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Bill Belichick Press Conf.Transcript 7/29/04

Belichick: We will see here as we get into some hot weather and more competitive practices how everybody holds up. To this point, that is what it is and I think that is all right.



BB: Just a couple of things on practice today. As I am sure you all saw, there were a lot of guys in different states of dress or undress as the case would be. We had a couple of people in different categories out there today. It was kind of a combination practice. Some guys aren't quite ready to start training camp yet physically. Other guys, because of their participation and performance in the offseason program, were not dressed as kind of their reward for their performance, sort of the guys that have been here and were working in major part of the individual practice that was going on. Without getting into a lot of specifics, that was, again, kind of a conglomerate of things happening. Tomorrow will be much more conventional in terms of everybody [being] out there. The guys that can perform will perform. The guys that aren't quite ready to go will work until they are ready. We made one roster move today. We released Jeff Burris and he didn't report to camp. So that was the reason for that. Everybody that has run the conditioning run has passed it. Not all of the players have run it but all of the ones that have run it have passed it other than one player that we signed very recently that, in all honesty, wasn't totally prepared to run it. Other than that, I thought overall the condition of the team is acceptable. We will see here as we get into some hot weather and more competitive practices how everybody holds up. To this point, that is what it is and I think that is all right.

Q: Are you excited to get all the guys back out there?

BB: Well, I think it is a little bit of the beginning and the end. It is sort of the end of the offseason and all of the work that everybody has done in the organization this offseason, whether it be in personnel or the coaches going through all of the different analyses from last year and the players in the offseason program working hard to improve their strength and conditioning and explosive levels and so forth. At the same, [it is the] beginning of putting the team on the field, putting a team together, running plays, communicating, being able to execute multiple assignments and react to different adjustments that have to be made. It is another phase of the process. Yes, it is exciting to see them out there and moving around and actually working together as opposed to just…well we saw some of that in mini-camp, but not with the pads and not with the contact [and] as opposed to names on a board or names on a depth chart.

Q: Considering that you had a scaled down practice today and the fans were still reacting to the team, did you notice that?

BB: Yes, there was some energy out there with the fans which is great. I am glad they are enjoying it. Last year when we had camp here I thought it was a good facility all the way around from the team standpoint, certainly the opportunity to work in our weight room and our training room and being able to take advantage of those facilities. I think the fans get a close look and a comfortable look at what is going on and it seemed like they enjoyed it.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about the decision to sign 'Big Cat', James Williams?

BB: We have been talking that for quite a while. It just sort of developed. We didn't draft any offensive linemen and didn't sign any college free agents so we kind of had pretty much the same group here through February/March whenever it was. I know James was out of football last year but we have had some experience with him in the past and he has some familiarity with some of the coaches on our staff. We felt that he might still have some football left and wanted to give him an opportunity and he was looking for an opportunity to continue playing. It just kind of came together.

Q: Is he strictly a right tackle?

BB: He is. Yes, he is.

Q: Does he still have something to prove to you?

BB: I think everybody has to go out there and prove it. He was out of football last year. I think that anytime a player is out of football for one year, the whole process of getting back into the flow of it…again, every player out there needs to re-establish his level of play regardless of what it was or wasn't last year. It is a new year, a new opportunity and everybody has to go out there and get to a level of performance that can be evaluated if it is good enough to create either a spot on the roster or a spot on the field.

Q: With last year's rookies, do you set a higher expectation level for them?

BB: Sure. You definitely want to see them improve. You want to see them get better in all areas, but especially the ones that you target for them in the offseason after you have had that year with them, the 2003 season, to be able to say at the end of year, 'Well here are the things you need to work on. Here are the things that you need to work.' I think that group has had a good offseason collectively. We will see how that manifests itself out there in training camp. It looks like they have worked hard, they have tried to improve in the areas that need to be improved so we will see how that turns out.

Q: That big jump that they make from year one, is that more of the mental stuff they have to go through?

BB: It is a combination. Mental is a big part of it. Being familiar and comfortable in, not only the pro football environment, but also the scheme and knowing the plays and knowing the adjustments that they were only experiencing it for the first time one year ago at this point is huge. Also, a lot of them have had some physical maturity, they have had a full season of training or in some cases really two offseasons if they were on the practice squad or injured reserve type mode where last year during the season they could get a lot of weight and strength training going on. I think it is a combination of those things. Again, some guys need strength training more than technique and other guys vice-versa. So it varies from player to player.

Q: Did Jeff give you any reason why? Have you spoke to any of his people?

BB: Well he made a personal decision and I respect that. It really doesn't matter beyond that.

Q: So, you did talk to him?

BB: He is not here for personal reasons, right.

Q: With Eugene Wilson, is he still limited?

BB: No, he is out there. He is doing what everybody else is doing.

Q: Well you had him on the active PUP list right?

BB: Right, he is not there now. He is out there doing what everybody else is doing.

Q: Can you give us an update on the unsigned rookies?

BB: I can't give you any update, they are still not signed. You know how that goes. It could be close and it could take a month and it could be miles apart and it could take one hour. When they are done, you will be the first to know and they will be here and they are not so that is why they are not here.

Q: Does that annoy you as a coach?

BB: Well, that is part of the process. When both sides agree, that is when there will be a contract and that is when they will be here. Until that point, they won't. In the 30 years that I have seen that, it is not going to change. It is what it is.

Q: What impact does that have on rookies missing the first few days of camp?

BB: It depends. I don't think there is any set formula. Some guys, it affects more than others. I don't think it helps anybody but we have all seen guys that have come along quicker than others. I don't think we will know until they get here.

Q: What are your early impressions of Corey Dillon?

BB: I thought Corey came in [to camp] in pretty good condition today. He ran well. The things he did out there today are similar to what we did in mini-camp. It wasn't a contact practice or anything but I expect that he will be a contributor for us. Hopefully we will be productive in that position with a number of people that we have back there. I think we have a number of guys that can contribute and there will be some quality competition. Certainly he is going to be in that group. What role he or anybody has on the team at this point is a long way from being defined. We are not anywhere near at that point now. We are more in the develop our fundamentals, start working together as a team, communication, being able to execute plays and the contact that goes with it, not just assignments like we had in mini-camp and what everybody does and what roles they create for themselves, we have a long way to go on that.

Q: Does the Zeron Flemister signing have anything to do with [Christian] Fauria being limited?

BB: Maybe a little bit. I think it had more to do with it just worked out. We had Zeron in quite a while ago, I would say it was back in maybe April some time. We had been in contact with him for quite a while. It kind of worked itself out now.

Q: What happened last year with 'Big Cat'?

BB: He didn't sign with anybody.

Q: Well, you worked him out last year.

BB: Yes, but at that point and time it just didn't work out for both parties.

Q: I heard you say that you expected Rosevelt Colvin to be out there this training camp. Is that still the case?

BB: Yes. I think that all of the players that we have will be participating. I don't see anybody that is in a situation like Stephen Neal was last year where I thought it would be a long shot for him to be able to really make it back and ultimately he didn't. I don't think we have anybody in that category now.

Q: Is his recovery on schedule to where it should be?

BB: I don't really know what the schedule is. It was not a conventional injury. We haven't had that type of situation come up since I have been here. I think he is doing well. He is running well, he is moving well and I think he is pretty close to being out there. When that will be is when he is ready. When he is ready, I don't know exactly when that will be. As soon as he is, he will be out there with all the rest of them.

Q: Is training camp any indication of how good a football team you have?

BB: I'll put it this way, I don't think I've ever been a part of a really good season that had a bad camp. I think I've been involved with what I thought were some pretty good camps, but the season didn't necessarily end up good. I think it's hard to go have a really good season if you don't have a decent to above average training camp. That doesn't guarantee anything or secure anything because the regular season is so long and there's so many things that can happen, but it puts you in a position to be competitive if you can play to a good level after having that kind of foundation come out of your work in camp. I think that probably a lot of teams are in that boat, that they come out of camp thinking they've accomplished a lot and that they're ready to go then you see how everybody plays in the regular season, competitive environment.

Q: Is this team better prepared than it was in 2002 to defend something?

BB: Is it better prepared? I don't know. You're right, a lot of guys have been through some of those experiences before, so there may be some benefit to that. Ultimately, I don't really think that is what it is about. I think it's about what the team is able to accomplish collectively as a unit to prepare itself to face the different challenges it faces during the season. Then, when those challenges present themselves, [it is about] how the team performs under pressure and how it reacts to them, and there will be hundreds of them.

Q: Even after winning the Super Bowl, are you starting from scratch on day one of camp?

BB: You bet, yes. There is no way to cut the corner. There is no way for a player to get in condition except to go out there and run and train and get in condition. There is no way for a player to learn how to execute his plays, and for a team to learn how to execute them together and all the different variations that can occur when something happens on the other side of the ball, without going out there and doing it and going through the process and seeing things and guys collectively seeing things together and reacting together. There is no way you can cut the corner on that. You just can't go out there and say, 'Well, that is going to happen. We're all going to do this.' That is the challenge that every team faces at this time of year, and I think that's what all the teams in the league are working on.

Q: Is Jim Miller here?

BB: Yes, he is here. Sure, he is out there.

Q: Is there any schedule on when he will be ready to practice?

BB: When he is ready to perform then we'll put him in there, and he'll start playing. Right now, he's not quite ready to go, and we'll see how that develops.

Q: Does that add any uncertainty to the backup quarterback spot?

BB: No, because we knew that when we signed him. We knew that was the situation. We don't know exactly what the time frame will be. I've been impressed with Jim. He's been here for the week. He's working hard. I think that he's coming along. When that will enable him to go out on the field and begin practicing, I'm not really sure. I think it's heading in the right direction, and I think he's making good progress. We'll just take it day by day and see how he comes along.

Q: What did you like about Miller when he was in Chicago?

BB: Well, Jim has been a very productive quarterback throughout his career. He's won a lot of games, and he's performed well when he's had an opportunity to play. That's the main thing. That's what a quarterback's got to do, is find a way to help his team win the game when he's called upon. I think that's a quality that Jim has done well with.

Q: Is he one of those guys that have been through the ringer? We don't know a lot about [Rohan] Davey, Kingsbury or [Kurt] Kittner.

BB: Well, obviously we have to find out about those three players. They don't have a lot of exposure in the NFL. You know, a few preseason games, or in Kurt's case a couple of regular season games in a different system. We'll have to see how they do with their opportunities. Jim has a lot more experience, and hopefully by the time Jim is ready to come back we will have had a chance to evaluate the younger players. Then we'll get a chance to evaluate Jim, and we'll be able to see where all that is. When you're looking at guys that haven't played before or played relatively little, you're never sure how it's going to turn out until they get in there and face the real bullets.

Q: If you put Rosevelt Colvin on the field then you feel like he isn't ready, does that eliminate the PUP option?

BB: Well, once a player is on PUP, if he's taken off PUP or NFI, whatever the case is…they're the same…they're not the same, but they're treated the same, let's put it that way. Once you take a player off that and essentially pass him on his physical and say he's okay to perform, then no, you can't put him back on there. But, a player is…in the NFL every player is in one of two categories. They're either active, or they're on reserve. That's it. There's no other position for them to be. So, if they're active they count against your 80-man limit. If they're on reserve, they don't. It's as simple as that. If a player is on military reserve, injured reserve, PUP reserve, suspended reserve, any of those reserve lists, he doesn't count against the roster limit, whether it's the 53-man roster during the regular season or the 80-man roster during training camp. If a player is active, regardless of what his classification is, then he counts toward the roster limit. All players count toward the salary cap. So, if a player's active, he's active. If he's on reserve, regardless of which type of reserve it is, it all falls under one category so even some of the morons like me can figure out what the guy actually is. Regardless of which classification it is, it falls under one of those two categories.

Q: What was your impression of Rodney Harrison on his first day of camp last year?

BB: I think that in training camp you try not to get too high or too low on a player. It makes any play good or bad. There's so many plays out there, so many snaps. Training camp is a long haul, and you get plenty of chances to evaluate them. I think it's really a mistake to evaluate guys on one play, especially a good or bad one. It is more about consistency. It is more about how a player plays day in, day out, [on a] down after down basis. That is where you end up talking about a guy being dependable or being kind of a flashy player that sometimes looks really good and other times you don't notice them. I think it is more the evaluation over the longer haul, over a longer period of time in a lot of different situations rather than one guy jumping out because he made a catch or made a tackle or dropped any easy pass or whatever. I think you have to get past that and give them enough opportunity to show whether that play is truly indicative of his performance or if it's just one of those things, good or bad, and this is really what the rest of it is.

Q: When he came here, he seemed to hit everything that was moving. Did that feistiness catch your eye?

BB: We had seen Rodney play for 10 years. He had been a pretty aggressive player in San Diego. I don't think anybody ever questioned his toughness or his desire for contact. There were a couple of plays in practice where he hit guys, but I don't think you make your reputation in this league as a hitter with a couple of hits in practice. I think you make it on Sundays in competitive, regular-season games.

Q: What are you goals coming out of training camp?

BB: I think it's the same two goals every year. You want to have your team ready for opening day and the opening part of the season and what you're going to have to deal with then, the first week or the first couple of weeks of the season. You also want to have your team ready to deal with the 16-game regular season schedule. You don't want to be getting in a situation where you're in the middle of the season and have things significantly come up that are brand new to your team. You want to be able to refer back to, 'Yeah, we did that in training camp. This is what we're going to do in this situation. We practiced it in camp. We're familiar with it. We're confident in it because we've done it before.' So, you want to try to balance those two things out and try to create a good fundamental level for your players so that as the season goes along, the fundamental time gets cut down because you have to face so many scheme problems and coordinate things on a team level. You want your conditioning level to be high and your fundamental level to be good and the team to be prepared for the opening game or the opening few weeks of the season, but at the same time also have enough of a base to handle what they're going to have to deal with over a 16-game schedule. That is basically what you're looking for.

Q: Is there a tone or identity of the team that gets established in training camp?

BB: I think it gets established in the regular season. Sometimes it can start in training camp, but ultimately I think sometimes that can be deceiving. A lot of times you come out of training camp and preseason games feeling a certain way about a certain aspect of your team, but you haven't really been challenged because teams aren't game-planning you, they're not scheming for your strengths and weaknesses. Then you get in the regular season and you go, 'Oh God, we really have some problems here that we didn't realize we had in training camp.' Or, 'We thought we were pretty good in this area in training camp, but we could never really get to it because the other team sees that as a strength, and they just won't let us do it to them. They're going to counter that and force us to play into a weaker part of our hand.' I think that's one of the things you try to do as a coach in training camp, is identify your weaknesses and figure out either how to strengthen them or how to work around them to minimize those. If your strengths truly are strengths, then obviously you're going to try to get to those as much as you can, but once you get into the regular season sometimes that's a lot harder to do than in preseason games when you can pretty much go out there and run what you want to run, and nobody's going to do too much about it. That will change in September.

Q: How does [Tom] Brady look after his shoulder surgery?

BB: Same.

Q: Have you seen a player as even keeled as Brady seems to be all the time?

BB: I think Tom is even keeled, but he has a spark to him that I think is a very positive thing, and it kind of sets him apart as a guy that's not over-emotional. But he has a spark, he has a presence, and he has an enthusiasm for the game and what he's doing that's, to a certain degree, contagious to his teammates. He's part of the group that brings energy to the field and to his teammates in a very positive way.

Q: Do you still feel the same confidence in Adam Vinatieri?

BB: We've only been out there one day. We'll see. Look, Adam has made a lot of big kicks for us in the four years I've been here. He's been one of our best and most-consistent players. On the other hand, every year is a new year, and there were players last year that we weren't really talking about at this time that came on strong for us, and there were other guys that we thought were going to be the biggest producers and it didn't turn out that way for one reason or another. That is not really what I'm trying to do now, is predict who's going to do what. It is more evaluate where they are, what they can do and then try to start fitting the pieces together and what is in the best interest of the team or what I feel like gives us the best chance to win and adjust on the fly when injuries or other things take place that force you to make changes.

Q: Did his back pain have a big impact on his kicking last year?

BB: You'd have to ask him about that. He was active for every game. He played in every game. He kicked in every game.

Q: Is David Patten ahead of schedule? Does he look good to you right now?

BB: I think David has looked good. David's injuries occurred pretty early last year. They were in the early part of the season, so his rehab is almost a full calendar year. Not quite, but close relative to a guy who might have had a surgery or an injury at a later point, maybe after the season. I think he's significantly ahead of players that were rehabbing injuries that weren't addressed until that point. I think he's looked good. He's looked good all spring. He's looked good in the camps. He's looked good in the individual drills. He's in good condition and looks like he's ready to go.

Q: It seems like he still has a role here on the team even though you have a lot of younger receivers.

BB: Well, we'll see. Again, I think it is too early for anybody to establish a role at this point. That's what training camp and some of the preseason games are for, for players to be able to go out there and show that they can function in certain roles and develop those for themselves.

Q: Has Bethel Johnson done what you've expected of him during the offseason?

BB: I think Bethel has had a really good offseason, yes. He got slowed a little bit at the end of the spring, but overall I think he's had a really good offseason. I think he's improved in a lot of areas. How that carries over into the regular season and what that will do in the team concept remains to be seen, but individually Bethel, like a lot of other players, has worked on individual skills, individual techniques, aspects of his game that he can improve on on an individual basis. Now, again, how that fits into the big picture, we'll find that out in the next few weeks. I think he's worked extremely hard, and he's made a lot of individual, personal improvement. He's one of our offseason award winners, and he certainly deserves it. He earned it

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