NC: On the roster we're at 89 right now; we've got a spot. We might be making a move here this afternoon; it's still a work in progress. I know Bill [Belichick] talked about this week and Detroit definitely presents some unique challenges. [It's] a pretty explosive offensive group with [Matthew] Stafford and Calvin Johnson. [Brandon] Pettigrew [is a] good tight end, [and Jahvid] Best. And then defensively, their front four is definitely a handful, so [this will] be a good test for us. So, we're getting ready for Detroit and then kind of juggling the preseason scouting. Kind of in anticipation for that - there are two weeks [left] in the preseason. We've kind of started the process of organizing and kind of prioritizing some of the players that potentially could be available that may be able to add to our team. So, that's where we're at today, so we'll take questions.
Q: With how deep you guys are on the defensive line, do you think there will be an active trade market here?
NC: I think, generally speaking, about this time of the year - maybe even after the third preseason game - teams will probably have a little bit more dialogue amongst themselves. There will be some discussion back and forth. Teams might say, ‘We're heavy here; we're light here,' so it's more just, I would say, normal conversation. So, I would anticipate that some of the discussions, probably after the weekend, will probably pick up a little bit more, and I would say that's probably normal as it is any time of the year.
Q: What has been the evaluation process for you guys with so many defensive linemen? With more linemen it means fewer snaps and fewer reps.
NC: Yeah, I think everybody rolls through. Everybody has an opportunity. When you have X-amount of players at a certain position, one player is not going to necessarily receive every single rep. But we roll players in and out, whether it's defensive line, the offensive line position, receiver position - every position. We're always rolling different players through. You're trying to see what combinations might work well together. Maybe you want to see another player work with another player. I would say that that's just kind of a normal process and procedure. If you have more players in one particular position - and it's hard, obviously, for one person or two people to get the same amount of reps. But I think it's just important for the players to work together, see who works well together - some skills complement one another, etcetera.
Q: You guys obviously had a lot of time this offseason to reflect on last season. Was there something that you saw maybe at the end of last season or even just in the last game that led you to add another receiver? Was there a specific need that you guys had - more guys getting open, more depth at wide receiver?
NC: I think after the season the process is basically the same: you do an evaluation of you team [and] you kind of identify and evaluate each player. We talk about that extensively with the coaching staff and the scouting staff, and then in preparation for the draft. In the end, you're looking for good football players you feel can help your football team in whatever capacity that may be. That's the same philosophy that we had this past year, I would say, as in previous years. So, really it's been no different. Really, the whole goal is to try to add good football players to your team and create competition which, I would say, right now there's good competition. The reality is there are going to be some good football players that we're going to have to let go, and I would say that's probably true with some other teams as well. That's just kind of the process and how it works, so we'll just keep moving forward and try to put the best 53 together that we feel is best for the Patriots.
Q: Was there ever an eye-opening moment that solidified the fact that you wanted to add a receiver?
NC: I think it's more just an evaluation of your entire team, not necessarily position-by-position. You look at the whole context of your team - who you have maybe returning, some players whose contract expire, you're looking at the draft, so it all kind of fits together when it's all said and done. I wouldn't say there's any one thing that takes precedence over the other.
Q: What's the process going to be like next Tuesday when as many as 300 players could become available all of a sudden?
NC: Sure, it's a long night in the league office just to get to the names on the waiver wire, but yeah, the only minor change they've made is that instead of 75 its going to be 80, but that's still going to leave a pretty significant amount of players. So, when those players are released, we'll go through the waiver wire and if there're any particular players that we want to investigate further then we'll do it. It's very similar to, I would say, what happens on that last Saturday of sort of the final cut down - maybe not quite as extensive from a numbers standpoint, but there's still - you'll have the evening and the next day to figure out if you want to make a claim for someone? Is there a player that is terminated that maybe you want to bring in for a visit or a physical? So, other than there being a little more time allocated [in] putting the waiver wire together, it's really no different than it normally is. And we look at the waiver wire every day [to see] if there's anybody - like Mark Wetterer - we ended up claiming him last week when he got released. So it's a day-to-day thing. Our scouting staff and our pro personnel staff, we look at that on a day-to-day basis and we will continue to do the same.
Q: When it comes to a guy who is on the fringes of the roster who might be in danger of being cut, is there a danger of them trying to do too much? You guys always say, ‘Do your job.' Is there a danger that guys may try to do too much to catch the coaches' eye or maybe even do someone else's job instead of just focusing on what they need to do?
NC: Like you said, we talk about doing your job. It's up to the player to perform their tasks and assignments, and to stay within the context and the framework of what you're trying to do defensively or offensively, or even in the kicking game because it's going to impact the player that's next to you. So just go out, focus on your assignment and try to execute the technique to the best of your ability, because if you try to go outside the framework of what you're doing, it's going to impact the entire context. So, I think everybody is working hard, they're competing, they're trying to put their best foot forward, and however it shakes out we will have to wait and see here the next few weeks.
Q: Tom Brady has talked about the big thing that he wants to improve on that he noticed on Thursday night is his decision making and being faster doing that. Is there any way that you can fix that in practice?
NC: Tom is real hard on himself. You're trying to simulate as best you can in practice some of the different looks and it depends on the opponent. Maybe for example with Detroit this week, maybe there's a look that has given us trouble in the past or that they used that could put some stress on the offense. So, we try to go at a fast pace. We try to go at a quick tempo. We try to simulate the best we can how that's actually going to occur during a game. With Tampa Bay, I think we played at a pretty fast pace offensively. I know there were some comments after the game from some of their players, but the offense's job is to get to the line of scrimmage. Really, the quicker you can get to the line of scrimmage ,the offense and Tom included has an opportunity to kind of evaluate the defense and say, ‘Okay, here's what we can do.' So, I think there's a lot of stress and a lot of pressure that Bill [Belichick] puts on the players - both offense and defense - to play at a quick tempo, to play fast because it forces you to think fast and that's what's going to happen when you get on the field on Sunday. So, you try to as best as you can to simulate that in practice, whether it's during a two-minute drill. We've done a lot of situational work over the past few days: end of the game situations, down by four, need a touchdown, no time outs, 20 seconds. You're trying to put your team in those situations, and see how to execute under pressure. We've added some noise into practice, so there are other elements that they may not face on a week-to-week basis. But Bill tries to make it as hard as possible on the team and force them to execute under those extenuating circumstances, and that's really, probably, the best way you can do it. In the end, practice is practice and the game is the game. But in practice, if you can simulate that as best you can then it's going to hopefully help your team execute in those critical situations come Sunday.
Q: Is there almost a point when he'll only get better in a game? He knows Andre Carter is going to back off in practice, but Ndamukong Suh's not going to stop in a game.
NC: Right, I think you can definitely improve and get better in practice, whether it's your individual techniques and fundamentals, whether it's ball placement or release point, accuracy - those are some of the things that are specific to the position that you can definitely improve upon during the course of practice. But as it relates to individual schemes for example with Detroit, there're not too many people that are Ndamukong Suh in the NFL. So until you actually get in a game situation, it's hard to see how you're actually going to respond, so you can definitely improve if you come to practice, you show up, you work hard, you take the coaching, you watch the film. I know Bill talked about this yesterday - the amount of film that's watched and being able to go on the field and practice and get those repetitions. You can improve if you apply - work on your craft and apply your trade.
Q: Is the tempo issue something that was picked up from watching film from last year that you wanted to improve on this year, or is that just something in the natural course of progressing this year that you want to work on?
NC: I would say it's more of a natural progression, because the quicker you can get in and out of the huddle, it just gives you more time to sort of scan the field and prepare for what the defense may do. I don't think it's been an issue in the past. We've played pretty fast around here, but I think just the tempo - it gets the team moving at a fast pace and forces everybody to react and think quickly, which goes back to the team being able to respond in critical situations under duress.
Q: Where is Ras-I Dowling right now in his development? Obviously he hasn't had a lot of practice time. How difficult is it for him to play catch-up?
NC: He has been in the meetings. He's taking the information in there. When he's on the field, he'll be able to work on his craft and his technique. So, when he's out there, then he'll be out there. All we really have to go off of now is what we've seen, so nothing has really changed in that respect.
Q: Is Brandon Spikes in good standing with the team right now?
NC: Yeah, Brandon is no different than any other player. He's working hard. He's trying to get back out there on the field, and when he's ready to practice, he'll be out there.
Q: So he's here? His absence isn't conduct related or anything?
NC: He's here. He's here, he's working, he's in the meetings, so he's doing everything that we've asked of him.
Q: You mentioned that you have 89 players. There might be a 90th coming today?
NC: Potentially, yeah. There is nothing official. I think we're still working through some things, but we may have another body out there at practice, which I'm sure you guys will all be looking for with the binoculars and wondering who he is.
Q: Do you want to play a little hint game? Darren Sharper?
NC: No, I would say it's not a veteran, let's put it that way; It's a younger player.
Q: Did you laugh when you heard Gerald McCoy's comments about you guys going so fast?
NC: I mean, we're just trying to run the offense. That's all we're worried about. Whatever other teams think that's… we're just trying to focus on the Patriots and [we're] trying to get better as a team. That's all we're doing.
Q: But it was so funny…
NC: Depends how you look at it.