Head Coach Joe Judge
October 29, 2020
Opening Statement: We’ve shifted our preparation today into Tampa. Obviously, this team is an explosive team really in all three phases of the ball that you have to account for. I think Coach (Bruce) Arians has done a phenomenal job of really bringing in a staff with a lot of continuity, guys that have played for him, guys that have worked for him in the past. It was easy for him to get a quick jump in this program. He’s added a lot of dynamic players since he’s been there, and he’s really gotten these guys rolling this year.
Bruce’s aggressive mentality, you can see it on all three sides of the ball. It starts on offense, obviously. They’re running the ball extremely well with (Ronald) Jones. They’re doing a great job with the play action pass and setting up the shots with Tom (Brady), and they’re doing a great job in all the situational football. Red zone, third down, they’re really a team you have to prepare situationally for.
Defensively, Coach (Todd) Bowles does a phenomenal job of really spinning the dial on you. You’re going to see a lot of pressure, early down and third down. You’re going to see a lot of situational calls in the red area, third down and two-minute. But the thing these guys do is they play disciplined and they play really, really hard. That’s got to be definitely a trademark of Coach Bowles’ defense, and we have to make sure we can handle the movement and the pressures up front. It all starts with that.
Special teams wise, Keith Armstrong is a guy I’ve known for some years. I have a lot of respect for him. Keith does a really good job of taking the players he has, creating matchups on your players. Then he does a good job getting his guys to play hard and physical, and that’s really his trademark right there. All three sides of the ball, we have our work cut out for us. We’ll start today on preparation and that will build into Monday night. With that point, I’ll open it up to any questions you guys may have.
Q: Can you just kind of give us a timeline of everything that’s gone on with the COVID situation? When you find out about Will’s (Hernandez) positive test and the close contacts and everything the last 12 hours or so?
A: What time is it now, about noon? Yeah, about 13 hours ago. About 13 hours ago, I was notified there were some issues, maybe a little bit longer than that ago. We got the list of names of the players, we made adjustments, we had a couple of coaches involved. We’ve been fortunate in that there’s really no high-risk guys within the tracer contacts. We have some precautions we have to take as a team. We’re optimistic to get all these guys back. We’re operating that we’re going to have them back right now. In terms of what we’re going to do and adjust as a team, I’m going to change the post-practice meetings to meet virtually. We’ve made some adjustments on the field to incorporate some face shields and some masks during practice, which has not been required before now. But we’re going to make sure our players are wearing the masks during the actual activity. That will be different for our guys right there. But we’ll meet post-practice virtually. I’ll determine as the head coach how we’re going to approach tomorrow’s morning and afternoon meetings. But we’re going to plan on practicing in person tomorrow regardless. I’ll make that decision later on today and I’ll talk to the team about it.
Q: Then just as far as Will Hernandez, how is he feeling? Does he have symptoms or anything?
A: I haven’t spoken to him yet. Ronnie (Barnes) has been in contact with him, so I couldn’t answer that question.
Q: Has your message to the guys changed in any way just in terms of the danger, the contagious nature of this virus and what we’re fighting here, not only as a football team but as a nation, as the world?
A: No, the message has remained constant. We just need to remind each other constantly. Look, it’s all about being safe. It’s all about making sure we put ourselves in the right situations. It’s about the social distancing in the building, the protocols with the masks and PPEs. We just need to go ahead and stay consistent with that throughout the season and make sure we put ourselves in the best position possible. I think it starts with our facilities. Ronnie (Barnes) and the facilities director (Victor McLoughlin) have done a great job of setting up where we have them meet. We’ve transformed our indoor facility into really our meeting space for this year. That’s really allowed us to remain spaced out in more of an open-air situation to help with the players and ventilation in terms of having the protocols set up to make sure we’re spaced out in meetings and to be able to still have in-person meetings. That’s really been something that we’ve benefited from and it’s helped us along the way.
Q: You alluded to it in your opening, but given the Bucs get after the passer in terms of sacks second only to the Steelers in this league, how much of a concern would it be if your offensive line is compromised at all? My follow up would be you mentioned having all the guys back. Does that include Will Hernandez?
A: I can just tell everyone on the call, obviously, the word is out on a lot of things that are going on. We’ve been told internally that we can’t comment on specific names until they come out later on today, which everything will be on the injury report. In terms of the main name you’re referring to, I’ll have to wait and see how the testing goes these next couple days. But I’d say the optimism on all the players who are only related through tracers is very high right now. Their amount of exposure to this was really on the minimum level to be registered in this category, so that kind of eliminates them from being high-risk guys. That’s been good. Most of it came from passing, sitting near each other in team meetings, things of that nature. But it’s been a low amount of time. It’s kept us away from some of the high-risk stuff. We’re very optimistic right now we’re going to have our players back. Obviously, it’s our job to make contingency plans. But getting on to the Bucs, their front is very dangerous. They’re very explosive, they have a lot of talent. Todd does a great job with creating combinations. Ideally, you want to have all of your guys back. But it’s our job to prepare everyone available and it’s their job to be ready.
Q: What’s the concern level at this point that the game might not be able to be played on Monday night?
A: Yeah, we have none right now. We’re expecting to play Monday night and that’s our mindset.
Q: With the two assistants out for today, I know you’ve been using guys who aren’t necessarily on the coaching staff to help out. Do you have a couple names that you know are just going to step right in and coach those position groups, or is that not even necessary for a practice?
A: Everyone will coach today who’s actually a member of our coaching staff. We’ve talked before about those contingency plans of all throughout the building, people went through spring and training camp with us, learning different positions in case it were to come up, some kind of a mass lockout or some kind of major numbers concern. We don’t have that today. The guys who are going to coach are guys that are on that side of the ball to step up and just help out. We’ve already crossed over a lot of coaching throughout the season through different drills and periods and how we meet. It’s not a drastic change for us today.
Q: As far as the contact tracing devices you guys wear, are players and staff required to wear those outside of the building? Did Will Hernandez come in contact with anybody who might have been out and about the other night at dinner in Manhattan?
A: I don’t believe so on that right there. As a far as contact with tracers outside the building, we’re required to wear them throughout the entire work day. That’s at practice, in the meetings, in the cafeteria, in the locker room. You always have it on at all times. Some guys wear it in a lanyard, I keep mine in my pocket at all times. You always have to have it on you.
Q: As much as you have prepared for a situation like this, obviously calls start going out last night. When you’re meeting with the team this morning, which I assume you have already but maybe it’s been virtual contact. How do you approach it with the rest of the team? Is it just business as usual? I have to imagine guys are kind of antennas up. This is really the first time you guys have had to deal with this really since the beginning of training camp.
A: There’s always some kind of adversity we’re going to have to deal with. To us, this is just a sudden change. We just keep on moving forward. We emphasize working on what we can really accomplish as a team. We get everyone ready who may part of the game plan.
Q: I know there is limited things you can say about the names of the players. Obviously, we know that’s it’s Will Hernandez and the likelihood of him playing on Monday night just based on the protocols is small. Assuming any of that is true, is Shane Lemieux the next guy up for you at guard? How ready is he if he is asked to have a bigger role?
A: Shane has been doing a good job really improving for us throughout the season. He’s done a really good job in practice. We were planning on really working him in throughout the games anyway, to be honest with you, in terms of just like we kind of worked Matt Peart into games as well. We have confidence in Shane. He’ll be in the mix with different guys that may factor into that position. We’ll see where it goes by the end of the week and where everything leads going into Monday. We have confidence in Shane, I would expect him to play regardless of what the scenario is.
Q: I know he’s on the other side of the country, but does any of this affect Saquon and his scheduled surgery this week?
A: Not that I’m aware of right there. Obviously, Ronnie (Barnes) is going to make sure we’re in contact with different guys but not that I’m aware of.
Q: Marc Colombo yesterday was talking about Shane Lemieux. He said that when he started out, he was maybe a little over aggressive because he was out there trying to fight everybody. He said he’s gotten a lot better with that and his technique and stuff. Have you noticed the same things and his mindset that he just wants to go out there and hit somebody?
A: Shane is definitely an aggressive player. He’s definitely got that bruiser mentality to it. He’s settling in a lot technically. He’s shown a lot of improvement throughout the year. We liked him from the jump. He’s definitely a guy that wants to get after it, wants to play physical, wants to play aggressive. He’s really made good adjustments to a lot of the movement schemes and also the speed of the game of how it comes to it. His communication inside has really improved throughout the year. With the centers and guards inside, that’s definitely a critical piece for everything they are going to do, because the multiples they’ll see inside. He’s really shown a lot of growth for us.
Q: With regards to the number of close games you guys have had and obviously you haven’t finished on the positive side of those. Is it a double-edged sword there? Do you feel like the more you’re involved in those, the guys will get a little more experience and get over the top? Has it become a confidence issue when you are in those close games and a ‘here we go again’ element to it?
A: I think our job is to play every game as its own entity. Every game is a different circumstance, different situation. We play every game to win every game. There’s things we have to clean up and correct. We have to do a better job coaching, have to do a better job executing as players in situations. To me, the guys have responded every week. In terms of the confidence issue, it’s been a question guys have answered repeatedly. That’s not an issue with our guys. Our guys come to work every week, they see improvement. We show them marked improvement on the tape when they see themselves play, when they see the units perform. We just have to keep stringing together and improving as a team. Get the results we’re working looking for.
Q: When you do get over the hump in one of these close tight games, whether it’s the last play of the game or whatever, what can that do for the morale and the confidence, the psyche of the team? Maybe start a trend in the other way?
A: I’m going to be honest with you, I’m not a huge believer in that to begin with. In terms of does one game affect another game, I don’t really think so. I think you have to show up and whether you won last week or lost last week, it’s about what you do preparing this week and how you execute on the field for 60 minutes. That’s going to dictate the results of that game. I respect the question, I understand exactly where you’re coming from. My personal mindset and philosophy doesn’t really tie too much into how one game affects another one.
Q: You mentioned earlier in the call some of these changes you’re making to practice in terms of guys wearing masks and then also going all virtual with your meetings. Will those be permanent changes for the rest of the year or until this thing clears up here?
A: Definitely through this thing clears up. We’ll see how it works out with the team. We’ll see what the league protocols mandate us to do. We just want to make sure we make the best decisions for the players at all times. We’ve been pretty good up to this point. Been fortunate to avoid one of these tests. We’re a long way into the season at this point. We want to make sure we get through this patch, keep our players safe. When we feel we’re out of this patch with the league’s guidance and our medical team’s guidance, we’ll make the best decision for the team.