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Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript - 7/25/2003

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BB:** Working on anything big?

**Q: Obviously, ideally you would like to have a line that is completely healthy or participating in practice rather. But is it sort of a blessing in disguise maybe that Asante (Samuel) and Eugene (Wilson) are getting a lot of reps this early in practice?

BB:** It is for them. One man's trash is another man's treasure. It's good for Asante. It's good for Eugene. It's good for the players who are out there. It's not as good for the players who aren't, but that's the way it falls. The guys who are out there need to take advantage of those opportunities to learn and get the reps and try to create an opportunity or a role for themselves on the team.

**Q: It's early obviously, but have they both looked satisfactory?  

BB:** They have been competitive. Yep, they've been competitive.

**Q: They got a lot of reps at mini-camp as well. Are they ahead of where the other rookies might be because of the amount of time they've had?

BB:** think they are doing okay. Some of the time is because they have shown some skill and maybe we want to look at them in certain scenarios like on sub-defenses and that kind of thing where they would be able to help us. Then some of it has been because other guys haven't been able to participate. So, it's been a combination of things, and they have done enough to be able to show that they can keep up with the pace to this point. Things are going to pick up quite a bit, so I don't know what's going to happen when we turn the dial up a little bit faster. But to this point they have been able to keep up and they've been competitive.

**Q: Bethel Johnson didn't go to a passing school. You obviously saw something in the kid. What did you see at the time? How has he responded so far in camp?

BB:** Good. I think Bethel has had a good learning camp. He has taken the instruction. You're right, some of the route running that he hasn't had as much experience with as, just say, in comparison to a guy like Deion Branch, who came from a much more sophisticated college passing offense than Bethel did, but he's been able to show that he can understand some techniques and also apply them and use them in practice settings here. So that's been encouraging. He did show some of those things in college, not relative to a player like Deion, not as much, but he's done a good job picking those things up in the camps and starting training camp this week.

**Q: How would you rate his hands?

BB:** They are good. I hate to...those are tough words to use, but I would say, 'About average to above average.' I don't think his hands are going to be a problem. But like every receiver, you know everybody is going to drop some balls, but to this point they have been I would say, 'Above average.'

**Q: Obviously you are switching to the 3-4, so there we'll be more room for linebackers...

BB:** Again, it's not really a switch. But go ahead...

**Q: A Tweak?

BB:** Okay.

**Q: Do you have a number in mind of how many linebackers you would like to take?

BB:** I think when you talk about numbers and position of players, like at that position, linebackers, defensive backs, running backs, tight ends, you start to factor in special teams. And that's really what it is going to come down to in terms of the total numbers. You need a certain number of guys to play the position offensively or defensively, but who is the better special teams player? Your 8th linebacker? Or your 5th running back? Or your 4th tight end? Or your 3rd tight end? Or your 5th safety? Those players play a lot of the same positions. On special teams you have wide receivers and corners, and occasionally another player like a safety or a running back might play those type of skilled special team positions. Then you have the linebacker, tight end, running back positions for the bigger guys which occasionally you might get a lineman to play, a defensive lineman. But for the most part, those groups of guys are in competition with each other for those roster spots that are primarily special teams, but you also have to weigh in offense and defense too. So, that's a hard question to answer in other words. But you are going to carry either more linebackers and fewer safeties and tight ends and running backs, or more tight ends and running backs and fewer linebackers and safeties. I remember my first year, I think we carried six backs. One of the main reasons we carried six backs is because those players were more special teams contributors. And if I am not mistaken, I think we only carried six linebackers, at least at points of the year, those were the number breakdowns. It could be that way, or it could swing the other way, where you carry fewer backs and more of those players.

**Q: Do you see a lot of depth at linebacker?

BB:** I think it's pretty obvious. We have six linebackers who have been significant contributors defensively at their positions. Beyond that, I think there is a difference in defensive contribution relative to [Willie] McGinest, [Rosevelt] Colvin, [Mike] Vrabel, [Roman] Phifer, [Tedy] Brushi, and Ted Johnson. Relative to those six guys I think there is a little bit of difference to whoever you want to put next. On the special teams side of it, we have had some high contributors in the kicking game, and from some of our other players too. That's where the whole numbers...that's where it's all going to have to come together.

**Q: McGinest saw some time at end of the 4-3?

BB:** Yeah, he's seen some time as the outside rusher in whatever defense you are in. Outside rusher/coverage man in whatever defense you're in.

**Q: Can he play a 3-4 end though? Is he equipped for that?

BB:** He has and maybe he could, but that's not where we are playing him.

**Q: Does Michael Cloud have to do a little bit more than others because of his suspension and he's an older guy on the team?

BB:** Sure, he's in a little bit of a unique situation. We'll have to look at the total...It's the whole package. You can't separate one from the other. It is what it is. And it's not something I can really talk about from a league standpoint. We'll just have to take all those things in to consideration and it is a little bit unique.

**Q: In essence, doesn't it almost seem like he has a better opportunity because he has four extra weeks? He can't practice during the period there during the regular season right if he makes the team?

BB:** Right. And again, I'm not trying to be cute with you. I just can't comment about league discipline and league matters like that. That's for them to talk about. So, all I can do is take what the situation is and deal with that.

**Q: So, in essence though, you can only evaluate him for the regular period of training camp like that and then after that it is basically like he doesn't exist for these four weeks?

BB:** Okay, well we are not talking specifically about any player. Without talking specifically about any player, during the time that a player is suspended by the league, he is not allowed to participate in any activity at the club's facility: practice, meetings, sit-ups, anything. Whenever that suspension period is over then he is allowed to return and basically he would have to be counted on your team. Maybe there is an exemption period, maybe there isn't. But that is a Commissioner's decision on a player, but then.... A player in the NFL is either one of two things. He is either inactive or he is on reserve. That's it. There is no other landing place for him. So he either counts or he is on reserve and he is not eligible to play. That's really all there is. If a player is active then you count him on your roster and he plays. If he's on reserve then he is ineligible to play and he doesn't count on your roster.

**Q: So without getting into specific players, if you had a guy trying to make your team that you know if he makes your team is not going to be available for four weeks, doesn't he have to show you a little bit more because he's got to say, 'I'm worth hanging on to for the 12 weeks I can give you, as opposed to the 16 weeks another guy could give you.'?

BB:** Well, yeah. The decision point really comes when a player becomes active. As long as he is on reserve, he doesn't count. It doesn't really matter whether you have him or you don't have him; it doesn't make any difference. Because he can't play for you, and he doesn't count on your roster. So he is in purgatory.

**Q: But you have the rights to him?

BB:** Yeah, once the suspension is over. Right.

**Q: Is Tom's shoulder fully healed? And is the fact that he did have an injury at the end of last season, does that make you look for him to have any fewer reps in training camp?

BB:** No I don't think it affects his reps. And watching him out there on the field and in all the camps and now in training camp where we are starting to throw on a more regular basis, twice a day, and throwing harder and all that, I don't see anything different about Tom then I saw last year mechanically, or his angle, or velocity on the ball or anything like that. He looks fine.

**Q: Will he take less reps than last year based on the fact that last year was his first year as a starter?

BB:** Let me put it this way, I think...

**Q: Were you trying to get him extra work last year?

BB:** No. What we are trying to do with him, and every other player, is get them ready. Now what getting a player ready means varies from player to player and sometimes varies by position. What we feel we need to get him ready, then that's what we are going to do. It's not necessarily a prescribed number of reps. 'Well you know, he's going to have 20 plays.' At the point in time where we make those decisions, then we make them based on what the player needs in our opinion, or maybe if we are getting feedback from him, in his opinion what he needs. Whether it's Matt Light, whether it's Tom Brady, whether it's Lawyer Milloy, whether it's Rosevelt Colvin, whether...whoever it is. Our objective is to get the player ready, if it's 20 plays, if it's 60 plays, if it's 2 plays, that's why that decision would be made. So in Tom's case, it would be no different than any other player. What we feel like we need to give him to get him ready to play, then that's got to be our first priority as long as he's the starting quarterback. Then we do the best we can with everybody else, and that's really the way it is at all positions.

**Q: Do you feel that last year he needed more plays because it was his first year at starting quarterback?

BB:** No. No, because he played a whole season. He knew how to play quarterback. What we felt was, 'Here's what Tom needs to be ready to play.' And we tried to give him that and allocate him that amount of work. But again, that's the same thing we do with Troy Brown, that's the same thing we do with David Patten, it will be the same thing we do with Anthony Pleasant. Not the same number of plays, but we'll evaluate them individually and try to target their.... Their goal is to be ready for a) the opener and b) the 16-game regular season. Now there is a little bit of conflict with those two goals, but you try to manage that.

**Q: What kind of growth is Tom showing from 2001 to 2002? Which year was a bigger year in terms of learning?

BB:** Well, as far as a learning curve, I'm sure it was 2001. I think players learn something every year they are in the league. They learn something every game. We have all built on those experiences to put them into place at other points in time when similar situations rise again.

**Q: Keeping in mind, when you are dealing with veterans like Anthony Pleasant, for example, or Roman Phifer, would you be inclined to cut down their practice time? Like Anthony might not practice every day during training camp, or think about Bruce Smith in Washington where he had a situation where he wasn't practicing as much, just because they know how to play. It's not that they wouldn't learn as much. Anthony didn't practice in pads yesterday morning.

BB:** That's right. Yes. That's correct.

**Q: Is that because you want to try to cut it back a little bit?

BB:** Again, we want to do what we need to do to get the player ready and in some case you want to prevent them from being a) overworked or b)if they are coming off some type of medical condition, putting too much strain, too early on those conditions. So again it can vary from player to player. There is two different ways to do it. When you have a number of practices like we have here in training camp, when you are going to have 20 practices, or whatever it is, 24 practices, before your first preseason game, one way to do might be for a guy to practice 18 times instead of 24. Another way to do it would be to let him practice all 24 times, but cut back the number of reps he has within those practices and try to pace it that way. There is a number of different ways to do it. It depends a little bit on each individual circumstance, on what you are trying to get done. Some guys, we put them out there and they don't take as many turns as their other teammates do who are playing the same position.

BB:

**Q: When you said yesterday that improving your run defense is a priority, is there anything you have to do when you make that a priority to safeguard it coming at the expense of your pass protection?

BB:** Absolutely. That's a strong point that I've made to the team. I made it yesterday after practice. We are going to improve our run defense and every play is not a run. We want to improve our run defense when they run the ball, not have good run statistics and then give off a bunch of easy 50-yard touchdowns over our head. The only time we want to play good run defense is when they run the ball. When they don't run the ball, we don't care about run defense. We need to play good pass defense.

**Q: Is that kind of a tricky fine line?

BB:** Well, I think from a mentality standpoint, it's something you have to balance. I think you have to balance. Defensively, when you call a defense, you don't know what they are going to do. You don't know if they are going to run, you don't know if they are going to pass. You have to be ready to defend everything. You play the odds and down-and-distance formation and all of that so as it gets closer to the snap you might have a better idea of what is going to happen. There are no absolutes in football. For a player's mentality, they have to be able to balance that as well. They can't go out there and start guessing that, 'Well, we're going to stop the run and I'm going to be aggressive on the run,' or 'Okay, it wasn't run, so that play wasn't that important because our goal was to stop the run.' There are other goals besides that. To be a good defensive football team, we need to play the run better than we played it last year. So that, absolutely, is an objective of camp. But every play is not going to be a run.

**Q: What about third downs as well? Is that something that was a priority as well?

BB:** Third down defense, red zone defense, defense against the run, turnovers, those are all critical plays for a defensive football team.

**Q: Are you teaching recognition?

BB:** Sure. That is definitely part of it. Being able to differentiate as quickly as possible between whether it's a run or a play-action-pass. There is certainly a learning curve there and a lot of that comes with the reps. The play's kind of look the same and the offense designed them that way and defensively you have to be able to figure out what the signal is that separates one from the other because obviously they are not the same.

**Q: Was that an issue at times last season? Not recognizing the play?

BB:** Yes. I am sure. Every team has plays that they misread defensively, and we have some [of them]. We always try to perfect that part of it but it's hard to do because the offense, they do all they can to disguise and try to make it look the same and they give you two or three different things to defend on the same look. That's an ongoing problem.

**Q: How do you feel about the composition of this year's team and their chances to compete for a post-season berth versus how you thought about last season's team coming off the Super Bowl title?

BB:** Well, first of all, I don't even know what the composition of this year's team is going to be. That is to be determined. I am not really thinking about all of those things, what you just mentioned. Right now, my objectives are more short term; to try to get the players to understand what it is we are going to practice this afternoon so they know what is being installed and they know how to execute. Then to go out there on the field and be able to practice it at a high level so that when we do get into the game competitively, we can execute it the way it needs to be executed. That's really what the focus is at this point. What our record is going to be and where we are going to end up in December, that's so many miles away that...

**Q: I recognize that. I know how you think about that. But you have got players on this roster now, that you didn't have one year ago and injuries are a huge 'x' factor. Just looking at who is on the roster now versus who was on the roster a year ago, just some sense of your comfort level [for you].

BB:** At this point, I don't think any coach is comfortable at this point. Every team has to, as I said before, re-establish even if they were strengths last year, they still have to be re-established this year. If they were weaknesses last year, then it has to be proven that those weaknesses have been somehow compensated for and they are no longer weaknesses. Or they might even become strengths. Those things all need to be re-established. I feel like our team has improved. I've said that. I feel like it's improved every year. But that doesn't really mean anything because every week we're up against competition. So, it's our team relative to another team and what's the competition. I think other teams in our division and other teams in the AFC are improving too. That's what we have to compete against. It doesn't really matter whether we're a little bit better at something. It's relative to the team that we are competing against. That's the measure of whether you are going to be successful or not.

**Q: How long can a player like Troy Brown, who has gotten a lot of mileage, go?

BB:** I don't know if you can gauge that. Look at Jerry Rice. There is one standing. Can it go that long? It did with Jerry. I don't know that five years ago people would have felt that he would have, especially coming off the ACL injury. I think when a player gets to a certain point in his career, and again I don't think you can put a benchmark on that because it varies from player to player, and you are looking at that player as being able to maintain his skills. Players come into the league as rookies and they improve and you see their skills and sometimes their physical abilities improve and then at some point in life we all reach that plateau level and it could be a very high level, but at some point it plateaus and you just don't keep improving physically. Then it comes down to the question of how good are his physical skills, how much experience, how much know-how, how much savvy do different players have. Whether it's Karl Malone or Jerry Rice or whoever it is, I think as a coach, you have to look at those players each year and try to evaluate whether their level is going to be able to help your football team. At some point the answer on all of those guys is going to be no, but I don't think you know when that is until you can see it and make that determination.

**Q: [on being limited when a player loses a step]

BB:** Well, I think that is the answer that has to be answered every year in training camp. Again, I am not comparing Troy Brown to Jerry Rice. I am not saying that. All I am saying is, just to take an example of another older player at that position who, when Jerry Rice came out, he was no speed burner. He had good competitive speed, but it wasn't like he was the fastest guy in the draft, then he had ACL surgery at what ever it was 34,35 , however old he was. I don't think you know the answers to those questions until either the player knows himself and he says okay, 'I know I can't do it and I'm going to retire, I can't play at a level that I want to be at anymore.' Or when the coach sees him or the organization sees him and has to make that decision. Maybe another organization doesn't fit that way. That's the tough part for the older players, for both sides, what exactly is the performance level going to be at. I don't think anybody knows the answer to that question until you see the player the next year. You can try to guess at it and try to gauge it, but it's inexact. I would say this with Troy. I think that Troy has had a very good offseason and from what he's done in the offseason program, that there are still expectations that he'll be a very good positive contributor to our football team as he has been. I would say that but that is based on his offseason work. That's not one of these, but it's a feeling that he's been able to go out there and perform physically to a competitive level.

**Q: [On Deion Branch, Bethel Johnson, and Daniel Graham following in Troy's footsteps]

BB:** I can't ultimately orchestrate how any transition is going to go. Whenever you have players who are closer to the end of their career than the beginning, then at some point you are going to have to think about a transition. Maybe it's somebody who comes in from another team in the middle of his career or maybe it's a younger player who develops and somehow transitions into that role. There's obviously a number of different ways to do it. Again, that transition can be in a year or two, sometimes it's four or five years, sometimes you the guy you think is going to transition, ends up being somebody else instead of him. All of those things can be decided out on the field. Who is going to play better, how much one guy is going to take over for another guy if at all, is all determined by how the players perform when they are out there on the field. As much as we want to train them and teach them and prepare them and all of that, in the end we really don't have any control over it. And I wasn't here but just to pick out a name, I heard a lot of the same things about Tony Simmons. On the other hand, Matt Light is a guy who came in and did take over for player who had been at that position. It's an inexact science but you do have to have a vision of that when you are running a football team and about what is going to happen when this player either can't play anymore or isn't able to perform at the level that he used to.

**Q: On a scale of one to 10, where Troy was a 10 before he was injured in Kansas City game last year, where was he after that game?

BB:** He would have to answer that question. It's his knee and it's what he is able to do with his physical skills and that's what I tell the players. I don't know how you feel. I can't tell you your hamstring is 100 percent. You know whether it is or isn't. There's no way for me to know that. I'm not a doctor but even if I was I'm not going to examine it and tell you exactly where you are. You know that based on what you can go out there and do.

**Q: Let me rephrase it. Was he as good a player after the Kansas City game as he was before the Kansas City game? He caught a lot of balls last year.

BB:** Well, first of all he missed a couple of games there and then was limited. He missed one and was then limited in another one or two. I think obviously it affected him. There's no way I could put a percentage on it or gauge. He played, he was productive but he wasn't as productive as he was before the end of the Kansas City game.

**Q: Obviously, you had to figure that into your game plan, with him being limited. Was there a moment where you said, 'I can't expect that much from Troy right now?'

BB:** I understand the question and I would just say my answer to it would be when you are coaching a team in the middle of the season, what you do is you put in the best that you have in the positions that they are at and you want them to do as much as they possibly can rather than set an absolute goal that a players going to run a 9.2 – 10, that's not really the way it is in football. You put your team out there and whoever your best players are, you put them out there and try to get them to play their best. The expectation level on those guys, it's not an absolute, 'here's how high he's going to jump,' it's more of this is the best we've got and we're putting them out there against the team we are playing and we're going to try to do what we need to do to win. That's the way I look at it not, 'well, we were looking for looking for this and we only got that.' The player gave us all he had and there were a lot of other players out there too and we need for all of them to do the same thing.

**Q: [on Troy Brown performance]

BB:** I guess from my standpoint it's not measured as much by the number of catches as it is the way that he performs. The way he runs the routes, the adjustments that he makes, the catches, those kind of things. A lot of the catches sometimes are scheme related. Sometimes, it just works out that way because of the coverage. I don' think that is the real measure. Well, this year a guy caught 92 passes, the year before he caught 97, he had a down year, that's not necessarily the case. I think that Troy has performed at a pretty high level in the three years that I have been. I will just leave it at that. He has performed at a pretty high level. Some games are better than others and some plays are a little better than others. Over the long haul, he's been very consistent and he's been a very good player for three years.

**Q: You talked about having a vision for the team earlier. [on drafting two cornerbacks this year and Otis Smith and Ty Law]

BB:** Also, I think a big part of that is just defensively, the overall age of the defense as a unit, as a matter of record, was the highest in the league last year. Whether it be the defensive line, the linebackers, the defensive backs, that was really an issue at every position, that we had some elder players in each of those slots, not to say that those players won't be good productive players with a lot of experience but I think you do have to keep the competition going there in case it's not. That's my responsibility to the team.

**Q: Do you expect any of the day-to-day players to practice today?

BB:** I wouldn't have the final answer to that one until we get out there and warm them up and see how they are doing. I think that everybody is improving and making progress. I don't think we've had any setbacks in the last day or two. I think they are getting relatively closer. Whether today is the day we'll just have to wait and see. Can I answer that one after practice?

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