Giants' Training Camp Team Quotes 9.2.20
COURTESY OF NEW YORK GIANTS MEDIA RELATIONS DEPARTMENT
General Manager Dave Gettleman
Opening Statement: I'd like to first say I hope everybody is feeling well, everybody's family is safe and healthy, and just that you're working your way through this pandemic and all the other stuff. I just want to give a quick rundown on how we got here. There are a lot of people behind the scenes that have done a lot of amazing stuff in the Giants organization to get us to this point. We came back from (the Combine in) Indianapolis and our Senior Vice President of Medical Services Ronnie Barnes came to me three times that first week and the third time he looked at me and said, 'Dave, this is going to be really bad. This is going to be really bad.' So, I walked down to my office, went to my Director of College Scouting Chris Pettit, told him to get together with the Director of Football Data and Innovation Ty Siam, and I said, 'Get with him. This draft is going to happen remotely. That's what we have to plan for, and I don't want to do anything different. I don't want us to prepare any different.' After that conversation, I went down to Joe's (Judge) office with Ronnie in tow, of course, and told Joe, 'You're not going to see your players until August, so get with Ty, get with your coaching staff,' and everybody went to work. Justin Warren is in charge of our IT Department, he did a great job. That allowed us all to continue to do our jobs. Obviously, in different settings, different pace and in a different way, but it still allowed us to do our jobs. Then in the spring, we decided to go to the stadium. The protocols were coming down, the rules were coming in as to what we could and could not do. I really thought it was critical that Joe and his staff, as a new staff, had the ability to look at players in the eye all day long. We went over to the stadium, took a look, and Victor McLoughlin, our Director of Buildings, just did a fantastic job planning everything out. Basically, we're able, we're breaking camp tomorrow, but we're able to have as normal of a training camp as you could have. Team meetings, unit meetings, people face to face. The one thing that the Zoom and all that working remotely taught me is what you lose is not being able to have those drive-by conversations and how much more difficult the communication piece is. Well now, us being in the stadium allows me and Joe and Kevin Abrams and Tim McDonnell and Ronnie Barnes and anybody else to have those drive-bys that really improve the workflow and accelerate the pace in which you're able to work. We've had a lot of people that have done a great job. K.C. Jones, the great basketball player and coach for the Celtics, used to say, 'You give him lemons, he makes lemonade.' That's what we've done. It's been a great organizational effort. Other people behind the scenes, Bill Heller and Christine Procops have been huge for us. Again, ownership. Ownership giving us the ability to do these things, to operate this way in as close to a normal setting as possible, has really put us in a good position. If anybody's still awake, I'm ready to take questions.
Q: You had two players arrested this offseason, including DeAndre Baker, obviously, facing serious charges. I'm just curious, based on your emphasis on culture and character, what is your reaction to those arrests? A: Obviously, it's disappointing. There was nothing in Aldrick's (Rosas) background, nothing in DeAndre's background that would suggest these things would happen. It's disappointing. It's disappointing on a variety of levels. It hurts us because they're two talented players as well. It's disappointing, and I guess what it teaches us all is nothing is 100 percent except death and taxes. Like I said, it's disappointing. I'd be a liar if I said anything less. Aldrick was a Pro Bowl kicker two years ago, DeAndre was a first-round pick, I know all that. It's disappointing, but it's life.
Q: This is so unprecedented for everybody, even someone like you who's been through so much. Do you think there will be a competitive disadvantage at all, you guys not having fans, some teams having fans? As a corollary to that, with the young team that you have, do you think this is going to be a big disadvantage going through this? Or maybe with a young coach and a young team, in some way it can be an advantage? A: Joe and the guys are doing such a great job of building the team concept. I know that they're going to have to bring their own energy. For us, we're not going to have fans initially. When we go to Dallas, they are going to have fans. You can't look at it as 'oh, woe is me.' I think you have to figure out a way to turn it into an advantage. Us not having that, it is what it is. When you get up in the morning and you want to play golf but it's raining, you don't play golf. I think more than anything else, it's certainly a challenge. But I think it's one that Joe and the staff and the players are up for.
Q: Obviously, you go into this weekend having a lot of decisions that have been evaluated in such a short window. How do you balance the idea of projecting a lot of the young players that you have on the roster versus being able to put tougher a team that Joe and his staff can come right out of the gates and compete in Week One? A: We're a young, developing team. That's all there is to it. With the way Joe has run practice, you guys have seen it, he has what he calls his two-spot, when he has the team work on both fields. These guys have gotten a ton of reps. As we finish up, there is plenty of film available to legitimately evaluate all of these guys. Everybody is in the same boat, to a certain degree, with their young players. We feel good about the work these kids have put in, and I think we're going to be fine. It's a challenge, there's no doubt about it. The one thing that happened is… Joe and the guys did a great job with OTAs. Believe it or not, building a team looking at 90 faces on a screen. They really did. We were really pleased with the condition that these players came here in. They were really in good shape, which enabled them and I tell young kids all the time, the best favor they could do themselves when they go to training camp is be in great shape because that will allow them to learn in meetings and study at night, rather than going to sleep. These kids did that. We got a lot of quality work. Joe and the guys put them through the paces, got a lot of quality snaps, and I think when we sit down on Friday after the scrimmage, we're going to be able to really look at each other, and the one thing we talked about consistently is at the 53, I said, 'we have to make informed decisions.' You can't do guess work on this part. That was a big emphasis. We want to make informed decisions, and I truly believe we'll be able to.
Q: Just a quick follow up. You mentioned Joe's practices. You've been at a lot of training camp practices through your career. I'm just curious, what's your impression of a Joe Judge training camp practice? What have you seen? What have you liked? A: What you see is everybody's working. It's funny, a little-known secret, a million years ago in my first Giants life, we had a little scouting exchange with the Patriots. I went to Patriots camp for three days and Scott Pioli came up to our camp in Albany and stayed for three days. So, I got a little bit of an inside view to what a Patriots practice looked like. That's what we've had here. You guys have seen it. When special teams is working, if it's a return or a cover, something the big guys aren't involved with, you see they're busy. They're over doing things. There are times they will be in individuals and Joe will have a couple of players working with the special teams as gunners or as vices, whatever. People are busy. People are busy. No one's standing around hanging out. The other thing that you see is the attention to detail. Attention to detail. There are some drills where you see five coaches standing there, they're all coaching something. They're coaching a point, and that attention to detail is huge.
Q: I want to follow up on an earlier question. You said there was not anything in DeAndre or Aldrick's background that suggested this might happen. But Aldrick had an arrest in college, and DeAndre, there were rumors before the draft about his commitment. I'm just curious, when something like this does happen, do you go back and evaluate the scouting process with your personnel department and say, 'what did we miss here?' And will you keep DeAndre on the team? His court date isn't until January, will you keep him on the team until that's resolved? A: You always debrief. You're always going to go back. If there was something in Aldrick's background from college, frankly, I didn't know because I wasn't here. Did we thoroughly investigate DeAndre's background? Absolutely. There's nothing there that we didn't know. There's nothing there that we didn't know. But of course, you always go back. It's no different than a coach going back, or anybody, after something doesn't go right, you're going to debrief. You're going to write an article, you're going to look at it and say, 'Eh, I really don't like that.' So, you're going to go write it again. It's the same thing. We did that. Of course, we debriefed because you always want to get better.
Q: The second part of that, do you plan to keep DeAndre on until the legal issue is resolved? A: We're still in conversations on that.
Q: At a macro level, when you first came in as GM, what was your plan for the secondary specifically? How were you planning on building the secondary? A: Obviously, your plan to build depends upon, for me as an incoming GM, your plan to build… First of all, you need to build a football team. You start from there. What's your philosophy? Then what you do is you work your way through your position groups. Of course, every position group is in a different state. It's not like there are any position groups that you don't have to look at. What you have to do is… When you're building a team, when you're doing this, you can't put pressure on yourself that I have to do this now, I have to get that down because what happens is you'll make mistakes. You'll reach, you'll overvalue. You can't be in a rush to do this. Where we are now with the secondary, I'm very happy with our safety group. Our safeties are strong. Unfortunately, X (Xavier McKInney) got hurt, but we fixed that with Logan (Ryan). We're still building corners. We're still building that part of the back end. Again, it all works as a unit in terms of you'll have better coverage if your front end is better at rushing the passer. It all works together, and we're working on building it every day. We don't ever sit back and say, 'Ok, we're done. O-line, we're done.' You can't do that because as soon as you think you are, you're going to have an injury and then now what? There's no me walking in the door saying, 'Ok, the secondary will be done by the end of next year, the o-line is going to be done this year, the quarterbacks are going to be…' you know what I'm saying? You can't operate that way because you'll overvalue players and you'll miss out on players. Again, I've been saying this since I walked in the door, I said it down in Carolina, it's about value. It's about where you are, how you value a player, in the draft, as an unrestricted free agent, and then as a free agent. It's how you value those guys. If you put the wrong value on them, you'll make mistakes.
Q: Quick follow up on DeAndre, I know you said you're still having conversations. The longer he lingers on the roster, the more it doesn't look like there's a zero-tolerance policy for the kind of thing that he's accused of doing. I'm not accusing you of that, I'm just saying why not just set a precedent that this type of shocking, alleged behavior can't be tolerated? A: That's fair. That's a fair question. All I can say to that is in life, there's timing that's involved. In life, there's timing. That's how I'll respond to that.
Q: I remember about this time last year you said that you would know whether you guys made progress when you walked off the field Week 17. I'm curious what the benchmarks are for Daniel Jones, that at the end of Week 17 this year, that you can look around and say, 'Ok, this kid has checked the boxes. We feel really comfortable and confident in him moving forward.' What are the things you want to and need to see from Daniel this year? A: I'll say this. I'm comfortable and confident with him right now, just for what that's worth. Obviously, it's how he plays, what kind of a year he has, how successful he is running, again it's his third offense in three years by the way, running the team, how he handles the leadership piece. It's all of those things and, obviously, how well he plays. I can say this very comfortably, the only thing that was a little frustrating last year were the turnovers, the fumbles. He had a solid rookie year. He did things that no other rookie quarterback has ever done. For some reason, I just feel like the fumbles have overshadowed all of that stuff. He showed he can bring us from behind to win a game. He showed he can make big throws in an overtime period. This kid accomplished a lot last year. I would never put a win-loss thing on it. For me, it's all about Daniel improving, and improving in all areas, which I'm confident he will.
Q: Quick follow up there. You mentioned this is his third offense in three seasons. What kind of a struggle is that for a quarterback to undertake? A: I think it all depends upon a couple of things. Number one, it depends upon the coaches that are working with him. How they make it work for him. Obviously, it depends upon him. How hard he's going to work at it. We all know Daniel is going to work his tail off. That's not an issue. He's picking it up. Yesterday, I thought he had a really nice day at the office, and he's getting there. He's getting there. Everybody needs to remember, I always go back to when a kid comes out, great high school football player and goes to college, how many of them are great immediately? It takes them all time. Unfortunately, we're not patient. But Daniel is going to be fine. He's going to be fine. He's going to be a fine NFL quarterback.
Q: I wanted to go back to something you said earlier about the roster building process. Obviously, this year you don't have the benefit of seeing them in preseason games, to look at them and do scouting. You also have the challenges of a potential cap dropping next year. I'm just wondering if you could talk a little bit about that because, obviously, that's going to affect your job. A: What's going to happen this year is when the wire comes out Saturday night and everybody is running around, it's almost like you're going to be drafting based off, if it's a rookie or a guy who came out in 2019 and got hurt in training camp and didn't practice, you're going to be basing it off college tape. That's what you've got to do. Obviously, with everybody else who's got time in the league, you're going back. So, if there's a guy who got drafted in '18 or '19 and they played preseason but have never played varsity football, you have NFL film to look at but obviously, it's very, very different. You're going to have to, this year, especially with the rookies, you're going to have to really rely on your college stuff. That tape is still available. We still have it. That's what we will be doing.
Q: I was just going to ask you, are you going to have to put more of an emphasis on the guys you have now on whom you have tape, can you see sort of like a shift in philosophy to where instead of going out on the waiver wire, you're going to explore your own guys first? A: It's funny you bring that up. I was talking about that to Pat Hanlon. Really and truly, because of the protocols that are going to be in place during the season, your immediate help is going to be the practice squad guys, because anybody, whether it's a waiver, a trade, a claim, taking someone off somebody else's practice squad, or bringing in a street free agent, is going to require time. You can touch them, but they can't come in your building and they can't practice. The practice squad is going to be really important, how you set those up, because those guys are going to be your immediate help. People would say, 'well, bring people in on Friday and start the testing protocols so that you have them ready for the week.' You don't know what's going to happen that weekend. You don't know what position you're going to need. There may be guys out there you want to work out that you're going to do anyhow. But at the end of the day, you're really going to have to really be very intentional about your practice squad. The league has given us that flexibility because they're allowing us six veterans on the practice squad. They're allowing for what they call practice squad exception players, and those are guys that have some NFL experience, varsity experience. You're allowed four of those, so 10 of the 16 could be guys with NFL snaps under their belt. But that's where your immediate help is going to come from because anybody you get any other way, there's going to be the protocols, testing cadence, physicals. It's going to be a process.
Q: You guys won five games the first year, you won four games last year. You've had an opportunity, at least the last two weeks, to really see what you have this year. What from a big picture perspective gives you confidence that this organization and the franchise is moving in the right direction? A: I think we've had three years of roster development. I think we have brought in a number of players that are going to help us be a part of this winning process. Obviously, we have had a change in coaches and we have a young, developing team. I think Joe and his staff are going to develop those players, so that's what gives me confidence. Its gives me confidence that we have our quarterback, we have a heck of a running back. We've got some nice pieces on defense. The O-line, we have pieces, we're getting there. I believe we are going to be competitive.
Q: You mentioned that when you first took the job, the offensive line and getting that right was a huge part of it. How close are you to being there in your eyes in that regard? A: The closest we've ever been. I feel like we've got the right guys, they just have to learn how to play together. They have to grow up, we have puppies. You have Andrew, who has never played an NFL snap, at an important position. We've got some youth and they have to learn how to play together. Those five guys have to learn to play in the ?. Talent wise, I'm really pleased with the room.
Q: You said you have a young developing team and you expect it to be competitive this year. You basically turned over the entire roster in three years. In a lot of ways, this is the closest you've had to your team. Do you look at it that way, too? Do you finally have on the field what you've wanted from the beginning? Do you think that being competitive and developmental will translate to wins this year? A: First of all, it's not my team, it's the New York Football Giants' team. There's a lot of people that have worked extremely hard to get the roster to this point. Kevin Abrams, Mark Koncz, Tim McDonnell, Chris Pettit, Kenny Sternfeld and his gang. A lot of people have worked to get the roster to this point. I think we obviously have young players that are continuously developing. Dalvin (Tomlinson) has gotten better every year, you are looking for Dexter (Lawrence) to improve, you are looking for all those young kids to improve. We've also got some veterans that have skins on the wall and can help those guys develop, help those guys become team players. I just feel like the roster is going to be competitive. It's going to have the ability to win games. I'm not putting a number on it. You put a team out there and they will be the 'Fighting Joe Judge's', I have no doubt. It's going to go well.
Q: I know you don't worry about your job, but do you think your bosses need to see wins to really buy into everything you are telling them? A: That's a question for them.
Q: Circling back on Logan Ryan. You kind of hinted earlier that signing him solves the issue with Xavier's injury. Do you guys see Logan as a free safety and as your starting free safety? Where do you guys see him? How did the deal come together and why did it take so long to get him in the mix here? A: One of the things you guys will see once we start playing games, we're going to be pretty multi-dimensional on defense. You are going to see a lot of stuff and Logan fills a lot of roles. It's at a point where, what does being a starting player mean? It means probably playing 75, 80 percent on defense. He'll be well up there. We see him as a fit in a lot of different roles. He had quite a year last year, you guys know that. Tennessee used him a little bit differently and it certainly gives you ideas about how to use him.He'll be fine. As far as getting the deal done, I've always believed that deals get done when they are supposed to get done. Once you get to talking, it takes two. Once the team starts talking to the agent of a player and the player, if there is something there that tells you you are going to get something done, you work at it. When you do deals, you know pretty quickly if there is something there. You've bought cars before. You walk into the car dealership and they start giving you the runaround, you say there is no deal here, goodbye. It's really the same thing, I mean it. It really is the same thing. When Kevin (Abrams) gets on the phone with an agent, for example. I firmly believe, I don't believe in the low ball, high ball game, I really don't believe in it. I believe in if this is your value, I'm going to show you what I have, a fair starting offer. If you start off low balling , you're starting off the whole thing negative. The whole point of it is getting to a win, getting to yes, they call it. I don't believe in that. I tell the agent, we can justify this offer. If the agent comes back, we tell them we don't believe in high ball, so if the agent comes back with a cockamamie counter, then we know there's no deal there. You go in and you want to buy a car for $40,000 and the guy tells you it's a $70,000 car, you walk out the door. It's really the same stuff. When two parties and you start the back and forth, you know pretty quickly if there is a deal to be done. Basically, that's what happened. It happened in, I don't know, 36 hours. It happened quick. They get done when they are supposed to, and we're glad he's ours. Glad he's here.
Q: If you look at things like baseball and basketball and you watch them lately, it just doesn't feel like it's a game. With all the distractions of COVID 19, racial equality and an election coming up, are concerned about the season? Can everyone avoid all the distractions and play like it's a regular season? A: I think for us, Joe and his staff have done a great job of opening the lines of communication with the players and the staff. There's been constant communication with all of us. Again, the blessing of being at the stadium, we can look at each other and say, 'hey' and 'how's your family?' and do all that stuff. I think part of it is about being a professional, part of it is about respecting other people's opinions and attitudes. I think it can be done. It all depends on the atmosphere you have. We've created an atmosphere of safety and openness. I read a book a couple years ago called The Culture Code. They talk about the most important thing you can do in an organization is for everybody to feel safe. It's very important that anybody in the organization can walk into my office and say, 'Gettleman, you knucklehead' and not worry about that I'm going to get upset about it, not worry that I'm going to hold a grudge. That culture of safeness has been created here. Guys are comfortable talking about things. The other thing that you teach is you have to respect, there is a great management concept called 'seek to understand'. I'm going to get philosophical here. Sometimes we don't listen to each other very well. Here at the Giants, we really work hard at that. Listen to what the other person is saying, think about where they are coming from. Seek to understand and if you understand each other, we can have those conversations and there will be conversations. Sometimes I think in today's world, people think if I yell the loudest, I'll win. You know what, it doesn't work like that. You raise a hell of a point. There is a lot of stuff going on in this world right now, a ton of stuff. I like the way we have positioned ourselves and the culture and the type of people we have. We can do this.
Head Coach Joe Judge
Q: Dave Gettleman was just on with us and he described the 2020 New York Giants as he's sure they'll be the 'Fighting Joe Judges.' What do you think that means? What would the 'Fighting Joe Judges' team look like? Are you maybe going to make some money on this by getting 'Fighting Joe Judges' t-shirts going? A: No, I'm more concerned they represent the area of New York and north New Jersey a lot more than just Joe Judge. Look, we want to have a smart, tough, fundamentally sound football team. We're working every day to put our best foot forward and making improvement to build that. I'm pleased with the effort. I'm pleased with the urgency our guys come to work with every day. But it's important to me that when people watch our team in this area, they're proud of the product they see.
Q: What does it say to you though that the general manager has confidence to say he believes that your team is going to reflect what you're about? A: We're all on the same page as an organization. Like I said before, we've had great synergy through all of the conversations, starting in the offseason, free agency, the draft, leading up to now in training camp. I think it's important we're all on the same page with how we see this team going forward, what it's going to take to get us to where this long-term vision really is. I appreciate the confidence in me, but I'm going to come to work the same way either way.
Q: I know you guys signed Jon Halapio back today. I was curious what the thought process was there and if that says anything about how you're feeling about the way the centers have been playing lately? A: Absolutely not. It's just an opportunity for us to add another good player to the roster. It gives us some depth and versatility inside. Jon's a guy who can play center, but he can play guard as well. Again, it's about position flexibility inside. You can only keep so many guys on the roster. The more players you keep inside that can play multiple positions, it gives you strength as a team right there. So no, that's no indication on anything we feel about our current players on our roster. I have a lot of confidence in Nick (Gates) and Spencer (Pulley) and Tyler (Haycraft). They've done a really good job. Shane's (Lemieux) coming along. We're working on developing him in time. He's been playing a lot more at guard due to our current situation, but he's working as a center as well. We're developing all of our guys the best we can at multiple positions.
Q: What have you liked that you've seen out of Tyler? He played tackle in college. What have you liked about him and his ability to move over to center the way he has? A: I think the biggest thing right now is the way he's mentally handled it. He's been able to make the calls inside and have good command. For a young guy, that's not always the easiest thing. He's really excelled in kind of some of the zone run schemes for us early on. He's shown his ability to match up against some size guys inside and play above what his size is. He's done a good job progressing on a daily basis. He's fun to have in the meeting room, too. He's a good guy to have around.
Q: Just real quick, you pushed practice back a few minutes. Last time you guys moved practice back, there was a bigger reason. I'm just curious if there's anything going on or if it's just something minor? A: I got long-winded in my squad meeting today so I pushed everything back. That's on me, guys. Sorry about that.
Q: As far as tomorrow's scrimmage, how is that going to be structured? Is it going to be treated like the fourth preseason game where you're kind of leaning more towards younger guys or guys on the roster bubble? Or are you going to play the top guys and give them as much as you have in the first two? A: This is going to be set up a lot more like a situational practice for us tomorrow. We've kind of made that decision based on where we've gone as a team. We got a lot of good work in. We still want to put them out there in the stadium tomorrow and get used to the atmosphere, the surroundings, so we can work as coaches and we work with the team in terms of substitution, breaks in the action, still building that game flow that we can create. But the majority of what it's going to be tomorrow is just simulated situations of the games, some move the field periods where we'll put the ball down and let them play. But we're going to limit some of the action and exposure we give some of these guys tomorrow just based on workloads they've already had.
Q: I guess I'll be the guy to go there. Yesterday, we got to see the video of your part in the ball security drill. I'm just curious, many have seen the reaction from the outside, but the reaction from your players, did you notice the reaction in their faces in that moment when you get up after securing the football? What does that mean to you, what does that tell you as a coach about your team? A: It means I've still got it in ball security, so I'm not going to let that thing slip away. We have a lot of fun as a team. We really do. It's a great group of guys. We wake up every morning as coaches, we're going to work them hard, we're going to work them long, but we're going to make it fun when we can. We're going to make sure that they understand that as we're pushing them and we're demanding, there's a 'why' to what we're doing. It's important they understand what that 'why' is. These are intelligent young men that when you explain there's a purpose to it, they can not only do it with confidence but they can make the right decisions in game action when something's different. But look, it was just an opportunity for us to work on some fundamentals, have a little bit of fun together. This part of camp right here, you have to go ahead and change up a little. We've been staring at each other too long. Normally, you have preseason games coming, you have a chance to hit somebody else. At this point, they all want to hit me, and that's okay with me. But we need to make sure we keep it light sometimes and take time to keep it in perspective.
Q: Did Dalvin Tomlinson have to run any penalty laps for what he did with the hose? A: No, I was glad he had good aim with it. That's a plus for him.
Q: The fun part of this. Why is that important to you? There certainly are coaches who want to be distant, want to run their players as hard as they possibly can. Is it at all important to you that players like practicing under you, or is it just more important that they do what they're told and get the results that you want? A: I think it's important the people we bring in to this program love football. When you love football, you'll do whatever is important to be successful in it. That's the most important thing with it right there. Look, we're going to always push our guys and we're not going to accept anything less than their best. That's just the way it's going to be. Now, along with that, there has to be a personal connection. We've all played at some point in our careers, you play a lot harder for someone when you understand that they're a person themselves, they have a life outside the building like you do, and that they actually care about you. I think that's important to keep in perspective. This isn't an easy time of year for players or coaches. You have a lot of guys right now that are looking around the room, they're looking around the league wondering where they're at. They know that this is a time where there's going to be a lot of roster moves. As coaches, we invest personally in every player we coach. Everybody on my staff, I made sure I brought in the right kind of guys that this is not going to be a staff who are pointing fingers and saying, 'it's the players' fault.' We're not going to go ahead and have a group of guys who don't care about the players. That's not the culture we're building here. This time of year is very tough on coaches and players because of the stress level with the season coming up. There's a stress level of making the right decisions for the personnel on the team. You also feel the stress the players are feeling themselves. You want to make sure you can find a way to keep it into perspective to let them understand that we're in the business of keeping as many good players around this program as possible in whatever ways we can create. We're looking to go ahead and develop these guys. We wish them all the best of luck. We want to keep all of them New York Giants for as long as we can, and build this program with as much depth and high quality people as we can.
Q: How do you feel about your offensive line now that you've been able to see what you have there, at least on the field, for the last couple of weeks? How close are you to having the five guys set as the starters for Week One? A: Again, everything in our program, I wouldn't say anything is ever in concrete. We're very clear to our players, it's a production business. It's week by week. It's whoever's playing the best at that time, whoever gives us the best chance for a game plan matchup against an opponent, that's who we're going to play. To look at it just in terms of any position group in just saying we're set at that position group, we don't want to get comfortable, so we want to make sure that guys understand that no matter where they're at on the roster, they have to come into work every single day and be their best on the field. Now that being said, I love the way these guys work. The offensive line on any team is always a group of guys that's fun to watch. They hang together, they move together, they're definitely the tightest clique out of any position group. It doesn't matter where you go. These guys are always blue collar guys, they're tough dudes. They have to be unselfish by nature of the position they play. I think working with Ben (Wilkerson) and Marc (Colombo), it shows just the heartbeat of that room with how they play for each other, how they play with toughness, they play relentless, and I'm very pleased with what's coming out of that room right now.
Q: I know New England runs that sliding water slip n' slide drill. Did Bill Belichick ever do that? Did you ever see him do that? A: No, but he doesn't have nearly the ball security technique that I do, so I wouldn't put it on camera, either. You know what, actually, that was something that yesterday, Pat Graham kind of grabbed me at practice. We were kind of talking and he said, 'hey, what do you think about doing the fumble recovery drill?' We've been talking about some opportunities to do the turnover drills. We had a rain day the other day. Sure enough, the sun comes out and dries up all the rain and we wouldn't get a chance to do it as a whole team. But we took the opportunity yesterday. With the tempo of practice and what it was, we thought it was a good way to end practice and kind of get these guys rolling a bit.
Q: Just glad you're not on the injury report today after that yesterday. A: Are you saying I'm not a good athlete?
Q: I didn't say that. You're a better one than I am. Question for you is actually about the practice squad. You've talked a little bit about building that before. Dave was talking about how important it is. When you look at constructing a practice squad, do you have to look at covering as many positions as possible versus just taking the best 16 guys? How do you balance that? A: That's a good question, and there's definitely a mix of both of those avenues right there. I think, ultimately, you want to keep the 16 best players who you can help develop and grow within your program. At the same time, for the season we're about to go through, there are considerations you have to have based on your own team's depth, as well as necessary positions that you may want to provide some insurance with, going through this season. I think we're all very aware of the sudden change you can have at any position group or a team, based on some kind of testing or protocol that may get flagged. We have to be ready as an organization to always be prepared and have guys ready to play in the game. We're talking about that right now. It's going to have to be a longer conversation that we've already started between where we balance out keeping the 16 best, and which positions do we absolutely want to insure that we have. Both parts are a conversation. That's a little bit of a kind of gray area answer for you, but both are true at the same time for us.
Wide Receiver Darius Slayton
Q: You've now spent all of last year with Daniel Jones and all of this training camp with him. Where's the area that you've seen him kind of improve the most? What are the expectations as far as him this year, how high can those expectations be? A: I think the biggest area of growth for him is just taking a big step from year one to year two as far as just command, and that comes with obviously, coming into a new system this year, learning and getting it down. But I think one thing that he grew as the season went on last year was his command, and I think he's continued to build on that this year as far as his command of the huddle. At the line of scrimmage, being sure of himself, being assertive. I think he's done a great job of also developing his leadership skills as well.
Q: Has there been a moment during this summer or anytime during this offseason when you guys were just Zooming or working out together where you thought, 'ok, he's really assumed that leadership role and he's really taken command of this team'? A: It's kind of a little bit tougher over Zoom and stuff like that. But I definitely think he's one of those people that has great presence. Even if he's not necessarily the loudest guy in the room or whatever at the time, I think he has great presence and he always says the right things at the right time.
Q: You guys have a game now in less than a week and a half. How ready are you? A: I feel good. I think it's been a good camp. I think it's been a productive camp. We've put in a lot of hard work and made a lot of great strides as a team. I'm just looking forward to eventually playing on Monday night.
Q: It seemed like you and Daniel really had a good day yesterday in practice. Do you feel like that's going to carry into the season, the connection between you two, and you can pick it up right where you left off last year? A: Yeah, definitely. I think it's helped tremendously this year that I've been healthy for pretty much all of camp. We've had the opportunity to get these reps in the preseason that we didn't necessarily have last year. I definitely think it'll be something that will be tremendously helpful going into the season this year.
Q: I wanted to ask you about your personal development. Where do you feel that you have made the biggest leap forward from last year to the start of this year? A: This offseason, I really tried to focus on specifically route breaks. Also, obviously you catch the ball as a receiver, whatever, but elite receivers, they run through the ball, are able to catch the ball and keep their legs on the move while they're catching it. Those were two things I really tried to focus on this offseason and two things I think I've improved on.
Q: Without getting into specifics as to your role, how much more responsibility does this offense in general put on each of you guys? A: I wouldn't say it puts any more or any less. I think, ultimately, the offense is geared to where everybody is going to have the opportunity to get the ball in their hands and make plays. Ultimately, it'll be up to all of us to make the plays when the ball comes our way.
Q: How different has this summer been for you? Last summer, you're coming in, you're trying to prove yourself and then like you said, you weren't healthy the whole time. Now you come in, you're running with the ones a lot of the time. The expectations for you are significantly greater. What's that been like for you? A: Like I said earlier, it's been a lot different because to some degree, I kind of didn't go through training camp last year. To some degree, this was kind of my first training camp as far as feeling the grind of it physically on my body, as well as mentally. I think I just kind of took the approach of I still have a lot to prove. I don't really think that because of my year last year that anything's going to be given to me or anything like that. I still have a lot to prove. I'm just trying to work hard every day to get better.
Tight End Evan Engram
Q: Going back to the scrimmage last week, you obviously weren't a part of it. In the pregame huddle we saw Daniel Jones break the team down, we have seen you do that in the past. What was that experience like? I don't think Eli ever did that. What's it like to have the quarterback of the team in the middle doing that? A: I think it's really good. DJ is definitely growing as a leader. Just for me seeing him come in the first day last year and just now. Especially in a new offense, a new system and everything he's had to kind of learn. He's definitely gaining confidence and I'm feeling good about the work he's putting in and the work we've been putting in as a team. Just kind of seeing him take over that leadership role is a natural thing. DJ is a great leader by his actions and now he's starting to figure it out vocally as well.
Q: How did you grade his pep talk? A: The words were great. We have to work on his hand gestures and his body language. He did pretty good for his first one.
Q: Kind of along those lines not just with Daniel stepping up as a leader this summer, but on the field how good can this offense be with him in year two? What gives you the most confidence that Daniel is going to make that leap from year one to year two that you have seen a lot of young quarterbacks make? A: I'm very confident in this offense by the work we have been putting in together. As far as DJ, I feel really confident in him because I have seen how hard he's been working. We were together in the offseason before everything shut down in the facility, pushing each other in January, February and part of March. Seeing that and obviously keeping up with each other through the shutdown and obviously the work we've been putting in here, I feel one hundred percent confident about him and the momentum we're going into the season with.
Q: How much do you think he's progressed from when he first got to rookie minicamp last year to where you guys are now? On the field. A: On the field, I definitely see a lot of improvements, literally all around. His accuracy, his ball placement, his communication, just the awareness he has on some of the things we're working on as far as situational football and stuff. I've seen him really improve in a lot of things and obviously he's still trying to find ways to get better and that's the most important thing.
Q: In terms of your game, every time we talk to you, we talk to you about how healthy do you feel. Within this offense now that you guys are a week and a half away from taking the field, with your role and compared to the last couple of seasons, how comfortable do you feel in being to able to go out there and execute at the highest level? A: I feel confident, I wouldn't say comfortable, just because I am trying to find ways to get better each and every day. I'm definitely confident in the work we have been putting in as a tight end unit and our role in this offense. We're asked to do a lot and I think we have a great opportunity to really make an impact for our offense and complement the other positions and come together as a unit. Me personally, I'm glad to be here working, I'm glad to be running around and having fun with my guys. I can't wait to get out there against Pittsburgh.
Q: When you got hurt and went through everything you did in the rehab process, is it a finish line of thinking September 14? Were you kind of looking to clear that before that? A: It was definitely, for me, just day by day, just getting better each and every day. Kind of controlling the things I could control in each moment and that was literally from day one of rehab to now. Like I said, just blessed to be back out there healthy and definitely still taking it day by day trying to get better and get ready for Week 1.
Q: You've had a great camp, but was it tough having to watch that scrimmage? How did you feel about being backed off for that? A: I was just excited to run around in my uniform under the lights and the new turf. It was good to be out there, watch guys fly around, be a good support for the tight ends. It was a really good experience for us to kind of get a feel for the real thing that is going to be here soon.
Q: You're good though? A: Yes.