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Replay: Best of Radio Thu Apr 18 - 02:00 PM | Tue Apr 23 - 11:55 AM

Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript - 11/20/2003

Belichick on Ward: He had a good preseason for us and we feel like he can give us some depth at receiver, plus he knows our system and was productive for us in our system.



BB: How is everybody doing this morning?

Q: Have any good story ideas for us today?

BB: Yes, sure. We have a roster move for you today. That will be a headline story. We re-signed Dedric Ward and place Fred McCrary on injured reserve. Unfortunately that is not really what we were hoping for with Fred and his situation. We are just a little thin at receiver and of course Dedric probably came about as close to being kept on the 53-man roster as you could possibly be. We had some tough decisions to make there. When he became available we thought that he could give us some depth. He had a good training camp. He had a good preseason for us and we feel like he can give us some depth at receiver, plus he knows our system and was productive for us in our system. Those are all positives for Dedric. We will see where we are with him and how much he will be able do this week. I think he gives us a little more depth at that position than we have currently. So there you go. What else can I do for you?

Q: [Laughter] I only need 18 more paragraphs now.

BB: Oh, okay. [Laughter]

Q: Does Dedric fit the same spot that David [Patten] generally would play?

BB: Yes. Dedric worked in training camp at the 'x' and in the three wides where David did. But Dedric has played all three spots and played all three spots in training camp. He has also played in the slot. One of the great things about Ward is his flexibility and versatility in our system. He is smart. He did all of those things when we had him in New York. He did them this year in training camp and the preseason games. I think that he is a guy that gives us depth at every position in our two wide receiver sets and our multiple wide receiver sets.

Q: Does this allow you to accentuate J.J. Stokes' abilities a little bit more instead of if you were so thin before you would maybe be in a position where…

BB: Yeah, I think that is a solid point that really Dedric could be the person to have more flexibility and move him around more. Also with Troy being questionable, Dedric also has the ability to return punts. That gives us a little bit of depth there in the kicking game and the return game as well. He has a lot of versatility for us.

Q: Do you feel he can contribute a little faster too because of his familiarity with your system?

BB: Dedric would have a jump on anybody coming in here that isn't already here. Anybody else coming in he would have a jump on based on training camp and preseason. It was a very tough decision not to keep him on the roster at the start of the season. Very tough. I feel fortunate that we were able to get him at this point especially when we put David on injured reserve and we have had some nicks at receiver.

Q: So it is not a stretch to think he could contribute for you Sunday?

BB: Well I think we will do all that we can to get him ready, Brian [Daboll] and Charlie [Weis] will do all we can to get him ready and he needs to do his part and if we do that I think there is a chance. Brad [Seely] will be working with him n the kicking game as far as a returner. We will see where we are but I think we have a shot at that, yes.

Q: And he is healthy?

BB: We will cross our fingers on that, yes. They are all healthy until we put them out there. Then as soon as we put them out there that is when the problems start.

Q: He had an injury in Baltimore didn't he?

BB: I think he did miss a little bit of time. Again, we will just have to evaluate where he is today and physically and mentally ready he is.

Q: How did J.J. look yesterday in practice?

BB: J.J. was okay. I thought for learning a new system he has really been in that West Coast offensive system which as we all know is a great offensive system, it is just a little bit different from what we do. He stayed after practice yesterday and ran a lot of routes afterwards. I think that it is coming. It has only been one day but it didn't look bad.

Q: In terms of fullbacks, you lost Larry Centers and Fred McCrary. How does that change your plans offensively? More Patrick Pas or less fullback in general?

BB: It doesn't really change much of anything from the last couple of weeks because Fred didn't play in the Dallas game and it would have been probably a long shot for him to play in this game although we were hopeful. It probably didn't look like he was going to make it. It is where we were.

Q: How did Patrick look?

BB: I thought he had some good plays. I thought his blocking was okay. I thought he made a real good play out there in the flat where he slipped [Dat] Nguyen, which we didn't do very much. I mean the guy had 10 unassisted tackles or whatever it was. I thought he made a real good play there. He had a chance on the long balls, it was a tough chance there but I thought overall he did a solid job for us. Patrick has been consistent in the kicking game. I don't think we can ask for too much more than what he has given us coming here in the, whatever it was, third week of the season.

Q: Can he do a little bit of what Fred did and a little bit of what Larry did but just not either as well as those two guys?

BB: Well, first of all, Patrick is on all of the special teams. He has been a consistent special team player for us for all four years that he has been here. Just about virtually every kicking situation other than PAT's [point after touchdown's] and field goal plays, he is going to be out there for those. That of course, when you have a player in that position, then that really gives him more opportunity on offense or defense depending on what side of the ball he is on because as a coach and as a coordinator and planning, you know that player is going to be there every week. Whether you play him on offense or defense it doesn't matter. You know he is going to be there because of his contributions on special teams. Since he is there for special teams, he is there for offense or defense. His play on special teams has actually led to him getting more offensive playtime. I know sometimes that is hard for people to understand but that is really the way it works.

Q: Does Troy [Brown] have the kind of injury that is sort of going to be on and off for the rest of the year?

BB: I wish I knew the answer to that question. I really don't.

Q: Has it been one of those too good to be true kind of things in regards to the contributions that the rookies have made in the secondary in Asante Samuel and Eugene Wilson? Also, with Eugene making the switch from corner to safety. Can you talk a little bit about that?

BB: Well, I will speak on Eugene first. Eugene has been a consistent player for us since the day that he got here. In mini-camps, in the offseason program, then in training camp at corner and special teams, he played well in preseason. He started the first preseason game at corner against the Giants. He has just been a consistent, solid football player. He has taken on a lot of different responsibilities, a very mature young man, a smart kid and is instinctive, very instinctive on the football field without a coaching sometimes. He just seems to know to do the right thing. When we moved him to safety, kind of everything that he had done had lead us to think that he would somehow be able to pick it up at up at safety and play instinctively back there and he has certainly gotten a lot better. But, I thought he did a job even when he first went in there in the second game against Philadelphia and from that point on. Was it a surprise? Well we didn't draft him to play safety but after being with Eugene for several months in the offseason program, training camp and the preseason games, it wasn't that surprising that he found a way to continue to be successful and productive on the field. Asante is a little bit of the same story although he has been of course exclusively at corner. He never really has played very much inside in the slot position which has mainly been his current role though he has played some outside when Ty Law missed a little bit of time earlier in the season. He had a big play in the slot of course against the Jets. He is another guy that has kind of picked up a new spot. I know that corner is corner but inside corner and outside corner, that is two different worlds. It is really kind of like playing linebacker when you play inside because you have people coming at you from a lot of different angles that you just don't have on the perimeter. He has done a good job of that. Like Eugene, he has been healthy, he has been on the field, he has worked hard and he is a mature kid. He has continued to get better at that role and even playing out side when he has played out side like in the Miami game.

Q: You have only given up four touchdown passes this year. It is the best in the league.

BB: That was like a game's worth for us last year.

Q: One and a half per game last year.

BB: There were some games that had to be close to four. I don't know. The Minnesota game? I can still see them standing in the end zone waving their arms.

Q: I only try to write the positives. [Laughter]

BB: Oh, I know. [Laughter] Mr. Positive Features.

Q: Exactly. Is there any way that touchdown passes can be a misleading stat?

BB: Sure. Absolutely. I think it is definitely misleading. Again, you can take both sides of it but you get the ball down there on the one yard line and run some play action pass and the guy is standing all alone in the end zone because everybody is playing the run on first and goal on the one. Well, Joe Quarterback had two touchdown passes today, one that anyone in this room could throw to him. The guy is standing open in by himself in the endzone. But okay, those are touchdown passes. Some of them are big plays. Some of them are tough plays. I am not saying that. But some of them are just gimmes. It is a tap in put. There is a big difference between one of those touchdown passes and hitting an 82-yarder in overtime to win the game. That is a whole different type of play. I am sure that some of the touchdowns that we have given up down there, maybe if they would have thrown it they might have scored anyway. I don't know. You don't like to see them run the ball in from the 15-yard line like Denver did. Maybe if they had run it a few times and we had stopped them and played better run defense, maybe they would have had an throwing opportunity, I don't know. The good thing to me about that stat is that they are not hitting the 50-yarders. If they were we would be giving up a lot more than four. Defensively, anytime you can eliminate big plays, play well on third down, play good in the red area, and turn the ball over, that all leads to good defense which good defense ultimately is measured by how many points you give up. That is the only thing that really matters.

Q: One more item on tackling. Last year you had talked a little bit about guys trying to knock guys out rather than wrapping them up. Did you make any speeches or did you talk to this crew this year about avoiding that? Or does this group naturally just go for the wrap-up rather than go for the 11 o'clock ESPN highlight?

BB: We definitely talked about it. I talked about it last year, this year, the year before. I talked about it in 1986 with the Giants. If you are a defensive football player, you have one job really. That is to get the guy with the ball. That is your job. If you are not doing that, what is your point on defense? Now there is some single man-man coverage out there every once in a while, your job is to keep the guy from catching the ball but sooner or later somebody is going to have it and you have to get them. Your job is to get them down. That is priority number one. If you can get the guy down and make a big hit doing it, great. But the most important thing is to get the runner on the ground and the play, eliminate as much extra yardage as possible and then come back and line up and do it again. Big hits really come from timing and opportunity. Sometimes you get the opportunities for them and those are great. You make them. Sometimes you can knock the ball loose with contact or create a tempo on defense for not only your defensive players but the offensive players that are on the sideline that see that same type of play too and it can be a big momentum play. Sometimes when somebody else has the tackle and you are coming as a second or third guy in and the runner is held up, well that is another opportunity where you can really go in there and make a physical hit. In the open field, it is just sometimes too hard, sometimes on punt coverage where the guy has got to catch the ball and he can't really dodge the defender, you see some big hits in the open field there. For the most part, it is hard to hit these guys in the open field and really make solid contact. They are just too quick. That is why they are NFL receivers and backs. I think it is good to take your shots, but certainly not at the expense of one highlight hit and two misses and the guy gains 30 yards after you go in there and flag him when there is nobody else that can get him. It is decision-making and judgment and the player has to do that on the field. We can give him guidelines and we can talk about it but every play is different. Every situation is a little bit different and the players have to use good judgment in those situations.

Q: Tony Banks, what is he doing at this stage in his career?

BB: I think he is playing well. He has got a very strong arm and he is very athletic. I think probably earlier in his career like a lot of quarterbacks, they have so much confidence in their ability and their arm strength and sometimes they try to put it in some spots that are tight. I think that Tony has done a much better job from what I have seen of him this year in terms of being patient, being disciplined, taking what is there, the running game has been productive for Houston, much more so than it was last year and that also softens the coverage up and gives them more opportunities to find holes in the defense when the teams are up there more consciously playing the run. I think he is doing a good job. Obviously Chris Palmer is a good coach. He has had a lot of success with quarterbacks and has done a good job with Tony and David.

Q: Is it my impression that around the league, there are a larger number than usual of teams that are having excellent seasons on pass defense. Is that impression accurate or am I skewed just because I see most of your games and you guys are having a splendid season?

BB: A lot of times, I get asked questions like that and honestly I don't really feel like I am capable of answering them because the teams that I see the most of are the teams that we play. How teams like Seattle, Detroit, the Rams, the 49ers, just go right down the line, teams like that are doing, even teams like Indianapolis who we play but we just haven't seen, I really don't have a great sense of what they are doing or how they are doing it. For me to comment on a league-wide trend sometimes is honestly I feel like you probably see more of the league than I do and what I see is some specific teams and some specific games. I think that in general, it seems like there may be a little bit more emphasis league wide on defense relative to the last few drafts. How high teams are taking defensive players in the early part of the draft, I think that is reflective of in-part need, certainly in-part talent, but maybe in-part need and in-part philosophy and that may speak a little bit to the emphasis that maybe teams are putting on the defensive side of the ball whether it be a run or pass.

Q: Your thoughts on Ty Law and how his season has been.

BB: It's been okay. No, [kidding]. Ty has done a terrific job for us. He has fought through some injuries. Stayed out on the field and showed a lot of toughness and leadership. He has made big play after big play after big play all season long. It hasn't been one game it has been in a number of games and a number of key times. Not only big plays but key plays. We can all sit there and watch a game and every once in a while before the ball is even snapped, we all know, 'This is going to be a key play in this game. The situation, the field position, you can just feel it coming. No matter which way this play goes, it is going to have an affect on the game. This is going to be a key play.' A lot of Ty's plays have come at that time. I think he has really done a good job for us. He is having a solid season. More than solid and he has also played through some tough situation in terms of playing through some injuries.

Q: Is he as fast as he has ever been?

BB: I think Ty runs well. Ty is like some players and we could rattle off a lot of them, some guys are going to run fast on the track and run fast for a clock, and there are other guys that when you get into a competitive situation, when either they are chasing somebody or they are running away from somebody, they play at what we call a competitive speed, a faster speed. That is something that when we scout players and we write reports on them, a lot of times a scout can really not make an evaluation of the player and just go off of his time speed, 'Well this receiver ran 4.7. He can't run fast enough.' What we ask our scouts to do is we don't care about his time speed. Let's talk about his playing speed. A lot of the comments are, 'Well this player plays faster than his time speed,' or 'This player doesn't play to his time speed.' Maybe a guy runs 4.4 but he doesn't play 4.4. Maybe a guy runs 4.6 but he plays a lot faster than 4.6. That is an evaluation that is subjective. He runs 4.6, you can't say he runs 4.5 because he'd never run 4.5 but he plays 4.5. That competitive speed, I think Ty is certainly a guy that goes into that category. Whatever he runs, he runs all of it and a little more in competitive situations.

Q: Was this the first time he hasn't wanted to go in at receiver?

BB: Oh, Ty is there every week on that. We could have 13 receivers and Ty, don't worry, he would be willing to get in there.

Q: Are you ever going to throw him a bone?

BB: [Laughter] I don't know. I don't know.

Q: The Eugene Wilson hit that he was fined for. From a coaching standpoint, do you kind of put your hands up in the air? What do you tell your defensive backs?

BB: Well, what the rule is that the player can't lead with his head. The judgment of a play and Eugene knows that and I know it and so does everybody else on the team. What Eugene did was right before contact he slid his head to the right and it is a judgment as to whether or not you think he led with his head or not. It clearly wasn't a missile shot where it was clear-cut. Did his head hit first? I don't know. It is close. It is certainly a close call. But I think he was doing the right thing. I think he was trying not to have a helmet first collision and he was doing the right thing. Whether that was one millionth of a second too late in the official's eyes, you know, it is the official's call. It doesn't really matter what I think. It doesn't matter what you think. It doesn't matter what Wilson thinks. All that matters is what the guy standing there making the call thinks. Sometimes they are right, sometimes they are wrong. If they are wrong, I am sure they will be corrected on them. If they are right, I am sure they will say it was a close call that was properly made. I will say this though, I know, the players know, and everybody in the league knows, that if it is close on a play like that, they are probably going to call it. That is what the officials are instructed to do. If it is close, they are going to air on the side of safety and we all know that. That is not anything that is going to be new information. It has been that way for several years. I am sure that is the way it is going to stay. We have to do all we can to avoid that. I think that Eugene was doing that. I can't really fault him on the play. Nevertheless, we are going to have to maybe do just a little bit more in that type of situation. That is a tough call.

Q: Having said that, is the $7,500.00 excessive or does the league even make a distinction?

BB: You would have to talk to the league about that. We don't have anything to do with that judgment or the fine or the process or anything else. You would have to talk to the league about that. I really have no knowledge or comment on it.

Q: Both positively and negatively there have been some big hits in the games. Do you like the way that Rodney [Harrison's] hits have rubbed off on the other players on the field?

BB: I love Rodney's aggressiveness. He has always played that way. I think that Rodney has used really good judgment on the field this year. Anytime you are an aggressive player there are going to be some that are close right there, that are on the line. I think he has used good judgment when to make them and when not to make them, and how to make them in a legal manner. I love his aggressiveness. I think everybody respects the way he plays the game and his style of play, and I think he does it 99.999 percent of the time within the rules as he should. I think he is a hard player, but he is a clean player.

Q: What about the way he has rubbed off on some of the other players?

BB: I don't know about that. I don't know. I am not sure. Maybe it has, maybe it has not. I think we have some other aggressive players on this team, especially on the defensive side of the ball. We had a lot of big hits here before he came, and we have had some since he has been here. I do not know if I could attribute some of the other aggressive, physical hits that we have had to Rodney. I am not saying it has hurt. I do not mean it any way disrespectfully to Rodney at all. I think we also have some aggressive players that have hit pretty hard before he was here. I am sure with the younger players, guys like Eugene and Asante and players like that in the secondary. That, it has not hurt. I will say that—it has not hurt.

Q: Does your defense in the secondary change at all with a team like Houston that has hit a lot of long plays down the field?

BB: Well I think you have to be very aware of it. Houston is the kind of team where a lot of their philosophy is to get the right play against the right defense—maybe a little bit like Washington. When they know what you are in, then there are certain things that they want to do. If you are not in that, then they are not going to do those things. When you are in something else, then they want to be in something else. A lot of their big plays come, honestly, when the defense is trying to be more aggressive and take away shorter plays, then that opens up the deeper opportunities. A lot of times if you want to play deeper and take away those opportunities, they are perfectly content to throw the ball in the shorter areas, which still can result in big plays like what happened in the Buffalo game last week. Buffalo is back deep—they have plenty of guys back there—they throw a slant to Johnson, he runs through two tackles, and they have a 50-yard touchdown or whatever it was. Some of their big plays come on catch and run plays. Corey Bradford had one against Cincinnati. He had about a 75-yard touchdown, he caught a 20-yard in-cut, and Cincinnati had plenty of guys back there. On the surface you would say, 'this should not be a 75-yard touchdown', but he catches the ball, he splits the coverage, splits the defense, and he is gone. You are not going to catch Corey Bradford. I think a lot of those plays come from having a good passing game. It is not all go patterns. A lot of them are short catch and run plays, but again there are plenty of go patterns in there too. Like against the Jets—[Andre] Johnson goes right down the sideline. Corner cannot catch him, safety cannot get over, he makes a play for a 50-yard gain. They do a good job in their passing game—it is not conservative, it is not take what the defense gives them. It is a smart, efficient passing game. Where you are light, that is where the ball is going. Where you are heavy, then that is probably not where it is going.

Q: In that all their plays are not go patterns, would that make a difference that Carr is not going to be there and [Tony] Banks is?

BB: Banks can throw anything he wants. Banks can throw any play you want. Any pattern you want, he can throw. He can throw it 70 yards down the field, he can throw in-cuts, he can throw slants, he can throw diagonals, he can throw seams. He can throw whatever you want. And the problem is they can all catch them. Billy Miller can catch them, Andre Johnson can catch them, Corey Bradford can catch them, and [Jabar] Gaffney can catch them. And those guys can all make big plays, they can all run after the catch. [Domanick] Davis is good after the catch on screens and plays like that. Those guys can all run, they can catch, and they can run after the catch. You have a good quarterback; you have some good receivers at all the positions—running back, tight end, as well as wide receiver. They control the ball. And believe me, Banks can make any throw you want him to make. He can roll out to the right, throw the go-pattern back to the left, play action, in-cuts, posts, you name it. It will not be a problem getting the ball there with him. He can launch it. It will get there. And you need to have him covered because the ball is not in the air long. He can put it on a rope. This guy has a really good arm. He is a good player.

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