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Bill Belichick Conference Call Transcript 9/2

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Q: How active are trade discussions with other teams during this period of time that rosters are being trimmed down? 

BB: I'd say about the same as it always is. We communicate with a lot of teams in the league. Obviously, there are some that we're not in real close communication with, like every team, and it just all depends on how those conversations go, whether there is mutual interest or something that would possibly work for both sides. There are a lot of moving parts. I'd say usually if you're in conversation  -  unless it's about a specific player; them talking to you about one or you talking to them about one  -  unless it's about a very specific player then those conversations are probably multiple. So, the team is looking for a position, or if you're looking for a position then it's more than one team that's involved there, so it's really a process that you just kind of work through. Another team's trying to get the best deal, or you're trying to get the best deal, or seeing who's available or stuff like that. That's really the way it always is. There is a pretty decent level of communication right now because everybody is going through the same thing and trying to position things for the season the best that they can. Everybody is dealing with some type of guys that can't play for one reason or another but are going to be on their team, guys that might be on their team that can't contribute right now but have a good prospective future that they want to keep and work with. Sometimes that amounts to something, sometimes it doesn't, but I'd say that's always in place at this time of year.

Q: How did D.J. Foster do in pass protection and blitz pickup last night and what have you seen from him in that area throughout camp?

BB: Yeah, it was alright. It's something that he hasn't done a lot of and certainly it's something that he can get better at. It came up a couple of times last night. I'd say no different than a lot of other things that we need work on. All of our backs can always use that, our receivers, our quarterbacks, our [offensive] line in terms of everybody seeing it together. There are a lot of little things that come up. You can have the right guy, [but] there is some technique and kind of knowing where the other players are around you and how to do it properly. There are a lot of little things like that that come up, too. It's progressing. 

Q: It appeared that on Barkevious Mingo's strip-sack that he adjusted pre-snap and moved to the opposite side of the defensive line. What does that show you about his ability to adjust and how well did he do executing the play?

BB: Right, well we had a few of those situations come up in the game last night. It was, again, a good experience for us. The Giants did a lot of no-huddle and they combined that with substitutions on no-huddle, so it forced us to not only deal with the no-huddle but also with different personnel groups on and off the field and matching up with them, so there was some communication things that we had to work through, which again, was good for us. It was a good experience for us and so that's just part of the whole week. We had a number of those come up. Some we got, I'd say most of them we got, but some we were either a little late on or we didn't get it. Again, it was a good thing for us to experience in a game situation. It's not really  -  it's hard to do it in practice and get the same kind of effect when you're doing it against another team that does it a lot and is good at it. But yeah, again, overall I think he handled things from an assignment standpoint well. There weren't a lot of issues with that. I'd say overall defensively that's something that we need to really understand how important it is and how we need to do it from a process standpoint. Again, each call is different and all of that, but just how we're handling our substitutions and how we're getting the communication.

Q: What is it about Barkevious Mingo or really any player that allows them to attack the line of scrimmage so quickly? Is it a matter of timing the snap properly or is it more attributed to their physical skills?

BB: Well, it can be both. It could be pressure and timing or it could be a quick read and reaction. Obviously, the only way you can penetrate the line of scrimmage is if somebody on the line doesn't block us. Sometimes that happens because it's a mistake, sometimes it happens because we get through there before they can really get a clean hit on us, kind of like what happened on Jamie [Collins]' play where the ball ended up going backwards for a seven or eight-yard loss on what ended up being a lateral play. But you know, sometimes you run into a protection where one of the linemen has that player picked up and he's not able to penetrate. There are some of both. Certainly it's a good situation where we can go through the line and into the backfield because they're blocking other people, but depending on what the play is and how they have it blocked that's not always the case.

Q: On the two-point conversion play that failed it looked like D.J. Foster's initial responsibility was to stay in the backfield and help in pass protection. Is there a general rule of thumb that states how long he should do something like that before releasing out to become a receiving option?

BB: That's really a long conversation, but to try and give it a short answer, if the [running] back has blitz pickup responsibility and either as he's going to block his responsibility or if his responsibility leaves and he really doesn't have any responsibility, you know, you'd never want to tell the back to run by a free player. Say the back is supposed to run a route and his linebacker doesn't come so he starts to run his route and in doing that he sees a free rusher coming that's not his guy, well just instinctively  -  backs  -  they just know to block those guys. There is no sense in going out for a route if the guy is going to run in there and hit the quarterback. Those are kind of plays that backs have to make a reaction to and good backs will make the right decision as to whether he needs to block the player or doesn't and can get out in a pattern. He doesn't want to run into a guy that's being blocked and take himself out of the route, but at the same time he doesn't want to go out into the route and let a player who's running at the quarterback, run at the quarterback. Again, those are kind of things that come with experience and those are quick decisions that backs have to make because it's not really their man. Technically, they'd be right to just ignore him and go on but in terms of having a successful play that's not always the best thing to do. It's a long answer but again, it's an experience thing. Could it maybe have been a little bit better? I don't know. He certainly wasn't the primary guy in that play.

Q: What have you seen in terms of Malcolm Butler's development through the offseason and through the summer, and how valuable is it for the defense as a whole when you have a cornerback who is dependable on the outside?

BB: It's certainly important to have coverage players in this league. That's critical, and Malcolm [Butler] is a good coverage player. He's also a good tackler, and he's tough, so he's more than just a guy that can cover. He has made a lot of progress. He made a lot of progress during his rookie year. He made a big jump from his rookie year to his second year last year to really become our top corner and a player that we matched against  -  it depended on what the scheme of the defense was  -  but he was always matched on good players; sometimes, it was their number one receiver. He's gained a lot of confidence. We've gained a lot of confidence in him because of his performance, and you absolutely need players like that to be able to handle the type of quality receivers that we face pretty much on a weekly basis. 

Q: Have you seen consistent progress from Anthony Johnson this summer?

BB: Yeah, absolutely. He was a player that we brought in in the spring; saw him as a little different player when he got here than what we had seen at LSU. Unfortunately, he missed a little bit of time in the early part of camp, but when he was able to return to practice a couple of weeks ago, we put him into the competition  -  not that he wasn't, he was in the competition  -  but he was able to get reps on the field as part of the defensive tackle competition. He has had some positive and productive plays for us. He works hard, he's a good kid, and he's tough. He has battled through some things and he still finds a way to get out on the field and keep competing with them, and he has had some production for us. I don't know how much of it is improvement; there is definitely a level of improvement, but it's just at the beginning of the year he wasn't out there and fell behind a little bit, so part of the improvement is just being back out there and getting better every day. He has done a good job of just fighting through some bumps and bruises to be out there and competing. 

Q: When making final cuts, how much of a balancing act is it to prioritize long-term versus short-term needs?

BB: I think that's a big part of the conversation. I think if you were just picking the team for one game, for the opener that would be one thing. If you were picking the team strictly for next year, that would be another thing, but in reality, you're trying to pick a team for all of those. You've got a game to play, you've got the early part of the season to be ready for. Sixteen games, that's a lot of football, and you need a lot of depth to get through those 16 games, but you don't know exactly where you're going to need it. It's one big balancing act, and you know you're going to have a team next year, so do you want to keep a player this year but you're really looking at where he's going to be next year? You don't think he's going to be a big contributor this year but you really see that player have an upside to improve the following year. Or, do you go with a player who maybe has a little bit of a higher performance now, but a year from now, would somebody else pass him? Those are all tough questions. I think some of the guys that we've kept here, you see improve over a period of time. Even some guys form last year, like [AJ] Derby and [Tyler] Gaffney, Darryl Roberts, that had a limited amount of time, they were injured, but now have had production out there in the preseason games. There's another group of guys that are rookies this year that probably the same thing is going to happen with them next year. Definitely, Trey Flowers is another guy. There are several players there that from their rookie year to their second year, weren't really factors on the roster a year ago, but are very much in the competition this year. That's hard. It's hard to do. It's always hard to leave that veteran experience for a little bit of an unknown, but the lifeline of this league and the lifeline of every team is young, developing players. You can't build a team without them, so they're an important part of it. There's uncertainty there. Not all of them develop and then they don't end up being what they might be. Then that, in the end, just kind of becomes a waste of time. Just trying to make the right decisions there, especially when sometimes, the information is limited, but it is what it is. That's what you have to figure out or try to figure out. 

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