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Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript - 11/14/2002
BB: We added Vic Green to the injury report, he wasn’t able to practice yesterday. So I thought it would just be appropriate to put him on there. Hopefully he’ll be able to do something today and be ready by the weekend. That’s the only update I’ve got. Did that one send you over the edge?
Q: Was that something from the Buffalo game?
BB: Yeah, it was. It was from when (Larry) Centers kicked him in the Buffalo game. He’s still working through that.
Q: That’s a tough loss considering the veteran wide receivers Oakland has.
BB: Well he didn’t die. He just wasn’t able to practice yesterday, and by league rule, I don’t want to be in conflict with the NFL rules and policies. Obviously, he wasn’t well enough to practice yesterday, so based on that we had to include him, even though he played Sunday.
BB: Quiet group today, Mark, you’ve got to have something, are you going to pull something out of that bag?
Q: I’ll be right with you. (laughter)
Q: Just a moment of silence for Victor Green.
Q: Sunday during the game, they were comparing Tom (Brady) to Joe Montana. Do you kind of just laugh when we as analyst kind of compare Tom to Montana and last week we were saying he was a bum?
BB: I missed that comment, but that’s part of the fun of sports, everybody enjoys comparing players and teams and matchups, and what if Muhammad Ali fought Jack Dempsey, and all that. Or what if Mike Tyson fought Joe Louis. That’s just part of sports, that’s part of the fan interest. I mean I think we all accept it and take it, who knows.
Q: Can you comment about Kevin Faulk? Is his role more of a like a third-down back or a change-up kind of back?
BB: I think maybe change-up might be the better word. It’s really a good question and it’s a great point. We’ve talked a lot about that, what specifically his role is, it’s hard really to define. We sort of know what it is, but it’s hard to say, it’s not just third down, and it’s not first and second down, and it’s not every down. It is every down, but it isn’t every down, and it’s not just as a returner, but it is as a returner. I think change of a pace is a good way to characterize it, he has a different style than any of our other backs do, and I think from that standpoint he really changes the pace relative to any other back that we would put on the field. The way he plays, the way he runs, is different than anybody else, and therefore they’re all different from him. I think change of pace is a good way to characterize it.
Q: For a guy of his stature, how about his hands? Are his hands unique in any way?
BB: Kevin does have good hands. He has good judgment too. You can see that in the return game and you can see that in his ball handling on particularly punt returns, which is the hardest ball to catch. Kickoff returns are easier to catch than punts, and then the passing game should be easiest of the three because the guys is throwing it to you, he’s trying to place it where you want it. Whereas, you’re trying to field kicks that are not necessarily being kicked towards you, they’re higher, or longer, or spinning different ways. But I think Kevin’s ability to handle punts shows, not only does he have good hands, but he has good judgment, and good feet so he can get properly under the ball and catch it cleanly, as you see that from Troy [Brown] as well.
Q: Not to jinx the guy, but it seems like his fumbling has gotten better.
BB: I think Kevin has taken, after the first season, after the 2000 season, I think Kevin’s taken a real conscientious approach to that. Nobody wants to lose the ball, no back, no receiver, no quarterback, nobody ever wants to lose the ball. I don’t think a player ever goes out on the field and fumbles and doesn’t care, ‘okay, I just lost a fumble, no big deal.’ Of course it bothers them. Of course they want to eliminate that, so part of it’s technique, first of all let me say this, some fumbles are almost unavoidable. There’s certain contact fumbles that, because of the nature of the collision or where the collision point is on the ball, sometimes that’s going to happen. The majority of those though can be prevented by protecting the ball to the best of the players ability, and that’ll prevent a lot of those balls from coming out. All you can really ask a player to do is to be conscious of it, and protect it and take care of the ball. Inevitably there’s going to be a play here and there that maybe you’re not able to prevent, but for the large majority of them you can. Kevin’s worked hard and conscientiously to address that.
Q: With the lateral play in the Green Bay game, it’s almost like a before and after now.
BB: Yeah, again, that’s the whole offensive team other than one player, other than Steve Neal, that was a lot of guys.
Q: He seems to have played an awful lot better since that game. Is it possible that a negative moment like that serve as a watershed?
BB: I guess it’s possible. I think it is possible, the guy can miss a tackle, and, ’Hey go on a real conscious effort to be more fundamentally sound tackling.’ Or a quarterback can throw an interception and get to the point where, ‘Hey I’m not going to throw, I’m going to be more careful, I’m just not going to throw it to them.’ I’ll just share the story that sticks out more to me than any other one, is Ozzie Newsome. When Ozzie was a rookie in Cleveland he fumbled, it was a really costly play in the game and from that point on, I forget the exact number, he handled the ball 600 and something times and never fumbled after that. So I would almost say that that play was a watershed play for him. Once that happened to him, of all the other things he had to concentrate on, and you know, he’s a hall of fame tight end, of all the other thing she had to concentrate on, blitz pickup, the running game, patterns, coverages, adjustments, this, that, and the other thing, obviously it struck a cord with him that once the ball is in his hands, it’s not coming out, and it never came out again.
Q: Was he spoken to specifically or was it address to the whole team?
BB: Well, both, it was certainly pointed out to the entire team. Even the players that weren’t on the field, we can all learn from that situation.
Q: The play in the Buffalo game was a similar play.
BB: Right, it was a similar play. It was.
Q: Has he improved in his blocking in the pass rush?
BB: Yeah, I think Kevin has improved in all areas of his game from when I got here in 2000. He’s worked hard in every area and he’s improved in every one of them. One of the things with Kevin, not to bring out the biography on Kevin, as a point of fact though, in the ’99 season when he broke his ankle and missed the end of the season, and then spent the entire off season rehabbing his ankle . . . So during the off season, prior to the 2000 season, Kevin spent the entire year just rehabbing his ankle, he never really . . . he was working as hard as anybody, but he was never really able to work toward improving himself as a player and developing as a player, it was more rehabilitation to get back to where he was due to the ankle. I thought that last year, prior to the 2001 season, and then this year, that he’s had two really good off seasons, and I think that’s really helped his development as a player both running, blitz pickup, durability, his overall quickness. I think that those have, being able to train not just to get healthy, but to actually train to improve, that those helped him as well, and Kevin’s a hard working kid, he works as hard as anybody on and off the field, mentally, watching film, all that, he’s a well prepared player.
Q: As much as Kevin Faulk has seemed to improve, it seems that J.R. Redmond has backtracked a little bit.
BB: Oh, here we go.
Q: The point I want to make is, has it been Faulk’s improvement that has taken away some of his opportunities in third down receiving type of situations?
BB: J.R.’s an important part of the team and Kevin’s an important part of the team. It’s like we talked about a few weeks back with the receivers, you can take a look at the game, with one game some guy’s not going to get very many catches, and then we’re going to say, ‘how come we’re not throwing to so and so.’ Or a back’s not going to get very many carries and we’re going to say, ‘how come this guy’s not getting the ball,’ and that’s a little bit in the nature of the position. We’re basically a one-back team, Marc Edwards is going to get some carries, but he’s more of a blocker and a receiver than a ball carrier when he’s in the game. So whichever back is in the game, whether it’s Kevin, whether it’s J.R., whether it’s Antowain [Smith], whoever the back is that’s the primary ball carrier, that’s the guy who’s going to get them, and when you only have one back in the game, particularly when you’re in three wide receivers and those kind of sets. Whether it’s throwing it or handing it to them, that’s the guy that’s going to get it, and Kevin’s gotten some opportunities and Kevin’s been productive with those opportunities. J.R. had a similar situation last year where he was making plays, so I think as a coach, and as a team, what you’ve got to say to the players is, ‘look, go out there and give me your best, if you’re productive you’re going to get more opportunities, if you’re not and somebody’s more productive than you, then they’re going to get them.’ That’s really kind of the way it’s gone, it wasn’t negative towards Kevin then, and it’s not negative towards J.R. now, it’s more positive towards the players who are productive. That’s not just true at running back, it’s true at pretty much every position, and we don’t have another kicker. It’s really true at every position on the field.
Q: We talked about the ‘dog house’ concept last week. And I am not saying that J.R. is in the doghouse or anything like that. But how tough for a player who isn’t maybe getting the snaps that he may have gotten before, for him to keep that mindset to know that the opportunity is likely to come because that is the nature of this team, that opportunities come to players as long as they display something when their name is called and have to be ready to do it. How tough is that mindset?
BB: Well, I think it’s challenging, but I think that’s what everybody has to be ready to do. We can all cite numerous players who fit into that situation, who didn’t get an opportunity, and then they did, and if they did well with it, then that created more opportunities, and in some cases maybe we’re talking about some of our best players. Again, part of the whole situation with Kevin, and J.R. to that end, really revolves around the kicking game. Last year, just to get to J.R.’s situation, last year Troy Brown was having a lot of production for us in the kicking game and he was healthy, and he was our punt returner, and he did an excellent job, while this year, when Troy missed a couple games, and even in a couple of the games that he did play in he wasn’t as involved in the punt return game and that thrust Kevin more into that role, which led to some more roles offensively. The same would be true of any other player whether it’s J.R. or whether it’s Patrick Pass, whoever it is, that sometimes opportunities in the kicking game lead to opportunities on offense and defense and sometimes that are, in all honesty, maybe better offensive or defensive player, they may be better on the inactive list than somebody
Who’s active, but the reason that other player is active is because of the number of plays and the contribution that he’ll make in the kicking game. I think the fact that Kevin was involved in the kicking game and did a good job in the kicking game, and he’s there and now he’s making a couple plays on offense, and all of a sudden things start to flourish and fall into place, and I think that was a little bit true for J.R. last year.
Q: How is Adam Vinatieri doing this year?
BB: Well, I don’t think you could really kick the ball on field goals and extra points any better than he’s kicked it. Kickoffs are an area that can be improved and he’s worked hard to improve it. I thought it was a lot better than it was last week than it was in Buffalo. But he’s our kicker. I mean he’s not consistently going to be the guy to put the ball eight yards deep in the end zone and there’s not many of those guys in the league anyway. Where are they? Obviously he’s one of the better kickers in the league. That’s an area that as a team we have to do better on, too.
Q: Is it reassuring as a coach to know, like in other sports where a player wants the ball at the end of the game, some kickers seem to go up and down, that you don’t have to wonder what his mindset will be?
BB: Oh, yeah. Adam is as solid and consistent as any specialist I’ve ever been around. I think I said it a couple of weeks ago, I put him right there with (Dave) Jennings. You are getting the same guy every day. He’s not really a kicker. He’s a football player who kicks. He trains with the rest of the team. He is like everybody else. He really doesn’t separate himself from the team as some kickers do, I am not saying intentionally, but they are just different. He has, I think, great chemistry with the team. He’s consistent. He’s always prepared. He works as hard as anybody. He has a lot of pride of confidence in his game and I think that is reflected on the field.
Q: The 45-yard kick here last year, as a play, how would you rate that?
BB: The best one I’ve ever seen. I saw Dempsey’s 63-yarder but for everything, we can talk about that all day but for everything that it was (for), I would put it number one.
Q: He’s kind of got a different mentality for a kicker, kind of like a ‘one of the guys’ mentality.
BB: Yeah, he really is. Like I said, he is a football player that happens to be a kicker. He’s not a kicker that’s on a football team. He’s just as much a part of the team and is active with the team as any other positioned played that I know of.
Q: Some of the best field goal kickers sometimes do struggle with their kickoffs a little bit. I mean Jason Elam of Denver, he obviously is one of the longest kicking feet in the league, and yet they had to bring somebody in to handle kickoffs. Adams has improved, but sometimes he isn’t consistent too. Is there something that doesn’t click after making a long field goal?
BB: No. I think it’s just a matter of consistency. I thought the last kickoff that he had against Chicago, five, six yards deep in the end zone whatever it was, that was a huge play in the game to be able to put them that far away. That’s when you need that kick, right there. Again, the expectations for Adam are high like they are for a lot of us. So anytime the ball doesn’t land in the end zone or anytime he misses a 59-yarder, there’s going to be a little bit of that, ‘oh, I thought he was going to make it.’ And he wants to make it and he’s got a good shot, but nobody bats 1.000.
Q: Has his leg strength improved during the period of time that you’ve had him as a kicker? Because his kicks into the wind seem exceptionally strong.
BB: They do. Well, I think that his leg strength is certainly as good as, if not a little better than what it was in ’96. But I think the biggest thing with Adam is just his technique. As you know from playing golf, you can hit the same ball, but the trajectory of the ball with the wind conditions has an affect on how far it goes. The same thing with kicking a field goal. There’s some kicks you want to keep low. There’s some kicks you want to get a little more elevation on. Knowing the wind, playing the wind, playing the conditions, anytime you have a cross wind, which we had a lot of them out here, when does the ball start to blow from right to left? At what point in the kick? Is it at 20 yards? Is it at 30 yards? Is it at 40 yards? That’s how much
variance there is and how hard it is to get the ball through based on whether you are kicking a 30-, 40- or 45-yard field goal. A lot of little things like that. I think that his technique is good. He has a great understanding of his leg, the ball, the conditions. I think on top of that, and this is not to take anything away from Adam, but the other two guys he is working with, have been very good, very consistent too. So as a unit, they function well together. And I think that Adam would be the first one to recognize Kenny (Walter) and Lonie (Paxon’s) contributions and their consistency which enables the kicker to be more consistent. Every time you go to hit that ball, if it’s in a little different place, no matter how good of a kicker you are, then that affects your ability to perform. Whether it’s a snap, whether it’s the hold. But if the ball is always in the same spot then you can be more aggressive and you can be more consistent. I think the teamwork on that part of the execution of the kicks has been outstanding.
Q: When you look at the three tight ends that you have, what kind of factors determine which one is on the field in each situation?
BB: Well, first of all, I think we want to try to spread the load out a little bit to all three of them. Really it just comes down to game planning and trying to balance that out. There isn’t any situation where any of them couldn’t be out there. It’s not like we, in the offensive game plan meeting and say, ‘Okay, we know we don’t want this guy on the field for that play,’ or ‘We don’t want that guy on the field for this play.’ Usually we feel like we can use any of them on any play. So you break it down into packages, ‘well when we’re in this personnel group, we’ll put this guy in,’ or ‘we’ve got another personnel group and we’ll put the other guy in.’ That kind of splits it up for them and sort of lets them concentrate on a certain aspect. Sometimes you might have a particular play (where you say) ‘boy this would really be a good play for (Daniel) Graham to run or for (Cam) Cleeland to run.’ Maybe you put them in for a specific play, but I think it’s more of trying to balance it all and keep everybody involved and let everybody really concentrate on what specific thing that the part of the job that they have to do this week while somebody else concentrates on maybe another package. Then there are times when there are multiple tight ends on the field together and they all have a role in those situations. It’s really not trying to exclude anybody from anything. It’s really more of trying to keep everybody involved and knowing that if somebody needs a substitute, we’re counting on the other person to be ready to be able to go in there and do it and feel confident that they will be able to do it because they have all demonstrated that.
Q: What are the attributes that make a quarterback excel late in the game?
BB: Well, I think number one for any quarterback to be a good quarterback, at any point in the game, he has to have good judgment. He has to have a good understanding of what he is doing and what the defense is doing. I mean if you just go out there and guess and wing it, you’ll get a couple of balls in there or you’ll make a couple of plays maybe because of great arm or great talent or a guy will make a great or something, but to do it consistently, I think that a quarterback has to know what he is doing offensively and what his options are. He has to understand what the defense is doing and then needs to use good judgment. And when I say good judgment, there are always some unpredictable things in football that come up. You can draw up any play that you want but when you actually go out there and run the play, sometimes the receiver slips, sometimes there’s a guy in front of you, sometimes the guy runs the wrong route, sometimes the defender drops in and takes the play away or whatever it is. Then that is where the judgment then comes in. The quarterback has to understand what he can realistically do and what he can’t do and what he shouldn’t do. Then there is always a point in time where a quarterback can a take a little bit of a chance, but that has got to be calculated. There are some times where you can afford a mistake and then there are other times when you can’t. That’s what separates the good ones from the ones that aren’t as good. Let me just say one thing on top of all that. To me the number one thing once you get past all that, is accuracy. Not about how hard you can throw or fast you can throw it or how high his release is or how low it is or how much he is on a back foot or front foot. But in the end how accurate is the ball because is the ball where it’s supposed to be or in the right place, let me put it that way. If it’s in the right place then that is going to give you the execution in the passing game that you need both catching it after, running with it after you catch it and getting it in some tight spots which there usually going to be tight spots on third down and in the red area. So accuracy above scrambling ability, above arm strength, above height, above all of that.
Q: With (Tom) Brady specifically, he has started 26 games now. Is accuracy one of the things that help late in games?
BB: Sure. I think Tom is an accurate thrower.
Q: As far as preparation goes, you mentioned how studious he was. Is it because he goes on field with the confidence of knowing what he’ll see?
BB: Sure. I definitely think that is a big part of it. We all know a lot of times at the end of a game in the two-minute situation, the defenses do change a little bit. Sometimes, they change to be more simple just from a communication standpoint defensively to get 11 guys in a hurry up situation to all get the right call and do the right thing, usually you cut your game plan down to a fewer number of calls and a fewer number of adjustments so that you can do them at a quick pace. Even though a team might be playing certain coverages in certain situations during the game, once they get into the two-minute situation sometimes that gets changed a little bit and maybe they just don’t have as much flexibility to get called what they would call in a normal situation. Again, that is part of the preparation part of knowing what the other team does in that situation and then being able to recognize when it’s different, you know, when you see something different, usually (in) a good quarterback that will throw up the caution lights, maybe he doesn’t know exactly what it is that he doing. But he knows this isn’t what it’s supposed to be, ‘this isn’t what I’ve been seeing all week and something is up here, don’t take the bait.’
Q: Is he exceptional late in the games?
BB: Well, I think that he has done a pretty good job. We can find a number of games where he’s done a good job and again, that’s not just making one play when you have to drive the field multiple times and string a lot of them together. But that is the quarterback’s job. That is his job. If we are behind and we have to throw, and they know you have to draw, then the quarterback, the receiver, the offensive line, a good passing team has got to be able to pass when they know you have to pass. Just like a good running team has got to be able run when they know you’ve got run. That’s execution and efficiency.
Q: Sometimes the classic cliché is to say the player sees the game in slow motion. Is it the case is the player understands what he’s doing and has enough confidence and knowledge in his own ability that enables him to almost be able to make those choices faster than some of us may not be as far along or just doesn’t have that understanding of the game? Does that happen?
BB: That’s exactly the way I see. I think that describing it as playing the game in slow motion or seeing the game in slow motion, that’s really what it is. But I would say that about any player not just the quarterback. I’ve coached defense a long time and they say the same thing. You come off the field and ‘I don’t know who blocked me,’ or ‘I thought the guy went there, the fullback went this way’ or ‘I don’t know, if it was a guard, it could have been a tight end.’ ‘I don’t know what happened.’ Then there are other times that, ‘Oh yeah, he blocked down, the fullback led on me, I thought the tight end turned out, but he didn’t. He blocked down too.’ Then they see all 11 guys. Sometimes they don’t even know they see all 11 guys, but they see them. ‘Great read, how did you recognize that play-action-pass?’ ‘I don’t know, but I just knew it was a play-action-pass.’ ‘There was just something different about the tempo of the play.’ And that is really being able to see game and react to it and feel like you’re reacting quicker than the game is really happening. And that is a concept that when you’ve got it, it’s a great feeling. And when you are on the other side of it, the scrambling from … It seems like everything that you are reacting to has just happened and as soon as you react to it, they are on to something else and you are always one step behind, that’s the kind of feeling that you want to stay out of. But certainly preparation and having a good understanding of what is going on out there eliminates a lot of confusion when the game goes at that pace. For any young player, that’s tough because no matter how you try to simulate it in practice, you can drop cards and run things the way they do them and take them right off the film but its really impossible for us to simulate the pace that your opponent is going to run it because that is what they do. We can’t duplicate the pace of Denver’s stretch play or duplicate the pace of Green Bay’s crossing patterns or duplicate the pace of Denver’s linebackers when they blitz. We can show it to them, but its always going to come up faster speed in the game.
Q: I think that is one of things that seem so to be most frightening on one of those rare occasions when they let us down on the field …
BB: They don’t let you guys down on the field?
Q: Not around here they don’t, but at least in some of the other places. But I mean it shows really how fast the game really is and how quick these things transpire and we you NFL Films runs everything in slow motion so everybody can see how everything transpires. But to actually be out there and to be able to make those decisions at that pace of a game, I would imagine the guys who do that very fast are respected?
BB: That’s what separates them. You bet.
Q: With this being a homecoming for Tom, is that a lot of extra pressure for a young quarterback?
BB: I hadn’t really thought about it. Is it a homecoming?
Q: The Bay Area.
BB: I don’t know. I can’t really imagine that it would be. I am sure that he will have friends and relatives or whatever at the game like a lot of other players will. Anytime you travel a long distance to play a game, people that live in that area make the effort to come to see you because that is usually about the only time you get in spot. I think we’re kind of past where the games are played or what stadium they are at or what area code they are in or that kind of thing. It’s all about the game and who we are playing and what they are doing and what we are doing.
Q: Is Oakland a tough place to play?
BB: The fans are very enthusiastic. They are vocal. Crowd noise is definitely a factor. The stadium is a little bit different than some stadiums in that the fans are a little bit further away from you in the bench areas being more of a baseball stadium as opposed to say a place like Buffalo where they are right on top of you. Or here where they are 10 feet behind the bench. Out there, there is more separation, but the whole bowl affect puts the noise double high. I mean out in Champaign is another one where the fans are all right there behind you, there is virtually no separation between the bench and the fans. When they are right on top of you, in a way that is louder when you are on the bench. But I think that when you are on the field the bowl affect because the all the noise is generated right all towards that middle spot, it can be pretty loud there. So, yeah doing things like audibling or even hearing the plays coming in on the headset it’s tough.
Q: Is that disappointing that they’re going to be further away?
BB: I’ve been in a lot of different stadiums. There’s some where they’re close. There’s some where they are far away. I think the noise level it’s surprising to me as I think about it, and I have thought about that, where you are in stadiums where you think, ‘Oh, it shouldn’t be that bad because it’s more of a baseball stadium and they’re not right on top of you, whether it was RFK or the Vet, places like that. Even playing out in Oakland. You think it wouldn’t be that bad, but then it might even be worse than the stands like Soldier Field where they are right behind you, they are right on top of you, but you don’t have the bowl affect from the noise level. What’s a little tough on that too is the headsets because obviously when it gets noisy or it gets loud like it was say in the third quarter in Chicago, it’s hard to hear anything. You can’t hear yourself think. The phones are ringing, your ears are ringing and it’s hard to hear. Then you get into a habit of just trying to do everything at top volume. You’re screaming, the coaches are screaming, everybody is screaming. And then if you ever get that little lull in the action for whatever reason and things happen to quiet down, you complete a pass or something and then there is screaming again, then that seems to make it even worse. Then your brain is