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Patriots Unfiltered Tue Sep 29 | 11:55 AM - 02:00 PM

Bill Belichick Press Conf.

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            **B:**  You know looking at the Browns team, I spent some time watching them in the off season because it is a team that I'm not familiar with, haven't played them since they re-entered the league last year. You know looking at them now compared to when I looked at them in the off season, over half of their team has changed from the players they had last year. So it is pretty clear that they are involved in a major personnel makeover, maybe that's what you should expect in their second year. The point is that it's a lot of new faces, and a lot of new people. It's a team that we're not very familiar with, and therefore our preparation needs to be a lot more intense than it would be for teams that we've played once or twice a year repetitively and that kind of thing like we've had in all those division games. But I think that the one place I noticed a big change over, and a dramatic improvement is in special teams. I think Cleveland's probably the best special teams unit that we face this year. They have a good kicker, they have a very good punter, of course (Chris) Gardocki is leading the league in net punting and plus-50 and all that, he's doing a good job for them. They cover well. They lead the league in special teams turnovers, and they have two good returners, (David) Patten on kickoff returns and (Dennis) Northcutt on punt returns. Those guys are both very dangerous on offense, but they are both very dangerous in the return game as well. I think that's a real strength that they've built. Marty Moore, Tarek Saleh, those guys are doing a good job covering kicks, so I think that's a real strong unit. Defensively, they've kind of remade their defensive line, bringing in (Keith) McKenzie and drafting (Courtney) Brown and picking up (Orpheus) Roye. That group has done a good job for them. I think they've got more sacks this year than they had all of last year. They put pressure on the quarterback, the linebackers are the same group that played last year. That group is intact, so they have another year of experience and then the secondary is improved. I've coached with (defensive coordinator) Romeo (Crennel) on and off over the last 20 years. I know they're well-coached, you can see that on film. They are well-prepared. They are a disciplined defensive football team, but they're very aggressive. They hawk the ball. They gang-tackle. They're very well-coached, they're a good fundamental team. I think he's done a nice job in improving that unit, and I think that unit has definitely improved from the way they played last year. Offensively, they've added a couple speed receivers in Patten and Northcutt and tight end (Aaron) Shea, so they've got a lot of speed on offense. Guys that turn short plays into long plays. They're explosive. They have a very explosive receiving group including the tight ends. Just looking at the game last year where Kevin Johnson caught a little 5-yard pass and turned it into a 65-yard touchdown, you know that's the type of thing that he's capable of doing and Northcutt and Patten same thing you know offensively and in the kicking game. I think this is an underrated football team that's had maybe a little tough luck along the way, but they're a lot better than they were last year. I know everybody wants to ask about the quarterback situation, I'll tell you what I know which is that you know Drew's (Bledsoe) questionable with his jammed thumb. I know he's doing everything, I've seen him here night and day over the last two days. I know he's doing everything he possibly can to get ready. We just have to see where that takes us. I really don't know, I don't think anybody does. If he can play, if he's able to play, I know he's working hard to be ready, then he'll play. If he can't, he can't. If he can't start then (John) Friesz will. In practice this week, we'll get the other two guys some work too. I think that's just the way it would normally go anyhow. If your starter can't practice and is questionable for the game, then everybody else needs to get a little more work in. Everybody needs to be ready. That's the best thing I can tell you. The decision making process at the quarterback position is no different than it is at any other position, we're going to do what we think gives us the best chance to win. That's based on the evaluation of all the factors that we can take into consideration which includes preparation and practice. To a certain extent, history, you know, what players have historically done. The bottom line is that the player that we think gives us the best chance in whatever position that is then that's the guy we want to put out there. That's the guy we have the most confidence in, so the quarterback position is really no different than any other spot on that.  

Q: If you were in Michael Bishop's shoes, and you played well on Sunday that would be good for your development. If you struggled, maybe that would change your attitude a little and would make you work harder. Doesn't that make playing him a win-win situation?

B: Well, first of all, it's not, this is not a one-day event. We've been playing football for quite a while this year and I think it would be wrong to infer that any player that has been with this team through training camp – I'm not talking about somebody that came in last week – but anybody that's been on this team since training camp or even mini-camp, has been given a lot of opportunity and a lot of snaps be it practice, pre-season, scrimmage situations, regular season, whatever, they've been given a lot of opportunity to produce some type of performance. That includes everybody, I'm not excluding anybody from that other than a couple injured players that couldn't get started until later, but everybody has had an opportunity.

Q: So you're saying that everybody has had an opportunity to show you something?

B: Yeah, well, let's just put somebody out there today and see what they can do. Today is not the first day of practice, we've played pre season games, and again I'm not saying this specifically about any player, I'm just saying in general, guys that are on the practice squad, guys who aren't on the 45-man roster, but are on the 53, or who are on the 45 or some guys have been released or whatever the situation is. Those plays have had a certain amount of opportunity or snaps or playing time however you want to characterize it, to play. Now, when you're the coach of a football team, you can't always do what's absolutely best for every single guy on the team, you have to what's best collectively for the team. The team has to make a certain personal sacrifice, every guy does, you know guy wants to play more man-to-man and the other guy wants to play more zone, you know you've got to play what you think is best to stop the opponent. One guy wants to pass more, one guy wants to run the ball more. One lineman wants to run block more, the other guy wants to pass block more. You can't do what every single guy wants to do, that's just not how, I don't think that's how it works effectively. The run blockers have to pass block a little bit, the pass blockers have got to run block a little bit, the guy who wants the ball has got to clear out or be a decoy sometimes, that's just part of playing football. So, what you try to do as a coach is get your team ready to play and use a game plan and use your personnel the best you can to try to defeat your opponent. You can't just set up a system so that one guy goes out and catches 200 passes a year and you know, but you're not a productive offensive even though one guy reaches all these records. I just don't think you can set it up that way. So, everybody's has got to take their opportunity and take their role in it. As I've been saying the whole way, I try to develop the players, develop a role on special teams or develop a role on offense or defense whatever it is with the opportunities they've got. We're trying to give everybody as much opportunity as we can within the context of making ourselves a better team and trying to win games.

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            **Q:  Does all of the Michael Bishop talk become divisive to the team?**  

B: No, I don't think so. I think every player on the team has certain talents and certain skills. I think every player in the league has that. If they're active in the league on the 53-man roster then every guy has something that has gotten him to this point because it is just too competitive. Every single player brings something to the team on every team. I think you have to respect whatever those skills are. Clearly, everybody has them. I think everybody that's, I would say – I can't think of an example where it wouldn't be the case- I think that's the way it is in the league. I think all players respect other players for what they can do regardless of, even though they might not be starting or they might be inactive or whatever, those players all bring something to the team and to the game on every roster or they wouldn't be there. That goes for everybody. I don't think, everybody wants to play, every body wants to contribute, and that's a good quality for everybody to have, but at the same time, you know as a coach and as an organization you have to do what you feel is best for the football team. To put one person ahead of a team objective, I don't think you're being fair to the team that you represent.

Q: Was Michael Bishop your back-up quarterback against Indianapolis, was that because you wanted to use him in short yardage situations, or was he ready to be back up quarterback? If not, isn't it a little dangerous to have a guy you're not as confident in running the offense?

B: Well, first of all the situation wasn't the same every week in the first nine games of the season or however many it was, eight games of the season. You know, you're not locked into having to do anything the first week and the second week and the third week, I mean it could be anything you want it to be each week. The strengths of Michael Bishop and John Friesz are pretty much their strengths. I think that has changed dramatically from week one to week five to week 10 you know. What they are is what they are at this point. However you want to utilize those types of players in the game, that's how you're going to utilize them. Sometimes when Michael was the third quarterback he was utilized at the end of the game and sometimes when he was the second quarterback he was utilized in the middle part of the game or early part of the game. I don't think that, the only rule is that it restricts you as to how you can utilize that part of the package. Were it to go beyond that then those are hypothetical questions that it would depend on situations and the circumstances that arose when that came up. I just can't answer that, unless there is a specific one that you know like this one.

Q: Did he slip down the depth chart based on his performance this season?

B: His role on the team has pretty much been the same from the Tampa game until the Buffalo game.

Q: If Drew (Bledsoe) was injured earlier in the season when Michael Bishop was the second quarterback, would you feel confident with him in that position?

B: That's a hypothetical question that I can't really answer. It would depend on the – You know what I mean. There's things involved in every situation and every decision and to pull out just one part of it and say, "Well what would happen if this had happened?" Well, I don't know. There's a lot of things to consider in a particular situation when you make a decision. Again, what Michael's strengths are Michael's strengths and John's strengths are John's strengths. I think that there's a point where they both can and have contributed to the team. And that both guys, there are situations where you'd like to have both of them on the field. So, which decision would it be, depends a little bit on what you were looking for at that point and time.

Q: Are you surprised there is a quarterback controversy?

B: Look, this is, I know how important this football team is to New England, I understand the enthusiasm and support for them by the fans. I'm glad there's a lot of interest in the team, I really am, I'm know everybody has an opinion and that's great. There's nothing wrong with that. All I can tell you is, as a coach, what I'm trying to do is take the resources we have available and maximize them every week. I mean, that's my job. I don't expect everybody to agree with every single thing that I do. I'm not trying to sit up here and say everything I'm doing is right because obviously I've made some mistakes I'm sure I'm gonna make some more. But on the other hand, I'm going to take resources that I have and try to do the best I can with them and that includes everybody from the you know, the defensive end to the quarterback to the punt returner to whatever it is. That's what we'll try to do. Does it surprise me that there are other opinions out there? No, not at all. And I respect those opinions. Believe me, any time you have a staff discussion and talk about things you always try to bring up all the points. Either I do it, or somebody else on the staff. You always have, you play Devil's advocate, let's go through this situation, let's go through that scenario, is this really the best thing for us? Okay, and after all is said and done, you look at your options and then you make your decision and then you go full speed with your decision. I think the worst thing you can do is make your decision then just you know not really commit to it and then whatever decision you make is probably the wrong one, because you don't really give it a chance.

Q: Would you remove John (Friesz) as quickly as you would remove Drew (Bledsoe)?

B: I'll say the same thing about Drew or John or anybody else, we're trying to win a football game. Whatever I think will help us win a football game, you know, we'll do. At the beginning of the year everybody was saying that you can't take Bledsoe out of the game to bring in a quarterback of you know, run a short yardage play. We did that against Denver, it helped us win a game in the fourth quarter. We did that. How was Drew going to react? Was he going to be upset and all this and that? Those were all the questions at the beginning of the year, now it is, we'll do whatever we think is best. I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings, I'm not trying to hurt anybody's confidence. Again, I respect all the players on the team, I respect all the 45 players who are active for the game. I think they can all do something that can help us win the game, and I'm not afraid to use them in the game. I'm not afraid to use the guys who are inactive, it is just that we can only have so many guys. Whatever we feel like is the best thing to do, then that's what we're going to do. I know everybody might not agree with that, I hopefully they can accept it and understand what the intent is. Again, be strong with your decision and go forward and try to win, that's what it is all about.

Q: Any feelings about going back to Cleveland?

B: Well, I think the situation in a lot different from when I was the in 1995. I mean, it is a new stadium, it is a whole new organization. I look down the list of players there, and I mean there's no, most of those players are in Baltimore. I mean it was more, when I was here 1996 and we went down to play Baltimore, even though it was in Memorial Stadium, you know a different stadium and all that, there were a lot more familiar faces over there than there will be when we go to Cleveland, including the stadium, I've never been in the stadium. I have no idea what it even looks like there in terms of the layout and the parking lot or anything else. I know the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is probably going to be you know, for a good golfer you could probably hit a good six-iron over there. It might take me two shots. Other than that, I really don't have a sense of how the whole thing is set up. From that standpoint, it was a lot more emotional, even emotional is not the right word, but like when we played the Jets this year, you look across the field and you see guys you spent three years with or in some cases longer than that. Or when we went down to play Baltimore in '96 when I was here at New England, you look across the field and you see guys that you went through a lot with. It is a different feeling when you've been rooting for them to do so well for you for so many years, and now you're rooting for them to do poorly. That really flips it in a hurry. This is a situation where it's been so long since there was really any attachment, and there's very little attachment to the organization which is really changed over, I really don't know many of those people over there.

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            **Q:  Is there any damage to Drew's (Bledsoe) thumb?**  

B: He jammed his thumb, so you tell me what that is. Obviously, the joint in a jammed thumb, the joint has been compressed together. We've all jammed our thumb, I don't know, there must be some kind of damage because it hurts a little bit, and he can't function like say he can on his left thumb where it didn't get jammed, so is it perfect? No. We're looking for, I don't know. Give me a jammed thumb definition.

Q: Has any thing changed with his thumb?

B: It's two days later, so it is somewhat improved. I think if the game was today, he probably wouldn't play, but the game is not today so we'll see how it is as we go forward. I think it is better now, I mean it is better now than it was on Sunday or Monday for sure. How it's going to be on Sunday, I really can't answer that question.

Q: Will he (Drew Bledsoe) throw today?

B: I don't think he's really going to be able to do much based on talking to him last night and this morning. I don't. It's kind of like we talked about we got into some of these leg injuries at the beginning of the year. If the player is really not ready to practice, whatever it is, it could be a leg injury, it could be a knee, it could be a thumb for a quarterback whatever it is, if he is really not ready to go out there on a Wednesday and you go out there and practice him say, "OK look, give it your best shot, see what you can do." Basically what you're asking for is for the guy to re-injure himself and set himself back. I don't think that's really a good thing to do even thought it would be nice to say, "Hey, what can he do?" But you're taking a risk of setting him back two or three, four days, a week in the healing process. So, you want to try until you feel like well if he can go out there and see what he can do, without setting himself back. I think once you reached that point, then the player goes out there and performs at a level he feels comfortable performing at, but not one that's so precarious that he feels like you know, the least little thing can really set this off or re aggravate the injury. So that's kind of the line you walk. Once a guy feels like he can do that then you can put him out for that stage of practice. Until he's at that point though I think you're just asking for more trouble. So I'd say we're getting near that point, whether we'll be there today or not you know, we'll just have to see when we get out there. I know he hasn't tried to throw yesterday, he hasn't tried to throw today, he may go out there and try to pick up a ball and say, "There's no way today." Okay, then we try tomorrow. He may walk out there and say, "Maybe I can lob a couple here." Then maybe we'll lob a couple and see what happens. I really don't know.

Q: Does Drew (Bledsoe) have to practice to play?

B: Well, I think he has to show evidence that he can perform in the game. How that's arrived at we'll have to determine at the end of the week. Again, I really can't answer that question as to how it's determined, but you know, we're definitely not going to walk out there on the field Sunday and wait to get the first snap from center and say, "Well, gee, let's see whether he can do anything." We have to know before that. We'll have to try to set up a situation where that can be determined however we do it. Again, I can't really answer for sure how we're going to do that. Somehow that would need to be established prior to Sunday at 1 PM.

Q: Did the doctors call it a jammed thumb?

B: Every time I get something back from the doctors it could be two or three pages, I read the thing and pick up the phone and say, "Can you explain what this is? Because I don't understand it." I mean it is three pages of stuff. I mean even if I look up all the words, I still wouldn't understand it. I have no idea. I call him up and say, "Just give it to me in English. OK?" He's got a sore a leg, he should be able to practice on Wednesday. OK, that's all I need to know. That's all I need to know. I don't need to know about contramalasha (medical term) and some tendons that might be stretched, but they're not torn, but they could be fragmented, you know, it doesn't really make any difference to me whether they are fragmented or not. It does, but you know, I don't know what a fragmented tendon is, I don't know, it's jammed, that's all I know and that's in English.

Q: Condra-what?

B: I don't know. I just throw them around like I have some idea what they are, but I don't have any idea.

Q: Does the game plan change if he (Drew Bledsoe) can't play?

B: Our game plan is to, is for right now, for today is try to do the things that we know we want to do in the game. After practice today, we'll evaluate where we are and adjust it tomorrow. Then Thursday we'll do the same thing, we'll do some things on Thursday, we'll see where are on Thursday and then adjust it on Thursday based on you know, I mean really it is kind of a weekly process based a little bit on the availability of the players. Also based a little bit on the execution of the team on the things you know we're asking them to do. It is not just an injury decision, it's a decision based on just going out there and practicing and coming in after practice and say, "You know, this is a good idea, we'd really like to do it, but it just looks like it is going to be too much of a problem." Or you get out there and do it and say, "Hey, this looks pretty good and we really need to do something else to keep them off balance, to keep them honest besides that," then you add something to it. You know again, I can't give you a scientific answer on that other than we'll see where we are today and adjust it tomorrow. Drew's availability, may or may not have an effect on that because I don't know what we're going to know tomorrow. We may know a lot, we may not know anything.

Q: Where is Adrian Klemm's progress?

B: I think I said a couple weeks ago that J.R. (Redmond) was about where I thought he would be at the end of a full training camp. So, I don't think Adrian is at that point yet, because J.R. did go through some of training camp and he went through all of the regular season, and all of the weekly practices. It wasn't like training camp where you're practicing twice a day and you're getting a lot more reps. I don't think Adrian is at the point where he's like he's been in training camp other than mentally. He has had the benefit of all of the training camp meetings and you know he's gone through the mental process. It is not like if you trade for a player, you know and he comes in at the end of October or you sign a guy at the end of October and he hasn't been in your system and you're going through a lot of mental teaching. Adrian has had the benefit of all that. In that sense he has been through training camp, but in the sense of performing it on the field, no, I'd say that he still has some time ahead of him before you could say this is about equivalent to a training camp.

Q: How bad is Ted Johnson hurt?

B: He's questionable so, the answer to that is 50-50.

Q: Same as Brandon Mitchell?

B: He's questionable too, same situation as Ted really. Following up on the earlier question, we haven't practiced this week. At this point I really don't know what they're going to be able to do because we haven't pressed very hard, we've just tried to rehab it and we'll see where we are on Wednesday. If they can go out there and perform well, then that will give us a pretty good indication that they're going to be ready. If they can't do anything today, then we'll re-evaluate it, and see where we are tomorrow. Then of course, the end of the week, you just run out of time. That Wednesday-Thursday period you just kind of have to play it by ear because eat this point you just really don't want to go out there and stress them. Now, if the guy is probable, then to me what that is saying is, you're pretty sure on Tuesday, because our reports come from Tuesday and Wednesday morning, you're pretty sure that he's going to be able to go out there and practice therefore if he can practice on Wednesday, he's probably going to be able to go out there and play on Sunday. The questionable guys, we're just going to have to wait and see on, the probable guys probably going to be able to go.

Q: Is (Ted) Johnson's injury a re-aggravation or is it something new?

B: No, it's a little different.

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