Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale
Martindale: I was really pleased and happy for how we played last week coming off the Bye, defensively. You could tell that the fans (had) just come off a Bye Week as well. I mean they were jacked in that stadium, and we need the same thing this weekend. We're getting ready to go against a really good offense, very explosive offense, a quarterback who was the first pick of the draft and you can see why, an offensive line that's working really well together, and some skilled positions that are some of the better ones we've faced so far. Just like I say every week, we're studying and seeing what we need to do to try and step up to this challenge. So, we're really looking forward to it. With that, I'll open up to questions.
Q: I know you're going to say that you don't focus on sacks because every coach says that, so how is (outside linebacker) Kayvon (Thibodeaux) playing and what does he need to do to get to that next level where he does finish with some sacks?
A: I think with our system itself, like I said before, it's a position-less defense, and when you look at the defense statistically in areas where there are a lot of sacks, he's doing the selfless work. I always say we're going to open up a can of whoop ass. Well, he's the can opener. You have a guy running free to the quarterback, playing a single high safety. Well, he has to do the right pattern to get that guy free and that's what pleases me about the guy himself. I know everybody wants to say, 'sacks, sacks, sacks' to him after games whenever you do the media with him, but if there's 1,000 plays run and we're happy with him in 950 of them, it's better than the guy that has 12 sacks, plays 600 plays and can't play the run, can't do this, can't do that. I just think the kid is playing great. It's just like takeaways or anything else, the sacks will come. The other thing is to look at the holding calls he's drawn, you know you look at the whole picture. He drops well in coverage. I can't say nothing but positives about how he's playing. How he's chasing after the football like a veteran, studying like a veteran, leading like a veteran. So, I'm really glad he's a Giant.
Q: Is there any part of you that has to speak to him? I mean he probably wants sacks because everybody wants those numbers. Are those conversations you guys have about what he is doing well even though it doesn't show up on the stat sheet?
A: With me and Kayvon?
A: Yeah, I mean I talk to the whole defense that way. I can't explain to you in words, this defense, this group of guys are the most selfless people I've been around in this profession. All they want is they want to see what's on the left and what's on the right in the win column. They have never flinched during a game. No matter what happens, they come back and they're ready to go on the next play. But I talk to the whole defense about that. You say every coach says sacks aren't important, he got the game winner against Baltimore, that was an important sack, but there are other things that go into it is what I'm trying to say.
Q: With Kayvon what does it show maturity wise for him to be able to be a part of that?
A: I've said it before, it's like he's got an old soul. We'll play music before we start the defensive meeting. Like today was old school Thursday, it's my favorite day and he knows all those songs, the bands, and everything else.
Q: What'd you play today?
A: Some Ohio Players, we played Zapp. I mean we played some good stuff.
Q: How aware are you of what goes on, on the other side of the ball? I mean that because obviously your offense hasn't had to come back from a big deficit that you've put them in on defense. The Lions can score. If the Giants fall behind 10, 14 points, the offense isn't really built that way. Does that put a lot of pressure on you guys to not struggle early?
A: We just want to do our job. Now, that's a coaching cliché right there. I always say that we control the narrative. So, whatever happens, if we give up a big play, get them down so we play again. We can stop them. As long as they keep doing it one play at a time, there's no evaluation of the offense or anything else. Had the guys, we did a little exercise in the defensive meeting room and that's what one of the new guys had come in and said, 'from other places I've been, it's amazing all we do is focus on defense', and that's what we do. (Head coach Brian) Dabs (Daboll) and (offensive coordinator) Mike (Kafka) and those guys set up great game plans, I think. I've gone against them; I know in that way going against them, but in preparation of each game and they attack each game the way it needs to be attacked.
Q: You've had praise for (defensive lineman) Dexter (Lawrence) and the way he's played this year. You look at last week's game, even if you look beyond the stat sheet, he was affecting plays that you wouldn't know unless you really broke down the film. Have you had a performance like that from an individual player in a while to be able to see what he did last week?
A: With Dex, it's like I said earlier in the year, he's one of my favorites that I've ever been around because of the way he works. He's selfless, like they all are. He's looking out for the next guy and he's playing at a really high level. It's fun to watch him reap the rewards of all the hard work he's put in since the spring. He's taking care of his body; I think he really enjoys playing football. But have I seen one like that? I haven't had time to sit back. I might be able to tell you that after the season is over with when we go back over the tape because we're already onto Detroit after that, but he played very well, yes.
Q: What did you think of the way (safety) Dane (Belton) and (safety Jason) Pinnock sort of filled the void without (Safety) Xavier (McKinney) there?
A: I think they did a nice job. Each week is different, and we play different guys in different spots, as you've seen. I thought he prepared really well, he's very serious about football, he's another mature rookie that we've got that (general managner) Joe (Schoen) and Dabs decided to pick and that was great. I talk about organizational alignment all the time. The thing about the rookies is if they do make a mistake, and this is where you can tell that they're studying, if they do make a mistake, it's because it's the first time that they've seen something. They don't make that same mistake, they're not error repeaters and that's what's brought Dane along and some of the other young guys as well. (Cornerback) Nick (McCloud), I call him Big Mac, he's doing good things for us. Pinnock came in and played well, in a limited role. His role might grow. It all depends on who we're playing, what personnel's out there and things like that. So, I'm excited about the young guys.
Q: In terms of the young guys, why did you want to go with (inside linebacker) Micah (McFadden) in place of (inside linebacker) Tae (Crowder)?
A: I just think that every lineup is written in pencil, not in pen. Micah was practicing well, Tae's practicing well. We put Micah in there because of the practice he had the week prior. The initial plan was to rotate them, and Micah got hot when he was in there and I thought he played well, too. But Tae has practiced his tail off and he's been nothing but a true pro. He's going to get his chance, it comes right back to it. That's what I told him is, 'we're going to go with Micah. How you handle this situation could be a turning point in your career if you keep attacking each day the way you have'. I thought Micah did a nice job.
Q: (Safety) Landon Collins and newcomer (safety) Terrell Burgess, how close are either of those guys to carving out roles and contributing?
A: I think Landon's closer than TB just because of the time that he's been here. I've never seen a roster move around the way this roster moved around with injuries and things like that. I can't put a timeline on it, but I would say LC's closer.
Q: We mentioned Dex, but two games ago right before the Bye, (defensive lineman) Leonard (Williams) had five quarterback hits, too. The two of them together, how much of that is the basis for what you can do with the rest of your defense?
A: Really for Leo, I'm glad you brought that up because I was going to say it then got asked another question Leo has played well the last three games. He's coming off the injury and getting into the groove. I will say this, I've never seen a combo of tackles in my career like these two, both those guys. Credit to (defensive line coach Andre) Dre (Patterson) and (assistant defensive line coach Bryan Cox) B-Cox and that entire room because it's a really mature room. They take playing in this system very seriously. Dex has played all over the place and people don't even know it. Just because he's listed as a nose, they think he's playing nose. There's sometimes he's played MIKE linebacker on third down. How he studies, how smart he is, what a great dude he is, and Leo's the same way.
Offensive Coordinator Mike Kafka
Q: The stuff you were doing with (quarterback) Daniel (Jones) getting to the line quick and you're in his ear – what are the benefits of that, what are you saying to him? Can you describe that process?
A: That was part of the gameplan for that week – to come in and play on the ball, talk to him and get us into the right play, play with some tempo. Then bouncing it out of some tempos, whether we're huddling up or on the ball, checking some plays at the line of scrimmage.
Q: The Lions can score. How aware are you of what they have on the opposite side of the ball and what kind of pressure does that put on you guys? You haven't really been down in a game 14-0 where you've had to win a shootout, open it up and that kind of thing. What happens if the Lions score and it breaks your normal gameplan?
A: Those are the adjustments that you have to be prepared for, we talk about it as a staff. Those are things that you have to be ready for in game to make adjustments on and I think our guys have done a good job of doing that throughout the season.
Q: The Lions seem to have some talent on defense? When you look at them, are you surprised they've struggled this much statistically?
A: They do a great job. Up front, they have some good pass rushers. Really, at all three levels – those guys do a really good job. They got some skill in the back end that can cover. They're going to challenge you at the line of scrimmage. We've got to be prepared for a variety of things; pass rush, a variety of pressures, win our one-on-one battles on the perimeter. There's definitely a big-time test that we have to be prepared for and that's what we're going through throughout the week, practicing against those types of situations against those defenses and then going out and putting our best foot forward to go out and execute.
Q: What do you see specifically in (Detroit defensive lineman Aidan) Hutchinson?
A: He's a talented player. I actually had an opportunity in the draft process to take a peak at him and look at him and his skillset on the edge. He does a good job inside as well. He's physical, he has a motor. He does a really good job in that defense and they use him appropriately.
Q: You're an offensive guy. I'm curious why did you look at him?
A: I always kind of take a peak at the top defensive guys coming out through the first few rounds just to kind of know the skillsets and what's out there. They're some players around the league so it's kind of cool to see that side of it.
Q: How have you seen Hutchinson grow and evolve now that you're watching tape after couple NFL games?
A: He's doing a great job. You can tell he's playing savvy, he's got some savviness to him on the perimeter and you see him make plays on the ball. Those couple in the red zone, making a play on the ball, getting his hands up, getting an interception. He does a good job, he really does. He's a smart football player and no surprise why he was a high draft pick.
Q: When Daniel (Jones) is playing as well as he is, is there a temptation to give him more and open things up more? Obviously, you have (running back) Saquon (Barkley) but is there a temptation to say, "Hey, let's see if he can do even more?"
A: Yeah. Every week, we go through that in the gameplan with the staff. We go through the run game, the drop back game, the pass game, movements, screens and see how we can put our guys in a good spot to execute against the defense. Then, you got to go and matchup what the defense does, what they do really well and what they do maybe not so well. You're always kind of battling between strengths and weaknesses and making sure your guy is in the right spot. We evaluate that and that's where we're at right now, this week of practice.
Q: Is there a part of you that expects one of these days you're going to see (Daniel Jones) in a shootout that's going to have to be asked of him to win a game?
A: Yeah, we prepare for that each week. We talk about all those scenarios in the pass game, talk about their top coverages, their top pressures. Talk about how they fit runs and how they're going to react to certain motions and shifts and stuff like that. All that stuff has to be accounted for, especially when you're thinking about dropping back. We go through our walkthroughs and we detail it up with the coaches and the receivers, the tight ends and the running backs. All those little things for the pass game.
Q: I'm sure you watched lots of video of (Daniel Jones) before you got here. How would you compare what he's doing now to that video you saw in those first three years?
A: I think he's doing a really good job for us right now. He's executing the offense. He's coming in early. He's watching a bunch of tape. He's putting in all the work, which was no surprise. He's been like that since the day I got here. I'm happy where he's at. Where we're right now, this week in practice getting ready for our third down and our red zone installs – we just had a great walkthrough, great communication with all those guys. He's doing a great job.
Q: When you call drop backs, a lot of the times it's been third and long – hard situations to succeed. A, why have you able to, and B, does that success maybe make you more inclined to maybe do it on first and second down, which are a little more favorable?
A: That's exactly right. Those third and longs, those are tough to convert. Like we talked about before the bye, doing a better job on first and second down so we're not in those third and extra longs. As far as the first and second down passing stuff, as we're working through the gameplan, what the defense is presenting – that's what makes you make decisions on run and pass, actions, what you've shown in the past and building complementary looks off of those.
Q: Why do you think (Daniel Jones) has been so successful on third and longs? What do you see?
A: It's just the execution part of it. Those guys are getting open, we have great protection up front. Daniel's done a good job of staying on time and in rhythm with his feet and then when it's not there, stepping up and making plays with his legs. I've been proud of him for doing that and the guys separating and working in voids. Those are tough situations, everyone in the building knows you're dropping back and throwing it. So now, guys got to step up and execute even more.
Q: What do you see in (wide receiver) Kenny Golladay's struggles and do you see a guy that's pressing? How do you handle that with him without giving up any specific stuff?
A: Kenny has been a pro. He comes to work every single day. This week's no different. Yesterday was no different. He came up and had a great day of work. I think its's one of those things, you fight through it and we tell our guys all the time – have a quick memory about whether it's good, bad, dealing with adversity. You learn from it, you flush it and you move on.
Q: When (Kenny Golladay) played in Detroit, he was obviously – it's been a few years and I'm sure you saw him back then – he was a dominant player at times. He doesn't look like that same player anymore. Do you think injuries and age have taken their toll or do you think that player could still be inside of him?
A: I think Kenny Golladay is a really good football player. Like I said, he comes to work every day prepared. He goes through the process; studying the tape, studying the opponent, putting the work in on the field and trying to detail his techniques and fundamentals. This week's no different.
Q: Off the two turnovers forced by your defense, why were you not able as an offense to finish and put points on the board to put them away in those two drives there?
A: I think we kind of stalled out there on the fringe. Got to do a better job with the execution part, the play calling as well - give our guys a chance. We evaluate those things. Sometimes, one guy being a tick off disrupts the play. We got to go back, evaluate it. Were we in the spot? Were our eyes in the right spot? Were our fundamentals and techniques correct? Did we give ourself a chance to execute this thing? Was the read correct? All those things kind of apply when you're talking about a play-by-play basis. I think that's where we kind of stalled in the fringe just outside of that field goal range.
Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
Q: Where are we at on the punt returner situation?
A: Same place we were last week.
Q: Where is that?
A: Same situation.
Q: So, you anticipate kind of both those guys (wide receiver Richie James and cornerback Adoree' Jackson) getting opportunities?
A: Yeah. It's been working for us.
Q: How do you determine which guy and when, and how much of it does it have to do with Adoree' on the defensive side there?
A: A lot of that. It's a lot of that. Depending on the situation, we go for a nine-ball. We'll just kind of play it by ear as we go along.
Q: With the one that Richie was back, was it because it was backed up by the goal line, and he's a little more experienced doing that recently?
Q: Did you like his decision?
Q: With (punter) Jamie Gillan, if he has a tough day, how much do you coach him up on technique? Or does the specialist figure it out himself?
A: It's kind of a mutual deal if that happens. We talk about it and go from there. These guys are really good at what they do. You don't want to overcomplicate things, and you don't want him to have a lot of things in his mind. You want to be able to take the muscle memory that he creates every single day and to be able to make the adjustment and go play. So, we're not going to discuss 19 different things on the sideline so he's out there (and) it's like when you're standing over your tee shot, and you've got 95 different swing thoughts. Right? Because we're all like that. So, we don't want to do that: We don't want to overcomplicate it. Just make the adjustment, figure out what it is and just keep moving.
Q: Why do you think he's been so inconsistent with trying place those balls inside the 20 (yard line)?
A: I think some of the things we're doing, (we're) probably trying to do too much. But just going back to the basics, being able to hit a clean ball down inside the 10 (yard line) without trying to do anything fancy.
Q: You guys passed (on attempting a field goal) twice around the 57-yard range going in that direction. How much of that was the wind? Or you thought it was a little deep at that point?
A: Yeah, it was the wind. I mean it went from maybe five miles an hour to 15, 20 at some point. The goal posts were doing this (swaying) at one point down on that end. So, as you're moving and the game's being played and temperature changes, you got to be able to make the adjustments. And we felt like going in that direction probably wasn't a good decision to go for a 57-yard field goal.
Q: How much do you worry about conditions as it gets to this time of year for your kicker? And is there anything you can do about it as a coach to talk to him?
A: Just practice it. Like today's going to be a beautiful day to practice it. We're going to have probably 15, 20 mile an hour winds. It's supposed to be like that on Sunday – gusting to 30. So, you just practice in it. You get used to being in that environment, so once you get in that environment, it's not a big deal because you've worked at it.
Q: Do you feel like this place is maybe an advantage for you because it has that mystique of, 'Oh, no. I'm kicking in Giants Stadium/MetLife Stadium,'?
A: I truly believe that. Just playing in the Northeast, when you bring a team in from out of town that's not used to being in this environment and you're playing in the Northeast in November and December, I think it's a distinct advantage for you.
Q: Are you surprised that they (the Houston Texans) kicked onside on that first one? You were obviously ready for it, but were you a little surprised in that situation?
A: We anticipated it. That's kind of why we took the time out. It depends. You're always anticipating those next moves; we're trying to play chess not checkers. And I think we handled it the right way.
Q: When you guys sent (kicker) Graham (Gano) out for that 49-yarder, had the wind died down? Or you were just confident in him in that situation?
A: We were confident in him in that situation. It's a little bit closer. The difference between a 49-yarder and a 57-yarder, 56-yarder, it's a big difference. So, that was more inside the line that we were thinking. And we got full confidence in Graham.
Q: Is this a different practice week for your unit considering how much trickery the Lions try?
A: You always got to be alert for that type of stuff. We talked about it today in the meeting – just always being on guard. We always talk about staying ready, and that's something that we literally have to do this week because at any point in time, (Detroit Lions head coach) Dan (Campbell) is real aggressive. And at any point in time, you can get a surprise onside kick. You could get a fake punt. So, we'll work on that stuff this week, and we got to stay ready for it.
Q: With wind conditions and distance, how much is that maybe changing throughout the game versus what you kind of go into the game with? Like you said, it's going to be those 30 mile per hour gusts. Is it something that Graham is like, 'This is what I want to kick from this distance?'
A: Definitely. But it's always fluctuating. At the beginning of the game, we had a certain line going in each direction (that) we felt pretty good about. But as the game started to play and the weather started to change a little bit, we had to make the change on the run. So, you make those adjustments. You know they're going to come at some point in time during the game. You just make the adjustments (and) keep moving.
Q: Did you overlap with (Detroit Lions wide receiver) Kalif Raymond here? You did, right?
A: Yeah, he was here my first offseason. And actually, (we) played a preseason game against the Jets. (He) had a pretty good game against the Jets.
Q: What do you see from him?
A: Oh, he's special. His short area quickness is off the charts, and he's super, super dangerous. So, we got our work cut out for us. He's done a lot better job of, since he was a rookie, catching balls and just ball security. He had those growing pains early, but he's figured it out now. And he's done a really good job for them.
Running Back Saquon Barkley
Q: I know you guys are big into talking about complementary football, offense, defense, but when you're going against an offense on the other side that has been able to score the way they had. Is there any pressure or urgency on your guys to make even more possessions count in terms of putting points on the board?
A: I wouldn't say it's pressure or anything. Every single time we touch the ball the offense's objective is to go out there and score, put points on the board – whether that's six or three. Like I said, they're a great team over there. We know they're going to come with a lot of energy, come out with a great game plan. For us we've just got to go out there and focus on the little things and focus on us first and the opportunities they give us, we've got to capitalize them and make them pay.
Q: Where did the 'Vanilla Vick' nickname come from?
A: I can't even take credit for that. I saw it on social media so long ago. I forgot he was mic'd up. But that's where it kind of came from. I can't take credit for it. I saw it on Twitter or something like that.
Q: You guys have done such a good job of being a grind it out, run-oriented team. Do you think this offense has the capability if needed to get into a shootout.
A: Yes, I think we do. I think we've got the skilled guys, the talent, the coaches, to find ways to win games whatever that is. If we've got to run the ball 30 times, 40 times then that's the way. If we've got to throw the ball and make it a shootout, then I feel like we can do that too. That's something that's the biggest blessing about this team, especially on the offensive side this year. It's the way that we've been able to adapt, adjust, and try to find ways to put points on the board or try to find ways to help our team win games.
Q: No matter who it is, after the workload you had Sunday there's some soreness you have the first couple of days. How long does it take you to start feeling better after a game like that?
A: You know it's weird to be completely honest. It all depends on the week. Obviously, you would think when you touch the ball that many times, you're going to be sore. It all depends on the week, the team you play. Sometimes you can touch the ball 10 times and be just as sore if you touched the ball 35 times. Sometimes you can touch the ball 35 times and not be that sore. It's just the grind of the season and that's how it goes. For me, it's just continuing to be a pro, take care of my body. We've got great people within this facility, and I've got great people that I work with outside of the facility to get my body back in shape and get my body right for the next game. There's never a set day, every week is different.
Q: You've talked a lot about wanting to be one of the all-time great running backs. Why do you think you have pride in the term, 'running back'? You could call yourself a playmaker or a versatile weapon or something, so why 'running back'?
A: I am a playmaker; I am a versatile weapon – but at the end of the day for me it's kind of just the people that I study. The quote, 'Study the greats to become greater.' That's a focal point of mine. I feel like you've got to know the history of the game if you want to be great. The guys that come to my mind – the Walter Paytons, the Barry Sanders, the Emmitt Smiths, the Adrian Petersons, the list goes on and on with so many guys you could mention in that category. Those are the guys that I'm chasing, those are the guys that I want to be able to be talked about like that one day. That's why I say I want to be one of the greatest running backs.
Outside Linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux
Q: How you feeling?
A: Pretty good. I feel good. I was sick a little bit. It's going around, so just trying to stay healthy, stay clean and stuff like that.
Q: (Defensive coordinator) Wink (Martindale) was talking about you sort of making all those sort of, for a lack of a better term, dirty plays – the silent stats. What do you think when you hear your defensive coordinator say that about you?
A: I know what you mean, like decoys. Not necessarily decoys because anybody can win, but there's always a scheme, and it's always set up. And Wink's great at, he's a mastermind at drawing up plays and things like that. So, just being able to plug and play wherever he wants me and being able to execute the defense. It's, I guess, a knack of mine.
Q: How much is that sort of the feedback that you received? Like (do the coaches say), 'Hey. Maybe the splash stats aren't there, but we like what you're doing here,'
A: What are we nine, ten weeks in? I haven't, through the totality of ten games, I haven't received any bad (feedback). There's always plays you clean up. There's always things you can grow from. But I don't think I've had a bad game. I've always been able to, whether it's a bad play, fight back and kind of make up for it on the back end or just continue to keep being better.
Q: Is it satisfying when you're out there and you make a play that you know led to someone else's sack but doesn't go on your stats sheet?
A: I would say it's more satisfying when they make the play. Because sometimes you do do things, and it's like they almost make (a play). There's always an if, but when they do make it, it's always fun to rejoice with your teammate.
Q: You have gotten a couple of those holding calls. Like you think we need to make that a statistic? Like that shouldn't be a dirty stat, no? Should that count?
A: For me, I was just thinking about it, like if I was a guy who complained about fouls and things, when I started getting them, everybody would hate me. So, for me, I'm going to keep grinding, I'm going to keep getting out (of) the mud. And when they do start getting to me finally, everybody else can take a gasp and say, 'Okay finally.'
Q: Was that always your mindset in terms of understanding the dirty work from when you were a younger player?
A: I've always played D-line. And even when I played basketball, I was always a big man. So, I never was like flashy. I never looked good doing it. But just knowing the rewards will come at the end of the season.
Q: Do you pay attention to what (defensive lineman) Aidan (Hutchinson) is doing in Detroit? You guys kind of were in the conversation together.
A: Right now, I'm really focused on our team. He's a great player. He's done a lot of great things. There's a lot of great pass rushers who have done great things, but just being able to kind of hone in on these wins and not really take them for granted. Not get too big. You see a lot; you see a little. So, focusing on the next day.
Q: How much pride have you taken on the run –the run part of the game?
A: That's something that people don't really pay attention to – people who can set up those first and second downs to get to third down. So, me being able to stop the run and step up, that's been great for me, and just making those gains to be able to be on the field for four downs. And I know the pass rush and everything else is going to come. So, I'm not really too worried about that as long as I keep playing fundamentally sound and keep growing in that aspect.
Q: There are a lot of players that get motivated by the teams that pass them over – the guys that were drafted ahead of them. But you don't pay any attention at all?
A: I don't really get motivated because I don't even think it was the team's choice to pass over me. I think it was already written. I think this is where I was supposed to be, and God had this in store. So, this is where I should be. I don't really hold anything on anybody.
Q: This is sort of one of the first big pass teams you guys have played. I think they're the only team you've played where they're currently in the top 10 in passing. As a defensive lineman, someone who I'm sure does like (and) enjoy rushing the passer, how excited does that make you when you're entering a game like this knowing that, 'Hey I'm going to get maybe more opportunities (and) maybe more reps to get (to the passer),'?
A: I think it's really good, but one thing about us is that we're not in the top run defense yet. We're getting there, and we're putting it all together, but we're not there yet. So, I'm not going to take that for granted (and) think they're going to play a passing game because we know football is always about those little inches. So, again, we're just going to really harp on stopping the run, and then once that gets stopped, we'll set it up and do everything else when third down comes.
Q: Wink seemed to indicate you knew who (musician) Frank Zappa was.
A: Of course. It's just music. It's a California thing. When you're from LA (Los Angeles) and you're from the city, I feel like there's a lot of older family – whether it's grandmothers, grandfathers – who come from that Motown era. And they just bring it, and not just Motown, but all from the '70s to the '80s and just kind of bring it. It's in your culture.
Q: He loves that you know the old-time music.
A: It's always a blessing to be able to jam out to it.
Q: So, like the 'Old Time Thursdays' or whatever he calls them? You kind of relishing 'Throwback Thursdays,'?
A: For me, it's almost throwback every day. I always get at least an hour in where it's old school. For me every day, I'm always asking, 'Is that my playlist?', knowing it's not.
Q: Most people think of you as sort of this 'new age' athlete, and the fact that you're like a throwback, how much do you think that surprises people when you say that?
A: It surprises the people who don't listen. I think for me, I take pride in everything I do, for one, but I take pride in being an old soul and trying to be that connection between my parents and grandparents' generations and giving that game to my generation.
Q: We see (defensive linemen) Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams dominating on the field. What are they like off the field? Are they similar guys? Are they helpful guys? Are they goofy guys? Are they serious?
A: I would say if you watch football and then you hang out with them, you would never expect (their personalities to be what they are). Who they are on the field and who they are in real life are two completely different (things). From Dex, he's a destroyer on the football field. But when he comes off, he's all playful. They're all great guys. I think the thing that people miss out on is that this isn't just a game. This is like an art. This is their job. This is their work. So, for me, just seeing how professional they are when it comes to the game and everything they do as far as their body (is impressive). Dex is 400 pounds. I don't know how big he is. But he's strong as anybody. And the way he just takes care of his body and continues to go week after week, it's amazing.
Q: And Leonard?
A: And Leonard – come on, now. Just how big he is and how strong he is, but then he's still flexible. He can still get around guys. He can still do it, and he can still have fun. And he's been the guy that's kind of taken the defense in. He's been that glue that's been keeping us together and keeping us going and keeping everybody together.
Q: Off the field, how many guys do you know that go fishing and catch fish with spears and their bare hands like him?
A: I mean, not me (laughs). I wouldn't go with him. One thing I don't mess with is the ocean, so I let him have that. I'll probably go with him one day. I'll be on the boat, but I'll be there.
Q: Taking pictures.
A: Yeah, I'll be behind the camera. If you don't see me in any pictures, just know I'm behind the camera (laughs).
Defensive Lineman Dexter Lawrence
Q: What do you and (Defensive Lineman Leonard Williams) specifically do together in the offseason besides train? Do you guys do anything? Do you hang out in the offseason?
A: We hang out, we have some fun, we train.
Q: I know he likes to go spear fishing...
A: No, I don't go in the water.
Q: But is there anything specific you guys do together?
A: No, we just hang out. Be bros, I guess. Nothing like real specific like diving in the water, just hanging out.
Q: Did you guys bond instantly when (Leonard Williams) he got traded here? Did it take a while to warm up? Trying to get into your relationship.
A: I think it was like an instant bond. I heard he was getting traded here, I DM'd him, told him, 'Welcome,' and this and that. After that, it was just an automatic click. I kind of watched him when I was in high school (laughs). It was cool to see him, come play with him. It's good for me, it's good for him.
Q: Do you guys have similar personalities or is it an opposites attract kind of thing?
A: I don't think we're very similar. We have our similar traits but personality wise, I'm a little more goofy than he is.
Q: Do you think that's rubbed off on him a little bit?
A: Probably a little bit. I'm trying to (laughs).
Q: What part of him has rubbed off on you?
A: I like his wisdom. That's been rubbing off on me.
Q: Football wisdom or life wisdom?
A: Just life wisdom.
Q: Anything you can tell us?
A: No, nothing.
Q: If you've been watching him since high school, you know it's been a long career with not a lot of winning involved with him. How much do you think he's relishing what you guys are doing now? You're finally getting the chance to do something special.
A: It was a point to where we looked at each other like, we're going to have to keep stepping up to keep playing together type of thing – because if you keep losing, they don't keep people around long. Things like that. I want to win for him just to keep playing with him. Things like that is kind of what we talked about once before. Putting in the work to actually go do it is a different thing.
Q: Defensive tackles don't get a lot of love. It seems like you two are making it cool to be a defensive tackle again.
A: Our goal as individuals is to be legendary, type of thing. We want to keep growing and being as good as we can in those things and doing the things that it takes to be legendary.
Safety Julian Love
Q: What have you seen from (Outside Linebacker) Kayvon Thibodeaux in the way he's played and handled himself as an individual?
A: I think Kayvon has done a great job of just getting acclimated to the guys off rip. Everybody has a close relationship with him now because he's so forward with how is as a person. It's made it easier to be complementary with him on the football field. He's done a great job. Him being a fifth overall pick is a lot of pressure, but he's handled it very well.
Q: How good do you see him getting as he starts figuring all this stuff out a little bit more?
A: Just like anybody, as long as you keep doing the right things, the sky is the limit and he's one of those guys that has a tremendous base under him. As long as he continues to grow, he'll be a good player in this league.
Q: What are you and (Kicker) Graham (Gano) doing with the 'Inside the Huddle' initiative?
A: Graham and I are teaming up with the New York City Police Foundation and MetLife to provide resources for people who need it, for families who need it in Harlem and Far Rockaway. We have some cool stuff lined up. There's an auction going on, you can bid on a bunch of memorabilia, but you can also bid on a game night with me here. We can play ping pong, corn hole – I call it 'bags,' a Chicago thing, I don't know – I'm undefeated regardless of what it is (laughs). I think Graham is doing a kicking lesson, that's kind of fun. It's all going to a good cause, going to families in Harlem and Far Rockaway. MetLife is matching the money. It's a cool opportunity.
Q: Are there prizes for beating you in this game night?
A: We could put some prizes up, but I can't see anybody beating me, whoever gets it. It's going to be a fun experience for everybody involved. I'm excited about it.
Q: Larger donations might give them an extra opportunity to beat you?
A: I might play lefty if the donation is large enough. That's my handicap that I'll giveaway, whatever it is. But yeah, it's fun – to have a chance to play with an NFL player, I feel like when I was a kid I would jump at the opportunity. Whoever can provide some funds for this good cause, I encourage them to do so.
Q: From a football standpoint, the Lions score a lot of points. How tricky does that make it? You're not blind to the fact that your offense doesn't score a lot of points. Does that put a lot of pressure on you guys to keep it down and not allow your team to fall behind early?
A: I think as a team, we all try to play complementary football in the best way we can. I know the offense is going to do their thing. On special teams, the Lions present a lot of stuff as well. I know on (special) teams, we're going to be on our stuff. Defensively, yeah, this offense puts up a lot of points. We've played some good offenses this year, so we have to really be dialed in like we have been in the past to match up to what they have going on. Right now, they're playing at a high level honestly. We can't take anything for granted, we can't look at the record or anything like that because this is a solid offense.
Q: When a team is aggressive like they are, does that also leave room for mistakes? Obviously aggressive can be touchdowns, or aggressive can be interceptions.
A: They're aggressive across the board in play calling, going for fourth down a lot, them getting after the ball – they have a coach over there trying to make up their identity of the team. I like the aggression, honestly. I think it's something that if I was a coach, I would do the same thing for my team. That's how they're going to play, so we have to account for that and be in tune with whatever situation it is because we know they're going for the win, regardless. They're not going for easy points, they're going to be aggressive and put us on our heels.
Q: How much of your defense's success stems from how good (Defensive Lineman) Leonard Williams and (Defensive Lineman) Dexter (Lawrence) are playing in the middle right there?
A: We have a huge luxury right now of having two guys like Leo Williams and Dexter Lawrence up front for us. Those are two of the best guys in the league, in my opinion, at that position. They've just been working. For years they've been working, perfecting their craft and now their names are starting to be acknowledged more but they've always been those type of guys, those type of players. It's a huge benefit to us. Especially on the backend, you know that inside run or the middle is locked up, especially with those big guys getting after it. We're lucky to have them and I know they're going to keep grinding.
Q: Have you guys peaked at the standings in your division and knowing how strong of the start you've had – are you aware of how confident that you guys can take advantage of the opportunity in front of you with so many NFC East games coming up here?
A: Yeah, I think for the whole division – it's all really close right now. Top to bottom, it's extremely close right now and this next however many weeks will make up the difference of how things go for each team. I know there's that stat of this division having the best record or something like that.
Q: Through 10 weeks…
A: Through 10 weeks, exactly right. It is what it is. We know that this next stretch for us, we've played one division game. We have these next five coming up soon. We can't overlook the Lions by any means but of course, that's in the back of your head that you know you need to play your best football going forward.
Q: How exciting is it this time of year to be ramping up to those meaningful games?
A: It's exciting. The weather is changing. Some good football is about to be played across the league. This is what people remember, what you do this next month or so. We've got to be locked in for that.