Joe Judge normally would be pleased by what happened on Friday night. Members of his Giants team organizing a dinner for themselves, on their own, as a bonding experience before a weekend off?
"That’s something they were looking to do and kind of stay tight with each other," Judge said on Tuesday. "I believe they were trying to do the right thing as teammates."
This isn’t normally, though. So when pictures and video of them without masks and appropriate social distancing were briefly posted online -- most notably of Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley, the two faces of the franchise – they were in potential violation of team and NFL protocols.
Judge, in the team’s first public comments on the matter beyond a statement acknowledging the images, said he had "a lot of in-depth conversations" with the players involved and the entire team as well regarding those actions, but declined to say whether any discipline in the form of fines would be meted out.
"We will deal with things internally," Judge said. "The only thing I will say on that is this group of guys has been very responsible from the very beginning. They’ve tried to do the right thing the entire time . . . They understand the consequences of anything you do in this COVID environment as well as in the public eye of how they are looked at and how we have to be careful and we have to make the right decisions."
The Giants appear to have been diligent in their COVID-19 response as an organization and have not had any players test positive since early in training camp. Judge has made it an emphasis for the team from the beginning of their time together. Earlier this month, Judge spoke about maintaining that vigilance.
"Look, I’m not going to lie to you and act like it’s some magic bubble we live in," he said in early October. "Coaches and players all get tired of hearing, ‘stay spaced out, make sure your mask is on, stay apart, make sure your tracer is not blinking.’ All of that stuff, it’s day in, day out of saying the same things over and over. There’s a natural wear on you as a person, but you have to stay committed. As we’ve addressed it with our team, not one of us opted out. We all opted into this league. We chose this year at the beginning of the year that we were going to go through this, and we were going to make the necessary sacrifices and adjustments it was going to take to have a successful season."
Judge also seemed to foresee something like Friday’s events.
"There are going to be other things that come up," he said on Oct. 15. "There is going to be something that happens locally and close by that we have to guard ourselves against. We just have to keep educating our players, educating our coaching staff and our support staff, and make sure we stay on it day by day. But we’re definitely not blind to it. We’re not putting our head in the sand with it. We’re very, very conscious of what’s going on."
He even said there are weekly meetings with teams on the practice squad and injured reserve to remind them of their responsibilities during weekends when the rest of the team is at the game.
"We basically remind them, ‘Look, you have a responsibility and obligation to the team of staying safe and not exposing yourself to something while we’re gone,’" he said. "They have to make really tough decisions but important decisions for the team. It’s easy for them to say, ‘I have 72 hours away from the team until I have to be back at a team function. I can go out’ and whatever it may be. Go get something to eat, go to a party, hang out with some girl, whatever it may be. We have to make the right decisions and make sure that we’re smart about who we’re around and how we conduct ourselves."
Those warnings would seem to be the same for a team with a few days off after a Thursday night game.
Lacking masks wasn’t the only seemingly risky part of Friday night’s outing. Video also showed Barkley riding a bicycle in the street. The running back is scheduled to undergo surgery later this week for a torn ACL.
"Riding a stationary bike is part of his rehab prepping for surgery," Judge said.
Logic would dictate that the chances of suffering further damage to his knee on a moving bike in a city street would be far greater than on a stationary bike in a training room.
Judge did say that Barkley is currently in Los Angeles awaiting surgery.
"Obviously our thoughts and prayers are with him," Judge said.