Giants’ Joe Judge knows nothing is ‘easy’ about the NFL


The longest eight weeks of Joe Judge’s coaching career started with a tight loss to LaGrange College.

Then came losses to Rhodes, Trinity, DePauw, Austin and Centre before the Birmingham-Southern football team snapped a six-game losing streak on Nov. 1, 2008. It’s relevant 12 years later because the Giants are 0-3 and Judge’s first season as a head coach includes his first three-game slide since he was a NCAA Division III linebackers coach.

It’s quite the contrast between Judge, whose time as an assistant at Alabama and with the New England Patriots exposed him to frequent winning, and a locker room where a three-game skid barely is a blip on the radar. The Giants lost nine straight last season and five straight in each of the two previous seasons.

“I’ve been on a lot of teams that started off 5-0, 6-0, 7-0, 10-0, and it’s the same feeling in every building across the league right now: All you are thinking about is things you have to work on,” Judge said. “In the NFL, not a lot of things get easier as the year goes, so we have to improve to make sure as the year goes we can be competitive.”

Judge has brought a lot of newness to the Giants, but losing is familiar and could create the same “here we go again” feeling for players that it has for disheartened fans.

“Sometimes early on, you get a vision of what you are and your identity by how you have to correct your mistakes and what you have to learn from,” Judge said. “We had a lot of years when we were the most successful team in the world where it started off really, really rough.

“There are a lot of times you look around the meeting room and the locker room halfway through the year, regardless of your record, and it’s just doom and gloom. You have to make sure you bring it back to perspective and understand it’s a day-by-day process as a team, and you’re all you’ve got.”

Judge lives his message to the players: Watch the tape, then look forward instead of backward. Except the Giants figure to be underdogs in at least 11 of their final 13 games, so it’s no sure thing brighter days are ahead.

“The NFL is not supposed to be easy,” Judge said. “What we’re trying to do here isn’t easy. But we’re going to try to keep it simple for our players.”

Safety Jabrill Peppers (ankle) is considered day-to-day with no timetable for return until after further examination.

“It looks like it could go either way at this point right here,” Judge said.

Left tackle Andrew Thomas missed a few plays but finished the game, and there was “nothing significant to go over with the trainers,” Judge said.

Inside linebacker David Mayo is eligible to return off injured reserve this week, but no decision is finalized. Once the Giants reintroduce him to practice, they have three weeks to activate him or shut him down for the rest of the season.

“The trainers say he is working his butt off every day,” Judge said. “It’s in his best interest to make sure that, when we start the 21-day clock, he’s in a position that he is not going to have any setbacks.”

Mayo, who will replace Devante Downs as a starter, has been involved in team meetings.

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