Head Coach Joe Judge
August 6, 2021
Opening statement: All right, so we’ll progress with our training camp back in pads today, moving around. It’ll be kind of an on and off the field type of day due to some of the numbers and availability to kind of work with some guys in some different situations. So we’ll be on the field today, progress on our install. We’ll start building a little bit more into team periods and kind of the flow of calling the plays from the sideline and get guys lined up and hearing the play in the huddle, break it and get going. We’re kind of getting away a little bit of the transition of drill to drill that you guys see in the first part of camp that we operate with. We’ve got to get in this next couple flow of weeks and just playing some football, getting out there and letting our guys operate. With that being said, I’ll answer any questions you have.
Q: Joe, do you sense the guys are champing at the bit to play a real game next Saturday?
A: I think they’re at a point in training camp right now that is very natural where they’re tired of beating up on each other. I think they’re waiting to get to another opponent. I think every team in the league is at that point now, while it seems like it’s only been about two weeks of being in here, it’s kind of like dog years. They come in every day, it’s a little bit of Groundhog Day to get working. They do a good job. They work hard. I think you get to get a certain point where you may not be 100 percent ready for a full 60 minutes but you’re at that point where competition is driving you and you really want to go ahead and play against an opponent. I think one thing about the guys is obviously it’s kind of like brothers fighting right now, right? They’re all trying to get the best of each other and compete with each other and then you get to a point where you want to get outside of the house and no one messes with you.
Q: We saw (Offensive Lineman) Zach Fulton told you guys he was retiring, can you give us any details on that and is there any concern that that’s three veterans now that have retired? I know each one is unique, I’m sure.
A: I had a good conversation with Zach last night. He talked with me, (Offensive Line Coach) Rob (Sale), Flats (Offensive Consultant Pat Flaherty), (Offensive Coordinator) Jason (Garrett), (Senior Vice President and General Manager) Dave Gettleman and a few other people in the organization. I would say specifically to Zach’s situation, look Zach was doing a good job for us. He’s a guy that I didn’t want to see go; however, I respect his decision. I’ll let him speak completely for himself. I would say that a lot of these older vets, they’re at a different point in their life with different things. Zach’s a guy that started a business in the offseason, he just had his son. His family is down in Texas. This is an opportunity for him to get back. We talked a lot about just the duration, a career and different things. Without going into everything, look, he indicated to us, hey listen, coming out of where he was last year, your body’s in a different point than when you’re younger. You get to the point to see do I think I have it for 16 games? And you have to respect when these guys look us in the eye and say, ‘listen, I really wanted to see if I could push through it, but I don’t think my body’s at that point,’ and you can leave this point in the game with your health. I’d say all three situations are different. Everyone has a different personal circumstance. I respect all three. We’ve left the door open for all three. These are three good guys who worked hard for us. Listen, I can’t tell you how much respect I have for the players who come in and work hard for us. I know this is a demanding place. I know this is a place that will want to work them, but we’re smart about how we work our players and we’re very calculated. But at the same time, we have to push our players and train them that when they go on the field, number one, they’re safe and, number two, they play effectively. It’s our job to help these players produce on the field and put them in position. It’s training camp. There’s different things that come up along with it, but I think in terms of these three vets, look, it’s not unique to the league. I know there’s been several vets that are retiring. It’s not unique to this year. One thing I’ll say that is a little different this year than previous years is there’s more people that you call that are on the street trying to get into camps calling, where the agents indicated that they’re done playing football. I’d say these are guys with varying ages, but mostly guys that I’d say have six years in the league. You call these guys this time of year normally and everyone’s training and waiting to get to training camp. This year’s just been a different year. It’s our job to know who’s available as far as talking about having constant tryouts and going through the personnel and knowing who’s available in the league and you never know what happens in your roster and other rosters. That’s our due diligence we have to keep on.
In terms of dealing with vets that make decisions like this, the biggest thing is that you have to understand, you’ve got to respect them as a person first, okay. As you look at your roster, sometimes you don’t want to see any of those players walk out. When we sit down and have an honest conversation, you don’t really talk much about football. You talk about family. You talk about their experience in the league. You talk about what they want to do long-term in their life. You talk about a lot of different things. I’ve offered every one of these players an opportunity to actually take a couple of days and think about it before making a career-deciding decision. Each one of them had already told me that, hey, listen, this is something that either they were thinking about throughout the entire process before they came here or had been thinking about the entire process leading into training camp throughout the summer. These are natural thoughts to have. I appreciate everything they’ve done for the team. They all worked hard for us. I don’t want to see any one of them go. We left the door open for all three based on circumstances that if something were to happen, they can return if we have room for them. I’d welcome all three of them back, I really would. These are guys we brought in our program because we think they would help the team. They’re three good dudes. I tell you that right now, all three of them are good dudes. In the short exposure I had with Todd (Davis) and Joe (Looney), I mean these guys instantly you can see in the locker room that they made an impact on guys around them, so you appreciate all that stuff about them. Zach’s been with us through the spring. He’s a guy that’s been great in meetings. He’s an older guy. When you sit down and have an actual conversation with him, you kind of get deeper and you put football aside and just talk about family and interests and things going on. You really see the depths of the person. You’ve got to take the helmet off sometimes. We come out here and it’s all ball on the field, but what we’re working with people. It’s a people business. We’ve got to make sure – I talk all the time about knowing the people. I can’t turn around and ask somebody to give me their all and that we’re always going to have their back and when they make a decision that’s best for them and their family, turn around and think slightly. You’ve got to respect the decision made and respect every day that they came out here and worked for us, so in the end they have to make a decision for a different path in life and that’s it. We support them in anything in the future that comes with them and we’ll always be there for them.
Q: Where do you stand with the offensive line considering that two of those guys were part of that unit?
A: Obviously, it’s our job to make sure we see who’s out there, as well. We need depth on the line. One thing about the way we operate, to be honest with you, is we have to consider the numbers in what we do, which will play a little bit into today’s practice. We’ve got to make sure that we supplement different periods with different things that people need, but ultimately we can’t just keep piling reps on top of guys. We have to be smart about how we do it. Sometimes that means trimming down a certain period or changing the way the structure of practice is being done for that day. It’s our job to adjust and adapt, and make sure that we play with the players we have available at hand. We’ll keep developing all the guys on our roster, that’s always our number one mission. These young guys are going to get an opportunity to play a lot of ball this year, a lot of ball through practice and a lot of ball through preseason, a lot of opportunities. It’s our job to make sure we put them in a position to take advantage of those opportunities going forward.
Q: How important would it be for you to add a veteran? You said there are a lot for young guys, but you just lost a veteran guy that you did add this offseason.
A: I always say all the time, whether it’s a veteran or a young guy, the important thing is to add a good football player that can help this team. We’ll work with anybody. If they’re going to come in here and they’re going to give it their all and they’re going to do what we ask them to do, that’s a critical part of it right there. It’s important to bring in the right kind of people for the program. We’ve done a good job of bringing in guys who are good, solid people into the locker room and that always helps going forward. In terms specifically of the age, we’re just hung up on getting quality players in here. We’re not overly concerned with their years of experience in the league.
Q: You mentioned the numbers, outside linebacker seems like a really short-handed position. Any of those guys close to getting back?
A: A few of them are. A lot of them are day by day right now, they’re all making progress. We’ll see where they’re at right now. We’re trying to get a few of them through the weekend, see where they’re at next weekend. The goal is to get these guys that are coming back to ramp them back up, see if they can play in the Jets game, will we push that back to Cleveland, and the guys that are out here right now getting ready for that game next week because there are a lot of young guys who are going to play some ball this week. We’ll treat next week – typically, for the most part, it’s not 100 percent – for the most part, we’re going to make sure we’re giving the young players a strong chance to make an impression early on. We don’t have preseason Week Four this year, where typically a lot of young players get to make a lasting impression on the backend of camp, different than previous years now. We’ve got to make cuts, we’ve got to cut five after the first game and five more after the second. I want to make sure that we don’t move on from a player without giving him an opportunity to go out there and play as much football as he can and make a strong impression.
Q: Joe, it seemed like last year (Wide Receiver) David Sills (V) was right on the border of making the team and then he gets hurt that last training camp practice. It seems like he’s back out here making a lot of plays again. What was the last year like working with him, telling him to stay positive? Is this the same guy you saw last training camp?
A: Well, I’d say first off relative to this training camp, he’s making a lot of plays for us. He’s doing a good job, he comes out, works hard every day. Sills is a guy who does everything you ask and he does it 100 percent. He’s definitely a guy you’ve got to tell, ‘Hey, slow it down a little bit.’ This guy’s commitment off the field in terms of what he’s done in the offseason, basically this guy followed (Quarterback) Daniel (Jones) around the country. Wherever Daniel was, he was going to be there to catch passes. That’s someone who you can tell has really invested in himself to give every shot he has. Last season in terms of him being on the IR deal, the message is that he’s gotta stay positive. You know, we’re going to work with you, get you healthy, get you back on the field, give you an opportunity to compete, stay mentally engaged, stay involved with the team, keep being a good teammate and that’s something that he definitely did. He was in here every day with the strength staff, the rehab staff, smiling, good energy, challenging other guys. I know it hurt him because of the work he put in on the front end to get out here and compete. He did a good job for us. It was very unfortunate the way it happened last year. Based on the way he’s playing, we’ll keep him going forward.
Q: Was he on track to make the team last year in your mind?
A: I’m not going to get into the final roster decisions from last year, but I’d say at that point he gave himself a lot of opportunities to compete.
Q: Tell me more about your running group here and what (Running Back) Devontae (Booker) has been looking like and what (Running Back) Corey (Clement) has been looking like.
A: Yeah, they all have a different skill set and they’re all doing a good job on improving. The running backs are all very … at times of how you use them. Some guys have different skill sets that pick-up pass game with more early down runs which we can tackle downhill. Right now, we’re kind of finalizing all that out. One thing I’ve seen from all those guys is they’re improving and it’s not just when the ball is in their hands and how they’re making cuts and making that reach, but it’s the blitz pickup, it’s the scans, it’s the third down protections, getting out when they have to, it’s understanding multiples on the offense. These things all add up when they’re playing full speed. They key is with a running back, the guy playing …
Q: To follow that, we see (Running Back) Saquon (Barkley) out there, where is he at right now?
A: Yeah, we’re going to have conversations on a daily basis about his rehab and conversations on a weekly basis at times on where we think he is coming up. In terms of the timetable, I say it all the time to you guys, I’m just being flat out honest, I’m not a doctor. I let the medical team and they tell me a guy is good to go and put him on the field, I know he’s good to go. Sometimes we’ll have guys come out and they’ll say, ‘Hey, we got to limit this guy to these periods only today and phase him up’ and you see a lot of that day by day. In terms of a player like Saquon and a timetable coming back, he’s making daily progress. I know it sounds like a broken record, but that’s important for us to see coming off an injury like this. You want to make sure that it’s not push forward and take a step back.
Q: Where I was going with the other running backs, the non Saquon (running) backs is with Saquon’s status not really known at the moment, do you ramp these other guys up in a different way than you normally would?
A: No, we’re getting them all ready to play if that’s your question. This doesn’t change the course of action right here, what we’re doing. Everyone’s practicing, getting ready to play, we’re going to keep more than one running back, that’s no secret. I’ll keep as many other quality players as we can. Running backs have to have roles beyond just offense, they’re the guys that cover certain guys during the week. They have to have early down run value, they have to add a certain kind of value. Running backs are valuable, running backs … and kind of outside linebackers. Those bodies and just team building. You look at these guys that have a role on offense or defense, they have a role in situational football, third down or red zone, but then they also have the kicking game role as well which is important. We only take 46 guys to a game, their role is going to be more than one.
Q: How do you keep tabs on Saquon? Do you kind of peek over during practices? Do you find yourself looking over there?
A: There are times I look over. Over on that part of the field, I’ll look over and watch him. In terms of watching if there’s something specific he’s trying to show me, the highlights of the things he’s done, we’ll go through that together. Then we have daily meetings. He’s working hard.