Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale
Martindale: I'm sure everybody's already talked about it, our thoughts and prayers are with (safety) Damar (Hamlin). When you see something like that happen on a football field, really, it's the first time I've ever seen it, something of that gravity. It makes you reflect that when you tell your players you love them, you really do love them. When you break a huddle and say family, it really is family. It was a tough thing to see and, like I said, all our thoughts and prayers are with him. I think it's great how the positive side is I think he's galvanized this league with this situation and really galvanized our country. That's a positive thing that makes you think, 'hey, we're going to be alright'. So, with that, I'll open it up with questions.
Q: What if some of your players, I would think this is natural, have some reservations about hitting guys?
A: There hasn't been any discussion on that. There was discussion on some guys that knew him and from what I understand, I'm not an expert on it, the chance of something like that happening is getting struck by lightning. I don't know the percentages, you'll have to talk to analytics, but it was just a crazy thing that happened at that split second. I've heard there's other sports that have more of these types of injuries than what football has had. It was devastating to watch. Like I said, I know I love our guys here and I'm really good friends with (Bills' defensive coordinator) Leslie Frazier and just texted him and said we're all praying and we're here for them. It was a tough thing because you put yourself, I think it's human nature to put yourself (in that situation), what if that's one of your guys? How they reacted to the entire situation, I thought, was spot on. The medical staff and all that, to me that builds confidence in our league.
Q: (Cornerback) Nick McCloud said yesterday that was the toughest practice he's had to go through, he has a good relationship with Damar and a guy like (safety Jason) Pinnock, played with him at Pitt. How much did you notice that, and do you have to keep an eye on them or talk to them and make sure they're doing alright now?
A: Yeah, I think you do it both privately and then we did it as a defense, too. Both of them spoke and I think that's good because communication, you keep talking about it. We talked about it again today, I asked if there was any updates, if anybody's heard any updates on it. I don't know the best way to say it, I'll just say it this way, they know our defensive meeting room is a safe place. We talk about anything.
Q: When you say both of them spoke, both of them spoke to the room?
Q: What was that like?
A: It's real, it's life. That's the thing that we say that this game is very relative to life in a lot of ways, and it was real, it was life because they were both very close to him.
Q: There's been a positive development this morning in terms of the prognosis. Was that before the meeting?
A: No, it must be after the meeting because JP (Pinnock) said there was going to be a eight o'clock meeting with the family and then he was going to find out after he got out of defensive meetings.
Q: How do you feel about the debate between resting guys and having momentum going forward? Obviously, you have that decision to make this week.
A: I think the philosophy is our philosophy. Where that's at right now, it's up to (head coach Brian Daboll) Dabs, and I'll go with whatever Dabs wants to do and I'm excited. All thoughts and all eyes are looking forward to playing Philadelphia, going into that stadium and playing a division rival.
Q: Now that (safety) Xavier's (McKinney) back, what do you do with the green dot? Do you just keep it with (safety) Julian (Love) or do you go back to Xavier?
A: We haven't thought that far ahead yet. I'll talk to those two specifically before I say anything, and I'll let you guys know.
Q: Obviously this game is important to your players, they want to win, but in terms of the pecking order of the playoffs, it's meaningless. Also, you guys know there is only one of two teams you could play in the Wild Card round, the Vikings or the 49ers. I was wondering, have you guys done any work ahead at all on the 49ers even or a slight refresh this week on the Vikings? Since you do have a little bit of wiggle room here.
A: With the players, no we have not.
Q: But just in terms of coaches, have you?
Q: Just brushing up on stuff?
A: Yeah, and then the guys that work at breaking down tape and all that stuff, they're getting all that going because you can say playing this team is a 90 percent chance and then all of a sudden that 90 turns into zero. So, we've done that.
Q: How happy are you in retrospect that you were able to clinch on Sunday instead of having to do it this weekend?
A: I was happy (laughs). How happy can you be? I was happy, I was that happy.
Q: When you're in that moment and Dabs gets the Gatorade, videos show that you were right there with him and he's doing his fist bumps and everything. You've been here from essentially day one building this season, do you take that moment in? You've had a lot of great moments in your career but what did that mean to you?
A: Sure, you do, that's why you do it because I know the guy that he is, the competitor that he is, and the leader that he is. I was happy for him, also happy for myself, but I was really happy for him. You could just see him release it. Now, we're on to Philly.
Q: You're so composed, and you pride yourself on that on the sideline, he's kind of the opposite. What's your reaction when you see him basically turning red, throwing the headset, all that. How do you take that in?
A: It's just series of events. To me, I think to stay consistent is the best way for me to do it.
Q: (Colts head coach) Jeff Saturday obviously had some comments about (outside linebacker) Kayvon's (Thibodeaux) celebration the other day. Did you talk to Kayvon about it at all and then how did you feel about the entire sequence of events?
A: I think the company line is we're moving onto Philly, but I'll tell you this, he did not know that quarterback was hurt. He's a good guy and he did not know he was hurt. That's a dangerous play when there's two free runners coming off the edge of the backside of the quarterback, but he did not know that (Colts quarterback) Nick Foles was hurt and he wouldn't have done that if he did know that.
Q: Could you see how the optics looked bad?
A: Sure. To me, it doesn't look as bad as everybody's trying to blow this thing up as because I know he did not know he was hurt. I know the guy, I know the person, I know his heart. I get a little protective of that, I know I do, probably sounded that way, but that's just how I feel.
Q: Getting McKinney back and presumably (cornerback) Adoree' (Jackson) seems to be making that kind of progress as well. How, if at all, will that change the blitz rate, which I know is already tops in the league, or the way that you call your defense with both of them securely involved?
A: We talked about it last week, it all depends on the opponent that we play. How we're going to match up and there's just so many different things that go into it that I can't give you an exact answer. I know I feel a lot better that they're there. I think that (defensive backs coach Jerome) Rome (Henderson) has done a great job in the secondary room and (assistant defensive backs coach) Mike (Treier). We have developed some safeties while X has been out and now we've got even more players to add to the mix, which is exciting to me.
Q: How much better does that make the defense, at least the back end?
A: Oh yeah, I think it makes us better. How much better? We'll see. I think that the thing that's exciting to me is that we've come here, and we've built a playoff defense. Nobody can argue that, and I think we're starting to really catch our stride. They understand the value of each snap as it gets closer towards the end of the year. The young ones and the vets.
Q: (Defensive lineman) Dexter's (Lawrence) been a big part of the defense and I just wanted to ask you for some thoughts on him overall and also have you ever seen a defensive lineman make a play like he did Sunday throwing (Colts guard) Quenton Nelson to the ground with one hand and getting the sack with the other hand at the same time?
A: I like the visual picture you painted there (laughs), because it looked like he just picked him and threw him on top of the quarterback and tackled them both to me. Every great defense has a centerpiece. You go back and look at the defense that we're building with the great defenses of the past, they always have a great centerpiece. And he has definitely become the centerpiece of our defense and I think it's awesome. I told him yesterday I was so happy for him, proud of him, because he's a good person, he's smart, and he's worked his tail off. I think it's great when you see a player succeed who puts as much work in as he has.
Q: (Inside linebacker) Landon's (Collins) been biding his time, you said when he's going to get an opportunity, he's going to make the most of it. That pick-6.
A: I'm right again, aren't I? (Laughs) I'm just kidding. The pick-6 was great, it was great. He was in a very humbling position coming back to New York. The thing that I like to see about that is that he kept working, kept working, kept working. Had him for this game, had him up for Jacksonville, then we had one more call-up and selfishly I wanted to get him up for the Washington game and then we were ready to get him on the roster. It just goes to show you that you keep working, you keep battling, you keep trying, eventually you'll break through. I'm really happy for him. He calls himself a hybrid now if you want to know. I told him not one of whatever those little hybrids are, it's got be a sports car hybrid if there's such a thing.
Q: He likes that positionless defense?
A: Yeah, he does.
Q: You've been to the playoffs and a lot of your older veterans have, (defensive lineman) Leo's (Leonard Williams) never been there. Do you sense anything from him? That this means something?
A: It means something to everybody, it really does. Even if you have been to the playoffs, they know how hard it is to get there just out of respect for the league and the players that play in it. They're all getting excited and getting ready for that. It's fun to be around them.
Offensive Coordinator Mike Kafka
Q: You guys have really leaned heavily on 11-personnel the last couple of weeks. I'm just curious what you like about that and how that came about?
A: Yeah, I think just as the weeks go on you evaluate the personnel (groups) that give you an advantage in each game plan. For the past couple of weeks, it's been that way so we've kind of been riding that. Guys have been doing a good job executing.
Q: Obviously this game doesn't mean anything for the standings and you know in the playoffs you're going to play one of two teams; the Vikings or the 49ers. I know you have fresh Vikings film, but have you been doing any prep work at all on them and or the 49ers knowing the realities of those situations?
A: No, full steam ahead on getting prepped and ready for the Eagles.
Q: Why is that?
A: Because that's this week's game. It's what's most important, make sure our guys are ready to go.
Q: You have an unheralded group of wide receivers. Can you talk about the work that (wide receiver) Richie (James), (wide receiver) Darius (Slayton) and Isaiah (Hodgins) have done?
A: Yeah, they've done a tremendous job being in the right spot, executing, playing really hard in both the run and the pass game. They're detail guys, they're smart guys that you really trust that are dependable and tough. (Wide receivers) Coach (Mike) Groh does a good job, really not just with those three guys but it's been a bunch of guys that have contributed in that area, too. I'm proud of that group, they've done a nice job.
Q: Where has (quarterback) Daniel (Jones) grown or shown the most progress in your mind this season?
A: Daniel's done a good job really executing the offense, getting the guys together and there's been a couple new faces in the huddle throughout the season. I think he's managed that well and gotten everyone on the same page and led that group. Being a captain, I think that's important, and he's done a really good job of that – I'm proud of what he's done there.
Q: How much do you believe in the rest versus momentum? If they take a week off, how much do you feel like you have to get it back going again the following week?
A: My philosophy on that mirrors (head coach Brian Daboll) Dabs' philosophy – which is getting the guys ready to go this week. We'll let Dabs handle that at the end of the week.
Q: You went through this with (Kansas City head coach) Andy (Reid) several times. How would you describe what his philosophy was on that situation?
A: I probably wouldn't speak for coach Reid on his philosophy of it, but I know what we're doing here and how Dabs wants to handle it. That's what we'll fully support.
Q: He was big into resting guys. That's always kind of been his theme. What did you see coming out of that the few times that you guys did do that? When your guys basically didn't play at the end of the season.
A: For me, that's so far in the past. I'm just so focused on this week and practice and getting our guys ready to play.
Q: I think the stat is 21 teams have had to start their backup quarterback or their third string quarterback or both at some point this year. How fortunate are you guys to have (quarterback) Tyrod (Taylor)?
A: Yeah, absolutely. Tyrod is a great piece to that quarterback room. He contributes a lot, helps everybody – not just the players but the coaches as well. I find myself leaning on him and his experience. He's seen a lot of football and played a lot of football. He's a great asset to have and a guy that you really cherish in the quarterback room and on the team.
Q: The flipside of that is Daniel is one of the 11 who hasn't missed a start, that was a big knock on him was his durability. What have you seen from him in terms of keeping himself on the field?
A: Daniel does all the right things on the field, off the field, prepping his body. He spends a bunch of time doing that type of stuff, kind of the prehab for those soft tissue things and just the kind of normal aches and pains of a football season. He does a good job of taking care of it and on the field, obviously, protecting himself, getting up and out of bounds and sliding and doing those type of things that also I think helped.
Q: Would you like to see him do a little more of that? Sliding, getting out of bounds?
A: Yeah. I mean I think he's got to make the decision. He's a tough kid, so he's not going to shy away from contact, number one. I think he's done a good job of taking care of himself and not putting himself in those tough situations.
Q: Would you rather not see him throw shoulders at linebackers?
A: I know the one you're referencing. That was a third down in Minnesota. I thought it was a tough play and got us an extra yard to get us into a fourth and manageable.
Q: Just a follow up on that – is that something you're telling him during the game? Especially on Sunday, he took a lot of contact.
A: No, he's just playing football. He's a football player. He's a tough kid and he's going to want to play as hard as he can. Again, I think he's gotten better at just being smart where the contact is. Sometimes he gets up and out, sometimes he lowers his shoulder, sometimes he slides. I think he's got to be smart, a smart football player, and he is. I think he's made good decisions there.
Q: (Tight end Daniel) Bellinger's skillset seems like, especially when you get to the fringe and the red zone – the play you had last week with him in the backfield. It seems to have that position for a tight end but also a guy who can play in the backfield, puts a lot more pressure on the defense. Is that something that you think since he's come back you've been able to get back to where really it seemed like you had been getting to that point when he had gotten hurt?
A: Yeah, it certainly adds some flexibility to your run game, to your pass game to kind of be able to do some of that stuff in the backfield. Those schemes that we've done have been kind of cool. I've obviously liked them because you can influence that second level, getting those guys a step up and it kind of slips them. I think it's been a good piece of the offense.
Q: Not to ask you the secrets to those plays but just the idea of when you are influencing the second level – that also factors into the run game I would imagine with (running back) Saquon (Barkley) building off of that?
A: Absolutely, absolutely. It's one of those complementary plays that we look at each week. Whether it's backfield or he's split out, tight – all those things kind of tie into it and Belly has done a great job of kind of making sure he ties into both the run and the pass.
Q: Is that part of what you're trying to do is build one play off of another and where did you actually learn that from?
A: I think each week you go in trying to find the best plays versus the scheme and then when you look at a play you go, "Alright, how can they defend it? What can they present that can give this certain play issues?" You kind of want to try and build plays off of that to kind of counteract what they may or may not do and have them in your back pocket for – alright, they're doing X,Y or Z, let's jump into this on the next drive or next series. You kind of look at that really for all the run game, pass game and try and complement all the stuff on top of putting the guys in certain spots. That's really helped a lot of it. A lot of time is spent on it.
Q: What do you view as (quarterback) Davis Webb's strengths as a player and how has he contributed to your team this year?
A: I thought you saw it in the preseason. He's done a nice job there. Getting the ball out of his hands. Really taking control of the offense, he has such a great demeanor in the huddle, he has a great demeanor on the field and command of the offense. I think those are some of his biggest attributes for sure.
Q: From your standpoint, what has been the key to Saquon having his best season in terms of rushing yards?
A: I think, I'm sure Saquon would say the same thing, on offense it's an 11-man operation. The guys up front – it starts up front – those guys have got to set the tempo and then Saquon's going to feed off of them, work off of them. I think Saquon is doing a good job of trusting himself, trusting his eyes, trusting his landmarks and all the fundamentals and techniques that we talk about. I think that's what you're seeing. Obviously, he's a talented player, so he gets out in space and he makes the plays in space that we expect him to.
Q: What is particularly valuable about (center Jon) Feliciano? He came here this year, new. What has he given you guys uniquely at center?
A: From the day he got here, obviously he knows – he had experience with the offense. I think he's even taken that to another level as far as being a leader of that group and a veteran of that group, that can kind of get everyone going in the right direction. Felice is one of those guys that you lean on to kind of get it going. He's a tough kid, he's competitive and that's what you love about Felice – he's going to go in there and compete and play his butt off.
Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
Q: For somebody who has witnessed what has gone on here the last five years, did you kind of take a moment on Sunday when you guys are running out the clock? What does that mean to you, having been a part of this?
A: It's the National Football League, and if you've been in this thing long enough, you've got ebbs and flows of the season and how it goes. And then the year, from year to year, obviously it's been a rough. But to be able to get back to a winning way and be able to play in the playoffs, play in the postseason, it's big.
Q: Do you think this has been (kicker) Graham's (Gano) best year since he's been here?
A: Graham's had some pretty good years here. It's one of his better years, for sure. I want to say a few years back, it might've been like 96 (percent), so he's had some pretty good years.
Q: The long ones are more this year.
A: Yeah, and with that being said, anytime – I want to say he has nine or eight.
Q: He's eight of nine on 50-plus (yard field goals).
A: Yeah, that's a lot of 50-plus kicks. A lot of made 50-plus kicks. And when you make those big kicks like that, longer kicks, they're also big. But that's hard to do, especially here in the Northeast where most of them have been made. He's not in a dome in Atlanta or in Dallas. So, it's tough up here.
Q: How comforting is that just as, not just a special teams coach, but for a head coach to know, 'Hey, if some of these games come down to the last possession that this is the guy you have,'?
A: That's huge for us. He's a weapon. You get a chance to know that at any point in time, once you cross the 50 (yard line) and you get into that area where he feels comfortable, that's huge. It's a comforting feeling to know that you have a guy that can get it done when you need to get it done.
Q: Sometimes when you have a weapon like that, you see teams kind of be more conservative and lean towards, 'Well we got this guy.' It seems like he allows you guys to be more aggressive. Is that fair?
A: I agree with you because once you get to the number, you know, 'Okay, we've got a field goal. Let's try and get the first down. Let's try and get more yards.' You know what I mean? He helps you that way.
Q: Is there anything he's doing differently this season that he's been able to make those?
A: When you look at his percentage over the years, it's been pretty good. He's continuing to stay in his routine, and just him and (punter) Jamie (Gillan) have a really good handle on the battery of the three. (Long snapper) Casey (Kreiter), Jamie and Graham have a really good working relationship and really relationship, period. They stay together over at the hotel. So, they're always around each other. I think that synergy of those three is really, really good. Obviously, that helps on gameday.
Q: We saw Jamie had a bit of a rough patch in the middle of the year. Are you seeing growth and more consistency from him as we get later in the year?
A: Absolutely. It's amazing. He put on a show out here yesterday. He hit a lot of big punts yesterday. He probably had like seven or eight of them that were five plus (seconds hang time). So, you see the maturation process of it. You see him getting better. He's getting more confident. Obviously, it helped that it was 63 degrees out here yesterday; it wasn't 33 (degrees). He's doing a lot better. He's working hard. That's part of being a young punter in this league,you're just trying to figure it out. And I think he's on his way to figuring it out.
Q: You know a lot about Giants history and lore and all that stuff in the postseason. It seems like every postseason run has a big special teams moment, whether it's (former kicker Lawrence) Tynes or the one in San Francisco, (former linebacker) Gary Reasons going back. Do you remind your guys of that at all here?
A: We talk about it a little bit. We always talk about the history of the organization, but for us, the most important thing is the game out in front of us. And it's special being in this place. We always point to the wall when we're in a meeting room. We talk about (former linebackers) Lawrence Taylor and Carl Banks and those guys playing on special teams. It's always been a part of this organization – just big plays on teams. I just remember the '07 run when I was here; (Former wide receiver) Domenik Hixon (had) big kickoff returns in Green Bay. Really leading up to the post season, he had an 86-yard kickoff return against New England. So, just a lot of big plays that were made by guys during the stretch – obviously L.T.'s kicks, Lawrence's (Tynes) kicks in Green Bay. And being in that environment and just over the years, the history of it. It's been pretty big.
Q: What do you remember? I guess it would've been Week 17 back then in '07 – that last week – where after (former Giants head coach Tom) Coughlin came to you guys and said, 'We're playing all (our starters),'? What do you remember about that week – leading up to the game, obviously?
A: I want to say we came off the Buffalo game. And it was just all the hype on New England: them going 16-0 and the great (former New England Patriots quarterback) Tom Brady and (former New England Patriots wide receiver) Randy Moss and their great defense and (New England Patriots head coach) Bill Belichick. And that's all that was talked about the whole week. And we just went and played football.
Q: Was Tuesday and this week more challenging to come into work given what happened on Monday?
A: My son was here last weekend. And he's a Division I college football player at the University of Houston. We were sitting up watching the game. I think about my kids. I have kids his (Bills safety Damar Hamlin) age. I have a 28, 27 (year old): I got kids that age. As a dad, that's the first thing (I think about). I'm kind of getting choked up thinking about it. But that right there, when you see that, it just does something to you. And prayers for his family and what they're going through. But that was tough to watch.
Defensive Lineman Leonard Williams
Q: How does it feel?
A: It feels amazing. I mean, that feeling after the game was just unbeatable. Just seeing all the smiles on my teammates, just knowing how long it's been since I've had an opportunity to do this. It means a lot to me. The last time I had an opportunity was my rookie year and we lost to Buffalo the last game of the season. I actually talked to some of my d-line room before that game and I was like, 'After that game, being a rookie and going that far rookie year – I was thinking if we came this far, why not again next year?' The fact that it took seven years to get back there is crazy. I was trying to let everyone know the meaning of these opportunities don't come often and that we should take advantage of it. We did. We went out there and played one of our best games as a team and we played really good team football. It paid off.
Q: How are you feeling neck-wise?
A: I feel alright. I've been battling through it for a few weeks now. It's something that really isn't going to get better until I'm not playing football, you know what I mean? This is something that is probably going to go away during the offseason. I'm taking care of it as much as possible during the week, the team is doing a good job of taking care of me and still going.
Q: I imagine it'll feel pretty good in about a week and a half?
A: Yeah. It's all been worth it. The pain has been – I've been dealing with it and playing. It's paid off the fact that we have a playoff spot. It's worth it.
Q: You didn't miss a lot of games in a lot of losing seasons and now this year, you're playing through the pain and you're winning, I bet it feels good.
A: I know. It's definitely been tough dealing with injuries this year because I've never dealt with injuries much in my career. To be on the sideline while my teammates are on the field fighting for a game is very tough for me. It's something that I had to adjust to and learn from this year. It happens to everybody at some point in their career. I've been dealing with it.
Q: The winning makes it?
A: The winning makes it better, for sure.
Q: You've had good years before, (Defensive lineman) Dexter (Lawrence II) is obviously having his best year. What do you think is the biggest reason you guys have become such a force up front?
A: I think a big reason is because we know each other pretty well. It makes it easier for us to communicate with each other on and off the field. If we see something that one of us can get better from or if something is holding us back or something like that, if he comes to me and says, 'Hey Leo, I feel like this is holding you back,' I'm not going to be offended because I know that its coming from a good place because we're not only good teammates – I feel like we're pretty good friends. Also, we've been playing with each other for three, four years now so we know how to play off of each other and have a feel for where each other is on the field and stuff like that.
Q: What impact have (defensive line coach) Andre (Patterson) and (defensive coordinator) Wink (Martindale) had in terms of taking you guys to another level?
A: They've had a huge impact. Wink obviously has been doing a good job of scheming up teams and just a good job of drawing up plays and stuff like that. But then Coach Dre is just a d-line guru in my opinion. He's taught me a lot of football late in my career, that was interesting because most times if you've played this long in the NFL and in football, you feel like sometimes it's like there's not too much that people can teach you. (Michael) Strahan, actually this year, came into our meeting room one time and told us even when he was in year 10 or something like that, he was still learning from the young guys coming in. No matter where you're at in your career, you can always learn something. I feel like it was cool to hear that from Strahan because I really have learned a lot this year from Dex and also from Coach Dre.
Q: What has Dre taught you? He was saying the other day how happy he was that both you and Dex opened up your arms and said, 'Yeah, tell me. I want to know more.'
A: I think a big thing is playing with length. He always talks about how big and strong me and Dex both are and how if we get our hands on people and play with extension – we both have really long arms – that's a problem for offensive linemen. If you get extension on them, it's hard for them to get their hands on you. You just are in a more controlled, power-dominant position.
Q: What do you think Dex has shown about putting himself in the conversation as one of the top defensive tackles, nose tackles in the league? You had a monster year right before your free agency, he's got the fifth-year option next year but he's certainly due for a big contract. What do you think he's shown?
A: I think he's definitely put the league on notice (to) the type of player that he is. If he hasn't shown it years before, he's definitely done it this year. I've always known the type of player he is because I see him in practice every day. To me, I'm just happy and excited to see that now the world is giving him the same recognition that his peers and coaches have been seeing from him. He's definitely put on a show this year. It's been impressive to watch. He's just a freakish athlete for his size. I think that's really hard to match up.
Q: Do you want to play this week or maybe you're up for the playoffs?
A: I'm really willing to do whatever is best for the team at this point, which I've been doing all year. Whatever is going to get our team to the best position to – at the end of the day our goal, every team's goal in the beginning of the season, is to get a championship. That's our goal at the end of the day. Whatever is going to be the best for us to get to that point, I'm going to do it.