Head Coach Joe Judge
January 1, 2021
Opening Statement: Happy New Year everybody. I hope you guys had a fun night. In regards to the statement we released earlier this morning about the COVID positive we had in the building, Dave DeGuglielmo, Guge, has a positive test. There are two potential close contacts. Immediately upon notification last night, we isolated all three. We’ve had no close contacts other than those three. We’re going through all of the information. We went through it with the league this morning, went through all the players, went through all the coaches as well. We deemed it safe to open the building. We’ve been going through our normal protocols. All of our players have been masked up and wearing the protective shields and spaced our accordingly. We’ve continued with our meetings which are in our indoor facility and about as well of a ventilated space as can be. We’ve continued with our pre-practice walkthrough, an abbreviated version to make sure it’s extra spaced out and avoid more close contacts. We’ve moved on now. The players are getting dressed and getting ready for practice. Really, we’re trying to keep the day as normal as can be. We went through everything last night to make sure it was completely safe to open the building. All the information we’ve been given, we deemed it was. We’ve not been a club who’s been slow to delay or change the schedule at any point this year based on a positive. But because we were out of the building on Monday and Tuesday and with the close contacts being very limited on Wednesday and having a virtual day yesterday, all information pointed us in the direction that today was safe to bring the players in the format we have and continue with normal Friday prep. That being said, I’ll open it up to any questions you may have.
Q: Just to follow up on that, who’s going to fill in for Dave at practice and then again on Sunday?
A: The immediate plan is for Ben Wilkerson, he works with Dave on coaching the offensive line, so that’s the immediate plan going into the game this weekend.
Q: Will Guge be doing the kind of thing that Jason (Garrett) was, kind of helping virtually via Zoom and all that stuff?
A: Yeah, he will be. He’s already run several meetings this morning virtually. We actually just had a walkthrough, and it’s a deal where they actually put the iPad behind the huddle and Guge can sit there and watch and have feedback in and out. It’s a different deal but hey, it’s something that we’ve become accustomed to. The players are able to communicate with the coaches through the Zoom app, and that’s been something positive for us.
Q: The close contacts were players, coaches, staffers?
A: They were staff and coaches. I’m not going to go into specifics until we find out anything more about it though.
Q: But no players?
A: There were no players, no.
Q: Just in terms of this game on Sunday, can this season be considered a success without a win?
A: Yeah, I think there are a lot of things in terms of what we set out to accomplish this year that no one game is going to go ahead and define the season. I’m proud of the culture and the foundation we’ve laid and the work ethic and urgency we’ve instilled in these players going forward. That being said, there are a lot of things we need to do better as an organization across the board going forward. We have to keep building this thing in the right direction. But I know there’s a vision going forward and there are a lot of people pointing in the right direction right now. So yeah, absolutely. But that being said, look, our job is to go out and win on Sunday. We’re doing everything we can right now to go out there and win a football game.
Q: Can you just talk a little bit about your comfort level with Ben Wilkerson? Obviously, when you made a change at this position a month ago, you didn’t promote Ben, you brought in Dave. So, what’s your comfort level here with Ben?
A: My decision a couple months ago was in no way reflective in any confidence or lack thereof of Ben Wilkerson. I have a tremendous amount of confidence in Ben. He’s a good coach. He’s a good, young coach. Draws from a knowledge of playing the game. He’s a very good communicator. He has a very good passion for the game. The players respond to him very well. He’s great on the field with technique instruction, and he’s very good in terms of communicating and forming relationships off the field. Look, this is a guy, to be honest with you, when I got here last year, Ben was down at the East-West Shrine Game coaching. We had more requests put in for Ben Wilkerson last year while he was down there. This is a deal where I talked to him before he went down there, I said, ‘I won’t make any moves on the staff without talking to you first.’ Then we agreed when he got back that I would like him to stay, he wanted to stay, we made some arrangements with the contract, and I’m glad to have him on our staff going forward. This is a guy that obviously we want in the program. He’s going to help us going forward.
Q: Dante Pettis played quite a few snaps on offense for the first time last week? What have you seen from him in practice this year? Could he be more involved in the offense?
A: I think his involvement in the offense is growing with his knowledge of the schemes and the system and that’s been big. Obviously, he has some athletic ability. He’s shown he can get open, beat man coverage, find some holes in zones. Obviously, like I said the other day, he missed some time early on. He first got here, he was on the COVID list not too soon after. It was one of those deals where it took him a little bit of a while to get going. Not that he couldn’t learn or couldn’t get going. It just took him a while to kind of get his feet set in the system. He had an opportunity last week to get up for the game. He did, he made some plays. He’s had a good week of practice.
Q: I know you always pretty much work on contingency plans, but do you have to make any adjustments knowing that you don’t know in the next couple of days if there is going to be more positive tests? Especially pertaining to the offensive line, considering he worked with them? Do you make any changes on that end? If so, how much?
A: So, what we do is we stress making sure every player is ready. That’s every player on the roster, practice squad. Making sure they’re all prepared. They get reps in practice. Some guys have to get it through the practice looks of the other team. We work our techniques. Other guys may have to get extra work through walkthroughs and extra meetings. From a coaching standpoint, we always make sure we have people within the system that understand the big picture of what we’re doing. Guys like Freddie Kitchens, Jerry Schuplinski, these are guys that are very fluent within our offensive line. Because of the use of protections as a tight end or a quarterback of how they tie-in, there’s multiple guys that are always talking anyway. This is a situation like you see Jerry a lot of times talking with the offensive line if they have a question about a Mike ID or how we’re going to handle something. He may go to Guge and they (inaudible) together. All of our guys work together. So, in terms of the coaching system, we’ve built it so we have multiple coaches who can handle multiple positions at any time if we’re shorthanded in something like this, also with just the development of our staff as a whole. In terms of the personnel piece with the players, it’s our job to get everybody ready. It’s their job to stay ready mentally and physically.
Q: Any updates on these injured guys? How do you think Evan Engram has looked? Is Eli Penny making progress and Golden (Tate)?
A: With Eli, we’re going to see how he does today. He’s in with the trainers right now. It’s more of an illness thing right so (we’ll) kind of find out if he can get on the field and where he is going to be at physically. Obviously, he’s missed a couple days. He missed the game last week. Golden has been encouraging. He’s working hard. We’ll see where he is moving around wise today. I’d say the way he was able to go out there Wednesday was further ahead than we thought it be. A lot of that he just him being a tough guy and really competing. That being said, toughness can’t get you over every injury. We’re going to see how he moves around today and where he’s at. Who are the other ones you asked about?
Q: Just how Evan Engram has moved this week. I know he’s been limited.
A: We’ve controlled some of his volume, but to be honest with you, this time of year that’s not really unique to just him at all. He’s had a good week of practice and getting ready to go.
Q: Just listening to you talk about what your walkthrough was like with an iPad behind a huddle. All the preparation and the contingencies and everything else. You’re two days away from playing the final game of the regular season. To have this kind of go into motion today. I know you don’t take a step back and look, but how are the players reacting to it? Are they reacting to it the way you would expect them to? Do you kind of see some guys looking around going is this what we’re doing now at the end of the season?
A: No, to be honest with you, it’s really the opposite. Our guys are so used to change at this point, they just keep on moving. That’s really the way we want to build this team anyway. To be able to adjust on the fly. That’s in-game adjustments and that’s off the field adjustments. When we talked to the team and I addressed it this morning at the team meeting in terms of what the situation was. There weren’t a lot of heads looking around like what’s the answer, what are we going to do. They know we have a plan. We have something in place. They just go out there and just start executing.