BB: Just to bring you up to date on a couple of things, this is, for us, kind of the end of the offseason camp program. We've had passing camp and we are transitioning from passing camp into mini camp these next three days. (We are) just trying to get as much information to the players as we can with the new guys, the rookies, and some of our veteran players to give them a feel for our system. Also for the veteran players because we've, like we do every year, made some changes in our system, some modifications, things that we think we need to do that will either help our team or things that we know we are going to deal with early in the season from our early season opponents. Therefore it will be a priority to get those things installed and get them running. You probably saw a few guys out there that weren't practicing. They're all in really different categories. We've got a couple of guys that are coming off injuries in college such as (Gene) Mruczkowski. We have some veteran players that either had a little problem in the previous passing camps or guys that are coming off an offseason surgery, for example (Joe) Andruzzi, somebody like that. The bottom line is, I think we would expect everybody to either be ready at the beginning of training camp or very soon there after of all the guys out there, not going through them individually, they all would kind of fall into the same boat. That's really about where we are. We want to try to work on some of the more team oriented things in these next couple of days. You probably saw the blitz pick-up drills, some play action passes and things like that, things that are very team oriented where everybody is involved so we can A) get a look at them from a coaching standpoint and get them corrected and taught properly but also give the players a little bit more of a realistic picture of how those plays or defenses are going to be run.
Q: Is everybody here?
BB: Everybody is here except for the Europe players. We have some players that we've allocated to Europe. Everybody is present and accounted for.
Q: Roman Phifer was working with the inside guys. Can you talk a little bit about that?
BB: That's a good point to bring up. First let me just say that I wouldn't read too much into where anybody is practicing right now, like who is with which team and this guy is first string and that guy is second string and all of that. Again, nobody is going to make the team in this camp. Nobody is going to be a starter in this camp. This is more about a teaching camp, getting everybody the information, getting them some looks at it and letting them familiarize themselves so when they do get to training camp they can compete for a spot and that's really when that will be decided. Roman, like a lot of our players, has some versatility. He can play outside. He's also been working a little bit inside and I think overall the linebacker position is one that has looked pretty good, really, all spring. We've got good competition in there. We've got a good group of veteran players that played well, not one year, but for a number of years, they've been consistent players that can rush the passer, they can cover, they can play the run. So I think overall, that's a pretty solid group and hopefully they'll be a very productive group this year. But basically (Rosevelt) Colvin, (Willie) McGinest, (Mike) Vrabel, Matt Chatham are working outside although we know Phifer can go out there and he's had a lot of work out there in the last couple of years. (Tedy) Bruschi, Ted Johnson, Don Davis, (Larry) Izzo, Phifer, we've got good depth inside as well.
Q: Does Roman have the skills to take on guards and centers?
BB: I think that he can play in there for what we would want him to do.
Q: Colvin's red jersey, is that something that is lingering from last season or did something happen this offseason?
BB: No, it's just more of a precautionary thing. He's out there and he's doing everything. He's been here all offseason and has had a good offseason as most of those guys had. The linebacker group has all been here, they've worked hard, Ted Johnson, Bruschi, Colvin, McGinest, they've all had real good offseasons. It's just a precaution thing. We've probably got about three or four guys in red jerseys, not including quarterbacks, that will be ready to go. We just want to make sure they don't have any big collisions between now and the start of camp.
Q: You mentioned some system changes, any one or two specifically you can get into?
BB: As we said, we're going to start our defensive teaching out of the 3-4 base. We're certainly going to play other things besides that, but that might be one that's more evident. I would say they are more subtle. There are some coverage adjustments, you know, changed some routes, moved them a little deeper, changed the underneath part of the pattern to fit the coverages we think are more likely to come up in those situations and things like that. (We) changed the protection adjustment, a lot of little things like that, some of our checks have changed. We've got certain formations that we would check into one thing and we've changed some of those. Instead of doing it the way we've done it in the past, we're going to do it a little bit differently or at least start that way and see how it goes. Maybe we'll end up going back to the way we did do it in the past. It's more of that kind of thing. Some of the things that were real standard for us, maybe almost routine at times in terms of adjustments and checks, some of those are different this year, so it's that kind of thing. And again, that's really harder for the veterans than it is for the new guys because they were ingrained in some of that stuff whereas the new guys are learning it for the first time. So it's the type of thing in the spring where I think it's good for everybody to get into the new flow.
Q: Do you tweak that stuff so that teams aren't used to, 'okay, the Patriots are going to do this?'
BB: Sure, if it's a problem. We go back and look at our plays from last year and in certain situations we're getting hurt in certain points consistently in the defense then we look at it and say, 'okay, what are we going to do about it?' 'Is it, we're just not playing it well or are we really getting outnumbered here, outflanked, or is there a scheme problem,' and try to adjust to it. Sometimes it's just adding something that you didn't do last year that for whatever reason now there seems to be more of need for it and therefore it's worth taking the time to invest in it to put it in.
Q: Is Tom Brady back or near 100 percent?
BB: Yeah, I think he's been fine out there. He's been out there everyday and done everything that we've asked him to do and everybody else has done, I don't see any negative affects on him at all.
Q: Can you talk about how important this year is going to be for Antowain Smith?
BB: To me, this year is an important year for everybody. It's hard for me to single out any one player and say it's a sink or swim for one guy. It's an important year for every player and it's an important year for the team. I think Antowain has had his best offseason here. He's worked hard this year. He's in better condition than he has been at this point, we didn't have him two years ago, but compared to last year. We know what kind of player and what kind of person Antowain is and I am expecting that he will be ready to go and give us his best and that's really all we can ask him to do. I think he's given every indication that that's his mindset and that is what he is ready to do.
Q: Were you happy with the rushing attack last year?
BB: Was I happy with it? Well I think, like a lot of other things on the team, it certainly could stand some improvement.
Q: For the players that are in NFL Europe, are they at a disadvantage being over there and not being right under the coach's nose?
BB: Yeah, anytime you send a player to Europe, the advantage is he gets more playing experience which most of those players I'd say generally need. The drawback is they are not in the system. The thing we can't provide for them is game experience. We don't have any games; we can't go out there and scrimmage. We just can't set up a game situation so players who need that experience at a higher level, it's pro football and the schemes and the systems over there are very similar to what NFL teams do, obviously because it's run that way. Those are the advantages to it. But there is a trade off there. Would we like for them to be here getting this, sure. But there is no way they can be two places at once and we felt like those players would benefit from getting the game experience that they are getting over there in the Europe league.
Q: Mike Malan is playing well in a West Coast system in Europe. Is he the one who sort of jumps out on tape to you?
BB: Well, we watched all the players over there and again just like everybody else, what really will matter is what they do when they get here. A guy can go out and catch a bunch of touchdowns in college or make a bunch of interceptions in college and that's great but it doesn't really do anything. They need to come here and earn their keep and show what their skills are relative to our team. The Europe players will have to prove that just like everybody else will. We'll try to make up for that a little bit by bringing them in a little earlier than the veterans in training camp to try to get them a little bit of a head start on it. In the end, they are all going to be trying to accomplish the same goals and show us what they can do. Mike has had a good year over there, he's been productive and he's done some nice things for them both offensively, and in the kicking game. We saw him last year at St. Louis and he had a good training camp for them. So, we'll be happy to see him in the mix and see how he does but there's no real way for me to know without him here.
Q: Were you happy with what you got from Antowain Smith last year compared to 2001?
BB: Statistically, it was pretty similar in terms of his opportunities and what his production was in a per-carry, per-touch kind of thing. He didn't have as many touches, therefore the total yardage wasn't as great. But, again, the bottom line is offensively in a number of areas with the running game specifically what you are talking about, that's a combination of a lot of things. It's the runner, it's the offensive line, it's the tight end's, it's the play calling, the design of the plays. I think all of those issues have been addressed, at best talked about, and any way we can improve the running game, we're always trying to improve it. I certainly think it could stand some improvement and that goes for everybody who was a part of it last year, all the blockers, all the runners, all the coaching, everything. We need to do a better job.
Q: But did it drop off compared to last year?
BB: We looked at that. I would say, not dramatically, no.
Q: Was his conditioning an issue?
BB: Well, I think it was an issue at the beginning of camp. I don't think it was an issue much beyond that.
Q: Given the lack of serious contact here, is there anything you can learn from these three days?
BB: Well, it's not an evaluation camp. It's a teaching camp. We're not going to come out of here and say, 'here's our starting guard, here's our starting end, this guy is our starting safety,' that's really not the purpose of it. We can see where the competition is going to be and that competition manifests itself in training camp when we're out there practicing repetitively in a strenuous environment and we'll see how the players respond to that. But in terms of this camp, everybody is getting about the same amount of reps, everybody is getting about the same opportunity. When the guys aren't in there, they should be paying attention and learning from the other players who are seeing new situations as well so that when they do get those opportunities in camp, they are ready to make them count. That's really what this camp is about. It's not about trying to establish who's going to be our third receiver and that kind of thing.
Q: You talked at the end of the rookie mini-camp about the importance of mastering and getting a good handle on the new terminology. Do you have any sense of how they have done in terms of doing their homework while they were away from here?
BB: Well, it's improved significantly. In the rookie camp, we were barely able to run the most basic elementary things in our system. We are way beyond that now. Not that we have them down cold, but we couldn't even have approached doing some of the things that we're doing now. That's part of their learning process. They've worked hard and the coaches have spent a lot of time, probably a minimum of an hour a day and in some cases a lot more than that, just in terms of classroom teaching, film sessions and all that kind of thing plus giving them assignments when they go home since whatever it's been, since the middle of May. We've covered a lot of ground since that point and there's a lot more to go.
Q: Can you talk about the status of Stephen Neal? Can you see a difference in him since the Green Bay game?
BB: Well, nothing has really changed with Steve. He played in the Green Bay game and was injured in that game and hasn't played since. Steve is a guy we're looking forward to seeing on the field in game situations and that's really what I think he needs the most. He understands the plays and he's studied and all of that. He needs playing experience and hopefully as he gets more of it, his game will continue to improve. But I think he will be competitive in our offensive line situation, we'll just have to see how that turns out.
Q: [on how Stephen Neal looked in the Green Bay game]
BB: Well, I don't know if it's just one-half of a game but we saw what Steve did all through preseason and we saw what he did in the practice sessions that he had and the Green Bay game, which is good competition. So, he has a lot things to encourage us and encourage himself with but at the same time he has a ways to go.
Q: How has John Hufnagel's relationships been going with the quarterbacks?
BB: I think it has been good. John's been able to devote full-time to the quarterbacks whereas when Charlie and I did it, it was split up a little bit. I think we were able to get done what we needed to get done but given where we are offensively and where the quarterback development is and so forth, Charlie and I talked about it in the off season we thought that this would be, if we could find the right person, the right time to make that move and we feel like we found the right guy. I think that John has done a nice job with them. A big part of that was the timing, but I think it's worked out well and I think that the quarterback's now really have truly a coach that they can call their own and relate to 100 percent of the time. There were times where Charlie and I had to splinter off for other needs of team. It's not quite the case anymore now with that decision.
Q: Do you see anything different compared to before John came?
BB: Again, we're still in the teaching stage here and we've got some new patterns and new adjustments and that kind of thing so it's not really all about production now. I think that overall their mechanics are, not that they don't need some refinement and some polishing, but they are headed in the right direction, they've improved, (they are) mechanically a little bit more sound and on better balance. The accuracy is there not 100 percent of the time because of the timing with the receivers. I know that those skills have been stressed by John and I think that there is evidence that they're coming around
Q: Does having Hufnagel around would that be especially beneficial for someone like Rohan Davey?
BB: Hopefully it will be beneficial to all of the quarterback's. That's the idea. That is the quarterback coach's job and probably every quarterback coach in the NFL, that's similar to what his job description is. You are going to be coaching, the way most NFL teams are set up, the starting quarterback and you've got to go out and get ready to beat the teams you've got to beat and a back up quarterback. Then at some point you are going to be coaching a younger player who has less experience, who really needs to develop as a player. Whether that's Davey who's further along than (Kliff) Kingsbury or whether it was Davey last year or whether it was Brady two years ago, whoever it is. It's kind of the evolution of that position. So it's important for the quarterback coach to not only get the starter ready to run the offense and run the team the way you want it run, but it's also important for him to develop another guy who you know is not going to be on the field for a while but at some point he is going to be a valuable part of the team as well. It's a delicate mix. But the quarterback coach has to manage when there's only one quarterback out there, whichever guy is in, and the other guys aren't. But that's part of the challenge of that job. I think that John obviously understands it and has done it well in some other organizations and has played the position himself but that is the challenge of coaching the quarterbacks.
Q: There were times last year where Lawyer (Milloy) was unhappy with the way he was being used. Did he ever bring those concerns to you?
Q: He never mentioned it to you?
BB: We have talked to Lawyer. We have talked to a lot of defensive players and everyone wants to be involved and make plays. What receiver doesn't want to catch the ball? What defensive back doesn't want to intercept passes and make tackles? What defensive lineman doesn't want to sack the quarterback? Everybody wants to do that. That is no state secret. That is the way that it is. I think everybody on this team understands that from a coaching standpoint we know that everybody wants to contribute. We want everybody to contribute, but the game is not going to be featured around just one player. There is going to have to be some balance, and in the end we are going to do what we think is best for the football team, whether it be a particular call, a particular scheme or a particular thing in the game plan. That is just the way we do it. Hopefully everybody understands that. If they don't, then they need to because that is the way that it is going to be.
Q: You have coached him since 1996 – for a fair amount of his career. Are there times when he just likes to vent and explain how he feels?
BB: Don't we all? I think Lawyer is about winning. I think he has shown it through his career. He has shown it on our team. I think our players have a lot of respect for him because of that attitude. That is what I am about and that is what he is about.
Q: Can you talk about the expectations you have for Daniel Graham?
BB: I think that anytime a player goes from his first year to his second year, there is a potential for that player to make a significant jump in his game. Everybody knows it's a big transition from college to the NFL. Some players make it their rookie year and have some significant production as rookies but overall not a lot of them. Most of the time those players make the bigger jump from the first to the second year than from in their rookie year. Again, that's not 100 percent of the time either. Sometimes it's the third year. The whole group of rookies from last year, including (Deion) Branch, including Graham, including Jarvis Green, (Antwoine) Womack, Davey, (David) Givens, all of them, they've worked hard in the offseason. I think that their expectations and certainly their understanding is a lot higher than it was last year and I think that they are ready to go out there and try to establish something for themselves. Hopefully they will be able to do that. But there will be a lot of other people as well. I think that rookie group overall has had a good offseason and we'll see how that turns out when we get to training camp.
Q: Are you anxious to see Tyrone Poole?
BB: Yeah, he was here for a little bit in passing camp prior to Memorial Day, but it's good to get everybody out there. That's what it is this time of year. To bring your whole team together and get a chance to actually visually see on the field how certain guys are going to fit together, what it looks like as opposed to having names up on the board and that kind of thing, to really see them moving around and interacting and hear the communication and all of that. It's good to see them out there, Poole, (Rodney) Harrison, (Aric) Morris, all the new guys, (Chris) Akins, a lot of those guys on defense. We've got a bunch of new faces there and it's good to start seeing them working together