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Bill Belichick Press Conf.Transcript 8/11/04

Belichick: We placed Zeron Flemister on injured reserve and Lonie Paxton is off the PUP. That is the update.


BB: We placed Zeron Flemister on injured reserve and Lonie Paxton is off the PUP. That is the update. We are going to finish our preparation on Philadelphia today in terms of the practice situations and we still have a couple of days to go back and mentally review a few things but the actual practice part of it will pretty much wind down here after today. We will make some decisions about the actual playing time and how we want to get everybody worked in there, some of that is depending on how some of the guys do today after they have worked this week and how much we will feel like they will be able to play and so forth. We really haven't made those determinations yet. I would say that would come later on tonight and tomorrow.

Q: What is your approach in the first preseason game?

BB: It would depend on a case-by-case basis. It wouldn't necessarily be the same for all of them. I am sure it won't be. I can tell you that. That I am sure of. I am sure some guys that you would say are starters that are going to be in there for longer or shorter times of duration than others in an equivalent type of position.

Q: Are the first two preseason games different from the third and the fourth because you are trying to get a look at as many different players as possible?

BB: It is a combination of getting a look at people and trying to get your team ready both on an individual player basis and trying to get your team ready from a scheme standpoint to get game reps at things that you are going to want to do during the season. So, it is trying to balance all of those things out. You don't always get it done but you go in with in a plan and then sometimes that is adjusted in the game. But it is a combination of putting all of those things together. You are worried about your schemes and getting those reps. You are worried about your individual players, you want to look at some guys you haven't seen. You want to get ready the guys who you think are going to play, you don't want to overdo it but you want to take advantage of the opportunities that you have because there really aren't that many. You just try to balance the whole thing out. Some positions you have three or four guys that you want to look at. In other positions, maybe you have some guys banged up and you only have a couple of people. It is not really a standard thing across the board. It really varies from player to player and from position to position and as you mentioned from game to game. Sometimes you get a better look at a guy in one game and then the next game you try to shift that look to somebody else and there may be some of that too. There may be guys that we play in this game that we'll say, 'We are looking to give this guy a long look this week,' and then give somebody else a longer look the next week. So, it is not really anything that is scientific or necessarily the same across the board. I don't think it will work that way.

Q: Would you have any thought on trading [Benjamin] Watson today?

BB: No.

Q: Would you care to elaborate?

BB: No.

Q: Would the field conditions on Friday impact who you would play in the game?

BB: Maybe if they were really severe, possibly. I am trying to think of a preseason game that I have been involved in that fell into that category. I really can't think of one. I doubt it. I wouldn't want to say 'No, there is no way.' Maybe there is some situation, but I can't recall one. It certainly could affect what you are doing. I don't think it would affect who we would play.

Q: With some of your offensive linemen not having practiced yet, does that limit your options in terms of the amount of time certain people would play? Does it increase the risk factor?

BB: I don't think it really changes what we would do. In some of the positions where we have fewer people, obviously the guys who are there have gotten more reps and more opportunity, and they have practiced more so I think they will be able to play more from a conditioning standpoint and in most cases, I think those players need the playing time anyway. The only way they are going to improve and the only way we are going to see how much they are improving is to put them out there and play. As I said earlier in camp, you hate to lose anybody, you would like to have a completely healthy team out there, realistically that is not the way it is in training camp, for us or for anybody else, and so it is unfortunate for the players who have to miss time but it provides more of an opportunity for the players in those positions in that they get more time. We can't control that, so we just take it for what it is and those guys will get more of a chance and will get a longer look.

Q: From the past few seasons in training camp, could you see things in the team that were tell-tale signs of where the team was going after the first preseason game?

BB: I think it varies from year to year and from game to game. Sometimes it is evident, certain things, you can just see by the way your team is playing, there are things that are evident about it. Sometimes that can be misleading because the team is not game planning for you or the way the competition unfolds, the matchups, because there are so many different people playing, so that can skew it a little bit. I don't think you really know until the regular season starts. But we will know based on this game things we need to work on, things that we don't execute well enough that we are going to have to allocate more time to it and try to get them executed at a higher level and whether that level will be good enough in the regular season, we are not going to know that until the regular season. Certainly there will be some things that will be highlighted in this game that we will need to address. That we will know. What the real strengths and weaknesses of the team are, I am not sure that will be evident until the real games start.

Q: The kick return game beyond Bethel Johnson, what are some of the things that can be done to continue to get better?

BB: I think it starts with good coaching. I think that Brad [Seely] does a really good job with the schemes and trying to utilize our personnel and create good matchups with our opponents. It comes from the continuity and the execution of all 11 guys on a play that is organized when the ball is kicked but as soon as they make contact with the ball, then every play if different, every situation is different and then a lot of it is instinctive and reactions on the run and trying to play within a certain frame work but everything is different. Experienced players, players that make good decisions, guys that can execute those assignments and play in the open field and make good judgments, those are all keys to it. Anytime on kickoff returns that you handle the ball cleanly, don't get penalties and don't have a major missed assignment, you are going to be okay. You might not be great, but you are going to be okay. If you can take that and have a couple of good blocks in there, or break a tackle, or do something that is just a little bit beyond okay, then you can create some good field position. If you had one of the major mistakes, bad ball handling, missed assignment or penalty, then you are probably looking at a poor starting field position. You definitely want to avoid those big mistakes on a return.

Q: You had some problems scoring in the red area last year and really just punching it in there. How do you improve that? Do you coach it better? Is it better execution from the players?

BB: Both. We spent a lot of time on it in the offseason. We looked at our red zone offense, we didn't look at all of it, but we certainly looked at those different situational aspects of it, red area, goal line, short yardage, third down, two-minute, second down. We broke it down to all of the categories. Some of the things are coaching things. They are technique things. There are formations, plays, that kind of thing. Others are execution and trying to create situations down there in the execution of the play that is a little different than what it is out on the field because the area that you are working in. So, it is definitely a combination of both with everybody understanding what exactly it is that we are trying to do and how to best get it done. You are working in a much smaller space and the plays are quicker. They happen quicker. The decisions have to be made quicker. Whatever the openings are, there are usually fewer of them, and they are smaller, running or passing.

Q: Acquiring Corey Dillon, was his production in the past in the red area a factor in trying to improve the production in the red area?

BB: Well, I think that is part of Corey's resume and part of what he has done. He is a power runner and having a power runner at that area of the field could be beneficial because, again, there are smaller spaces, there are going to be bodies in the way and you are going to have to deal with them. You just can't create the kind of space and separation that you could further out on the field. I think he is a good interior runner and he is good on the goal line so hopefully he will help our production down there. I think as a team, there are a lot of things we need to do better. I don't think one guy is going to come in and save the world. I think we are going to have to execute better collectively as a team and that includes our coaching of it and the timing of it and all of that.

Q: What is it about Mike Cloud that allowed him to be productive down there? Is there anything special about him that enabled him to do that?

BB: Well, I think that Mike has good running skills. He has good vision. He plays with a good pad level. A lot of times he has fallen forward on contact because of his body strength. He is a good instinctive runner.

Q: Do you give the team any idea of how much each of the units should expect to play on Friday?

BB: Yes, we will. We will tell them, 'Be prepared to play for 60 minutes at any time. We don't know what is going to happen on Friday night and neither does anyone else. Everybody has to be ready, but here is the general plan. This is what we would anticipate in general terms. Here is how we anticipate the game going,' but making sure we leave the door open, 'In no way are you off the hook. If we come to you on a short yardage play and say so and so is out you have to go in and play short yardage.' 'I didn't think I would have to go back in.' Everybody has to be prepared to play the entire 60 minutes. Mentally, that is the way we approach every game, so there is no reason to not approach it that way. Now, we might as well get into that habit and try to mentally, even though everybody can't be in the game all of the time, everybody can mentally be in the game, just like they would be in a regular game.

Q: You have been around when they used to have six preseason games and now there are four. Is there any advantage to having less or more preseason games?

BB: Well, the six preseason games came with a 14-game regular season schedule. So, it was still 20 scheduled games, but the breakdown was a little bit different.

Q: As far as preparing for the regular season.

BB: Well, you had more time and you could get your players more playing time leading into the regular season. When you had a six game preseason, you could play guys in that third or fourth preseason game pretty close to the whole game, which builds up their stamina and all of that close to the regular season. Here it is a four game preseason, you are on a little bit of a different scenario. You could do it that way, but you run the risk of too much too soon because you don't have that many games in front of them. You don't have the amount of training camp in front of them to build up to that. Whatever it is, we can work with, we can deal with, however many there are. Not everybody participates in all of those, with injuries, etc. Some guys play in one or two preseason games. Some guys don't play in any. Some guys play in all of them. There is certainly a way to manage whatever the situation is. You just have to adjust to it.

Q: There has been talk of maybe moving to a two or three game preseason. Do you think that is a realistic scenario?

BB: I don't know. That's not really anything I would have any input on or decide. You would have to talk to somebody a lot higher up than I am for that one.

Q: As a coach, how would a difference in the number of preseason games affect things?

BB: Whatever it is, it is. If that's what it is, we will deal with it…if it's two, if it's four, if it's six, if it's none, whatever it is. Everybody is playing by the same rules. We'll take opportunities and try to do the best we can with them. It doesn't really matter to me. Whatever it is, it is. We'll deal with it.

Q: How do you decide which situational plays you will work on during camp?

BB: We categorize all of them. We go through all the situations. We talk about what we want to tell the players to do in those situations. [We] try to think it through, what's the best way to coach it, how to group them together so that you're not trying to remember a hundred different things, but in these situations you do this and in these situations you do that. You cover them over a period of time. I don't think you can stand up in front of a team and say, 'Okay, we're going to go through situations one through 120.' You pick out a few today. You pick out a few the next day. You just kind of build along so that cumulatively they build up over a week or 10-day period of time.

Q: What if there is situation that comes up in a game that you haven't seen in 20 years? Do you make it a point to cover that situation in the next year's training camp?

BB: I would say there are not too many of those that come up with the players. Sometimes, they come up with the coaches, like, 'What are we going to do in this situation.' Here is an unusual situation that came up in another game. What would we do? How would we strategically handle that? Do we have a play in that situation that would handle it? Do we have something that is what we're looking for, or do we need to make an adjustment in something that we have if that is the case? There are a lot of experienced coaches on this staff. I'm not saying we've experienced everything, far from it. But we've coached in a lot of games, and we've seen a lot of situations. There aren't too many new ones where you sit back at the end of the year and say, 'Boy, those 50 things that happened to us last year, what are we going to do about that?' There may be one or two, but usually they pretty well fall into the categories that we have defined. We may need to make a little adjustment from time to time, especially as people play it differently. The onside kicks [are an example]. A few years ago, the really high bounce kick that we see now, nobody was doing that. Now everybody is doing it. You have to play that one a little bit differently than kind of the low line driver like Indianapolis did to us last year. We have all seen that where they huddle right behind the kicker and he kind of dribbles it slowly and everybody goes after it right in the middle. So, things like that come up from time to time that you have to be progressive and move ahead on, but overall I would say they are pretty limited.

Q: When you choose the players to make up a position, do you pick the best players or the players that compliment each other well? [i.e. the five best wide receivers or the five that offer the most variation in terms of size, etc.]

BB: I think that is a good question and it really comes down, when you make those final roster decisions, it comes down to, in the end, who are the five best players for the team? I don't think we've ever made a decision here based on a player's height, or based on his vertical jump, or based on his weight. We base it more on his football production and performance. I understand what you're saying, there are some guys that differentiate themselves from others, and therefore, they may have a skill that, because it's different, that skill may be more valuable to you. That comes a little bit with the make-up of your team. Could it happen? It could happen because of the skills and the production the player has as opposed to his physical attributes. Those are the kinds of decisions that you have to make at the end of your training camp and the final cuts and decide what guys are the best ones for your team. You take a lot of things into consideration. You have to take in their offensive or defensive role. You have to take in their role in the kicking game. You have to take into consideration your depth at the position. You have to take into consideration practice. Let's put it this way, it's hard to have two or three guys at the same position that you know can't practice for a whole year. Maybe they can practice once a week. Maybe they have a lot of maintenance, they can still play. Somehow you're going to have to compensate for that in one way or another. You're looking at how you're going to be early in the year. You're trying to project how you think things will move along. If you think you have a couple of young players that, they're not there yet but in time you think they will be valuable for you, then you find a spot for them in order to address some needs you think you're going to have later on down the line when you think or hope they will develop. It's really a very unscientific process. You try to take everything you can into consideration and do what you think is best, but there is really no way to determine how that is going to turn out until you look at the whole picture. Sometimes you have guys on PUP that may be coming back onto your roster that might affect you at a later point in time. It's really hard to say.

Q: Is your general rule of thumb to look for the five best?

BB: Well, the ones that are the most valuable to the team. Let's put it this way, your five best receivers might not be your five most valuable players on the team when you take into consideration special teams and when you take into consideration a six-game schedule as opposed to what you're dealing with right there at that point in time. When you see guys shifting in their career, one guy is going up the other guy is maybe hitting the tail end of it. You have to try to gauge at what point those lines intersect.

Q: Would you put David Givens in that category with his special teams contributions during his rookie year?

BB: I think a lot of rookies you can put in that category. He is definitely a guy that helped himself on special teams. We have a lot of players on our team that have very little offensive or defensive playing time but have a lot of special teams playing time. Again, you have to be able to make up your team so you can cover all the situations and all the aspects of the game. How that turns out, a lot of it plays off each other. What you do at linebacker has something to do with what you do at tight end and what you do at running back. What you do at receiver is going to have something to do with what you do at tight end and what you do with your defensive backs, especially when you cross over into special teams.

Q: Have you ever had a situation where a guy surprised you in the wrong way, meaning he practiced really well and then performed poorly in the game?

BB: Sure, yes there are some players who are better game players than they are practice players, and there are some players who are better practice players than they are game players. For whatever the reasons are, they definitely can fall into those categories. I think the point I was trying to make before is that execution in practice can then become reality in the game. If you run a play and it doesn't look good in practice, you're not executing it well in practice, for that play to look good in the game, you're betting long odds. This just isn't going to happen very often. If you've done it well in practice, then your players have confidence in it. They know how to do it. It might not work great in the game, but if you get something about the play corrected, whatever went wrong, I think eventually it's going to be reality in the game. It will work close to the way it's been practiced because everybody has confidence in it, and they know what to do. That is really what the progression is for us. That practice execution becomes game reality, hopefully, at some point. Specific players, yes. I remember going back to when I was a kid, coaches at Navy talking about Joe Bellino as not being a great practice player. He was a game player. How did he look in practice? He never looks very good, but he's great in the games. That kind of stuck with me that there are guys like that. You certainly see it the other way around. When the game starts, for whatever reason, some players just don't execute quite as well in the game when the lights come on, as they do in a practice scenario. Unfortunately, all our games are played sold out. The pressure, whatever it is, is going to be there. I'm going to be there. The other coaches are going to be there. The fans are going to be there. The games are on TV; they are all going to see them. If that's something that affects a player's performance, that is something that is going to continue to affect it. That's the only way we play.

Q: Is it right to assume that someone can play their way off the team in this first game, or is it too early for that?

BB: I don't think we would try to judge a guy by one play or maybe by a small number of plays. I think you try to make the evaluation over an extended period of time. If you see something that is too high or too low over a short period of time, you want to give it more time if you can, if you have the days to do it and see how that levels out or where that levels out. I think if you were to release a player after the first preseason game it would probably be a confirmation of things you had seen leading up to that game and then, 'Okay, let's see what happens in a real game. Does it change?' Then, 'No, I think we pretty much know what we have here. It's time to move on.' It probably would be the result of practices that led up to that.

Q: What is the likelihood that we see Troy Brown on defense this Friday?

BB: It's possible.

Q: What is the genesis behind the decision to try Troy Brown on defense?

BB: You have to build your depth. You can't have a backup for every position. With a 45-man roster, with the quarterbacks, with the kickers and snappers and all that, you're down in the 30's. You just can't back up every spot, especially when you get into multiple receiver and multiple tight end groups. If you're playing five defensive backs, you would have to have 10 defensive backs for each one to be backed up by a guy, so some people are going to have to double up somewhere. It builds your depth. We saw many situations last year where we need to move people around, and that comes from having a background on it. I don't think you want to wait until some week in the middle of the season when you're short on a spot and say, 'Today you will learn how to play this position.' You try to build that depth ahead of time. Training camp is the best time to do it if you can, and Troy is a pretty experienced player on offense, so…not that he doesn't need practice over there because he does, but he also has a lot of experience over there. I think he can afford a little bit of time trying to help learn to do something else.

Q: Would you say that he could afford to be taken off of offense to play defense because he knows this offense so well?

BB: I don't really think that's the point of it. It's not to take him off of something else. It's to add to his value and to the team's versatility. I don't think it's to take away from anything. It's to add to it. We've used [David] Givens on defense. He played corner a couple of years ago in preseason. [David] Patten, maybe he'll do it, too. I don't know.

Q: After losing [tight end] Zeron Flemister, who else on the roster could build depth behind Christian Fauria and Daniel Graham?

BB: I think our bigger receivers and our backs are going to have to assume some kind of, maybe not tight end, but they are going to have to assume some type of a role similar to what a tight end would do. So, instead of having three receivers and a tight end and a back on the field, it's probably going to be three receivers and two backs, or [we will] use bigger receivers to do some of the things at those inside positions that the tight end would do.

Q: Have you noticed improvement during this camp with those players who spent the beginning of this year in NFL Europe?

BB: I think that the year over there helped the kids that we sent. The ones that were over there that we didn't have it would be hard for me to judge, like [Lawrence] Flugence or David Pruce or guys like that because we didn't have them, so I'm not really sure what the incremental value was. For [Chas] Gessner, [Jamil] Soriano, [Rohan] Davey, we didn't have [Scott] Farley for very long, we saw him a little bit last year, I think it benefited all those players. Yes, I definitely do. They all needed game experience, and they all got a lot of it. I think that they have more confidence and just kind of play the game better than they played it a year ago. They also have another year of experience in our system, and they've matured and developed just as players, so that's probably contributed to it as well. I think the Europe experience helped those guys as well, yes.

Q: Did those players experience an offensive system similar to the one here while in Europe?

BB: Yes, I think there were some similarities. Again, a lot of that is game planned or how Berlin played Scotland or whoever they played. I'm sure that it varied a lot from game to game as well. I think more the experience of playing and knowing how to play and minimizing mistakes by doing things fundamentally correctly. With [Jamil] Soriano or [Chas] Gessner or [Rohan] Davey, getting off the line, ball handling, pass sets, decision-making, all those kinds of things, I think that definitely helped. I'm not saying it took it from one to 100, but I think it helped incrementally.

Q: How is Josh Miller's timing and holding working out? Is that something you watch closely, or is Brad Seely the only one who works with that?

BB: Brad works more closely with it than I do, but we've certainly been keeping an eye on it. I think it's definitely coming along. It's better now than it was in the spring. It's better now than it was earlier in camp, and hopefully it will continue to progress. I think that that operation is becoming more consistent, and we have a long way to go. We're going to continue to work with Josh [Miller]. I think he's shown enough and has been consistent and dependable enough up to this point to merit continuing to work with that. I think that if we could continue to improve it could be all right, but we still have a ways to go.

Q: Would Tom Brady be the next guy in line to be the holder after Josh Miller?

BB: He is one consideration. All the quarterbacks are going to need to do it. We have a couple of receivers that could do it. Right now, the problem is you don't want to work eight different holders. We will kind of go where we are for awhile, see how that plays out. Then if we need to go to the next one, then based on what else they're doing or how the roster looks it might be setting up who to spend time with. You hate to put a lot of new guys in there and mess up the whole timing operation. You like to work with as few as possible, really no more than two. That is not always possible. Anytime you're using a regular player to do that, not that a punter is not a regular player, but say you used your receiver, pick a name, to do it. If something happens to him, now you're out two spots. You're out a receiver, and you're out a holder. Now you're bringing a new guy into that operation. You really have to think about that one before you take one of your starting skill players, be it a receiver or defensive back, and put them into that role because you could be looking at making a change a key time that could be difficult.

Q: Is that a reason why you wouldn't want Tom Brady holding, because he might get hurt?

BB: I don't think it's so much about getting him hurt. I don't know how many holders get hurt holding. When you look back at football, there were a lot of guys that played a lot that were holders…receivers, Larry Wilson, guys like that. They were full-time players, and you had 30-man rosters, so it was a whole different scenario. The ideal situation is to have your punter do it because your punter, your snapper, and your kicker have all that practice time that they could work on it and get everything ironed out, and that is a primary job for them. If you give it to somebody else, say [Tom] Brady, he has a lot of other stuff to do, so it's another rock on the pile. Not that he can't do it, but there are only so many hours in a day for him, so for him to stay after practice and throw to receivers and throw to tight ends and still allocate the same time [for holding]. You have one guy doing a lot of things. It just cuts into the whole time that is available. It's not the ideal situation, but if you had to do it you could do it. You just have to make it work

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