Q: I guess the most important question I have to ask today is do you plan to opt out?
A: No, I do not plan to opt out.
Q: You did a bunch of workouts with teammates during the offseason. What did you get out of those and how valuable were they?
A: I think they were valuable for us. Obviously, this year we did all our meetings and installs virtually through Zoom, which I thought went well and we did a good job of learning and picking up through that. Getting on the field together helped and we kind of worked on some things we had discussed in meetings in trying to get guys ready for this camp and make sure we were ready to roll.
Q: When you look at this offense, are you saying to yourself that you have seen all this before, or how much do you have to learn?
A: I think we’re all trying to learn and there are obviously some similar concepts and similar ideas, but it’s a new system and we are all learning it and putting it together. That is kind of what we’re focused on. Comparing it to last year, I’m not sure how much that helps in learning it. We’re taking it day by day and install by install and trying to learn it as quickly as we can and as well as we can.
Q: In terms of 2020, what are the goals? What are you trying to accomplish?
A: Right now, I think my focus is on this camp and trying to make sure I am as prepared as possible mentally. We have talked about a new system and a new offense to learn and pick up. So I think my focus right now is what we’re doing day to day here and trying to make sure we take the right steps forward and improving every single day. For me personally, I am doing a good job of picking up the offense and understanding what the coaches expect. Obviously want to improve on a lot of things from last year personally and as a team. In order to get there and to get there the right way, I think we want to focus on what we’re doing day to day in this camp.
Q: You have your five main targets back this year (Tate, Shepard, Slayton, Saquon, Engram). How has that continuity been beneficial to this point?
A: Just spending time with guys, and like we talked about, getting together in the offseason a little bit. Knowing how guys are going to get in and out of breaks is obvious and something you would expect, but that continuity helps. Also, just having a relationship with guys and me knowing how they learn and how they communicate as we all try to learn this system and try to work through it and make sure we’re on the same page. I think that continuity definitely helps with that process.
Q: Seeing photos and videos of you, it has been talked about how different you look. What was your training like and what was it about this offseason?
A: I feel good. I feel like I’m as strong as I’ve been. I feel like I’m in good shape. I was in Charlotte for most of the offseason and training there. I wanted to get stronger and wanted to gain some weight for what that does for every part of my game, standing in the pocket, running when I need to, and obviously throwing the ball as efficiently as I can using my strength, my lower body. Each piece of that was part of the goal of the offseason in my training.
Q: What are you weighing right now?
A: 229, 228.
Q: Is that up from what, 220?
A: Yeah, I was at 220.
Q: It has to be different for you walking in without Eli Manning here and you being the starter. What is the biggest difference for you walking in as the starter? And how would you describe your collaboration and relationship with Jason Garrett and what are his qualities as an offensive coordinator and a coach?
A: The biggest thing is not being a rookie and having relationships with people in the building and my teammates. Obviously we have a new staff and I’m certainly learning and going through that process like I did last year. There is a certain level of comfort in it being my second year and it’s been good. With Coach Garrett, I have enjoyed learning from him so far. He is extremely detailed in his thinking and what he expects on the field, and I think that is probably what has stood out the most. I look forward to working with him and continuing to learn this system.
Q: You kind of laughed off that first question about opting out, but I’m curious if that is something you gave any thought to it and how do you approach teammates who are considering it or who have chosen that option?
A: It’s important to realize that everyone has different circumstances, whether it be family related or personally or whatever it may be. I certainly don’t have those situations. I live by myself and I’m healthy, but everyone has got to consider their own personal situation and I certainly respect that and expect people to do that and do what’s best for them and certainly don’t hold that against them. Obviously Nate (Solder) made a decision to opt out and he’s got an extremely tough circumstance and he’s got to do what’s best for his family. All the respect in the world, all the support in the world to him.
Q: Are you surprised at how many players around the league have decided to opt out?
A: I don’t know. I’m not really sure I had an expectation. Like I said, you’ve got to look at everyone individually and personally and you have no way of knowing exactly what’s going on and why they made that decision. That’s up to them, so like I said, I certainly respect it and support it for all the people who made that decision.
Q: You and Darius Slayton came into the league at the same time. How would you describe your relationship with him and what is it like throwing to one of the faster guys on the team?
A: I’ve certainly enjoyed playing with Darius and working with Darius. He’s a guy that comes to work everyday and knows what to do and knows what’s expected of him from the coaches and does his best to do that. Obviously he’s a talented guy. Like you said, he can really get out and run. He has a big frame, he’s a big target. I’ve really enjoyed working with him and I know he’s excited going into this year and has attacked this offseason and this new system the right way, so I’m excited to continue working with him.
Q: How difficult an adjustment has it been getting used to the new protocols, especially as you are trying to become a leader of this team?
A: It has definitely been different, but I think our organization, the Giants, the medical staff, the operation people have done an unbelievable job of setting up the facility here at the stadium and making sure it is clear what they expect from us, wearing a mask and socially distancing and doing all those things. It’s different, but it’s not hard and it’s not getting in the way of us doing our work. As long as we’re conscientious about it, I think we haven’t had any problems with the policies and the procedures.
Q: Has anything been a bigger adjustment than others?
A: Not really. Just being here, just being in the stadium is different, but like I said, our organization has done a great job of setting it up and we’re lucky to have this space and do as much as we can do over here with all the space we have.
Q: As you look to the start of the season, how difficult do you envision it will be to go into that first game in a new system without having played a preseason game?
A: When you look at it, a lot of other teams have that situation. Obviously no one is playing a preseason. We’re all operating under the same rules, the same outline as far as practice and into the season. All we can do is prepare as well as we can in the time we have and make sure we’re getting the most out of every single day and those practices leading up to the first game. I think that’s our approach as a team and we’ll make sure we do that and prepare as well as possible.
Q: As a second-year quarterback going into a new system, does that put you at a little bit of a disadvantage as opposed to some veterans in the same system?
A: I don’t think so. I think it’s on me to learn the system as quick as I can and as effectively as I can. Use the time we have, use the practices we have to do that and come in prepared and ready to go.
Q: How ready can a defensive lineman be to play football with no offseason program?
A: We’ve been thinking about it with everything going on, but it’s something that you must mentally prepare for as well as try to as much as possible physically prepare for the practices for when we do get to practice with the pads on.
Q: What is your reaction to the number of optouts around the league and did you ever consider it?
A: I can’t react to them because I’ve been so locked into the playbook. I just have been trying to get the plays down with training camp going on and meetings. I’ve just been so locked in here just trying to improve and help everyone else improve. I really haven’t thought too much about opting out because I Just want to be with my teammates.
Q: Obviously this is a different offseason, a different training camp, how different does it feel to you?
A: It’s super different. Social distancing is the biggest thing to get used to, making sure you’re always six feet apart and things like that. It’s super different, different location, you’re used to being in the facility just right there with everyone and everything is super close. Things are a lot more spread out now.
Q: Obviously in the locker room you guys sit close to each other and there’s a lot of joking around. You guys really have to be conscious of that now?
A: Yeah, everyone is spread out and we’re yelling over to make sure everyone can hear you through the mask. You might lose your voice every now and again.
Q: We were just on with Blake (Martinez) and he talked about wanting to come in and be the quarterback of the defense, the guy everyone turns to when they need to know what’s going on. I know it’s really early in the process and you probably just met him in person. Have you seen him developing into that role for this defense?
A: Blake’s a great guy, a great teammate. I feel like as a linebacker, that’s what linebackers do. They coach the defense up and stuff like that. It’s super early and we have only been out here for a couple days now, I feel like our roles and things like that are going to develop a lot more in the coming weeks.
Q: What are the roadblocks that you see as you guys move through the season? Where might you guys slip up and have an outbreak that could end the season? How different is the defense you are running this year as opposed to last year? Coach Judge talks a lot about versatility? If you are going to be versatile, I’m assuming there are going to be some similarities to last year.
A: For the roadblock question, pretty much everyone just needs to follow the protocols and hopefully we can stay safe as possible, that’s the number one priority right now. The new defense, I’m just trying to pick up everything. I really haven’t been able to compare it to last year simply because it’s still pretty new for the most part. We’ve been able to walk through stuff and everything. Just trying to take it day by day and continue to improve on the things we are installing each day.
Q: What’s the biggest difference watching Dexter Lawrence now compared to where he was a year ago?
A: The biggest difference is you get used to the NFL, the meetings and things like that. I guess you get a little but more comfortable going into your second year. Everybody, as a rookie coming in, you are nervous because you are a rookie. Now he is a second-year player. He comes in with his work hat on every day ready to work. I love the energy he brings and just how excited he is to come to work and get better each day.
Q: You are going into your fourth year here. What are your expectations this year for yourself? How do you think this new defense is going to help you reach those?
A: I am super excited about the new defense. I want to be able to help in the run and pass game this year and just keep improving across the whole board. Help out and be disruptive in the middle as much as possible throughout the whole season.
Q: What do you like about the defense and how does it apply to you specifically?
A: I feel like I am super aggressive on the inside. The scheme is fun. It reminds me of the Alabama defense and the Alabama days and the techniques I used to use and stuff like that.
Q: You are not the oldest player on this team, but you are the longest tenured defensive player. What does that tell you about the business, about yourself, about the Giants? That you can be such a young guy and the elder statesman as far as time served with Giants on the defense?
A: Everybody knows it’s a business. You have to be able to understand that coming in. I just keep my head down and focus on getting better each and every day and keep working. That’s all you can do. I’m just blessed to be in the position I’m in and be in this chair talking to you guys. Come in each and every day and don’t take a day for granted.
Q: Do you ever look around and say where did all those guys go?
A: I guess you could say that sometimes. Not really, though, I have been so locked in on everything we are installing and stuff like that. Trying to get me and everyone around me better, just trying to improve everybody.
Q: You were here last time Coach Graham was here as the D-line coach. Are you seeing some carryover in what he taught when he was the defensive line coach versus what he is teaching now? How has he grown since he last here a defensive line coach?
A: He is a great guy who has grown a lot. You can just tell it’s a lot of pretty much the same techniques. I always catch him coming into the D-line room and talking to us all the time. We are his favorite group, I guess you could say, because he used to be a D-line coach. He’s always teaching us different techniques that remind me of the stuff he used to teach my rookie year. A lot of great stuff going on and we just keep improving on the techniques he’s teaching us.
Q: Does that make it easier for you transitioning to this new defense because there is some familiarity?
A: It does make it a little bit easier because the techniques are similar.
Q: Coach talked about using the spring to make sure there were no strangers once you guys finally do get on the field. How quickly have you come together in the last week or so? Do you feel like there is anything that’s missing from not having that spring?
A: Especially me being a new guy, I thought about the OTA’s portion, especially if you are a rookie or new a free agent, as that earning the respect portion. I think that’s a big miss. You can work out together and you get to see everybody’s work ethic, you get to see the guys doing extra. See the guys take control in certain tough situations, whether it’s conditioning, meetings, walk throughs and things like that. I think overall we did a great job as a team making sure we took advantage of what we were given. The zoom meetings, being able to add in video games at nighttime with guys, just chatting with guys after the meetings ended. Overall, walking in it was just having to see the guy’s face for the first time in person. Being like, oh sweet, that’s what you look like, it’s not just your face, I get your whole body now. That portion was different, but overall, it was cool to walk in and make it seem like we have been friends for the last six months.
Q: Being the guy who is going to be in the middle of the huddle making all the calls and checks. How do you simulate that? Without any preseason games, are there things you will do with your defense between now and September 14 to make sure you’re ready for when the lights go on?
A: For us, right now our big focus is everyone focusing on the fundamentals of doing what we need to do each day to grow as individuals. Overall, for me it’s just being able to allow those guys to understand that I’m going to be on top of everything from checks, making sure people are lined up in the right position, that I am that calming factor. For me, I take every single day to keep chipping at that. Whether it’s walk throughs, talking in meetings, guys start to recognize this guy knows what going on, this guy is going to allow me to not have any freak moments. If things are moving fast, he’s the guy that I can turn to and calm myself down.
Q: Who is the guy you look to, to calm you down if you start to get a little antsy?
A: That’s the reason I am here, to be that guy. For me, I pride myself on not being too flustered in any moments and being that rock for the defense. Especially obviously for me being the quote, unquote, quarterback on the defense. Being that guy that’s always calm, cool, and collected.
Q: From a player perspective, what roadblocks do you see that could potentially end the season?
A: I try to not look at the negative aspects. For me, I think Coach Judge has hit it on us and probably spoke to you guys about it. It’s just focusing on what we can control. Following every protocol that’s necessary. Doing everything, whether it’s showing up on time, doing our test every single day, walking in making sure we are wearing our masks, wearing the certain things to know we are distanced apart. Following certain protocols put on the ground, whatever is put in place in every aspect. Whether it’s on the field or in the meeting rooms. As long as everyone starts the day focusing on that and ends the day focusing on that, I think we are going to be in a good spot.
Q: You were in Arizona for the entirety of this pandemic and it got hit pretty hard by the virus. What has this stretch of months been like for you where you have been forced to stay at home and not be able to go play football like you would have wanted to? What do you make of all the guys that have been opting out?
A: For me, I was extremely blessed and lucky that my dad ended up building the facility that we had. I think I left that facility maybe four times. Once I realized Whole Foods delivered, I think I cut down to zero times. That was a blessing in disguise. Overall, my offseason was safe and controlled and I always made sure there wasn’t any more than maybe five people in there at a time with me at least. The opting out with everyone else, for me, everyone has their individual decision. I respect their decision, I’m not living their life, I’m living my own life. I made my own decision to obviously play.
Q: This last week here in camp, away from the facility, how have you structured your nights as opposed to training camps in the past?
A: Right now, we are here so late, and we have all the stuff. Our nutritionist Pratik (Patel) has been awesome, making sure we have all the meals. Before we leave, we have snack handed to us. Food wise, I’m good. Once I get home, I basically spend an hour doing a normal life out of football. Whether I’m watching a tv show with my wife or playing video games for thirty minutes or so. Just something where I can decompress. The other night my daughter woke up right as I got home, and I played with her for 30 minutes and it was awesome to see her.
Q: How much value do you think there is in the preseason? How much will you lose not having it this year?
A: Overall, an easy one is guys trying to make the team and having those live reps against another team and things like that. For me, I don’t know exactly what we are going to do to change it. Right now, we are still in phase one. Once it gets there, I’m projecting there will be some type of way to get a competitive aspect and get those reps that can match a preseason some way. I think that’s kind of the big thing for preseason. For me, looking at the preseason, like you said, this will be my fifth year in the league, and for me I should know how to tackle and do all these things. Overall, for practice it’s just working on those fundamentals. Whether it’s the fundamentals of the right feet, the right stance, the right approach to tackle and the perfect drops and things like that. Once you get on the football field, you know how to tackle and how to go play.
Q: In any other year of your career, you would have been in the same system, know the system cold and it just would have been dealing with this craziness. For someone like you who needs to know the whole defense and tell your defense everything, is this a special challenge for you? Whereas another guy who is going into a system who has been there three, four or five years, he can sit back and get ready at his own pace. You have to learn this all in a very unusual situation.
A: Definitely, that’s the challenge of this. Everything right now, challenges pop up every single day. The playbook aspect is just nailing down things and doing whatever is necessary. We have an hour break right now so instead spending the whole hour chatting, okay let’s spend 30 minutes watching film or going through certain installs and things like that. Talking to Pat (Graham) about certain checks and things, what he’s thinking. It’s just going to take that much more effort, just kind of chipping away like I said earlier to get where I need to be when the season gets going.
Q: How much easier is it for you, as the guy who going to make all the calls, that you played under Patrick Graham? You have that trust built in there. What is the dynamic like between you two? Does your past experience with Graham make this summer a little bit easier?
A: We have great relationship. We grew it my third year in Green Bay and it makes it a lot easier to walk into his office anytime. Any concerns I have, or certain questions I have, I can go straight to him and we chat just like anybody else. It’s made it a lot easier to get new updates on anything that he is changing throughout the day.
JOSIAH TAUAEFA COMES OFF OF RESERVE/COVID-19 LIST …
Linebacker Josiah Tauaefa was activated off of the Reserve/COVID-19 List on Wednesday, a day after he was placed on it. Players who are placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 List either test positive for the virus or have come into contact with someone who did. The Giants originally signed Tauaefa as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2019 NFL Draft. They then signed Tauaefa to the Practice Squad in September 2019 and the 53-man roster in October 2019. He played in 12 games with no starts as almost all of his playing time came on special teams.
The Giants currently have no other player on the Reserve/COVID-19 List.