Joe Judge took the names off the practice jerseys.
“We know who they are,” he said of eliminating the form of identification.
It sounds like he wishes he could remove more from the outfits the Giants wear on the field each day.
“I’ve been places where we’ve gone an entire offseason without numbers,” he said on Monday.
The Patriots used to do that for their spring workouts when Judge was a young assistant there. It’s a tactic that goes all the way back to Chuck Noll, who had his Steelers practice in numberless jerseys.
So what’s the thinking behind that theory?
“To me, it’s important to know who the players are on the field across from you by their body type and how they move, more so than having to see a nameplate to identify your teammate,” Judge said. “We should know each other as coaches and players by how we move and the way we carry ourselves. When a quarterback gets under center I expect him to know, is that a safety in the box or a Will linebacker? I expect them to know, is that a sized defensive end on the outside or is that an outside linebacker walked up?”
It also adds a level of difficulty to those outsiders who watch and report on practice, giving the team a smidge of a competitive advantage against opponents who are searching for information via written reports and video postings. If football truly is a game of inches, then every smidge counts.
There are, of course, requirements for NFL uniforms, both at practices and in games. In 2016, the NFL decided that players needed to wear identifying numbers to ensure that the league could monitor player participation in compliance with the work rules of the CBA.
So eventually the nameplates will return to the backs of the players.
“The numbers and name stuff, we’ll do that on game day,” Judge said.
Only because they have to, though.
“To be honest with you,” he said, “the identification of who the players are, we should be better than that as coaches and players by knowing our teammates."