Bill Belichick Q&A, 8/22

Posted on August 22, 2007 
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Here’s the complete transcript of Bill Belichick’s Q&A with the media this morning at Gillette Stadium:

BB: We seem to be moving right along this week. Maybe it’s just me. This is the last full day of preparation now for Carolina. We’ll keep working on all of the situational things that are so important to our game. Kicking situations. Down and distance. One play type of situations. Today is kind of the last rehearsal on that. We know we had a short week last week, so this is kind of the coming together of really our last big week in training camp before we get into the first regular season game preparation. We’re looking forward to the trip down to Carolina. It’s been, as it always is with a team like that, they’re very physical, very talented and well coached. It will be a good opportunity for us to see where we are this week. I think we’re looking forward to it.

Q: Do you grade where you are and how much progress you’ve made to this point here in camp? Like the offensive line is here, the wide receivers are here?
BB: Well, I think we definitely evaluate where we are. That’s the most important thing – is where we are and what we need to work on and how to, either, the things that we’re not doing well either improve them or get rid of them and the things that we’re doing well, maybe, how to do more of them. That’s really where it is. It’s not so much about expectations or rankings and all of that. It’s about where we are and what do we need to do to get better and that’s a theme every day. That is our theme. That’s all we’re about really, is trying to find a way to improve our team and get better and do things better today than we did yesterday and prepare for the challenges for tomorrow.

Q: Are you on schedule?
BB: Again, I don’t know what the schedule is.

Q: For what you wanted to accomplish?
BB: What I want to accomplish is I want to be better than we were yesterday and there’s certainly a lot of things that we need to work on. It’s unrealistic to think that any team after four weeks of training camp is going to be where they were after six months of football at the end of the previous season. It’s unrealistic. If you could do that, then you’d be so far ahead of everything else, but it’s a process. It’s a building process. It’s a very long process. It starts in training camp and it goes through a 16 game regular season schedule, and if you do well, it goes beyond that. That’s part of it. Right now we’re just trying to be better than we were yesterday and be better than we were last week and try to improve when we go down to Carolina. They present different challenges than Tennessee did. Tennessee presented different challenges than Tampa does. The Giants will present different ones than Carolina. We’re just trying to improve our football team on all of those fronts. Just because you do something well against one team doesn’t mean you’re going to do it well against somebody else, because the matchups are different, the schemes are a little bit different. You still have to work to have that overall level of execution no matter what side of the ball you’re on or the type of play it is.

Q: When a experienced veteran gets released this late in camp, like a Jeremiah Trotter, an Artrell Hawkins, do you guys have a running report on each guy so you automatically know, ‘Yes, we’re interested in this guy or not?’
BB: Well, we have information on every player, not only every player in the league, but every player who would even be a consideration. The last couple of years, when you start adding all of that up, you’re talking about guys who have been released from training camp, guys who have been out of football for a year or two or so forth. You’re talking about well over 3,000 players. Now certainly some information is more updated and more current and more thorough than others. Every team we play, we evaluate every player whether they play against us or not. We also evaluate players on other teams, more so in terms of if we expect them to be available. Like if they’re a restricted free agent, then we would evaluate him. Then in the following year if they become an unrestricted free agent, then we would build on those kinds of reports, then, if a player a year or two after that, then we’d certainly have all of that information. We kind of evaluate them coming out of college. We evaluate all of them, certainly, by their third year or fourth year in the league, depending on kind of what their individual situation is and then after that, in a timely manner, in addition to the fact that anybody that we play, again, this year it’s the NFC East, last year it was the NFC Central. Within a year or two, or three, you pretty much hit all of those divisions. I don’t want to sit here and say we do every player, every day or every month, but in a timely fashion we do every team in the league and I would say therefore that probably sees every player in the league within that cycle and then others players a lot more frequent. Any team that we play and compete against, then that would all be done, whether the player plays against us or not, even if he’s a practice squad player or whatever. We would still have current information on all players. When anything happens, it doesn’t make any difference who it is or what time of year it is or anything. When the waiver wire comes out and players are released, then we access that information on whoever that player is, whether he’s a rookie free agent or a 10-year veteran. It doesn’t make any difference. We kind of mentally go through a little checklist, ‘Now that this player is not with any team, what are we going to do with him? Is this a player that we wouldn’t want? Is this a player that we would want to actively pursue? Is this a player who we would want in an emergency situation? If we don’t want him right now, but maybe if something changed we would want him. Is this a player that we have medical concerns about? Would we need to get a physical on him?’ Whatever the specific circumstances of that player are and they vary obviously from player to player. That’s how we handle it.

Q: Can you draw a comparison between Mike Vrabel and Adalius Thomas?
BB: Adalius has only played two games, so a lot of it is just from working with him. They’re both big, physical players and they’re both smart. They both have some versatility. It would be hard to really say that about Adalius in our system until we actually spend more time with him in our system. They’re both linebackers that have played inside and outside and have some versatility and are smart players who’ve played in the kicking game. They have a lot in common from that standpoint.

Q: You’ve spoken about how Mike’s versatility and how valuable it’s been.
BB: It’s been very valuable and Mike does a good job at the position that he primarily plays in, too. It’s not like he’s just a utility infielder. I think he actually plays his position very well when he just has to play the one spot, not that he has one spot, but you know what I mean, as an outside linebacker.

Q: I saw him with a Giants helmet on yesterday. Is there a story behind that?
BB: I’m sure if there is one, Mike can tell it.

Q: Are there things that you’ve worked on here in training camp that you don’t necessarily want to show in these preseason games?
BB: There are some things that we will work on through training camp that we have already said we aren’t going to run in preseason. I don’t think it’s a really long list. There’s plenty of film on us. There’s a lot of continuity in our coaching staff and what we do. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel or anything. I think that most things that we do, we’ve probably done at some point in the last year or two. There are a couple of things that we’ve changed from last year or modified, I don’t know if change is the right word, but modified a little bit to take into account new things that we’re facing or maybe a little different idea or wrinkle on a play or something. There are some of those that we probably wouldn’t run in preseason. But again, I don’t think it’s nothing that anybody hasn’t ever seen before. We’re not to going to run the single wing or wishbone or something like that. I don’t think you have to worry about that.

Q: When do you shift your focus from preseason to regular season mode?
BB: That’s a tough question and a good question. I guess I would say though, we’ve thought about the opening part of our schedule, specifically the opening game, since the schedule came out. It isn’t like we didn’t work on those teams. In the spring, you look at your 13 opponents, three teams that we play twice, you look at those 13 opponents and you’re mentally kind of doing work on all of them, but once the schedule comes out, you certainly prioritize the first half of the season opponents over the second half of the season because by the time you get to them you’ll have a lot more information. When your schedule comes out, you start to do more offseason breakdowns and work on those early opponents as much as you can do. San Diego is an example where they had a coaching change. Some of that might be integrated into another team depending on where that coach came from, like it does with Norv [Turner]. Then as you go through training camp, as I’ve said all along, the two main goals of training camp are to prepare your team for opening day and to prepare your team for a 16 game regular season schedule. Those two kind of go hand in hand. As you play preseason games, those are steps toward those two larger goals, but then you have the short-term situation of playing the preseason game in that particular week and trying to improve your team during those practice and game opportunities. I would really say it’s a transitional thing. You hit full stride after the last preseason game. You watch that tape and make the corrections and then you come in on your opening opponent. There’s an element of transitioning into that from, I would say, all the way back into the spring. That’s gradual.

Q: With Randy Moss not practicing, how does that set him back?
BB: I think all of the players, when they don’t practice, what they have to focus on is to do what they can do and not what they can’t do. That’s true for every player. There are a lot of things that you can do mentally, in the meeting room and in a film study. The areas of the body that you can train, that are trainable, you train and the ones that aren’t, then you rehab them until they are. I think that’s really what the focus of every injured player should be, is to work on the things that he can work on and then try to treat whatever injury it is until he can get back on the field and fully participate with the group. That’s what we try to do.

Q: Is it more important to have continuity on the defensive side of the ball?
BB: If you talked to the defensive coaches it would be. I think that continuity and experience are good wherever you have it. I don’t think it’s necessarily a prerequisite. We’ve seen plenty of new players come onto teams and young players come onto teams and be impact players. But anytime you have experience and anytime you have continuity, it’s not a bad thing. It can be helpful, but I don’t think that’s any assurance that things are going to be one way or another. It gives you a little bit of an experience or continuity advantage. In the end, there’s still the other 98 percent of it is probably a lot more important.

Q: We spoke earlier in the week on having competition in camp and how that pushes players to perform. Stephen Gostkowski hasn’t had that this camp. Have you been happy with the way he’s been able to prepare mentally for this season?
BB: I think that the kicker position is a little bit different than the other ones. In this particular case, we felt like given all of the circumstances and all of the things that we were dealing with, we were comfortable with that situation. I think Stephen has had a good camp. He works hard. He’s a very mature and dependable guy. Really, I don’t have any problems with what he’s done in training camp. I think like everybody else, he has a ways to go with his game like all of the rest of us do. I think he’s worked hard. I think he’s improved and I think that he’s kicked well through the overall course of camp.

Q: With the right tackle position, I know that you’ve moved guys like Ryan O’Callaghan and Nick Kaczur through that spot. Is there a point where you need to get that position settled and start those guys working together as soon as possible?
BB: I know what you’re saying. I don’t think there’s any rule as to when somebody has to be part of a unit or not be part of a unit. I think as a coaching staff we make that decision when we feel like we know what the right decision is. Now sometimes you might not make a decision at a certain position until the first game or when you actually have to make it. Sometimes you make it before that if you feel like you have enough information and you feel like you’re able to make the right one. I guess what I would say on any personnel decision like that is whenever you feel like you know what the right decision is, then you make it. If you, for whatever reason, need more time and you have that time, then you probably take it. If you don’t have more time then you have to go with it even though you wish you had a little bit longer, but it’s time to go and so you make it. To me, it falls into one of those three categories.

Q: Is that a tougher position to rotate guys in and out of there, in terms of how you would rotate receivers into different spots?
BB: I guess from that standpoint, you would like to keep that group as much intact as you can, but again, I think the flipside of that is if at some point it isn’t intact, then at least you’ve had an opportunity to work with other people in there and it’s not as big of an adjustment, those guys have never been without each other because if at some point that happens, then that’s the way it’s going to be. I think you take advantage of the opportunities that you have there, where you have competition and where you have a rotation and the guys are competing for a spot, then the other guys get used to playing with both of them.

Q: As far as assessing cornerbacks, is this a good opportunity for the coaching staff to do that against a receiver like Steve Smith on the other side of the ball?
BB: Sure. Every opportunity is a good opportunity. Every game is a good opportunity and Carolina has a lot of good players on both sides of the ball, and again, they have a very sound scheme. Yes, this will be a good opportunity to evaluate our players and our team, as were the other two preseason games, as our practices have been. Again, ultimately it’s a cumulative decision. I think it would be a mistake to evaluate a player based on one practice or one game or just a couple of plays and say, ‘Well that’s really what that player is.’ I think it’s much better to look at a bigger body of work and evaluate him over a longer period of time against different types of players. There’s a lot of players that I’m sure could go out there and get beat by Steve Smith who are still good football players and who could still help your team and you could still win a lot of games with. Not that that’s what you want to see happen, but I’m saying realistically, it’s probably the same thing with [Julius] Peppers. There’s probably going to be a couple of plays where we don’t get Peppers blocked, or we don’t get Chris Jenkins blocked or we don’t get [Mike] Rucker blocked. And there will be some plays where they don’t get us blocked. That doesn’t mean that those players aren’t good players or those players can’t play good football for their team or our team or whoever it is and you still can’t win with them. Sometimes it’s a matchup that you might need some help with. In a game like this, it’s a question of how much game planning you want to do based on personnel and how much you want to just go out and let your players play and let their players play and understand that, hey, there’s going to be some matchups in our favor and there might be some in their favor. We’ll just live with those for right now rather than trying to game plan and scheme into them, even not knowing how much some of those players are going to play. That’s a little bit of the challenge of preseason. That’s okay. It will be good for us.

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