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Bill Belichick Transcript 8/18: We coach the players to play within the rules
Q: How much game planning do you do this week?
BB: Not a whole lot. Carolina had one game against Buffalo then just played last night. So even for us to get that game and of course there are a lot of players playing in it. I don't think this game is as much about game planning as it is just continuing to build on what we've already done and add to it. You certainly have to be prepared for the other team and give yourself a chance at what they're doing so you're not running into a brick wall so to speak. It's not a big game planning game.
Q: Is the third preseason game ever a game planning game?
BB: I've seen it, yeah. There's been years – back when I came into the league there were a couple times coaches got fired during preseason.
Q: Any chance we get a tour of the new facilities?
BB: I think that's pretty much for Patriots employees, players and coaches.
Q: How about special teams from the other night? Probably not as crisp as you would have liked.
BB: Yeah, some good, some not so good. We obviously have a lot of work to do on the punt team. Every play was a problem – protection, execution, coverage, lane discipline. I thought we made improvement in the kickoff, kickoff return. We only had one punt return and then missed a field goal. Yeah, definitely could be better, no question. I'd say the punting game was our biggest problem. There were some good things in other phases of the game, but still plenty of room for improvement there, too.
Q: Did that come out of nowhere or did you see some of that in practice where you thought it might be an issue in the game? The punt team issues.
BB: No, but that's what preseason games are for. That's what they're for, is to – I know we threw an interception for a touchdown, we had a punt blocked, we had breakdowns on defense. Those things happen in preseason. That's what preseason is for, is to get them fixed. We had some in practice in different phases of the game, but we know we're not there yet. We just have to try to eliminate those bad plays. We had fewer this week than we had the first week against Washington. [We] didn't turn the ball over as much, but there were still issues, sure.
Q: On the blocked punt, was it picked up right and it was just a matter of execution? Or was it more of an issue of how it was picked up?
BB: I would say it was multiple issues.
Q: Jerel Worthy is a player you haven't worked with, but I know you probably did a lot of work on him coming out of college. What type of player is he from what you remember?
BB: We'll see. He didn't play very much last year. He played quite a bit his rookie year. He was a good player coming out of Michigan State, played well in a good conference against good people. He's got some athleticism and he's got some size and we'll just see how it all fits together for us. [I'm] happy to be working with him, happy to be working with him. We'll see how it goes.
Q: Is the volume of penalty flags as frustrating for you guys coaching a game as it is for folks who are watching it at home?
BB: It's one of things that we don't really have any control over. We just need to try to do a better job of what we're doing and let them do their job. Whatever it is, we have to play within the rules and understand them and play within them. That's our job. We have to do a better job of that. I'm just worried about trying to get our team better and coach our team. Let Dean [Blandino] and whoever else handle the officials.
Q: Do you make adjustments based on all those flags or do you work through it with the expectation that you won't see all the flags in the regular season?
BB: We coach the players to play within the rules. We've always done that. That's all we'll ever do. I don't really understand the question. Do you think we tell the players to go out there and hold them? Do you think that's what we're coaching?
Q: When you put together your running back group for your initial 53-man roster, what goes into the thought process there and who to keep?
BB: It depends on what their value is to the team. It's no different than any other position. What's their value to the team? What's their value on offense or defense? What's their value in the kicking game? To some degree, what type of improvement do we think we could see from the player? It's different evaluating a 30-some year-old player and 23, 24-year-old player with little or no experience. It's not equal. You have to at some point kind of make a guesstimate as to where you think those – how those guys are going to be, not just today but in October, November, December and maybe longer. It's a combination of a lot of things. But ultimately it comes down to the player's value to the team. That's what decides it.
Q: Is skill set an issue? Maybe your three best runners have a lot of value, but they all have the same skill set.
BB: You have to fulfill all the roles that are required on a football team. That's first down, second down, third down, fourth down. They're all important. Somebody has to do those jobs. Yeah, you can't have all the players that just perform – their role would really be the same situation. They all play on fourth down or they all play on first down. Somebody has to play on those other downs, those other situations. Whether it's that position or some other position, but somehow you have to get those covered in your roster, sure.
Q: The change in atmosphere when public practices end, does it bring about a palpable sense of change for you?
BB: It doesn't change our practice structure or schedule or anything. We do the same thing that we would normally – like, we'll do the same thing tomorrow that we would do today other than maybe a point of emphasis.
Q: The cheering from the fans though.
BB: We play in front of a lot bigger crowds than this out here, or I hope we do.
BB: I think they've both done good things. I think there are things they can both improve on.
Q: Do you envision having a clear-cut number two at some point? Or is that not as important because I'm assuming you feel like you have two guys that could go in and do that?
BB: I think we'll do what we feel is best for the football team, whatever that is – I don't know.
Q: When a rookie misses time in the spring or in the summer, or both, how valuable are those reps that they get in the meeting rooms? The reps we don't see that aren't on the field.
BB: Well, it's not as valuable as being on the field of course. But I think some people, some players, have more of a capacity to learn without doing than others do. Some of us need to do it, to do it. Others of us can maybe hear it, visualize it and then go out and do it, not perfectly but relatively well. I don't think it's all the same. I'd say if we have several players in that situation, some will perform better than others. I don't think you know that until you actually get out there and have them do it. A lot of times you go through things in the classroom with a player whose not participating and he'll have all the answers. You'll ask him questions: ‘What would you do on this? What would you do on that? What's your assignment here? What's this adjustment?' They can just rattle them right off and then get out on the field and it doesn't happen that way and vice versa. Sometimes you get in the film room or the classroom and the answers don't come very quickly and you feel like, ‘I don't think this player really had a very good grasp of this situation or these plays' and then you go out on the field and you don't see that. You just see a better level. We all have different ways of learning. Taking it from the classroom to the field is important, but I'd say it comes in different grades. Until you really have a lot of experience with a player and you've been through a number of those situations I don't think you really know the answer to that question. I don't think it's just an across the board, ‘This is the way it is.' Some guys can – Deion Branch. Deion Branch missed 10 games or 11 games, whatever it was that one year, '03, '04 whatever it was when he got hurt in Arizona [eight weeks in 2004]. [He] missed like 10, 11 weeks, came back the next week and I swear to God it was like he had been out there the whole time. Other players miss one or two weeks and it takes them two or three weeks to get back to where they were. Forget about the injury – just the timing and execution and the thinking and playing on the football field. Some guys have a higher ability to do that than others. But he was one of the best. Deion missed several chunks of time throughout his career at different points, but when he was back, it was like he was never gone. He was back up to speed, game speed and playing speed probably as quickly as anybody I can ever remember coaching. So, there's that extreme and then there's the other extreme.