Coach Tom Coughlin**
Coach Coughlin: Good morning. Looking forward to getting outside on this beautiful day and working in preparation for a good Tampa Bay football team. They are 3-4, as you know, they're 2-1 in their last three games. But for a one-point decision at Washington, they would have won their last three. They're 11th overall on offense, the fourth-ranked rushing team in the league. Jameis Winston, the young quarterback, has done an outstanding job of directing his team. A very strong arm, a strong runner when he pulls the ball down. Doug Martin, the fourth-leading rusher in the league. Donovan Smith, the rookie left tackle. Charles Sims, the backup running back who does an outstanding job in the passing game. And Logan Mankins, who really does run the show up front for that offensive line. Defensively, it's a Lovie Smith defense, for sure. They run very well, they're very quick, they're penetrators, the linebacker level is very fast, they do an outstanding job of pressuring the quarterback even with four defenders. They are 15th in the league overall, their 13 takeaways makes them sixth in the league and their nine fumble recoveries makes them first in the league in that category. Their special teams are outstanding. They're fourth in the league in punt return, second in the league in kickoff return, fifth in the league allowing only 4.7 yards per punt return, opponent punt return. Their outstanding punt returner and kickoff returner is Bobby Rainey. They have speed and quickness in their special teams unit. I think a couple of things indicative about this team—four games ago against Carolina, they suffered a defeat, didn't give up a lot of yards, but were minus-four in the turnover margin. Four weeks later against Atlanta in overtime, they were plus-four and they were able to win the game. So they've been resilient. They gave up a 24-0 lead to lose to Washington. They were up 20 points against Atlanta. Atlanta came back, tied the game, they went into overtime and, of course, they won the game in overtime. It's a good team, it's an improving team, and we've got to prepare ourselves to go to Tampa this upcoming Sunday.
Q: What is it about Jameis Winston that you've seen with his progression?
A: One of the things I just mentioned, the minus-four was directly attributed to him against Carolina. He's taking good care of the ball right now. Because of the strength of their running game, their play action is very good and he has the opportunity to isolate one-on-one with (Mike) Evans or whoever on the outside. He throws the go ball, the deep ball, the post ball, all the deep over routes, the nakeds, the nudes, all of those types of routes he does very well. And if you signify by opening the middle of the field up for him, then he'll run. He's gotten a grasp of what they would like to do. He does have a strong arm, so if they're just spotting up in their routes against zone coverages, he delivers the ball in a rapid-fire fashion to the open receiver.
Q: You left the door open on Jason Pierre-Paul this week. What's the plan for him today?
A: Practice, he's going to practice. He'll practice today, he'll practice tomorrow. He'll get a good amount of reps and we'll take it from there.
Q: He'll be with the defense?
A: He'll be with our defense, he'll also get some scout team reps.
Q: Where's Will Beatty in his progression here?
A: He's going to work this week and then the decision is forthcoming.
Q: He's going to work with the offense or the scout team?
A: He'll work a little bit with both.
Q: The decision is forthcoming after this week's game you mean?
A: I think it is right after this game, yeah.
Q: Does any of JPP's acceleration in workload have anything to do with the problems you've been having on defense?
A: No. It has to do with him and whether he's ready or not. If he's ready, we'll play him. If he's not ready, then we'll take more time.
Q: This clearance that he's getting, is this a little surprising to you that he's been here a week and all of a sudden he's on the field? A lot of times players take a little time to get acclimated.
A: Check (Greg) Hardy. I think it was the same thing with that, wasn't it? They had a bye week and he came back. I don't care about anybody else, it's the individual. He's in outstanding physical condition, we knew that. We tried that right away. We had him in pads on Saturday morning, we had him in pads on Monday, so we're feeling good about accelerating him along. There's nothing unusual about it when a guy who is in his position is in the condition that he's in and prepares himself to play—that's what he's done.
Q: Is it about his condition or is the issue his hand—how much his hand can handle at this point?
A: I think it's probably both. All that's been told to me and all the preparation has gone on to make sure he has a glove that helps him in that regard.
Q: How much reinforcement can you get from Prince Amukamara, Jon Beason or J.T. Thomas? Any of those guys close to coming back?
A: Prince is going to work, but he's going to work individual and then have a couple of snaps as a scout team corner just to get his footwork going again. But Jon's not going to practice today.
Q: With Prince, when he does return, is this something he's going to have to deal with or is the hope that he can be 100 percent?
A: That's a good question. I'm not a doctor so—he wouldn't be cleared to play if he couldn't handle it. He may have to wear some kind of strap or something. If that's the case, I'm sure you'll ask me that again when he steps on the field.
Q: Is there any indication that Victor Cruz will practice at all this week?
A: None that I know of. You know what I'm going to do, I'm going to have somebody come in here and answer all the medical. Seriously. I'm going to have somebody do that because I'm not going to do this every time I come in front you now. Tomorrow, don't ask me this stuff. If you want it today, I'll give it to you today, but that's it.
Q: Larry Donnell?
A: He's not going to practice.
Q: What's the outlook on him?
A: Week to week, I'm sure. Day to day, week to week, I don't know.
Q: Rueben Randle?
A: He won't practice today, but we feel like he'll move along.
Q: Their ability to make big plays, how important will it be to wrap them up and limit the number of tackles Martin breaks?
A: That's huge anytime. When you study a guy like Martin, you see that he's very good at that. He takes a shot, then all of a sudden he regroups and gets you another three. That's critical anytime, so it's just as important as it was last week.
Q: Your team obviously didn't make any moves at the trading deadline, I know they're hard to make in the NFL. Is not doing something an indication that you and the organization believe that you have enough here to make a run in the playoffs?
A: I wouldn't comment on the transaction/non-transaction. I'm sure that there were phone calls made, there always are. Obviously, they didn't work out, but I don't think anybody is satisfied just sitting there. Are we trying to play as well as we can to get in the playoffs? Certainly we are, naturally we are.
Q: Do you believe that there's enough here to make that run?
A: This is our team and we're going to do the very best we can with our team. Right now we're currently in first place, so let's stay there.
Q: You have some pretty big names on the sidelines with Jon Beason, Prince, Victor Cruz, Will Beatty, Jason Pierre-Paul. Can you get where you want to go or do you need—
A: We've got to get players on the field, certainly they do. Certainly you need them on the field, that's why they're here. But at this point in time, many of them are not ready to go, so we do the best we can with what we have.
Q: Do you have any timetable on Cruz at all yet?
Q: If you're without Donnell, what's your comfort level with Will Tye?
A: He's done a nice job. He's played well when he's gotten the opportunity. Obviously, he got a lot of plays last week in New Orleans, so we feel like he's got to be the guy. You know what? He's come along and he improves every week, that's what we're counting on.
Q: What's your confidence level in the defense bouncing back?
A: I think they will bounce back, I think they will. I think what exactly that means, obviously each opponent is a different opponent. I think that the frame of mind will be the right way. I think we'll bounce back.
Q: Do you make significant changes on that side?
A: No, not significant that you're going to see.
DE Jason Pierre-Paul**
Q: What was it like to be out there again today with the guys and what kind of progress are you making?
A: It feels great being out there. I was out there last week, but it felt even better this week, actually getting into a rotation, knowing the plays and executing my plays.
Q: Do you want to play on Sunday?
Q: What do you mean it depends?
A: I am going to play on Sunday.
Q: You are?
A: Yeah. Maybe.
Q: You've got to convince the coach?
A: Yeah, I got to convince him. It's up to the medical staff, they're taking me slowly. As of right now, I'm continuing to do the reps out there and getting the play calling.
Q: You've always seemed like the type of guy who was excited about playing football. Now with everything that has happened, how much more do you feel like you want to get out there and not take things for granted?
A: Just like you said, you can't take things for granted, they can be taken away from you just like that. But I'm very excited going out there because I got a second chance to do what I love, you know? It could have been taken away, but God spared me. Each moment that I'm out there, I'm giving it my all.
Q: We see pictures of your baby.
A: Yeah, cute baby.
Q: Is that why you do what you do?
A: I've got a family to take care of and my son depends on me. I'm out here struggling for him and grinding.
Q: Is there anything you can't do that you could do before?
A: It's going to be a big adjustment. This is something that I've got to get over, which I did get over the bad part, but playing football, there's going to be things I've got to adjust to, just like my everyday living. But there's nothing that I can't do.
Q: On the football field, the football things that you have to do to succeed—what of those things have come back quickly to you?
A: During the time that I was not here, at Florida, I've been doing anything that I had to do that I was going to be out here doing. It's not as big of a challenge as things that I've just got to do, like make sure I shoot my hands without having to worry or whatever. I've been doing that all day today and it felt great. It felt great being out there with my teammates, they're happy I'm out there and I'm just trying to produce for them.
Q: How tough was it for you sitting on the couch back down in Flordia, the team is struggling defensively, you need to be out there to help them but you had your own issues that you're dealing with. Talk about that struggle that you had.
A: It was hard just watching the team lose a couple of games and winning without you, but at the same time I knew what I had to do to get back on the field. But it was frustrating, but I'm here now.
Q: A lot of people look at the pass rush, only nine sacks so far, and they think you coming back could be the thing that fixes everything.
A: Maybe, who knows? You've just got to wait and see. At the end of the day, I'm here to help my team win. I can't say I'm going to go out there and get sacks, I don't know. All I know is I can try my hardest and promise I'll fight for it.
Q: You definitely think you're going to play Sunday?
A: I don't know, it's up to the medical staff.
Q: Do you want to play?
A: Yeah, I want to play, yeah. But it's up to the medical staff; like I said, they're taking my slowly.
Q: Part of when a guy comes off injury, no matter what the injury is, they say they want to make sure he's safe on the field, they don't want him to be in harm's way. Do you feel like at this point you're safe enough to play a game?
A: I think I'm okay. You never know until you're out there, that's why there's practices. I've been doing good in practice. Coming off any injury, you've just got to go out there and have that confidence. I feel confident in myself shooting my hand and doing what I do best—playing the run and getting back there pass rushing. So that's what's going to be bring me back.
Q: Are there going to be changes in your stance or where you line up?
A: Of course, there's going to be changes in my stance, I'm right handed. It's something you've got to adjust to and I think I'm doing a pretty good job at it. Had a great coach out there coaching me how to put my left hand and rush off that, so it is what it is.
Q: So much of what you have to do is grabbing or grasping, is that going to be difficult? Has it been difficult?
A: Just adjustments, that's it. Basically just adjustments. I think I'm doing a great job at it because I've been able to grab and shed tackles. It's just a big adjustment but I'm okay, I'm doing pretty good. Skillset hasn't lost it, I haven't lost it. I'm out there doing what I can. Hopefully I'll be out there Sunday.
Q: Are you going to have to come from the left side now exclusively?
A: I play both sides. I play both sides, nothing has changed.
Q: What about this whole thing about you being a savior for this defense, is that fair? Is that a lot of extra pressure on you?
A: Put it all on me, huh? Like I said, I'm going to do whatever I can to help this team win. I'm starting off slow, I'm a little bit rusty—that's going to happen, no training camp, no nothing. But when I'm out there, I'm giving it my all. I have no, "I could work on this tomorrow," that's not my mindset no more. It's do it now or do it never.
Q: How hard would it to be to play on the right side with your left hand on the ground now?
A: I still play on the right side, it's not hard at all.
Q: It doesn't affect what you can do at all?
A: No, nope.
Q: Do you have that confidence that you can be that monster, that beast?
A: I know for a fact that I'm still the same JPP--getting to the ball, screen pass, running and chasing down, getting to the quarterback, playing the run. It's just that confidence I've got to get back, "Hey, my hand is okay." You've just got to do what you've got to do.
Q: When you talk to some players about returning to the team, it's about the comradery. What has it been like being around the guys, not just on the field but in the locker room?
A: All the guys supported me throughout my whole process. The fans supported me. There was a lot of say-so but the guys kept me doing what I had to do. Since I came back, they've supported me. I've just gone out there and given it my all.
Q: Have you thought at all about how emotional it would be for you to walk out of that tunnel?
A: I already know it's going to be crazy. They've been waiting on me, I'm here, I've arrived. They say I can't, but I did. It's on me.
Q: Is it special for you at all if it would be in Tampa?
A: I have some roots there, USF. I'm pretty sure people will be out there, too, but my main thing is here, walking out of that tunnel. And my son will be there, so I'll be playing for him.
Q: Have you had to work with Joe Skiba with any special equipment for your hand?
A: Not really, just a glove, that's it. Those guys will take care of that, they just need to put me on the football field and do what I've got to do, do what's best for the team.
Q: Is that the glove you'll wear on the field or a weight lifting glove?
A: That's just a glove. It's a glove.
Q: Looks like it's got some padding on the middle finger.
A: No, just a regular glove.
Q: It's not a regular glove.
A: Well, it's not a regular glove.
Q: Was there a point where you thought, "I may not be able to get back."
A: Nope, never. Even when it happened, nope. Never thought that I won't be back playing football. That time off, thinking about my family, that was it. When the doctors said I can play football, "Okay, let's go."
Q: You've embraced challenges throughout your career, so a new challenge. The idea that an opposing offense will try and come at you and challenge you, how much do you welcome that?
A: Let 'em come. Like I said, I'm going to do what I do best and I know how to play football. They can come at me—play the run, play the ball, I'll be okay.
Q: Could you see them doing that, maybe running directly at you?
A: I'm out there, they're running at me now, it's nothing changed. If I couldn't do it, I wouldn't be here right now.
QB Eli Manning**
Q: How do you maintain the offensive rhythm that you had last week?
A: I think it's just comes with practice. We have to have a great week of practice and make sure we're getting a lot of reps on the plays that we're running, the new plays, the new things, everybody has a great feel and understanding of how we're going to block things up, what our checks might be, and so we're playing fast. We're playing fast on Sunday and the plays come in, they know exactly where they're getting lined up, how they're going to run it, what to look for or expect, and how we're going to react to the different coverages that we might see.
Q: When the offense comes off a game like you just had, is the feeling kind of like nobody can stop us?
A: It's like that on game day, but we just have to know each Sunday is different. It's a different day, it's a different game, it's a different team, and so we have to make sure that we're sharp in our preparation this week, that our practices are really good, we're playing fast, have a good game plan, good understanding of the defense and their scheme and their technique, and go out there and make the plays on Sunday.
Q: What particular problem does their defense pose to you?
A: They do a great job causing turnovers, I think. Stripping the ball, getting fumbles, getting pressure on the quarterback, they have a good pass rush, good defensive line, and mix up their coverages and disguises. They have a good scheme.
Q: You're 4-4 after 8 games, is that disappointing?
A: I think we just have to worry about how we finish the season right now. We're not in a bad spot, you like to always win more games than what you have, but we've got an opportunity if we can finish the way we want to and expect to, we'll be in good shape.
Q: Are you glad to see JPP [Jason Pierre-Paul] back?
A: Yeah, this is awesome. It makes my life easier.
Q: When you look out at tight end, I mean this Sunday, obviously Larry [Donnell] doesn't look like he's going to go. You have a kid Will Tye, who didn't even make your last cut. Do you sit there and go, "Wow?"
A: Yeah, that's just the way it goes sometimes. Will has played well for us. He's gotten into games, he's made some plays, made some nice catches, so he'll have a good plan, and good idea of what we're trying to do. He can do some good things and we'll adjust. We'll have some different personnel, different guys in different spots, and we'll go run our offense.
Q: He's got the whole package now, doesn't he?
A: He knows what's going on, he's been here the whole time, and has some athletic ability to make some nice catches in the game last week.
Q: Pretty impressive numbers for the entire offense last week. Is this the way you envisioned the offense clicking when you put it together?
A: You never know, I mean I think just being able to score points. I think we've had some other sharp games that we've been playing, some other games that we've played a high level, we just have to be able to match that every week. Each week is going to be different. There are going to be different things that happen that are preventing you from doing well or giving you the opportunities to do well, so we just have to keep playing smart, protect the football, and take advantage of our opportunities when we do have the plays there to be made.
Q: Odell said he wasn't surprised by the output. He said it was something that could happen every week. Do you guys feel like this can be sustained?
A: That's obviously the goal, but it's all in the amount of how we prepare each and every week, how we practice, guys understanding the game plan, and then what we do on Sunday. Hopefully we'll be put in an opportunity to make plays, it's a matter of all the guys stepping up, doing their job, winning individual battles, and playing well on Sunday, and playing smart.
Q: Looks like you'll need a lot from Will Tye this week if Larry Donnell is not playing. What have you seen from him?
A: I think Will has played well. He's played well for us these past few weeks, getting more comfortable with the offense and moving around and different things. I think he's got some ability, catches the ball well, he's made some nice plays for us so far in the past month or so, and so I think he's ready for it. I think he should be able and play well.
Q: You may have been asked this, but do you call Jameis Winston or anything when he gets selected as the number one overall pick? Reach out to him in the offseason?
A: I don't think I reached out to him, but I've met him before. He's been at the Manning passing academy before and I met him there.
Q: Do you kind of sympathize with a guy like that a little bit? I know you've been there in that situation where you're suddenly the face of a franchise.
A: I kind of keep up with all the quarterbacks in the league and how guys are playing and what they're going through. With young guys, there are going to be good days and bad days, and he's just going through learning, and learning from each experience.
Q: You guys are in first place and you've done it mostly without some of your best players even being on the field. A lot of them have been limited, like Jon [Beason], Robert [Ayers], Prince [Amukamara]. Is there a sense when these guys come back, if you get them all back or the majority of them back, you'll be in really good shape to make a run?
A: Hopefully, yeah. You get guys back and playing our best football the second half of the season. We're right in the middle of the season, we should be playing well, and doing things correctly, and reaching our peak. Hopefully we can keep moving the ball, get some guys back healthy, get some guys back in the mix, and be playing our best football and win some games.
Q: This is the time of the year when some teams lose their best players and you seem to be on the verge of getting some of them back.
A: That should be good. That should help us out.
Q: I know you focus on the next game, but you know what comes next and then the bye. After what happened in New Orleans, does it create even more urgency to take care of business now?
A: I think every game is the same urgency. Every game is important, it's not one team is less important than the next, so this is a huge game for us. We're fighting to stay ahead in the division, and this is the next game, and this is one we have to win.
Q: You say fighting to say ahead in the division, Tom [Coughlin] said the other day he reminded the team that you're in first place. Does it feel like it? You've been on teams that have been well in first place and teams that have been well behind. What does it feel like?
A: I don't think at the halfway point you get too concerned with it. It's so much football left and you worry about just getting better, looking at your own games, your own practices, how can we improve, how can we game plan for this team, and find a way to get the next game and that's at this time.
Q: So first place is not the…
A: It's not the mindset. You don't play different if you're first or second. We're in the mix and we know we have to win games.
Q: Does it mean a lot to see JPP over there, holding court, talking to the reporters, and also being somewhat productive so far on the practice field?
A: Yeah, I like when JPP is here because he takes all the reporters away and I can hopefully slide under the radar. It's good to have him back in practice and seeing him out there and challenging our offensive linemen. He's getting great work against them.
Q: Just looking at the numbers of their defense, 12 forced fumbles, 9 fumble recoveries leads the league. Are they exceptionally good at knocking the ball free and stripping it?
A: Yeah, they're good. They do a good job of getting the quarterback on some sack fumbles but they also do it with receivers, running backs, stripping the ball, and whether it's the DB's, linebackers, everybody is doing it. I think they obviously coach that up and it's paid off. They do a good job of getting turnovers, so we have to make sure we're sharp and protect the football.
Q: What is it like having JPP back energy-wise for this football team?
A: It's just good to see him back. I know everything he's been through and one of our key players. We're all wishing him well after everything that happened to him and the injury. It's good to see him back playing football and with us.
Q: When he's at his best, if he can get back to being JPP, how does he help this football team, especially defensively?
A: Hopefully, he can get some sacks, get some pressure on the quarterback, and cause some turnovers just having his presence and get him back playing good football.
Q: How anxious are you guys as far as getting back on the field? You put up 49 points, you guys are only the second team in NFL history to do that and still lose.
A: Yeah, that's not really a record we're proud of in that aspect. We have to worry about getting a great understanding of Tampa, what their scheme is, who their players are, and how we're going to go out and attack them, and how we're going to get first downs, and move the ball.