Here’s the complete transcript of the recently concluded conference call between Patriots coach Bill Belichick and the media this afternoon.
- We are plugging along here. We had a little bit of a jump-start on yesterday. We will look at some of those things on practice and also the New Orleans game, which we didn’t get a chance to look at until after practice yesterday because it didn’t come in until late yesterday afternoon. We will add some of that into our preparation and try to correct some of the things that happened yesterday on the practice field and get ready for Wednesday when the players come back in.
- How important is it for you to establish more consistency in your running game going forward? We would like to be more consistent in everything. The running game is part of it, passing game, run defense, pass defense – you name it. We are always looking for more consistency there. Staying out of long yardage on offense and trying to control the down and distance situations, stay on the field and convert them on third down.
- How are the 49ers using Justin Smith? Basically, as a defensive end. He flips sides. When they want to play over-under he is the outside guy on the over-under side, most of the time. They’ve used him inside some and in some pass rushing situations. They move him around a little bit so you don’t know exactly where he is going to be. But he has been a good play maker for them this year and a very productive guy.
- You mentioned yesterday that rookies had to earn their playing time. Does that go for Kevin O’Connell as well or is it a different set of circumstance surrounding a rookie quarterback? It is definitely different. You can only play one quarterback. We have a lot of defensive formations where we have multiple backs on the field anywhere from five to six and sometimes seven. So there is a lot more opportunity there, speaking about [Terrance] Wheatley and [Jonathan] Wilhite, than there is when you are just playing one quarterback. Regardless of what position they are playing, everyone has to earn their spot.
- How has Shawn Crable looked in practice and is there a chance he will get into some games down the road? I think there is definitely a chance. I think Shawn has improved all the way through camp and in the regular season in the opportunities that he’s had. If we were able to take more players to the game, I am sure Shawn would go to the game and I am sure he would play. So far this year we have to limit it to 45. He hasn’t been on the active roster but we have a lot of confidence in Shawn and I’m sure that he would be able to contribute for us if he was at the game. It is just a question of whose place he would have to take and what other ramifications would come into play there. But he has done a good job and he’s getting better all the time.
- How would you assess your turnover differential so far this season? Always looking to get more and give up less. It’s always a point of emphasis for us every week – plays to turn the ball over and at the same time take care of it when we have it – ball handling and decision-making. In general, taking care of the ball no matter who handles it. It could be a lot of different people but that’s all a big point of emphasis. Especially this week against San Francisco – who is a good ball stripping team. We have to do a good job of breaking the ball out, punching it out, knocking it loose. We are really going to have to take care of it. Defensively, we can always use more turnovers.
- It’s three games into the season but going back including preseason it is seven games. Do you differentiate between preseason and regular season and is there a concern that things you saw in the preseason are continuing now? Again, that is something that you work on all the way through. You don’t just start working on it one week. Third week of preseason, third week of regular season – it is something you work on all the time. You are always looking to get better at it. I think the biggest thing is to take advantage of the opportunities that we have and try to create some opportunities. Those are somewhat limited but when you have them you want to be able to capitalize on those. When you have a good opportunity to turn the ball over, you don’t want to miss it. Taking advantage of those and being alert that’s part of it too.
- Judging by Matt Cassel’s two starts this season – how confident are you that he can lead this offense the rest of the way? Good. Matt had a good week last week and a good practice yesterday. I think he’s doing things. I think offensively, collectively we have to do everything a little bit better. Have confidence in the players and confidence in all the players we put out there.
- When do mechanics become complete for a guy like Kevin O’Connell? I don’t know. We are still working on those things with [Tom] Brady. I think it’s an on going process. I don’t think your throwing mechanics – I don’t think you ever take them for granted anymore than Tiger Woods takes his golf swing for granted. He works on that everyday. If he can stand out there on a driving range for 14 hours and hit balls, then I think our quarterbacks can work on mechanics, our kickers can work on kicking mechanics [and] the defensive line can work on pass rushing techniques. I think that is an on going process. I don’t think it ever stops.
Here’s the complete transcript of today’s Q&A between Bill Belichick and the media held at Gillette Stadium:
- I think everybody had a good break here last week. We got a chance to get away and come back refreshed. It’s good to move onto San Francisco. They are an impressive team to watch. Mike Nolan has done a really good job with that football team the way they are playing this year. They have transformed their offense. We started [our preparation] in the off-season to get familiar with their personnel but Mike Martz has come in there and, as usual, turned it into a very efficient attack. They have big play players like [Isaac] Bruce, Vernon Davis and Bryant Johnson. JT O’Sullivan has done a good job for them. Frank Gore, of course is a tough guy to stop. They have made some changes on the offensive line and that’s a solid unit too. Defensively they are well coached as Mike [Nolan] teams always are. Mike Singletary and that group have done a good job. They are very athletic up front and have good linebackers headed by Patrick Willis, Takeo Spikes and Manny Lawson. Those guys in the secondary, it’s a very experienced group with guys we have seen before at other teams – Mark Roman, Nate Clements, Walt Harris and Michael Lewis, of course was with Philadelphia. But they are very active up on the line of scrimmage. They have some big guys like Isaac Sopoaga. They have some fast guys like Justin Smith, Parys Haralson, Roderick Green and Ray McDonald and those guys that run well. They are a physical team and a very athletic team. They have done a good job in the kicking game. They probably have as good of a group of specialists as we will see all year. Andy Lee is an outstanding punter and Joe Nedney has done a tremendous job for them kicking the ball both field goals and kick offs. Allen Rossum is a threat every time he touches the ball as a returner. They used him a couple of times on offense. On one play they did a reverse a couple weeks ago and they cover very well. They have a couple of the best special teams players in the league – Keith Lewis and Michael Robinson. They cover well. They kick well. They return well and they are solid in the kicking game. Good football team all the way around. A team that we don’t know very well but we have got to get to know in a hurry. They have some explosive personnel and they are well coached. They have good schemes in all three phases of the game. We are looking forward to getting back out on the field today, an extra day for them. I think we will need it in terms of other preparation and things they do. They certainly present a lot of challenges offensively with Mike Martz’s offense [with] all the shifting and concepts they present. Mike’s [Nolan] always been one of the best defensive coaches in the league going back to the Giants, Washington, Baltimore and San Francisco, he’s always done a good job there.
- You had J.T. O’Sullivan in 2006 as a practice squad player. What stood out for you about him then and what stands out about him now? I think the same things that attracted us then are why he is playing now. He’s athletic, good arm, is a very mobile guy in the pocket and can make all the throws. He has a strong arm and can get the ball down the field. He has a good touch on the ball and can stay alive with his feet. He’s been very productive for them.
- You had a list of things you wanted to work on last week. Are you happy with the progress you have made? We worked on them and saw some improvement on the practice field. We need to transfer that into game situations. We won’t be able to evaluate that until we do it on the game field. We made some progress in practice.
- Is there still competition at the cornerback spot opposite Ellis Hobbs or has Deltha O’Neil separated himself from the pack? Deltha has done a good job for us. He has gotten the majority of the playing time there. We feel confident with him out there but there is always competition. A couple young players have improved. Lewis Sanders has given us some good snaps out there. Whatever group we put out there, we will be comfortable with.
- Has Terrence Wheatley made some progress? I think Wheatley and Jonathan Wilhite have both improved quite a bit. They worked hard, got a lot of snaps in training camp and in the preseason games, especially Wheatley. As we have gotten into the regular season we have cut down because of our scheme, we just game plan for one team. Instead of running everything against everything, we narrow it down to the calls we are going to make in this particular game plan. I think that helps young players and new players coming into your team because they don’t have to worry about every defense against every formation and every adjustment. It’s more simplified based on the team that you’re playing. I think there has been some improvement there with both Wheatley and Wilhite.
- So you ease them into it and try not to overwhelm them? Well, I don’t know if we are trying to ease anybody into anything. We are just trying to get better and win. As the players perform better, improve and get more of an opportunity to play then we evaluate their playing and we go from there. They either earn more playtime or they don’t. You can’t give anybody anything. You’ve got to earn it out there on the football field. That’s what football is about.
- What kind of improvement have you seen in your division over the last year? Well, it’s a lot different than it was last year. Last year we were a game ahead after one week. Right now that will all take care of itself. It’s a long season. The best thing we can do is go out there, beat San Francisco and win a football game. That’s really all we are thinking about. We will see everyone else down the road and they will see us. We will worry about that later. Right now we need to go out there and play well against the San Francisco 49ers.
- Can you see this developing into ‘Buffalo in September of last season’ carrying over this season? I guess it has. I haven’t really watched Buffalo. The Jets, we have talked about them and Miami. Those are two games we won handedly in ’07 and it was a lot different last week. We got a good look at them.
- The personnel is different but how much is the offense in San Francisco similar to what you have seen from Mike Martz in the past? It’s Mike’s offense. It’s basically the same plays. As he always does, he tailors to the personnel he has. When he had Marshall Faulk, he did some things in the passing game that were pretty special for those backs. Frank Gore is a good receiver but he is a different kind of runner and the running game is tailored to him. Vernon Davis has tremendous speed [and] very athletic at tight end. He’s used a little more in the passing games than the tight ends they had at Detroit and St. Louis. It’s the same offense. He just utilizes his personnel to maximize them and the same thing with the quarterbacks. You didn’t see Kurt Warner doing a whole lot of running around but he did some of that with Jon Kitna and he did some of that with J.T. O’Sullivan.
- Even with a young quarterback are they still able to do run a similar offense… Yes. They shift. They motion. They run their passing concepts. They have a lot of formations, different personnel groupings. They run the same plays but they are all different because it’s different personnel, different formations and different looks. That’s still what they do but they change things up a lot.
- His quarterback’s always put up big numbers but they get hit a lot. They throw a lot of down field routes. They throw deep in-cuts [and] deep comebacks. Sometimes they have a lot of receivers out, so occasionally their protection breaks down on that. But they attack the defense at all three levels, the short, intermediate and deep level. They do it every week on a consistent basis so you have to be ready to defend it. Sometimes you get to him [quarterback] before they get it off but a lot of times you don’t and they hit a lot of 20, 25, 30 yard completions – a lot more than most teams do. That’s the way they have been historically. I am not saying it’s all 80 yard touchdowns but they hit a lot of 20,25 yarders. It takes a little longer for those plays to develop. I think overall their pass protection has been good. I think the line has done a good job whether it’s been Jonas Jennings or Barry Sims in there at right tackle. They have at least done a good job at left tackle. They have played three players inside. Eric Heitmann is a good center and Tony Wragge – the three guards. Overall, their pass protection hasn’t been bad. Like any line it is broken down from time to time but they have done a good job.
- On San Francisco’s combinations defensively… They used it a lot against Seattle but they have used a lot in every game. They brought Mark Roman down and played him as a nickel back and brought Dashon Goldson in and played a three-safety defense. They use a lot of different combinations defensively. They use some five defensive backs but it’s not always the same five guys. They use six defensive backs but it’s not always the same six guys. They use four rushers and it’s definitely not the same four guys. Sometimes it’s a couple lineman and a couple linebackers. Sometimes it’s three linemen and one linebacker. It’s not always the same lineman. They mix the linebackers especially between Roderick Green and Takeo Spikes. Patrick Willis is in there almost all the time you can count on that. They use a lot of different personnel. They have different roles for players. Like Manny Lawson, he’s part of their regular defense. They don’t use him too much in sub. Because they played sub almost the whole game against Seattle, he didn’t play on defense. But he had a big day in the kicking game. He was in on all the special teams. He made a couple tackles on the coverage team and blocked a punt. That’s a good example of how they change their roles from week to week. But defensively, they have a lot of different packages. Mike’s always done that. You are not really sure what you’re going to get. They might be in five defensive backs but you don’t even know who the five are. They might be in four or they might be in six. From a game-planning standpoint, there are a lot of questions that you are not going to be able to answer until game time.
- What similarities do you see in Patrick Willis and Jerod Mayo? I think there are some similarities. They are both athletic for that position. They are guys that run well and have good range. They can cover ground in the passing game and get in on a lot of tackles. They can play physically inside with the big guys and also get out on the perimeter in space on the outside runs, screens, loose plays and they both make some plays on that. I think Willis is one of the most athletic inside linebackers that we will play against. The interception against Seattle where Walt Harris collided with the receiver and the ball popped up in the air and Willis intercepted and ran it back for a touchdown. He looks like a running back running the ball. He out runs people. He cuts back. He is a smooth, very athletic player. Like I said, he looks more like a running back or defensive back running the ball than a 250-pound linebacker. He’s a top athlete that can really run and you usually don’t see that with the inside linebackers. A lot of those guys are bigger, more physical guys that are coming off the field on third down. Willis is a special athlete. I think he played every play for them last year and I can see why.
- On the number of times San Francisco quarterbacks have been sacked… I think it’s a combination of things. There have been times when quarterbacks have held the ball. There have been times where the protection has broken down. There have been times that they’ve gotten blitzed. At the same time they have thrown for over 300 yards and have scored 30 points the second and third games in the year. They moved the ball well against pretty good defensive teams. They moved the ball against Arizona well. I haven’t seen the tape on the New Orleans game but New Orleans has some good outside pass rushers and it looked like they got the edge there a couple times. I would say watching them play on film I think their pass protection has been good. I know what the numbers are but I think they can block. Believe me, we have seen lesser blockers than these guys let me put it that way.
- You said you didn’t see the film yet but did you watch the New Orleans game? I saw some of it. Once again a couple turnovers have a lot to do with the game. There was a big sequence there before the half and New Orleans hit a couple big plays. San Francisco had a couple turnovers there in the red area. Three or four plays and you really have a different game. That’s the way it is in the NFL, you saw that in probably every game yesterday. A couple big plays, a couple turnovers and that swings the pendulum one way or another. It’s not surprising.
- Did you enjoy having the opportunity on Sunday to watch a few of the football games? Yes. I mean that is really about the only time that I do it. It’s good. The rest of the time we are usually playing or getting ready to play. Even when you watch games when you are playing Monday night, you might watch the games Sunday night but you are right there on the edge of playing your game. This is one where we didn’t have a game this week so you could be a little bit of a fan and watch a few games. Although we spent the day preparing and game planning for San Francisco based on the games we had. We will take a look at the New Orleans game, add that in and see if it’s something that is going to affect what we are doing. I am sure there will be something in there that we will alter a little bit of what we are doing. But we wanted to be able to get off to a good start today. It’s good to sit back and see a little bit on TV what the rest of the league is doing.
The San Francisco offense and Mike Martz’s influence on it was one of the areas of focus this morning at Gillette Stadium. Patriots coach Bill Belichick said “it’s the same offense” that Martz has run with the Lions and Rams over the years, and several Patriots referenced the fact that they could go back and look at the tape of their 2006 game against the Lions a few seasons ago as a point of reference. Here are a few other quotes of note about the Martz effect:
- Rodney Harrison
- What is it about the Mike Martz offense that you really need to contain? It’s very dynamic. They get the ball to all the receivers, tight end, running backs, especially Gore. He’s their leading receiver right now. He’s played extremely well. He’s a guy that can make all different types of runs, like a LaDainian Tomlinson. He stays on the field all three downs. He’s a guy that can definitely hurt you in so many different ways, as well as Bruce and Arnaz Battle and Vernon Davis, their really fast tight end. They have a lot of weapons on offense. With Mike Martz’s mind, you really have to be aware of all the different ways he can beat you.
- Richard Seymour
- On the San Francisco offense… I think it all starts with the running back. Gore is a guy who can make all the runs. He’s number 21, and runs a lot like LT, who we face the following week as well — two similar guys who produce a lot for their offense. It’s a big concern for us this week, because you think you have him gang-tackled, but he does a lot to run out of the pocket, so guys really have to be aware of the type of back that he is.
- The Mike Martz passing attack is based a lot on timing. If you guys can disrupt their timing, it would seem like you would have a better shot at the quarterback. Absolutely. But like I said, I mean, it all surrounds the running back. Their running game is really what they want to do. They do some different things around the passing game — obviously, we all know what Mike Martz can do. Coordinator for the Rams and also with Detroit — which we have some footage from ’06 that we can watch when we played Detroit here. We have some things that we can watch as far as the concepts that they like to do. But they never show you the same type of pass route again. They have so many different types of routes. But have to understand the concepts that they do.
Courtesy of the Patriots’ PR department, here’s the transcript from today’s Troy Brown press conference:
- Robert Kraft: Welcome everyone. I want to welcome Troy [Brown] back to his home here at Gillette Stadium. I was thinking back that it was 14 years ago when we bought the team. Since that time we have had three head coaches, dozens of assistant coaches and 820 players. There is only one player that has been a constant through that whole period, who was actually here before my family got here right through the end of last season. How lucky for us that Troy Brown, to me, is the consummate Patriot. What he did on the field and the way he conducted himself off the field, the fact that he always put team first, that he stayed with the Patriots his whole career, he could have gone some other places and got more money and he chose to stay here. I think it’s a great lesson for the young players on our team today who are worried about making the team. Troy was actually drafted in the eighth round in 1993. So today he would be an undrafted free agent because there is no eighth round. Then, he started as a punt returner and a kick returner. In ‘97 he started as a wide receiver and then his contributions mounted and mounted. In the ‘01 season when he broke the team record for receptions and had over 100 receptions but what sticks out most to me was what he did on special teams that year especially in the Pittsburgh game, the [AFC] championship game. I believe we won by 3,6 or 7 points – I don’t remember. But, I do remember he returned a Josh Miller punt for 55 yards right up the middle and then he blocked a field goal kick that he ‘lateraled’ to a teammate, so he was responsible for 14 points alone on special teams that year. Then of course in ‘04 he played the nickel back role when we needed him as well as being an outstanding wide receiver. As I think back to all the wonderful years with him, I am also so proud about what he represents as a human being. He is a wonderful father and I am happy to see his two sons [Sir’mon and SaanJay] here and his beautiful wife [Kimberly]. He is a responsible family man. He is someone who whatever he has done off the field, whenever someone talks about Troy Brown they talk about what a good human being he is and what good of a name he has.
- Bill Belichick: It has truly been an honor and a privilege to coach Troy, primarily since I came back in 2000, but even my association with him in ’96 when I was here as the secondary coach. I think Troy, as I have talked about with our players, is the consummate professional. A great story, a guy that didn’t have a college scholarship and got the last scholarship at Marshall. As Robert mentioned, [he was] drafted in the eighth round and we now have seven-round drafts. I think that sums that up. When I was in Cleveland and I talked to Coach [Bill] Parcells, I think it was the year after, it was probably in ’94, he said, “We’ve got this kid from Marshall, a return guy, I don’t know if he is any good or not, but there are some things I kind of like about him.” Then, when I got here in ’96 and worked against Troy coaching the secondary. There were some good receivers on that team, but in all honesty, we had as much trouble covering Troy as we had covering any of those other guys. When Charlie [Weis] and I were at the Jets and then I ultimately came back in 2000, I remember Charlie and I had several conversations about this guy who’s really a good football player and he hasn’t had the opportunity; what we really thought he could do as a slot receiver and as a deceptive big play receiver, his versatility in the kicking game. Troy has gone on to have a tremendous career here with most catches in franchise history and 120 catches in that ’01 season, including the playoffs. I think back fondly of some of the great moments Troy had here, offensively. The pass from David Patten in the Indianapolis game was a huge play for us in a big game. The Super Bowl, the pass across the middle where he got out of bounds and we had no timeouts to stop the clock and set up the game-winning field goal.
- Against Carolina in ’03, in the Super Bowl, he had three catches on that last touchdown, game-winning drive; which without that first and 20, I don’t know where that drive ends up. He made a great catch over the middle from Tom [Brady]. The Snow Game, everybody talks about Adam’s [Vinatieri] kick and it was a hell of a kick. But without Troy’s punt return to set that up that put us in field position to at least get into field goal range, I don’t know if there ever is a kick. We got into the ’04 season and we had some injuries in the secondary. We used Troy at the inside position in our sub defense in a position we call the “Star”. I remember the first game we played; it was in St. Louis. That game was against, obviously, still a great offensive football team and he had a big day there, defensively, and broke up some passes. He really stepped in and played a big role in that game and, also, caught probably the easiest touchdown of his career – the sleeper pass down there from Vinatieri on the 4-yard line on the fake field goal. Then, of course, he had the interception against [Drew] Bledsoe and the interception in the Cincinnati game against Carson Palmer to kind of seal that win. He just made some plays for us on the defensive side of the ball, but the game that really stands out, to me, is the Green Bay game. We went up there in ’06. Eugene Wilson was out. Rodney Harrison was out and Asante [Samuel] was out. We said, ‘Well, we’re going to put Troy on Donald Driver.’ I remember some looks in there from the defensive coaches, and even the players. [Driver] had 93 catches and 1,300 yards. Driver was the leading receiver in the NFC. Troy held him to one catch for three yards. The only one that he caught, Troy wasn’t involved in that one, but he had one catch for three yards on him against Donald Driver. In our locker room, and in the hallways, and the meeting rooms and so forth, we have pictures up from different games and different players. [Holding up a picture of Brown] To me, that picture, and I want to give Troy these pictures from the team, that picture epitomizes Troy Brown. Up against the best receiver in the NFC, in a game that three of our key defensive backs were out, he steps up and does a great job on him. I remember the Miami game, in Miami, when we couldn’t win in Miami in the early part of the year. I don’t know how long… I don’t think we’d ever done it. We’d never won in Miami and it didn’t look like we were going to that day either. It was 13-13 with six minutes to go in overtime. We couldn’t move the ball. It was a tough day. Charlie [Weis] called a 130 Gap Slant. Tom [Brady] looks to the weak side and doesn’t have it. Troy runs the post, gets in there behind the safeties and probably gives us one of his biggest catches – it was his longest, 82 yards – to beat Miami when nobody thought we could do that. Nobody thought Troy could go deep. Nobody thought he could make the big plays. But all he did was make plays. He just kept making them. I think back to the ’01 season when Troy had all of those punt returns: the Oakland game; the Pittsburgh game, for a touchdown; and the Cleveland game. We were sitting there at 7-5. It’s a tough game, 10-10, back-and-forth, neither team could really get much of an advantage, and Troy takes that one back, right up the middle. That’s the touchdown against Cleveland. Richard Seymour made the block on [Chris] Gardocki. I don’t think Troy needed it, but that was a nice block on that touchdown.
- Troy, we have so many great memories of you and all you have done for this organization, this football team and me, personally. I will be forever grateful and indebted to you. It truly has been an honor, truly an honor to coach you as a professional football team. On behalf of our football team and myself, I want to give you these three pictures, three of our greatest memories of you, along with many. Congratulations.
- Troy Brown: Thank you for coming out today to help cover this event. I am going to try to get through this without crying today. I wanted to come here and share with you the announcement of my retirement from the National Football League and most importantly from the Patriots. I will always be a Patriot, just not in uniform. I have been invited by Bill [Belichick]; I am always welcome in the building so I am going to take advantage of that invitation. I wanted to come and share with you guys, before you see me pop up somewhere just sitting on TV talking about what am I doing with my life right now. Thank you for coming out and being a part of this. I want to thank Mr. Kraft and his family for allowing me to not just be a part of their football team but a part of their family. He came in after my first season and the team was threatening to move to St. Louis, he came in and saved the day. He kept the team here in New England. If you just look outside of this building now, you can see what a transformation he has made from Foxboro Stadium, not just on this football team but in this community and in the New England area. He has done a tremendous job with building not only his own brand but the NFL brand and bringing them a consistent win year after year. I want to say thank you again to you and your family for keeping me around here for so many years. I know you fought a few years to keep me around. You [Robert Kraft] and Bill [Belichick] were probably going back and forth saying, ‘Is he too old yet?’ He wanted to keep me around, so I want to thank you. I do appreciate it. I want to thank Bill for just believing in me. It was hard for me in the first few years of my career to find that one coach that thought I had what it takes to be a starting receiver in this league. Being the, as you already know, eye for talent and eye for identifying the ability to get things done the way he wants them done. Not only the ability but [also] the smarts to play the game the way he likes to play it. He came in here and taught me the right way to play this football game. I tell you, it has been nothing but beneficial to me not only in football but in other areas of my life too. I want to say thank you to him for giving me the opportunity to be something that everyone said I wasn’t going to be and that was to be a starting receiver in this league. Not only that but you made me quite a defensive back also. So thank you coach, I do appreciate it. Like you said we share so many memories. I am sure down the line we will share many more -many more stories about the games that we had together and the games that you have coming up in the future too. We will talk a lot of football. That is the one thing I enjoy doing, is talking about the sport that I loved so much and that I played for 30 years. That’s why it’s hard for guys like myself to let the game go. It has been a part of my life since the second grade – for 30 years. At some point, you reach that point that your mind keeps telling you…I remember watching the games this weekend and it was a tough catch, the guy may not make it and you just tell yourself I can make that play. But, you get up go outside for a run and, ‘oh my knee doesn’t feel quite right.’ You start telling yourself, ‘ I don’t know if I can make that catch or not.’ You can’t out run the time; no matter how much you try you can’t do it. God knows I would love to go out there and try today and practice today but we all know there comes a time where you just have to say, ‘I can’t keep up anymore.’ I would love to play this game the way I played when I was 25 but I just can’t keep up the way I used to. I just want to thank you for being here to be a part of this. Before I close this up, I want to say thank you to my family for being here. I know it has been tough. It’s been hard over the years, being away and being gone, working all the time. Coming home after a bad practice being cussed out by Bill, some of those days are rough. I think I was able to share with you, my wife Kim, my boys Sir’mon and SaanJay, all the success that these guys helped bring about in my life, capturing the ultimate goal which is to win championships. Not only one but having an opportunity to play in five of those championship games, bring home three beautiful rings and capturing that ultimate goal what we all work for and that’s to be called a champion. To share that with my boys, to have them on the field with me before the game, letting them be a part of that and what the atmosphere is all about – the confetti falling on their heads. My youngest was three years old the second time we went and he still remembers that confetti falling on his head – that’s what this game is all about. It has created some beautiful memories not just for me but [also] for all of you, my family, my friends and everybody. It is hard sometimes to just let it go but I know at the end of the day I played this game the way it was supposed to be played and that’s doing whatever it takes to win the game. Not just catching the football, not just lifting weights but a combination of so many different things that goes into building champions. The hard work, dedication, studying, like he always said he wanted a smart, tough football team. That’s what I always tried to give, whatever my coach asked me to do. That’s what I always tried to pass off to all the younger guys that came in to show them how I worked in the weight room. Show them how I studied films. Show them how I worked on the field. I think I set a standard here for New England football over the years and it gives me a lot of pleasure and makes me feel good that I know I helped build what’s happening here today. I didn’t do it by myself a lot of people helped me behind the scenes, on the scene and at home. It took a lot to build a legacy that is built around here today and the expectations that are formed around here to build champions. I know Bill, I know Mr. Kraft – they won’t accept anything less than your best. I think you will be surprised that when you go out and give your best even when your back is up against the wall, people may be doubting you, the kind of situation we are in right now with people doubting the Patriots, doubting us if we can get it done or not. But, I have been in that situation many times and it helps a lot when you have the confidence of someone that has accomplished as much as these two guys have – To be on your side, to have your back, have your family behind you and have your friends behind you, to go out there and get your job done. I believe with all my heart when everyone is on the same page and everyone is working together, nothing but great things can happen. That’s how I sum up my career. I put the work in. I earned it. I came to work and I did my job. I didn’t know where it was going to be everyday but when I got it, I did my job and I did it the best that I could. In closing, I want to thank everybody for being a part of my career and helping it to become what it’s become. The media, you helped build what’s here now. I don’t know how to close this thing out. It’s hard. It’s tough. I would give anything in the world to put those pads on again and do it. I probably had the opportunity to do it but it just wasn’t the right color. I didn’t think I looked good in green and white again. In closing this thing out, it will be the only colors you ever see on my back as a football player and that’s the red, white and blue of the New England Patriots. I am proud to say that and thank you for all the great memories you all provided. I am almost there before I cry. It’s been a wonderful ride. I can’t think of anything better in life to do than to enjoy a sunny afternoon playing football. I enjoy those sunny afternoons watching football and still saying in my head, ‘I can make that play.’
- What are your personal highlights? I would say that 82-yard pass in the Miami game. We hadn’t won a game down there in the month of September. To go down there and win that game the way we won it because no one was expecting me to run a deep pattern because I hadn’t done that too often before. To end the game the way we did down there, to get that monkey off our back of not winning in September, I thought that was probably one of the biggest plays I can remember.
- Was there ever a point in your career when you doubted you could make it in the NFL? I don’t think I ever doubted. When I did get cut my second year, I think I was out about seven or eight weeks, I believe. There was a little bit of doubt that crept into my mind that I wouldn’t get a chance to show that I could play in the league. But I don’t think I doubted that I could because I had been here and I saw what I was up against. I knew if I had the opportunities that some of those guys had to make the team; I knew that I could show them that I belonged in the NFL. I never doubted myself as far as my ability to play.
- What is the next step for you? I plan on suiting up today and going to practice with the guys, but I doubt that will happen. That’s my biggest wish. I think you will probably see me around, doing some media stuff, covering a few of the games. You will still see me out doing charity work in the community. That’s always been close and dear to my heart, being able to get out, and help people, and put some smiles on some faces. You will still see me around doing quite a few things. I have different business ventures here in town. I will be around. I will be here. This is my second home. I have two homes: West Virginia and Massachusetts.
- Do you have a desire to stay in the game as a coach or in the front office? At this time, I don’t see it happening right now. It sounds like I have some pretty good guys on my side if I wanted to coach. I think right now, whatever I wanted to do; they would help me do it. But, I just don’t see it. My boys are not old enough to ride their bikes over to see me at work and that would be the case if I got into coaching. I don’t think that’s going to happen right now. Maybe when they get a little older I would think about it.
- Can you talk about your offer from the Saints? It was pretty tempting. It was more money. I think my role here was starting to diminish or had diminished. It’s something that my boys, they didn’t want to go to New Orleans. They had a lot to do with that decision that year. They didn’t want to see me in another uniform besides playing for the Patriots and that was a huge influence for me. I am glad I made that decision. That was the same year the hurricane came through and tore up everything. It ended up being a great decision after all. I think the way things turned out; I know it was the best decision for me to stay here.
- What about this year? How close were you to going somewhere else? It came pretty close. Actually, I flew down to New York and visited with [Jets Head Coach Eric] Mangini and his staff. They were really excited about signing me up and making me a Jet. It was tempting because I had talked to Bill and I knew they weren’t going to bring me back here. It was tempting to get out there and see what I could do for one more year. I had to sit back and I thought about it for a long time. That’s what has taken me so long to give you the announcement that I was done playing. It just didn’t feel right and I didn’t want to go somewhere and give someone an effort that I didn’t think was acceptable to me; and try to give that to them and say, ‘This is what I can give you.’ That just wasn’t my style. I wasn’t going to give them a mediocre performance when I thought I was capable of doing more. I didn’t think I was able to provide them with the type of plays that they were probably looking for.
- Was there anything that happened over the last few weeks that told you it was time to retire? I couldn’t stop going to Baskin-Robbins. I kind of knew then. When June comes around I am usually on a strict diet. I celebrate my birthday on July 2. Other than that, when June comes around collard greens and all that good stuff, baked chicken. When I am still going to Baskin-Robbins, I figured it was probably over.
- What was your first reaction when Coach Belichick asked you to play defensive back? I kind of thought they were joking. I was sitting at my locker and it was a situation where I always used to tease Ty Law about playing defensive back. [Law] and receivers coach Brian Daboll about playing receiver. We never really thought anything about it we did it for years. I was sitting at my locker, looking over my offensive plays and Eric Mangini comes in and drops this defensive playbook in my face like, ‘Get ready to go. You are doing one-on-ones today.’ I’m putting on my shoes, getting ready to practice and I’m like, ‘How am I supposed to learn this in 10 minutes?’ That’s how it came about. He came in and said, ‘You always said you wanted to play defensive back and you can do it so here’s your chance.’ I’ll tell you, that first day was pretty bad. Charlie Weis came in after practice, he wasn’t happy because he wasn’t fond of me playing defense because it was taking away from his offensive guys. After practice he said, ‘I guess that was the end of that deal.’ It was pretty ugly. Every guy on the team toasted me and beat me up pretty bad. I was blowing coverages; that was the start of it. The next day Bill [Belichick] was like, ‘Get back out there and do it again.’ Every day I got a little better at it and I guess I earned enough confidence to get in against “The Greatest Show on Turf” against the Rams. That was my first game playing defensive back and the rest was history from there.
- That was in training camp that year? Yes, that was in training camp that year.
- How tough was Donald Driver? I’ll tell you what. Donald [Driver] is a pretty explosive and strong player. He catches the ball really well with his hands. I think you guys have seen him play a couple times here in the Monday Night games against Dallas. He makes outstanding plays. [He’s] able to accelerate and he knows how to get open. It was a tough task to go up against him and hold him down to one catch like that. Like Bill said, I kind of surprised myself a little bit. When you play guys like that you know that they are going to make some catches and make some plays. That game, he just wasn’t able to get going. Maybe it wasn’t all me. Maybe it was him a little bit, but he just couldn’t get going. Like Bill said it was probably one of the proudest moments of my career as a defensive back in the league.
- Did it mean a lot to you that the coaching staff trusted you with that assignment? Definitely. I know Bill’s [Belichick] not going to… He wouldn’t have put me on the field if he felt like it was going to be a detriment to his team. You know how Bill is. He’s not going to play a guy if a guy says he can play and Bill doesn’t think he can play. He’s not going to put him on the field. He’s not going to jeopardize the success of the rest of the team for the success of one or two guys. When he put me out there, I said, ‘He must really believe that I can get this job done’. Or he just didn’t have another choice, or something. He was just like, ‘You’ve got to play.’ But it turned out good. Having that confidence in me, knowing Bill, that really meant a lot to me. Knowing that he believed that I was smart enough and capable enough to go out there and help the football team win some games.
- Troy, did you ever look at players who played their whole career with one team, even before you started thinking about retirement, and say that is something that I’d like to do? Or, did you understand that guys like [Joe] Namath, even [Brett] Favre now, have the desire to play for another team and maybe stretch it out for another year? I always thought about playing with the same team. It was something that was on my mind for a long time. Being able to stay here and finish up my career, especially once I started getting out a little more, doing some charity work, doing some other business ventures. I just kind of got planted here. It’s tough to pick up and move, leave the area and get started somewhere else. More than anything I love playing for this team. I love playing for the organization and the way that Mr. Kraft has gone about running this team. You hear so many horror stories about organizations not taking care of their players and guys are just out for their own. They have guys working out in trailers. You have guys meeting in barns and you hear about all that stuff and, in some places, that was the case. Some guys just didn’t have the facilities and they didn’t really care about how comfortable the players were. Here, it’s been pretty comfortable. [We’ve] got one of the best digs in there to get dressed in. You walk out of the back and go to the practice field now. You guys know where I was when, I don’t know if any of you guys were here, I am getting old. What happened to all the Kevin Mannix and all those guys that used to be around? You had to drive. You had to drive to practice when I got here, for what? Six, seven, eight years, whatever it was. It was a nightmare having to get in your car drive over there, get stopped by the train, get fined 50 dollars by [Bill] Parcells for being late because the train was coming. It was tough coming in here. You had the horses and buggies running around the track and horse poop and all this stuff. Now, you look out there and see what [Robert Kraft]’s done with this place. It’s quite amazing. He made it pretty comfortable to be here.
- Talk about the transformation from playing with this team when they were struggling to win to seeing it now? I think I got a little bit of a taste even though [Bill] Parcells was already here as the new [coach]. He had started to make that transition over to being a winning organization but you could still see reminisce of the team, the way it used to be and the struggles they had to win. Then Mr. Kraft came in and you could really see the team turn the corner. It all started with the players. Trying to make situations better for the players, serving players breakfast in the morning – something we didn’t get our first year. Getting lunch and now we get three meals a day. I don’t have any food in my house if my family’s not here. I didn’t have to leave, you come in and they can make you a waffle in the mornings, get fresh omelets and scrambled eggs, whatever cereal you want and fruit. Any time of the day you can go in there and eat. I think it started with that, starting to take care of the players more. I think Mr. Kraft realized that if you take care of the players they’re going to give it back to you. I think that was part of the big turn in the whole situation and obviously getting [Bill] Belichick to come back here and coach this football team, which a lot of people doubted. He didn’t have a lot of success in Cleveland and there are a lot of things that go with that success. Nobody knew what his front office situation was. Nobody knew if he was calling the shots, if he was bringing in the players. I don’t know a lot about the coaching business but it’s tough. I do remember the whole Parcells thing, about shopping for the groceries or whatever between him and Mr. Kraft. That’s the nature of this business but when you get a chance to go out there, get your players, you put them in the right position and you get them to win, teach them how to win, it makes big difference. I think bringing [Bill] Belichick back in here, teaching football the way he knows how to teach it and the way he knows how to play it – he’s been around the game for 30-plus years. I think he’s somebody you need to listen to when it comes to learning the game of football. He did a great job of getting the right type of players that he wanted to coach and putting it all together and teaching. He taught the game of football. He didn’t just put us out on the field and say ‘run this play.’ He taught us the game of football, taught us the way he wanted it done and it ended up being, and still is, quite successful.
- If you love football so much why did you retire? (Asked by his son) It’s something that’s out of my control. I would love to keep playing but there comes a time when the man upstairs called God, you can’t out run him as much as you try to and want to. He just catches up to you and tells you that you’re 37 years old. You’re knee is supposed to be hurting. You’re hip is not in great shape. You can’t run as fast as you used to. There’s a bunch of 22-year-old guys out there that are taking your place. I’m no longer 22 and in this game. There are very few places for guys that are 37 years old. Therefore, you have to move on and create other goals and things to achieve and you try to push on and achieve those things. It’s a sad day for me too. I saw you out there crying for me and I love you and it’s going to be ok. Daddy’s still going to be around football and he still loves football. If you want to play football he’ll come watch you play and teach you how to play too. As long as you don’t get mad at him when I coach you too hard and when I get on you too hard. That’s just a part of the game. You get older and you’re not able to keep up as well as you used to. Therefore you have to leave the game. I’ve got more time too sit down and watch it with you, whenever you want to. That’s what happens.
Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here’s the transcript of Matt Cassel’s Q&A with the media this morning at Gillette Stadium:
- What is the biggest thing you need to get out of this bye week? As a team we need to go out there and work on the things that we struggled with in the first three weeks and build on the things we did well.
- What is your assessment of how the first three weeks of the regular season have gone? We are 2-1 and we would love to be 3-0 but we are not. There are a lot of teams out there that wish they were 2-1 right now. We have some things to improve on and we will. There are a lot of positives going on and we will continue to build on those.
- Last week didn’t go as you would have liked but how important is it to get more reps as the season progresses? Every rep I can get is valuable. With every look I can get and every defense I play against I get more experience. We will just keep learning from each and every situation that comes up and try to get better.
- You have been around Troy Brown for a few years. What are your thoughts on him retiring today? Troy [Brown] is a phenomenal guy. I was blessed enough to play three years with him. He had such a presence in the locker room and was a great leader. A lot of these Super Bowl banners that are hanging up around the stadium have a lot to do with Troy Brown. I couldn’t be happier for him on this day. He has had such a successful career with 15 years in the NFL. All the good fortune that comes his way he deserves it.
- Some other strong AFC teams are struggling right now. Can you talk about how you start the season isn’t as important as how you finish? You would like to go through the season and be consistent throughout. For us, speaking personally, we have a lot of things that we need to work on and we will continue to work on those. With this bye week we will be working on a lot of different things. Hopefully when we get to San Francisco we will be ready and prepared.
- How important is the bye week for you in terms of getting more experience and being more comfortable in the offense? Any time you get a bye week you embrace it as a player. We had a long training camp and the first few weeks went by pretty quickly. The bye week is also a time for you to evaluate your team and where you are and really find out what we need to work on, what our strengths are and try to build on all those things.
- What will you personally work on during this bye week? There are a number of different things I will work on, whether it is mechanics, film study or how defenses are approaching us as an offense. I will try to hone all those skills and continue to work on those.
- It seems like you have experienced some highs and lows in your first few weeks as the starting quarterback… So far, anytime you win in the NFL it is a highlight. Unfortunately, we experienced one of the lows the other day. You never want to lose but it happens in the NFL. There are a lot of good teams out there. From one week to the next things can go your way or the other way. We would always like to stay on the winning side but it happens at times. Right now we will regroup and try to put out a better performance next time.
- Did you have a chance to talk to quarterback Tom Brady after the loss to the Miami Dolphins? We have had conversations since last week. A lot of them just came down to ‘look it happens and there are going to be times when you lose. You just have to stay positive and know that you are going to come out and continue to work hard and get better.’
The Patriots have just announced that they have scheduled a press conference for 10 a.m. Thursday with wide receiver Troy Brown, coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft. No other details have been provided, but it’s expected that Brown will announce his retirement from the game of football. The classy veteran holds the franchise records for career receptions (557), and places second on the franchise’s receiving yardage list with 6,366 yards. In addition, Brown set a franchise single-season record with 101 receptions in 2001. He spent 15 years in a New England uniform — only quarterback Steve Grogan (16 seasons) has had a longer Patriots career than Brown.
Here’s the complete transcript of Bill Belichick’s Q&A with the media this morning at Gillette Stadium:
- We are combining this week in terms of working on things we need to work on generically getting ready for the next 13 games in the regular season and [getting ready for] San Francisco. Anytime you get a chance to step back and reflect on what you’re doing, analyze it [and] at the same time combining that with looking forward to what’s in the immediate future and what’s all the way down the road – it’s beneficial. We’ll try to address a lot of different areas and improve as a football team. Certainly, running the ball and defending the run, throwing the ball and defending the pass, particularly in zone coverage’s, our third down both sides of the ball red area, [and] plus 50 punting. There are a lot of things that we can do better and need to work on. That’s kind of how we will approach this week as well as starting to get a jump on San Francisco. It’s really been impressive watching them on film. They’re fast on defense. They have an experienced secondary. They can move the ball. They can score points. They’ve got a good return game with [Allen] Rossum. They have had two big wins and played competitively against Arizona in the opener. It’s a good football team and certainly a lot of changes out there from offensively what we saw in the off-season to what Mike Martz has brought to their team. Defensively, Mike’s always been a good defensive coach and the 49ers are playing good defense on that side of the ball as well too. That’s where we are. I congratulate the Red Sox on their playoff appearance in whatever capacity that ends up being. I wish them well. The winning continues there.
- On if inexperience affects a quarterback’s decision making… When a quarterback goes back to throw he has a primary read on the pattern, whether it’s the safeties, the safety’s a middle linebacker, if you have a full field pattern, if you have a half field pattern where you are reading three levels from high to intermediate to low, then you either read it from high to low or low to high, whatever the progression is on the pattern. So, that’s just a fundamental read. If a quarterback doesn’t see that properly than you probably don’t have a very good chance on the play. Once that’s identified, then you go to a location where you are working with two or three receivers on the play and that’s where the decision making comes in, which guy to throw it to and how to make that throw. Sometimes you throw to the receiver. Sometimes you throw away from the defender. Sometimes you throw to a hole, to an opening and the receiver goes to that opening to get the ball. There are different throws on different routes and on every route we always have a spot where we want the ball to be thrown depending on what the route is. Whether it’s low, high, in front of the receiver, in his body, away from his body and so forth. All those are part of the quarterbacks decision-making process and then ultimately the accuracy of the throw and the timing of the route. As we all know there are a lot of things that can disrupt that timing and go into that play, but basically that’s what it comes down to. Decision-making is decision making, whether it’s Brett Favre, Matt Cassel or [Joe] Flacco. When you go back to throw you have the ball in your hands and you have certain things that you’re looking at. You have to decide what is the best thing to do. Sometimes that’s ‘situationally’ driven. Third-and-five you might make one decision; first-and-10 on the same pattern you might make a different decision. Sometimes you want to make the safer throw or the situational throw. Other times you have two downs left on the same play, you might want to take a shot down the field, even though it was third-and-five and it might be different. I would say all of those things play into it and that’s for every quarterback. Experience is experience, but like everything we do, we all still have to make decisions based on what the information is at hand and what presents itself at that particular point in time – you do it on what you think is the best thing.
- After watching the film of the Miami game, was there anything that was particularly eye opening? Anything you need to work on specifically? Sure. There were plenty of things we didn’t do well against Miami. There are corrections from the Kansas City and Jets game too. So, when we look back on a three-week view, which is what this is. Then we identify priorities and prioritize what we want to do. Then we will address that this week, like the things I have mentioned. Certainly the Miami game had elements of those games in it. We’re not going to spend everything this week on the Miami game. There were things that came up in the other games, the Jets, Kansas City, and preseason games – the Philadelphia game and Giants game that are relevant to us improving as a football team. So you take all that into consideration.
- You have had success on kick-off returns. What has contributed to that success? Obviously, team work. I think Ellis [Hobbs] has run the ball well and broken some tackles but he’s also had some room to run. That’s a function of the timing of the front line, the wedge, the returner and the off returner, whoever that may be. So, it’s unusual that a kickoff return is clean, opens up in parts like the Red Sea. There’re usually a lot of things that have to be adjusted along the way particularly for the wedge, the off returner and the runner. The way we run it out there in practice and the way it hits in the game are usually a little different. It really comes down to the wedge making good decisions as to whose the most dangerous guy to block, blocking him and then the returner seeing those blocks and hitting the best opening. If you do that and don’t have any penalties, that’s been a big thing for us we haven’t had penalties – that keeps you from having a negative play. The decision making between the wedge and the returner gives you a chance to have a positive return. Then, if you break a tackle or if you block it well, you have a chance for some big yardage.
- What are the biggest differences between kick offs and returning punts? I would say there are two big differences. One is ball handling. When the ball tumbles and comes end over end, it’s a lot easier to catch and handle than it is when it spirals or doesn’t spiral coming off the punters foot. The punts a much tougher ball to handle. On kick offs you catch the ball and are able to build speed usually for 10, 15, or 20 yards and hit the return running full speed, where as sometimes that happens on punts, but more often than not you are in a ball handling situation where you have to catch it and dodge somebody. If you double the gunners, which most teams do, than you only have six players left to block, eight not counting the punter inside. So, at least two of those guys are going to be on block and that’s if you get the six that you are trying to get. If you try to have somebody force the punt now you are down to five blockers against eight coverage players. It is just a numbers game. There’s going to be free guys and the returner has to avoid them or out run them and deal with them. Of course there is a lot more decision making on the punt returns when you get into plus 50 punting and direction punting. There’s a lot of different decisions that have to be made, not that kick off returner doesn’t have to make them but the fair catch, whether to let the ball go over his head, etc. are not as much a part of the kick off return as they are the punt return, so the punts much more of a situational play.
- Is losing a regular season game a wake up call? I guess it could, I don’t know. I would like to think we approach every game the same way. Which is, last week’s game is over with, next week’s game is next week’s game. That’s where we are this week, but that’s where we were last week and the week before. We’ve been here for a while. That’s not the first game we have lost in the regular season. We’ve tried to approach them all about the same way. Make the corrections after every game. There are always things that you can do better and improve on – win or lose. Usually there are always some good things you can build on that are positives – win or lose. Once you have identified those, talked about them, walked through them and shown them on film then you put that in the background, you’re moving forward and looking at the road ahead. That’s where we are today.
- Does it change what you are trying to accomplish in the Bye Week having it be so early in the season? Well, I think it’s different. When you have it at the end of the season you have a lot more data and a lot more things to work with from 10 games versus three. Sometimes the emphasis points are a little different. For example, last year going into November and December, anticipating the weather and the conditions different than some of the games we had early in September and October and in the dome. There were things like that, that were different. Fundamentally it’s the same. At least if you do it in Week Ten you are a lot more concerned with what’s happening the last four or five weeks than you were in week one or two – a lot of that has corrected itself or adjusted itself in one way or another. You are more concerned with what the most recent games, events, and personnel are. From that standpoint we’ve had three games and we will use this time like we would at the end of the year. It is just a different placement that’s all.
- Are there any advantages to having an early Bye Week? I think it’s always an advantage to have a little rest and a little more time to absorb things. Not only what the other team is doing, sometimes you get so caught up in scout reports, game plans and preparation for the next team and you don’t focus as much on what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. Even though you talk about it on Monday after the game, sometimes that gets lost in the preparation of the coming week. This is a chance to spend a little more time on ourselves, what we are doing and how to do our things better, but at the same time get a jump on San Francisco. They are a team that we don’t know very well. We haven’t played them in four years and there have been a lot of changes since the last time we did play them. That’s good too.
- What did you like about Maurice Price? He’s a bigger guy. Most of his production came offensively at Kansas City in preseason – we got a good look at him. Then he didn’t play in the last preseason game or against us but we saw quite a bit of him in their first preseason games. [He’s] a big kid catches the ball well and was productive this year in preseason. So, we worked him out here yesterday and signed him to the roster today.
- Can you talk about the play of your offensive line? I can say the same thing about them that I can say about our entire offense, at times we’ve played well, we’ve functioned well and been efficient. There are other times where it’s not as good as we would like it to be or each individual would like it to be. I think we’ve had our moments on the offensive line. Then there have been other times that we’ve had breakdowns that we want to try to eliminate. I think that the Giants week was really the first week where we were able to work everybody in there together. I think from that standpoint its been a little bit of a positive that we’ve been able to keep the group out there consistently for the last three, four weeks including the Giants game. With movement at tight end, running back – it obviously could be better and that’s what we are going to try to do. I think those guys are working hard and I think they have a lot of good plays to work on. There are a lot of positives there. We could use a little more consistency at every point on offense not just the offensive line.
- Special teams — and the recent success of the Patriots’ kicking game — was one of the big topics this morning at Gillette Stadium. Coach Bill Belichick touched on it in his press conference, and several special teamers were asked about the secret to their recent success in the locker room. We got to talk to Heath Evans and Larry Izzo on the topic:
- Heath Evans
- Why was Ellis and the kick return team so successful last week? We work at it hard, like we do everything else. Obviously, some of those other things didn’t work out too well for us, but it was an emphasis for us, like it is every week. Ellis is a great returner, he’s probably the main key to that. He hits holes with great vision, and he knows the [returns]. And when you know where you’re supposed to hit things and the blocking assignments, it makes things easier on us to make those blocks for him. Most of the time, he just needs a little blink. He’s good. He’s very good.
- Other than the obvious tangible ability, what makes someone good on kick or punt coverage? I don’t know — I’m not very good at it. [laughter] Vision in this game is everything, whether you’re a quarterback or a DB or a kick returner. If you don’t have the vision, I don’t care how fast or how strong or how tough you are. Again, it’s about studying those returns and knowing when you’re supposed to hit and knowing the person that’s coming down the field and knowing the possibilities of what could happen. You have to be prepared before that ball is even kicked to say, ‘Hey, there’s a good percentage, a good chance that this is going to happen. This possibly could happen.’ It’s all preparation.
- It’s the same for the returner and the blockers? You have to know your personnel, who you’re blocking. Fast guy, slow guy, physical guy, guy that wants to run around you. There’s all kinds of different things. At the end of the day, it’s a man on man blocking scheme, and Ellis does a great job of finding daylight.
- Larry Izzo
- Other than the obvious tangible ability, what makes someone good on kick or punt coverage? There’s a lot of things. Number one, like any good football player, you have to be physically capable of going out there and getting down the field, whether it’s a big strong guy or a little fast guy. You have to have the physical tools. Number two, you have to have the ‘want-to.’ You have to want to be out there, and take pride in your role and be a professional about things and treat it as a job. And three, just understanding schemes, which Brad [Seely] does a good job each week with us on. Understanding what our opponents are trying to do and how we can best approach that and counter that. It’s a combination of a lot of things: toughness, and being a good overall football player. That’s what makes a good special teams player.
The newest member of the Patriots, wide receiver Maurice Price (no relation) was swarmed by the New England media today down at Gillette Stadium. Here’s a small part of the Q&A he had with reporters.
- Where were you when you heard? I was actually here. I had a workout yesterday, yesterday afternoon. I stuck around and got my physical, and got the word back later on that they wanted to sign me to the 53.
- Before that, where else did you work out? I was in Seattle and in Baltimore.
- Kind of ironic that you started the season here as a visitor with the Chiefs — you were inactive — and now you’re here as a player… Yeah, it all happened so fast, I’m just trying to learn the offense as quickly as I can.
- Were you surprised that Kansas City let you go? I was very surprised. It caught me off guard — I definitely wasn’t expecting that. When I got the news … my agent told me not to worry, that teams are interested. They are calling. I mean, I was on a flight, working out for Seattle the next day.
- What kind of preconceived ideas did you have about the Patriots? None, really. I knew they were a good team, a good organization. I heard that they believe in putting the best players on the field, regardless of who you are or where you came from. That’s pretty much all I knew.
- Were you surprised at all? Was it Belichick on the other end of the line? Pioli? It was Pioli. I talked to Pioli on the phone. It was a little surprising, but you never know. I definitely wasn’t hating it, so it was all good news.
- You just said the Patriots have a history of putting the best players on the field and the fact that they chose you, what does that do for your confidence? It does a lot for my confidence, because coming from a small school [Charleston Southerm] — the only player from that school to make it to the NFL, it says that I have an opportunity, regardless of where I came from. It does a lot for my confidence.
The team just issued the following release:
“The New England Patriots released fullback Kyle Eckel today. Eckel was signed by the Patriots as a free agent on Sept. 15.
“Eckel, 26, has played in 12 career games, all with the Patriots last season. He was listed as a gameday inactive for the Patriots’ game against the Miami Dolphins yesterday. The 5-foot-11-inch, 237-pound fullback has totaled 33 career rushes for 90 yards and two touchdowns and caught one pass for six yards. He has also totaled 12 career special teams tackles. The Navy product was originally signed by the Patriots on April 29, 2005 and was waived by New England on Sept. 3, 2005. He was claimed off waivers by the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 4, 2005 and spent the entire 2005 season and part of the 2006 season on the reserve/military exempt list. He was reinstated on Nov. 2, 2006 and spent the remainder of the season on the Commissioner’s Exempt Permission list. Eckel was released by the Dolphins on Sept. 1, 2007, and was signed to the Patriots practice squad on Sept. 3, 2007, before being signed to the Patriots active roster on Oct. 1, 2007. He was released by the Patriots on Aug. 26, 2008.”