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Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript 09/07/2004

Belichick: We signed Russell Stuvaints, he is a safety from the Pittsburgh Steelers, to the practice squad and released Michael Jennings.



BB: We have one transaction to announce today. We signed Russell Stuvaints, he is a safety from the Pittsburgh Steelers, to the practice squad and released Michael Jennings. I think that brings us up to date there. We are winding down here on the preparations. We have, obviously, a lot of things to be ready for with the Colts. They have a good scheme. They do a lot of things well. They are strong in a lot of areas, and there are a lot of things that we have been working on. Now is when we pull it all together and kind of consolidate our final preparations for Thursday night. I think the team is anxious. They are excited. They are ready to go. We will be ready to go. We still have a little more work to do. I think this game, opening day, is one that [we] have been building for since the schedule comes out. Everybody knows when it is. It is the first one, and we are getting closer to it. I think we can feel that atmosphere on the team. Hopefully we will be ready to go.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about Edgerrin James?

BB: He looks good. He hasn't had a lot of carries in preseason. He carried the ball quite a bit against the Jets. I think he has looked good. We all know what Edgerrin is. He is good in all areas of the game. He is good in blitz pick up. He is a good pass receiver. He makes a lot of yards after contact. He is a pretty solid guy. He looks good. Their offensive line has been good especially with [Tarik] Glenn there. He and [Jeff] Saturday have been the two really consistent guys for them. They pretty much have been rocks there for a while. They do a good job. They do a good job on his outside running plays and the draw plays, those inside zone plays, James runs them well. He breaks a lot of tackles. They hurt up us up there on all of those things that I just mentioned.

Q: As far as your running game is concerned, and the injuries guys have sustained, is there any trepidation going into this game?

BB: Whatever we have, we have. We will put our best players, the best team we can put out there on Thursday night with whoever the people are at whatever position they are in. We have been trying to create some depth for ourselves in the preseason and training camp. There will be times, I am sure, during the year where in one position or another, we will need to use it. Whether that is this week or not, I don't know. That could all change on the first play of the game anyway, so you have to go into every game with that type of mentality. 'Here is where we are. Here are the 45 guys we are going with.' You could be in the middle of the first quarter and be looking at a whole different lineup. You just have to deal with it.

Q: When they run a stretch play, do you almost have to tell your guys to be ready for play-action?

BB: Well, you have to play good team defense. You can't tell the guys who are supposed to stop the run to play play-action, or they will run the ball right over you and you can't tell the guys that have to play play-action to play the run, or they will throw it past you. They do a great job of that. They do a great job of creating a run-pass conflict for the linebackers and for the guys in the secondary with their play-action. We have to read our keys and be disciplined and see it. At the same time, they do a good job on the running play itself, and they hurt us with that in the third quarter in last year's game. We have to do a better job of defending it and playing it and playing the running play. Those two plays tie together, and I am sure they are sitting there saying if you stop one, you can't stop the other one. You just can't stop them both, and that is why they run them and they time together very well. Yes, that is a big challenge for us defensively. They do that with a number of plays, but that is a great example.

Q: You mentioned your linebackers who are veterans, does that give you a better feeling handling their passing attack?

BB: Well, veteran or not they are going to have to handle them. There is no other way to do it. The Colts have a good attack. They have had a lot of success with it and a ton of production. Year in and year out, they score as many points as anybody does. They are going to keep doing it, and we are going to have to deal with it one way or another. The linebackers, they will be a big factor in it. Again, it is team defense. With the Colts, you stop one play, they have a couple of other ones that will kill you. You just can't throw all of your eggs in one basket. You have to play good team defense. Everybody has to take care of their responsibility. Whoever is covering [Marvin] Harrison has to cover him. Whoever is forcing the run has to force it. The guys that are rushing the passer have to make [Peyton] Manning throw the ball on time. Guys that are covering [Marcus] Pollard, [Reggie] Wayne and [Brandon] Stokely, they all have to hold up. You just can't say, 'Well, we are just going to stop this guy and not worry about everybody else.' They have too many guys.

Q: You mentioned looking forward to the schedule and the season opener. With everything surrounding the game, the concert and all of the build-up that is taking place…

BB: I don't care anything about that. That doesn't matter. I am just saying when the schedule comes out, you know you are going to open with somebody. This year it is the Colts. There is a certain direction that you take. You are getting ready for a 16-game regular-season schedule, but you know who the first game is. There is a little bit more of an anticipation of that one because it is the first one. There are 15 other ones. So, they are all important. After the first week, then you look at the second week. But, because there is so long between when the schedule comes out in the first week, that is still your first opportunity. That is all I am saying. It doesn't have anything to do with the fireworks. We feel the same way about the game.

Q: Does that heighten the atmosphere at all?

BB: Well, we are not going to be a part of that. We are here to play a game. Look, if the players want to watch Mary [J.] Blige sing, then I will get them a good seat in the stands, and they can watch it to their heart's content. What we need are people to go out there across the white lines and perform better than the Colts. That is what we need on Thursday night.

Q: What is the best way to combat a team that is focused on revenge?

BB: The best thing you can do as a team is to go out there and play well. Period. Whatever anybody is focused on, the best thing we can do is go out there and play well, to execute our plays, to execute our assignments and to play good, sound, fundamental, solid football. That will help us more than anything else.

Q: What will Corey Dillon add to the offense this season?

BB: Well, his role may vary from week-to-week like everybody does. I don't know, but we know what Corey can do. He is a powerful runner. He has had a lot of production in this league. He is good in the passing game. He is good on blitz pickup. Hopefully, he will do whatever he is being called on to do for a particular play, game or week. But, it is not like we are going into the season saying, 'Corey Dillon has to carry the ball 'x' number of times every game.' That is just not how we do it.

Q: Do you anticipate a roster move within the next 24-36 hours?

BB: Possible. It is possible. Who would it be? I don't know.

Q: Might it be at the backup quarterback position? Have you decided on that?

BB: Well, we will announce that before the game.

Q: Will there be a salary cap related roster transaction?

BB: No. Whatever we do at this point will be for competitive purposes.

Q: Do you know what day it is?

BB: Well, it is Friday. To me it is Friday. It is two days before the game. It is Friday, which is kind of messed up because we are playing on Thursday, so I know I am off on that one. From a scheduling standpoint, to me it is Friday.

Q: Has you your schedule ever gotten this messed up?

BB: Yes. Well, it has been like that, because when we sit out there and talk to the players in the team meeting I really have to think about what day it is. 'Okay today is Sunday, it is really Wednesday, so tomorrow, let me think, it is like a Thursday, but we know it isn't Thursday, so that would make it, what, Monday.' You know, it is. It is a little bit unusual, but we are working our way through it. Hopefully we'll be there at 9 o'clock on Thursday night. That is where we need to be. But Thursday there is going to be traffic. People are going to be working. People are going to be coming to the game early because of what is going on before the game. So just getting here, getting everything set and getting going will be a little different than what it would normally will be. Sunday is usually not a big traffic day, other than the game traffic. So there are a lot of little things like that that you could trip up on if you just go to sleep and are unaware of them.

Q: Assuming you don't put Matt Light back there to return punts, and Kevin Faulk and Troy Brown aren't able to, who would return punts?

BB: It would be somebody else. We have a lot of players on our team who have done that at one point or another, and we have a lot of guys out there catching them in training camp and preseason. If we can make them punt, hopefully we will put somebody back there. That is our big challenge, is forcing them into punting situations. They went through those first two playoff games last year without ever having to punt, and they didn't punt very much against us either. So, hopefully we can make them punt.

Q: Can you talk about what a guy like Tedy Bruschi means to the younger players?

BB: I think Tedy means a lot to our whole team—defense, special teams, offense, everybody. Tedy is a high-energy guy. You know he loves the game. He loves to practice. He is very enthusiastic and upbeat about whatever it is he is doing, whether it is covering punts, whether it is blitzing, whatever it happens to be. I think he sets a great example and is a good guy for any player to watch in terms of preparation, playing style, toughness, instincts, you name it. Naturally, the players that play the linebacker position spend a little more time with him. A younger guy like Dan [Klecko], if he does everything Bruschi does and does it the way Tedy does it, he will be a lot better for it. And Dan is a hard-working, conscientious kid himself, so it is a good fit.

Q: What does it mean to the organization for a player to legitimately want to remain a Patriot for life?

BB: That is great. That is what we are all hoping for, is that we can keep as many people, as many good players, as many good people, coaches, scouts, you name it, in the organization for as long as possible. There is movement in the league, and we know that there are opportunities in a timely fashion, at one point or another for everybody. Hopefully we can keep, as much as possible, our productive people intact and move forward with that. But, we know we can't do it with everybody, so that is life in the NFL. Having Tedy here, him having been here, and knowing he is going to be here for some time in the foreseeable future is good for our organization, it is good for our defense, and it is good for the head coach.

Q: Since last season, have you seen an improvement in Tom Brady or do you think he has reached a point where he is leveling off?

BB: I think every player can improve. I think all veteran players are going through the same thing right now in the league. There are new people on the roster, particularly in the passing game. There is a new element of timing, or a rebuilding of all of the timing and the execution phase of the passing game that, when you are playing a team in January and you have had five and a half months to work on it, you are able to do some things if you have done them a lot more and are a lot more familiar with them, than you are after six weeks of training camp. So, that is just the way it is. It isn't so much about those players about getting better, although there is an element to that. I think that with some of those guys you reach a law of diminishing returns. What is the difference between 11 and 12 years experience? A little bit, but incrementally, not very much. But it is re-establishing the timing and the execution, particularly in the skill part of the game for quarterbacks, receivers, offensive linemen working together, your secondary, and all those things. And I think that is where we are right now. It is a big part of where we are, is each player has little things they can improve on and they have worked on in the offseason. Those are incrementally important, but it is getting everything to fit together and being able to execute well as a team, that is a big challenge for every team in the league right now, and college, pro, high school, you name it. You have only had a few days of practice, in relative terms, compared to the end of the season. You are doing a lot of new things. You are getting ready for new things. You have new people in there, and there is a lot to be re-established.

Q: Can your own team fool you? Has your team ever played better or worse than you thought they would?

BB: I think you have to be careful about your expectations in the opener because it is your first shot at it. It is your first shot at another team who has really game-planned for you and given you the kind of attention, specifically to your team, that you just haven't gotten in preseason. So, to me, I always go into the opening game with, not so much expectations, but trying to look at it realistically and see and evaluate where we are. Just because something has looked good in training camp doesn't mean it is going to look good in the regular season, and vice versa. Sometimes you are overmatched in preseason and you don't get that same matchup in the season, and then sometimes you are under matched in preseason and then the matchups get a lot tougher here in the regular season. So, that can flip in a hurry. I think the big thing you want for your team is good execution, good fundamental techniques in all areas of the game, and then the things that aren't going as well, you try to correct them and improve them, or get rid of them and emphasize the things that it looks like your team is doing better. But, where you are exactly on those, I don't think you know for, not even just opening day, probably the first month of the season. The returns start to come in, and there starts to be some evidence, but I don't think you fully know until you have had a chance to get it evaluated for a few weeks and get it out there for the regular-season games.

Q: Indianapolis has a powerful offense. What is the thing that you want to focus on shutting down first?

BB: Well, again, I think you need to play good team defense. I don't think you can pick out one thing and say, 'Well, we are just going to stop this one thing'. They have too many other players and too many other plays that they can kill you. You have to be able to be a good defense on all fronts—the perimeter in the running game, the inside running game, the perimeter passing game, the middle of the field passing game with [Marcus] Pollard and [Brandon] Stokley. You better be ready for screens and draws and plays like that, deceptive plays that balance counters and balance the core plays that the Colts run. You better be ready on all fronts, and if you just pick out one thing and say you are going to stop that, well, you might stop that a couple of times, but as soon as they see where you are, they'll go somewhere else, and you are going to have problems. You better be ready to play good team defense against the Colts or it is going to be a long night.

Q: How difficult is it to explain to a rookie the difference between a preseason game and a game like the season opener of the regular season?

BB: It is not tough to explain it; it is tough to get them to understand it. You can explain it, but it is a whole different game, and I think it starts on special teams, that there is a tempo and a level of intensity on opening day that is much higher than what it is in preseason. You can talk about it, you can try to show plays, but honestly, I don't think they really fully understand it until they have been through it, like a lot of things for rookies. They don't understand training camp, they don't understand the fact that, instead of them being the best player on their team or the best player in their league, now they are probably one of the worst, and there are a lot of guys a lot better than them. They have never been through that before in high school or in college. It is not their fault, that is just the way it is. If they weren't very good at those levels they probably wouldn't be at this level anyway. It is just part of the whole transformation and the whole learning experience process that a rookie has to go through. We talk to them about it a lot, and I know the other veteran players do, and, again, it is everything. It is not just opening day. It is pretty much everything for them, including showing them where the field is, trying to get there on time, and all of that stuff that you would take for granted and you just can't take it for granted. And once they experience it and go through it, then they look back that second year and say, 'Wow, I was so lost last year. Wow, I can't believe how much better I feel this year and how much more I know this year than what I knew last year'. And sometimes they come in and think that they actually know something, but you talk to them a year later and they have that respect there of, 'Wow, I didn't even know what I didn't know'. We've all been through that. It was like that my rookie year, too. I didn't know anything either. I still don't know too much, but more than I did that year

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