G Justin Pugh
July 27, 2017
Q: Is there a different vibe this year coming into training camp?
A: I think building off of the success we had last year, first time going to the playoffs for myself personally and a lot of guys on this team. Thereís a lot of optimism. Thereís a lot of excitement. Weíve added some really good guys to the team, so thereís definitely a lot of excitement. I remember driving over here this morning just like a kid on Christmas. I mean we got a lot of things to look forward to this year.
Q: What do you take from the playoff experience now that youíre onto the next year?
A: You learn from it. I remember just sitting back and looking up at the fans once that game was over and looking at the score and thinking thatís not us. Thatís not this team. That score didnít reflect how that game went. So, Iím excited to get back to that point. Iím excited to go and play those teams, play in the big games and get back to the playoffs, and get back to where we need to be as an organization, which is playing for a fifth championship.
Q: Is it hard to balance last year when it comes to flushing out the negatives and keeping the positives?
A: I think you just inherently gain that experience and you have that with you. So, Iím just focusing on flushing the bad things that happened and just moving on and getting ready to go this season. Weíre a whole new team. We have a lot of new faces around this locker room. We have a lot of the same faces. I mean you look at our defense. We have, Iím trying to think, 10 of 11 starters, but on offense we got to go out there. We got to do our job and as an offensive lineman, as a part of this unit, weíve got to go out there and do a better job. So, thatís something that we have to focus on and get going right now day one, start of camp.
Q: Why do you think the offensive line will be better this year?
A: We have more experience playing with each other. I think growing pains. I think somewhat of it is we didnít play well enough, so you learn from that. I can speak personally from that. Going from my second year to my third year I got embarrassed out there sometimes and coming back with that drive, that determination to go out there and prove myself that I do belong in the NFL and I do belong in this league. That drives me to this day. So, I think a lot of guys, you know, you got to look in the mirror and say, ĎI wasnít as good as I needed to be last year and that starts with me personally. I got to be better. I got to stay healthy. I canít miss five games. Thatís something that Iím looking forward to going out there and playing all 16 games this year. Iím looking forward to our year to be successful, to do well.
Q: Did it surprise you that there were no real big changes on the offensive line and that they are basically sticking with the same group this year?
A: I think it shows that they have confidence in our ability to get better. I know we have to get better. Everyone knows that we have to get better. We have to run the ball better and I think that a bunch of different moves we made throughout this offseason will help us. Thereís competition at the offensive line position right now. You know, you bring in a guy Ė DJ Fluker Ė who was a twelfth overall draft pick. Youíre going to add competition to the room, so thatís exciting. Thatís going to make us better because if youíre not putting your best production on the field someone is going to replace you. I think thatís not even a question.
Q: What makes you confident in saying that you want to play for a championship this early in the season during training camp?
A: Going into my fifth camp, I think this is the best team weíve had on paper. But, at the end of the day if you have a team on paper thatís not going out there and winning games on Sunday. We have to go out there and put in the work and go out there and produce. Iím excited with the type of guys we have, the character we have in the room, the coaches that we have. I think top to bottom this is an exciting team and once youíve been to the playoffs and know what itís like and get that taste and know how good those teams are. Weíve beaten the teams that have been in the playoffs, so I think thatís where we get this confidence.
Q: Last year, it seemed like the four-minute game was where the offense turned it over to the defense to save the game. Is that an area of emphasis to close those out this season?
A: Definitely. I mean, you want to end the game with a ball in your hands and itís tough when you donít run the ball well and the team knows youíre running and theyíre stacking up and youíre not able to get that done. I think sometimes weíre able to do that and, you know, we were good. When we stayed in that same offense that we had been running and didnít go into that four-minute package we had picked up some downs and were able to win the game, but looking back on that we canít focus on that last year. Thatís a totally different offense, totally different team. So, we have to go out there and make our own destiny, our own personality, our own characteristics as an offense this year.
Q: How much do you think the added offensive playmakers are going to help this year?
A: I mean, if you look at some of the guys weíve added, getting a fullback back, getting two tight ends. We signed Rhett Ellison then we drafted Evan Engram. Getting guys out there. Weíve got Brandon Marshall who is the size of an offensive lineman playing wide receiver, so thereís some good things happening throughout the offense that Iím excited about.
Q: You mentioned staying healthy. Did you do anything this offseason to do that?
A: Iím doing things differently. Honestly, injuries happen in this game. Thatís a part of the NFL. Youíre 100% likely to get injured while playing in the NFL. Itís just throughout the year taking care of your body. I was able to do a couple things differently throughout the season that Iím going to be doing upcoming. You know how (Ben) McAdoo always talks about making changes looking back. Where can you improve? Where can you get better? So, Iím doing that same thing individually.
Q: Do you have any examples of how you are staying healthy?
A: Iím working on my nutrition. Making sure Iím taking care of my nutrition throughout the year. Doing the different meals and stuff, but Iím focusing on myself. Iím not going to elaborate any more on that.
Q: What do you weigh at this point?
A: Iím 312 right now. 310-315 is where Iím going to be, where Iím going to fluctuate. Itís just making sure I keep my weight up throughout the season. Making sure Iím doing the right things eating-wise to remain healthy. You guys know how it is when you get through a long day, youíre in week 15, youíre coming back, you just want to eat whatever. Sometimes youíre not making the healthiest choices. So, as an individual making sure Iím doing that and just doing everything I can to take care of my body Ė stay on the field.
Q: What is it like blocking for RB Paul Perkins since he is pretty shifty and quick?
A: Thatís good because if we donít know where he is, I doubt a defender is going to know where he is. We just have to stay on our guys, just stay in blocks. I think thatís going to be a big thing. Finishing, straining is going to be words that youíre going to hear. Coach (Mike) Solari harps on over and over again.
A: Straining. Straining like finishing. Like holding onto Ė not holding onto your guy but blocking your guy to the end of the whistle. Everyone knows offensive lineman never hold. Itís just sometimes the refs mix it up. Giving him that extra opportunity and blocking downfield. I think heís going to make us look good.
Q: Do you think whatís missing is the next level of finishing the block?
A: I think so. Thereís a lot of different things weíre doing to spring a block. Just staying in the line of scrimmage, getting that initial movement, giving Paul (Perkins) the line of scrimmage where he can make those cuts and you saw last year how he was able to make guys miss in the open field. Thatís something exciting that we have and getting a guy like Shane Vereen back and getting him healthy will be good.
Q: You said this is the best team on paper that youíve seen. How much extra pressure does that put on guys?
A: It doesnít. I mean, you got to go out there and perform no matter what. I mean, I donít think, once youíre in the game playing, Iím not going to be sitting there in the fourth quarter like, ĎI said this is the most talented team we had on paper, but we got to make sure we win this game.í It doesnít affect you once youíre out there playing.
Q: How does continuity and experience translate to better playing for an offensive line?
A: Thatís everything. Offensive line is really the only position where all five guys have to play as one. As a defensive line, look at it, three guys get blocked, one guy gets there and gets a sack. The whole defensive line looks good. Offensive line Ė four guys do their job, one guy doesnít. We let up a sack. It doesnít look good. One guy misses a block, the runner gets tackled for a loss. Thatís on us. So, for us, continuity and that trust and that comradery is everything and thatís unlike any position. Thatís why offensive line is so unique and no one really understands the nuances of offensive line play unless youíve really, really studied or dedicated a lot of time to it. Itís one of those positions where you got to take my word for it I guess.
Q: Do you see more comradery with this group of offensive lineman?
A: Itís something that builds throughout the year. Itís something that we have to do a better job of Ė of making sure weíre all together in it at all times. Thereís no separation in this group. We have to make sure that weíre doing everything together on and off the field. I think doing more things off-the-field will even help that even more and Iím looking forward to it. This is another year of us together, I mean, if you look at it. These guys now being on the team, the same offensive line for roughly three years. Bobby Hart has been around. He has started. He has played games. So, Iím looking forward to us taking a bigger jump.
Q: Is offensive line similar to the secondary when it comes to the importance of communication?
A: I always compare defensive backs to offensive lineman because they all have to work in unison as well and if one guy gets beat itís the same thing. I think defensive backs Ė that position is probably the hardest to play on the field because youíre covering that amount of space. Theyíre going backwards and theyíre going full speed. Same with us. We have guys like Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul coming at us full speed while weíre back-peddling. So, itís one of those things that you have to, you know, adjust to and rely on the guy next to you to be successful. So, yeah. Definitely.
Q: Being in a leadership role on the offensive line, have you taken a moment with T Ereck Flowers to say that he is good enough to do this?
A: Iím never going to be a guy thatís going to yell and scream. I try to lead by example. I think we got a good group of guys. You look at John Jerry. You look at Weston Richburg. Theyíve been around. Theyíve played a lot of games. But, I think he knows. I think he knows what has happened throughout the offseason and I think he also sees how much faith we have in him because thereís no one there. We didnít bring in somebody to challenge. We know what he can do. I know he has the talent. And, me being next to him Ė thereís another relationship within the O-line. The guy next to you. So, me and Ereck have gotten better and better every year working on that. Iím going to continue to have his back no matter what and weíre going to go out there and weíre going to fight.
Q: With it being year five for you, have you taken any time to reflect that youíve actually been here now for that long?
A: Yeah, itís crazy. Every guy in my draft class is no longer here, which is nuts to think about. Iím the only one left from 2013. Someone else told me Iíve been here like the fifth longest on the Giants roster. I mean, Eli (Manning), (Zak) DeOssie, JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul), (Mark) Herzlich and then me of being with the Giants, which is crazy to think about. To be able to learn from those guys that came before me and try to help other guys that are coming after me. Thatís my biggest goal, which is to just continue to keep the Giants tradition and thatís something that I look forward to doing this year.
Q: Do you feel different this season when it comes to contracts since it is year five for you?
A: Iím not even worrying about contracts. Thatís something thatís talked about outside of this building. You canít worry about that. If you let that start creeping in, itís going to start affecting how you prepare. So, thatís not even Ė thatís a no-brainer for me. Iím just getting ready to go out and win games. I mean, if we win games everything will take care of itself.