Fourth downs and kickoffs won’t mean rest for Joe Judge’s starters.
Judge, the former special teams coordinator, said Thursday he won’t hesitate using key pieces of the Giants offense and defense on special teams. That became apparent this week when starting safety Jabrill Peppers was named a special teams captain, perhaps a sign of things to come under the new head coach.
“When you look at the history of this organization and where Joe was raised, Bill Belichick coached special teams here and on the punt team was a guy named Lawrence Taylor,” special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey said. “If a guy named Lawrence Taylor, who is arguably the greatest football player of all-time, at least on the defensive side, can play on special teams, it’s a part of playing the game, it’s a part of winning.”
Judge joked that Peppers was “the kid in the classroom who won’t sit still, he keeps wiggling,” so special teams keep him busy. But Peppers was listed as a punt returner on the Giants’ first depth chart of the season, an area he got plenty of work in while with the Browns and at times with the Giants last year before his lone kick return led to a season-ending back injury.
“Specifically on using starters on special teams, I’m a firm believer in using the best players for every situation possible,” Judge said. “Hey look, I don’t care if you’re playing 60 plays on defense or 60 plays on offense. If we need you on a unit for special teams and that’s best for the team, then that’s where you can make an impact.”
Judge also said he wouldn’t rule out using Peppers on offense, like the New Jersey native did while playing at Michigan.
Saquon Barkley said the Giants were set to meet Thursday to discuss how they might handle the national anthem before Monday’s season-opener, after an offseason of racial and social unrest.
“The conversation of kneeling for the national anthem is a conversation that needs to be had, and it will be had,” Barkley said. “We want to have a focus that we want it to be team-oriented, where we find a way, which way we can do it in the right way and continue to still have an impact.”
Judge declined to announce his starting center, saying he wanted to let the battle between Nick Gates and Spencer Pulley last another day or so. Gates is listed as the starter on their unofficial depth chart.
The Giants released their first injury report of the season Thursday, showing a relatively healthy team. Pass-rusher Markus Golden did not practice with an illness, and DB Adrian Colbert (illness), LB Tae Crowder (hamstring), WR Golden Tate (hamstring) and TE Levine Toilolo (hamstring) were limited. … Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson missed Thursday’s practice with a foot injury.