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Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript - 09/02/2002

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BB: Ok, I know that everyone has all of our roster transactions from the weekend. Just at this time of year, a couple things, one a lot of tough decisions that we had to make over the weekend, Scott (Pioli) and I and the coaches spent a lot of time talking about different scenarios. I think there are players that we weren't able to keep on the 53 that are good players that are going to play whether it's back here at a later point in time or somewhere else. There's good competition on this team and it's tough to tell some of those guys that we weren't going to be able to keep them on the roster this year. That being said also at this point in time there are a number of players that were released by other teams that we have some degree of interest in whether it's as emergency players or whatever the case might be. Again Scott and I have spent time going over that and will continue to go over it with the rest of the scouting department and the coaches, I certainly wouldn't rule out any roster changes this week although I can't say that there are any that I anticipate making but it's that time of year, there are a lot of names, a lot of different scenarios and there's some juggling going on I'm sure with every team in the league and were in that group. We're where we are today but whether that's where it'll be at the end of the week is certainly not etched in stone. So with that we turn our attention to Pittsburgh. This is a team that really has, I would say, very few weaknesses. They've had an impressive preseason, they're obviously well coached, have good talent level at all the positions, have added some new faces, some playmakers on both sides of the ball and the kicking game. This is a team we are going to start our preparations on today, the players will be off tomorrow, we'll be kind of on a regular schedule this week with the players day off being Tuesday, and then resuming practice on Wednesday and Thursday and of course heading into the game Monday night. We'll get the jump on a few things today, and then finalize our game plans, try to get our roster and some of the personnel decisions a little more solidified tomorrow with the players day off and then start pretty much into a regular preparation week Wednesday morning. So that's my update.

Q: Do you have a claim in on any players?

BB: Any claims would go in today by 4:00pm.

Q: Are you the last team on the claim list?

BB: Yup. Dead last. And there's a lot of jockeying on the claiming too; people that are going to be available if you're further down on the claiming list like we are, like St. Louis was, St. Louis made a trade over the weekend for Troy Edwards, when you're that far down on the claiming list one of the things you have to consider - will he make it to you versus trade for him where that way you are ensured of getting a player that you want. So claiming, trading, trying to calculate, of course if a player is vested and he's veteran he terminates immediately that's a different scenario but a player that doesn't have the vested veteran status that has to go through the waiver procedure then when you're claiming in a spot like we are then that's something that you have to consider as to whether or not to put a claim in on him, if he would make it past the other 31 teams in the claiming order.

Q: Is it more of you look at a specific player or a specific position that you go after?

BB: I think there are a lot of different scenarios. I think that when you go through a list like we had last night, that had I don't know how many names it must have had over 300 names on it or whatever it was, that includes Saturday and Fridays waivers too, it wasn't all last night, but when you combine it all together, I think you go through the names and just start checking them off and there's certain things about each of those players that you check off that you have some degree of interest in and then you follow up on all the different check points when you talk about that player, but sometimes it's positions, sometimes it's the player's ability, sometimes its players that you may be a little surprised that their name is on that list for one reason or another and want to look into the background a little bit more about why that player was released, whether it was his performance or whether it was the depth of the position on another team that he was released on and so forth. Again it's the player, what we perceive his package or our interest in his situation to be that's really what triggers it and that really just starts the process, of course a lot of those players who have already begun evaluating and writing preliminary reports on and so forth in anticipation that some of them would become available whether it be on your roster, we still have a practice squad to assemble by the start of practice Wednesday that could include players from our roster, or as it has been in the past players like Tom Ashworth, guys like that could come from other people's roster. That's really the way that works. It could be a combination of a lot of things. It's scouts, it's coaches and sometimes it's preseason film that you're looking at and not even necessarily looking at those particular players but may catch your eye and you just follow up on that. So it could come from a lot of different areas.

Q: Can you assess Antowain Smith's play in the preseason and where he is right now?

BB: I think Antowain's had a good preseason. He's had a good preseason. He's been on the field; he's got a lot of snaps, I think he's run hard in the preseason games, I think he's ready to go.

Q: Did you feel he had a slow start or has he been pretty consistent?

BB: I think he's had a pretty consistent preseason, I really do. Once you get past the first week to ten days where there are a lot of moving parts at that time and Antowain did miss a couple days right there in the beginning but once you get past that initial break in period, where everybody is feeling tired, and sore and then getting their legs back under them. Moving forward, I think he's had a good, consistent camp.

Q: Of all of your draft choices with the exception of (Antwoine) Womack who is on injured reserve, can you talk about each of them and what you think each brings to the team?

BB: Just a point of verification, he's on P.U.P., physically unable to perform, not injured reserve. Well first of all I think it's hard to project what a rookie will contribute his first year, and that's not really what I would try to do, but I do think that each player has made the team based on the merit's of their performance in training camp and preseason. (Daniel) Graham probably had his best outing against Washington, (Deion) Branch probably had his best outing against the Giants but those guys both have shown that they could make some plays at the skilled positions. Jarvis Green has had a pretty consistent camp; he missed a little bit of time there, missed the Carolina game, but overall he's had a pretty consistent camp, shown some ability, some flash ability to rush the passer and play the running game, and help a little bit on special teams. (Rohan) Davey's taken virtually all the of the snaps as our third quarterback and that's where he is, I mean he's quite a ways behind the other two guys and (David) Givens has shown up in the kicking game and just made some plays offensively. So I think that they all have the chance to contribute because they contributed in preseason other than Davey; his playing time has been a little more situational, but how much they will be able to do, I don't really know.

Q: Did you just see more potential down the road from (David) Givens than you would have from (Fred) Coleman?

BB: Again there were a lot of things that went into consideration on those final cuts. But I think the merits of David's play, on the coaching staff and the personnel department just were strong enough that we didn't want to not have him on the roster and that's not to say that other players didn't have strengths, Fred certainly had his share of production too. When you can only keep 53, you can only keep 53.

Q: What were some of the considerations that went into releasing (Maugaula) Tuitele?

BB: I think we'll lose another player maybe similar to Fred that was just brought up. He had a good preseason, had some production. In the end you can only keep so many players. There were just other players that we felt like had a little bit more value to the team. And that's not to say every decision you that you make at this point in time is the right one or the final one, things can change and they usually do, and that time frame could be sooner or sometimes its later on. I think that he's a player that had improved a lot. I think a year in Europe helped him but in the end it still gets down to numbers, we start with 80 and we go to 53, somebody has to fall into that group that doesn't make it.

Q: Does he qualify as one of those that was really tough on you and the staff to release him?

BB: I think they were all tough. I really do. I think this year they were all tough, from a personal standpoint because they all worked hard, they all were the right kind of guys, they worked hard in the off-season program, they did their best. What we asked them to do, they worked hard at, they tried to improve, they tried to do their best, anytime a player does that it's hard to say to them 'At this point in time it wasn't good enough.' Then again we've had a lot of players in the last couple of years that we've released that we've brought back, players that have gotten a second opportunity or a third opportunity and have been able to do more with the second or third time whether it's as their game improved or as our situation maybe changed or was modified a little bit. Even though we've got some players here that we released, I doubt very seriously that we've seen the last of those players, I think they will be back, some of them will be back at some point on this team. Riddick Parker is another good example, there's a guy that was with us last year, had some playing time in the regular season and the playoff games, signed with the Jets, was released by the Jets, had a pretty good camp here, we weren't able to keep him on the roster this time, again that doesn't mean that, just like he signed with the Jets, that doesn't mean that he won't be back at some later point in time. And that goes for a lot of the other guys too.

Q: In your experience, have you noticed a perceptible attitude shift from preseason to the regular season?

BB: Oh, sure. Yeah. Are you talking about from a player's standpoint?

Q: Yes.

BB: Without a doubt. You really have two types of players when you go to training camp I think that players basically fall into two categories, one is a group of players that have a confidence level that they're going to be on the team and essentially training camp and preseason games for them are preparation for the regular season and then you have another group of players who feels like their training camp and preseason are their lifeline and their performance in that time frame is going to determine whether or not they're here for the regular season. I think that there are two distinct attitudes and that's not to say that everybody isn't working hard in preseason, I'm not saying that, but I think that goals are a little bit different, to make the team versus to be ready for the opening game with a 16-week season. Now as of today, those goals have to re-adjust for certain people on the team and I've talked to everybody about that, but I think there are some players specifically obviously the youngest players, the rookies, the guys in that category, they're not coming thinking about the 16-game season they're thinking about the next five minutes, the next day, how to make it from one day to the next based on the demands that are put on at this time of year, once they reach that point now sometimes there's a tendency for those younger players to hit the down slope and feel like 'whew , I made it, I'm ok', really the season is just starting now, it's not ending, that's a transition that some younger players, some rookies, either don't understand or have trouble making the adjustment to it. I think it's a key point for every young player, every rookie has got to go through it, whether it's Richard Seymour or Daniel Graham or any rookie free agent, they all have to go through that time frame and make a proper adjustment. It's not a scholarship program like it is in college, where you get two or three years to red shirt, ride around and all of that, for us it's week-to-week, and certainly year-to-year for those players.

Q: Is that something that you rely on from the guys, since they worked so hard to make the team? Do you want to make sure their attitude stays the same?

BB: We say that to all the players, because I can't tell you exactly what's in every player's mind, I don't know what every single player is thinking. I probably have an idea, but you never know for sure what each individual guy is thinking, so I say it to the entire group. We say it specifically to certain players, particularly the youngest players but not exclusively, but say it to that group just to reinforce that it's important that they understand what their role is and what we're thinking and what our expectations are and not let them set their own expectations because sometimes they aren't really the right ones.

Q: Who is the player that has come the furthest in training camp – from being a player not making the team to making the team?

BB: Well, I think the one we talked about earlier in training camp; it still would be [Stephen] Neal. When we started with him at the end of last year, after we signed him form Philadelphia, there's a guy that still really had never been in an NFL game. He only played a handful of plays in the preseason games a year ago. And those were at the very end of the game with, you know, one or two plays that he actually knew what to do on. So, from this point in time where even though he was more experienced and had a better understanding of football, this year he had really never played in a game. The points in the game that he had played in, he was going to a whole different level this year. So that was a big jump, but again you're talking about a guy who started . . .the last step was junior high football, it'd be pretty hard not to improve from that.

Q: Where do you think he can go from here?

BB: That's the question with every young player, you ask that about every young player. How far will they go? And the way I gauge it is, how are they improving? If a player's continuing to improve, if he's continuing to work hard and continuing to get better, then you want to keep going with him. At whatever point that improvement starts to level off or decline, either they don't work as hard or even though they're working hard they can't seem to get to a higher level of performance. Then I think that's the point where you realize that, 'Okay this is what his performance is going to be.' Then you evaluate it based on where he is and probably where he's going to stay. As long as the grate is moving up, then I don't know, it's hard to say where that's going to stop. Is it going to stop here, here, or here, who knows?

Q: Can we assume that the guys who got cut yesterday would have possibly made the team your first year here?

BB: Well, I'd have to go back and really look at the 2000 roster, but I do remember in that year, two years ago, that, I believe it was the 60 cut that year, they changed it I think it was last year, but it was the 60 cut, but definitely at the 53 cut. I want to say the 53 cut we cut to 49, or 50, somewhere in there, but we went under the cuts both times, just feeling like there were certain players that we just wouldn't carry on our roster and that we would be going somewhere else, whether it was to claim somebody or to trade for somebody, or whatever it was, we just knew that we would need to go to upgrade that area. So, not that it was any easier with other players, with some players, I mean a lot of those players worked just as hard as some of the players did last year and as some of the players did this year, but I think the level of talent two years ago was, you know, if you remember when I came here we only had 30 some players under contract and there wasn't much cap space to work with so we had in the 20s of rookies and rookie free-agents, and first year players and all that on our team. So between a third and a half of our team were players that really had never played in the NFL that year, and I don't think that's really what you're looking for. We had players that were a lot closer to being ready to play than some of the guys in that group were.

Q: Are you surprised that Robert Edwards made it back into the NFL?

BB: No. No. I think that, you know I'm happy for him, nobody's worked harder than Robert, he worked hard last year, and even the years leading up to last year, to even get to a position where he could even try to compete, and I think with another year of hard work, which I'm sure he put in both on his own and in the Dolphins organization, I'm sure that he's starting to . . . you know he's better than he was then. It's been a long process and I can't imagine anybody working any harder at it than he did, and probably has continued to do, so I think it's a real credit to his perseverance that he's been able to overcome what he's overcome.

Q: How far removed are these two teams, New England and Pittsburgh, situation-wise from the AFC Championship game?

BB: I think pretty far, and that was eight months ago. And a lot of things have changed, so there's no question we'll look at that film in terms of studying it, and trying to understand certain match-ups and strategies and so forth, but, I think that both teams are at a different point this year than where they were eight months ago. There's no question in my mind it's different. And where it is, I don't think we'll know until Monday night.

Q: Going back to Antowain Smith, do you feel like he has moved on from failing the conditioning test?

BB: I think that's exactly the way that I would put it. I mean it's pretty old news.

Q: How important to the team's success is it that he have the kind of year he had last year?

BB: Well, I think it's important for your football team offensively to have balance, and we created a sense of balance in the running game last year that was missing the year before and I think it'll help us, it'll be important for us to run the ball for us this year, it'll be important for us to not only run it on first and second down, but to be able to run it on short yardage, goal line, and red area situations. In particularly close to the goal line, where those runs result in points. So, that'll be a critical area for us, I mean it will be for every team regardless of who's running it, or what the play is or anything else, but to be able to move the ball on the ground at those points in the game, or running out the clock at the end of the game where you're trying to maintain ball possession. Those are critical times, and being able to run the ball when you have to run it, is really the mark of a good football team, just like being able to pass the ball when you have to pass it, is really a mark of a good passing team. And I think sooner or later both of those situations are going to come up for every team.

Q: Which one do you think is harder for a player to deal with – someone who works hard all through training camp and makes it up to the 53 cut and gets cut the night before or someone who makes it past the 53 cut and gets cut right before the first game?

BB: I don't know, I don't think either one of them is . . . I'm sure they both would be tough.

Q: How taxing is this time of year for you and your staff with roster cuts and roster evaluations?

BB: Yea, I think this is a tough time for them probably from the last two weeks of training camp through the first week of the regular season is a tough time for coaches. But you know, it's the same for all the coaches, every team is going through the same thing, but you're trying to mange your preseason game plans, and what you're doing in the last few preseason games and preseason practices, you're trying to balance that with beginning the regular season. You've got a lot of information; in your off-season you work on the first couple of opponents. You've got their preseason games, you've got new personnel on your team, new personnel on your opponent's team, and so there's a lot of moving parts there. You also are trying to balance the first game versus the 16-game schedule and there definitely is a conflict as for what's best for this week, an then maybe what's best for the 16-game season, particularly in terms of personnel when you're making up your roster, so sometimes your immediate needs tend to outweigh your long term needs, and sometimes your long term needs tend to outweigh your immediate needs. You realize you may be short for a week or two, but you hope that'll balance off in the long run, or vice versa. You realize you might be a little short in the long run but the immediacy of the game and the situation dictates that you put a little more of a priority on that, as those are the kind of the things that you're going through, and it's just balancing it, every players got it at this point for why he should be on the team or we wouldn't have kept them this long. You just have to make some choices.

Q: This is the time of year when you are spending late nights and early mornings?

BB: Yea, you know, our staff works pretty hard. They really do, the personnel works hard, the coaching staff works hard, so I don't know, working from 11 until two in the morning, I don't know how productive that's going to be. But, there's a lot of hard work, and a lot of balanced time between personnel decisions and coaching strategy and preparations for the players. And again, one of the most important things for the coaches to do at this time of the year is to take all the information that we've compiled, say a team like Pittsburgh, we have all our information that we had on them last year, plus all the four preseason games, plus a close look at our game, but to take all that information and to put that into a package that's small enough so that the players can get the nuts and bolts of it, and not being overwhelmed by, you know, not trying to read Encyclopedia Britannica, you want them to get the main points of it, but consolidating that down, that's a process too, so, but you just have to try to balance those things off, and some people are working more in one area than another, and that's how you try to balance it.

Q: Why is it so difficult to repeat as a champion in this sport as opposed to baseball and basketball?

BB: I'm really not much of an expert on basketball and baseball and some of the other sports. I'd really have a hard time commenting on what those issues are or aren't.

Q: What about this sport (football) where you are an expert?

BB: What, I think we saw Denver win a couple, Dallas won, I don't three out of four, or three out of five, whatever it was. San Francisco, Washington, (Joe) Gibbs won, however many it was, three out of however many. There have been some teams that have been repeaters, and then there have been some that haven't. Obviously the ones that did have pretty good football team and have played at a high level repetitively. So I think that's a credit to the organization the players the coaches and the organization for being able to maintain that focus for multiple seasons.

Q: Can you talk about the team selecting captains this week?

BB: I think it's an important position. I've talked to the team about that, we're not voting on the most valuable player, or the most popular player. Those positions are important positions of leadership and they're people who represent the entire team, a lot of times when I talk to the captains I just don't have time to poll every body on the team. 'What would you guys want to do on this situation, we could do A or B, I don't really care, how would you rather do it?' We just don't have time to poll everybody, so the captains would speak on behalf of the team and voice their opinion on which way they would rather see it done, or maybe they'd bring an issue to the table that an individual player wouldn't necessarily want to bring to me or another coach, but the captains bring it on behalf of that other player. They say, 'hey, here's the situation, we think you should know about this, we need to handle it.' I think there needs to be a good give and take between the captains and the other players that they represent, and between the captains and the coaching staff, that they, to a certain extent, are a liaison for, and there are time when the captains speak on behalf of the entire team, whether it's me as a coach or it's the other players. And I think that we all want those players to represent the team the way the team wants to be represented, however that is, and that's up to each team to decide for themselves.

Q: Is there any interest in Terrell Buckley?

BB: You know, there are a lot of people on the wire that, like I said, that we've checked off, we've talked about, there are obviously situations with each guy that are unique to his particular set of circumstances. We've already started the process of talking to and evaluating those guys, but that's an ongoing process that began a couple days ago, accelerated last night and will be a work in progress here as we go forward for at least a few days, and maybe longer. So, I would say that about a number of players, not anybody specifically, but I can say that about a number of guys that were terminated yesterday, or over the weekend.

Q: Has the team selected captains yet?

BB: I haven't had a chance to talk to the team about the selection of the captains. They've voiced their opinion, but until I've talked to the team about it I wouldn't feel comfortable discussing it outside of the team. I think they should know first how it worked out

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