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Bill Belichick Conference Call Transcript 8/21

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his conference call on Sunday, August 20, 2017.


Q: After watching the film, what are your thoughts on what you saw from Cyrus Jones on punt return?

BB: Yeah, I thought Cyrus did a good job in the return game, both punts and kickoffs. He ran hard, ran aggressively, made good decisions, with and without the ball. We had a couple situations where the ball hit the ground or was going out of bounds. I thought he did a nice job.

Q: Specifically, how did you view his punt return at the end of the first half?

BB: Yeah, well, again, there's a lot of different situations that come up there, and so it will really – honestly, we have several lengthy meetings with our returners to go over all that. Probably too long to discuss here. Yeah, there's no hard and fast rule. There's a lot of situations that come into play and we just try to cover them thoroughly and give the players some guidelines, but each one's a little bit different and the ball, the kick, the hang time, the coverage, what our call is and so forth – there's a lot that plays into it. It's not – I mean, I don't know, some people like that real cut and dry. It's this or it's that. That's not really what it is. There are a lot of shades of gray here. 

Q: How important was Rex Burkhead's final game with Cincinnati against the Ravens in your evaluations of him?

BB: Well, again, I think that Rex is a player that was in the league for four years, had a very distinguished career in college, played in a lot of preseason, had a lot of preseason game action and then the majority of his regular season offensive play was, as you mentioned, at the end of the '16 season. But, like all players in the league, we followed him out of college and then every year in the league. So, there was a little bit of some regular season play last year, but we had quite a bit on him anyway. We had seen quite a bit of Rex, played against him at Cincinnati, mostly in the kicking game. But, again, we've seen him in other situations, as well. So, I mean, it all played into it. I wouldn't say the evaluation was made on one play or one series or anything like that. We had quite a bit of information on this player. 

Q: Has Burkhead progressed in your time with him in terms of the various responsibilities he has taken on?

BB: Rex has missed very little time. He's basically been out there every day and we've worked with him in all areas of the game that we think he can contribute in, which is all three downs offensively and the four phases of special teams that he's been involved with, from Day 1. And we do that with really all of our players. So, even though a player might not be first or second on the depth chart in a certain unit like a sub back or the punt team or goal line, whatever it happens to be, he might be fourth team or fifth team listed on the depth chart, but he's in there and he's learning those responsibilities. He's learning what that unit does and all the things that are associated with it. We might have more players than we can use in a certain position on those teams, but they learn it, they train for it and most likely, eventually, they get to do it at some point. So, that was the case and really it's the case with almost all of our players that they sometimes learn more than they actually end up doing. But, we do that so we don't have to go back and reteach everything and try to cram it into a day or two before we want the player to do it so he has a background in it. Even if he hasn't done it extensively, if he's paid attention and he's watched what his teammates have done and how it's been presented by the coaching staff, then hopefully the catch-up process, if he has to take on a roll that's not his primary one, that he'll be able to get up to speed on that pretty quickly.

Q: When certain positions are shallow due to injury or other reasons during training camp, does that impact the way you conduct the rest of practice?

BB: Yeah, I'm sorry. As Stacey [James] mentioned, the question broke up a little bit. I think it was if we lose depth at one position, how does that affect the way we practice? Is that basically it?

Q: Yeah, exactly.

B: Yeah, so, of course, team drills are team drills, and if our depth affects the team drills, then we have to decide how to do that. Maybe we run fewer plays or we space them out a little bit more with maybe special team periods in between or something like that. But, if it isn't team plays, then we can, again, adjust our schedule a little bit so that let's say we're down in skill players, we could do more with the linemen, like 9-on-7, running drills or blitz pickup drills or 5-on-4 pass protection or things like that where we could manage the workload of the skill players or vice versa. If we were down in the bigger guys, the linemen and front-seven types, we could continue to have 7-on-7 and 1-on-1 or half-line passing drills or things like that while we manage the lack of depth at the line or front-seven type positions. We have different ways of managing the practice schedule until we get to team. Once we get to team, then we need everyone to be involved in the team. And if we're short there, then we have to find a way to manage the position that we have the least depth in so that we can maximize the work for everybody. I know that's what we try to do. If we didn't have depth at tight end, maybe we'd use an offensive lineman in that tight end position. Or, if we didn't have depth at the skill positions, maybe we'd use more tight ends or 22-personnel or same thing defensively – not use as much nickel and dime if our defensive backs, if our depth was lower there, then we'd use more regular defense. Or, if we [did not have] depth at the line, then maybe we'd use more nickel and dime situations where we have more DBs and linebackers on the field. So, again, there are times where we can adjust our practice schedule, but I mean, we've still got to play the game, and the game's not all 9-on-7 or it's not all nickel or whatever. However you want to remanage your practice time, you still have to prepare for the game, so we have to cover the bases. Again, in some cases it might be with some management, but, you know, we have to balance that out between getting things covered and trying to manage the depth of a particular position. 

Q: What did you see from Kony Ealy last night?

BB: Yeah, Kony played a lot of snaps. [Caleb] Kidder played a lot of snaps. Both those ends got a lot of work. It was good for them. It was good for those guys – guys like [James] O'Shaughnessy is another guy who got a lot of plays, Austin Carr got a lot of plays – so we were able to look at not only the plays that they had but kind of the progress that they made over the course of the game, evaluate their conditioning, evaluate the consistency of their performance because they had an opportunity to do it over an extended period of time and over a lot of snaps. I thought that Kony and Kidder, O'Shaughnessy, Carr, guys like that that played a high number of snaps did some very positive things. Like everybody, there are things that could have been better and that they need to work on, but I thought they showed up positively a number of times. 

Q: What did you see from James O'Shaughnessy last night?

BB: Well, he kind of got back into action this week in the kicking game and offensively. So, again, there were some good things and there were some things that he'll need a little more work on and were a little rusty. But, again, I thought overall, I thought he competed well and gave a good account of himself last night. 

Q: It did not seem like O'Shaughnessy did much for Kansas City offensively last year. But from what you've seen from him, maybe even before that or in college, did you think he could contribute in this offense?

BB: Sure, if he performs well enough, absolutely. That's what training camp and preseason games are for. You give the players an opportunity to compete and they earn what they get. They earn the right to play more based on their performance. If a player goes out there and establishes a performance through his production, both in practice and in preseason games, then he earns more playing time. Anybody can do that. If they don't and other players do, then the other players will receive those opportunities ahead of the ones that didn't produce as well or show quite as much. But, yeah, that opportunity is there for everybody. That's what training camp and preseason is for is to give everybody an opportunity to do that. The players decide that. I don't decide it. They decide it based on what product they put out there. 

Q: What is your thought process in deciding which players start and how playing time is distributed in a preseason game?

BB: It could be a number of things, but I'd say the bottom line is we try to go through each player and each position and kind of have a rough idea of what our expectations are for that player during that particular game. Sometimes, Game 2 plays off of Game 1, so maybe somebody that didn't get a chance to play in Game 1 plays more in Game 2 or vice versa. Sometimes you want to see different combinations of players. Again, at this time of year, all the players have played with all the other players at their position, so there really isn't too much of that. But, sometimes it does give the coaches an opportunity to see how a certain group of players would work together – a certain group of linebackers or defensive backs or receivers, whatever the position is. So that could play into it, as well. Maybe there's a certain type of play, plays, calls that Josh [McDaniels] or Matt [Patricia] are going to make and we would like to see a certain player or group of players run those particular calls. If you were going to call a lot of man-to-man coverages and you're trying to evaluate man-to-man or if you were trying to run the ball and you wanted to see a certain back or blockers block during that period of time – so, again, there's a lot of different things that could go into it and it would change from game to game. As I said, if certain players were on the field in one game, the next week you might want to see more of some of those players, or you might want to see a different group of players in the next game because you didn't see as much of them in the game before. It would just depend on the game, the players and a lot of different circumstances. But, we talk about that at length before each game to try to plan it out the best we can. Sometimes you have to make in-game adjustments. Sometimes things don't turn out the way that you think they're going to turn out, and then there's also a balance of all that with the kicking game. So, if you want to see a player in the kicking game, you want to see a player on offense and defense, sometimes you've got to do it all at once. Sometimes you split it up so that he's in the game on offense at a different time when he's in the game in the kicking game. Sometimes you want it the same time. Again, there are a lot of variables there. So, I'm not trying to make it a complicated answer, but unfortunately, it is, especially when you're talking about 90 players.

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