Q: Moving into a new system with Jason Garrett, have you watched any Cowboys film? Have you spoken with Jason Witten on how to elevate your game in this system?
A: I haven’t gotten the chance to speak to Jason or any of the tight ends that have been in the system. I’m just showing up to work each and every day, diving into the offense, diving into film work to help learn the scheme, learn things. You see the impact that it has, you see the greatness in Jason Witten, the attention to detail he had and the success in the offense he had. I’m just trying to do my best to learn as much as possible and to pick up the offense as quick as possible.
Q: Is there some trait in your skill set that makes you think you can really elevate your game?
A: I’m just coming in and I’m going to be me for the offense. I think just getting in and trying to learn it right now is the biggest thing. Try to limit the mistakes, iron out the details and get the offense down.
Q: How are you feeling health wise? How big of a point is that for you? I know whenever someone talks about your capabilities, it always starts with whether or not he can stay healthy. How much do you want to prove that that’s not the only thing people need to be talking about?
A: I feel great. I’ve had a very blessed offseason. I’ve been working my butt off in rehab and getting back. Right now, I am just going out and doing everything I can for the team and what practice is with the trainers. I’m not really worried about what all the other people are saying. I can only control what’s in front of me each and every day. That’s coming in, working hard during training camp and learning this offense and being a good teammate and a good leader.
Q: You were one of the guys rehabbing at the facility before covid-19, correct? How did you manage your rehab and keep yourself on schedule? Was it as challenging as it might appear to keep it going?
A: It was an adjustment. Just being comfortable up here with our facilities and our trainers and then everything going south and shutting down. Our training staff did a good job of making connections where I was at, I was in Atlanta. I got set up with a rehab facility not too far from my house, so I was able to kind of pick back up. They were able to pick up all the details that I needed, things that I needed, and we were able to keep things in motion. We definitely had to make some adjustments, but our training staff here did a great job helping me stay on track.
Q: Did you ever doubt that you would be ready for training camp? How ready are you?
A: I had no doubt. I had my mind set. I had a very strong, very aggressive rehab. Each and every day, I was trying to find ways to get better. Right now, I am blessed to be back out there running around with my teammates. I’m having fun running around catching the ball and learning offense and getting ready for this new season.
Q: This is your third new offense in four years with the Giants. How difficult is that for a still young player to have no continuity at all? How much has the losing during that made it difficult also?
A: I wouldn’t say difficult, I would say some perseverance involved and being flexible with adjustments. I wouldn’t say it’s difficult with the losing, I think it has been very motivating to learn this new system and keep finding ways to get better each and every day. Start ironing out the things and getting better at the things that are going to turn around and win on Sundays. I wouldn’t say it’s difficult, but it’s just been attacking an adjustment.
Q: What is the challenge of each year not being able to build on what you did previously because it’s not the same system?
A: That speaks to how hard you work right now, in this training camp and learning the offense. Having that continuity might help, but also honing in and honing in on the details and trying to find ways to get better each and every day. Right now, that’s all I can do and that’s all I can worry about. I’m not really worried about the past or what the circumstance is. Right now, we’re in this offense and we have an opportunity to come in each and every day and get better at it.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge for you in training camp under these circumstances?
A: Honestly, I’m just glad to be back in the building. I’m glad to be back around football with my teammates. It’s definitely different wearing masks and social distancing. The logistics of everything, going back and forth to the field and the stadium and this and that. I take it as a blessing just to be back around my guys. Another opportunity for a football season to go out there and compete.
Q: Do they have you limited, are you full go? How is that working?
A: We’re not allowed to get into the details, that’s a Coach Judge rule. I’m out there with my teammates, I’m running around doing good, trying to get better each and every day.
Q: They picked up your fifth-year option. How much do you view this as a make or break year? This could determine where your future is going and what you contract looks like.
A: I’m not really too worried about that right now. We have a lot on our plate with the offense and all the different things around training camp. All that stuff will take care of itself. Right now, my focus is I am coming in each and every day finding ways to get better. Fixing mistakes and trying to get ready for the season.
Q: Based on what you know so far, how much of this is a change from what you have been asked to do in the past? How do you like the role that is being carved out for you in this offense?
A: It’s a good offense in my eyes. All the details we have to know and things like that is going to help us when we get them all down. I’m really excited about the opportunity to work with Coach Garrett and Coach Kitchens and all the other coaches on the offensive side. We’re putting in a lot of hard work right now and just have to continue to do that. Keep working for the good things to happen.
Q: What about the changeover in your role? Is it much different than what you have been asked to do in the past? Have they added some new things to your responsibilities?
A: Tight end in general is a very detail specific position. I don’t really want to compare it other offenses. There is definitely a lot of things we have to learn, a lot of things we need to iron out, a lot of details we have to perfect. Like I said, it’s a process that we have to come in each and every day and keep working at it.
Q: Can you share with us the timeline of how long you were in the boot, when you got out of the boot, and when you got to top speed as far as running?
A: I honestly can’t even tell you. It was a long process, especially with everything going on. With COVID and this and that. I’m just glad to be where I’m at right now. It was just a process that was happening. Right now, I’m feeling good and running around.
Q: You said you want to be the best version of yourself in the offense. How would to describe your game at its top level, how do you open up an offense?
A: Just being myself, using my speed, being physical. Being a durable player, being available. Coming in each and every day and improving on things that need improvement. I think that’s the best way to improve, that’s the best way to help your team. The best way to help your team win games, each and every day getting better at something. That’s my goal and that’s what I plan to do for this season.
Q: I have a couple questions for you. Number one, you were training part of the offseason with Nick Gates, who of course is in the mix at offensive tackle, he’s in the mix at center. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about that training, what you saw from Nick, especially since there’s a possibility he might be lining up next to you this season?
A: Yeah, Nick Gates and I spent a heavy amount of time training together in the offseason. We’re both from Las Vegas, Nevada, we’re really good friends. Yeah, we got after it in the offseason. I’ve always thought he was a great player. I’ve always thought he has what it takes to play. As far as where he goes, whether he lines up next to me or any of the other spots, I honestly think Nick Gates could play any spot on the line. He’s good enough to play anywhere on that offensive line.
Q: I wanted to ask you about Coach (Marc) Colombo. Obviously, he’s a recently retired NFL player. He’s been a coach for a few years. What kind of value does having a former NFL player, a guy who’s not that far removed from the game, as your coach? What does that bring to you as a young player still trying to learn the game and get better at your craft?
A: Coach Colombo is great. It’s awesome having somebody who’s actually been there, done that, 10-plus years playing. He definitely has a lot of inside information as a player himself that he can pass on to us. As far as being there with us, he’s one of us. He’s one of the guys. Of course, you separate that title. When he’s coach, he’s coach. You have that respect line. But it’s cool having somebody who is very similar to everybody in that room and kind of gets it. He just gets it. That’s something that any offensive lineman appreciates, a guy that understands you. It’s a very unique position. You don’t meet too many offensive linemen. There are not too many offensive linemen. It’s a unique position. To have somebody that actually played there, it definitely helps us out a lot. We really like having him here.
Q: It seems like it was just a couple of days ago we were asking you about being a rookie and coming in and what you can lean on and learn from Nate Solder next to you. Now, you might be in a position where you’re going to have a rookie next to you on your left, Andrew Thomas, if he winds up there, and you’ll be the veteran that kind of has to support him. First of all, how crazy is that timeline? Second of all, do you feel like you’re ready for that role?
A: Yeah, you’re right, it really does seem like just yesterday that I was a rookie behind Nate. Now, I might have the chance to do the same. All I’m going to say about that is I’m not sure who’s going to land in that position. I’ll leave that up to the coaches. As far as having that, I learned from the best. Nate Solder really taught me a lot on and off the field. But he also taught me unconsciously how to treat a rookie. I felt like I got treated by him with the utmost respect, with the utmost attention to detail, wanting to help me to get better. It’s just all those things I picked up from him looking back at it now. It’s the same things that I would instill in anybody who was brand new coming in and playing next to me. I would take a lot of the same things he did with me and add my own personality to it. But I definitely learned a lot of valuable points from Nate.
Q: What’s been your impression so far of Andrew? Obviously, you haven’t really been on the field to do much in pads and hitting and stuff, but what have you seen from the first round pick?
A: First, he’s a great guy. He can sing. He can really sing. He has a voice. He’s a really smart guy. He gets things right away. He picks up on a lot of the stuff that coach talks to him about. He’s able to absorb it and pick it up right away, which I think is very good. He just has that demeanor. You can see it through his note-taking, through his playing, through his practices, that he wants to get better. He wants to do good. That’s just some of the things I’ve seen from observing him lately. I think he’s going to be just fine. He’s doing great right now.
Q: What’s his best song? What does he sing for you guys?
A: He sang one song. We made him get up there for the rookie song. I don’t remember the song name right now. All I know is it was good. I was snapping my fingers the entire time. It was a good song.
Q: How do you view how your season went last year? In what ways do you feel like you need to improve? And a follow-up on the singing, did you know Marc Colombo was in a heavy metal band when he was a player?
A: As far as last year, what’s in the past is in the past. I’ve learned a lot since then. I really have been focusing on this new offense, new techniques, kind of like a new attitude for everything. I think that we’ve gotten a lot better since the offseason, at least me personally. I’ve been able to look back on a lot of things that I did wrong or I didn’t do as best as I could, and I’ve been able to correct them. Now, I’m just focused on the future and what I’m doing now. And I was aware of it. I heard something about it or saw something about it on social media, checked it out and watched his video. Yeah, it was awesome.
Q: Since you’ve been here, now you have a second regime change. You’re a guy who we all can say losing wears on you. It doesn’t run off your back. You can feel it affects you. How much do you think it has affected you the last two years, and how much do you think ‘Enough of this? We have to move on. We have to start succeeding on the field here’?
A: I think a more appropriate word, rather than affect me, I think it’s motivated me. Every single little thing that I do now is geared towards winning, towards ‘How is this going to help me win? Is this going to help me win? Yes or no. No? Ok, I’m not doing it.’ I just feel like every single thing that I do now, whether it’s on the field or off, I either do it or not with the purpose of winning.
Q: Is that a change? In the past, were you maybe doing some things that weren’t totally geared towards that?
A: No, it wasn’t intentional. It’s just a lot of things I realized from experience, from things that I did. I was just learning and learning and learning about the mistakes that we all make, and learning from those mistakes. The motive has always been the same: win. But I think more than anything, what I did was learning from my own mistakes. That same factor of wanting to win was always there, but now, it’s like ‘Ok, I can’t make those mistakes again because I still want to win.’
Q: What does the scheme change mean for you guys as an offensive line? We look at it and we see Jason Garrett in Dallas and all the success they’ve had running the football. I’m just curious, as someone who’s part of that offensive line, how are you guys viewing it?
A: We love it. We’ve always just took the plays and the schemes that have been put in front of us and tried to do it to the best of our abilities. I’ve always loved running the ball. I personally like it. I’ve been trying my hardest to be able to get everything down so we can execute. But as far as liking it, I love it.
Q: Do you expect it to be much more run heavy? Not much more, but at least more run heavy? That seems to be the perception at least.
A: I’m not really expecting anything or wanting a certain… Whatever the coaches throw at us, whatever plays they put on that call sheet at the end of the day for the game, that’s what we’re going to run. I’m going to be going just as hard whether it’s run, pass, play action, whatever it is.
Q: In my experiences with you, you’ve always taken your job so seriously. I’m just wondering, as you head into this season, how much responsibility, or how would you describe the responsibility this offensive line has to be better, to help this offense really become much more explosive?
A: That’s exactly right. The offensive line has a big, big role in our success. We proudly carry the workload. We’ll proudly get to work and get things done. We know it starts with us and we’re definitely going to do everything it takes to get after it and make it happen.
Q: Had you ever heard of the May 5th tender before they gave it to you, and what was your reaction when you found out you were getting it?
A: I really hadn’t heard of it. I had never heard of it. But my reaction was surprised, of course. For me, it was business as usual. It’s a business at the end of the day.
Q: You don’t feel like you come back with any hard feelings?
A: No, because business is business. I know how this stuff goes. I’ve been having that mindset since my rookie year. Really since college. I have a business mindset. You have to have that mindset because that’s exactly what it is. Yeah, it’s football, a game we’ve been playing since we were kids. But when you get on this level and the college level, you start to realize that it’s a business. That’s the mindset I keep just so I’m ready for when different stuff like that happens.
Q: Was the way free agency went frustrating for you at all? I know a lot of the edge rushers haven’t been signed yet and maybe the pandemic had something to do with that. But was it frustrating having to wait as long as you did to kind of know where you’d end up this year?
A: Of course. Of course, it was. You put in a lot of work during the season. This is a game where they say if you put the work in, the hard work pays off, the game will pay you back in different ways. Of course, it was frustrating. But then again, after a while, you go back to that ‘business is business’ mindset, as it is. That’s the mindset you need to have in this business. Like I said, it was a little frustrating, but you just need to work hard and use everything as motivation.
Q: What do you think about coming back to the Giants? It’s obviously almost a new look team from last year. A lot of new players, completely new coaching staff. How do you feel about being back here?
A: I feel good. I feel good about being back. It’s a good place. It’s a good place to be able to come back and be able to compete and be able to play ball. At the end of the day, I love playing ball and that’s what I’m about. I love playing ball, I love competing. This is the situation I’m in right now. I can’t sit back and complain and fuss about it. I have to go out and get it no matter what. That’s the mindset that I’m going to keep. That’s just who I am. That’s how my parents raised me to be. That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to keep my mindset and if I get the opportunity to do what I need to do, I’m going to be ready to compete no matter what.
Q: Was there any point before they put that tender on you that you thought you would be back with the Giants?
A: You never know. You never know how it goes. I’ve been through free agency before, and it didn’t go my way the first time around. I’m the type of guy that remembers that. When I go through something once, I remember everything that happened during that time. I really just was open to whatever was going to happen. Whatever was going to happen, I was going to be able to go with it. That was my mindset really, like I said, because I have been through this before. I know this stuff can be up and down. It can be good for you in one moment, then the next minute it can change on you. That’s just how my mindset is. That’s how it is in St. Louis where I’m from. You just never know. You have to take it and go with it. I really wasn’t hoping for nothing. Of course, you just go with the flow. This is how it ended up, so this is what I have to roll with.
Q: But did the Giants show any interest in you early in free agency? Were there any talks about coming back on a long-term deal?
A: Of course, of course. You’ve seen what I’ve done for the Giants. Of course, you want a player to come back and be able to help your team and be able to get out there and help your team because I showed what I can do. But it didn’t work out like that. It didn’t work out like that, but I’m back now and I’m back on different circumstances. But I’m back and that’s what it’s about at the end of the day. At the end of the day, no matter what, I’m going to be me. I’m going to go out and compete. I’m going to lay it on the line because at the end of the day, I play the game for a different reason. I play the game for my family. I play the game to win. I know what I need to do to be able to play for my family, be able to make my family proud. I know what I need to do to be able to win and help my team.
Q: You’re back with a group that is pretty similar in terms of the edge guys to what it was last year. Most people would have said the pass rush wasn’t quite good enough, do you see reason for optimism with some of these guys as to why you guys can be better? Maybe specifically with Lorenzo and Oshane? Is it too early to judge any improvement from those guys?
A: They’re working hard. Zo and X work hard, that’s all those guys do. Since they were young last year, they have always been working hard. You have to respect those guys and the work they put in. Me, myself, I expect big things from them. I know they are working hard. They expect things from themselves, but at the end of the day it’s another year in the league and you can always come back better.
Q: Is there another level you think you can get to that maybe people haven’t seen yet?
A: I don’t really think about that. I know one thing I’m going to do and that’s come out and compete. I’m going to come out and compete. This offseason I worked really hard to get better. I’m working hard in these workouts to get better and that’s what I am going to do every day. At the end of the day, it’s football. You are going to pad, you are going to put your helmet on, go out there and go to war, that’s what football is. I look forward to getting out there and competing, that’s what I do. I look forward to getting out there and competing.
Q: What do you like about the schemes Coach Graham is bringing to the table that might differ from what you guys did last year?
A: I’ll still be playing a little bit of linebacker and defensive end in nickel. It’s football at the end of the day. The plays can be this, you can call whatever you want to call, but at the end of the day you have to know your job and know what you have to do out there. I’m not really worried about last year or comparing the two, I’m really just focusing on learning these plays and getting locked on these plays and then going out there and doing my job. At the end of the day, its’s football. You can’t make it that difficult. You have to get the play, line up, and know what you have to do. That’s what I’m focusing on, learning what I have to do on the defense. Going out every day and working hard to get better.
Q: It seemed like last year you were trying to prove the injury was behind you and you could get back to that double digit sack level. How does that change not only with your training but your motivation that you can kind of pick up where you left off after kast year?
A: It’s simple, with all my years in the league, I have been going hard and competing to make sure I make plays to help my team win. The only time that didn’t happen was when I hurt myself. I’m feeling healthy and I don’t really worry about everybody else. I don’t worry about, oh, I have to go prove this to this guy, I’m not worried about it. If you don’t know what I can do by now, then you are not worth proving anything to. I focus on proving it to myself. I have a lot of people back home in St. Louis that believe in me. I focus on making them proud. They are the same people that have been with me this whole way. That’s where my focus is, really proving to myself that I’m going to keep working hard and getting better.
Q: How much more productive was this offseason since you were not rehabbing an injury and you could hit the ground running?
A: It was really productive. I’m a guy that likes to work pass rushing by myself. I like to go out and work pass rush by myself a lot. I got to do that a lot by myself. That’s what really felt good. Just being able to go to a local park and just have my cones and have all the stuff I need and just be out there working pass rush by myself. I worked at PEP out in Arizona, I got a lot of great work there. It was a normal offseason for me besides being able to get out there and really work pass rush and overwork every day. That’s what I got back to and that felt really good to be able to get back to working pass rush all the time as much as I want.