Head Coach Robert Saleh 10.23

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Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: We haven’t talked to you in a while, just wondering if you could update us on some injuries, specifically in regard to Joe Tippmann and Garrett Wilson, and what are your plans for Duane Brown this week?

With regard to injuries, with everyone coming back from the bye week, we’ll have a better idea, we’re going to use today and tomorrow to see where everyone’s at, and I’ll have a better update for you guys on Wednesday, same thing with Duane Brown.

 

Dennis Waszak, Associated Press: Just preliminarily with Tippmann, did it seem like something that could be a few weeks? 

No, Tippmann’s a pretty quick healer, so like I said, looked good this morning, but we’ll see. I’ll have a much better idea for you guys on Wednesday.

 

Jared Schwartz, New York Post: Robert, you guys got yourselves in a similar situation last year coming off an emotional win over the Bills going into the bye week, and it kind of unraveled after the bye week. Did you learn anything from last year to take into this year on how to handle the bye week?

Yeah, I think this is the third time we’ve tried something different to see if we could kickstart ourselves coming off the bye week. The shame of last year, just offensively, I think we were so depleted, within the first couple of weeks after the bye week, we just couldn’t recover. The important thing is to stay healthy, keep preparing the way we prepare, keep playing the way we play, and hopefully we end up on the right side of the result.

 

Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: I have a question just following up on that theme. Not so much what to do coming out of the bye week, but for the second year in a row, you guys are in a position to make a playoff run. I’m wondering as a coach, what takeaways from last year that you could use to apply to this year, because obviously it ended on a long losing streak. What do you pull away from that adversity that maybe you could apply this year?

No, for sure. There’s a lot of things I look at from an inward standpoint. Like what could I have done better from a scheduling standpoint to help our guys stay fresh? What could we have done from a practice standpoint to help our guys stay healthy? That’s the big thing. What can we do to stay fresh, excited about the game, and stay healthy at the same time? Some things you have no control over, so we’ve been diving into the schedule compared to a year ago, we tried changing things up, we’re changing things up moving forward. Nothing drastic, but enough to try to keep our guys both physically, emotionally, mentally involved where they don’t feel like it’s ‘oh here we go again’, it’s this long day. Just trying to make sure we find that balance where we still hit what we’re trying to hit from a preparation standpoint, but again, keeping our guys fresh both mentally and physically.

Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Robert, what is the secret to it? Because if you knew it, you’d probably be undefeated. When you’re coming off such an emotional, big victory a week and a half ago, by the time you guys get rolling back on the practice field again, how do you keep that energy and momentum back up again? Obviously, you have the Giants, so that’s probably a manufactured high there as well. Do you know what I’m saying? That locker room was pretty euphoric after that Philly game. How do you keep that energy?

No, for sure. I feel like that’s been our language. That’s why every moment is a championship moment. It’s why we speak the way we speak, where you don’t treat any one game bigger than the next. Every game is a championship game. Yeah, there’s a lot of excitement over beating Philadelphia. It was a great atmosphere, everyone was pretty charged after the game, but you don’t approach any game differently than you do any other game. Obviously, the Giants, inner city rival, all that good stuff, that’s great, but it’s another championship opportunity. And the mindset is always approach every day of life as you would- the whole mindset of go to bed better than you woke up, you’re always attacking things like it’s a championship moment, and if you do that, you’ll have that level of consistency, and juice, and energy in terms of attacking every moment you can.

Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: What did you end up doing yesterday? Did you watch the Giants game? Did you watch football? Did you hang with the family? Or all of the above?

I had three kids’ games. My daughter had soccer, two of my boys had football, so it was a full day of watching youth sports.

Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Did you see any of the Giants game yesterday?

Yeah, my phone had the Red Zone, so I could kind of hear what was going on and all that. They’re talented man. Defensively, they’re very, very impressive on the defensive side of the ball. You guys know how much respect I have for Wink (Don Martindale) and everything he does. And, offensively, they’re starting to move the ball very well, I think they had over 350 yards yesterday, moving the ball consistently up and down the field. I thought they did a great job vs. Buffalo putting themselves in position to win that football game, so they’re hitting strides. They look really good. They’re starting to look a lot like that playoff team, the team that made the playoffs a year ago.

 

Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Robert, when you talked about coming off the bye week, you said it’s the third time in a row that you’re trying something different. Can you be specific on what you’re trying?

Just scheduling stuff. Just trying to tweak the schedule. The first year, it felt like we stayed on the gas and we did improve as the year went on. Last year, I felt like we may have taken too much off, where it just kind of fizzled away, and we’re trying to find that happy medium, because in year one I felt like we got better as the year went on, finished strong. Last year, obviously we didn’t. Somewhere there’s a middle ground where we can keep guys fresh and healthy and try to finish this thing as strong as we can.

Dennis Waszak, Associated Press: Robert, when you see what happened yesterday with Buffalo losing to New England and Miami losing, this division, even though it’s still early, it’s wide open for you guys?

Yeah, it’s way too early. Any given Sunday, anybody can win. We have to take it one game at a time. Obviously, the Giants are looking at life a little bit differently also. They’ve got a chance coming up if they’re looking at their schedule saying, ‘God, we’ve got some winnable games’. So, all of our attention is on the Giants, and we’re controlling the things we have control over. It’s fun to watch the way the NFL plays out. It’s a League of equality, it just seems like it’s designed for everyone to play .500 football, but all our focus is on the Giants, just trying to find a way to do our best against those guys.

Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: Robert, since we last talked to you, you guys obviously made a trade. I’m curious, did the emergence of Xavier Gipson kind of change the plans a little bit at wide receiver this year? Because, obviously when you sign an undrafted rookie like that, you don’t necessarily expect him to play a huge role, but his role seems to have been increasing as the season’s gone on.

No, for sure. He’s a big reason, he’s a major reason, obviously. It takes me back; I learned a lesson a long time ago in Seattle. When I was with Pete Carroll, I think I told you guys this story, we signed Matt Flynn to, if you guys remember that big, big contract, and he was going to be our quarterback, and then we draft in the third round this kid from Wisconsin named Russell Wilson. He comes out in OTAs and it’s like ‘wow that guy’s pretty good, that young little quarterback’s pretty good’, but it’s Matt Flynn’s football team. And then you get to training camp, and it’s like ‘damn, this guy’s really good’, and next thing you know, he beats out the guy who got all the money, and the rest is history for Russell Wilson. With Mecole (Hardman Jr.), Mecole’s been fantastic. He’s a good young man, he’s been very positive in the locker room and all that, and he was battling injuries during OTAs and training camp, trying to get himself up to speed, but , in the meantime while he’s trying to get himself back up to speed and being limited, here comes this undrafted rookie you don’t expect anything from, but you’re like ‘wow, this guy’s pretty good’ in OTAs, and in training camp it’s like ‘man this guy’s really freaking good’, so it’s just an opportunity for us to develop a young guy, and it’s nothing against Mecole. It’s unfortunate, but also excited for him and his opportunity. I thought he did a really good job on that punt return yesterday, but more of a testament to Xavier Gipson. He was able to get some reps because Mecole was still recovering from his injury, and he took it and ran with it, and he’s doing a heck of a job.

Jared Schwartz, The New York Post: Robert, I know you don’t know about Duane Brown yet, but when he does return, how difficult of a decision is that, what to do with that and Mekhi Becton at the two tackle spots?

It won’t be difficult. We’ll always do what’s best for the organization first with the whole mindset to play our best five.

 

Nick Faria, AM New York: Is there a possibility that he could be playing a new position, whether it be guard or being moved to right tackle?

We’ll see. We have to see where he is health wise to see if we can even get him up this week to begin with.

 

 

Mark Cannizzaro, The New York Post: Robert, with regard to Zach (Wilson), obviously last year was very up and down below the yard for him. Can you just speak to where he is right now, compared to those periods of time when he made those unfortunate comments after the Patriots game and the benching’s and all that kind of stuff with Mike White and the t-shirts and all that. This is kind of his team now, presumably for the rest of the year unless Aaron (Rodgers) comes back. What signs do you see that he is owning that and the players, there’s a respect level amongst his teammates?

I think, I don’t want to speak too much for him, just empathically as a human, I think when the whole world is coming down on you, you’re naturally going to defend yourself. The difference between last year and this year, I think and again, it’s a lot of things that you guys don’t see because you guys aren’t at practice. His execution at practice is so much better than it was at this time a year ago. I think he knows he can play this game and he’s got inner confidence with himself first. I think he feels the team, his teammates around him know that he can play football and he can play at a high level. So, he feels the confidence that his teammates have in him also and because of it, it’s very easy to hold yourself accountable when you know people have your back. That’s empathetically speaking from just human nature. I think he feels that this organization is behind him. I think he feels that the locker room is behind him. I think he feels that the coaching staff is behind him and on top of it, I think he sees that he’s practicing really well. His teammates see that he’s practicing well. Then you get to gameday and I think everyone sees that he’s gotten a lot better. He still has a long way to go, he incrementally is getting better. I think because of that, knowing that people have his back, I think it’s very easy for a person to be able to take accountability when you know you got people that have your back.

 

 

Marc Cannizzaro, The New York Post: Where would you characterize the coaching staffs trust level with him? Obviously, because he’s performing better, looking better in practice, do you feel like we’re getting to the point where maybe the reigns will loosen a little bit and let it go for a little bit, for a lack of better way to put it?

I think that, that trust level started with that Kansas City game. From a game planning standpoint, he’s been an open book with him starting with the Kansas City game where was, alright let’s see what he’s got and now he’s proven week in and week out and he’s doing a really nice job. Now there’s defenses dictate where the balls goes and what you can and can’t do offensively, but as far as game planning, and trying to figure out, we’re not trying to hide Zach at all. We’re letting him play football and the play designs and the game plan is one that for our quarterback we trust.

 

 

Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: Robert, you’ve been on teams, a few teams going back to San Francisco days that suffered significant quarterbacks injuries, but nothing more significant than this year, obviously. What’s key as a coach, what’s the secret to keeping a team together morale wise when it seems like the walls are coming down when you lose a guys of Aaron’s stature?

That’s a good one, Rich. That’s a really good one. For me, it goes back to what you do in the offseason in terms of the type of person you bring in the locker room. I think that’s why we’re all in love with the group that we have. They’re intrinsically motivated, they love the game of football. They actually enjoy being around one another, so when you have adverse situations, is it always going to be clean? It’s not. Are you going to have moments when there’s doubt and there’s frustration, absolutely, but you can be frustrated and have doubt, but still be all in to being  the best version of yourself that you can possibly be. I think that’s what’s cool about this group that they come to work, they come with purpose, come with intent and human nature when things aren’t going well you’re going to be frustrated, you’re going to express your frustration, but when their cleats hit the grass and their helmet goes on, they’re balling. When they walk though these doors, they are locked in and  paying attention and trying to figure out how they can be their best on tape. That’s really how you weather it. You weather it by bringing in the right people because at the end of the day character overcomes adversity more than athletes. That will always be the case and we’ve got a group of great guys with great character.

 

Jared Schwartz, The New York Post: Robert, just with the injuries quickly are Sauce (Gardner) and DJ Reed a part of that group that we’ll see a little bit later in the week with their availability? 

Yeah, we’ll have a better idea Wednesday.

 

Jared Schwartz, The New York Post: Are they still in the protocol?

They are still in the protocol.

 

Al Iannazzone, Newsday: When you did your scouting, did you notice anything over this break, did you notice anything with the redzone issues that kind of caught your eye?

Yeah, obviously there were some missed opportunities. There’s somethings that we could’ve done better as coaches and I’m referring really to the last two weeks because as we’ve been trying to build, I’m looking at the last three weeks really is kind of the thermometer for us at a redzone standpoint. I thought we did really good versus Kansa City. Denver, it felt like from a coaching staff standpoint, I felt like it could’ve been better. The last week, I felt like we could’ve had more success. There was a missed opportunity. I won’t get into where that missed opportunity was, but we had a couple penalties that kicked us out of our range, or kicked us out of the redzone to create unmanageable situations, so there’s an opportunity to be had. Just got to play cleaner football, but like I said, we’re close. We’re getting to the redzone, that’s the positive. Getting it across the goal line, like I said I felt like we could’ve been better as a coaching staff. Philadelphia, felt like we could’ve been better in terms of execution and taking advantage of our opportunities and hopefully this week, we can find all those fixings and be little bit more successful.

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