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Bill Belichick Conference Call Transcript: We're hard at work on our preparations for Miami

Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his conference call on Sunday, August 31, 2014.


BB: Well, we're just grinding our way through the waiver wire process here, as usual at this time of year. We'll just see how everything comes together today and really in the next couple days. In the meantime, the coaching staff is hard at work on our preparations for Miami and our personnel staff is just working through all the hundreds of transactions that have occurred over the last week. That's where we're at for right now.

Q: You didn't go with a dedicated long snapper. I'm not sure if that's the first time you've made that decision since you've been here. Is that one you anticipate sticking with and is Rob Ninkovich the guy that will step in there?

BB: I think there are a lot of things that are potentially in transition with the number of spots on our team. I'm not saying they will or won't change, I'm not sure. We're looking at different options and we'll just do the best we can to put it together in the best way we feel like we can and go from there. There are a lot of things that we need to see between now and I'd say next Wednesday. We'll just have to see how it all plays out. I wouldn't commit to anything one way or the other on your question and frankly on a number of other positions. We'll just have to see.

Q: If nothing did move, would Rob be the likely guy that stepped in there?

BB: He would be an option.


Q:** What's your general feeling we're configuring an offensive line between getting your best five on the field and is that always necessarily your best configuration?

BB: I think in the end you want to get your, not necessarily your best five athletes, but the best line that you can put out there. That group has a lot of responsibility in terms of protecting the quarterback and protecting the running backs and giving your team an opportunity to move the ball consistently. So, whatever that is, I think you always want your best group out there. That may be your best players, there may be situations where you might have a better player that's not in there but the position doesn't fit. I don't know if that answered your question or not.

Q: I was more thinking you guys look like you have really nice quality and depth at tackle and you hate to see a starting quality caliber player and you hate to see one of those guys not on the field. That was the basis of the question, how you balance that you want to get that player on the field but position-wise you either have to move them or he doesn't play.

BB: You see that at a lot of positions. There are only so many quarterbacks you can put out there, there are only some corners you can put out there, there's only so many free safeties you can put out there, so many middle linebackers. That issue is probably there with every team, at some or maybe more than one position. I'm sure every team has to deal with some element of that.

Q: Can you talk a little about Darius Fleming and Malcolm Butler and how they each earned a roster spot?

BB: Darius had an unfortunate start to his career in San Francisco; good player at Notre Dame. Good outside linebacker, defensive end, edge setter, pass rusher and went out to San Francisco hurt his knee and came back the next year after the repair and that gave out. So he had the same procedure on the same knee twice and when they released him we felt fortunate to get him. He's been able to manage well through camp; got a lot of reps. He's played well for us, both outside and at times inside and in some occasions as a rusher. So, he's got some versatility, smart kid, works hard, tough kid. He came from a good program at Notre Dame. He fit into the team and contributed on a number of areas on defense and in the kicking game. Malcolm is kind of the reverse of that. West Alabama, there were a couple players that we looked at down there [and] ending up not signing after the draft. [We] brought him up for our rookie minicamp and [he] showed us some things there and he's continued to work hard and improve through camp. Big jump, lot to learn and he's worked hard at it. He's gotten a lot of snaps in the preseason. I think those plays have helped him and he's a young player that's continued to improve through camp.

Q: When you see a player like Malcolm performing well and he starts to string some players together, do you ever, because he has a modest pedigree, say to yourself, 'This can't keep on this way?' Is it surprising to you when a player like that starts springing plays together at that position?

BB: Well, I've seen a number of examples through my coaching career of situations – some of the ones you described, players who have had great college careers, great college histories, great programs, high individual performances, great teamwork and captains and all those kind of things and for whatever reason it just doesn't translate to this, to the NFL game. Some of that is the difference in scheme, some of that is the difference in the level of competition. But sometimes it just doesn't translate and then there are other times where for whatever the circumstances are players end up in different college programs that aren't some of the elite programs in college football, for whatever the reasons are, or in some cases, Steve Neal or guys like that, end up with no college program and still end up to go on to have great pro careers. I'm not saying that Malcolm will or won't, I'm just saying that we've seen those guys, there are a lot of examples of guys that had that and don't have NFL careers too. But I think the most important thing for us, for our organization, is what the players do with the New England Patriots more so than what they do somewhere else, whether that's with another NFL team or college team or whatever the other places are that we can evaluate them. How do they fit in for us and what do they do when they're here? What's their production? What's their rate of improvement? That's really what we try to go on is what happens when they're here as opposed to what happens somewhere else.

Q: I've heard you say in the past that the kickoff has become a little bit of a less competitive play since they moved them up and there's been an increase in touchbacks. How has that affected the value of the kick returner role in your eyes?

BB: I think that's a solid point and good question. There just aren't as many of them as there were going back a couple years and obviously well before that which also plays into your kickoff coverage unit as well. Again, not saying that those aren't important but I'd say they're not as important in terms of frequency as they were at other times in this league so I think it's a little bit of consideration. You certainly can't ignore it because you're going to have to cover them and return them. So, it's not like a situation that isn't going to happen but the frequency is lower than what it's been so it's somewhat of a consideration, yeah.

Q: How do you describe the difference between picking the best 53 or the best 46 to go with as opposed to the best team comprised of 53 players? How much if it all, does the schedule and matching up with your early opponents factor into that?

BB: I'd say the best 46, that's an easy question. I'm not saying it's an easy answer but it's easy in that you pick the players for that particular week that you feel like give your team the best chance to win based on your matchup with that team and your game plan going into that game, which you can control. If you do a lot of one thing and less of something else, then you can configure based on the 53 players, you can pick the 46 ones that best fit that plan for that particular week and then change it the next week if you want to. As far as putting the entire roster together, I think there's always, look, there are a lot of cases where it's pretty clear cut, that's obvious. But there are a lot of cases where you have to balance the experience of a player with the potential of a younger player with less experience and where you think those lines are going to cross when you think the player who may not be as good today is going to pass the player who right now is a little bit ahead of him, mainly because of experience. That's always a difficult judgment to make – not always, it can be a difficult judgment to make. There a lot of them that I think are easy but there a lot of them that are difficult. Sometimes those paths never do cross. You think that a player is going to ascent to a certain level and he never even gets to there. That's part of the guesstimate of the process. I think with fewer preseason games, fewer practices, fewer opportunities to evaluate the players, especially if a guy misses some time in training camp, we have 25 practices and four preseason games or whatever it is, in that ballpark and a player misses some time in there and he falls into that evaluation category then it's hard and that's where you can make mistakes. You could make them if you see them every day for a lot of days but you can definitely make them when you're looking at a limited sample. I think you have to, in the end, take all those things in consideration and try to make the best decisions that you can. To answer the bigger question, the first question you asked about putting the team together, I think you have to take a lot of things into consideration. It's not just 'Xs' and 'Os' or just the position or how two guys are at a position but the overall composition of the team. That certainly is a factor. If you want a certain type of team – if you want a fast team then you should put fast players on your team. If you want a big players, then big players. If you want a tough team, then tough players. It depends on – you can't have a fast team if you're not putting fast players on the team. You have to make priorities and then, to some degree, the players that have the priorities that you want on your team, then if that's important enough to you, then you have to select those guys.

Q: The consideration to go with three quarterbacks with such a competitive team and competitive roster – to have a backup to a backup, was that a luxury at all and was it a hard decision?

BB: Was it a hard decision? No, I wouldn't say so. Fortunately, we have three good players at that position, three players we have a lot of confidence in. I'm sure there are some teams in the league that don't have that feeling about that position. They may not have one, I don't know. I've been in that position before and it's not a good place to be. We're fortunate we have three good players there. It's a good situation.

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