OL Justin Pugh
November 29, 2017
Pugh: I think his career is far from over. If he wants to play football like I said before, I think heíll still be playing. You canít even close the door on him playing for us again. This is one week, this is one game. You canít close the door on Eli Manning still being the quarterback going forward after that.
Q: What was your initial reaction? Were you surprised by the news?
A: Yeah, I was shocked. I was sitting here getting ready to go to walkthrough yesterday and he was asking me how I was doing. After finding out, he was still asking me how I was doing and what was going on with me. I was like Iím not sure if Iím playing or not and he told me he wasnít going to and I was definitely shocked. I mean barring injury, I didnít see any way that Eli Manning wouldnít be our quarterback. But at the same time, weíre a team and Eliís gotten right behind Geno (Smith) and had his support, had his back and I think that just goes to show what kind of man Eli is. He was out there taking scout team quarterback reps and not saying a word about it. Like I said, he wants to play quarterback in this game. Eli Manning is still going to be a starting quarterback in the NFL.
Q: How would you describe your relationship with Eli?
A: Iíve just kind of watched him as Iíve been around. Heís not a very ra-ra yelling, screaming type of guy. But every time you pull in here, his car is the first one here, when you leave itís still here. I bet you half the guys in this locker room, the first voice they heard from a teammate was Eli Manning when they got drafted. He was the first person that called me and congratulated me. When things werenít going well for me, heís had my back and there is something to be said about that. Things arenít going well this year, but itís not just him. Weíve had a lot of injuries and weíve had a lot of guys not play as well. No one expected things were going to happen like this, this year. Itís definitely a tough thing to see.
Q: Do you agree with the decision?
A: Thatís above my pay grade. Thatís above my pay grade. Iím an offensive lineman. Iím going to go out there, Iím going to block some three techs (techniques) and kick some guys out and Iím going to stay in my lane.
Q: Does it define Eli that him and Davis (Webb) were the only two in the lunchroom together studying?
A: Eli Manning, the character of that man. I mean, if we could all have a little bit of that in our lives, I think we would all take it. Any team would want to have Eli Manning as their quarterback and just have him be around. Like I said before, I donít think this closes the door on his career. Itís a chapter, itís a part of the story and overcoming adversity is a great thing. You find out what youíre made of and you dig down deep and you fight back. I think nobody has been through more adversity in New York than Eli Manning. I know this is another bump in the road for him and heíll come out on the other side. As a team, we all have to be there for all of us, for each other, for the organization, for the coaches because itís not an easy decision to put Eli Manning on the bench. I know Coach (Ben) McAdoo is probably going through a lot of trials and tribulations. Iíve heard a lot of things slung his way so itís definitely something tough to say because I respect both men so much. So itís something we have to stick together and be a good team.
Q: How can teammates have Eliís back?
A: You support him just like anyone else. Iíve had my best friends get cut, Iíve seen guys lose their jobs. Eliís in a good spot. Heís still doing alright. So we got to go out there and continue to support and encourage him. He doesnít need me to tell him what I think of him. He hears it, he knows heís respected. Heís got to know heís respected just with the way he carries himself. So just keep having that and keep letting him know that we got his back no matter what happens. No matter where heís at, heís still our quarterback.
Q: Could you ever imagine him being the starting quarterback for a different team?
A: I couldnít, but look what his brother went through. He had an injury obviously. Itís a crazy scenario, but I hope it doesnít come to that.
Q: When you see something like that happen to Eli Manning, do you pause and think this could happen to anybody in this league?
A: Iíve known that before this even happened to Eli. I mean the NFL stands for not for long. So to go 14 years, thatís impressive. Like I said, look at every guy that I got drafted with, no longer here. Look at all of the guys that were here before me, no longer here. I canít imagine the faces that Eli has seen come in and out of this building in his 14 year career. Heís done some special things, heís won the biggest game, heís played the best football when it was asked of him, heís been a leader, heís been a guy that everyone looks up to. So this isnít the end for Eli Manning, this is just a bump in the road I think.
Q: What was it like for you to see Eli Manning run the scout team?
A: I was getting my work done, getting my rehab done and trying to get over there and see him run out there and run the scout team. He was Eli Manning. He was so unwavering. Obviously, there was some emotion yesterday and thatís something that no human being cannot show emotion after 14 years, but today he was back out there, true professional, doing whatever is asked for this team. That just goes to show the type of character he has and thatís something that will always be his rock. The type of man he is.
Q: What did you see from Genoís first team reps?
A: Geno throws a great ball. I played against him in college. Obviously being in New York, seeing him with the Jets. Heís got a pretty ball. He throws the ball well, he moves. There are some things he brings to the table. Obviously right now, the way weíre playing football, there is no hiding what weíre doing. We are going out there and going to play some good defense, running the ball more than weíve had in the past and I think Geno can help in that area. Iím not going to get into the game plan stuff, but he brings a different dimension to the game. I think thatís something at 2-9, we havenít been as successful doing what weíre doing so sometimes a change is what happens.