Sterling Shepard – Courtesy of New York Giants
BBI GUEST APPEARANCE ON GIANTS HUDDLE PODCAST…
In a wide-ranging discussion of current issues surrounding the New York Giants, Eric from BBI joined John Schmeelk on the Giants Huddle Podcast at Giants.com on Wednesday afternoon. The audio for the show is available at Giants.com and YouTube.
AUGUST 7, 2020 SAQUON BARKLEY CONFERENCE CALL…
New York Giants running Saquon Barkley addressed the media on Friday (see video at Giants.com and YouTube):
Q: Does this feel like starting over with this franchise? Last year was sort of a bridge with Eli and Zak around and sort of a link to the history. Now it’s all new guys.
A: Yeah, I would definitely say it’s a fresh new start. I heard you guys talking with Shep earlier about history. I do think we are doing a great job of, especially when we are in zoom meetings, understanding the history, understanding the guys before us. There is a tradition here. Like you said, Shep is the longest tenured Giant and he has only been in the league for five to six years, I guess. It’s a fresh new start, we are learning every single day, on the offensive side and on the defensive side. Learning a new scheme and system and trying to focus on the little things to get better every single day. Capitalize on the things we are able to do.
Q: When you study the history of the franchise, is it with an emphasis that we have to create the next chapter in the history?
A: I wouldn’t say there’s an emphasis of we have to create the next chapter. You have to understand your history and what we’re known for. The Giants are known for being tough, physical and doing the little things right. That’s something that Coach Judge and all the coaches have made a focal point for us in the short time that we have been here. That’s what we try to attack every single day and try to get better every single day.
Q: Have you spoken to Ezekiel Elliott about playing with Jason Garrett? Does his success make you excited about the prospect of playing for Jason Garrett this year?
A: I have not talked to Zeke directly about how he’s been coached by Coach Garrett or the system and stuff like that. I’m definitely good friends with Zeke and we respect each other, but I haven’t reached out. Zeke has had a lot of success. Not only Zeke but the running backs before him, McFadden, Murray, Barber, the list goes on. I think ever since Coach Garrett has been the head coach or OC, they have been at the top in the running game every single year. I wouldn’t say their success excites me, just what we have. I love our coaching staff, I love the energy they are bringing, and the attention to detail they are emphasizing for us. It’s only been small, it’s only been through walkthroughs, but I’m really excited.
Q: What’s the biggest area of growth you have seen with Daniel compared to a year ago? How excited are you about going into this season, his second year, with you two together?
A: Definitely excited for DJ. We definitely got a lot closer from this point where we are from him being a rookie to us actually hanging out, working out together and stuff. He’s a hard worker, he’s a heck of a player, he’s very talented. You just grow, not just saying system-wise but as a player. Being more comfortable from your rookie year to your second year. I know for myself from my first year to my second year how much more comfortable I was just being in the locker room and talking with the guys. That’s where you are going to grow, and you are going to continue to see him grow in that area. He’s a talented player and hard worker and I’m really excited to see what he is going to do this year.
Q: Have you noticed him stepping up and being that vocal leader going into this camp? I know it’s tough with just the zoom meetings. Now that you guys are back together, have you seen him take up that leadership role as a quarterback?
A: Yeah, I have definitely seen him take up that leadership role. You can see it through his work ethic. I have seen him work out a couple times. You just know he is taking that step. I am really excited for his growth. I am really excited to see what he is able to do this year.
Q: This has been a year where you guys have had to adapt. Aldrick was let go after the car accident. Today the Broward County prosecutor’s office filed charges against DeAndre Baker, so I assume he is not going to be around this season. How difficult has this whole year been?
A: Obviously there have been some things going on within the world and everything. At the same time, we are presented with an opportunity to get better every single day. That’s what we have to do. That time that we do have, we have to follow the procedures, especially with our masks. Try to keep everyone safe, because at the end of the day you are not just protecting yourself, you are protecting everyone in this building. You have to focus on that and then when we are on the practice field, we are out there to work, try to work at a high level and each rep get one percent better each day.
Q: Is it disappointing to see some of the guys have the off the field problems?
A: I’m not really going to be speaking on that. I’m just focusing on coming in here working every single day. Trying to grow as a leader and get better every single day to help my team.
Q: What do you want to see from yourself going into year three?
A: What I want to see from myself is just growth. I feel like I have been saying this answer so much in my first two years. I’m really focused on trying to get better in every area of my game. I feel like I have so much more room to continue to grow and there is so much I can continue to add to my game. I would say some big focal points are pass pro, in between the tackles, outside the tackles, catching the ball, ball security. Every single day, try to focus and try to get better in every area of my game. I am a big stickler when it comes to stuff like that. Definitely when our coaches sat down, they really have us focused on the details and all the little things matter. That’s the focus and where I want to improve my game, which I guess you could say is everything.
Q: Did any of your offseason training come about specifically because of the high ankle sprain?
A: No. To be completely honest, my approach was to try to get bigger, stronger, faster, which I think I was able to accomplish this offseason. Those injuries, the high ankle injury I had last year, that comes with the game. I got caught in a bad position at a bad time. It’s those other injuries that I want to try to take care of. Make sure I am hydrated right, make sure I am stretching. Make sure I am working with our trainers, and PT. Obviously when we are back into the regular season, all the extra stuff I do on the outside. Just try to focus on all the little things that I can control. The injuries that you can’t control, that’s just part of the game that I love. Hopefully I can stay away from that.
Q: How hungry are you to be a part of a winning team? Your success personally aside, it’s now been a few years since you have been a part of a team that finishes with a winning record?
A: That’s the motive. That’s why we come in every single day and why we work every single day, to get better every single day, one percent better. Yes, do we want to have a winning record? Yes, that’s every team. I’m a big believer, I know what we are getting taught and what’s going on now, that’s not going to happen if we don’t take care of the little things. I want that and if I’m hungry for that, which I am, I have to focus on today. Right now, after this meeting, get some nutrition and go into meetings and try and learn and get better in the system and this offense.
Q: When you look at this time right now, there are a lot of expectations that are very low outside of your building. New head coach, second year quarterback in a new system, things like that. What do you see as reasons for optimism? You have been around the team that’s lost. What tells you that this could be different?
A: What tells me this could be different, one, it’s a brand-new year. It’s a fresh start. From what I have seen in these first couple of days is we are steps ahead, in my opinion. We are coming in, we’re locked in. Are mistakes being made, yes, that’s part of the nature of learning a system and learning a new offense. We have what I believe is really great coaching staff starting with Coach Judge to Coach Garrett and so on down the line. They are doing a tremendous job of having us focusing on the little things and focused on situational football, which I think is a part of our game we can improve on from this year to last year.
Q: How much thought did you give to opting out? What is your level of concern with playing a season in the middle of all this?
A: Great question. To be completely honest, I believe in our training room and our team and facility and our owners. They have done a tremendous job of putting the procedures in place and giving us the right equipment to make it as safe as it could be. I want to say thank you to those guys because they are doing a really good job and every single day, they put us in the best position to stay healthy and safe to be able to compete at a high level.
Q: How concerned are you that you might not make it through the full season? You see what’s going on in baseball and there have been problems along the way? How much is that something you guys talk about and think about?
A: When you see the stuff that is going on in baseball, I guess you could say it crosses your mind. We talked about this as a team, we have to focus on how we can take advantage of this. How we need to stay committed to the procedures of wearing a mask and even when outside following the procedures to stay as healthy as we can. There hasn’t been that much talk in the locker room. We talked about it a little bit, what happened in baseball. The only way we can handle it and try to focus on the season is by focusing on us and making sure we are following the procedures to try and stay healthy.
Q: What has it been like this training camp when you are not at the facility? What would you be doing at night that you are not doing now? What’s missing from the nighttime and how are you following the protocols?
A: In camp, it’s really similar. The only thing that’s different is you are allowed to be in the hotel or your house. Instead of going to a hotel, I go home. In camp, it’s different. When the season starts, you just have to be smart. If you want to go grab a bite to eat, you have to be smart. When fans come up and ask you for pictures or an autograph, that’s something that I have seen happen to me, I have to make sure I’m wearing my mask and make sure they are wearing a mask. Obviously, still be polite. That could be that little situation that could take a turn for the worst. That’s definitely in the back of your mind. Just go in every single day and try to do the best you can. Still try to live the life that you love to live. Just do it in a smarter way because you’re not just protecting yourself, you are protecting the people in your home. When you come here, you are protecting everyone in this facility and everyone that they have at home.
AUGUST 7, 2020 STERLING SHEPARD CONFERENCE CALL…
New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard addressed the media on Friday (see video at Giants.com and YouTube):
Q: I wanted to ask you a little bit about some of the things that happened in the offseason, your participation in the “I am George Floyd” video. Were you surprised at how quickly the NFL responded to that? Can you just tell us a little bit about how that came together and how that’s going to continue through the season?
A: Yeah, Mike Thomas had approached me about it, and I’m very supportive of it. That was something that I was very passionate about. I’m very supportive of change in the right way. That’s just kind of how it came about and how I heard about it. But yeah, moving forward as a team, we have things in place that we’re getting out to these communities and getting active. That’s something that I wanted to do, was take action.
Q: Are you going to wear a name or initials on your helmet, and do you know which ones yet if you are?
A: We haven’t really discussed it as a team yet, but we want to be unified. That’s something that we’ll talk about as a team.
Q: Just to get back to the first question, were you surprised about how quickly the league responded to that? I think it was probably within 24 hours that they came out with their own video.
A: Yeah, I think the impact of the video was pretty big. I expected them to handle it in the right way, and it seems like they did.
Q: You saw all of the opt-outs around the league. You have two young children. Did you give any consideration to opting out yourself? And your thoughts on the players who did?
A: I’m supportive of all the players that did. Everyone is going to make a decision based on what’s going on around them in their household, and make the decision that’s best for them. That’s the way we approached that as a family. We sat down and talked about it, and I made the decision that was best for my family.
Q: Along those same lines, what are you doing during camp? Are you going home at the end of the day? Are you staying at the hotel?
A: Yeah, I’m staying with my family. I have to get up a bit earlier because I’m not by the stadium, but yeah, that’s the decision I made to be with my family.
Q: How much of a conscious decision is it going to be to sort of limit activities when you’re not at the facility so you’re not exposing yourself, as much as you can control?
A: Yeah, for the past few months, I’ve been with the family not really doing much anyway. It’s kind of continuing the same thing. Just chilling with the family. It’s good family time.
Q: No Eli (Manning), no (Zak) DeOssie. You’re the longest-tenured member in that locker room and really the longest-tenured football player in all of New York, including the Jets. What does that mean? What does that come with? Did it come quicker than normal? You were “Young Shep” last year. Now I guess you’re “Old Shep”.
A: Yeah, I might have to shake the “Young Shep” off. I was thinking about that. I did not know that about the whole New York with the Jets and everything. But yeah, just set a good example for the young guys and kind of teach them about some of the different rivalries that we have and how important those games are to the New York Giants as an organization.
Q: You tell me, does Leonard (Williams) count? He’s been in New York one year longer but he changed teams. Does he count or are you the old guy?
A: Leonard’s up there, but if you’re talking about our team, I guess I am at the top.
Q: In terms of this offense, for you, I should have done the math but for how many new offenses, new wrinkles that you’ve had to learn since you’ve been here, what do you like about it? What have you seen from the guys you’ve trained with, obviously, with Daniel (Jones) and Saquon (Barkley) and Evan (Engram)? What has you most excited about what the new system brings?
A: Yeah, it’s an offense that utilizes everyone’s skill set. It’s a lot of moving pieces as well, which I like about it. I like to move around the field and the guys that I’ve played with like to move around, too. It makes it tough on defenses. Yeah, those are some of the things that I like about it, just being able to utilize everyone’s skill set.
Q: Do you feel like you guys have gained an understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish yet, or is that still ongoing?
A: Yeah, it’s still in the works. I’m proud of the guys and the way that everyone has been approaching each day. It’s a lot on us right now with all of the information being shoved at us. We’re kind of on a time crunch. I’m proud of the guys and the way we’ve been working.
Q: For you, I don’t know if we’ve ever even asked you this, but what does the idea of being a captain on the team mean? Have you ever thought about yourself being voted as a captain here since like you said in your previous answer, you’ve been a young guy, young guy, then all of a sudden, you’re kind of a veteran here?
A: If that’s what ends up happening and that’s the way my team sees me, then I’ll be happy to wear that badge and take that role. I’m happy with whatever role. I can lead in different ways, like I have for the last four years that I’ve been here. Whichever role they have me in, I’m going to find a way to lead.
Q: Have you spoken to Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott or any of the other Cowboys players about what it’s like playing for Jason Garrett and what to expect during the season?
A: No, I actually haven’t. I was going to reach out to Zeke at some point, but I never got around to it. I like to get my own view on the coaches and how they operate. That’s kind of what I’ve been doing these past few days.
Q: Just as a quick follow-up going back to the start, did you speak with Joe Judge at all about the Black Lives Matter video or social justice causes? I was wondering what his reaction to all of that stuff was.
A: No, I didn’t talk about that specifically, but we did have a talk as a team.
Q: You’ve had some time to spend with Daniel this offseason. You’ve worked with him a whole bunch. What do you expect from Daniel Jones 2.0, and what were those workouts like when you guys worked in New Jersey, and he also held the ones in Texas?
A: They were good. We were just trying to get down some of the material. Now that we’re here, that’s pretty much all that we’re focused on. All that stuff is behind us. Some of the things we were working on, Coach has added some of the little nuances in, different route techniques. Some of the stuff we thought we were doing right, but just fine-tuning those things. We’re really just focused on getting these plays down and getting down what the coaches like and getting on the same page with each other.
Q: What are your expectations for him? What are you expecting from Daniel Jones in his second year?
A: Just to continue to do what he’s doing. He’s going in the right direction. He comes in here and works his butt off every single day. If we keep doing what we’re supposed to do as a unit and he continues to work as hard as he’s been working, I feel like he’ll be doing great.
Q: I want to go back to a question that was asked earlier about you being the longest-tenured Giant here. With the departure of Eli and Zak, kind of like all the history that carried over from year to year, from generation to generation, has kind of evaporated. What are you doing or what can you do, I mean you haven’t been around long, but you are the longest-tenured guy. How are you as a team re-capturing some of that history, starting to develop an understanding and appreciation of that history from recent years?
A: When we were going through the OTA period on the Zoom calls, the coaches would have some trivia questions for us, so we did this Kahoot! challenge to kind of get guys going and understanding the history of the organization. Those were some of the different ways that we’ve already began to teach some of these newcomers and guys that really don’t know much about the history of the Giants, a way to get them caught up.
Q: How important is that to know the history of the team? Some guys come in and they’re all about ball. But I get the impression just from talking to some guys over the years that they don’t really learn the history of the franchise. The Giants are one of the most storied franchises. How much of an emphasis is being put on that?
A: Yeah, I think it’s very important to know the history. You have to know what the guys before you have done and how they played football, and to continue to play that way because that’s what this organization was built on and that’s what it’s used to. I think it’s important and the coaches do as well. That’s the reason they had us doing those different Kahoot! challenges and trivia questions.
AUGUST 7, 2020 LEONARD WILLIAMS CONFERENCE CALL…
New York Giants defensive lineman Leonard Williams addressed the media on Friday (see video at Giants.com and YouTube):
Q: What has this offseason been like for you? When you got the franchise tag, was it your intention to get a long-term deal to stay with the Giants and what happened with that?
A: I think it’s always in the player’s interest to get a long-term deal, but that’s something that worked itself out between my agents and the organization. I’m just happy to be here, play with this team again, and learn about the guys that I’ve been with since last year. I got to know them a little bit more and play again with them this year. I’ve just been training hard and was ready for anything to happen. I was just trying to stay ready so I didn’t have to get ready.
Q: Was it disappointing to not get that deal and to be playing on another make good kind of contract year?
A: I wouldn’t say it was disappointing. I kind of knew the situation I was coming off of last year. I think it’s actually a good opportunity for myself. I’m looking at it as an opportunity. I’m not looking at it as something that’s bad. I’m looking at it as an opportunity.
Q: Obviously, the trade got a lot of criticism from outsiders and the franchise tag kind of got some criticism. Do you feel like you have anything to prove this season?
A: I wouldn’t say I have something to prove necessarily. I think the coaches know and my teammates know what I bring to the table or I wouldn’t be here. I definitely still feel like I’m playing with a chip on my shoulder at the same time, though. I’m ready to just go out here and play the best that I can. It starts today. It starts one day at a time. I’m not looking towards the future or next offseason or what’s going to happen a year from now. I’m just trying to get better right now and see what I can do for my team.
Q: You’ve obviously been in the league for a few years. Do you think there’s another level you can reach?
A: Definitely. I’m definitely still a young player in this league. I feel like I still have a lot in the tank. I still feel like I have a lot of years left in me to play in this league. I think I just need to keep going and take it day by day like I said.
Q: Eli Manning retired, Zak DeOssie retired, Bilal Powell is not here anymore. Leonard Williams is the New York football player who’s been in New York the longest. Obviously, you changed teams, but you’re the guy who’s been here the longest, the longest New York NFL player. What do you like about playing here? People are hard about this city, with us, with the fans, everything is scrutinized. Do you like it or do you almost wonder sometimes what it would be like somewhere else?
A: No, I love it. It’s a great media market. It’s crazy to think, first of all, that I’ve been here the longest. I’m only 26 years old. That makes me feel really old that I’ve been here the longest in New York. But yeah, it’s a great media, it’s a great city, great teams in this area historically and things like that. It’s great to be in a city like this, and you can take advantage of it if you can.
Q: Quick follow up. You’re on that Non-Football Injury list. Do you know how it happened, what happened, and when you expect to be back?
A: We can’t really talk about injuries. If somebody wants to get more information on that, you might have to bring it up with Coach (Joe) Judge or someone else on the team. I’m definitely making strides on it and doing the best that I can to get out there with my teammates.
Q: Two-parter for you. One, your first impressions of Sean Spencer, the d-line coach, what’s it been like working with him and getting on the field with him? Two, with this being kind of such a big prove-it year for you, is there something about this scheme and this system that makes you think this could be a breakout season for you?
A: Yeah, I love the scheme. I feel like our DC, Pat Graham, I feel like he’s a genius when it comes to x’s and o’s and stuff like that. I also love working with Coach Spencer so far. I like his energy and the way he coaches his guys. He’s real hands-on. He has that loud, deep voice that as a d-line coach, it’s kind of something that I like. I like it.
Q: I saw this offseason that you and Richard Seymour had gotten together and did some training. I’m not sure if it went beyond that initial meeting, but I’m just curious how that came about, what did you look to learn from him, what kind of parts of your game did you guys kind of focus on?
A: Richard Seymour is a good guy. He basically worked with my agent back in the day, Eugene Parker. I’m kind of working with his son now. They kind of linked us together. I went to Atlanta and met up with him. He brought me into his home, we watched film together. We just talked man to man about football and life and stuff like that. I feel like he’s just a mentor to me at this point. We’ve been able to keep in touch throughout the offseason and up to this point.
Q: With the film you watched together, did you watch him, did you watch you or both? What from his game can you bring to yours?
A: Not just mine or just him, D-line film in general and stuff like that. A little bit of both mine and his. He’s a really big, tall dude who uses power and I just feel like he was trying to teach me some of the things that he did. We worked out and stuff so he could see my body type and how I move and my strengths and stuff like that. He was giving me feedback and advice.
Q: We all want instant gratification no matter what profession we are in. How have you been balancing your desire to really take your game to the next level but at the same time realizing it’s a process. Coming over to a new system, a new team and having to learn it and then on top of that learning a new playbook and then having to learn a new playbook all over again.
A: For me, I definitely understand it’s a process. I got traded midseason, I had to learn a whole new team, a whole new system halfway through the season last year. Now I’m learning a whole new team and a whole new system. Every year is a new team, and now it’s a new system again. I understand it’s a process, not just with the system but in general, it’s a process. I don’t let too much outside noise get to me, I just try to work hard, keep the blinders on and keep working and doing what I can do.
Q: Right now, it’s projected that the starting defensive line is going to remain unchanged. It’s going to be yourself, Dexter and Dalvin. How important is that continuity and what have you seen in this new system that has benefitted the group as a whole.
A: I don’t know what’s set as far as who is starting. All I know is we have been competing and pushing each other and I think in general that’s going to fuel the team to be great and to be better. When you have young guys that are dedicated to working hard and getting better, it’s a great way to drive each other. I definitely respect those guys in the room, and I think we all have great respect for each other and we learn from each other.
Q: How are you expecting to be deployed in this defense? Are you expecting to play all over like last year? How exactly did you hurt your hamstring coming into camp?
A: For the second part, like I said, you might have to bring that up to Coach Judge or someone else in the building because we’re not talking about injuries. I’ve just been working on it and getting better. I’ll be out there with my teammates when I can. For the defensive part of it, it’s only week one. We are still installing a bunch of defenses. So far, I have been seeing myself in a few different positions. At the same time, I am not fully 100 percent with the injury. I’m sure stuff will change when I am back to 100 percent and once stuff gets fully installed. There is still week one stuff going on, it’s still an introduction to the defense to the team.
Q: If the schedule were normal, you would be a couple days away from your preseason opener. Do you think that the team and players will miss anything by not having preseason games? Do you need those couple of thumps against another team to get ready? Do you think everybody can roll into the regular season and it will be football as normal?
A: I’m not sure, I think it will be a little bit of a change and a challenge. I think some of the preseason games definitely help for younger guys who have never played in the NFL or younger guys who are working to make the team. It gives the coaches an opportunity to see them in a live game type of environment. At the same time, I think the team is doing a great job of creating that competitive environment to see everybody’s best. We’re making do with what we have. The coronavirus is affecting everybody in the world and we’re not excluded from that. We are doing the best we can.