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Bill Belichick Press Conf.

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



            **B:** A couple of updates, first of all on Max Lane. Max is going to have surgery this morning. He has a small fracture in his upper leg around the knee or whatever so we will put him on the injured reserve and he will be out for the year. This is something that should be okay once it heals but he's out of commission now. Other than that not other serious injuries, some bumps and bruises.  

Q: J.R. (Redmond)?

B: J.R. has sore ribs. I saw him this morning he is better today so we will see how that goes. I am not saying they are not issues, but they are bumps and bruises at this point. On the game itself we missed a lot of opportunities. We obviously didn't play well, we turned the ball over, we didn't create any turnovers on the defensive side of the ball, we didn't tackle very well defensively, and we missed scoring opportunities on offense. We just didn't play the way we needed to play. I am the coach so it is my responsibility I'll take it. I think at this point at being 2-8 we had a long meeting last night and we spent more time on it this morning, we are going to take all the steps that we can as a staff and as an organization to improve our performance. It is as simple as that. I was disappointed to play the way that we did yesterday and we just have too many games under our belt now to see it for anything other than what it is which is we are just not performing well enough. We need to perform better and that's what we are going to do. We are going to work harder to improve our performance and that's all I can say about it.

Q: What did you hope to accomplish warming Drew (Bledsoe) in the locker room, what was your thinking in terms of doing it that way instead of being on the field?

B: It wasn't a question of where it was just a question of seeing Drew throw before the game. We have seen him throw in practice. We gave it a little extra rest from Friday to Sunday and got in the locker room and saw how much space we had there and decided that once he got warmed up to go ahead and do it there. He threw enough for all of us to see that he was going to be able to throw the ball. I don't think that going outside and throwing those same passes would have made any difference.

Q: Based on what you saw from Drew yesterday and the condition of his thumb will you continue to make him the starter for this week?

B: Sure. He was fifteen for twenty in the second half.

Q: Did he have any residual effects on the thumb from playing?

B: No I talked to him this morning and asked him if there was any change and he didn't indicate that there was.

Q: Do you think he is throwing a little differently, a little more to the side?

B: No I really didn't and I watched him during the week even prior to even getting to the game and pregame and I couldn't detect any difference.

Q: Robert Edwards was in here a little while ago and he seemed like a pretty determined young man what is your take on that? Do you think he has a place and a future, are you going to give him a chance to workout?

B: Of course it is very encouraging for Robert and all of us that he has made the recovery that he has from a very serious injury. Right now his status on the team is one of an inactive player or reserved player I should say. He is unavailable to participate with the team this year for the 2000 season other than to rehabilitate the injury. The fact that he is back here and will be working with the strength coach and the trainers and so forth I think it will an inspiration to all of us. The real determination on Robert's football career with the Patriots won't come until sometime in 2001 when he can actually start participating in football activities. That determination will be made at some later point in time. There is really no decision to make now. We couldn't do anything even if we wanted to. That is where we are at.

Q: You mentioned that the tackling wasn't that good in some instances was it technique or desire?

B: We didn't do a good job of wrapping up the runners and we got stiff armed a couple of times and a couple of times we just didn't wrap our arms around them and a good solid hit, but (Jamel) White runs with good balance. (Travis) Prentice is running hard and we just didn't finish up and didn't finish the tackles. That's really a technique thing. Also there were a couple of times where we should have had a little tighter fit on the play which would have put more people closer to the ball. My experience has been that anytime in this league, pretty much anytime that you go against an NFL running back you are going to have mistackles. The real issue is what happens after those mistackles. If you have three or four guys that are pretty close and somebody takes a shot at him and misses him and there are two or three other guys right there. Nobody really even notices that because you say, 'Well so and so took a shot at him but two other guys were right there and he is just trying to force the issue and all of that.' Those kind of things are going to happen, they are part of the game. The more space you create for the runner the more damage those mistackles are going to case because they are going to gain more yards after that happens and that is what you are really trying to prevent. Part of it was just we didn't tackle them and part of it was also the amount of space that was created made those mistackles more magnified than what they would usually be. We have mistackles in every game and unfortunately we are probably going to miss some more throughout the year just like everybody else is, but you want to keep that yardage to a minimum, keep the mistackles to a minimum, but at some point they are going to occur.

Q: You talked about having the meeting this morning and the long meeting last night what are some of the things, what we be manifested in the last six weeks that you want to do that you don't think has been done to this point, things to recharge you?

B: I think that we as a staff have to assess where our football team is right now and take a look at what the options are and have a plan to improve it. I think that is something that is above anything else right now. Above game planning, above personnel decisions, above anything else. It is about finding a way to improve out performance as a team, coaching, playing, collectively and I think it involves everybody that's a part of it. All of the coaches, all of the players, I think we all need to find a way to be more productive that doesn't exclude anybody.

Q: Were all facets of the organization represented at that meeting, did that include players?

B: No it was the coaching staff.

Q: How is this assessment different from the one that you did heading into the bye week?

B: I think it is similar, it is a carryover from that. I think it is a follow-up. It is three more weeks, two more games so some more things have come out. There is more evidence to evaluate and I am sure some of the conversation is going to be the same it is just going to be a carryover and I think some of the things that we did in the bye week worked positively, maybe others haven't had as much production and we either need to devote more time to that or maybe try to find another method to improve the production. We are certainly not satisfied with the way it is going now, the way we are playing particularly yesterday's game and we are going to work hard to improve it that's all I can say.



            **Q: Has Michael Bishop had a couple of bad weeks of practice?**  

B: The situation this week was unique because of our starting quarterbacks status and what events had the potential to transpire in the game maybe more likely than in any other game and so those circumstances were a little bit unique and they factored into the decision. We have given all of the quarterbacks a lot more work the last three weeks since the bye week. Part of it was because of the bye week, part of it was because Drew missed a day of practice when his wife was having a baby, part of it was last week when he couldn't throw. Those are just a sequence of events that nobody really had any planning on it just turned out that way. Based on that evidence and also on all the opportunities that all the players have had from training camp all the way through ten regular season games, as a coach you always try to make the decisions based on what you have seen and what is available to you and try to do what you think is best for the team you have to take a lot of things into consideration. So now it wasn't just one week of practice it was a variety of things that came into play.

Q: Can you get specific what is it that he needs to show you, what he needs to improve on to move up on the depth chart?

B: I have said from day one that the order of the quarterbacks could change and it has. Each week there are different factors that enter into the decision. Last week's factors included Drew's availability both for the game and also into the game. Nobody knew going into the game whether his thumb might be a problem. We certainly didn't that in any other game, this week it was a little bit different. I am just saying those things entered into it. Each week has it's own series of events. The best thing that any player can do is perform when he has the opportunity to perform in practice or in games. That is what's best for every player is to have a good performance. So any player that wants to establish a bigger role for himself or more opportunity or however you want to characterize it the absolute best thing for that player is to perform well. Honestly as a coach I think that those things are not really in a coaches control. To me it is easy I have always said to the players, 'We'll put you out on the field and let you play you guys are going to decide who plays not me.' It is usually not really a coaching decision it is a performance decision. The guys who perform the best given the circumstances, and the circumstances do change, so different strengths and weaknesses come into play, but we just have to take everything into consideration in this game and it was that if we got to the third quarterback Tom (Brady) would be the best guy to be in that role based on what we have seen.

Q: Based on what he has done in practice?

B: Based on the way he performed and based on what Tom has been able to do with the opportunities he has had.

Q: I know you have addressed this before, but Bishop does have the knowledge of the playbook?

B: Sure, yes.

Q: He can run the plays?

B: He has done that. He started in preseason and played significantly in preseason. Everybody saw those games. That was our offense.

Q: You must hear of all of the support he has among fans and media etc, what do you think of it all?

B: I think that there is always going to be opinions about quarterbacks. There is only one quarterback that is in play unless you want to rotate them or get into some kind of multiple quarterback system and then that is a pretty controversial subject to, but let's put that aside for a minute. Everybody has got opinions about their quarterbacks and that's the way it is. I will go back to the story, I haven't seen it first hand in a lot of ways, but I go back to 1990 when I was with the Giants and we were 10-0, 10-0. We went down to Philadelphia and got beat and they had a good football team, but we got beat. We were 10-1 and Phil Simms stinks and we are 10-1. I looked at Phil and I said, 'You have got to be kidding me?' The defense stunk to you know 10-1 because we got beat down there and the defense stunk too, but that's how it is I understand that. Everybody has got an opinion, there are a lot of people that have a big interest in the team and they have opinions about it and that's great, that's why pro football is as great as it is. Fans are attracted to it so there is always going to be that at the quarterback spot.

Q: Is he someone that you think will be on this team for the long-term, is he someone that you want to build with in the future?

B: If he performs better than the people that he is competing with he will, if he doesn't he probably won't. That's true of everybody. I wouldn't single any player out in that category in this game you are measured by your performance, we all are. That's the way it should be, that's they way it will be.

Q: Has he questioned his position with you?

B: I didn't talk to Michael before the game yesterday Dick (Rehbein) and I will sit down and talk to Michael. It is never easy for a player to be inactive. We didn't make that rule up that's an NFL rule everybody has to abide by it that's what it is, but players prepare, they practice, they work hard, they lift weights, they train and all of that and then to not be able to play is a setback for anybody. Everybody has to deal with it and the main thing we try to do is to tell each player when they are not active is, 'Here's how you can improve this situation for yourself, here are some things that you need to do' and they generally center around performing better when they get an opportunity to perform and 'Here is your next opportunity and here is how you can take advantage of it.' Chris Floyd is a good example of that. Chris was inactive a couple of weeks ago, talked to Chris, Chris made some very significant efforts to improve his special teams performance in practice and then when he got an opportunity in the game he did it in the game too and played well in the kicking game again yesterday, very well. I am just citing that as an example of when that type of thing happens some players they respond to it a certain way then that gives everybody confidence and encouragement. Chris has done an excellent job of responding to that situation and has played well the last couple of weeks in the kicking game.

Q: It is pretty bizarre though that you are 2-8 team, there are only two teams in the league with four quarterbacks and you are one of them and most discussion is on a third string quarterback who has slipped in pecking order don't you get tired of all the questions?

B: I am not saying that anybody has slipped. All I am saying is that, I will say the same thing that I have said John Friesz, Michael Bishop, Tom Brady, Drew Bledsoe they all have strengths as players, they all can do things well if they couldn't they wouldn't be here. Some weeks the situation is a little bit different from others. If there became a point in time where one quarterback of those three emerged where he was in everybody's mind clearly and undeniably the number two quarterback to Bledsoe as Bledsoe has done with the other three then we certainly wouldn't be having this conversation, but at this point John has that role. I don't think that the gap is that significant because there have been times this year where he has been the third quarterback so they have their strengths and we are just trying to manage that position the best we can.



            **Q: What kind of message would it have sent to the rest of the team if Bledsoe had warmed up in the locker room and then sat out? How would they have taken that?**  

B: I don't know you would have to ask the team, but I think they would have taken that as Drew is not able to go out there and play today just like anybody else.

Q: There are guys playing with a lot of bumps and bruises and Drew has a jammed thumb there was a lot of discussion being thrown around that he shouldn't have played?

B: The quarterback position is different from other positions on the team. Any other position the bruised thumb you wouldn't even list the guy on the injury report, but on a quarterbacks throwing hand for that position that is not like a bruised thumb for a guard. I don't think you can equate them at all. A quarterback has to be able to perform certain functions and throwing the ball is obviously at the top of the list. So if the quarterback can't throw the ball then that effects his performance, if the guard can't throw it who cares.

Q: I guess what I am saying is once he shows that he is able to throw the ball it would have been a bad message for everybody else?

B: You would have to ask the other members of the team that, but I have talked to the team about this chapter and verse. 'Look if you are injured during the week and there is any question about your availability to play 100 percent on Sunday here is what we are going to do; we are going to work you Sunday morning or we are going to test you out Sunday morning so that we can see as best we can what your performance level will be for the game because that is all we care about is your performance in the game. If it is a 100 percent great, if it is less than 100 percent than we have to make a decision. Do we want to play you with the limitations that you have at 90m percent or whatever the percentages are I don't know or do we want to play another player who we think will be more effective than you are. That is a coaching decision it is not a player decision. You go out do the best you can, show us what you can do we will make the decision it is out of your hands.' I have told the players that, I have told the team that and that is the way it is, that is the way it has got to be. There are some times when you go into a game and you know the guy is not 100 percent but for whatever the reasons are, the circumstances, the position he plays, what you are asking him to do, you think that he can perform functionally at that level and you know that he has a shortcoming somewhere else and you are going to say, 'Okay we are not going to ask him to do that.' For example say you have a corner that has a bad hamstring and maybe he can't open and run as fast as he would like to be able to run. Maybe you are going to play him in the slot, maybe you are not going to play him on the outside, maybe you know that you are not going to be playing a lot of man-to-man coverage and he is going to be playing short zones and he can function there, then you might decide to play the guy. Same player, same injury, different position, different requirements in the game, you would expect that he is going to have to cover a lot of deep routes you say, 'It looks like you are not going to be able to do it we are going to have to put somebody else out there that can run faster.' There is no pad answer for it, it just depends on what the individual's circumstances are.

Q: As the record has gotten worse have you noticed concentration or focus dwindling and if so do you plan to address that?

B: I plan to address everything that I can that I think effects our performance and certainly anything that I think has effected it negatively. I feel like I have addressed, but I guess I need to re-address it or address it further. Absolutely it will be addressed.

Q: Did you give any thought at all to replacing Drew at halftime?

B: No.

Q: It seemed obvious that he didn't throw the long ball or do certain things?

B: He was fifteen for twenty in the second half I am not going to take Drew Bledsoe out at halftime. He was fifteen for twenty in the second half.

Q: You felt he was capable of throwing the long ball?

B: He was fifteen for twenty in the second half, he took us down the field he gave us a chance to comeback and win the game. I thought he was our best chance to win that's why I left him in there absolutely.

Q: If John had a better game against Buffalo and even a better week of practice would it have made it a tougher decision?

B: Drew is our starting quarterback. If Drew can play and function effectively, which I felt like he could, then he is our quarterback.

Q: Let's take this one step further if Bledsoe was in your opinion up to speed and can play as he can play how does your offense score eleven points against the Cleveland Browns? Somebody had to be doing something wrong?

B: I think when we turn the ball over four times and two of those turnover were totally unforced it wasn't like they did anything to, other than fall on the ball, we left it laying there for them and to turn the ball over a total of four times in the game I think your chances of winning are not very good. That is true with a lot of teams.

Q: Is there the slightest indication that Drew's thumb had anything at all to contribute to the turnovers he was involved in?

B: On those four plays no. One he is throwing a slant pass and the guy bats is down and it falls right down in his arms. There were three or four batted passes in the game by both teams. He gets blinded sided and then the other two fumbles are plays that there wasn't any contact by the defenders the ball just ended up on the ground and they fell on it, so no.

Q: Defensively was their pursuit problems and if there where what were they?

B: More than anything I would say that it was poor angles and poor leverage on the ball. There was a time when (Jamel) White ran over there to the left and had him stopped about five or six yards behind the line of scrimmage, we didn't keep leverage on him and he went all the way across the field for no gain but that should have been a bigger loss. Another play he (Jamel White) started on a draw play we had a shot at him four or five yards in the backfield and he ended up gaining eight or nine yards. Another play he broke up the middle and a couple of guys had a shot at him, but again their angle wasn't, they really didn't take the proper footwork on the play and didn't have a good angle on him so they are diving for him and we missed him and things like that and we didn't leverage. When we say leverage the ball we are talking about taking a position where the ball carrier where you are either going to make the tackle or you are going to force him into where the next man is. If you don't have that angle then he either gets inside or outside of you then there is nobody left out there and it goes to the next level of defender and that's where you end up giving up a lot of yardage.

Q: Are you shocked that you gave up five scoring drives at this point in the season to this team?

B: I think if you look at what happened in the game that is about the way it is going to go. You turn the ball over four times and that led to thirteen points. We had two penalties on defense and back-to-back penalty in the kicking game and those penalties all led to points which they normally do so that's not really surprising to me. Anytime you have defensive penalties and anytime you have offensive turnovers, I am including special team penalties there too because they were coverage penalties we tackle them on the 25 yard-line and then two punts later they are on our thirty. Anytime

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