EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Joe Judge is demanding perfection in his first season as coach of the New York Giants, and the team paid for not having it in gearing up for the season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
When practice got off to a sloppy start in the opening 20 minutes Thursday, Judge called a do-over and had the team start again.
After ripping his team in a colorful barrage, a second round of stretching began under the watching eye of the 38-year-old head coach. Veteran linebacker Blake Martinez said that was the first time in his five-year NFL career a coach has rebooted a practice.
“It was really cool how everybody kind of took it in a positive way,” he said. “It wasn't, ‘Oh, here we go, why are we doing this?’ It was: ‘Hey this is what we need to fix and get this right.’ We all understand how big this first week is to set a statement for ourselves as a team, how we want to be throughout the season.”
The Giants have a long way to go. They have won 12 games over the past three seasons and made the playoffs once (2016) since 2012.
Judge was hired in January to turn things around. The former New England Patriots special teams co-ordinator has been detailed in every aspect of the game. He wants a roster of team-first players who are willing to do anything to get a win.
If that means a starter plays on special teams, so be it. He noted that Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor did so for the Giants in the 1980s and early 1990s, helping the franchise win its first two Super Bowls.
“You know Lawrence Taylor, he wasn’t too good for that," Judge said. “He was out there to win and he had a lot of success doing it.”
Star halfback Saquon Barkley, who was just selected a captain on the team, applauded the move.
“I love it, I love it,” he said. “That’s something that we knew we're going to focus on. Everything we do is going to have a purpose behind it. Coach didn’t like how we started off, so we had to start over. As captains and leaders and as a team, we had to step up to the challenge and I think we responded.
“On Monday, there won’t be no restart, so we got to find a way to have that energy and find a way to have that purpose from the beginning,” Barkley added. “It should not take a restart for that to happen.”
The Steelers went 8-8 last season in missing the playoffs for the second straight season.
NOTES: OLB Markus Golden did not practice because of an illness. ... Defensive co-ordinator Pat Graham said he had to shave before a ZOOM call because watching Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was turning his hair gray. ... Judge would not announce his starting centre , although all indications are Nick Gates will get the call over Spencer Pulley. Gates has learned how to play the position in recent months.
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Tom Canavan, The Associated Press