Bill Belichick just wrapped up his morning session with the media, and we just spend about 40 minutes in the locker room. Here are a few quick notes.
•Belichick touched on a wide range of topics, including the specifics behind the waiver process on Saturday, whether or not the first and second team defense needs more time before the start of the regular season, the process of making cuts (he called it “one of the least fun parts of the job”), the goals for the final preseason game, the use of the defensive communication system and Dom Capers’ influence on the Patriots.
•It was a slow day in the locker room, with only a handful of players making an appearance. Mike Vrabel, LaMont Jordan Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk were among the players drawing big crowds. Vrabel talked about wearing the green dot on his helmet as part of the defensive communication system — we’ll have more on that later.
•On the injury front, defensive back Brandon Meriweather and offensive linemen Stephen Neal and Matt Light were all seen walking through the locker room. They all politely declined interview requests.
Here’s the complete transcript of Bill Belichick’s Q&A with reporters from this morning at Gillette Stadium:
We are back at it here. We are definitely on a regular season schedule now these two days. We are trying to put three days into two and treat today and tomorrow like a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and compress that. The [New York] Giants game is a good opportunity for us in terms of going on the road, obviously playing a quality football team. It will give us a lot of things that we need to continue to work on. They are very good on defense, good skill receivers, good offensive line and good in the kicking game. It will be a good opportunity for us, all the way across the board for all the guys to participate in the game, get some experience and try to fine tune and get everything as ready as we can against Kansas City. Obviously, we still have a lot of work to do and we only have a few practices left from now until the start of the regular season and one more preseason game. We want to try to take advantage of those opportunities, make the most of them and gain as much ground as we can as a football team to get ready for Kansas City and also try to evaluate the roster in terms of making the cuts. We have to be at 75 on Tuesday, as you know, and then 53 by the end of the week. We’ve got quite a few decisions to make there and that will be part of it, as well as trying to get our team ready to go against Kansas City in the opener and the 15 games after that. You know, this is a tight week, short week, busy week but hopefully a productive one and one where we can take advantage of opportunities to make our team better.
When it comes to guys who are on the bubble at this time of year – is there a danger in them trying to do too much to try and catch the coach’s eye during practice?
I think that is always a concern for everybody. Guy’s that try to do more than what they need to do and then not doing what their job is first. I think it comes back to do your job first, whatever that is. We all have an important job on the football team and we all have to do that job. Whoever is coaching the linebackers has to coach the linebackers, whoever is playing left end has to play left end, whoever is the contain guys has to be the contain guys. Everyone has to do their job, that is where it all starts. I think we never want to start trying to help too many other people out and get somewhere else and not be accountable for our own area. To the extent that you can ever get that under control and then assist someone else, that is great. That goes for all of us. I know everyone is trying hard to improve, to get ready to go, in some cases to make the team and show up wherever they can and take advantage of their opportunities and that’s the way it should be. I think we have some competitive situations. I have already told the players and I constantly tell them, there isn’t anything more you can do than prepare to play and play when you get the opportunity to play. Whenever those opportunities come will be determined by the coaching staff and not by the players although your performance affects your number of opportunities, but substitution and playing time are coaching decisions and not player decisions. I think they are better off not worrying about all of those and concentrate on what they can do to do their job better.
You mentioned trying to cram three days into two. What does that mean for the players?
Well, we can’t take three practices and combine it into two from a time standpoint. We have to cut some things out, not run as many plays. I am saying if you add up the three days of practices, plays and so forth and then do it in two you are not going to come out with the same number. We still have to cover the same things. We have to cover first down runs, play actions, third down, red area, short yardage, goal line, two minute, all the kicking game plays and so forth. It would be like anything else. What you have normally 45 minutes to do, now you have 30 so you spend a little bit less time on everything but still try to get it all covered. Instead of running nine third down plays, maybe you run six. Instead of running 20 red area plays, you run 12 over the course of the week and you just have to trim that back a little bit. Same thing in the meetings, we have two days of meetings instead of three so everything has to go at a little bit of a quicker pace. From a game plan standpoint we will probably, it is preseason so there is not a ton of game planning anyway, trim things back a little bit because we know we have less time. [We will prepare] a few less plays and when you are playing more players than that affects it too. Not everyone is going to be in there running the plays anyway. It is hard to rep two or three groups for one play when you put in something new. Whereas, in the regular season if you put in something new you have one group and you give them two or three turns on it and hopefully you can get it. We will just have to compress everything.
Have you noticed a lot of growth this year with the rookie group?
They have worked hard. They have probably been as good a working group as we have had. They have worked hard off the field in the classroom, learning their assignments, watching film, spending extra time with the coaches, learning how to work the Avid equipment – doing some of their own cut ups and stuff like that. They’ve worked hard on the field. They make mistakes just like all rookies do and we will see how they perform over the long haul not just based on a couple of weeks. They have put a lot in it, they have been accountable, haven’t had any problems with them in terms of discipline things or[being] late or that kind of thing. They are there early, they are eager, they are ready to go and they have consistently tried to do their best and try to learn from their mistakes. I think overall it’s been a good group to work with and that goes back to rookie mini camp and the off-season program when those guys came in, in the middle of May, My 15-16 when they started here. They have been pretty consistent as a group.
On the rookie’s development…
I don’t know. We will have to see how all that plays out. I think you just keep moving along and you never know where it is going to go. Sometimes you hit a wall and it stops and sometimes it really takes off and goes a lot faster than you think it will. Sometimes it starts slow and you think, I don’t know if we are ever going to get anywhere here – this is the best it is going to be and then all of a sudden it turns around and vice versa. Sometimes they start fast and finish slow and sometimes they start slow and finish fast. Sometimes it is a steady progression. I just don’t think there is any formula on that. Obviously, we are going to have to make some decisions at the end of the week, like everybody else is and we will go on the information we have but it is not a perfect or exact science.
In the rookie class, are there leaders within the group?
Oh definitely. I think you see that in every rookie class. There are certain players that have a little bit more leadership within that class than other guys do. There are certain guys that maybe the other rookie guys look to and there are certain ones they don’t. I think there is always that dynamic. I think sometimes when the rookies do some of the stuff with the veterans, like skits and stuff like that, it is a way for some of the team to see the personalities of the younger players not just in a football environment – out of the field, in a drill or at a meeting – but just a little bit of their personality and how they interact with their team, teammates and other rookie members. I think anytime you get a group of people, it settles in a certain way. That is not necessarily predictable but going back to 2000, even though [Tom] Brady was sixth round draft pick, by the end of the year I don’t think there is any doubt that he emerged as the leader and front runner of that group. He certainly wasn’t the best player, who had the most playtime or contributed the most in 2000 but just in terms of the hierarchy of the group – he clearly moved to the top of that. Maybe some of that was the position he played too but yes, you definitely see that.
How has Ray Ventrone handled the change to wide receiver?
Ray has handled it well. We used Ray last year on the practice squad to run routes for the defense as an offensive receiver and he really did a good job. At the end of the year when we had our postseason evaluations we talked about putting him at receiver and using him there because he had already had a year of defensive meetings. I think he has been able to keep up with some extra work with coach [Dom] Capers and coach [Dean] Pees just on keeping up on his assignments on defense for any adjustments or little things that have changed. I think he has had a year of fundamentals and background on that so he has a decent idea of what is going on with that. Offensively, he has spent the bulk of this year over there and from time to time we flip him back and forth. I think he can play both receiver and defensive back at a competent level. I think he has done a good job as a receiver when he has had the opportunity to play. He is a tough kid, he runs hard, he catches the ball well and he showed up in the kicking game. His versatility is his number one strength at this point but when he does play he has been productive in defense, special teams and offense. He is a unique guy.
Victor Hobson has not taken that many play reps. How is he developing in your system?
Well, Victor [Hobson] played a little more last week. He really has played inside [linebacker]. He played inside in college and played inside at the [New York] Jets when Herm [Edwards] was the head coach. They played a 4-3 and he played off the line [of scrimmage] and played inside the tackles. He didn’t really go to the outside and play on the line of scrimmage until the last two years. It is a little different [now] than what it was [then] but I don’t think it is dramatically different than what he has done earlier in his career at the [New York] Jets or at Michigan. I think he has picked up things well. He is a veteran that has been in a system similar to this from a terminology standpoint. He works hard. He’s tough and has made some plays for us in the kicking game. He has made some plays for us defensively, particularly in the running game. He is strong and can take people on. He plays a good leverage. I think he has had a solid camp and has made the transition well. I don’t think it has been a problem for him.
When you get to the point where you have to make roster decisions, how do you evaluate a guy like Jason Webster who has missed a significant amount of practice time? Do you go based on what you saw in the spring at mini camps or is it a bit of a leap of faith?
I think you answered your own question. That is really all you can do. You can’t judge him on practices that he hasn’t been at. You have to take what you have on film from Buffalo, which wasn’t a whole lot from last year or before that and take it on the spring practices, the OTA’s [off-season training activity] and the practices that he had here at training camp. I know Jason has been working hard and he is close to being back out here. He is day to day so whatever day that is, hopefully it will be soon, then he will be back and we will try to put him back into the mix. Again, we went through this last year with some players. Last year was [Randy] Moss, this year it is [Tom] Brady or Jason [Webster] or whoever. You have to go on what the information you have is. Sometimes you have more on a player than on another player but in the end you just have to take that and do the best you can with it.
Is it the same case for Mike Richardson?
Very similar. We had him here last year but he is younger less experienced. Jason [Webster] has more experience but less experience in our system. We kind of know Mike a little bit better but he is a younger player. We don’t know Jason as well but he is an experienced player. It is different but similar.
What did you see from Matt Gutierrez’s playing career?
Well, he had a very productive college career. I think physically he was able to do what we wanted a quarterback to do. He has good size, he is strong, he is a tough kid, he’s smart and he can handle the offense. He played at a good level in college.
How about Matt’s [Gutierrez] work ethic?
Well that is exceptional, even going back to high school where he played at DeLaSalle. He had a great career there. Really each player is his own player but I think a kid that comes out of that program, if you know anything about that program, they need to be pretty hard workers, pretty dependable and pretty consistent or they probably wouldn’t be able to play there. He had a great career there and I don’t think there has ever been any question about his work ethic, his toughness, his dependability, his commitment to football or anything like that. I think that is as top as it can be and it has been that way for us but that is how it was advertised of him coming in.
Things were busy at Gillette Stadium this morning, as head cach Bill Belichick’s Q&A touched on a number of different topics, including players on the bubble, playing time for Victor Hobson and the attitudes of the current rookie class. (We’ll have the full transcript of that later this afternoon.) The locker room was pretty active, with several players — including Kevin Faulk, Ray Ventrone, Chad Jackson and Jerod Mayo all drawing big crowds. Here’s the complete look at Mayo’s excahnge with the media.
Is it getting easier as the days and weeks go by?
It’s not getting easier. It’s getting harder. But that’s to be expected.
On what he’s looking forward to the most…
Just continuing to learn the playbook and going out there and trying to make plays. The preseason is really gone pretty well for me. Coaches have been coaching me up. I’ve done some good things and some bad things, but I’m trying to get better each and every day.
What’s been the hardest part?
The playbook. The playbook has been the hardest part, just trying to learn all the adjustments and things like that.
Have things slowed down at all for you?
A little bit, but at the same time, the playbook is so big, it’s going to take time.
Can you see yourself improving on film from week to week?
I can see some things I’m improving at, but there are some things I have to work at.
On the rookie class as a group…
It’s been great. We’ve definitely built a camaraderie among this group. We’re all trying to make the team, and we’re all starting from square one.
Do you guys push each other?
We definitely do, both on and off the field.
Is it easier when you look over your shoulder and you see Rodney Harrison and Tedy Bruschi?
Definitely. Having those older guys help you along the way, both on and off the field. It’s great.
Do you put more pressure on yourself on and off the field because of the expectations are so high?
I definitely do. I put a lot of pressure on myself on every level.
Why is that?
Just want to be great.
Here’s the complete transcript of Bill Belichick’s conference call with the media this afternoon:
After watching the tape there’s a lot of things that we need to correct and keep working on. I thought there was some positive moments, more in the second half. We were able to put together a couple of decent drives, played more competitively on defense and got a few things straightened out in the kicking game. I think with any game there are always some positives and some negatives, and I think there were plenty of both in last nights game. I think the big thing for us is to just keep working, keep correcting and making sure we can get everything as ready as we can for next week and the opener against Kansas City. Take the things that happened whether it be technique mistakes, scheme errors, situational plays and make sure we coach them up and everybody understands them and we are able to move forward. I think the players are trying to work hard and I think they are trying to do everything the right way. It is obvious we still have a ways to go. We haven’t been executing as efficiently as we need to be in all three phases of the game. We will keep plugging away, take the positives and dual on them and take the things that need to get corrected and spend some more time on them to get them to a higher level of performance.
Tedy Bruschi was wearing the green dot for the defensive headset. Did you use that last night and if so, how did it go?
We used the headset with Tedy [Bruschi] and Mike Vrabel on both of them in the game in the first half and a little bit in the third quarter. We used them [defensive headsets] a little bit last week against Tampa [Bay] in pre-game, not actually during the game but just to be on the road and all that. I think it is a learning experience for everyone. We know more about it now and at least have a game under our belts to try to figure out what is the best way to utilize it and how to make it advantageous and keep it from being a problem or another log on the fire that we really don’t need. We will talk about it more this week and try to figure out the best plan and if we can utilize it productively than we will and if we can’t then we won’t. We will just have to see how that goes and try to decide what is the most efficient way to do it.
Ellis Hobbs mentioned last night that he feels like there are a lot of little mistakes that they are making defensively that end up looking like big things. Would you agree with that assessment?
Yes. A lot of the little things lead to bigger things. A lot of the things we do well and then maybe another point in the game we don’t do it well, end up being a problem. I think that is true. I don’t think it is just the defensive side of the ball. I think that it’s true in all three phases of the game. Little things can add up to be big things and I think there is a certain amount of that, that is occurring.
Do you chalk those little things up to fundamentals like Ellis [Hobbs] did last night? Are those all fundamental errors?
I think they come in a lot of forms. Fundamentals are part of it but it is also situations, assignments, little variations of assignments and little things like that. Fundamentals are a little part of it too. That goes for all of us not just the players – the coaches and the play calling too. Just making sure the little things are in place and that gives the big things a chance to fall into place. Where sometimes the little things are skewed then it is harder for the big things, they don’t quite fit right and then there is a problem with them. We can all do a better job of that.
With the issues you had last night on special teams, where you pleased with Stephen Gostkowski’s play and his consistency?
I thought Steve [Gostkowski] kicked the ball well. I thought he has kicked the ball well in all three games – kickoffs and field goals when he has had the opportunity to do so. I thought that he did a good job kicking the ball last night too. He strung three together. I think he is having a good camp and he is kicking the ball well. He had a good off-season, had a good spring and has been pretty consistent all the way through this year going back to May.
Do you have any further update on Wes Welker’s rib injury?
No, I don’t have an update.
Can you give us an evaluation of the play in the fourth quarter from some of the receivers who were on the field like C.J. Jones and Chad Jackson?
I thought at the end of the game, offensively we were able to string some positive plays together more so than we had early in the first half. Some of that was the receivers making catches. Chad [Jackson] and C.J. [Jones] both went up and got balls very aggressively and were good catches. Ray Ventrone had a couple catch and run plays. I thought he ran hard with the ball after he caught it. Dave Thomas, Tyson DeVree and a few of those guys showed up on a few plays as well. Overall, I thought the receivers made some plays either going up and aggressively getting the ball or catch and run kind of plays. A couple third down conversions, a couple of red area plays and long balls, so that was encouraging. You like to see receivers go get the ball regardless of what quarter it is, who’s guarding them, or who’s throwing it and then run with it after they get it. I thought those were positives, probably a little better than we have in the two previous games.
Does it affect the execution of the play or the way you would like to see plays run when you do not have your starting quarterback in with your first team?
No. We teach all the plays the same regardless of who is in there. When you are in training camp you have a lot of different people alternating through and alternating positions so it is not always the same group of guys running every play. That is in all three phases of the game. Everyone learns how to run it. They change and interchange during practice so I think we all should know what to do. The timing with the same guys all the time gives you a chance to refine it and perfect it a little bit more but I think we should still we able to run those. Everyone has had a chance to run them and we went through them enough times. I think that is part of football too is sometimes mixing and matching players. For one reason or another there are not always the same exact players running the same plays and actually we like to see them with different players because it makes the play look a little bit different. You get a different perspective on how it is going to work when different people are doing it. So everyone has to be ready to go and run the offense or defense, whatever the play is. You certainly don’t want to be changing plays when one person comes in the lineup and somebody else goes out so everyone has to learn how to do it. That is what our system is. It is a good opportunity for everyone to get that chance in practice and do it in live competition in the preseason.
Did you see a little spark in the offense when Matt [Gutierrez] came in and was able to string together plays?
Yes. I thought it was better in the second half. I thought that when Matt Cassel was in there, we had our moments but unfortunately we had some negative plays in those drives. A couple of them, there really wasn’t too much he could do about but we had some penalties. We had seven penalties on offense and I think six of those were in Philadelphia’s territory so we were in some kind of scoring zone or close to being in the scoring zone. A couple of other negative running plays, penalties, and a couple sacks. We ended up in a lot of long yardage situations more than we would like. In the second half, it just seemed like we had more positive plays and fewer negative plays, less long yardage so second and third down conversions weren’t as difficult as third and longs. It seemed like a great series and that’s a good formula to moving the ball ahead and scoring some points. Matt [Gutierrez] did a good job of that and so did the other players that were out there with him. It wasn’t just all him but he did his part and did a good job on it too. I think everybody deserves a little bit of credit on that.
How do you make sure players are not living in the past and are living in the present and staying focused on this season?
Well, that is pretty much all we talk about. We just talk about what is going on now and what we have to do and what we are working on. We don’t make much reference to a lot of historical stuff. It is kind of the here and now. What’s going on right now, what do we have to do to improve something, what’s our challenge ahead, how do we meet that challenge and how do we prepare for it. That is pretty much all that we talk about. That is where our focus is. I think the players follow that because that is really all that we talk about.
Is there pressure to match last year’s regular season record?
Right now all we are thinking about it getting ready to play the [New York] Giants on Thursday night and get ready for the opener against Kansas City. This is really the only time we are looking ahead, yeah for the Giants but we are getting ready for the opener. The Giants game is part of getting ready for the opener. To some degree, they are related but that is really all that we are thinking about right now. Not about last year’s record or this year’s record or anything else. We are just trying to get ready to play a regular season schedule starting with Kansas City two weeks from tomorrow. That is what is front and center for us.
The offensive line seemed like it struggled last night. It that because of the unfamiliarity? There are so many guys, both starters and top reserves that are on the shelf right now.
I think there are a couple plays you may be able to attribute to that but overall I would say that Philadelphia has a good defense, they are well coached, they have good players and a good scheme. I think they created some situations for us that were less than optimum and we had a little trouble handling them. It was a combination of things. I think our offensive line has the same – kind of got a little bit better as the game went along. We need to get off to a faster start and be more productive earlier than we have been in the last couple of weeks. I don’t want to minimize that but I think that is something – there is no real short cut to that. We are just going to have to work our way through it and keep working. Work better together as a total offensive unit not just the lineman but the [running] backs and the tight ends and all the people involved. I think the players have a good attitude about it. They are working hard and trying to get the little things done right so the big things will fall into place and be consistent and dependable with it. It is obvious we are not there yet. We are working hard to get to that point.
If Tom [Brady] is unable to go in the last preseason game, does this present more opportunity for a guy like Matt Gutierrez to get an extended look and are you concerned if Tom does not get a snap in preseason?
Well, I don’t think there is any question. If certain players don’t play than the other players at that position get more of an opportunity to play – whatever spot that is. That is something that Matt Cassel, [Matt] Gutierrez, and Kevin [O’Connell] – I think all look for that opportunity to play their position, get a chance to perform, contribute and show what they can do. Last night, we saw a little over a half with [Matt] Cassel and less than a half with [Matt] Gutierrez. I am sure next week against the [New York] Giants we will see Kevin [O’Connell] get a chance to play some and we will figure out what the rest of the playing time is – based on everyone’s availability and so forth. For Tom [Brady], if we decide to play him than that will be an opportunity for him and if we don’t decide to play him or he can’t play or whatever it is then it will be an opportunity for someone else. Same thing we talked about last year with [Randy] Moss. You would like to have everyone out there all the time. The players that are, work hard to get better and the players that aren’t, work hard to get back out there as soon as they can so they can work with their teammates. Everyone is in one of those two categories. Whichever one they are in, they are trying to make the most of it to improve. All the players fall into one of those two spots and that is where they are at.
Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here are some game notes from tonight’s preseason contest between the Patriots and Eagles:
SOLID QUARTERBACK PLAY
Quarterbacks Matt Cassel and Matt Gutierrez combined to complete 22-of-34 passes (64.7 percent) for 277 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. The duo combined for a 109.6 passer rating. Cassel completed 8-of-14 passes (57.1 percent) for 60 yards, while Gutierrez totaled 14-of-20 (70 percent) for 217 yards.
Matt Gutierrez entered the game in the third quarter and directed three drives that led to two touchdowns. His first drive as quarterback was an 11-play, 71-yard drive that ended in a 1-yard touchdown toss to Chad Jackson. Eight of the 11 plays on the drive were passes. After Gutierrez’s second drive stalled after two first downs, he directed a 9-play, 99-yard drive — in which all nine plays were passes — that ended in a 9-yard scoring pass to C.J. Jones, cutting the Eagles lead to 27-17. On the night, Gutierrez — signed as an undrafted free agent in 2007 — completed 14-of-20 passes (70 percent) for 217 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 139.0.
Chad Jackson made a catch in the end zone in traffic for a 1-yard scoring grab with 13:49 left in the game, cutting the Eagles lead to 27-10. Jackson, selected by the Patriots in the second round (36th overall) of the 2006 NFL Draft, has totaled three career touchdown receptions, all in the 2006 season. For his career, Jackson has 13 receptions for 152 yards and three touchdowns.
C.J. Jones hauled in a 9-yard touchdown pass from Matt Gutierrez with 41 seconds left in the game to cut the Philadelphia lead to 27-17. Jones, who led all Patriots receivers with 70 receiving yards, set up his touchdown with a 37-yard reception on the first play following the two-minute warning to bring the Patriots to the Eagles’ 13-yard line. Jones spent the entire 2007 season as a member of the Patriots’ practice squad. He spent the 2005 and 2006 seasons out of football after being released in training camp in each of those years, and spent the 2004 season on the Cleveland Browns’ practice squad. Jones was a member of the Browns’ active roster for much of the 2003 season but did not see game action. Jones leads the Patriots with 120 receiving yards through three preseason games this season.
GOSTKOWSKI REMAINS PERFECT
Stephen Gostkowski nailed a 35-yard field goal with 1:52 remaining in the first half to raise his mark to a perfect 5-for-5 this preseason. He also connected from 36, 44 and 40 yards in the preseason opener on Aug. 7 and was good from 53 yards on Aug. 17 in Tampa. In his regular season and playoff career, Gostkoswki has hit 50-of-60 field goals, and his 83.3 percent career accuracy rate is the highest in Patriots history.
·The Patriots have outscored their opponents 30-0 in the fourth quarter during the 2008 preseason.
·Ray Ventrone’s eight receptions lead the Patriots through three preseason games.
·A total of 17 players have caught a pass for the Patriots so far this preseason. A total of 13 players have two or more catches, while 12 players have at least one catch for 10 or more yards.
·The Patriots outgained the Eagles 220-38 in the game’s final 19 minutes, while outscoring Philadelphia 14-0.
·Rodney Harrison tipped away a Donovan McNabb pass intended for tight end L.J. Smith near the goal line in the first quarter.
·Tedy Bruschi batted a Donovan McNabb pass intended for L.J. Smith off course in the end zone on third down in the first quarter, forcing an incompletion, saving a touchdown and forcing Philadelphia to settle for a field goal.
·Tedy Bruschi sacked Donovan McNabb for a 6-yard loss in the first quarter.
·Matt Cassel ran 22 yards for a first down in the first quarter, a scamper that was the Patriots’ longest run of the preseason so far.
With 4:19 left in the first half, the Eagles appeared to take a 16-0 lead on a touchdown catch by Hank Baskett. But, the Patriots challenged the play and it was determined that James Sanders caused Baskett to lose possession of the ball before crossing the goal line and he fumbled the ball out of bounds, resulting in a touchback and returning the score to 10-0. On the first snap following the overturned play, Randy Moss drew a 47-yard pass interference penalty on the Eagles’ Sean Condesine to give the Patriots a first down at the Eagles’ 33-yard line. The play set up a 35-yard field goal that cut Philadelphia’s lead to 10-3.
Here’s the complete transcript of Bill Belichick’s Q&A with the media after tonight’s Patriots-Eagles game:
BB: I thought we played a little more competitively there in the second half obviously giving up 14 points on returns in the first half put us pretty deep in the hole. We still have a lot of work to do. Philadelphia is a good football team and we all know that. There were certainly a lot of things were could have done better out there tonight but I think it was a good learning experience for us. We saw a lot of things we are going to need to face somewhere along the line this season so it was good to get that exposure and play against another good football team. We will get back to work tomorrow, it is another short week and we keep trying to improve here. Work towards the [New York] Giants this week [and] Kansas City two weeks from Sunday. So that is where we are at.
Q: Is special teams the last thing you get to put together in training camp?
BB: No I wouldn’t say that. You work on them right along with everything else.
Q: Can you talk about the play of Matt Cassel?
BB: Some good things. Some could have been better. Protection at times is a little bit of an issue. I thought he made some good throws. There were probably some plays that he probably would have liked to have back but that is pretty much true for everyone. There is always some positive plays and some that we can improve on and that goes for all of us.
Q: After the punt return for a touchdown [at the end of the second quarter] you were talking to Chris Hanson. Would you have liked to see that ball be kicked out of bounds?
BB: Yes. It wasn’t good situational play. We didn’t execute the play we should have in that situation. I’ll take the responsibility for that but regardless you still have to cover him. It wasn’t very well handled at all.
Q: How do you think Matt Gutierrez competed in the second half?
BB: I thought we competed well in the second half as a team. I thought Matt [Gutierrez] did a good job at leading the team and the opportunities he had. He hung in there. He took a few hits but he stepped up and threw the ball. He made a nice throw coming out of the end zone, it looked like a guy was in his face when he threw that one to [Tyson] DeVree. Again, they hit us on some pressures and some things we could have adjusted to a little bit better but I thought overall he hung in there well and I thought the whole group did really.
Q: In the first half, did you notice an extra amount of missed tackles?
BB: It seemed like we missed a few. I am not sure how many that was. I don’t know. You would always like to tackle better, that is something that you hope improves as you go along in the preseason. We don’t do a lot of live tackling in practice so the opportunities we have to do it are in the preseason games. Hopefully, we can keep improving in that area. We need to.
Q: How much stock do you put in the final score in these preseason games?
BB: Well, I think certainly the score is relevant and that you played a game that way. There is a lot of things we need to work on, on a play-by-play basis and teach and correct and coach on and improve on. That is really the big part of it. We have been on both ends of these kinds of games. It is not a game on the standings. It is a reflection on what happened on that particular night but there is still a lot of things that we can learn from on all those plays tonight and that is what we will try to do.
Q: Do you have any concerns that some of the performances that we have seen in the preseason games will trickle over into regular season?
BB: Well, I don’t know that any game impacts the next game. I think each game is it’s own entity. Again, we have been through a lot of those. I think each game, it is whatever team plays better that night, that is the team that is going to prevail. But nevertheless, there is a lot of things you can learn from the plays in the games that you play. I think there is certainly a lot you can learn from them and we can coach off. But I don’t think, if you complete a long pass this week that you will complete one next week and if they complete a long pass this week then they are going to complete one next week. It doesn’t mean that it is not going to happen but it doesn’t necessarily mean it is going to happen either. I think that we have all seen enough of that to know that is not necessarily the case. Certainly, you always want to play well and you want to do everything right and want to have as few corrections as possible but there are always going to be some.
Q: How much impact does two games in six days have on the individuals?
BB: I think like it does any other time. The less time you have, the less time you have to recover. You still have to process the same amount of information from a game plan standpoint, all the different situations and how you want to handle them. You know; goal line, short yardage, third down, two minute, red area, blitzes and so forth and so on. You just have to do it in a condensed amount of time. We will have plenty of those weeks during the season so it is not like it is not going to come up again. That is the way it is so we just have to do what we would normally do in seven days, in less time when that is the situation. That is the way it will be this week and the same thing from a physical standpoint. Guys could always use an extra day and we have a couple of short weeks here, with Tampa to Philadelphia and Philadelphia to the [New York] Giants. But we will have a couple of extra days on the other end of it going into the Kansas City game. In the end it all evens out. With every long week is a short week and with every short week is a long week. We just have to utilize your time as efficiently as you can in whichever one of those situations you are in. That is what we try to do. There is nothing we can do about it and no point in making a big deal about it. If it is short than use that amount of time. If it is long, than use that amount of time.
Thanks to the New England PR staff, here’s some locker room Q&A from after tonight’s Patriots-Eagles game at Gillette Stadium:
Heath Evans, Fullback
(On the offense’s progress)
“Frustrating is probably a good word. At the end of the day, we look back from where we were four weeks ago, we’re getting better as a team. Obviously, as an offense, we’ve been accustomed to one style of play, and it’s high-flying, and it’s fast, and it’s kind of a vicious style of offense. It gets after you. Well, now we’ve got to find a different way to win ball games on offense.”
Matt Gutierrez, Quarterback
(On his performance Friday night)
“I’m not sure really how I performed until we watch the film tomorrow. Obviously, we didn’t win and that’s the most important thing. So there’s obviously room for improvement and that includes me.”
(On how excited he was after he threw a touchdown pass to Chad Jackson)
“Yeah, I enjoy playing the game and all these guys do, too. We work hard and when we do something good, we should celebrate it. But like I said before, one or two good plays weren’t enough.”
(On if he spoke to his receivers after the game about the catches they made and the routes they ran)
“I told them. ‘Good catch.’ Those guys are great athletes and good players and those are the types of plays that they can make. I have to trust them and give them an opportunity to make those plays.”
(On if he gained more confidence when he played)
“Sure. I’m still a young player on this team, learning every day and trying to grow, and staying up to speed.”
(On the 99-yard touchdown drive he directed at the end of the game)
“Like I said, we strung some good plays together, but we still came up short. So it wasn’t good enough.”
Sammy Morris, Running Back
(On what the offense did differently in the second half)
“Overall, we just executed better. I’ll have to go back and find it more so tomorrow by looking at the tape, but the easiest answer is that we executed better in all phases.”
(On Matt Gutierrez’s performance)
“Yeah, he does well. He’s a confident guy and he plays hard and he was able to do some big things out there.”
(On how much the offense misses someone like Tom Brady)
“Well, he’s Tom Brady. That says enough right there. But regardless of who’s out there it’s up to us to execute and do our own job. It may come out where we may have to be without Tom. So it’s up to whoever is in there to execute.”
(On if it’s difficult to judge the offense without Brady playing)
“There are a lot of things where there are injuries to other positions. It’s difficult right now just because the people that are in there, we’re not executing. Regardless of who’s in there, we’re not executing. That’s the bottom line for us.”
Kelley Washington, Wide Receiver
(On the play of the special teams)
“We just haven’t really found our groove on the special teams side of the ball. For myself, particularly, I felt rusty because it was my first game, but we just have to do a better job as a team, as a special teams unit, going down and making plays like we did last year. We’re going to continue working on it in practice. We only have another week before we get started, but we take a lot of pride in our special teams unit, especially our kickoff, because the way we cover kicks really sets the tone. There’s just no way we can have returns going back on us, putting our defense in a tough situation and putting our team in a tough situation. We struggled tonight as a unit, but we just have to go back to work and work on the things we struggled with tonight.”
(On playing his first game of the season)
“I just feel rusty, coming back from a slight injury and getting back on the field. It was good to get out there, running around offensively and on special teams, just getting back into it. We just have to get back to work, watch some film and see what we need to improve on. That’s what the preseason’s about, getting things ready for the regular season.”
Ellis Hobbs III, Cornerback
(On the team’s performance)
“There are no excuses for us. One thing we as professional athletes learn as you’re in the league a couple years is a player must remain on an even keel. We can’t be up and down, with the media and the fans, because it’s a roller coaster and you allow your emotions to set in, especially so early in the season right now. The season hasn’t even begun. I’m not necessarily saying we don’t have problems that we need to correct, but having the sense and poise to know these things can be corrected and it’s not too late.”
(On playing hard in the preseason)
“It’s about effort and guys having a desire to basically make the team, for everybody. No spots are written in stone, especially with the New England Patriots, whereas when this season begins, everyone is written in pencil. Bill [Belichick]’s always telling us the best players are going to play. Taking it further with the young guys, it’s a sense of determination and a desire to refuse to be cut off of this team, where you’re going to go out there and every play you’re going to show up on film. That’s what the preseason’s all about, because you’re not only auditioning to play with this team, but with 31 other teams if this team doesn’t want you. ”
John Lynch, Safety
(On how he felt out there tonight)
“I’m starting to get more familiar with the defense. It obviously wasn’t a good game for us as a team, but as I said I’m starting to learn the system and its fun when you know what your doing and can just go out there and play. I feel like I have a good grasp on it now but I’m going to have to grow on top of that.”
(On how he felt the defense and special teams played tonight)
“We obviously have to work on our special teams because you can’t win football games with returns like they had tonight. Everyone just needs to look at their job and see what they can do better. Defensively, I think we just need to hold them on third downs. We just have to go to work next week and get better.”
(On playing on the same field as Rodney Harrison)
“I didn’t get to play with him down in Tampa but he was out there tonight and carried a presence about him. He’s the type of player who you know that is out there and it’s going to be fun playing with him.”
(On if he feels the defense will play better when they scheme against individual teams rather than generic formation packages)
“It’s always a part of it but a part it for everyone else as well. As I said before, I think we all need to just work on the little details and worry about getting themselves better and we will start playing more productively as a unit.”
Here are a few excerpts from locker room Q&A after tonight’s game involving Matt Gutierrez, Ellis Hobbs III and Heath Evans.
On going 99 yards on the scoring drive at the end of the game…
That’s a situation that’s a part of the game. Our coaches coach us to handle that like any other situation. I don’t think we approached it any different. We knew what the task was and we tried to get it done.
On his confidence level
I enjoy playing the games. It’s good to be out on the field with your teammates competing in an environment other than practice. It’s fun to compete against another team. I was enjoying myself.
On his confidence level this year as opposed to last year
I always try to play with confidence. We work very hard around here so that we can play with confidence. At the same time, I always know there’s a lot of room for improvement. Tomorrow, there will be plenty of mistakes for me to improve on and work on.
On his thoughts coming into the game and what he needed to do
Same as any other time: My job is to go out there and help lead the team down the field and put points on the board. No different than any other game.
On the number of snaps he got tonight
It was just be ready, and always prepare like you will play every snap if the opportunity comes. Hopefully, that preparation will pay off.
Do we make too much of wins and losses in the preseason?
Yes. I’m not going to sit here and make excuses for us, but one thing we as professional athletes do, and you learn this as you’re in the league after a couple of years, is that the player must remain on an even keel. We can’t be up and down with the media and fans and everything, That’s what it is. It’s a roller coaster. If you allow your emotions to set in, especially so early in the season right now — where the season hasn’t really begun. I’m not necessarily saying that we don’t have problems we need to correct, but having the sense and poise to say, ‘You know what? These things can be corrected. It’s not too late.’ Right now, as far as we’re concerned, we are 0-3 in the preseason. But we’re still 0-0, and I think you guys know what I’m talking about. When we meet back up in November, I’m going to ask you what you asked me tonight, and I doubt if you’ll remember it. We are just going from here, man, but we definitely need to tighten down a lot of the issues we have out there right now, and they are fundamental things.
On how the first kick return for a touchdown was his fault…
Kickoffs are simple. Everyone has responsibilities. Obviously, they base it on everyone giving effort — that’s a given, so you better be giving that, otherwise, you’re not going to be here. You better be tough, or you’re not going to be here. You’ve got to be right where they coach you to be. I was trying to do too much. I didn’t get in the lane I needed to get in or hit the wedge in the position I needed to hit it in, and it cost us a touchdown. That’s plain and simple. I can fix it — I fixed it on the next one. But you don’t get re-do’s in this sport. Am I glad it happened? No. Am I glad it happened now instead of in two weeks? Of course. That’s just one area I need to get better. I can’t have that one breakdown at any time in the game.
The Patriots have just announced that Wes Welker has suffered a rib injury. His return is questionable.
WR Jabar Gaffney
LT Wesley Britt
LG Logan Mankins
C Dan Koppen
RG Dan Connolly
RT Nick Kaczur
TE Ben Watson
TE David Thomas
WR Randy Moss
QB Matt Cassel
RB Laurence Maroney