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Bill Belichick Press Conference Transcript

Posted Dec 11, 2013

New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, December 11, 2013.

BB: It's back in the division here with Miami. I think Miami has done a really good job the last five, six weeks here. See them getting a little bit better each week; just playing good, solid football in all three phases. Obviously this is a real good defensive team: good defensive front, very active in the secondary, get their hands on a lot of balls, turn it over, can rush the passer, hit the quarterback a lot. This is a strong, physical group. Good in the kicking game; obviously punt protection is going to be a big emphasis point this week, they do a real good job of that. They have a lot of good rushers but obviously [Jimmy] Wilson is a key guy for them there; [Marcus] Thigpen in the return game. They get you thinking about protection and then he can break them. Then offensively, they’ve got a real good balance between the running game and the passing game. The backs have done a good job; getting production really at every position. [Charles] Clay has really taken a big role in the offense as well as obviously [Brian] Hartline and [Mike] Wallace and then [Rishard] Matthews and [Marlon] Moore both giving them production as the third receiver. [Ryan] Tannehill has played well, handles the team well. I thought it was a good win for them in Pittsburgh last week in certainly un-South-Florida-like conditions. But they beat a good team at home. I think they’re playing well. This will be a big challenge for us to go down there this week, like it always is in Miami. We’ll have to play well and have to do it well for 60 minutes. This is a good football team. I think Coach [Joe] Philbin has done a real job with the team. They seem to play pretty consistently and good fundamentally every week. They don’t have a lot of ups and downs. There’s nothing easy about playing them. They make you earn everything you get. They’re well coached, they’re fundamentally sound and they’re tough. I have a lot of respect for what he’s done with the football team down there.

Q: How much of Clay’s success this year is about him developing a rapport with Tannehill and how much is about him growing as a player?

BB: I’m sure it’s probably both. Probably the one thing that’s impressed me the most about Clay – we know he has a lot of playmaking ability, he’s fast, he’s very good with the ball in his hands after the catch – I’d say the thing that’s impressed me the most about him is his blocking. He really competes hard as a blocker. He’s been matched up against defensive ends numerous times in the running game, guys like Charles Johnson from Carolina and guys like that, and he blocks them. He competes well with them. He’s definitely not afraid to stick his nose in there and be tough and competitive. I think he’s really a lot more than a receiving tight end. He’s a guy that’s a playmaker that helps them in the running game too.

Q: With the way that the weather affected the Dolphins game last week, how hard is to evaluate individual performances?

BB: Yeah, it will be a lot different than that Sunday. You see guys slipping and sliding around and all that. You can look at the schemes, you can kind of see – the plays are the plays – and see what they’re trying to do, how they’re trying to attack offensively, defensively, that kind of thing. But yeah, the actual execution of it will be a lot different on Sunday, no question. You have to take it with a grain of salt.

Q: What did you see from Josh Boyce’s performance Sunday?

BB: I think Josh did some good things and he had some production. There’s certainly a lot of room for improvement, and he’ll learn from that and hopefully have a good week of preparation this week. If he gets opportunities then he’ll be ready to take advantage of them. That’s a key thing for any young player, when you get opportunities to play or make plays, you have to take advantage of those and more will come. If you’re not able to take advantage of them, I’m not sure when the next one will be. You always have to be ready and be ready to capitalize on those types of situations. I think he’s done that now a couple times on kickoff returns and to a certain extent offensively. I think there’s a long way to go, but it’s definitely headed in the right direction.

Q: What are some of the traits and skills, outside the speed, that he has?

BB: Josh is a smart guy that works hard. He’s got some, definitely, position flexibility. He knows a lot of assignments and different positions. He’s a versatile guy. Works hard, trains hard. He’s always ready to go when he’s had opportunities in the scout team to play the other team’s best receiver and that type of thing. He gets a lot of balls in some of those weeks in practice. You can see him getting better on the practice field, which has eventually here led to some playing time in the kicking game first and then offensively. He’s been able to, to a certain degree, take the ball and run with it. Again, I think there’s a long way to go here, but certainly progress and he’s gotten positive results that have shown up now for a couple weeks.

Q: Jamie Collins has been in the starting lineup the last couple weeks. What improvements have you seen out of him?

BB: Similar. I think Jamie has obviously played all year for us, more in the kicking game but has also got some opportunity on defense in some of our sub situations and some other situations. He’s another guy who has worked hard, who has been a consistent guy out there every day in terms of being able to practice, being able to work on his techniques, get better, whether it be on the scout team or defensively or in the kicking game. I think his confidence is growing, his overall understanding and anticipation is getting better and his communication with his teammates is improving too. But again, he has a long way to go too. Hopefully if both those guys – Josh and Jamie – can keep working hard like they’ve been doing and stay on it and continue to do all the little things that will make them better on Sundays at the end of the week, then I think they’ll continue to show improvement and keep heading in the right direction. But it’s a constant grind of preparation and practice and game execution and communication, and it just has to keep moving forward. Those guys have good talent; if they continue to do that, they should be alright.

Q: Aqib Talib seems like the kind of guy that really thrives on competition and frequently draws the top wideout. Are there things that you see that we don’t that would reinforce that?

BB: I think you hit it on the head. He’s very competitive. Even from preseason practices, whether it was jumping in line to cover DeSean Jackson or Vincent Jackson or whoever it is, he always wants to compete against the best and feels like it brings out the best in him. He’s a great competitor, he’s a good teammate, he works hard. I think he’s ready to meet any challenge that we’ve given him, whether it be in the kicking game, defensively, run responsibilities, coverage responsibilities, whatever it happens to be. If it’s something that will help the team, he wants to do it.

Q: Does he bring a unique energy or personality? It seems like he’s always ‘on’.

BB: He has a very good energy and he’s a good teammate. I think he’s very respected in the locker room but liked in the locker room, which is not always the case. But I think he has a good rapport with everybody: the offensive players, the defensive players, the DBs and the skills players but also the other guys, the linemen. He just has a good way about him. He’s not the class clown, but at the same time, he has a good personality and he’s serious and he’s competitive. He’s got a nice mixture of all those things. I don’t even know what I’m saying, but it kind of goes well in a lot of different settings.

Q: It appeared that Sealver Siliga did some good things. What have you seen from him?

BB: He’s been with us on the practice squad for a few weeks. I think he’s worked hard in practice picking up a little bit of a new system, doing things a little bit differently than the way he’s been doing them. Worked hard on his conditioning and he had an opportunity to play her a little bit the last couple weeks, more the last week against Cleveland. I think he’s done some positive things. He’s got a long way to go and certainly a lot of room for improvement, but I thought the things he was asked to do, I thought he tried to do them and had some production, was effective at times doing them. Again, I think he’s another guy that’s headed in the right direction but he’s only been with us half the year. We’ll see how it goes.

Q: With all the injuries on the defensive line, has there been more responsibility given to the linebackers?

BB: I don’t know. I mean, the linebackers can’t play defensive line, defensive backs can’t play linebacker. Everybody has to do their job. Linebacker’s always a position of communication. The defensive line, they have a certain level of communication relative to pass rush gains or stunts or things like that, but linebackers really control the people in front of them, and they have to make coverage adjustments and spacing adjustments based on formation and then they control the line. If they need to move the line one way or another, move a guy one way or another, that’s really a linebacker’s responsibility. I don’t think there are too many defenses in the league that would make adjustments with their linemen. I suppose their linebackers, in the type of situations I’m talking about, again there are some things that defensive linemen can do that are pertinent to their position, but as it relates to the entire front seven, that’s usually done at the linebacker level. I’d say that’s, I think, fundamentally, that’s pretty much the way you have to do it, period, because if you’re a linebacker and you have coverage responsibilities, which for the most part defensive linemen don’t have, those coverage responsibilities affect where they have to go and what they have to do. At times, it means they have to change what a defensive lineman is doing and the defensive linemen aren’t really aware of that because they don’t have coverage responsibilities. I’d say it’s about the same.

Q: How has Dont’a Hightower done in the communication role?

BB: Good, better each week. Yeah, better each week. He’s a smart guy. He definitely understands the defense. He’s had a lot of experience of doing that at Alabama and running a defense. [The defense] they ran at Alabama also involved a lot of adjustments and some checks and some recognition of different things formationally and multiple coverages that – one coverage in one situation, another coverage in another situation, that type of thing. I don’t think any of that is too much for him. He has a lot of experience this year obviously in our system. He’s a lot more comfortable with what we’re doing, whereas last year he knew it, but I think this year he just knows it better because he’s had a year of experience. He’s done a good job. It really hasn’t been an issue.

Q: This is 11 years in a row that you’ve reached 10 wins. Do you give yourself and some of your coaching staff members a moment to enjoy that or is it just back to the weekly grind?

BB: I would say we enjoy any win for a brief period of time after the game is over. Look, it’s hard to win in this league and it’s good to win, it feels good to win. But as soon as that’s over, we have to move on to the next challenge. We can’t sit around and talk about what happened last week or last year or some other year. You know, it’s a short window, but it’s no different after a loss. That’s the same for the whole team. I don’t think the coaching staff is really any different than the players. We’re all kind of linked together there. The game is over, if you’re happy about the results, good. You kind of feel good about it for awhile. You look at the film, you make the corrections and then you turn the page and move onto the next opponent. If it didn’t go well, you don’t feel good for a while but you turn the page and move onto the next opponent. That’s what we have to do. That’s the National Football League. If you dwell on the past, you’re not going to play well in the future. We have another challenge this week, we have to move on. I’d say that’s what we did. Certainly by Monday evening, that page is turned. It has to [be]. You just have to do it that way. As good as some of the wins have been and as disappointing as some of the losses have been, by Monday, unless it’s a Monday game, by Monday afternoon, Monday evening, it’s on to the next team. It has to be that way.

Q: How much adjustment gets done by Tom Brady during the game when you lose a player like Rob Gronkowski and have to change up the game plan? How much is Tom and how much of it is Josh McDaniels?

BB: We’ve been through this many times before. I don’t think anything’s really changed. You go into a game with, if we’re talking offensively, you have multiple personnel groups. If something happens to a player and you get knocked out of one of those personnel groups or you’re not able to use it as much because the group that you now have isn’t a first, second and third down group, you have to modify it somehow, then that’s what you do. Those are the things that you’ve worked on during the week. You can’t go into a game and just play one personnel group and either not have enough depth so you can continue to play that group or not have enough depth so that if you use that group, you can go to something else. That would be irresponsible. So, if something happened to one player, then what do you pack up and go home? You can’t operate a game like that. So, you practice either the depth of a personnel group – you have backup receivers, backup backs, backup tight ends, we’re going to stay with what we have and somebody else is going to step in and do it – or if we are down on receivers or we’re down on tight ends then we play more tight ends or more receivers, whatever the case may be. You practice that, and that’s how you build your depth during the week. That’s how you build it all the way back in training camp. When that situation comes up in the game, that’s what you do. Obviously, on the offensive line, if you lose an offensive lineman, then another guy goes in to play that position. Or you move them around, but you’re not changing your skill players. You still have five offensive linemen: two tackles, two guards and a center. However you do it, that’s how you do it. But if you’re a multiple personnel team and you lose somebody that affects that personnel group, then you go to the next one. But that’s how you’ve practiced, that’s how you prepare for the game. You could lose anybody in any game. What are you going to do? We can’t play now? You have an alternative group to play with. That’s what we do. That’s the way it’s been this year, that’s the way it was last year that’s the way it was 10 years ago. I don’t know how else you would do it. Whoever the new players are in there, then you do what you’ve done with those players. Obviously there’s communication between those players and the quarterback and the coach and that group of players. But that’s football.

Q: How much is there to gain from what you did the first six weeks without Rob offensively as you go forward?

BB: First six weeks? You’re talking about all spring, all training camp and the first regular season games. Yeah, we played a lot more of this season without him than we have with him. Look, you hate to see what happened to Rob happen to Rob. But we’ve played most of the year without Rob in some capacity. That’s unfortunately where we are now, but that’s where we are now. It’s not anything that we haven’t dealt with during the year.

Q: Not related to the communication, how well has Dont’a Hightower played over the last few weeks, just performance-wise?

BB: Well, I think you can look at any player and find plays that are good and you’ll find some plays that aren’t so good with every player, at every position, and every coach for that matter. We’ve all had our moments. We’ve all had some that we’d like to have back. We’ve all had some that we’re satisfied with. I think you can put every player in the same category on that. We’ve played competitively in all those games, wherever you want to start, wherever you want to finish, I’d say we’ve played pretty competitively in all those games. Some we’ve won, some we haven’t but it’s all been pretty competitive. Our opponents have been competitive against us, we’ve been competitive against the opponent. It’s not like the games are 64-0 one way or the other. A play or two here or there, we’d all like to have back. There have been a couple plays that have made the difference in those games. I think that’s true for every player that’s practiced in those games on the entire roster.

Q: You mentioned that the last time you played the Dolphins they were on the tail end of a rough patch. What’s been the biggest reason for their turnaround?

BB: Just in terms of their wins and losses. I think fundamentally their team has been competitive every week. They’re a good football team. They play hard and they play well. Just like us, they’ve won a couple close games and they’ve lost a couple close games. Their record could be different just like our record could be different if some of those games had gone differently. They are what they are. As a football team, they’re a good football team. I just see general improvement over the last six weeks in all three phases of the game. They’re more consistent. They’re, again, very disruptive defensively on the front. They’ve turned the ball over more defensively. That’s been a positive. They still do a lot of good things in the kicking game. They’re a good coverage team, they’re a good rush team. Offensively, they’ve got good skill players, they’ve got good backs, they’ve got a quarterback that’s playing very well that’s not making a lot of mistakes. They’re well coached. Therefore you have a pretty good football team. They lost a couple games by a point or two, or a play or a possession or however you want to look at it. They could easily be on a six or more game winning streak. It wouldn’t have taken much for them to beat Carolina. They just didn’t score when they were in the red area. They were down there a lot, they just had to kick some field goals. The Tampa game was a couple [three] point game, whatever that was. It’s been pretty good.

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