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Bill Belichick Conference Call Transcript

Posted Jan 14, 2014

Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his conference call on Tuesday, January 14, 2014.

Q: Will you be leaving on Friday instead of Saturday this week?

BB: Yeah, it’s a possibility. We’re working out our arrangements for the week here now.

Q: Do you have any indication of Ryan Allen will be available for the game?

BB: We’ll put out our injury report tomorrow after practice like we usually do.

Q: From a bigger picture standpoint, what number do you view as the number of players you really need in today’s NFL to get through a season and have a successful season?

BB: I’d say based on league-wide, not looking at our team specifically because it changes from year to year, but from a big picture standpoint I’d say it’s probably pretty close to when you make your cut to 75 that most of the players that are at the 75 cut will either end up on a regular season or practice squad roster before it’s over. You’re probably looking at in the neighborhood of 75. Obviously a lot of players that get released at the final 53 cut, now there are some guys that get released at 75 that are more probably 53 players but there are circumstances that lead to that. It’s only a few days I’d say generally that the final 75, that those guys that get released become, the non-practice squad players become emergency players for all the teams in the league. There are eight of those 22 players between 53 and 75 that either end up on your practice squad or if you take somebody else’s, they probably end up on somebody else’s. As your practice squad dwindles over the course of the year, you replace them with probably other players that are from that pool. The guys who aren’t rookies that are veteran players end up as emergency players for you or somebody else over the course of the year. I’d say it’s probably pretty closest to that 75 number.

Q: How important has it been this season that Aqib Talib and Devin McCourty have been in their positions all along, as well as Alfonzo Dennard and Steve Gregory to have that consistency?

BB: It’s been huge. It’s been a huge plus for us that we’ve been able to essentially keep those same players back there. Justin Green has played in a couple games for us and given us a little bit of depth in the kicking game. Kanorris [Davis] kind of [Marquice] Cole, that spot has been between those two players when you look at the entire season. But it’s been huge. We’ve been able to maintain some kind of consistency out there at corner and at safety. We’ve had three safeties with Steve, Devin and Duron [Harmon]. Tavon [Wilson] and Nate [Ebner] have been right there ready to go and have played smaller roles but they’ve been involved and important too. Then the corners with Aqib and Logan [Ryan] and [Kyle] Arrington and Alfonzo plus whoever the fifth guy is, whether that was Cole in the beginning of the year or Justin Green at other points in the year, but having those fifth corners. Then with some degree of flexibility because both Steve Gregory and Devin have both played corner in their careers, their ability to play corner-type position from that safety just gives you a little bit more depth there. We’ve also used Logan at safety some too. He’s been able to travel from safety to corner. Devin and Steve, even though they haven’t played corner, per se, very much they’ve played some corner responsibilities in certain defenses and against certain matchups. That group has given us a lot of flexibility back there.

Q: There are a lot of undrafted free agents on both teams. Do you think that your organization does something special in the identification of undrafted guys and is there a common thread that you see with these undrafted players that find success with the Patriots?

BB: I think every organization, certainly ours included, does everything they can to try to have competitive situations on the roster. I know Nick Caserio and our personnel department, whether it’s on the college end with Jon Robinson and his staff or on the pro end, we’re looking for those players who are available and which undrafted players are available, which players are released at the 53 cut become available. It could be other places but that’s a big pool of players – that 53 cut is a large number of players that become available, where we claimed Chris Jones even though we didn’t get him or [Chris] Barker or guys like that. It’s really just being diligent, turn over a lot of rocks looking for the right player, the right fit. Obviously opportunity comes into play for some of those guys. When either they’re there at the right place at the right time or there’s an injury that gives them the opportunity or something happens. That’s, I think, a little bit of a part of it. Certainly performance is a big part of it because if they didn’t do the job, they wouldn’t be there. It would be somebody else that would get that opportunity or would be in that spot. I think all those things play into it but certainly performance is a big part of it. It doesn’t really matter how a player gets to the New England Patriots, whether he’s drafted, traded, signed as a free agent, signed as an unrestricted free agent, signed as a street free agent, it doesn’t matter. We have guys from all those categories. It’s much more important what they do when they get here than what road they took to get here. It’s competitive. The guys who perform the best are the ones who are going to eventually get the roster spots that we’re going to play. There’s nobody that has any free pass or entitlement to anything. It has to be earned. The guys that earn it are the guys that get it. The guys that don’t, they get less opportunity or maybe end up not being on the roster because other guys have performed better than them. It’s as simple as that. That’s all decided by the players on the field. I don’t really have any control over that. I just try to evaluate what they do. It’s up to each individual player to determine his role and really his situation on the team based on his performance. That goes for everybody. That’s the way it works. I don’t know if it’s right or wrong, but that’s the way it works. Therefore how the players’ roles unfold and how your roster ultimately gets decided is based on performance. It’s as simple as that.

Q: Julius Thomas didn’t play the first time out. How much of a matchup problem does he pose this time?

BB: Excellent player – size, speed, he’s a good vertical receiver, he gets down the field on seams and flags and over routes and wheel routes, like he caught last week and things like that. He’s also good on catch-and-run plays. He’s caught crossing patterns, diagonal patterns out to the flat, things like that where he’s made a catch for a small gain but then turned it into a long gain because of his ability to run after the catch and break tackles and his size and his speed. He’s a competitive blocker. He’s just a good, solid all-around tight end. He’s been a big target for them in the red area with his size and his catching ability, his athleticism. He’s a hard guy to match up with. He’s had a very productive year. He’s a good football player. I thought that in our game that [Jacob] Tamme came in and did a good job for them. He’s a very accomplished player too – go back to when he was at Indianapolis and the production that he’s had. They’ve got good depth at that position – [Virgil] Green – they have several good players there.

Q: Brandon Spikes agent came out today with a statement.

BB: I don’t have any comment on any of the players. [I’ll] talk about the game and the players that are on our roster. I’m not going to talk about any players that aren’t currently on the active roster.

Q: With regards to Kanorris Davis and his special teams contributions on Saturday, how much time would he spend on special teams to evaluate him in that role and how much do his skills translate from the secondary to the role he has covering punts? Did you see that as well in college?

BB: We felt like he was a very good player on special teams in college at Troy. He played safety for them and he had some of the same type of plays defensively that we saw in the kicking game. He’s a fast, aggressive run support player. He would come up and take on blockers and be aggressive and reckless as a defensive player, kind of that same type of style that special teams players have. As far as how much time he spent doing that here, really we tell all of our practice squad players that they’re really not practice squad players. They’re really players that should expect to become roster players, we just don’t know exactly what that time frame is. Like the last time we played Denver, we brought Justin Green up the day before the game and he played in the game. They are responsible to be ready every week to practice and prepare just like they’re going to play. Who knows, there’s always a possibility and circumstances could come up where they would be playing. They should approach the game just like the 53 players on the active roster should approach it because they’re eligible to play in it and need to be ready to go every week. When that opportunity comes, they need to step in there and take advantage of it or that opportunity might not be there the next week. They have to be ready so that’s the way that they prepare along with everybody else. The reps that they get when we run our plays are obviously the highest quality reps but when they rep running the opponents’ plays, that’s where they have to continue to build their timing, execution and recognition doing it against us. A good player that works hard with those opportunities and we’ve seen many of them along the way, going all the way back to [Tom] Brady, I’d put him number one on that when he was the scout team quarterback didn’t play in 2000 and all that, that’s how you become a better football player. You take advantage of those opportunities and then you take advantage of the opportunities that you get when we run our plays and then you take advantage of those opportunities in game situations and that’s how you can start to develop a niche and a role.

Q: Is it realistic that you could sign a punter on Friday and stick him right in there? Also, is it realistic that Stephen Gostkowski could handle both duties for you again in the game?

BB: Sure, both those things are possible.

Q: What was your assessment of LeGarrette Blount coming out of college? How much did him missing most of his last year affect how you perceived him?

BB: I think that we evaluate all the players that come out of college and we give them different grades and different values but I think, as well all know, it’s a lot easier and a lot better to evaluate players in the National Football League than it is in college. I don’t want to say that we throw those reports away but anything that a player does in college is pretty quickly overridden unless there’s some specific circumstances that would be important to his situation. I would say in well over 90 percent of the cases that we would look at how a player performs in the National Football League as a much closer approximation to his value and what we think of the player than what he did in college. Again, there are a very few exceptions to that but taking those out, players come into this league and they play against NFL competition every single week. We know what the level of that competition is. We know the guys they’re playing against, we know the schemes they’re playing against. We can evaluate those players at this level n this environment without anything else being in play – academics or the different levels of competition in college and so forth and so on. They have a lot of more variables than the National Football League. We can evaluate the National Football League much better than we can evaluate college. We know it better and it’s more of an even playing field and all of the other things that go with playing football but are not done on the field are much more comparable than college situations and lifestyles and 20-hour rules and academics and all that stuff. With LeGarrette, he came into the league and showed immediately in his rookie season his skill level and the talent that he had. His production as a runner, as a football player at his position, in the kicking game and offensively has been very easy to track in the National Football League. I would say a big part of our evaluation with him was, again not that we didn’t do it in college but I think that all gets overridden. The fact that we hadn’t really had any experience with LeGarrette on a personal level other than a few conversations when he was in college, which again are pretty minimal but it’s al you have. As I said, one of the things that was very influential to me was Aqib’s [Talib] evaluation of LeGarrette as a person, as a teammate, as a competitive football player and his skill set. When you have a guy who is with another player day after day, year after year, competing against him on the field and he gives you an honest evaluation and you trust that player and his evaluation, who knows better than him? Even what you see on film it’s nice and it’s what you have to work with and it’s valuable but it’s not nearly as valuable as somebody who is in the day to day competitive situation with another person. I think that was something that I didn’t really have a lot of, didn’t really have a good way to measure or find out but Aqib cleared that up for me in a very positive way. That’s part of it too. A really long answer to a short question but with each player the information, the evaluation and all that can come in a lot of different forms, can come from a lot of different directions. There’s no set formula except we just are trying to get it right. That’s the bottom line. Sometimes you have seven people saying one thing and one saying another and maybe it’s the one guy, not the seven that are right. But the idea is to try to get it right. That’s in the end what it all comes down to.