Head Coach Joe Judge -- August 23, 2020
Q: We saw Ryan Connelly, he didn’t play the other day and now he’s on the sideline again. How much is this related to the injury he’s had in the past or something you’re going to have to monitor moving forward?
A: You know what, first off, I’m not going to go into any specific injuries really at any time. But I’ll say this, we had several players that we kind of managed a little bit different today. We came off a long, hard week, a hard scrimmage the other day. We gave them a day off yesterday. Today was really a day to mentally take a step forward, physically get our bodies right, then we’re going to hit the field again tomorrow. We’ll see where everyone’s at tonight after a couple days off. We’ll approach practice tomorrow accordingly for everyone individually.
Q: When you finished watching that scrimmage, you said you were going to go back and look and then you’ll talk about some things. What were your primary takeaways from going back, from being able to watch that?
A: I like the way everyone came out and competed. That definitely showed up on the tape. Guys were flying around, guys were playing fast. I thought we had good communication on both sides of the ball. We had a lot of substitution situations that both sides handled accordingly. You saw a lot of young guys step up and play faster on Friday than we had earlier in the week. You can tell they’re getting more confident and comfortable within the scheme. That was definitely something that showed up right away.
Q: Just was curious your reaction to the false negative coronavirus tests from a bigger picture, something you guys might have to deal with through the whole year perspective? Any clarity on if that involved you guys at all?
A: I can’t go into what any other club is dealing with. Specifically, again, Ronnie Barnes and his staff are handling all of the testing protocols. We have confidence with what’s going on and what the league has in place. We’re following them internally every day. We social distance within the building. We obviously test on a daily basis. I can’t speak for what’s going on around the league and other clubs. But we were able to come out today, everyone was out here and everyone was present.
Q: Are you guys’ (samples) tested at the same facility where that occurred or are you not aware of whether or not that is the case?
A: I’m not aware. We have a trailer in our parking lot where everyone in our organization gets tested on a daily basis. Everyone shows up, parks their car, goes through the trailer, there’s a survey you have to fill out first as far as relating to any symptoms. Then you go through the nose swab, you go through the temperature check, and they let you in and you go about your day. You get the results later on. I think one thing that’s been made clear to us from the very beginning from the doctors in the league is testing is a part of it, but it’s the social distancing, it’s the wearing of the PPEs, it’s the taking the steps on a daily basis that are really the most effective measures that we can follow. We have confidence with what’s going on. Our players and coaches have confidence in it. We stay on each other, keep each other accountable and make sure we give ourselves the best chance of being a healthy team.
Q: Have you gotten ahead enough to make a plan for if this happens on an NFL Sunday and you have a game, have you even been able to look into, ‘Ok, what’s our plan for that going to be?’ Have you gotten into that type of planning?
A: Yeah. Actually, we sat down this spring and we talked about a lot of ‘what if’s’. We put down basically a contingency plan for if any coach or staff member wasn’t available on a daily basis, whether that’s a practice day, whether that’s a game day, how we would go ahead and make sure we made the adjustments. Along with that, it’s not if just one person is missing. What if there are multiple people missing? Who handles each responsibility? We’re going beyond the coaching staff right now to keep a lot of different people in the organization involved that if it was ever an emergency situation, we have people who are up to date on schematically and conceptually what we’re doing football wise, to have as many hands on deck available for us. In terms of the players’ standpoint in terms of the depth chart and roster and how that may be affected, we’re always preparing every player to play every day. It’s our job to get everybody ready on the roster. It’s our job to have plans in place, whether somebody gets disqualified due to a testing measure or somebody gets hurt on the first play. That’s our job to have a plan on how to adjust. To answer your question, yes, we’re always planning ahead. Those plans always change based on where we are internally with what we’re doing.
Q: You’ve gone beyond the coaching staff? Meaning scouts?
A: Everyone we have availability to within the building that could help us out within anything from game planning to on the field. Strength coaches, QCs (Quality Control Coaches), some of the tech interns we have that are working analytics. These are people who are involved and present in our meetings every day. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re in the meeting, you better learn the material. If you know the material, you better have a voice when it’s asked. We’re probably putting everybody in the organization right now to be ready. We’ve addressed it individually with people so they know what it is. It’s obviously a down the line type of plan, but you have to have an emergency plan. That’s what an emergency would be, when you have to go outside the framework of your immediate coaching staff.
Q: I’m curious, you’ve talked about your coaching staff and your assistants being teachers and wanting to dig in with each individual player with player development. Over the course as we go here and practices get more game specific geared towards that, are you personally measuring, watching how guys are working individually, kind of checking off boxes for each individual player, in addition to how they’re working in their collective unit?
A: Absolutely. Absolutely. In fact, when I go back and I watch the tape from the scrimmage, you watch it three different times. First, you watch it schematically. Then you watch it fundamentally. Then you watch from a personnel standpoint. As you watch it every time over and over differently, you try to pick up as much as you can and continuously write down notes. There were several players coming out that we had to address some fundamental corrections today. We made sure we took time individually to walk through the techniques. Tomorrow, we’ll be out there full-speed tempo so that we can go ahead and take those same techniques and execute them again. These guys are less than two weeks into playing football in 2020, so we can’t take for granted that they need the fundamental work on a daily basis. In terms of all of our coaches being teachers, that’s how we approach everything. To us, they have to hit every player individually and however they learn best. We spent the spring virtually on computers looking at each other. Some guys absorbed more than others. You get them in person now, some guys can sit in a meeting and absorb it. Some guys have to watch tape of examples of it being done the right way. A lot of guys need to be on their feet and experience it to really understand the concept. Now that we’re in person, we’re looking to hit every way of teaching with every player possible.
Q: Just kind of a broad question. As you get together for the second week of pads, it seems like that’s when guys get a little testy. We haven’t seen it yet. I’m just curious what’s your policy on practice fights?
A: It’s real simple. If you fight in a game, you’re ejected, you’re fined and it’s a penalty for the team. So, we’re not going to practice anything that we’re not going to do in a game. If you have the opportunity to play as hard as you want between the whistles, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re not looking for cheap shots. We’re going to play nasty, but we’re not going to play dirty. There’s a difference. For our guys, we understand that we can’t do anything that’s going to put ourselves behind. Penalties, turnovers, those are major factors in losing games. We’re going to make sure that anything that relates to penalties, we’re going to coach and make sure that we don’t accept it.
Q: So, safe to say you get thrown out of practice if you get into a fight?
A: Yeah. If you’re going to get thrown out of a game, then you’re going to get thrown out of practice.
Q: I wanted to ask you, first of all, you mentioned about young players sort of catching up to speed and playing a little faster. Darnay Holmes, is he in that group or has he been playing at that level really since you guys started?
A: I’d say every young player is still catching up to the speed and they’re all really on their own individual basis. It’s not like they all fly together as a group and all jump up at the same level. But I think Darnay’s done a good job of really learning the speed of the game and adjusting fast. He’s a smart guy, prepares very well. He learns. He’s a guy that can apply the lessons not only from his own mistakes but from watching other people. He’s a guy that comes out every day, really has a purpose and a plan for what he’s doing. I’d say that I’m very pleased with the progress he’s making right now, and he is learning to play faster. The biggest test for these guys is they aren’t going to have preseason games. The first time we’re going to see game speed, we’re going to try to re-create that the best we can this year. On Friday, we have an intrasquad game. But the reality is it’s not going to happen until kickoff on September 14th.
Q: Sort of a big picture question. A lot of times when players get hurt, and they do get hurt, there’s a next man up mentality. Your schemes seem to be so driven by the players and what they can do individually. Is it less so with you? Can an injured player change the personality of the team on the field?
A: We’ll always work to what players do well. If you lose one player, another player comes in. Will that change some of the schemes or the concepts we’re working within? Possibly. We want to go ahead and get everyone to be on the same page game plan wise. But everyone can’t be… the game plan can’t be a one size fits all. When there’s movement with personnel, we have to be flexible as coaches to adjust how we’re calling the game and play to those players’ strengths. To me, when a new player goes in, we have to have a plan going into that game for that situation of if so and so is in the game, how are we calling this game? Based on what quarterback is in the game, what are the favorite plays of the guys that’s in the huddle at that point? How are we calling this? What does he feel most comfortable with? The receivers, some guys are more deep threats, some guys are more underneath, quick guys who are going to succeed more in short space quickness. How are you going to call the plays according to that? Which running back is in the game? Obviously, every running back on our roster is different. Different physically with a different personality within his style of play. We can’t just go ahead and put pegs into holes thinking everything is going to fit one size fits all. We need to make sure we call the game according to who’s in the game. That’s a very big part of what we’re going to do.
Q: Because of the protocols, on your practice squad are you going to have to carry an extra punter and an extra kicker? Let’s say your kicker or punter tests positive two days before the game. You really can’t bring somebody in. How do you handle that?
A: If it’s a couple days before the game, obviously, that’s tough with the way the protocols are. We’ve discussed all options with the practice squad. We’re not at a hard spot right now in terms of exactly who we’re going to fill in what spots. Those are things we‘ve talked about. The other thing we’ve talked about with all of our players is the more you can do. We went through that phase two kind of time with all the players, before you guys were out there, working everybody as a long snapper, everybody as a punt returner. We’ve talked to players. We haven’t worked them all out individually as kickers and punters, but look, we have professional athletes. These guys have all been really good athletes their entire life, so it’s amazing how many guys have been the punter, the kicker for their high school team. Someone that may be able to get you out of a game if needed. We’re exploring all options with personnel on the practice squad in terms of that next man up mentality. But we’re also making sure that we have answers on the roster for whatever comes up.