READ: HC Joe Judge, S Jabrill Peppers, WR Golden Tate Media Availability 9/21

NY Blitz

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – SEPTEMBER 20: Members of the Chicago Bear defense face off with the New York Giants at Soldier Field on September 20, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Giants 17-13. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Head Coach Joe Judge

Q: We saw the news about Saquon tearing his knee. How do you feel like this impacts you guys and the structure of your offense going forward? Obviously he was going to be a very big part of that. You can use him in a lot of different ways and now you remove that piece. I’m curious what you think this means for the offense.

A: First off, losing a player who is such a good teammate and someone who’s such a hard worker on the field will impact the team in a lot of ways. Saquon is a tremendous player. We have even more respect for him as a person. I personally hate it for this guy, as hard as he’s worked and as much impact as he’s had for this team. I know our team has similar feelings as well. I talked to a number of players already. I would say this, in terms of how we game plan and scheme, our focus will always change week by week. Regardless of how our roster looks, we’re always going to do what’s best for the team going forward to match up with the specific opponent. The guys that are on our roster, we’re going to have to find ways to put them in positions of strength and find ways to match up with our opponent favorably.

Q: Besides a physical loss, is this a major emotional loss? Losing a guy like Saquon, coaches always say next man up, but I don’t know if it’s possible to have a next man up when it’s Saquon Barkley involved

A: I think it’s emotional for any of your players. You know how hard these guys work. You know how important it is to them. Not to mention how it impacts directly their own lives and their families’ lives. There’s definitely some emotion attached to losing any player. Saquon’s obviously no different. He’s been voted a captain on this team, he’s very important to the team, he speaks for the team. He always holds the best interest of the team first. He exemplifies what it is on and off the field for us. We’re going to miss having him on the grass, but we’re going to keep him involved as much as we can going forward.

Q: I know you made Wayne Gallman inactive yesterday. I’m just curious the decision that went into that. How do you balance him and Dion’s role with maybe looking in free agency to fill the gap with Saquon out?

A: In terms of the active/inactive conversation, that always goes into different sides of the ball as well. You only have so many guys you’re allowed at the game, so we have to look at the total role. The way the offensive game plan is put together, the way the kicking game pieces fit. There’s a lot of things that go into that. In terms of what we’re doing roster wise, we’re always looking at who’s available on the street anyway. We’re always looking at setting up workouts for free agents, just to get them in the program and get a look at them. We have the flex rules with the practice squad. That will impact some of the guys we have in our program anyway. We’re exploring all options right now.

Q: Nobody has come out and said this, is Saquon out for the year?

A: Yes, Saquon will be out for the year.

Q: After the 0-2 and losing Saquon, how do you kind of get everybody back on track quickly?

A: Our guys are on track, they are really focused. We’ve had good productive meetings today. The culture we want to have in this building is the one we have. That’s to go to work every day. Every week is a new week, everybody’s 0-0 right now going into week 3. We have a good opponent coming to town right now with the Niners. They’re going to give us a tremendous amount of challenges that we have to be ready to face. We’re focused on getting ready to work. We’ll be on the field Wednesday and we’ll be on the field practicing.

Q: How do you expect Saquon to come back from this adversity?

A: First off, I’m not a doctor. I’m sure they are going to give him the best medical care possible. This guy is a tremendously hard worker. I can tell you right now I already know he is going to work as hard as possible. The only thing I was able to share with Saquon. I was a non-athlete, I tore my ACL. I was able to get back on the field. It didn’t really affect in any way my play. I wasn’t very good to begin with. I would just say in terms of, you look at some of the other guys around the league who have been able to come back from ACL’s and have tremendous seasons those next years out. I think you can focus on there’s a lot of top athletes and with the medical care they get right now. This is a young guy who is very physically gifted. There are good doctors out there, he is going to get the best medical care possible. We have a great training staff to help rehab him along the way. We’re going to do everything in our position as coaches to keep him involved mentally sharp Then when we finally get a chance to get him back on the field physically, obviously we’re going to gear everything around his specific plan to get him going full speed at the right rate. I tell you what, I said it yesterday and I’ll say it again, I won’t fall asleep on 26, it’s going to be a hell of a story.

Q: There’s a report that Shep has a turf toe injury. I don’t know if you can confirm that or whatever you can say about his status.

A: I have to check back with Ronnie (Barnes). We have a number of guys seeing doctors today like they do after every Monday. Some for normal bumps and bruises, some for other things that may have limited their action in the game yesterday. He did have a lower limb injury yesterday in the game. Tried to come back early in the second half and wasn’t able to finish. We’ll see where that is right now. I can’t speak for Shep in terms of how he feels. I haven’t been able to sit down with him and talk with him directly about that yet. I’m going to check with our training staff after this meeting and see where things are at going forward.

Q: There was the fourth down play where you kept the offense on the field. It looked like Nick Gates never put his hand on the ball. Just curious what happened there.

A: I think he was out there over-communicating looking for a check.

Q: You guys have been grinding for a while now. You get two weeks in, you come as close as you did yesterday, rallying through emotional highs and lows. Does it get to a point from your perspective where you need to see tangible results. Are you seeing those results that you can actually look at with your coaches and players and say, ‘look, I know we’re not winning these games but this is what you’re doing properly’? How does that translate to getting that first win?

A: Winning is all about doing your job well for 60 minutes with the right fundamentals. Knowing the assignment and technique you should play every play with. There’s no magic wand, there’s no secret formula. It’s about doing your job well. I would say this, there’s a tremendous amount of evidence we have been able to show our players on tape to where they can see the improvement coming along. There’s some things on tape that they can very visibly see that this is what puts us behind, we can’t make these mistakes. We have to handle better the way we’ve practiced and the way we prepared for it. I’m very pleased with the progress our guys are making. Obviously you come out of a tough loss of any week, Monday is always a frustrating day. The gear is to move forward. I think one thing we have to keep in mind is the NFL is really a league of extremes. Week by week, somebody is the best team in the world or the worst team in the world. We have to make sure we stay steady on our course of having daily improvement, which leads to weekly improvement, which ultimately will make us a better team by the end of the season. That’s our goal, to improve every week as a team and keep everyone on the right track building this program.

Q: With Saquon out, do you think Daniel Jones feels this will make him think he needs to do more? If that’s the case, do you as the coach need to remind him you have to play within yourself? There’s nothing you can do to try to be a hero because the best player on offense is now out.

A: I can’t speak for Daniel and how he feels right now, to be honest with you. However, I will say, we have 53 guys on our roster, we expect everyone to do their job to the best of their ability every single week. I don’t think anyone has to do anything outside their realm. They have to do exactly what their job is and do it to the best of their ability.

Q: What do you make of the fact that so many players got hurt in Week 2? So many tissue injuries. Do you think that’s related to the offseason that we just saw here? Connected to that, I wanted to ask you about the Niners complaining about the turf at MetLife Stadium? I’m wondering if you guys noticed anything in Week 1 when you played the Steelers?

A: I’ll start with the turf question. Our guys have been on that turf. We had camp in the stadium, that was our home for that month or so. We had our players on the turf every day for some kind of walk thru competitive practice. Leading up to the game last week, not a single player said anything negative along the way to me at all about any of the facilities, specifically the turf. I’ve been on it myself, obviously with the team. I think it’s a good surface. It’s our home and we’re excited to play there next Sunday. In terms of the soft tissue injuries around the league, there’s probably different factors that go into that. I’d probably be out of place right now to give any blanket statement for the league. There was definitely a concern with us as coaches coming in without preseason as to what position it would put our players in. We obviously put a large focus on our own conditioning. We put a large focus on our own recovery. Based on how we train these players and get their bodies ready for not only the physical contact that’s in the game but also the conditioning their muscles need to sustain and recover. One thing we talked about as a team last week, especially us coming off a shorter week, is the recovery from Week 1 to Week 2. Again, no one’s had the opportunity to be through any type of full game until Week 1. There’s a cumulative effect that happens with your body, it’s just natural. The shock your body goes through coming out of any game, it takes a couple days to recover anyway. If you haven’t been through that kind of stress and physical demand, it takes a little bit longer to recover. That being said, there’s a lot of injuries that conditioning has absolutely nothing to do with. What Saquon went through yesterday, that’s just something that happens. That doesn’t have anything to do with conditioning or how hard he trained or anything to do with that. That’s just an injury that sometimes happens. It’s very unfortunate to everybody involved. The soft tissue stuff are things you really have to look out for. The pulls, some of the tears of the hamstrings and quads, some of the things of that nature. The Achilles and things along those lines. We were very careful with our players throughout training camp. Made sure we built their tolerance and get their bodies’ endurance ready for the rigors of a season. More importantly, get them ready to recover from game one to game two. That’s something we put a lot of focus in with how we train our guys in practice.

Q: What have they told you about the likelihood that Saquon is able to get back to 100 percent? If there is sort of a timeline of when that may be?

A: They haven’t told me anything. What I told you earlier, he’s done for the year, that’s the only timeline I’ve worked off of right now. Everybody is unique in these situations. That’s one thing I can tell you from personal experience as well as working with other athletes that have gone through this. Everybody’s body recovers differently. I would say this, his body is in a phenomenal spot, that it’s going to be able to recover very well with the treatment they will give him. That being said, I don’t know what his body is going to go through, no one does. I just know this guy is committed. He is going to work really hard and he is going to do everything he can to get back. We all have full confidence in the medical care he is going to get. We all know this guy’s work ethic is going to carry him on through. We look forward to getting him back on the grass obviously next season. We’re excited to get him back at that point.

Q: Where do you get the explosive plays without him? You haven’t had a ton of them already in the first few games, but who do you need to step into that role and make those big plays?

A: Without giving you some sort of blanket answer, it’s going to come from everybody on our roster. Every offensive player has to be ready to step up and make plays when their number is called. Daniel’s job is to distribute the ball, I’m just going to keep it pretty simple with that. As coaches, we have to find inventive ways of getting the ball to our guys in space.

Q: You talked about everybody needing to do their jobs. Obviously one of the groups is the offensive line. Did you see progress from your offensive line on Sunday as opposed to what we saw on Monday?

A: Absolutely, yes, absolutely. I thought they did a better job of getting downhill in the running game, getting the run started, getting a hat on a hat. There’s obviously some continuity that’s forming with that unit. Andrew and Cam, both these guys have seen the top pass rushers in the league the last couple of weeks. They are going to continue seeing them over the next couple of weeks. You can definitely see improvement with those guys. They are rising to the challenge for us. We’re far from a finished product right now. We have to keep that in mind as a team. It’s about the daily improvement going forward. Yes, I definitely saw improvement from Week 1 to Week 2 with our offensive line.

Q: Obviously I know you’re not going to say exactly what you’re going to do to replace Saquon. Wayne Gallman and Dion Lewis are the next running backs in line. What do you like about those guys, what are their strengths, what gives you confidence that they can be part of the solution to this problem?

A: I say it all the time, we have confidence in every player on our roster. Wayne and Dion are definitely guys that will factor in. We’ll work to their strengths, they are two different types of backs. Both of them have a degree of toughness. Wayne’s got that long speed, get him ranging out and get him really moving. Dion’s got that real good short area quickness and burst to get going. He does a great job of finding small seams and getting through the hole. They are both different guys, we’re going to have to work with what they do well to give them an opportunity to be successful. Coming from the backs and the fullback Eli Penny, who has got some ball handling experience in the past. We have Rod Smith on the practice squad right now. There’s a number of players in our program we are going to be working with. We’ll see where the future takes us elsewhere throughout this long season in the NFL. There’s always a lot of roster movement.

Q: I’m not suggesting there is any kind of hot seat or anything like that. I would be an idiot to do that. For you, your coaches, your players, the organization, do you need to get a win?

A: In the NFL we’re only paid for production, so every week we need to get a win.


Safety Jabrill Peppers

Q: How gutted are you for Saquon (Barkley) and how can the team press on through the rest of this season without a player like that?

A: Obviously, my heart goes out to him. He works extremely hard. Obviously, he’s a leader on this team. I know from working out with him over the summer that he was looking forward to this season after the ankle injury last year. I’m definitely, definitely praying for him. But he’s a guy who’s going to bounce back better than ever. Minor setback for a major comeback. In this league, injuries happen. You hate it, but it happens. You have to have a next man up mentality. I think the guys that we have in the room do a good job stepping up.

Q: What’s it been like playing next to a guy like James Bradberry, who seems to be shutting down everyone he’s covering and he’s played really well, especially this last week? What was your reaction to the interception he had where it didn’t seem like he turned his head around to get it?

A: Brad works hard. Everything you guys are seeing in the game, he’s been doing since he’s gotten here. He’s a true pro. He takes his craft very seriously. The plays he makes for us on Sundays definitely go a long way. As far as his pick, he did a great job of playing through the hands. I initially thought he just broke the pass up. But to come down with that, that was a hell of a play at a much-needed time. It was a game-changing play for us. I just hope he keeps making more of them.

Q: How do you make the second half defense the all-the-time defense for this Giants?

A: We just have to come out with that same mindset and that attitude. It’s still early in the year, but we can’t keep coming out shooting ourselves in the foot and try to play catch up in this league. You put yourself behind the 8-ball in this league, you make it tougher for yourself. Just attention to details. We’re going to watch the film and get everything corrected up and prepare for a good 49ers team coming in.

Q: That second half, was that what it’s supposed to look like for you guys?

A: For the most part. I think we still had some mental errors and missed assignments, but our urgency was way better, we tackled better, our coverages were better, both zone and man, and I think we made it much harder on Mitch (Trubisky) than we did in the first half. The guy is already good in this league, but you can’t give him things. I think in the second half, we did just a great job of just making it hard on him and making him earn everything.

Q: I think everyone expected the run defense to be a strength of this team. Why do you think it hasn’t been quite up to the level you want these first two weeks?

A: It’s just small things that turn into big things on Sundays. Just gap integrity, setting the edge, being sure tacklers. It’s going to come together. We just have to keep getting better and better every day, keep laying the foundation and the bigger picture will happen.

Q: The 49ers, they played at MetLife yesterday and had a lot of injuries and had some complaints about the turf. You’ve obviously been on that turf a lot this summer and in Week 1. Do you have any complaints or any issues with the turf?

A: No, not that I can say. I think every field kind of presents its own kind of problems. That’s why you go out there pregame, get a good feel for the turf. Is it a fast track? Do you need your studs or your molded cleats? Things like that. But on our part, we haven’t had any issues with it.

Q: The odds of making the playoffs are against teams pretty heavily that start 0-2 in a season. I’m just curious how concerned are you guys as a group about 0-2, not having Saquon and possibly losing Shep as well for a little bit?

A: We don’t think about those things. You can only control what you can control, and that’s getting better each and every day we come in here. We’re right there in games. It’s just in this league, it always comes down to three to four plays that you wish you had back that determine the game. Obviously, we haven’t gotten the results we’d like to. But we know we’re not far off. We know we have a ways to go, but I like to think we’re trending in the right direction. We’re just going to keep coming in here and getting better. We’re not going to get demoralized. We understand injuries happen. It’s the next man up mentality. It’s a production business, and you have to produce.

Q: What’s your message then to your teammates in terms of staying positive and believing in the plan and going forward, even though these losses sometimes take a toll?

A: That’s exactly the message. We have to stay together. All we have is us. We just need to keep chomping at the bit and, eventually, we know the ball will roll our way.


Wide receiver Golden Tate III

Q: Obviously, we didn’t get a chance to talk to you yesterday. I’m just curious what your take was on that last play?

A: Just a very competitive play. I went back and watched the film. I think it was a close call. But the refs called what they called and it is what it is. I’m a believer in just not leaving it up to anyone but ourselves. If we handle business earlier in that game, then maybe we don’t have to even get to that point.

Q: Not trying to get you to lose any money here, but do you think there could have been offsetting penalties with the way (Eddie) Jackson kind of crashed down on you?

A: Yeah, just my initial thought. Once I saw the flags, I thought the flag had come out pretty late after the play, I thought it was on Jackson or whoever that was on my back. But that didn’t happen to be the case. It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is.

Q: Joe (Judge) seemed pretty perturbed I guess would be the word with the call at the end of the game. I’m just curious if he had a conversation with you afterwards and maybe what that was like?

A: No, I didn’t have any conversations about that particular play with anyone really. Everything happens so fast. I kind of saw it as I was being competitive with Buster (Skrine) and just trying to find a way to get open. I don’t know what you guys think. What do you all think about that call?

Q: It looked kind of ticky tack or could have gone both ways. Real quick, just another angle here. How frustrating is it that when you get yourself and Sterling (Shepard) and Evan (Engram) and Saquon (Barkley) all on the field together for one game finally, and Saquon goes out for the year with a torn ACL and Shep goes down with a toe injury. How frustrating is that, and what’s kind of the range of emotions in that locker room right now?

A: I know all of our guys, especially the guys that you mentioned, love the game of football, love competing and want to be out there every play of the game. I just know how important it is and how much we all were looking forward to playing together. For it to happen the way it did yesterday, I know we’re all kind of bummed because we are brothers. We love each other so much. It’s unfortunate, but that is the nature of the game. There are injuries that happen in this game every game unfortunately. It always hurts when you have guys like Saquon and Shep deal with an injury. But we’re just going to keep chugging. We can’t dwell on this. We have to just keep working hard and find a way.

Q: I thought it should have been offsetting penalties, but nobody gives a crap what I think anyway, to be honest with you. Anyway, where does the offense go from here? How do you offset the loss of Saquon and possibly Sterling in the short-term?

A: I think we will be critical of this film. I know the receivers have watched it and have been very critical of what we could do better. I think everyone just must be accountable, and everyone must know our assignments very, very well. You look back at this game yesterday. If you give us a few plays back and maybe the outcome is different. Just dialing in, doing our jobs, play after play after play, and all 11 men on the field doing their jobs collectively. I think that’s where we’re going to take it. We’re going to have a great week of practice. We have great coaches. We have a bunch of really good players and we’re just going to find a way. Wins are never perfect. You never go back and look at a game and say ‘we played perfect.’ No. We’re just going to find a way. We’re competitive, and that’s it.

Q: On one hand, you look at yesterday’s game and say ‘great comeback in the second half that falls short.’ On the other hand, you look at the big picture and say ‘0-2. Arguably their best player is not going not play again this season.’ And probably fans are going ‘here we go again.’ How do you kind of mix the two together?

A: Look, I think we take all the good from the film last night, and we hold onto that. I think one thing I did learn about our team is that we will fight. We will fight until it says zero on the clock. That’s no doubt. When you look at that and what we did in the second half, that’s pretty impressive offensively and defensively and special teams. We hold onto that. Obviously, when we see Shep, we see Saquon go down, when we see any of our brothers go down, just the very natural feeling is it kind of can deflate you. However, after sleeping on it overnight and a lot of praying, the show has to go on. Next man up mentality. We have complete trust in our coaches and other players we have in our locker room that we can get the job done. We can’t get caught in the ‘well, if Saquon was back there, what would have happened?’ Or ‘If Shep was back there…’ The reality is, unfortunately, and we’re crushed that we don’t have these guys right now. Next man up is going to step out. Wayne (Gallman) is going to have more opportunities, Dion (Lewis) is going to have more opportunities, some of our other receivers are going to have some more opportunities, and we’re just going to make it happen and just go from there. Take it play by play and see what we can do. We still have a lot of other good players that can help us win.

Q: As a veteran and as one of the leaders of this team, what’s your message to the young guys in terms of kind of some of the things you were saying in terms of not feeling sorry for yourselves and moving forward, losing a dynamic player like Saquon and continuing to struggle without wins?

A: I would say control what we can control, and what you can control is showing up and being a professional every single day, preparing your tail off to give yourself the best chance to go out there and put the best product you can. I think if we can get guys to do that, we’re going to feed off of that. I think simply that. It is what it is, and that’s NFL football. Things happen. If you look outside of our locker room, other teams had some pretty major injuries to some of their major players. We don’t just show up to work and say ‘alright well, we’re resigning this year.’ We have to keep it going. We’re going to just continue to play ball, and that’s that. At the end of the day, no matter who we bring in and who we lose and what we think, we have a job to do. That’s what we’re going to do.

Q: I was just wondering what you’ve seen out of Daniel these first two weeks, and if you think he’s maybe playing with more confidence than last year, especially when you see how he commanded things at the end on that last drive and worked the way up field? What have you seen out of him in these two weeks that gives you confidence that he can keep doing that going forward?

A: The guy’s love for the game is… I love it. I love to see it. It’s the most important thing in his life and he puts in the time. When we see him here, he’s always putting in the time. But also when he goes home, whenever I text him and have a question, he gets back to me quickly. If there’s ever a play that I want to look at on the film, he gets it right up and gives me his perspective. He’s one of those guys that’s just built to do this. He’s getting more comfortable in the huddle, commanding the offense and leading us. As you can see yesterday, he seemed completely comfortable late in the game. When we had a critical third down, he puts a ball on a covered receiver low so only he can get it and we make that play. Or on the fourth down, he takes off running to get the first down. The guy is growing each and every day, including during the week at practice. That’s what you want to see out of the leader of your offense and really the leader of the team. We’re all behind DJ. DJ can’t do this by himself. We all have to do our part, from top to bottom, consistently. When we do that, it’s going to take pressure off of him, it’s going to take pressure off of the offensive line, it’s going to take pressure off of the receivers, running backs, tight ends. It’s going to make it I think a little bit easier once we’re all just doing our jobs, play in and play out, and starting fast.

Q: Just real quick before you go. The 49ers were complaining about the turf at MetLife Stadium. I know you guys have practiced a lot there during training camp. Have you noticed anything weird about the turf? Have you guys been ok when you’ve been out there?

A: I’ve been ok over the years I’ve played at MetLife. I don’t have any problems with it. You can’t help but to think about where we are now two weeks into the NFL season and where we were three-four months ago, not having any OTAs, no time to be with the team. You can’t help but think that has something to do with it. But as far as MetLife’s field, I think it’s fine. But again, also personally, I haven’t played a game on it this year. But our guys last week did well, I thought.

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