ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — In addition to Head Coach Joe Judge giving reporters his daily update on the team, several players also spoke to the media including rookie Safety Xavier McKinney and newly signed Kicker Graham Gano. A full transcript of every interview can be read below.
Head Coach Joe Judge
Q: I wanted to follow up on something you said yesterday. You mentioned that kickers generally start to come into their own when they hit their 30s. Why is that?
A: I think it’s a combination of figuring out how to really manage their bodies along with the technique and the workload. It’s a long season. When you’re a young player, your body is not used to the duration of the season. A lot of people reference a rookie wall. That’s just a fact. Your body is not caught up and adjusted. That’s for a first-year player. First-year coaches in the NFL go through the same thing as well. I know I personally did myself. I think by the time you get a little bit under your belt experience wise, specialists too, you have more of a rhythm of your weekly preparation. You have more of an ability and a confidence to actually communicate with the coach sometimes. ‘Hey, I need to go lighter today,’ ‘I need a little bit extra work today.’ I think just as you get older, it’s knowing how to manage your body best. Once you kind of figure out your timing and your technique and you’ve had success to that point, it’s kind of about preparation and repeating and executing to make sure you stay on that track.
Q: How much of a factor is it that kickers usually in their 30s, a lot of them have kicked in different types of environments. Indoors, northwest, northeast and so forth. How much of that factors in?
A: I think it’s tremendous, to be honest with you. I think that’s a huge thing. It’s all the experiences they go through. The experiences within the games, the experiences within practice, the exposure they get to different elements. Every stadium is different. You have to understand the wind pattern. Nobody understands it better than specialists. When you talk about playing in Buffalo or playing in Green Bay or playing in New England, you can ask a specialist and they can tell you the wind pattern. The really good ones can tell you the wind pattern after a storm if it reverses and flips to pressure changes. It’s amazing to really listen to some of these guys, talking to Graham (Gano). In previous years, I worked with (Stephen) Gostowski. Guys like that really understand not just their own bodies, but they’re very in-tune to where they’re kicking. If it’s a dome game, you’ll see guys a lot of times go indoors and kick because they’re not facing any wind. It may be an outside practice for the team, but the kicker has to get his work in inside as best he can, even if he comes out later and joins the team to kick outside with protection. But those experiences are critical.
Q: There are a lot of questions from the outside about your young cornerback group. Earlier in the week, it looked like, especially on Monday, there were a lot of struggles. What have you seen improvement wise? Looking forward to tomorrow in the intrasquad work, what are you looking for specifically from that group of guys?
A: We’re looking for a level of improvement every day. When we go in after today, we’re going to turn the tape on. There are things to highlight that are positives and there are things that coaches often will correct that everybody has to learn from. They have to start first with the scheme that fits into it, and that’s really what leverage they play, where their help is, and how they’re matched up on a specific play. Secondly, it’s the technique that fits into each kind of coverage we have. Different kinds of man require different kinds of coverage. Different kinds of zones require different kinds of coverage and leverage. Within each one, there’s some variety. The biggest thing we’re looking for is just consistent improvement day by day. For every guy, it’s a little bit different. Some guys need to be better on the line of scrimmage, some guys in the deep part of the field, some guys have to react to the breaking and movement of the receiver. We’re trying to get all of them right now on the same page across the board and make them consistent throughout the play.
Q: Now that you’ve seen your team on the field for a few days, what do you think of your team?
A: I’m pleased with the way they work right now. They come to work every day with a lot of enthusiasm and urgency. They’re very coachable. These are guys that are very in-tune to the details that we’re preaching within our program. I’ve seen a lot of comradery being built through the competition on the field, as well as the interaction off the field in the meeting rooms, in the dining hall and the locker room. You’re starting to see a lot of the personalities really start to come out. It’s a fun group to work with. I love coming to work every day.
Q: Pretty much every coach you listen to says draft status, money, experience doesn’t matter to try to make the team. Some coaches actually believe that. Not all do, I think they all say it. Do you believe that 100 percent and if so, why? Also, is there something about undrafted rookie guys that maybe have a better chance to make your team instead of someone else’s team? Is there something intrinsic about those undrafted guys that you maybe gravitate to?
A: I can just tell you on the backend of that question, I can’t speak for 31 other clubs. I just know that we have a high value for anybody who comes in every day and produces. That’s what we’re looking for. It’s a production business. We’re looking for guys who improve on a daily basis, guys who fit what we’re trying to do, both culture wise and schematic wise. I don’t care where you’re drafted, undrafted, where you came from, rookie, vet, that really doesn’t matter to me. It truly doesn’t. At the end of the day, we’re going to put the best 11 on the field. While on the outside that seems tough to believe at times, at the end of the day, I have to look 53 guys in the eye and I have to tell them that I gave them all the best chance to be successful. You can’t lie to those guys in the locker room. Those players know who the best players are. They line up and compete against them. If you force somebody in just because of maybe where they were drafted or how much you signed them for, you have 52 other guys staring at you knowing you’re lying to them because you’re not giving them the best chance right there. You can say a lot of fluff around here and there, but you have to be honest with your team. Those guys know better than anybody else who the best players in the locker room are.
Q: One quick follow up. A couple of your undrafted rookie receivers, the kids from Ohio State (Austin Mack, Binjimen Victor) and LSU (Derrick Dillon), they come from big programs. Are they competing out there the way you want to see them? Do they show something?
A: They are. They’re really improving on a daily basis. You can see it early on, we had that acclimation period where there were a lot of walkthroughs. It’s just natural to see guys break a huddle, they go the wrong way, they line up, they don’t have the motion exactly right. But they don’t repeat mistakes, and that’s the biggest thing. The next day, they break the huddle and they’re in the right spot. They get a motion, they run the way you want them to. They get a shift, they’re in the right spot. They’re starting to understand the coverages, how the leverage applies to them on a specific route, the details and the execution of the footwork, securing the ball, catching it, tucking it, turning it up field in a tight turn, identifying the defender coming at you, and then attacking where there’s leverage and working away the space to outrun his pursuit angle. They’re doing a really good job. One thing is, you look across the meeting room, those guys right there, those young receivers, they have wide eyes and they are staying attached to you the entire meeting wherever I move. They’re in-tune and taking good notes.
Q: I noticed at the beginning of every practice, you seem to have a comment or something to say to about half of the roster, walking around when they’re stretching. Why is that kind of face to face coaching from the head coach important? Have you always done that? What are you saying to these guys at that moment?
A: It’s different to everybody. To me, it’s just having daily contact with every player. I think that’s very important. I’ve always been like that, whether I was the low man on the totem pole or now in my position where I’m overseeing everything. To me, it’s important to have daily connections with every player on the roster. It’s important that they know that you know them on a personal level and you care about them. Now look, depending on what happened that day, sometimes you’re giving them a reminder of certain technique or scheme, sometimes you’re just checking on how they’re doing personally, and sometimes you talk a little smack to them to see if you can get a little bit of juice in them. It’s different for every player, every day. But we have a fun group. They’re fun to float around with. There are certain guys on the team, Colt McCoy, (Kevin) Zeitler, some of our older guys, Golden (Tate), they like to mix it up a little bit right there, have a little bit of fun. Sometimes the rookies don’t understand the sarcasm early in practice just yet, but they’ll get it.
Q: One quick follow up. Corey Ballentine looked like he was held out of the 11 on 11 in the second half of practice today. Was that for any particular health reason?
A: No. We’re really just trying to structure everyone’s legs right now to really get them into tomorrow’s scrimmage and let them go full tilt. We had a lot of players today that we really looked at the GPS information throughout the week and wanted to go and map out practice for the right rotation for the entire team.
Q: I wanted to ask you about two defensive backs who come from very different paths here, (Xavier) McKinney and Jarren Williams. What have you seen from them so far?
A: Those two guys compete. They both compete, and that’s the number one thing that stands out about both of those guys. Look, the program you come from is really irrelevant. Some guys have a little bit more exposure to certain kinds of schemes or vocabulary. That may give them a jump start initially, but really wherever you come from, you have to learn this level of football. I’ve dealt with a lot of guys from small schools, guys who had to change positions, and they’ve been able to do that successfully in the NFL. Once you get your foot in the door, all that matters is what you do here. But speaking specifically on those two defensive backs, the thing that I really like about the way those guys come to work every day is the points you make in the morning meetings you see show up on the field. Whether that’s eye control on the quarterback in zone coverage, whether that’s playing aggressive on the line of scrimmage in man, whether that’s blitzing off the edge and taking an edge of the blocker and not fitting thick down the middle of them. Whatever it may be, those guys care about what you’re talking about, and that’s important. When you see a guy who’s working the technique you’re coaching and they’re executing how they’re supposed to execute, that’s what you can really coach and clean up. If a player is not doing what they’re supposed to do and not trying to do it the way you’re teaching them to do it, there’s really not much that you can coach on and correct at that point because they haven’t done it right to begin with.
Q: You were asked earlier about what you thought about the team and you talked about how much you enjoy them, how much of a pleasure it is to be around them, is it too soon to know what they are as a football team, skill wise?
A: Look, it’s entirely too soon. Tomorrow is our first scrimmage, an opportunity to go out there and really start working. I’m pleased with the direction we’re going in right now. I see daily improvement from everyone. I see an urgency to improve. This is an evolving process. It’s a long season. You’re going to see a lot of teams come out there in Week 1 and no matter how they look, good or bad, Week 1, they’re going to be a completely different team Week 16. I had the opportunity last year, Pat Graham was the defensive coordinator in Miami, we played them in Week 2. We went down to Miami, they really weren’t much of a team. They came into our place Week 17 and beat our butts. They were a much better, much improved team. That’s why I have a lot of confidence in what Pat’s doing out there. I’ve seen his guys in live action. I’ve seen him play with practice squad players and get them to the level of being NFL, on the field, game day players and beat us. That’s important to me. To me, it’s not what you are right now. It’s where you’re building towards. Where is this progress going? We’re coaching every day to get every player to develop, and that’s key. We’re trying to get every player as many reps as we can so that they can have the experiences in practice that will carry over to the games.
Q: What do you hope to learn tomorrow during the scrimmage? And while this answer might be obvious, I’m going to ask it anyway, will tomorrow be the most football-like practice you’ve had so far?
A: The answer to that one is a simple yes. Just in terms of you structure a lot of practices to see specific situations that match your install so the team can develop what you’re teaching. Tomorrow will be a lot of put the ball down and play it out. We may put the ball down more in a red area and let them play in the red area, or we put them in a backed-up situation and let them play it out from that zone. But tomorrow is definitely going to be a lot more of just aware on the field, see the sticks, what’s the down and distance. Jason (Garrett) call it, Pat call it, T-Mac (Thomas McGaughey) have his unit ready to go if it’s third down. Go down to fourth down and let’s just go ahead and play it out and see how smart our players can react, see how physical they can play, and see how we can hold up our fundamentals and execution through a higher intensity.
Q: You’ve had an opportunity to see Evan Engram now and the skills he brings to the table firsthand. What can he be in your eyes if he can be on the field for 16 games?
A: I’ll tell you what, the way he works every day and the attention to detail he’s shown with everything he gets coached on, to me, it’s always a question of can this guy reach his potential based on the way he’s working. I think this guy can. Knowing what time this guy has got, he has a high ceiling. He’s very, very talented. A lot of guys have a lot of talent and aren’t as open to coaching. What I see from Evan is, he’s very in-tune, he’s very intelligent, he’s very deliberate about how he works and what he’s focusing on within each period. He listens to everything you say and tries to apply every technique as detailed as he can. That’s critically important. I’m very pleased with him, I’m very excited to work with him. He’s a guy that, I’ll tell you what, I saw him early in the process when I first took the job, he was still around here rehabbing a little bit. Obviously, we lost physical contact with the players through the pandemic separation. But he’s a guy that showed up from that time off really in great shape. He put on some good weight. He came in ready to really train. We talked earlier in the interviews about the difference between being in shape and training, and he came in ready to train. You watch the way this guy runs through conditioning through the day. He has a high motor. He has a large gas tank to keep pushing through the day. I’m really, really pleased with him coming to work every day. He’s one of those guys… look, one of the comments I give him, he’s a guy that I kind of just tell him, ‘Man, I love watching you practice. Let’s not disappoint me out there today.’ I turn his tape on and see him flying around. He’s a fun guy to watch play because he has a lot of ability, but he loves the game, too.
Q: You might think this is really silly, and when I preface it with that you know you’re in trouble, but there’s a voice, the guy that says, ‘One minute left’ over the loud speaker. It really sounds like Bill Belichick. Who is that? It’s not Bill, right?
A: It’s someone from our equipment staff. I think it’s either (Chris) Pridy, I don’t think it’s Amos Jones. Pat Hanlon asked me that earlier. But if you can get Bill to do a voiceover, you have something on him better than I do, I’ll tell you that right now. No, it was kind of a quick fix. We just want to make sure we got that after the first day to give the coaches a heads up. Obviously, there’s a lot of moving parts in our practice, that we just want to give everyone that kind of one-minute warning, tie up the period, finish it up. If you’re far away, let’s start transitioning earlier to make sure we can start the next period on time. That one-minute warning is just something we built in to ease the transition.
Safety Xavier McKinney
Q: What has the adjustment been like from Alabama to this camp?
A: The quest is a little different. The transition is a little different from college to the pros. It’s definitely a different level of speed and tempo. Like you said, it’s still somewhat similar as far as what we do. As far as tempo wise, it’s a little bit faster. It has a lot of similar things to it.
Q: How similar is the way Joe operates to the way Saban operates?
A: It’s very similar. When I kind of figured out and when he discussed some of his rules and how he wanted things to be handled and how we wanted us to be as a team, it was almost like a mirror version of how it was at Bama for me. As far as that, it was an easy adjustment for me. I have already been in this type of system. It wasn’t that hard of a transition.
Q: Can you take us through the interception you had the other night? Coming up on the line of scrimmage it looked like.
A: I was on a blitz and I have a couple progressions to read through before I actually finish out my whole blitz. Once I go through all those progressions, that’s when I can kind of attack. I felt the quarterback looking my way, looking for something behind me. I felt something behind me and it was almost like a reaction play. I used my instincts and tried to make a play for us on the goal line.
Q: It looked like you almost had one again today. I guess they ruled it incomplete.
A: Yeah, I almost had one today. I think I almost had a couple today. I didn’t finish the play like I should have, but that’s why we have film. I’m going to go back and see where I can get better and where I can improve.
Q: Are you satisfied on a play where you can break up a pass?
A: No, never satisfied. That’s my biggest thing right now. For me, I know what I can do. I know what I’m capable of. A lot of the times I go back and watch my film and when we watch film as a team, I always study and see what I did wrong and what I can do better so I can improve on a play. Whether it’s a down or whoever I’m guarding, I try to make sure I key on that every time I watch film.
Q: Joe Judge told us a little while ago that tomorrow will be the most intense practice you guys have had, it’s the scrimmage. How excited are you to be in that environment where he said it’s going to be put the ball down and go? The defensive coordinator will be calling plays, that kind of thing. How ready are you to play some football?
A: I’m extremely ready. It’s tough to say because we have had some pretty intense days. Like I said, it’s supposed to be a scrimmage tomorrow and I’m ready for it. Whatever we might see, whatever we might get. It will definitely be fun to get out there and actually and be able to play freely without coaches yelling at you. Just going out there and playing, trying to make some plays.
Q: How are you approaching your starting spot. We seeing you running with the ones next to Peppers. Do you feel like you have secured that spot? How do you approach it as a rookie?
A: Like I said before, I’m just trying to get better each and every day. I’m not exactly where I want to be right now. Even like I said before I even got up here, whatever role they want me to play, whatever they want me to do so that the team is successful, then I’ll make sure I do that. For me, my main focus as a rookie is trying to get better. Try to earn the respect of my teammates, try to earn the trust of my teammates. That’s what I’m going to do.
Q: You mentioned how Joe Judge’s approach is very similar to what you saw at Alabama. In general, how receptive are players to the discipline, the hard hitting, the yelling? Joe Judge has gotten some criticism already for that approach. I’m sure there are some players who don’t like it. From your experience, how do players usually receive this kind of coaching?
A: I think as a team, we love it to be honest. Everybody is trying to get better, everybody is trying to improve. Everybody loves discipline, especially here. Right now, we go out there, we focus on what we need to focus on. Which is becoming a better team, getting better at individuals, that’s what we do. Everybody on the team likes Coach Judge, I think we’re good on that. We just go out there and work and try to get better as a team.
Q: Can you give us a little insight into how the chemistry is developing between yourself, Jabrill, Julian, all the safeties in general? Based on what we have read and what we are seeing, there is going to be a lot put on you guys. I’m just wondering how that chemistry is coming amongst all of you.
A: We are building it every day. As a DB room, including the corners and all the safeties, we’re building it every day in film, when we are out there in practice. When we are walking through, we always try to make sure we are good communication-wise in what we do. Try to make sure we are on the same page so when we get out on the field everybody is working on a string so it’s a lot easier to play like that. I think it’s coming along really well for all of us. Of course, we as a group still have a lot to work on and improve. That’s what we make sure that we do each and every day when we walk in the film room and we get out there for practice.
Q: Who is kind of emerging as the leader of that group. I’m sure you are one of the young leaders, I would imagine Bradberry. Are there any other guys stepping up and being a leader of that young defensive backfield room?
A: I feel like all the vets, you got JB, Pep, J Love, all the older guys are leading us. You have Nate Ebner, all these guys are leading us. Especially the rookies, they are trying to teach us the right way. They are trying to teach us all the things to do. Whether that’s off the field or on the field, they are trying to make sure we have the right mindset coming into it, so we don’t get lazy or nothing gets bad from that standpoint. There are pushing us and making us work really hard.
Kicker Graham Gano
Q: I can remember sitting in the press box in Carolina and you made a 63-yard walk off field goal against the Giants. What do you remember about that and has anybody busted your chops about that now that you are here?
A: I had a feeling that would be the first question. I’ve heard it a few times. I think it’s probably best if I don’t talk about that much here. That was as good memory. I’m definitely excited to be here now and hopefully too many people don’t bring that up.
Q: When you get cut by Carolina and you haven’t played for a year, is there something in your head saying ‘is this it?’ Were you confident somebody would call you?
A: Yeah, extremely confident. I’m healthy now and I’m feeling really good. I have been kicking for a while. I was just excited for the next opportunity, it’s a nice fresh start. I feel like this is a great place to be. I’m surrounded by great people and it’s really been fun. I’ve only been here a few days but getting to meet the guys, the teammates and the staff. It’s been a really good experience for me.
Q: When you kicked today, what were your numbers? I assume you have worked with these guys before.
A: We started working together yesterday. It’s been very smooth. Riley (Dixon) and Casey (Kreiter) have been very good with the operation. It’s been really surprising how quickly we have picked it up. Today we made all of them. It was nice to be behind a line of scrimmage again. It’s fun, this is what I enjoy doing. It’s nice to be back playing football again.
Q: What was it like for you to be out for such a long time. What was that rehab process like? When did you feel like you were back? What makes you feel going forward that it will not be a problem and that you will be able to stay healthy and the leg is 100 percent?
A: I had surgery up here in New York at HSS with the best doctor that does what I had done, Riley Williams. I feel like my leg is better than it’s ever been. I feel strong and I’m just going to keep getting better and better. I feel really good. As far as missing time and all that, that’s just part of the game. Sometimes things happen that are out of your control and really you can control what you can. My mindset was I’m just going to keep getting better at what I can do and just move forward. I feel you always have to have a positive mindset. Sometimes life is going to throw things at you that are going to be tough. It’s how you respond to it is what matters.
Q: That leg was 100 percent around what point? Are we talking like months ago, six months ago, a year ago?
A: It doesn’t matter. It’s 100 percent now and I’m ready to roll.
Q: Have you had any discussions with Riley (Dixon) about that No. 9 jersey yet?
A: We’ve had a few discussions. I think he’s going to stick with 9, which is fine. I’m not worried about it. I’m just happy to have a number. I’m happy to be here and have a spot on an NFL team. It’s a blessing in itself. I think the number doesn’t make the player. The player makes the number. Whatever number they put me in, it really doesn’t matter to me.
Q: Can you just talk a little bit, do you have a relationship with Lawrence Tynes, and has he told you anything about this organization?
A: Yeah, I’ve known Lawrence for a long time. We actually had very similar experiences growing up. Both of our fathers were in the military. He grew up in Milton, I grew up in Pensacola. They’re right next to each other. Both Scottish born. I lost my accent a long time ago, but my mom’s accent is still very strong. Sometimes, I’m on the phone and guys in the locker room will pick up on it. But yeah, I’ve known him for a while. Obviously, he did some amazing things here. I’m excited to be able to follow in his footsteps and be able to make memories here myself.
Q: Just to follow up on that question, what has Lawrence Tynes told you about kicking in the northeast winds, particularly in MetLife Stadium, which is typically a very tricky stadium for kickers to operate in?
A: I disagree with you. I don’t think it’s too difficult. I played a bunch of games. I played for the Washington Football Team for a few years, I played the Jets here quite a few times and the Giants as well. I’ve had a lot of experience kicking in this stadium and just wind in general. Over the course of a career, you kind of learn how to manipulate the wind in different ways. It’s just one of those things you deal with, the conditions, as they come. I don’t really worry about it too much. Lawrence, I mean we’ve chatted off and on over the years. I don’t think he played in this stadium a whole lot. But yeah, I’m looking out at the stadium right now. I’m excited. I ate breakfast this morning looking at the stadium, just imagining kicking in it for the Giants. I can’t wait. It’s going to be exciting.
Wide receiver Corey Coleman
Q: You were really excited about last season and didn’t even make it through the first practice. How hard is it to regroup and refocus on this upcoming season now?
A: My focus has always been there. I’m just excited to get back with the team and being around the guys and stuff like that.
Q: How are you feeling?
A: I’m doing good.
Q: No issues, you are 100 percent? You looked like you are letting it fly out there?
A: I had a great offseason. I worked hard thanks to the Giants training staff. I feel real good.
Q: We talked last year and you mentioned you felt you found a home with this organization. What has it meant to you that they brought you back again even though you were injured? They are giving you this opportunity to make a name for yourself.
A: I’m very grateful. I love this organization and I’m excited to be a part of it, it’s something special. I’m really excited and thankful, to be honest.
Q: What was the significance of staying around here last year? Some guys who get injured go away and do their own separate thing at home. Why did you stay with the Giants, day in and day out in the locker room last year?
A: Like I said before, I love this organization, I wanted to be around the guys. Everyone on the team, we are super close. Me being here, being involved in football, even though I wasn’t playing, I was still involved. I was happy to be here, and I wanted to be here, too.
Q: How would you describe what’s been the first couple years of your career? What’s the right way to describe it? Has it been frustrating, motivating? How does that go into what we would consider a make or break year for you?
A: I really don’t look at it like that. Everybody has ups and downs. I just trust the process and I am happy to be a part of the New York Giants.
Q: You have been through a lot in the short time of your career. You are still young. Have you reset your expectations and career goals at all as you head into this next season and next part of your career?
A: I think it’s always important to set goals. Most important is being here with my team each and every day. Working out with them, learning the playbook and going through everything. That’s really important to me.
Q: Is that a different mindset than when you first got into your career? I would imagine at the very beginning your expectations were probably pretty high.
A: All goals change each and every year. The older you get, the more you learn.
Q: Tomorrow at the scrimmage Joe Judge said we are going to see the defense calling plays, Jason Garrett calling plays. Do you have an observation or two of Jason Garrett as your offensive coordinator?
A: It’s pretty amazing, he is such a great guy. He coaches us hard and it’s exciting to be with him. He’s a very smart man and he knows what he’s doing. I’m listening every step of the way trying to learn more from him. We’re excited to have him here.
Q: You are in a group with Golden, Darius, Sterling. Where do you see yourself fitting in? What do you think your role could be in that group?
A: Wherever Coach Judge wants me, I’m going to do whatever I can for the team. I’m excited to be part of this group. I think we have a very special group.
Q: Where does your skillset sort of fit in with them?
A: I think every receiver we have in the room has a great skillset. We’re all capable of making plays.
Q: The offseason workouts you did, you were with Saquon, Sterling and Daniel Jones and all the guys. How did you get involved in that? Did you reach out to those guys and say, ‘hey, I want to be a part of this’? What did you see from Daniel in those workouts?
A: Really just everyone wanting to be on the same page. Everything went good, we got to be with each other under all the circumstances. We were just really enjoying the time just being with each other as a team.
Q: What did you see from Daniel?
A: Daniel is an amazing guy. He’s a fun-loving guy. He’s great, he’s one of my close friends, too. We talk and stuff like that, he’s very important to me.