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Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript - 08/26/2002

To read the full transcript, click below.



BB: We don't have any new transactions to report, that'll be done by tomorrow. If anything comes up before then, we'll pass it along but at this point it's status quo. In terms of the injured guys coming back this week I think that we'll get some guys back. Were practicing today and tomorrow before we leave on Wednesday, we'll just have to see how they do today and, whether they get through practice. Maybe they'll be ready to go tomorrow. I don't know, it's a day to day thing, we weren't out there yesterday, they just came in for treatment, so I can't give you any specifics, but I think enough guys are doing better, I'm sure we'll get some of those guys back, some of the ones that didn't play in the Carolina game. As far as the Redskins go, this is a team that one year ago, was really going through a difficult stretch, they didn't have a good preseason last year, they got off to an 0-5 start, and since that point they finished the regular season 8-3, and have looked pretty good in preseason this year in all three areas of the game, this is probably one of the most improved teams relative to when we saw them last, the August game last year, you know this team really has improved dramatically since that point. I know it's been a steady process for them, but from our snapshot perspective this is a pretty good looking group, they're explosive offensively, they've changed their scheme on defense with their new coordinator and they've showed a lot of good things there. I think this will be a real good test for us, plus we're going on the road again, dealing with an environment a little different than the one we were in the last two weeks. That'll be a good opportunity for us, you know as a football team to experience those conditions one more time. So, that's pretty much where we're at for right now.

Q: Can you talk about [Maugaula] Tuitele's progress?

BB: Yea, well again, the middle linebackers should be in on a lot of tackles. But Maugaula was productive, he's gotten some opportunities this year, a lot more than he has in the last two years, ad he's really taken advantage of it, he's been a productive player, he's shown up in the kicking game, and he's just a lot better player than he was two years ago lets put it that way. I think the experience in Europe helped him this past spring, in terms of, you know for a linebacker, doing sit-ups, and doing bench presses and all that are great, but what a linebacker really needs to see is the other 21 players on the field. A lot of it's recognition, reaction, being able to in a split second diagnose a play, be in the right spot, attack it aggressively, not any of that hesitation of trying to figure out, waiting to see if it is a run, is it a play-action pass, and that's the difference between being a productive linebacker and not being a productive linebacker, so I think the snaps he got in Europe were good because he got a lot of live football action and I think that's really what he needed. So, he's gotten off to a good start in camp, he's been out there everyday, and he's made good improvement.

Q: Do you look for versatility in offensive line?

BB: Well, I think you like versatility from any player as you can get. The more things a guy can do, the more valuable he is, whether he can play multiple positions, or whether he can be, for example, Mike Vrabel, plays linebacker in our regular defense, but then rushes on third down in our sub-defense. Say compared to Roman [Phifer] or Tedy [Bruschi] who play stand up linebacker on our regular, and then they play the cover linebacker position on sub. So, the more they can do the more value they have and that also carry's into special teams, with what the player can do on fourth down. So the more versatile they are, the more valuable they are, on the other hand, some players are really good at some specific things, and if they're good at those things, then that creates a lot of value too. A guys like [Richard] Seymour, he's a pretty good defensive lineman, in terms of playing on first, second, and third down. He's okay on fourth down, but we got some guys who are probably better. But if he can be productive enough on those three downs, then that creates the value for us as opposed to being a fourth down player. But at some point, you need a mix of all of them, and every down's important, so the linebackers, that fourth down is probably a big down for these guys, just because they're supposedly our bigger, faster more aggressive players when you look at the total composition of the team they fall into that category of good athletes, guys with some toughness, and aggressiveness, guys that can cover kicks and that type of thing. So that's were they need to fit.

Q: Does [Maugaula] Tuitele's progress have anything to do with the release of Ryan Philips?

BB: No, not really. No, not really. I think, you know Ryan had played a little on the inside, but we really didn't work him much on the inside in camp, although, maybe if we would have gotten into the season it would have been a different. But with Ted Johnson, [Tedy] Bruschi, and [Maugaula] Tuitele, we felt like we had three guys who took a lot of the snaps inside. Now, Larry Izzo can also play on the inside as well, so we really worked Ryan primarily on the perimeter in the SAM and WILL positions, as opposed to inside.

Q: How well do you know Steve Spurrier, and what are they [Redskins] doing now?

BB: Well, they have there style of play, I mean they don't run the single wing, it's not anything that's revolutionary to football in the last 10 or 15 years, but my relationship with Steve [Spurrier] goes back from when I've been in pro football and he's was a head coach in college, you'd scout players down there, and of course, Florida always has NFL prospects, so you go down there, we have some mutual friends and you know coaches that I've worked with, have worked with him, and so forth. But, we've never worked together obviously. In terms of their offensive system, they do a lot of audibling, they show us some multiple receiver sets, some three wide-receiver sets. You know, a lot of their game, when I say a lot I mean relative to some other teams, audibling at the line, taking a look at the defense, seeing what it looks like, and attacking the weaker part of the defense, whether its run or pass, or whether it's short pass versus deep pass and that kind of thing. I think that defensively we're going to have to do a good job of disguising our defense a little bit. Not making it too obvious what you're trying to do, where they're very quick to get in a play that attacks it. I think their running game is a basic running game, they have a real good back, and I think that they have a well-balanced offense and they've obviously been able to put up a lot of points in the preseason.

Q: How does Antowain Smith look?

BB: I think Antowain's [Smith] had a pretty good camp. I think he's had a pretty good camp, he got off to a little bit of a slow start, but compared to last year, I think he's way ahead of where he was last year, and he's had a pretty good camp, he's reading blocks well, his blitz pick-up and pass protection have been pretty solid. I think his game, there's room for improvement, don't get me wrong, but I think that his game has come along pretty well, I really don't have any complaints with Antowain, or what he's done. We've given him more reps in practice, more consecutive reps, in other words, you know see how a 14 play practice period, for the offense, you can rotate players every two plays, well, if you do that, guys only run a couple plays and he's getting a break. So he gets a chance to regroup, where as a running back, what a running back needs is a lot of plays to build up his endurance, so say if we had 14 plays, maybe we'd give him eight in a row, then take a couple off, then finish off with a couple, so that he'd end up maybe getting eight, nine, or 10 of the 14 plays, but we're trying to string the plays more together so that it builds up his endurance and his conditioning which is what a running back needs. I think he's worked pretty well in camp, and I'm pleased with what he's done. Now we don't have the kind of production in the running game, haven't had it in two of the three preseason games, I think it was much better in the second game against Philadelphia, but it wasn't anything outstanding in the first one or last week against Carolina. That's a significant part of our game, it was last year, and we need to sharpen that up.

Q: How was J.R. Redmond as a blocker?

BB: I think J.R.'s blocking is one of his strong points. J.R.'s a tough kid, and he understands pass protection and blitz pick-up. That was and areas where he was probably not asked to do a lot of, in college, and he's worked hard on that and improved those skills and I think he's one of our better players in terms of blitz pick-up, one of our better backs in terms of blitz pick-up. That's an area, offensively that can't be understated, it just can't be understated. If a back either makes mental errors and doesn't know who to block, or isn't a good pass protector, then you're going to just run out of quarterbacks. You'll just get them killed. As soon as the defense sees that there is a protection problem, that's the first place that they want to attack, the first thing a defensive coordinator looks at is the weakness in pass protection relative to the backs. It's not very often that you want to say, 'I want to get somebody on this guard.' But if you find a back that isn't a good pass blocker, then you're looking to find those kind of match-ups. And if you've got them once they start exploiting them, then it's just an avalanche, so that's a high priority for us, and J.R. has improved on that since he came into the league and I think he does a pretty good job of it.

Q: The same does not hold true for Kevin Faulk would you say?

BB: Well, yea, you know, Kevin's [Faulk] not the biggest guy out there. But, they all have to block and Kevin's a tough kid, he's not afraid to stick it in there, he's not as big as Antowain [Smith] or Marc Edwards, but he's got to step up there and meet them just like everybody else does. Kevin's an instinctive runner and returns kicks and those kind of things, so he's a little different package, but he has to step up there and block just like everybody else will.

Q: He (Kevin Faulk) seemed to the naked eye to have a pretty good camp.

BB: Yea, I think Kevin, as you mentioned, has some pretty good versatility. He can return kicks, has good hands, can catch the ball, has some good run skills. You're not going to put him in there as the lead blocker, that's not his thing, but he has to block them just like everybody else does. That's something that he's worked hard on, just like J.R., he's improved quite a bit from when he came two years ago in that aspect of the game.

Q: Two years ago he (Kevin Faulk) had a real fumbling problem. Has he developed a lot as a back?

BB: Yeah. Kevin is really a hard worker and when you ask Kevin to do something he is going work hard to try to understand what you want and try to do it the way you want it done. As a coach I have a lot of respect for Kevin, I think the other offensive coaches do as well. In the off-season (Strength and Conditioning Coach) Mike Woicik, Charlie (Weis) and I, we've put together some drills, every time he runs there's different drills that do for him, work on his ball security and to make sure that (a) he is carrying it properly, and (b) that he's squeezing it tightly and that's just a habit that back's need to have. So he's worked hard on that in the off-season. It's something that we emphasize to our defensive players in practice, not just for Kevin but all the backs, anytime you strip or claw the ball out of there it just reinforces to the guy who's carrying it how important it is to have it secure. But you know Kevin is a very good worker, he's diligent, he's conscientious, if you ask him to work on something he's going to work on it.

Q: What does (Greg) Robinson-Randall have to do to get his starting job back?

BB: Play better than the other guys that are playing right tackle.

Q: How much of it is because he failed the conditioning test or because Kenyatta (Jones) is playing better?

BB: None. None. The conditioning test, as a coach of a football team it's my responsibility to each player individually not to put them in a situation that he's not ready to compete in, this is a very competitive league, it's not like college when you go there for three days in shorts and fool around and work on taking a safety and on-side kick and all that stuff. When we start practice, we've got 14 days of practice before our first preseason game and as you know we go out there and practice we don't go out there and stand around and talk about what we're going to do; they're out there practicing. I am not going to put a player on the field until I can see with my own eyes that he, in a monitored test, can participate to a level where I think he can compete with the other 79 players who are going to be out there who are also skilled and conditioned athletes as well. I am not going to put a bunch of guys out there that I don't think are ready to compete. It's not fair to them, they're going to get hurt, and they're just not ready to compete at that level. I'm just not going to do it, it's as simple as that, now once they've established that they're at that level and everybody's out there competing and it's fair even footing, from a safety issue and from a personal issue, I'm just not going to do it. I don't care who he is, I don't care what he's done, I don't care about anything, until I see it with my own eyes I'm not going to put him on the field. I don't care if the doctors look at him and take his blood pressure and say he's fine or his body temperature is good, he meets the height requirement, I don't care about any of that. Until I can see the guy can go out there and perform at a level after 28 years that I think is going to be a competitive National Football League level, I'm not going to let the player go out there and compete. I'm just not going to do it. Now once they've passed that standard, in conjunction with Mike (Woicik) who's been in the league a long time, he's been with several organizations, has got more Super Bowl rings than anybody around here, in conjunction with him, once we feel that players at that point, then they go out there and compete and the best players play. The one's that aren't as good they don't play that as much. It's just as simple as that.

Q: Has Kenyatta (Jones) play improved since last season and also has Greg's (Robinson-Randall) play not improved, has he just sort of plateau-ed right now ?

BB: Well I think Kenyatta is a much better football player than he was last year, he's improved dramatically. I think a number of our second year, even going back to last year, for the most part, and this is not 100% true, but for the most part the player's biggest jump will be between his rookie and his second year. We saw that with (Tom) Brady to take one example. Kenyatta is a guy that falls into that category as well. He is a lot better than he was last year; he came from a program that, it's a good program, just not one that did some of the things that we did. He hadn't had as much experience doing it, and he certainly had not competed against the level of competition that he has to compete at. I think he's raised his game significantly, he's still got a lot of work to do, but he's a much better player than he was last year.

Q: The 5th receiver spot seems to be real competitive. Can you talk about that?

BB: Yea, I think we had good competition at the receiver position and the players that you mentioned, not only, I think showed up and produced on the receiving end, but they also showed up on special teams. Fourth down is a key down for us in terms of those back up receivers, they need to contribute on the passing game, and they're also some of our fastest players and they need to contribute on special teams as well. So, I think that group is a competitive group, I think each guys has a little bit of his own package, some guys are better at some things than others, and that's where the trade off is, it's not really apples and apples, even though they're all receivers, some guys are a little faster, some guys are a little better at special teams, some guys are little better on offense, some guys are better on deeper routes some guys are better on shorter routes, that type of thing. So, not all of them have been out there every week for some reason or another, so as we come down here the last few days that's a really competitive position. I think that's good for our football team, it brings out the best in everybody, I think that the receivers know it's competitive, we know it's competitive, there are tough decisions to be made there. And in the end we're going to try to let them play as a much as they can and let them decide with their performance on the field.

Q: Is that a spot where it just depends on what you want from a particular guy?

BB: Sure. Sure. Absolutely. If you're looking for a certain type of thing, then one guy may have more of that package then the next player, there's no question about it, and part of that's the overall mix, but in the end I think the most important thing in that position is the players ability to catch the ball and make plays in the passing game. Blocking's important, special teams are important, there are other things that are important, but that's really what a receiver's primary job is and, if he's really good at then I think that you're going to find a role for him somewhere.

Q: Is there a medical update on (Tedy) Bruschi?

BB: Day to day. He's got a sore knee, I don't think . . .I don't know what his availability will be this week, but I don't see it as a major problem.

Q: Is this weekend soon enough?

BB: Well, we open the regular season two weeks from tonight, that's 14 days, probably double digit opportunities in there to either practice or play, and what we need to do as a football team is to take advantage of every one of those opportunities whether it's out on the practice field today or whether it's Thursday night in Washington to improve our football team. We have plenty of things to work on, plenty of things that could stand improvement, and those are the things that we're going to address, and everyday is an opportunity for us to get better, and that's the way we're approaching it, day to day, we have certain things we want to try to do out there today. We know there are other things we're going to work on tomorrow, we're not going to hit the things we do today tomorrow. Some of that's. . . Today's today, tomorrow's tomorrow, and to a certain degree we have to separate those goals and that short-term focus and so that's really what we're trying to do. And we need to take advantage of that everyday, could it come soon enough? I guess if everybody else was playing tomorrow we'd be on equal footing, but we have time, and really time is only valuable if you use it, if you waste it, it isn't worth anything, so we're going to try to take advantage of our time and address the things we feel are most important for our football teams improvement.

Q: On the eve of cuts, the guys that know they are on the bubble, do you find them going harder in practice, staying away from you or trying to get close to you?

BB: I don't think it's me who they're staying away from. They're staying away from the two guys that come and get them, they know when they come and get them, that's the guy you want to stay away from. That was my job my first year in the league. I was "Bad News Billy." When they saw me coming, they knew it was not who they wanted to see. So the head coach, he'd be around them all they want, it didn't really matter. But when I came and got them, they knew what that was for, so I've been in that spot. I think there's a little anxiety the day before the cuts. I think that most players understand the competition that they're in, and whether it's a day before the cut, or two days before the cut, or three days before the cut, they understand that there's competition there, they understand that there's some other people that they're battling with, I don't think they necessarily feel secure three days before than they do one day before. And there are other players on the team; lets face it, that probably aren't really worried about being cut. Their preparation is more towards the opener, and more towards their overall position on the team relative to whether or not they're going to have a job in September. So, there's certainly two different categories, I doubt that Brett Favre is really worried about being released, I mean you know, his agenda's a little bit different than the 5th receivers that we were talking about. But I think that there's an anxiety in camp and I think that's what we've had a competitive camp this year, I think we had a good competitive camp last year. Players realize everyday that they're being evaluated everyday, every snap's important, every practice is important, and they have to go about it with that kind of attitude to preserve their standing in the competition

Q: What's the best way to break that news?

BB: Honestly. Honesty. I think the best thing to do is to be honest with the player and tell him what the truth of the situation is. I've seen a lot of different ways of handling it, and, for all of you out there, all of us who have been fired, or are soon to be fired, somebody can lie to you and say well I want to keep you and someone else wants to get rid of you and that's why . . . I'm just the bearer of bad news, and in the end you're going to know that's not the way it really was and then you have a bad taste in your mouth, or you can just be honest with them and say hey, there are other players at your position, we've elected to go with them, here's the deficiency that you had, and it just wasn't good enough. We have a lot of players that we've released and are playing for other places in the league, and we have a lot of players who are playing for us that were released by other teams in the league, so you're not necessarily ending a career, but it's definitely taking a turn. But sometimes it turns for the better, sometimes it isn't, some guys that have been released have come here, it might have been the best thing that has happened, some guys might not feel that way, so I think the best thing to do it to be honest with the players and tell them truth, tell them what you really believe and what you feel, and some of them accept it, and some of them don't. And that's there prerogative too, they're entitled to their opinion, but I think that's a lot better than trying to fabricate something, because still in this business, there's a lot of long term relationships with the players and the agents. We've got a lot of players that we've released and we've brought back and they've been good contributors for us. And that's not to say that we don't want them, we've got the roster limit, if we could keep 60, we'd keep 60. We can only keep 53, if we could keep 58 we'd keep 58, so we just have to make those decisions on which guys are the best for whatever the reasons are at this particular point in time. Sometimes that can change in a hurry.

Q: Any of them get peeved off?

BB: Yea, I think in 28 years I've seen a wide range of variety of emotions, sure. Some guys were more surprised than others. I don't know if there's any standard, you could probably talk to anybody in business and that's the hardest part of the job, is releasing people, and that is this job. We go to camp with, lets call it 80 players, and we're going to only be bale to keep 53, I mean I'm firing 27 guys, there's no way around it, you have to release them. It's 80 to 53, there's no other way to do it. And that's just part of the job, and it's not a fun part of the job, but it's a necessary part of the job. But it's hard because I respect players that work hard, they do their best, they do everything you ask them to do, they sacrifice personally so that you can have a better team, they work hard, they're playing in pain, they're out there working when they're tired, or that type of thing, and I respect the way that they go about it. It's hard to tell them, 'hey, it wasn't good enough, it's not going to work out.' It's not that they didn't do their best, it's just that it didn't work out, it's a hard thing to do. It's easy when the guy doesn't perform well, doesn't try, doesn't care, you're doing him a favor, you might as well get him doing something else because he doesn't really want to do this, but the guys that put everything they have into it, they really want to make this a profession, and really want to make this team, and play here, whatever the decision is, the decision is that he's not going to be a part of it, that's tough to tell them that when they put that much into it. Like I said, when you go from 80 to 53, you know that's going to happen 27 times, every year there's just no way around it, it's just part of it.

Q: What is your most memorable "bad news Billy" story?

BB: Probably, when I was with the Colts in '75 we were having a staff meeting and it was probably about five after eleven, or ten after eleven, it was right after bed check. Those were back in the days when we played six preseason games. We moved to training camp July fifth, the first regular season game was September 21st, so we had two and a half moths of training camp really, three different spots. So we had this staff meeting, and it was about ten after eleven, and Lydell Mitchell and Don McCauley were our two running backs, and it was about our fourth preseason game, and Ted Marchibroda the coach in the meeting, the decision was that Lydell had started the first couple games and he just wanted to start McCauley to let him go with the first group and see how he would do against better competition, and he had a pretty good camp and he wanted to let him get that opportunity in the fourth preseason game. And he said, 'I think I want to tell him that tonight, so why don't you go get him.' So I go down there at about ten after eleven, and he's asleep and all that, so now it's ten after eleven, but I can't tell him that I'm coming to get him to tell him that he's going to start the game, the head coach is going to tell him that, I'm telling him to just come on down, coach Marchibroda wants to see you. So he gets up and gets his clothes on, and he thinks he's getting cut. That was about the only good news I delivered that year.

Q: Was he shaken at all? Did you tell him not to worry?

BB: Oh, yea, because I couldn't tell him what [Ted] Marchibroda was going to tell him, but you know . . . I didn't want to say anything. I said, 'look, coach Marchibroda wants to see you.' 'What's it about', 'I don't know.' 'Oh yea right, you don't know.' No, this was a gaucher.

Q: McCauly, that was his second year?

BB: I'd say that maybe it was his second or third year, '75, he'd been there a couple of years, but again, back in those days, what was our roster size? 40, 39, it wasn't that big and there were, like there always are in camp, there's a lot of guys in camp, you never know, he could have been traded. We laughed about it afterwards, I told him afterwards, 'look I know you went through some anxiety there for a while, I couldn't do anything.' He understood.

Q: Who are your deliverers this year?

BB: We got a couple of them.

Q: I believe the question was who are your deliverers this year.

BB: We got a couple of them. We don't need to single them out.

Q: How many question marks do you have going into the next two weeks?

BB: Well, let me put it this way, when we get to 65 players, I think that everyone of those 65 players is in contention. So, am I saying that Ty Law is going to get cut, no, I'm not saying that, but, when you go to the 65th player, you're sitting there saying, 'is there a scenario where this player would fit in on our team?' Yea, here's the scenario, if these things were to happen, or if this were to transpire, this guy would be in the picture, that's why we want to keep him here. How likely is that scenario? I don't know, 10%, 20%, each guy has a certain scenario where he could be here, and on top of that when you get to the practice squad, even though you're going to 53, you're really going to 58, and I don't know if there's been a study done on it, off the top of my head, the 65 cuts there's been in the past two years, but prior to that, the next to last cut was the 60 cut. And the rule of thumb that I've always gone by is, any player that makes it to the 60 cut, 90% of them are going to end up playing in the NFL that year. They might not have been on the 53, but if they make the 60 cut those guys are going to be on the practice squad, or there are going to be injuries during the year when those players will eventually resurface, either with their current team, or with some other teams. So, to me, when you make the cut to 60, now, there's just a couple more spots at 65, it's still a pretty good ball park. When you make the cut to 65, I there's a real high percentage of those guys, 75%, 80% of those guys, are going to play in the National Football League this year, one way or the other, and that's where everybody's list comes from once you get to the final 53 and then you get to your practice squad which is 58, you have a couple guys on injured reserve, that's 60 right there, well, there's the next five guys from every team. Five times 32, whatever it is, 160 guys sitting out there, that's the depth for the rest of the league, however it ends up getting broken up.

Q: Does the new stadium feel like home yet?

BB: I think it's certainly feeling like home.

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