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Bill Belichick Press Conf.Transcript 8/10/04

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BB: I just have one injury to report. Zeron Flemister ruptured his Achilles tendon yesterday, so that will be the end of his season. This morning we started to work on Philadelphia. This morning we hit the running and play-action portions of our game plan on both sides of the ball and some kickoff stuff. This afternoon we will move into the passing game, second and long, third down, and then tomorrow we will hit some of the situational things like goal line, red area, short yardage, two-minute, situations like that. Then we'll wrap it up and be ready to go on Friday night. This is kind of a preparation time for us, trying to make sure that we, at least as much as possible, rehearse the things we're going to do in the game and give the players a chance to execute them and have some idea of what Philadelphia does. They have been in the NFC Championship game the last three years, [they are] a really good football team, [they] have a lot of good players, well-coached, solid in all three areas of the game. I'm sure this will be a good test for us to get some idea, some indication, of how things are coming along at this point in our camp. We're looking forward to that. [We are] kind of going through the dog days of camp here. It will be good to see some different faces, a little different scheme, some things we haven't been working on, and see how that shapes up.

Q: You have had four practices now to see Dana Stubblefield. How is he doing and how is he acclimating to the system?

BB: I think he has quite a ways to go, but it's coming along. The first time through is always a little bit tougher as players do things that they've done before. You're able to correct what they are doing on tape. They do it, they see the corrections, and then start doing it again. You usually see some improvement in that. I think that's kind of the stage we're going through right now with Dana. He has a lot of experience playing on the defensive line. Some of our techniques are a little bit different. I think he understands them. It will take some time for him to get fully comfortable with them, but we're going through that process.

Q: Yesterday you said that the players this year competing for the nose tackle spot are probably better equipped than the players that competed for that spot last year.

BB: What I said was that the players this year, because we've kind of re-defined the position a little bit, we're asking the players this year to do things a little bit differently than we did last year. The players this year are more able to do that. The ones that we had last year, because we were stunting a little bit more, moving a little bit more, that was a little bit more geared toward their style of play. That's why they were in there.

Q: Does Dana Stubblefield fall into that category to compete for the nose tackle spot?

BB: Well, Dana has versatility. I think he'll get work at all spots. Right now, he has mainly gotten work at end.

Q: Are you surprised at the versatility of Troy Brown and David Patten, wide receivers who are smaller in size?

BB: I think they both have a lot of good attributes for the position. They know how to get open. They have good hands. Their skills are a little bit different but effective. They continue to get open with those skills, their speed, their quickness, their overall route-running ability. They are pretty dependable catchers. They are both pretty durable guys, for the most part. Not that they haven't missed a few plays like everybody else has, but they are tough guys, let's put it that way.

Q: Are you amazed that Troy Brown, an eighth-round pick, is still going after 12 years in the league?

BB: Again, I think he has a lot of good qualities. He's probably one of the strongest players, pound for pound, one of the strongest players on our team, [and] probably one of the strongest players in the league for what his size is. He is in the 190's and [has] quickness, too. For a guy that has that kind of strength and that kind of quickness, and his hands are exceptional, plus he's a smart route runner and he knows how to set people up and knows how to get open, you have a lot to work with there.

Q: Are you trying Troy Brown at corner?

BB: Well, he has gotten some reps on defense. He is a three-way performer. Offense, defense, special teams, he's working in all three areas.

Q: How much in the game this Friday will be looking at veterans, looking at what you've installed so far this season, and looking at guys you have yet to see in game conditions?

BB: It all goes into it. I think some of that varies on a case-by-case basis. All veterans aren't veterans. They fall into different categories for one reason or another. Some scheme things we [will] look at that are not all quite the same. Some will fit better against the Eagles. Some, we might get a better look at them against Cincinnati or Carolina as we move forward. A lot of that varies on the situation, but it all comes into play. We're definitely looking at how the new people, how their progress is coming along, where we can project them to fit in. We want to try to reassess veteran players, guys that have been around here that we know the levels they've been at and to try to see where they are in relation to what that has been in the past. There certainly are a lot of scheme things to evaluate. You certainly have to take into consideration who is playing on the other side of the ball. As we have different types of players and players with different skill sets, even at the same position on our team, Philadelphia will have that same situation on their team. You kind of have to be aware of the matchups. As you're evaluating a player say, 'Who are they going against,' and 'What type of player are they going against.' Some guys fare better against certain styles of players than others.

Q: For this first game, are any of those areas of consideration more weighted than others?

BB: I think you try to combine them all. When you're looking at your scheme, you're looking at your scheme and you're looking at the players who are doing that, and you're trying to get an evaluation of them. There may be a few isolated specific examples where we really want to get a look at something, let's make sure that we see it. I think that those are all interrelated. We'll talk about the scheme things that we want to try to run. We'll talk about the players that we want to play and the playing time they will be allocated. When those players come up we'll evaluate it as it happens.

Q: Are you better equipped to evaluate some of the new guys since you have been in this system for five years?

BB: I don't know. That's a tough question. I don't know whether we are or not. All I know is that we have to evaluate the players who have fewer opportunities to rep plays, and unless you let them run those plays enough so they have some confidence in them, they really know how to do it, then it's hard to evaluate somebody who is not fully confident in what they are doing. We tried to take some of that practice time yesterday to let those guys run plays that they're going to be running against Philadelphia, plays that are more basic plays, plays that they should know and be familiar with, and we'll give them the chance to execute those in the game. Whereas, the Sunday evening practice, for the most part, the players that got the majority of the reps in that practice were some of our more experienced players, and some of the guys that right now would get maybe less playing time in the Philadelphia game. Again, to play some of these younger kids longer in the Eagle game, we have to make sure that they can execute well enough the things that we are going to call. That's what we tried to do with yesterday afternoon's practice. Charlie [Weis] and Romeo [Crennel] took some of the other guys and went through some stuff with them that, in all honesty, is maybe a little bit too advanced for some of the younger guys, and it would just probably be more confusing than it would be really enlightening.

Q: Can you talk about what you need from the fullback position and how it is a little bit of a hybrid position?

BB: Well, what we need from the fullback position is, when we call on plays that involve that, that we get production from it, and what we really need is production from our offense regardless of who or where that comes from. But the fullback position specifically is called on to do a multiple number of jobs. The two primary ones are the lead blocker in the running game, or point-of-attack blocker in the running game, and blitz pickup in pass protection. Now, there are a lot of other things that come with that. There are some plays where they carry the ball and there are plays where they catch it, but they are not the primary ball handlers in the offense, although they have to be prepared to do it and do it effectively when they are given the opportunity. But, blitz pickup and point-of-attack blocking in the running game are two critical areas. One thing about the fullback position is that, just by the nature of that position, there is a lot of decision making that goes on there. A lot of times the plays that those guys are involved in are not cut and dry, they are not clear-cut. They need to decide if they need to go around a blocker to get to the linebacker, or whether they can get through the gap, or how quickly they need to step up in protection without getting in the way of the offensive linemen, at the same time blocking the guy that they have to get, sorting things out that happen in front of them. Sometimes offensive linemen make a mistake, they get confused in the front, or a guy comes free and the fullback has to clean that up and take the guy who is on block. It isn't always the guy that he is assigned to, sometimes when the defense stunts and a lot of things happen on the move and they happen quickly, the fullback who is the second-level player has to kind of sort that out and block the guy who is free or fix the problem. So, there is a lot of decision making in that position relative to other positions, and that is a key component of doing pass protection and point-of-attack run blocking.

Q: How is David Patten doing coming off of his injury and do you have any idea as to where he will fit in?

BB: No I don't have any idea. That will all be determined by the performance of him and the other receivers that are competing for those spots. I think his return to training camp this year has been good. He looks good, he looks fast, he looks quick, I think he has caught the ball well. I think that he is having a good camp. He has a good positive attitude like he always does, and I think that he is working hard. I think David Patten is giving us what he has got, which is pretty good. How that will stack up against everyone else and how that will come out, I really don't know.

Q: Are Rohan Davey and Kliff Kingsbury going at a speed that is good for you?

BB: Well, I think at this point, you always like to see everybody move faster. Your whole team you would like to see move along quicker and individually you like to see everybody move ahead a little bit faster than they are. But, that being said, I'm not disappointed in it, but you are always looking to push harder and move further ahead, so those guys have gotten a lot more reps than they got last year. I think they are significantly ahead of where they were last year and a big test for them will be what they do in these preseason games when they come under fire in game conditions, when we take the red jerseys off and they are live bait like everybody else is, and the game situations move less predictably than in practice and more frequently. So, we will see how that plays out. But I think that their preparation and their overall approach to the camp has been good. Hopefully that will translate onto the field when they get an opportunity to do it.

Q: Rohan says he feels more comfortable this season.

BB: I don't think there is any question about that. He is doing things this year that he just didn't do last year. He is much, not only more comfortable, but he recognizes things at a quicker rate and has made better decisions, hasn't gotten fooled as much, and when things have been cloudy I think he has made better decisions overall than he has in the last couple of years. To me, it is one of those things that has really jumped out in this camp. The coaches notice it, the defensive players notice it and I think that it is something that has stood out to pretty much everybody who has watched him, that where he is now relative to last year is a significantly higher point.

Q: How much planning goes into a preseason game in terms of how much analyzing and taking time to focus on their team?

BB: Well, I think that that is a good question. I think you want to have enough of a game plan so you give the players a chance. There is no sense in running a play in the game that you know you don't have a chance on—you are running it into a look that you have nobody to block the guy, and he is going to hit the runner for no gain and you just don't have a good play. There is no point in really doing that. On the other hand, I don't think that there is really a whole lot to be gained by cooking up some trick play, scheme play that really gets you a lot of easy yardage because this scheme beats that scheme and as soon as they alter it, you don't really have anything. That is not really it either. I think you want to play the game on a level that is competitive, that for you to legitimately make plays your players have to go out and execute a fundamental, basic scheme against an opponent that is probably doing about the same thing. Now, that is no perfect scenario, sometimes schemes do get mismatched in games and you do luck into a play that is really maybe a little more than you were hoping for. You want something where your players are challenged by the look and they have to competitively make something happen rather than it just falling into their lap because it is a good matchup. So, I don't think you want to over-scheme, but at the same time I don't think you want to under-scheme and try to throw out cuts into corners who are standing two yards outside of the receivers. That doesn't really do anything either. So, you try to find a balance in there, and as you play more people, one thing that you can't do is you can't have one set of plays for these guys who are more experienced players and then another set of plays for a less experienced group or you end up having 1,000 plays. You have to pick out things that basically everybody can run because you really don't know who is going to be in there on third and ten. It could be one group of guys in the middle of the fourth quarter or it could be another group of guys and you don't want to be sitting there saying 'we are going to call this play when he is in there and another play when somebody else is in there'. It is just too hard to manage a game like that. So, everybody has got to be able to play to a certain level.

Q: Does having to game plan for a preseason game take away from the training camp practices?

BB: No, I think we are at the point that we need to do that. We have worked against ourselves now for 17-18 practices and we have seen what we do. We have seen plenty of it, and we have had problems with it on both sides of the ball, but there are also things that we don't do that other teams will do. The most obvious example is on the offense. We are going against a 3-4 defense and we are getting great work against it. But, we are not going to see that that much during the year. The teams in our division, the majority of the teams we play will not be in a 3-4 defense so our guards for example, at least one guard, is probably going to have a guy lined up on him every play this year with very few exceptions and you look out there now and there is never a guy lined up on him until we go to third down sub-defense. So, we need to see that. We need to see how our guards are going to block people that are lined up right on them as opposed to linebackers who are off of them. I'm not saying that is easy because it creates some other problems for them, but we need to see how they are going to play down guys. Same thing with our center. Our centers are covered every single play. I mean, they are never uncovered. There are going to be times when they are going to be uncovered during the year and their assignments and their techniques and their ability to block linebackers in space rather than a guy who is lined up two inches away from him, it is a totally different skill and a different evaluation as well. I think the things that we will see from Philadelphia and Cincinnati and Carolina, those will all be good things for us to see because those teams because those teams have a different style of play than we do. And at the same time I'm sure that they are going to need to see some different coverages, or different looks or whatever it is that they will eventually see during the season that their team doesn't run everything that they are going to face.

Q: Can you talk about Fred McCrary and how he has been doing?

BB: I think Fred has had a good year starting with the offseason program, I thought he got off to a good start in the spring. He has worked hard, he is in good condition, he has really shown that physically he has a good level of skill, and I think that the opportunities he has had, he has performed pretty solidly with them. And, again, we have asked him to do a variety of things. We have had a couple of times when we have been a little bit short at the tight end position, and not that he has been playing tight end, but at times he has had to take on some of those tight end-type responsibilities on certain plays so I think he is expanding his versatility and role in the offense. He has a good attitude, he has worked hard and he has been out there every day.

Q: How smart does a fullback have to be?

BB: I think it is not only being smart, but also being a good decision maker. And a fullback, there are so many plays where he really has to make a choice and he has to do the right thing. And the guy carrying the ball, we talk about the fullback being the eyes for the running back, and he really is. When the fullback makes the decision as to what hole to and how to make the block, most of the time, not all of the time, but most of the time, the running back had really got to follow him, because if he loses the fullback then he loses that block and we don't have anything. So, the fullback makes a bad decision and a lot of times, that means the running back can't make a good decision either, whatever he does. So, the decision making, as well as the overall intelligence and versatility, doing different jobs, that is important, but the decision making is very important as well. Believe me, the way you draw it up to block a play, here is the line, here is their front, here is who blocks who and the fullback has this guy, it doesn't always work out that way by a long shot and the fullback has to sort the whole situation out and then react to what is happening in front of him. Sometimes guys get beaten, the guy at the line of scrimmage gets beaten, and the fullback either has to make a decision to block the guy of the guy who got beaten or go block his guy. There is no sense in running past one guy to block somebody else and letting somebody who got beaten make the tackle. And he doesn't have long to make that, a lot of times he gets surprised. It doesn't happen the way it is supposed to happen, he has to react to something right off the bat that wasn't supposed to happen this way but he has got to instinctively make a decision. And that is a big part of that position, the decision making, particularly when it doesn't happen the way it is supposed to happen

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