Opening Statement: Before we get started, I just want to take a second, this entire organization and personally, really just send our thoughts and prayers to the Tisch family and the terrible tragedy they’ve had to endure with the loss of their daughter. No one should ever have to go through that. Our hearts are all with the Tisch family, and showing support to them in whatever way we can.
To kind of catch everyone up, today was the first day of Phase 2 activities with the entire 80-man squad on the field. We were out there for a 90-minute window. Generally, what that is, we’re split up offense and defense. We can’t come together or do anything competitive against each other. But it’s an opportunity to get on the field and work football drills full speed. Get the guys out there, start working on some timing within the execution of our individual fundamentals and scheme, and build them to Phase 3 activities, which are really coming up starting Friday with practice on the field. With that being said, any questions anyone has, I’d be happy to answer.
Q: I was wondering if you could shed any light on what happened with Ross Cockrell?
A: You know what, that’s just something the front office would have a better answer for. We’ve talked with several players. Obviously, it doesn’t always work out when you’re doing negotiations of contracts. You can ask Dave (Gettleman) or Kevin (Abrams) or his agent, they’ll probably give you a better reference on what happened.
Q: You obviously have a lot of young corners. Is bringing in a veteran at that position sort of a priority?
A: Our priority is just to develop the players we have on the roster and look for any talent available on the street. I don’t care if it’s a first-year player or a 10th year player. We’re looking for good players who can help build this program. To answer that question pretty direct, is it a priority to have a veteran? No, it’s not.
Q: I know your focus is on the field, but with what is happening in college right now, how are you guys pivoting or adjusting? What are you going to have to do scouting wise to stay on top of next year’s draft, if it happens, when it happens? How much time can you spend on it now and do you know how it’s going to work?
A: I’ll tell you what, in terms of the timeline of the draft, at this point, I’m assuming it’s on the normal schedule until the league adjusts that. But our personnel department has done a great job up to this point of really staying proactive with it. They’ve been talking throughout the summer anticipating that some colleges may cancel football. Obviously, that’s come to fruition at this point. You’re going to have to rely heavily on tape, which is ultimately the best scouting device anyway, what they do on the field. The disadvantage to that is you’re not going to see their most recent year available because they’re not going to play in a lot of places. It will be interesting to see how college football takes shape this year as far as allowing transfers, maybe within the same year, or what these conferences decide to do. They have to make their decisions on their level. We’ll adjust however we have to.
Q: I just wanted to follow up on something from last week. You mentioned you were thinking of having some scrimmages and stuff like that. I know that’s coming up in the next week or so. Can you just give us an update as to what your plan is for that phase of training camp?
A: Yeah, we’re basically going to have an intrasquad scrimmage of some type every week of training camp. The first one will be on this next Friday coming up. Not in two days, but next Friday. Look, for everyone kind of familiar with football, that will look a whole lot like every high school and college scrimmage in America. Offense on one sideline, defense on the other. We’ll create situations on the field and let them play live football all the way through. We have to get an opportunity to let our guys play at full speed. Let them go out there and experience the game and demonstrate they can operate when coaches aren’t yelling in their ears and trying to make corrections. We just have to get them out there and let them play.
Q: You talked a little bit about cornerback. I wanted to ask you about James Bradberry. What have you learned about him so far and are you seeing him take sort of a leadership role with that group?
A: I think all of our players are working on establishing leadership within their own groups. That will emerge more and more as training camp goes on. It all starts with doing your job well and putting the team first, and that’s really what leaders have to do. But I’d say specifically to James, what I’ve really seen with him in person so far is he comes to work every day with a purpose. He’s intent in the meetings. He takes diligent care of his body off the field. You can tell he’s learned through his time in the league as to how to prepare himself for a season. I’ve been very impressed with him with his mannerisms in the meetings and how he’s preparing. Now I’m anxious to get more on the field and see him in competitive situations.
Q: In terms of Jabrill Peppers, we all keep talking about how multiple your defense will be. He’s kind of been a guy since college who is a multiple player and really hasn’t fit into a certain role, per se. What have you seen from Jabrill and what do you envision as his spot on this defense?
A: The first part is what I see from him. I see energy. You hear him before you see him. You know when he’s in the room. He’s a lively guy, he brings a lot of energy to the team, a lot of energy to the locker room. You can tell he’s a football guy. He loves ball. He flies around. You can tell if guys are on the field, whether it’s conditioning, whether it’s the limited version of practice we had this morning, you can tell football guys. He’s definitely a ball guy. In terms of his spot on the defense, I’m not trying to be evasive on this, but it’s going to be whatever we need him to do right there. With his skill set, he’s going to factor into a lot of sub-packages. Traditionally, you’ve seen him play a lot in the box in different schemes and roles. He has that body type that still fits that. But he’s going to have to be able to play the deep part of the field as well as the box for us. Right now, we’re working all of our players in terms of understanding our zone concepts so they understand how we’re trying to play with the spacing on the field and reaction time. We’re trying to train them all the best man techniques within their own skill set in our schemes. We’re going to give him a swing of the bat at a lot of things. We’re going to shake it out week by week. However our opponent matches us up, he’ll be ready to take on a different position for us.
Q: Why was it important for Daniel Jones to put on weight this offseason, or muscle?
A: That’s not even a conversation we ever had. When you look at any player from their rookie year to year two, bodies change. It’s just different. In college, you work hard. In college, you’ve got a spring training program, you practice hard, you do the mat drills in the winter. But when you get to the NFL and your body is your career, guys learn to take different care. Not that they’re trying to take better care of it, because they’re trying to do their best in college, but they learn how to really maximize what they have. That comes in nutrition, that comes in the training. Obviously, he’s a guy that during the pandemic, he didn’t take time off. He really used it to his advantage for whatever he could do. I’d say in terms of the importance of him putting on weight, I think it was just important to him overall to change his body to be able to handle the duration of a season, which every rookie in the NFL, I don’t care who you are or where you come from, every rookie eventually struggles with the duration of the 16-game season. That’s just a fact.
Q: Is there an area where it helps a quarterback to have more weight on though?
A: I think just overall body strength helps every player as an athlete with explosion and endurance on the field. You can look at it as a measure of does it help him absorb hits better. I don’t know if there’s an absolute answer to that. It depends on who the hell is hitting you. But I would just say in terms of it, he’s done everything he can to help himself on the field. He definitely came in in shape. He looks good in conditioning. We’re working right now as far as getting with his teammates and building some time.
Q: With the start of Phase 2 today, can you just say how much that meant to you to make it look more like football? Has there been any point during this whole process where you have been able to mentally forget about it for five, ten, 15 minutes and just be coaching football and not get into coronavirus, all these masks and everything, and it’s just football?
A: I think the thing we did early on in this training camp was we just established the rules and protocols we’re all going to follow, and that’s it. We don’t have to make a big issue of it every day. We know what it is, we’re working for each other’s safety and health, we’re following the rules, and when we do that, we can think about football all day. I’ve been coaching football every day here. Listen, if you like football, you truly love being on the field with the players. That’s the most fun part. Being on the field with the players, interacting, getting to coach, getting to feel their energy on the field, that’s what’s fun. Today being the real, first, true experience of having everyone on the field together, from the start of stretch right there, getting them moving, until the end of practice with conditioning, it was just a great opportunity to be out there with the guys. They get a feel for us, we get a feel for them. You’re out there coaching. They love football, we love football. Meetings are necessary to make sure we know what to do on the field, but practice is what the day is all about.
Q: This was indeed the first time you looked out on the field and saw 80 players, correct?
A: That is true, yes.
Q: Once you guys get on the field in pads on Monday, you get into another gear. I’m curious what you hope to see from a guy like Darius Slayton going into his second year, when you guys can be a little more physical and it looks a little bit more like football, especially when you didn’t take any receivers in the draft? Once everything intensifies, what are you hoping to see from Darius?
A: I hope to see an improvement and a level of intensity from everyone on the field. Look, we’re going to be moving at a fast pace come Friday, and then again on Sunday when we come back from the day off. They’re going to be moving fast, we’re going to be intent, we’re going to have an intensity in how we work. When the padded practices start on Monday, it will reduce to a 90-minute practice per league rules. We’re going to build everyone to make sure that now that we’re in pads, we can execute with the right fundamentals to play aggressive but safe. At all positions, receiver, d-line, it doesn’t matter. When the pads go on, you have to see intensity ramp up.
Q: Just a quick follow up on Peppers. Can he play what we would consider more of a traditional cornerback role for you? Does he have that versatility? The second part is how does the new rule about allowing tryouts for free agents affect how you’re going to develop this roster over the next month?
A: I’m going to answer the second question first. Regardless of whoever’s on the street, the most important thing is developing the players on your roster. That’s the most important thing. As part of the National Football League, you’re always aware of the personnel available on the street. The personnel department is always coming up with lists of who’s out there, who’s available, what the needs may be. In terms of the rules, they are what they are. We’ll work within them. But I’m not worried about guys that aren’t on our team. I’m focusing on developing the guys on our team. In terms of Jabrill with the cornerback role, we’re going to cross train all of our DBs. Based on who the receiver is, maybe there’s a game we have to use him in that kind of role. We’ll have to see where the depth and the opponent takes us based on the weekly game plan. But we’re going to work all the fundamentals with all of our players, and make sure that when they’re called on, they have a solid base to start with and they can execute what we need them to.
Q: I’m curious about your confidence level going into Year 2 and kind of building on the chemistry you started with Daniel Jones a year ago? How different is this process this year compared to when you came in as a rookie?
A: It’s definitely been an interesting offseason just all the way around with the whole corona thing. It’s kind of been a little bit more extended than a normal offseason would be. I feel like I have had a lot of time to get in a lot of good work. I’m looking forward to this season.
Q: I wasn’t going to ask a question but then I saw you come in with the mask. You are seemingly alone, are you just very concerned about the virus?
A: No. Honestly, at this point, we wear it every day, it’s habit. At this point, it’s just habit. I wear it all around because we have to wear it in the building anyway, just a habit.
Q: I saw you had a unique setting for some of your training at home with family members. Was that out of necessity? What made you go that route? How did that help you work on your game when you need to hunker down a little bit?
A: It was a tremendous help for me. I had mostly my dad and my sister just doing ball drills with them around the house. They both have good enough aim to not break anything in the house. As long as I’m catching it, stuff tends to stay put together. Obviously, I was trying to stay home. I was trying to abide by the rules and regulations at that point in time and not be out and about. I just tried to get creative at the house and find a way to keep getting better.
Q: I don’t think there was a single game last year where Saquon, Evan, you, Shep and Tate were all lined up together. How much are you looking forward to potentially getting on the field with all those weapons together this season?
A: I’m really looking forward to it. I hope everybody can stay healthy this year and hopefully play a full 16 together. I definitely think it will be really important to have all of us out there at the same time. I’m really excited.
Q: What has your impression been of Jason Garrett so far? Obviously, he came in from the Cowboys, he had been a Head Coach there for a long time. I’m curious what you knew about him coming in and what has been your impression of him since he started coaching you?
A: I didn’t know too much about him coming in besides obviously he was the Dallas head coach. Since he’s been here, I think he has done a really good job of teaching us the system. Being patient and helping give guys time to learn things and get used to the playbook and all that type of stuff. I’m excited to have him as a coach this year.
Q: Having studied this offense or starting to learn it, what is it about it that makes it a real good fit for your skill set?
A: I think it just does a really good job of harnessing all of our weapons on our offensive skill set. We have fast receivers like myself, Shep and Golden. We have a fast tight end. All of our tight ends honestly, Evan, Levine and Kaden. Obviously, our running backs speak for themselves with Wayne and Saquon. I think the offense does a really good job holistically of getting everyone involved. Everybody will have a chance to get the ball and have the opportunity to make plays.
Q: You basically have Shep and Tate back, what does it mean to have that continuity in your room?
A: It’s tremendous. In a league where there is a lot of turnover across the board, it’s huge to have two guys, especially two veteran guys, coming in. I had them my first year and now I have them again for my second year. Just to continue to learn from and draw from them is definitely huge for somebody like me.
Q: What are your expectations in this offense? Both with all the weapons you mentioned before and for yourself with Jason Garrett being the new coordinator?
A: I think we just have a really good chance to be explosive. I think we have a chance to be an explosive offense, a really efficient offense. I just look forward to playing this year.
Q: For you personally, how do you see yourself fitting in that?
A: Kind of the same. When the ball gets thrown my way, I’ll make plays when I have the opportunity to. Just kind of go from there.
Q: What are your impressions of this defense now that you’ve spent this whole offseason kind of absorbing it, now actually at least gotten out there and talked to your coaches and seen it a little bit?
A: Every day is a learning process. I’m learning something new every day. How I feel about it? I’m enjoying it. I’ll play anything. Cover 3, Cover 2, Man, anything. I’m looking forward to it.
Q: What does it resemble? Does it resemble anything you’ve done? How would you describe it to someone if they said, ‘Hey, what kind of defense are you guys playing’?
A: Of course, I did some of those things in Carolina. Some of the techniques and certain coverages are a little bit different. But it’s pretty much the same. Defense is defense, no matter what you play.
Q: What’s been your impression of Darnay Holmes so far coming in as a rookie? He’s obviously getting a lot of reps with you guys. What have you thought about him in the time you’ve spent with him?
A: The biggest thing that’s jumped out to me is he asks a lot of questions. Given that I’m one of the older guys in the room, he’s always coming up to me, asking me different questions. He wants to learn a whole lot, and that’s what you’re supposed to do as a rookie. I’m just enjoying him being very impressionable. I’m able to make an effect on him, and that’s my goal.
Q: What is it like for you being the veteran of the cornerback room? It’s obviously a very young group. You’re coming in and you’re only 27, 28 years old. What’s it like being the veteran of the room there?
A: It’s been pretty cool but, of course, I’m on a new team, so I’m learning every day too with them. I try to teach them things that might come up on film when we’re watching film that I might know, that might help them. But for the most part, I’m learning as well.
Q: Coach Judge has been preaching all along about cross training guys on both sides of the ball. I’m just wondering, have they asked you to do anything new in this defense along the lines of that cross-training philosophy?
A: It’s still kind of early right now in our learning process. Right now, I’m just playing corner. But for the most part, we’re still learning the defense, so we’ll see down the road.
Q: When you play, do you like to travel?
A: I like to do whatever the game plan is. I’m cool with anything. I’m very flexible. When I was in college, I was very flexible. Anything that Coach asks me to do, I’m willing to do it. I’m down with anything, honestly.
Q: When you look at some of the other cornerbacks in the room, even Xavier McKinney coming in, versatile guy. Jabrill Peppers can drop in and play nickel at times. Darnay Holmes, versatile, can play outside and can play the nickel. When you have that many guys capable of playing the slot, how does that help you as an outside cornerback, and how much added pressure does that put on you with really the guy who’s best suited to play on the outside out of everybody else?
A: I think it helps Coach Pat (Graham) a lot more when he’s creating schemes and trying to go against certain offenses. Really, that would be a question for him. For me, whatever job they have in the coverage, I’m going to get it done and try to do it to the best of my ability.
Q: As a guy that primarily plays outside, how important is the chemistry with the guy on the other side of the field, or do you prefer to kind of be on an island and lock into your guy and that’s all you’re really focused on?
A: Just having chemistry within the whole secondary is important, especially with the safeties and the nickels and corners across the board. It’s a brotherhood back there, and that’s how you have to really look at it, especially in the meeting rooms when we’re talking and we’re trying to make communication calls and stuff like that. I’d say overall, it’s important.
Q: When you came to the Giants, the expectation was that DeAndre Baker would be there, a first round pick, maybe starting alongside you. Sam Beal was a guy who was there, obviously. Those guys are no longer around. First of all, does that put added pressure on you as a veteran coming in to really hold down the fort? Also, do you think this cornerback room needs to bring in some veteran who can at least know what’s going on back there?
A: All we can do is worry about the guys that we have in the room. It’s a next man up mentality around here. If you look in the room right now, I feel like we have a lot of ability. We’re going to get the job done no matter what they ask us to do. That’s our mindset.
Q: A lot of the guys, when you look in the room, you say they have ability, but they don’t have any proven track record in the league, do they?
A: We’re all young guys. I’m still learning, and they’re learning as well. At the end of the day, we’re going to get the job done no matter what.
Q: How much are you looking forward to actually getting out there and competing against teammates and playing some football?
A: It’s been a while. Of course, we missed OTAs, so it’s been a while since I’ve been out there playing football with my teammates. I’m looking forward to it a lot.
Q: Any Giants receivers you’re particularly interested in going up against?
A: Really, all of them. I haven’t played against any of them too much. I played against Sterling Shepard in the Senior Bowl, so I’m looking forward to going against all of them.
Q: There has been some talk about you cross training at cornerback? I know you train with a DB academy. Your trainer mentioned that you did some cross training at cornerback. Cornerback is such a wide-ranging type of position, what are some of the things from your game that might translate to that position to allow to contribute at that spot?
A: I think, first and foremost, I will play wherever the team needs me to play. We’ve all been cross training and can do multiple things. Whatever the scheme is, whatever they see fit, that’s what it’s going to be.
Q: You are learning about the position. Is there anything particular about it that gets you more excited about playing it?
A: Like I said, we’ve all been training at multiple things. I think as a far as the position, you have to have great footwork. I think that’s the main component that I was trying to better myself on. Just the footwork, being patient, it’s just not for any specific position. I think if I better those things, it will help me translate my game.
Q: How tough was it for you to finish last season on IR?
A: It definitely sucked. I want to be out there with the guys competing trying to help bring W’s home. To watch, it was hard. I liked what I saw from the guys. They stayed together, competed each and every week. Now I’m focused on this year.
Q: The way you got hurt, does that give you any reservations about returning kicks in the future? It didn’t happen while you were playing your primary position.
A: I’m not really worried about that. Football is football. Anything can happen out there, I’m healthy now. It’s a new year, new focus and I’m just ready to start on that journey.
Q: What are your first impressions of guys like Xavier McKinney, who could play alongside you. Does his ability to play center field get you more excited about being a playmaker up near the box?
A: We all can do many different things, each guy on the roster. Everyone looks like they are in shape, they are well conditioned, they are moving really well. We’re all just excited to compete against one another and keep making each other better.
Q: I know you said you are fully healthy. What was that process like in the offseason to get back fully healthy? How daunting was that rehab?
A: It’s not really daunting when it’s something you know you need and want to do. It was a great process, I learned a lot through it. I’m healthy now, it’s a new year. I’m just excited to be out there with the guys.
Q: Having talked to some people who trained with you this offseason, the word that kept coming up is hungry. Where is your hunger at right now? Is there another level you can take your game to?
A: We’re all hungry. We play for one of the most prestigious organizations in the National Football League. We all know where it should be. We’re all hungry to be the best person on and off the field that we can be. It’s exciting, it’s exhilarating. We’re just doing our part to make sure we’re all the best that we can be.
Q: In terms of where your game is at right now and what you showed last year, do you think you can take your game to another level?
A: Right now, I am just focused on coming in here every day and being better than I was yesterday. I feel like if I continue to do that, good things will happen.
Q: I know you were training with Darnay Holmes and took him under your wing? What has been your impression of him with all the time you guys spent together? How valuable is that for a guy coming in, especially with such a weird offseason?
A: Anybody who wanted to work out, I definitely welcomed. I’m all about comradery, getting to know someone. When you get to know people deeper than just on a football level, it makes that bond much stronger and you want to play harder for those guys. That was my main focus. He comes from a great university, I like the product that they put out.
Q: This is a young defense, how much have you taken upon yourself to try and be more of a leader this year?
A: I’m not really thinking about that. I’m just worried about coming in here every day making sure we get better as a whole. No repeat mistakes, and just keep taking it step by step. We’re still early in this thing. We are going to keep coming in here with an attitude to want to get better, to want to learn and be coachable. If we can do that and sustain it, good things will definitely happen.
Q: What was it like to rehab your injury during the pandemic? How did things change for you once the middle of March came around? Did that affect the pace of your rehab?
A: No. Nothing really affected it. I definitely had to be more cautious with certain things, obviously social distance. It was still pretty routine.
Q: It seems like you have made strides the last couple of years. It seems like you are on the cusp of taking your game to that next level. Last year the injury set you back late in the year. What gives you confidence that this year is the year for you to break through. What about your situation says I’m ready to make that jump?
A: We have a great group of great leaders. I come in here every day anxious to learn from them. Put my best foot forward , put the coaching points forward. Just work as hard as I can work. That’s what I’m focusing on right now.