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Bill Belichick Press Conf Transcript - 10/24

Belichick: I think the common thread really is that they have played relatively error free and taken advantage of the opportunities that they have gotten.



            **BB:**  The injury report is pretty much the same.  We are kind of winding down the week here getting the climatic conditions that we get this time of year.  We will se what Sunday brings.  We have had the elements of wind, rain, hail, and all of that this week.  

**Q: It will be sunny and 80 degrees on Sunday.

BB:** Hey, there you go. It will come in from Cleveland. Cleveland will bring it in with them. There is not much of that weather out there at the end of October either.

**Q: Do you think it was very important that the league allow Cleveland to regain its heritage, its tradition, its colors when the expansion team went to Cleveland?

BB:** Sure. I think there is a great tradition there with that franchise and that city. It is kind of the cradle of football. You have the hall of fame right there in Canton. High school football is huge in that state and in that area. College football you have a number of college teams, the whole Mid-American conference and even some of the other division two and division three teams there is a great following there. I don't know how many colleges play football in Ohio but it is a lot. Plus with Ohio State winning the national championship last year and all of that. There is a lot of football there. People are very enthusiastic about from the high school level all the way up to the Cleveland Browns. They are well followed and well supported. I think the fans are very knowledgeable.

**Q: Has there been any one common line to Cleveland's ability to win on the road? Has there been a fast start to each game?

BB:** They are in a lot of close games. They have won a lot of close ones. I wouldn't say all of them. I think the common thread really is that they have played relatively error free and taken advantage of the opportunities that they have gotten. I don't think it is any one specific thing but just in general their team seems to have a good, tough attitude about going on the road. They don't make a lot of mistakes. They play hard and take advantage and capitalize on the opportunities that they get. Same old boring story.

**Q: How about their linebackers? It's a whole new group and there is a little concern from their end. They have put up some impressive numbers.

BB:** Well you know [Brant] Boyer plays a little bit for them in some of their sub defenses and on the goal line and that kind of thing. He has been a very productive special teams player. [Andra] Davis has kind of taken over in the middle. He is a big physical guy and does a nice job in the running game. [Kevin] Bentley and [Ben] Taylor are very athletic young players that have a lot of speed and range. Sure, there was a lot of question about that unit I am sure at the beginning of the year but they have played good football. They are playing behind a good front and they are playing with an experienced secondary with [Daylon] McCutcheon, [Anthony] Henry, [Earl] Little and [Robert] Griffith. Those guys have been together in the back end for a little while and upfront with [Orpheus] Roye, Warren and the end Courtney Brown and [Kenard] Lang are a pretty experienced group. So they are kind of sandwiched in there. I am sure that it is a good chemistry for them all the way through. They have done a good job. Davis has done a good job in the middle and the outside linebackers are athletic, fast, they run, and they show up in the kicking game. It seems like they compliment each other well.

**Q: Can you recall any team that you were a part of that? How difficult would it be to put a new defense together with those three key components? It seems like pulling them together would be difficult.

BB:** Sure. I can't think of that situation right off hand. All the teams that I have been on, as quickly as I can recall, there has been carryover and veteran players in that unit. Dave Campo came in there, the defense that they are running is primarily zone based. They play some man-to-man but they are primarily a zone team. They do what they do pretty consistently. They do it pretty well. They have some nice change ups but you can see that they have a pattern in the way that they play. It looks like the emphasis has been keeping it fairly simple, getting a lot of reps on it and doing a good job with their recognition. They don't get fooled by a lot of plays because they are in the same spot and they have seen them before and they react to them pretty quickly.

**Q: As your linebackers get healthy, do you think you will stick with the four-man front?

BB:** We have used both through the year. I think we will continue to use both. It would be great to see that so when that happens, we'll see how it fits together. In the Giants game we played a lot of 3-4 last week. Miami we played more four-man line. So even in the last couple of weeks we have been able to use both fronts. I think it will continue that way if we get that opportunity.

**Q: In 2001 you started with a 3-4 base right and then you switched to the 4-3 base in the second half?

BB:** Yes. Well it was about this time of year really. Ted Johnson was injured. Bryan Cox was injured and we were really thin at the middle linebacker spot so we converted that to a four-man line and kept the two outside linebackers and moved Tedy [Bruschi] in who was working with Bryan and with Ted Johnson in the 3-4 rotation in the middle. Right, it pretty much stayed that way until the end of the year. We used some 3-4 just as a change up later on in the season but it was pretty much the 3-4 base up to that point and then 4-3 based from that point forward. We have gone both ways on that. One year at the Jets we were 3-4 all through training camp and went to 4-3 very early in the season, either the first or second week. There was another year at the Jets where we started off in a 4-3 for the whole preseason, in fact I think it was the first year in 1997 and then went to the 3-4 on opening day and pretty much played it the rest of the year. Now we are at a point where this year and last year we have a little more utilization of both rather than one or the other. Sometimes it can go that way and it has gone both ways.

**Q: When Ted Washington comes back, he has played the 4-3, you wouldn't have a problem putting him back in there?

BB:** Well I think the big thing is what a player is asked to do and what his responsibilities are more than it is for, it's three men on the line. In Ted's case, he is very good on the center. He is a good nose tackle. However the other guys are deployed around him, I don't think he really cares. He can play what he can play and play it very well. That is what is important for Ted.

**Q: Do we have a timetable on him?

BB:** Ted, he won't play this week. We will re-evaluate him each week and see how it is coming. He is getting better. He is coming along. I couldn't give you any definite date though, no.

**Q: He is not practicing?

BB:** He did not practice this week.

**Q: Can you talk a little bit about Matt Chatham and his health situation and how he has played so far?

BB:** Matt's health situation is I think okay. He missed a little bit of the game last week. He got hit in the leg. As we are going through the week, I think that it is getting better. I don't think it is perfect. I don't think anybody is perfect because of this time year. But is has improved a little bit here through the course of the week. In terms of his play, he has had an opportunity to step in and work both at outside linebacker and some in the nickel pass rush situations. That is what he did in preseason as well as we rotated through in the preseason games. He is taking advantage of his opportunities. I think he is doing a good job.

**Q: How much of your decision with Ty Law will be making sure he can play the whole game as opposed to giving up a roster spot for someone who can only play half way through?

BB:** I think you just have to evaluate each player before the game and see what their situation is, whether it's on a limited basis or on a full-time basis. And then make your decision accordingly. Not only what he can do but where the rest of your group is, the rest of your team is. Like in Mike [Vrabel's] situation last week, he didn't play the whole game but he did play. So we activated him knowing it was going to be a situational basis. You could do it that way, or you could not do it that way and try to go with somebody you think is going to have the opportunity to play the entire game. Every decision and every situation would be a little bit different. What we do with one player may also depend on some of the players that play his position. Other guys can factor in to that decision too. Not just how that one particular guy is. You have to look at all 45.

**Q: Do you look at the bye week and think that the player can actually get a full month's rest if he doesn't play this week or next week? Does that come in to play at all?

BB:** Not a whole lot. We will deal with the bye week when we get to the bye week. I think it would be more of a factor in a player who's missed a number of weeks, say a Ted Johnson, a Ted Washington type of situation. Where if you were to bring, I'm not saying those players, I'm just saying examples of those guys who have missed a few weeks, whether after missing a few weeks we would want to bring them back the week before the bye knowing you have another week behind that. I think that is a little bit of a different situation. But Ty [Law], up until last week, has played in every game. So, it's a little bit of a different situation. But again, each case is different and the bye week is not a big concern of mine. A bigger concern is how we play this week against Cleveland.

**Q: Back to Matt Chatham. Did he make the team more because he played on special teams?

BB:** I think it's a combination of both. Every player you take to the game on Sunday has to have some value for the team. If he's a starting player, then you know he's going to be plugged into that spot. If he's not a starting player, then he has to fill either one or multiple roles in terms of creating depth on your team. In Matt's case, he's a starter on all of the special teams units, but also creates depth at outside linebacker and at pass rushing situations when we get to third down and our nickel defenses and that kind of thing. They are all important and anytime you have to make those choices between which players to take to the game, you have to look at your overall depth situation, your overall ability for your players to play in the kicking game and the ability for the players to play more than one position on either the offensive or defensive side of the ball. The problem is if you take 45 guys to the game, you've got a couple kickers and a snapper, two quarterbacks, you are down to 40 players right there. Now you start looking at backups and you have 22 positions on offense and defense. You just can't back them up with 44 players. Right away you can see that it just doesn't add up, so somebody has to do multiple things. You have to back up your spots on the kickoff team, your coverage players, your gunners and holdup players, you safeties on kickoff coverage. There are a lot of different requirements that you have to take in consideration and people have to double up somewhere along the line. So a player like Matt has a lot of value for us, because he does multiple things on defense and he also fills a lot of spots on special teams. When you are talking about special teams, which having been a special teams coach, you are really looking at 66 players on special teams and backing that up. You really have 132, as a special teams coach, you are going in looking at 132 positions. Kickoff, kickoff return, punt, punt return, field goal, and field goal rush. You have 66 guys that have to do those jobs. So if the R3 on the kickoff team is out, you have to have another R3. Obviously you don't have another 66 people to do that, but somebody has got to be the backup R3, somebody's got to be the backup R2, somebody's got to be the backup left guard on the field goal team, somebody's got to be the backup skinner on the field goal rush team. So when you are looking at the depth of your team, especially when you get to special teams, you are talking about a lot of people and a lot of possibilities and being able to practice those guys to make sure you have those positions covered going into the game. I start talking about multiple positions and multiple responsibilities. That is really the epitome of it when you get into the kicking game.

**Q: There are guys that make a career out of doing that?

BB:** Absolutely. Even though he is not a starting player, a player that can have value in multiple positions on your team is worth a lot to you. Particularly players that are smart and have some experience and don't need a lot of reps, because citing the depth we talked about, there is no way you can practice everybody at all of those spots. Whoever is going to be a backup in two or three positions, there is no way they can get a lot of work in all three of those positions, but if it comes up in the game they are the ones who are going to have to play it. Being able to play and play competitively in the game without having to take 25 percent of the practice snaps makes a player even more valuable as a backup or as a role player in those situations.

**Q: Matt has also benefited from being here so long?

BB:** Sure, experience is a big part of it. Experience in a system is a big part of it. Right. Exactly. Players, may they have played certain positions in other years, now they haven't played left guard, they have been working more at right guard or right tackle. But Boom! You get into a situation now he has to go over and play left guard and he has done it. That's part of building your depth, is having continuity of your team or sometimes experience or historical background with a player and him having it in your system. The hardest thing to do, without a doubt, is to bring players in who aren't familiar with your system during the season and get them ready for games. Things come up in games that are one time situations, the team gets in a new formation or it is a new situation, or the defense stems right at the last second and it is something that they haven't gone through training camp with. They don't have the background in your system that the other players do and they are forced out there and they are put into that situation. Those are hard because you just can't get them all practiced. You have to rely on experience and a new player coming into your system just doesn't have it. Coaching's just not as easy as you think it is. We don't just roll the ball out there and say, 'Okay let's start playing.' There's a lot of preparation. Special teams is a nightmare, it really is. You've got a lot of people, a lot of situations. A lot of things can happen.

**Q: As guys start to come back from injury, do you have a fear if you are doing really well still, bringing guys back would disrupt things by putting them in there?

BB:** Having too many good football players has never been a problem. It is the other way around.

**Q: If they are doing really well and all of a sudden you have to replace a guy or limit a guy's time that is playing pretty well….

BB:** It's a good question, it really is and it is a solid point. The way I look at it is you try to do what is best for your football team. If a guy has missed a significant amount of time, it is pretty unrealistic to think that he is going to come back in with no practice, with no game time, and play at a level of performance that maybe he was playing at a year ago or two months ago. I think that is just unrealistic.

**Q: So you ease him back in?

BB:** Right. He needs his timing. He needs his conditioning. He needs his reactionary time and all of those things. You could practice it but it is just not the same. I am not saying that a guy can't comeback in and contribute for you but to think that he is going to play at the same high level that he did when he was out there practicing everyday and playing every week I think is unrealistic. As I have said before, if that was the way to do, then we should just send everybody home for six weeks and bring them back if that would put them at the top of their game. But that is really not the way it usually happens. Sometimes you get into a situation where you are forced to play those players because of something else that has happened. You through them in there and you just have to do the best you can. That is the situation that you are in and you manage it. I don't think hat is the really the optimal way to do it. You ease them back in, see how they are, see how they are performing and if they are playing better than the other person who is in there then that is an easy decision to make. You move him up. If not and the other person has established a level of play that is a little bit higher than the guy coming back then you continue to try to manage the situation until it becomes clear cut.

**Q: Do all rookies hit a wall?

BB:** I think they all do. I think it just comes in degrees. I know from experience that I hit a wall my first year in the league as a coach. Every rookie that I have ever talked to when they've looked back on it, maybe they don't realize it at the time, but when they look back on it from Lawrence Taylor to Phil Simms to Richard Seymour to anybody you want to talk to, they have all acknowledged that they hit the wall and they have had to deal with something that they never had to deal with before. Colleges don't play the length of the season that we play and it is at a very high competitive level. Again, you take guys coming into this league and they were usually better than most of the guys they played against in college. That is why they are here. Well here it is a little different story. Now everybody that they play against is better than them as rookies or probably as good as if not better. The level of competition is so much higher. The length of the season is so much longer and the level of play is very demanding both physically and mentally and it just takes a toll on them. It is something that we are all going to have to work through.

**Q: Is that a concern?

BB:** It is not only a concern for rookies, I think it is a concern for your entire team because everybody, as we all do, as the season goes on and on and on, it gets more demanding each week. The games get bigger. The teams do more. They are in mid-season form. They have more schemes in. They have more plays to make it harder on you. Your preparation is tougher each week in the season. I think it is progressively a little bit harder and there is a certain drag that comes from all of the previous time and energy that you have invested in it. But it is the same for everybody else. The other teams are going at the same pace that we are. That is the challenge of a team performing well throughout the entire course of the season. But sure it is definitely challenging

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