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Bill Belichick Press Conference - 7/30/2003
BB: How’s it going today? [Is it the] dog days of camp for you too? Or [is it] just us? That’s because we were signing a player. We were doing a transaction. So, the one transaction for today is that we released Jason Hunt and signed Larry Centers. Larry came in last night. So he was out on the field today obviously. So again, that keeps our roster at the league limit. Like I said, this is the kind of period in camp where we just have to grind through it. There’s no shortcut to going out there, being tired, getting into condition, concentrating and trying to execute plays after a whole bunch of practices before and sore muscles, all of the battle weary troops. But that’s what we got to do, and that’s what we are doing. I think players are trying to work through it, and they are working through it. It’s the grind of camp. We just need to go out there and take advantage, really, of the situation. You got to get your team to this point and then you got to push through. So that’s where we’re at. I don’t know if you guys are there or not.
Q: Did you ever see a point where it levels off for a period and then they get through that and get a second wind?
BB: Yeah, that’s exactly what happens. It will happen, but we just got to go through the process. You have to be fatigued to build your conditioning. You just can’t build your conditioning when you’re fresh. You’ve got to get to the point when it’s starting to wear on you, and that’s where your conditioning builds up to be able to play, both physically and mentally. Being able to concentrate and play in the fourth quarter when those conditions set in, in the games.
Q: When you plan your camps, do you plan diversions or anything to break up the monotony of the routine of it?
BB: A little bit. Sure a little bit. Some of that, you just have to take a read on the situation as it comes up. But at this point in camp, really I think it’s good that it is a grind. That it is a little bit monotonous. That there is a mental toughness that has to be built in terms of coming to work, concentrating, going through and doing the things we have to do even when we don’t feel like doing them. There’s going to be days like that during the season. There are going to be times like that in games that it’s going to be tough. Mentally you are going to have to block out the situation and concentrate and execute what it is you have to do.
Q: There was a time with double sessions everyday went forever it seems like for training camp. Now coaches all over the league seem to take a little bit more of a measured approach in terms of what kind of demands they put on their players. Would you say when you look back 15 or 20 years, is training camp easier now than it used to be?
BB: Oh no, no. Are you kidding me? No. My first year in the league with the Baltimore Colts, 1975, we went to training camp July 5th, the day after the 4th of July, July 5th. And the first regular season game was September 28th. We were in training camp for two and a half months. I tell these guys that now and they [say], ‘Yeah sure. Like they played with no face masks too.’ But again, you really didn’t have the off-season program. Most of the teams then didn’t have a strength and conditioning coach. The Steelers had one, maybe a couple teams had them, but there wasn’t really any of that. There really was a process of building the conditioning and the contact and so forth, whereas now, the offseason programs are much more sophisticated. The time and the practices we have in the offseason, the mini-camps, are substantially greater than they were in the seventies when I first came into the league. That part of it is a little bit different. So when we go to training camp now, really all of our system is installed. For the most part, the players have run it. Not in pads obviously, but they’ve run it. You get a new guy in here, like Larry Centers or Brenden Stai or somebody like that, and they’ve got to pick it up. But still, the team is much further ahead at the start of training camp now then they were back when I came into the league.
Q: So even though there are fewer practices now, can you say the practices are more intense than they were because the fact that they are expected to be in shape when they come in?
BB: Well that and also the fact that the players are bigger, stronger and faster. When I was with the Colts, our big linemen were 250 [pounds], 245, 250, 255. Those guys were big, but now a 250-pound offensive lineman, you wouldn’t even let him go out on the field. They are bigger, they’re stronger, they’re faster. There is more impact. There is more power. The collisions are…not that there weren’t big collisions there, I’m not taking anything from those guys, there were a lot of good players there that played hard…you are just talking about more force.
Q: In general, is it tough to defend a pass-catching fullback?
BB: I don’t think it’s hard. It depends on the personnel. Defensively, I’ll just in general, it’s not hard to stop one thing. You can stop, if you have any kind of decent team, you can stop one thing. The problem is when you are trying to defend at every front; you are trying to defend the outside running game, the inside running game, the deep passes, the intermediate passes, the guys who can catch the little short passes and are good runners after the catch. You start trying to defend six or seven problems at the same time and that’s where you really get spread thin. If they just are good at one thing, you can gear up toward that and take your chances at everything else. The idea of having a complimentary package is good. That’s what is hard to defend. It’s hard to defend five good receivers. It’s hard to defend a multiple running game attack, both scheme and personnel. Defensively that’s where the big problems come.
Q: Does it impress you that the team in Arizona that Larry [Centers] played on had a lot of great offensive weapons but he was still able to rack up the…
BB: Yeah, well there is no doubt. He’s had a great career. What can you add to it? Look at what he’s done.
Q: Was there a particular game that stands out, maybe in your tenure with the Giants or in Cleveland when you went up against Phoenix or even the last couple years against Buffalo, where…
BB: Oh yeah, well last year against Buffalo, he killed us several times. He is a problem as a pass protector, because we tried to blitz at times, and he’s good at that. And he hurt us in the passing game, catching the ball and running after the catch. He is a tough competitor. He had one play on the game, I think it was Ty [Law’s] interception, that we had a chance of scoring on it, and we had a blocker and he went through the blocker and made the tackle. He knocked all of them out of bounds like bowling pins. He’s just a good football player.
Q: I just want to clarify something on a question, he asked you which training camp was harder, then or now? And you said, ‘Now, no question.’ and then you pointed out…
BB: No. It was tougher then in terms of the grind of training camp. That was the whole season. Six preseason games and three or four scrimmages we had that year against the Redskins. It was a ten game season. But I think…all I’m saying is that the size and the speed and the power and the contact of the players, I think it’s harder and really I think that overall they are in better condition when they come to training camp. Probably a lot of you won’t buy into that, but that’s my opinion.
Q: How about a guy like Anthony Pleasant showing up and going through this process for 14 years in the league. What do you think drives a guy like that?
BB: Anthony is a very self-motivated person. He’s got a lot of personal pride in his performance and his conditioning and his job. He likes football. He enjoys doing it. I’m sure Anthony, speaking of training camps, you talk to Anthony and what it was like at Tennessee State. There’s pretty tough training camps there that he went through too. Same type of things, double-, triple-practices everyday, scrimmages everyday, contact everyday. I don’t think they ever didn’t practice in full pads to be honest with you. I don’t want to put him back in the seventies, but even back when he was in college, it was run a little bit differently back then.
Q: What do you expect out of him this year?
BB: We’ll have to see how the whole defensive line situation develops. We have some younger players there, we’ll see how those guys fit in. I feel good about what Anthony can do, and what he can do is be a consistent player for us in all phases of the game. I don’t know that he’s going to be able to play every play of the game. So, we’ll have to be selective to what situations and how much we use them, but I don’t think he really has any limitations. I don’t think it’s [that] he can’t play on first down or he can’t play on third down. He’s proved that he can play on every down and play effectively. We’re just going to have to take a look at the whole mix and see how it all blends best in there together. The one thing about Anthony is that he’s a great team player. He helps the young kids out there more than anybody, or as much as anybody, as much as any player does. He adds that element to the team that is very valuable.
Q: Guys like him and Rick Lyle, do you look at them as like having an extra coach out on the field?
BB: Oh sure. Players like that can always impart some knowledge into the younger kids that you as a coach can’t do. I didn’t play in the National Football League, so there is some things that players go through that I really can’t relate directly to. I didn’t do them and I’m sure they see it a little bit differently than I do. Guys like that can provide some insight into some of the little things, whether it’s training, whether it’s techniques, whether it’s preparation, how to do it at their position, that are really helpful to young players. And I think our younger players that are here, not just here but in the last couple of years like Jarvis [Green], like Richard [Seymour], of listening and taking that advice and I’m sure it’s really helping.
Q: Rodney Harrison already has mixed it up a couple times. Troy [Brown] one day and Kevin [Faulk] yesterday. What does that tell you about his competitive nature? And do you think it’s a healthy trait?
BB: We know how competitive Rodney is and we have a lot of other competitive players, highly competitive players on defense. So I think he’s a good addition into that group. Mixing it up in training camp, that’s part of training camp. It’s hot. Everybody’s tired. There are some short fuses and that’s going to be part of it. But in the end we are all wearing the same jerseys on Sunday afternoon. We’re a team and we’ve got to work with each other and compete against each other. But at the same time we’ve got to take care of each other and really put our energy into our opponents. That’s who the true opponents are, not ourselves. But there’s a fine line on that in training camp, because everyone is trying to earn their job and establish their level of play. It is competitive. So sometimes it turns into a little thing.
Q: Do you think there’s any danger of him going over a little bit over the top and you having to say to him, ‘Hey, we need these players.’
BB: Well, I think that’s part of training camp for your team is to learn how to practice with each other so that you’re getting better. Not just go out there and stand around and walk through it, but at the same time, do it in a way that’s not detrimental to the team. And I think everybody understands that.
Q: Can you say something about Rodney’s self-confidence as a player?
BB: I think when he steps on the field, he has a business attitude. Rodney prepares well. Football’s important to him and he’s going out there to do a job. That’s his job. I don’t have any problem with that. I wish all of our players had a good, competitive approach to the job at the highest level. Some guys you are trying to push up to a higher level, competitively. Other guys, maybe you have to slow them down just a little bit. Sometimes it’s a little bit easier to put the brakes on than step on the gas.
Q: Was what happened yesterday, more or less…what I’m saying is was it more intense, were there more fights then than now in training game?
BB: Um…I don’t know.
Q: What’s the best fight you ever saw?
BB: Rank the blood-spilling? [laughter] I don’t know. [laughter]
Q: Is it easier when the guys have something to look forward to like the scrimmage next Thursday? Does it become easier to get them to focus?
BB: I think that is going to happen in a few days or as we get closer to the first preseason game. I really think right now the only thing we are thinking about is trying to regenerate the energy that they have expended in this practice, get in the cold tubs, get a massage, get off their feet, get some rest, study their plays, study the things that we are going to work on this afternoon and then go out there and do it again. I think really that is what the mentality is. It’s not about ‘Well here is what is going to happen in four days,’ or ‘Here’s who we are going to play in a week.’ Honest to God, I don’t think anybody can see that far ahead. There’s just no light at the end of the tunnel. You are in a tunnel, it’s dark and you’re going forward and you think that you are going to come out on the other end. You kind of know that you are, but right now, you’re not even thinking about that. Let’s just get through the next practice and the next day. That’s the way it should be. I don’t think it should be any different than that. We can’t focus two or three days ahead. There is nothing to be gained by that. The only thing we can do anything about is what’s right in front of us. And that is the same way with the coaches. [We] come off the field, look at the practice film, see what things we did wrong, make the corrections, make sure that players in that position what we need to do to get it right. We got new stuff going in, give them the right information on that, write up the scripts, get ready for practice, come back off the field and do it again. It’s just like being on a treadmill. That thing just keeps rolling around. You don’t really feel like you are getting anywhere, but you really are.
Q: Is there a position on the roster right now where you aren’t sure what the rotation is going to be?
BB: Sure. I think there are a number of positions like that. It’s one thing when you have a player like Adam Vinatieri. He’s been here, he’s performed in this system, and we know what he can do. We feel pretty confident about what that player is and what his skills are and what we’re going to ask him to do. There are other positions on the team where we have players, maybe they’ve played or maybe they were good players in college or whatever, but they haven’t done it in our system. We’re just going to have to wait and see how that works itself out. Some guys start out fast in camp and kind of run out of gas. Other guys start out slow in camp and really pick up their performance as camp goes along and they have a better understanding of the techniques and gain their confidence and so forth. In those situations, that is what camp is for, we just have to wait and see. Sure, some positions are more… I think we have a higher degree of confidence just because the players have been in our system, we’ve seen them do it and we have a pretty good indication of what we’re going to get when those guys walk out on the field. [In] other positions, it’s not as clear and we will have to deal with that.
Q: With the Jets and the Bucs getting ready to play in Japan, did you ever participate in one of those American Bowls?
BB: No. The furthest overseas I’ve been was when I was in Cleveland and we played the Patriots in Toronto. [Laughter] It was across the river.
Q: Some coaches might look at that as a pain in the neck. If asked would you like to play in one of those games?
BB: Well, I will just say this, whatever the schedule is, that is what it is. If you are playing one of those games, you’re playing in one of those games. We played in the Hall of Fame game. Whatever it is, you take the time that you have available and try to maximize it. If that’s what it was, that is what we’d do.
Q: During camp, do you evaluate the rookies a little bit different?
BB: I think that you’ve got to take the whole rookie situation into consideration, and again, depending on what the rookies background is and what kind of experience he has and that type of thing. I think that you’ve got to take a look at that. At the same time, you are trying to balance that with moving the whole team ahead and right now on the other hand, you can’t say ‘Well these guys are rookies, these guys are veterans.’ You have one team, the Patriots, and you are trying to get them ready for the regular season. You are trying to get them ready for the opener. Those are your two goals. You can’t wait for the rookies; on the other hand, you’ve got to have enough foresight to be able to see that they are not in the same boat as a guy that’s a 10-year veteran or an eight-year veteran. There are some differences. The big thing that you look for with rookies really is improvement. As long as they are working hard and as long as they are improving and they are getting better, great. Keep working with them and see how far they can go. The problem becomes once they level off and once they start to hit the skid, now you don’t know. Are they going to bounce back out of it or is this the way it’s going to go or is this just the best it’s going to be? That’s a harder determination to make. Sometimes you see rookies on one team and then they get released and then somehow or another, they resurface somewhere else and end up being pretty good players and that may be what happened in the camp with the team that released him.
Q: The Jacksonville Jaguars had two guys go down yesterday due to the heat. Has your camp changed since last year? How do you deal with that?
BB: Not really. I mean we talk about it prior to camp. I talk to the trainers and the doctors and we talked as a staff about it, but we would do that anyway about just the health and conditioning of the team. What I personally feel is, if a player can, when he comes to training camp, if he can go in there and do the testing that we do with them, and then do the conditioning run and I watch him and the other coaches and the trainers watch him do the conditioning run and you see how the player performs it. But if he can do all those things, I think I would feel usually, and in a rare exceptions, that I would them feel like the player then would be ready to go out and compete on the field relative to the players he has to compete with. The problem that I have is when players come in and they are not able to do all of those things and then you put them out there and then they try to perform with the other players who are at a higher level physically, then I think you run the risk of having an imbalance in the competition and the guy who just can’t keep up, tries to keep up and then he could have a problem. That’s what worries me. I have enough confidence in our staff and in our program, that if they can pass the test so-to-speak, and I don’t mean it just, ‘Okay just go out and run this and that,’ but if they can do the things they need to do to show us that they are ready for training camp, then I think they will be able to hold up in the practices as we design them and as we run them. So that’s the way I feel about it. Until they show that they can do that, then I just don’t have the confidence to put those players out on the field to let them participate both for their own good and also for the good of the football team. So it’s a combination there.
Q: How is Willie McGinest doing?
BB: Willie is doing better. He had a little bit of tightening up at the start of camp and he’s moving better and he is feeling better. He is day-to-day.
Q: Getting back to rookies for a second, you talked about Asante Samuel and Eugene Wilson being here since May through June. The difference is they’re not out there doing much in pads. Were they able to maybe climb the depth chart a little bit or get the extra opportunities they are getting now because of the mental part of it? What in the evaluation process allowed you to put those guys with the ‘first group’ of guys?
BB: Well, on some of those positions that you are talking about, there is only so much physical contact in those positions. There is physical contact, but it’s not like playing offensive guard. For the skilled positions, the corners, the receivers, some cases the running backs, those guys in those mini-camps and preseason passing camps, 90 percent of what they are doing, they are able to work on. It’s the tackling, the actual physical part. Whereas if you are a lineman, 90 percent of what they are doing is physical. There is still plenty of learning that is taught, it’s not quite the same. They are playing different positions. I think in the cases of the corners and sometimes receivers, going back to Deion Branch last year as and example, by the time you go through all the passing camps and all the mini-camps, those guys know the routes, they know the adjustments, they know how to run them. Yeah they haven’t done it in a training camp session, but they are pretty far down the road and if they can pick that up quickly and absorb it then, not that they are up to speed with the veterans, but they are a lot closer and that gap has really closed for them in the competition when they get to training camp.
Q: So those guys are able to get out on the field a little bit more, talking about the corners in particular, with the first group, because with a guy like [Ty] Warren who you haven’t been able to evaluate without seeing him in pads?
BB: The evaluation is more limited. Yes.
Q: Why did you decide to sign Larry Centers now? What prompted that?
BB: Anytime you sign a player it the culmination of the player and the organization coming together on a mutual agreement. It’s just not up to us to say, ‘Okay, well we’re going to sign this guy today, we’re going to sign that guy tomorrow.’ It just worked out that way. We have talked to players, and he would be one of them, through the course of the offseason. Of course he didn’t become available until May, so it wasn’t like he was there at the start of free agency. As our situation evolves and as his situation evolves and sometimes there are other situations with other players at those positions and each one is a little bit different, I guess I would just tell you that’s just the way it worked out. It just came together that way. It wasn’t orchestrated. It just came together that way.
Q: Is part of it that you are looking at this team and say, ‘I don’t know if we have enough here, this guy is available, let’s see if we can get him?’
BB: Sure. But you could be saying that in May and the player could be saying, ‘Well, I don’t really want to do anything right now. This still isn’t maybe the right time for me to commit to this situation.’ So the process goes on. I’m not talking about any specific situation. I’m just saying in general those kind of things happen.
Q: Have you been pursuing him since May?
BB: Well, I don’t want to use the word pursue. I don’t think that is accurate. But we talked about Larry since he was released by Buffalo. We were aware of him. It’s not like he is an insignificant player or anything like that. The process just evolved to what it did. And we have seen that with plenty of other players, whether it was Bryan Cox, whether it was Roman Phifer, Joe Andruzzi. Sometimes the timing is different and that isn’t totally orchestrated by the team or the player. It’s just the way it comes together sometimes.
Q: How is Deion Branch doing?
BB: Deion tightened up a little bit on Saturday night. Again, he is day-to-day. We have a lot of guys who are sore, tight, some are out there, and some aren’t. Some are close to being back out there and he is in the day-to-day category.
Q: Anything on Chas Gessner?
BB: Gessner I think is a little bit further behind. I would say he is whatever the next category is behind day-to-day. We would push him back one. Every other day-to-every other day, there you go.