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Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript - 09/02/2003

Belichick: Well unfortunately this morning I have to pass along the news the release of Lawyer [Milloy].



BB: Well unfortunately this morning I have to pass along the news the release of Lawyer [Milloy]. This is a player and a person that I have immense respect for and means a lot to this team and this organization. It is just unfortunate that this was kind of a casualty of the way the system is right now. In the end, the timing is obviously not good, not what we would be looking for. I think it is a reflection of the fact that we tried. Both sides tried all the way to, truly, the eleventh hour, to try to find a way to make it work but in the end we just weren't able to get to that point. That is basically the situation there. Again, releasing players is hard. It's always hard. I went through a similar situation a couple of weeks ago with Otis [Smith]. But of all of the players that I have released in my career this easily would be the hardest. It's an unfortunate situation all the way around but one that we've made and we will have to move forward with.

Q: Being at the 53-man limit and under the salary cap, why was this necessary assuming it was financial?

BB: Well, the salary cap accounting changes from the period of when it begins in March, at the beginning of the league year, where it's a top 51 accounting to the start of the regular season where every player and every contract counts. The accountings are different. That certainly has an impact on this situation.

Q: How do you make up for a player like Lawyer Milloy? Is there a chance he could come back and sign with this team?

BB: I don't know the answer to the last question. You really don't replace a player like that. He has an element of toughness and leadership and dependability that has been a standard. They are big shoes to fill. Chris [Akins], Antwan [Harris] and Aric [Morris] have all worked there and we will go with what we have and those players will get an opportunity to step in and play that position.

Q: Would you have been over the cap?

BB: Well there is going to be a point where we have to be under the cap in the new accounting and we have to comply with that. Yes.

Q: If you had kept Lawyer you would have bumped over that number?

BB: Yes.

Q: When you were negotiating with him, did you say to him at any time, 'Hey listen, I want to make this work but if you don't I might have to release you?'

BB: I really don't want to get into the specific contract negotiations. It is something that has been talked about for a long time. It has been going on since April. I think the feeling on both sides was that it was close and eventually it would work out. Unfortunately, it didn't.

Q: Are you concerned with how this is going to play in the locker room?

BB: Sure. Today is a day that nobody is happy about. This isn't the way we wanted this story to end.

Q: Was this something that was anticipated months ago and maybe dealt with like the signing of a similar player in Rodney Harrison?

BB: No. Obviously a lot of things have happened in the last six months. Time doesn't stand still and your roster and your team doesn't stand still. You manage it as you go along and try to keep an eye into the future. The fact that the timing is what it is, is an indication of the fact that we really thought organizationally and personally that somehow it would work out. That somehow was close, but in the end, the bridge wasn't closed.

Q: Have you talked to Lawyer today?

BB: Yes.

Q: Was he in a state of shock?

BB: I've has several conversations with Lawyer over the last period of time.

Q: Does this change the way you use Harrison at all?

BB: We will have to wait and see how that plays out. At this point, we've been doing what we've doing all the way through training camp. Whether that gets modified a little bit or not, we'll just have to wait and see. We can go with what we got as it is now and if it modifies, we will do that in due course.

Q: If you could put anyone in there to replace him today, who would it be?

BB: Antwan and Chris will both work there and Aric will work there some as well.

Q: Wasn't there a way you could have released any other player to get you under the cap and continue negotiations? It's almost as if this was a drop-dead date for him specifically.

BB: Without getting into the specifics of all of the business aspects of the National Football League and running a team which is really what we are really all talking about here, the best thing I could say is we did everything we could. It just didn't work out.

Q: This could really impact your chances to win in Buffalo.

BB: Something had to change. Somewhere, somehow, something had to change. It can't be the way it is today in Buffalo. Something had to change.

Q: What do you say to your team to help them move on?

BB: I don't want to minimize the impact of it by any stretch of the imagination but at the same time moving forward and releasing players, those things happen in the National Football League. Unfortunately, that was an event that we had today. We've had them at other times during the course of the preseason and through the year. It's tough. Some are tougher than others. This is as tough as it gets. The team will move forward just like it has in every other situation.

Q: Do you anticipate signing another safety this week?

BB: I don't expect to do that. I am not saying it won't happen. But at this point, I don't have anybody in mind and I have no expectations to bring one in. It could happen. But it is not like we are ready to sign somebody that will be here tomorrow. We're not at that point if that is what you are asking.

Q: Would you consider re-signing Otis smith?

BB: We would consider signing any player that we thought could help our football team. Yes. That could include Otis. It could include a lot of other players. It would depend on our situation, that players situation and everything being able to work out. It's a possibility.

Q: Lawyer is an unrestricted free agent now so he can with any team. Is that correct?

BB: Yes, that is correct.

Q: Are the Patriots trying to call his bluff?

BB: I don't think you can characterize it that way. I don't think anybody is doing anything other than trying to work it out. That is what everybody has been trying to do for an extended period of time. We just weren't able to get there.

Q: Are you still trying to work things out? Are you maintaining contact?

BB: I think at this point, a decision has been reached. What will happen in the future, I am not sure. I don't know. The decision is what it is for right now. I don't think there are any expectations. I am not saying it couldn't happen. I don't know.

Q: As a guy that has been in this league since 1975 or 1976…

BB: 1975.

Q: Could you ever foresee this day this coming where on the Tuesday before the season opener for a team that could be very, very good was going to cut its defensive captain because of salary implications that couldn't be resolved?

BB: Well, you certainly don't hope it will happen that way. We've seen players released and the timing varies on how that happens. It happens every year and it happens throughout the year. I don't think there are any absolutes on that. Again, it wasn't something that was planned this way. The timing being what it is, which obviously isn't good, is due to the fact that every effort was made so that we would avoid this.

Q: As a coach and as a football person, does it bother you, the business side of things?

BB: Sure. You wish it didn't have to happen but we all know that is the way it is. When you sign up for it, you sign up to play by the rules and that is what they are.

Q: Given the fact that Lawyer is a person of enormous pride, would you agree that it is extremely unlikely that he would want to come back here?

BB: I don't know. You would have to ask him that.

Q: In terms of the cap, how far over it are you? How much money did you need?

BB: Without getting into a lot of details because it would be hard to do it and there are so many variables. We still have 16 regular season games to play going forward. It is hard to know what all of your needs are going to be during the year. All I would say is, it is part of the business of running a team in the National Football League in 2003. Something had to give.

Q: Could you have cut maybe two smaller players?

BB: We tried to make every effort that we could to make it work. I think if you were talking about a very insignificant move then we wouldn't be talking about it.

Q: Are you required to be a certain amount under the cap?

BB: No. You have to comply with it.

Q: You don't have to have emergency money ready?

BB: You don't have to but I think anybody who looks at a team in the National Football League knows that there are going to be certain expenditures that whether you budget for them or allocate for them however you want to call it, I think it's unrealistic to think that you won't have to spend another dollar once the regular season starts over a 16 game schedule. There are considerations there, yes.

Q: Did you try to convince Ty Law to restructure his contract?

BB: I am not going to get into specific contract negotiations or comments on any player.

Q: When did these rules change that where all of a sudden you needed all of this extra cap room?

BB: That is the way it's always been.

Q: So you had a sense this was coming all along, that this day would be here, this week?

BB: Well, we knew there would be a cap adjustment this week, yes. You don't ever really know where you are going to be when you start the season. Whenever you start it, July, you don't know exactly where you are going to be when you get to that point at the end of August. There are a lot of things that happen during that period that affect those numbers. You have a general idea and you can try to plan for it but you can never be exact with it.

Q: Sometimes players restructure their own contracts to keep another player on the team. If a couple of your players came to you and offered to restructure…

BB: Again, without specifically getting into contracts and the whole cap-management, sufficed to say that everything was done that we felt we could do organizationally to make it work. That takes into consideration each and every player and as importantly the entire team and the make up and the content of the team. It takes into account everything. It's not just about any one person or any one situation. It's about each one of them but it's also about all of them collectively. That is what it is.

Q: In your time here, there have been some pretty high profile players that have left here. Does this feel different because this was a situation where you don't have a safety net in terms of back up?

BB: I think for a lot of reasons this is the hardest player that I have had to release. It was the hardest situation that I've had to go through like this, here or anywhere else.

Q: Did you guys mismanage the cap to have this happen now?

BB: This has been a situation that has been going on for five months. How it would end has been a work in progress.

Q: What made it so difficult for you to make this move?

BB: The player, the situation, the person, the timing. All of them. It's not what you want to happen and it wouldn't be the way we wanted it to happen. But, it is the way it happened.

Q: Did you know that is was a possibility that it would happen today and this way?

BB: Trying to work on that situation has been an ongoing process. Again, how each individual situation works out and how that relates to everything else, changes as the year goes on and as your team changes, and as players get hurt, as other expenses come in, so forth and so on. That is just part of the management of it. No, again, the fact that it happened when it did is, I think, an indication that the expectation was that it wouldn't happen this way and there would be a way to make it work.

Q: Are there certain things that Chris Akins or Antwan Harris do that you are looking forward to seeing that maybe Lawyer couldn't do?

BB: Well we will have to see how they play. Neither one of them have anywhere near the kind of playing experience that Lawyer has.

Q: Could you maybe have more speed there?

BB: Lawyer has taken all of the snaps with the first team and was our starting safety. I don't think you can put somebody else into that position on this team until they go out there and are able to establish it.

Q: Has this been strictly a Lawyer contract negotiation that you tried to have happen?

BB: You are working on the cap, it's a 24 hour, seven days a week job. That is part of it. Each individual player and collectively the entire roster, it's all part of it.

Q: Was there any thought of trying to do this earlier to give yourself some time to recover or were you just trying to take it to the last possible moment?

BB: We were trying to work it out.

Q: Is there a time where the 50 goes to 53? A time of day? Which day?

BB: Thursday or Friday whatever it is.

Q: Is there still that fifth practice squad spot?

BB: We will fill the fifth practice squad spot.

Q: With Lawyer's presence in the locker room, this has to be a concern with the locker room?

BB: I can't say enough about Lawyer's leadership and the respect we have for him as a player and a person. There is no way to overstate that. The other players that are here, and the coaches, and the team will have to move on. That's the way it is.

Q: Do you expect everyone to practice this week?

BB: Yes, I think during the week they will. Whether that is today or not, will have to wait and see. But we'll see. Hopefully.

Q: So, they all have a chance to play in the game?

BB: Yes, I think everyone has a chance to.

Q: [On Tom Brady] If you look at the film of his Super Bowl, what are the most significant changes from that year to now?

BB: I think a number of things that were strengths then are strengths now, I just think they are stronger. Management of the team, understanding the system, decision-making, recognition of defenses, being able to put the team in the right situation, whether it be play-management or play-calling in a two-minute situation whether it be protection call whether it be a run adjustment. Whatever it is, I think his ability to do that was good and I think it's better. I think that Tom is the type of player that rather than seeing one thing in his game jump from here to here, you would see ten different things in his game improve incrementally. Then that combination of all of them gives you a little bit better performance in each of those areas, as opposed to him all of a sudden have 4.8 speed and gaining 250 yards scrambling in a season. I don't think you are going to see that, but for example the number of fumbles he had in the '01 season relative to the number of balls that he lost in the '02 season, when I say lost knocked out of his hands, fumbles, things like that, that there was a significant improvement there.

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