Opening Statement: All right, so first day of mandatory mini camp. I told the players this and really it’s the case, it’s really OTA 11 in my mind because anytime they come on the field with their helmets on, it’s about the ball, it’s about the ground and it’s about getting yourself better. They handled today just like they have the other OTAs, so good work, was very competitive. You saw at the end there – everyday we do a situation and today was the two-point play and the defense did a good job with those two-point plays today. So I’ll take your questions.
Q: You guys have a long break after this. What do you want to get done in the next few days?
A: We want to continue to grow and, again, this is a continuation of the offseason program, the OTA segment and then we add the mini camp to it. The only thing different in my mind is that it’s mandatory. But we’ve had, like I said, over 90 percent attendance throughout, so it doesn’t feel any different than any practice to me.
Q: How are Odell and Landon Collins doing?
A: They did well and they both were out here today.
Q: Last week, you said that Odell was pretty close to being fully cleared. Is he cleared?
A: He was out there today. He was cleared to train and he did a good job.
Q: If he was cleared, how come he didn’t do team drills?
A: Well, everyone is at different phases of their training and he was like a couple other guys that didn’t do some teams drills, but he’s cleared.
Q: Does his contract situation have anything to do with that?
A: I’m not worried about it and neither is he. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I look at a player that loves football, he’s out there right now doing his thing and he wants to be here and as the coach and the player, that’s what we talk about.
Q: Is he doing everything you cleared him to do and that you’re asking him to do?
A: Yeah, he did a good job today. He was cleared to be out there and he practiced and he did a good job.
Q: When you say cleared.
A: Cleared to practice. Lets not worry about it. He is cleared to practice and that’s what he was doing.
Q: But there are different levels.
A: He is out there practicing. If you all want to count the reps, then go ahead, but he was out there practicing.
Q: What is he cleared to do?
A: He is cleared to practice. I don’t necessarily think it helps anybody to play the word game here.
Q: Do you anticipate him doing team drills at all this week?
A: We will see.
Q: Was the attendance perfect?
A: Yes, today it was. It was excellent.
Q: Are you seeing both sides of the ball playing and practicing faster?
A: Yeah, to your point, I think what is important is it’s about the ball, so you don’t want the ball on the ground. It is about making sure that you go through the fundamentals of your position, and I can tell that each time we go out there, both sides of the ball are playing faster.
Q: How did Eli look?
A: Eli looked good today. Which one? (Laughs)
Q: Eli Manning.
A: I’ve finally got my Eli’s straight. Yeah, Eli looked very good today, he looked sharp and again, this is just a continuation of what we’ve seen to this point.
Q: What is it about Eli that maybe surprised you when you got here?
A: I don’t know. I was expecting to see a guy that was a two-time Super Bowl winner and so I guess – I’m always surprised at how smart he is and at how things, I don’t want to say come easy to him because he studies, but he has a great feel for the game and that great feel for the game is backed up by a heck of a lot of work, and so when you have that combination, a guy that can really see the game and then a guy that really works at it, then I think the sky is the limit.
Q: Do you think you build something during this type of mini camp in terms of chemistry and in terms of attitude and all of that kind of stuff?
A: Absolutely. This is the ultimate team game, so when we’re all here as a team competing and getting better, it is what you’re looking for. When I have team meetings, I talk about team things. When we’re out here as a team, we work on team things. That’s why situational football is so important, that’s why we ended with a two-point play today. You saw we practiced in the red zone, we practiced third down, so we try to build that team-situational awareness of how the game is played and we practice it. So events like this are really important.
Q: We haven’t talked to you since the news came out about Dave Gettleman. What changes for you and what are your expectations on how that is going to work?
A: Dave is going through his treatment and I talk to Dave daily and he’s just going through his treatment and I’m out here coaching the team.
Q: Does this mini camp give you an idea how much the team has learned?
A: We’ve come a long way. There are hours and hours of work in the weight room, in the meeting room and on the practice field, and when you watch a practice, I think it’s important that they are playing fast with no anxiety, and when a mistake occurs, which happens in practice – now Jacksonville didn’t see that mistake, so as long as we don’t repeat it, that’s what practice is for. So that’s what you go through. They’ve got to come out here and do it and those mistakes that were made and I noticed a handful and then there are some other things that you didn’t quite notice and you will see on tape, you get them corrected and you move on. So that’s why you have to practice a team game.
Q: How much does it help you in putting in your system having someone like Eli Manning who is so experienced?
A: Well, any system when you have a quarterback with that background and that skillset, it makes it much easier.
Q: I know you said you’re not worried about Odell’s contract situation.
A: You guys seem to be (laughs).
Q: Do you think Odell has done a good enough job balancing that and his commitment to the team this spring? Are you satisfied with that or do you want to see more?
A: What I’m concerned about is my relationship with him and him learning as much as he can through this offseason, so that when we get going he is ready to go. Then my job as the coach, and our job as coaches, is to get him trained up and put him on the field. That’s what we worry about. This isn’t the first time in the NFL we’ve talked about a player and a contract. We just keep moving, keep developing our relationship within what is going on, and then we move forward and that’s where it’s at.
Q: Has it been good so far?
A: Yeah, it’s been great.
Q: You talked about Ereck Flowers from when you previously studied him. You talked about toughness. Do you see the same player that you studied when you see him on the field now?
A: Yeah, I see him improving and I see a guy that enjoys training and he has fit in well with the new players on the offensive line and he obviously has a relationship with the guys from a year ago. I know he’s a tough guy and he’s out there doing what we ask him to do and he’s improving, so beyond that, I can’t say.
Q: How does the new offense look?
A: I think it is going really well. I feel comfortable with it, I visualize it. The receivers are cutting fast and know what they are doing. The offensive line is doing a good job. Obviously, we have a couple of new pieces and people in there, especially on the offensive line group. I think they are adjusting and communicating well. Obviously, every day is important. Get a little comfortable and confident everyday with the offense and the calls and the adjustments we can make. We are doing some good things but we still have a lot of work to do.
Q: How did Odell look to you today?
A: Obviously, he ran maybe three or four routes, but he looks good coming out of his breaks. From what I have seen, he looks sharp and ready to go.
Q: What do you feel in terms of this team, the chemistry and the overall attitude?
A: I think the attitude is good. There is definitely some excitement amongst the players, which is good. Guys are competing with guys in practice everyday. Everyone has something to prove. I think guys are studying hard and going out there and competing. There are obviously mistakes every day, but guys are learning from it and not repeating them. I think it has been a good start. We have to keep it going and find ways to improve every day.
Q: Snacks said last year was a humbling experience. When you look back at last year, do you sit there and think it could’ve been better?
A: We lost some tough games early on and hit the injury bug. It was tough after that. Last year was tough. This game can definitely humble you. Nothing is guaranteed. The year before doesn’t mean anything from the next year. It can go from good to bad and bad to good very quickly. It is just a matter of the team buying in, everyone playing, everyone doing their job and finding ways to win football games. That is the difference between a good year and a bad year a lot of times.
Q: How is this offensive line coming along?
A: It seems like a great group. They get along well. They eat lunch a lot together and are big character guys. It is important to them. It seems that they can have fun and enjoy being around each other. Just the work that goes into it. They take great pride in their craft and in communicating. That’s a good thing, I like that. Now it is just a matter of everyone coming together and being on the same page as I am making calls and making sure that we are all seeing things the same way so they can move fast and do our assignments.
Q: Do you sense that confidence was not there last year on the line?
A: No, I wouldn’t say that. I like this group and feel like they can be a special group.
Q: How much better do you feel this year with the offense you have built and is this the best offense you have had that you can remember?
A: Every year could be a special year. It is just a matter of how guys can play on Sunday. There is always going to be ups and downs during the season. It really comes down to if guys can keep it about the team and keep it together. Stay committed for 16, 17 weeks and going into the playoffs. I think it is a good crew of guys. Now it just comes down to how hard can we work and how committed can be in putting this all together and finding ways to win together.
Q: Any reaction to the settlement of the lawsuit?
A: Just glad it is over.
Q: Do you feel like last year is cleared out in your mind?
A: When you have a new coaching staff, you get a clean slate. You have to prove to them that you are ready, can get the job done and can be prepared. I try and get better everyday, pick their brain and their mind. Make sure I am doing what they want me to do and what they expect from me. I think that is what you try and do every year. You have to go out there and produce, make plays on Sunday.
Q: Do you enjoy the spring and OTAs after 15 years?
A: I do, I enjoy the spring. It is a great time to get the guys together and to start working on your craft. We have a new offense. I think it is very important to get in here and learn it. It is very exciting for me to be in the meeting room with the coaching staff and to get to learn football. There are lots of different ways to run an offense and to run plays, similar plays but read them differently. Learning from them, buying into it and looking forward to the challenge of going out there, perfecting it and being successful in it.
Q: A couple of former Giants said the team wasted your prime. Do you agree with that?
A: I don’t agree with that. I appreciate them. They are close friends of mine and we won a few championships together. I appreciate their loyalty and support but I wouldn’t necessarily agree with their comments.
Q: What do you think of Saquon Barkley so far?
A: I think Saquon has done a good job. I have been impressed with him. Just learning the offense. He has come in quickly and has a good feel for things. Physically, he looks the part. I am excited to see him with pads on, in the open field and see what he can do. He has done a good job. In the spring, you see more in the passing game and you get to work on those things. He has been impressive in that part. I know once you get the pads on and some live contact, he will be impressive in that regard as well.
Q: Have you given him any advice about coming in as such a high-profile guy?
A: Yes, I got to talk to him a few times these last few weeks. Had breakfast with him and lunch. Sat with him a couple times. I am not the guy that is going to just throw out advice but if something comes up, I try and offer some things I have learned over my time here.
Q: What have your impressions been of the defense?
A: I think the defense has been great. They have some great stuff. It is great for us going against this style of defense. We get up and make calls. Our signs are being tested everyday. Trying to read the coverages and the disguises. I think we are getting in great work. The defense is making some plays. They have some talented guys on the other side. It is competitive.
Q: How would you describe this defense?
A: An aggressive style. They try and pressure the QB and bring five guys. Disrupt the QB and not let him sit in the pocket. They are always tough to prepare for because they are multiple. It is great work for us to be able to get that work instead of having a team that is pretty simple with one or two coverages. Once we start playing other teams, we should be prepared for other things.
Q: Is there a point this offseason where you were able to think about the last mouth of last season?
A: Yes, you just try and learn from every season. Could there have been something different? I was trained hard and prepared hard going into the season. Sometimes, it just doesn’t work out for you. Still do the things I have been doing that have put me in position to be successful. Just continue to work smart and be dedicated to working on my craft. Go out there and make things different this year.
Q: Did draft night show that the organization has faith in you?
A: Taking a running back, I think, showed that they think I can still perform at a high level, lead this team and be a successful young QB in this league.
Q: You have two young QB’s behind you. Your thought on them this spring?
A: I think all the QB’s have worked extremely hard. They have been in the meeting room and are learning the offense. They have performed well during practice and have made some plays. We are all learning this together. I am in there with all those guys watching the film. I tap into those guys. We have all been in different styles of offenses from college and other places. Learning this with each other. If I have learned anything over the years, it is to try and help them out in any way. Talking football and everyone helping everyone out.
Q: What do you make of the new defense and defensive coordinator James Bettcher?
A: He’s a good dude. Obviously, I’ve played in a 3-4 before under [New York Jets Head] Coach [Todd] Bowles, and Coach Bettcher and Bowles worked together, so I have a lot of familiarity with the system. It’s just all about reaching in that memory bank. Everything I was told to forget, I’ve got to remember again.
Q: Is too much made about the differences between a 3-4 and 4-3 defense?
A: Yeah. Obviously, in some sets, it will be different, but it’s no different for the guys in the interior. It’s more so for the outside linebackers. Outside linebackers who are still defense ends. So, yeah, I think people just think about it too much, they put too much into it. There’s really no difference at all.
Q: How would you describe the overall outlook for the team, with so many changes from last year?
A: I mean, obviously, there’s a lot of excitement right now because it’s new. We all have to learn. It’s not like we’re coming back and we know everything. So, everybody has their thinking caps on and just knowing that we all don’t know anything. We’ve still got a long way to go, but I like what I see from everybody so far.
Q: What about the morale of the team?
A: Oh, it’s high. It’s high. It’s a new staff, you’ve got no choice but to be happy.
Q: What is your sense of linebacker Alec Ogletree’s command of the defense?
A: He comes downhill, man, and that’s something you can appreciate as a nose tackle and a defensive tackle. That means those centers and those guards have got to make decisions really fast. If not, he’ll be in the backfield and he’s a smart guy. I’m just excited to get in an actual game with him because I know those guys on the line, they have to respect what he brings to the field, so that should open up a lot for me.
Q: Does it surprise you that there is so much enthusiasm and optimism surrounding this team coming off of last season?
A: No, because I honestly don’t think we were what our record was last year and I know it’s tough to understand that. Going 3-13, I think what we were, you would expect guys to come back down on themselves. That was just a humbling season for everybody. So, if anybody was on their high horse, they have no choice but to get down now and get back to the drawing board and work all over again, which is a good thing to see.
Q: Is the communication between coaches and players much different than what you’ve experienced in the past?
A: No. Again, that just goes back to everything being new. You can’t be out here making plays without knowing exactly what you’re doing and knowing what the guys beside of you, to your left, right, or behind of you are doing. So, it’s very encouraging that at this point, we’re all forced to communicate and I just hope that we just bring that into the season.
Q: Are guys talking more with each other in the locker room?
A: No, I wouldn’t say more, it’s the same. We’ve always been good with communicating in the locker room. But again, everything that we do out here, we bring it into the locker room. We just don’t do it out here, we talk ball in the locker room every chance we get.
Q: Why did you decide to skip parts of the voluntary OTAs?
A: I was minding my own damn business.
Q: What do you see from running back Saquon Barkley?
A: The guy can play, man. ‘Saquad’, that’s what they call him, or something like that. I’m excited to get out there in training camp, so I can hit his ass [laughs]. See what he’s made of. I told him, it’s not Penn State. He’s not going up against [defensive tackle] Josh Banks at Wake Forest. But no, the guy’s explosive, you can see how they will use him in the offense, which will be to our benefit.
Q: Did Head Coach Pat Shurmur tell you not to hit Barkley too hard?
A: Hey man, you get him between the lines, get the ball in your hand, I don’t give a damn what anybody says. It’s time to work. So no, I don’t think we’ll be able to hit him too hard, but I’m going to hit his ass.
Q: What have you seen from offensive linemen Jon Halapio and Brett Jones?
A: Well, obviously, Halapio was a guy who was on the practice squad last year, who worked his butt off. And you can tell the coaching staff likes him a whole lot, just because of his aggression, he’s a strong guy. And if we’re going to be that ground and pound team, then I think that plays exactly into his strengths. And again, he worked his butt off and he earned the reps that he’s getting now. And everybody knows Brett. Brett was starting last year, he brings that toughness and that same type of strength to the line, but he also can move. Halapio can move, too. That’s an interesting battle that I’ve been watching myself, just to see the guys rotating in and rotating out. So, I get to watch it firsthand.
Q: What is your impression of defensive tackle B.J. Hill?
A: He can play. He can play and that’s the first thing our defensive line coach told me when I got here. He said, ‘You’re going to love 95.’ He said, ‘He can play.’ So, I got out here and I’ve been watching him. He’s strong and he’s got some wiggle to him and he has some move to him. So, that’s somebody else who I think with some time and a little more experience will be a dominant player in this league, as well as Dalvin Tomlinson, who I think will take the next step this year.
Q: How is the defense coming along picking up the new system?
A: It’s been going good. Like you said, over time you work on it and the more reps you get, the better you get at something and it’s been good so far.
Q: How has having different personnel in front of you and behind you changed your confidence level or how you’re seeing things out there?
A: You have to adjust, playing with different guys. I feel like I’ve tried to take my time and just learn each guy and how they play, so I can adjust my game to theirs and do the same. So, it’s a work in progress for sure, but I feel like we’re on the right track, for sure.
Q: What have you seen from linebacker Lorenzo Carter?
A: He’s a dawg, first off. We breed them like that, you know? [laughs] But no, he’s come to work really hard and he’s done an excellent job for us so far.
Q: Defensive tackle Damon Harrison said he’s looking forward to playing in a game with you. Do you have the same sentiment about him?
A: Exactly. It’ll be a lot cleaner. He can hold a double team, or split them if he can make the play, for sure. But I’m looking forward to playing with everyone that’s in the locker room, for sure. So, for me, it’s just taking it day by day and like I said, learning each player and how they play, and he’s definitely one of the players that I’m excited to play behind, for sure.
Q: Is it different to play behind Harrison than it was playing behind Aaron Donald in Los Angeles?
A: Like I said, it’s different players, so you have to adjust your game to the guys around you. Everybody has to play together for us to make this defense work. Like I said, it’s going to different from playing behind Aaron Donald to Snacks now, for sure. But like I said, I’m definitely excited to play behind him. I think he’s going to be really good for us and this defense and hopefully I can return the favor.
Q: Can you tell that Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher was a linebackers coach in his past? Is he harder on the linebackers than other positions?
A: I mean, yeah, he’s definitely a linebackers coach, for sure. That’s what he started as. So, for us, he definitely puts it on us to lead the group, and we put it on ourselves as well to be that leader and be that dominant voice out there and get everybody ready and set to run the plays. We definitely take that responsibility.
Q: What can fans expect from you?
A: Just a guy that’s going to play full 60 minutes. A hard worker, hopefully a leader on this team and a guy that’s just going to fight to win each and every down and fight all the way to the end, no matter what the score is.
Q: What level of pressure to you feel to help the team improve in stopping the run?
A: I mean, it’s no pressure. When I’m on the field, I expect us to go out there and stop the run game. Like you said, they brought me in here to help with that, among other things. So, it takes all 11 of us to go out there and be a good defense. I put that on myself to get everybody ready and prepare to stop the run game, and to show up in the pass game as well.
Q: What have you seen from defensive tackle A.J. Francis?
A: A guy that’s coming off the ball very hard and disruptive. Like I said, this defense is fit for d-linemen. And when they’re playing well, it makes everybody else play well behind them.
Q: How do you view the leadership role and where you fit in that on this defense?
A: I guess it’s been said I’ve been the quarterback of the defense, I guess. But at my position, it comes with some sense of leadership, where you’ve got to get guys lined up and stuff. But for me, I try to lead by example, and doing the right thing before I say something. Just so you can see it instead of just listening to what I’m saying. If I’m speaking the right thing, I’ve got to be doing the right thing.
Q: Do you feel that this team coming off of a 3-13 season is looking for something?
A: Yeah, I mean, everybody is hungry to win. Last year was last year. You can’t change what happened last year, we know we’re going to focus on this year. Everybody is excited about this year, but you don’t just show up. You’ve got to go out there and play and put it on film and do the work to win games and make it to the playoffs.
Q: Are you expecting to be the one communicating with the coaches on game days, or will you and B.J. Goodson hand that off?
A: Yeah, I’ll have the mic. But B.J. does an excellent job of relaying the message as well, so we definitely bounce off each other in relaying the message to the defense, and it definitely helps me out a lot. And I think it helps him out, too.
Q: What did you think of how the offense looked today?
A: They started out pretty good today on us, and I thought that they showed that they can throw the ball, run the ball and did a lot of great things today. You said they’ve got a lot of weapons over there and it’s going to be something to see, for sure, on Sunday.
Q: What are your first impressions of running back Saquon Barkley?
A: A guy that comes to work the right way. He’s a true professional, even at a young age. He’s always asking questions and you can just tell he loves football and loves to learn and do the right thing. So, we’re definitely excited to have him and looking forward to see what he does on Sunday.
Q: Were you satisfied hitting a line drive off the softball pitcher during this Landon Collins’ charity softball game this past weekend?
A: You know, I was. I wanted to hit it out of the park, but I haven’t swung a bat in a few years, so I was able to make contact with it. So, it was good. You know, she did strike me out first [laughs].