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Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript - 8/18/2003

Belichick: With two games in 10 day, we are trying to get ready for Philadelphia and begin our preparations for Buffalo



BB: Well today and the start of this week is one of the transitional times in training camp where we really are moving from a preseason schedule into a regular season schedule. We're not all the way there yet, one way or the other, but we are certainly moving in that direction. We have two games in the next 10 days so we're also in a situation where we are trying to manage [with] finishing up the Washington game and getting ready for Philadelphia and beginning our preparations for Buffalo as that information comes in, talking about personnel and there are a number of things going on and we're just trying to transition there from one stage to another. We have one roster move to announce today and that will be the release of Otis Smith later on this afternoon. Nobody has more respect for Otis than I do. He's an ultimate professional, a team player. He was part of a championship team here and Otis is a true champion. It's a difficult roster decision that we made. Again, with only 10 days and only a limited number of reps in practice, we have to decide how we are going to manage them and give them to the other people that are here. It's always difficult when you have to have that kind of conversation with a player, especially one like Otis that I have so much respect for and I know our team and our organization does as well. That's pretty much where we are. We've got a lot of work to do coming up this week, even in the next 10 days. We have a lot of challenges ahead of us and we have got to move forward.

**Q: Was it purely because he wasn't on the field or was it a combination of age and good enough people back there?

BB:** It mainly comes down to the fact that we have 10 days. We have two games and we can only give so many people so many opportunities. The guys that are here are going to get them.

**Q: Could his age be a factor in his injury healing process? Could it be taking longer?

BB:** No. That is not really what it is about.

**Q: How did he take the news?

BB:** I don't want to speak for Otis. I am sure he was disappointed.

**Q: Do you think it is an open door for him to return?

BB:** Things can always change. Nobody knows how things are going to go down the road or how it is going to turn out. They definitely could change. Yes.

**Q: Was this a situation where you hoped in a couple of weeks he could get back out there?

BB:** Well, sure. We would have liked to have all of our players out there all the way through training camp. Sometimes it doesn't always work out that way. Again, more importantly, we are at a point in time in training camp where we're getting ready for the regular season. We are making some decisions and we are going to have to make some more of them. Today is one of them.

**Q: Coach, this might be a stupid question…

BB:** No questions are stupid questions.

**Q: Well, you haven't heard my question yet. [Laughter]

BB:** Oh, okay. I'll wait then.

**Q: You talked about the tough parts of your job. How tough of a part is this? It's never easy is it?

BB:** Yeah, this is the hardest part of the job. It is the hardest part of the job. When you ask players to go out there and do everything they can and lay it on the line for you and train hard and prepare hard and go out and play hard for you and they do that, it's hard to tell them for whatever reason you don't have an opportunity for them anymore. It's a very difficult thing to do especially with a player like Otis who has played for me in two different organizations and under three different settings. He's been part of a lot of winning football games. He's made a lot of big plays in championship games and has helped our teams be successful. I have all of the respect in the world for Otis.

**Q: Talking about chemistry in the locker room, veterans tend to react to these things like maybe Lawyer Milloy or Ty Law.

BB:** It's a tough part of training camp for all of us. Teams never stay the same from year-to-year, there are always some changes and sometimes changes are hard thing but we are going to have to get over it and move on. It happens every year. It's never easy. Sometimes it is harder than others, but it is never easy. That goes for everybody, the coaches, the players, all the other people that have attachment. It's just human nature. Has it been announced to the team yet? Yes.

**Q: Does this have anything to do with having the two rookie corners doing well?

BB:** Well, obviously it is somewhat of a factor, because with the plays and the opportunities that we have coming up where you give them to the people that are here and they are here. I can't deny it. It is definitely a factor.

**Q: What was his reaction?

BB:** Again, I don't want to speak for Otis but I would say disappointed is one term.

**Q: Is it tougher with some guys than it is with others? Is it the same?

BB:** It's not all the same. You are talking about lives. We are talking about human lives and families, it affects a lot of people. It affects us. It affects them. It is a part of the job. We go to camp with 80 players and we are going to cut to 53, everybody knows that and it is the same on every team. 27 players can't make it. That's the way it is every year. That is why this sport is the great sport that it is. It is all about competition and not everybody can do it. Not everybody gets a chance to do and not everybody can have it come out the way they want it to come out. Sooner or later it ends for everybody. That's not specific towards any player. That is the name of the game. That is the way it is for all of us.

**Q: Has he been offered any jobs on your staff?

BB:** No.

**Q: Is he a guy who might have a coaching future? Do you detect that?

BB:** I think Otis has a lot of great qualities, I am certainly not saying that. I think at this point in time we have a coaching staff in place and I think they are doing a good job. That wasn't really ever part of any discussion that we had.

**Q: Right now, are you leading towards a starter at that position?

BB:** No. I think we will keep watching them play.

**Q: Is Corbin Lacina here?

BB:** No.

**Q: Is he headed here?

BB:** I really can't say anything about that situation. If we have something to announce we will announce it. Any players that aren't on our roster, I don't think it would be appropriate for me to comment about. I am not trying to give you a Sergeant Schultz answer or anything. When we have something we will give it to you. We don't have anything right now.

**Q: With Michael Vick's injury, does that kind of reinforce the importance of getting through the preseason injury free?

BB:** Well, that is always the goal. You just have to balance it with trying to get your team ready. We could not practice. We could not play in the preseason games. We could just sit around and wait until the regular season starts and probably not get anybody hurt, but then is your team ready? That is the next question. You try to balance the two out. You want to be ready. You wan to try to prevent any injuries, all of them. Unfortunately, some of them happen. There is no way you can tell who it is going to be or when it's going to be or what position or what play or anything else. The Jets lost Vinny Testaerde for the year when he was handing off. You just never know. That is an unfortunate thing that happened. There are other things you can do from a precautionary nature and what I would say coaching smart and playing smart but in terms of preventing anything from happening, I don't know how you can do it. At some point you are going to have to accept some degree of risk to get your team ready to play in a regular season football game. That is what you are trying to manage, that balance.

**Q: If Otis were the Otis of last season at training camp, would this have happened?

BB:** Well, it's hard to tell what would be different if things were different. I don't know. All I know is the way things are. Otherwise, it is hard to tell what if something was different what would happen. I don't know.

**Q: Do you have of sense of when he could get on the field?

BB:** I think he could get back on the field soon. I don't think that is a big issue.

**Q: With Bethel Johnson, he had the fumble on a kickoff return and then a touchdown off a kickoff return.

BB:** You can't get any further on the spectrum than those. That is the pendulum swung to both extremes.

**Q: Which one sticks out in your mind more?

BB:** Well they both stick out. I think the one thing you can say about Bethel is he has produced some plays in the preseason. Sometimes you get players that you look for those kind of plays and they never happen. You think they can happen. There is potential for them to happen, but they just don't happen. But Bethel, he has made the big plays in both the kickoff return game and the passing game offensively. They are there. He has also made some mistakes. That's not uncommon for rookies. We want to try to keep putting him in position and have him be productive making the positive plays and weed out the ones that aren't as good. How much that happens or if it happens at all or how quickly it happens, we are still in that evaluation process. Some of those plays [have] got to go. Two weeks in a row, the ball has been on the ground. Two weeks in a row, he has made big plays in the kicking game. I think we all know what we have here and where we want to go, we just have to see how that works out.

**Q: With Michael Vick getting injured, from a business standpoint, isn't that like shutting down your business? How difficult is it to protect your commodities? Will preseason games come into question?

BB:** I don't know. That's a pretty heavy question there. I don't know the answer to all of those. Really, I am not big on talking about 2001, but back in the 2001 season, we had some injuries. We had some guys that couldn't play and we gave opportunities to other players and they ended up doing okay with them. Sometimes that happens too. That is why football is the game that it is. Negative things, you hope some how you can turn it into a positive. I am not trying to say that is a positive what happened in Atlanta but when it happens to you, when you lose a key player, then that gives somebody else an opportunity. Whether it is that person who replaces them or collectively the rest of the group that works to overcome it. Sometimes it brings you together, sometimes, somebody steps up that you don't expect to be productive. If you have a good team or are going to have a good team, some of that is going to have to happen. If it doesn't happen, then cripple effects will all show up in the standings.

**Q: Is training camp ever going to be watered down?

BB:** We've talked about that before. Maybe the preseason is watered down, but that has been offset by the offseason program. Again, the bottom line is I think you want to have the team and the players ready to go out there and play a very tough, physical, competitive game. A certain amount of training and preparation is going to have to go into that and I would imagine that there is going to be a certain amount of injuries that go with it. Rather than just start from scratch and go out and have everybody healthy and turn them loose. I think you are looking at more problems doing it that way. I am sure everything will be looked at and studied. Maybe there is a better way to do. If there is and we all agree to it, then it is fine with me.

**Q: Should they put the quarterbacks in red jerseys?

BB:** The defensive players would love that. That is the way they think it is now.

**Q: [On Bethel Johnson's kickoff return for a touchdown in comparison to home run hitting]

BB:** I think those big plays can come in several different fashions. Sometimes you can scheme them. Sometimes a player just makes a great play where you really almost have nothing and he just makes a great play. Sometimes it's a major mistake by the other team that is not that great of a play, it wasn't that great of a scheme, they just screwed it up and let the guy for a long touchdown. It happens a lot of different ways. Certainly from our standpoint, we want to try to be alert so that if the other team does make an error, we are able to capitalize on it and make them pay for it and not just get a five yard gain or not just bat the ball down but just try to turn it into more than that. Sometimes we try to create plays where we think we have the chance to hit the defenses as opposed to laying down a bunt. I think a little bit of everything. You certainly want to try to give yourself a chance to make them when you can. Sometimes every once and a while you get kind of a gift type opportunity and you are fortunate when those come.

**Q: Where on the spectrum would the touchdown pass be?

BB:** I would think probably a little bit in both categories. That is a play that we hit probably two or three times in practice this week. Then a similar situation came up in the game and we hit it again. I am sure that the Redskins feel like they could play the play better and will play it better the next time they see it. Maybe there is a little bit of a combination of both. It was a play that we hit in practice. To me, it was encouraging to see us practice something, to have a similar situation come up in the game and then be able to execute it pretty well. We have plenty of other situations in the game that we practiced and the situation repeated itself in the game, very similar to what we had on practice film and we blew it. That end of it can be frustrating as well. But in that particular play, it was a good play by everybody, the protection, the routes, the throw, and the catch. It was nice to see. We didn't have a lot of them but some times big plays like that can offset some of the other plays in the game.

**Q: Can you give an assessment on where your team is and where you have concerns?

BB:** What's good? I would say what is good is we've made, when you combine the two games together, productive plays in most all phases of the game, offense, defense, special teams, running, passing, kicking, and returning. We've also had plays that weren't all that good in those areas as well. The negative would be the inconsistencies. The positives would be at least we've shown that, at times, we've been able to put positive results out there in all of those different areas with some different people doing it too. It hasn't all come from one or two people. We need more consistency. We need to play and execute better as a team. I think at times we made some good decisions on the field, smart decisions. At other times, it left something to be desired. That is really the message I have tried to give to the team in the last couple of days and this morning again. We need to continue to keep our strengths as strengths. The things that are erratic, we need to eliminate some of the bad plays there in order to get to a higher level of play. That would be the best way to put it.

**Q: Where is the emphasis in making the evaluations, in game conditions or has it been in practice?

BB:** I would say it is a combination of both. We certainly take into account what the players do on the practice field and how they perform. What I try to emphasize to the players is, until we see you do it in practice, you are not even going to get the opportunity to do it in the game. If a player goes out there in practice and consistently makes mistakes in let's say blitz pick up. Well we put him in the game and he makes a mistake in blitz pick up, it's not his problem, it's the quarterback's problem or the running back's problem in the running game or defensively, the defensive lineman doesn't do what he is supposed to do, it's the linebacker who is going to get wiped out, not him. From the standpoint of being able to give a player an opportunity to play in the game, he has to demonstrate in practice to the coaching staff and his teammates that he is well enough prepared and accountable enough to go out there and do those things. I think that is where it starts. Now if a guy is doing things well in practice, then sometimes that leads to him doing well in the games. Sometimes it doesn't and some people are better game players than they are practice players. But, they certainly have to show us a level of competence on the practice field in this system to even get the opportunity to play in the game. Believe me, they know that from day one. That is no secret. I'm not sure if that answers your question, but there is a definite sequence there that is important to us.

**Q: [On not seeing a player consistent in practice, but does well in the game and makes a big play]

BB:** If it's just a flat out lucky play, then maybe that's what it is. If there is a higher level of performance in game conditions, for whatever the reason, then we'll take another look at it. Is that the way it is? Or is that just an aberration in his play and we happen to hit the lottery on that particular play or day. My experience has been, over time, day after day, practice after practice, start stringing some games together, you get a pretty good idea of what the players level of performance is. Not saying it can't improve, or that it can't in some cases decline. But you have some kind of idea what his level of play is. Now some players are up and down players too. They are going to hit a homerun one time and strike out the next. That would be pretty good in baseball, but that's not really the batting average I'm looking for here. There are some of those streaky kind of players too. We've all seen them. When they are streaky good, that's great. And when they are streaky bad, the team suffers there. They fall into all different kind of categories, and as a coach you just try to identify what it is, and if there is something you don't like about it then try to manage that part of the situation.

**Q: Is there anything you would like to see accomplished in the game against Philadelphia?

BB:** Well, first of all, I think Philadelphia is really a good football team. They are 1) one of top special team units in the league, I think [John] Harbaugh did a good job getting players. They are well coached. They did very good in the kicking game. Defensively, Jimmy Johnson does as good of a job as anyone in the league with his pressure package. They are sound, but at the same time they are aggressive. They attack you. They force a lot of bad plays. They have very good players on defense too, in the running game, pass coverage, pass rush. And offensively, they have a lot of weapons starting with the quarterback. Again, Andy [Reid] is an excellent coach. He does a real good job with the scheme, gives you a lot of preparation problems. They have good receivers; they've got a good tight end. They have a good quarterback. The backs run hard. They've got a good offensive line. So this is a real good football team. They've been in the NFC Championship the last two years for a good reason. You don't get that far two years in a row by…they've got a good football team. They are well coached. And they are good in every phase of the game. They are not a one-dimensional team by any stretch. I think this week we have a big challenge, a) in terms of personnel we are playing and b) in terms of the schemes we are facing in all three areas. I think they are very good. They also have a nice blend of youth with some experienced players; so they have a lot of young guys coming up, at the same time they've got some older, established people that are good, solid players in their position as well. It's a good football team. We are on the road. We are playing them in a new stadium. I am sure there will be a lot of excitement and enthusiasm down in Philadelphia. I think this will be a real good challenge for our football team this week.

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