Bill Belichick Q&A, 8/21

Posted on August 21, 2007 
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Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here’s the transcript of Bill Belichick press conference with the media this morning at Gillette Stadium.

BB: We’re really into Carolina today. We did some training camp kind of things yesterday, generic things, but we’re into Carolina today. They’re, as we all know, a real talented football team. Defensively, they have a lot of good players. They’re tough. They’ve been one of the top defensive teams in the league the last few years. [They’re] an explosive offensive team, especially at the running back position. [They have an] experienced quarterback. Steve Smith. Solid in the kicking game. This will be a good test for us down there. We’ve been down there a couple times in preseason and we’ve had trouble down there. They’re a good football team. They’re solid. I will be a good test for us on the road against a quality team. I know they had a disappointing season last year, but I don’t think that reflects their talent or the level of coaching, or play, that they’re capable of, that they’ve had on a pretty consistent basis. It will be a good opportunity for us down there on the road, a little warm weather to see where we are at three weeks into preseason.

Q: Is this a good mix of opponents for you in the preseason so far?
BB: We’ve seen a lot of different looks in preseason this year. I really thought that going against Tampa was a great experience for us defensively because all of the plays that they ran they have such a variety in their offensive system that we really got a good look. We got tested in a lot of different areas and got to experience it in game conditions. Tennessee, of course, with a very mobile quarterback had a whole different style of offense and now we see some really good backs here with Carolina. A big offensive line, a physical line, with a very experienced quarterback, so it’s a good mix for us defensively to see. The flip side of it is Tennessee is much more of a stationary type a defense, kind of more like we are, except they are in a four-man front. Tampa, they move a lot upfront and Carolina is a little bit of a combination of both and they have some very talented players, obviously starting with [Julius] Peppers. They have a lot of guys that are pretty good. It’s a good front. We’ve seen a lot of different combinations. Some things are a lot different than what we do, which is good, because we’ll face that with teams like Indianapolis, teams like that who play a lot different style of defense than what we play.

Q: Is it more important this week to start carving out roles for players this week being the third week of preseason?
BB: I think it’s going to be an ongoing process there. I don’t think that all of that is going to be clearly decided on Saturday night, I really don’t, a day after the game. We’re still working out a lot of things, just on how it’s going to turn out. In a game like this, where, in the next two games, I think you’ll probably see players play a little bit longer in one game. It will probably been one group of players. In another game, it will probably be another group of players, so we’ll have a little more extensive playing time. I think that’s also part of the evaluation, is how a guy does over a longer haul as opposed to just playing 10, 12, 15 plays, whatever it is, in a quarter or so of preseason. That’s all part of the process. I don’t think it will be necessarily definitive by this weekend, but we’ll be a step closer and we’ve been a step closer and we’re just taking it one step at a time and we’ll be a step closer after the Giants game.

Q: With the running backs, without having Laurence Maroney in there, and a new guy like Sammy Morris, has it been difficult to decide how you’re going to use each guy?
BB: Really we’re not at that point yet. We’re really not. Right now, we’re at the point where everybody does everything and they learn everything so that at whatever point they have to do it, they can do it. We start getting into more of a, ‘We want a certain player in for this play, or for that situation,’ and I think that becomes more of a game plan decision and something you get into later on down the road. But right now, I think everybody needs to learn how to run all of the routes, how to handle all of the protections, the ball-handling and the footwork on the plays and how to read them and so forth. You don’t want one guy running all of the off tackle plays and another guy running all of the screen passes and another guy running all of the pass protection because that all carries over to every player. So you just teach them all of it.

Q: Did Laurence look good yesterday after his first practice?
BB: Well, I think he’s been consistent all the way through camp. He’s been limited a little bit in the contact part of it, but he’s been able to do everything else and the contact has increased a little bit here in the last couple of weeks. I think he’s taken another step and he’s a step closer. He’s closer to being ready to play now than he was a week ago and he was closer a week ago that he was two weeks ago. I know he’s anxious to get in there and get some reps this week, so I’m sure he’ll get some.

Q: With a young guy that has the physical gifts that Laurence has, do you sometimes have to maybe teach him that he can’t get away with some of the stuff that he got away with in college?
BB: Yes, absolutely. You have to teach all the rookies that. Most of the guys in college were probably the best players on their team, or the most athletic players and talented players on their team and they’re probably the most athletic and talented players on the teams they were playing against, for the most part. Now, it’s the other way around. Now there’s a lot of players that are more talented than them and they have more experience and, in some cases, they’re more physically developed, especially that’s generally true with the bigger guys, the linemen. They go from the top of the scale down to the bottom and almost everything they could get away with at one level, you can’t get away with at this level. You have to do it fundamentally and technically correct to even have a chance and then, even there, sometimes you’re outmatched by a more talented player. That’s something that every rookie has to learn.

Q: How do Rodney [Harrison] and Eugene [Wilson] complement each other back at that safety spot? It seems like the synergy back there between those two players is really important.
BB: It is important because they really control their respective sides of the secondary and they have to communicate with the linebackers on coverage and formation adjustments and that kind of thing. They’re both smart guys. They work hard. They’ve both been in the system now for several years and they work well together, not perfectly, they have things they have to work on and things that we can do better there, but overall I think they work well together and they communicate well back in the secondary, they have to, because it goes out to the corners and the corners have to get it from them and the linebackers and safeties have to be tied in together on run force and coverage adjustments and stuff like that. Those guys do a good job. James [Sanders] is another guy who has really improved there as well. He got quite a bit of playing time last year when Rodney was out. That was one part of his game that really improved significantly over the course of the season. Really, I think we’re at the point now where whichever two of those three are in there together, all of the communication is pretty good. The other kids haven’t had quite as much experience back there as they have, Rashad [Baker] and Willie [Andrews] and Mel [Mitchell], not that they’re not experienced in the league, but just haven’t done it as much in our system as those three players have.

Q: In your experience, offensive lineman have they taken a certain pride in being ignored by the general public?
BB: I think it varies from player to player. I don’t know if I would put [Matt] Light in that category. There’s a certain element of playing an offensive lineman, being anonymous and liking it that way, that means you’re not called for false starts and holding and offside and all of that. There’s something to be said for not being noticed there.

Q: We were just talking about James Sanders and I was thinking about last year, I think it was the third game where he had a tough time and then he sort of responded after that. Did you learn a lot about him through that adversity and how he handled himself?
BB: Yes, I would say last year was a very defining year for James as a professional football player. There were times earlier in the year where things didn’t go as well for him as I’m sure he would have liked for them to go. The way he bounced back was to work harder, to prepare harder, to try to be more attentive on the practice field and really to try to correct the mistakes that he made. We’ve talked about that before with other players, guys like Kevin Faulk and people like that, where those guys make a mistake and you correct them on it, they’re obsessed with getting that straightened out and it not happening again. I give James a lot of credit. For a young guy, really he stepped up. He addressed some things that he had trouble with. He improved them significantly and really by the end of the year they were strengths not weaknesses. That’s not easy for a player to do. Most players like to work on the strengths, work on the things that they’re good at and they’re not as anxious to work on their weaknesses or things that need a lot of work. They’d rather work on the things that they do well. I think a really good player, and a real professional player, does that. He knows that’s where he’s going to be attacked and that’s what he has to shore up. James did a great job of that last year. It was really impressive for such a young kid.

Q: Is it safe to assume that the whole game plan this week won’t be specifically designed for Carolina but rather a look at more of the big picture of what you want to see? What are you looking for in this third preseason game?
BB: I’d say it’s a combination. There are some things that are related to Carolina that are little more specific than say we were for Tennessee or Tampa, for sure. But then there are other things that we just want to do. If this was a regular season game, we probably wouldn’t run them against Carolina, but on the flip side of that, we’re saying, ‘We need work on these things. We’re just going to go ahead and run them. We know it’s not the greatest, but we need to work on this stuff. We need to see it and we need to execute it and so we’re going to go ahead and call it.’ There’s a little bit of that too. I’d say that’s more of what the third preseason game is. We’ve been through the first couple. There are some things that haven’t come up that we feel like we just need to see and we want to work on it in game conditions, so we’ll try to get to those to the extent that we can. Then there are other things where we say, ‘Okay, against Carolina, this is the type of thing we would want to do against this team because of the scheme they play, or the personnel,’ and so we put it in for this week, but it’s not a full blown game plan like we have during the regular season. I’d say it’s a lot less like the first preseason game where you say, ‘Okay, we’re not really that concerned with what Tampa is doing. Here is the stuff we want to run. This is what we’ve been working on for two weeks in training camp and we basically want to go out and run the stuff that we’ve been practicing.’ That makes a lot more sense than practicing something for two weeks in training camp and then in the Tampa game saying, ‘You know what? Let’s go call this other stuff because it would work better against them.’ You really want to run the stuff that you’ve been practicing.

Q: Is it similar to trial and error at this stage?
BB: No. Well, maybe that’s what it looks like to you, but we don’t think so. We’re actually doing it with a purpose. Everything we call, there’s a reason why we’ve called it. Either, like I said, so that we can experience it or because it’s something that we think would fit fairly well with what they’re doing and it gives us an opportunity to say, ‘Okay, this is how we’re going to attack this situation,’ and see whether or not we can do it.

Q: Do you have anyone looking at the Jets or San Diego right now?
BB: Let me put it this way. I would think that every team in the league has somebody at every preseason game. Now some of that is to scout the schemes that your early opponents are running, and certainly some of it is to see the players at that game that for, whatever reason, you have either an interest in or whatever the reason is, you want or observe those particular players, whether they’re on your schedule or not. The way the schedule falls, there’s usually eight, nine, 10 games on one night and then a few on Friday and a few on Thursday and one Monday or Sunday or whatever it is, so you just break up your scouting schedule to, I’d say, get them all covered. Maybe you might miss one or two, but you wouldn’t miss very many. To keep up with injuries, to keep up with the personnel because when we go into the final week of decision making and cuts, you kind of need to know where everybody’s roster is, even teams that we don’t play. You sort of need to know, ‘Well, okay, they’re looking for a tackle,’ or, ‘They’re looking for a linebacker,’ or, ‘They have an extract tight end. It looks like they might have an extra back that they’re trying to move.’ So you kind of need to know a little bit about everybody’s roster just to know what the market is. If you think you have somebody that you might be able to move, like last year we did with Brandon Gore and as an example, something like that, or sometimes there’s somebody that you want to claim or you want to pick up. I would say that the whole league is doing that. I don’t think it’s anything unique to us. I think that’s pretty much the way it is.

Q: Will the players look at the Jets at all? Say [Tom] Brady comes in and says, ‘I want to look at some Jets film.’
BB: I wouldn’t think so. I’m not saying they couldn’t put on a Jet game or whatever, but I think right now their focused on what we’re doing for Carolina. ‘Here’s the stuff that we’re running. Here’s how we want to do it. Let’s go out there and practice it and get that right.’ It’s not like we’re on a short week or anything with the opener. We ran into that situation a couple of years ago where we were playing on Thursday and then opening on Thursday and doing roster cuts and all of that. It was a little different. Here we’re playing on a Thursday and we’re opening the following Sunday. It’s not like we’re on a tight schedule in terms of amount of time to prepare.

Q: Do you have any memories of Jeff Davidson as a coach here?
BB: Sure. Jeff was here when I got here and we retained him to coach the tight ends and he also worked with Dante [Scarnecchia] on the offensive line. I tried to sign just a couple of times, I can remember him sitting in my office when I was in Cleveland. I think he played for New Orleans at the time. He’s a guy that we knew all the way back from coming out of Ohio State as a player and then here as a coach. He’s a smart guy. He’s a hard-working guy. He obviously has a good background with the offensive line and tight end positions. He really worked hard to gain a more extensive knowledge of the passing game with Charlie [Weis] and the passing coach Dick Rehbein, and [John Hufnagel], all of the guys who were here through that period. He was a guy that I think really progressed a lot as a coach from the time that I got here until the time that he left. I have a lot of respect for Jeff. He’s a smart guy. He works hard. He’s very team oriented. I think he’s really developed a good overall offensive knowledge of the game, not just an offensive lineman or tight end specific, but he’s really worked hard to broaden that base and he’s ascended to the coordinator position.

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