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Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript - 12/24/2002

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BB: We made some roster moves today. We placed Daniel Graham on injured reserve. He hurt his ribs in the game against the Jets and it looks like he could be out for a period of time here so, at this point in the situation where we need some help at that position, so we placed him on injured reserve and we signed Fred Baxter as a tight end that was, of course, with the Bears earlier this year and last year. (We) resigned Matt Knutson who was an offensive lineman who was with us on the practice squad off the Jets practice squad. And Fred Coleman, a receiver that was with us in training camp. So (we're) just trying to put as many bullets in the holster as we can for this game against Miami. This is when we would naturally want to pull out all the stops that we've got. The receiver situation has been a little thin as well as the tight end situation with the injuries to [Deion] Branch and [Cam] Cleeland and Graham. So, this gives us a little more depth going into the game hopefully. Again, at this point in the season with the whole division title at stake now with this is one game with Miami, we've got to use every resource we got, take every available option and try to get our team as strong as we possibly can going into Sunday's game. So that's why those moves were made, what the intent is. How it all plays out, of course we'll just have to wait and see who is active and who plays and so forth. But at least we have an opportunity to work with that through the week. That's it. I think, as far as Miami goes, the Dolphins are a team that with [Jay] Fiedler back in there, offensively, is a team that runs it as well as anybody in the league and can make big plays in the passing game with the quarterback. The receivers, [Chris] Chambers, [Cris] Carter, they've got a lot of threats out there. The tight ends, (they are) getting plays from [Randy] McMichael. A good solid team offensively. Defensively, as always, they are strong upfront, real tight man-to-man coverage and they are good in the kicking game. A good test for us, a lot on the line, and we'll have to get ready for it. This is our chance to put it together here. We need our best game. Hopefully we'll get it Sunday.

Q: How much will it take for Coleman to get up to speed?

BB: Well, we'll have to see that through the week of practice. He hasn't been active this year, we worked him out and he seems like he's in reasonable shape, but there's a difference between working out and playing football. We'll take the days this week to try to determine that. Again, at least it gives us the option, that's a possibility. We'll just have to see.

Q: Did Daniel [Graham] exacerbate the rib injury he had or is this a new injury?

BB: I'm not sure. It might be a combination of both. It's definitely worse. We're looking an extended time now, but before … at this point we have to win or we have one week to go. So we have to pull out all stops for this one. I just don't feel like we can go into the game with one tight end. Which is where we ended up last week after the first quarter.

Q: Did you feel comfortable enough to throw it to Grey [Ruegamer]?

BB: Not on a continuous basis. He needs a little route work. Maybe [Mike] Vrabel though.

Q: Have you thought about that?

BB: Well Mike is doing an awful lot for us now. I mean he's on all the special teams, he's on all of our defensive packages. Yeah, we thought about it, but it's just how far you can stretch them. I think Mike probably played more plays than anybody else on the field.

Q: Last year you had a lot of guys play special teams who were on the regular offense and defense. This year are you having to do that out of necessity?

BB: I think probably the last four or five weeks we are probably stretching those guys a little bit further. You know, we usually have all of the starters will play on one team. Maybe a couple of guys on two. Now we are starting to get more on two and some on three, you know, that kind of thing. It's starting to extend a little bit further. For the most part, you can eliminate the offensive and defensive lineman. We've been going into some games with eight offensive linemen, which we would prefer to go with seven but given the circumstances, we've carried eight. Same thing on the defensive line. A number of games we've gone with an extra guy there, however you want to count [Willie] McGinest. As we see the running teams last week, this week, there's probably a little more of a premium on that extra defensive linemen with the power running games that our division opponents have here. It just takes one less guy out of the kicking game for you.

Q: What does that mean during the week in practice?

BB: Absolutely, whoever is going to play, they are the ones that are going to get the work. The starting guys on the kickoff team, they are the ones that are going to see the Dolphins kickoff returns. Our starting quarterback, he is the one who sees the Dolphin coverages. Our starting safety, that's the one who sees the Dolphin patterns. We've got to try to get the guys ready who we know are going to play. You try to do the best you can to get everybody ready so that you have your depth covered. No, I just don't think you can knowingly allocate a lot of time to prepare people who really have a slim or minimal chance of playing. You are better off trying to get the guys who are out there that looks at it so if there is a problem out there you can get it corrected in practice.

Q: Are you spreading those goes out on special teams because you have been needing an extra lineman or because or performance?

BB: Well, I think it's a little bit of a combination of both. Our kickoff coverage, we really struggled with that, particularly through the first Buffalo game. I think it's gotten progressively better. Our field position has been better. We've made some plays on coverage down there around the 20 yard line, inside the 25, more where you'd really like to be making them. And some of those guys have made plays, Vrabel, Victor Green, Lawyer [Milloy]. Those guys have been factors on that, it's not like they're just in there taking up space, and they're in there making some plays. In addition, Tebucky [Jones] is another guy that's been one of our key special team players that missed a little bit of time in the kicking game, you know, as he's coming back from a leg (injury), on the punt team, the kickoff team. Guys like that, even though Tebucky has been active for a couple of games, he just hasn't had the same role in the kicking game that he had earlier.

Q: With spreading those guys thin…

BB: Wait a minute. I don't want to be chewing too many of these words and swallowing them. I wouldn't say we're spreading everybody thin. I think that we're … everybody plays football; everybody has got to go out there and play. Sometimes on defense you play 50 plays. The next week on defense you might play 80. That's what you play. Sometimes you cover two kickoffs; sometimes you cover five if you are scoring a lot. I don't think we're sending two guys up to climb Mt. Everest in a bathing suit. There are a couple of more plays that they have to play and that's what they do.

Q: Are you surprised that you've had to upgrade?

BB: Yeah and some of those people aren't available is the reality of it. Matt Chatham is on injured reserve. Deion Branch has done some things for us in the kicking game and he hasn't been active. Graham has been in the kicking game, but now we have a problem there. Tebucky has missed some time. So that's why we brought in Chris Hayes. That's why we brought in [Maugaula] Tuitele. We've made some replacements to try to address those situations, but in some cases it's continued to linger.

Q: Is there any hope for a better situation for some of these guys like Deion Branch?

BB: Well hopefully. I think they're all making progress, they're all definitely working hard, we're treating them morning, noon and night, and we'll go out there today, first day out, usually over the weekend you continue with the treatment, and try to give them a couple days to rest from what they did previously during the week, and then you start up the next week and see where they are. Hopefully they've progressed and moved forward, so we'll see where they are today. I'm sure they're better then they were last week, and whether that's good enough to play and practice or not, that will just be day-to-day, we'll have to find out. Obviously with [Daniel] Graham, we didn't feel that way, that's why we took it into a different direction with him.

Q: What's the approach with those guys?

BB: Well I think everybody has that attitude. I'm not worried about that.

Q: Well, I mean in terms of putting themselves out there even though they shouldn't be playing.

BB: That's what we have to do as coaches, we have to evaluate that in practice. If the guy can't … The player has to be able to show myself, the medical people, our strength coach, the position coach, he's got to be able to show that he can go out there and do his job. There are a few rare circumstances with a real experienced guy who maybe can't practice during the week, and later maybe later during the week can tell you how he feels, and you still might feel better about playing him. But for the most part, that hoping he'll be able to play is not really where you want to be, you need to see it. I need to see it with my eyes, be able to see that the player can perform the things that he'll need to be able to perform in the game, in a practice environment. If he can't do it in practice, then it's really unrealistic to think that he'd be able to jump up to the game. Now sometimes you can do it in practice, and the game speed is a different speed.

Q: Where's [Tedy] Bruschi on that?

BB: Day-to-day. Definitely getting better, definitely improving, he was able to do some running this week, ahead of what he did last week. We'll throw him out there today and see whether that's …

Q: He didn't practice at all last week?

BB: No, but in his running and working with the strength coach, with Mike [Woicik] and with the trainers, that he's definitely making progress.

Q: Is he somebody that falls into that category that it's conceivable that he can tell you that he feels like he's ready to play?

BB: I think that'll be a tough one because he hasn't played in almost a month now. I'm talking about a situation more like Joe Andruzzi. Who's basically played pretty much every week, there've been a couple weeks where he really hasn't been able to practice, but by the end of the week he feels okay. And you watch him run maybe on Saturday or Sunday before the game, and feel like, 'okay, he's physically okay, he just hasn't been able to take the reps in practice during the week,' but he's been playing every week. I think that's a lot different from guy who hasn't played in a month, and then all of a sudden say, 'Coach, I'm ready to go now,' that's a tough one. The first year I was in the league, I was 22 years old and I didn't know anything, but it really opened my eyes, we had a player, I was with the Colts, Jim Cheyunski, who was maybe a 10-year veteran, had terrible knees. And after every game they would just swell up like balloons. He'd come out, and never practiced. Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, but would stand there and be very attentive and take everything in, but I'd say for maybe the last two months of the season [he] never practiced one day. He went out there and played pretty well on Sunday, and had a great knowledge and command of the defense, was able to make all the checks and all the adjustments and all that, and that's the first time I had ever seen anything like that, not that I had played at a very high level of football, but at least just being around Navy, that's a Division 1 school and all that, but to see a guy come out there and be able to play and literally never practice, I mean never practice. He could barely walk out to the field, I hurt just watching him walk. It was pretty remarkable. Not that that's a benchmark, but that was something that I saw first hand, my first year in the league, right off the bat. We won the last nine games of the regular season that year, and he was one of the big reasons why we did. We played well defensively, but it was …

Q: Was he a middle linebacker?

BB: Yeah, he did, he played the Mike. After we traded [Mike] Curtis then he finished the season playing Mike. So, I'm saying I think there are some examples like that. They're not very common, but they do occur, but the guys that have been out for an extended period of time, that then all of a sudden feel like they can jump back in there, I think need a little bit of practice time to at least fine-tune and hone in there skills before they can really functionally play.

Q: Obviously it hurts to lose Otis [Smith], do you think this is a good time for Leonard [Myers] to step in?

BB: Right now would be a great time for it. Leonard, [Terrell] Buckley, Antwan Harris, all of them. Especially against a team like Miami that's a four wide receiver team, we're going to need all of our corners to step up. It's a big game, they're obviously going to throw the ball and we need to cover them. It's an opportunity for Leonard, it's an opportunity for Antwan, Terrell's an experienced guy that … We're going to be counting on all of them.

Q: He was set back by the injury, what were your projections for him this year?

BB: Well I thought that he would have the chance to compete for significant playing time in our sub-defenses, but that never really materialized because he couldn't get on the field in training camp. But Otis and Ty [Law] came into the season having started all the games last year, for anybody to move ahead of them would have taken a real strong performance, there's no doubt about that. With all those young corners, and Leonard in particular, missing time in training camp, and not being able to get off to a good start in the season for a young player like that's always an extra hurdle to overcome.

Q: Is he back to where he was before the injury?

BB: I think physically he's okay. You just miss all that fundamental work, again, when you think about it, half of your practices for the year are over. Even though you haven't played a game yet, half your practices are finished. That's a lot of fundamental time that is important for all players, but especially young players.

Q: What was your impression of him last week?

BB: I didn't think we played good pass defense in the game, and that goes to pretty much everybody that was out there on the field. Including him, and just about everybody else too. I just don't think we played pass defense the way we need to play it to be effective. We just weren't on things the way we needed to be on them.

Q: Is it hard to pinpoint why Miami has struggled on the road? Were there any particular circumstances for the way they've played?

BB: I think they're a good football team. They've won a couple of big games on the road, too. Obviously, when they lost their quarterback for some games there, they had a couple of road games and that didn't help them any. When any team loses their front line quarterback, you're going to have a little dropoff in the execution, that's pretty much par for the course. They played Buffalo and Buffalo had a big game against them there, they played well. When they were on the road against the Jets, they had a strong game.

Q: The snow in Buffalo was a factor, too. It kind of looks like they don't play well in December and they don't play well in the cold.

BB: Look, they came up here two years ago and they played pretty well against us. Look, Miami's a good football team. They've got Fiedler back, and he's a guy that makes their offense run smoothly. He makes a lot of plays with his feet. He runs it well. He's efficient. They've got a good running back. The snow certainly didn't slow Ricky Williams down. He almost set an NFL record that day. He was certainly on pace to do it. They're strong defensively. They've got good specialists and they've got a good kicking game. This is a good football team, just like every other team in the league this year in the AFC. Every team's had their ups and downs and some games have been better than others. Overall, it's a good team. They're well coached. They're sound. They're solid. They'll be tough Sunday.

Q: Just out of curiosity, when did you first meet Cheyunski?

BB: '75.

Q: And he played here from '68 to '72?

BB: Right. In fact, we picked him up … He wasn't even with us in training camp, which I don't think he could have made it to training camp, either. He was in bad shape when we got him, to be honest with you. He was old, his knees were in bad shape, we had Mike Curtis, and that didn't work out for some other reasons, without getting into that, but he ended up playing a little bit early in the year and then when Curtis was traded by the general manager, then Jimmy [Cheyunski] started playing. Back in those days, there really were no sub defenses. The guys that were out there were out there. There wasn't substitution like you see it now, so he probably started the last eight, 10, 12 games, whatever it was. Like I said, we won the last nine straight in the regular season. Each week you looked at him and you'd say, 'Do you think he'll make it one more week?' He'd look worse each week until game time, and then when game time came, he looked pretty good out there. Then when the game was over, you'd look at him and think, 'Well, that's probably the last game he's ever going to play.'

Q: Is your biggest challenge this week just to get some confidence going again?

BB: I think the confidence comes from your performance on the field. The best thing to prepare to have a good performance on the field is to have a good week of preparation. That's what we can do this week and that's what we're going to do. We're going to prepare well and we're going to be physically and mentally as ready to go as we possibly can on Sunday. I think that's the best thing we can go to enhance our performance. Then, once we perform well, then confidence will take care of itself. But, we don't have any games scheduled until Sunday, so we're not going to make any plays under competition until then. But, we can prepare to put ourselves in position to do that and know what to do and then that will allow us to be more aggressive and play better on Sunday. So, we're going to control that and that will be in place so when it comes time for Sunday, we'll be giving ourselves the best possible chance, but we've still got to go out there and make them.

Q: After Troy Brown fumbled, they only scored three points and you got the ball back on the kickoff, but it seemed like that was maybe a more deflating play than it appeared on the scoreboard at the time.

BB: I understand what you're saying, and when you look at the game, you can point to that play and say, 'Okay, did things turn at that point?' I honestly don't think it was a confidence problem. I think we made too many consecutive mistakes at that point. They score, we're down by three, we come back and it's second-and-four, then we have a penalty and it's second-and-nine, then we get sacked, then they get the ball and we've got three chances to get them off the field on third down and we don't convert any of those. We give up a touchdown pass on a coverage it shouldn't have happened on. Then, we come back again and make a couple of good plays and throw an interception. There are too many players involved and I just don't think we executed very well. I don't think it was confidence. I didn't get any sense on the sideline of, 'Oh no, here we go.' We're down by three with 18 minutes to go in the game. I didn't get that sense at all. I think that we felt like we were going to go back out there and score. We felt like we were going to go back out there and stop them. We felt like we were going to go back out there and make plays in the kicking game. I just didn't get that feeling on the sideline, but clearly, when you look back at the game, you can point to that and say, 'Well, you know, it was a turning point in the game and everything was going good until that point in the third quarter, but then it went in a different direction.' I think that for whatever reasons, our execution just wasn't what it needed to be from that point forward.

Q: How hard is Jason Taylor to handle?

BB: Well, Jason's pretty good. He's pretty good, and it's been two weeks in a row, three weeks in a row, really, that we've seen some big time speed rushers off the edge. It really starts with Taylor with his speed, because he can stretch the protection so quickly and get up the field and he can force the tackles to drop deep to handle his speed rush, and that of course opens up room to go underneath or to turn that speed into a power rush and compliment that speed. So, without the speed, you don't get the tackles setting as deep. You don't have quite as much space to work in. Whether it's Taylor, whether it's [Jevon] Kearse, whether it's [John] Abraham, guys like that, it starts with their ability to rush up the field and rush around the corner, and then the other compliments are certainly a lot more viable because of that threat. He's good. He's got a high motor. The thing I'm impressed with about Taylor are not the plays where he runs around the corner and sacks the quarterback, but his chase plays. On a screen pass or a play where he's on the back side and he'll run 40, 50 yards across the field to chase him down and make the play. Nine times out of 10, when he gets over there, the play's going to be over. But, that one time where he does get over there to hold it to a one- or two-yard gain instead of having the guy slip out for a bigger play, his effort and his intensity and his back-side pursuit is impressive. He can really run. He's got a good motor and he's a real disruptive player. He's got long arms and he can bat down passes or get in the way of the quarterback. He's athletic; guys come in there and try to cut him in the running game and he hops over them and runs him down. He's a real good football player and he has a lot of strengths, not just as a pass rusher, although he's a real good pass rusher.

Q: You've said that sacks are one of the most overrated statistics in football and he's leading the league by a pretty fair margin in sacks. But, sacks aside, do you think he's pretty deserving of being considered a solid defensive player, maybe the defensive player of the year?

BB: Sacks aside, he's one of the most disruptive players we've played against all year, without a doubt. Whether he has 18 sacks or he has four sacks, either way, he's got a lot of disruptions in both the running game and the passing game. He's got disruption when the plays are at him and he's also got disruption when the plays are away, because he's fast enough to get over there and make those plays. I think defensively, the Dolphins done a good job of complimenting their team, both Dave Wannstedt and [Rick] Spielman, in terms of having a couple of big, strong guys inside that are really hard to move. They certainly don't run like their ends do, but then their ends, with their speed and athleticism, are able to cover a lot of ground and make some plays in space that the bigger guys can't make. Dealing with those big guys inside is an issue for you, because it's just hard to move them. [Larry] Chester and [Tim] Bowens, it's like trying to block a tree, they're just big and they don't go anywhere. They compliment each other well. Bowens helps Taylor, Taylor helps Bowens, Chester helps, then they bring [Rob] Burnett in there in some passing situations. They have a good defensive line. They're active and they're productive. I definitely agree with you that Taylor is one of the most disruptive players in the league. I'm not big on sacks, and he's had a lot of them, but he's had a lot of other plays, too. So, you've got to say he deserves some consideration.

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