season it was totally different. How is your approach to kickers?
A: I think it’s important. Again, you’ve got to see it happen in game situations. Most often, the kickers that you have in camp make them during the practice sessions, you’ve just got to watch it happen. It’s really not that much more complicated than that.
Q: In your evaluation of some of the guys maybe down on the wide receiver depth chart, how do you balance what they do on offense versus what they give you on special teams, like a Kalif Raymond and a Hunter Sharp, Russell Shepard, those sort of guys?
A: A lot of those guys get a full load in the special teams area and there’s going to be guys that make this team just because they’re fourth down players, and then you’ve seen the way we train, that the first, the second and the third groups get a lot of reps or equal reps in some drills, and almost equal reps in others, and so that’s where those down the line, so to speak, receivers get their work.
Q: What do you like about B.W. Webb?
A: I think he’s competitive, I think he gets his hands on balls. Typically, when you’re playing on the interior, the interceptions that you see are tipped balls and overthrows and he’s done a good job of finishing. I’m very fond of any player that can catch, which he has displayed the ability to do and he is really showing us that he knows how to play corner.
Q: What have you made of Amba Etta-Tawo?
A: Amba has done a nice job. He’s made steady progress. Young player, and again, he made some plays today, so it’s kind of steady as you go with him. When guys make plays out there, it catches our eye and we look a little closer.
Q: With [Jon] Halapio, was the issue with workload, it seems like you backed off a little bit.
A: It’s week 2 of training camp, as I mentioned. Kind of groove them in week 1 and then now we’re seeing guys that might be a little bit multiple position-wise, so we kind of backed him off just a little bit, put Jonesy (Brett Jones) up, had (John) Greco in there, so it’s just a way to see them practice.
Q: So it wasn’t something that jumped out.
A: No. By design.
Linebacker Kareem Martin
Q: What have you taken from the meetings with the officials the last couple of days?
A: I guess the biggest thing is there is going to be a lot of change. I think we will learn a lot this pre-season as far as interpretation. A lot of it is judgment calls on the officials, so we are going to play these games and watch other games to see how tight they are calling it. The only thing we can do is move forward from there and adjust how we play.
Q: Did you watch last night’s game?
A: I watched pieces of it and a saw a couple hits that were deemed penalties and some rules we talked about. It seems a little tough for the defense, but it’s a game you have to adjust, we are professionals and we will adjust accordingly.
Q: Do you feel going in that you know the rule and have a clear idea of what’s legal and what’s not?
A: Not really, we had a meeting with them. They tried to give us a little clarity but there’s a lot of gray area for the most part. I feel like every official is going to have their interpretation of things on a week to week basis. We will just have to see how the officiating crew has judged it in the past and go from there.
Q: Have they taken away something that’s natural to you?
A: I think more so they are trying to protect the missile type hits. You will lower your head a little just by human nature, but I think they are just trying to get rid of guys diving and charging so hopefully it won’t be too much of a big deal
Q: Are you guys coaching or practicing tackling any different than the first 4 years of your career because of this rule?
A: Not necessarily, like I said we won’t know how they will call it until we play a few pre-season games. I think once we see how they call it and how strict it is we’ll be able to go from there as far as drills.
Q: Was there a change over the course of your career on how tackling is taught?
A: Not necessarily, it’s all form tackling, get your head across, drive your feet. You are always taught since little league never to duck your head. Very few guys on this level duck their head, you may do it every once and a while but for the most part you don’t make it to this level just torpedoing into a guy.
Q: It’s not just helmet to helmet anymore, its helmet to torso, helmet to hips, helmet to legs?
A: Yeah, I think that will be a bit tougher especially on sideline hits, where guys have the angle a lot of times you might not go for wrap tackle you may go for a thud. You just have to be more conscious of the type of hits you’re making. They are trying to make it about player safety, so the big hit may not be the best hit to energize the team. You also don’t want to run the risk of a 15 yard penalty or a possible ejection.
Q: How would you describe the tone of yesterday’s meeting with the officials?
A: It was a back and forth. They were there to answer our questions and of course naturally you get upset, especially being a defensive player but it was a good talk between us and the refs. They were telling us how they may interpret it and they are still training trying to get their eyes adjusted to it. They will be here the next few days and we will be able to see through other games. A lot of guys were just getting the questions off their chest that they had so that they don’t harm their team or harm themselves with 15 yard penalties.
Q: Did they show you a video of what’s a good hit and what’s a bad hit?
A: Yes, they showed us the video. There may have been one [hit] that stuck out but for the most part those hits they were always going to be called in the past even before player safety was super big in the media. I’m hoping it won’t be as big of an adjustment and they won’t be ticky - tack with it. I guess we will see next Thursday and going forward to the regular season.
Q: Talk about Connor Barwin and what he is bringing to this team?
A: His veteran leadership, he is just a good player and I’ve learned so much from him these first few weeks in camp, as far as rushing the passer, mentality, and things to look for. That’s the type of thing you need in a room where you have guys you want to bounce ideas off each other and learn from different guys. Just being able to pick his brain has been amazing.
Q: The referee Jerome Boger had told us yesterday there was one play he wanted to take a look at, did he reference any plays in practice that he said would have been a penalty?
A: I don’t know if it was necessarily a hit. I think there was one play where it was a catch fumble and it was whether the receiver was down and if it would be incomplete or complete.
Q: He also talked about a helmet play from in line that he thought was a little bit on the boarder?
A: I think he probably looked at it after that meeting because he kind of brought it up like that but I didn’t see anything on film, then again they’re also not throwing a flag for it right now either.
Q: One thing about your defense, I notice if it’s the third string guys making interceptions or defending passes, the whole defensive unit is rallying and screaming and having a party with them. Is that something that is conscious on your part as a defensive unit and is it indicative of the togetherness that you guys are showing?
A: For sure, whenever you can get your hands on balls on defense it just energizes everybody. A takeaway changes a game, if you look at statistics the team that leads the turnover battle wins the games, it’s something ridiculously high. We get excited when we take the ball away no matter ‘ones’, twos’ or ‘threes’. You just know that guys are working their tails off, and are learning from their mistakes the day before, and to see them make good on the mistake they made before and be able to turn the ball over it’s just energizing knowing that guys are paying attention to the film and getting better every day.
Q: You’ve been around this league for a while, is it surprising to see that kind of camaraderie this early on in training camp?
A: No at all. We all have one common goal, that’s to get better every day, to make this team, and the ultimate goal is the playoffs and the Super Bowl and things like that. We all keep each other energized because we know to be the best defense we can be we have to be as good at the top as we are at the bottom, everyone has to bring each other up and hold one another accountable to make plays.
Q: This team last year spoke very openly about winning a super bowl and having a good enough team, the coach was very confident and wasn’t afraid to say that. This coach is different, the dynamic of the team seems different, do you sense a “we have a lot to prove”, feeling from this team?
A: We have a lot of talent on this team and I know by the end of camp, once everything gets cohesive, I think it’s going to be a really solid team and we’re going to surprise some teams. We’re probably on the back of the minds of a lot of teams compared to the record from last year so people are looking at us on the schedule and probably not thinking much about it. I like the guys we have in the locker room, the coaches we have, the game plan and the things I’m seeing in camp and at practice every day are really exciting me so I’m looking forward toward the challenges of the regular season.
Q: What has been your impression of Michael Thomas? Has he been as happy as he appears?
A: Yes, he’s just a happy guy, he’s always smiling. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him be upset, even when he gets upset he laughs it off and he’s just like, “alright, I’ll get better the next time”. He’s the ultimate vet and you have to have fun in this game or it will eat you up, especially in camp. It’s a grind so you have to keep yourself happy.
Q: People have already talked about Thomas establishing himself as one of the leaders on this team, what is a factor that people gravitate towards?
A: Energy, like I said he’s always smiling and guys seem to gravitate around the guy with a lot of energy. When it’s hot and humid it’s easy to be down on yourself but when you see a guy like him just always up and energetic it builds other guys up and that’s what you want in a leader. The guys who can bring other guys up when they feel like they can’t do much, he elevates a lot of other guys’ games.
Q: When you look at the front seven, the one thing you notice is a lot of length, so can you talk about how that helps specifically in terms of your defensive scheme?
A: We’re blitzing a lot, so it just makes everything easier. You don’t have to necessarily be there to get there, make the tackles, and if you get jammed up on the blitz just get your hands up because tipped balls get caught. I feel like we have had a few tipped balls here in camp thanks to the length. Length is never a bad thing.
Tight End Evan Engram
Q: Couple of passes today you feel you should’ve had those?
A: Yeah, I mean I feel like I’m supposed to have all of them. There was one, during one of the earlier periods, down the field, defense made a good play, down in their zone. Should’ve came down with it, should’ve – got to stay in bounds as well. Definitely some I want to have back, but credit to the defense. They did a really good job disrupting us, me specifically, but also all day they were all over the field making good plays.
Q: Coach [Shurmur] has talked about the importance of catching the ball. Have you had conversations with him about that?
A: Not really this is just something that’s known, like a focal point each and everyday. He said that we had the most drops in the league last year as a team and we if clean up some of those drops and we can get more wins. It’s definitely a focal point that he’s brought up to us as a team, as an offense and as skill players, you got to catch the ball and you know how important it is. Yeah it’s a big focal point.
Q: Is there a different kind of drill you guys are doing this year to reduce the drops?
A: Definitely, we just do more pre and post practice ball drills. If I’m not on the special teams period I’ll get some guys and we’ll go catch some balls on the side. In your free time out on the practice field when we’re not in a certain drill or special teams or something like that, just find a way to catch balls, get some catches in, just find out ways do it. Coach has implemented pre and post practice ball drills that everybody has to do as they come on the field and as they come off.
Q: In year two, players talked about the game slowing down for them. Has it been able to slow down for you learning a new offense?
A: Definitely. It was kind of hectic in the spring. Everything was kind of new then, but we got to get that in and come into camp with the spring down and having kind of that base knowledge of offense so its helped a lot during camp. So just going through the installs kind of just refresh and picking up on some new details. Its been smooth, pretty much learning the offense, been competing in camp as well so its been pretty good.
Q: Is your role more complicated than in years past?
A: I wouldn’t say it’s more complicated it’s just more we have to know. It’s not hard information, it’s not hard to learn or remember it’s just more information. It’s a lot more responsibility and a lot more versatility, which I like and the whole tight end room can appreciate. It’s definitely, I wouldn’t say complicated, but where I’m asked to do a little bit more, I’m asked to be a little bit more different spots. It’s a lot more to learn, but we embrace it.
Q: When I say responsibility, I mean blocking or receiving…
A: Both. We got to know protections. We have certain aiming points on runs and we got to know every single route, all the different concepts, we could be anywhere on the field. When I say responsibility it’s really just making sure we know, any position we’re lined up in we have to know what to do.
Q: After four padded practices, coach pulled back a little bit and sees the importance in after going a couple days in pads to pull back. Do you see the importance in that as a player?
A: We definitely appreciate it. Our bodies are definitely kind of getting in the middle of camp and getting a couple of days and our bodies are kind of biting on us a little bit and guys are getting a little sore and we got to keep up recovery. It’s definitely pretty refreshing to come in and know that we’re in shells for the day. We definitely appreciate it and when the pads come off we know that we got to pick up faster, go a little bit faster. We know coach is giving us a bone so we have to take more initiative, to play faster, bounce around a little bit more, and not get too comfortable or too lazy when we get these non-padded practices. As players we definitely appreciate it and we also know we have to come out and have a clean practice and take advantage of the bone coach gives us every now and then.
Q: Are you starting to see the difference as having a running back like Saquon [Barkley] as a receiver, you know, what he brings to the field? I’m sure defenses have to adjust to him more so than other running backs.
A: Definitely. Last couple of days they’ve been throwing him out wide and he’s been making plays from the number one receiver. That’s just how dynamic he could be for us and it’s definitely a plus. We can line up on a three by one and have a defense throw a certain look and motion him out to number one and him not be okay like he’s a running back, he’s a non factor. He’d actually be an option for Eli [Manning], definitely puts defenses in a bind and then you put one guy in a bind and then the guy on me gets in a bind and then it just disrupts a lot of the thinking, a lot of the defensive plan. It’s definitely a plus and it’s really cool to see him kind of embrace all that and make plays out there as well.
Q: Especially can help you because he can go out wide and all of a sudden you wind up with a defender…
A: Yeah so a linebacker could be over me or a safety could be over me then he goes out wide and they bump the safety out and the linebacker could be lined up on me and I’m pretty happy right there. It just causes a whole different bunch of binds and makes defenses have to think more and they be making mistakes so it’s definitely good to have that.
Q: How much did you notice they bounced him out wide and he ended up against Janoris Jenkins, but he was still able to be successful?
A: He came off, I saw him make the play, and I was like, ‘was he pressed out there on you? Did you have to get a release on that?’ He was like, ‘yeah he was pretty pressed up.’ I didn’t see the full play, I’ll see it on film, but I saw Janoris [Jenkins] out there and him make the play. That’s just really impressive and like I said you have to account for all of us out there when we’re able to put him out there. Last couple of days, definitely kind of put more on his plate, especially with that and we’ve all been noticing and it’s really good for us as an offense.
Q: You were around the team last year that had a lot of high expectations, talked about a Super Bowl, didn’t happen. This is a much different dynamic so you’ve seen both sides now. Are you more comfortable with one over the other?
A: It’s definitely fun to be excited and it’s good for a team to realize their potential and have goals and have aspirations to be the best. It’s also important to take it day by day and just to remain humble, put the work in and then let everything else take care of itself. It’s definitely good to have high expectations and high standards for itself, kind of raises you to another level, but we also got to know it’s a process. You got to be humble and I appreciate both of those.
Q: Did this team get a little bit too caught up in those expectations last year and it kind of got away from you?
A: We weren’t running around yelling Super Bowl or we weren’t really – I wouldn’t say we were distracted with all up in that. We just had some unfortunate things happen and some tough games we could have won and ended up on the losing side. I wouldn’t say we were distracted by that or that threw us off, it was just a lot of unfortunate events last year.
Q: Camp any easier year two now knowing what to expect?
A: I wouldn’t say easier. It’s definitely tough and you want it to be tough, you want to grind it out. It’s definitely smoother. Kind of having the year one under your belt and having your confidence up and taking everything I learned from last year and applying it to this year with a clean slate. It’s definitely a lot smoother. If camp’s easy, you’re not getting the real work in so definitely embrace the work, embrace the grind, but it definitely is a lot smoother. I’m just kind of having that year under me and going in with the experience I had last year.
Q: You preparing any differently?
A: I’m just in a more comfortable mindset, more confident mindset, kind of push myself a little bit more. Last year was kind of okay make sure you know this and make sure you learn this and remember this. This year I’m having my offense down, having everything understood. It’s make this play or do this better so it’s definitely pushing myself more mentally for sure before practice, before games that will come with this year.
Q: In year number two is there any individual goals you set for yourself this season?
A: Yeah there is. I kind of keep those to myself, but definitely just want to be the best tight end I can be, best tight end in the league. That just raises the standards for myself, for my teammates and it helps our team and I for sure do that everyday. That’s just the main goal right now be the best tight end I could possibly be.
Q: Seeing you on the boundary a lot this camp. Did you ever work with the receivers on different techniques that you need to win on the outside?
A: I pick their brains all the time on releases, things they kind of look in, corners look for. I watch film on different receivers and even tight ends that are split out there. The biggest thing out there is just winning against press and that’s something I’ve been working on, getting used to, getting more comfortable with. If anything it’s just picking their brains and watching their film and watching them practice getting releases verse press when their outside.