Head Coach Joe Judge
Opening Statement: Returning off the bye, today's focus will continue to remain on us. Today will be a lighter day in terms of getting out there and getting the guys' bodies moving. Lot of fundamentals, couple different things we'll work as a team in terms of leading into some schematics going through the backend stretch of the season, we'll kind of introduce today. Other than that, biggest thing right now is getting the guys back and moving, back out of vacation mode and back into football. With that being said, I'll open to any questions you guys have.
Q: Is everybody back?
A: Is everybody back? Everybody's back in the building, if that's what you're asking. Yes.
Q: What would you say the optimism level is on (Running Back) Saquon (Barkley) playing this week and (Tackle) Andrew Thomas?
A: Andrew will move around a little bit with the trainers today. We'll kind of see him over the next couple of days in terms of progress he's making. It's been moving in the right direction. In terms of Saquon, he'll be out here today doing some stuff with us and we'll see how that kind of builds in throughout the rest of the week. He lost a lot last week not having the availability with the COVID stuff. That set him back a little bit – I wouldn't say set him back physically, but in terms of his timetable and not having him ready for that game. But, optimistic we'll have him out there today and see how he moves.
Q: We saw (Vice President of Football Operations/Assistant General Manager) Kevin Abrams at the Pitt-UNC game. I know you guys have faith in (Quarterback) Daniel (Jones), but is it fair to say you guys are doing due diligence on all the quarterbacks in this upcoming draft?
A: There's a lot more than just quarterbacks that were in that game. We look at a lot of players. That was one of the more notable games last week during the bye week for our guys to get out and watch different players. In terms of our responsibility, it's our job to know everyone who's available on the street, through these transactions and the draft next year, through free agency. That's our job, to know what's going on out there, but I wouldn't read too much into that.
Q: We talk about self-scouting, how much can you change during a bye week about what you guys do?
A: I don't think you try to radically change what you're doing. I think there are some things schematically maybe you've looked to do throughout the course of the year. It gives you a couple extra flex days to really introduce it from a teaching mode and get it practiced with the right pace leading into a game. A lot of it is just reaffirmation of fundamentals and getting back out there and working back on some things you did in training camp. Sometimes, it's for a guy who joins your team early in the season or midway through the year that you've got to go back to the beginning for that person and kind of bring them up to speed so that everybody's working on the same page.
Q: You've mentioned about Saquon several times when he was rehabbing the knee what a good leader he was, how good an attitude he had. Have you seen anything different? Because he was coming back from the knee, he played well in New Orleans and now this next injury seemed to really hit pretty hard – hit everybody pretty hard, which is somewhat expected. What have you seen from him with this second injury?
A: First of all, I would say the two injuries are completely unrelated and (the second was) definitely more of a freak accident. This isn't something from a guy who's injury-prone or something of that nature. It's a freak accident – a guy steps on somebody else's foot. It's nothing related to another injury that keeps lingering. He did a tremendous job rehabbing the knee coming off of last year. That was a big injury. He did a great job, did a great job off the field for us. He's continued to be a leader for us through this process. I'm not going to speak for any player in terms of their mood or whatever, but you know for any player who's competitive to get out there, it can be tough as you make a lot of strides to get back and then feel that you're uninvolved for a little while. For us, it's been keeping him involved mentally, physically trying to get him back out there on the field. We're pleased today we'll have him out there for a little bit with us, get moving around, but the emphasis is to keep him involved with us as a team because he's an impact player for us on and off the field. He's done a great job as far as leadership, staying active as a captain on the team and active in the captains' meetings. He has a lot of great insight into what's going on in the locker room for me, a lot of pertinent feedback that I need, so he's done a great job as far as that's concerned.
Q: A lot of people in the NFL will tell you that fullback is a dying position, that there's not really a need for fullbacks anymore. You carried two all year and last week actually had a play where they were both on the field at the same time. Why is that?
A: I think it's all based on how you use them. I'd say (Fullback) Cullen's (Gillaspia) primary job for us is special teams. He's an impact player for us in the kicking game. He plays fullback as well, gives us some depth in the backfield for fullback and running back if we need him in an emergency situation. (Fullback Eli) Penny has kind of become a little bit of a hybrid. He can play fullback, he can play the true running back position, he's done both for us this year. He does a good job for us in the kicking game, so in terms of having that player and all the hats that one guy can wear within a game, that's critical. In terms of the fullback being a dying position, you look at some of the top running teams in the league, they all have fullbacks, so there's a common theme in a lot of these teams you want to trace on through. There's different reasons for each one, there's different types of fullbacks in this league. When you look at the fullbacks, the common theme is that, one, there's obviously an element of blocking and, two, they all contribute in the kicking game. Fullbacks don't normally play 65-70 plays in a game, so what are you doing when you're not involved for those – you know, some teams, Baltimore, will play a significant number of snaps. Other teams, New England, their fullback may play 15-20 snaps a game. What are they doing in those other snaps to go ahead and give contributions?
Q: On Daniel – just because you're playing Tampa Bay this week – last year when you played Tampa Bay, he had two really bad turnovers in the second half and if you look stats-wise, that's been kind of a line of demarcation for him. He became much better at taking care of the ball after that game. Is there anything to that or is that coincidence? Was there a breakthrough that next week that he got it all of a sudden?
A: I think Daniel has done a good job just progressing in his career throughout the course of time. Obviously, you've got to learn from mistakes and as he's made mistakes or had plays he wants to have back, you can't go back in a time machine, so you've just got to go ahead and carry it forward and make sure that you don't repeat those mistakes. He's done a good job of that for us. I think when you look at last year, that was obviously a line that you can say before this game or after this game there were distinctively different results. Whether there was something that happened distinctly in that game – obviously, we make the emphasis every week of what we have to do and correct. He's improved as a player every game we've had him and that was a significant part last year for him in terms of progressing in his career.
Q: From the outside looking in, it still seems plausible that you can make a run at a postseason berth. Is that something that you talk to your players about just so they are aware of the possibility still out there this season despite the record? When you look at the schedule, it does look plausible or do you not bring up that subject?
A: No, our job right now is preparing for Tampa. All those other games are hypotheticals. To go ahead and start looking beyond things that don't exist – we're going to have our hands full today getting better as a team and then leading into Tampa. They're one of the best teams in the league for a reason. They have arguably the greatest player to ever play the game down there running the huddle, so we've got a lot of things to prepare for. Talking about hypotheticals, we've got enough real things coming at us in a week's time.
Q: Any COVID concerns coming off the bye week?
A: No, we're going to ramp (Running Back) Gary (Brightwell) back up. He's out here with us today. Part of his ramp up will be going through individuals and stuff with us in practice, so he'll be involved. (Running Backs Coach) Burton (Burns) has returned, he's back healthy. Everyone's had to test, take multiple tests before getting in the building today and that includes every coach, every player, every staff member. He was out of the building, so right now everyone's all clear.
Q: What did you do during the bye week to relax, watch football?
A: Yeah, for the most part. Different age groups, though. I got to watch some of the league games yesterday. I have two sons that were involved in playoff games of their own, one high school, one in little league. My daughter's a cheerleader. When I get a chance to relax, really family time is my chance to relax, so I was able to catch up on a lot of that this week. That's a valuable gift this time of year. Obviously, you lead into different things this time of year, you have Thanksgiving coming up around the bend, leads into Christmas, some other holiday breaks you get. There's little things you get – half days here, half days there, a day off here, a day off there. For the holidays, you've got to make sure you take time to soak it up and we've got to hit the players with understanding what's important. You've got to prioritize and obviously right now, football is very significant in all of our lives. It's our job, it's our career path, but also when the families come around, you've got to make sure you take time to carve that time out.
Q: You just described (Buccaneers Quarterback Tom) Brady as maybe the greatest player ever. Is that a challenge as a coach that you embrace and is it fun to you to try to defend maybe the greatest player of all time?
A: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. You get the opportunity to go against a player like Tom, who is obviously one of the greatest of all time, if not the greatest, it makes you do everything you can to prepare and make sure you're giving your guys absolutely the best information possible, the best plan possible. Then, understanding that throughout the game, there's going to have to be a number of adjustments because this guy has seen it all. You're not going to go ahead and throw one thing at this guy and think that's going to work for 60 minutes. As a coach, you've got to look and think ahead and play ahead. That all sounds great, (but) you've got to get in the flow of the game, actually get out there and do it and execute it. In terms of playing against a guy like Tom, a coach like (Buccaneers Head Coach) Bruce (Arians), these guys are phenomenal, some of the best to do it ever for a reason.
Q: Washington beat them yesterday. That obviously hurts you in the standings. Would you have rather had Tom go into this game a little content rather than angry and looking to redeem himself?
A: I don't know if that exists. This guy is always working to be the best out there. I would expect to see their best football of the year this (week), I really would. I'll expect to see Tom play his best football, I'll expect them to play their best defense as a team, best offense, best coaching job they've had. It's a very, very talented roster. They won the championship last year for a reason. Very, very rare to return all of your players the way they did. That's something you just don't see a lot in any kind of professional sports, let alone in the National Football League. It's a great opportunity for them to go against a team like this and compete. I would expect to see their absolute best this week.