Head Coach Joe Judge
July 28, 2021
Opening Statement: Look, we kind of kicked off everything yesterday in terms of training camp. Look, obviously today is the first day of practice, today is the first day of preparation for the season to get out here as a team and get going. It’s good to be on the grass, it’s good to see you guys in person again, it’s nice to have a sense of normalcy. Obviously, everything is not 100 percent normal, there’s still a lot of things we have to do protocol-wise and handle a lot of situations off the field, but in terms of the football itself, we’re looking forward to going full speed as much as we can today in helmets and t-shirts. With that being said, we’ll open up to questions.
Q: What is your plan with getting into pads and building guys up when you get there?
A: Yeah, so there’s a ramp-up period, so we really won’t be in pads until next Tuesday. So it’ll be helmets and shorts for the next couple of days, we’ll go into shells Friday and Saturday, shells the following Monday and then we’ll be in pads. We’ll be in pads as much as we can be, even when it’s not a live contact day. Just get used to wearing the equipment, moving around, getting our players used to being out there.
Q: Coach, how much of the protocols alter what you do on a daily basis?
A: For the most part, it doesn’t alter much, it really doesn’t. Obviously if a guy triggers and he’s in some kind of protocol, they can’t be with us in meetings, they go in through Zoom. That’s still a little bit funky. Look, [LB] Blake Martinez is outside the building right now. You sit in the linebacker meeting and [Linebackers Coach] Kevin Sherrer’s talking and it’s kind of like the voice of Oz coming back over the speaker when Blake is answering questions, so it’s a little bit different in that regard. But I think our team is pretty good at changing and adjusting on the fly. It’s something we dealt with last year to a degree. We’ve been in Zoom completely. Now, we’re kind of almost integrating some in Zoom and some in person. Hopefully, we can get everyone in person full-time as much as we can, but in terms of on the field, look, there’s protocols that players have to follow. If you’re not vaccinated or fully through the process yet of being vaccinated, you’ve got to wear that Oakley mouth shield over your helmet. When they take their helmets off, they’ve got to put masks on. These are just part of the protocols. We’ve got a number of guys who are waiting to be fully cleared. I know it’ll be easier for them when they get to that process completely, but for right now, we all understand that, look, it is what it is. We’ve got rules and we talk as a team, you have choices. The League and Union afford you the choice of being vaccinated or unvaccinated. Reality is, it’s a lot easier to go ahead and live life as a professional player if you’re vaccinated. If you’re not vaccinated, you just have to follow all the protocols associated with it and it’s our job as a team to enforce those and educate our players along the way.
Q: Do you expect to be 100 percent vaccinated at some point?
A: I can’t answer that question. Look, we have a lot of guys on our team who will make individual choices. Our job is to educate them and, again, whatever choice they make we just make sure that they’re doing what’s right for the team by following the protocols.
Q: Joe, what’s [Wide Receiver] Kadarius [Toney] going to do today?
A: You know what, actually he’s going to ramp up with our trainers. We’ll see where he is physically before we kind of bring him back completely. You know, we have a number of guys in that situation coming off that COVID list and that’s something that we dealt with last year. Really, we learned a lot last year from the guys coming off. Even when a guy comes off and is asymptomatic and they feel like when they get back to the field they’re ramped up, they’re ready to go, there’s a lot of energy and excitement. They get out there and the truth is when you’ve been in a position where you’ve basically isolated and you’re not working out for a week, ten days, whatever it may be, that just goes ahead and sets you back in your training. We’ve got to make sure our players are healthy when we get there, that’s why we do a conditioning test. It’s not to see how far we can push our team, it’s to see are these guys physically ready to go out there and perform in what we need them to do on the field.
Q: Where were they when you saw them do the conditioning test?
A: I’m pleased with the team’s progress over the summer. Everyone passed it. We’ve got a lot of guys, you can tell, who have worked extremely hard over the summer. All that it just to show that they have the opportunity to get on the field and work. From this point forward, obviously we’ll start playing football and we’ll see today as we build in conditioning.
Q: Joe, for you personally, what’s different about you this year starting your second training camp in your second year as a head coach? Did you make any changes in your preparation for this year’s camp? Will we see different things? What’s different about you?
A: I’d say the foundation of our team is always going to be the same, so there’s going to be principles we look to operate within on a daily basis. In terms of me specifically, I’m not going to go through a list of things I’ve adjusted, but I’m always looking to go ahead and get better. I rely on my own self-critique, but I also have guys on this staff and guys externally I trust and rely on their input along the way. Look, I’m going to always be me, I’m going to do it with my personality, I think you have to do that otherwise you’re just lying trying to be something else. In terms of adjustments, you know, practice is never going to be just one simple template where you go ahead and follow it on through. We don’t just hit print and print out last year’s practice schedules. We always do what’s best for the team based on the players that we have available at each time. It’ll change game plan-wise throughout the season, but if you’re going through training camp you’ll see a lot of the similar things. As we build through training camp, we get our players in better condition, we’ll start doing a lot more two-spot drills to make sure everyone’s getting reps. Nobody’s standing around watching. We’re going to work a lot of, obviously, fundamentals tackling, running in space, turnovers, ball security. We’re going to always work special teams mixed in through practice. There’s obviously going to be lot of transition and the design of practice and how we do it is football is a game of transition. We talk, if you’re a running back and we don’t convert on third down, guess what, you’ve got to get ready to play on the punt team, you’ve got to flip your thinking right there. But we’ve got to learn as a team to transition from offense or defense to the kicking game, and then drop the kicking game and go back to offense or defense and move it. So, there’s a lot on our players each day in terms of knowing where to go, but that’s part of the design. We don’t try to make this an easy place. We want to make sure to put as much pressure on the players through practice as possible, so that when they get in the games they’ve dealt with a level of adversity and pressure that help them operate better.
Q: Does it feel any different representing the Giants out here in front of the cameras in person versus doing it over Zoom like your entire first season?
A: It’s more natural. I mean, look, we’ve said all along whether it’s the fans, whether it’s dealing with the media, whatever it is. Look, I like personal relationships. I’d rather sit out here and look you guys in the eye and talk to you just directly one-on-one than sit there. Look, the reality is when we do those Zooms, there’s sometimes someone’s talking and there’s so many screens on there, I can’t even look at the face of whoever asked the question. I like to look back at who asked the question and just give them a direct answer.
Q: Joe, you were an assistant for many years, last year you kind of stressed you want your assistants to be hands on. Were you happy with the way that worked last year, and will we see anything different out here in training camp or do you want your guys to take another level, some of your assistant, and be even more hands on with some of these guys?
A: Look, I expect everyone on the staff to coach. Everyone has to be an expert in their field, and I look at everyone as the head coach of their position. We have a number of coaches out here. No one’s out here to carry a clipboard and just record things. Everyone’s out here to coach and help our players. The goal of what we’re doing is teaching our team, so I expect everyone on our coaching staff to coach every player at all times. I want there to be crossover. To me, it’s important that [Defensive Backs Coach] Jerome [Henderson] sees something in our receiver, he helps the receiver out to give him a tip. ‘Hey, every time you do this pre-snap, we know you’re doing this.’ And that same thing vice versa, if [Wide Receivers Coach] Tyke [Tolbert] sees something a corner is doing in press man, he will let them know. ‘Hey, when we see you do this, this is how we’re looking to expose it.’ We want to make sure we get stronger as a group and as a team by working together.
Q: With the offensive line, there’s a lot of guys in that mix with the coaches, is there any concern somebody does something in the drill and three guys yell at him at the same time?
A: No. No, those guys work well together. It’s important for me that the coaching staff, we spend a lot of time meeting and that we end up on the same page and when we walk out of the meetings, we understand what’s going on.
Q: Along the lines of the offensive line, knowing that you’re not even going to be in pads until next week and then you only see your traditional o-line guys – and it’s talk to me in Week 3 to see where they’re truly at, how do you assess and evaluate that group? Because I know with all the talk about every other position, I know how much emphasis you’re putting on the development of those guys. How do you go about that?
A: Well look, it’s our job as coaches to evaluate our players however we can. In the spring, you’re obviously not in pads. Well, we got to evaluate where they’re at in the spring as well. You have a ramp-up period through the NFL rules, so they’re not going to be in full pads going right away. Obviously, as training camp goes on at all positions, the pads are on, the competition picks up, we get to have preseason games, practice against Cleveland and New England, that’ll tell a lot about team as we go forward. The players have to demonstrate consistent improvement across the board. Dependability is a big thing we’re looking for here and that’s day-by-day how it goes on. I’d say in terms of the offensive line, look, we have to work with whatever we’re afforded. So, it’s not full pads today. It’s not full pads for defensive line either. You have to understand that when we do team drills, they’re cooperative drills. We’re still working the elements and the fundamentals of what we’re doing. We’re still getting off. We’re playing with a good tempo, good pad level, football position. We’re still working on extension and lock out. We’re still working all the calls and communication. All right, and then the movement of the offensive line. We’re just not having a collision finish. Is there going to be some contact out there? There will be. But it’s not collisions. That’s what we’re emphasizing.
Q: On the lines of the offensive line, someone like [Guard] Will Hernandez, what progress have you seen from the end of last year through this spring to this point?
A: Yeah, I’m pleased with how he’s worked. I think obviously physically, the shape he’s returned in to play. He showed a level of conditioning through spring we’re very pleased with. One thing about Will is he’s just worked very tirelessly on everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s had great communication with [Director of Strength and Performance] Fitz [Craig Fitzgerald] and the strength staff, [Director of Sports and Performance Nutrition] Steve Smith our nutritionist, [Head Athletic Trainer] Ronnie Barnes and his staff, all of our offensive line coaches. Will’s just done a really good job of doing everything we ask him to do to the best of his abilities and that’s all you can ask of a player.
Q: Joe, having those joint practices as well as preseason games now back, how much more helpful is that for you to evaluate talent and find the best 53?
A: Yeah, that’s huge. That’s huge and you kind of go back from our notes last year, kind of getting ready – or last year’s training camp as opposed to this year’s training camp – and we had to invent as many scenarios as possible to evaluate players in competition. I thought we did as good a job as we could’ve done last year with that. There’s something obviously we look back and say, ‘what could we do better going forward?’ But in terms of having competitive practices, that’s always great for the team. The first thought that’s great, it breaks up the monotony of camp. Instead of bashing each other’s heads in, you get to visit another team and work with them. You get to see different schemes, different players, evaluate your players against someone as a changeup. Maybe a different skillset, talent level then whoever they’ve been working against every day in practice. It gives you more of a team-unifying feel out there. It just ramps up more opportunities to go out there and see them compete and have a true evaluation of them. Obviously, the preseason games, there’s nothing better for evaluation than a preseason game and seeing a guy actually in live action. That can be if they play 10 plays in the game or an entire half or an entire game. That’s got to be something we’ve got to evaluate because you can’t replicate the flow of the game and then also there’s nothing better for players to get ready to play the season safely. They have to build in that in-game conditioning and stamina and that feel for the rest in between plays, the break in between series, little things like commercial breaks. There’s things that add up throughout a game you just can’t replicate in practice.
Q: Going back to Will, you had to make a choice between [Guard] Shane [Lemieux] and Will, one of those guys to move to the right side, was there a specific reason why we saw Will there in the spring?
A: No. We’re going to play all of our players on both sides. You’re going to see all the tackles play right and left. You’re going to see the guards play right and left. You’re going to see Nick Gates at times, we may flex him to guard or tackle. We’re always building our flexibility offensively to make sure that if something happens, we can interchange parts and keep on moving. Who knows, we may pick up somebody in the season who can play only left guard, or the strength is only left guard, we would make sure that both Shane and Will can both play on the right or on the left as we need them to.
Q: What kind of spring do you think [Running Back] Devontae Booker had and how capable he is of carrying the load until [Running Back] Saquon [Barkley] comes back?
A: Well, I think Devontae has to worry about himself and not worry about where anybody else is. We’re going to look to get contributions from all of our players no matter who is available on the roster. Again, whoever comes to a game for us is going to play, all right? We’re not traveling guys to sit there and watch the game. I’m pleased with the progress he’s made through spring. Obviously, for any new player – rookies, free agents, it doesn’t matter – there’s elements of the program they have to get used to. Whether it’s a little bit of something different we do on operation, how we practice, the system of the scheme, communication, that all adds up right there. But I’m confident in all of our players. He’s worked hard to this point and now we have to see him every day make progress in our training camp.