Head Coach Joe Judge
Opening Statement: We'll continue with basically a normal Wednesday for us. We'll keep the majority of this week as structured as we can the way a normal week would be if we were back in Jersey practicing. Get the guys out here this morning, get their bodies moving, kind of wake them up a little bit, have some exchange periods. We'll make sure we get some prep on the Chargers. Come back in the afternoon, we'll have an extensive walkthrough with the players, make sure we get a good jump on what we're going to do and come out here tomorrow and Friday and really hit the ground running in practice.
Before we start in terms of our prep, I'd like to thank the University of Arizona, the coaching staff and the athletic department. They've done a great job hosting us. They couldn't be more hospitable. The facilities are great, the people are friendly, the food is really good, so no complaints. Players are being well taken care of, so the entire facility basically has been made like it's ours. You couldn't ask for more right there, so it's been a great setup in terms of staying out here and being able to work. It's been great for the team as far as being together, get some time away, but right now we've got to focus back in and get to work. We've got a really good opponent coming up.
Specifically speaking about the Chargers, obviously this is a very explosive team. It's a team with some explosive weapons on offense. They've got a very, very talented young quarterback who can make a lot of plays, extend plays. Very accurate passer. He really fuels the entire offense. We talk about how (Chargers Offensive Coordinator Joe) Lombardi is really structuring the offense. There are similarities to that New Orleans background he has in terms of how he's using a lot of the players. You talk about (Chargers Running Back Austin) Ekeler – there are similarities to either the (Darren) Sproles, (Saints Running Back Mark) Ingram or (Saints Running Back Alvin) Kamara type comparison, but he's really doing a good job getting this guy in space, getting him on linebackers, creating catch-and-run opportunities. He's one of the most dependable players in the league right now in terms of consistently producing yards and moving the sticks. You talk about (Chargers Wide Receiver) Mike Williams and (Chargers Wide Receiver) Keenan Allen in terms of being downfield threats. Every time you think they're covered, between the accuracy of the quarterback and the ability to make contested catches, these guys come up with big play after big play. Definitely something our defense is going to have to do a good job in terms of being a balanced team – stop the run, stop the pass, situational football will be huge for us. This team does a great job extending drives, staying on the field. They stay ahead of the sticks on early downs, leading to a lot of third down conversions. They're not afraid to go for it on fourth down, which makes a lot of situational football come up and the awareness of how we have to play to get off the field when we have the opportunities.
Talking about their defense, obviously (Chargers Head Coach) Brandon's (Staley) background is being a defensive guy. There's a lot of similarities to some of the defenses we've seen this year. You talk about his background with (Broncos Head Coach Vic) Fangio in Denver, the similarities of what the Rams are doing, but it's really his defense. It's his stamp, he's using his players to their strengths, he's got a lot of really, really talented players who can get after you in the pass rush, he's got very talented defensive backs on the backend, they're very disruptive. You talk about this team to our team, it's really all about turnovers to start. The pressure they put on your quarterback, the pressure they put on your receivers down the field, the forced fumbles creating extra opportunities for their offense, they've really taken advantage of that as a team. It's something that they have a lot of success off of. We're going to have to do a good job protecting up front, give time for the quarterback, open the running lanes for our backs, get them going in space. Then, we've got to take advantage of our opportunities to make the plays that are in front of us and extend drives and stay on the field.
In terms of (Chargers Special Teams Coordinator) Derius Swinton (II) and the kicking game, Derius is a guy I'm familiar with. I've seen him several times before in the past. Saw him last year when he was an assistant for Arizona. They've got an explosive returner back there in (Chargers Wide Receiver) Andre Roberts. This guy has been one of the top guys in the league now for about a decade. From going against him personally, you know what kind of a strong runner this guy is, how opportunistic he is to get vertical and make you tackle him. He'll look to stretch the field. Wherever you give him lanes, he's going to stick his foot in the ground and take it. They can really put pressure on your protection in terms of rushes, whether it's a field goal block or the punt rush. They do a great job in the return game of getting started. They've got good specialists. They had some transitions with specialists this year. Those guys are executing at a high level right now, so on all three phases we have to play good complementary football. We need a really good week of prep to get out here and be able to play together as a team to give ourselves a chance. That being said, I'll open up to any questions you have.
Q: Welcome to Tucson. What's the story about how you came here?
A: Really simple, we look at the schedule and see that we've got an extended trip going all the way down to Miami and all the way out to the West Coast. When you talk about prep of your team, the first thing you always think about is the physical prep. There's a lot of just lag time and wear and tear goes on our bodies throughout the year, but especially when you start piling on those long flights. So, to fly all the way down to Miami, fly all the way back to Jersey, fly all the way out to the West Coast, that's something that over the course of a week there's extra put on their bodies that you want to go ahead and eliminate as best as you can. We thought it was best for our team physically to go ahead and keep them in the heat going from Miami, coming out here to Arizona before going to L.A. That's a stadium that from playing in it last year, we found out it's a warm stadium, kind of a greenhouse effect. That glass ceiling really locks that heat coming in right there, so we want to stay in a warmer climate, keep our guys out here and it was an opportunity to cut some miles off it in terms of jet lag.
Q: But you could've gone to Houston or Phoenix or someplace like that. It's great that you're here, but why Tucson?
A: There's a lot of reasons it worked out. I'd say ultimately it was the best fit altogether. In terms of the area, the opportunity to get the players away, being in a great town – there's something about a college town in terms of just the atmosphere and just kind of a lighter feeling. It's good sometimes to get the guys a break, get them back in that atmosphere, get them around some college athletes. The inter-mixing of the players sometimes in these situations is really invaluable. You see the college guys lifting in the weight room or being in the training room, our guys having the opportunity to talk to these guys and just kind of refresh themselves a little bit, so it's an opportunity. For us in terms of team building, anytime you get a team just kind of away together, that's an opportunity you want to go ahead and take. You have training camp, you go through the rigors of the season. Getting an opportunity at this point – you're about two-thirds of the way through – it's a great opportunity to just get your team away together and prep. The physical expectations and then also location-wise, this place had the university, it had the facilities, had a coaching staff we have some familiarity with. Obviously, they were very hospitable to us. A lot of places don't entertain this. They couldn't have been more welcoming. We're actually in there right now. They're getting ready for a big recruiting weekend they have this week. We're doing a good job of really working together on sharing copy machines and snack rooms and coffee machines, things of that nature, but it's been really good. There are guys in the office who have played for the Giants, who have worked in the league before. There's a lot of familiarity in this business, so it's a small world when you get together, but it's been really good so far working here.
Q: Has (Quarterback) Daniel (Jones) been going through any more further tests and is there any update on his status?
A: He has. In terms of the updates right now, he still hasn't been cleared for contact. He'll continue to go through practice like he did last week. He'll throw with the team. He'll move. He's in all of the meetings. We'll see if anything changes in terms of his status, but he has not been cleared for contact.
Q: Anything besides the neck strain at this point?
A: The diagnosis is really on the medical team right there, but he's dealing with a neck right now and we'll see where that goes.
Q: So, he's had, obviously, evaluations right after and now he's had more, so are you thinking something can change or is that you have no timeline still?
A: There's not an immediate timeline. This could change quickly, it could change over time. Talking to the doctors and the medical team, there are some things that they're just waiting on in terms of just making sure that he's cleared for contact. When it comes to necks, backs, things of that nature, we're not going to take any risks with our players.
Q: Can you rule out season-ending yet?
A: There's nothing at this point that we've been told that would indicate this would be season-ending.
Q: How optimistic are you that he'll return possibly next week?
A: I'm optimistic with how they are every week, so knowing that he's out here working with us, that's a good sign. If he wasn't on the field, if he wasn't cleared to go out there and throw and do the physical activities and moving – right now, it's more about the contact. So, once the doctors give us that green light, then, obviously, we'll push forward.
Q: How is he handling this?
A: Again, not to speak directly for Daniel, I know that he's a guy that always wants to be out here. He's trying to be as patient as can be and he's definitely a team-first guy, so he's good for the other quarterbacks in the room in terms of helping them with their prep. At the same time, he's preparing like he's going to play, as well. I'm not saying it's easy for him. I think Daniel does a very good job of kind of staying very level and keeping very collected. When he has something to say, he can walk into my office and vent to me at any point and we can talk it on through. In terms of being around the other players and the team, he keeps it very even keel.
Q: Are there long-term concerns associated with this potentially?
A: I think that's about really the caution right now going into it, so we don't create a long-term concern.
Q: Where do you guys stand quarterback-wise going out today? Will (Quarterback) Jake (Fromm) be getting most of the first team reps?
A: Jake will get the majority of the reps today. (Quarterback) Mike's (Glennon) still in the protocol. He's moving along at that pace. We're optimistic he's going to be fully cleared and getting ready to play. Mike will be with the trainers for the most part of the morning and in walkthrough. He'll do some things with us in the afternoon. He'll be back out here and active through the walkthrough. Tomorrow will be a non-contact practice, which to be honest, for all of our quarterbacks really every practice on Thursday is non-contact. Friday will be a practice that he could be cleared full for and, again, the contact portion for a quarterback on Friday is lighter. We'll put him through some designed drills to make sure he's safe to go out there on Sunday, just as we did with Daniel earlier in the year coming off the Dallas game. In terms of the involvement of the quarterbacks, we're preparing all the guys involved, especially Mike, to come off the protocol. Jake's going to take the majority of reps today, (Quarterback Brian) Lewerke and then (Quarterback Clayton) Thorson's rejoining us, as well. He's actually working right now just with the COVID issue, which we've had no new tests. There have been no new positives, but Thorson's actually working remotely for the meetings and then he'll be in-person with us during practice.
Q: Do you expect Mike to start then on Sunday?
A: Assuming everything clears the protocol, I would. We have nothing at this point that would say he wouldn't clear, so we'll wait and see where that goes. But we're going to prepare Jake as if he's the starter today.
Q: Just to be clear, you want Mike to start? He's experienced. You're not interested in, 'I want to see Jake' or anything like that. If Mike's healthy and cleared, he's your starting quarterback?
A: At this moment, if Mike was healthy and cleared, we would expect Mike to start. In terms of Jake, again, this is a really good opportunity this week to see him practice and prepare and get a further look at him.
Q: What's your evaluation of (Running Back) Gary Brightwell? He's somebody who went to the University of Arizona, a running back here and he was on a tough team last year, but made the Giants and is playing on special teams and backing up (Running Back) Saquon (Barkley). How's he doing so far?
A: He's doing a really good job for us. Gary's a guy that when we drafted him, the idea with Gary is bring him in, he's a guy who can be an impact special teams core player in this league for a long time, develop as a running back. Can he give you backup depth? Can he eventually be a starter? He'll grow in that role and kind of find that for himself, but all the while, while he's developing as a running back, he's a guy that should be an impact player in the kicking game. You need these players on your roster and to fill out the roster, you ideally want to carry three to four running backs and that third or fourth running back has to be an impact in the kicking game. Your first and second have to have roles within situations, but for that third and fourth guy to be on the roster and to be at the game, they've got to make plays for you in coverage and in the return game. He's a guy that's coming in as a young player, he's made a lot of plays for us so far. He's really demonstrated that what we thought he could be, he will be. He's far from where he's going to be as he keeps on developing as a player. He's a hard worker, he's a tough kid. He comes to work every day with a good attitude. I know he's excited to be back here. When we told them we were going to the University of Arizona, you could see the smile in the meeting room with him, but he's done a good job. He's done a real good job for us and we're happy we have him.
Q: I want to follow up on that, have you been getting any restaurant recommendations from him or anything like that?
A: Not to me, but I'm sure that's because he didn't want to see me in public (laughs).
Q: Where was Daniel evaluated further on Monday? Here?
A: He actually went to L.A. with (Senior Vice President of Medical Services/Head Athletic Trainer) Ronnie Barnes and saw a doctor (Dr. Robert Watkins) up there. So, we're on the west coast, there's some doctors that are familiar with things with necks and that's where they went. So, it's a doctor that they've been in contact with from the beginning. The world's a lot smaller now with technology, so even though we're in New York, when an injury happens you have doctors in New York, you have doctors in sometimes Carolina, sometimes Birmingham, Alabama, sometimes L.A. that weigh in on second opinions. Being on the West Coast, they took the opportunity to go out there and talk to a specialist and get a second opinion.
Q: So, will he revisit that same doctor since you guys are now going to L.A.?
A: I don't have an answer on that at this moment. I wouldn't rule that out, but I can't tell you something's definitely planned.
Q: Is he out for this week then? If things didn't go the way they needed to on Monday, are you going to keep evaluating him this week?
A: I wouldn't say anything didn't go the way it needed to go on Monday. It was more or less checking for an opinion to see where he's going to be. I'll talk to Ronnie and the medical team today after practice to see where it progresses to.
Q: Any further updates on (Wide Receiver) Kadarius (Toney) or (Wide Receiver) Sterling (Shepard) or (Cornerback) Adoree' (Jackson)?
A: All three will be out here today kind of in mixed capacities. All three at some point will be with the trainers, at some capacity will be with us. It's a little bit of a lighter day in the afternoon. Today we'll get the guy's bodies moving throughout practice. Shep had a really good workout for us on Sunday. We'll see if that turns a corner, if he can get to the game this week. If he can, obviously we would like to have him. Same with KT, same with Adoree'. I know all three of those guys have pushed to get back out there as fast as possible. We'll see how they do today in practice. I wouldn't say today's practice is going to rule in or out anybody, but we're going to see how they start moving with the team tomorrow. In terms of (Wide Receiver) Kenny (Golladay), we expect Kenny to be out here. Again, he'll be in that mix of somewhat with the trainers, somewhat with us. Some of these guys are going to be more involved with the walkthrough portion than they will with the full-speed portion. We expect Kenny to go through practice this week and push through this game.
Q: Another local kid, (Linebacker) Blake Martinez. What has he meant to the organization and what is the loss of him to the organization?
A: I think Blake's made an impact on and off the field just through how he works, prepares and performs. He's definitely a leader, he's been voted captain now multiple times by his teammates. Blake's a guy that's very intelligent, he sees the big picture, he's a guy that's been on numerous teams at different spots, he's been able to step back and talk to a lot of guys in our program in terms of the process of doing things. He's been a guy who is not an old guy, but he's an older guy for a lot of guys on our roster who has been able to go ahead and share his experiences and what we have to do to be successful. When you lose a guy like Blake, there are a lot of guys that have to step up and take on those roles. One thing that he's done a great job for us is the entire time he's been away from the team in terms of being active with the injury, he's stayed involved off the field through the prep, the communication and kind of stand a little bit in the back, but at the same time giving these guys the platform to be the leaders, be the signal-callers. But then also meet with these guys separately and behind doors to kind of give them some information and close the gap for them. I'd say the coaches have done a great job with (Linebacker) Tae Crowder, really bringing him along. He's a young player developing for us. Blake's done a really great job with him, as well. Tae's a guy that Blake's very close with off the field, but he's really helped him take on a lot of roles on the field that's helped push our defense productively forward.
Q: With Saquon, he's not a smaller guy. There was a play the other day where he ran out of bounds without trying to get the extra yards and went down on another play and did that spin in the middle of the field. How much of that maybe makes you want to have a conversation with him? You're an offense that you're fighting for every yard and your running back isn't necessarily putting his head down to try and get those extra yards at times.
A: I'm not going to question this guy's toughness or competitiveness. I'm going to put that out there right now. In terms of having Saquon on the field, he's going to be on the field for us. He's got to be an impact player for us. We're going to keep finding ways to get him the ball – handoffs, tosses, screens, passes, whatever it takes. We're going to find ways to put the ball in his hands and let him make plays. He's a tough dude, he's a competitive dude, he's a leader on this team. A great guy for our organization. I love having him out here, so, no, I'm not going to question this guy's toughness at all.
Q: Would you like him to put his head down in those spots at times to get those extra yards?
A: Every play is a different situation, every play is a different situation. I'm not going to let one play here or there where it may look like or magnified the broad scope picture of somebody. I see this guy competing every day, coming out and practicing hard, dealing with a lot of things that the public doesn't always see or know about. I'm pleased with the way this guy puts the team first for us.
Q: The natural thing is that – is he worried about the injury he had? He just had this run of injuries. Is that something you've talked to him about or feel the need to talk to him about?
A: I think that's a question he has to answer. I don't see him working that way, I don't see him playing that way. When there's time for certain players coming out of the game with bumps or bruises, we may kind of pull back on them naturally, but that's not something that I've ever seen, Saquon pull himself back. I've never seen him tap out of something or look for an excuse or an avenue to get out of work. In terms of the approach, I see the guy coming to work every day and pushing forward and that's what we ask of our players.