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Joe Judge eager to begin 'virtual' offseason work with Giants

In a conference call with the New York media Wednesday, Giants coach Joe Judge showed a keen understanding of the world we're living in, continued his pattern of not saying the name of any current player -- not one! -- and told us his golden retriever, Abby, might be the go-to source when it comes to sniffing out the team's intentions with the fourth overall pick in next week's 2020 NFL Draft.

Judge spoke with reporters at his introductory press conference in January and at the scouting combine in late February. Much has changed since then, including the changes necessitated by the new coronavirus pandemic, which has hit New Jersey and New York especially hard.

"Look, it's tough sitting in your house," Judge said from his Massachusetts home. "It's a lot tougher going out there every day being exposed to the virus and doing your job, and then having to go home and look your family in the eye. We can't take lightly all the sacrifices all those people (including those in the medical field and essential workers) are making for us and we appreciate it."

Among the other topics Judge addressed Wednesday:

Hello, Virtual Monday: Judge said the Giants have distributed iPads that include old film and the playbook. On Monday, the teaching begins with the start of the league's virtual offseason program. "We haven't been able to have any interaction or instruction dealing with football," Judge said. "On Monday, that's different. We get to go virtual with it and start dealing with the players. ... Really, Monday is when the instruction and teaching starts. That's what we're looking forward to."

Judge said he expects the virtual instruction to "give us great insight into our players, as to how they interact within meetings, how insightful they are with the questions they ask, how current they can stay on the information. That's what we're waiting for."

This is a Giants team that had a lot of youth last year, and it showed, both on the field and in the locker room. It likely will be critical for the players adapt to their new learning environment for the Judge era to start off well.

No excuses: The 38-year-old Judge comes across as a strong leader who doesn't like excuses. While NFC East rivals Dallas and Washington also have first-year head coaches, Mike McCarthy and Ron Rivera are veterans. Judge is navigating the current climate as a first-time head coach.

"Look, I think the advantage goes to whoever's best prepared from this point forward," he said. "I don't think any established program is going to have an advantage over anybody else. It's how you can find a way to communicate with your players and deliver a message."

His name is Daniel: When asked specifically if there is concern that second-year quarterback Daniel Jones could fall behind because of the unique offseason, Judge didn't bite.

"Really for all of our players, everyone's in the same boat right now, (we are) trying to start from scratch," Judge said. "What we've been allowed to do by the league is, we've had contact with our players but everything's been non-football at this point. We just want to check on them and their families, make sure everyone's safe and healthy and if there's anything we can do to help them in this process.

He added that all of the players and their families have "access to our medical team."

Learning from Bill: Judge was asked what he learned from Bill Belichick that is especially important in these days of the NFL calendar.

"I think it's about evaluating the players," Judge said. "To me the biggest part of the draft is evaluating the players, not for what they've done in the past, but for what they can do in the future. And you've got to have the foresight to see how their skill set can really add to your team and how you're going to use them.

"The biggest thing I take from my time in New England is just how to look at the player, and what their strengths are, and then see how you can use them for your team's advantage."

It's worth remembering that Belichick's recommendation of Judge resonated within the Giants organization in January. And the optimism about what Judge can be as a head coach is, in part, because of his time with Belichick.

On Isaiah Simmons: Asked specifically about the star Clemson defender, who could be the Giants' pick at No. 4, Judge noted that he wants every player on the roster -- including a one-position offensive lineman and the quarterback -- to have versatility.

Not surprisingly, he did not tip his -- or the Giants' -- hand.

"Everyone has to have versatility within our game to adjust to different game plans and schemes," Judge said. "To me, if you've found a player who's had great impact and has an upside, that's a guy you want to really add to your roster. The upsides are the biggest part of it. ... To me, the (player's) position is always going to be defined by how you choose to use them. And that's really up to us as coaches to be creative and maximize their strengths, (and) not talk about what they're not but what they can do for us and how they can help us win."

No mentorship required: A mistake the Giants made last season was in publicly relying on some key players, including Janoris Jenkins, to be mentors. Some players aren't cut out for such roles. (Jenkins has found a new home with the Saints after he was released midseason.)

"I don't think we're looking for any players to come in and be ambassadors or to raise the other players," Judge said. "We added players to our roster we think are good players."

What about Pro Days? With nearly all Pro Days cancelled due to COVID-19, Judge said he has adapted by using online meetings to get a feel for players.

"It gives you an opportunity to at least look the player in the eye as you talk," he said. "I'm very big on body language. I'm very big on eye contact. And, at least you have the opportunity to look a player in the eye. As you ask him a question, you'll see his reaction, so that's big right there. It gives you a good picture of how they are as far as talking ball, how much they can learn and teach back to you."

Judge also said the Giants have learned about players from coaches on his staff, which includes several former college coaches who recruited -- and, in some cases, coached -- prospective players.

"The talent level's one thing," Judge said, "but it's more than just fantasy football. We're not just throwing players on a roster, we're building a team. And we've got to account for how guys are in the meeting room, how they are in the locker room, how they interact with their teammates and what they're gonna bring from a culture standpoint."

Draft day: Judge said he'll have a better idea what to expect next week after the Giants go through "a couple mock drafts" as an organization and with the league. In the meantime, Judge's current office is set up in his basement. He and his wife have four children.

"I have told my kids that there's times that we need them to get out of the basement, and there's other times to be present," he said. "And like everyone else in America is finding out, everyone's working with their family always present, and that's pretty true for us. I've got a golden retriever that sits on the couch next to me for about 15 hours a day, so right now she can probably tell you more about who we're gonna take in the first round than anybody."

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