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Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript - 7/23/2003

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BB: On behalf of the players and the other coaches, we certainly want to express our admiration to Ron (Burton) for the example and inspiration that he has been for us and our football team and the award that is being given in his honor is a very significant one. It's one that we are very proud to be a part of. On the contract extension, it's a real thrill to be a part of the Kraft family and the organization here with the Patriots. What this organization stands for on and off the field is what I believe in, it's what I want to be a part of and it's what I want to contribute to and I am extremely pleased that Mr. Kraft has offered to extend my tenure here. This is a great organization to work for, I am proud to be here and proud to be part of the New England Patriots. With the start of training camp, a couple of things, the two big points on training camp here at the stadium is that it's better for the fans and it's better for the team and that's why we are here. We are all aware of the great facilities that we have available to us both inside the stadium in terms of locker room, meeting rooms and weight facilities and so forth and also outside in terms of the playing fields and now the new artificial surface and eventually the covered surface and so forth. I think that it will give the team a good environment to train in and we're certainly not looking to cut any slack in our training and the effort and the intensity of training camp will be every bit as much as it is anywhere else. I think the fans will get a better view of the practices and also be able to enjoy some of the amenities here at the stadium that are so outstanding. We are underway and it's an exciting time of year for me because from the end of last season, from the end of the Miami game, the coaches and the players and the football organization has worked hard to improve this team in a lot of different ways. We put in a lot of hours, time, effort, energy and thought in how we can improve the football team and now is really our first opportunity to get on the field in full pads and have contact and start to see those things manifest themselves. It's always an exciting time for the coaches. I am not sure about the players, I am not speaking for them, they probably wouldn't back it up. But for the coaches, it's an exciting time to see the changes, see the adjustments that you've made and see it start to come together, not that we're anywhere close to having it come together, we've got a long way to go, but the process is underway and it's good to get started. On the player's front, we have some players, as we know, that are coming back from various stages of rehabilitation. Some are further along than others, that's always the way it will be. We have done some individual work in the first couple of days of camp with the rookies and some of the other injured players. But we're really not gearing up to full practices until today. So we will try to keep you apprised on that on a day-by-day basis as things really start to become more clear as to exactly what the players can and can't do. I think the one significant point would be on Stephen Neal. Steve had surgery about a week and a half ago and he will be out for a significant period of time. We'll just have to monitor that later on. I am sure he won't be back at any point during training camp. I think that's pretty much where we are. I am excited to get going, excited about being in the facility on a full-time basis and football season has started. It's here.

Q: Last year you had the theme 'targeting September' as your way to getting off to a good start. I read in another paper that you have changed that a little bit this year.

BB: Don't believe everything you read in the papers now.

Q: Okay. Have you changed that to each individual position? Like different goals for each side and was there a flaw in the 'targeting September' thing from last year?

BB: I think that every year our goal is at the start of training camp, and in our installation and our process for getting the team ready, is really very similar from year-to-year. You have to take almost all of the same steps, it varies from position to position and player to player. You start from scratch and try to get a team ready for the opening game and you try to get a team ready for the 16 game regular season schedule. We changed the training camp themes up to keep it fresh and paint a fresh picture on it and try to keep the players focused on the things that maybe we want to put a little bit more importance on. We'll try to get those messages across in different ways. I think everything we've done in the past is fine. I think there's other ways to do it and new ways to do it and I am sure there will be a little change. But we still need to get across the same messages of basically starting from scratch establishing all the things individually and as a team for, again, the start of the season and the 16 game regular-season schedule.

Q: Is the conditioning run complete?

BB: The conditioning run is complete.

Q: How did Antowain Smith do?

BB: Some players did better than others like usual. I won't get into a specific...

Q: Roll call?

BB: Right. We're not going to call the races. Some guys are a little ahead of others as usual in the conditioning process. I think overall the team has worked hard in the offseason and I think overall we are in reasonably good shape but there is always room for improvement and we'll really know more when we get out there practicing. We'll have plenty of guys to out there to work with.

Q: You did have some players fail though?

BB: Some guys are in different stages, some guys are ahead of others.

Q: Antowain didn't pass did he? (Laughter)

BB: We're just not going to do it specifically player-by-player.

Q: There are always question marks going into training camp. In your mind as you look at this team as a whole, is there a big area in your mind that is a bigger question mark than any other?

BB: I think the main thing that I try to emphasize to the players and the team is we have to establish our level of play at every single point. Two years ago, we lead the league in punt returns. Last year, that was not a good area for us. Two years ago, we were very poor in kickoff returns. Last year, we were at the top of the league. It can flip back and forth in a hurry. Just because you were good or bad at something the year before doesn't necessarily carry over and we need to establish our performance at all the levels whether they were good last year or not good, it doesn't really matter and that is on a individual basis, on a player-by-player basis and it's also on a team basis and in different groups. Whether it be the kickoff coverage team or pass protection or third down defense or whatever it is. To answer your question, everything is important and right now we just have a lot of short term goals, a lot of things that we're trying to get done day-to-day on a case-by-case basis to try to improve them for the next day and keep putting bricks on the foundation so we can build it up.

Q: Mike Malan played over in Europe in the offseason. From what you have seen on tape and his progress, were you pleased with the way he played?

BB: Yes. I think that Mike had a good Europe season over there. For the Europe players, other than Scott McCready and Dyshod Carter who were with us, the other players were all new. They are like Mike. They are coming in learning the system. They haven't had the mini-camps, the passing camps and all of that. They are getting a lot of information in a hurry and this will be the opportunity for them to really be involved in some teamwork which has been minimal to this point. So far, they are all progressing at probably about the rate you would expect but it's a little hard to evaluate this because they haven't been put in a lot of team situations.

Q: In your first coaching stint, you didn't make it to the end of your contract and now you are getting an extension. Is there a sense of accomplishment there? I know you are pretty modest about that kind of stuff.

BB: Again, I am very pleased to be with this organization and the Kraft family especially. We can talk about the points on the other contract, the Cleveland contract, we can talk about that one later. I am pleased to be here. This is where I want to be. I believe in what Robert and this organization believe in. I am happy to extend my part in it.

Q: You have already expressed your thoughts about being here at the stadium for camp, but the fact is this is kind of like a seamless thing for you right now, having gone from the preseason training to the mini-camps, everything here. Is this the thing that you think is going to be new ground broken by you and also to kind of prepare for not having that interruption somewhere else? Is it going to be that much of a change or is training camp just training camp?

BB: Well it's good not to have the interruption of moving back and forth and relocating and readjusting all the things you have to do, but again, the fundamentals of training camp are the fundamentals of training camp and what goes on the field, the blocking, the tackling, the conditioning, the passing, the catching, the defending, the kicking and all of that, those things are still going to go on, on the field. Again, you try to do all the things you can to maximize how you perform in those areas, a full training room, a full weight room and video facilities and so forth and not having to go from building to building to do the different functions that you had during the day, it all just makes for a little bit more efficiency and can help to give us a competitive edge in that aspect of it.

Q: Are you at all concerned about the 'team bonding' type of things since the players are going to be at a hotel off the site as opposed to being on the campus as they were?

BB: I don't think that is going to be a big issue. Again, I have been involved in a lot of training camps and I think there is more to chemistry than what building you stay in. It's how the people interact together and how they work together and what they believe in. I think that what it's really about.

Q: Are all the rookies ready to go? Bethel Johnson? Chas Gessner?

BB: Some guys are ahead of others. For the most part, players are at different stages and different degrees of activity. As we put everyone into the same activity, which we really haven't done yet, in other words full team practices, then we will be able to differentiate between which guys are in it and which guys aren't in it. At this point, we are still kind of moving along and it's slightly different stages. Tomorrow and this afternoon will be when it all comes together.

Q: What kind of advice would you give to a player that wouldn't make the team? Or what does a player need to do to catch your eye, to catch your attention, in order to make the squad?

BB: Wel, I think every player needs to do four things: they need to be on time; they need to pay attention and get the information that is being given by the coaches; they need to be in condition; and they need to give 100 percent effort so that they can improve. I think if a player does those things, at some point, lastly, then talent will become a factor. If all of those are equal, than talent may differentiate the players. If the players come in, learn the system, are in condition, and go out and work hard at it, then they will get better and they'll improve and they'll have enough talent to help us at least in some role. So, that's my advice to the players.

Q: Being here, does that give you the opportunity to have more contact with the players in terms of meetings than other training camps?

BB: Our schedule is pretty much the same, from a time standpoint, as all the training camps that I have been through. The one difference is that this year we have altered our daily schedule from a series of two-a-day practices, to scaling it down to alternately one and then two-a-day practices. In the end, prior to the Giant game, we are going to have the exact same number of practices as is scheduled right now that we had in last year's schedule and the previous year. It's just that the scheduling of it is going to be slightly different, to maximize the meeting and practice time that we have available. So in terms of the overall workload, it will be pretty similar.

Q: As long as you have been with the NFL, can you speak a little bit about the evolution of preseason practice as a spectator sport? And I am assuming 20 years ago there wasn't much of that?

BB: You know I am trying to think back, I can remember being out at Denver up at Colorado State. It must have been ten or fifteen thousand people up there. Now, I can remember a couple of times at Detroit where there were 100 people. But I think it varies, obviously the fan interest here is high. We had good turnouts at Bryant College, and I am sure they will be even better here at the stadium. Especially given the fact that the seating and the landscaping is conducive to a better view of practice. I think they will get a better view of practice, and I think they will get a lot better and a lot closer look than they did at Bryant.

Q: Is that inhibiting at all as a coach, to have people there?

BB: No, we play in front of 65,000 every week. It's like I tell the players that get nervous when I am around, 'I'm planning on being at all of the games.' Fans are at practice; fans are going to be at the games. So get used to it.

Q: Prior to Stephen Neal's surgery, I think you were going to have 17 offensive linemen in here. You are maybe down to 16 now. It's a lot of people, but Neal seemed to be climbing up in the interest level on your part. How much does that affect your plans right now? And with 16 people still here, does it make you more on the lookout for someone else to come in?

BB: I think we are always on the lookout for it, and I'm pleased that we were able to sign Bill Conaty a couple weeks ago to the roster, who is an experienced offensive lineman. In Steve's case, it's a hard break. No one has worked harder than Steve. He had a lot of recovery time from the surgery, but unfortunately something must have happened where it just didn't quite workout. So it's a tough break for him, because he worked hard and he's a tough kid. Unfortunately that's part of the game. We're going to have to move on, and he's going to have to move on. He'll work hard to come back, and I'm sure he'll be back. But in terms of the offensive line or any other position, we are always looking to try to improve our roster at any point, whether it's at the top or the so called bottom of the roster, the depth of the roster. As we all know at training camp, at this time of the year, there are always a lot of personnel transactions, not only on our team but on every team. There are a lot of players that come and go, on and off rosters and even switch teams at this point. Those possibilities are certainly there.

Q: What are your expectations of Tom Brady this season?

BB: I expect the same thing from Tom as I said about all the players, really; to come in; to be attentive, to be in condition, to work hard and to improve upon the coaching instruction he gets from his various coaches, whether it be Charlie (Weis) or John (Hufnagel) or who ever. I think each player is always working to maximize his potential. I don't think a person can do that if they are not in condition and if they don't accept the instruction and work on the techniques that they need to refine at their position. I really feel like that's true for every single player.

Q: Last year at tight end, it was a fairly open position. You have new players coming in, Christian Fauria came to the forefront that was perhaps one you didn't see coming. Do you see the fullback position being similar this year with Marc Edwards gone and new guys coming in?

BB: I think Fred McCrary has an edge on everybody just in terms of his experience in the league and at that position. Patrick (Pass) and Mike (Malan), neither have played to the extent Fred has played in the league in that spot. But then again, that's not going to mean anything in the end. Each player will have an opportunity to perform. How their performance stacks up against everyone else's, that's what will determine the evaluation. In that sense, it is an open competition. No one has done it for us, and that's what really matters. If a guy has gone out and done it in our system and played and done it over a period of time, at least you have an idea of what that player can do, assuming that he can play at that level again this year. But that all has to be reestablished too.

Q: You said that you were excited about it being the first day of training camp. In terms of excitement, what is this for you? Is this like Christmas Day, the first day of training camp? What are some of the emotions?

BB: I wouldn't say it's like Christmas Day. It's just a culmination of a lot of planning, a lot of off-season planning. And it's the start, it's certainly not a final point, it's the start of it coming together, on the field, in pads, in a competitive environment. The mini-camps and the passing camps are good team functions, and there is a lot of teaching that goes on. But you just don't have the competition in a passing camp or a mini-camp that you have in training camp. You have teaching, you have plays being executed, you have players understanding concepts and responsibilities, but in training camp you have true competition. One guy is trying to beat out another guy for that job. One guy is trying to beat the guy across from him on the line of scrimmage, and vice versa, to improve as an individual player. It's a different type of practice. It's a different type of competition, and it's always exciting to see how that will unfold. Believe me there are surprises for coaches every year in training camp, just as there are for the media and fans. Who will come to surprise us and have a good year that maybe we didn't expect quite as much out of? Who's improved the most? I don't know the answers to all those questions; they have to be established on the field. From that standpoint, it's something I look forward to.

Q: Who has been your biggest surprise in training camp in your career?

BB: Well, you would have to put Brady in there from the standpoint that he was the fourth quarterback his rookie year. Through a series of circumstances and strong play by him, he ends up being the Super Bowl MVP. That's a pretty good jump. I guess I would have to put him up there. But I think back to the Giants; Jim Burt was a big surprise. He was a free agent from Miami that was a short and squatty guy. When you look at him you don't picture him as being an All-Pro type of player. That surprised a lot of people when he made the team and then went on to become an All-Pro player. I think Orlando Brown is a type of guy that at Cleveland he was an unknown and then all of a sudden in a fairly short time you can look at him and say, 'This guy could really be a good football player.' You know free agent type guys that usually tend to surprise because the expectations are a little bit lower than say the normal first-round draft choice.

Q: Because of all the rain last night, is there any change in what you are going to do today?

BB: No. Not really. I went out and walked the fields this morning, and they have drained pretty well. I think we are okay there. Unless something happens between now and then, I don't see any changes. We'll stay with what we got.

Q: You said Fred McCrary obviously has the edge going in at fullback. How open do you see the running back position?

BB: We have players that have various levels of experience. Whether it be last year or the year before that have had production in the league, J.R. (Redmond) and Kevin (Faulk) and Antowain (Womack) and Patrick (Pass), to a degree, and Mike Cloud. We'll see how all that unfolds. They will all get an opportunity and we'll see how that works out. I see in a way it's very open, but on the other hand some guys have had high production levels in this league and I respect that. Whether that will occur this year or not, or whether it will come from somebody that has not had as much production, we'll just have to wait and see.

Q: Are you anxious to finally get a look at Antwoine Womack, so long after you drafted him?

BB: We saw Antwoine last year after he came off the PUP and was in practice for a short period of time. And Antwoine has had a good off-season in terms of his rehabilitation. I think he is making progress along the way, we'll just have to see how quickly it comes along.

BB: Okay. Thanks. See you all tomorrow

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