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Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript - 11/25/2002

BB: You know we usually come in and talk on Monday after looking at the tape and talk a little bit about anything that might have come out of that session. This isn't one of those days. I haven't seen the game. We spent last night and all of this morning on Detroit obviously cramming it here for a short week. That's pretty much what everybody on the staff has been up to. I know a couple of coaches have (seen) a quick run through of the game. But we've got to move on. This one is coming up in a hurry. I would just say back on yesterday for a second obviously the wind and field position was a big factor in the game. Particularly in the kicking game, I think it affected the passing game as well, but even more so in the kicking game. There were tough conditions to kick in and that played a big part in a lot of the decision-making, I'm sure on both sides. In the end, I think the big thing that I was pleased with was the start of the game. We were able to finish some drives, make a stop in the red area, block a field goal attempt, took advantage of some field position offensively and then in the end we were able to play better defense against an explosive offense and to keep them out of the endzone and keep them off of the board there. Those are the positives. Obviously the middle part of the game went more in their favor than ours. We'd like to do better job in that point of the game, no question about it. It's an explosive offense, (Daunte) Culpepper made some plays. They did a good job of bouncing back and executing, a high powered offense, and got back in the game. (That's) something that we want to keep from happening again. There's no question about that. Okay.

Q: Speaking on Donald Hayes, do you think it takes some time for Tom (Brady) to develop some confidence in him?

BB: I think that has already happened, it just didn't happen in the game. He just didn't get any opportunities in the game. I wish he would have. I am sure that he wishes he would have. Tom probably wishes that too. But that is the way it goes sometimes. You just don't want to force a ball in there to a guy just because he is in there. But I think there is a confidence level with Donald. It's significantly high. I don't really think it is an issue.

Q: Do you feel confident that he can go out and play right now.

BB: Sure. Absolutely. I think when he gets an opportunity with it, he will do well.

Q: Did (David) Givens get a little work in the offense or was he on mostly special teams?

BB: He played on all the special teams plays, he played in the kicking game.

Q: Did he play on offense?

BB: No, I don't think so.

Q: Can you talk about Joe Andruzzi going in and out and dealing with his leg injury?

BB: Yeah, I tell you with Joe he is as tough a guy as I've been around. There just isn't much that will keep him off the field. He really fights through. He's got a high pain threshold. You can tell even when it is bothering him, he is still out there, he's going and he is not really giving into it. He's got a lot of mental toughness. We saw that last year after the Miami game, and it's been evident all year this year that he's got some discomfort. But it is not enough to keep him off the field. It's probably something that is going to need to be corrected at some point later on, probably after the season. At this point, as long as he can deal with it, and we're able to manage it because losing practice time, it's tough on a guy that doesn't practice and then goes out there and tries to play on Sunday. It's just hard to get the kind of performance that either he or the team or anybody else is looking for. We still need to be able to manage it with some reps so that he can get his timing and communication with the other guys that are on the line. But at the same time you don't want to overdo it and set him back and cause more irritation.

Q: Are you concerned, especially with him, with the short week?

BB: Sure. Without a doubt. We've got a bunch of players … I don't think anybody is 100 percent at this time of the year. But everybody is going to play at this time of year as much as they possible can. So, yeah, the short week is going to … It'll be a tougher ride for him and some of the other guys that are in that same boat which is a lot of guys. Both teams are on the same deal, so that's what it is.

Q: What is the toughest part about the short week? Is it trying to learn the Lions, or trying to get the Minnesota game out of your system?

BB: I think we can get the Minnesota game out of our system. I don't think that's the problem. I think it's learning the Lions, you know, understanding what their system is. Again, it's a team that we are not real familiar with. You know, when I was in Detroit, I was in Detroit for two years, one year we played Chicago, that's playing a division team, a team you play twice a year that you know as well as anybody and I think that the players and everybody really looks forward to it because it's less meetings, less of something about a team that they already feel pretty familiar with. That's a totally different situation here. You've got teams that don't play each other every year. With both teams, we've made a lot of changes since 2000. The Lions have made a lot of changes since 2000, so it's a lot of newness on both sides. I think that is the hard part. From a game-planning standpoint, you have got to rely on what you have done to here. You can't cook up a lot of new stuff in a day-and-a-half. I am sure there will be a couple of wrinkles, I'm not saying that. But for the most part you have to rely on your base to this point and be able to apply it to their team so you don't get fooled by their play actions or their blitzes or their misdirection plays and things like that just because you haven't gotten a good look at them and you haven't been able to decipher the keys.

Q: Marty Mornhinweg is taking a lot of heat today for not taking the ball at the beginning of the overtime even though he had the wind at his back. Not to put you in a position where you are being critical of him, but is there any circumstance where you as a coach would not to have the ball at the beginning of overtime given how quickly a game can end?

BB: I saw the series of plays during the highlights and without being there it would be hard to really honestly address the situation. There are only two things I could say. Number one, when you are the coach and you make a decision during the game, your always making the decision that you think is best for the team. Now anytime you lose the game, you are going to criticized for that decision. It doesn't make any difference what it is. You will get criticized for it. There will be a certain element that feels like you did the wrong thing and you will be saying to yourself, 'Maybe I did do the wrong thing.' Anytime you lose, I never lost a game and I haven't looked back and said, 'What could I have done differently and I wish I had this one to do over or I wish I had that one,' even if you get beat 49-0. You are still saying, 'Well maybe if we could have scored first and changed the momentum and all of that,' you're still trying to rationalize that somehow in your mind. I think when a coach makes a decision, he's making it for what he thinks is the best interest of the team. It doesn't always work out. It will never always work out and when it doesn't, people are going to have an opinion about it. I certainly wouldn't question any coach in this league ability to make a decision or his attempt to make a decision on what he thinks is in the best interest of the team. Any time you make a decision and you win, then the coach looks like it was a great move and all of that. Usually I think those decisions, the criticism certainly amounts with the final result of the game. How much that had to do with it? I don't know. One of the biggest games I've ever coached in was in the '86 NFC Championship game against the Redskins. We had the wind in the first quarter and got a 17-0 lead. That was the final score with the Giants. And that was the decision to take the wind at the start, we won the toss. We could have had the ball, we could have had the wind. We talked about it the night before, it was a unanimous decision from the coaching staff standpoint, if it was good enough to get off to a good start knowing you are going to have it for two quarters and knowing you are going to be against it for two quarters. It's one of those things that can go either way.

Q: Speaking of wind, do you think that the stadium is any worse that the old one?

BB: I think it's different. I think in the old stadium, the games that I played there, which isn't as many as some of you have seen there, but the games that I have played there and been involved in, the wind more ran down the field. Now there happened to be two games last year where the wind was significantly across the field which was unusual, but most of the time the wind pretty much ran straight down the field. In this stadium, it looks like as the wind increases it has a little bit of a swirling affect, it runs part of the way down the field at the open end, at the lighthouse end, but then it seems to quarter more toward from the home bench to the visiting bench. Now, again each game will probably carry a little different element of that, I'm not going to sit here and say that's the wind tunnel. Next week I'm sure it will different, it'll probably blow right in our face. But that is the way it's been for three games this year in different degrees of wind velocity. I think for the kickers, part of the problem is on the longer kicks. It's like putting on a green how much break are you allowed for? Well it depends on how fast the ball is going. The harder you put it through the hole, the less break there is, and the softer you put it the more you let it die in. It's kind of like kicking a field goal. The further out you kick, the more the ball is going to turn at the end and the higher it gets, the more the wind is going to affect it and all of that. You are going to end up kicking some field goals out here where the ball's going to be aimed outside the uprights, and you're going to count on the wind to blow it back in, and of course there are always the kicks, we had one yesterday in pre-game warm-up, where you feel like the wind … you're kind of leaning against it to balance yourself up, and then just right a that second for whatever reason, it lulls, and there is no wind and you kick it and the ball doesn't come back in, it stay right on the line and goes right outside the uprights. There's definitely a little navigating to be done there, I don't think there's any question that it affects the kicking game more than it affects the passing game, not that it doesn't effect both, I think it effects the kicking game, number one, if you look at the game yesterday, practically every kick was affected by the wind. There were a couple passes that were, but most them, more minimally.

Q: What has impressed you most about Joey Harrington?

BB: I'd say number one, his poise, he knows how to play the game. He's a smart player, he's athletic, he's a guy that hardly ever gets sacked. He gets some pressure, but he's athletic enough to either avoid it, or get rid of the ball. He doesn't take a lot of sacks in the pocket and negative plays and that kind of thing, and he's got a good field presence. Now, like any young quarterback there's … I'm sure he'll miss some reads, and have some things that aren't perfectly done, but just in terms of his presence, his poise, his mobility, and some decision making in the pocket, I think he's done a good job. Also, they've had a couple injuries at receiver and it's been a little bit of a change of cast out there, and you know that obviously effects any quarterback and receiver timing. But, he's stepped in and I think he's shown that he belongs and can play in this league in a relatively short period of time.

Q: Talking about wind, is that the most difficult element to deal with given snow, rain etc…?

BB: I think it really is, yeah, I think it is. Because again, it effects the kicking game so much and the kicking game is so important to field position. Strictly throwing the ball, if it's raining hard, then getting a grip on the ball and catching it, that becomes a pretty tough element too, but the wind is, in the kicking game, it's big, and in the passing game as the ball goes further outside the numbers, or down the field, then those are the plays where it effects it the most. A lot of curling patterns, crossing patterns, in-cuts, screens, probably half the passes yesterday, maybe more, I don't think the wind would have had any effect on just because the nature of the pass. Then you look at some other plays and you can really see the effect that it had on the ball. Again, when you're talking passing game, I think it's almost specific to what type of passes are you talking about, are you talking about gos, and posts, and comebacks on the sideline, well then it has a big effect. Screen passes and crossing patterns and in-cuts and curls and that kind of thing, it probably is very minimal.

Q: Is it almost about mental winning at this point in the season?

BB: I think that's a really good question, that's a really good question. I'm not sure if it's mental, or it's experience with the wind. Just knowing how it's going to effect certain throws, knowing which throws are high percentage throws, which ones aren't. How to kick, again, when the wind's quartering a little bit, instead of trying to kick it straight and let the wind blow the ball, to almost kick into the wind so you can almost drive it in there and control the kick a little bit more. I don't know how much of that is playing smart, and having experience in the conditions versus just the mental confidence of, 'we know how to play in it,' or, 'we're not going to be bothered by it.' It might be a little bit of both. Certainly, knowing how to play it is something that you can only learn from experience. Just again, say taking a player like Rohan [Davey], who hasn't really ever played in wind conditions. Some of the things that happen to him out there in practice, he comes back kind of shaking his head, and you say, 'Rohan, what do you expect, what do you think's going to happen on that play, just think about the conditions a little bit more, you know you've got to take that more into consideration,' 'I've never played in anything like this before.' It's something that he gradually … You can see him making adjustments to in a practice scenario. Again, I think there's an element of confidence to it, but I also think there's an element of really knowing what you can and what you can't do with it.

Q: How difficult is ball handling in the cold?

BB: It adds a degree of difficulty to it, but I don't think it's as hard as we made it yesterday, I really don't. We've got to do a better job of handling the ball when we did at times out there, things like that haven't happened in games, haven't happened in practice, and the ball's on the ground too many times, it shouldn't be. That's just concentration to me, I don't really blame that on the wind or the elements or anything else, I think we've just got to do a better job of handling the football.

Q: Do coaches overanalyze when you are in windy situations?

BB: I guess that's probably a fair point, if you can analyze it you can either under analyze it or overanalyze it, I'm sure I've been guilty of both somewhere along the line. I think one thing though that I would just point out is that there is more of an element of uncertainty, if you're playing in perfect conditions, you know what the norm is. You know how far you're going to punt the ball, you know what your average net is, you've got a pretty good idea of what should happen. Once you add in some elements that really can't be charted, then there's just more uncertainty there, there really is no norm. You don't know if the punt's going to go 15 yards or 30 yards, you don't know if you're going to kick off to the five-yard line, 10-yard line, or you're going to kick off to the 30-yard line. And there were some of those in the Chicago game as an example, where the wind was pretty significant, blowing from the scoreboard end blowing down to the open end, or away from the scoreboard. Adam's [Vinatieri] kickoffs were to the five, six, eight-yard line, they were terrific kickoffs into that wind, and I think when you think about what his normal kickoff is, you think, 'okay well here's a 12, 14 mile an hour wind, and the ball travels with just about the same hang time that his normal kickoff would be,' that's great, and he had some terrific kicks in that game, but it's hard to count on that, you just don't know that it's going to be that way. Then, the next one you get, gets up in there air a little bit, the wind gets it and pretty soon it's dropping down on the 25 or 30, so those things are just less predictable.

Q: Did you pick Mike Compton's brain at all on what playing the Lions might be like?

BB: No, I talked to Mike this morning but I didn't talk to him about that. But I can tell you from being in Detroit for two years, and playing in this game twice from their standpoint, and we played it here two years ago. I think I have enough experience and I think that the players here that were here two years ago have enough experience to deal with the situation. We understand how it's just going to be a short week, you can't do anything about it, you can't stretch it out, you just have to be more resourceful and utilize the time that you have and maximize it. You can't spend too much time worrying about, as an example, first down and your first down play-action passing game, and all that, and then get to Wednesday and say, 'uh oh, what about red area, what about two-minute, what about punt return, what about those things.' So, we've already laid out the week, everybody knows how much time they have budgeted to cover it. The players are going to realize when we meet with them this afternoon that they're going to have less time for film study. 'Well I'm going to look at the pass protection Wednesday night, and on Thursday we're going to look a their blitz reel, and on Friday we're going to look at their sub-blitzes and goal line,' there's just not that many days, so they're going to have to prioritize those things too.

Q: They've had pretty good success on Thanksgiving, how much of that would you attribute to their being used to this?

BB: I think there's two things, one is that they're familiar with the routine, and the teams alternate, they usually don't play the same team twice, it's unusual for us to be this close two years removed from the game. Then secondly, playing at home, that really, I think helps the overall flow at the end of the week. So, we're playing on Sunday and traveling on Wednesday, which tightens it up, I'm not complaining about that, don't get me wrong. We've got eight home games and eight away games just like everybody else, but that game, playing at home does give you a little bit of a longer week relative to the team that's traveling.

Q: Were you able to simulate this game at all during the preseason?

BB: Like the last game against Washington was I think a Saturday night, then Thursday, it came a little bit quicker. The thing about preseason, I think form a player's standpoint, in terms of playing one game and then having to play another game quickly, from a physical standpoint, there's some experience that can be learned there. From a coaching standpoint there's just a lot less game planning that goes into the preseason, and it's relatively easy in the preseason to say, 'okay, we're having a short week, we're going to cut this back, we're not going to change this we're not going to change that.' In the end, you're playing a couple groups of people, at least probably tow teams no matter what preseason game you're in. It's just not worth it to make the changes, no it's a little bit different situation where if you can make a play on something then it's worth changing anything if you can make a play on it. The game plan, and of course countering their game plan, that makes it a little bit of a more urgent matter than in preseason. Physically, playing back-to-back games I think, certainly, players can gain some experience if they've done it before.

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