Head Coach Brian Daboll
Daboll: I know you guys will have a lot of questions, I'm sure, about (wide receiver) Odell (Beckham, Jr.), and here's what I'd say about that. We had dinner with him last night. We had a good visit. Really other than that, I have nothing else to add. My focus is on Washington. And any questions on that, that's really what I've got to say.
Q: Can you say at least if the door is still open to him still signing here, or if it's closed after that dinner?
A: No. I'll just say we had a good dinner.
Q: Food was good?
A: I had a great steak.
Q: He's meeting with other people here today, though?
A: (I'm focused on) Washington. Yeah.
Q: Overall, how rare is it to have a visit like that in the middle of a game week and an important game like that? How do you divide your times up in terms of dealing with everything?
A: All my time is on Washington. I just got a free meal.
Q: Did you have to discuss it with your team at all to say, 'Hey, this is happening, but don't let your minds go there too far?'
A: Look, I understand all the questions guys. What I said at the start, that's what I'm staying with right now. Everything is geared towards Washington. I'm focused on today, having a good practice.
Q: What is the most important part to stop a player like (Commanders wide receiver Terry) McLaurin that can (make) many good plays for Washington?
A: All hands-on deck. It takes 11 guys. He's a dynamic player. (He) does really everything well at the receiver position, can threaten short and take it long, intermediate, vertical. So, we're going to have to do a good job of rushing the passer when he passes and tackling in open space and staying on top of him in the deep part of the field.
Q: You say all hands-on deck. Do you expect to have (cornerback) Fabian (Moreau)?
A: We'll see. We'll see today. I'd say we got a lot of limited guys today that are working. A lot of guys are making good progress. This will be our normal (Friday) – go out there in practice, see where everybody's at and then talk about it tonight.
Q: Are there guys that you are feeling particularly good about? (Tight end Daniel) Bellinger? (Tackle Evan) Neal? Some of those guys – (outside linebacker Azeez) Ojulari?
A: I think they're all trending in the right direction. I think today will be another important day to get out there, move around, see where they're at after a few days. They're all making progress, so I'm hopeful those guys can go. But you never know.
Q: Do they have to be full (participants) today to (play Sunday)?
A: No, we just got to see, we'll see where they're at. We'll talk to those guys after practice. We'll sit down as a coaching staff – personnel staff – and make the best decision we can. Obviously, if they're ready to go, we'd love them to be out there.
Q: Whenever Azeez is ready, do you have to manage his reps because he's coming back because it's been a long time off?
A: We've had discussions about that. That'll be another thing today that we talk about that and finalize that if he's ready to roll.
Q: This is unrelated to Washington but not related to Odell. I talked with some players recently about your coaching style; you're a guy who – you might have the outbursts on the sideline. They described you pretty much as a players' coach. How would you describe yourself as a coach, your style?
A: Overweight (Laughs). I just try to do the best job I can for our team, for our coaches, for our players. Just one piece of it. I try to be honest. I tell them not sometimes what they want to hear but what I think they need to hear, hold everybody accountable. Own my mistakes. It's a team game. I'm just part of the team.
Q: I covered (Kansas City Chiefs head coach) Andy Reid. He was overweight. It's worked well for him.
A: I've coached 11 games. Coach Reid is in the Hall of Fame. But I do like cheeseburgers.
Q: You've had a lot of moving pieces on the offensive line. If you have (center Jon) Feliciano back, is it important to have continuity at center, or would you be open to making a change there?
A: I think we'd be open to what we think is best. I think Jon does a good job of making all the calls. He knows the system really well. So, we'll see what we got out there coming up Friday. We've worked some pieces here, I'd say, the last few days and moved guys around like we normally do. The best five will be out there.
Q: Is that position under different consideration?
A: Center? Again, that's definitely a spot where you're communicating on every play. I think the guys that have practiced there and played, they know all the calls. They're good communicators. But we have a lot of confidence in Jon.
Q: You hear about meaningful games in December. Because of that, do you sense a heightened sense of urgency in your players, that giddy up?
A: You really can't do that. You have to have giddy up every week in this league. It's a humbling league. We've had some wins. We've had some losses. You got to try to be consistent in your approach when you go out there to practice, when you go into the meeting rooms. You need that every week. As a coach, you got to get the pulse of your team and see what they need to help them get to that point during the week. Our guys have worked hard. What wins in September also wins in December. You can't forget that either.
Q: Do you have to remind them of that?
A: Yeah, I talk to them about that. Absolutely. I think you got to keep the main thing what helps you win a football game. Each week, there's some consistent things that are never going to change. And there's some things, game plan specific, that you got to try to accomplish to put yourself in the best chance to have a chance.
Q: You've known (offensive line coach) Bobby Johnson, obviously, longer than this season.
Q: Is there something about him and his coaching that, at least to my untrained eye, he's getting an awful lot out of the unit that for years was talked about as the weak link?
A: I think he's a good communicator and a good teacher. I think he holds the players accountable. They have a lot of respect for him. I think he's a good teammate. He's very knowledgeable. I enjoyed working with him when I was a coordinator, and I enjoy working with him now in my role. I think (assistant offensive line coach) Tony Sparano (Jr.) does a great job with him, too. Those two guys are here real early. They stay real late. (That's) not unlike a lot of coaches. I have a lot of confidence in those guys.
Q: And it's fair that coming here, you knew the offensive line. You knew the history of it here and the idea that it had to improve?
A: Yeah, we made a lot of changes. Obviously, (general manager) Joe (Schoen) brought a lot of different guys in – we did. And that's a hard position to coach. One of my years, I was able to sit in that room and just watch the best line coach, (former Patriots offensive line coach) Dante Scarnecchia, do it. It's just amazing when you're coaching receivers or quarterbacks or tight ends and then you go into that room, and you have a lot of people in that room and you have to have five guys working as one. It's basically half the offense. So, a lot of respect for line coaches in general. Bobby is certainly one of them.
Q: How are (running back Gary) Brightwell and (wide receiver) Darius (Slayton)?
A: Darius is still under the weather. He was in meetings. Probably won't go today. But (I'm) hopeful (he'll play Sunday). He's trending in the right direction, but still a bit under the weather. Brightwell is – he's better than Darius. So, he should be good to go.
Q: Just to get a sense of how you think, do you, personally or individually, ever think of things as critical junctures like when you're looking at even just personally or as a coach? Or is it your mindset to, no matter what, 'I have to psychologically, emotionally and mentally recover, and it's always things can change down the road?'
A: I try to take it day-by-day. That's just the way I do it. I think there's a lot of things that can change. I don't think you can focus on the change that could happen three days from now, two weeks from now. That doesn't really do you any good. It's just 'What can you do today to help your team be as good as you can be? How can you yourself be as good as you can be?' That's how I take it: one day at a time.
Q: What went wrong for St. Francis (High School) in the second half (of state championship game vs. St. Anthony's of South Huntington)?
A: That was a tough one. My high school played in the state championship against (Assistant general manager) Brandon Brown's high school. It was 20-0; my high school was up. And they lost, 27-20. So, Brandon's been giving it to me pretty good.
Q: Was there any bet?
A: No, just bragging rights. I don't have them.
Q: One more for Darius. You said he was, obviously, under the weather. You don't really have another guy who has made plays at receiver downfield in quite some time. If he can't go, what kind of adjustments need to be made?
A: We'll see where it goes after practice today, where he's at. Again, I'm hopeful he'll be okay.
Running Back Saquon Barkley
Q: You guys spent a lot of time this week focused on the running game. (Head Coach Brian) Daboll talked about it from Tuesday on when you were in pads. Do you feel like some things were found out this week about that?
A: What do you mean by found out?
Q: A way to get things going in the run game. Were there some things that you guys figured out that might help this week?
A: Yeah, just getting back to the basics. It starts with me. Continue to trust the system, make sure I'm in good relationships with the linemen and sticking with the run. That's the way we won games this year, so a lot of teams are going to come in and try to stop that, that's going to be their focal point. There have been teams prior to the last two weeks that came in and that was their focal point, and we were able to still get the run game going, and lean on it. We've just got to get back to that and everyone needs to make plays when the plays need to be made and it starts with me.
Q: What could it mean for you to get (Tackle) Evan Neal back on the right side?
A: Evan – he's a house, he's a freak of nature, he's a heck of a player. Obviously, he's young, he's a rookie but you couldn't tell that when he's in the game. Him, (Center) Jon (Feliciano), we're getting a lot of people back and that's a blessing. It's a tough season, a tough grind of the year. There are going to be ups and downs, you've got to make sure you don't waver, and we've put ourselves in a pretty good position to play some meaningful football in December.
Q: The look you're going to have upfront, some big guys this week. Is that encouraging to you? You talked about how big Evan but then you talk about (Center) Nick (Gates) and it's some big guys on that. Especially on both sides of the ball because the other two guys are pretty big too, but do you like running behind some big guys?
A: Yeah, I love it. I think as a running back you love running the football but especially with those guys up there who are gritty, they're tough, they finish their blocks, and that's where the running game is won. It starts up front. You've got to dominant the line of scrimmage and we're going against a tough task with four first rounders over there. The whole defense from every single level, they're very talented. So, it's going to be a tough task, every week is a tough task in the NFL. We know a focal point is going to be try to stop the run and we've just got to continue to lean on it, lean on each other, trust each other. First and foremost, with me when they give us opportunities, I've got to make them pay for it.
Q: I get you guys want to measure with just about everything with regards to the juncture you guys are at in the season and even just (Wide Receiver) Odell's (Beckham Jr.) visit, but could you just try to put the energy into words that even from your experience with him in the past; what he brings to an organization pregame, meetings, the game period and how that can translate in just lifting where you guys are at this juncture to?
A: I mean I would be lying if I said having Odell in the locker room wouldn't help this team. Obviously, we're in a great spot, but knowing Odell personally just the energy that he brings, the swagger that he plays with, the play making ability that he has, he's one of my favorite players to play with or even watch. He's a heck of player. The moment he steps in the locker room, or he steps on the team he automatically makes that team better. You can tell with the type of press he's getting throughout the whole free agency, it's not even free agency and he's getting all this press because he's that meaningful, he's that type of player. I've been vocal, I would love for him to come back not just because of football. That's my brother, that's one of my best friends. But at the end of the day for me I just want him to continue to rehab, continue to get better and wherever he picks hopefully he's happy and he picks the best thing for him and his family.
Q: Why miss the opportunity on a free steak?
A: It really was focused more on him and the owners and stuff like that. For me at the end of the day, I'm 25 now – I've got family, I've got to stay home, get to sleep. That was really just my focus, get to sleep and get ready for today. Then come out and try dominate Friday.
Q: Why do you guys did a good job of keeping that from being a distraction this week?
A: It's not a distraction to be honest. We were aware of it, we know. Like I said it's Odell Beckham Jr. but the only time we really have to talk about it is when we have to talk to you guys. If we were too focused about, 'Oh is Odell coming or not?' how would we be in the right mindset to go play against an NFC East division opponent who's 6-1 in the last seven games. That's the focus. You've got to keep the main thing the main thing. Like I said, I would love for Odell to come, but the main thing is to continue to finish the season off strong and playing meaningful games in December. We've got to find a way to win these games.
Q: When he was traded away, when he went to Cleveland, did you ever think that there was the possibility someday that he could come back here?
A: Yeah, I mean it's the NFL anything can happen. Now that the possibility is here, I'm pretty sure Odell didn't foresee himself being a free agent at this point, but he came back, had a heck of a year, probably would've been a Super Bowl MVP, ended up getting hurt in that game, making him a free agent, but the possibilities here. The story everyone asks, 'What's your recruiting pitch or what's this,' one, that's my boy and two, he wanted to win here, he wanted to be a big reason why we win in the city and we're on the right tracks and I feel like he can really help us in that department. For me also, outside of being just a player for the Giants, also being his friend, I just want him to be happy wherever he picks. I'll be rocking with him no matter what.
Q: What does this legacy game mean to you? Do you feel something special when see the history of the Giants and the uniform in the stadium, what is the feeling?
A: It's amazing. Anytime you can put on that jersey, anytime you can really just reflect on the tradition and the history about this place it's a special place. There have been a lot of great players and that's something that I want to be proud of. I want to be proud of the legacy, I want to be proud of the history and the tradition here, I want my name to be on the lockers. That's something that was a goal of mine when I got drafted here and that doesn't go unnoticed when you put those jerseys on. To be honest, it's anytime you step on the field you are representing the other guys that came before you.
Q: But this uniform reminds you more of it?
A: The uniform definitely alerts you a little more to the focus on the tradition and history that this place has and the types of players that were here before. Not only the types of players that were on the field but also off the field and the things they were able to accomplish.
Q: Do you view Odell's eventual decision as out of your hands at this point or when you see him today?
A: He's a grown man. You know what I mean? At the end of the day, it's his decision. I'm not going to be like, 'If he doesn't sign here, I'm going to be mad,' but if he signs here, I'm going to be ecstatic. It's his decision. Like I said, outside of football – it's deeper than football. I want him to be happy. I want him to go to a place where it feels like – do I feel like this is the best place? Yes, obviously I do feel like that. I want him to go wherever he feels like he wants to go. I have no say in that.
Q: Looking from the outside when you think about everything that he went through with all of the coaches, the trades and things like that and then just the redemption arch of coming back as a free agent. Even you as a young player, when you look at that does it make an impression on the trajectory of how one's career can even just, knowing how things can change and it was so animus when he left now and then you feel the welcoming tone with people in the city. Do you feel that? Do you see that and how does that impact you in terms of how one's career can go in the NFL?
A: That was probably my biggest shock to the NFL. The first day I got here, we get into rookie minicamp and guys are moving in and out of the league in rookie minicamp and you've got a locker mate and the next day, he's not there. Obviously, when you have a guy next to you with the name of Odell Beckham, when he gets traded it's like, 'Oh dang, anybody can get traded in this league.' When you really break it down Adrian Peterson got – if you go throughout the history of the league, it's the NFL. That's the nature of it. The beauty is also in his trials and tribulations, the struggles that he had with injuries. Now, a place that meant so much to him at one point when he got drafted here and he came here and how vocal he was about wanting to win. Now, the love that he's getting back from the fans – I don't want to speak for him but that's got to be warming, that's got to be comfortable. You've got to love that. For me, as you've seen one thing I'll always say about Odell is hard work, his work ethic and his mindset. Obviously, going through the same injury he had last year and rehabbing with him. Seeing the way he attacked it definitely helped me and pushed me in my rehab process. So, like I said; at the end of the day, I just want the best for him. Do I feel like the best for him is here? Obviously, but I'm biased.
Q: You came back from that injury. How much do you think people need to be realistic about what he can do right away? He didn't have a training camp, he didn't have the spring. He's just going to come here in mid-December. What are the expectations for him this year?
A: Yeah, I mean at the end of the day coming back from an ACL is not an easy thing. It's not. It's a long road, it's a hard road but if there's anyone that – I saw him do it and come back. Now, having to do the same process and go through that same process, if anyone I know has the right mindset, has the right people around him to help push him and motivate him to get back to the level of play which we all are used to seeing and knowing that he's able to do – it would be Odell. You're right, it's tough. If he comes here, you've got guys that he knows that are going to have his back, be in his corner, going to push him through the ups and the downs. At the end of the day, that's what my main focus is; that's a tough injury, a tough thing to come back from. That's why I always go back to more of a friend mindset. I just want him to go to a place where he can rehab and get ready and whenever the time is right, the time is right.
Q: You've talked about wanting to create a certain type of legacy for yourself. You mentioned some of the big running backs that you admired and you want to be thought of like that. Do you view this weekend's game as that kind of game?
A: No. It's another game, to be completely honest. Outside of what I said to him, obviously the Legacy Game and understanding the tradition and history behind it. It's another game, it's a tough opponent who's playing really well, who's playing great football, is 6-1 in the last seven games, talented on all sides of the ball, all three phases. It's going to be tough. At the end of the day if we can just keep the main thing the main thing and lock in, trust in ourselves and execute and make plays when plays are needed to be made, most of the time you come out on the better half of it. That's the goal. It's a 1-0 mindset each week and that's all we've got to do. Whatever I'm able to do, if it's carry the ball however many times or if I got to be more of a decoy or better in pass pro – whatever I do, that's one thing I'm going to do to just help my team win the football game.