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Bill Belichick Pre-Draft Press Conf. Transcript - 04/16/2003

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            **BB:**  Well, if you guys would just all get on the same page on these mock drafts and give us the same guy, it would make my job a lot easier.  But I am confused-- you've got us taking everybody.  Just a couple of quick opening comments here, I think that this draft is a long process.  We're pushed back a week with the Easter break and so forth.  But it certainly given us a lot of time to take a good look at as much information as we can.  We have a lot of juniors in the draft, a lot of guys to keep up with.  Workouts, as you all know were, not that numerous in Indianapolis, so we've been out a lot this spring [and] given the weather that's been okay too.  I think the preparations are moving along.  We've got 13 picks at this point and it wouldn't surprise me at all to see us not keep every one of those picks.  What direction that goes, I really have no way of knowing, but we'll try to do our preparation so that whatever the opportunities are on draft day, we can evaluate them and try to make the best decisions we can.  I think that procedurally, maybe as well as productively that progressively this being my fourth draft here, each one has gone a little bit smoother than the one before and we hope that we can continue that process again next weekend.  That's pretty much what we've been doing.  The worst kept secret in the league [was] the Tebucky Jones trade was again from our standpoint, the situation that we have an awful lot of respect for the player and appreciate what he's done here and the contributions that he's made and 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 with this one.  We wish him well, and again, respect and appreciate what he did and 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.  

Q: Just, one thing about that.

BB: Sure, just jump in there. [Laughter]

Q: Just trying to be in midseason form. Did you have your eyes on [Rodney] Harrison for a long time?

BB: No. The Harrison thing came down pretty quickly. We didn't know he was going to be released. He wasn't a free agent, he was released and then it went pretty quickly. He made a visit and then made another one from Oakland and came here. So that all happened pretty quickly. It wasn't anything that we were able to plan for that far in advance. But we saw an opportunity there and felt good about with what we were able to with it at that point so we pulled the trigger and Rodney is a Patriot.

Q: When you are looking at players in the draft, and they have sustained an injury, a) what do you look at in terms of making sure this player is really back to where he could be and b) what criteria will you use possibly to tell you where this player should be drafted after a serious injury?

BB: Well, in terms of evaluation of the injury, I think that if it is a common injury, one that we've had historical experience with, ACLs, bankart shoulder repairs, high angle sprains, things like that, we know what the normal course of recovery time is on that and as we evaluate the player, unless there is something that tells us that this is not a normal injury, then we assume that the rate and the percentages that the player will come back on are within what we see. We've had plenty of players that have had common injuries. When a guy has something different, for example a head injury or some type of blood disorder or something like that, then that is a different situation and you have to evaluate that one and there's less than of a track record to go on. I think generally speaking, we took Antwoine Womack last year, who had ACL surgery after the all-star game after his senior year at Virginia. His rehab on the ACL injury was about what we expected it to be and it's turned out that way. He didn't play last year but he should be ready to go this year at training camp and he's doing fine in the offseason programs. That is an example of how we would look at an injury like that. Now what value you put on the player depends on a) how good you think the player is and b) there's some discount for the injury, because it's never 100 percent certain that those things are going to clear up. So there is somewhat of a discount there with it, whether that's two picks, two rounds or it's five rounds, sometimes that's hard to tell.

Q: Would you be averse to taking more than one chance on a player who has some kind of an injury during their senior year or their final year in college?

BB: I wouldn't rule anything out. If we felt that the player would be healthy and play productively, we would do it. There have been plenty of examples of players who have been hurt, that have been hurt for consecutive years and then there are players that haven't had a problem. Then there have been other guys, more than one that have never been hurt in high school, never been hurt in college and get into the NFL and immediately get hurt. That's hard to predict. Guys get legitimate injuries. When I was in New York, Phil Simms was hurt every year for the first three or four years and nobody worked harder and nobody was tougher, nobody trained better than Phil Simms did and he didn't have another injury for five or six years after that. I don't think there is anyway to really see that in a crystal ball. Out of the percentages, go with what your medical people think in terms of what the facts are but then base your decisions on work ethic and your overall evaluation of the player's skills.

Q: How has [Willis] McGahee looked and how is his recovery going compared to what his people are saying?

BB: I don't know how quick his recovery is going to be. When I visited with him in Miami, he was a great kid to be with and talk to. On the field, he was basically in a stationery position for the time we were out there. He's been rehabbing like anyone else who has that ACL surgery. Whatever it is, February, March, April, three months after the surgery, he's not going to go out and play tomorrow, we know that, but the season doesn't start tomorrow.

Q: Do you think he has any chance to be ready by August 1st or September 1st?

BB: I'm not going to make any specific comment on his situation because, as we all know, I'm not a doctor. Here's what I will say – Womack had an ACL, he had surgery in January last year after the season, he was on PUP [physically unable to perform], he came off PUP and practiced with the team in October, he went back on PUP, he's now a full participant in the off season program. Whether his is better or worse, faster or slower, the same, different I really don't know. There's what one player did last year.

Q: Have you ever seen a player come back from an injury like Kelley Washington had?

BB: You know, Kelley was in here yesterday, or was it the day before, he was in here earlier this week maybe it was Monday, I don't have the full results on his medical situation and I wouldn't really be able to talk about them even if I did, so don't get your hopes up. Don't call me tonight. We'll just have to evaluate his situation. Obviously he missed some time at the end of the year. He's been rehabbing his injury and we'll have to see what our medical people think about it.

Q: Touching on Harrison, we've tried to talk to Lawyer [Milloy] the last couple of weeks and he's not taking any questions. Have you talked to him about Rodney?

BB: Sure.

Q: What has his reaction been?

BB: Fine. I know he and Rodney have spent time together. I don't want to speak for anybody else, but I've talked to him about it. I don't see it as an issue.

Q: What are your impressions of this year's defensive linemen?

BB: Well, I think there are a number of guys on the defensive line that are going to be considered pretty high on somebody's board. I'm not sure whose. I think a lot of those players, their skills range and have a quite variety there are some guys that are 315, 320, 325. There are other guys that are 260, 265, 270 and all in between so they have a different set of skills. Yeah, they are all defensive linemen, but their skills are different and their strengths and weaknesses are different. So I think that a lot of those guys, it will depend a little bit individually how each team sees them fitting into their particular style of defense. I would expect to see a number of defensive linemen taken relatively high in the draft. Whether that is the first round or the first two rounds or the first three rounds, I'm not sure exactly how that's going to fall. There are a number of interesting guys and I'll qualify that by saying I think some guys are going to fit a lot better with some teams that others. When you look up at the board, sometimes you can sit up there and say, 'Boy, if this guy goes to a certain team, he's probably going to be rated pretty highly by that team based on his set of skills relative to another player that may fit better in a different style of defense.'

Q: [On comparing Dewayne Robertson and Jimmy Kennedy having similar skill sets]

BB: Well, I think they are different. As I said, I don't think they all would do anything the same way.

Q: Will it fit your schemes?

BB: I don't even know if they play the same position. I am not sure that they all do. You would have to evaluate each one on how he would fit into what we would be asking the player at that position to do. To take the Dolphins as an example who primarily use a four man line who almost never has the center covered by a defensive lineman, that's more where Zach Thomas plays, where when you look at our defense we almost always have the center covered or at least shaded in that center/guard gap somewhere. What we would ask a player to do at that spot and what they would ask him to do in that spot, they're not really going to be the same thing. That would be true of virtually any of the players you mentioned. Whether they would fit more inside, more on the center, more on the tackle or wider into the tight end or out in space.

Q: Did any of those guys play over the center in college?

BB: Robertson plays over the center almost every play, he may be offset a little bit but he's over there a lot. [Johnathan] Sullivan plays in there in some situations. Was there somebody else mentioned?

Q: Kevin Williams.

BB: Kevin Williams is almost never in there. He's played wider in his college career.

Q: Kennedy?

BB: Kennedy plays where Williams played. He's usually placed in the three technique out in the guard/tackle area.

Q: How many prospects have you talked to so far?

BB: Well, by rule we are allowed to bring 20 players in to visit here. So, we're pretty close to that number. In terms of going out and seeing people, hundreds. Because you're including scouts, all personnel people, coaches and then that of course includes contacting and seeing all the players at the combines in Indianapolis on an interview type basis. I know those interviews were limited to just the interviews in the room in the combine, but there are other opportunities to talk to players as well. So, there were quite a few.

Q: Have you talked to more players this year than in the previous three years?

BB: Are you talking about me or organizationally?

Q: Organizationally.

BB: No. Not intentionally or unintentionally. I don't know what the number is, it might be higher, it might be lower, but it's not a conscience effort to…I mean, any player that we are interested in, we talk to him. If that is 300, it's 300. If it's 250, it's 250. If it's 350, it's 350. We're not going to only talk to so many guys. Basically, scouts come in and recommend players. They put a grade on them and we follow up on it. Other scouts or other people look at them, the more you see of them, the more you like them, the more time you want to spend with them. When you see that a player looks like he's not going to really fit into your system or have the value that you are looking for, then it's far more productive to put your time into somebody else. Sometimes, that's obviously sooner. Sometimes it's not obviously until later. Sometimes it isn't obviously until you cut the guy two years after you've had him.

Q: Considering this is obviously an inexact science, when you and your people have talked about this draft and about where you are and where you expect to be, are you looking to come out with a certain number of players that can contribute immediately? A certain number of role players that can give you depth? How are you looking at this as a whole in terms of what you can expect this year?

BB: Well, I think to try to maximize each pick, to try to do the best we can with each opportunity we get, whatever that is. I don't think we can sit here and say, 'Well, we're 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. Sometimes, some picks will have an affect on … If you're picking a quarterback and a receiver and a tight end on your first three picks, maybe you're not taking those positions with later picks. I'm not saying that there isn't some team management involved there, but I don't think we can sit here and say, 'Well, this is what we're going to do.' And as we 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.

Q: Are there potential impact players in this draft that can, in your mind if things break right, contribute right away?

BB: I think that there are a number of players that potentially could contribute, sure. But, as we look every year and evaluate at the end of the season how many rookies are big contributors on their teams, and let's just take the first round, it's not all that many. A lot of those players end up being contributors, but not necessarily in their first year. And some do. Sometimes that's due to need, sometimes it's due to outstanding performance. I think it's really tough to sit here and say, 'Well, this guy's going to come in and here's what he's going to be able to do.' There's an adjustment process between the level that they're playing at now and the level they're playing at this fall.

Q: What criteria would a player have to fill in order to make you want to trade up to get him? Would he have to make a big contribution?

BB: It's more value. I think it's more value. When you stack your board, you're going to look vertically … The way we do it, we look vertically by positions. Here's all the quarterbacks, here's all the tight ends, here's all the running backs. Horizontally across the board, you try to get some kind of value of … This cornerback and this guard, and this linebacker and this tight end would have about the same value. They'd come in and they'd be role players for us. They're never going to be starters. Or whatever their value is. And so when you're sitting there trying to make your picks, you may be looking at three or four guys and they're all kind of about the same. You're five or six picks away and whichever one of these guys we end up with, we take them in this order, but we could live with any of them. But sometimes you're sitting there and you have three or four guys in that category and you have one guy that you feel like is sitting up there and is significantly higher and you're not saying, 'Well, he's just going to come in and be a role player and he'll never be a starter.' You're saying, 'Well, this guy could come in and he's going to be a starter for us, now it might take a year and he has a little developing he has to do, but we feel like this guy can come in and he can be a starter for us.' That's when you sit there and think about, 'Alright, do we want to try to jump up and get this guy if we don't think he's going to fall to us and give up whatever we have to give up to move up and get him, or do we want to stay here and hope he's on the board – he probably won't be – and we'll end up with one of these other guys.' It just comes down to draft management. Sometimes you try to trade up and get him and nobody wants to trade with you and you sit there and let it come to you. But that's basically the process. I don't think you sit there and say, 'Well, we're only going to trade up if we think the guy's going to be an impact player or we're only going to trade up if the guy's going to be a starter or whatever.' We've traded up in the fourth round, fifth round, down in the fifth round, sixth round, so I don't think when you're picking in the sixth round you're really thinking, 'This guy's going to be an impact player.' We would have picked him in the second.

Q: You have multiple picks in nearly every round, but only one in the second. Is the second round the toughest round to move into? It seems like there are still good players on the board that can make contributions and the price tag's less. It seems like people don't want to give up those second round picks.

BB: I think there's something to be said for the second round picks in terms of value. On your salary cap, in terms of your salary structure, you're paying a significantly lower price in the second round than you are in the first. So, if your determination is that you're picking in the 20s and you can get pretty much the same player in the 40s as you're getting in the 20s, financially there's a big contractual gain to be made by picking in the second round. On the other hand, let's face it, there's a reason why a guy would go in the second round instead of the first round. I think if you look at the Hall of Fame and the All-Pro teams and things like that, you're going to see more guys from the first round than the second. There are probably more guys from the second that the fifth. Not that there won't be some everywhere. But there's certainly some monetary savings outside of the first round. There's actually some monetary savings within the first round, from the top of the round to the bottom as well. But, when you do that you're at the mercy of the people picking in front of you. You don't have control over who it is you're going to take. You have to wait and take what's left over.

Q: Aside from the unpredictability of it all, what have you learned from previous drafts?

BB: I'd say some of the biggest things would be, number one, to evaluate the player based on your team. We can't worry about what the rest of the league thinks about him. We can't worry about whether the guy's 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. Sometimes you end up accumulating talent and it just doesn't fit on your team so you really can't utilize it. We're certainly at peace with recognizing, 'Hey, this guy's going to go in the first round and he's probably going to be a good player in the league, but we just don't think that would really happen on our team and in our system because we'd have to change too many other things and that would screw up what else is in place.' So that's one thing. I think patience is another. Everybody's 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.

Q: Are you laying the groundwork now at all, before the draft, with other teams regarding the top 10 picks?

BB: I haven't honestly … I've talked to a couple of teams very casually, but nothing in any kind of specific terms. I think that that's the kind of thing that's more the day or two days before the draft. Very rarely do you see trades made prior to the draft. Most of them occur on draft day. When I was in Cleveland, I made a trade with Dallas with Jimmy Johnson where he moved up in the second round (they were of course picking at the bottom of the round) and we dropped back and it was maybe Thursday before the draft. But that was pretty unusual. I was comfortable with it and I know Jimmy was too because you could go into the draft and plan, 'Okay, we're picking here, we're going to be picking here and this is our maneuverability and here's what we have to work with.' It was different versus doing it on draft day where all that happens at a quicker pace. But, that's more the exception than the rule. You just don't see it very often when teams want to move prior to the draft. Everybody wants to kind of see what's there and take a look before they decide to make a move. So, most of that talk, maybe 90 percent of it ends up being very preliminary and it all ends up coming down on draft day.

Q: Say if for instance you wanted to see if you could get up into the top five. Would you make some calls the week of the draft?

BB: Right, you can do that, but again normally what happens is, 'Yeah, we'll think about it and we'll call you back.' Then you get to draft day and then, 'What you're offering may or may not be good enough.' It will depend on what somebody else is offering if there's more than one bidder on the spot. But, at this point, particularly in this draft, moving up to, let's say five, the real question is, 'For who? Who are you moving up for? Carson Palmer? Do we want to move up for him?' You get up there and then you're there and then you're moving out. '[Byron] Leftwich? Who are we going for?' If you're going for somebody and then the guy goes ahead of you, then what? My experience is that when you trade in the first round, you're trading for a player. You're moving up for a specific player and probably the rest of the league has a pretty good idea of who you're moving up for. If you're trading in the fourth or fifth round, you're not trading for a specific player, you're trading because he's the last guy or the best guy on your board, but he obviously isn't that high with anybody else or he would have gone two rounds ahead of that. So, the trading later in the draft is much more predictable. At the top of the draft, when you're looking for a specific guy, some teams will give up a lot to get a certain guy, other teams … I kind of go back to the '91 draft when I was in Cleveland, for Russell Maryland. To trade up to the first spot to take Russell Maryland wasn't that expensive of a trade. It really wasn't for Dallas. If you're trading up to take John Elway, it's going to be this year's [number] one, next year's [number] one, and the [number] one four years after that, too. That's probably a good trade. But, you know who you're getting and that's a big difference.

Q: How much time do you spend evaluating other teams' needs?

BB: We're definitely aware of that and it certainly changes through the draft, but we're definitely aware of what we think are each team's needs. We list them or rank them. 'Here's their top three needs.' We go to the second round and probably one of those needs has been scratched off. We see the teams that are picking ahead of us and we think, 'Okay, this team took an offensive guy in the first round. We know they're going to take a defensive guy in the second round and it's going to be a linebacker or a lineman.' If that's what you're after, then that's when you think about, 'Do we want to try to get ahead of this team?' So, that definitely plays into it. I think it's a little bit more of a draft day strategy. Again, only if you're picking real high in the draft, if you're picking three or four then you've only got a couple of teams ahead of you and you've got a pretty good idea of what they're after. Similar to our '01 draft when we were picking sixth and even though there's only five teams ahead of you, you still don't know what's going to happen. We weren't sure if [Richard] Seymour was going to be there. But, you can start putting certain teams with certain players at that point. When you're at 14 or 19, there's a lot of moving parts there in front of you. Teams will move up and jump in front of you and move around and then those names change anyway.

Q: When you drafted Tom Brady in the sixth round, was that good science or good luck?

BB: I think that in picking Tom, we picked a lot of traits that he had that we liked. Obviously, if we knew he'd turn out as well as he has, we should have taken him in the second round. But, he had a lot of traits that we liked and Tom had improved a lot since the day we drafted him. So, some of it's putting your chips on the right number and some of it is a lot of improvement by the player and an opportunity, which he received, but frankly, when we drafted him nobody really saw that opportunity coming, including us and including Brady. Some of it's luck and some of it's placing your money on guys that have things going for them that have a chance to work out.

Q: Do you expect anything free agency-wise between now and the draft? Specifically with Jermaine Haley, who you'd need to sign to an offer sheet by Friday, and Oronde Gadsden, who was for a workout? Can you talk about those two guys specifically?

BB: Well, you know that I don't like to talk about specific players. I think it's possible that there could be something in free agency between now and the draft. I don't think there's a real high percentage of it, for the obvious reasons that a lot of the players at this point and a lot of the teams at this point, because it's this close to the draft, feel like they might as well wait another week and see what's going on. So, if you're a team that's talking to receivers and you draft a receiver in the first round, maybe that affects how he feels about you, maybe that affects how you feel about him. So, I'm not ruling it out, but I don't think those are the kind of signings that you see a lot of. Frankly, you're a lot more likely to see those the day after the draft, when you haven't taken a player at a position and a veteran free agent jumps in there and says, 'This may be a good opportunity for me.' With the restricted guys, we have until Friday. At this point, I don't really see it happening with Haley. Sometimes those things change in a hurry, so we're not going to say, 'Don't write it,' but I'd hold the presses for right now. I don't think it's going to happen immediately.

Q: Would you consider taking a defensive lineman at number 19 even if you had already taken one at number 14?

BB: I think a lot of that would depend on who and who. I think it's possible. I don't know if it's likely, but it's certainly possible. I wouldn't rule it out. I guess it would really depend on who they are. If the right guys are there, we could turn in those cards. There are certainly other positions we're going to be interested in, so if the value's better somewhere else, then we'd take it somewhere else.

Q: Would you say that defensive line and cornerback are your two top needs?

BB: I think when we come out of this draft, we want to feel good about whatever players we take on the first day. I really do. I don't think we want to sit here and say, 'Okay, we got a guard, a corner and a linebacker and a nose tackle because that's what we wanted.' I think we want to come out of it feeling like these players are going to come in and they're going to help us whether they help us today, whether they help us halfway through the season, whether they help us next year when they have a little time to develop. We want to feel good about the players we've picked and I think that's the most important thing. Last year, we felt good about [Deion] Branch when we took him. It was a good feeling when we took Branch, and I think there still is a good feeling. I think that's the feeling that you want to have, not, 'Well, we got a safety because we needed a safety.' I think you want to feel like the player is going to fit your system, he's your kind of guy in terms of his mental makeup and his work ethic and football being important to him and all of that. I think those are the things that you really want to feel good about coming out of the draft.

Q: How's Tom Brady's shoulder?

BB: Tom's throwing and I think he's doing good.

BB: Thanks, everyone. Happy Easter.

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