Head Coach Joe Judge
Opening Statement: Happy holidays, guys. We'll pick up today. Obviously, it's Thursday and we'll continue with our preparation. Today is obviously a normal up-tempo practice. We'll get a chance to look at the players, get some execution on the game plan and schemes, get an opportunity to evaluate the quarterbacks as we go out there and practice on through the day. Any questions, I'd be happy to open up to you.
Q: Anyone off the COVID list?
A: (Wide Receiver) Kadarius (Toney), (Linebacker) Oshane (Ximines) and (Defensive Back) J.R. Reed are all back in the building. All three of them will work with the trainers at least to start practice to see where they're at, to ramp them up. We'll see if there's any opportunity on the backend of practice even with some kind of a walkthrough with the team or where they would be. We'd have to remove them from the list and activate them to the roster to include them in team activities. First priority is to see where they are physically. Obviously, the trainers will check with them in terms of just how they feel. They've cleared all those tests, they've tested negative to get back in the building, but the bigger part will be getting them out here and seeing where they are from a standpoint of inactivity for the last week-and-a-half as well as the symptoms they had to deal with.
Q: Anyone else you expect to get back tomorrow or this week in general?
A: We're hopeful about a few, but really at this point there's nothing to report on it.
Q: I'm curious, how difficult is it for the guys like (Cornerback) Adoree' (Jackson) and Kadarius who were injured beforehand and now they weren't here? What's the likelihood you can get them ramped up in two or three days?
A: That's definitely a different challenge because you've got to consider not only coming off of the inactivity and the symptoms, (but) you also have to consider where they're at with the injury. They haven't really been able to be with our trainers, they haven't been able to do a lot of the rehab and activity on the field. That's just a natural setback right there. Just not having them out here, that's an issue you've got to deal with. You're concerned about guys like Adoree' that are you playing with fire a little bit if you try to get them back and get them ramped up within that one-day report of getting directly into the game? So, there are some things we have to consider with that. We are able to check in with the players and see if they're doing anything as far as just physically moving around, but we can't advise them to do anything until we know they're symptom-free and it's okay to clear them through some kind of a ramp-up.
Q: Why do you think you and (Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator) Patrick (Graham) and (Defensive Backs Coach) Jerome (Henderson) do such a good job with the secondary? You lose players, one week it's (Cornerback) Aaron Robinson on the outside, the next week it's (Defensive Back) Jarren Williams, but it seems like the game plan and your execution on the backend doesn't suffer. What do you think the key is there?
A: Well, the focus for the DBs is always the same as the focus for any other part of the organization. We always talk about next man up and preparing all the players. We truly work to prepare every player on the team. Our guys have the expectation and they get in there for the game – I don't care if you're on practice squad, I don't care if you're a rookie, I don't care if you just got here, it doesn't matter. You're expected to play. We've added a couple players to the practice squad with (Cornerback Darqueze) Dennard and (Safety) Dwayne Johnson (Jr.) and the message has been clear to those guys from when they got here yesterday and today of getting the playbook, getting the game plan, getting with the coaches. You're expected to know what to do, expect to have your number called.
Q: You haven't had any new positive tests, right?
A: We have not. Not at this moment, no.
Q: What do you like about Darqueze Dennard?
A: What do I like about him? I'm familiar with him from playing in the league early on and actually when he first came into the league, I was coaching special teams against him. He was the gunner, he was a core guy for (Bengals Special Teams Coordinator/Assistant Head Coach) Darrin Simmons in Cincinnati. He's got good speed, he's got good physicality, obviously his skillset to matchup on the edge as a corner. He's got experience in the league. Having some experience down in Atlanta with (Falcons Defensive Coordinator) Dean (Pees) this year gives you a little bit of some familiarity a little bit within the system. At least it's some familiar language that it doesn't seem completely foreign if he hears it. Just the availability of him being out there. It's a good opportunity for us to bring in a guy with some experience in a need position we have right now.
Q: Is that a position where it's an easy position to come in and parachute in and say, 'Cover that guy'?
A: No, because there's a lot of communication that's involved in our secondary on a lot the levels. I wouldn't say any position is easy to drop them in and just go. Probably kicker and punter are the easiest, absolutely. But in terms of playing corner, just the communication and the understanding of the defensive scheme, whether it's a coverage, a pressure, whatever it may be, situational calls that we have right there, there is still a lot to get caught up on.
Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham
Q: You and Philadelphia both have to deal with the Christmas period, but you've got a couple extra days head start on them because their Tuesday game. Is that any advantage for you or is just there so much turnover with COVID?
A: Is it an advantage? I mean, you might look at the rest and all the stuff like that, but everybody in this league gets used to adjusting all the time, so it's really that adapt or die philosophy. Guys figure out a way. We've got Sunday games to Thursday games, Monday nights to Saturday or Sunday games sometimes. Guys figure it out. They figure it out and get their bodies in the right way, in the right shape and I know the coaches will probably take care of those guys, so they'll be ready to go. The thing is you've got a division game. It's the excitement of Christmas. We won the last time. I would expect that they're not going to have any problems getting ready to go. Again, does it matter? The only thing that matters on Sunday is execution. Who can execute? Whether we execute better on Sunday, or they execute better, that's all that it's going to come down to.
Q: With all the COVID going on, they might be calling up guys from the practice squad last minute. What sort of challenge is that?
A: I told you last week, Dallas didn't care if we had COVID issues. I don't care if – I mean, I hope everybody's safe.
Q: But is it more challenging maybe seeing a guy you haven't seen before?
A: We've got to do our research on them. There's enough tape out there on most people. The thing is, the COVID thing, you pray for the families that are suffering from that stuff because it's a serious issue. Fortunately, I'm able to go about my business and do my job. During this time, there's a lot of people, especially this type of year, it's unfortunate where they might've lost their jobs because of COVID-related stuff. I didn't mean to laugh about it because it's definitely not a laughing matter and my heart goes out to those folks and just hope everybody's safe. In terms of this football thing, there are plenty of football players out there that want to play on Sundays, so whatever roster, whatever team it is, they'll figure it out.
Q: How do you feel about your cornerback position given this week compared to last week maybe?
A: I thought last week, you take all things into consideration, guys played pretty well. Again, not well enough to win. We didn't win the game. That's not on them, that's on all of us. I thought (Cornerback Jarren Williams) J-Will stepped in there and competed. I think he showed his physicality out there. That's something that we liked about him. Then heading into this week, I just think we have a good group of guys. I know we might not have our full arsenal of guys right now. (Head Coach) Joe (Judge) will talk about the injury stuff and whatever it is and COVID and all that. I just think in general, (Defensive Backs Coach) Jerome (Henderson) does a good job working with those guys and I feel good on any given Sunday going out there for the matchup. This is a tough matchup with Philly. They've got a lot of skill guys. They're very skilled, like their offensive skill is a problem, including the backs, the tight end. I think (Eagles Tight End Dallas) Goedert's playing at a high level. The receivers – I mean, (Eagles Wide Receiver DeVonta) Smith is just one of the toughest. To see a rookie, he's got the robo arm on, he hurts his ankle and comes in the next series on Tuesday night. I couldn't be more impressed with this guy. He's a good football player. The emotions he shows in terms of wanting the ball at the end of the game, the last game. I think that's a good sign for a player. I've got a lot of respect for that guy and his toughness. All those receivers, again, talking about their skill group, they all block. They block you and they come in there and they crack backers. They crack the safeties. They've got a good group of guys. They're doing a good job down there.
Q: What did you see out of (Linebacker) Jaylon Smith last week, considering the 10 minutes he was here before?
A: You saw the pace in which he played. I sound like one of the soccer coaches when they talk about pace instead of fast. I'm not trying to sound all smart or whatever (laughs). The pace, that's what came up. I remember one time last week when he came off the edge blitzing, you just saw the pace at how he did it. I was impressed by that. Just the conversations you have with him, he knows football, so that's a positive there. He's been on good teams, been around good coaches. It's been really good to have him right now. He's trying to improve, trying to learn the system, but you saw the pace out there, the physicality. He had a good play when he scraped over the top on a stretch run, just natural linebacker instincts, stuff that he can just do naturally.
Q: Could his role expand some this week?
A: Whenever you play well, your role expands. The more he knows about the system and the scheme, which you give him another week, the more possibility for him to play more, yes.
Q: Just one more on him, I know you have been around him for just a few days now, but what happens with a guy – what's your assessment? He's only 26-years old. Obviously, he was a high draft pick and played at a high level and then he's on his third team this year. What's the genesis of that in your eyes?
A: I can't speak for Dallas and why they let him go, or Green Bay. I just know sometimes it has to be a good fit. Sometimes it has to be a good fit. Last week it was a good fit, and we'll see how it plays out this week. Sometimes it just has to be a good fit with what they're trying to do. I like his skill set. It fits with what we do defensively. I go and speak from my perspective and plus facing you the wind is coming this way, so I've got to go take some questions over here (laughs).
Q: In a division game when you have a first game, you have a matchup that really works for you. It seemed like (Cornerback James Bradberry) JB did against Smith. How do you balance going right back to that as opposed to changing something up?
A: This is the chess match. You look at that game, I think JB started off opposite him or we might've been boundary. I can't remember exactly. Well, I can remember, I'm just not saying it (laughs). It's just the chess match you play sometimes. We've got to see, because the emergence of Goedert, it might be like how we did with (Chiefs Tight End Travis) Kelce. You never know, we might say, 'hey, put him over there.' So, we've just got to play that game within the game and then the thing it comes down to on Sunday, we're going to have to adjust. JB's one of our better players, if we have to adjust it, we have to adjust it. But I can't speak on it right now per se, but we'll play around with it a little bit.
Q: What is your process for creating a successful game plan? I think when you guys win and succeed, a lot of it is due to what you do defensively taking stuff away. Do you have 'aha moments' during the week or is there night before stuff that you install last minute that works on Sunday? What is your process like?
A: I learned a long time ago from – it's funny, this is going to tie right in together with the Eagles – from (Patriots Head) Coach (Bill) Belichick, you just keep working until the last minute. People talk about the hay in the barn and all that stuff – saying I got right – the hay in the barn stuff. To me, you just keep working, trying to find a way. Watch the tape, keep grinding through the tape. It's not about being unprepared early in the week, it's just you keep just diving into the tape. For me, I'm constantly just keep looking at it even the night before, so some stuff over my career as a coordinator, some stuff's come the night before. Some stuff's come the morning of, but I learned that when I was at New England. I can say that honestly before that, I don't know if the last-minute adjustments if I did a lot of that until we got to New England. I remember one time for Philly, we were playing Philly and we came out of warm-ups and changed the call we never ran before, and we played it in the game the first series. I mean stuff like that, so I grew up learning that stuff. Definitely, I'll take it down to the last – as long as you prepare the guys to be able to handle that stuff. I think you've got to look ahead early on in the process. Are they ready? Are they adapting? Are they really following that adapt or die model that we talk about? Can they handle adjustments like that? But we've got to teach them that during the spring, training camp. But we'll take it down to the wire for an adjustment.
Q: How much of that is collaborative between you and Joe through week or is it more like at the beginning of the week there's a conceptual conversation about the game and then you dive in and now –
A: We always collaborate. To me, any game plan we come up with, especially the good ones, is usually ideas from Joe or the other coaches. Just me as the coordinator, I'm facilitating the thing, but it's always collaborative. Joe has his input as the head coach on the defense and working with other coaches. I'm lucky, I've got coaches that know their stuff. They're able to help. They're familiar with me and my personality in terms of my process throughout the week and how I'm not afraid to go to the last minute with it in terms of bringing up some new stuff. Once you work with guys for, this is our second year, they become more and more comfortable so they're not afraid to throw an idea out there on a Friday and say, 'Pat, I think it might help.' I'm like, 'hey, let's do it.' That's how it goes normally.
Q: The way that team is, do you just accept they're going to get 175-200 yards on the ground?
A: You know I'm an old d-line coach, no. It never feels good. It never feels good. The win feels good, all right? When we win, I'm happy for about five minutes and then I think about the next opponent. No, I don't want to concede that in any way shape or form. Absolutely not. Now, I want the win more than anything and if they run for 400 yards and we win, I'll smile probably about for a few minutes then I'll be upset for the rest of the day. But no, I don't want to concede that. They've got good players. We've got to do a better job this week. We've got to do a better job this week. We've got to limit the effectiveness. We've got to finish on tackles. We've got to get off blocks better. We've got to make sure we're lined up in position better on some of the plays. They've got a lot. They've got a lot they do. It's probably simpler for them, but the presentation creates a lot of problems for defenses, so we've got a real challenge ahead of us.
Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
Q: Big picture, as a team you guys aren't getting the results. On your side of the ball, what signs of progress have you seen whether it's individual players or what do you feel like your group has done well?
A: The one thing that we've done well all year is cover kickoffs, I want to say one or two in the league, one of them. That's what we can build on. We pride ourselves in the way we cover kicks, and we have to continue to get better. Right now, we're down some guys, so we've got to find a way to keep doing what we've been doing. Obviously, it starts at the top, but we're at the bottom of the totem pole. What you see on offense and defense is magnified on our end. A bunch of guys that haven't gotten a ton of reps and they're going to asked to play, they've just got to play well. That's just a reality of being a special teams coach in this league. You're going to have injuries and again, we talk about it all the time, we've just got to make the gumbo, we've got to make it taste right. That's our job, we've just got to make it right.
Q: Are you alright with (Wide Receiver) Pharoh (Cooper) catching a lot of those punts deep or would you like him to let some of them bounce?
A: Nope. I am perfectly fine with the ball being caught at the seven or the eight. These guys are so good now, like it's not like it was earlier, like when I was playing earlier '96, '97, 2000. These guys are outstanding at getting the ball down inside the five-yard line. Especially the guy we're playing this week, the Australian, you know what I mean? Most of the time those balls are going to be the ones that hit at the eight-yard line, that hit at the nine-yard line, those are the ones that end up inside the five. If you field the ball at the three-yard line, that's a whole different ball game, but if we're catching the ball at the seven, I've got no issue with that.
Q: What is your ladder of demarcation? Is it around the five?
A: It's the eight-yard line. It's right on the seven, eight-yard line right there. Especially as the better the guys is at downing the ball inside the 10, that line is anywhere from seven to eight.
Q: The distance that the guys are kicking off and the height they are getting and the hang time, are returns the exception in pro football as opposed to normally you see guys bringing stuff back?
A: Well, it's harder now because of the rule change. Back in the day, you could start off in the tunnel and take off on a flying take off, but now it's not like that. You've got one yard. Then the hang time, it just depends on your organization philosophy. There are some people that say, 'Hey look, the league average is the drive starts at 25, we'll take the ball to the 25.' Then depending on who you have back there returning the ball, if you feel good about the guy bringing the ball out from five, six deep, if you're Atlanta and you've got (Falcons Running Back) Cordarrelle Patterson back there, you have a whole different way of how you're going to approach the game because you feel like at any point in time the ball could cross 50, it could cross the 40, or it could go to the house. So, it just depends on your philosophy and how you view the play. There are teams in our division that view the play differently, and just the league in general. I think it's an organization thing, I think it's a coaching philosophy thing and it goes from team to team.
Q: How different of returners are (Eagles Wide Receiver Jalen) Reagor, (Eagles Wide Receiver Quez) Watkins and (Eagles Running Back Kenneth) Gainwell?
A: They're all very talented, they all have unique features about them. Obviously, Jalen is very, very talented. Can stick his foot in the ground, change direction, make cuts at full speed. He's a very talented kid. Gainwell is hard, straight, fast, tight runner coming out of Memphis and you see it – like in the game last week where he had a return opportunity, he hits. Watkins is kind of like a hybrid of both of those guys. They've got a talented group, teams wise, (Special Teams Coordinator) Coach (Michael) Clay has done a really good job of trying to build a good core and they're (inaudible). We've got to be ready for all three of them.
Q: Disappointment at all for (Kicker) Graham (Gano)? Did you think he would have a chance?
A: Yeah, I mean, anytime you're almost 90 percent, you've always got a chance. You miss four field goals in a year where guys are missing one. This voting thing is a little different, guys mentalities are different. Back in the day, guys that kicked in the freaking dome or in warm weather didn't get a whole lot of consideration regardless of how many kicks they made. You kick in this stadium, you do what (Ravens Kicker) Justin Tucker's doing in Baltimore, kicking in that place and having the kind of percentage that he has, it's a whole lot different kicking in the dome or you've got nine games in the dome or eight games in the dome and you're playing in the AFC South or you're playing in the NFC West or whatever where it's warm. That's a whole different ball game to play in than this, because they're all freezing – I mean you've got a freaking hoodie on with gloves (laughs). You know what I mean? To me, it's just a totally different deal. You've got to understand what you're looking at. Most of the people that (are) voting on it have no idea what they're looking at.
Q: Was there a cross wind last week, because (Cowboys Kicker Greg) Zuerlein had one that went left.
A: Yeah, it was pretty nasty. It was in his head a little bit because he struggled all pregame with it. That first extra point that he kicked, it was really bad because it went up and as soon as the ball got up in the air, it was just a gust. It's a good kick, it was just a gust of wind just hit it. That's the difference between being at home in Dallas and being at MetLife. It's a big difference. Playing in the North East is different.
Wide Receivers Coach Tyke Tolbert
Q: Did (Head Coach) Joe (Judge) tell you you could give us the offensive game plan?
A: Not quite (laughs). Not quite.
Q: How are the receivers? Are you going to get anybody back?
A: We'll see. We have some guys. Obviously, with Shep (Sterling Shepard) going down, that was a big blow for us, our team, our unit and our room. We'll see. KT (Kadarius Toney) is working with the trainers today and hopefully we can get him back coming up to the last part of the week. We won't have him today for practice, but we'll see toward the end of the week if he can get in there. Other guys are just ready to go.
Q: (Wide Receiver John) Ross (III) is still in protocol?
A: Yes, he is.
Q: KT is back in the building, right?
A: He's back in the building today, yes.
Q: Do you have some hope that he'll be able to go Sunday?
A: I've got my fingers, toes and eyes crossed that he'll be ready to come back.
Q: How important is it for a rookie and for him to get back and play these last few games?
A: It's very important. He's chomping at the bit to get out there, just so you know. He wants to play, he wants to be out there with his teammates. He's had some unfortunate situations come up throughout the course of the year. That's unfortunate, but he wants to play and it's important for him to come out here and get these last couple of games under his belt so he can have some momentum going through the offseason and into next season.
Q: Do you have to manage guys' expectations if they're not getting targets early? Like actually actively on the sidelines or do you leave them alone?
A: You know, the way I've done that, to be honest with you, I tell guys if you're on this level and play receiver it's because you've done some good things in your past to make plays. They all want the ball. I don't want a receiver who doesn't want the ball. They all want the ball. What I tell them and explain to them if they don't get the ball is just keep getting open. Keep getting open, we'll get you the ball. It's our job to find a way to get you the ball, so keep getting open. You have to keep encouraging them along the way and showing them things they are doing right, and the things they're not doing right, correct those things. You've just got to keep instilling the confidence in them, just keep getting open. I see you, the quarterback sees you. Sometimes, we have a little one-off here or a one-off there. We're going to get you the ball but keep getting open.
Q: Is Kenny (Golladay) getting open enough in that regard? When you look at his numbers, he's never been a big separation guy. Even when he had the big year, he was by metrics towards the bottom. Is he getting open enough or where is that line with him?
A: I think you mentioned it, you just said it, he's never been a guy that's created a whole lot of separation, but he gets separation because of his body and his catch radius. He's not going to ever be the guy probably that gets a ton of separation, but he is open because of his catch radius. Sometimes, you have to have the ability just to throw it up to him and let him go make a play, and I think (Quarterback) Jake (Fromm) did a good job of that this past game, just throwing it up on that go route and letting him go make a play. That's probably what he specializes in is making plays and contested catches. All the catches that he's made this year so far – I say all of them, most of them – are on contested catches.
Q: When you're looking at the film, he might look like he's covered, but you're saying this is an opportunity to still get him the ball?
A: I think so, I think so. Again, if you're 5'9", you can't say that about a guy, but if you're 6'4", you can say that about a guy.
Q: There's a lot of excitement outside the building about Jake possibly playing here and getting a shot, seeing what he has. What's it like inside the building and especially with your group?
A: I think with my particular group, it doesn't matter who the quarterback is, we have to go out there and we have a job to do. I think they're prepared for whoever plays quarterback. We installed the same game plan that we normally would during the course of a week, a wrinkle here or a wrinkle there. For the most part, it's our job to go out there and block when it's time to block, run a route and get open when it's time to get open and make plays when the ball comes our way. Regardless of who's playing quarterback, it's our job to do that.
Q: When you're facing Philly, what problems do they present? (Eagles Cornerback Darius) Slay is obviously a playmaker. What are the problems they present to your receiver group?
A: They do a lot of things that are pretty simple, but they do them well. They disguise well on the backend. They run to the ball in the run game. They're a very physical group back there, so I think it poses a challenge for our guys every week because everybody on this level plays hard, everybody gets paid to play well. They play particularly well on defense, they play particularly well on the defensive line, they create a lot of pressure with their defensive line, so when you have a good defensive line like they have, the defensive backs don't have to cover as long. They can take more chances back there because they know the defensive pass rush will get there faster than probably some other teams.
Q: Do you factor in that Slay knows Kenny so well? They've obviously gone against each other hundreds of times in practice. Do you factor that in as a wide receivers coach at all any differently?
A: I don't. The flip part about that is, yes, Slay knows Kenny well, but Kenny knows Darius well. That's how we would look at it if it came into effect. But we don't look at it that way, no.
Q: Where did you get the 'As you go, we go' line?
A: I don't know. Something at the beginning of the season that I told the line that that's true, how they go is how we go. So, if they go out and play well, we're going to play well. In every stretch as you hear with those guys and after every game or before the game when they're stretching, 'We go as you go.' They repeat it, so here we go.
Q: With (Wide Receiver) Darius Slayton, what accounts for his – it seems like he's had a difficult year. He just hasn't been able to get on track and he's had more drops than he's had in previous seasons. What do you think he's working through? How do you evaluate his year?
A: Probably pressing a little bit. I think the personnel group did a really good job of bringing some talent to this group. Although we haven't had them all at the same time a lot of times, I think when you have so much talent and so many things, the opportunities don't come your way as much. So when opportunities do come your way, he probably presses a little bit too much instead of just relaxing and being himself and letting the game come to him. We've talked to him about that, just, 'Hey, man. Just relax, just be yourself, do you. When you have an opportunity to make the play, go make the play. Don't be so hard on yourself when you don't make the play.' Jerry Rice dropped the ball too back in the day. I'm not saying he's Jerry Rice (laughs), but what I'm saying is receivers are going to drop balls. Receivers are going to drop balls, so like when a defensive back gets beat on a deep ball, you've got to forget about it and go to the next play. Same thing when a receiver drops the ball, forget it and go to the next play.
Running Back Saquon Barkley
Q: These last couple of weeks, what are you personally looking to get out of this?
A: Personally, just trying to finish the season strong and originally as a team. Basically, just finish the season with a high note, get better each week, keep continuing to go back, watch what I could learn from and improve my game.
Q: I know you don't think about contract stuff in the middle of the season, but as you get closer to the end of the year, how much do you wonder about your future here and how much do you want to be here as you move forward?
A: I really don't really think about that at all. Don't really have enough time to really think about that, but me wanting to be here, I think I made it clear that this is the place that drafted me. I would love to be here forever. But I mean, all the other stuff, I really don't have time to focus on. I just got to focus on getting my body right, getting it ready and trying to go out there and perform at a high level for my team.
Q: You're always trying to go 1,000 percent, is there any element to these last few games where you feel in your mind, you're still trying to show them that you're a guy that they want for the future here?
A: No, I'm not kind of going to the games with that mindset. I want to, and I might sound a little selfish, but I want to go out there and finish on a high note for myself too. Obviously, for the team, I want to go out there and try to win all the games that we can, but just for me to go out there and finish on a high note. Just continue to build that confidence and lead into the offseason and get myself prepared and ready for the rest of my career.
Q: Why do you need to do it for yourself? Do you need to prove to yourself that you can get back to the level you were at?
A: No, it's not that, it's just that I feel like every time I'm up here I always have to answer questions about everyone else's expectations on myself and at the end of the day, the only thing that really matters is my thought process, you know what I mean? I got to go out there and control what I can control. I say football is a 11-man sport. It's the greatest team sport in the world, but I got to go out there and control what I can control. That starts from obviously, you always have to have a team mindset, but you've got to come back and focus on yourself and getting better every single day.
Q: It's been said by some people that when you come off a major ACL, it takes two seasons to get back to where you were. Is that in any way true?
A: I think it's different for everybody. I've talked to so many people that dealt with this injury. There's some guys that come back and right from the jump, it's never from the jump right away, but in the first season, they get back to where they were at, or even better, some guys take a little longer than others. I think personally, not making excuses, I felt like after the Saints, I felt like that I would probably have been on track to being one of those guys within the next season to get back to where you were or even better and then I just had an unlucky step on someone's foot and had to rehab the ankle and kind of set me back in my rehab process. It is what it is, and I just got to continue to come to work every single day and try to do better.
Q: (Head Coach Joe) Judge has thrown his support behind (Quarterback) Daniel (Jones) for next year. Obviously, you just want to win here no matter what and no matter who you're playing with, but is there something to be said for you would love to see this team turned around with Daniel at quarterback and going into an offseason where there's uncertainty with what is going to happen?
A: Yeah, I'm going to be honest. I love DJ, that's my dog, one of my best friends. I love the way he works, and I think I've said it multiple times about how I feel about that guy and his attitude and the way he works. I know how special he is, and I know how special he's going to be. I just don't know where the conversation comes up from whether he's going to be this or that. There's so many things that are out of our control and as players, we can't focus on that. We just got to focus on coming to work every single day, getting better every single day and that's all you can ask from a player, that's all you can ask from a teammate and Daniel Jones is that every single day.
Q: What do you think is his best quality?
A: There's a lot, but to me, personally, I think you can never knock someone's work ethic. Someone has the right work ethic and I know I said it before in my own personal battle with dealing with injuries or so far in my career and even if I say it to a little kid that asks me what's the best advice, I can give to him, it's hard work is going to get you where you need to go. That's something that he does every single day. He has the right mindset, the right work ethic and he comes, and he pushes himself and the way he pushes himself, he pushes everyone around him. I think that's the best quality I could say about him. Look there's many more.
Q: What did you think when you heard that he was going to have to be shut down?
A: Obviously, you feel for him because you know as a competitor, especially him, the type of player he is, how upsetting it is going to be for him not being able to be out there with his brother and his teammates. You obviously feel for him. Like I said, it's been a weird, rocky season for a lot of us. A lot of ups, a lot of downs, injuries left and right, but for a guy like Daniel Jones, a little minor setback and this is the last couple of games of the season, but he's going to be able to come back to work and get himself prepared in the offseason and be ready to go with helping the team's success in the future.
Q: You referenced the New Orleans game and you were your dynamic self there, what was your mindset coming out of there? Did you feel like you were ready to go that way?
A: Yeah. (Running Backs) Coach (Burton) Burns told me after I hurt my ankle in Dallas, but after the game, he said I just had that look in my eye during the Dallas game and I felt it. As players, you could just feel it sometimes when it's going to be the game. The first time we played Dallas, just how I felt in warmups, how I felt in practice. Obviously, when (Former Offensive Coordinator) Coach (Jason) Garrett was here before, a conversation I had with him just that whole week leading up, I felt very confident that I was going to be able to have a big performance for the team and hopefully be able to turn the season around. I run a route, take my eyes off the field for a little bit, step on someone's foot, out for a couple more weeks. It's part of the process, all part of God's plan and I'm going to keep trusting it and keep working.
Defensive Back Logan Ryan
Q: Finally get to play the Eagles.
A: I do, yeah. Finally get to play them. It was one we played well defensively last game, so hopefully we can pick up where we left off there. The guys played great that day defensively and we're going to try to reciprocate that.
Q: Obviously, we were just talking to (Running Back) Saquon (Barkley) a minute ago and I just asked about that New Orleans game. It just seemed like he was back to the dynamic Saquon that everybody saw before all the injuries started hitting him. What do you remember of that and did you think that was kind of a take-off point for him? Obviously, he gets the ankle after that.
A: I don't know if it's a point to reflect right now. Saquon is, to me, a dynamic player when he has the ball in in his hands. He makes moves a lot of guys in the league can't make. He's very elusive, he's a tough tackle. He does acrobatic things with the ball, so I just think that was a glimpse of it when it was clicking for him and our team. I think that's still there for sure. I see it in practice. We had fun today competing, so I see it and I think it's there.
Q: (Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator) Pat Graham was saying today joking that he hates holidays during the season because it's a work day. What's it like having a guy run the defense who just doesn't know how to turn it off?
A: Pat is very extreme in that sense. A little Grinch when it comes to those things (laughs), but it's the truth. That's Pat. He works and works and works and that's what he's known for, and it's worked out well for him. I know his wife, Pam, he's got a beautiful family and they have more of a family dynamic and he's a great father than he may let on. I want to see what Pam has to say about that, so maybe we've got to get his wife questioned on that. Pat gives it all for our organization and he's a great family man, too.
Q: You're a union rep. Has this past couple of weeks been crazier with the uptick in COVID and the league talking about canceling games and things like that?
A: Yeah, absolutely. It's been chaos. Last game we had to play a game with (Wide Receiver) Alex Bachman at DB, so everybody's going through it. I know the Eagles are with their head coach. It's crazy times as a father, as a person in society and as a football player. You don't know day in and day out. There's fear, there's stress. We're kind of just playing a game through what we're dealing with. As a union rep, there's a lot that I have to continue to learn and conversate about. There's a call tonight to get an idea of these new protocols and what's best for the players and health and safety, honestly. The protocols are ever-changing, they change them every two days. I've got to constantly keep up to date on those and figure out what's best for our players and represent our vote the right way when I have a chance to vote, but it is times that are very confusing for everybody.
Q: Were you concerned when the league started talking about canceling games? I guess you guys don't get paid if they cancel a game.
A: By rule it's what they say, but it's also you worry about not testing that everyone is just going to have it and not know about it. It's almost like you're choosing between health and safety or getting paid, and those are tough, tough choices for anyone to make. Do I want to sacrifice my health to get paid or do I want to go get paid and sacrifice my health? It may be the health of others, it may be the health of family members and older people and my grandparents and those, so it's a serious conversation. It's not just like if we don't play, we don't get paid. Why is that? Maybe we can vote to change that. So, there's a lot to talk about there. That's a whole other press conference, but I'm just trying to do my due diligence and keeping up to date on the facts so I can be more educated before speaking.
Q: (Head Coach) Joe (Judge) has talked about how he loves the way you guys work. Your account – every one's been kind of bought in. What is it about this group or this program that you think everyone has kind of stayed in engaged in and bought into what's going on?
A: I think he identified players with good character and players that like football regardless of the result. If you like your craft, you're going to go out there and try to work at it. There's only one way to play the game. There's only one way, it's to give it your all and give it your best. It's just hard to really make business decisions and check out. I just don't think that's good for your own health. You're putting other people at risk. You're wasting a lot of peoples' time. There's a lot of people behind the scenes that do a lot of work for us to get us prepared to play and we honor a lot of people when we go out there to play. I think Joe understands, coming from the coaches he's worked under and what he's learned and his philosophies, that there is only one expectation when it comes to preparation. If not, I just don't think you'll be fit for the team. So, I just think he fit the team with guys like that to prepare their best and practice their best regardless of the record or circumstance.
Q: I know you guys don't like to think of spoilers and to be the spoiler, but you're facing a team that last year around this time knocked you guys out of the playoffs. Do you take any of that into this game with a chance to sort of dampen their chances?
A: We're going to try to beat the Eagles. I think the Giants and Eagles is enough there to get everyone riled up to play. It's a great rivalry, it's a rivalry I grew up watching and there's animosity there. There's a lot to play for because it's a football game and honestly there's just passion, there's energy, they have a passionate fan base, we do as well, so there's a lot to represent over this game and that's enough there. Last year, whether they were competing or not, I know we're going to go out there and compete and try to win the game. I'm sure they will, too. Obviously, it's an important game for them, but it's an important game for us, too.
Q: Looking at the standings and the playoff picture, the Giants technically aren't eliminated. Is that even something that's been talked about in the building with the players?
A: Nobody's talking about elimination, everyone's been talking about one game at a time the last couple of weeks. It's just how you've got to approach it. There's one way to play this game and I don't want to compare it to other sports or whatnot, but this is something where truly you don't know your last snap, you don't know your last play. Look at a guy like (Wide Receiver Sterling) Shepard, who has busted his butt all year and came back, had a great training camp, a great offseason, been great when he was playing and don't get out of your stance the last time of the year. You can't take any snap for granted. I know when I was at home with COVID, I was dying to be out there with my guys. I hated missing the game, I just don't like it. I'll be looking forward to giving my best effort this game and helping our team win.
Linebacker Jaylon Smith
Q: Where were you working out and living when you got the call from the Giants? Like, how did you stay ready?
A: In Fort Wayne, Indiana, my hometown. I was just working and training at Traction Athletic Performance with some guys there, (Performance and Skill Trainer) Daronte Powers, (Director of System Integration Eclipse Skill & Performance Trainer) Lawrence Barnett. Just doing a great job at keeping me in shape, keeping me fine-tuned for when the opportunity presented itself.
Q: Why was this opportunity the right one for you? I mean, did having a chance to play those guys have anything to do with it?
A: It was a blessing, it was a blessing. I got the call from my agent saying that the Giants were calling and asking about me. I was actually working out when they called me, and my phone was dead, so I didn't get a chance to answer right away, but I hopped in the sauna afterwards and got the news. So, I headed out and I'm here. It feels great.
Q: What was the last few days leading into that? What was that like, that whirlwind moment? You were there for 10 minutes, and then all of a sudden, you're on the field playing your former team.
A: I'm a pro. I'm a pro's pro, a guy that's always going to be prepared and ready for the opportunity, so that's really what it was. I've been playing this game since I was seven years old, so getting in here learning the system. The coaches are doing a great job at giving me the basics and allowing me to go out and just play my game.
Q: How do you think you did?
A: I did well. There's so much more to improve, and that's the focus this week, getting the playbook all the way down and getting ready to get after the Eagles this weekend.
Q: How much were they trying to simplify things for you? I mean, you were there for two days. Was it just like, 'Okay, we're going to make it so that the plays that you're in, you're doing certain specific things, rather than reads and all kinds of stuff that might take time'?
A: With this being my sixth year in the league, I've been in a few systems now, so you kind of understand as time goes on that teams are running the same stuff. It's just different terminology, different formats, different ways to execute, and it's all about consistency. For me, it's just taking it day-by-day and learning.
Q: You've been an accomplished player for a period of time now, obviously. You're still young, and I'm just curious what it was like sitting and obviously being let go by two teams this year? Has that been humbling? What's the vibe been for you during the year?
A: It's a humbling experience. It's my first year really dealing with the politics and business side of the National Football League, but I'm a guy that I've been through so much, nothing can stop me. I'm a guy that's going to continue to work, continue to learn. Just a humble servant. But a guy that's young and got a lot of ball left playing at a high level. It was a blessing to be able to show that versus the team that drafted me last weekend. Now, it's just about moving forward.
Q: How much would you like that to be taking place here as you go forward?
A: Man, day-by-day. This team has welcomed me. These guys that I was drafted in the same class with, we've linked up and met before. (Defensive Lineman) Leonard Williams' agent is my cousin. Just understanding the whole dynamic of what New York offers. My brother spent some time here, so I'm getting some great feedback on just the building, the locker room, the training staff and me just taking it all in, but I'm focused.
Q: You looked so jacked up after the first play, I thought you were going to get a taunting penalty. Were you just happy to be out there?
A: A blessing to be out there playing the game I love. Being able to make a dynamic play on my first play out there, or second play out there, it's just a great opportunity getting a chance to hit somebody. It just happened to be my former teammate and that was a good thing. I got up a little rowdy. All respect though. All respect.
Q: Does it help you that you obviously knew last week's opponent very well, this is a team that's been in your division for a while, so you know them well. Does that help kind of acclimate you to things quickly?
A: Absolutely. Absolutely. Playing five years in the NFC East, you get a chance to learn the system, to learn how teams operate, just some of the basic plays and formations that they'll run 10 years after I'm done playing. It's just how it works in the league, but specifically in the NFC East. We all know each other. Big week coming up.
Q: Why were you let go in Dallas and Green Bay? What were the circumstances in each of those scenarios, at least what you were told or what was in your mind?
A: Just business and political. For me, it's just about keeping my head up high.
Q: What do you mean by business and political? I don't really understand that. Was it a money thing?
A: I can't really speak too much on it, but I'm blessed to be here. That's my main focus is being here with the New York Giants and finding a way to dominate. Getting in here and learning this playbook, getting great camaraderie with the guys, with the coaches and doing whatever I'm asked.
Q: How much do you have to prove? There's obviously people who doubted you and the teams that got rid of you, do you have a desire to show them that, 'hey, they made a big mistake here'?
A: It's less of proving people wrong, it's more so proving myself right and proving people that do believe in me right. I know what I can do. It's just about going out and continuing to display that. It's something I've done my entire career. It's just a blessing to be able to play the game I love again.
Q: Two quick ones – did you turn down opportunities over the last couple of months, like prior to getting a call with the Giants? Did you have other opportunities that you said, 'not right now'?
A: I focus completely on my training and my agent did a great job at bringing the right opportunities to us.
Q: What was it like wearing the same number (Former Giants Running Back) Rod (Smith) wore here?
A: Yeah, it's a blessing. It's a blessing being able to my brother's jersey. Like I said, he spent some time here in New York wearing 45. It's all in the family. He's training and he's ready, staying patient. For me, it's just about going out here and competing at a high level and adding value to the team.
Q: What conversations have you had with him about here?
A: Just really how well-rounded people are. There's a lot of Notre Dame love here, so he kind of warned me about that. That's a blessing having some familiar faces in the locker room with (Co-Director of Player Personnel) Tim (McDonnell) and (College Scouting Coordinator) Chad Klunder spent some time at Notre Dame as well. Like I said, it's just a blessing. All these guys in the locker room, I respect, and they respect me. We've played against each other for a long time. For me to be wearing this blue is a great feeling in the Big Apple.
View photos from practice as the Giants prepare for their NFC East matchup against the Eagles.