Belichick, Welker and Seau Q&A’s from 12/8

Posted on December 8, 2008 
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Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here’s the Q&A’s from Bill Belichick, Wes Welker and Junior Seau via conference call this afternoon:

BILL BELICHICK
BB: We made the trip down to San Jose last night. We settled back in at the hotel. It is a normal Monday here with the players and coaches. It’s set up and we are ready to roll. From the game yesterday, the biggest thing was that we were able to make some plays in the fourth quarter in critical situations that we really needed. Both the kickoff return and the touchdown drive by the offense when it was 14-3 was a big answer to their 11 point lead. It was a very competitive game. Seattle is a good football team. I don’t care what their record is. They have a lot of good players, they played hard and they played well. It was rewarding to see our players fight through some of the adversity and situations that came up during the game and come out and make the plays at the end that we needed to make to win the game. We will keep working on a lot of the things that we need to work on, turn our attention here to Oakland and see if we can come out of this week with two wins.

Q: Do you have any preliminary status on how the injured players are?
BB: No, I don’t have anything to add at this point. We are evaluating everybody. I probably won’t know much until Wednesday.

Q: Are all of the injured players with the team?
BB: I just said what I am going to say. They are all being evaluated. We’ll let you know on Wednesday.

Q: At this point in the season are you aware of the playoff scenarios?
BB: All I know is there are a lot of teams that are in contention. Right now, we are just worried about Oakland. We’ll win as many games as we can, I’m sure if we qualify somebody will let us know.

Q: Now that you have seen the tape how impressed are you with what Mike Wright and Le Kevin Smith were able to do coming off the bench?
BB: Mike and Le Kevin did a good job for us. We had a lot of players step in there defensively yesterday: Junior [Seau], Rosie [Colvin], Antwain Spann, Lewis Sanders. We had a whole bunch of guys that I don’t think we expected to play as much as they played and I don’t think they expected to play as much as they played. Mike and Le Kevin both did a good job. They played hard and they played a lot of football for us. Thank goodness we had them. They came through with a lot of other guys on that side of the ball.

Q: Looking at those two players the odds were against them coming into the league. One is undrafted and one is nearly undrafted. How have they turned themselves into viable NFL players?
BB: I think both of those players have good talent. As we all know, where the player is drafted doesn’t necessarily equate to what his ability is. But, I think they both have good talent. Mike and Le Kevin work hard. They are guys that have put a lot of extra time in the weight room and practice sessions trying to improve their individual skills and techniques. They’ve played behind some very good players and I think they have learned from them, put forth effort and tried to become better technique players in our defense. When they have had a chance to play in the past they have done a solid job for us. Yesterday was one of those days where they got a chance to play more than they usually do or they have in the past. A couple years ago when Vince [Wilfork] was out Mike played two games at nose against Jacksonville and Tennessee. He took pretty much all the snaps in those two games and played well for us then. We have seen Mike in this situation before and he has come through for us before.

Q: You mentioned a lot of guys playing that you didn’t expect to play and they didn’t expect to play. With all of those guys out there on the field, was Mike Vrabel the glue that was holding that together?
BB: He was definitely a big part of it. Mike [Vrabel], Richard [Seymour], Brandon Meriweather – those guys are involved in a lot of the communication and some of the adjustments that we had to make by the nature of their position. They were really solid that way, but Mike especially as the signal caller. He’s a guy who is involved in a lot of the adjustments we make and coverages. He is very good, probably as good as anyone could possibly be in that situation. He does a number of things and as well as he does doing it, he’s certainly outstanding.

Q: How about LaMont Jordan’s contribution?
BB: It was good to have LaMont out there. I thought he gave us some quality carries. He ran hard, broke some tackles and another game with no losses in the running game on negative runs. He was a big part of that and so was Sammy [Morris] and Kevin [Faulk]. It is good to have LaMont back there and be able to take some snaps and some hits off of those other guys. I thought that Kevin, Sammy and LaMont all did a good job, particularly Sammy and Kevin on blitz pickup. Seattle blitzed about two-thirds of the time and there were an awful lot of plays where backs are involved in protection and also, the tight ends. We were involved in a lot of protection situations, so it is a lot of contact. It was a very physical game for our running backs.

Q: Seneca Wallace said that you guys lined up for the play where Brandon Meriweather blitzes three times during the game and they called a timeout the first two times because they didn’t have a way to block it. Did you know when you lined up the third time that they did not have any timeouts left?
BB: We knew they didn’t have any timeouts left. We thought it would be a good play for us and we didn’t have a chance to run it. The other times we couldn’t because as you said, they took a timeout. We got into a situation at the end of the game where they needed a field goal to tie, where they had the ball we didn’t think was quite at field goal range. But, one more first down and I think it would have been for sure. We wanted to try to put some pressure on them there, keep from getting a first down and keep from getting the ball in field goal range at that point.

Q: On that play Brandon Meriweather mentioned that throughout the course of the game you were able to get a better feel for the snap count and he was able to time that blitz accordingly. Is that something that the players pickup on the field or is that something that you tell them on the sideline?
BB: Something that we talk about going into every game is the line of scrimmage operation that the team uses. There are a lot of elements to that between the offensive line, the motion, the shifting and the center and the quarterback’s mannerisms. When you are in the game that is the best time for the players to really draw a bead on it and Brandon did a great job. He timed it perfectly and hit the gap at the right time, late enough so the line didn’t block down on him, but early enough that he was able to get Wallace on his way back. It was a really nice play by Brandon. It was well executed and I think it was something that we talk about every week, but something that he picked up on during the game and he used that timing to make the play.

Q: How important is it to have Sammy Morris and LaMont Jordan back in the running game going into December?
BB: I think it is always good to have as many good players as you can and have that kind of backfield. You would like to have multiple guys that can perform those jobs and be productive in whatever way they are productive – different styles or maybe even different plays from time to time. It is great to have that kind of depth back there and have multiple people contributing. We will do what we need to do to win going forward, try to put together the best game plan and configure things as well as we can to make ourselves productive offensively, whether that is running or passing. It is good to have those good players available.

Q: Is it impressive to see Matt Cassel make plays when he has had to move out of the pocket and create time for himself by stepping up? Can you talk about his decision-making?
BB: I think his decision-making for the most part has been good. I thought it was good again yesterday. I thought he took care of the ball well, we didn’t turn it over. There weren’t a lot of opportunities where the defense had their hands on the ball or they were that close to it. No matter how much you practice and go through things, there is nothing quite like the speed of a real game. For a quarterback there is contact in a game that he normally doesn’t see in practice. So, it is one thing to stand back there and throw the ball in practice and it is another thing to have guys coming at you in practice in a blitz drill where you know they are not going to hit the quarterback, but they are trying to give the offense a look. Then you get into situations where those are live hits. I thought Matt did a terrific job yesterday of standing there in the pocket, throwing the ball under pressure, letting the ball go at the last second, getting hit and putting it right on the money. The play to Welker where he hit him on the sideline right in the face of a blitz was an outstanding play. Matt has really done a good job of that.

Q: Without comparing Matt Cassel to Tom Brady – Brady’s first year it was a good solid season. Are they on a similar plane back then when Brady played to Matt’s play now?
BB: I think you answered your own question, it’s better not to make those comparisons. There are so many things that are different: different offenses, different players. We are a much different offensive football team than we were in 2001. Tom did a good job and Matt’s done a good job of doing what they have been asked to do – run the team, make throws, make decisions, clock management and adjustments. We are very fortunate that we have had two players play that position over the last eight years that have really done a good job of it.

Q: What, if anything, did you say to Benjamin Watson about his penalty?
BB: That was the only penalty we had in the game and that was one that we didn’t need to get. It was unnecessary, so we always try to eliminate the penalties that we have total control over. False starts, kicking off out of bounds, anything we can control we don’t want any of those penalties. So, I hope we don’t have any more in the future.

WES WELKER
Q: Do you know or care to know how these playoff tie breakers breakdown as you come to these last three games?
WW: No, not really. For us it is just going out there and make sure we do everything on our end to try and win games and let everything take care of itself. Basically just control what you can control.

Q: Have you been impressed with how well your teammates who have had to step in and play for injured guys have been able to do that?
WW: Absolutely. That is the way it needs to be. Anytime anybody goes down you have to have somebody there and they have to step up, play well and take advantage of the opportunity they get to play.

Q: Going back to the playoffs, I understand it is one game at a time, but a lot of you said that you felt your season was on the line. Is it frustrating to know that even if you control what you can control you could be on the outside looking in?
WW: Not really. You are just out there playing and controlling what you can control. You just take care of your end and let everything else take care of itself, however it shakes down. [We have to] go out there and give ourselves the best opportunity.

Q: Do you have to step back and sometimes marvel looking at the defense knowing there were six starters out by the end of the game from the start of the season and marvel at what they are still able to do?
WW: We have a lot of good players. A lot of good young players and older players that have stepped in, understand the game and know how to play. They’ve had the opportunity to go out there and show their stuff and they have done a great job of stepping up, like they did this past Sunday.

Q: How do you feel about the Dolphins being neck and neck with you at this point?
WW: There is always going to be somebody and competition within the division. For us, we just have to control what we can control and let everything else play out, however it is supposed to play out.

Q: You mentioned control what you can control, with that being said do you think you can afford a loss from here on out?
WW: Yes, probably not. That is the way it is looking. We need to make sure we are bringing it each and every week. The playoffs are almost starting a few weeks early.

Q: How about a Cotton Bowl prediction?
WW: Any win by the Red Raiders would be fine by me. Anyway we can get out there and win the game in the end would do my just fine. I am just a little upset that it isn’t a BCS one.

JUNIOR SEAU
Q: Junior, can you talk about the task at hand for you guys going forward? Given the injury situation, what do you guys have to do? What’s the mindset for you guys?
JS: Basically our mindset is to go out and honestly look at film today and take it one day at a time. We’re not going to worry about injuries, it is what it is and the team that we put out on the field will be able to focus on winning that game.

Q: How do you feel today? How sore are you, or not sore how do you feel after your first game in almost a year?
JS: You definitely use different muscles surfing and packing coolers for volleyball games. There are some fast twitch muscles that are kind of sore but other than that I feel good.

Q: Can you go over the task at hand for you guys and what it’s going to take, especially with the defense playing shorthanded?
JS: We’re definitely going to have to pay attention to details in terms of the scheme. Really relying on the scheme in itself and believing in each other. We’re really going to just have to pull together and that’s what we’re going to do.

Q: Did it feel like riding a bike at all, getting out there and getting back into it so quickly and playing as much as you did?
JS: Yeah it did. It was definitely a familiar sight. I felt at peace in going in, I really did. Being part of the NFL and back on Sunday it’s something that I live for and that hasn’t changed.

Q: Was the feel of the locker room the same for you too? The attitude and what you saw from the players, even with the younger players around you?
JS: Well it’s a different team. When you say ‘is it different?’ – I expect it to be different. What we have to do is adjust to the team which we have, the players, the character which we are building and we go from there. For us to think we’re going to have the same team, the same attitude, the same mentality that we had last year would be false.

Q: Did you go back to giving the pregame speeches or have they given that honor to somebody else?
JS: That will never change. That will never change. I definitely love to share the experience in the years which I’ve had and having been down that road before and sharing it with the young guys, it was definitely something that the players were looking forward to. Hopefully I didn’t disappoint them.

Q: What kind of memories does playing the Oakland Raiders bring up from your old days in San Diego?
JS: Well, they don’t like me [laughter]. But, being part of an organization that played them twice a year with San Diego, it was definitely a tough environment playing in the end zone with the Black Hole behind you and it’s cheers that you can do without.

Q: With younger guys it’s often not the physical thing that they need to catch up on – it’s the mental thing. In your case having the experience playing in this system, is it more of a physical thing for you now than a mental thing as far as getting back into the swing of things?
JS: I’ll tell you what. My experience and my knowledge of the game is so much faster than my 40 time. It really is and it’s been that way for a good six or seven years. With me coming back I wasn’t worried about the 40-yard dash or lifting weights, breaking records on the bench press. It was basically just getting the momentum and the rhythm where calls were just second nature in terms of terminology. That’s basically what I did with the two days that I had to experience the game plan.

Q: Before you came back to the Patriots, as you watched them as a spectator at home were you amazed at all the injuries they’ve had this year and their ability to overcome them for the most part?
JS: It really is a testament to the system and the coaching staff and what they do with the schemes. Obviously being competitive in the National Football League with the injuries which occurred this season, it’s pretty impressive to see that we’re still in the hunt.

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