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Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript - 12/24/2003

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Q: Is it strange to have so few players on the injury report this late in the season?

BB: Seems to me the last few years we haven't…. I don't think we have a lot of guys on the list at the end of the season. I think it has been like that for the last couple of years.

Q: Is that coincidence?

BB: I don't know. That is worth looking into. I think there are more on IR. I will give you that. I have thought that the increase in competitive levels is where you usually see the jump in injuries. From offseason programs to passing camps, from summer to training camp, from training camp to regular season, those competitive step ups sometimes lead to a strain of a muscle or that type of thing trying to keep up and go a little faster than what you have been doing

Q: Is the team healthier than it has been?

BB: We have really cut practice back a lot this year and they are not in pads very many times. That and Monday practice I don't think that is a real heavy practice day. We do what we would normally do out there in here, unless they are off and you hope they do it on their own. A lot of guys come in and work on their own on Monday.

Q: Was the cutback in practice a reaction to the injuries?

BB: We just didn't have enough people to practice there in October. In September and October we really didn't have enough people to practice. It is healthy than it was earlier in the season. There is no question about that, other than the guys that are on IR.

Q: The reduced number of practices you have had, will that make you re-evaluate at all in the offseason?

BB: It might be something to think about. I think a little bit of it depends on your team. I think this particular team those situations pretty well. We have actually had good quality, even though it wasn't high contact, but the tempo and the quality of practices were pretty good. It is one of the things at the end of the year that you always talk about is your schedule, your practices, you training camp. You look back at your mini-camps and passing camps and see how effective they were relative to the things you worked on versus what you actually did during the year or how well prepared were to take the next step. That will definitely be a part of the conversation.

Q: How important is it playing in this environment with the elements at home?

BB: I'm not sure what the difference is between Buffalo and New England. Both of us are in pretty much the same climate. I don't think that they are going to see anything here that they haven't seen.

Q: I'm speaking more about home field in the playoffs, not specifically Buffalo.

BB: That is who we are playing this weekend.

Q: Can I ask you that question next week then?

BB: When we are in the playoffs, we will talk about the playoffs.

Q: How about Bobby Hamilton? We haven't spent much time talking about him this year.

BB: I think he has had a real solid year. I would think Bobby has our longest consecutive games streak not counting Adam [Vinatieri]. I would say that he has to be close to it. I can't remember him missing a game. I can't remember him missing any practices either. He has been very durable and has a good solid year. We have a pretty good rotation in there on the defensive line, but he has been a real constant force all the way through, as he was last year and the year before that.

Q: When a guy like that flies under the radar a bit, do you ever go over to them and let them know…?

BB: Bobby and I talk from time to time. We go back all the way to the Jets. It has been quite a few years now. We have been through a lot together, some good, some not so good. I enjoy talking to him. Bobby is a true professional. Nobody works harder or is more diligent and really puts more into it than he does. He throws himself across the tracks and does everything he possibly can for himself to be a good player and to help the team. He is very team-oriented, good with the younger kids. He is a solid guy.

Q: He seems like a very sincere guy too.

BB: Very. He is very conscientious. He wants to be doing the right thing. I think that is what has made his career very successful. He works hard and takes coaching. If you ask him to do something, then he really tries to do it the way you want it done. That is good for the team.

Q: Anthony Pleasant and Rick Lyle share that same characteristic being good with the younger players. What have they done to contribute?

BB: First of all, I think every day a player walks in this building he provides some kind of leadership for this team because everyone sees how he goes about his job, what his approach is, what is attitude is, what his effort level is. Every single guy that walks in here everybody else looks and if a guy is not prepared or if he is late or not prepared when he comes into the meeting or generally not doing what he is supposed to be doing, everybody sees that. That is leadership. If somebody does it in a positive way, they see that too. Guys come in early and study extra film. They work a little bit harder. They work with other guys and all of that. We are all stockholders in the team, every one of us – head coach, assistant coaches, captains – every player on the team, every guy on the practice squad. Every person here is a stockholder in the team. We all have a share in it. We all show leadership in one way or another every single day. You don't just stand in front of team and be a leader. The way you go about your job and the way you contribute to the team provides some degree of leadership. I think every single person fall into that category and you can't find any people more professional than Anthony and Rick. We have a lot of those kind of guys on our team. You asked about them specifically. They are very professional. They are very well prepared and work hard at their job. If you ask them to do something than you can count on them to have worked on it, be prepared for it, and be ready to do it. What the opportunities are, that is not in their control. But their preparation, which is in their control is very good. They are well-trained athletes. Talk about another two guys that have been very durable over the course of their careers.

Q: Is that attitude that everyone's a stockholder key to motivation?

BB: I think that is really the biggest motivator you have is your teammates and call it peer pressure. What motivates me and what I think motivates a lot of people is everybody is counting on you to do your job and if you don't do a good job, the people that you are letting down are the one's that are in that room with us. A guy walks out on the field and everyone is counting on him to do his job. Number one he wants to do it for himself, but also he wants to do it for his teammates and for all the guys that are supporting him. He is counting on them to do their job when they walk out there. That accountability, as opposed to selfishness and wanting to get a lot of recognition, to everyone else is greater. If you think about not letting people down that are counting in you, then a lot of times that pushes you to maybe work a little bit harder to try to achieve a little bit more. They are doing the same thing for you.

Q: Is the external pressure minimal compared to the internal pressure?

BB: Any time you are talking about a group of people like that including the fans, the media, you can't keep them all happy. Anything I say or do, some people would like and some people would not like. It really doesn't make a difference what it was. You can't really react to that. I just have to try to do what is best for the team.

Q: I mean what you expect from one another as opposed to what the fans and the media expect.

BB: Well, I think that all that is contained within that meeting room and then subsequently out on the field. Whenever a player steps across that white line and steps out onto the field, he's carrying a lot of responsibility for all the other people in the organization out there with him. That's a lot to be accountable for. I think we all realize that.

Q: Why has [Drew] Bledsoe been sacked so many times?

BB: I think any time you look at the passing game, there are always a number of factors involved, positive and negative. When you look at a passing game, you see receivers and how they match up against different coverages. You look at different matchups in protection. You also look at a situation where your team, as we've talked about many times before, if you're behind and you're trying to make plays to get back in it, you sometimes have a tendency to have more bad things happen in the passing game than when you're ahead and you're running the ball and trying to chew up the clock and that type of thing. A lot of things all go into it and I'm sure it's been a combination just like it has for us. We've had poor routes, poor protection, poor calls, and those things lead to pressure and sacks and I think every other team has them too.

Q: What about the criticism of Drew that you hear a lot, that he holds onto the ball too long?

BB: Well, watching Drew play, he took care of us pretty good. I thought he threw the ball well and performed well. They played very well in the first game against us. What can you say? They beat us 31-0, so I thought he played pretty damn well in that game. That's the one we've been seeing a lot of.

Q: How much does he miss Peerless Price?

BB: I don't know. You'd have to ask him that. I think that [Bobby] Shaw has stepped up and had a really good year for them. He's close to being their leading receiver. He's been really productive running routes, catching the ball and running after the catch. He's a hard-running guy when he gets the ball in his hands. He breaks a lot of tackles and has done a good job for them in the slot. He really has.

Q: Coach, can you talk about Eugene Wilson?

BB: Well, I think Eugene's been pretty steady. He's had his ups and downs, like all of us have this year, all of the players have had. I think overall, he's been pretty steady. The first few weeks, there was some newness to the position, getting acclimated to it, the communication and seeing things from the middle of the field as opposed to seeing them from the perimeter. That's a big adjustment. But, once he settled in, I think it's been pretty consistent. He's gotten a good feel from working with Rodney [Harrison] and disguising coverages and showing different looks pre-snap and making some adjustments in there as a safety that you have to make. There are different things that happen – formations, tight slips by the receivers, motion, things like that that can change your coverage calls or change the angle of your drop or the depth of your drop based on proximity to the receivers in the formation. Things like that. I think he's improving, but at the same time, I think he's had a good, solid, steady year.

Q: Wilson has delivered some pretty big hits this year. Is that something you saw from him in college?

BB: I thought he was a very good tackler in college. For the most part, corners don't have the opportunity to deliver the big hits that people do more on the inside of the field, just because there's so much space out there. As you come more into the middle of the field, the space actually gets condensed a bit and sometimes you just get a better opportunity for it and there's more opportunity than on the outside. Given all that, I'm not surprised that he's delivered some good hits, because he was a very physical tackler at corner in college. Playing corner and safety are two different things and the type of plays that come from those positions provide for more frequency for the type of play you're talking about at safety.

Q: Is Wilson's presence at safety the biggest difference from the first game against the Bills? I know he played, but…

BB: Yeah, he played and he played corner. Tyrone [Poole] played in sub situations and Tyrone is playing corner now. I'd say those are two pretty significant differences for us – Tyrone being the full-time corner and Eugene being a full-time safety, relative to where they were in that game. Rodney and Ty [Law], those two have pretty much stayed the same.

Q: Could you say that Wilson has learned a lot from any particular game, like the Indianapolis game?

BB: I think a rookie learns something from every game. If he doesn't, he should open his eyes and take a look at what's going on. There's a lot for them to see every single time they step out on the field at this point in their career. I can't imagine a rookie playing in a game now and not coming out of it having learned quite a few things. I'm suer that's true of every game.

Q: It seemed like in Indy, and I don't know the coverages and all of that, but it seemed like he was around…

BB: He was involved in some plays that… Look, when you play safety in the passing game, you're only going to be involved in a handful of plays. That's the nature of the position. It's not like you're going to be in on 35 plays like a middle linebacker. It doesn't work that way. If you're a safety, you're going to be involved in maybe five, or if it's a big day, maybe 10 pass plays in the game. Say you're involved in five. How one or two of those turn out could go a long way towards determining how you played or how it's perceived that you played in that game. The fact of the matter is that if a safety's really doing a good job and the quarterback does a good job, he might not be involved in any plays. The fact that he's taking care of his responsibility in the deep part of the field, if that's where he's playing, and the quarterback's not throwing in the deep part of the field because he's can see that that area's secure by the play of that player, then he's going to throw the ball somewhere else. If not, it's really the quarterback that makes the mistake and throws it where he shouldn't, or the defender is maybe out of position and there's a play that he really can have an opportunity to make. In other words, you can play a really good game at safety and never be involved in any plays. That's not true at middle linebacker, that's not true at nose guard, that's not true at tight end. There are differences between those positions. If you're securing the deep part of the field, what's important is to secure the deep part of the field. The real mark of the safeties and really the secondary as a group is the number of long plays that occur. We've talked about that many times in the running game, but that's definitely also true in the passing game. If they complete a 50-yard pass, it's not because the nose tackle didn't do his job.

Q: Has Wilson done a good job securing the deep part of the field?

BB: Well, some plays are better than others. He's certainly made a lot of good plays, but there are some that weren't that good and he's learned from and we hope that when they come up the next time, he'll play them better.

Q: How much easier it is in your job as the head coach and a manager to deal predominantly with assistants that have been with you for many years?

BB: It makes it easier, but it definitely allows you to go further. Let's put it that way. I think you can make more progress and do a better job and you can go further. It's a big advantage. The fact that we've been through a lot here together is very important. We've experienced a lot of the same situations together as opposed to coaching in different organizations. That's good too, I'm not saying that negatively, but the common experiences that we've shared here in New England in the last two, three, four years, whatever it's been, with those people, those go a long way to really enabling you to make strides and move your program along or that particular part of the operation along. I think that's really important on so many different levels, like personnel, scheme and strategy. You could just go right down the line. So many situations can be related to other situations, even if they're not the same. Maybe they're a little bit better and maybe they're a little bit worse. Then you can gauge how to deal with them based on previous experiences. I think it's very valuable.

Q: When you brought in John Hufnagel, what did he have to show in coming from outside the organization? Was that a tough decision to bring in a guy who you weren't as familiar with?

BB: No. Charlie [Weis] and I talked about the whole quarterback situation and how we could manage our respective time and also get the work to the quarterbacks that we felt like they needed. The quarterback position is unlike a lot of positions in football. The quarterback position is so heavily weighted on technique and speed and recognition. Being tough as a quarterback is more about being mentally tough and being able to take hits. It's not about being tough like a linebacker is tough, being involved in contact on every single play. It's a different type of position. It's a very skilled position, similar to a kicker or a punter, obviously a lot different skills and has to do it a lot more often. All that being said, the position demands a different type of coaching and a different emphasis on coaching. When you take players that we have at that position, [Kliff] Kingsbury, who has never played, [Rohan] Davey, who's been in the league two years, Damon [Huard], who has quite a bit of experience and Tom [Brady] who is in his third year of playing and his fourth year in the league, you have a wide range there of needs that those different players have. For myself as the head coach and for Charlie as the coordinator to do our jobs, however you want to fit the job descriptions of head coach and offensive coordinator into that, now you've got, 'this is what the quarterbacks need.' Forget about what the offense needs, this is what the quarterbacks need. That's a pretty significant list, especially when you have different levels of experience. Part of the conversation that Charlie and I had was to talk about how we could meet the needs of all the players at their positions, not just run the offense and coach the team. That's kind of where all that evolved.

Q: You're kind of making it sound like Hufnagel's focusing mostly on the younger guys.

BB: No. I'm not saying that. I'm saying that there's a requirement for all of them and each one demands his own attention. In training camp, everybody's taking their reps, everybody's doing their fundamentals and their techniques and all that. Sure, as the season goes on, the most important player right now is Tom Brady. He's the one that's out there calling the plays and running the offense. Kingsbury's not going to complete any passes. That doesn't mean that he doesn't get some attention, but to prepare a guy who's not playing as opposed to preparing a guy that's taken pretty much every snap this year for us, that wouldn't make any sense. The job changes as the year goes along and every player is important. You don't hire a coach to coach one player. You hire a coach to coach the entire group. As we've seen here through the course of the year, the development of every player at every position can be very important. You just never know when that's going to occur, but it's still important.

Q: With staffs that have been successful over time, like Bill Walsh in San Francisco, how important has coaching continuity been to their success?

BB: Sure, I think it definitely helps. I think you look at some of the more successful organizations in the last 30 years and you can find a lot of continuity there. Whether it was Chuck Noll and his staff in Pittsburgh or Joe Gibbs and that group at the Redskins or Walsh and [George] Seifert and his group out there in San Francisco, you can go right down the line, with Bill [Parcells] and our group there in New York for almost a decade. I think there is certainly a lot to be said for that.

Q: Do you have a Christmas wish?

BB: Well, I'll say the same thing I said at the beginning of the week. I hope that we can play more competitively against Buffalo this week than we did on opening day.

Q: Is 31-7 more competitive?

BB: Well, yeah, it would be.

Q: Will you be able to put football out of your mind at all?

BB: I think we've set up the schedule this week where we're taking all the work that we would normally do and doing it a little bit earlier so that in a way you can digest it a little bit more, but at the same time allow a break here for a very significant day for all of us and our families. I don't think I'll be doing too much work on football tomorrow.

Q: So you'll be in tomorrow at about 9:00, then?

BB: [Laughter]. Right after Santa comes down the chimney. Have a good holiday, everyone

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