Head Coach Pat Shurmur
Opening Remarks: Jacksonville week. As we go through the rhythm of this, we’ll do walk-thrus in the morning and then practice this afternoon at 1 o’clock and get ready to go. Certainly, we’re playing an outstanding football team, a team that fell one game short of going to the Super Bowl. I experienced that last year in Minnesota, so they’ve assembled a very fine football team. They’ve got a quarterback that plays winning football, they were the number one rushing team in the league last year, and they’re outstanding on defense. Not to mention, they have a terrific kicking game. We’ve got a big challenge this Sunday and look forward to battling them out here in the stadium. With that, I’ll take your questions.
Q: You’re one of seven new coaches. How much of an advantage is it -- new coaching staff, changing the roster -- how much can you take a team by surprise in these first few weeks?
A: I don’t know if you take teams by surprise. I think it’s fair to say we’ll do some things that the team hasn’t seen during preseason, that’s number one; but we all have backgrounds, we all have years that we’ve coached, and some of the words that we’ve used during training camp, something that meant run might mean pass. So, there’s some tactics involved when you start the season but, for the most part, we are who we are and we want to be a tough, gritty team that runs the football and makes the effort to score points, especially the points you need to win the game and then play good, gritty defense. That’s what we’re looking to do.
Q: There’s been a lot of build up about the (Odell Beckham) vs. (Jalen Ramsey) matchup from the outside, and Ramsey made some comments a few weeks ago. Do you worry at all about Odell getting sucked into that, similarly with what happened with Josh Norman a few years ago?
A: I don’t worry about Odell, and certainly I will not comment on another player’s comments. That’s not for me to discuss. You see me enough and know me enough to know that I don’t worry about that kind of stuff. They’re both outstanding players and there’s going to be times in the game where they’re up against one another and that will be a fun thing for people to keep track of, but they’re a team that plays zone, too, so it’s going to be about the combinations more than the matchups sometimes. We’ll just let that play out, but I don’t really worry about that.
Q: To go back to the roster changes, you turned over the roster by about 15% since Sunday. I know a lot of it is at the bottom, but how do you approach getting that together and making it cohesive given that you only have a few days before your first game?
A: Part of the process is I’ve spoken to all the new guys and said this is what we are as a team culturally, these are the things we’ve been emphasizing for all these months, and you’ve got to get up to speed fast. That’s part of being a pro. This isn’t unique to the Giants this season. Guys come to teams and have to compete quickly, and typically they’re in shape because they’ve been in training camps and they’ve been on a lot of teams that have talked about the same types of things. You just put a blue bow around it and there you go.
Q: How did you go about it this week? Did they meet with their position coaches in addition to regular meetings?
A: Extra. Then we teach them what we can to get ready for the game plan.
Q: You mentioned jokingly about changing the terminology. Kalif Raymond worked out down in Jacksonville and a couple other players. Does that go on your radar and are you aware of guys possibly being debriefed in that situation? Are you concerned about that?
A: That happens frequently. We had a player from Jacksonville here. I think what’s important is, this time of year when you have one final cut, there’s a lot of players who are going for job interviews with other teams, and so it really falls on the integrity of the player. If the player wants to let them get debriefed about his former team, then that’s his business. You can’t worry about that because I do think this: Things change. All you’ve got to do is change a couple things and it doesn’t really matter, but the guys we’re talking about and the team they went to -- high character. I’m not worried about that.
Q: What do you see with Jacksonville’s third down defense? I think it was one of the top five last year. What makes them so tough?
A: First, they get pressure on the quarterback and they are somewhat exotic in the way they pressure, and then they’ve got good coverage behind it. That’s what makes you a good third down defense.
Q: With Saquon Barkley, he hasn’t played (a game) since he had a hamstring injury. He said he’s ready for a heavy workload. How do you go into a game looking at that and do you have to be cognizant of that hamstring and how much you use him?
A: You’ve heard me say this in the past, it takes a village with the running backs. The running backs that are up are all going to get their touches, and regardless of (Saquon Barkley), (Wayne Gallman), (Jonathan Stewart), whoever is up is going to get their touches. We’ll be smart about it.
Q: Tom Coughlin obviously has a deep connection to this franchise. Have you had a relationship with him in football and in your early days here, did you see his fingerprints around this building quite a bit?
A: I have certainly heard a lot about Tom and his years here -- 12 years. He helped the organization win two Super Bowls. Prior to coming here, I have a professional friendship with Tom and we’ve been able to communicate. One of the guys I talked to when I was talking to former players and coaches was Tom in the offseason, and I’ve communicated with him a few times in the offseason. I’m going to go to his fundraiser (the Jay Fund Champions for Children gala) on (September) 21st. I have great respect for Tom and what he accomplished, and certainly he left a very, very strong mark on this organization. All good stuff. That’s where that’s at.
Q: Did you talk to him before taking the job about the job?
A: After I took the job.
Q: Do you expect Olivier Vernon to practice today? If he can’t, and obviously he can’t be at 100% with a high ankle sprain, how much of a loss is that for the defense and how do you feel about the gap?
A: He’s making great progress. From what I’ve seen, he seems to be a fast healer, but he’s working his way back. I don’t think he will be out there today. He’s doing a good job of trying to get back. Certainly when we don’t have OV in there, we’ve got to compensate and maybe two or three guys have to do what he does.
Q: With the amount of roster turnover you’ve had since Sunday, some other guys towards the back end are still here. Do you worry about that creating a sense of them being on edge or uncomfortable? How do you balance?
A: We are all on edge and we are all uncomfortable. When we had the 53 guys that made the team in here, we congratulated them for making the initial 53, but we’re all trying to earn the right to stay here every day. It really doesn’t matter your view of who you are and where you are on the roster, we’re all fighting to stay here every day.
Q: What’s your mindset going to be as you get closer to your first game as head coach of the Giants?
A: Stay in the moment. Today is Wednesday. What’s important is, I think we’re on the right path. This is our first game and we’re going to do everything we can to put all our efforts into beating Jacksonville. We’re going to do Wednesday things today.
Q: Is there a different build up than when you were a player?
A: I don’t know. I don’t think so, for me. I don’t think game day ever gets old. I love the whole process of everything. I love the process of as we get closer, the mock game, I like the meetings that are before a game, the team meals, and the buildup in the morning to the game. I have my own little process that I go through. I encourage the players if they don’t have one to start to establish one. It’s that game day routine that never gets old. For those of us that do it and we’re in the middle of it, it never gets old, and I think that’s the thing that players miss when they can no longer do this. Fortunately, I’m able to do it in my 50s.
Q: You talked about changing the culture here. Now that you have a full offseason behind you, do you feel like you’ve accomplished that?
A: It’s a journey. This first game is the first game in that journey. We’ve done a lot of work, there’s a lot of water under the bridge. We feel good about our roster, we feel good about the coaches, the interaction with player personnel and administration, the communication and the way we communicate behind the scenes. We want to put a product on the field that our fans are proud to root for.
Q: With the way the roster has turned over recently and the people who didn’t play in games, what’s the unknown that you’ll know after Sunday’s game that you just can’t know yet?
A: Nobody played a full preseason game. You bring up a good point. Nobody in the NFL, all 32 teams, nobody really plays first snap to last, so everybody has played partial amounts of games. We all are waiting to see as coaches how a guy that we’re going to lean on can handle a full load. That’s where you see teams kind of improve as they go, especially through the first quarter of the year. I think I mentioned it before, in some ways, every game is very important, (but) in some ways, it’s a little bit of an extension of what we’ve been doing here in training camp, getting going. That’s why you have to practice and that’s why teams tend to improve if they can stay healthy and they work together. Some of that.
Q: Besides (Olivier Vernon), is there anybody on the injury report who might be questionable?
A: Evan (Engram) took the red jersey off. He’s officially out of the protocol. That’s probably the one of note.
Q: You said at some point you would reveal your number two quarterback. Are you ready to reveal that?
A: I’m very fond of a veteran presence backing up Eli (Manning). I’m glad you brought that up. Forget about the future, the future is now. Every NFL team is going to go into this year with a guy who’s a starter and a guy who’s his backup. The future is now, so that’s where we’re at.
On naming six captains:
A: I’m glad you brought that up, that’s worth talking about. We have two on offense, two on defense, two on special teams. The players and the coaches all voted. I think they chose well. That’s the group of players that I will meet with, and those will be our game captains throughout the season. They chose well. We’re talking about guys that can be an extension of this team. I told them this morning, it’s going to be fun for me to watch your team work. They’ve got to take ownership of it and be an extension of me and our organization, and represent our players. I think they’ll do that well.
Quarterback Eli Manning
Q: What are you most looking forward to in the first game on Sunday?
A: I think just getting out there with this team, with these guys and I’m looking forward to having a great week of preparation, going out there and playing a full game and see if we can make enough plays to win the game and celebrate with our team.
Q: Are there any things that were not identified during the preseason that you’re still curious about that you’d still like to solve a mystery about what this team is?
A: No. I think obviously through the course of a season you learn a lot about a team and so we just got to come together as a team and figure out the roles of certain guys and how that’s going to play throughout the course of the season. We got to come out and figure out how we’re going to be able to win games.
Q: So much new personnel, you’ve been through some changes, but to start a season with so many changes…?
A: I guess anytime you have a coaching change, you change your offense, there’s going to be some new things. I feel good with the offense and what we’re doing and I feel we can go out there and execute and be successful early.
Q: Have you talked to coach (Tom) Coughlin this week and do you plan to or if not, do you plan to before the game?
A: No, I haven’t talked to Coach Coughlin. I wouldn’t think we would talk before the game unless I see him before kickoff at some point.
Q: What do you expect out of the Jaguars defense? It’s a new year obviously, but same guys.
A: They’re talented, they got a talented crew. Up front they’re good, they’re good in the secondary so we got to play smart football, we got to obviously block them up and give our guys time to get open, we got to run the ball. We just got to play smart and don’t give them anything easy.
Q: How different does this year feel compared to expectations from last year?
A: At the start of the year you’re always excited. You’re always excited about the year, you feel good about things so we got to go out there, we got to have a great week of preparation, make sure everyone knows all of their assignments, exactly what’s going on and then you got to bring that to Sunday. That’s what it’s all about is bringing it to game day, making those plays, going out there and finding a way to keep the games close and winning in the end.
Q: You have not started a season home in a long time, usually you’re on the road. How much…
A: Yeah I think that’s exciting, I think it’s always fun to start the season at home with your home crowd so it should be a great atmosphere and I think it’s helpful to start [at home] – you can use your cadence at home, you don’t have to worry about crowd noise and all those things so I think it should help us out to get off to a good start.
Q: Any feelings on Tom Coughlin being maybe not on the other sideline, but being on the other team, you know, your head coach for a good chunk of your career?
A: Obviously still have a great relationship with Coach Coughlin and cherish the time that we had and appreciate those 12 years of him being my head coach. But besides that, I look at this game and say it’s the Giants against the Jaguars and I’m trying to get our offense prepared to go against that defense.
Q: When you watch film, can you see Tom’s kind of influences in certain things that the Jaguars are doing?
A: I don’t think I would go that far. You just see their defense and I do not think you are necessarily looking for things that he emphasized. When he was coaching, I did not always know the defense side of what he was saying to that defense.
Q: Its been a while since you’ve thrown a pass to Odell (Beckham Jr.) in a competitive environment against an opponent. Does it feel like a long time?
A: No, it doesn’t feel like a long time just because we’ve had all summer to throw routes in practice and throwing enough to him in the last four years that I know we’ll be on the same page and be able to get completions and be successful.
Q: You said last week that you’d be interested in seeing what the game plan is. Have you looked at it and have much input?
A: Yeah obviously got some of the game plan going in and in already and going to practice that today. Excited about the things and look forward to practicing them and kind of see what we like and what’s going to make it.
Wide Receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
Q: What’s the anticipation of getting out there for the first time in a while?
A: I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m at home, I’ll be in the middle of conversation, my mind doesn’t get off this game. It’s been a long time. There was a lot of hard work and preparation just to be able to get back to running and playing again. So, I’m excited. I’m real excited about this team and the opportunity we have in front of us.
Q: Do you worry about getting suckered into the trash talk by (Jaguars CB) Jalen Ramsey?
A: I think I learned my lesson. But, this is probably, if not, the best or one of the best corners in the league. There’s no way around it. And this defense that they have – they have six or seven pro-bowlers, maybe more, on their team. They have a very good scheme, probably the defense in the NFL. We have a very tough challenge ahead of us. I think we’re all excited about the opportunity just to be able to come back and play football again. I know that I’m very excited. It’s definitely going to be a good match.
Q: Are you looking forward to that matchup against Jalen Ramsey?
A: Yeah, definitely. Honestly, I’m more so looking forward to just playing football again, to be real with you. But yes, it is an exciting matchup. It’s a good test for yourself in the first game against the best defense in the league I would say.
Q: What makes the Jacksonville defense so good?
A: If (Ramsey) he’s not 1A, he’s 1B. The only person I know like that is (Cardinals CB) Patrick Peterson. He’s what, 6-3, 215, he runs 4.30 (40-yd dash). He’s got all the intangibles. He’s athletic and he’s just good. Like I said, he’s just one of the best in the league. He does it all.
Q: Do you have a relationship with him? (Ramsey)
A: Yeah, it’s funny. So, over the offseason, we kind of got together and we were hanging out and doing whatever. The schedule comes out, and I was joking with him like, ‘When we play y’all, what happens if I run this, that, and the other?’ And next thing I know, the schedule is out, and we play them the first game (laughter). It’s funny how life works, and how God works and everything works. We got them matched up Week 1 and I’m sure it won’t be as friendly as it was over the offseason. We’re both very, very competitive. I know that for sure. It’s going to be a good game.
Q: When did you start doing work and game planning on him?
A: I probably been watching him since he came in the league. I’m a fan of football. Personally, before we were playing them Week 1, I was very, very on to him and what he can do. Like I said, he’s just as good as they come. He can go down as that ‘Primetime’ (Deion Sanders), in my opinion, if he keeps up what he’s doing now.
Q: Have you gone up against him before?
A: No, I’ve never gone against him.
Q: What kind of confidence do you have in this offense?
A: I have a lot of confidence in this offense, Coach (Pat) Shurmur, and what he does and what he brings to the table. I love the way that we’re preparing. I love the way that he prepares. There’s a lot of plays, there’s a lot of stuff that’s going on in there. Just making sure you know where to line up, assignments, attention to detail, all those things are important. Coach Shurmur is probably one of the best at it that I’ve seen.
Q: Are you curious about getting out there in real action again?
A: Yes. Obviously, I can’t wait to be back out there but I haven’t been hit. I mean, I was getting tackled in the offseason but not by these guys. Get you that first one, get that hit, it’s kind of like you shake it off and then you keep going from there. You need that first one but it’s not something that I’m so much afraid of. This is football. It’s always going to be football, regardless if you haven’t taken a hit in years or whatever it is. It doesn’t feel good to get hit. It is what it is.
Q: Do you think the contract will make some guys try to go after you a little more aggressively?
A: I don’t think that the contract can do anymore for that target on my back. Inflicted by the world, inflicted by myself. That target has been on there since I came in so I don’t know if a contract is going to help. That target increases and decreases. Guys have always wanted to hit me and be able to talk about it. It’s just the reality of where I’m at in life. It’s just something I’ve had to deal with.
Q: You said you had learned your lesson of not falling into the Ramsey trash talk. What lesson did you learn?
A: This right here. I remember going into the week before. To be honest with you, I hadn’t watched much tape on (Redskins CB) Josh (Norman) before we had played them. They came here, I remember you all bringing me information on his interview and saying that he said, ‘this is sweet and blah blah blah’, the stories, and the papers that were written – it was all set up to happen what exactly happened. I’m kind of just seeing things different now and just knowing it is going to be a matchup. It’s not going to be something that you repeat. The history repeats itself and it’s in the past, and kind of buying into that same thing.
Q: So you almost got suckered in, in a way?
A: Yeah, but you took the cheese (laughter). So, I can’t be mad at anything that happened. I bit on it, so it’s all good.
Q: Is that something a 25 year old Odell would tell the 21 year old Odell?
A: Yeah, like I said, after you see everything flash in front of you, you’re whole career, you’re thinking about everything. Will you ever get back to where you’re at? Will you ever be the same? You have a different perspective on life. I remember the first time being able to get out that boot, just walking, and just being thankful for those moments. I was crawling up steps so I don’t want to say I’m a different person, but I have different outlooks and perspectives on things. I’ve had a lot happen. You have to take that, learn, and you grow from it.
Q: How do you look at the playmakers around you?
A: We drafted a decent running back, but like I said, Saquon (Barkley) – and just seeing him, he’s different. He’s just a different cat. I know he’s excited, very excited to get out there. (Sterling Shepard) Shep, you got Evan Engram, even Cody (Latimer) over here, who’s been kind of tucked in the closet for the past of his career over there with Emanuel Sanders and D. Thomas (Demaryius Thomas), but he’s a guy who can make plays. We have them all around. (Offensive line) O-line has improved. They all walk out to practice together. There’s a lot of comradery going on there. There’s a brotherhood that’s in this locker room I think that stems from the head coach doing what he’s doing.
Q: What do you think about the opportunity to open at home?
A: I’m excited it’s at home. This is the place that the injury happened. This is our home, this is our family, the Giants crowd. I couldn’t ask for a better place to have the first game.
Q: Would you like to get a chance on a punt return?
A: (laughter) Absolutely, I just love having the ball in my hands and just being able to make plays. You get back there and you trust those guys to make blocks for you and you get to do what you do, whether it’s punt return, kick return, any of that. However I can help this team, I’m all the way in.
Safety Landon Collins
Q: Is it unsettling going from playing with one group of guys to playing with new faces after the cuts? Does that bother you at all?
A: I wouldn’t say it was unsettling. It’s a business, it’s a corporation. That’s how it goes, people come in and come out. For the people who come in, we try to help them as much as possible. We have two new guys in the back. I think we have one guy in the linebacker corps, and I think two guys in the D-line corps. We take them under our wing because at the end of the day, we might need them, that might be up, they might be active. So, we need everybody.
Q: Does it help that some of these guys are veterans and that they’ve done this before?
A: Yeah, it does help because they understand the game. They understand what we’re doing, what we need from them, and what their role is in the game plan.
Q: Is it more of a challenge since these guys are new?
A: It’s more of a challenge to learn the way the Giants have done and gone about things, and what they’re going to do, and make plays.
Q: What did it mean to be named a team captain?
A: It means the world to me. At the same time, it means that I’ve gained the respect from my players to be a leader of them and to lead them the right way, and be a vocal presence, and be able to go to coach and talk to them and make sure we got everything on track.
Q: What was Coach Shurmur’s message to you all as captains and how he wants you all to lead this team?
A: We’re an extension to them, what is said by him. We just kind of rep that and we preach that, because at the same time, we’re a team. We’re going to stay together and we’re going to fight together.
Q: Is it great to see new faces like (S) Michael Thomas, (LB) Alec Ogletree, (LT) Nate Solder make an impact right away?
A: No, not at all, because Alec came from a good team. He played very well over there and people respect him throughout the league. I respected him when he came up in here. Same thing with Mike. He came from a respectful team. Those guys are vets and people look up to them. They know how to go into a game and how to run it, and do those things.
Q: What makes Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette so tough to defend?
A: Honestly, it’s balance. You see a big back like that, you don’t think he’s so elusive and can move the way he moves. He’s fast, he’s elusive, he’s got great vision. Then, he has a lot of weight behind him. So, if he puts his shoulders down, he can run you over. He kind of has all the characteristics of a great running back. With those things, you’ve got to be perfect with him. When you hit him, you have to really wrap him to bring him down.
Q: Do you think he’s more effective in between the tackles, outside, or can he just do it all?
A: He can kind of do it all, honestly. I would say if I were to really game plan against him and really look at his whole film, I’d say in between the tackles. That’s where he’s a north-south runner. Coming from LSU, that’s what they ran – north and south. They don’t run east and west, and that’s what he doesn’t do.
Q: What are you expecting to see from the Jacksonville offense?
A: We need to set the tone, big time. We know the first handoff is going to go to him. It’s just kind of a known fact that he needs the ball, and as many touches as he gets, and he fast as he gets one, he’s going to be able to touch the ball much more and try to make some gains for their offense.
Q: How important is it for you all to get off to a great start in this first game?
A: It’s very important. We’re not harping on it. Honestly, we’re taking it day-by-day, step-by-step, working together and staying as a team. We’re fighting together and we’re going out on the practice field making sure we got everything perfect, so when we go on the field …
Q: How does it feel to finally have a season opener at home? Any extra buzz or hype?
A: Honestly, it gives me a little more extra buzz. It’s always good to open up at home and just see the fans and just get that win at home and get it underneath our belt and move onto the next team.
Q: How different does this year feel as compared to last year? Specifically about the expectations coming into this year.
A: Expectations, we’re trying to live up to them. Honestly, we work day in and day out. We’re not looking towards what other people are saying or what outside people are saying. We know what we have in this locker room and we know what we are capable of doing and how we’re going to go.