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Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript - 08/02/2002

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BB: I thought that we had a pretty good week. Last week at this time, we were just finishing the conditioning runs, well some of them were just finishing the conditioning runs. So we've gotten a lot of work done, and I thought the players deserved the afternoon off, and this gives a chance to rest up tomorrow and get our legs back, and get refreshed a little bit. So that's pretty much my thinking today. We went out there in a walk through and just got a few things straightened out that came up the last couple of days in practice, and took a little time to clean those up. We've got a big week next week getting ready for the Giants. We've got a lot of things that we need to get checked off on the checklist. Hopefully everybody will come back with a fresh attitude, fresh legs and be ready to go.

Q: Is that a tough choice to make, when to push players or when to hold them back?

BB: It is, I think it really is. You have 80 players and it's not the same for everybody. You have to make a judgment for the entire group. There are probably some guys that need to be pushed a little more and maybe some that you should've pulled back a little earlier on, but that's a team sport. You have to do what's best for the team. There's definitely a fine line. There are the things that you want to get done, but then you have to look at whether its diminishing returns. The thing I felt this week was that they worked hard. Everything wasn't perfect. We made a lot of mistakes out there. There are a lot of things that we have to get straightened out, but they worked hard. We've thrown a lot at them in terms of installation and learning, and they've gone about their job and try to do the best they could, and I respect that. There isn't really any more they could do. I think we need a little bit of time as a coaching staff to evaluate where we are at this point and time and make sure we prioritize the things we need to do next week, and not spend time on our lower priorities.

Q: Have you been happy with the tempo when they have been out of pads, or just in shoulder pads?

BB: We've gotten some good teaching done. Most of the time we've been in pads. We've only had a couple days where we've been out of pads, but those days we try to emphasize the passing game. I thought that they ran the routes and covered at a good tempo, and that's what you need, you need timing, and we probably got a better tempo than we would've gotten if we had been out of pads.

Q: Of the three groups, who is closer to being a finished product, offense, defense, or special teams?

BB: That's really a tough question because we don't play ourselves. We do in training camp but not in competitions against ourselves, its against somebody else, and its really hard to say where we are relative to where the competition is, not relative to each other. I don't think we're going to know until we start playing a couple of people and really find out how the execution is.

Q: Does your decision to give them the day off become easier to make given the number of veterans on the team?

BB: I'm more concerned with how they've worked. We got some young players, we got some new players, guys that weren't with our team last year, but are new to our system. I'm just concerned with the work ethic, the concentration level, and the intensity in the way they've gone about things. You cant go through training camp doing everything at the exact same pace, and there have been times that we've tried to turn up, we've had contact out there, and have done some live drills. There have been some other more normal type drills, and other times when we've sort of turned the tempo down. We still ask for good concentration, and everybody being on top of what they're supposed to do, not a screw around period. So some things you can get done without contact, and there is a point where you really need to feel that they responded as a group pretty well in whatever we ask them to do. Its not perfect, I'm not saying that we've conquered the world, but I just think that they worked hard enough, and we need a little time to recover and get our legs back and kind of refresh and forget about football for a day and get back up on Sunday.

Q: Do you regard your team differently this year than last year, because you've seen what they can do, and how they can self-motivate themselves?

BB: Well, I think any time you have another year of experience with a team and certain people, you know them a little bit better. There is no denying that. In the end there is no short cut. What happened last year has no application in what happens this year. We just have to go out there and establish our performance as individuals, as groups, and as a team in every area, whether it's punt coverage, or running the ball, or stopping the run, or whatever it is. Nothing really matters unless we can achieve a higher level than our competition in the coming weeks when we are challenged by it. That's really what the evaluation, and what the whole process is in training camp, trying to get to that point. I understand what you're saying, and I think what we as coaches have talked about is in relative terms how have the players looked individually relative to last year, guys that were here last year that we can evaluate. How does this player look compared to last year, well he's really improved. Other players look about the same. Some of the older players, I think what you're really hoping for is that they haven't declined. The younger players you looking for improvement, and some of them have, and some of them you're kind of waiting hoping to see more. Its too early to give up, but you're hoping to see more early. That's the way it is at training camp. It's a long camp, some guys start slow and build, and other guys start fast and fizzle out. The test of time will answer those questions. I think that's really what you're looking for, individually how is each player looking. Now we're at the point where we have to start putting a team together. We have to start saying well how is the offensive line doing, what do they need? How are the running backs doing, what do they need? How is the passing game doing, what do we need to do to improve that? How is our blitz package on defense looking, relative to our coverage package? How does our run defense look, relative to our third down defense, and things like that, and start to make sure that we address the areas that we feel like we're falling behind, or the personnel is not right, or we just are having execution problems, then we need to get those corrected. That's one of the things that we did out there today. There were a couple of things that happened at the last few practices that, you know a lot is going in, a lot is happening, and I don't think the players understood. We just want to step back, and say lets walk through and explain this, here is what's supposed to happen. Hopefully when we run it again, we'll have it.

Q: This is the second year you have taken the players to the movies. The other night you had Bill Russell speak. Could you go into that? Do you know Bill?

BB: The Bill Russell thing was something I thought about it during the offseason, and it just came together. I think that Bill is a great individual and he's got a great perspective on team sports, both as an athlete and as a coach. I thought that people would be interested in what he had to say. I think they were. He's a very impressive man, and he's got a great perspective on a lot of things, not just basketball or sports, but way beyond that. I know him through Jim Brown, and that's is how the association started.

Q: Is the fact that Russell had repeated success the reason that you brought him in, hoping his message would rub off on your players?

BB: Yeah I think Bill's message has a wide range, but that's certainly part of it. When I talked to Bill and listened to Bill, I understood one of the reasons why they were pretty successful. He had a lot to do with it. He is pretty perceptive and understands how a team is supposed to win. I've learned a lot from listening to him

Q: Have you done these movie trips your whole career?

BB: We did that type of thing a couple times in Cleveland. It was a little different set up. In Cleveland we had Jim Brown a lot, so that was a little different. We've had different speakers, like we do with the rookies, guys would come in and talk with the rookies. We did that in Cleveland too, former players, coaches, or athletes from maybe a different sport.

Q: What was Russell's main message, and do you think the players got anything out of it?

BB: I think all of us learned a lot, and enjoyed it. It was very broad. He spoke for maybe 45 minutes, and then we opened it up to questions, and the questions just went on and on for about an hour and a half. There were questions about everything. Basketball, being a coach, training, distractions, living in Boston, signing autographs, he covered a lot of things.

Q: How do you like the scooters?

BB: The scooter Charlie has is nice.

Q: How about the other guys?

BB: Better than the golf carts, not as much of a parking issue.

Q: Do you see a difference in Walt Williams in this year from last year?

BB: No question about it. Don't forget last year, Walt had not played football his senior year, so he was coming from a year removed from even being on a football field, so he's significantly ahead of where he was last year, both in terms of learning, playing, and his self confidence because he's had more opportunities to go out there and do it, and know he can do it. The position he played in college were unlike any position in football, a wingback, so the things he's done since he's been with us like catching the ball, and things like that that are the same, but the game is a lot different than the one he played in college.

Q: What was it you saw in him?

BB: Walter is a real hard working kid, he has good athleticism, and he's a real hard working dedicated individual. He's come through it the hard way, we all know that story. He's got good athleticism and good skill. He runs well, he's strong for his size, he catches well, he's got good skill.

Q: You've upgraded your personnel to help the passing game. Are you happy with where it is?

BB: I wouldn't say its behind, I think at this point we've put most of our time into installing it, trying to get everybody to learn it, trying to get everybody to run it, and I think we're at the point now, where we need to fine tune it, and execute it with more precision than where we're at right now. I wouldn't say its bad, but I wouldn't say its good either. There are a lot of screws that need to be tightened up in the passing game. I think overall we have some depth in the passing game at all of the positions, and that's better than it was last year, individually. Now collectively how it will all pull together remains to be seen. We have good depth at all the skill positions, quarterback, running back, tight end, receiver, it's a deeper group overall than what we had last year.

Q: Is it important to get guys like Hayes involved in preseason, to make other teams prepare more?

BB: That's really an interesting question and I think that you always look at that preseason situation, and say do we want to go out there and just do what we do, and get good at it, or how much do we want to let people know we want to throw to the X? Do you want to go out there and throw a lot of those passes to the X in preseason, or do you just want to go out there and throw your regular stuff and then when the season starts say, 'Okay fellas, lets go to this plan.' You're always pulled in two directions on that, and that's a tough one. I think that you have to do what you do, and get good at it, and at the same time, do everything you do. Usually there are things that everybody knows in the league, there are things everybody knows that we do, they know it, we know it, everybody knows it, its not that big a deal. As you progress beyond that and you start looking at preseason film and you don't see it there then you have to decide do you want to work on it, even though they haven't seen it. They might have it, they might not have it and then it's a time decision.

Q: You talked about predictability and how it can be a good thing, have you reached that point?

BB: The best thing in the world to do in any sport is to identify the opponents strength and be able to neutralize it. If you can do that, then they are playing a game on your terms, and that's something that they don't want to do. If they're a team that wants to run the ball, and you show them right away that you can stop the run then that's something, that that's their bread and butter, we can run the ball, we can the ball, now they can't run it and that hurts their confidence. If you look at any good team in any sport there is going to be certain things that they do well and they're going to be predictable. When the Lakers get the ball, where is it going? Are they predictable? Yeah, but until somebody stops them that's where its going to keep going. I think that really hurts you on the other side of the ball too, because if you know that's their strength going into the game, and you say here is what they're going to do, and they go out and do it, and you're not doing a good job of stopping it now they really got you on the ropes, now they can do whatever they want to do. They can do that stuff, or they can start hitting in other areas too. It doesn't make a difference whether it's the pitcher's fastball or a fast break offense, running the ball in football. Whatever it is, if you can neutralize that you've gained the advantage. Being predictable and being strong if you can make it hold up. The Giants would run Cover 2, 50 times a game. They know it, you know it, everybody knows it, they still run it, they can't move the ball, and there was a lot of frustration on the other sideline about the fact that we know what they're in, we know what they're in and we still cant do anything.

Q: Must have had easy weeks when you ran that?

BB: It wasn't about coming up with a lot of new stuff, it was just about refining it each week with how we are going to handle this problem within the same system. Again when you have the same players year after year, and we had a lot of good ones, it made the coach look smart.

Q: How is the health of the team?

BB: I think we have about 13 or 14 guys that have missed some time here in the first week. I think by Sunday we will be able to cut that number down. We have several players who are pretty close, that maybe could've practiced this afternoon , maybe tomorrow morning. It's really day to day how they feel when they get up, if they feel loose. I think we'll be pretty close to getting some of these guys back next week and that will help us.

Q: Do you give them any dos and don'ts before they go?

BB: Yeah a couple. We've all seen it. This is the time of year, you read about things when players have the day off. A couple years ago those guys in Arizona had a real serious car accident. Just in general good judgment is always something you remind everybody of. I remind myself of it, remind the team of it. We've invested a lot into what we're doing and we don't want to use bad judgment and have a situation turn out that hurts all of us.

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