Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick held his annual pre-draft press conference Wednesday at Gillette Stadium and was in a seemingly upbeat mood on what also happened to be his 51st birthday. Belichick opened the well-attended session with a joke about the lack of uniformity in writers' mock drafts and how his job would be much easier if a consensus could be formed.
But after the injection of humor to open Belichick willingly jumped into the many issues at hand with his team this offseason, namely this week's Tebucky Jones trade to the Saints.
"The worst kept secret in the league, the Tebucky Jones trade, was again from our standpoint a situation where we have an awful lot of respect for the player, what he's done here and the contributions that he's made." Belichick said. "He's been a significant player. We just obviously weren't able to reach an agreement with him after extended negotiations and had to move on on this one. But we wish him well and respect and appreciate what he did. I think this is one that probably everybody feels pretty good about the way it ended up. I think we probably maximized our opportunity on this one given the circumstances."
When the questions then turned to the actual draft process and the team's status going into the April 26-27 selection weekend, Belichick related the keys he has discussed in the past in terms of maximizing the value of a pick.
"I think you try to maximize each pick, to try to do the best we can with each opportunity we get, whatever that is," Belichick said as he approaches his fourth draft in New England. "I don't think we can sit here and say, 'We are going to get X number of starters or X number of guys to do this or X number of guys to do that.' You take a look at what your opportunities are when you're picking and you try to do the best you can with them.
"And as well all know, some players develop at different rates, so when a player will be a starter, when he'll be a role player, when he'll spend a year on injured reserve, those results won't be coming in for a few years, two, three, four years, whatever it is. We just try to evaluate each situation as it comes up and make the most of it and maximize it."
While Belichick spent a greater portion of the press conference talking in generalities, one thing he was rather specific about was the fact the he has become more comfortable with each draft in New England and has learned with each experience.
"I'd say some of the biggest things [he's learned] would be, number one, to evaluate the player based on your team," Belichick said. "We can't worry about what the rest of the league thinks about him. We can't worry about whether the guy is going to go somewhere else and start or go somewhere else and be a productive player. If he doesn't fit our system and he's not going to do that for us, then we've just got to accept that and move on.
"I think patience is another [thing]. Everybody is going to have their time at bat. You're going to get your swing at the plate. You can't force it. What's there is there. What's not is not. You can't manufacture guys. You can't say, 'Well, we need a guard and even though there aren't any there we're going to manufacture one—this guy can do this, he can do that and he can do something else.' Then when you sit back objectively and look at it, you're just trying to force something there that's not really there. That's the position you don't want to be in."
But right now Belichick is not in that position. With 13 picks and various needs across the board he has the luxury to see how the draft unfolds. Does that mean a trade up? Maybe. Does that mean drafting all 13 selections? Probably not. The bottom line is the Patriots have a lot options and a lot of needs. The time for doing homework is drawing to a close and soon the team will be making selections that could be the injection of youth and talent that this team sorely needs.
Press conference notes
Belichick said he wouldn't be surprised if New England did not keep each of its 13 picks. … Belichick confirmed that Georgia defensive lineman Jonathan Sullivan had been at Gillette early this week. He also pointed out that Sullivan and Kentucky defensive lineman Dwayne Robertson are guys who play more faced up against the center, while Penn State's Jimmy Kennedy and Oklahoma State's Kevin Williams are more outside players. … When asked about Miami running back Willis McGahee Belichick repeatedly compared him to Patriots running back Antwoine Womack's situation last season. Womack had ACL surgery last January and entered the year on the Physically Unable to Perform list. He was eligible to practice later in the season, but never got in condition to be activated to the roster and join the team. … He said that it is unlikely that the team will sign restricted Miami defensive lineman Jermaine Haley to an offer sheet, but also would not rule it out. He also would not rule out any free agent signings prior to the draft, saying those may be more likely just after the draft when teams have a better feel for their needs and what is still available.
A complete transcript from today's press conference will be available later today on Patriots.com. For video of the day's events check out the latest edition of Patriots Video News here on Patriots.com
Player perspective on pre-draft visits
Linebacker Nick Barnett, a 6-2, 236-pound two-year starter at Oregon State and projected second or third round pick visited Gillette Stadium last week. Barnett is doing a draft diary for The Oregonian and had some interesting things to say in his latest installment about the visit process and his stop in New England.
"You're not allowed to work out on these trips, so you go over film, and they teach you their defense and see how fast you can learn things," Barnett said of his various visits that have included stops with the Chiefs, Jets and Chargers as well as the Patriots. "They're also trying to see what kind of person you are, to make sure you're not going to kill anybody in the first week you get there.
"In New England, I met with coach Bill Belichick," Barnett said of his recent visit to Foxborough. "He said he builds his team on character, and that he'd rather take a guy with good talent and great character than great talent and no character.
"Belichick said I got good reviews from Oregon State. He told me, 'You must have paid the coaches up there, because I never heard a report like that before."