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Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript

BB: Well, we got everybody back today. That's good. You guys had the weekend off? We signed Thabiti Davis today, a wide receiver from Wake Forest, and played in the Arena League and a couple of other NFL teams. That fills up our roster. That really takes the spot that we had when we released Ben Kelly before the weekend. We are trying to treat this week kind of like a regular season week with Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday kind of like a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in the regular season. It's a little bit different. We have more people in camp with 85 guys and we do have an extra practice today that is more than we would have in the regular season. But we are kind of on that schedule with our preparation for the Giants. What we did today was, we took the players who haven't been getting as many reps in practice as some of the other guys and try to give them more chances to run our plays so that they are a little more familiar with them for the game on Thursday night. Then also, we want to try to make sure that they are also working with people that they are going to be playing with to help the communication and the recognition to hopefully be a little bit more of a cohesive unit when they do get out there and get a chance to go. The guys who aren't practicing today and didn't practice yesterday, I think that you will not see those guys playing in the game Thursday night.

**Q: Where were the regulars? Were they in meetings?

BB:** Yes. We had meetings and a walk-through inside. We weren't trying to keep them away from you.

**Q: We would never think that.

BB:** No, we weren't doing that.

**Q: Can you talk a little bit about Bethel Johnson?

BB:** Bethel is coming along. I think he had a long way to go when we started. He missed some time in the spring camps. From a receiving standpoint, some of the techniques and some of the sophistication in the passing game is probably a little more than what he has been used to. He's out there picking it up. He's definitely made some improvement. He's shown up with some plays through camp, it hasn't been as consistent as it needs to be, but he flashes some talent and some receiving skills.

**Q: Do you expect him to be on special teams early on?

BB:** I don't know. That will be up to him. It depends on what he is able to do. Like everybody else, he'll get an opportunity to show what he can do and then we will evaluate that and go from there. I don't know what that will be though.

**Q: Will Thursday be an important game for a guy like him?

BB:** I think it is important everybody. I think preseason games are important for everybody. Each game is important for everybody that participates in it. It gives each player the opportunity to either establish or re-establish his level of play and to build on it from there. You can't do it until you go out there on the game field and do it against other competition. It is, what it is. A lot of people will be out there playing. Each guy has an opportunity to establish that for himself. Each unit has the opportunity to begin to establish it for themselves, whether it's the field goal unit or whether it's the third down defense or whatever it happens to be. I think it's important for all of us, the coaches and all the people that are participating. Not everybody will be out there but for all of us that are, I think it's another chance for us to take a step in our preparation for the opener in the regular season.

**Q: He was a punt returner and kick returner at Texas A&M. Will he do some of that here?

BB:** I think that depending on if we can make them punt or depending on how many kickoffs there are, there will be opportunities to do that. I would like to see him do those things, if the opportunities present themselves in the game. We do have some depth at that position, so there are some other people involved but we would definitely like to see him do that, yes.

**Q: Can you talk a little bit about which one of the rookies has impressed you if any?

BB:** Well, I think they have all improved. I think they have all shown solid progress, that is why they are here and we are working with them. What they will be able to do with the opportunities in game conditions against live competition, that just all remains to be seen. I think we'll just withhold any evaluations until we really see that. They are making progress. In practice, overall, it's a competitive group.

**Q: Davis is a bigger receiver. What did you like about him?

BB:** I think his main attributes are his size and his hands. He has good catching skills. He's been playing and he has been productive. He's played in the NFL, so he has a little bit of experience. He had a good Arena League year. Obviously, there are not a lot of football players that aren't in camps at this point in time. We felt like he was the best fit for us. He'll get an opportunity given the fact that we need a little bit of depth at that position.

**Q: You think he'll be able to get out there on Thursday?

BB:** Yes. I hope so. He'll have to show us in the next three days that he will be able to. Again, because he has some experience and has been in the league a little bit, he's got an idea. I hope that he will be able to pick up enough things so that he can get out there.

**Q: Thabiti was with the Giants when they went to the Super Bowl. Does that help you at all or is that just a coincidence?

BB:** I think it's pretty much a coincidence. Honestly, in those terms, we are just trying to get our team out on the field and get them ready and prepare them for the Giants as opposed to getting a lot of insight into the Giants at this point.

**Q: What have you seen from Daniel Graham so far? What do you expect from him this year?

BB:** I think Dan has had a real good camp. He had a good offseason. He's had an excellent camp this year in all phases of the game, running, run blocking, pass blocking, and pass receiving. He's had a real solid start and I think, like most players in between their first and second year, he has a much better understanding of our system. His techniques are better. He's got good confidence in what he is doing. He and the quarterbacks and the tackles and the people that he has to work together with, there's a better communication and a higher level of teamwork when those guys are involved in combination blocks and routes and adjustments and that kind of thing. I think he is doing well.

**Q: Matt Chatham has made a pretty big niche for himself on special teams. What are some of the qualities that make him productive in that area?

BB:** I think that Matt, in terms of special teams, he's been very productive in terms of his tackles in coverage. The linebackers, or running backs or tight ends, that type of player on your special teams unit, where size and speed and athletic ability all combined, they are important factors and it's hard to find guys who have all of those things. You put fast guys out there like corners and wide receivers but there are times, like in punt protection and kickoff return and punt return on the line of scrimmage, where you are holding up bigger people where you need somebody bigger to match up against them. It's hard to put 190-pound guys on 240-pound guys all the time. You just get overrun. I think he has a good combination of that. Matt is a smart guy. He has experience now. That's a real plus for us. I think that Matt has improved quite a bit since we first got him in the 2000 season, of course he was hurt that year and really didn't play much. He's had two solid years for us and is doing a good solid job this year too.

**Q: There is a big misconception that you just aren't good enough to start and that is why they are playing on special teams. Do you feel like people underrate their value sometimes?

BB:** Yes, I think that does happen sometimes. As a staff, special teams is important to us and our organization and I think that we've shown that by the recognition and the commitment that we've made to people in that phase of the game. I think externally sometimes they don't get the recognition or appreciation that maybe they deserve. He does a good job in there. It's an important role for us.

**Q: With Ty Law and Otis Smith out, Asante Samuel and Eugene Wilson have been getting more reps. Does that help these guys develop? Is either one of them ahead of the other? Did they move faster than you thought they would?

BB:** I think they have moved along well. I am not sure. Again, I don't have a definite track for them to be on, but they have moved along well. You are right. They have gotten a lot of extra reps because Ty and Otis haven't been out there to take many. Even though it's hurt Ty and Otis, I think it helps that you have the other two players and they have taken advantage of those opportunities. Who is ahead of who? We'll start to find out Thursday night. Both players are going to start in the game and they are going to be out there getting an opportunity to go against whomever the Giants put out there, their best guys. I think that will be a good evaluation for them.

**Q: They seem to be the same kind of player. When you ask them what their strengths are, they both say the same thing. Did you see that when you drafter them and is that a similarity that cornerbacks have?

BB:** I think there are some similarities. The bottom line is I think both players bring some of the attributes to the field defensively that we are looking for in terms of their quickness and coverage ability, ball skills, tackling ability, things like that. Those are important to us. They probably did grade out higher for us because they brought qualities that we were looking for.

**Q: Can you talk a little bit about how what are you looking for in a DB, like with those two guys, might be different than what some guys look for in other systems?

BB:** Not just limited to corner, but in any system, you identify, maybe there are 10 qualities that a player can have. Something has got to be one and something has got to be 10. Not that they all aren't important, size, speed, quickness, athletic ability, instincts, you go right down the line, whatever the specific of the position is too. Something has got to be first and something has got to be last. You just have to decide within your system what things you can't live without and other things that you can live with even though they are not perfect but as long as certain qualities are there, and then maybe you can live with some other ones. It depends on what you feel like you are going to ask the guy to do. That varies from scheme to scheme. That's why you've got 32 different philosophies on that.

**Q: There is some thing that you are looking for a little more than some other teams may be looking for.

BB:** Well, I think that if you are a team that plays man-to-man coverage 90 percent of the time, then man-to-man coverage is going to be a lot more important to you than if you are a team that plays zone coverage 90 percent of the time. Not that the man teams don't play zone and not that the zone teams don't play man, but one-on-one, man-to-man coverage if that is all you play then you better get a guy that can play it. If you play it from the line of scrimmage in a press coverage then you better get somebody that get up there and press him. Think about the Raiders teams that played those corners up on the line in press, man-to-man coverage, you better get a guy that is a good press, man-to-man cover guy as opposed to somebody who is real quick and can play off coverage and is an Aaron Glenn, Duane Starks kind of guys, good corners but they just don't quite fit that style. They have a different style in their game and they are good players. If you are a zone team, then you want a zone corner like Mel Blount or somebody like that. That is what you are looking for. Not that he couldn't play man-to-man, I'm not saying that. He was a great tackler and a good corner that could jam and re-route receivers and play a real physical game. Depending on what you think you are going to be calling defensively, what your major calls are going to be, you are always going to have some change-ups, find things that those guys can do. That leads right into the next question too though, whenever you change coaches and change systems, then inevitably you end up changing players because not all players are good at everything. A few are and they can pretty much play in any system. But there are other guys who fit some systems better than others and that inevitably leads to some changes when you change your system.

**Q: It just seems like because of the amount of zone that you play, while speed is always important, you worry a little bit less about whether a guy is a speed burner and it's maybe not the most important thing for you and your style of defense.

BB:** Yes. I would agree with that and the faster the better. We emphasize team speed on defense. It's not just the 40-time. Really more important is production and tackling, quickness and their ability to play the ball and break on the ball more than just flat out vertical speed.

**Q: Do you look at them at all as a single entity as a coach? (Asante Samuel and Eugene Wilson)

BB:** The way it has worked out, they end up together a lot. They do; they end up together on a lot of things. When you are doing drills, when you are having meetings, or when you are going over something, in most cases it would be appropriate to whatever you are covering with one guy to also cover it with the other guy because he probably is going to need that same instruction for the same reasons. So I think from a practical standpoint it does work out like that.

**Q: Regardless of position, could that be somewhat advocated for players over their career. Can that be something that helps them both because they do a lot of the same things?

BB:** Sure. I think you [could] say that. I've seen it through the years. Guys that come in together, in the same rookie class that either end up, whether they play the same position or not, that's less common, they end up rooming together or maybe if they are on the same side of the ball or they develop a little bit of a bond and a relationship that is special relative to everybody else. It is unusual when you get two guys in the same spot, maybe that's occurring here. It wasn't planned that way, but it could be working out that way.

**Q: Is there a wide range of abilities that can make a corner a useable player for you?

BB:** You can see that in a lot of different positions too. You see the same type of thing. There is a wide range of players who play in this league and their skills…really there is a great variety of them, from young to old, from big to smaller, from faster to slower, and all in between. Again, a lot of that is using one area of strength to compensate for maybe another area that is not as good. And also how they are used in different systems where one strength is accentuated in one system and another strength may be accentuated in another system.

**Q: What is the reoccurring problem that they have to break through when they are trying to get playing time?

BB:** I think the toughest thing for a corner is the instinctive part of the game. You can watch film and you have to be able to take what you see on the film or you hear in the classroom and put it on to the field, but it is not quite as cut and dry on the field. There is some gray area. Even though the guy has run a slant route the last nineteen times in the same formation, in the back of your head you have that, 'Sooner or later they are going to run a slant-go.' To be able to be aggressive and still not be exposed is really a fine line. If you make a mistake out there, not only does everybody see it, but it costs you a lot of yardage. It's not like when the nose tackle gets hooked, there's ten guys behind him. There is nobody behind the corner. It's a position where from a corner standpoint you want to play with an aggressive mentality, but if you are over aggressive and you get burned there is a high price to pay. Walking that fine line mentally of doing that and at the same time knowing that they are going to catch a pass on you, every corner is going to get beat just like every receiver is going to drop a ball, being able to work through that and not lose your confidence and still play with that same temperament. The mental game, not that there is not a lot going on there physically because there is, but the mental part of the game is tough for the corner, particularly the rookie corner.

**Q: With these two guys what do you find the most impressive, their aggressiveness or their ability to lay back?

BB:** I would say to this point they have a pretty good feel for how to do it. I've coached a lot of players, you get some guys who in practice they are all over everything, and then you get into a game and they are ninety yards off the receiver. Lem Barney of Detroit, he was all over everything on everything. You never wanted to run a route on Lem Barney because he would intercept it. You always wanted to run by him, but his philosophy was, 'Well they are just not going to run many go routes so I am going to eat up everything I can that's within 15 yards of scrimmage. And beyond that, I'll just do the best I can.' And he had a great career. Emerson Walls was similar to that, but that's a particular style of play where they knew what the upside was and they were making plays and they knew what the downside was and they try to protect against it. Each guy is going to have to develop his own style, but I think to this point they have been pretty balanced but I don't think you really know the answer to that question until you see it under fire. It's different standing out there covering than it is out here on the practice field. It's a lot different. Some guys play a lot differently in the games than we see in practice.

**Q: Can you teach those instincts?

BB:** Well, we try to teach it. We try to teach it. We try to help them do all the things that we feel like will help make them a better football player. The one thing about playing corner, relative to every other position, is that technique and position are more important at corner than they are at any other spot and that's because the play takes longer to get to them. However long a play takes to get to a defensive end, maybe it is a second, you are playing technique for a second or so and then you are going to the ball. At corner you are trying to fight for position and technique for two, two and a half, three, four, while the balls in the air, five seconds maybe. It's all technique, it's all position, it's hand placement, it's footwork. It's all those little things to get in the right spot, and it goes on for a lot longer than it does for the nose guard. The nose guard hits the center and now the play is going. There is not four seconds worth of technique there. They line up this far away from each other. From a technique and efficiency standpoint, it's much different on the corner than it is at other positions. It's important at every position, it just goes on longer at corner. So the mental aspect of staying disciplined…you watch a one-on-one play for example, the receiver can beat the corner on the release, the receiver can beat the corner on the route, the receiver can beat the corner on the break and then right at the end of the play, if the corner, even if he is out of position, if he still does everything right at the end of the play and the ball is not perfectly thrown, he might be able to break it up. Whereas, the next play, the corner can jam the guy well, the corner can be in perfect position, the corner can read the route well, the corner can be right there on top of the receiver and then not make a good judgment at the end of the play, and the guy catches the ball. So it's a constant battle at that position where the guy who looks like they are winning at the beginning of the route, may not necessarily win at the end of the route. There is still a lot of positioning and technique left to be played.

**Q: You are going to have to develop two new ones. The two guys who are basically at the top of the depth chart for you right now were there in 1996 when you were a defensive backs coach. Other corners have come and gone. Are these guys here at the right place at the right time? Or are they such that they would have a shot at any time?

BB:** I think that's what we are waiting to find out. It could be either or some combination or neither one. I don't know. We'll see. So far they have done okay, but we have a long way to go. We'll see what it looks like in game conditions.

**Q: Simply by the way they were drafted, have you been pleasantly surprised by what Asante Samuel has done?

BB:** He is about what we expected.

**Q: Can you think of one offensive player [in audible]

BB:** That's really an interesting question, but I would say this: first of all, defensive backs all have to be able to run backwards and a lot of receivers really would not be very good running backwards. They are really good running forwards and they have a lot of quickness moving in a forward direction and also where they know where they are breaking. Whereas, a corner, you are moving backwards more which is a totally different body mechanism and you are reacting to something. Whereas, a receiver, you know where you are going to run. You know you are going to run an in route. You know you're going to run a curl. You know what you are going to do. Defensively, you have to anticipate and react to all that. It's a totally different set of skills. So the receivers that I have been involved with that we've moved to defensive back, have never even come close. You are teaching totally different skills. I think the flip side of it is, going from defensive back to receiver, whether it is a Deion Sanders or Champ Bailey or whatever there are plenty of examples of that, those skills…it's a lot easier going in the other direction. Usually what happens is, in high school and college football, the coach will take their best player and either put them at running back or put them at receiver whatever he is. Then, at whatever point, if the guy can't play those positions, if he can't catch then he goes from receiver to corner. Or if he is not an instinctive runner, he can't fine the holes and all that, then he goes from running back to linebacker or running back to safety. That type of progression. A lot of guys play on defense because they couldn't play on offense, in a lot of cases, not in everyone, but a lot of cases.

**Q: Did Roy Green ever do both?

BB:** I don't think Roy Green ever played defense. He returned kicks. He was a big time kick returner. If he played defense, it wasn't much of it.

**Q: How about Eric Metcalf?

BB:** He was between a running back and a receiver…and a kick returner. Again, I don't want to say none of those guys could ever do it, but my experience has been that that is a bad transition because going forward to going backward is a whole different ball game. A lot of receivers just don't have the body type and they don't have that type of reaction to go backwards and still have all that same kind of burst and quickness and speed coming out of it. Whereas, doing those routes going forward, it's just different.

**Q: You tried that with Sean Morey. How did you really benefit from his playing defensive back?

BB:** When we had Sean, Sean was a guy who had some skills in a lot of different areas. But for us, those skills were never really high enough in one area where he was really productive at any spot. But the combination of all of them created some value.

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