EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The firsts keep coming with Joe Judge running the New York Giants. This time he did something starting middle linebacker Blake Martinez had never seen in his first four NFL seasons when the first-year head coach had his team restart practice from the top some 25 minutes into the workout.
Judge gathered the Giants between their two practice fields at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center Thursday afternoon and lit into them after what he saw during stretching and individual drills. After Judge’s profanity-laced tirade, players went back to the beginning of the practice script to stretch again, right when the open portion of the practice ended and the media was asked to leave.
“That was definitely the first time,” Martinez said of having to restart practice.
It was the latest example of Judge coaching the Giants hard. Hearing him yell and curse at practice has been a daily occurrence this summer. And he has been unapologetic about his approach.
Calling for a redo during the early part of practice seemed to be well-received.
“I love it,” said running back Saquon Barkley, recently voted a team captain. “That is something we knew we were going to focus on. Everything we do is going to have purpose behind it. Coach didn’t like how we started off. We kind of started over, and as captains and as leaders, we had to step up to the challenge. I think we responded. The thing is on Monday there won’t be any restarts. We have to find that way to have that energy and have that purpose from the beginning. We shouldn’t take a restart for that to happen.”
The Giants open their season Monday night, when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers. They are significant underdogs in the contest.
Martinez and Barkley seemed to agree with Judge’s assessment that the Giants were lackadaisical at the start of practice.
“Yeah, it was one of those moments where we just didn’t come out the right way and we need to kind of refocus and get things going again,” Martinez said. “And we did that. We had to bounce back and kind of show our resolve and our ability to adapt and kind of, as a team, understand what we’re doing wrong and fix it.”
This is the kind of buy-in there has been since Judge arrived, and there hasn’t been a scent of dissension to the new demands.
Barkley believes it will pay dividends in the long run.
“The approach that this team has taken and the response that we have taken to Coach Judge’s methods has been great. Obviously we’re a young team and there is going to be some adversity we’re going to face throughout the season. There is going to be some adversity we’re going to face on Monday night. But it’s the way that we respond, the way we continue to come to work and improve every single day.”
The Giants have been the NFL’s worst team the past three seasons combined. Judge was hired earlier this year, after eight seasons under Bill Belichick in New England, to fix that.
He made it clear at his introductory news conference that there would be a physical, old-school approach: The 38-year-old was not going to be easy on his players.
That has held true this summer. Special-teams ace Nate Ebner, who spent the first seven years of his career with the Patriots, recently told ESPN that this was one of the hardest training camps he has experienced. But Judge has been adamant that his players have been open and receptive to his staff’s coaching. He mentioned earlier Thursday that he thought the strength of the team was the way everyone has come together through adversity.
It seems the players responded positively to this latest twist. “It was really cool how everyone took it in a positive way,” Martinez said. “It wasn’t kind of ‘Ah, here we go. Why are we doing this?’
“It was just like, ‘Hey, this is what we have to fix. We need to make sure to get this right, because I think we all understand how big this first week is to kind of send a statement for ourselves as a team on what we want to be throughout this season.'”