Head Coach Joe Judge
December 24, 2020
Q: Have your guys done a good job this week balancing the work commitment with getting ready for Christmas? Do you have any messages for them in general for keeping their focus intact?
A: I’d say when you’re at work, come to work. Be present at work and be focused in. When you’re home with your family, be present with your family, and don’t try to divide the time right there. There’s a time for holidays. It’s obviously special to us. We do the same thing on Thanksgiving, Christmas, other holidays throughout the year. But we want to make sure that when our guys are anywhere, that they’re locked in and present in that situation. It’s important for the players and coaches to be with their children tomorrow morning, to be with their loved ones. That’s going to be watch them open presents, as well as dinner tomorrow night when we’re out of here. We’ve abbreviated the day. Tomorrow will be like 12 to 3 we’re in the building. It’ll be kind of a shortened up Friday. We’re going to kind of supplement some of the time we’re not going to have tomorrow with meetings after practice today to make sure we’re not missing any of the material or information. We’re just rearranging how it is to give us more time on Friday. But overall, I think they’ve done a very good job of coming to work, being locked in and being focused. Look, at some point today, we’ll take some time to wish them holiday cheer and have a few smiles, and then get out of the building.
Q: Darius Slayton’s production this last six, seven games is way down, and that coincides with him being on the injury report for a while. I’m wondering if you see him battling through some things and that’s why, or maybe the book is out on him and he has to adjust to defenses after a really good rookie year plus here?
A: Well, I think everyone at this time of year is battling through a lot of things, so that’s not unique to any one player. There are some guys that aren’t on the injury report that just have bumps and bruises. I’d say once the first day of training camp happens, no one is anymore at 100 percent. This time of year, everyone has a little bit less in the gas tank. We just have to fill it up as much as we can to keep emptying it on a daily basis. That being said, we have to keep doing a good job as coaches of just creating situations for our players to be successful. When the opportunities come their way, we have to make the plays. It’s as simple as that. I don’t think we can try to force it as players. You have to go out there and play your responsibility. One thing about the receiver position is if there are 70 plays in the game, and you have five catches, that’s a great game. I’m more concerned about the other 65 plays, what are you doing? Are you blocking when you don’t have the ball? Are you playing with good effort? Are you assignment sound? What are you bringing to the team? Are you covering kicks in the kicking game? To me, in the receiver position, a lot of times it can be skewed in terms of what kind of game you’ve really had. But look, it’s any player’s responsibility to make the plays that are in front of him, and it’s the job of the coaches to create opportunities for our players.
Q: I have one big picture question. If I’m not mistaken, last game was your first coach’s challenge replay flag throw. That’s a long time to wait, almost 14 games. Is that something, you’re a first-year coach, are you conservative? Do you try to save those for a big moment? Do you have a philosophy there or is that just coincidence it took that long to do one?
A: Look, I rely on the information I get up top from the guys who have the monitors in front of them for the replay. They do a great job of communicating. If it’s something we think is worth a challenge based on what they’re seeing, then we’ll go ahead and use it. Really the information we’ve gotten this year on a lot of them is that it’s not either a clear shot or it’s not clear to be overturned. To be honest with you, I’m not looking to waste timeouts. That’s a valuable asset in the game that you can’t go ahead and burn, especially when you get into the second half. Those things are like gold. The ability to control the clock is something you have to have based on situations. Look, if it’s worth it, we’re going to always challenge it because I want to help the team and make sure we get the calls in the game right. But at the same time, if it’s not something that we know is going to work to our favor, then I’m going to hold onto those assets.
Q: You said yesterday that you made things hard on Daniel (Jones) in a lot of ways. I’m just curious what you meant by that and why that was your approach with him?
A: I think we try to make everything challenging on all of our players. Without going too into detail internally, look, this was something I had to see from all the players this year. Who they really are, how they are as players, how they respond to hard coaching, how they perform under pressure, how they handle situations inside and outside the building, are they a guy who can block out external factors and come in every day and focus? Look, we created a situation with Daniel. I wanted to see how he performed at practice, within games, how he responded to things. Like I said yesterday, he’s earned my respect all the way. He’s a pleasure to coach, he’s a pleasure to have in the locker room, it’s even better when you have him on the field. Without going too much into intimate details on what we do in the building, look, I try not to make it easy on these guys as a point of fact. If you go ahead and make everything easy when they come to work, you’re not really preparing them for what they do on Sundays. It’s a tough league, it’s a competitive league, everyone is trying to go ahead and take you out every week. It can’t be a country club when you walk in here to work.
Q: I was hoping you could provide a little more clarity, I know you guys were working through logistics with Jason (Garrett) this weekend. If you have him available on Sunday, do you guys have a plan yet or do you still have to kind of go over what he’ll be able to do this weekend?
A: From everything we understand, he’ll be available at the game to call plays like he has before. There’s really more of that timetable from the league of ... We’re still waiting on a couple points of clarity, but we are expecting to have him at the game calling plays and being on the sideline.
Q: Obviously, he’s not at practice during the week. Have you added additional Zoom calls with him and the offense? Or is it still the same protocols going forward on your end as far as how much influence he’s been able to have during the week?
A: The actual meetings themselves are going very smoothly. It’s kind of crazy having the voice come through a speaker in terms of the install and talking through it when the guys are in the building. That’s a little bit different. But look, different is really not a challenge for us. We kind of want to thrive in that kind of situation. Today is an install. We did everything through Zoom anyway, so this is kind of just a standard business day today. I think Jason’s done a really good job of adjusting how he’s had to work, of staying connected with the players, of staying connected with the coaching staff. Even when our coaches are in the building, we’re doing a lot of staff meetings and coaches meetings where everybody is in their own office with the doors closed and still communicating through Zoom trying to keep everything as isolated as can be. Really the biggest difference has been just him not being at practice. Freddie’s (Kitchens) done a really good job of running everything at practice. But I think it all comes down to our guys understanding the flow of practice, what’s expected, what we’re doing on a period by period basis, and the execution has been good.
Q: A little bit of injury cleanup here. How did you think Daniel looked yesterday? And three guys with questions about Sunday, (Kyler) Fackrell, (Devonta) Freeman and Golden Tate, who we saw walk over to the side with the trainers early yesterday?
A: Golden is probably going to just stay with the trainers today. We’ll see if he can do a little bit of stuff outside. We’ll see where he’s at. It’s kind of standard operating procedure the day after that. We’ll see where he’s at for the game. I can’t give you much of an update until after today on that. I’d say in terms of Kyler, he did some stuff on the field yesterday with the trainers. Today will be a big day for him. We really kept it more yesterday to some light individuals. Today he’ll get some more team work if he’s moving around at the right pace. If he can’t do it this week, we’re very hopeful for next week. That being said, I want to make sure you put this guy out there with him being able to set the edge, play with force, play with strike, and then have quick reaction in short areas to burst. Coming off the lower leg with the calf, that’s something you have to really make sure he’s back and able to do that. Otherwise, you can re-aggravate it and just lose him, period. Did I miss one right there? Devonta. Yeah, we have to check on Devonta again. Today will be a good day for him. He had a good week of practice last week. He was coming off the COVID list and the IR. We started his clock. We’ll see where that goes into this week as well. We have to move some numbers around for a lot of things on the roster with a lot of guys possibly coming off. We have to make sure we make the best decision for the entire roster. Then in terms of Daniel, look, I thought he had a good day yesterday. He had a good day yesterday. He went out there, we put him through everything. Today will be a more intensive day. Today will be a higher volume day for him. It will be interesting to see how he responds. We’ll see him out there moving around throughout all the team periods. He’ll jump right into his normal role and go forward with it. The intention is if he’s able to play, we intend to play him.
Q: I was going to follow up on that also. This is the last time we’re going to talk to you this week, so how optimistic are you that Daniel’s going to be able to make it this week?
A: I was encouraged with how he moved yesterday. I was
really encouraged. I think some of the moves we made last week with him, although it was kind of hard for him to kind of sit out on it with the double injuries, but I think that helped resolved some of those issues. All the feedback we’ve gotten medically is that he’s continued to improve and he’s at lesser risk of being injured, and that’s really the things we’re looking for right there as far as positive news. But he moved around nice yesterday. We’ll put him through more today. I can’t give you a percentage or any kind of a gauge on that. But I would say we came through yesterday’s practice feeling like we’re on the right track.
Q: Offensively, obviously the points have been lacking. Without getting into specifics for competitive reasons, can you put your finger on what’s been missing? Is it just not taking advantage of opportunities, red zone? What’s been missing in terms of the point production being so down?
A: I’d say this, look, to me at the end of the day, as coaches, we have to make sure we always put our players in the right position. That’s number one. Number two, when the plays are out there to be made, we have to make them. That’s our job as coaches, we have to put the players in position and the players have to go out there and play to their strengths and be able to make plays when they have the opportunity. Look, we’ve gone ahead and we’ve put ourselves in position several times. Through a multitude of reasons, we have to go ahead and finish drives better. When we’ve gotten down there, we need to come away with points. There’s no secret to that. That’s not something we’re overlooking internally, that we’re not putting our head in the sand and trying to ignore that we don’t have to do better as a team collectively all across the board in all three phases. We’re working every day on finding better ways to do that, and our guys are working hard. I think there’s been a lot of progress made. But like I tell the players all the time, the results are what the results are. We can get better throughout on a weekly basis, we can do a lot of good football within the game. But when you don’t win the game, it’s going to be the bad football that’s highlighted, and that’s the way it should be because that’s what we’re paid for.
Q: Regarding John Harbaugh, what is your respect level for him as kind of a fellow guy with a special teams background? His teams always are very physical. What’s the importance of kind of matching that and even setting the tone with that on Sunday in your mind?
A: My respect level for him as a coach is extremely high. I don’t care if it’s special teams coach, head coach, defensive backs coach, he’s just a very good coach. His players are always very well-prepared, they always play with a high urgency, they always play very physical, and that’s been a trademark since he’s been down there. His teams, you play the Baltimore Ravens, you always know you’re going in and you have to go ahead and play a physical brand of football. You can’t beat the Ravens with finesse. That’s not the way it is. You have to be able to play these guys and try to match them in the run game. You have to be able to make plays in the passing game on both sides of the ball, and you have to be ready to cover kicks because they have dynamic returners, and they can make plays at all points.