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Joe Judge shakes off Troy Aikman's criticism of Giants

New York Giants head coach Joe Judge reacts

New York Giants head coach Joe Judge reacts on the sidelines during the first half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig) Credit: AP/Seth Wenig

A day after Troy Aikman said the Giants "aren’t in Dallas’ class," Joe Judge acknowledged that this Sunday’s matchup against the Cowboys will be a challenging one, but added that his team has no need for external motivation — even if it comes from a Hall of Fame quarterback.

"I think you have to understand the magnitude of every game you play," Judge said Friday before practice. "These division games are obviously no different, so if we need somebody else to kind of get us in the mind frame to play, I think we have other issues at hand."

Judge said there was no thought to using Aikman’s comments as bulletin-board material as they face their divisional rivals, even if his comments seemed especially pointed (Aikman is set to call the game with Joe Buck on FOX).

It’s "going to be the challenge for the Giants," Aikman said during a radio appearance with The Musers on 96.7 FM The Ticket in Dallas Thursday. "They’re coming off a big win, but they’re, in my opinion, and I understand in the NFL anybody can beat anybody and all that, but [the Giants] aren’t in Dallas’ class as far as I’m concerned."

Judge greeted those comments with something akin to bland indifference, but he also held back no praise for the Cowboys, whom he called among the best in the league. Asked if Sunday was a litmus test for who the Giants are – or who they can be – he diverted again, saying that every game is a gauge for where this team can go.

"I think on the topic of what was said, look, this team’s extremely good," Judge said. "We have to acknowledge this team’s one of the best statistically that this league’s seen in a long time to be ranked this high on offense as a rushing team, a passing team, defensively – in terms of turnovers and takeaways, along with rushing defense. To be this situationally good and to be this good in the kicking game, this team’s an outstanding team. There’s no getting around it. This team’s extremely talented. They’re well-coached and they’re obviously winning games right now playing the right way. I think this is obviously one of the top teams in the league and one of the top teams we’ll see in a long time."

Leonard Williams was equally sanguine about the comments the Giants have been getting – both from Aikman and from the Saints' C.J. Gardner-Johnson who, before New Orleans' loss last week, said he felt sorry for the Giants.

"I think no matter what our record is, I’m going to respect our opponent no matter what their record is, because of stuff like that," Williams said. "If you devalue the team that you’re going to go against, you’re not going to prepare the same and you can get upset. You can’t overhype the team as well because you obviously have to feel like you can compete with them. It really is any given Sunday."

Of course, it’s not to be discounted that the Giants have gone into games as underdogs against the Cowboys and come out the winner – the 2007 NFC divisional playoff game, for instance, or the 1996 regular-season win where Wellington Mara said it was nice to see Jerry Jones humbled. Judge appears to be taking that same vaguely antagonistic spirit into Sunday.

"Maybe I’m screwed up [but] I like going on road games where there’s a whole lot of people who hate you," he said. "To me, that’s kind of fun. I don’t know if everyone feels that way. I think our team responded last week the right way to that. That’s not going to count for anything unless we go down there and do it this week the right way."

Injury updates. T Andrew Thomas (foot) is questionable for Sunday; he said he injured the same foot he had surgery on early this year, but that it’s not the same injury. Thomas worked in the rotation with Nate Solder and Matt Peart both Thursday and Friday. S Jabrill Peppers (hamstring), WR Sterling Shepard (hamstring) and WR Darius Slayton (hamstring) were all ruled out.

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