Head Coach Joe Judge
Opening Statement: Today we'll pick up on our preparation for Washington. When you talk about this team, defensively it really starts up front. They have a lot of talent on this defensive front. (Washington Defensive Coordinator) Jack (Del Rio) and (Washington Head Coach) Ron (Rivera) do a great job of getting these guys after the passer. You talk about the inside pressure they give, obviously the speed off the edge. Their 'backers are playing very productive right now, playing downhill behind that front, and the secondary is doing a really good job of playing that off-quarters coverage and man coverage and really taking opportunities to jump the ball.
Offensively, I think (Washington Quarterback Taylor) Heinicke has done a really good job of extending plays, improvising on his feet. (Washington Running Back Antonio) Gibson is obviously one of their top targets as a runner, a screen catcher and then also a receiver out of the backfield. Then, you watch obviously (Washington Running Back J.D.) McKissic being gone from the lineup is a change for them, but (Washington Wide Receiver Terry) McLaurin is obviously still an explosive player for them in terms of how he plays.
In the kicking game, it's about the specialists. They've got some big-leg specialists and explosive returners. (Washington Wide Receiver DeAndre) Carter has done a good job this year as a returner, really a one-cut downhill runner. We've got to do a good job protecting against their size, covering against their speed.
It's going to take a good week of preparation right now. Most of the guys are in the building. We have a number of guys that are stuck right now in traffic that have been there for about three hours or so. Really all the guys coming from the city, Hoboken, Weehawken type of areas. We have a number of guys that have been sending us pictures off their phones for about the last three hours or so that they've been stuck. We've had a coach in the same situation, so we're moving on through the day as much as we can and we expect them to be here for the afternoon to catch them up with whatever they missed. That being said, I'll go ahead and open to any questions you have.
Q: Sometimes there's a no excuse thing – if you're late, you're late. But in a situation like this, is it like you couldn't have done anything?
A: With the circumstances these guys are dealing with, the tractor trailer that's crossing off both directions of traffic, from what we understand and from the pictures we're seeing – we've had players that were talking about getting out of their cars and walking. We told them to stay in the vehicle, stay with it, it'll clear on out. We've had coaches that were stuck, as well. The roads were definitely slick today. Definitely with the time we got the messages from the players that they were stuck in traffic would have been well ahead of the attendance time, so this wasn't a deal where we had squad at 7:30 and people were texting at 7:25. This was 6:45 in the morning, everyone saying, 'Look, I've been stuck for about a half hour or so. What do you want me to do?' We just told them, 'Drive safe, stay patient. When they get you out, we'll get you over here.' Some of the guys have tried to stay in through meetings through their speaker phone and things of that nature. We'll get them caught up when they get here.
Q: For the last game of the year, what do you expect from your club in terms of focus, in terms of effort, in terms of execution?
A: The same thing I would expect from the first game, the absolute same thing I'd expect. We tell the guys all the time, 'Come in, be locked in. We're playing for each other as a team.' I expect to see them in the meetings fully prepared. Done a good job this morning of that. Expect to see them in the practices going out there and practicing with intensity, energy and urgency working on fundamentals, making sure we correct any mistakes as we go through the week from the film study and the next day corrections. And I expect to see the effort from the opening kickoff to the final whistle from our team. That's how we play around here.
Q: You made a comment after the game on Sunday about fistfights on the sideline. Is that a reference to what happened with Washington a couple weeks ago?
A: No. I just made a comment toward any outward disfunction – my focus is on getting our team ready right now for Washington. You can make a lot of a lot of comments I've said in the past. Right now, I'm focused on getting the team ready for Washington this weekend.
Q: Have you heard about that from within? Have you talked to ownership or anybody about what you said?
A: I talk to ownership a good bit all the time. In terms of anything I've said, no.
Q: Are there any changes in the COVID situation?
A: (Defensive Lineman) Woodrow Hamilton is one of our practice squad players that's been placed on the list. Other than that, all the players are back in, ramping up and getting ready to go ahead and return. We'll see where they are physically as far as their return. They were in the building yesterday with the trainers as far as moving along that path. They'll continue with the ramp-up today and then get them back on the field as soon as we can.
Q: As far as the players delayed, are any of the quarterbacks in that traffic situation?
A: They are not. The quarterbacks are not involved, but there's a number of defensive players, a lot of those guys live in that area.
Q: What made you decide to cut (Offensive Lineman) Isaiah Wilson?
A: We make roster moves all the time. I don't go into every specific individual move. I appreciate what Isaiah did for us, wish him the best of luck. I think he has an opportunity to be a professional football player and I wish him the best wherever he goes. Obviously, for all the players that play here, any help that you may need down the road, we'd be available for.
Q: Is (Wide Receiver) Kadarius (Toney) on the field this week?
A: Yeah, he's going to be going through the walkthroughs today. We'll see how he progresses. He's dealing with that injury, but we'll see how it kind of progresses throughout the week and see if he has an opportunity to get out there. But we do expect him today and to practice with us.
Q: Just because there's nothing on the other side of this game, will you push him a little further even if he's not quite ready just to get him out there?
A: I make this clear all the time, the medical staff has to tell us somebody is cleared to go on the field to play aggressive and protect themselves. Beyond that, I expect guys to play when they're healthy enough to play, point blank. I only ask one question, 'Is it injury risk or pain management?' That's an assessment the medical team has to make. That's not my decision to make. In terms of me pushing someone to get on the field, that's not my call.
Q: This is the last chance this year for your team to play in front of these fans at home. What do you want the fans to know about this group that you worked with this year?
A: That these guys have gone through a lot of adversity this year. There have been a lot of times that they could have tapped out, but this team has emptied the tank every week in preparation. They emptied the tank for each other and for the fans, to represent them every time they take the field.
Q: Is there anything Kadarius can do in the offseason to prevent the injuries?
A: There are a number of things every player deals with. The nature of the National Football League is it's a long year. For every rookie in this league, it's a much longer year than they've ever had to deal with. There are much different physical demands because of the week-in and week-out demands you have without the gaps. This isn't college where you may play The Little Sisand they don't play guys in the second half. Then, all of a sudden you get a bye week, then you play the rivalry game on Thanksgiving weekend, then you get a six-week break for the bowl game, then Winter break, you come back and it's Spring. The breaks aren't as chopped up for the guys in this league, so just the constant managing their bodies, learning how to manage their bodies through the length of the season. That's something all these guys have to learn throughout the year. We've seen a number of our guys do a really good job, but none of them are where they're going to be further down the road as a pro because they've just got to learn their bodies more and more. The best thing for them to do is take the instruction and direction of the people in this building that are going to help them on the training staff, our strength staff, our sports performance staff, the older players who are leaders on this team who set the example in terms of how they take care of their bodies. The best thing you can really do is learn from those people and then push forward to stay healthy and on the field. In terms of Kadarius, he's had a number of injuries. I wouldn't say there's been anything that's been – they've all been legit injuries. There's nothing that he's stayed off the field for for an extended amount of time that he couldn't play through. You saw this guy return from an ankle injury after Dallas, played through until he couldn't. The Rams game, got hurt. Had an issue in the Tampa game, where he had the pulled muscle with the oblique. He worked to get back on the field and when he was able to come back, he came back and ended up having another injury. These are all things that just happen. I think the biggest thing for any player to do is just train their body in the offseason as much as they can to build that base of muscle and build that recovery for your body. The more you train, the easier your body recovers, but there are bumps and bruises and you have to learn to just manage your body throughout the season. That's for any rookie.
Q: For (Running Back) Saquon (Barkley), how much do you believe in the second year off the ACL where guys are significantly better or how it takes kind of one year to really get back?
A: I think it's dangerous to go ahead and group anybody under one category with any injury. Everybody's different, every body is different, every injury is different. I can tell you from experience being a much lesser athlete than Saquon of having a very similar injury to my knee that there is a length of time that it takes to get back to a certain feel and movement. I can't speak directly for Saquon, so I can't tell you exactly how his body feels. I know this guy has worked through a lot of things. He has dealt with different injuries throughout the year. He's played hard through a lot of things. I've seen a lot of toughness and grit from him this year. In terms of what next year brings, we'll have to see when it comes, but I know he's going to work, train and put himself in the position to have the best year possible.
Q: Do you think for him it's just a matter of getting healthy? We haven't seen Saquon at what he was in 2018. Is it just a matter of 'We just need to get him healthy and 100 percent'?
A: That's probably a better question to ask Saquon directly. What I can speak on is what I've seen from him in terms of how he's worked on and off the field to do everything for the team. Of that, we're very pleased.
Q: How beneficial for him can an offseason without rehab, without going through that extended ACL rehab be?
A: For any player coming off of an injury, the following season of having an offseason without that rehab process is very beneficial. It's just that's naturally what it is where you can go out there and train your body. You're on a different schedule in terms of what you can do. The rehab and recovery is a very exhausting, strenuous process. It really is. It's not that you just come in, lay up all day, get ice on your knee or whatever it may be and then all of a sudden you get out there back on the field. You've got to work extremely hard on everything, but the process of coming back from something like that takes a lot of physical and mental toughness to push through it. People don't realize that when you go through injuries like a lot of these guys deal with that ends their season, that the season is over as far as the fans seeing them, but the process for them getting back on the field is really just beginning when you get hurt and it never really stops. Once you have an injury like that, the rest of your career you're always doing something preventive for it. Any time a guy has a soft tissue injury, we talk to them about always treat it like your hamstring or calf or whatever it is is always hurt. You've got to treat that on the front end to make sure it doesn't become an issue. When a guy's coming off something that requires some kind of reconstructive surgery, they've got to always make sure they take time and they take the right process to support everything around that injury to keep everything else stronger. The work that goes in only gets volume up and amplified as you go through your career. When you come off that second year as far as just the offseason and the approach, it's a whole lot different than that previous year with the rehab.
Q: Last year you went into the last game with a chance to make the playoffs and you knew you had to win, and other things had to happen. In New England, you always went into the last week going into the playoffs. How difficult is this for you and for a team that knows this is the end, knows you're going to be going home and you've never done it before?
A: We always talk about playing every game, regardless of the situation or circumstance, playing every play, every series, every game the same way. This is no different. I'm not going to be hypocritical in front of the team. I talk about playing every situation the same way with the same intensity, urgency and effort and then turn around at the end and say, 'Well, this is just different.' We're only given 17 games a year, that's all you're given. You get 17 opportunities to go out there. You have to make the most of every opportunity. That's what I expect of the team, that's what I expect of the coaches.
Q: Is it human nature — is it easier said than done? Do you have to work harder? With these guys, do you have to kind of make sure they're invested knowing that they're packing up after this game?
A: That's all the work you do throughout Spring, training camp and the first part of the season. That doesn't come into Week 18, where now you're trying to go ahead and convince guys to go. You've got to build a team a certain way. I talked very openly the other day about that. When you build the base the right way in the front end, you're not concerned about, 'Are guys going to show up to work this week?'
Q: You're a coach who believes in practicing in the elements and obviously this morning you're inside. Can you just take us through the process of what you decided?
A: Real simple, frozen fields. It's the only thing we're staying off right now with the pace of practice going on today. The fields are frozen in the middle, so we'll do the first walkthrough today inside and let the fields defrost. Hopefully, we'll be back outside today. There's a forecast for possible rain this weekend, so any opportunity we get to get outside and use the wet balls, we're going to look to go ahead and use. We hear there may be snow on Friday, so we'll see if we can have some fun in that, as well.