Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

Mar 312020
 
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Nate Ebner, New England Patriots (February 3, 2019)

Nate Ebner – © USA TODAY Sports

CONFERENCE CALL WITH SPECIAL TEAMER NATE EBNER…
The following is the transcript from today’s media conference call with safety/special teams player Nate Ebner, who the New York Giants signed on March 19th:

Q: What made Joe Judge a good special teams coach and what about your experience with him makes you think he will be a good head coach?
A: Joe works extremely hard, I’m probably going to say that a couple more times. He is an extremely hard worker, he pays attention to the details. He really pays attention to the details. He comes to work with a lot of energy and he did that consistently over the eight years that I’ve known him. I think that is a genuine part of him. I think he is going to bring that same energy and hopefully that same attention to detail and work ethic. At the end of the day, he cares a lot about his guys, I can’t say that about a lot of coaches. I think that’s special and I think that’s hopefully going to want to make a lot of players play for him.

Q: Do you think if Joe Judge is not the coach of the Giants that you are still with the Giants? How much of a pull did he have to get you there?
A: I’m not going to play out a bunch of different scenarios. I’m not going to act like he didn’t have a part in coming here. I obviously have built a good relationship with him and a rapport with him. Obviously (him) being a special teams coach, me being a special teams player over nearly a decade on the same team. We do have a relationship that definitely played a part in me being a Giant. Outside of that, it is a great organization that I am extremely excited to get to. It’s a great team, within a great city, with a great fan base that I’m juiced about. Obviously like everyone else, you wish you weren’t quarantined. I am extremely excited to get there and be a part of the organization first and foremost.

Q: Talk about your background as a rugby player. I know you were an Olympian in 2016 and how does that transfer over to football, particularly special teams? Also, what have you been doing to stay in shape during these challenging times?
A: That first question is a big question. I could talk about that for a while. The second question, though, I have been working out. I have a private place I can go to and I can get my workouts in that coach has sent us, do my running and all that stuff. I’m good on that stuff, I’m back in Ohio, that’s kind of my home base. I went to Ohio State and I was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. Rugby played a big part in me being able to transition to football. There are some similarities, the tackling, that aspect of both sports. You do a lot of tackling but even the tackling can be very different when you look at the details of it. They are both very different sports. I think the mental side of football versus the flow and feel of rugby. Rugby can be very like basketball, you have to feel out the situation. Is it a fast break or is it a half court set piece, that’s kind of how rugby is. Football is very studied and you need to recognize something that has come up before or a formation or this or that and remember checks. It’s a very different head game. They’re obviously two very physical sports, but at the end of the day they are very different as well. Like I said, I could go on and on about that for a while.

Q:  Along with the rugby question, you are a part owner of the New England Free Jacks. With that season being cancelled, what has it been like being in the owner seat as well? Not just a player who is being robbed of workouts.
A: Obviously it’s unfortunate for the guys and the fans. Especially this being the first year for the Free Jacks. I feel bad for the fan base and the people that have been waiting to see them go out there and play. I feel bad for everyone in the country. Everyone has a situation that they are having to deal with. It’s been cool, I wish I could tell you more about it. It was a good opportunity for me to help with exposure to the game, but also go full circle in my life. I think not having a professional future in the United States to play rugby was a major reason I’m playing football. I was just fortunate enough to still make it in the NFL and still be here. That, to me, was a major part of my decision when I decided to walk on at Ohio State. Knowing that a younger Nate that might have the aspirations of being a professional rugby player, that they have the ability to play professionally here in the United States and not have to go to a different continent, that’s pretty awesome. It’s pretty awesome that I have seen it in the last 10 to 15 years. To be an owner, like I said, it’s awesome that it’s come full circle. I haven’t gotten to do too much because obviously I am still playing football. That’s my number one priority without question. There will come a day when football is done, and I can dive into that a little bit more and give you a better answer as to what being an owner is like. From a personal note, it’s pretty cool.

Q: You have spent your whole career in New England. What’s it like to leave there and was there an option to go back? How did that play out?
A: Obviously there was a lot of different scenarios that could have played out. I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty of that. Looking forward, I am a part of a great organization and I’m excited. There comes a time in everyone’s career where they are free agents and like you said, I have spent my entire career in New England. Every year you have to assess what’s the best thing for you and this is the best for me. It hasn’t happened in my career up until this point, but it’s something I have always assessed and at this point this is what’s best for me and what I need to do. Unfortunately, it is a business and there are things that happen that you don’t necessarily like but you have to deal with them. That goes on both sides of it and ultimately you have to do what’s best for you. I’m looking forward to coming to a great organization. Like I said earlier, a great organization with a great team and great fan base. I’m super excited about it.

Q: You mentioned the ability to be able to stay in shape doing workouts. You were on the 2016 Olympic team for rugby. I just want to get your thoughts on the Olympics being postponed and the challenges that go into training. For the Olympics, you are talking about a high level of training just as you would for football.
A: I hope things settle down and everything goes back to normal. I definitely hope the Olympics are held in 2021 like they are saying. My heart would be absolutely broken for those who have fought so hard to get to this point and then have it ripped away. I can personally speak about across the board all the athletes. The rugby players that I had personal experiences with, trying to make the 2016 team. They were young and coming for this opportunity, to have it taken away. I have seen personally the work they put in and the years before that, trying to get in in 2016. To have it potentially be cancelled and then the next opportunity be in 2024, my heart would just break for those guys and girls. I hope that doesn’t happen. Right now, they just need to figure out things on a weekly basis, on a daily basis like the rest of the world is, like the rest of the country is. Until that time, the Olympics have been postponed for a year so they can settle things down. They were finishing up what’s called the world series. They would have finished that, taken a break and then gone into Olympic training camp. With that being on pause, they need to just make the most of what the situation is and that’s rest. Take the opportunity to rest and get their bodies right and hopefully get everybody healthy. It’s tough but hopefully everything works out in a year from now.

Q: Most of the time when head coaches come in, new coaches, they try to bring a player or two from where they were to help spread their message, help spread their culture. Do you think you can be that player for Joe Judge, and what would his message and his culture be, do you think, with this new team?
A: I’m going to let Joe speak for himself on what his message and culture and all that stuff that he wants to do. I can tell you this, whatever that will be, not only from Joe but the rest of that coaching staff, I’m going to do the best that I can to do it to the best of my ability. Like I said, the best that I can. Whatever capacity they need me in, whatever I’m asked to do, I’m going to do it, and I’m going to do it the best I can. That, to me, is what I kind of watched in New England some great players do. That’s kind of a mindset that as a team, if we can all buy in together, then we’ll be in there playing for each other. That’s what great teams do, is play for each other. At the end of the day, I’m going to do what’s asked of me and I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.

Q: You talked a little about your own journey in free agency leaving a team you were with for a while. Were you surprised to see Tom Brady leave?
A: Everybody has to assess their personal situation. Everyone becomes a free agent if they’re lucky enough to play long enough to see that day. Tom has to do what’s best for him, just like I have to do what’s best for me. I see players every year go to new teams, and they have to do what’s best for them. The timing may be different in everyone’s career, but that assessment of what is best for you as a player and your family and personally. You do that assessment. Everyone does. Everyone has to assess that and make that decision. That’s what he chose to do. We see countless other players do the same thing every year.

Q: You talked a little bit about Joe Judge’s attention to detail and some of those qualities. But in this specific instance now where he’s a rookie head coach dealing with such an unorthodox offseason, he doesn’t have his players in the building, what do you think makes him uniquely capable of handling a situation like this? Whenever this season starts, whether it’s delayed or whatever happens, that he can succeed against these odds?
A: Well, everyone has to succeed against it. This is not just a New York Giants problem. This is an entire NFL problem and an entire country as a whole all fighting against it. I think every team is going to have to overcome it, just as we will. You can argue that a team that has a system of things that they’re used to doing is going to run into problems, just as much as us being new to it. We’ll do what we need to do to overcome as we can and as we go and what we’re allowed to do as the time comes. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. I know Joe is going to work as hard as he can and do everything in his power to the best of his ability to get us prepared as best as we can. Outside of that, we’ll do what we can that’s within our control.

Q: For years up in New England, you and Matthew Slater were like the Batman and Robin of the special teams up there, if you will. Now that you guys have separated, can you just reflect on the challenges ahead of building up that chemistry, that comradery, with a new set of teammates, and just what lessons you can take from having played with Matthew Slater for all those years and the rest of the special teams that you played with for a number of years, and just setting up a new core Giants special teams?
A: I have nothing but amazing things to say about Matthew Slater. He’s one of the highest-character people I’ve ever met in my life, and he’s a great, great football player to boot. I learned a lot from Matt coming in as a rookie. He was in his third or fourth year and already was a Pro Bowler. I just watched him work on a day to day basis, and kind of what I’ve spoken to throughout this phone call, just coming to work with a selfless attitude to do the work, to do it to the best of your ability, and whatever is asked of you, do it with a selflessness that puts the team’s priorities above your own. That’s what Matt did forever. He was extremely consistent, and that consistency, over time, really speaks to who you are as a person. Matt was among the most consistent people I’ve ever met. I could go on and on about the things that I’ve learned and how we’ve grown together. Matt as a person, I could literally go on and on about that. But ultimately, it’s about finding guys that want to put everything into their work every day, and when it comes to Sunday, they’re going to fight for each other. There’s a lot of selflessness, like I mentioned, and guys that are going to put it all on the line for one another. It sounds like there would be more to it. It sounds like some rah-rah stuff. But that’s the truth. Just a group of guys that really are tight-knit that want to fight for each other. That’s what it comes down to.

Q: Special teams, generally, are a young player’s sport, which is a stepping stone to becoming a starter. In your position, do you ever wonder, ‘Am I getting too old?’
A: No.

Q: What’s the attitude you have to bring to special teams, though?
A: To me, there are little intricacies within everything that I do, special teams or as a safety, that are very relatable, whether it be calling protections of the PP on punt protection, or just as you make checks on defense or offense or whatnot. No one really looks at those intricacies as much as they do offense or defense, but they’re out there and they’re happening every game. In the kicking game just as well. Those finer points can be the difference-maker, especially in a phase of the game that’s a one-play series. You don’t get four downs. You don’t have a bunch of opportunities. You get one chance. Sometimes, those opportunities can be game-changing opportunities. Every game, you’re going to get a handful of opportunities to change the game. Kicking and special teams plays truly do change the game. Touchdowns, blocked kicks, especially turnovers, momentum swings, they’re big parts of the game. Those details matter, and I think having played as long as I have, I hopefully can kind of build on what I’ve experienced. That’s why I love the kicking game. It’s a one-play series that’s balls to the wall for the entire time. It’s not like you get an incomplete pass and you’re back in the deep part of the field, and not covering grass and it’s a run play or something like that. Every single play in the kicking game is absolutely full speed and a dog fight. Every single one of them. It’s fun.

Q: Are you going to bring a haka for the special teams crew?
A: I don’t think so. I’m not Polynesian. I don’t think so. But that would be funny.

Mar 302020
 
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Blake Martinez, Green Bay Packers (December 29, 2019)

Blake Martinez – © USA TODAY Sports

CONFERENCE CALL WITH LINEBACKER BLAKE MARTINEZ…
The following is the transcript from today’s media conference call with linebacker Blake Martinez, who the New York Giants signed on March 16th to a 3-year, $30.75 million contract:

Q: Can you talk a little bit about your relationship with Patrick Graham? What can you tell us about what the defense will look like and what your role will be?
A: We had that year together and we became super close, he was my inside linebacker coach. For me, what made me so excited to work with him this year and the following years is how smart he is. I think he is probably the smartest coach I’ve ever been around. The preparation he puts in every week, his intensity, just how much he cares about the game of football. It just allowed me to go in every Sunday or Monday or Thursday games fully prepared. I never felt like I didn’t know what play was going to happen next. He put that much into it and that’s how it easy it was us to understand what he was communicating to us that made everything so much easier. Throughout the week he would basically emphasize on little things whether it was this team runs routes at 10 to 12 yards and break or this team runs at 14 yards. This team runs a lot of short routes, this team does a lot of crossing routes. This team runs outside zone, inside zone, toss, stretch whatever it ends up being. You knew that you can emphasize that throughout the week. We would do little drills whether it was in individual or on the side that would allow you to get those game-like reps and find advantages throughout the week that you could use on that given game. Once again, it made it that much easier to make plays and be successful in that given week.

Q: What’s going to be the biggest difference between Patrick Graham’s defense and what you just came away from in Mike Pettine’s defense?
A: I don’t know the exact answer to that just because we haven’t gotten to the X’s and O’s of Pat’s defense. Basically, when I was working with Pat I was working within Coach Pettine’s defense. Just from understanding Pat and what he is looking for and how he put forth certain things in Coach Pettine’s defense, I think it’s just the aggressive nature. Everyone working together, everyone on the same page, everyone communicating. Everyone is going to know exactly where to be and what to do on every given call. There’s not going to be much, if any, mental errors at all. I know he stressed that a bunch. I don’t know if it is going to be simple but it will be understood by all 11 that are out there. Overall, there is going to be a lot of freedom for me to make checks, make calls and adjustments on a given play pre-snap to give guys chances to make plays. There is going to be a lot of communication across the board. I think it is going to be an awesome defense and I’m just waiting to finally be able to get to learn and see what he has for us.

Q: Can you take us through the free agency process? I know this was the first time for you.
A: It was interesting. I think it was one of those things where you are waiting for Christmas to happen and it took forever it seemed like, to finally figure out where I was going to be, what team I  was going to be on and how it was going to be situated. When it first started on that Monday, I was kind of anxious waiting to hear from my agent what teams reached out officially. Going throughout the process it was a waiting game. I had a couple of other options too, but the Giants were the best option for me. Just the market, obviously Pat Graham and a great young team. It was a no brainer for me at a certain point throughout the free agency process that Monday. My agent laid my options on the table and I was like honestly let’s get this thing done with the Giants. That’s where I want to be, that’s where I think my best opportunity is to be successful and be successful as a team. So I went through that process and at night time it kind of got close to finalizing and then it was official once we figured out the small little logistic things.

Q: You mentioned you are joining a young team and a young defense. Did you view that as a positive? Last year, being so young, they didn’t perform up to the standards they had hoped right away. There is a lot of growing still to do.
A: That’s a positive to me. I think they have a group that is extremely talented smart guys, great players all across the board on offense and defense. It’s going to be cool to grow that group together. For me, going from last year or I guess two years ago when we were 6-9-1 to all of the sudden going 13-3. Seeing the little things you had to change and adapt to and incorporate within a given week, a given offseason, within a different training camp that just allowed the defense to mesh in a certain way that allowed us to be so successful last year. I think I can incorporate those things into this defense and this team and I think it will be an awesome thing that we are going to do throughout this next season.

Q: What was your reaction when you saw Kyler Fackrell was joining you in New York? What is he going to bring to the table for the Giants?
A: It was awesome. I texted him when I saw on Twitter. I reached out to him and we were both excited we are going to be teammates again. He’s an amazing player and I think there is a lot of things that he hasn’t been able to show because of certain kind of depth chart things, certain roles he was placed into. Obviously, he had a 10-sack season two years ago. This last year he was a role player that stepped in and did a lot of great things. I think he is one of the best zone coverage linebackers in the NFL in my opinion. What he has been able to do for us and what he’s been asked to do, he’s done a phenomenal job and I know he is going to be a great asset to this team and show people a lot of great things this year.

Q: Did you sign your contract in a weight room?
A: We started this project last year. We built a facility that has a living area, it has a weight room, turf field and it has a basketball court. Me and my dad made this project together. It was weirdly at a perfect time because we have to be quarantined. So I’m basically quarantined in a weight room. It’s been awesome for me. The picture was taken in the weight room part of the facility.

Q: So you are in Arizona for the time being then?
A: Yes.

Q: Were you surprised that the Packers didn’t want you back? Did you see any reason why you shouldn’t have returned there to continue what you started?
A: It was 50/50 of a surprise and not a surprise. I think the way they value the inside linebacker position especially in that defense, it wasn’t as valued as other places I guess in my opinion. Overall, it was one of the things where they offered me, and we were just in different wave lengths on where I valued myself and where they valued it. At the end of the day, it was one of the decisions that had to be made on both sides. It’s a business and right now I am extremely happy where I am and can’t wait to start playing for the Giants and finally get into the facility.

Q: I just want to back track to the facility. I know your dad is a contractor. Did you and your dad put it together?
A: Yea. The only thing I helped with was the foundation part because that was the only thing I could be here for. During the season was when he was building it this last year. It was pretty much done when I came back. All we had to do was put the weight room equipment in and turf field down. Right now, it is completely done. It’s been amazing to have.

Q: Did you have to pick up all the nails again?
A: Everyone knows that story. It’s been designated down to my little brother, he is the nail picking up guy. He gets the 10 bucks if he finishes it all.

Q: You mentioned that the Packers didn’t value inside linebacker the way other teams might. I assume you are thinking the Giants value that position. Do you think that the way they will play up front will help you make more impact plays than you have in previous years?
A: I think that’s the one misconception of me, I guess the public view. The way we ran the defense, at least the last two years, is I’m kind of put into the clean-up crew guy. There’s a lot of situations where you see numerous other defenses where its like okay you have A-B gap responsibility as an inside linebacker, you have one gap responsibility – not to get too much into football stuff but there’s two high, you have two gap responsibility on certain plays, as other people split safety. In our defense no matter what it was, since I was the only linebacker on the field, I was taught and told once again, to be the clean up crew guy. There wasn’t any gap responsibilities for me it was just kind of “hey play off Kenny (Clark), play off Za’Darius (Smith), play off Preston (Smith), play off Dean (Lowry)” play off these guys and basically make them right. They were able to do whatever they wanted to do and then I would go make the plays depending on that. I know there’s been things like you make tackles down the field, you make tackles here, you make tackles there. For the majority of the time there that’s what I was told to do. It’s just me I guess doing my job in that sense. Going into this defense, once I learn being whatever it ends up being how we play. I hope I am able to trigger it, solo gaps, do those type of things and make those type of impact plays.

Q: You hear so much now about the modern-day linebacker and more emphasis on coverage versus going up and making plays at the line of scrimmage. I’m just curious, when you view your game, where do you fit into that I guess profile or stereotype or whatever people think the modern-day linebacker needs to be?
A: In my opinion, I think I fit that completely. There were probably two times last year that I was called to, I guess, man coverage somebody that I made my own mental mistakes on. I think it was an eight-yard gain on an angle route against the Broncos, or nine or 10, whatever it ends up being. Basically, I just went too far outside, cut back inside. Then last year against the 49ers, where I played too heavy outside leverage, should have played inside leverage on (Raheem) Mostert, and he got a 20-yard burst route across the line of scrimmage. But for the most part, other than that, my coach last year, he basically was like ‘Oh yeah, you’re one of the best, if not the best, zone coverage linebackers I’ve ever been around’. Being able to see the field, see crossing routes, being able to communicate, do all those types of things. I think the tough part that obviously, same thing, where it’s been like ‘Oh yeah, Blake, coverage this thing, blah blah blah,’ whatever it ends up being, whatever critics or those types of things. It’s been certain situations where within those given calls or zone calls, because last year we played a lot of match coverage zone, so it looks like we’re in man coverage but technically we have inside help or outside help or being able to pass off and those types of things. There were small communication lapses and misunderstandings, where we were able to pass off, which totally understood from the public perception, you look at it and be like ‘Oh what the heck? Shouldn’t this guy be covering him? Or shouldn’t Blake be covering him?’ Those types of things. But overall, I think I am able to do whatever I’m asked to do. I can go and cover tight ends, I can go and cover running backs, I can play in zones, I can do all of the things that you need to do as an inside linebacker.

Q: Two quick questions. One is the facility, your gym, that’s connected to your home?
Martinez: Yeah. Basically, downstairs is a weight room and all that stuff. Then upstairs is the living area.

Q: Second question is a little bit more complex. This is an odd offseason with the Coronavirus. How different is the preparing for the season at this point? Have you gotten a playbook or how much can you work out? Have you talked to the coaches much?
A: Good question. Basically, I’ve talked to Joe Judge, the head coach. Obviously, you guys know that. We’ve kind of had short conversations, I got kind of an introduction from him, and I gave him an introduction about myself, little things like that. Excited, obviously, to be a Giant. I can’t wait to finally get over there. Then I talked to Pat Graham. Then I talked to my inside linebacker coach. I talked to different people within the facility at the Giants and things like that. They were able to send over an iPad, so I have an iPad that only has the games from last year. No playbook or anything yet, because I don’t think they’re allowed to send stuff over yet or whatever the rule is for that. Kind of in limbo right now, just kind of working out and those types of things and kind of waiting for the next steps within the virus protocol of what we’re allowed to do, whether it’s meetings with coaches and things like that, and just try to soak up as much information. I know once I’m able to get the playbook, it’ll kind of be my starting point of writing the notes down, doing the things necessary to make sure I know all the plays and checks and everything.

Q: What do you think it’s going to be like to have to do meetings and stuff and learn the playbook through teleconferences basically?
A: It’ll be interesting, but I think it’ll be something that I’ve kind of been used to, just within schooling and stuff. At Stanford, we did a lot of video stuff, conference things, so I kind of have an understanding of how I thrive learning through that. It’ll be weird not being able to obviously sit in the same room, get to know each other that way. But it’s one of the things that you just make the most of it. It’ll be interesting to work through, but I think the coaches right now are setting up a good kind of regiment on a way to allow us to thrive in that kind of environment.

Q: Given this new remote learning, do you think it’s going to be a disadvantage for people like you who are new to a system and new to a team? The second part to that question is do you think it will be an advantage to guys who are bright and sharp and can pick things up quickly?
A: Yeah, I think both of those things. I think it’ll be a decent disadvantage for me just not being able to… I think you grow a lot, whether it’s even just working out as a team, running as a team, maybe grow that comradery of ‘Ok, this guy next to me is working his butt off to get better,’ and it’s helping the team out. You can tell their work ethic. I think you grow that respect, just not even having to say anything, but by just working. I think that will be a big disadvantage just relationship-wise. Also yeah, same thing. It’ll be a big advantage to guys that are able to pick up things quickly, take good notes, understand what the coach is telling him without having to be able to take rests on those types of things. Overall, I think that’s the biggest disadvantage of this whole thing, is I think OTA reps and just that ability to walk through things as a group or whatever it ends up being, helps you out so much.

Q: I know the relationship with Pat Graham and obviously Kyler, but are you familiar, did you have any previous relationship, with any of the guys on the Giants, especially the defense?
A: No, actually I haven’t. The first one I kind of knew prior is Michael Thomas. We didn’t play together at Stanford, but we kind of knew each other from certain events and things that happened at Stanford. We did the NFLPA event one year together. So, it’ll be cool to kind of re-connect with him. Then Riley Dixon is part of my agency and we have the same agent, so we knew each other from small kinds of things that we’ve done with our agency. But overall, not too many familiar faces for me.

Q: I would imagine from your perspective then, you’re the guy in the middle of the defense, at some point, even if you guys are distancing away from the facility, you’re going to try to get guys together, whether it’s video conferencing or whatever, to kind of get to know some of these guys?
A: Oh yeah, 100 percent. I think just kind of using interesting ways to kind of have fun and interact without having to be with each other, whether it’s playing video games or like you said, chatting on a Zoom call or a Skype call, whatever it ends up being, just to kind of get to know each other and bond that way so when we do step in the facility for the first time, it’s not something that’s ‘Oh hey, I’m Blake’ or whatever it ends up being.

Mar 302020
 
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Mar 282020
 
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Eric Tomlinson, New England Patriots (October 27, 2019)

Eric Tomlinson – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS SIGN TIGHT END ERIC TOMLINSON…
According to his own Instagram account, the New York Giants have signed unrestricted free agent tight end Eric Tomlinson (Las Vegas Raiders). Terms of the deal are not currently publicly known.

This is Tomlinson’s second stint with the Giants. The team signed Tomlinson in September 2019 after he was cut by the New York Jets. The Giants cut him three weeks later after he played in three games with no starts. Tomlinson was then picked up by the New England Patriots, where he started both games that he played in, and the Raiders, where he started one of the three games he played in. Tomlinson played in eight games with three starts in 2019, catching just one pass for one yard.

The 27-year old, 6’6”, 263-pound Tomlinson was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles after the 2015 NFL Draft. The Eagles cut him before the season started and he was then signed to the Practice Squad of the Houston Texans. In November 2016, the Jets signed him to their 53-man roster. In three seasons with the Jets, Tomlinson played in 36 regular-season games with 29 starts, catching 16 passes for 193 yards and one touchdown.

For a complete listing of free agent comings and goings, see the New York Giants 2020 Free Agency Scorecard section of the website.

Mar 272020
 
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James Bradberry, Carolina Panthers (September 8, 2019)

James Bradberry – © USA TODAY Sports

CONFERENCE CALL WITH CORNERBACK JAMES BRADBERRY…
The following is the transcript from today’s media conference call with cornerback James Bradberry, who the New York Giants signed on March 16th to a 3-year, $43.5 million contract:

Q: Why the Giants and talk about the challenge of coming in as the veteran corner on what’s a pretty young group?
A: Of course, the city of New York and all the opportunities they have on and off the field. I’m familiar with Dave Gettleman and the culture he is trying to build in the locker room. I am looking forward to being a part of it. What I can bring to the locker room is my overall knowledge of the game. I can help the younger guys in the DB room get better. My experience for the most part is what I am going to bring to the game.

Q: Obviously you and Dave Gettleman have a relationship that goes back to when he drafted you. Can you just talk a little bit about what the conversations were like this time as he was recruiting you?
A: Honestly, he reached out to my agent. I really didn’t talk to (Dave) Gettleman. They came out of nowhere and made an offer, I didn’t even expect them to make an offer. He already knew the type of guy I was, and I already knew the type of guy he was. I already knew what type of organization he was trying to build over there in New York. I knew it was nothing but positive.

Q: One of the reasons the Giants wanted you even though you are only 26 is they need a veteran in the room? Just because you have been in the league four years doesn’t mean that naturally you would be a leader. What do you think they saw in you with these young cornerbacks that you can help them other than you being a good cornerback yourself?
A: Of course, Dave saw me up close and personal my first year and then after that he saw me from afar. After that, I think he saw me improve each and every year. In order to improve you have to take knowledge and apply it on the field. That’s what I want to do for the younger guys, I want to give them knowledge and hopefully they can apply it on the field.

Q: I think the expectation is this defense is going to play a lot of man coverage. How does that fit your strength and was that appealing to you?
A: I see myself as a versatile corner. I can play zone, I can play man. I was down for whatever. Of course, playing a lot of man is a challenge for any cornerback and I am always willing to accept a challenge.

Q: What was it like going into free agency during the coronavirus?
A: Initially, free agency was going smooth until the coronavirus came around. When it became official that I was going with the Giants, it didn’t hit me yet. I don’t think it still has hit me yet. I feel like after we get everything figured out and the coronavirus, everyone is safe and whatnot. I feel like it will hit me when I am able to come up and visit.

Q: You haven’t been to the Giants facility yet? Or met any of the coaches?
A: No sir.

Q: Where are you training?
A: Right now, I am in Charlotte. My training has kind of come to a halt because of trying to keep your social distancing, trying to keep a safe distance from everyone. Making sure you are not spreading the virus or contracting the virus. I have been working out here and there trying to get it in by any means.

Q: What are your first impressions of Joe Judge as a head coach from your conversations with him? You talked about the culture they want to build now? What specifically did they talk to you about?
A: I talked to him a little bit after I signed. It was a positive conversation. We didn’t really talk about football a whole lot. We talked about life and what’s going on right now in the world. He was telling me they are postponing OTA’s and we are going to figure out football later on. Right now, we are just going to worry about what’s going on in the world.

Q: Have you ever had an opportunity in your career to serve as kind of that mentor for a young group, and if so, how that went for you with balancing mentoring them as well as being the best player you could be?
Bradberry: In my career, including college and high school? Or in the NFL?

Q: Yeah. NFL specifically, but if you had some college or high school experience mentoring, that would work.
Bradberry: I’ll just talk about the NFL. In my third year, when Donte Jackson came, of course, he was already an elite athlete. I didn’t have to coach him up on that. His technique was superb, especially because he played a lot of press man (coverage). For me, I was just trying to help him just learn how to break down film and watch film, and make sure I stayed on top of him about watching tape because that’s how you anticipate routes, within film coverage. I feel like he improved in that going into his second year. Of course, he had a standout rookie year. I feel like that was all a tribute to his talents. I helped out a little bit here and there.

Q: What experiences did you take from playing in the NFC South against Julio Jones, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, all those guys, that you can take with you to New York? How did those guys help make you a better player in competition?
Bradberry: Of course, the competition, going against the best, of course, it’ll help you improve your skill. But just watching film, those guys are tier one guys. I knew I had to be on my A-game every time I faced them and I had to watch my film throughout the week. It made me very diligent with my film study. I just sacrifice time, make sure I put the time in so I can ball out on Sunday.

Q: In your opinion, who is the best receiver in the NFC South?
Bradberry: I thought Julio Jones was the best receiver, but all of those guys are elite. Michael Thomas, Mike Evans are not too far behind.

Q: Obviously, nobody knows what the next few weeks or next few months are going to bring because of COVID. I’m just wondering, how are you going to get a jumpstart on what the Giants run, given that they have a new coaching staff. Patrick Graham, the defensive coordinator, he obviously had a year of experience down in Miami, different personnel. But what can you do while we kind of wait for everything to sort out so that once the time does come, you’re ready to kind of hit the ground running?
Bradberry: I think just having a routine as far as working out the best you can. Getting on the bicycle, riding the bike around the neighborhood and making sure your legs are conditioned. Communicating with the coaches and trying to get as much information from them as possible. Just little, small things. Mainly just staying in shape. That’s the biggest thing.

Q: Do you know anybody with the Giants? Any of the players that you’re familiar with in any way, shape or form?
Bradberry: Yes sir. I know David Mayo, I know Rashaan Gaulden and I know Chad Slade.

Q: Have any of those guys reached out to you and told you what it’s like to be a Giant?
Bradberry: Yeah, I reached out to those guys. They had nothing but positive things to say about it. They pretty much love the city, love the facilities, and I heard the food is good.

Q: How about the young DBs that you’re going to be working with? Have you had a chance to touch base with them and what are your thoughts on DeAndre Baker?
Bradberry: I followed them on Instagram but I haven’t had an opportunity to talk to them. I’d rather introduce myself to them and meet them in person. It goes a lot smoother than text messages or DMs. But honestly, I really haven’t watched a whole lot of film on those guys. But I did watch DeAndre Baker coming out of college and I saw a really good athlete. I’m looking forward to working with him. I’m looking forward to working with him and the rest of the guys, honestly. I don’t want to single one person out.

Q: I’m wondering how you’ll embrace the challenge of kind of helping the Giants, particularly on defense, get back on track after a few years where they didn’t necessarily play up to what they would have expected?
Bradberry: Honestly, my motto is just go out there and do it. There’s no point in being scared of it or hiding back from it. Just embrace the challenge, accept it and make sure you put the time in so that when it’s time to play on Sunday, that you’re able to perform at your highest level, put on a good show for the fans and also get a win.

Mar 272020
 
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Mar 272020
 
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Mar 262020
 
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Austin Johnson, Tennessee Titans (August 29, 2019)

Austin Johnson – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS SIGN DEFENSIVE TACKLE AUSTIN JOHNSON…
TheAthleticNYC is reporting that the New York Giants have signed unrestricted free agent defensive tackle Austin Johnson (Tennessee Titans). Terms of the deal are not currently publicly known.

The 25-year old, 6’4”, 314-pound Johnson was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Titans. In four seasons in Tennessee, Johnson played in 58 regular-season games with 13 starts, compiling 83 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and five pass defenses. In 2019, Johnson played in all 16 regular-season games with one start and finished the year with 23 tackles. Johnson is a big, strong run defender who never lived up to expectations in Tennessee. He played under current Giants’ defensive line coach Sean Spencer at Penn State.

For a complete listing of free agent comings and goings, see the New York Giants 2020 Free Agency Scorecard section of the website.