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Quotes: Coach Brian Daboll, RB Saquon Barkley, DL Dexter Lawrence

Head Coach Brian Daboll

Q: What's the concern level with (defensive lineman) Dexter (Lawrence II)? He hasn't practiced in two days.

A: Three; he won't practice today, and (wide receiver Darius) Slayton will not practice. So, we'll take both those guys right up to game time.

Q: (Tackle) Evan Neal?

A: Evan Neal will be out. That's all, and then (cornerback) Adoree' (Jackson) has got to get past after he went through a contact practice, so after practice he's got to go through another set of things.

Q: There's nothing you can really do about injuries, but how much has this lost time hurt Evan Neal? He obviously got off to a slow start and it's a pretty big season for him, and he's missed half the season practically.

A: Yeah, can't do anything about injuries. He's rehabbing, doing everything he can do to get back.

Q: Slayton was limited yesterday. Did he have a setback?

A: He just won't practice today. I'd say we're going to take both those guys right up to game time and see where we're at with them. They'll be probably listed as doubtful today, and Evan will be listed as out.

Q: You say up to game time. Does that mean pregame workout?

A: Yeah, we'll let them go through today, get treatment, tomorrow, get treatment, and then we'll talk about it Sunday morning,

Q: (Outside linebacker) Kayvon (Thibodeaux) hit the 10-sack mark, which is kind of a big mark in the statistical world. What have you seen from him as a pass rusher this year in terms of his development? Specifically, as a pass rusher.

A: I think he's just done a good job, really, in every area of his game, taking improvements from the first year to the next. He really works hard at his craft. He meets a lot with the coaches. Last week, I went in there and he's kind of running a meeting with a bunch of the defensive guys, too. So that's a good thing to see, and they're going through pass-rush games and different guys. So, he's done a nice job for us since he's been here.

Q: How much different is it for you when you're coaching a rookie quarterback? You don't have maybe a reservoir that you can refer to stuff that you know that they know.

A: Sure. Well, you do the same type of things in terms of installation. Again, I think (Offensive Coordinator Mike) Kaf(ka) and (Quarterbacks Coach) Shea (Tierney) have done a really good job with him. But every day is a learning experience. So, even yesterday, every rep he has is something that you give him a different look, and maybe it's the first time he's seen it in a long time. But he's conscientious. He's doing everything we've asked him to do. Again, the experience factor, that is real.

Q: Why do rookie quarterbacks struggle so much against (Patriots Head Coach and General Manager Bill) Belichick's defense through the years?

A: He's really good at what he does, and the players are good. They run a good scheme, give you a variety of looks. He's been doing it for a long time, since the year I was born. 1975, with the Lions, I believe.

Q: What is the most challenging part of the Belichick defense?

A: Well, they have good players, and they play good team defense, good coaches. They do a good job of taking away big plays, stopping the run, playing good in the red zone. Play good team defense, have a variety of looks. Game-plan team, so what you see on tape for one game might not be what you get the next game. So, it's always a challenge.

Q: How do you fill the void of Dexter Lawrence? Obviously, he's been such a good player.

A: Well, we'll see where he's at, but that's why we have the guys we have here that we signed, whether it's (defensive lineman) A'Shawn (Robinson), Nacho (defensive lineman Rakeem Nunes-Rochez), but give it a few more days here.

Q: If he doesn't play though, is it sort of a group thing? Do you need to replace that production with multiple guys?

A: I mean, that's just the National Football League. When (tackle) Andrew Thomas is out, we have to have another guy ready to go, or the quarterback, or (running back) Saquon (Barkley) is out, or Dexter's out… That's why you have guys that are backing him up. They're very good players. Dexter's an elite player in this league, and the guys we've got behind him, that's why we've got them back there. They're true pros. They've done a good job for us. But we'll see where we're at here with Dexter. He's got a couple of days.

Q: You've mentioned a few times this week how they're a game-plan team and obviously, every team is going to game plan, but are there teams that are much more, like, 'We kind of play our strengths and you have to react,' or how does that work?

A: Yeah, I'd say there are some teams that kind of do what they do. You know where they're going to be, but they play it at high, high level. Maybe they only have a few different coverages, a few different fronts. Then there's other teams that when you're looking at breakdowns and people that break down the tape, there's every front imaginable or every coverage imaginable, so you watch every game they play up until now. There's a lot of information, so you have to be able to boil it down. Once you get into the game, call it the first quarter, you kind of see how they're playing you, but then they always leave a wrinkle for the second half, too, that's completely different. So, just a different challenge, but again, there are teams that kind of do what they do and then there's other teams that give you a variety of looks.

Q: When last season ended, it seemed (wide receiver) Isaiah Hodgins had developed into one of your top receivers. Has he been lost a little this year with all the other receivers you have?

A: No. I think he's doing everything he can do each week, true pro. We'll see how it goes this week.

Q: Bill said this morning he's still telling all his quarterbacks to be ready to go. Do you have – not that you're going to tell us who it is – an inkling of who you think they're going to play or are you still preparing for every single quarterback?

A: Again, you go back and watch all the quarterbacks that they have on their roster. You obviously watch the offensive scheme. That changes from week-to-week, too, but the throws that they've made and the games they've played. You've got to be ready for the schematics of it.

Q: So, do you divide it like 33, 33, 33 percent of your time on each of those quarterbacks?

A: No. I've watched every game that they've all played in pro football and some in college. So, again, whatever it is, whoever is out there, that's who we have to be ready to defend. If you guys figure out who it's going to be, you guys can let me know.

Q: Especially with the in-flux position at quarterback that you've had, have you seen Saquon develop more into a leader? How have you seen him as sort of, almost the elder statesmen in this place?

A: He's kind of been that way since I've been here. Very competitive person, really takes his craft seriously, very good on the sidelines for us. He's done really a nice job since he's been here.

Q: Do you trust him?

A: One more time?

Q: Do you trust him, like, if he comes to you with an idea?

A: Sure.

Q: How does that manifest itself? Does he say, 'Dabs, I need you because I want to run something by you?' How does that work?

A: I'd say really all of our players, but particularly Saquon. He's been a good player for us. There's stuff you can see during the game, on the sideline or up in the box, but when the players see it when they're out there on the field, as long as they're giving you the correct information, that's always helpful. So, whether it's Saquon, or the quarterback, or a defensive player, I think that's the job of the coaching staff, too, to have good communication with the players. Now, if they come off and say, 'This is going to work' or, 'I'm open every play,' and you go back to the tape and say, 'It really didn't happen that way,' then… But Saquon's got a good feel for it, absolutely.

Q: We asked you on Wednesday quite a bit about your relationship with Bill. You spent a lot of time in assistant rooms there with (Patriots Assistant Head Coach) Joe Judge. Do you guys still have a relationship and how would you characterize that?

A: Yeah, I'd say when I see those guys, we say hello, but during the season you're not talking to a lot of coaches on other staffs. You're really focused on your staff. But got a lot of respect for Joe, too. I know him, his wife, his children. I'd say it's good.

Q: Will you activate (running back) Eric Gray?

A: Potentially. That's something we'll talk about here once we get done with practice and make that decision.

Running Back Saquon Barkley

Q. Is there anything to the idea that (Patriots General Manager/Head Coach Bill) Belichick's on the other sideline this week?

A: Personally, my first time in a real game, obviously preseason, but a real game going against him. You don't really look at it that way but just one of the best coaches – probably the best coach of all time. It's awesome to be on the field with him, he's a legend. So, you definitely have your respect, but your mindset is not like, 'Oh, this is Bill Belichick on the other side. But when you break it down and you talk about it out loud and you think about it, the greatest to ever do it is sitting on the other sideline so it's pretty dope to be on the same field as him.

Q. Have you ever been on a team where you've had three different quarterbacks in a season?

A: No, I don't think so. I think this is my first, yep.

Q. What has this been like especially adjusting to (quarterback) Tommy (DeVito)? Who's the younger, I mean, the other two guys are at least veterans, but this is a rookie quarterback, obviously.

A: I think for any rookie, every week the game slows down. I remember when I was a rookie, I had – I was really lucky because I had (Former Giants quarterback) Eli Manning, who was in like year whatever. So, especially blitz pickups and whatever, he'd tell me what to do. I didn't really have to think about it. But you can see that the games slowing down for him. The biggest thing for him, though, I just love the confidence and the swagger that he plays with. It kind of reminds me of a (free agent quarterback) Trace (McSorley) in college. That's the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of Tommy. I'm happy for him. He played great last week, he's been playing great so far and hopefully, he can keep it going for us.

Q. What's the mentality of this team right now? You have one more game leading into the bye.

A: I mean, I feel like this has got to be the latest bye week we've ever had but everything we want is still out there. Just keep stacking them, taking one day at a time, and stay focused on this game, we've got a really good opponent against New England. Obviously, the records, I think the same as us, 2-8, but similar to us. They've been in a lot of games where their record could easily be different. That's the NFL, we know that it's going to be a great matchup against a great team, and our mindset and our focus is to do whatever we can to come out with a win.

Q. Do you get a kick out of Tommy? Do you get a kick out of him?

A: I love him.

Q. Like what do you like? What are the interactions like?

A: Tommy's my guy. Tommy's my guy but I love the whole storyline. I love that he's from Jersey, he lives with his parents, and he's the starting quarterback of the New York Giants, that whole thing is something I'd do in Madden. I would go and draft or pick an undrafted guy and put him on my team and just make him into a superstar. That's stuff that I do in my spare time, what I've been doing since I was a kid. So, I love the underdog story and stuff like that. I'm happy for him but he definitely doesn't carry that mindset. He doesn't walk around (like) an underdog, he's confident. I'm telling you right now, you wouldn't think that he's a rookie and he's the starting quarterback of the New York Giants. You would think it's year five, he's been doing this for a very long time the way that he carries himself. You can feel it in the huddle, so I love it, I'm happy for him and my job as a leader is to continue to stay on his side, help build his confidence and help make plays for him when the opportunity comes.

Q. How about Tommy's, including yourself, confidence after the win last week? Not his confidence but the confidence the rest of the guys have in him coming off of last week.

A: I think it's kind of – I kind of said something similar to it after the game in the locker room, this is the NFL. When a guy gets in there, it's not like 'Can he do this? Can he do this?' obviously, don't get me wrong, it's tiers but he's here for a reason. It's hard to make it to this level so when you're in a locker room like this, we all understand how hard it is to make it to the NFL. I think from the outside world, they think it's a lot easier. So, for us, it's not like 'Oh, our confidence is growing' and obviously, you get a win, confidence as a team just grows but it's the next man up. It's your job to go out there and make plays, no matter what the situation is, and he's been doing a really good job of that.

Q. What play are you installing this week?

A: (Laughs) I didn't install that play. (Offensive Coordinator Mike) Kaf(ka) and all those guys did a really good job of calling it. I just felt with the way that the defense was playing that play would work. (Tight End Daniel Bellinger) Belly let me down a little bit not getting into the endzone, so I had to give him a little bit of crap but I'm never going to be upset with a touchdown myself.

Q: How often do you do that though? Obviously, the cameras caught that but like suggesting plays?

A: I mean you can do it all the time. Just get a feel in the game. Yeah, the camera obviously caught it in that moment, but sometimes it doesn't work like that. You get a feel and then they do the exact opposite of what you think but you just get a feel of the game and what's going on through the game and how they are playing you and you just make suggestions, and we have a coaching staff that does a really good job of listening to the players.

Q: So how often do they listen to you?

A: I would say pretty much, you know, depending on the game, I can't just go up there and say 'Hey Dabs (head coach Brian Daboll) I want the ball here' and he goes tell Kaf 'Saquon wants the ball here' and they give me the ball, it doesn't just work like that. They have to agree with it,

but I would say not just myself, whether it's DJ (quarterback Daniel Jones), whether it's any of the quarterbacks, or there are wide receivers that have been playing a certain way and we feel it and we watch it and we feel like we set them up where we could make a play, they'll give us a green light.

Q: What have you seen from (Patriots defensive back) Jabrill (Peppers) and what do you think about matching up with him?

A: He's playing great, he's playing really good. I'm happy. Pep is one of my guys, him being a former teammate. I have nothing but respect for him, you know the way he works. I think his last year here is the year he tore his knee, so he didn't go out the way that he would like, but just happy to see him getting back to himself and playing at a high level right now. He's a tough player, he's physical, he got that motor that doesn't stop, whether it's practice or whether it's in a game, so it's always a fun matchup when you get to go against a guy like that.

Q: This locker room seems pretty animated today and exuberant today. Why?

A: It was like that last week. I said we were 2-8, but we don't feel like a 2-8 team. Some people might take it 'Oh, we don't care and it's just like, no. We've been the same team and there are times when you are a losing team, and it feels like you are a losing team and it's miserable and you don't want to walk in here. That's not the swagger that we have. We know everything that we want to accomplish is still out there, but we just have to keep that mindset, have everyone keep comments out, but just take it one game at a time, one day at a time, and hopefully, by the end of this we are looking up and we are where we want to be.

Q: Your former head coach (Patriots assistant head coach) Joe Judge will be on the other sideline this week. Will you go over, and catch up with him? Two years later, what do you remember? Anything you learned from him, anything you learned from that era?

A: Yeah, with Judge, obviously the biggest thing was focus on the little things and the details. That's something that I'll always take. Definitely will see, if I see him, I'm going to go over there and speak to him. Like you said, you mentioned my former head coach. He's the one where, the first thing that goes in my mind, I was sitting there after I tore my knee, I'm sitting there bawling and I look up and he's the one that told me it's going to be a hell of a story. From that moment, that kind of my whole mantra was like this is not over. I'm going to be okay. I'm going to find a way. I'm going to work my butt off and I'm going to get back to the player that I'm known to be and the player that I know that I am. So, I've got nothing but tremendous respect for Joe and obviously, the two years here didn't go the way we would've liked, but I'm really thankful for him.

Q: Last time you played the Patriots who started at running back?

A: The last time I played the Patriots?

Q: This team.

A: Jonathan Hilliman.

Q: Who was the little guy, the little, small running back too that was active that game?

A: You talking about my second year?

Q: 2019. He was like a practice squad guy who came in, he was really small.

A: The guy I'm thinking about was DLew (Dion Lewis) but that was 2020. It was Hilliman, Elijhaa Penny, he was playing fullback and running back.

Q: Austin Walter.

A: Oh yeah. Yeah. Did he play that game though?

Q: I don't think he played but he was like on the practice squad or something.

A: Yeah, yeah.

Q: He was active.

A: Yeah.

Q: With Tommy, do you think guys have kind of rallied around him in part because of the enthusiasm he brings and how you know he's young, but he's got something to him?

A: Yeah, I think it definitely helps. I feel like you could handle it one or two ways. You could come to the situation and be nervous and everyone could feel that. Now that's when it's like alright, obviously, like I've said in the NFL you're here for a reason, but like if you're going in and you seem scared, you seem timid, that's not the recipe for success. I think his attitude and the way he comes and the swagger, he plays like what you think an Italian, Jersey person would be, that's exactly how he plays. I think that definitely helps. I think it helps him and just us. We know that the guy that we have that's at quarterback has confidence in himself and confidence in making the plays and that definitely goes a long way.

Q: What did he say to you immediately after the touchdown? The first touchdown. Do you remember?

A: He said, "Hell of a catch".

Defensive Lineman Dexter Lawrence

…Yeah, pretty much. I turned the corner, and I thought I caught a cramp, but I guess it was more than that. It felt like a cramp, so I guess it was a little bit more than that.

Q: Obviously, you haven't practiced this week. So, what have you been able to do?

A: I've been getting on the treadmill, going in the pool, underwater treadmill, rehabbing it, working it out, just trying to get it to feel good.

Q: The only game you've missed in your career, I think, was from COVID-19. So, it obviously takes a lot to keep you off the field. I don't know if it's a streak, but what does that Ironman reputation mean to you?

A: I always want to be available. I always want to be the one to help my team get a chance to win. So, that's what I'm fighting to do. Just see how I feel leading up to the game.

Q: How do you look at your chances at this point? How do you view it personally?

A: Honestly, I've been getting better. Even just after the day it happened, at first it was real tight, and just throughout the week I've been rehabbing, recovering, and it's been loosening up, so I've been feeling good.

Q: So, you give yourself a chance maybe?

A: Of course. Always.

Q: I don't know if quotes from the other side ever make it to your attention, but the one guy on defense (Patriots Head Coach and General Manager Bill) Belichick singled out as a guy who is game wrecker is you. Considering who he is, does that mean something to you?

A: Oh, yeah. That's my goal every week, wreck the game. That's done by being disruptive, causing quarterbacks to panic, think about would you want to run the ball, things like that. So yeah, I love that compliment.

Q: It's interesting because you only have one sack, but you've been kind of right in the quarterback's face all season…

A: I mean, and it causes turnovers, you know? That's the biggest thing. I'm not going to always get the sack, we're not going to always get the sack, but if we can create a turnover by affecting the quarterback, that's a positive, too.

Q: Dabs (Head Coach Brian Daboll) told us that he walked in a defensive meeting for the front seven and (outside linebacker) Kayvon (Thibodeaux) was up actually leading it. I said I would expect that from (inside linebacker) Bobby (Okereke) or Dex. What does it say that Kayvon was taking that kind of ownership?

A: We kind of let that happen just so he can learn and at the same time have us listen to him, and let's see how he thinks about it. Everybody knows how we think about it and how me and Bobby see things. It's good to see it from a different perspective, from a guy that's growing as a player in the league.

Rare photos from the storied history between the New York Giants and New England Patriots.

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