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Giants' Burton Burns: It's like deja vu about Joe Judge's start as coach

Head coach Joe Judge at Giants training camp

Head coach Joe Judge at Giants training camp on Aug. 13, 2020. Credit: Giants.com/Matthew Swensen

Joe Judge learned from some of the best coaches ever. The weight of that experience, along with their recommendations, are among the reasons why he was hired to be the head coach of the Giants.

Judge, of course, has gone to great lengths to insist that he is his own man and will be his own coach.

But at least one person who was on hand for the start of one legend sees plenty of similarities now being around Judge for the start of his tenure.

Giants running backs coach Burton Burns was part of Nick Saban’s staff when they arrived at Alabama in 2007. His take on watching Judge?

“It’s like déjà vu,” he said in a virtual press conference on Friday.

The Giants can only hope it continues to be so.

“Both of those guys are very organized,” Burton said. “There are certain steps that you have to take the first year you are trying to build a program or rebuild a program. I see Joe basically taking those same steps [Saban took in 2007]… It’s not because Joe is copying Nick but that’s how good football coaches who are organized create a different environment for a brand-new team.”

Burton worked with Judge when he was a young special teams assistant at Alabama. Getting the chance to work with him now that Judge is a head coach is one of the reasons why Burton has returned to on-field coaching after making a move to Alabama’s administrative staff in recent years.

“I always thought, when Joe was with us years ago, he was very bright, very articulate,” Burton said. “He was dutiful in doing the assignments he had on our staff. I expected [him to be a head coach] from him from that standpoint.”

Others on the current staff saw similar signs at other stops. Outside linebackers coach Bret Bielema was on the Patriots staff with Judge, where they both learned from Bill Belichick.

“His voice, his demeanor, it was very intriguing to me,” Bielema said of Judge. “I know he has a special teams background and interests. To hear that firsthand and then get around him and see the general football knowledge that existed, and then on a personal note and the way he is as a father and the way he interacts with his colleagues and coaches and players, you knew he had big things in front of him.”

Whether those things wind up being as big as the accomplishments behind him will determine what Judge’s legacy with the Giants winds up becoming. But those who knew him when — and work with him now — certainly expect success.

“Knowing Joe’s personality and our relationship,” Burton said, “it was kind of like I wanted to see if I could come and help him do his thing.”

Just like he did for someone else in 2007.

Notes & quotes: DL Leonard Williams (hamstring) was removed from the non-football injury list and cleared to practice with the team for the first time on Friday … Rookie T Andrew Thomas was excused from Friday’s practice for personal reasons … Defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson said all of the cornerbacks on the Giants roster will be competing for the eventual starting job. The Giants figure to have free-agent pickup James Bradberry starting on one side, but have a vacancy on the other. “Right now, we don’t even have a true depth chart,” Henderson said. “We call it an alignment chart. It’s just where you’re aligning for that practice or that drill. Everybody is going to get a chance to compete.”

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