JULY 31, 2020 JOE JUDGE CONFERENCE CALL…
New York Giants Head Coach Joe Judge addressed the media on Friday in his first training camp presser (see video at Giants.com):
Opening Statement: I hope everyone had a good summer. Right now, where we’re at, the coaching staff was in here on the 19th, really getting back together and start getting used to being in the stadium as a crew. We got the players in a short time after when you guys all saw in the media when it was released. Our early entry group right now is rookies, quarterbacks, first-year players and a few guys that were injured last year going through rehab in the offseason. Right now, we have a few more days left. By the end of next week, we’ll be able to get that early group on the field. Our veteran group right now is finishing up their testing and quarantining period. They’ll start their physicals tomorrow and we’ll see them in person on Monday. It’s a good point for us right now. We had a good, productive few days. It’s almost been a little bit like a rookie minicamp for us in terms of rookies getting on the field, getting them exposed to some of our new stuff for the first time in terms of being on the field, our strength and conditioning program and getting some walkthrough time with them. It’s been great with the vets, the quarterbacks especially, getting these guys on the field, being able to go through the systems with them. It’s been a productive couple days so far. We have another walkthrough tonight, then tomorrow we have some strength and conditioning programs. They’ll have off on Sunday and then Monday we’ll pick it back up. Any questions with anything we’re doing, fire away.
Q: I wanted to ask, I know it’s early but what have you seen about what kind of relationship, if any, Jason Garrett and Daniel (Jones) have been able to develop over this very unusual offseason and these first few days?
A: I’ll tell you what, it’s still early. These relationships are going to evolve over time. But I would say for our entire coaching staff, and it’s reflected, obviously, through Jason and Daniel, as well as Jerry Schuplinski and Daniel, our coaches work very hard and our players work very urgent to do what we’re trying to do, and that was in the virtual program, knock down these walls. Look, we were given the opportunity to work together. Just like we are right now, we had to interact. Communication was the biggest part, talking about the introduction of our schemes and systems, laying out some of the groundwork for our culture. We’re all looking forward to getting everybody in person, but you can tell that over time, the relationships will obviously… we’ll see more to it. But it’s been very positive to this point with all the players and coaches.
Q: I’m just curious, with all of the planning you put into how you thought this was going to take place, what has been the biggest challenge for you as a coach? Have you gotten a chance as the coach where you almost feel like you’re kind of coordinating everything and not really coaching football?
A: Look, I’ll be very honest with you, the other day was the first time I’ve been in a walkthrough where instead of being directly related to a specific group or running a period at a time, you’re walking around observing everything. By the time we got to our second walkthrough, look, my natural tendency is to be very hands on, so I find my way to groups and I know what I wanted to get across to different players. There’s definitely a lot of coordination that goes on. The planning is huge, but really ultimately, our job as a coaching staff, and my job, is to make sure we’re positioned to adjust accordingly and keep moving. That’s what I’ve seen right now from our coaches and players. We’ve got to figure it out, and right now everyone is figuring it out. Whatever we’re allowed to work with, we’re going to have to figure it out. We have to plan day by day. If that plan changes, we adjust and we keep going full speed.
Q: We’ve seen other sports try to launch here in this COVID atmosphere. Obviously, hockey and basketball seem to be doing okay in a pretty tight bubble. Baseball is having some struggles without that bubble. What have you told the players that they need to do and that they need to be aware of to make this football season work, not just for the Giants but really for the whole NFL?
A: The first thing we have to all understand is, everyone at this level has sacrificed to get here. We’re going to have to make some more sacrifices, whether that’s socially away from the game, how we interact with friends and family members throughout this season. But we have to make the right decisions. The biggest thing is everyone has to understand that all of our decisions directly impact each other. It’s not fair for me to go out and do something and put myself at risk and come in here and get players sick. That’s not my right. I’m not entitled to do that. We have to all make the right decisions, both in the building following the protocols and away from the building. I think ultimately as a league, we just need to trust that the plan in place that the league put, make sure we adhere to the protocols, make sure we wear the PPEs. Let’s be careful, let’s be cautious, but we can operate aggressively if we just follow the plan in place.
Q: I was curious if you guys, the coaching staff, have talked about, in the scenario that you were to test positive or if Jason (Garrett) or Patrick (Graham), if you had a succession plan and how you plan on dealing with that? I’m sure you have to plan for all scenarios this year.
A: We absolutely have. We have succession plans for the coaching staff. Once we get a depth chart in place at the end of the roster development, we’ll have plans for every player on the team, who the next man up would be. To be honest with you, my plan as the head coach as we go through training camp is not only evaluating players, but also evaluating the coaches in terms of interaction. It has to be the total chemistry of how a game day would operate. There will be decisions that we’ll make at the end in terms of going through the season. Those decisions may change as we go through the entirety of the season. But we’ll structure practices accordingly. We’re always in for developing every player, we’re in for developing every coach as well. We started talking back in the spring in terms of if any one coach, myself included, couldn’t come to work that day for any period of time, how would we address meetings, practice on the field, the game. We have to make sure we have a plan.
Q: Leadership is so vital during this COVID time, not only from the coaches’ standpoint but from the players’. Do you see players that are handling the leadership in this time period, adapting to protocols, and basically, even in a virtual fashion, showing you that this is going to work?
A: Our players are very committed to doing everything possible to make this work. Our team is committed to improving on and off the field on a daily basis. I would say in the short time we’ve been with the players in our stadium as far as the protocols, they’ve done their absolute best. Obviously, when you first get in, there are some natural tendencies you’re used to from being in a team environment that you have to start to distance yourself from, both physically and just, hypothetically, having a form of distance among the players. The leadership aspect of it, I think we’re going to see that emerge. We’ll have a leadership council, we’ll talk. Part of our culture is doing what’s necessary to be successful. At this time, to be successful, we have to stay healthy. The healthiest team has an advantage, and we’re going to do our part to stay healthy.
Q: Two questions, if I may. Given the fact that there are no preseason games, do you have a plan in place regarding a scrimmage or something where you can test out game day operations, which I imagine you’re going to want to do? I’ll wait before I ask the second question.
A: Yeah, absolutely. We have to do a good job of structuring training camp in that we’re able to evaluate the players first and make sure we make the right decisions while we form this roster. You can’t do that without playing full speed football, and you can’t have a safe team who’s ready to play on September 14th without having some full speed football, whether it’s a situation of intrasquad scrimmaging or intrasquad games. We’ll also develop the coaching staff as well through intrapractice communication and then within the scrimmages and intrasquad games. We’ll also divide the coaches up and make sure the necessary communication takes place. Then going back to an earlier question, we’ll make ways within scenarios of, within game communication where a certain coach isn’t there and practice those scenarios as well so we have a plan in place.
Q: Then my other question is you have some players coming off injuries. I don’t believe you put anybody on PUP (Physically Unable to Perform), but is everybody going to be able to go full speed? Evan Engram? Corey Coleman? Then I think you had a couple of other guys who had injuries they’re coming off. And Markus Golden, where do you stand with him?
A: In terms of Markus or any other player, there’s an entry process that everyone has to go through. The testing, the quarantining, then the physicals. Once these players clear that process, I’ll be happy to talk about all of them. To this moment, that’s one player who has not cleared the process. In terms of the question as far as being limited, I’m going to wait until all of the players clear their physicals to give you an absolute answer on that. Remember, these are guys that we still have not seen physically for some time. They’ve been sitting in a hotel now for about a week quarantining and testing. I’m going to let Ronnie Barnes and the doctors do the physicals. We’ll get all of the necessary information and see where we’re at right there. But Evan has been working hard throughout the summer. He’s been training and doing his rehab. We’ve had him out here with our group working and going forward, we’ll see where he’s at physically as we ramp up the intensity and the volume, and we’ll make our decisions from there.
Q: I’m sure not long after you got this job, you envisioned what it would be like to stand up in front of your whole team and address them for the first time as the head coach. Obviously, that has not happened yet. It will happen much differently when it does because of the situation. Are there a lot of players that you’re literally meeting for the first time, face to face, and when do you envision the first time you get these guys all in a room together?
A: In terms of our roster reduction, eventually we have to be at 80. That’ll be the first time you’re actually getting the entire team together at once. That will be the first time you get to talk to everyone at once, collectively. To answer your question, no, we don’t have any strangers. We’ve taken our time this spring to make sure everyone has gotten the chance to establish relationships with each other. It is the first time I’m physically seeing some of these players eye to eye. But the funny thing has been, even though we’ve been talking through the virtual world throughout the spring, these young guys came in, these quarterbacks, first-year players, you just pick right back up where you left off. We were very thorough this spring with how we prepared, how we launched into the program. This isn’t going to be the first time I will address the team in terms of our culture or what we expect. At this point, we’re really looking forward to getting training camp started and getting football on the field.
Q: When David Sills goes on the COVID/Reserve List and a player is asymptomatic like that, can you just describe how that response went, if you were pleased with how the club and the organization responded, if to your knowledge anyone else has caught it or tested positive since? Do you feel comfortable with how you handled that first positive test?
A: I have a lot of confidence in the way that our medical team has set up these protocols and how they’re handling everything going forward. I think our players will as well. We’re taking every possible step to make sure our players are coming into work every day and focused on football, but knowing that they’re safe if they follow the protocols and the plan we have in place. The biggest thing for us is any player who cannot be with the team on a daily basis due to any kind of illness is we can extend the meetings through Zoom like we did in the spring. The one thing is it’s not something foreign for our players now. They’ve already gone through an entire spring of it, so if they can’t be in the meeting room with us, they can be in a hotel room with whatever their personal situation is and still participate in the meetings and not fall behind on the mental aspect that day.
Q: I know it’s an ongoing legal situation with DeAndre Baker, but now that he’s on the Commissioner’s Exempt List, what’s the thought process in terms of you guys keeping him around? Also, as you start training camp, how is it going to look at the top of the depth chart at cornerback aside from James Bradberry?
A: To address the first part of the question, he’s not on our 90-man roster. Currently, he’s on the exempt list, so I’ll let the league deal with that issue. I’m not going to comment on any ongoing legal investigation. In terms of our depth chart, the entire team is really at the same point. Everyone has to come in and compete at ground zero and build their way up. Again, we had very productive meetings in the spring. We haven’t been on the field together yet besides the walkthroughs with this early group. I mentioned earlier, it’s been more almost a rookie minicamp-type atmosphere of getting guys on the field, getting them acclimated to our systems, just getting used to being on the field with the coaches and players together for the first time. It’s new for all of us right now. It’s a new staff, it’s the first time we’re meeting together on the field together, it’s the first time being with our players together. These are things that we’ve been able to take this early reporting opportunity to iron out some details and get on the same page.
Q: This obviously is not a normal season. Do you have to prepare differently for other things that may pop up along the way? How do you go about doing that?
A: It’s different for every situation. I think that my job is to make sure that we’re preparing for all the possible scenarios that could come up throughout the season. It’s not only things we’ve thought of already, but things that pop up as we go. ‘Ok, what if this happens? What’s our plan in place?’ Now you do that as a football team anyway. This year, you just take into a different account with COVID and how that may affect our team or other teams as well. But the biggest thing is just to talk about the situation. You talk out how you’re going to handle it. A lot of it is personnel oriented. A lot of it may be preparation based on meetings, how we had to do the spring virtually. In practice, how will that look? Right now, we have all plans for practice that will look as normal as can be. If that changes at some point, we’ll figure it out and we’ll adjust and we’ll keep on moving. We’re just not going to make any excuses for anything that comes up this season. We’re all here to play and coach football, we’re here to do it well, and we’re going to put everything into it.
Q: You don’t believe in the idea that because it’s going to be a wild season, you might get a pass in public perception?
A: There are unknowns in every season going in. This year is no different, it just has a different element that we haven’t dealt with before. As we go, we’ll see how things change and how they shake out. Right now, we are looking to go ahead and build the strongest team we can.
Q: Obviously with Nate Solder, the most important thing is his family and we read your comments about that. From a football standpoint, you lose your most experienced tackle. Dave (Gettleman) has been trying to build this offensive line to a strong point for three years. From a football standpoint, how secure are you with your offensive line and your tackles without Nate? From a salary cap standpoint, that opened up a lot of space under these rules. Do you expect to be active in free agency this summer?
A: We’ll always make the best decision for the team. We don’t feel right now that we have money burning a hole in our pocket. We just know there is a little bit more for us in the cap space right now. We fully support Nate Solder’s decision. I’ve known him personally going back to my time in New England. Not only have I known him, but I’ve had a relationship with him and his family. His wife Lexi is a great woman. Their children and what they are going through personally, this was not an easy decision. I don’t want to talk for Nate, he has put out his own words. From an organizational standpoint, we wanted Nate to play this year, but we fully support his decision not to because we absolutely understand what he is going through. This was not an easy decision for him, we talked about it a lot. At the end of the day, I am not going to try to talk a player into doing anything when it comes to the situation we are in right now. You have to make the decision personally that’s best for you and your family. I think Nate did that and we fully support him. From a football standpoint, we have confidence in all of our players. We still have to get on the field and practice and evaluate them, and that’s at all positions. Whether it’s the offensive line, skill positions, defense or wherever it ends up being. We have to see these guys perform under pressure and handle the loads in install and see how they perform when they are tired and in direct competition. There’s a lot of things that have to be done in a short period of time. We have to make good evaluations as coaches. I’ve got to set practices to make sure we can evaluate guys at multiple positions. We have to do a good job of making sure we see what every player does when he understands what to do and can play as fast as possible. That’s our job as coaches and teachers.
Q: Has any other player indicated he plans to opt out?
A: At the current moment, no.
Q: What went into the decision on Aldrick Rosas and what went into signing Chandler (Catanzaro) as his replacement?
A: In terms of who may be coming in, I’ll be happy to talk about that when they complete the entry process coming in. On the decision to release Aldrick, we felt it was best for the team based on all things being put together moving forward. I like Aldrick a lot as a person and I wish him the best of luck. I am not going to comment on the legal investigation, but we made a decision we felt was best for the team.
Q: You spoke a lot about versatility when you got hired and leading up to the draft. How big of a role did that play with the selection of Xavier McKinney and how do you see him fitting into to the secondary? How optimistic are you that we can play a full 16-game season?
A: I have a lot of trust in the plan put forth by the league. We spent a lot of time on this. When these players left, we signed off and took vacations. As coaches, we took a little bit of a break for about a month. It was 24/7 around the clock really working on making sure we got the facilities in order that we can bring our players in and have them work safely. We are doing everything we can, not to just be compliant but making sure we are staying ahead of issues that may arise. We are trying to educate our players on a daily basis. We have to enforce the rules as coaches. We have to rely on the leadership on the team to build the culture in the locker room. In terms of the optimism for a season, right now we have 16 games on the schedule and I’m looking forward to playing every one of them. To answer your question about X, versatility is huge part of our systems, offense, defense and the kicking game. Our defense is going to be multiple both by base scheme and based on game plan and who the opponent is. You are going to see four to six DB’s on the field in certain times. His role will be different based on different game plans. He’ll have a chance, like all are other players will, to establish what he is going to be in our defense based on how he performs in this next month of football.
Q: With Nate Solder gone for the year and based on who you have, some very young players are going to have to fill significant roles. Normally by now you have seen them on the field, tested them a little bit. How concerned are you in general about using rookies and young players in key spots anywhere this season when things are so unusual?
A: The age of a player doesn’t really ever bother me. We bring guys in to play. This isn’t like college where a young guy in the NFL is given a red shirt year. You have 53 and 54 guys on your roster, you have a limited roster. Everyone has to contribute and everyone has to play. One thing you hear a lot about and people get caught up in the word ‘starter’. You can only bring so many to an active gameday list, everybody plays. It’s not really significant who the first 11 on the field are. At the end of the game, everybody has a role, everybody has a very important job and everyone has to contribute. We are going to play all of our offensive linemen at multiple positions right and left. We are going to have a competition for every position. We are going to have multiple guys playing inside at center and outside at tackle. We are going to play all of our tackles at right and left to start camp and see who fits best where. Once we establish who should be on either side, we will go forward. That being said, we want to cross-train all of our players. You can’t just play right tackle or left tackle, or right corner or left corner. Based on depth and health of the team, it may require you in the middle or an entire game to play on a side you don’t normally play on. All our guys are working to switch sides and mirror their technique and play effective for a game.
Q: Do you expect there will be less movement at the bottom of the roster than there normally would be? If you claim a guy off of waivers or sign a free agent, you are not going to have them on the field for a full week?
A: That’s one thing we have talked about. This may a different training camp around the league in terms of the time of the claims. That’s not going to eliminate the roster moving, it’s still the National Football League and people are going to look to fill their needs and possibly improve their depth as they see guys on the waiver wire. The one thing I think you have to be conscious about as a coach is if you have to move somebody off the roster to claim somebody, you better have a plan in place for that week so you can say you are at 80 but you are really at 79 if that makes sense.
Q: I would think that would become more of a pressing issue once the regular season does start. Normally when you claim a guy on Tuesday, he probably wouldn’t even be available to you on that Sunday’s game.
A: You are absolutely right and that’s part of the discussions we’ve had in the claiming process. We don’t have a definite answer on how the regular season is going to go. At this point, we are kind of assuming it is going to be very similar to what we are looking at right now with the testing and quarantine piece. I think what you said is very fair and very true. You can no longer work a guy out on a Tuesday, Tuesday night he is doing meetings and Wednesday he’s practicing with the team. It’s important for us to establish depth. In terms of the practice squad, the league has allowed us to flex players up and down and the amount of veterans we can keep on the practice squad roster. That’s going to be key for all the teams and how they manage those 16 positions going forward.
Q: I know players are in a hotel now and they are quarantined. As the season comes up, how are you going to handle them when they go home? Are there some rules that you are going to put into effect to limit their access when they are home?
A: The league has put out some rules already with the agreement in terms of where they can and cannot go and be exposed to large crowds. The thing I want to emphasize with the team is we have to make responsible decisions, all of us. What I have to think about personally is, it’s not just where I go, I know I’m at the stadium or driving to my house. I have to be conscious of where my wife and children are. Who are they around on a daily basis? What am I bringing back to the team? There are some sacrifices we have to make. Like I said earlier, everybody has had to make sacrifices to get to this level. If the biggest thing we have to do is for half a year wear masks around each other, distance a little bit and when we go home, be home, I think it’s a pretty fair trade off to be a part of the National Football League.
Q: How did you decide to split up your 90-man roster for camp? Some teams are doing the quarterback thing where first string and third string are together and second and fourth are together. Is that something you are doing?
A: The league really established how we can split the roster. You have to go rookie to first year players and then vets in another group. What you had flexibility with was injured players and quarterbacks. We felt it was most beneficial for us now to keep all the quarterbacks with this first group. As we progress and have time to get on the field in phase two activities coming up next Friday, we can have the quarterbacks working with them on the field. The biggest thing we are thinking about right now at this point is physically to give our players a chance to get their bodies ready for practice. That’s why the league has set this up, that’s why the players and the coaches were very adamant about having a training period for the players. We have to remember, these guys can’t go from 0 to 100. You have to give them a chance to train and get their bodies in a position to be ready. They have to go out there without having to face an offensive or defensive player in front of them and just have football movement. There are things that when you train on your own, you just can’t simulate. It’s really the reactive movements that you are so vulnerable to. To avoid soft tissue injuries or have ligament issues, we want to make sure we take our time with this front part of this acclimation and give the players the full progression of lifting, running, walkthroughs and eventually getting to phase two activities. Eventually getting to padded practices and true training camp. For us, it was important to get the quarterbacks in that first group so we can start their clock right away and get them on the field and keep them healthy.
Q: You are getting 14 practices and I think 10 are padded, which doesn’t sound like a whole lot. With that said, how much of your evaluation of the players is going to be swung more towards the mental side. To understanding what the coaches are asking in the scheme of their specific roles. Does it change how you are going to evaluate as you go along?
A: It is kind of funny when you think about the way it was set up. When you talk to a lot of the coaches on the staff, you have to reach back to your previous experience. This is almost more like a college training camp because you are not worried about getting ready for a preseason game. You are not concerned about having a plan in place for a specific opponent. You really have more time to work on your own installs and what you can address within your own team at your own progression. The number of coaches on our staff, myself included, who have been through college football, we have thought back as to how you can have this progression. For us, there are waves to training camp. While we are having these walkthroughs on the field, we are going to really emphasize the mental part. We’ll bring these guys around in the systems and give them an opportunity to really learn this at a good learning and teaching pace. When we get the opportunity to get on the field, we have to really ramp it up. It’s not ramping it up to say here’s the green light, let’s step on the gas. You have to get the players’ bodies ready for competition. Each part of the season gets faster. Preseason is not as fast as the regular season, regular season is not as fast as the playoffs. Every round you go in the playoffs, it gets faster and more intense, that’s just the truth. Not that the players aren’t putting in max effort, it’s just the reality of the situation of how the teams get better as you go, the reaction you have to have and the intensity of the game. We have to do our part as coaches in ramping up the practices in training camp, so when we get to the regular season, our guys are physically prepared to play safely on the field.
Q: Some teams have talked about quarantining their quarterbacks. I don’t know if that would be Daniel (Jones) by himself or quarantining a back up quarterback. Is that something you are thinking about putting into action?
A: We are trying to keep all the players spaced out physically. In terms of just quarantining any one player at this moment, we want to have every player around here so we can have an interpersonal connection with them, get them on the field and train them.
Q: Will you have separate protocols for your quarterbacks just to keep those guys extra safe during the regular season or just in the building now?
A: I think we are doing everything we possibly can to keep our guys extra safe to be honest with you. Our guys know to go back to the hotel, they are in their room. We keep them late enough here anyway. They don’t have a ton of time once they leave the building. Normally they get back, they read their notebook and then their head hits the pillow and they’re out and they start the day over again. We are just making sure all of our players, not anyone specific, but all of our players keep spacing, follow the protocols. We put a lot of work into that. It’s just part of understanding what we are dealing with. We can’t make this the biggest obstacle. We are going to have 16 games of opponents that are going to be a lot tougher than just following protocols. We have to get ready right now and follow all the little details and get ready for the season.
NATE WOZNIAK RETIRES…
New York Giants offensive lineman Nate Wozniak has retired from the NFL. The 6’10”, 280-pound Wozniak was originally signed by the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2018 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Saints (2018-2019), Minnesota Vikings (2019), and Atlanta Falcons (2019). The Giants signed Nate Wozniak to the Practice Squad in December 2019.
BBI GUEST APPEARANCE ON BIG BLUE PODCAST…
In a wide-ranging discussion of current issues surrounding the New York Giants, Eric from BBI joined the D-Man and Stormer Big Blue Podcast on Thursday evening. The audio for the show is available at Spotify.
- Why MetLife Stadium gives Giants a training camp edge by Paul Schwartz of The New York Post