Q: Can you just give us your early impressions of Vince Wilfork?
BB: It is tough on the offensive and defensive linemen because there is no contact and that is so much of their game. Mainly there is a lot of teaching going on. I think he has picked up things pretty well. It is a little different system than what he played at Miami where we are playing a three-man line and most of his snaps in a regular defense have come on the center as opposed to on the guard, either in the guard center gap or the guard tackle gap, the way he played in Miami. There are some new things there, new terminology, things like that but I think he is picking it up well. I am looking forward to seeing him and all the other rookies in pads and seeing what it looks like in a more competitive situation. This is more of a teaching thing than an evaluation.
Q: Is it too early to see what his role will be?
BB: Yes, way too early. Sure. He has never even taken a snap. We have a lot of players working on the defensive line, a lot of good players. I think the competition there will be good. How that will turn out? That will be up to the players.
Q: You have added a lot of veteran experience in the defensive backfield. Why the need to bring in those three older corners?
BB: Because we think they will be competitive and give us good depth in the position. You can never have too many good defensive backs, too many good cover people, or too many good football players.
Q: Have you ever had this much talent at the tight end position?
BB: We will see how it goes when we get into training camp and get into the season. I think that we will get production out of all of those players, at least I hope we will. We have a long way to go. Dan [Graham] has shown really good improvements. He is having a nice camp. [Benjamin] Watson has a long way to go like every rookie does. We will see where that takes him.
Q: Was Benjamin here today?
BB: He was here. He wasn't out on the field today, yes. He had his leg tighten up on him a little bit.
Q: Going back to nose tackle, the last three guys you have had in there have been of a certain frame. For your defense, do you need a lot of 'beef' at that position?
BB: Well, I think the player has to be able to hold his ground there on the line of scrimmage. When you are a nose tackle and you play on the center, there is nobody on either guard. So really, three people have a pretty clean shot at the nose, whereas that is not really true at any other position. That player has to be able to play strong regardless of what his lifting strength is. He has to be able to play strong and stay on the line of scrimmage against multiple blockers. Most of the time the nose faces at least in part of the play, two blockers, then that usually becomes one but it starts off a lot of times being two and having the strength to stay on the line of scrimmage there and not get moved back is important to that position.
Q: Guys like Jim Burt and Erik Howard who were a little smaller than what you are seeing in these guys right?
BB: That was a different game though, all of the guys were smaller. George Martin was 270. [Leonard] Marshall was 280. [Fred] Smerlas was whatever he was, 270. That is what they were back then. They are a lot bigger now and the offensive linemen are a lot bigger too. Bart Oates was 265. It was comparable to the offensive linemen but now find me an offensive lineman that is under 300 pounds. Most of them are 325 and up.
Q: But by comparison , it is hard to play that position effectively if you are not in that range?
BB: Well, I think player's come in different skill sets and some players, the John Randall's of the world, have had great careers and they have been smaller than some of the guys they have played against. Other guys have been bigger. I think that in the end it comes down to the total skill set that the player has. Certainly you would like to have a big, fast, quick player as opposed to a small, fast, quick player all other things being equal.
Q: Other than concentration, what can a punt returner learn from the drill of catching the ball with one arm?
BB: I think concentration and confidence. Really, a lot of catching is [done with] your feet. It is not with your hands, it is with your feet. It is your body placement and being able to be in a square position on the ball so it comes down within your framework as opposed to reaching out for it and that kind of thing. I think it emphasizes footwork. It emphasizes concentration and in the end it emphasizes confidence. If you can go back there and catch two balls, I think you can go back there and feel pretty confident when you only have to handle one. It is kind of like swinging two bats and then stepping into the batter's box and kind of feeling a little bit lighter bat. It is a confidence thing too.
Q: So it eliminates the tendency to want to reach out?
BB: Right, you have to get your body under the ball and it puts you in a better fundamental catching position. Right.
Q: Where did you come up with that idea using that technique? I haven't seen before here.
BB: The special teams coach of the Giants 20-something years, I don't know.
Q: You did that a lot?
BB: Well we did it. I've had guys, going back to the Giants, [Phil] McConkey, guys like that, they would catch seven or eight balls and stuff them up under their shirts, stuff them down their pants, they would catch seven balls.
Q: Did they have both hands available to catch them?
BB: They had one hand available, [they would] take the balls and stuff them in their jersey and balance them over here [motioning] and just have one hand to catch. Again, it forces concentration. But catching two, like I said, for a guy like McConkey or some of the other guys we have had, catching two that is nothing. A good punt returner should be able to go out there and catch four or five with a little bit of practice. Which, [Troy] Brown, [Kevin] Faulk and those guys can do it.
Q: You have a couple of guys on the offensive line, Russ [Hochstein] and Tom [Ashworth] who ended up started last year and kind of break their way in. What is your outlook on the offensive line? Are they solidified in those jobs?
BB: I don't think anybody is solidified in any job. Ultimately it is about performance and that is what everybody is going to have to go up against. I think we have good competition on the offensive line. In the end, we will play the best players.
Q: At the end of last year, they ended the postseason without giving up a sack. Are they playing with a lot of continuity and kind of gelling at that point?
BB: It was okay. It was all right. I think a big part of it in the passing game was our efficiency in getting the ball of f quickly. I thought that overall the offensive line and the backs did a pretty good job on picking up blitzes particularly in the Tennessee game and to a degree in the Colts game. It certainly could be better, there's a lot of room for improvement but it was adequate.
Q: They way they worked their way up from the practice squad and being back-ups, in theory and in the end, having been in the system so long before actually playing, do you end up with a better offensive line and more cohesive unit because of the time spent together?
BB: I think that time helps them. I think it is important. Absolutely. Doing things repetitively as you say within the same system, with the same terminology, with people who are also using similar techniques, whether it is the same guy or another guy but at least he is doing it the same way. Sure, I think those things absolutely help. The offensive line is a position that a lot of times [it] takes development for a) physically and b) in terms of technique. I have gone back through my career and had a lot of players where it has taken a while for them to get into the lineup and then they have become players at that position for a long time. Guys like Ashworth who played tight end at Colorado for three years and converted to tackle, things like that. Russ has been in a couple of different positions in a couple of different systems, sometimes it is a little bit of a process and it takes a little bit longer, might say more so on the offensive line probably than other positions maybe other than quarterback.
Q: Does Dante [Scarnecchia] have a real strength when it comes to coaching the offensive line?
BB: He is the best. Yes, he is the best. Absolutely. Dante is as good of a coach as I have been around. He does a great job with the offensive line. He coaches really more players, which all line coaches do, they coach more players than any other coach on the field. The linebacker coach has three or four guys. The secondary coach has four guys. The receiver coach has two or three. But there are always five linemen out there and that is a lot. Again, that whole group working together, five working as one, which is really what an offensive line does, and all of the techniques that vary from the tackle playing out in space, to the center and the guards working in combinations on virtually every play and working with guys that have multiple years experience like Dante has had, guys in the double digit years experience. Or even with starting rookies like [Dan] Koppen last year. He does a great job from top to bottom, from rookie to 13-year veteran, from tackle to center, to back-up guys and guys that are on the practice squad and don't play that eventually develop into solid players. He is outstanding.
Q: You mentioned that Daniel Graham was having a good camp. Did you mean as far as catching the ball?
BB: I think Dan has done a lot of things well. Again it is not an evaluation camp. It is a teaching camp. But the opportunities that he has had to run routes, catch the ball, make adjustments, hot-reads, and audibles I think he is just handling them a little bit quicker. We were talking about it this morning. I just think he is a little bit more confident. He has done it a little bit more and he is just executing it a little bit better at this point. Again, we are not at the finish line here but for where we are, I think it has gone well.
Q: Have you seen a jump in his physical skills?
BB: Sure. Well, the physical skills and also the techniques, but Dan has worked hard in the offseason. I think his physical skills are continuing to improve. Look, he is a young guy. He is a lot closer to the beginning of his career than he is to the end. When players are at that stage of their career regardless of what their physical development is, there are still almost always room to improve and he has done that. Certainly there is a lot of technique and fundamental skills that can improve and he has worked on those as well. Jeff [Davidson] has spent a lot of time with him and has done a good job with him and so has Christian [Fauria]. Christian is a great teacher to the younger players as an older one.
Q: How is Corey fitting in with the team chemistry wise?
BB: Fine. I don't see any problem as well.
Q: Dan Klecko has already made an adjustment in his weight. Is it more difficult for a player to gain beat a certain weight and then have to learn how to play at a lesser weight or is it more difficult for a player to have to bulk up or is it equally as difficult to make that adjustment mentally and physically?
BB: That's a good point. I think that a with an athlete's body, it is probably easier for them to handle lesser weight. Guys that are bigger, it is simple, if you are running or jumping or moving, it takes more strength to move more weight. So, if a guy plays 20 pounds heavier than normal, then either he is slower or he has developed a lot more power and explosion to be able to move a bigger mass at the same rate. Usually those gain increments come in pretty small proportions for that reason. . When it goes the other way, I think it is easier to play with a lighter weight. The thing that Dan is challenged by is just playing on his feet and seeing the game from a stand-up position as opposed to a three-point stance, and playing further away from the ball and further away from the blockers, and in the pass coverage, which as a defensive lineman he really had relatively little exposure to. But with all that being said, Dan is a smart guy. He has worked hard. Dean [Pees] has worked with him the entire off-season, and I think that he is really doing a nice job of making the transition. When the pads come on and everything starts happening a little bit faster and the contact comes, in the past that has always been one of his strengths. I think Dan is a guy who probably looks a little bit better when the pads are on relative to other players. Some guys might look a little bit better athletically and moving around Dan has got the motor and the power. He is an explosive player that, when the contact comes, he has usually been probably a little better in that phase of it than without them. But we'll see what happens.
Q: Do you like what you've seen from Terrell Buckley so far?
BB: Yeah, we've known Terrell since the 2001 season, and I think he is doing fine. He is a guy that has quickness, got speed, got good cover skills. He has shown those in the years that he was here in the 2001 and 2002 season, and he is showing them again out there on the field. He made a couple plays the yesterday and made one this morning. He is a smart guy. He is very instinctive. He reads patterns well, reads the quarterback well and has a good understanding of the passing game and gets good anticipation and he has good cover skills. I'm glad we got him. It is a guy that I honestly didn't expect that we would get. When free agency started, you talk about guys that are sort of your targeted guys or guys you think you might be interested in. He wasn't even really on the map, and then eventually, the way it worked out was great and I'm glad we got him.
Q: Terrell said he thinks he is a better player now than he was the first time here.
BB: Great. [Laughter]
Q: [Laughter] Do you see that?
BB: Well, we'll find out. I'm glad he feels that way, don't get me wrong, but how you feel you are in June is one thing, but how you actually play in the fall is another story. But I hope that is true. I don't see any reason physically to think that that is not the case, but the proof will be in the performance in the fall.
Q: Is there any specific skill or trait that Ty [Law] has that makes him successful as a corner?
BB: I think he has a lot of them. First of all, he is very competitive; he is a bigger corner overall relative to all of the other corners in the league. He is very competitive. He is a good tackler. But, one of the best things about Ty is his ball skills. Corner's that has good ball skills, that makes interceptions as opposed to knock-down passes; those guys can turn games around. And that is really where your big plays are. Not that knock-downs aren't big plays, but interceptions those plays change the outcome of games. So, his hands and his ball skills are excellent.
Q: If my memory serves me, you were pretty irked about the 'emphasis' on the five-yard rule.
BB: I wasn't irked about it.
Q: You weren't?
BB: They didn't change the rule.
Q: Okay. Will their emphasis on that affect him more?
BB: I don't know. Again, the way I understand the rule is, if you jam the player beyond five yards, it is illegal. That is way the rule has been. So, we have coached our players not to jam beyond five yards. If you jam the player within five yards of the line of scrimmage without grabbing him and pushing him in the face mask and all of that, if you legally jam him within five yards of the line of scrimmage, that is legal. It has been legal. We have expected to be able to do that defensively and we have expected to deal with it offensively. That is still the rule. We are not coaching it any differently than we have coached it. Now, in the past, have we ever hit a guy at six? Yes, we probably have. In the past have we ever been jammed at six? Yes, we have. Are they trying to tighten up the calling on that? I don't know. Maybe that is what it is going to be. But, we are not coaching it any differently. Five yards is still five yards. Five yards within the line of scrimmage is legal, more than that is illegal. That is the way it has been. I don't know how to coach it any differently. I don't know what I could say. They haven't changed the rule so I don't know what this big interpretation is going to be, what is so different? I don't know. We have been trying to do it that way since the rule has been instituted, so I am confused.
Q: Regarding Corey Dillon, what are you hoping to see from him?
BB: Well, Corey has been a very productive player in this league doing a lot of things primarily running but he has also been very good in the passing game. He has been a third down player for the Bengals and has been good in blitz pick up. What his role will be on the team will depend on what his performance is and how he does with the opportunities that he gets and we will try to give him plenty so we can evaluate him and see what he can do. But I hope that he will be a productive player for us. I expect that he will be productive. What exactly that will be? I don't know. That will be determined by what he is able to do and how effective he is able to do it.
Q: What specific skills do you like in both Otis Smith and in Jeff Burris and being veteran guys and bringing them here?
BB: Obviously, they both have a lot of experience. They both played corner and safety. They both started a lot of games in this league. They have shown that they can play those positions, primarily corner, but also safety, in the NFL for a number of years. That is what they have done.
Q: At what stage do you see those guys experience level is offset by the fact that they are off maybe by a step because of the added age? Do you have to see that at training camp? Can you see that now?
BB: Well, no, I think you see it in training camp. Again, now we are in a teaching phase so I don't think everything is on a level playing field. Guys that have been in the system that are more familiar with it are reacting a little bit quicker than guys who are hearing it for the first time and doing it for the first time. Training camp is really where you level it out and everybody is going full speed. Everybody has the pads on and it is a totally competitive situation. Here, we are pulling off balls, we don't want to have contact and collisions out there and all of that. It is different in camp. We will let the competition sort itself out in training camp. This is not really the competitive nature of camp. The thing you would see in a camp like this would be if a player just wasn't able to pick up the information and couldn't get the plays right, couldn't execute right, then you can evaluate that. That is definitely not the case with Jeff or Otis or really all of the veteran players out there. They have been pretty good.
Q: Does being around such experienced cornerbacks help your young safeties?
BB: Hopefully. Again, you never know. Every group mixes together a little bit differently and how good the chemistry is varies in every specific situation. Just because you put a guy out there that has played 10 years, doesn't mean that it is going to be a great situation. It could be and it should be maybe but all of that has to still be resolved on its own merits and own the individual situation and how those players interact with each other. That is part of the process and part of it is sort of the younger players coming onto the team getting to understand the system. Some of the more veteran players on the team are starting to get a feel for what the newer players can do and how to interact and work with them but that is an important part of it. Certainly communication on the football field in all three phases of the game is critical to our success and that is a big point of emphasis, I am sure you can hear it out there and it is being stressed by the coaches so that we can make sure that we are on the same page and everybody is doing the right thing. The potential for it is there. Whether it actually occurs or not, that will be another matter.
Q: What is Tom Brady's level of preparation or performance in this 2004 mini camp as opposed to maybe last year or 2002? Is he still on an up-tick career wise?
BB: Yes. I would say so. I think the 2002 season was a bigger jump for him than 2003 and probably incrementally it is going to go down. I think that would be true for every player. You probably reach a Bell Curve kind of thing on that. I think that Tom has had a good offseason. We are doing some different things this year offensively. We are asking him to do a few things that we didn't do as much of last year but at some point or other we have had some success with them and thought they would be beneficial to continue them or to expand on them and we have done that in our system. I think that we are continuing to rely on Tom's ability to get the team in the right place, get us in the right situation or sometimes more importantly get us out of a bad play if that is the way it gets dialed up. Those things, I think they will be a little more responsibility put there at times and I emphasize this, at times, he would have more flexibility to deal with things on the line of scrimmage, again, we don't want to get into that on a full-time basis. But selectively, we have a lot of confidence in him doing that and he has done a good job with it. I think that he and Koppen working together for another year is a positive and certainly way ahead of where they were at this time last year when they didn't even know each other [whereas] now that the chemistry and the communication and the understanding between the quarterback and the center [is there] on the offensive line, [and that] is a key component to your offensive efficiency. I think there is some potential there for that to improve. I think that Tom's game is continuing to improve yes.
Q: Has there ever been a time where you concerned that he would ever lose his focus?
BB: I think that every year with your team as a coach, you really have to go through the same process. Whatever happened the year before didn't happen. You build a foundation and you put it on brick-by-brick-by-brick. There is no shortcut to it. You can't take two days and say, 'Okay, we are all set. Everything has been built.' It just doesn't work that way. It is a process that you have to go through in order to have a good, stable system that can be efficient in a number of different areas and that is where we try to be. The only way to have all of your bases covered is to go out there and cover them. That is something that every player has to go through and I have explained that to the team and I have explained that to the players individually as well as collectively that there is just no shortcut for it. That is why we are here. That is what we are doing and that is what training camp is for. Those elements are not going to be skimmed over. It is going to be a grind. At times it is going to be drudgery, especially for the players that have been through it a number of times. But it is a process that we have to go through and we all will go through annually. That is just the way it is.
Q: Do you care to elaborate on the 'at times' that Tom would be allowed some freedom?
BB: Well, every time we go to the line of scrimmage, we are not going to go up there and say, 'We could run one of eight plays here, let's wait and see what they are in.' There are times when we want to go the line of scrimmage and we want to take control of the situation and say, 'Hey, this is what we are going to do,' and we are going to do it.
Q: But not even so much that, you just kind of touched on there other things that he has really been successful doing. Do you want to expand on what you were talking about?
BB: Well, all I am saying is sometimes you get into a game plan situation, you are playing a team and you say, 'Okay, if we get this look, we have this play called. If it is not too good, we are going to change it and go to that play.' Maybe that is something that you haven't done that year. Now you are going into the following year and say, 'Okay, well we did this in the Tennessee game and it worked out pretty well. Now when this situation comes up again, this year, we can do that and we also might be able to do something else. Not just this play, but maybe these three plays don't work real against this type of defense. Maybe we can take this package and move it into something that we think is a little bit more effective.' Particularly if you have had success doing it the previous year, now you have the confidence to know that, 'Okay, we have executed it, we can handle it, the team understands it, and it is not that difficult of a transition to make.' Then you can move along in that area. Normally when you do that, you want to give up something somewhere else so you are not just continually going into an infinite number of possibilities. I think that when you are in your fourth or fifth year of a system, your playbook expands a little bit but you have to be careful. You don't just keep adding and never take anything out. We try to balance that so it is not, like I said, we are not going up to the line every play, 'Which one of these five plays are we going to call.' We don't always want to be in that situation.
Q: Do you think the more you empower your quarterback the better?
BB: I think it varies. Some quarterbacks are comfortable doing it. Some quarterbacks aren't. Sometimes it depends on the game or the game situation. Sometimes it depends on your offensive system. There are some offensive systems, and I have been in a number of them, some of them are very easy to manipulate your way in and out of, others ones it is a more difficult process. I am not saying any are better or worse, it is just a different way of doing things. There are some very successful teams I can promise you will never audible. Never. They do not have an audible in their system and don't want one and would never even consider it. And those teams have won their Super Bowls, plenty of them. It is just a question of what system you are going to adapt and whatever it is, it is going to have its pluses and minuses to doing it that way. Whatever you are comfortable with as an organization or as an offensive coordinator or whoever is making the decision and your quarterback is comfortable with it, then that will be effective. But I can tell you that some of the best offenses in the league would never audible. Some of the best ones in the league. Then there are other ones that you see them and they audible all of the time.
Q: Even today?
BB: Absolutely. When you try to go to the line of scrimmage and move four or five guys around two or three times before the ball is snapped and then try to change plays within that scenario, that is very difficult and you probably don't need to do it. What are you going to see? You have so many guys moving, what are you audible-ing to? [The defense is saying ] 'We are just trying to get lined up. We can't even find out where we are supposed to go.' You haven't seen anything to audible. The normal audible situation is when the offensive team comes out, they line up in a certain look and then they see where the defense is. 'If they are lined up here, we are going do this. If they are lined up there, we are going to do that.' But if you are not lined up in a constant, in a static formation, sometimes it is pretty hard to see where they are. So, you go out there, you shift a couple of guys, you shift somebody else, then you run somebody in motion, it is hard to read anything. Again, defensively, you are just trying to find out where to go. It is a different philosophy. It is a different way to attack. Both have been very successful