ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — New York Giants President and Chief Executive Officer John Mara addressed the media Thursday for the first time this season. For more on Mara’s press conference including his hopes for this season, click here.
Head Coach Joe Judge, RB Saquon Barkley, QB Daniel Jones, and Safety Jabrill Peppers also spoke to the media today. The transcripts for all four interviews can be found below. Click on a specific name to jump right to that interview.
President and CEO John Mara
Opening Statement: I just want to briefly say I’ve been very pleased so far with how camp has gone, particularly given the circumstances that we’re dealing with. I think our coaching staff and our office staff have done a great job. We’re excited about starting the season. With that, I’ll take your questions.
Q: Thinking back to January when you hired Joe Judge and the thoughts and impressions that he made, what you’ve seen over the last three and a half weeks, has it confirmed what you thought? I know no games have been played, but what are your thoughts of your coach right now?
A: I’ve been very pleased so far. The things that are noticeable to me are the amount of teaching that goes on on the field. It’s like nonstop. I think the intensity of the practice. I think the communication that he has with the players, on football and non-football issues. I’ve always been very, very impressed with the staff that he’s put together. There’s a lot of experience on that staff, and I feel very confident that we’re in a good place right now in terms of trying to get these players to perform at their best.
Q: Is it anything compared to what you’ve seen through your history here watching training camps with the Giants that you think back to that gives you some flashbacks?
A: Every coach, every staff has its own unique personality, their own unique methods. The combination of the intensity of the practices plus the amount of teaching that goes on, the communication level and the way the players seem to be buying into it, I just feel good about all that. I’m not going to compare him to anybody else. So far, I like what I see. But as you pointed out, we haven’t played a game yet. There’s a lot left to see. But so far, I think we’re in a good place with what they’ve done with this team.
Q: It seems like Joe talks a lot about a long-term plan, a long-term process and a vision. I’m assuming that’s something that you’ve bought into. I’m wondering though if your general manager is on the same timeline in your mind, in terms of having the patience? You talked about at the end of last year him having to improve his batting average, things like that. Are they sort of tied together in your mind?
A: It’s interesting you say it because it was one of the things that sold us on Joe, is that he sees the big picture and he sees the long-range picture. That was something that was clear to us in the interview that we did with him back in January, and he’s only reinforced that since. But I think the communication between the two of them has been excellent. I think they are on the same page. When they disagree about something, they talk it out and they come to a conclusion. That’s all I can expect from them, is that they’re both reasonable, they talk it through, and then they come to a decision. At the end of that, it’s the New York Giants’ decision, it’s not either one of theirs. So far, I’ve been very pleased with that. In terms of a timeline, they both want the same thing. They want to build a good foundation here and set us up to be able to compete for Super Bowls. I think we’re off to a good start with this combination.
Q: There was some speculation I saw given the current economic climate that some people were wondering if the Giants might be for sale. Is that something that has ever entered your mind?
A: No. No, it hasn’t. We’re in this for the long haul.
Q: In terms of the social justice initiatives that Roger Goodell has supported very vocally and very strongly in recent weeks, what is your stand on that? I know you welcomed the start of the video that was played on Friday night, but you’ve also expressed reservations in correspondences you’ve received over the years from fans, particularly during the time when players took a knee. What is your stance, and is there any concern on your part that this might affect the NFL in terms of its popularity?
A: I’ve never expressed any reservations about my feelings about that. My position about that back in 2017 is the same as it is now in terms of, I’ll support any player’s right to engage in silent protest. What makes it easy for me to do that is when I see how much work they’re doing in the community and how important what is going on in this country right now is to each of them. They back it up with actions, not just words. My position now will be the same as it was back then. In terms of the social justice initiative, our players are very engaged in working in a lot of different areas. They asked me to take part in that video last week and I was happy to do that. We had a great meeting, Joe and I, with our leadership group last week to talk about some of the things that we want to do in the future. I’m going to support our players, particularly when they engage in the type of activity that they have been off the field. They’ve been fantastic about that, so I’m going to continue to support them. I understand the fact and accept the fact that that’s not going to be necessarily popular with certain segments of our fan base, but I think it’s the right thing to do.
Q: Obviously, this is an unprecedented offseason with a lot of challenges. Are you going to factor that into your evaluations? More for Dave (Gettleman) than Joe, but at the end of the season, is that going to be a big factor for you?
A: I think you have to certainly consider everything, yeah. I think this is the 60th training camp that I’ve been to in my lifetime, and I’ve never experienced anything like this before. It’s just a unique set of circumstances. But I’m very pleased with the way they have dealt with it and the communication that’s gone on. Obviously, I want to win some games, but I feel good about the direction that we’re heading in right now. I want to feel that way in January as well, but I have every reason to expect that I will.
Q: I know you’re never going to give a win total, but what would qualify as successful? You said you want to see progress. What do you need to see this year?
A: I want to feel like when we walk off the field after the last game that we play, whenever that is, that we’re moving in the right direction. That we have the pieces in place to compete for a Super Bowl, and that the combination of people that we have here is going to work going forward. That’s what Steve (Tisch) and I need to feel like. I think we give the same answer every year because that’s truly what it is. You can’t pin it to a certain win-loss total, but you just want to feel like this group that we have together right now is building something that’s going to compete for a championship.
Q: Given the answer you just gave, and I certainly understand what you said and respect your reasoning, what would you say to the Giants fan who hears that and says, ‘But my gosh, could we at least play competitive games in December? Can we at least make a run at the NFC East again?’?
A: That’s certainly what we want to do. That’s certainly what our goal is, and I’ll be very disappointed if we’re not in that situation. But I can’t sit here and say we have to win a certain number of games otherwise I’m going to blow the whole thing up. Again, I think Steve (Tisch) and I agree that we just need to feel like we’re building something that’s going to compete for a championship. If we’re able to play meaningful games in December, that would obviously be a sign that we are doing that.
Q: You’ve been one of the more moderate owners. Have you, when you talk to other owners around the league, felt them changing and coming more towards your stance?
A: I think that’s a fair statement. I think there’s been more of an acceptance of the fact that players have the right to engage in peaceful protests. I think there has been a change over the last three or four years, especially given what’s gone on in this country. I can’t say that everybody feels that way, but I definitely have felt things moving in that direction, yes.
Q: The COVID-19 pandemic, I can’t believe we haven’t gotten there yet. How confident are you that the NFL will play all 256 of its games here without interruption as you see what’s gone on around the rest of the league? Are you more confident now than you were maybe in March or April?
A: I would say I don’t know about all 256 games or whatever it is, but I am definitely more confident now than I was. If you had asked me in March or April, I would have had serious doubts about that. But given the way the protocols have worked so far and given the very low rate of positive tests, I think we have a good chance of playing a full season. Obviously, there are going to be some setbacks during the season that we’ll have to deal with. But I think we have the protocols and the process in place that we’ll be able to deal with it. If it means postponing a game here or there or making it up, I think we’ll be able to do that. Time will tell. But right now, I think the players and the staff have done a great job of being responsible. As I said, our testing results so far have been terrific. I never would have believed that we would have had so few positive tests, and I hope I’m not jinxing it by saying that. But it’s worked very well so far.
Q: On the social justice questions, forgive me if this was addressed, but the anthem, you said you’d support guys in their causes and their community work. Will you support guys who kneel during the anthem?
A: Yes, we’ll probably talk about that with the players possibly sometime during the week. I’ll say the same thing to them that I said to the group in ’17, and that is my preference is everybody stand, but if you decide that in your conscience you think taking a knee is the right thing to do, I’m going to support your right to do that because I believe in the First Amendment and I believe in the right of people, especially players, to take a knee in silent protest if that’s what they want to do.
Q: I know you say you don’t want to compare coaches, which is understandable. But in the early days of the Tom Coughlin era, you lived through a coach who had a lot of rules, seemed strict, practices were hard, and it didn’t work out right away with the players. They didn’t like it. Why do you think that this time is different with a similar coach?
A: I would say it ended up working out pretty well under Tom Coughlin. It was his second year we were in the playoffs there. I think the players have bought into this so far. I don’t see any indication that they haven’t, and I think that the combination of the intensity, the discipline plus the teaching that’s going on I think is going to pay off for us in the long run. It’s a fairly young team, so a lot of those guys don’t know any better. They went through tough programs in college and I don’t think this is any great shock to their systems.
Q: Is this the type of coaching you like to see? Toughness, discipline, that type of thing?
A: There is not any one style that works. Every coach has his own style. I just want to see results at the end of the day. I do think that what Joe has done so far has been something that gives me some confidence that we’re moving in the right direction. But at the end of the day, it’s going to be about wins and losses.
Q: You guys had a couple of players that were arrested this offseason. I know you’ve since released one of them, DeAndre (Baker) is still on the Commissioner’s Exempt List. But I’m just curious how involved you get when things like that happen, and kind of what your feelings are, particularly about DeAndre’s case, which was pretty alarming? He’s still kind of hanging around the roster. I was just curious what your thoughts were?
A: It’s obviously very disappointing when that happens. We certainly did not see that coming. A decision will be made sooner rather than later on that. Aldrick (Rosas), that was disappointing too because we knew he had an issue with a previous DUI before, but he seemed to be doing well. He had a Pro Bowl year a couple years ago and is just a good person. It was very disappointing to see that happen. The DeAndre thing was a shock. There was no indication coming out of college… I listen very closely in those draft meetings when they talk about players and their backgrounds and whatnot, and particularly when you’re talking about a first-round player. There was no indication that we should be concerned about any criminal activity. That was a big disappointment.
Q: Following up on an earlier question on social justice, you focused a lot in your response on what the players are doing and your participation in the video, your support of the players. My question is Troy Vincent earlier this week, he had talked about, in speaking with players, they want for the league and for influential and wealthy owners to use their political leverage to sort of hold accountable those officers who mis-stepped. I’m curious what you’ve learned listening to your Black players, staff, fans over the last few months? Outside of your vocal support for players and their First Amendment rights, are there any further actions you as an individual plan to take?
A: I think, and this is something I think we’re going to do on a league-wide basis, one of the things we would like to do is get our players in front of some of our local political leaders, be it the governor, the mayor, maybe the police chief, just to talk about what steps are being taken going forward to affect some sort of change. I will tell you this, one of the most memorable team meetings that I’ve ever been involved with took place I guess right after the George Floyd murder when we had a Zoom call with the players. I listened to the players talk about their own experiences growing up dealing with law enforcement and whatnot. To see the raw emotion that came out of them, guys got very, very emotional talking about it, it was something that really was an eye-opener for me. Then to see how they reacted since then and all of the work they’ve put in in their communities and in our local community here has been really gratifying. It makes it easy to want to support them going forward.
Q: How optimistic are you that you might get fans into the stadium at some point this year? What’s your thought process on you go to Dallas and they’ll have fans there? It really depends on the team and the area of the country on whether they’re going to have fans in the stadium.
A: We’re not going to have fans certainly in September. I’m hopeful that at some point we can have them back in. But I have to say I’m not all that optimistic about that. In terms of there being fans in other buildings where we go, that’s just the way it’s going to be. We had a league meeting a couple weeks ago, I think I made the statement that we just have to accept the fact that this is going to be an unusual year. It’s not necessarily going to be competitively fair in the sense that some teams are going to have fans in the building, some teams are not. That’s just the way it is, and we have to deal with it. Certain areas of the country are going to be a little more liberal about letting people in the building. That’s just something that we’re going to have to accept and move forward.
Q: A follow up on a previous thing. You talked about you want to see progress. You just want to see the team move forward. Your fans, I’m sure a bunch of them would say, ‘Well, we’ve waited already X number of years.’ At what point do you need to see wins?
A: I get that. I hear that. Believe me, I hear that in the correspondence I get from them. Again, it’s pretty hard to sit here and say we need to win x number of games, we need to be in the playoffs this year. We made some big changes over the last few years, and I think we’re starting to build a foundation that can last over the long haul. That’s what Steve (Tisch) and I want to see at the end of the year. Are we moving in the right direction? I know that’s not going to satisfy a lot of our fans, but I just think it’s the right philosophy to have.
Q: The DeAndre Baker and Aldrick Rosas situations, how do those situations in your mind impact your evaluation of Dave Gettleman, if at all? I’ll let you answer that. I have a competitive advantage question, too.
A: First of all, the Aldrick thing, if I’m not mistaken, we acquired him before Dave was here. That can happen on any team. The DeAndre Baker thing was just something we did not see coming. I read some stories saying there were red flags about him, but not in the sense that you would be concerned about criminal conduct at all. Obviously, it’s something that’s embarrassing to the organization. It’s just something that we’re going to have to deal with. It happens from time to time. Fortunately, 99.9 percent of our players are good citizens. This was one that just we didn’t see coming and it’s something that we’re going to have to deal with.
Q: On the competitive advantage side, how do you feel about two things. One, the concept of a potential playoff bubble? I know that’s been floated. Then also, the idea of an uneven record? So, you could win more games than the Dallas Cowboys, but they have a higher percentage of wins of games they played because you didn’t get all of your games in.
A: Yeah, we’ve had discussions about that. I know the committee that’s been put together to advise the Commissioner is going to weigh in on that. If that’s the case, then so be it. As I just said a little while ago, we have to accept the fact that this is an unusual year. It’s not necessarily going to be competitively fair 100 percent of the time, and we’re just going to have to do the best we can. There could be a situation where you play more games than somebody else, and maybe you win more games but your winning percentage isn’t as high. It’s just something that we’re going to have to accept. We may not like it when it happens, but we’re dealing with such unusual circumstances that we just have to be reasonable about our medical people and certainly with the NFLPA going forward. We went through months of discussions with the PA over the protocols, and I think we came to a good place. We’ll continue to have discussions going forward with them. The communication there has been very good. As I said, I think we’re in a good place right now. Hopefully, we’ll try to maintain that.
Q: I’m curious when you look across the league the last week or so, there has been some talk about whole teams or maybe even individual players boycotting a game or sitting out a game. Some teams have skipped practice out of the social justice protests. Just your thoughts on those things going on and your reaction if any of your players would come to you and say that was something that they wanted to do?
A: I don’t want to get into hypotheticals about that. I think the important thing for us, and Joe has been great at this, is that we continue to communicate with the players. We continue to listen to them, and we try to get on the same page in terms of what message we want to be sending to our fans and to the community at large. I think that’s what we’re going to continue to do and continue to focus on, and not worry about hypotheticals about what might occur in the future. I just think it’s probably the wrong thing to do at this point in time. But so far, the communication with our players has been great. They know that we support them and we’re going to continue to do that.
Q: Just a quick follow up on what you mentioned and then what I was going to ask. You said you mentioned it’s the wrong thing to do. Were you referring to speaking in hypotheticals about this situation or about players boycotting?
A: I don’t want to get into hypotheticals about when the next incident happens, are you going to be concerned about if players go to boycott. We’ll continue to have communications with our players. I’m not going to worry about that. I think it’s useless to do that. I think the important thing is that we just continue to listen to them and talk to them and try to make a meaningful impact in our communities, which I think they’ve done a great job with so far. That’s what our focus is going to be going forward.
Q: What’s your confidence level, I mean a lot of people look at Daniel Jones and say, ‘hey, the jury’s still out.’ What’s your confidence level that this guy will be your franchise quarterback long-term, and what do you need to see from him this year?
A: Yeah, I feel good about him right now, the amount of work he’s put in, the way he’s looked at camp. I’d like to see him take the next step this year. I’m confident that he will do that. The thing that is gratifying to me is that I know our coaching staff is very high on him right now. Guys that have been around successful quarterbacks in the past, and they think that he has what it takes to get us to the next level. Every indication so far is that he does have what it takes. I feel good about where Daniel is right now. Obviously, we want to see him move to the next level. But I think he did a good job last year. Obviously, he had the issue with the turnovers. But he showed a lot of grit and a lot of promise and made a lot of big plays. I think with the right supporting cast around him, I think the sky is the limit for him.
Q: You’ve always been a guy that’s very much in touch with the fans and care deeply about them. This has got to be killing you that there are no fans in the stadium this year, maybe for the whole eight home games. I’m curious, have you been on the phone a little extra with Phil Murphy, the governor, saying, ‘hey, we could do this in October. We could do this in November’?
A: I’ve had a couple conversations with the governor, and we are very supportive of what he’s been doing so far. The most important thing is the health and safety of our players and staff, and the fans entering the building. If we get to a point where the state believes that we can do this safely, then we’ll consider letting fans in the building. But I’m not sure that we’re at that point right now, so I think we just have to be supportive of what the Governor is trying to do. That’s what our position is.
Q: Just a follow up, like you said, this is about your 60th training camp. This offseason, has it been the most difficult as far as COVID and the social unrest? Has this been the most difficult offseason that you’ve seen?
A: Yeah, I would say so. I would say so. There were a number of issues… I spent about over a year in negotiations for a new CBA, we were able to get that done in March, and then the pandemic hits and we jump right back into negotiations to try to make sure that we can have a training camp and have a season. We were able to get that done. Then you have a new coaching staff in here and they have no offseason on-field work at all. It’s all virtual. It was a difficult, difficult offseason. But if you had told me back then that we’d be where we are right now, about to start the season, then I would have been very pleased with that. I think we managed it very well.
Head Coach Joe Judge
Q: I didn’t see David Sills out there. I’m wondering if there’s something going on with him injury wise or otherwise? Then when you come down to your 53-man roster, after the top three receivers, it seems like almost everybody else has made a play. I’m wondering if that’s a position you’ve identified as maybe the hardest to chop down?
A: Every position is hard. We have to give consideration to what every player has done in camp. Everyone showed a level of improvement. We have to think long-term in terms of where this takes our team. Specifically with David, he was with the trainers today. We’ll get a further update on him later, see where he’s at with everything. They wanted to check him out for something. When we have more information, you’ll have more information.
Q: This is your first time in this situation. How do you plan on handling the next two days with the cuts and all? Also, another guy, we didn’t see Blake Martinez out there. We haven’t seen him the last few days really in live drills. What’s the level of concern on him and how’s he doing?
A: Blake was out there today. He did some of the early stuff for us, the individuals. We had some monitoring things with a lot of our players today. We wanted to get some guys limited snaps, some guys we thought it was best to take a load off their legs. We’re at a point, we really pushed these guys through training camp. We’re going to have a turnaround going into next week. It’ll be a longer week getting ready for Pittsburgh. We made a decision on each individual player where we thought they were today and what we’ll do moving forward. But Blake was out there.
Q: What are the next 48 hours going to be like for you? How is this process going to play out?
A: It’ll be busy. It’s our responsibility as we’ve been working throughout camp, it’s not the first time we’re going to talk personnel. It’s not going to be the first time we will have the specific conversations we’re going to have over the next 48 hours. We just want to make sure we do all of our diligence to get every player the right evaluation, to think long-term in terms of what this team is going to be like throughout the season, what meets our needs, where our depth is. Ultimately, we’re looking to keep as many good players in our program as possible. That’s true for our 53-man roster, the practice squad, and whatever other means we have. It’s going to be busy, but we’ve done a lot of leg work on the front end, giving everybody a fair opportunity every day. We just want to make sure we take our time to review everything and make sure we make the right decisions.
Q: This is the second time you’ve been in the stadium with the crowd noise or whatever you want to call it, background noise. What are your thoughts on that, and then along the same lines, what are your thoughts on the fact that there’s going to be different attendance guidelines? You go to Dallas, there’s going to be fans, but at home games there won’t be. What are your thoughts on that?
A: I’ve said from the beginning, fans are a crucial part of this game. I love playing in front of fans. Home crowds are great. It’s great going in front of visiting crowds that are booing you, too. To be honest with you, I’m looking forward to getting into any stadium we can where there’s people in there cheering, booing, whatever they’re doing. It brings a lot of energy and excitement to what we do on a Sunday. I’d say in terms of being in the stadium with the noise itself, you can notice it more in warmups, whether it’s songs or that ambient noise. I’d say regardless of what’s in the stands, really once you get zeroed in on game action, it’s you, the guys on the sideline you’re communicating with and the players on the field you’re watching. You really lose any consciousness of what’s going on in the stands. You really get zeroed in. It’s kind of that… whatever you want to call it, you kind of eliminate all the background noise.
Q: You wrap up your first training camp. Obviously, it’s unlike any other. Is the team where you want it to be right now?
A: They’ve made a lot of progress this camp. I’m very proud with how they’ve worked on a daily basis. I couldn’t tell you how pleased I am with their urgency, their attention to detail, and their willingness to work the way we want them to. That’s key. They’ve been fun to coach. I look forward to keeping coaching these guys right here. Obviously, we’re always looking for further improvement. You never arrive, you’re never really where you want to be, no matter what level you’re at. We’re going to keep pushing, correcting from mistakes, emphasize where our strengths are and making sure we use those to create matchups in our favor. But I’m pleased on how they’ve worked in this training camp.
Q: What’s your schedule like? Are you going to bring them back on Monday?
A: Yeah, so the players, based on rules and the off days, we’ll see the players again on Monday. They’ll have access to the facilities as far as treatment, meals and things like that. But as coaches, we’ll see them all Monday. We’ll have a squad meeting in a little bit to kind of close it out. Have a meal with these guys, cut them loose, let them get a little bit of rest. They’re going to have to test on a daily basis still for the next few days, so they’ll still be around. As coaches, we’ll be around as well. We have a weekend worth of work to get going. But at the same time, I want to make sure the coaches get some time this evening and one of these days this weekend to see their families, sleep in a little bit, get some rest and kind of make sure we recharge before we go into a tough stretch.
Q: You’ve sort of kept everybody so busy that there wasn’t time to get into trouble. Not trouble but to find cracks in the COVID bubble that you guys have built here. Are you worried now with a few days off that these guys are going to be out, going to restaurants and doing other things?
A: I’d say to this point our players have really demonstrated the awareness that they have to have to keep the team in mind with all of the decisions that we have in front of us. I’m proud of the way they’ve done that. I’m proud of how they’ve worked on a daily basis to deal with the protocols and keep our team healthy. I’d say that I trust our team to make the right decisions. We talk a lot about that. We emphasize it. They give me no reason to think otherwise at this point. Obviously, we have a three-day stretch where we’re away from each other. But they’ll be testing. We’ll make sure we’re monitoring the health of the team throughout the time period away.
Q: As you put this roster together over the next several hours, couple days or whatnot, how much goes into the planning of the opponents who you have coming up because I’m going to imagine you’re probably going to bring guys up and down from the practice squad, maybe do a little shuffling, how much of that factors into the roster planning?
A: Well, you can’t build a roster for any one game. The thing you have to keep in mind is there are 16 games, multiple opponents. I think by nature, you build your roster most for your division initially. But that’s going to change throughout the season. Throughout stretches, you’re going to have opportunities to bring people up from the practice squad, you’re going to deal with injuries, you’re going to deal with sickness. A lot of things you’re going to deal with throughout the year. Really the biggest thing we’re working on as far as building this roster is building the versatility on both sides of the ball, and that factors into the kicking game as well. If we have good versatility, that will allow for us to have multiple game plans and schemes so we can match opponents and deal with different situations we’re going to face.
Q: You mentioned at the start that you wanted a team that was tough and represented the area. Do you feel that your team is at that point yet or are they still a work in progress?
A: What I see with our team right now is they come out to work every day and they play with a tough mentality. When I think of hard work and I think of tough, I think of the people in this area. Look, we’re going to improve, we’re going to keep making strides. We’re never where we want to be, we’re always going to work to be better. But I think the mentality they’re bringing to work every day reflects where we are.
Q: I think you guys have signed or added something like five guys in the last two days. I’m just curious what the thought process of doing that right at the end of camp like this is, because it’s a little harder to evaluate those guys, obviously? Do you anticipate being active after cutdowns, because obviously, a lot of players become available at that point?
A: I just think it’s a natural part of the NFL. There’s always roster turnover. This time of year, you deal with some injuries on your roster, there are some guys who can’t finish camp, so you look to bring guys in and take a quick look at them. Where we go beyond that, is it a roster spot, a practice squad spot, are they on the emergency list to bring back? Each player has an individual situation that he’ll deal with and that we’ll deal with. But the idea is to get a look at as many players as you can so you know who’s out there when you need them.
RB Saquon Barkley
Q: I’m not sure if you heard me just ask Jabrill (Peppers) this. I wanted to ask you too. We’re going into a season where teams are going to be traveling now. You’re going to be playing guys who are obviously in other cities, staying in hotels, on airplanes. How safe do you feel now that all these new variables are being introduced?
A: Obviously, that’s going to be a challenge that’s going to be presented. But one thing you can worry about is yourself and this team, and I think we’ve been doing a great job. Here in this facility, I think the Giants, from top to bottom, have been doing a great job of keeping us safe. I think that’s showing up in our testing and I think the league has been doing well, too. Yes, that’s going to be a challenge, but everyone understands how serious this thing is. Going on the road, we’re going to protect each other and continue to play the game that we love.
Q: You’ve had the opportunity to be here for this whole offseason with this coaching staff. The last two years, obviously, nine wins total. What gives you optimism now that you’re heading into the season that this franchise is headed in the right direction?
A: It’s just a new start. It’s a new year. Everything is undetermined. We get a chance to go out there and be a new team just because it’s a new season. I think we worked really hard this offseason. I think it starts with that. Hopefully we’re going to be able to become a more disciplined team from the situations and how we’ve been coached this year. Hopefully we can go out there and take all the things that happened at practice and during camp from the hard work, from the coaching, from the situational football, understanding the game a little bit more too. Hopefully we can take all of that that we learned from camp and take it into the season and hopefully start the season right.
Q: I know last week or last time, maybe it wasn’t even last time, it was two times ago, we talked to you and you said somebody asked you about possibly boycotting games and you said you’ll go back and you’ll talk to the team about it. Have you had the opportunity to talk about what you are going to do on game day? Not just really boycott but however you’re going to approach it.
A: Yeah, I think that’s a conversation that’s probably going to be had during this week. Obviously, a lot of guys came out here and we all put our hard work in. But the nature of the game is we have to get to a certain number. I think obviously, when we get to that certain number, we’ll have discussions. Open discussions, dialogue within the team, and we’ll see what we’ll be able to do. I think we’ve been doing a great job on what we’ve been doing with our Team of Teams. But how far can we take it, what’s another level we can take it to? I know that it’s not just on me saying that. I feel like we are passionate about that, not just we as a team but as an organization. Hopefully we can continue to try to do the right things.
Q: You guys haven’t had an offseason game yet. You haven’t played against another team. How can you tell if you’re ready to face the Pittsburgh Steelers in a week and a half?
A: Me personally, I really haven’t been going that much in preseason. My first really live action has been Week One to be completely honest. But as a team, I think even though we haven’t faced any other teams, I think from the coaching staff, they did a really good job this camp of simulating what it’s actually going to be like. I see what you guys say about practice, how it’s hard and this and that. But I think it’s done a really good job for us because we needed that. Like you said, the preseason has gone away. We also did a really good job of getting guys opportunities and chances to show what we’re able to do and what we’re able to bring to the table, and also prepare us and get us ready for the first game of the year.
Q: Just curious, I don’t know if the right word is overlooked or forgotten, but you had 91 catches as a rookie. It seems like two years later, everyone is talking about how much you can tap into your potential as a receiver, forgetting the 91 catches. How much more do you think is in your game from that perspective? I know you’ve trained a lot on it, not just now but in the past. Your thoughts as a receiver what you can do in this league?
A: Obviously, we have a great coaching staff and they’re going to put us in the right positions. The opportunities that I do have to have an impact on the pass game, I have to take advantage of. But that’s something, as I always say, I always want to improve my game and that’s something that I really focus on, not this year but every year. You can’t put pads on and hit and tackle during the offseason, so most of my offseason consists of high volume with running and working on my speed and in the weight room. But when it comes to football, the only thing I really can do, obviously work on my foot work as a running back, but is run routes. Whether you meet up with the local pro quarterback in the city you’re in or you meet up with DJ (Daniel Jones) and those guys and run routes. I have a great group of wide receivers here, from Golden (Tate) to (Sterling) Shep (ard), Evan (Engram), (Darius) Slayton, so on and so on. When we’re in the offseason, being able to watch those guys, how they run routes and learn from them and to be able to add to my game, I feel like that’s something I hope I’m able to show this year.
Q: So, you do still take enough time in the offseason where you’re working on that part of your game, especially in those circumstances?
A: Yes sir, I do.
QB Daniel Jones
Q: I’m just wondering if it feels to you like it’s been a different receiver every day here for these last couple of weeks? (Alex) Bachman, (David) Sills, (Austin) Mack, (C.J.) Board, everybody seems to be contributing after (Darius) Slayton, (Golden) Tate and (Sterling) Shepard. The other guys. Does it seem to you like there are a lot of guys there stepping up, competing for roster spots?
A: Yeah, I think we’ve had a lot of guys step up and make plays. That’s been fun to watch. Across the roster, we have a lot of guys who can make plays, who you can count on to go up and make the catch or to be in the right spot. As quarterbacks, it’s a good feeling for us. Like you said, we’ve had guys step up. A lot of guys are out there making plays for us.
Q: Next time we talk to you next week, you’ll be back and getting ready for the Steelers. I guess how ready do you feel like this team is for the start of the regular season? You haven’t had the preseason game barometers that you normally do in other years. How do you know where you’re at?
A: We’ve done a good job as a team simulating some of those preseason games and trying to get reps with a game feel to it, practicing a lot of situations and a lot of things that would come up during games. I feel like as a team, as an offense, we are in a good spot. We’ve had a good camp and made progress every day towards where we need to be. Next week, we’ll be into game prep and into week one. I feel like we’ve had a good camp and we’ve been able to simulate a lot of the game like situations that you would have gotten in the preseason.
Q: I’m sure you heard some of the buzz about a week ago about (Head) Coach (Joe Judge) saying that he wanted to get you hit a little bit and kind of knock you around a little bit. I’ll confess that it was my question that launched that thought in his head. Has he done any of that yet? Have you gone through that? Or are you, I don’t want to say looking forward to, but are you ready for that first hit on September 14th?
A: Yeah, I’ll be ready for it. I haven’t been hit yet. We’ve been simulating a lot of pressure in the pocket, simulating a rush, and doing that throughout drill work, focusing on that. I’ll be ready and confident going into that first game and that first snap.
Q: You were talking about how you guys have prepared for a lot of different situations. Were you actually running to the side today to simulate if you had lost your headset communication with Jason (Garrett)?
A: Yeah, that was the practice today. Just trying to get ready for whatever could happen in the game and I thought we did a good job with it.
Q: How prepared do you feel for anything that could come up? It seems like you guys, at least from the outside, focused a ton on situational football.
A: Yeah, we have. I think that’s been a big point of emphasis for Coach Judge. Like I said, trying to simulate a lot of those different situations that could come up during a game that maybe we would have gotten during a preseason game. To be able to simulate those during practice I think has been good for us and me as a quarterback for sure, learning those situations and being comfortable when they come up in the game.
Q: You worked with Joe virtually most of the offseason. Now, you’ve had a month or so to work with him here at training camp as your head coach. I’m wondering if there’s anything that kind of surprises you about him or kind of sticks out as different?
A: Not really. I think we all got to know him pretty well through the spring and through our virtual program. More than anything, you can tell he’s very intentional about the drills and everything he’s focusing on in meetings and out there at practice. I think guys see the purpose behind it, guys understand why he’s doing it. As players, it’s our job to execute that. I think I’ve learned a lot. We’ve learned a lot as a team. It’s been a good camp.
Q: He’s an intense guy. You kind of recognized that beforehand and knew that he coaches pretty hard? We listened to the coaches out there at practice. You kind of expected that?
A: Yeah, I think you could tell he’s very enthusiastic, he’s energetic on the field. Guys respond to that. Like I said, it’s been good. I’ve learned a lot. I think as a team, we’ve learned a lot. I’m looking forward to next week and to get ready for week one.
S Jabrill Peppers
Q: Just want to know how difficult the last couple of weeks have been in the wake of Jacob Blake? How do you feel the organization and you guys are handling it as a group and what you hope to do more in the future?
A: Obviously, it’s a tough situation. That, and everything else that’s going on in the world. Obviously as a black man it definitely affects me heavily. We’ve come together, we’ve had countless talks about how we can make real change and make real impact. I think we’ve done a good job. We’re all in charge of certain areas. We’re helping with police reform, education inequalities, food inequalities. We’ve been having very healthy and productive conversation. Obviously, we can’t do it alone, but we all have large platforms where our voices can be heard and make a huge impact. I definitely think that we’ve been doing a great job of using our voice.
Q: How well do you know Logan Ryan, who is going to be your new wing man in the secondary? How excited were you when he finally agreed to terms on his contract?
A: Obviously, I’m a Jersey guy, he’s a Jersey guy. I don’t know him personally, but obviously I know of him, heard of him. He’s had a very productive career wherever he’s been at. I definitely think it’s a great acquisition and he’ll definitely help the team.
Q: He’s a little older than you. You have never played against him in high school or even college right?
A: No, nope. Never got the chance to line up against him.
Q: After a whole training camp here what is your take on this defense? How much better can it be next season than last year now that you’ve added a bunch of playmakers in the offseason?
A: I’m not really focused on last year. It’s a new year, a new focus, a new opportunity. We’ve all stepped up to the task and we’ve all been working hard. We’ve been working well in cohesion. Obviously, we’re not where we want to be and that’s fine. We still have a week or so until the game. I definitely think we are headed in the right direction. We just have to keep stacking good days on top of good days and put the final product out there on Monday night, which we’re excited about.
Q: We’re about a week away from teams traveling, from playing football games where you are going to be tackling guys from other states. How safe do you feel when in a week new variables are introduced?
A: I think the league has done a good job of following CDC guidelines. I know we’ve done a good job of testing everyone every day all throughout the building. Wearing our masks, keeping our six feet of space. I would like to think that other teams are doing that as well. We haven’t had any problems yet. I think if we keep following the proper guidelines and stating discipline throughout the year, I don’t think much of it. I trust the league, I trust what we’re doing here. I’m just happy we can still go out there and do what we love. That’s my take on it.
Q: In terms of leadership within the locker room, if you go back to the spring, I don’t know if I would have told you with all the circumstances this team would have to deal with that maybe the players would have had doubts as to how close the group could be. Would there be enough leadership for some new guys from old guys blending. I guess my question is are you surprised with how close this team appears to be considering all the circumstances that you have dealt with outside of a traditional locker room? Lets’ face it, that’s where the team bonds.
A: Football is the ultimate team sport. Obviously the better you know the guy next to you, the better you want to play for him. I think we’ve done a great job, even though we are maintaining our distance, we’ve done a great job of getting to know one another. Even tracing back to the spring, having Zoom calls and everybody on text chains or getting to know the new guy. We have a policy, well not a policy, but the guys do a great job of whenever we get a new guy in the building, go up to him introduce ourselves. Make conversations, get to know that guy and make him feel welcome, that’s our thing. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that regardless of the circumstances.
Q: I just wanted to get your take on going up against Evan every day in practice and how much you think that matchup will benefit you when you are facing opponents?
A: Obviously I don’t need to talk about the elite qualities he possesses. Seeing him every day definitely helps me. A tight end that has 4.4 speed, quick, can go up high point the ball, great breaks, great routes, it’s only going to make me better. I take the challenge head on each and every day. I know he does as well, to just go out there and compete because we know we are going to make each other better. That’s the beauty of it. All those guys, Kaden, Toilolo, myself, Chand ( Sean Chandler), Julian Love, just the constant competition knowing that we’re pushing each other to get better. I think it will definitely show on game days.
Q: They gave him a touchdown on that last one, what did you think of that?
A: You guys know, if that’s live, that’s a tackle. We’re a week away, I’m not going to do anything to clip his heels or anything because we need that guy. People who know the circumstances know that’s a tackle. It’s an offensive league, we know that. They want to see points scored. We know what we’re up against, it is what it is. In my book that’s a tackle (laughing).