General Manager Joe Schoen and Head Coach Brian Daboll
JOE SCHOEN: Good morning, everyone. I hope everyone had a great summer.
Just to get started, I know the hot topics the last couple of weeks. I know obviously (running back) Saquon (Barkley), we engaged in negotiations over a nine-and-a-half-month period. At the end of the day, we couldn't come to an agreement on a longer-term deal, but we circled back on Monday and fortunately were able to come to an agreement with altering the franchise tag a little bit to get him to camp. We're ecstatic, fired up that Saquon's going to be here for the start of camp. So, excited about that.
I'm sure you guys just saw the Andrew Thomas news. So, 24-and-a-half-year-old left tackle that we now have locked up for seven years. So, ecstatic about that as well. With that, I'll open it up for questions.
Q: How tough is it for you in this role to separate the player from the business side? Is that something you ever get used to?
JOE SCHOEN: There's a personal side, of course. You get to know these guys throughout a season. They go to work every day. They work hard for you. That is part of it. There's a human element to it, but at the end of the day, you try to do what's best for both parties. In this situation, we weren't able to come to an agreement and that's okay. I've been in this for 23 years and sometimes deals get done, and sometimes they don't.
Q: Why do you think the deal wasn't able to get done?
JOE SCHOEN: Why wasn't it able to get done? Again, we talked for over nine and a half months, and we came to a landing spot, and they came to a landing spot, and we couldn't bridge the gap. Like I said, that's okay. Saquon has to do what's best for him and his family and I respect the hell out of Saquon. I'm never going to tell somebody to do something that they don't think is right. So, again, I respect Saquon, I admire him, I'm glad he's here. Again, we weren't able to get something done long term, but he's here and, again, I'm fired up that he's going to be on the field today.
Q: There's not a lot of history of guys who play on the tag and then sign extensions with that same team. How do you view his (Barkley's) future here and would you tag him again next year?
JOE SCHOEN: We're day one of training camp. I appreciate the question, but we've been busy the last week or so and we're going to take it day by day from here on out. We've got a team to build, comradery, continuity in all three phases, so, we're just going to take it day by day from here on out.
Q: To circle back with Saquon a couple days ago, you guys initiated the contact? Did you think it was something that was doable or were you throwing a Hail Mary?
JOE SCHOEN: You don't spend nine-and-a-half-months on this if you don't want to get something done. So, as soon as the deadline passed, I called his representative and said, "Okay, that's all in the past, there is nothing we can do about it; what we can focus on is how to get Saquon here on Tuesday." That was our main focus for the rest of the time. I commend (agent) Ed Berry and CAA (Creative Artists Agency). Again, a lot of communication back-and-forth and phone calls and spit balling different ideas. Just really excited and glad that we were able to get Saquon here yesterday.
Q: How important was it for you to not forfeit a franchise tag and still have the ability to tag him next year?
JOE SCHOEN: Without getting into specifics, we had a lot of different ideas on the table. At the end of the day, the provisions we had in the place, both parties agreed on. It was something we were both happy about.
Q: When you're negotiating high-profile deals like this, how do you balance keeping things quiet and manage the message that's getting down to the locker room? Obviously, things are going to get leaked out here and there. So, how do you balance that?
JOE SCHOEN: Not a lot of negotiations go on for, I mean, this is almost 10 months. So, you've got a Combine in between there, you've got league meetings... Eventually, all these conversations back-and-forth, some of it gets out and more people find things. So, again, trying to manage the locker room, I was told a long time ago when I started from a player that they don't get into other people's business when it has to do with money. I think everyone loves running back Saquon (Barkley). We appreciate him. We love him as a player, as a teammate, and I think everybody's ecstatic that he's here.
Q: How concerned were you with the possibility of him missing a large portion of training camp? Because we were getting up that point, so how concerned were you that that was something that could have happened?
JOE SCHOEN: Again, you're trying to do a negotiation. They never came out and said that to us. So, I was focused on trying to get a deal done. Once we weren't able to get a longer-term deal done, it was, 'How can we get him here?' and we did.
Q: Were you disappointed that you weren't able to agree to a long-term deal with his team after the 10-month negotiation?
JOE SCHOEN: I'm just glad he's here. There's nothing we can do about that. My focus was getting him here on day one and he's here on day one. We're fired up about it and can't wait to get on the field.
Q: Overall, what does this mean to the franchise in your mind to have this done now and to go on with training camp?
JOE SCHOEN: It means a lot. He's a very good player, he's a good teammate. He's somebody we tried hard and long to get a deal done with. We're a better football team with Saquon here to start training camp.
Q: The reality is he did not get what he wanted. So, you still have to manage and coach him. How do you make sure that feels confident that the Giants still believe he is the future?
JOE SCHOEN: If you know Saquon, you're not worried about his confidence. I'm not worried about Saquon's confidence. He's comfortable here. He's ready to go, did the conditioning test the other day. He's a pro, he's in shape and I wouldn't expect anything different out of Saquon.
Q: There's the aspect of worth and appreciation, right? From the side of the Giants, you have to manage the market and the points that go along with the position. On the players' side, we know that he is appreciated, but then there's that sense of worth and value and all that other stuff. So, I'm just, Brian, how are you managing the interpersonal aspect of the conversations? Obviously, everyone knows what he can do, but it's so personal. So, just making sure that he still feels that and there is no residue from that still leaking out in other places, especially if you encounter adversity in the season?
BRIAN DABOLL: Saquon and I have a really good relationship. We have communicated a lot and he's here, ready to go and excited to be here. And I'm excited that he's here.
Q: You mentioned there being no lingering feelings. Was that portrayed to you from Saquon and how much conversations have you had with him after the hard negotiations with him personally?
JOE SCHOEN: Listen, he's here, he's ready to go. Again, he's a great teammate, he's a good football player. He was in great shape when he came here. You guys know the person he is. He's good. He made a decision—
Q: Have you had a personal conversation with him?
JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, absolutely.
Q: How much of a relief is it that you can now focus on football?
BRIAN DABOLL: I've been in the league a long time. I'm excited that all of our guys are here. It's our first day of training camp. We've got a long way to go. We're just going to take it day-by-day and try to get better, whether it's Saquon, (defensive lineman) Dexter (Lawrence II), (quarterback) Daniel (Jones), (defensive lineman) Leo(nard Williams), (cornerback) Adoree' (Jackson). Whoever it may be on our roster. We have a bunch of good guys in the locker room. I'm thankful I get to work with them.
Q: You don't pay the players, but you're responsible for playing them. The running back market has really tanked. What is your sense of Saquon, the running back market and your value of a running back to your team and your offense?
BRIAN DABOLL: I'm thankful that he's here. He's ready to go. It's the first day of training camp, that's where my focus is, going out there and having a good practice at 10 o'clock.
Q: Are you a believer in running backs?
BRIAN DABOLL: I'm a believer in all players.
Q: Would you consider this a successful off-season? Locking up Daniel as well as Dexter, in addition to Saquon and now (offensive tackle) Andrew (Thomas)?
JOE SCHOEN: I would echo what Dabs (head coach Brian Daboll) said. We had a plan in the offseason. It's a long offseason, kind of culminating today with getting Andrew done, which was really important for us. Again, we've just got to take it day-by-day. Every year it's different. Each team is different. We've got to develop our chemistry, continuity. All of that stuff is what training camp is for. That's what this summer is going to be in training camp. Again, every team is different. So, that's what we'll work to do over the next 30-some days before our first game.
Q: What makes you confident that the team is better than the team was when you walked off the field in January in Philadelphia?
JOE SCHOEN: We haven't practiced yet. We haven't been in pads. We've got to go out and the guys have got to work and they've got to earn everything. We have created competition at a lot of positions and that will take shape over the next month. We haven't even had a practice yet, so it's hard to give any kind of predictions like that yet.
Q: You had two more years of control over Andrew Thomas, so why did it now make sense to make that move?
JOE SCHOEN: Again, there is a history of that. We did it in Buffalo a couple of times. I'm a believer in it. He played at a high level and he's our type of guy. To get ahead of those things, I think if he's willing to do a deal, and it was something we were comfortable with, both parties were happy with where we ended up landing.
Q: A year ago, you guys sat in here and talked about that you didn't know what to expect; it was day one. Have the expectations changed from a year ago? If so, how?
JOE SCHOEN: I actually thought about that this morning. That's a good question. Last year, these guys hadn't been in pads, hadn't been through adversity, hadn't had a deficit in the fourth quarter… We hadn't been through a lot of that. So, we understand the grit and make-up of some of the current players that have been here, and then we've got a lot of new players that we've still got to figure out who they are in difficult times, and adversity, and even when we have success. So, again, I think all of that is going to take shape over the next month-and-a-half.
Q: Coach, how important is core continuity for you when guys get signed and your core guys are still able to remain on this football team?
BRIAN DABOLL: Yeah, anytime you can retain good players, as a coach, you're thankful for that. Again, just to go back to Art's question, every year is a new year. I've said this at the start of OTAs. This is really the first day of the true football season and training camp. We have a long way to go. A lot of things we have to build. We have some new players that, again, until you get into crunch time, you don't know exactly what you have. So, our job is to make sure we coach them to the best of our ability, bring them together, and then let them go out there and compete.
Q: Joe, back in June, it seemed like from Saquon's end – at least it looked like it – he felt this got personal. How did you guys get from June, where he was clearly frustrated personally, to the point where he signed, and you got back to the business part?
JOE SCHOEN: Again, that was never articulated to me. He never said that to me, that he was frustrated or whatever that was.
Q: Joe, from a macro perspective, I mean, obviously the focus is on the first day of training camp, but just kind of getting back to the running back position here… I'm just curious, from a GM's perspective or a front-office perspective, how much you think the contract with (49ers running back) Christian McCaffrey at 16 (million) APY (average per year) is also kind of skewing the emotions that've been around some of the players and the position? As far as a lot of guys sitting around at a lower number and then kind of seeing what he was able to attain, especially with his history of injuries and things like that, how is it maybe kind of skewing the broader view of compensation around the position?
JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, I respect the question. Again, we went through the negotiation with Saquon. I'm happy with the backs that we have going into camp, and I'll probably just leave it at that.
Q: Brian, what do you want to see from Daniel the next couple of weeks? Have you set a goal for him or a couple of goals? We talked in the spring about him taking the next step, pushing the ball down the field a little bit more, taking some chances. If you were going to set it for him, what do you want to see out of him coming out of camp?
BRIAN DABOLL: Yeah, his job is to make good decisions and lead the team down to score points, regardless of a new contract or anything like that. That's his job. So, he has to focus on continual improvement, just like everybody else does. That's what training camp is for, and that's what we'll try to do.
Q: Is there anybody on the PUP list that you're concerned about maybe more than others?
BRIAN DABOLL: I think they're all at different spots. They've been working hard rehabbing. When they're ready, they'll be off PUP.
Q: Is the start of the regular season in jeopardy for any of those guys, or are you talking shorter term?
BRIAN DABOLL: I'm talking day one of training camp right now.
Q: Joe, with the four contracts for Dexter, Daniel, Saquon and Andrew, I think you spent something like 378 million dollars.
JOE SCHOEN: First time for me.
Q: How do you fit it into the cap?
JOE SCHOEN: First and foremost, I'm thankful for ownership, the Mara and Tisch families, that they give us the resources to operate and again, sign and retain our players, and even through free agency, that they give us the resources to succeed. Again, you're always looking at the short term and then you're looking at a long-term plan. As we went into the offseason, some of the longer deals that we did, those were longer-term plans based on age, their ability, where they fit, and again, just thankful that we have the resources to do that.
Q: Joe, what's your message to the fanbase in terms of the commitment that you've made to your core players? What do you want them to know about this franchise going forward?
JOE SCHOEN: I would just say as long as Dabs and I are in leadership positions, we're going to do whatever we can that's best for the franchise in order to pursue championships and find ways to sustain success as often as we can.
Q: Brian, what was your message in your first team meeting with everybody or what's it going to be?
BRIAN DABOLL: Pretty basic. I'm not a big talker at the first couple days of training camp. There's a lot of anxiety for a lot of these players. I think you lay out clear standards, clear expectations of what you expect in the meeting rooms, in the building, on the practice field and everybody has to has to buy into the program, which we have a lot of good people in our building. Not just players, but support staff, people on the business side, trainers, equipment, they're all involved in that meeting. A lot of it is logistics.
Today was really go out there and compete. There's going to be a lot of mistakes that'll be made. We're going to try to put you in difficult situations; move on to the next play as quick as you can. Support your teammates. Go out there and play as hard and smart as you can. Again, today is kind of page one of the of the 2023 season. A long way to go, let's just take it day by day and get better each day.
Q: When you took over 18 months ago or whatever it was, was it your goal at the start of year two to have a core of players that you now have for the long term, whether they wound up being here already or were brought in?
JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, I think a lot of those guys earned it off of the way they played in 2022. Evaluating those guys, and they played well, getting to know them as people and how they work, they're pros in every sense of the word. So, after being around for a year, all those guys have earned what they've gotten and look forward for them being here for a long time.
Q: How much does it take off of a general manager's plate to have those key positions locked up?
JOE SCHOEN: A lot.
Q: Dabs, assuming that it was important to you that Saquon be here from the get-go, why?
BRIAN DABOLL: Because he's a very good player and a good leader for us. As a coach, you want all your players here. I'm thankful that—I think that says a lot about Saquon, too. I have a great amount of respect for him, great amount of appreciation and love for him, and glad he's in the building. I know his teammates are glad, and good day to start out.
Q: Have you addressed with him anything about coming in with a clear head given everything that's gone on over the weeks and months?
BRIAN DABOLL: Yeah, I've had a lot of conversations with Saquon. None that I'm, with all due respect, going to share. Those are private. But we're in a good spot.
Q: What's the plan with handling him on the field? Do you just give him the full workload like normal or do you maybe taper it a little bit?
BRIAN DABOLL: No, I'd think that those are some meetings you have before you leave, not just with Saquon, but your entire team, with sports science, and with the athletic trainers, and try to come up with a schedule and a plan that kind of gets these guys flowing into training camp the right way. So, we have a plan really for every player. They'll get the amount of reps that they need to get and each day we'll build off of that.
So, there's no limitations. We're going to get ready to play football.
Q: It seemed like the plan last year was to use him more as a receiver and that he would like to be used more as a receiver. Is that something that you'd like to see happen?
BRIAN DABOLL: Look, we have new pieces on offense. We'll do what we think is best for the offense, like we always do.
Q: Joe, there were reports yesterday that Saquon asked for a trade, you guys shopped him—
JOE SCHOEN: We never—no.
Q: Could you characterize what happened in March?
JOE SCHOEN: We never had a conversation about trading Saquon Barkley. Never.
Q: If a team read those reports and called you about his availability—
JOE SCHOEN: We get calls all the time. We've already gotten them this offseason, whether it's our 10th corner, "Hey, we need a corner," any of your back-end guys, or one of your top guys. We get those calls all the time. Even in June, we got some of those calls in June. So, teams call all the time just inquiring, "Hey, would you do this? Would you do that?"
No. Not one time.
Q: Dabs, coaches are said to be father figures, and many times, coaches a long time ago talked to players about drinking and drugs and things like that, then it became guns, and now it seems like it's hazing and gambling. When do you guys find the time to discuss things like that?
BRIAN DABOLL: We try to educate our players every day on a variety of topics. I think the league does a great job of bringing in representatives that are at mandatory meetings that we have discussions about. And plus, we have a great support staff within our organization of experts that even if it might not be a mandated meeting, that I might have another person in the organization stand up in front of the room and address whatever that topic is. I think you're constantly educating these young players. Again, some of them are younger than my kids. Not much older than them. So, I know the conversations that I have with my older sons and my daughter, and we have those with our players, too.
I think caring about them as people is first and foremost. Developing relationships with the people you're with every single day and understanding the things that they have to deal with on a daily basis, and that has evolved since I've been coaching back in '97. So, each year is a little bit different. I think you take each individual and talk to them about whatever you need to talk to them about, along with collectively making sure that you're helping them be the best versions of themselves. I tell the coaches and the staff all the time, we're here for one reason, and that's the players. It's a players' game, and our job is to help our players be as good as they can be both on and off the field. I think that's important to our organization. It's a standard for us. And that's something that we will always do.
Q: Joe, is there anything you wanted to clarify about any of the reporting because there's been so much going on the last 10 months? Is there anything that you want to make sure from the Giants side is out there in terms of any of these negotiations?
JOE SCHOEN: No. Saquon and his representatives and the New York Giants, we lived it. So, we're good, and like I said before, we care about what we think inside these four walls in that building over there. Saquon went through it, and we went through it, and we know where the truth lies, and both parties tried, and I'm at peace with that.
Quarterback Daniel Jones
Q. The news with (running back) Saquon (Barkley) yesterday, how much of a relief is it for you and this organization that that's not hovering over this training camp?
A: We're obviously thrilled to have him back. It was a tough situation for him, and I'm glad that we got it worked out. He's an incredible leader on this team. He's an incredible player and means so much to this group. So yeah, it's huge to get him back.
Q. What do you expect from him this season?
A: I mean, I expect him to be himself. I think he works his tail off. He prepares hard and that shows up on the field. You saw it last year in how well he played and how big he was for us throughout the whole season. We can use him in a lot of different ways. He's a dynamic player, and that's certainly what we expect.
Q. Did you miss having him around? He wasn't around all spring.
A: Yeah, certainly. Like I said, he's a leader on this team, he's an influential guy and someone who sets the standard and sets the example of what it's supposed to look like. It's awesome to have him back.
Q. You saw that line pass last week and then you get to this week and he's here for the first day of training camp. How surprising was that to you that it kind of worked out?
A: I don't know if it was surprising or not surprising, but I'm just happy it worked out. I'm certainly glad to get that news for the first day, and like I said, it's great to have him.
Q. (Offensive tackle) Andrew (Thomas) was just here and said he feels like he has to live up to his contract, that he wants to prove that he's worthy of being the highest-paid left tackle. Do you feel like you have to live up to your contract now, or nothing changes?
A: I think there are always expectations, and there's always responsibility playing any position, and certainly playing quarterback, to put the team in a position to win games. That's always been the way I've approached it. I've always put pressure on myself to perform and I have high expectations of myself. I expect others to have that also.
Q. What do you think of the organization committing to a bunch of guys and having a core now going forward that's here for a long time?
A: Yeah, we've got a number of players who have now been here for a few years and understand what it means to be a New York Giant, and then what it means to play for Coach (Brian) Daboll and his system and what he wants kind of the culture and the feel in the locker room to be. We've got a great group of leaders, great group of young guys who know what that is, and who embody that and really take to that every day.
Q. There was so much uncertainty heading into last year's camp about who was going to stick around and who wasn't. Are you surprised at how quickly that core has been sort of stabilized?
A: I don't know if I'm surprised. I think, like I said, we've got a lot of really good dudes, a lot of really good players who have performed and done the right things on and off the field. It's fun to be in a locker room like that. It's fun to be with a group of guys working together, guys who do all the right things. I don't know if I'm surprised, but we're looking forward to getting to work and kind of staying right here in training camp right now.
Q. How happy are you that Andrew Thomas has signed and he's going to be your left tackle for many years?
A: Yeah, I'm extremely happy for him and happy for myself also. He's a tremendous player. He's a tremendous player. He goes about it the right way. He works his tail off. He's prepared, super smart, knows exactly what to do and then brings other guys along with him. So, he's a huge part of this offense, huge part of this team and yeah, I'm extremely excited for him.
Q. Knowing what you know about the offense, what has you most excited about what's to come?
A: I think just continuing to evolve and grow and learning what we're good at and what this group can do. I think that's the strength of Dabs (head coach Brian Daboll), and (offensive coordinator Mike) Kafka and the whole offensive staff, kind of how they put the pieces together and accentuate the strengths of our guys. So, we'll continue to work that through camp and every day will be different and we'll look forward to taking a step every day.
Q. I know it's only the first day of training camp, but you were doing the scramble drill and you had Saquon on the sideline there and he tightropes the sideline. Is there an excitement even on the first day of training camp when you connect on something like that?
A: Yeah, I think so. Yeah, it was a great play he made there on the sideline. He has the ability to do those things and make plays in the pass game – obviously, as a runner, but also in the pass game. He makes a difference when he's out there. He makes a difference with his play, and then how it feels and his leadership, his communication, and bringing guys along. Great to have him out there.
Q: Why has the running back position been devalued in your view around the league?
A: I don't know. I think that's probably a question for the experts on ESPN.
Q: Has this offense developed an identity do you feel yet, or is it still a work in progress?
A: I think it's very much a work in progress. I think we're on the first day of training camp, and we've got a lot of work to do throughout training camp and before we get there, but we're going to take it day by day and kind of focus on what's immediately in front of us and try to improve as much as we can.
Q: It was a long, tough negotiation for Saquon. It's been portrayed a lot of different ways; he said he didn't like the way he was being portrayed as greedy. What have you noticed from his demeanor when he's been here?
A: I think he's been himself. He's excited to be here. He's come to work. He's the same leader, the same presence in the locker room, and I think that speaks to him as a guy, his character, his professionalism, and just who he is and how important the team is to him. He understands his role on it, and how impactful he can be on other guys.
Q: Have you noticed a difference in your confidence coming into year two and having more of a grasp of this system, even though it's just day one, but all throughout spring?
A: Yeah, I mean, I think it's nice not to be learning completely new at this point. We're picking up from things we started with in the spring, and we'll continue to build off of it, but we're always learning and growing and kind of evolving the offense in whatever way is going to make us better.
Left Tackle Andrew Thomas
Q. What made you decide to do the contract now instead of waiting?
A: When the staff came to me about getting something done, my team and I, we were eager to get something done, just for security. It's a blessing to be in this position, and it's also motivation to keep working, and to live up to that number and compete to be the best tackle in the league.
Q. Was there a thought about waiting to see what other tackles got paid in their contract years next year?
A: There were different negotiations, but at the end of the day, we decided to do what was best for me and my family (and) we decided to go with this deal.
Q. What was important to you in this deal?
A: I would say security was the biggest thing, guarantees, things like that. Especially with my history of ankle injuries and things of that nature. Playing offensive line, (there's) people falling on you every game, you want to be secure. You don't hope for injuries, but we know that's a thing that happens in this league.
Q. What does it mean to have the largest guarantee in the offensive line industry?
A: Like I said, it's a blessing. (It's) something that I worked hard for and something that I'm going to continue to work hard for to live up to that. It's a blessing for my family (and) my kids that I don't even have yet, but I'm excited for it and excited to be here for a while.
Q. Can you tell me about your journey, what you endured and how it helped you get to this point?
A: I think all of that helped me build my character. It's what I've been through, (the) different staffs, ups and downs as a player and honestly, it's the same mentality. Obviously, I'm paid now, I'm secure now, but I'm still working the same approach (as) when I wasn't performing well, and people didn't think I deserved to be here, so that's the same approach that I have now.
Q. Do you know what your first purchase is going to be?
A: Not yet we're going to figure that out though.
Q. You share an agency with Saquon Barkley, how closely did you pay attention to the Giants negotiations with him?
A: Honestly, not too closely. We have different agents, so my negotiations were separate. I was just more focused on what was going on with me.
Q. When did you start getting the idea that the deal was going to get done?
A: It happened a little bit after the season. We started talking about it a little bit and then things started to heat up after OTA's.
Q. The Giants have given a lot of big contracts to players this offseason and they couldn't get one done with Saquon Barkley. Do you feel for him?
A: Honestly, that's something I can't really control. My job is to just play left tackle and do my best to open holes and let him make plays. I'm glad he's back and hopefully he helps us out this year.
Q. Evan Neal is going through a lot of things that you went through your rookie year. How do you help him bridge that gap to get to where you are now?
A: Definitely. I was in that same spot, being drafted high in New York. Playing offensive tackle is not an easy thing to do as a rookie but I'm always in his ear (and) anything I can do to help him. We bounce ideas off each other, talk about different techniques (and) talking about rushes and I think he's going to be a good player for us.
Q. The years that you have on your contract is a large chunk of somebody's career. What about this organization made you want to be here for the long term?
A: We have a good core group of guys, especially the younger guys. I love the staff. This is the most – I said it last year in a few interviews (that) this is the most fun that I've had playing football in a long time so I'm excited to be a part of this organization and hopefully we can do some special things.
Q. As far as Saquon Barkley, do you think the running back position is undervalued?
A: I think that's something that I don't really have a lot of say over but I do think he's a great player. Obviously, he's explosive and like I said, I don't control that. I hope the best for him in his situation but all I can do is focus on being the best teammate that I can for him.
Q. How good is it to see that mostly everybody is locked up here for a long period of time?
A: I think it's good. Like I said, (we have a) good young group of guys. A lot of the guys are leaders (and) our team captains and I think that's good for the movement of where we're trying to go."
Q. We got the news on our way here. How did your teammates find out about your deal?
A: Some of the guys saw when I came (in) this morning with the fresh suit on, they kind of got the deal already. Especially some of my teammates, O lineman – Korey (Cunningham) and Tyre (Phillips) and that's the thing about our team, especially the O line group. It's a family. Some of those guys we're (happier) than I was. That's just the brotherhood we have and that's why I love playing for this team.
Q. You guys made the playoffs last year but how do you push forward and look to improve this year?
A: First, it's a clean slate. Obviously, we made some progress last year but that's over with. I think from an offensive line standpoint, protecting DJ (Daniel Jones) is the number one thing right now, being secure and opening holes for Saquon (Barkley) and whoever else is running the football. As a team, I think the division is a big thing that we focus on this year. We didn't do well in that last year, so winning some more of those games.
Q. How much pressure do you feel and what is your approach?
A: Like I said, it's the same approach honestly from when I was rookie and I wasn't playing well and people saying that I shouldn't have been here and stuff like that, it's the same approach. Like an 'I want to prove myself right' almost kind of deal, so I'm just going to continue to work and not let the outside things effect how I prepare, and hopefully that turns out a good result.
Q. Do you sense that from Daniel Jones as well? The same 'I want to prove myself to live up to this' kind of deal?
A: DJ is one of the hardest working guys in the building. I don't think – whatever his contract was, I don't think that would've changed him (or) how he approaches (the game) every day. I think that's what makes him a good quarterback and a chance for him to be a really great quarterback.
Q. How much did knowing that Daniel Jones is going to be here for a while make you want to be here long term as well?
A: Definitely. We've been through some tough times together and just to see him grow into the player that he is and knowing the potential that he has. I definitely want to be a part of that.
Q. Is there a different feel this year?
A: It's definitely a different feel. Security in the offense (and) coaching staff. We know the plays (and) we're not learning new installs. We understand how things are done and how (Head Coach Brian) Daboll wants us to play. Then the next step is just taking that forward and being more dominant on the field and being special.
Q. Do you sense the offense playing faster even though it's early?
A: Definitely but it's honestly a challenge because even though we've learned a lot of the install and stuff like that, (Offensive Coordinator Mike) Kafka and (Head Coach Brian) Daboll they do a great job of creating new plays, different motions (and) different things – eye candy for the defense. Just trying to get the guys the ball in space to make plays, so that's exciting for us and it keeps us on our toes.
Q. Last season was successful, but it was gap between you and the Philadelphia Eagles. How do you close that gap?
A: I think that starts up front, honestly. If you watch a lot of Philly's games last year, they dominated on both sides with their front seven. I think we close that gap being more dominate in the trenches (and) being able to protect DJ to allow him to make the throws that he needs to and on the opposite side of the ball, our defenders putting pressure on the quarterback. I think that changes the outcomes of games.
Q. What's it like having Darren Waller in the huddle now? How's his presence?
A: In OTA's, we did a lot of individual work, so we didn't see a lot but just hearing from the guys and seeing some plays in team we did, especially in the red zone, like he's going to be a problem. We're excited to have him on our team. He's a great guy in the locker room, so I'm excited (and) looking forward to it.
Q. Do you think that you're the best left tackle in football?
A: That's the mindset (that) I have but I think there's more to prove. Just going back and watching film (from) last year, there's definitely some things that I can clean up to be a more dominant player to have that title but I'm still working every day to get there.
Safety Xavier McKinney
Q: How excited were you for (Defensive Tackle) Dexter (Lawrence) when they locked him up in the offseason?
A: Super excited, I know how he works. I know what he means to our team – leadership wise, as a player and just a great dude ultimately. I was glad that they were able to get that deal done for him. He's earned it. He deserved it and I was happy for him, we were all happy for him.
Q: I know how close you were with (Seahawks Safety) Julian (Love) but now him not being in the locker room, do you feel like you need to take a step in leadership on the secondary side?
A: No, I've been a leader.
Q: What did you think about (Running Back) Saquon (Barkley) being back on the field?
A: I was happy. I was actually in the hot tub, and somebody showed me on their phone. I was like, 'that might be fake news,' but I was glad that it was able to get done. Obviously, we are all glad to have him. It was good to have him out there. Like I said, we just know what he means to our team.
Q: What does he mean?
A: A lot, leadership wise, play wise. Another great guy. He's a hell of a player. He's one of those guys where he is a generational talent and just glad to have him.
Q: Were you expecting him to not hold out?
A: I didn't really know what he was going to do. I obviously had talked to him, and I told him that I was with him. Like I said, that's pretty much over with. He's here now so we are going to move forward.
Q: You had a little exchange near the end of practice, what did you say?
A: We just get a little competitive. He said they won the day. It's just one day, it's the first day of training camp so I wouldn't get too excited (laughs).
Q: What did you say when you saw the tight rope catch?
A: It was a good catch but it's another one of those things, 7-on-7, no pressure. They've got 30 seconds to throw the ball, so I am not too worried about it.
Q: Year two of (Defensive Coordinator) Wink Martindale's defense, you have a lot of new faces on that side of the ball. What has you most excited about how this defense is starting to take shape?
A: It's great to have Wink back. A lot of the guys that were here last year are very familiar with the system. We know what he wants to do, where he wants to call things and we know how he wants it to look. It's fun being in that second year with him and just being comfortable and being able to go out there and play fast. I think we have all felt that throughout the defense and everybody is excited to build off what we have.
Q: Does this defense have an identity yet?
A: Yeah, I think we have always had an identity. We've had an identity to me since I got in the league. Pretty much it's still the core guys, really thinking on it. Like I said, we have always had an identity.
Q: What is that identity?
A: Playing hard. Being physical, being aggressive, throwing that first punch. Never letting anything break us and being resilient. Also, being closers. I think that is something that we pride ourselves on.
Q: As a young player who will be looking for another contract, when you see (Quarterback) Daniel (Jones), Dexter and just (Tackle) Andrew (Thomas) today get what they got. What does it say to you about what you need to do to be them next time?
A: I am just going to continue to be me. I think that's what has got me this far. I'm never going to change. I'm always going to be who I am, and I think my teammates appreciate that, I think the staff appreciates that. I am not going to try to do anything extra. I know who I am.
Q: I mean to be them, as far as getting another contract, having this team commit to you like they committed to them. That's the goal, I would assume, right?
A: I'm going to be me. I'm still going to give you the same answer. Like I said, I realize it's a 'we' thing. We have a sign, 'we is greater than me' so I am not too worried about my situation. I'm just worried about being able to make this team better. That's always been my focus and that's something that I have always said, and I'm committed to that. We have a greater goal and obviously that's to win championships, ultimately. That's why I go out there and try to do and help my team win.
Q: What makes (Tight End) Darren Waller special in your opinion when you are trying to cover him?
A: 6-6, 4.4, great hands, can run routes like a regular wideout, can run all the routes. Pretty much can do everything. Being as big as he is, you don't see guys that big that can move like that. So, it makes him real special. It makes him a tough cover every time. When I am on him, it puts me on high alert. I have to be because I know that every play, he can get the ball. It just makes me compete and go a lot harder, it makes me a lot better. Definitely love having him on this team because I know how he's going to help us, and I know how he's going to help me improve as a player.
Q: What stands out about (Inside Linebacker) Darrian Beavers? He missed all last year and then first day this year, he's back out there with the starters.
A: He's hungry. I think that is something that I've known since he's got in. He's very hungry to go out there and work and go out there and help us wherever he can. That's what we love about him. Obviously, he's still young, he's still learning. He hasn't got a lot of playing experience yet, but it will come. That's why he has guys like us on the defensive side helping him and just kind of getting him through the little bumps and getting him over the hump. It's been fun, he is a hell of a player, and we are just going to keep pushing him to be where we know he can be.
Q: How would you describe your 2022 season? Sum it up, it was a weird one for sure.
A: I think it's over, honestly. We are moving forward, honestly that is my opinion on 2022.
Q: How would you describe the competition opposite of you between (Safety) Bobby (McCain) and (Safety) Jason (Pinnock)?
A: It's going to be a hell of a competition. Overall, we are all competing at the end of the day. All of those guys are super competitive and super talented. All of them have got unique skillsets. It's just going to make all of us better at the end of the day and that's going to make our room better ultimately. I'm glad that we are all in the same room because I think we've got a hell of a safety room.
Q: While the slate is wiped clean, does the energy or mood coming into this training camp feel a little bit different after last year's success of making it to the postseason?
A: No, not really. We've got the same goals. Last year doesn't really mean much if we go out there and (don't perform well). It doesn't really mean nothing, we've just got to out there every day and be able to work. We know what we've got to do to be where we want to be, so we don't even think about last year because that's over with.
Q: Can you take the next step? What is the next step for this team?
A: The next step is, we have meetings at 1:30pm. So go in there and watch this film on this first day of training camp and see where we can improve for tomorrow.
Q: No big steps? You aren't talking any big steps?
A: No, we are taking it one day at a time. Little things.
View photos from the first practice of training camp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.