Opening Statement: Alright guys, we have been here for a couple of days, but I want to say welcome to you guys again. I hope you had some good vacation time and got refreshed and ready to go. Happy Birthday to you Serby, still 35, looking good. The offseason. The offseason went very well for us, we think. The offseason program was a big move for us. We changed the entire strength and conditioning program and the weight room --- we invested a lot of money in the weight room to make some changes there. Our players enjoy it, they like the new system, so we had a good offseason with the current players and the new players that we brought in. Moving forward to now, Ben (McAdoo) is doing a nice job, I think, of trying to take these guys slowly and ramping them up to a certain degree. We are trying to avoid the injury bug, so this is part of our new routine that we are trying to do with our new team, and where we are trying to go this fall. The other thing is, the atmosphere is great. We have a great atmosphere here, a lot of positive energy around, a lot of competition at different positions and I think that makes your football (team) better, when you have some competition, so offensive side of the ball, defensive side of the ball, special teams, there are a lot of spots where people are battling for positions as we move through the next days of camp. Obviously, we have the day off tomorrow and we will put some pads on next week and see what we look like, so I will open it up to any questions for anybody.
Q: How long did you have to hold your breath when Odell went down?
A: I’m not one of those hold-your-breath guys, man. It is football and things like that happen. It is training camp and guys goes down all the time. You would have to hold your breath every play almost if you did that, but we are happy that he is okay and he will be back out there once we start to practice again.
Q: How do you view your roster?
A: How do I view my roster? Well, it is our roster and I think we have a really good football team. We added some players, obviously, in the offseason and we think we helped our defense a little bit more than we have been able to in the past. Actually, we had a significant amount of money to spend this time so we were players, obviously, in the free agent market. We feel like we had some quality top end players coming out of that market. Really, guys still in their prime, so we feel good about our team. Defensively, we think we will be better. Offensively, we should be able to score points, and our special teams should be solid. Our special teams unit doesn’t get a lot of credit from last year, but we had a really solid special teams unit last year.
Q: Is there a different level of optimism this year?
A: No, I don’t think so, Tom. Every year we have optimism going into the new season and that never changes. I think people have been giving Ben a little grief for the whole Super Bowl talk, but that is everybody’s goal. What you want the coach to say? We don’t want to win the Super Bowl? We do want to win, but we know what it takes. It starts one practice at a time, one game at a time, one play at a time and you ramp up to that, but we are very optimistic about our football team. We think we have upgraded, we like our coaching staff, we like the direction that Ben is taking us right now and we are excited about it.
Q: Jerry, you just said, “I we think we have a really good football team.” Do you feel that every year? Or do you feel it more some years than others?
A: Yeah, well, we do. I am an optimist by nature and I always go into the new season feeling like we are going to have a chance --- as good a chance as anybody. This is the National Football League and a couple plays here and there and your season can go one way or another, so I don’t think it is a huge difference between most teams in the National Football League. You just have to win the physical battle, you have to play as a team and you can’t beat yourself with bad fouls. That has always been my mantra with football teams. If you do those things, you will have a chance to win. Some things that we need to get better at are: obviously, in the red zone we need to get better; we need to close out games on defense; we need to rush the passer better. So we think we can address some of those things and we hope that they will correlate into wins.
Q: You haven’t shied away from challenging players. What do you want from Eli Manning this season, and have you challenged him?
A: Well, Eli is a pro’s pro and we haven’t had our talk yet. We talk right before the season starts. After the last preseason game, we will sit down and have a nice conversation and I will talk to him about what I expect from him this time, but he is a self-starter. He is one of those guys who is self-motivated and our talk is just a talk in general. I tell him how I feel about things and what we expect from him. We expect big things out of him. He is still a really good football player in this league and we are on his back. I think he is up to the challenge.
Q: When you draft young receivers, what does it mean for them that Eli is who they are going to be learning from?
A: Well, after they get the google eyes from seeing this guy, the caliber player he has been for such a long time, they have to get past that stage and then they just have to do the things that their coach is asking them to do. When they do that, it is football. These guys have played at big schools, most of them. Football is football. They are playing against the same guys they played against in college, so they have to get past the whole, ‘It’s pro football’ and it is not a lot different from what they did in college. They just have to be more detailed and you have to make plays. When you get out there and get a chance to make plays, you have to do that.
Q: How does it make you feel when you see guys from the rookie class contributing immediately?
A: Yeah, well, we expect the young players to play. Nowadays, it isn’t like you can come into the league and draft guys and play them after three years. They have to come in and contribute right away. We expect our guys to do that and right now it is just practice still. They have to do it in a game and they have to produce in football games on Sunday.
Q: Has Darian [Thompson] shown you anything that you didn’t know about him?
A: We liked him. Obviously, we thought he was a productive interceptor and he learned a great lesson out there today about the deep ball. You have to go get the ball in this league. You can’t sit back and go catch it like a punt. He was kind of waiting on that ball and Odell took the ball right from his hands. Great teaching tape for him today. This is how the big boys do it here in this league. He is doing a nice job, but there are some more safeties in that group there that are doing a nice job as well. It is going to be a good battle for the other safety position on the other side of (Landon) Collins.
Q: Who stands out?
A: I’m not going to say who stands out. People look at that and say, “Jerry likes this guy” and they kind of recruit off that kind of stuff. Who will they cut that they like? I am not going to talk about that specifically, but there are a lot of guys back there that I like who I believe can play.
Q: Obviously there has been a lot of speculation with the right tackle spot. What is your confidence in Marshall Newhouse?
A: Well, Newhouse has played a lot of football. He is a seven, eight-year guy. He has played a lot of football. He is in a battle with Bobby Hart and some more guys out there. Don’t count him out. You don’t just play seven years in this league and start for the most part, so we have confidence in our offensive line. We will always try to upgrade every position as we go along, but we think we have a very competent offensive line that can get the job done.
Q: Newhouse and John Jerry were backups last year. What makes you believe that they are good enough to start on the right side of your offensive line?
A: Well, I look at offensive lines all around the league. I look at the two offensive lines --- I always try to look at who the offensive lines that played in the Super Bowl were. I kind of look at those offensive lines that played in the Super Bowl and I say, “You know what? That isn’t a big difference from the offensive line we have, or to whatever the degree that may be”, so I just have to look around. It would be great to have five Pro Bowlers up front, but I don’t think anyone has that.
Q: You mentioned you are an optimist. Last summer you were optimistic about Victor Cruz. Is there a hurdle in your mind that he needs to clear for you to get optimistic like that again?
A: Yeah, he has to get some game snaps. He has to go out there and turn it loose. I think he still, in practice, you don’t turn it loose like you do in games, so I am anxious to see him get out there in the preseason and turn it loose, and I am pulling for him. Hopefully he will be able to do that, get across that mental hurdle. I think physically he is fine, but it is a mental hurdle that you have to get past, and hopefully he will be able to go out there, pass that mental hurdle, really turn it loose and we can see some glimpses of the old Victor Cruz.
Q: You still have to view him as a bonus if you get anything from him?
A: Yeah, well he hasn’t played in a couple years, so it is still --- we are hoping for the best and I believe he will make it, I really do. I believe he will make it and be a contributor.
Q: Do you have to start thinking about locking up Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg with some of the cap space you have open?
A: Yeah, that is part of the process of what we do. We have had some discussion, but right now is not the time to talk about that.
Q: Some discussion internally or with them?
A: We have had some discussions. It is not time to talk about contracts right now.
Q: You said at the combine that it was a miracle season for JPP last year. What are your expectations for him?
A: Yeah, Jason looks like a beast out here. His motor is running hot. You are talking about a guy that looks like he is on a mission. He looks like he is on a mission to me. Actually, I was talking to Coach McAdoo last night and he was like, “Man, I have to tone Jason down a little bit because he is going so hard out there.” He is a man on a mission and he looks like the old JPP.
Q: I know it is early, but what has it been like working with Ben McAdoo on managing the roster?
A: It has been great. Ben is a really good communicator and we talk things out and he is flexible and he is part of a process just like our coaches have always been.
Q: You talked about some of the things you are doing, taking things step-by-step to prevent the injury bug. It has been such a struggle with this team. When you guys looked at it, was that something you went over? Going a little slower?
A: Well, we talked about a lot of things, Paul. This is just a different approach that we wanted to go. We tried a couple of things in the past two or three years and it hasn’t worked, so we want to try a different approach and this is one of the approaches that we wanted to try. It all started with the offseason program. The new weight room, the new philosophy in the weight room, so hopefully we can get past that injury bug and be a strong, physical football team. I think Ben talked about this a little bit as well. You can’t be too soft, because then you develop a soft football team. You have to have calluses coming out. That is why the whole thing that happened today with guys getting tripped up is just part of it. You have to come out of training camp with some calluses on you and that is what training camp is about.
Q: JPP said that he doesn’t think his hand is going to be an issue. Do you share that thinking?
A: Well, Jason should know better than anybody. I just know that back in the spring during OTAs, I looked at him a couple of times and saw how he was moving and how he was running and I was like, “Wow. I haven’t seen that guy for a little while now” and he just looked big and fast and explosive and I was just happy to see that. I am happy for him, so obviously his hand situation is something that has healed with more time and he learned how to use it better and I expect him to be a load.
Q: What is there during training camp that you are interested in seeing with this team?
A: Well, I just want to see us come together as a unit and play together as a team. I want to see the physicality, I want to see us come together as a team and I want to see us play smart football. Those are the kinds of things that I kind of look for. I want to see the young guys get in there and get used to the speed of the pro football game because it is a little bit different speed than college and those guys get out there and see what it is really like to play against pro players, so that is kind what I am looking for.
Q: Do you see a more mature Odell as a player this year? Have you seen the growth from last season?
A: Yeah, sure. Odell, it is going to be his third season, so he is really kind of a veteran now on this football team, especially in the receiver room, so these guys are looking up to him. The thing that he has, that players of his caliber have, is anything they say gets sensationalized more than others, probably, so obviously he has to be careful about what he says because he can say, “Wow, the grass is green out here” and you will say, “Wow, did you hear Odell? He said the grass is green” so he has to be careful about what he says because people will make a story out of anything he says, so I think he has matured in that way, but on the field he is definitely maturing and being a leader out there.
Q: Have you talked to him about that?
A: We have had several conversations about it, yeah. He is still a very young guy.
Q: John Mara said the last two years are unacceptable and it is up to you to get it fixed. Does that put extra pressure on you or change anything for you going into this season?
A: Nope. It doesn’t. I go into every season the same way. I work hard every day and I have a lot of pride in what we are trying to do here. This organization has a lot of pride and I am looking forward to helping this organization back to where it will be.
Q: What is your sense about the changes around the building. Is it very new? Is it a little bit new? Is it a huge change?
A: I don’t know how big of a change it is, but it is change. Ben has done a nice job with his coaching staff and you have to have comradery in that coaching staff as well. I think all the guys there --- I see them working hard every day and I think they have a lot of comradery and they will be a unit as well, but he is doing a nice job with his coaching staff.