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Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript - 11/22/2002

Belichick on Penalties: Well, I think from a league standpoint the league has made it pretty clear that they are going to be tough on personal foul penalties.



BB: We put (Antwoine) Womack on the P.U.P. (Physically Unable to Perform) reserve list.

Q: Was that close at all? Did he get further along than you expected him to?

BB: Yeah. I think he really made a lot of progress in the time he was out there. When he first got out there he looked pretty rusty. I think things came back to him fairly well. I just don't think in the end he was ready to perform right now. I think it's good for his confidence, at least he has been back out on the field and he knows he can play and it will give him some idea what it will be like next year. Not that this is training camp but at least he was out there doing something.

Q: Given where he was before, did you have hopes for him playing at all this year?

BB: We thought it would be a long shot.

Q: Is it just because his knee didn't come around or is it just because he didn't get any real practice time?

BB: I think his knee is okay. I don't think it's an injury situation. He started training camp in the middle of October and everybody else started in the middle of July. It's just too much to make up, too far to go.

Q: So he's not on injury reserve, he's P.U.P. reserve?

BB: It's P.U.P. reserve.

Q: What are some of his strengths and abilities?

BB: Who? Womack?

Q: Yeah.

BB: Look, you used to see him rushing as a junior. I think he more of power inside runner. A little bit of a Antowain Smith, more in that style of, let's say, a Kevin (Faulk). (He's a) pretty good sized back, he runs hard.

Q: Do you still have a relationship with Al Groh? Did you talk to him about Womack?

BB: Yeah. Well, you know, he didn't really have Antwoine very much because he got hurt. Antwoine got hurt early, maybe the first or second game a year ago and then he missed pretty much the whole season. Then (he) came back at the end and played in maybe one or two games at the end and then hurt his knee. I don't think he had 100 carries last year or 60 carries, something like that. I can't remember what it was, but it wasn't very many. His production was all before that, before Al really got there.

Q: You had another retirement yesterday. What happened there?

BB: Dean (Wells) had two back surgeries in the offseason. He has played quite a while, he is a pretty experienced player. (He) did a physical and everything. He felt good, he rehabbed good, there were no problems medically, but then that's not playing football. I think that once he got out there and played and had a little contact, he just didn't feel like he could do it.

Q: Terrell Buckley, has he given you a little bit more than you expected this year?

BB: Well, Terrell gets it pretty quick. He really does. He came in on, whenever it was, Thursday and played on Monday the first week. He has a lot of experience, has good savvy. He really understands concepts well. Terrell has done a good job for us this year. We've asked him to do a lot of different things. Even though he has been on all the sub-packages, he has played some different spots on the subs based on the matchups and what type of personnel groupings our opponents were using. So he's gotten different jobs on a weekly basis. But he handles it pretty easily, very smoothly.

Q: You brought in Tommy Knight who wasn't able to play and then other guys who weren't able to fill in, was he almost like a last alternative?

BB: Well, we picked him up at the end of training camp right prior to the opener. We had a need at that point. Jimmy (Hitchcock) wasn't with us, I think, for the first couple of games, and then he came back and Terrell was able to step in there and really gave us good play from our sub groups on third down.

Q: Considering how much they impact your life on 'any given Sunday', are you one of those guys? Do you scout officials?

BB: Some. I wouldn't say a lot. Some, yes. (I) definitely have an idea where the higher frequency calls within a certain group and just make the players aware of that. I think still each game is going to be more reflective of that particular game necessarily than the officials. I don't think that the officials try to run the game, but like anybody else, there are some things that … if you look at all the crews, some crews have more holding penalties, some crews have more pass defense penalties, some crews have more personal foul penalties. Now maybe that is the way the games were or maybe there is a little bit more of a tendency to call more or less of certain types of penalties.

Q: Would you call it a big part of your game plan?

BB: No. But I think it is something that we should be aware of going into the game, especially if there is something significant. If you can say to the players, 'Look, this crew we have 10 weeks this year, 11 weeks or whatever it is, this crew has called more of pass defense type penalties than any other crew in the NFL, defensive holding, D.P.I., illegal contact, all of that, more than anybody else,' it just tells you either they have had a lot of them or they are calling them a little bit more closely than everybody else. But either way, that would be an area where you would want to go into the game trying not to take too many liberties in that area until the game gets going and you see how its being called.

Q: Obviously you don't like penalties, but are there certain penalties that have opened your eyes this year? Where you've said that's something that we have to take more kindly to? Has something taken you back in that regard?

BB: Well, I think from a league standpoint the league has made it pretty clear that they are going to be tough on personal foul penalties. You know, late hits, hits to the head, quarterback hit plays. They have come out and said that publicly. We've gotten them in some different memorandums. There's no change in the rules or anything like that. But, when the league says they are going call that stuff pretty closely, usually the first chance they get to call it, they are going to call it and send that message to everybody in the league. So there are definitely things like that that have come up. Mike Pereira, who is the director of officials, every two weeks sends a tape of plays that are reflective of either a particular rules situation that maybe is a little bit unusual, it doesn't come up very often. Or plays that are reflective of trend in the league that the officials are trying to address. For example, the helmet-to-helmet hits, or personal fouls. A couple of weeks ago he had a number of clips of defensive holding where the defensive lineman, again he had it in several different games, where the offensive lineman was trying to go to block a linebacker and the defensive lineman reached out and tackled him so the linebacker could be free to make the play in the running game. There have been a couple of unusual rules situations. For example, the Baltimore-Denver game where (Chris) McAlister took the field goal at the end of the half and ran it back for a touchdown after a field goal. But there were also some things on that play in regard to, if any of the players had come onto the field, how that would have affected the play, especially since it was the very last play of the half, you know, with penalties on the team on the last play of the half and all that type of stuff. They do a good job of keeping you abreast of particular rules situations. Another one that has been big, one that has gotten a lot of publicity lately, but I think the officials are doing a great job with it, is the possession on the passes. It's not whether the guy catches the ball and his knee hits. Or not whether he catches the ball and has two feet in bounds, but whether he catches the ball and then controls the ball when he hits the ground. I guess there was a play in the Jet game. I think there was a play in the Monday night game between Denver and Oakland. (Shannon) Sharpe and (Bill) Romanowski, the play that Sharpe got hurt on, those plays where you hear the announcer saying, 'Well he had both feet down.' But that is not the rule. You have to control the ball when you hit the ground on an interception or on a catch. Again, the league definitely brings you up to date on those things and want to reemphasize, 'Look, this is the way the play is being called and this is the rule.' We don't care what they say on TV, this is what we are going by.

Q: Does that fly in the face of the ground can't cause a fumble?

BB: Again, we can argue about whether we like the rule or not, but the point is, that is what the rule is. The reason why the rule was changed was to really make it easier to officiate because it's such a bang-bang play, the competition committee decided and it was approved by the league that, if a guy has possession of the ball when he hits the ground and can control it, then it is a catch. If he can't, then even though his feet might have touched down, but then he hits the ground almost simultaneously, does he really have control over it? Part of the discussion in those meetings is when is a catch a catch and when is a catch not a catch? What is a catch?

Q: How did they call the Bert Emanuel play? Didn't they change that? Where if the guy has got possession of the ball, hits the ground …

BB: That's the change.

Q: That's a catch correct? Bert Emanuel's play in the AFC Championship game a couple of years ago, they called it no catch.

BB: Right.

Q: The way I understood the rule is, it now would be a catch as long as he demonstrates control of the ball.

BB: Right.

Q: But they never called it a catch.

BB: Oh, no they do (now). They definitely do. If you catch the ball and you and the ball all hit the ground, but you hold onto the ball, that's a catch.

Q: You talked about the last couple of weeks about how different it is to coach and manage and call plays when you are behind. Have you done anything this week or have you stressed the importance of getting off to a good start?

BB: Yeah. You always want to get off to a good start and play from ahead. It's like that every week. Sure, I've talked about it with the team. I think we all understand that. That affects everything especially when it's a two-or three-score situation. It's one thing when it's 7-6 or 6-3 or 10-7 or 13-10, those games … I don't know if it really matters whether you have 10 or you have 13. In the NFL, it's one possession away from the other team being ahead. When it's a two-or three-score game, that changes the situation. We, again, try to focus on execution early in the game. It's not just negative, it's not, 'Okay, we had a great play we didn't fumble.' That's not what we're looking for. To be conscious of taking care of the ball, to be conscious defensively of turnover opportunities, to be conscious of third down and execution early in the game, to be in the case of a game like this, (there is a) good chance we could have a weather condition in the game. It's certainly possible, you know, using the judgment to manage that. Again, a lot of those are things that are awareness. I can't sit here and say what play is going to happen in the game that is going to be a play like that. We just try to heighten our awareness of those situations.

Q: In your film study, can you point to anything that you think makes one team so able to execute like a Denver for example or a San Francisco were able to execute so well in the first quarter whereas other teams did not get off to a good start. Is there any trait or characteristic that defines that?

BB: I don't know about so much other teams. Just looking at our team, in our case, in just hasn't been real consistent. There have been times when it has and times when it hasn't. The Buffalo game is a positive example. The Denver game is a negative example of it. We go back and forth from game to game and see that. If I could just put my finger on it and say, 'you know, it's this,' then we could correct the problem. I just haven't been able to do that. I don't know if anybody can do it either. I think that just as a team we need to have more of … not that we're not alert, not that we're not trying to be focused on all the little things, again, to just heighten the awareness early in the game at how critical those things are. To a certain extent the play calling, you can control it to a degree but, once the ball is in somebody else's hands, what they do with it, that's important to. We try to coordinate the play calling with what we expect is going to happen, what we think we're going to get from the other side of the ball, let the players know well enough in advance so they can mentally prepare for it and then hopefully execute it well in the game. Not to go on, but I think that part of the problem that we have had in the last couple of games has been, and this is a little bit of the Green Bay situation too, it occurred right around half time, where we gave up some points near the end of the half and then gave up more the start of the third quarter. Then the game kind of swung against us at that point rather than right off the back.

Q: Getting back to the Wells thing a little bit, I think you must lead the league in one-day retirements.

BB: Let's not keep that stat.

Q: Is there anything that you do to these guys on the first day that makes them retire?

BB: I don't know. We have a lot guys that come in here and don't retire, we could certainly do a long feature on those, but we have had some that did. After practice when I walked off the field, I was talking to a couple of people coming off the field and we kind of remarked that Dean got lit up a little bit, and it looks like he hasn't played in a little while, and that's not uncommon. Look, it's the middle of the season, you get a guy in that hasn't played, he hasn't been playing, he can run around the track and do all the push-ups he wants, but it's not the same thing. Maybe, again, as you get older, as you get further away from the game, then you try to come back into it on a basis like that, whether it be a Cris Carter or whether it be a Dean Wells. There are guys every year that go through it, sometimes there's more left, and sometimes there isn't.

Q: Would you say you're demanding of your guys?

BB: No, you can take plenty of other players, maybe they don't retire, maybe they get injured, maybe something else happens to them, sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. Whether it's on the practice field, on the game field, or maybe it's just going through the whole process again sometimes that players realize that, 'hey, for whatever reason I'm just not ready to go through this again.'

Q: Teams like San Francisco and New Orleans go with the shells in the beginning, you are notorious for having a tough practice regimen, do players comment on that?

BB: We do it both ways, sometimes we go out in shells, and sometimes we go out in pads. Maybe we're in pads more than other teams, I'm not saying that, I can tell you, relative to a lot of other years I've been in the league, we're in pads a lot less than we used to be, but whether that's right or wrong I don't know. How players look at that, I can't, all players like to go out without pads on, all players like to play well and win on Sunday, when you need to work on the running game, it's harder to work on the running game, I think, without pads just because of the techniques that are used. It's easy to work on the passing game without pads, but I think it's harder to work on the running game, so it just depends on what you want to try to get done. If you feel like you need to get done some things that involve some contact, then you put the pads on and do it.

Q: When it comes to things like that, are you receptive to the input, like maybe from the veterans?

BB: Yeah, we talk about it. Again, I don't really think that it's, in my opinion, I don't really think it's been overboard one way or another. Sometimes we do it, sometimes we don't, it depends on what we feel like the needs are. Sure, we talk about that. The last thing I want is players going out there on Sunday that are hurt, or banged up, or that aren't ready to play for any reason, but especially if they left it on the practice field. On the other hand, the last thing I want on Sunday is to take a team out there that's not prepared to do the thing that it need s to do to win the game on Sunday. That's where the balance is.

Q: What kind of a leader is Willie McGinest?

BB: Yeah, I would say that there aren't many players that work any harder than Willie McGinest, that I've seen, I mean there aren't that many. He does not only what we ask him to do, or what everybody else does, but he goes way beyond that. He does a lot of things on his own, does a lot of extra things, now some of that comes as a result of a previous problem that he's had that he's trying to physically keep that area strong and make sure that doesn't occur again. Willie works as hard as any player we have, and is as well conditioned as any player we have, I would put him against anybody. I'm not saying there aren't other players that don't work hard too, but you don't have to ask Willie to do stuff, he does it, and then he does extra, and then if he says, 'Well, I'm having a little problem with this, or a little problem with that,' 'Well here are some extra things you can do to help that,' done!

Q: Is he a good leader for other players?

BB: Yeah, in terms of his off the field work habits, absolutely. In the weight room, training, gets treatment, stretches, does things for his back, and all that, yeah absolutely. And he's been on the field all year for us, and it's hard for a player to lead who's not on the field, who's not practicing, who's not playing, that's difficult. We've talked about that before, guys can have a good attitude and they can go about it the right way, but, it's just not quite the same when you're not doing it, and this year he's been a participant in just about everything we've done. He hasn't had any down time, which always puts a player in a more prominent position.

Q: For the quarterback, is that long pass timing something that you develop?

BB: I think it can be a combination of both. I think there are some players that throw some passes better than other passes. You could take pretty much any quarterback, and there are so many throw that a quarterback has to make, the outs, the ins, the gos, the post, the screen, check-downs to the backs, crossing patterns, all of them. There's 20 different throws a quarterback has to make, depending on what your system requires, there's going to be some you say he does really well, and there are going to be others you say that he doesn't do as well. You try to either work on those, or if he's just not very good at them at all then you just don't do them. Now, that being said, regardless of how well he throws any pattern, then there's still a development time with the receivers that is always important. No matter how well any quarterback, no matter how well Bert Jones threw out-cuts, he still needed to work on out-cuts with Roger Carr, Glen Dowdy, and Ray Chester because those are the guys the was throwing them to. He misses them just like everybody else missed them, but he could throw them well and he hit a bunch of them too. I think it's a combination of both, it helps when the quarterback is an accurate quarterback, but on top of that, there's always a quarterback receiver timing factor that could never really be understated, because without that, it doesn't matter how talented you are, you could take the guys out there in the Pro Bowl, they're still going to miss some plays because of the lack of timing.

Q: It seems like Tom has missed guys frequently who have been open for long balls. Can he develop that?

BB: I think we've seen some balls down the sidelines. [David] Patten's had them, he had them last year, he had them this year, [Deion] Branch has had them, and we've seen those.

Q: The long balls like those first two that he threw to Patten and Branch, you don't think that's a negative in his game?

BB: No. I'm not going to stand here and say he doesn't throw them well, I think he does throw them well. I agree with you, we haven't hit as many as we would have liked to hit, we have hit some. I could tell you specifically which ones they were, I mean the one that comes to mind right off the bat is in the Buffalo game last year. Which is a big play in the game, in Buffalo. We'd like to hit more of them, I think it's a combination of the quarterback-receiver timing, not saying that he couldn't have made some better throws, also, I'm not saying that we couldn't have run some better routes, or made the catch. I think it's a little bit of both, it's a timing thing, but no, I don't think Tom throws those balls poorly. I don't think he reads poorly either, I think that he can see those guys, and when's the time to throw them, and when isn't. We've just got to hit more of them, and we will, we'll hit them.

Q: (Re: Safeties cheating because of Tom not being able to hit the longer ones)

BB: I've seen a lot more teams playing cover two and zone against us, than I've seen people coming up and playing everybody on the line of scrimmage. We've got a lot of that now, parts of that is because that's the way Denver plays, that's the way Green Bay plays, that's the way Chicago plays, that's the way the Jets play. Those are cover two teams, two and three, and blitz zone, that's the way Pittsburgh plays, that's what those teams do, so I don' t know that they would play us a whole lot different than they play the other 15 teams, but I don't notice a whole lot more of that. I'm not saying we get that every single snap, I'm saying on a percentage basis, San Diego, Kansas City, that's what those teams, that's there style of play. I think you're going to see it against everybody else, so are they going to come up and get us? They may, but I think the number of those that we've seen to this point have been a much lower percentage than people plan deeper zone coverage. Where we've had more problems, or where we had some problems this year, is really throwing the ball down the field into zone coverage. Talking about the 15-to-20-yard passes through the linebackers, down by the safeties, trying to get it over the corners, there've been some tight throws in there, and that has been a little bit of a problem too.

Q: The fact that the defense is in coverage, that's going to eliminate the throwing down the field more so than his inability to connect on that in your mind.

BB: I'm not saying we're perfect on offense. Sure, that's definitely a problem, you give a quarterback a pattern, and you say, 'okay, this is the way we're going to read the pattern,' you have a guy going down the field into two deep coverage, I think it's a low percentage throw, so then that takes you to a different point in the pattern. If they blitz, that's the guy you want to throw to, or if the safety's drop down, like what happened in the Oakland game, both the plays to Branch and Patten, the safeties were low, just the way you described it, they were down there at nine, ten yards deep, whatever it was. They were exposing the deeper part of the field, I think those were good reads, and that's when you want to be going deep, not when the guy's back there 30 yards, you want to go deep in that situation.

Q: Ty Law, are you using him more just to cover a specific receiver?

BB: To me, we're using him the same way we've used him in the last three years.

Q: Are you matching him up with one guy more often?

BB: We've done that before. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don't. It depends on A, what we're trying to do, and B, what we're going against, but we've done it both ways. I think that there's also some plus into that in that our future opponent doesn't know exactly what we're going to decide to do, 'is he going to be on the left, is he going to be on the right, is he going to match a certain receiver.' Or sometimes we match him, but not always, sometimes we match him, but then within the game we don't match him, so to keep the other team from knowing what the specific pattern is, just to keep them off balance. I don't really see Ty's utilization being any different last year or the year before. Now, somebody else may see it that way, and I'm not going to say that it's identical, because it's probably not identical. From a game planning standpoint, in our minds, it's to try to utilize him, and everybody else, however we think the best collective way is to do, as opposed to, 'Well two years ago we never matched him, and last year we always matched him,' I don't think that's the case

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