Head Coach Joe Judge
Q: A couple things about the inside linebacker position. First, I was wondering if you have any update on Blake Martinez, where he's at, and if you know when he's going to be able to come back? Then Carter Coughlin, I know you guys moved him inside and he's been getting a lot of reps. What have you seen out of him so far?
A: I'll start with Blake first. Blake is back with us in the building today, he's his normal self, smiling ear to ear, happy to be with the team. He's always a lot of fun to have around, he's always got a good comment, but definitely a guy who communicates a lot in the meetings, so that's been beneficial having him back already. In terms of where he'll be on the field with us, the plan right away is to get him with the trainers and continue his kind of ramp up and build him back physically. When we know he's ready to go, we'll get him back on the field. In terms of Carter, Carter is a young player who we're looking to go ahead and find as much versatility as we can from him. Last year, he gave us some contributions on the edge, worked on special teams for us, did a good job there. We talked in the offseason about working him some in the stack as an inside linebacker. That's something we've challenged him with. He still has some outside responsibilities as well based on the package and call we're in, but Carter has actually flashed pretty positively these first few days. I think a lot of the guys have done some positive things and that builds on how we can use different guys and their skill sets. Being a new position for Carter, we understand that there's going to be a learning curve at times, but one thing he does is he plays aggressive and he plays instinctual and he puts himself in position to be competitive on every practice. So, we're just looking for constant improvement from him day by day, but so far everything that (Linebackers Coach) Kevin (Sherrer) has asked him to do as an inside or outside linebacker, he's embracing.
Q: With regards to (Offensive Tackle) Andrew Thomas, when these kids come in and they're drafted so high, there's so much pressure on them and eyeballs on them. What was your impression of him on how he performed last year and if you're already seeing in this offseason a guy who's a little bit more into this system as you move into this camp?
A: Yeah, I think one thing about Andrew is he's always the same person. That's one thing, he's very, very steady. Obviously, last year as a rookie, like all rookies, there's definitely a learning curve and that learning curve includes having to manage the external expectations and noise, but I'll say for Andrew one thing he's done a really good job of is really buying into just focusing one day at a time and having a narrow focus, and understanding what the goal on hand is for that day. He's a very conscientious person, he's a really good teammate, he's a very hard worker. You definitely see some of the growth that he showed last year showing up, but then again, like all other players, it's early in training camp and there's a lot of fundamentals that we have to constantly work on with all of our players to building in that muscle memory that we've lost over this time away. He's no different from any other player in that regard, although he works extremely hard at it and every day he flashes several things and you say, 'Okay, that's why this guy was such a gifted athlete growing up.'
Q: You've got a young cornerback, the draft pick Rodarius Williams. He made a nice play yesterday and seems to be a young man that oozes with confidence. Can you talk about him? And then can you give a little update on (Linebacker) Lorenzo Carter, too?
A: So, I'll start with Zo. Zo right now is working with trainers, we'll see where he is in terms of practice coming up. Today is a walkthrough, so I'll meet with the trainers later this afternoon. We have a list of players who may or may not be involved tonight, but Zo has been with the trainers the last couple of days working extremely hard with them. He's obviously a guy coming off an injury last year that as we get him going through football this training camp, we've also got to manage him a little bit, make sure we just keep tabs on his body to make sure as we get into the season that he can stay on the field consistently for us. His health is the number one priority. In terms of Ro, Ro is a guy that's come in, he's got a lot of instincts, he's got good size and length, shows good speed. He's got good instincts for the ball and shows good hands, so he's a guy that's shown up positively in a lot of practices as far as getting his hands on the ball. I think, like all rookies, again, there's a learning curve for this guy. The big thing is understanding the scheme and the concepts right now, but he's dong a really good job with (DBs coach) Jerome (Henderson) of working on his fundamentals and going forward. This guy is making gains every day. One thing he does do that's positive is he learns not only from his own mistakes, he learns from the other guys' mistakes, too. When you're sitting in the meetings, it's important not to go ahead and repeat a mistake that someone else got corrected on.
Q: Is Lorenzo's injury due to his Achilles or is it something else?
A: I'm not going to go into any specific medical diagnosis. It's not a reaggravation of anything he's done before, though, to be honest with you. We're just going to be careful with a few things right there. With anyone coming off an injury like he was, we're just making sure that we have a plan entering training camp and how to handle him throughout it. With him and several other guys coming off injury, there are going to be periods in this training camp that you're going to see a little bit less of them at times and then you're going to see a lot of them. Right now, he's in one of those periods accompanied with something else that happened in practice.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about (Linebacker) Todd Davis who you just brought in?
A: Yeah, look, we're really looking forward to getting him on the field. He just signed with us, so we're excited about that and he'll come in and compete with the other linebackers at his position and work through his defensive responsibilities, as well as his role in the kicking game. Got to meet with him today, sit down face to face and have a good conversation, liked his energy. I've known him as a player in the league for some time but made a good first impression personality-wise and I'm excited to get him on the field.
Q: Curious what you think of the assessment that maybe the defense has gotten the better of the offense so far early in camp and how much do you maybe expect that to be the case? I know some people always say the defense is ahead early in camp.
A: I think we all have plenty to work on right now, so in terms of the who's ahead of someone one way or another, I'm watching tape every day and just looking at what corrections we have to make, what we have to improve on, what fundamentals need to be honed in and how our conditioning is as a team. In terms of who's ahead, offense or defense, that's going to go back forth at different times day-to-day. To me, it's not some kind of assessment or status of the team of who's winning, offense or defense. To me, it's about getting everybody on the same page and movement. I'd just say, look, at this point right here, the defense made some positive plays yesterday. We've got to make sure that we have a positive day today in what we're doing, and we build towards next week.
Q: Were you happy with what you saw from the offense the last couple of days? It looked like after practice yesterday they kind of huddled up as a group, before they broke down kind of into individual positions.
A: That's not uncommon on any side of the ball to go ahead and group together as a unit. We meet as a team at the end of practice, go through really, it's more logistics than anything else. It's not a state of the union. We make sure the players are on the same page schedule-wise and a couple of tips and reminders of what to do before the next meeting comes up. So there's nothing uncommon on whether it's (Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator) Pat (Graham) or (Offensive Coordinator) Jason (Garrett) or T-Mac (Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey) grabbing a unit and addressing them directly right away after something may have happened, good or bad, or just a reminder leading into what they have to work on later that afternoon. I wouldn't read too far into that. That's something that's very commonplace. The coordinators are always going to address their units collectively.
Q: You said many, many times that you don't care about a guy's pedigree, first round pick, third round pick free agent. When they come into your facility, you look at them all the same pretty much. When you look at a guy like (Wide Receiver) John Ross (III), I mean everyone knows his background and how high he was drafted. Do you see some of that in him and say, "Oh, I see why this guy was a former first round draft pick?" Do those kinds of guys get more chances because of that?
A: I'm not going to comment on any other organization in terms of what they're going to get opportunities for based on some sort of status, but I can reconfirm what you said. Look, I don't care how you got here, I really don't. I don't care if you're first round, free agent, vet, rookie, traded, whatever it is, doesn't matter to us. Once you get in here, it's the land of opportunity, the best players will play. You've got to show consistent dependability and production throughout training camp to show that we can count on you. We're going to keep the 53 players, I don't care what your history is. Now, in terms specific to John, I've seen a lot of things in terms of how he's working and producing on the field and there's been a lot of encouraging things to build on. Obviously, he has elite speed and obviously he's a very good athlete. But there's a lot of fast guys, I mean, over in Tokyo there's a lot of guys that are handing batons off to each other, you know, that can't help you on the field. I think John's definitely got a skill set that he does a good job of combining that speed and athleticism with football instincts. In terms what have happened anywhere else with any player, I'm not concerned about that. I know John's on our team now, I'm happy to have him here and he's on a fresh start with us. I look forward to working with him throughout the remainder of training camp and into the season.
Q: Wanted to ask you about (Offensive Lineman) Brett Heggie. He's one of only three undrafted guys that you signed. What do you like about the kid and he's getting a lot of opportunities with (Offensive Lineman) Jonotthan Harrison out? What has he shown you so far?
A: I like the way he works. That's in a meeting and on the field. You can tell a lot about the demeanor of young players with how they handle correction. Obviously as a rookie, there's going to be a lot of corrections. That's not on the fault of Brett or any other rookie right away, that's just the nature, they don't know it all yet and they've got to keep learning and experiencing it. One thing I like is he responds to correction the right way. He's looking to do it exactly the way the coaches want him to do it within our concept of schemes and that's something that's a challenge sometimes with different players from different places because they come and they have a way that they've been successful doing something and they have to understand that the technique may be a little different how it fits in the big picture. I like the way he works, he's a tough dude, he's got a lot of mental intensity about him, he's smart, he communicates well. That kind of helps with the center position, obviously. One thing that stands out by him so far is just his commitment to improve and his work ethic. He's that quiet guy then when he's away from the coaches, you kind of catch coming around the corner and he's holding court a little bit, but you know, he's good student in the classroom and he's a hard worker on the field.
Offensive Tackle Andrew Thomas
Q: As you sit back and assess your season last year, your rookie year, how did you feel you did in terms of managing the expectations as a high draft pick? How much do you think you've grown already just from last year?
A: I think last year I learned a lot being a rookie, playing in the NFL the first time. I had a lot of experiences that I think will help my game. As a progression through the season, I definitely think I got better as the season went along and I'm happy for the things that I learned.
Q: Did you follow any of your college colleagues in terms of how their seasons went? We were talking to (Head Coach) Joe Judge a little but earlier today and he said part of the growth process for young guys like yourself who were drafted that high is managing the outside expectations, which obviously they're so many of when you're drafted that high. How did you feel like you did with that?
A: Yeah, definitely. You have to run your own race. You can't really focus on what everyone else is doing. That takes away from your process and figuring out what you have to do to be a better player.
Q: When you heard (Tackle) Nate (Solder) was coming back this year, did you sit there and say, or did you have to go to Joe and say, 'Am I still the starting left tackle?' How did you approach that?
A: No, that was never a question. I was actually excited to have Nate back. I had talked to him a little bit in the 2020 season, but obviously he couldn't play. So, actually being able to meet him in OTAs, really good guy. He looks out for the young guys, so I think he's an asset to our offensive line.
Q: What's it been like blocking (Linebacker) Azeez (Ojulari) again? I'm sure that felt like you're back at practice at Georgia, right?
A: Yeah, it felt like Georgia again, going at it every day. I'm excited to have him here, definitely want to work and get better with him next to me.
Q: As you went into the offseason, was there anything in particular that you thought, 'I really need to get better at this?'
A: I would say, not specific to football technique, getting stronger in the weight room, that was a big thing for me in the offseason. And then on the field, it's working consistently on my sets and my hands.
Q: Where do you see the biggest gains between early last year and where you are now?
A: I would say to start off, just with my set. Just being more confident in my set, understanding my landmarks, where I have to get to, understanding who I'm going against, and understanding the different protects. Knowing where I have to be, and I put myself at a position.
Q: What's different about your set now than it was last year?
A: Just understanding the landmarks, like how many kicks I take, depending on whether he's a five-technique or a nine-technique, if it's a quick protection, the type of set I used, stuff like that.
Q: Are there any veteran left tackles, or any tackles at all not just left tackles, that you kind of looked to and maybe kind of modeled your game after as you entered the NFL, and just picking stuff up from their techniques and their strengths that might be similar to yours'?
A: I watch a few different guys. I like watching (49ers Offensive Tackle) Trent Williams. I love watching (Ravens Offensive Tackle) Ronnie Stanley. Those are two of the guys I watch a lot and definitely pick up some things from them.
Linebacker Lorenzo Carter
Q: Now that you're back out there – I know you were working with the trainers yesterday -- but generally being back out there, what does that mean to you? Last year, you had a lot of excitement going into that season and then you played pretty well the first few games before the injury. What does it mean to be back after going through all that?
A: It's fun, it's exciting just getting a chance to be out there. Last year, I missed a whole lot of experiences, a whole lot of time with the guys. All that time I spent in the training room or at home by myself with my dog, I get to spend it with my real dogs now like (Defensive Lineman Leonard Williams), get to be out there with all them, all the other guys, the linebackers. We're just building that bond right now.
Q: What was the hardest part of sitting out last year?
A: Missing that team bonding they had. It's nothing like being on the field with your guys. Working through stuff, going through the game plan, all that. It's all nothing like doing that, that's probably the thing guys miss the most when they retire and being injured, out for the season. It's like, man, it makes me really miss all of them and want to take advantage of the time I do have.
Q: Is there anybody that had an injury similar to yours that you looked to for inspiration?
A: Yeah, there were a few guys. Last year, we had guys that were going down. Thankfully, the rules were changed so that guys could come on IR and leave IR. Of course, there were the core guys, like me and (Running Back) Saquon (Barkley), that got really hurt and there were other Achilles injuries that I could look for and see how they're progressing, like (Wide Receiver) Cody Core. He tore his Achilles I think a good bit before me, so I was just happy to have him to look at and trust and see that this is the process and just go through this process now and be ready for next year.
Q: I was wondering if you drew any inspiration from Kevin Durant, who came back from an Achilles injury and didn't seem to miss much of a step at all in his performance on the basketball court. I know it's a different sport, but is that something that sort of raised your eyebrows?
A: Oh yeah, for sure. We had the same surgeon actually. But besides that, injuries are probably the worst part of the game ever. I wish they could be taken away completely, but it's just this sport. To see a guy like KD come back from an Achilles and do what he's doing right now, knowing that I have the same surgeon, I trust all the trainers, we have the same protocols, I have the best people in the world with their hands on me. I just trust the process and I know there's going to be work, but you've got to put it in.
Q: What does it mean to have (Linebacker) Azeez (Ojulari) in the building with you? I'm sure that's a guy that you know pretty well. How cool has it been having him around and being able to show him the ropes?
A: It's been great. We're going to build our team through the draft and with the guys that we've got. We're just going to keep doing what we're doing. Azeez is a great addition to the team, but we have a lot of rookies that came in, so really the key is get them all, teach them as much as we can right now until the bullets start flying for real and then they'll learn from that. But great having those young guys in here.
Q: What's the name of your surgeon? And did you ever speak to KD at all or try to reach out to him?
A: It was Dr. O'Malley. And I haven't talked to Kevin Durant, but I had a chance to go to the game, see how he moved around, just see how much of a freak athlete he was and just know that like, it's a protocol. He's done it before, Dr. O'Malley has done the thing, he knows what it takes and he trusts the results.
Q: So you went to some Nets games and saw Kevin play?
A: Oh, yeah. I was in the building.
Wide Receiver John Ross
Q: How do you view this opportunity with the Giants? Obviously, things probably didn't go the way you would have wanted at your last team. How do you view this chance? Do you view it as a fresh start? How are you approaching this?
A: I'm just taking it day by day. I'm thankful to be here. I'm just focusing on the time now. I'm not really worried about what happened in the past. Just looking forward to today, looking forward to tomorrow and the future, whatever that holds.
Q: When was the first time you remember hearing, 'man, he's fast?'
A: You mean just in my life in general? Just probably being a kid, my first practice ever. Just being out there with a group of kids and you know everybody kind of excluding me from the group. We're doing sprints and I'm just outsprinting guys. I kind of vaguely remember that as a kid.
Q: Is that one of the first times you thought to yourself, 'I am fast?'
A: Probably even before when I started playing football. Just being outside, being in the neighborhood playing with all the kids. We used to play a lot of games like freeze tag and stuff. I always felt like I would outrun kids and it was always kind of like that.
Q: Do you still feel that way on the football field at age 25 right now?
A: I mean, absolutely. I still feel good. I still feel like I haven't really lost a step or anything, so I just am worried about my work ethic and continuing to work hard. I'll stay the same as long as I keep my health right and continue to work.
Q: Where do you think you fit here? They signed (Wide Receiver) Kenny Golladay, they drafted (Wide Receiver) Kadarius Toney, they have (Wide Receiver) Sterling Shepard, but if a guy can run and produce and play special teams, he's going to make the team. Where do you see yourself fitting in?
A: I mean, I don't really try to view it as that, where I see myself fitting in. I just come here every day, and I try and work. Wherever I'm placed, I'll be ready to work and that's kind of my big focus. Not worrying about what my role is, this and that, I'll let the coaches handle that. I just come here to do what I've been doing for years, just play football.
Q: Why do you think things didn't work out for you in your first stop in the NFL?
A: Things happen, you know? I can sit here and pinpoint a bunch of things, but that's kind of old now. I don't really care to go back and worry about what happened. I kind of just want to focus on why I'm here now and the things going forward.
Q: Are you confident that those things can be fixed moving forward?
A: I mean, as long as I continue to work, absolutely.
Q: I was talking to (Wide Receiver) Dante (Pettis) the other day about you guys actually being together again. He brought me back to the beginning of free agency and he said you were kind of picking his brain about a bunch of things, but he said he hung up the phone and didn't realize you were actually considering the Giants until you actually signed. You guys have a pretty good bond, what's it like being together again here in New York?
A: Man, it's like we never left. Being back on the team together, all the jokes are still the same, goofiness and everything. It's good to be around. It's my first time being on a team with teammates from college, so this is pretty cool.
Q: Is there any part of you, I asked him this and he said, 'not really, it's too early,' but you guys are all competing for spots. The idea that it could come to you and Dante and maybe another guy to make this roster and make this team, what's that like knowing that you guys are working together and competing together and ultimately working against each other or at least competing for the same spot?
A: We both know what we're here to do. At the end of the day, it's never nothing against each other. I think me and Dante know that with our past, we're dealing with and competing against ourselves and trying to be better than what we were the last couple of years and that's all we're focused on. Not so much me and Dante but everybody in the room. I think (Head Coach Joe) Judge preaches, don't worry about other things, worry about yourself and work hard every day and you'll get treated how you work, so that's all we care about.
Q: Football and life in general is somewhat of a learning experience. What have you learned that's going to help you at this point?
A: That my life is bigger than football. I think that kind of got to me over these last couple of years. I think I put too much stress into the game and not into myself. I learned that I just need to take this day by day, take it for what it is and like I've been saying earlier, just continue to work hard every day. I'm here to do a job and that's what I should be focused on.
Q: In particular on the football field, what do you have to get better at?
A: My story is obviously out there. I think my biggest thing isn't my ability, it's my availability and me being healthy. You can tell when I'm not healthy, you can see when things aren't going right, and I think that's my biggest thing. I haven't played 16 games yet and I'm going on my fifth year. I think that says a lot and that's a big deal.
Q: (Safety) Jabrill (Peppers) said, he was taking some punts with you the other day and he said, "I looked over and he was there and then I looked over and he wasn't." Do you think that could be a good pathway for you to get on this team?
A: I mean, absolutely. I think everybody can play special teams and if that's another avenue that I have to take part of, then I will, absolutely. Anything to help this team win, I'm willing to do it. If Judge walked over to me and said, 'Come try kicking the ball' then that's how I'm going to do it. That's just my focus, every day come in and work and whatever. Whenever something comes up and the opportunity is granted, I have to face it.
Q: John, what does go through your mind when they kick the ball to you and the ball is in the air and you know that no one is going to outrun you on the field. What's going on in your mind? Where's your confidence? Where's your psyche at that point?
A: I just love having the ball in my hands. So, when the ball is kicked to me or whatever the case may be, I just think to myself, 'Go have fun, go be yourself. Go be the person that got you here.' That's all I can think of. Go in and just be you.
Q: And then it becomes a game of tag like when you were a kid right?
A: Absolutely, running away from people trying to get to my destination.
View the best photos from Friday's training camp practice at Quest Diagnostics Training Center.