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Bill Belichick Conference Call Transcript 9/1

New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his conference call on Friday September 1, 2017


Q: After watching the tape, how would you say that Jacoby Brissett handled his role?

BB: Yeah, I thought that Jacoby and really all of our players last night competed really hard. They gave great effort. They competed all the way until the final gun. Some things were good and some things clearly could have been better - plays that we'd all like to have back. But, certainly more good than bad. Positive performance by Jacoby - really by most of the players. Most all the players that played last night, I thought, gave a good account of themselves. The experience that they've gained from some of the other games and practices that they've been in during the course of training camp, it paid off and showed positively. I thought he did a good job and did a good job of leading the team and thought that the team responded well to him, as well. 

Q: What has Chris Hogan done leading into his second year with the team that he can build on to become a big part of the offense?

BB: Well, Chris has a much better understanding of our overall system and offensive scheme than he did last year. He not only has learned it but has experience it, played in it under pressure and going through the adjustments and so forth. He's way ahead of where he was last year on a number of levels and, again, the overall program, the training, the day-to-day demands and routine that we try to go through. I think he has a very good grasp of that and gets the most out of the time and the opportunities that he gets, so not a lot of wasted energy on his part. He knows what to do. He's prepared for it and he gets the most out of it. 

Q: How do you balance the introduction of a player versus someone who can contribute with experience? Does that thinking change at all around the cut down days?

BB: Well, I don't know if it changes, but it certainly gets highlighted because that's the point where you have to make the decision. Up until that point, you can have both, if you will, and you can work with a couple scenarios or three or four, really, depending on how your roster is comprised and what your options are. But, as of 4 o'clock tomorrow, everybody's going to have to play their cards on the table and show their hand and decide what choices you want to make. Now, there will still be some roster movement and roster manipulation over the next few days - I'm not saying that - but, certainly, tomorrow at 4 is a key time for every team to make those choices and to try the course, most of it anyway, that they want to be on. So, really every player, at this point, that's in a roster discussion - whether it's the 53-man roster, the practice squad - they all have strong points, they all have things that they can do, they all have roles that they can fill on the team. If we could have 60 players, we'd have 60. So would every other team. But, we have to reduce to 53, and so that's what the reduction will be to and we'll try to figure out how to maximize that number and all the positions that we need to cover and the 66 on special teams and the 11 on offense and defense, not to mention all the special situation substitutions and that's what we need. That's way more spots than we have players for. There has to be a lot of doubling up and guys have to do multiple things. So, we'll just have to figure out how to get all those covered, in addition to kind of the original part of your question is: do you go with a player with more experience and a little higher performance level now versus a younger player with more upside that has the chance or you expect will pass the experienced player that you're talking about? And each one of those is different. There's no book on it. Every situation's a little bit different. You just have to do the best you can with each one. 

Q: What are some of the differences in what you're looking for when it comes to punt returners versus kick returners? How do you differentiate between the skillsets for those two return jobs?

BB: Phil [Perry], that's a good question. Of course, the easy answer is if one person does both, then that makes it a lot easier and it also makes the roster question a lot easier. I mean, the big difference, of course, is on kickoff returns, you get a chance to build up your speed, you get a chance to handle the ball cleanly, there's nobody on top of you when you catch it and you're able to run and set up your blocks and hit things full speed through that point, usually between the 20 and 30 yard line, where the coverage and the blockers in a wedge all sort of come together and the returner gets a chance to set those blocks up and hit them and try to get through there. The punting game is a lot more situational. Mostly on kickoffs, the ball is always kicked from the same place. Rarely is there a difference. There are some, but they're minimal - after a safety or that type of thing. But punting, the ball can be anywhere, so the situation that they're punting in can be quite diverse and sometimes complex. Punters are very good at directional punting and kicking different types of punts - the end-over-end punts, spiral punts, spirals that don't turn over and so forth, so the ball handling is a little more complex and you have to deal with players around you as you're catching the ball sooner or later. I mean, sometimes a punter will outkick his coverage, but the majority of the time, there's some decision making involved, whether to catch it and try to make the first coverage player or two miss to get the return started or fair catch it or to let it go and not catch the ball or to let it go over your head and let it go in the end zone for a touchback. So, there's a lot of decision making on just whether to catch the ball and whether to catch and run with it or whether to catch it and just fair catch it that are played different than the kickoffs. And then, in addition to that, you deal with defenders and coverage players that are on you a lot quicker on punt return, so sometimes you only have a yard or two or a couple yards to get into space, make a guy miss, break a tackle, whereas the kickoff is much more of a build-up play. Because they're so different, a lot of times you don't have the same player doing both. And, a personal opinion is because they're so different, I find the two plays very fascinating and intriguing and a great part of the strategy of football, just because the plays themselves are so different and the teaching, the rules, the skills and so forth. And so that's why I'm not in favor - I take an opposing view to the people who want to eliminate kickoffs from the game and try to have as few kickoffs as possible. I think it's an exciting play, it's a unique play and one that is a big momentum play because of what happened the play before - the score or, possibly, the two times at the start of the half where it's kind of a tone setter or a pace setter for that opening play. So, yeah, they're played different and, of course, the same thing in the blocking. You get a chance to set up a return, whereas on the punting side of it, you have an option of trying to pressure the punter and block it or return it, but you kind of have to return it from the line of scrimmage. You can't drop off too far because of the possibilities of fakes, so you have to keep enough guys up on the line of scrimmage to ensure that the ball is punted. And, you have to ensure the onside kick that you don't get onside kicked to, but again, that's much less frequent and the rules are in the kick returner team's favor on the onside kick. So, it's a big gamble for the kicking team to do that as a surprise tactic. So, the blocking patterns and techniques of blocking are quite different on the punt returns compared to what they are on kickoff returns. 

Q: Because of the decision making involved in the position, is the returner position worth a roster spot on its own?

BB: Well, I mean, I'd say the ball handling is critical. I mean, it's like the long snapper. How many plays is the long snapper in for a game? I mean, I'd call it 10. I don't know, somewhere in that neighborhood, eight to 10 - field goals, punts and extra points. But, everybody carries a long snapper. Between kick returns and the punt returns, maybe a couple less than that, but I'd say the difficulty of those jobs and the importance of them and quick ball handling - I mean, there's not much that will lose the game quicker than that. So, I think it's a high priority for everybody. When I say everybody, I'm saying every team I think that's a high priority for. It certainly is for us. So, we'll have to see how it turns out, but it's not an afterthought at all. It's a priority item.

Q: What progress have you seen Devin Lucien make this past year?

BB: I think Devin's taken some strong steps. Last night was a good example of it. The catch he made in the end zone was a great play where he got his feet in bounds, made a tough catch in the end zone, the go route, did a great job of stacking the defender and getting by the defender early, running through the catch - I mean, those plays take hours and hours of work out on the practice field, in individual sessions and then in team practices with the quarterback and the receiver and all the hours that they spend catching the ball and running those routes and having people throw it to them, quarterbacks or coaches or jugs machines or whatever it is. Yeah, I don't know that those plays would have been made a year ago. I mean, they might have been, but I think there's a lot better chance that they would be made this year because of the time and work that he's put in. So, I was happy for him last night to be able to have that production after the hours that he's dedicated to that.

Q: What kind of impression have Kenny Moore and Cole Croston made since they've been with the team?

BB: Good, both really good. [They are] out there every day, work hard, just keep getting better. Kenny's played inside and outside for us. He's played in the kicking game. Cole's played guard and tackle. So, not only have those guys been out there every day, worked hard, but they're playing multiple positions and multiple responsibilities. They've gotten better and they keep working hard, so I'm pleased that we were able to get both of them, and they've been very competitive. 

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