Bill Belichick Q&A, 8/31

Posted on August 31, 2007 
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Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here’s the complete transcript of Bill Belichick’s conference call with the media this afternoon:

BB: I’m just kind of following up from last night. I was impressed with the way the team played. We didn’t really play very many players, but we got a good long look at them. A number of those guys played on a lot of special teams plays as well as their offensive and defensive units. There were certainly some positive things to see from a lot of players almost throughout the entire duration of the game. Certainly there are a lot of things that we need to work on and things that were far from perfect, but overall I thought it was a positive effort. Right now we’re just going to have to go through a lot of personnel decisions here in the next day and a half and figure out exactly what we want to try to do. There are a number of factors involved, not only just roster decisions, but practice squad spots, some of the physical condition of our players and so forth. That will be part of it and then, of course, we want to get started on the game preparation for the Jets. That’s kind of where we are here for the short term. We’ll let you know when we’ve made any of those personnel moves. There are a lot of moving parts.

Q: It seems like the quarterbacks might make things a little bit more challenging for you in making those decisions. All three guys really played well last night. Can you give us your thoughts if you would be willing to keep four quarterbacks when you make the final roster?
BB: Well, we’ve done it before. We’ve kept four. We’ve kept two and we’ve kept three. We’ll do whatever we think is the best decision for the football team. We’ll try to take everything into consideration when we make that decision, not just that decision, but the other roster spots that may be influenced or affected by that as well. I like what the three guys did last night. I thought they all, at various points, handled themselves well and did some good things.

Q: Can you talk a little about Bam Childress? He seems like he would be a tough guy to cut if you had to because of his versatility.
BB: I think you said it best. Bam showed a lot of versatility. We’ve also used him on defense. Last year, he played both the running back and receiver spots in the Jacksonville game. I think that’s one of his biggest strengths, is his versatility, his intelligence and the fact that he has value in more than one spot.

Q: Has he learned a lot from being around some of these good receivers that you’ve had here over the last few years?
BB: Bam is a smart guy and he’s very attentive and works hard. I’m sure he’s learned from everybody that he’s been around – the quarterbacks, the coaches, the other players, the receivers, guys on defense. He is a student of the game and he works hard at it.

Q: Do you put any stock in the seven sacks of [Jared] Lorenzen, eight overall? I know the second and third stringers were doing a lot of that. Is that a pleasing sign that leaves an impression?
BB: Of course it’s always good to hit the quarterback. Again, we try to look at the plays maybe a little bit more on an individual basis when you’re evaluating players. Sometimes you have guys that make a good pass rush move and the coverage isn’t tight enough and they throw the ball because there’s a receiver open, and so it doesn’t show up in the stats. Then, another time, the coverage is good and the quarterback has to hold the ball and it really isn’t a very good pass rush but the result of the play is that you hit the quarterback because maybe more because of coverage than pass rush. From a team standpoint, it’s all interrelated and we’ve talked about that a lot, but from an individual evaluation standpoint, sometimes the overall performance of the group skews the production a little bit from what I would say it actually is on an individual basis, in either direction. Again, we just try to look at that and do the best we can evaluating all of the players and what they did and who they did it against and how often it happened and how consistent they are and so forth.

Q: Do we have any idea of the severity of Oscar Lua’s injury?
BB: Not right now, just looking at him, and all of the players really, from after the game.

Q: How do injuries play into tomorrow’s decisions? Are there pretty clear rules governing releasing injured players and that type of thing?
BB: Well, not really. The rules are if you release a player that is injured, then you work out some kind of monetary settlement with that player one way or another and he doesn’t count on your roster. It’s just like you release any other player, depending on how long the player is going to be out for, that’s governed by the collective bargaining agreement and that’s worked out between the club and the player or eventually it could be arbitrated by a third party if the two sides couldn’t agree, but that’s pretty clear cut. Part of the decision making that the clubs have to deal with is if you carry a player who is injured or unable to play for a while, then essentially you’re at 52, or 51, however many of those players you have, who can’t play until they’re healthy and depending on the injury, it could be different lengths of time. So that could factor into the decision too, how long you’d want to carry a player that’s not going to be able to play, how long can you afford to do that? That’s how it plays a part. If you release him, you release him, then you just settle with him. If you don’t release him, how long are you carrying a player that won’t be able to participate?

Q: Is that monetary hit that you guys take for releasing an injured player count against the cap?
BB: Yes, it’s part of the player’s salary.

Q: How has Dante Wesley done? What have you thought of him since you acquitted him in the trade from Chicago?
BB: I think he has improved. Our system is a little bit different than the one they ran up there and so he’s had to adjust to some different techniques and different emphasis points in the scheme, but he is a hard-working kid. He’s been out there every day. He’s shown up in the kicking game, made some plays on defense. I think he’s certainly put himself in a competitive position, relative to playing for this team.

Q: With Brandon [Meriweather] playing safety all game, he played a lot at corner and now he’s played a full game at safety. When you saw him coming into the summer and his position flexibility, and now that you’ve seen it over the course of training camp, are you happy that he’s proficient at both of spots in your system?
BB: Yes, it worked out that way that we were able to give him an opportunity to play, really, all three positions – corner, nickel back and safety. The way that things fell last night with the players, we had more corners available than safeties, so it was good to be able to get him some playing time at safety. Going forward, we’ll just have to decide what the best thing for him and the team is in terms of the positions that he plays. I do feel like he gives us some depth at all of those spots. We’ll just have to prioritize how it’s going to go and it may change from game to game too. It may not stay the same every week. We’ll just have to take it as it comes. We thought he would have flexibility coming into our system and he’s shown that he does have some and he also has a lot of things to work on and the more positions you give him, then the more things there are for him to learn and get proficient at. He has a lot of work to do, but he’s shown some versatility and some playmaking ability on the defensive side of the ball, and showed up a little bit in the kicking game last night too, so that was good.

Q: Can you talk briefly about Heath Evans, one of the potential first string guys who was out there a lot last night playing with a bunch of kids? He’s been a workhorse through camp and maybe doesn’t get a lot of publicity. What does he bring to the table?
BB: Well, again, last week against Carolina, Heath got a few carries, but we wanted to give him an opportunity to get his hands on the ball a little bit more in this game and make sure that he was ready for the season, as well as some plays in the kicking game. He got an opportunity to do that and that was good. I thought he did a pretty good job with it for the most part. Heath is another guy that gives us some position flexibility offensively. He’s carried the ball. He’s picked up the blitz. He’s played some fullback, not the running back position in our offense, and he’s also participated in some kicking situations. His versatility, his intelligence, his toughness, he’s been durable and dependable and we’ve all seen him run with power and make some tough yards. I think he has a lot of things going for him and we wanted to give him an opportunity last night to be able to get some experience in those roles in preseason a little more so than he did in the first couple of games, so I think we did that and that was good.

Q: You don’t see too many quarterbacks on special teams. Matt Gutierrez was out there last night. Was that just him trying to make himself more valuable to you?
BB: Sure. Matt runs fairly well. Again, we didn’t have that many players participating in the game so we could use all of the bodies we could get there. Matt runs well enough to be able to participate in some of the special teams plays. There’ve been other guys in that situation and we’ve all seen that before, so we just wanted to take a look at it and evaluate it and see whether that is worth investing time in or whether it’s a waste of time.

Q: Has there been enough time for Richard Seymour and David Thomas who’ve been on the PUP list to get off of it and be able to practice enough to where they would have a legitimate chance of playing against the Jets?
BB: I think they’re in the day-to-day category. Certainly some of that will play into our decisions here over the next day and a half. I think with those kinds of things, you give the situation as much time as you can and sometimes another day or two can give you a little bit more information to work with. That’s probably what we’ll do, take as much time as we have and get as much information as we can and then try to make the best decision for the team that we can.

Q: Are you generally encouraged with the overall health of the team at this point moving forward?
BB: I don’t think it really makes any difference whether I am or not. We have to take our situation and try to make the most of it and that’s really all we’re trying to do. I’m not trying to grade it, whether it’s better or worse, good, bad or that type of thing. We’ll just take what is and try to understand it the best that we can and look at all of our options and do what we feel like is the best thing for the team. That’s really all we can do.

Q: How much leeway do you have in constructing your game day roster?
BB: It goes without saying that if you’re going to be heavy in one area, you’re going to be light somewhere else. I know we’ve had as many as 11 linebackers active for a game. My guess is we’ve probably had as many as 11 defensive backs active as well. I think seven offensive linemen has pretty much been the norm for us, either five or six defensive linemen and a couple of quarterbacks and four or five receivers. There’s a certain number of people that I’d say it’s relatively fixed. After that, there are other variables. If it’s 11 linebackers, it’s going to be not as many defensive backs or tight ends or running backs. If it’s more balanced, then you’re going to have more of a balanced roster. I think my first year here, if I’m not mistaken, we carried six backs into a lot of games. I don’t remember doing that in recent years, very often if at all. I don’t think we’ve done it in a while. I’m sure we carried six back in 2000. It just depends on the makeup of your roster. Sometimes the game day activations are sometimes more special teams related than they are position related. So, for example, if you have a fullback, or a running back, who plays on all of your special teams and you have another running back who plays on all of your special teams and another year you have a couple of linebackers that play on all your special teams, but those players really don’t play very many offensive or defensive plays, then to be honest with you, I’m not sure if it makes any difference. What difference does it make if you carry six backs or four backs? Those extra backs are your core special teams players. Defensively, if you carry 10 linebackers instead of eight, but the extra two linebackers are your core special teams players, it doesn’t really matter whether they’re linebackers, backs, tight ends or defensive backs. If that’s what you need them for and they’re the best you have at it, then it doesn’t really matter what position they play, that’s going to be their primary role. You know as well as I do that we’ve had a number of players that would fall into that category that were almost exclusively special teams players, whether it be Chris Floyd at fullback back in 2000 or Je’Rod Cherry as a safety, Larry Izzo as a linebacker. Those guys didn’t get a whole lot of defensive or offensive playing time, they were core special teams players and sometimes the positions that they come from fluctuate a little bit, but you’re looking to get your best team out there. That’s kind of the way we view it.

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