Head Coach Joe Judge
September 10, 2021
Opening Statement: All right, so a good week of practice so far. Obviously, today's Friday, we'll finalize some of the situational stuff we worked throughout the week. We’ll review all the early down, third down in red area situations and continue progressing all of our big four on special teams. That being said, we still got a little bit of time to go before the game. The game plan is never truly final for us. We're always working all the way up to the game and adjust once in the game, so we'll do whatever's best for the team at the time. So that being said, we’ll open up to any questions you may have.
Q: We haven’t talked to you since before practice on Wednesday. How does (Running Back) Saquon (Barkley) look these last couple of days and have you guys made a decision yet on Sunday?
A: He's had a good couple of days. He's got one more hurdle to kind of clear today. We're going to make sure that we kind of just take everything into account. I'd say his work on field has been very promising, he's done a lot of things that we need to see. We'll see how today turns out for him and a couple other guys coming on through, but we have a couple of guys in the same bucket right now. But I'd say all the guys coming back have been very encouraging throughout the week.
Q: What’s the one more hurdle today?
A: He’s got to go through the medical staff a little bit. He’s got to go a little bit through the medical staff and doctors kind of considering a couple things.
Q: Is there anyone you’ve ruled out yet for Sunday?
A: Not officially, not a hundred percent. (Tight End) Evan (Engram) will be the one guy that we're going to take a look at today for the final time. We'll see where that is. I'd say he did some good things yesterday with the trainers, see how he progresses. Again, a few of these guys, you kind of get them on the front end, they look a little bit worse off than maybe it may be and some of these guys push real hard to get back. I know in Evan's mind, he's pushing to get back as fast as he can. Obviously, we’ll make the right decision for him and the team, but he'd be the one that's kind of furthest away right now.
Q: What would it take for Saquon not to play at this point?
A: I'd say some kind of a setback that's unforeseen that would happen today or some kind of response to his body after practice with going through a week of practice, what he looks like.
Q: The doctors gave him the clearance to practice. Is there a final clearance in the sense of now he's ready for a game?
A: Yeah, I think that's what we're looking at today. We're looking at in terms of the entire body work throughout the week and what we can do with him and is that best for him? Is that best for the team?
Q: With the figure that he is here, can you speak to what psychological effect that can be for your offense since so many of the guys look up to him?
A: Well, I think the biggest thing about Saquon with the team in terms of the psychological part, we're prepared to play with whoever we have available, that’s number one. It's kind of, whatever happens, next man up, we got to go out there and execute and everyone's got to be focused on their own job and how they have to impact the game. Not speaking directly for any one individual, but I could say collectively for the team, I think the thing about Saquon is the guys respect how he's worked, and they see how hard and long a journey it's been for him to come all the way back from where he's been and what he's done off the field, what he's done from a leadership standpoint. The things he's had to go through and the attitude he's displayed along the way to put himself in position to potentially play Week 1, Week 2, wherever it may end up being, hopefully sooner than later. But I'd say in terms of the emotion around that, I think everyone's just genuinely happy for this guy and is really doing everything he can, like they would for any teammates who has worked this hard to get back, for him to have success when he finally does.
Q: Given what he did to that knee on that day, this represents the best-case scenario, but did you always believe in the best-case scenario here?
A: Look, I just go on the medical advice that they give me and tell me what is or isn't possible. I know that day coming off the field, we kind of get a lot of scenarios, best case, worst case, what it may or may not be. When you get the final diagnosis and he goes into surgery, you understand that everybody's body is different. I think that’s the thing everyone has to understand is everybody’s body is completely different and everyone reacts to things differently and everyone's able to come back at a different rate and that's not due to any kind of work or lack of work. It's just the way that people's bodies respond. I think this guy has done everything he possibly can to get himself ready. He's had the best attitude we could ask for us, he’s done everything for the team we've asked him to. While I know he's tapping his feet, he's been very patient with the instructions we've given him in times we've had to pull back, times we got to to push him ahead. I'm very pleased with everything he's done for the team and how he's responded with everything we could ask for him to do.
Q: If you put a guy like him, let's say you plan for over 10 touches, but the first three touches he looks great and he takes contact, is there a possibility that you could be tempted as a coach to increase his workload based on how he responds in the game or is that too dangerous?
A: I think that's why I keep answering that question in terms of when you say guys are cleared for a game, they'd be cleared for a game. At that point, the guy goes out there, first three look great. What if the first three don't look great? Does that mean it changes your game plan the other way? To me, you’ve got to just have guys at the game who could play. Now, however we structure a game plan for individual players, whether it be Saquon or any other player on our team, we try to stick to that game plan until we have to make necessary adjustments in the game. You want to at least start the game out with some consistency to what you prepared for, so the players have an idea. Now look, we adjust every drive on the side, that's our job. That's the players’ job to understand that things are going to happen within it. In terms of specific rep numbers and pitch counts, to me, it's just more important to know that this guy’s healthy. To me, if you go out there for one snap, I want to make sure you're able to go out for that one snap full speed. In terms of the volume that we may play any specific player, a lot of it will be dictated by the flow of the game. A lot of decisions get made in game. I wouldn't want to take someone into a game where we say he can only do this and then all of a sudden you get to a point you have to do more. If you go in with a certain plan, you want to stick to that plan as best you can knowing what's best for an individual player. But to me, it always comes down to if the doctor says the guy is healthy, I got to take his word on it right there. I've got to see a move for myself as a coach on the field and have confidence that he's going to go out there and be able to execute what we ask them to do. But what I tell the medical staff all the time is like, ‘look, I can control volume in practice, I can't control intensity.’ I can tell the guys it's whatever percent. It’s telling a guy it's 80 percent, what does that mean to him on the field? They're going to react and adjust and do something accordingly to be moving fast to make a play. So, for me, it's when I put them on the field, they've just got to know that they can go out there healthy and do what we ask them to do.
Q: How has (Tight End) Kyle Rudolph been since he’s been practicing the last couple of weeks? How has he been holding up?
A: He’s been doing a good job for us, he’s doing a good job. I know Kyle did a lot of work in the offseason, obviously coming off of surgery. We kind of had some bumps in the road, not necessarily setbacks, but just some things you have to deal with in the course of any rehab getting back. I’d say the last two weeks have been very encouraging with him. It's good having him out there. I'd say there's a high trust level with a guy like that. Not just from the experience he's had in the league, but also what you see him do on the practice field. How he prepares, the plays he makes, things he does. So, you see a guy do it in practice, that gives you the confidence for the game to go ahead and rely on.
Q: How does (Wide Receiver) Kenny (Golladay) look to you? He missed a lot of time with his hamstring injury during preseason.
A: Yeah, there's been a number of guys who've been in a similar situation. Kenny obviously in that group, he's definitely been coming back at a good rate. He's moved well, we've obviously structured some of the volume day by day a little bit different for him and some other guys in terms of accounting for the time that they missed. It's not necessarily just always trying to shut them down to shut them down, but you have to understand that you've got to get in football shape and that doesn't happen overnight. With these guys, we've got to kind of structure them for their bodies to respond the right way. When we push them, we know we can go ahead and we can push them all the way and then go out there and operate. He's been good.
Q: You carried specialists on the practice squad last year, obviously with COVID and stuff, how come you’re not doing that this year?
A: Look, right now coming out of training camp, this is kind of the best mix of guys that we felt to take a look at. I'd say our roster and the practice squad is no different. It's really an extension of our roster that’s always evolving. There's going to be a lot of changes in that throughout the entire year. I would not rule out at any point having a specialist or some other specific player for a specialty role at any time if someone we believe can help the team or someone can develop into a greater role. I think (Former Giants Kicker Ryan) Santoso last year was a great example. He was a guy that obviously we had available for the COVID precautions and what we may deal with, but the other thing too was this guy really developed over the course of being here. I think (Assistant Special Teams Coach) Tom Quinn and (Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey) T-Mac did a great job with this guy on a daily basis. He came to work every day and did everything we asked him to do. At some points, we had to have him ready to go ahead and be elevated for the 53 with (Kicker) Graham (Gano) coming off COVID and stuff last year, things of that nature. But yeah, you kind of watch the development of players. To me, it's important that everybody you have here has a chance to develop and help here. Everyone here should be competing for a position. I talked to the team this morning a little bit about it's different than college. There's actives and inactives in a game. Sometimes a guy’s inactive because of a health situation. Sometimes you're inactive as a healthy scratch and you've got to make sure you identify for those players what they have to do to be at the game. To me, it's no different for the practice squad. With the practice squad rules with allowing you to (do) flex-ups, that makes everybody every week for me a candidate to be at the game. Whoever's practicing the best, performing the best and playing, we've got to go ahead and reward that and make sure we give our team the best chance by putting guys on the grass that come out and do it on a day-by-day basis.
Q: This team for a number of years has had this weird run of not winning season openers. You’ve only been here for one of them obviously, but you got off to a bad start last year. Can you speak to the importance of getting off fast with a win?
A: Yeah, so the first thing I'd say is there's not a game in history that's relevant or a season in history that’s relevant to what's going to happen this year. Every game is independent. Every year's a new team. I would say specifically, in terms of starting fast, look, we all talk to our teams about starting fast. It's important you start fast within a game and give yourself the best chance of not playing from behind. It’s important you start fast in the season and get going, but to me, the most important thing throughout the season is improving week by week. You've got to make sure you're a better product at the end of the season than you are at the start. There's a lot of teams that come out of the gate pretty hot, right? A lot of teams kind of come out of training camp, they've mastered their playbook, they're at where they're at and you don't see a lot of improvement with those teams as you go through the year. Look, for us, we're always looking to turn our roster as much as possible to get the best talent in here, the best fits for our team to schematically figure out who we are. To me, September football is really about identifying who you are and putting your players in a position to be competitive and successful through those early games. But you want to make sure that you really hit your stride as you get going. You've going to take this part of the season to really make sure you continue improving on who you are from a fundamental basis, football conditioning, situationally, but you’ve got to kind of find out still who you are. I know the number one question is, you’re coming out of training camp, you've already had a month. But if you look at our roster right now, how many guys are on our roster, practice squad that didn't go through training camp with us. The reality is that's a lot of teams in the league. You've got to come through this part of the season and really make sure you give everyone a chance to get on the field and truly identify what you're going to be as a team. You've got to improve in each phase of the season. Right now, we're in the first quarter of the season. It’s important to start fast. OK, it's more important to finish strong in that fourth quarter and make sure you're a better team as you go down the stretch.
Q: Over the last couple of weeks, the players have said, ‘I'm really excited to get the season underway.’ You as a coach, do you take it the same way or are you looking ahead to Washington or whatever? I mean, is it exciting for you?
A: It's very exciting. Yeah, it's very exciting. Look, I think there's obviously emotion and adrenaline that’s going to be pumping on Sunday. To me, the game’s really about that three hours of execution you have on a Sunday, but it really starts with the prep that you do throughout the week. Look, there's naturally a different feel in the building the second you go from the end of training camp to all of a sudden you've got a game week. Look, every coach and every player, there is a different sense of emotion within the building. Now it builds up, a lot of times guys come in on that Wednesday of the first game, they're kind of ramped up and amped up, ready to roll, and it's like, ‘hey, man, like you can't peak on Wednesday afternoon.’ We’ve got to put the work in and build up. There's going to be mistakes early in the week. We've got to clean him up on Thursday, clean them up on Friday, finalize it, get through Saturday walkthroughs and feel good going into Sunday. But in terms of the emotion, yeah, of course I'm excited. The biggest thing is though, you’ve got to kind of keep it right here, right? You can't ride that emotional roller coaster up and down. You can't go with the highs and the lows. You’ve got to be consistent correcting the mistakes of the players, build on what they do successfully and just keep showing evidence as you go through the year of what's going to help us be a better team. What's going to help us be a more competitive team? And how can I help these players maximize their potential?