President & CEO John Mara
July 26, 2018
Welcome. I think this is my 62nd training camp, so we’ll start with whomever.
Q: Can you talk about your first 61?
A: I don’t remember the first couple very much, but my parents took me to Salem, Oregon when I was a year old, so that was my first.
Thank you for not going back to Salem.
Q: Have there been negotiations with Odell yet, and what do you foresee happening there this summer?
A: I anticipate that we’ll be speaking with his agent sooner rather than later. I’m not going to give you an exact timetable on that, nor are we going to give daily or weekly updates on that, but I think those will start pretty soon and hopefully we will be able to come to an agreement.
Q: But they haven’t started yet?
Q: Did anything change over the last couple of months that made you more inclined to start the negotiations?
A: Well, I think this was the timing that we always had in mind, but you know, I think Odell personally is moving in the right direction. I think he has come in here with a good attitude, showed up yesterday with a smile on his face and worked hard, and I think he’s ready to go. I think he’s ready to have a great season and we’re ready for him to have a great season.
Q: How much has all of that mattered to you that he did report on time yesterday and the spring attendance, especially when it was mandatory?
A: It certainly had an effect on our desire to start negotiating. So, he’s had the right attitude all along and we expect him to have a great season.
Q: So this lawsuit that has been filed against him has nothing to do with anything, or what are your [thoughts]?
A: No, I mean we are certainly aware of it, but it’s not something that we’re focused on.
Q: How much did his injury factor into the timing of the negotiations? Did you want to see maybe what he could do on the field before you [moved forward]?
A: We certainly wanted to see what he could do on the field and wanted him to pass his physical. He obviously was here a little bit during the spring. We felt pretty good about where he is, and we feel very good about where he is physically right now.
Q: So, as of right now, you do feel comfortable committing long-term, large amount of guaranteed money to Odell Beckham?
A: You gonna negotiate for him? Let’s have that negotiation. [Laughter] We obviously want him to be a Giant for a long time and we hope to be able to come to some agreement with him.
Q: Are you prepared to make him the highest-paid receiver [in the league]?
A: I’m not going to negotiate that publicly, but obviously, you know, we know what it’s going to take – we think we know what it’s going to take to sign him, and we’ll see if they agree.
Q: Do you think he’s the best receiver in football?
A: I’m not going to insult other players by getting into that, but let’s just say that we are very happy he’s wearing blue.
Q: How excited are you for the upcoming season, especially given last season, the way [it played out]?
A: Yeah, I am excited to get started and to start playing games, because you know, last season was a nightmare for us and we feel good about where we are right now, but you know, everybody is undefeated right now. But I feel good about what we did in the offseason and I like the people that we have here, so it’s time to get going.
Q: Where do things stand with the NFL and NFLPA on the anthem policy? I know you were re-visiting it.
A: Yeah, we – there will be meetings fairly soon, and there have been discussions about the anthem policy, and hopefully we will be able to come to some sort of resolution that everyone can buy into.
Q: Can you talk about the addition of Saquon Barkley and what he brings to the organization?
A: Yeah, we’re excited about him. He obviously has unlimited physical skills, he’s a real fine young man, as well. I think he adds a completely different dimension that maybe we haven’t had in our offense in quite some time. I do get a little nervous about all the hype since he hasn’t played a down yet, but I think he’s capable of living up to it and just [is] very mature beyond his years, I think. So, we are obviously very excited about him.
Q: Can you talk about Dave Gettleman and how he’s battling his cancer?
A: Dave is doing great. It was reported yesterday, I think, that he’s in remission, and he was in the office yesterday, actually. I think he will be in later this afternoon, but he’s doing well. I don’t think I’ve ever been around a more upbeat person in my life, particularly going through what he’s going through. But he’s very optimistic about his recovery and about his ability to work this year, and you know, we’re very excited about that. It’s the best news we’ve had in a long time.
Q: He spoke with the team (yesterday afternoon), were you around for that?
A: I did not hear that. I certainly know what he said and even heard about it, but you know, a lot of people were quite impressed with his appearance.
Q: Are you waiting for a team anthem policy until the NFL and PA come up with a new one to govern anything?
A: Yes. My intention all along has been to sit with our veteran players when they came back to training camp and just discuss the issue. Now that the policy has been put on hold, depending on these discussions with the NFLPA, I think we’re going to let those play out before I sit down and talk about that with our players.
Q: In regards to Odell – you said you’re going to start negotiations with him soon and obviously he’d be putting a lot at risk and you’d be putting a lot at risk if he’s on the field in sort of difficult situations, contact. He got injured last preseason and regular season. Are you OK with him and you guys sort of taking it lightly or slowly as you go along here in training camp, and how do you sort of approach that with contract negotiations?
A: I’m going to leave that to Coach Shurmur and our medical staff and Odell to work that out. I just want him to be ready for Jacksonville.
Q: When you mentioned the anthem meetings, would Oliver Vernon be one of those players considering his stance last season?
A: I’m not sure, but I believe it will be players that are on the executive council of the union. I think we have three of them here – Zak DeOssie, Mark Herzlich, and Michael Thomas. I’m not sure who else.
Q: How long did it take you to get over last season?
A: I haven’t gotten over last season quite yet. I still, you know, I have to be honest about it -- I did not see it coming. I felt very good this time last year, I think most of you predicted that we were going to have a great season, some of you even predicted we’d go to the Super Bowl. I wasn’t quite buying into that but I certainly did not see 3-13 coming. I don’t know that you ever fully get over that, but I think getting back into camp and seeing the players that we have on that field and getting ready to play games this year, you know, I feel good about where are, but I’m not going to forget about last season any time soon.
Q: You and Dave certainly, and Pat Shurmur, more so the guys that are here, really gave Eli Manning empowerment that he’s the starting quarterback. You guys could have taken a quarterback in the draft. What is your sense of what he is moving forward, and have we seen the best of him, or is there more to come with him?
A: I think he’s still got a lot of really good football left in him. I know as you mentioned, both Dave and Pat Shurmur feel that way, too. That was something they emphasized to me when we interviewed them, and I think we have a little better supporting cast around him this year. If we could just stay healthy, I think you’ll see some very good football from Number 10.
Q: If they had come in and said, we looked at him and we think it’s time to move on, you would have moved on?
A: I think we’d certainly have to take that into consideration and maybe we’d be standing here having a different conversation right now.
Q: You talked about Saquon, there is a bit of nervousness about it and how he hasn’t played a game yet. Can you remember a rookie that has had this much hype during training camp – a Giant rookie?
A: Possibly 1981, Lawrence Taylor when he came to camp, but maybe not quite this much. I mean, his jersey is already the number-one selling jersey, he’s gotten a lot of attention, but again I think in speaking to him and watching how he conducts himself, I think he is able to handle that, so I feel good about that. But still, you know I’ve used this line a million times before – let’s not get him ready for Canton just yet, let’s let him play some games first.
Q: Did you sit down with Janoris Jenkins yourself just to gauge where he is?
A: I have not. I’ve said hello to him, talked to him briefly, but I have not had an in-depth conversation with him personally.
Q: This spring, Eli mentioned how – my word, “refreshing – it is to have a coach and GM who believe in him, and other players and people have mentioned how just the feeling in the building has been different this spring, now into summer. Do you notice that?
A: Yeah, I think there is a different feeling this year. I think with the changes that we’ve made, I think we feel better about the personnel group that we have. Obviously picking as high as we did in the draft, picking at the top of all those rounds, we feel really good about those players and what they are going to add to us. I think our offensive line will be better. I just, there is a different feeling going into this season. I mean, last year we felt good, but you know there were still some question marks about certain areas of the team. I mean, you’re always going to have some of those question marks, but I just feel like there’s a different spirit this year and I think we have the right people in place.
Q: In Will Hernandez, you guys seemed to have picked a rookie who might’ve fit in in some of your Rich Seubert-sy offensive lines. Do you have an impression of him yet?
A: I think you said it very well. I think that’s kind of what we were looking for, and I think that’s really something that we have missed for a long time. When we had that success in ’07 and ’11, it was a tough, prideful group of offensive linemen that hung out together, that really cared about whether we won or lost and really set the tone for the rest of the team, and they were the toughest guys that we had on the team. I think we kind of got away from that, to be honest with you, and I think in Will Hernandez we see that type of personality. Now, again, he hasn’t played a down, but certainly we like what we’ve seen so far.
Q: The emphasis on offensive line and running back this offseason – Is this you guys going back to a little of where you guys have had your success after trying the ‘new age’ offensive stuff?
A: I think, I’m not sure it’s a case of that. I do think this though – I think the issues that we’ve had in the offensive line over the last few years have been pretty obvious and one of the first things that Dave Gettleman said to me in his interview, and also Pat Shurmur, was they emphasized the importance of having a strong offensive line and making that a priority, and that is sort of what I needed to hear because it’s something that I believed in as well. I think it had to be a point of emphasis this past offseason.
Q: You had a strong conviction about who you were getting in Pat Shurmur, the head coach. Going into training camp, watching him closely, has what have you seen matched up with what you expected?
A: So far, so good. I mean, again, it’s the first full day of training camp, but I like his command on the field. I like his demeanor. He was great to work with throughout the draft, throughout free agency, fits in very well. He’s mature, you know. He’s done it before. I think he realizes the issues that he had in Cleveland and the mistakes he made, what he would’ve done differently. I think he’s ready to become a very successful head coach.
Q: It’s been awhile since you’ve had a defending Super Bowl champion other than yourselves in the division. Does that change anything? Does that change the approach at all, or just the anticipation of this season?
A: I don’t think so. I don’t think so. You know, we’re coming off a 3-13 season, we can’t be concerned about that. We’ve got to build our own team, get back to the playoffs and see what happens.
Q: You made some other changes to the front office. Kevin Abrams got a new title – Where does he stand in your front office? He seems like a guy you must think highly of.
A: Yeah, I mean he’s always been an invaluable part of this organization. He handles all our contract negotiations, does some scouting for us, is just a very stable voice to have back there. Stepped in very ably last year at the end of the season and, you know, he’s very important to us.
Q: In an interview with the Post, Ben McAdoo said he thinks Nate Solder will help, but isn’t sure he’s a very good player. Do you have a reaction to that?
A: No, I mean I agree with the first part of that statement. I certainly think he’s going to help, and obviously given the contract we gave him, we do think he’s a very good player.
Q: Did you notice those remarks?
A: I did notice them. I actually spoke to Ben myself probably three or four weeks ago, he called me just to talk about what he needs to improve on going forward. It was a very good conversation. Happened to mention that he liked very much what we did in the offseason and what not, but I didn’t think too much of that. Obviously we feel pretty strongly about Nate.