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Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript 4/25/04

Belichick: Overall I thought that the draft went pretty well. I thought overall it was fairly well-balanced...



BB: We are kind of wrapping up the draft this afternoon. We are right now calling on some free agents and trying to finish up putting the roster together. Overall I thought that the draft went pretty well. We selected four yesterday and came back with four today. I thought overall it was a fairly well-balanced to feel like we got younger and faster on defense as we have been talking about for the last couple of years with our five defensive selections, a couple of linemen, a couple of safeties and a corner. Offensively, we felt like we had good value at the skill positions there at tight end, receiver and running back in their various respective rounds. Overall, I think we will have a pretty good competitive situation in a number of those spots. No trades. We felt like for the most part when we were picking the value was there and we never did make the move to really aggressively trade up. We felt like the draft just kind of came to us at various selections kind of about the way that we hoped it would or thought that it would. That is pretty much the way it went. It was fairly smooth sailing. I am looking forward to seeing the kids in here this weekend and getting them on the field and really start to tie things together with some of our new acquisitions and of course our veteran players that will be coming back to work with them. That is my update. What do you guys have?

Q: Can you talk a little bit about the players you selected today?

BB: We started off today with Dexter Reid. Dexter is probably one of the most productive players in college football. I think he had close to 500 tackles at North Carolina and had a ton of production in all different phases of the game: passing game, running game and special teams. He has really been a productive player, a smart guy who kind of quarterbacks their defense down there. He runs well. I feel like he will be a factor in the kicking game as well as on defense. I think that helps give us a little more depth at the safety position but a highly productive player. He is a guy that is athletic, physical and has played very well in that ACC. Then we came back at the end of the fourth round with Cedric Cobbs. Cedric is a guy that has a lot of talent and has had some big time production at Arkansas. He missed a little bit of time but we feel like at that point in the draft that he was a real good value there with the pick. He is an explosive guy that runs well. He can run with power and basically came in and had big production as a freshman and was a four-year producer at Arkansas when he was healthy. Then we came back with the P.K. Sam pick. Sam is an underclass receiver coming out of Florida State. He is a big guy, 6'3 plus, over 200 pounds, he runs well. He has size and he has speed. He has a good ability to run after the catch. He catches the ball well and is really an effective runner and can make people miss with the ball in his hands and has played a number of positions down there at Florida State. He has played outside. He has played in the slot and has shown a lot of production both catching the ball and running with it after the catch. Finally, Christian Morton is a corner out of Illinois. Two years ago in the 2001 season, he played opposite of Eugene Wilson when Illinois won the Big 10. He has, like Eugene, been through a couple of different systems in that program but we have seen him play on the line of scrimmage. He is a bigger guy. He is over 6' and he has some height and some range. He has played in the system, obviously the same system that Eugene played in last year and the year before. So we have a good evaluation of that and they did a number of different things there. He runs well. He is athletic. He was a receiver coming into Illinois. He has pretty good ball skills. We think that he will be able to give us good, competitive play at the corner position back there. Those are our four guys today.

Q: Could you visualize two weeks ago the type of draft that you had this weekend?

BB: No. I don't think you can ever really do that. There is just so much that happens on draft day. You just never know how it is going to come out. I thought that with all 10 of our picks, the [Corey] Dillon pick and the [Rodney] Bailey pick, that we addressed one of our major goals which is getting younger and faster on defense and that includes Bailey. We took a couple of backs and we added some players to the skill positions at receiver and tight end. I think that we are a better football team than we were. We have to play better. We have to come together and do a good job from a team standpoint but I think that we have improved our team. That doesn't mean that we are not still working on it. It doesn't mean that there won't be any other roster adjustments between now and the start of the season which we all saw happen through previous years, especially last year. For right now, I think we have taken advantage of our opportunities to improve it and we will continue to do that. You never really say, 'Well this is how it is going to turn out.' I am glad that we have six young players that I think will be competitive on the defensive side of the ball and give us a little bit more speed and youth there.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about Cedric Cobb's background?

BB: Well we look into all of the players that we draft and obviously if we draft them we are ready to bring them onto the Patriots team and we are really going to evaluate them on a moving forward basis. We have all done what we have done in the past and that was in a different situation. I am not defending it or anything else. I am just saying that is what it was. We look at all of the players as they come on our team and evaluate their performance and their actions on the Patriots. That is the way we are looking at it now. We are moving forward. I don't want to try to judge everybody on what happened in other environments.

Q: On the team philosophy regarding a player's past, has there been any change in it?

BB: No. We evaluated everybody and we have not changed our philosophy.

Q: How many more players do you see yourself adding here?

BB: After the draft? You mean college free agents?

Q: Yes.

BB: 10. Somewhere in that ball park. But that is an ongoing process. Some of that could happen tonight. Some on Monday, Tuesday, it could Thursday by the time you deal on the phones with the agents, the players, the paperwork and all of that. I am not sure exactly what the time frame on that will be but I would think by the weekend we will be somewhere in that neighborhood of 10.

Q: What was your impression after the first round? Do you feel like you are getting two guys who are going to come in and play and how long do you think it will take Vince Wilfork and Ben Watson to make an impression on this club?

BB: I don't know. I think that they both have good talent and if they come in and work hard and how quickly they pick up the system and the techniques that we ask them to do, I don't know. Hopefully sooner than later.

Q: Were you pleased with your two picks though?

BB: Yes. Absolutely. To get Wilfork, especially as a nose, a guy who can play inside, a big, strong, physical guy that has played at a very high level of competition and it is the same thing with Watson. He has a little bit of receiving skills. He played at Georgia at a high-level of competition and has been productive, guys that you can see do it against other NFL players even though they are not in the NFL, those guys have played and are going to play in the league. I feel good about those guys. I feel good about what they bring to this team and I think that they will make us a better football team. They have a long way to go like all rookies. How long that process takes and what the adjustments are, we will just have to see once we start working with them.

Q: You lost a couple of offensive linemen through free agency and you didn't address that in the draft. Do you find that there are other means of addressing that as the weeks proceed?

BB: Well we will see. I don't know what the opportunities will be moving forward but we will try to improve our team wherever we can with whatever those opportunities are and I don't know what they are going to be. I don't know what positions they will come in at either.

Q: You have few linebackers who are either pushing 30 or are on the other side of 30. Did you consider that something that you wanted to address?

BB: There were plenty of players in the draft that we like at all positions including linebacker. We got eight picks. We can't draft everybody at every position.

Q: With Wilfork, [Marquise] Hill and Bailey might that accelerate your thought process to move [Dan] Klecko back into middle linebacker maybe to get a youthful prospect in there?

BB: Klecko has a lot of versatility for us. I think he can play a number of different spots. We utilized him in some different spots last year and we will probably continue to do that. He is a guy that has some flexibility and creates some different match-ups depending on where he is. I think that will continue to be a part of his role on the team.

Q: Was there one characteristic or trait that all of these guys had to have before you decided to pick them?

BB: I think anytime you bring somebody onto your team, you want to feel like you are improving your team and that this guy will have a role on your team and will have the ability to compete in the environment that you are putting him in, whether it is the techniques, the skills that he has or whatever situation you may have at a position. I think that is the common thread. It varies from player to player and spot to spot. That is the common thread.

Q: You had last year the highest number of players with their college degrees. Your first two picks had their degrees. Is that something that you purposely put into your pre-draft planning?

BB: We are aware of it. That is not the ultimate criteria but it is all a part of the evaluation and part of the report and the evaluation that we have on the players. A lot of that involves commitment and follow through. On the other hand, we have plenty of good players on our team, plenty of dependable players that haven't been able to finish their degrees. I don't think that is the final criteria. It is certainly not a negative.

Q: Is it tougher to draft after you have won a Super Bowl because you don't have those glaring needs?

BB: Well I think there are always things on your team that you can address and improve. When you are sitting there on draft day, you are not sitting there thinking about what our record was last year. You are looking at your team moving forward. You are looking at the opportunities with the players on the board and trying to fit in the ones that you think will most help your team. I think that is really the way that we look at it is looking forward to the 2004 season rather than worrying about what happened or didn't happen last year.

Q: Was there one thing that stood out about Cedric Cobb?

BB: I think if you watch him play, you can see him running. Watch the Alabama game. He pretty much carried the game on his back in that one. He had big games against…he had a lot of them, even his freshman year.

Q: at LSU?

BB: LSU was a big game. I think he is a very productive runner. He is strong. He has speed. He has good run vision. He wasn't utilized too much in the passing game. I think that is something that I don't know if he needs to work on it or whether he just needs more opportunity with it but not something that he didn't do a lot of down there but I don't think there is any reason why he can be more of a contributor in that area. I don't think with any one player there is any one play or any one thing. It is the whole picture of the player, the whole evaluation from when he started in college whether it was in junior college, Division I, whatever it is, and what his progression is. You try to evaluate it all the way through as much as you can.

Q: Where was he in your running back stack?

BB: Where was he?

Q: Yes.

BB: He was in the halfbacks.

Q: Where was he rated?

BB: I don't know. He had a good rating. I forget what it was.

Q: How did you feel about Corey Dillon and the trades?

BB: We felt great about that. We looked up at the board at that point and said we'd be happier if we were picking relative to Corey Dillon and we feel great about it relative to that value. And we felt the same in the sixth round when we looked at Rodney Bailey relative to the board at that point. We feel good about both of those acquisitions relative to what the price was. We could have kept those draft choices and in our opinion we felt we wouldn't have improved as much as we did with those two players. They weren't draft choices but they were part of the draft value that turned into players on the team.

Q: Do you talk to Nick Saban about the guys you drafted?

BB: Yes, I have a lot of respect for Nick and his ability as a coach and his ability to evaluate and defend or attack players he plays against, so we have that. But again, ultimately our decisions are based on what we feel the player's role and what his ability level will be on our team, not what it was on some other team or against some other opponent but how it will be on the Patriots relative to the teams and the schemes and the competition that we face. So that's really what the final evaluation is, we take everything into consideration as much as we can. But there are some differences in Georgia playing LSU than what there is the Patriots playing whoever we play. So it is relevant but it's not the absolute.

Q: How difficult was it on the second day of the draft to find someone who would have a chance of beating out a player you already have on the team?

BB: When we started the day we had 15-20 guys that we felt would be good players to acquire to the team in second day picks and naturally some were picked by other teams and some of them weren't so that's about the pool we were looking at, at that point. I would say that's about normal to tell you the truth. Last year when we went with Klecko, [Asante] Samuel, [Kliff] Kingsbury and those guys, it was maybe about the same number.

Q: I imagine that is a good problem to have?

BB: A big part of that is you have to be careful about saying, 'Okay, when we pick here, this player might be a little bit better than the player who is here' or 'He'll be good competition for the player that's here.' There may be another player on the board at a different position that's a significantly better player than this guy who may be a little bit ahead of what you think your competition will be. So, that's where you get into the conflict of drafting by need versus drafting value and whenever those two line up then its an easy pick than when they don't line up and for the most part we almost always stay with the value of the pick and try to pick the guy we think is the best player and let them play and see who is better. But rather then taking the need pick and coming back the next year and saying 'Well you improved a little bit but now you're barely nudging ahead' versus maybe you got two or three guys that are all pretty talented at one position. I think with our scheme and Romeo [Crennel], Charlie [Weis], and Brad Seely that we have enough versatility in our system to take advantage of players that have skill. Whether its changing the front on defense, 4-3, 3-4, nickel, regular, three-wide, four-wide, or formation changes on offense, then it becomes a coaching job to manage the personnel, manage the skill, and get them on the field and make them productive. So, we try to do it more that way than just take this guy who is maybe a hair better than the next guy. We try to take the best players for the most part.

Q: Do you feel like the two safeties you drafted give you more flexibility in the secondary?

BB: Yes, I think both of them were very productive college players. Guss was a very productive player at Florida and had a number of different responsibilities. He played close to the line in the nickel, played down in the slot in some of their sub-defenses, played in the deep part of the field, played in the box. Same thing with Dexter [Reid] at North Carolina and you could see that through multiple games, multiple years, so how they do with us we'll have to wait and see but I think they both have quite a bit of experience doing a number of different things at a good level of competition and in defenses that are, I wouldn't say they're the same as ours, but there's enough similarities that we felt like we could get a good evaluation of it. So, they'll be able to contribute on defense and in the kicking game.

Q: All of your players come from big-time programs. Is that a coincidence and will your southeast scouts get an extra raise this year?

BB: Those southeast scouts are always right in the middle of the action, that seems to be where the majority of players, in terms of numbers, comes from year in and year out. It's not necessarily planned that way but you figure the best players basically go to the Division 1 schools and that's where most of the NFL players come from. There are some small schools but percentage-wise it's probably 10 percent on a year-to-year basis in the draft. I don't know what it was this year but that would be my guess. So, naturally, that's where most of them are going to come from. We do not rule out anybody and we certainly don't exclude anybody. We have gotten plenty of guys that are good players for us that weren't in the biggest programs in country but at the same time that's where most of them come from and that's where they all came from this year.

Q: Is Morton a guy who maybe hasn't played up to his talent level and you see him as someone who has a lot of upside?

BB: I think Christian definitely has good talent and there are plenty of examples where you can see him playing against good competition. We saw all The Big 10 receivers come out last year and a number of them this year too, the Lee Evans's and so forth. The Illinois program, they have had some transition there, they have changed coordinators, they have changed schemes, and some players have gone from different responsibilities and different roles so we're not going to try to get into all that, we'll just try to evaluate the player for what we think he can do for us. And I think there are plenty of examples of him playing against good competition and you could see him covering the same guys that Eugene Wilson covered, whether it's Deion Branch at Louisville or Josh Reed at LSU or whoever he played against. We feel like he certainly has the talent to be competitive here. What that will turn out to be we'll have to wait and see, but that's why we picked him.

Q: Did the wealth of youth have anything to do with P.K. Sam?

BB: No. Sam came out early and he had a good year this year, it was his decision. Once they decide and declare we evaluate him and try to put him in the rankings and select him based on the value in the respective picks. So we don't have any control over that, it wasn't anything we featured or tried to stay away from or tried to gravitate to. It was just what it was and you can see P.K. playing against good competition, playing against tight coverage, off-coverage, blitzes, all that. You get a good evaluation of him in their offense and their system. He plays in the slot, he plays outside, so he does a lot of things for them and they have a lot of good receivers and a good passing game.

Q: Anybody in this class you would call a 'steal'?

BB: No. We paid for all of them. No credit card bills. No. I think that is probably the kind of thing that you look back on in two or three years and say, 'Boy this guy should not have been in that round. He should have been in a lot higher round based on the way he has played.' Everybody is evaluating the same players. Everybody is looking at the same board. I think we took the guys that we felt like were best for our team. I am sure that there are a lot of other teams that didn't have some of our guys on the board just like we didn't have some of their guys on the board when they were picked just because of the different schemes and systems that respective teams play. I feel good about the guys that we got. I think they will be competitive. They will give us some depth. They will give us good competition and I think that we were able to improve the overall speed and athleticism on our team. Hopefully these guys can come in and learn the system, play at a mature consistent level like we need to play in this league and be able to contribute for us.

Q: One thing you have done in past draft is to be able to build upon future drafts by trading for future picks. You didn't have that opportunity this year. Is that a disappointment?

BB: Not really. The only reason you have picks is to take players. We took them and we feel good about the ones that we took. I would imagine next year based on the way free agency is going this year, my guess would be that we will have some compensatory picks but that remains to be seen. I think we probably will based on what has happened. We will see how that turns out. I think we will probably have in the end more than the seven picks in next year's draft if I just had to guess.

Q: If it weren't for Cobb's past, do you think he would have been drafted higher?

BB: I don't know. I can't sit here and evaluate why players were rated where they were, what 31 other teams [rated them]. We just look at them, put our ratings on them and when the opportunity comes to pick, we see what we have to pick from and make our selection. Why things turn out the way they do, I am not really sure. It would be one thing if you have an ACL injury or something. Everybody has had a fumble. Everyone has had a dropped pass. Everybody has had a missed tackle. Everybody has their measurables and their interviews and everything else. How that all mixes into the final evaluation of a player from club to club, that is why you have 32 different flavors here

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