Head Coach Joe Judge
Q: (Tackle) Nate Solder seemed to leave practice yesterday with his right arm hanging for a second. Anything on that?
A: Nothing much. We're going to see where he is today, see how he feels. No kind of bumps and bruises from what we can tell, but he's gotta get looked at by the doctors and see where he's at. I think Nate's obviously having a pretty good camp for us. I'm pleased with the progress he's making right there, so we want to make sure we keep him on the field as long as we can, but obviously won't do anything that puts a player at risk. Obviously, today going into the stadium, third day in a row, we're evaluating a lot of guys based on loads earlier this week and from last week, so we'll see periodically with individuals how we manage them tonight.
Q: As you get set for the practice tonight and the preseason opener coming up on Saturday, what are the qualities you like best about this team so far?
A: I like their work ethic. I like the way these guys show up every day and they work, and you see constant improvement. This is a team that's got a lot of mental toughness, this is a team that as we've challenged them to go ahead and improve, as we've challenged them on different things, they've responded. I like the way they compete in practice. It's not perfect, we're far from a finished product, we have a long way to go as a team, but I love their spirit and how they come to work every day, and what they're doing to improve.
Q: Obviously, this is a practice, but it is in a different venue. You've never coached a game at MetLife Stadium when there were fans in there, so this is different. Have you thought about that at all, that when you walk on that field it could be 20, 30, 40, 50,000 people maybe?
A: Well, I've thought definitely in terms of the excitement we're going to have to go out there and see fans. It's a practice, the formula of a practice will be like what you guys have seen already on the practice fields at Quest; however, it is going to be different. It's our first opportunity – this and the Newark trip we did a couple weeks ago – as far as being in front of fans, but the first time under the lights with fans. Look, there's going to be a lot of natural excitement from the coaches and players tonight, there's going to be a lot of raised intensity. One thing we're going to be very conscious of as coaches throughout this practice is making sure we watch our guys, making sure we control the tempo and the volume of practice. We understand there's going to be a raised level of excitement for these guys, we've got to make sure we keep them in the moment and in the flow of things, but, look, the experience tonight of being in front of fans, we're all looking forward to it. It's also going to be a practice for us. One of you asked a question the other day about communication in front of fans. It's going to be a great opportunity for our offense and defense to really work that for the first time with actual crowd noise and not just simulated noise at practice. So, that's something that's going to really help us right there. Look, it's a practice, but there will be a different feel to it tonight.
Q: Really quick, how important is homefield advantage? The Giants have not had that in recent years.
A: Look, you want to win every game you play and obviously you want to defend your home turf. I'd say in terms of homefield advantage, the advantage always goes to the team that plays and executes better on that Sunday. So, while it can be an aid for you with obviously the energy and excitement provided by your fans, you've got to show up as players and coaches, do your best job and make sure you outperform the opponent.
Q: Hey Joe, your two rookie edge rushers. How serious are the injuries with (Linebacker) Elerson Smith, the hamstring that I guess he hurt during the conditioning run, and (Linebacker) Azeez Ojulari with his leg?
A: Really quick, can you be more specific about the conditioning run?
Q: I think there was an interview yesterday and (Senior Vice President and General Manager) Dave (Gettleman) had said that he had hurt his hamstring during a conditioning run or a conditioning lap at the start of camp.
A: It was absolutely not a lap or a conditioning test of that nature. That's not what happened at all. In terms of their recovery, both guys are coming along nicely. We're looking forward to getting Elerson out there as soon as we can. He's made a lot of progress over the last week and a half with the trainers and medical staff. That should be good right there. In terms of Azeez, he's been out at practice. He's been working. There's different loads we have different guys on different days. One thing about guys of all different ages, you've got to make sure that throughout practice you monitor what they do, you know? We rely a lot on our medical team, our sports science and information and what they're doing. We talk about our players every day, want to make sure we monitor what their bodies have been through. Put them in a position to go out there the next day and go through the practice that we prescribed for them in a safe manner. Everything we do is very planned out and in terms of both those young guys, they're working hard and doing everything we ask, so we want to make sure we get them back on the field.
Q: About (Tight End) Rysen John. He's just getting back to practice, but he looked really comfortable with you guys in the spring. Is there still time for him to make an impact for you guys and to be a factor in the competition at tight end?
A: Listen, every player is still competing. That doesn't stop and it's not just how you start camp, it's consistent with what you do day in and day out. Obviously, he dealt with a different deal, he wasn't allowed to be here because of the situation on the COVID list, 10 days in a hotel. No one comes back in camp condition, so it's going to take him a couple days to get back out there and get his legs under him. One thing he did show yesterday as far as getting out there for the first time with the team was he was further along than maybe we anticipated as coaches. And the training staff is optimistic and confident with what they saw. The previous few days were really ramping him up and getting him ready to go on the field, so we've got to manage his loads obviously as we go through this. All that being said, every player on the team has an opportunity to compete every day, so nothing's final.
Q: Back to that homefield advantage question and how it's specific to the Giants. I'm sure that's something that you noticed when you were interviewing for this job and saw. What does it take to overcome what's been a pretty lackluster home record for this franchise since that stadium was built?
A: Look, it just takes executing better than the other team. In terms of anything that's happened in the past, that's not relevant to this year, it's not relevant to any game we're going to play this year. I would say that obviously when I became involved with this job, you start thinking about the history of this organization and the area of the fan base. There's a reason this is such a paramount organization in the National Football League and that really starts with the fans. I mean, the game is about the players, it's about the fans, that's really what the connection is. The passion of New York, having the experience to be in MSG during a Knicks playoff game and feeling the energy of those fans really pouring into the game, that's something that's unique. You don't go into every stadium and feel that energy and passion. There's a natural demeanor in this area of the country, specifically in North Jersey and New York of – look, it is a mentally tough area. That's the way it is, that's the way it's supposed to be and that's the way we've got to train our team to be, and I like that atmosphere. I like coming to the stadium and people expect to see excellence, and that's what they deserve for the money they spend. That's the product we have to work to give to them.
Q: The flip side of that is there's no blind loyalty, right? There are some teams that every Sunday they fill the stadium and everybody's rooting for them, and everyone goes home happy win or lose. Here, you get booed off the field at halftime quite a bit.
A: Look, you get what you earn and we have to earn their respect.
Q: The fans haven't seen this team since the end of the 2019 season. What would you tell them they should expect from this group?
A: You're going to see a group of guys go out there and lay it on the field every time they take the field together. We're going to work hard for 60 minutes. Talk about it all the time, I want the team smart, tough, fundamentally sound. We're going to play for 60 minutes. That's what you can expect to see from our team. If you step on the field for us, that's what you can expect to see.
Q: About the offensive line. You revamped that coaching staff, obviously brought in (Offensive Line Coach) Rob Sale, brought back (Offensive Consultant) Pat (Flaherty), moved Freddie to more supervising the offensive line. Just curious, how do you feel like that's gone with those new guys there and how receptive have the offensive linemen been to this new structure you've got over there?
A: Yeah, I think it's gone very well actually. I think all four guys do a great job. I wouldn't say Freddie's job is to supervise the offensive line. Freddie has a load of responsibilities, encompasses a lot of things. I'm not going individually into each one of those right there, but he does a tremendous job for us overall with the structure of the offense. In terms of Rob and Ben working together with the offensive linemen, that's been great, and Pat brings a lot of experience to the plate. We do have two young line coaches who are very knowledgeable and very capable of running a room and making adjustments, but it never hurts to have a guy who just has a lot of skin on the wall, has seen a lot of things and can share his experiences with two young guys and help them along, too. I know I benefit myself being a young guy in the profession from the experience of others.
Linebacker Blake Martinez
Q: You started your career at a place where they had a pretty legendary home field advantage. How can the Giants bring that kind of advantage here to New Jersey?
A: Yeah, obviously, Green Bay was an awesome franchise, but this place is just as historic and I've heard nothing but positive things about the fans. I'm just excited to get out there today and see everybody out there wearing their jerseys screaming and yelling. It's going to be special.
Q: Was there a sense at Lambeau that there was an advantage?
A: I think every single team has a kind of home field advantage to it. I think it all depends on the kind of ebbs and flows of the game. If you're out there dominating, scoring a lot of points, holding teams to very few points, the fans are going to back you and they're going to kind of make that homefield advantage that much more.
Q: If you look at the defense thus far versus last year, do you see any different characteristics, qualities, difference in speed or physicality? I just was curious what you thought of this group.
A: Obviously, last year was last year. This is a new year, new group, new guys, kind of new chemistry, and things like that. Overall, I can kind of just speak for this training camp, what I've been a part of throughout these practices and things like that. This group has a lot of potential, but it's all about us putting that work in every single day, working together, becoming a full unit, all working in unison, making all the checks, be in the right position, making plays.
Q: When you look at this team, nothing is set in stone anywhere really, but there's a lot of places and positions where you can figure out what's going on -- probably not so with linebackers and inside linebackers, other than you. Is it disconcerting or do you see it as a big competition as far as who's going to be lining up next to you snap-to-snap once the season starts?
A: No, I think it's competition every day. It's something I can't go out there and be like, 'Oh, I'm starting.' It's something you want to work at every single day to get better, you have to keep improving. (Head) Coach (Joe) Judge talks about it all the time, we don't have starters, you have to earn it. That's the thing no matter what, I go out there every day and say, 'Hey, I'm going to be the guy out there.' It's not, 'Hey, I'm already the guy.' Throughout the group, I think we all have that kind of same thought process, and put in the work every single day, and are making each other better. It's an 'iron sharpens iron' type of thing.
Q: Now, if some crazy thing happens in the world and you actually start, the guy next to you inside -- I mean, there's a bunch of guys you're sorting through, older guys and younger guys. What's your sense on that competition and how strong that position next to you can be?
A: No, I think it's extremely strong. I think we have a lot of guys across the board -- (Linebacker) Devante (Downs), (Linebacker) Reggie (Ragland), (Linebacker) Tae (Crowder), the list goes on. It's just those types of guys coming into work every single day, understanding situations, understanding their job responsibilities, their athletic skill set, all those types of things. It's going to make for an awesome training camp. Like I said, iron sharpens iron and I think each and every one of us, whoever ends up out there for week one, is going to be ready to go.
Q: Coach said the other day that when (Running Back) Saquon (Barkley) started to practice in some of the drills, he sort of assigned you to Saquon to sort of shadow him. It's really a kind of a two-part question. What's involved in that for you? And, did you kind of take that as a sign of respect that he would give you that responsibility?
A: No, for sure. I think last year every single time we did things, it was always me and Saquon. Every single time he came up for a certain competition drill, and things like that, I made sure I was right there. It kind of goes back to saying it again, the iron sharpens iron type of thing. Also, with Saquon coming back with his injury, and things like that, I think the coach trusts me. He knows that we're going to get the work in needed, but no kind of funny business, or something out of control, is going to happen during those drills.
Safety Jabrill Peppers
Q: There's been outside criticism of (Head Coach) Joe Judge and Joe Judge's program, and the discipline he instills, obviously, specific to making you guys run laps, cursing you out. As one of the guys who's a team leader, I was just curious about what you think about what's said about your coach and you guys' program?
A: I mean, the guys here, we love him. We like coaches who coach us hard, going to tell us how it is, and not sugarcoat anything. He's going to push you places that you can't take yourself. I just think if you don't like to be coached hard, then you're not going to like it here.
Q: I have two questions. First of all, you're not going to get in trouble again tonight for taking pictures with your family, are you, like you did in Newark?
A: I don't know. I'm still trying to figure out the rules and regulations myself.
Q: The second part was you guys have a lot of first round picks on this team, some from the Giants, others, like yourself, from other teams. Is there any sort of brotherhood, or a connection, between fellow first round picks? I know it was all different drafts and all different ages.
A: We don't really care about where guys get picked. If you can play, you can play. But, as far as the connection, definitely knowing those guys, even some of these guys I knew since high school, it's always a connection there when you share similarities with someone.
Q: You've practiced against (Wide Receiver) Kadarius Toney every day since he's been back out there, and he's obviously on special teams with you. What are you seeing from him and what are your first impressions so far?
A: He's a quick, fast, twitchy guy. He has great ball skills, loves to compete, loves to play football. Just like all of us, we have to use this training camp to keep honing on our skills and our skillset and keep getting better day by day.
Q: Being from this area, do you think this game has some extra meaning, even if it's a preseason game, just to have the little bit of bragging rights?
A: Every game has meaning. But I think we play those guys every four years in the regular season, so I would like to think it'll be for bragging rights since we both use the stadium, both New York and New Jersey teams. I definitely would say there's some bragging rights.
Q: How about your progress thus far through camp? Where are you and how do you feel?
A: I feel good. At this point in camp, everyone is hurting, everyone is tired. But you have a job to do, and you have to keep getting better and better every day, no matter how you are feeling. So, that's my mindset – be better today than I was yesterday and be better tomorrow than I was today. Hopefully, if I continue to do that, and don't take any steps back, I should be at a good spot.
Q: Being a young veteran, is there something about training camp at some point where it's like the dog days where you start looking ahead a little bit? You haven't even played a preseason game yet, I'm not sure how much you will play in those games, but where you start thinking, 'let's get to it here'?
A: Man, you know I think Coach (Judge) has done a great job with us letting us compete and pull it back when he needs to pull back, but still making it feel like a training camp. Whether we're competing against someone else or competing against ourselves, the mantra is still the same – fundamentals, technique and no mental errors. Of course, it's nice to play against other people in practice, but I think the guys here understand what the main goal is and what we're trying to build.
Q: I'm not sure if we're going to talk to you again until we get to Cleveland. I'm just curious from your perspective, I know you played them last year but just the idea of going back to Cleveland and having joint practices, are there going to be any flashbacks for you or any special meaning?
A: You know, not really. It will just be nice to bang and compete against someone other than your own teammates. I think we have those guys and New England, so I'm going into them both the same way, gotta work on my technique, my fundamentals against other good players who are not your teammates. That'll add to the competition aspect of it, but that's about it.
Q: It appears the defense is getting the better of the offense in this camp. Are you and your fellow defensive backs the types of guys to remind the offense, (Quarterback Daniel) Jones and the receivers about that during the course of a practice?
A: Of course, there's always going to be some jawing back and forth. We get the better of them, they get the better of us, that's what training camp is about. That's what football is about, but it's just about how they respond. If we got the better of them yesterday, then how they're gonna come out the next day. If they got the better of us today, how we're gonna come out the next day. I think that is the biggest point of it. It's not about who's getting the best of who theoretically. Offenses take a little bit more time to gel and mesh a little bit. They have a lot more guys over there who didn't play here last year, so it's just all about great competition, practicing the right way, keep getting better.
Q: You are a local guy and I'm sure you grew up knowing about the aura of the old Giants Stadium. The Giants haven't had really much of a home field advantage in the new place. How do you rectify that? How do you change that?
A: Obviously, we've got to come out and play our brand of football, but that starts here in training camp, not looking too far ahead. We get to practice in front of the fans today, give them a preview of the product we hope they can be proud of on Sundays or whenever we play. But that's where our mind is right now. We take care of what we've gotta take care of in training camp and everything else will be fine.
Wide Receiver Darius Slayton
Q: Hey Darius, if I think back to last season the first game on Monday night when you caught the touchdown pass, there were a lot of people in the organization saying that was really the first time that they felt the stadium being empty, the silence. So with that said, tonight, even though it's a practice, are you anxious or eager to kind of hear that roar if you catch a pass even if it's in individuals or even team?
A: Yeah, for sure. I think we're all kind of looking forward to getting back out there and having the fans back. Just the energy they bring, the presence they bring is definitely something I'm looking forward to.
Q: From your experience when you and (Quarterback) Daniel (Jones) were building your chemistry and connection as teammates and as quarterback and receiver, what things do you think helped the most in finding a connection? Like he knows where you're going to be, he can anticipate you and you can anticipate him. What were the best ways to establish that and when do you think that kind of clicked for you guys?
A: I think some of it is just kind of natural. Everybody thinks differently. I think in some regards of the game we just naturally kind of think of certain situations similarly and to go along with that, just communication. Obviously, we practice a whole lot, so for as many times in the game as it looks perfect, there's plenty of times in practice where it doesn't. It's just a matter of getting on the same page, seeing what he likes and just wanting to get on the same page.
Q: Darius, are you better than you were last year and the year before? And if so, how are you better? What attributes do you have that you think you've taken to another level?
A: I definitely feel like I got better in this offseason. I feel like one of my big focuses this offseason was my footwork, being clean in and out of breaks. I definitely think my breaks have improved and just all around playing the game, playing fast. I like to say playing fast, but not in a hurry, so you know playing a million miles an hour, but at the same time it's like your mind is moving in slow motion. You let the game come to you, take what they give you. I feel like that's another area that I've just grown in.
Q: Darius, talk about going against a guy like (Cornerback) Adoree' Jackson every day in practice and do you feel that the DBs are getting a little better of the play of the wide receivers early in this camp?
A: I mean, Adoree's been a great addition to our team. It's a blast to go against him every day. He's a fast guy, quick guy. A good change-up from somebody like Brad (Cornerback James Bradberry), who kind of has a different style. So it's good to be able to see those two different styles and corners, but both are high-quality players.
Q: (Head) Coach (Joe Judge) always talks about how every year it's a new team. That being said, the offense, what's carrying over from the offense and what do you feel the offense still needs to do to build up moving forward? Specifically, to the passing game, what was missing last year that you think is going to be there this year?
A: I think probably the biggest thing with the offense is just the fact that all of us are coming back and having a second year with the same system and not trying to come in and learn everything, as well as plays. So I think just having familiarity with the guys that were here last year and kind of having a leg up coming into camp, going into the season will just help in itself a lot because obviously things in football happen fast. You've got to communicate fast, so the less thinking you're doing, the better off you are.
Q: Hey Darius, quick question that's probably been asked a couple of times already. Since (Wide Receiver) Kenny (Golladay) signed and (Wide Receiver) Kadarius (Toney) was drafted, do you kind of feel like you're flying under the radar with this team in the wide receiver corps?
A: I don't really know if I would say flying under the radar per se. I just know obviously, we went and got Kenny because he's a good player. Went and drafted Kadarius because he's a good player. I think you can never have too many good players on one team. I'm happy they're here and looking to playing alongside them this season.
Q: Are you thinking, 'I'm still a starter, I'm just as good as anybody?'
A: I mean, it really wouldn't matter who you're talking about in the NFL. I feel like I'm a really good football player regardless of who you're discussing. So I just think that's a natural thing that everybody should feel about themselves, but ultimately it doesn't really affect too much wins and losses on game day.
View photos of the Giants' first unofficial depth chart of the 2021 season.