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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Tue Apr 23 - 02:00 PM | Wed Apr 24 - 11:55 AM

Bill Belichick Press Conf.

Foxboro Stadium, Foxborough, MABill Belichick speaks to the press.



            **B:** We made a couple of roster moves yesterday but Tony (Gaiter) wasn't one of them. Chris (Eitzmann) got hurt in practice Wednesday and after the doctors looked at him and all it looks like it is going to be awhile so he is on injured reserve. We released (Maugaula) Tuitele to bring in (Marc) Megna so that really puts us now at one under. So I am sure at some point here we will get that cleaned up, but that's where we are for right now. I would expect that Marc would give us some plays in the kicking game this week and we will see if we can get him ready to do that on short notice. Obviously this is an opportunity for (Jermaine) Wiggins, one that we didn't know about. There is no way to forecast this kind of thing we are just kind of fortunate that he is here and will be able to, hopefully, take Chris's spot and it will be a good opportunity for him to play sooner than later.  

Q: Can you talk about Megna as a player?

B: He played nose tackle in college and played inside linebacker his rookie year at the Jets. Then this year he worked mainly as an outside linebacker. I thought that he had made good progress through camp, played in the World League last year and got more experience at outside linebacker. We just weren't able to keep spots for everybody, but we are a little thinner at the position now then we were in August and it really wasn't anything negative with Marc it was just more positive with other players at that point in time. Marc is a smart player, he has a real good work ethic, he's a tough player and he has a good special teams mentality and we can use that.

Q: When a guy goes to NFL Europe how much impact do you have on what position they play?

B: You have a pretty good, if a team doesn't want to play him there then we try to send him to another team. I mean if you send a defensive back over there and you want to play him at safety and they said, 'No we are going to use him at corner', then you go to the next team and say, 'Will you play him at safety?'

Q: Is he going to work outside here with (Olrick) Johnson and (Rob) Holmberg being inside?

B: Yes Rob and Olrick have been playing inside, Ted (Johnson) whenever he is able to play. Yes that's what Mark did in camp and we'll continue to do that.

Q: How is Ted Johnson?

B: He has done a little bit more in practice this week, trying not to overdue it, we will just see where we are as we get closer to the game. It is more likely that he could play this week than last week I'd say, but I don't think we will know for sure until probably Monday.

Q: What about Troy Brown?

B: Troy didn't practice yesterday. I talked to him this morning he is definitely feeling better, but he still hasn't done anything. Until he can open up and run on it, I mean at his position he has got to be able to open up and run. It is probably going to come down to Monday too.

Q: Is he one of those that you can play without him having practiced?

B: I don't know we will see what he can do later on in the week. Hopefully he will be able to get some turns in if he is going to have an opportunity to play.

Q: When Megna was let go were you sorry to see him go and had you tried since then to bring him back here?

B: Yes we tried to bring him back about maybe two or three weeks ago. We contacted him about signing him, I forget what happened I guess it was probably when (Matt) Chatham was injured, somewhere back in there and I think he was interested in doing that. Then when he talked to the Bengals about it then the Bengals brought him up that week and he played for them that week. I want to say it was the week prior to our Cincinnati game. Yes he played the week previously when Cincinnati played, I forget who they played the week before the played us, but anyway it was back in there. He went from the practice squad to the Cincinnati regular roster and then they released him. I guess they waived him Tuesday or Wednesday, Wednesday.

Q: Are you looking at anybody on the waiver wire right now, any specific position?

B: There isn't really much there. We released Tuitele not knowing the Eitzmann situation was going to keep him out longer than we first anticipated. Had we known that Eitzmann was going to go on injured reserve just the way the events sequenced that is the way it fell. Had we known that he was going to be on injured reserve then we could have just made a move with Chris for Marc, but we made the move with Ula (Maugaula Tuitele) and then we really found out last night that Chris is going to be out a little bit longer than we thought it was initially going to be.

Q: So this is the prefect opportunity to bring Tony Gaiter up?

B: We have an extra spot.

Q: I was just kidding.

B: No we have talked about the practice squad players if we bring one up, I mean we are going to have to inactivate eight players prior to the game anyway, so whether we bring one up and inactivate them or don't bring one up I mean certainly if there was one somebody that could help us we would bring them up. That's where we are.

Q: Did you talk to Drew (Bledsoe) this morning and how did he respond to practice yesterday?

B: No I didn't ask him. I mean I talked to him, but we didn't talk about it.

Q: So is everything all systems go?

B: I think it is what it is. I think it is a little bit better with some time, less than a hundred percent, but at least as good as it has been in the last three games maybe a little bit better.

Q: Have you had any conversations with Drew at all about why does he play at this point or maybe he should just let it go for the season so he can heal?

B: Have we talked about him playing? Sure we talk about it a lot. We talked about it when it happened, we talked about it subsequently. Yes I mean we have talked about it pretty much every week.

Q: He just wants to keep playing that's his mindset?

B: Yes if he can play. I mean you can talk to him about it I don't want to speak for him, but sure.

Q: Would you ever encourage him to maybe take the last few games and just let it rest and heal?

B: It would depend on the injury, but if it was an injury that you could do more damage to or it is some type of threatening injury, yes that's one thing, but I mean look when you look out on the field Monday night you are going to see a lot of players out there that are less than one hundred percent. This is the thirteenth week of the regular season there has been a lot of football played. A lot of guys have got hit. There are going to be a lot of players out there on both teams playing that are less than 100 percent and (Elvis) Grbac will be one of them too. So will our quarterback, that's football in the thirteenth week of the regular season. I don't think you are seeing any different on our team or any other team. There are a lot of bumps and bruises at this point.

Q: Can I ask another philosophical salary cap question?

B: Again there isn't much to talk about right now. Eitzmann going on injured reserve is not really going to dramatically change our salary cap situation.

Q: I have heard you say a few times here that your salary cap situation is going to be tight for another year and then maybe in the next year it may open up?

B: Let me just clarify that for a second, looking forward to not this coming year the 2001 calendar year, but the 2002 calendar year there are still a lot of unanswered questions there number one being what is the cap? Some projections of the cap in 2002, there is quite a bit of spread there so whether our situation dramatically improves or whether the cap itself rises…

Q: It is going to 68 next year roughly…

B: Okay but in the following year I don't know if we really have any idea what the cap is going to be. I have seen projections that have gone…

Q: Down?

B: No, but I mean the spread has been probably $10 million. So I mean if the cap is $90 million in 2002 then I am not going to sit here and say I think we would have trouble in 2002 being under the cap, I don't know what the cap is going to be. My sense of it is, looking toward the 2002 season that things will ease at that point.



            **Q: My question is this, if you cut a bunch of guys you will have room next year, but you still have money left over on the cap for these guys, guys that have two years left you would have to take an acceleration for next year, philosophically is that tough to do to cut a guy and still have a salary cap hit for him on the cap it is like you pay them for nothing and then you have to go out and get another player to replace them, is that a hard for teams to do?**  

B: Let me answer it this way, there are a number of different scenarios that you bring up I will just take you through a couple of them, we will just use round numbers. Say the guy paragraph five he is make a million dollars and if this is the last year of his contract and you release that player then you would pick up the million dollars on your cap, regardless of what the signing bonus acceleration is that is already in the bank anyway. If the player had multiple years on his contract, say he is making a million dollars this year, but he has got two years left and there would be let's say $500,000 of pro-ration for that player. If you release the player now and took in the million dollars of pro-ration your salary cap picture for today would look exactly the same and you would be without the player so somebody would have to replace, assuming that you want to replace the player you would then have to go out and sign somebody else whoever it is to take that spot. Let's say you sign them for $500,000 so you would lose $500,000 on the cap and you would exchange whatever those two players were that you exchanged.

Q: You have guys that would save you two million, but would cost you a million?

B: If the player has years left on his contract, depending on what the original signing bonus was that acceleration could actually cost more than what the player is currently making, it could come to less. For example in the Bruce Armstrong case last year his acceleration and the cap hit that we took on that was less than the salary that he was making at that point so there was a net gain in terms of dollars on your cap and the player obviously was removed from the roster. So each case is a little different, but I think, certainly every team is at there cap. If they are maxed out their cap, you could always theoretically take one player release him and get under the cap, but as a coach you are always thinking, 'Sure we could get rid of that player, now who plays there?' Then to just turn around and re-sign the same player or an equivalent player it would cost you about the same amount of money then I don't think you are really gaining a lot of ground, but obviously if you could replace a player who is making a million dollars with a player who is making $500,000 and get the same performance and all of the intangibles or whatever the other package is then you look at that and say, 'Okay that's got some merit.'

Q: Doesn't it bother you to have players who aren't on the team who still count against the cap? Next year if you are going to cut a couple of guys after the season obviously they are going to count against the cap. Do you want to limit the amount of those guys?

B: Once the signing bonus has been paid that money is going to count against you sooner or later. So if a player was paid a signing bonus in 1998, let's just say he was paid a $2 million signing bonus in 1998 then you have $500,000 in 1998, $500,000 in 1999, $500,000 in 2000 and $500,000 in 2001. Whether you take that whole hit in the year 2000 or spread it between $500,000 and $500,000 you are paying it either way. So it doesn't really matter, I don't think it really matters whether you pay it this year or next year, in some sense it is just better to get ahead and get it out of the way and then you don't have to worry about it down the line. On the other hand if you really can't afford to take it all now then and sometimes that is what happens on the June 1st cuts is you wait to June 1st so that you can push it into the following year when you are going to make some other moves to try to accommodate that move. So I am saying in the long run it really doesn't make any difference from a cap standpoint when you do it unless there is a real immediate issue that you just can't afford the hit and you want it pushed into next year, but the Steve Young cases and things like that, John Elway, those teams that got hit for four or five million bucks. If you do it on June 1st you just bump it into the next year, if you do it on May 30th you eat it all this year and you are done with it, that's the decision.

Q: Does that make guys who have only one year left on their contract more cutable if they are at that level?

B: It is really the same thing though the money is the same.

Q: Right but you don't have to worry about any future hits, it would only be that year June 1st or regardless, you wouldn't have to worry about any additional accelerations?

B: If a player had more years on a contract there is the acceleration coming forward I am with you there, but in the long run it doesn't make any difference. If you look at two years instead of one you are still going to pay that.

Q: Sure, but if you are planning and I know you talk about a plan in terms of managing the cap, but if he has three years left and it accelerates all to one that effects you more for the current season.

B: No question, but you can't get away from that money so you either take it all at once or you just have that much less to work with in years two and three and that's your choice, you clearly have that choice.

Q: That is why the draft becomes so important to you because you have to find players that are cheap basically?

B: Yes, I mean the draft economically those players for what you play them on practically every team are probably your best value through the life of the first four years of the contract. Once the hit the unrestricted year in five then basically you are paying market value, whatever the guy can get on the market either you pay it or somebody else pays it and that's what he gets.

Q: I guess my whole point is looking at your guys schedule you could have considerable savings for next year and a lot of room under the cap if you cut a bunch of guys the downside I can see is that you are still going to have those accelerations on your cap for next year, but it is still going to be less?

B: Well I disagree because the length of the contract that some of our players are under. I mean there are several players whose contracts extend out for several years. If you were to release those players and rid yourself of the paragraph five salary the acceleration would wipe that out so you are net zero.

Q: I am not talking about those players.

B: Okay then who are we talking about?

Q: Guys who fall in a similar category as (Todd) Rucci, (Chris) Slade, (Max) Lane, (Henry) Thomas, (John) Friesz?

B: Again anytime you release a player you gain that paragraph five salary the question is…

Q: (Chris) Slade is a perfect example.

B: I don't want to talk about a specific guy, but I am just saying conceptually if you release a starting player who is making a fairly substantial salary it is going to effect you. If you release that player you pick up that money no question about it. Organizationally as a coach somebody has got to play. So you can get rid of that guy and here is your money, now what are you going to do with that money? Well whatever position that guy played if you would want him to play for you then that now goes on your need list. I have just released player X I know need this position because that guy is no longer there and that is really what you are talking about, that is the heart of it right there. To me before you want to say, 'Let's just get rid of these guys and we will pick up $3 million dollars or whatever the number is.' Okay then what, who plays there and what does it cost to go out there and find somebody to play that position as well? It might cost you more than what you are paying them. Now if you think a guy can't contribute anymore for whatever the reasons whether it is age, injury, you are just moving on, doesn't fit the system whatever then that is different. Then you release the player and he is not in your plans anyway, but that is a totally different scenario from a player who is a contributor, if he is on your team he is going to play, he is going to contribute to your team. Once you lose that player than somebody has to pick up those contributions. Either you feel like you have a young player that can step in and do it and I think that is why you see a lot of releases, kind of like what we did last year in the offseason, as we brought players onto the team we released other players from the roster. Okay if you are going to go out and sign Troy Brown or Tedy Bruschi who even though they were here last year they are still out in the market and we didn't have any rights to them so if you are going to sign Tedy Bruschi then you cut Vernon Crawford that is part of the equation there. That's how you would manage it. Or if you are going to sign whoever the players were right down the line.

Q: You know have guys that I guess you would want to re-sign whose contracts are about up anyhow?

B: Yes I think you are going to have that every year, yes every year. We had guys last year nobody wanted to get rid of some of those players, but you can only see so many and part of it is the way that the team was structured there wasn't that many options. Sometimes you have more options, sometimes you have fewer I mean that is just the way is. So all I am saying is once you get into the salary cap year in March and April I think then it is a lot easier to make a decision, 'Okay we can release this player' or who? 'We can get this guy and he can do what he is doing for less money, or he is younger', or whatever the variables are. 'Okay then that is something that makes sense for us so we will do it.

Q: Because of the cap and the way it works a lot of teams seem to go out and try to make their run and they know they are going to pay for it down the line, arguably San Francisco falls into that category. They try to make the run and it doesn't work out and then you are kind of screwed and you have to start over. Is it a situation here where you have to clean up what is here so you can make a run? So it is consistent so you never get to the point where you have to clean it up again?

B: In the long run, sure that is your goal in the long run. I mean you are talking as a long-term program that is definitely what our goal is to be competitive, to be right there every year, not to be up one year and down the next. So we are not looking to spike and then valley, and again this is not really my number one field, but from a cap standpoint you can borrow for a period of time, but at some point when you keep pushing that money back and back and back you just can't borrow anymore because you have to have so many players on your roster. A certain number of those players take up a certain amount of cap space and if you just keep pushing it back, back, back then basically in three years, but at the most four you are going to have to start releasing players off the top of that borrowing to be able to fit your team in there and I think that is what you have seen from a lot of those teams. Some teams are in the middle of that four-year cycle, some teams have already hit the end of, some teams aren't in it at all and some teams don't borrow every year for four years. They might go and borrow big for one year and then back off for a couple of years and let it average out. That is a little bit an organizational opportunity and also your opportunity. If you want a certain type of player and this is the year he is available and you have to go do it because you don't think he is going to be out there next year or the year after then you pretty much don't have any choice.

Q: Is it worth it if you win and then after go into the valley for a couple of years?

B: I think that is each organization's decision. I really do. I think some would say yes and there are probably others that would say no. Long-term that is not really what are objective is to go out and have one good year and then surround that with years that aren't as good. We want to try to get to a high level and maintain it annually and that is where we are headed.

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