Q: What do you hope to learn about your players once they put pads on, as opposed to the last couple weeks?
NC: I think the first few days when you're in shells or when you're in the mini-camps, the big emphasis is the individual techniques, the fundamentals as it pertains to your position, playing on your feet. Obviously when you put the pads on, you start to get into the physical dynamic of the game and that certainly comes into play, whether it's in the running game, hat and hand placement on the offensive line, playing with good technique defensively, shedding blocks, getting off of blockers, etcetera, being able to handle contact if you're a receiver in the secondary when the ball arrives. More than anything, just the sheer weight of the pads, it's certainly different from anything we've done to this point so I think you have to get yourself, your body, acclimated to having the pads and the speed that goes along with it. There's just another jump that you take relative to what you've done during the offseason, just training-wise and then mini-camps and obviously here into training camp.
Q: How is the way that teams play offense in the NFL changed the prototypes of what you look for in defensive guys, in terms of height, weight, speed?
NC: It's evolving. I think it's really specific to your team and how you put your team together. There's a certain profile that one team may look at relative to another team. I think it's really team-specific and it's relative to how you put your team together and the things that you're going to do, whether it's offensively, defensively or the kicking game and having players that fit that certain profile. I know it's something that we talked about last year. We've gone through on a yearly basis and just looked at what's come into the league, what's playing in the league and looked at some of our standards – height, weight, speed standards that relate to the scouting scale – so that we're somewhat current with what's playing in the league.
Q: On the defensive side, how much do you take into account what your opponents are going to be doing?
NC: You're going to be facing different teams and different offenses on a weekly basis. What one team does one week is certainly different than what a team does the other week. Part of it is, it's such a game plan specific and game plan oriented team, so you have a certain profile and a certain way that you put your team together. Then when you get into the actual game planning and the dynamics of the opponent, it's really specific to what the team does – whether they're a big 21 team, a big 11 team. Are they more 12? You just fit the pieces in place based on what you're going to be facing on a weekly basis.
Q: With the understanding that you're a multiples team, what would you say the base is that you're teaching the players at this time?
NC: Really the biggest thing is just the fundamentals and individual techniques as it relates to their position. Whether it's a cornerback playing with your feet underneath you, jamming a receiver, re-routing receivers, running vertically with receivers down the field, safeties reading the quarterback, breaking on the football. Really I think the emphasis right now is just working on your individual techniques as it pertains to your individual position, whether that's offensively or defensively.
Q: If we were to get into a 3-4 or 4-3 discussion, would it be accurate to say this is still a 3-4 base team?
NC: We've been a multiple team for a long time. For as long as I've been with the Patriots, we've been a multiple defensive team. It's really specific to the opponent that we're playing. Some weeks you might have more of an emphasis on one thing, another week you might have more of an emphasis on another. I think the most important thing that you're trying to do in training camp is put your foundation in place –a lot of the principles and the communication and those types of things and then you gradually build. Really we've probably defensively played just some basic coverages to this point. The most important thing in training camp is just building your foundation and then the more practices that you have, the more components you add into play relative to what the offense might be doing.
Q: Any updates on
NC: I don't have any updates – at this point really no change from where we were the other day that Bill [Belichick] mentioned.
Q: Can you fine Brian Waters for not reporting?
NC: I think any decision we make on a player we'll keep that internal.
Q: I'm not asking if you are fining him, but whether he can be fined?
NC: Every team has certain rules in place that are in compliance with what's been approved by the league so we follow the letter of the law in that regard and we'll handle everything internally.
Q: Would it be correct to say that if he's under contract and he's not here, he could be fined?
NC: There are multiple interpretations. I'm not going to get into the exact details of it. Our stance and where we are hasn't changed from where we were the other day.
Q: How would you characterize the depth on this team?
NC: I'd say it should be a competitive camp. I'd say we brought some players in from other teams during the offseason that have experience playing. You supplement that with the players that you have in place. The hope is that you're trying to build a competitive roster, one through 90 or one through 89, wherever you are. Last year, going back from where we started in training camp and where we ended up there at the beginning of September, I think there were 12, 13 or 14 players that were in our training camp that ended up on other rosters for Week 1 of the NFL season. In the end, we're going to have to release 35 to 40 players at some point here along the way and there's a good chance that there's a fair amount of them that are going to be playing in the league somewhere. I think the most important thing, you're trying to build depth across positions, you're trying to create as much competition as possible and just let that play itself out. In the end, the players are going to determine ultimately what their role is going to be on the team.
Q: You brought in a bunch of guys who could be versatile. With the understanding that that always plays a role, how important was that this offseason?
NC: I think generally speaking when you're building your football team the versatility component really comes in to play. You really have ‘X' amount of players that maybe they do one thing particularly well and then you're going to have another group of players that are going to be role players for you and those players are critically important to your team. If they're in a specific role, the more multiples they can handle, whether it's in the kicking game, whether it's in pass coverage, whether it's run defense, then it's going to enhance their ability to get on the field. Troy Brown was out at practice the other day. There probably isn't a better example of a versatile player really in all three phases of the game. Not everybody can do that. You start with a foundation, you introduce some concepts and some different things and see who can handle what. Maybe one player can handle more relative to another so that's just part of putting the team together and seeing who can handle what.
Q: Bill Belichick talked about the danger of giving
NC: I think the further you get into camp and you start to play some of the preseason games, you've essentially installed your package, whether it's defensively or offensively. I'd say 85 or 90 percent of whatever you're going to do goes in by the time we play the first game. Certain players learn at different rates. It's really whether or not they can take – really, you start let's say day one of training camp or the first day in pads, the installation goes in, you go out there, you practice that, you make the corrections, you come back the next day and there's going to be another installation that goes in. Are they able to retain the information from the previous day? Can they carry that over when you add multiples in? It's a matter of how the player handles that. If the player can handle more, then you can give him more. If he can't handle as much, then you give him less. You just try to find that balance between giving the player too much and letting him also go out there and be able to play and execute at an optimum level.
Q: Can you talk about
NC: I think everybody is kind of in the same boat. We've been out there a few days. We're rolling different players through, whether it's the defensive backfield [or] the defensive line so at this point I think everybody is sort of at the same stage. Like I said, the most important thing is just trying to build a foundation and fine tune your individual techniques so that when you get into a team setting, you can actually execute those at a high level in a game situation.
Q: It looked like
NC: I'm not sure if he'll be out there today but we'll see. We'll take it day by day.
Q: You came into camp with 89 and released Joseph Addai and added
NC: I think any player that we bring into the program we bring them in because we feel that they're going to be competitive on our team. The roster is constantly changing, constantly evolving. You guys have been around the league enough to know that things can happen in a heartbeat so we're always monitoring that. We stay in contact with different players, different agents throughout the course of the spring and summer and we've worked out a number of players from May up until this point. You really take it day by day, see how practice goes, see how the team is faring and make the decision there. Some decisions happen quickly, some take a little bit longer so we'll just go out there and see how it goes.
Q: Had you worked Darrion Weems out before?
NC: There are a lot of players that we work out during the course of the year. We take all the information that we have in-house that we've compiled and we try to utilize that and make the best decision that we can.
Q: So that's a yes?
Q: What are your thoughts on what you've seen from
NC: I think Tom is like a lot of players. He's had a good offseason, he's come in. I think the most important thing is that we're all in the same spot. You're trying to establish your foundation. You're sort of trying to get comfortable with everything, putting the pads on today, that's going to be different for the quarterbacks. He's come in, he's worked hard, he has a lot of experience, so I think we're going to go out there and just try to improve – everybody is going out there with the same goal in mind to try to improve each day.
Q: On the quarterbacks, on
NC: I think there are a lot of things that go into that position, the quarterback position in general. It's ball placement, it's accuracy, it's arm strength, it's altering your ball speeds, how does he move in the pocket, just having pocket awareness. Those are all things that you can work on in the offseason with that position, but when the bullets start flying, that's when you start to see whether or not what you've worked on in the offseason can become second nature and do that. The quarterback position in general, there are so many different things that go into play. I would say even when you get to the coverage aspect, basically we've been in one or two coverages so the quarterbacks really haven't seen that much. When you start to disguise the coverage, how is he going to react to that? Is he going to see the read? Is he going to see the safeties? Is he going to be able to make the proper adjustments? There are a lot of things that go into that position in general. I think you try to focus on maybe one thing each day and once you sort of master that or feel comfortable with that then you can move onto the next thing.
Q: Is reading defenses a problem area for him right now? You said the coverages have been pretty simple and he looks like he's having trouble.
NC: I'm talking about the quarterback position in general. There are a lot of dynamics that come into play. I think all three quarterbacks that we have in this system are pretty smart guys and they're being coached by a pretty good coach. There are a lot of things that could happen. The most important thing is we're trying to look for improvement. I think those guys have made improvement from where they were last year to where they were in the offseason to where they are now. You just hope that progression continues.
Q: Specifically with Ryan Mallett, he's not going to be on the same curve as
NC: I think they're going to have ample opportunity here in the preseason so we'll get a good gauge. Really until you're out there playing live in the preseason – practice is important, it's critical and that's what we have to go on but once we get into the preseason games, they're going to have ample opportunity and then we'll see what they can do.
Q: What draws you to joint practices with other teams, like the Saints and Buccaneers?
NC: I think Bill [Belichick] can probably speak to that just in terms of the teams and why we do it but I think what you get out of that, after a certain point in training camp, when you're going against the same people, I don't want to say it gets a little bit monotonous but you're looking for another challenge or something else. I think as a team it just sort of rejuvenates you a little bit. There is a certain element of competition and the speed increases just that much more when you're playing. I think your competitive juices and competitive nature starts to flow. It's another way to look at, there's no better way to learn about the team that you're about to play in the preseason than to practice against them. Whether it's personnel, whether it's schematically something that they may do that you don't maybe see from your defense or your offense so you can actually teach it, coach off of it, correct it, talk about it in the meetings and then move on. Essentially that's what's going to happen once the regular season rolls around because whoever we play each week is going to be different. Being able to handle that, how quickly we can adjust, I think those are some of the things that you can get out of a joint practice.
Q: From your standpoint, does that help you evaluate?
NC: It just gives you a little bit more firsthand knowledge. You can see the players practice live as opposed to just evaluating them on the preseason tape, which we'll go through and watch every game. But you get to see them in individual drills. Maybe you can look at their movement relative to someone else at their position on your team. It gives you an opportunity to look at more players and just see them a little bit more up close and personal.
Q: How has the 90 man roster affected your construction?
NC: It really hasn't changed all that much – 80 to 85 is what it was in years past so you're moving guys. I'd say at any point, you're probably going to have 70 to 75 guys out on the field that are practicing; there are going to be some players that aren't practicing. It really hasn't changed philosophically how we put the roster together.
Q: Any common threads from the rookie class when you assess the group as a whole?
NC: I think it's a good group. They've sort of indoctrinated themselves into the program to this point. I think they're trying to learn. They're coming into a situation where there are a lot of guys that have been here and played a lot of football. You have to come in and sort of earn their respect and find your role. I think to this point, most of those guys have done that. We'll see how it all shakes out here over the next few weeks.