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Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript - 12/20/2002

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BB: I think everybody got the roster move from yesterday. Unfortunately Otis' (Smith) injury looks like it's going to take a little bit longer than we have really. So we put him on injured reserve. Steve Martin, we just felt like it was time to move on that one. It wasn't really working out so that was the reason for that decision yesterday. Other than that, the Jets, today is a day where one of the things we work on is our punt return. The Jets are leading the league right now in their punt coverage, having a lot of long return all year. They've really done a good job in that area in coverage as well as their return game which has been a big focus for us on Wednesday and Thursday. One of the wrap up things of the week certainly come under that and would come under that category. That's pretty much about my update for today.

Q: How big of a loss is Otis Smith?

BB: Otis has done a good job for us. He's had a solid year and he's a solid veteran player that has as much experience in this system as anybody. We're just going to have to go on. The guys that are going to step in for him are going to have to fill in and takeover the responsibilities that he had. It's definitely a loss. He's been a solid performer for us and he's played a lot of plays.

Q: Who do you project will be stepping in for him there?

BB: Oh, I think they will all play. I think Terrell (Buckley) will play. I think Leonard (Meyers) will play. I think Antwan (Harris) will play. You'll see them all.

Q: Does Terrell give you a little more, I don't know if confidence is the right word, because he's got experience?

BB: I think we have confidence in all of them. They've all played. They'll all be ready to go in different packages, in different situations, we'll be counting on all of them. And anytime you get down to those numbers, you know, you're one play away from having to count on everybody anyway.

Q: Otis has had troubles in the past. Does this require surgery?

BB: I think they're going to take a look at it in a week or two and see where things are at. Nothing is going to happen immediately. They'll just let it heal and see what the process is.

Q: As an older player, is this a difficult injury to come back from?

BB: It sounds like it will resolve, it's just going to take more time than we have right now. If this injury had happened in August or September we probably wouldn't be putting him on injured reserve, well I don't know, I shouldn't say that. Where we are at this point in the season, the injury is going to last longer than the time that we have left. So that's where we're at. I don't know that it would necessarily have an impact on his career in the future. We'll have plenty of time to evaluate that and we'll wait and see.

Q: Can you speak specifically about what the injury is? Is it a torn rotator cuff? A dislocation?

BB: No. I really can't. I'm not…

Q: We know, a doctor right? (Laughter)

BB: That goes without saying. It's a muscle injury in the shoulder.

Q: Philosophically, in terms of cutting a guy after you put in your game plan, theoretically if he gets picked up by your opponent …

BB: Right, I know where you're going. Again, my philosophy on things like that is, do what's best for your team. Do what you feel like is best for your football team. Whatever the ramifications are, you have to live with those. Anytime you release a play he can always go somewhere else or go do something else. You lose rights to him and you understand that he is free after that. And I understand that. But I think what is most important for me and for the football team is to do what is in the best interest of the team and then whatever else happens you can't control. If it happens, it happens.

Q: Let's just say he does get picked up by the Jets, do you have to change your terminology, your game plan?

BB: Oh, we're not going to change our terminology. If he does, he does. If we feel like we need to make an adjustment on something, we will. Right now, what I think is more important for us is preparing for the game, being ready for the game, everybody knowing what their role is and being 100 percent committed to doing it. We have some flexibility on defense. We do that anyway, to be honest with you. It's not like we just have one name for some defenses. I mean we can coat them or use a different way to trigger different situations. You know what I'm really concerned about is us getting right, as opposed to them being able to know what we're doing. I hope we know what we're doing.

Q: Releasing a guy so late is the week is sort of rare wouldn't you say? Is there anything that brought that decision on?

BB: Well, we just got to the end of the week and made our decisions and our plans for this game and just feel like at this point and time that would be that was the right thing to do for everybody's sake.

Q: Did his comments to the New York media about some of their players and also his comments about his role here kind of like the straw that broke the camel's back?

BB: No. It's a football decision about what his role would be in the game and what our game plan was and he saw him being involved in that and obviously by the decision you can see it wasn't too significant.

Q: What about Richard Seymour's emergence at nose tackle? Did that make it an easier decision to make?

BB: Seymour has been part of the equation for two years. He's not really a moving part on this one. He's one of our more constant elements of the defense and on the defensive line. I just think it was the overall situation. I don't think Seymour really had anything to do with it one way or another.

Q: With two roster spots open, do you have any moves eminent?

BB: Scott (Pioli) and I have talked about that. I think that we'll probably end up doing something. I don't know that it will necessarily be this week which there isn't much left of it. This could be something that might happen over the weekend or Monday heading into next week. So there's nothing at the doorstep now. I think you can go ahead and print whatever you got and not worry about having to re-write it.

Q: If you don't make a move, what will you gain by cutting him now? Why not just have him on the roster?

BB: Because we did what we thought was best for the football team.

Q: Have you been considering it for a while?

BB: Well, he hasn't had a lot of playing time. He hasn't had a lot of production. So anytime you get into a situation like that, sometimes it better … you get into a situation and it's just better to move on and that's what we determined yesterday.

Q: Regardless of where he goes or where he ends up, this is the right time to do this, is that basically what it came down to?

BB: Right.

Q: Do you understand how reliable he was as a quote for us? (Laughter)

BB: No, I guess not.

Q: How would you assess the overall group that you brought in this past offseason?

BB: I don't know if right now is the time really to assess everything. Right now, honestly, my mind is pretty well focused on just the Jet game and what we can do against the Jets. I think reviewing everything, taking into consideration what happened earlier in the year and the middle of the season, later in the year to really be fair and talk about that is probably something that should wait until it's all over.

Q: Last week, it seemed that Tennessee's linebackers where closer to the line.

BB: Well, I think anytime you put in a game plan you always put in a passing game plan so that there are complimentary routes. You don't always want to run inside routes, you want to compliment the inside routes from the same look that you run an outside route off of. You want to compliment a short route with a deep route, you want to try to give the defense the same look and then have at least one or two combination patterns off that so … It's exactly what you're saying, 'well, here they are, this is what they're going to do,' and they run the route for you so to speak. They're there before you are, so we always take that into consideration with the game plan that we put in so that as we look at the plays that we're going to be calling, that we can say,' well yeah, when they see this look then we'll do this, then they see that same look and then we'll have something else off that.' We'll always try to do that and sometimes, and I know from the defensive side of the ball it still doesn't keep you from anticipating some things that will happen. Sometimes you anticipate the right things and sometimes you don't. So, even though you have a compliment it doesn't mean they still can't decide, 'well this is what we think they're going to do,' and jump on it. And sometimes you can be right on that defensively and sometimes you can be wrong.

Q: Did anyone make as much of a commitment other than Tennessee to sitting back and sitting on those routes and or was it just a couple of big plays that caught my eye and I am just making it more than what it really was?

BB: Well, there were some balls down the field, there were some attempts to throw the ball down the field, some of them ended up down there and some of them didn't.

Q: Did the front four have anything to do with that?

BB: Well, yeah, there's no question. They put pressure on the quarterback and that definitely effects how long you want to stand back there and let those intermediate to deeper routes develop. Sure absolutely. When the pass rush is coming hard like it was at times in the game, and we were concerned about it in the game when they were ahead, in other words after they had ran back the interception and were up by two scores, at that point, you stand back there, hold the ball, get strip sacked, and the game's over. So, you want to be able to move the ball, but you want to be able to move it without putting yourself at too high a risk. That's going to include some runs, but also some short to intermediate passes.

Q: Last year you had a ceremony where you buried the ball. Did you do anything like that this week?

BB: No. Nope.

Q: Aside from not fitting into the system, is there anything else? Did something else happen?

BB: Well, again, it's based solely on what I feel like is in the best interest of the football team. Which takes into account a lot of things, it's not just the trap block, it takes into account a lot of things, what's in the best interest of the team. And that's why we did it.

Q: Does it send a message to other players?

BB: Well, I don't know. It wasn't … If there's a message that's inferred from it individually, then that's what it is, I didn't stand up in front of the team this morning and say, 'well, this is what I did, and here are the reasons why I did it, and if anybody else does it, this …' That wasn't what happened. I talked to the coaches about it, I made the decision, and felt like that was in the best interest of the team. For a number of reasons, mainly, in summary, because it just wasn't working out. It just wasn't working out productively for the player, or the team or the organization.

Q: Yeah, but you could say that about 30 guys on the roster.

BB: Well, if I felt that way about those 30 guys, then maybe something would have happened with those 30 guys too. I disagree with you because, maybe you don't think there's anything, but I'm just saying from my point of view, well if there was one, then we would deal with that player. This isn't the first time I've ever released a player here during the season, and it may not be the last, I don't know. If it is, the reason will be because it's what I feel like is in the best interest of the football team. And if sign a player and bring him on the team, at that point of time when we sign him it'll be because that was what we felt like was the best thing to do at that particular point in time, given what the options were. Some of them are going to work out, and some of them aren't. When they don't, then you can either keep going, and feel like you're sinking deeper, or you can just decide to cut the cord and move on, and that's what I'd like to do right now is move on, and move onto the Jets, and talk about other roster moves at a later point in time.

Q: Based on the Jets, he had 60 tackles last year. Was his production not what you saw on tape?

BB: It doesn't really matter what somebody else does for another team, it's what the player can do in your system, with your team. And that's not their fault, it's not your fault, well obviously it didn't work out, so that's … It didn't work out the way we … We had hoped it would have worked out better than it did. I'm not saying that's his fault, I'm not saying that's our fault, I'm not saying it's anybody's fault, it just didn't work out. That's the way it goes, we've all seen players that are more productive in some systems than in others, we have plenty of players on out team that weren't productive in other systems that are productive ion ours. We're going to have some players that aren't productive in ours that may be productive in someone else's, that's reality. Sometimes you find out the hard way, but that's how it works.

Q: Is Deion Branch any closer?

BB: Branch is closer. I hope he'll practice today, we'll see how he is when he gets out there and gets going. I don't want to throw my body across the tracks on that one and say it's going to happen, but I think he's getting closer.

Q: What about (Tedy) Bruschi?

BB: Bruschi's getting closer too. I think Bruschi's making progress too. We'll see where we are out there today.

Q: Was he out there yesterday?

BB: He didn't practice yesterday, he's running, he's definitely getting better. He's doing more than he did last week, doing more than he did earlier in the week, but no he didn't participate in practice yesterday.

Q: Is it hard to put a guy out there in contact drill who had contact since Thanksgiving?

BB: I think in a way it is, but on the other hand you have no other choice. You can't scrimmage him, you either decide you think he's ready to play and help you and put him out there. Or you think he isn't, and he's inactive. So those are your choices, there's really no gray area in that. Either you play him and hope for the best, or you don't play him, and if you feel like he's ready, even though he hasn't played in a while … Jevon Kearse, he hasn't played in 13 weeks. If you think he's ready you put him out there, you're not really going to know for sure until you see him out there on the field. You just have to make that decisions based on what you see as a coach.

Q: That must be one of the toughest roster decisions on game day.

BB: Right, it certainly can be. Especially, the less history you have with a player it's probably a lot easier to that with a guy that you've been around, you've seen play, you've had on you team for multiple years, multiple seasons, versus somebody that you haven't. If the player shows you enough in practice, and in his preparation, and the things that you can evaluate, you can't evaluate how he's going to play in the game because you don't have a game. But, if you go through the other process, and you feel like he's prepared and ready to play, then at some point you're going to pull the trigger and say, 'okay, I think that this is … that he'll be able to help us,' and maybe limit the opportunities that he has early in the game so that you kind of se how it's going, knowing that if you want to give him more, you can give him more, if you want to pull back, then you can pull back.

Q: Does that mean that no one has grabbed hold of that situation or that no one is ready to play the whole game?

BB: Well I think it'll depend on a little bit of the situation with … We have several defensive packages and it would depend a little bit on which one we're in, how the personnel group will go. And I think you're going to see all of them.

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