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Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript - 8/19/2003

Belichick: This will be a good test for us, going on the road again, playing in a new stadium.

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BB: [There is] one roster move to announce. We signed Corbin Lacina. We will work him at guard and hopefully get him ready to play against Philadelphia Friday night. We will see if that is actually going to happen or not but we hope that it will. Philadelphia, it goes without saying, is a very good football team and they have been in the NFC championship the last two years. They are strong in all areas of the game, and are well coached. They have a good combination of young and experienced players. Really I don't see any weak points on the team. They look solid in every area to me. They are solid on special teams and are very well coached by John Harbaugh. They are solid on offense and defense. They are well coached there with [Brad] Childress and Jimmy Johnson. Again, [they have] a good mix of players. They look pretty good. This will be a good test for us, going on the road again, playing in a new stadium. I am sure there will be a lot of excitement and enthusiasm around the game. This is, I think, a good test for the third preseason game. A lot of elements are in place that we will have to deal with. I think it will be good for us to have to deal with them. It is similar to a lot of the things we will be facing during the regular season. It's a short week. We have to cram everything into a little bit less time than normal. That is what it is. Where there is a short week, there is a long week.

**Q: The fact that you are facing one of the top teams, is there a little extra incentive on the part of the club?

BB:** Well, I would like to think that we think all games are important and respect all of our opponents but there is no question that Philadelphia is at the top of the achievement level in the last two years. Statistically they have been up there every year. I would say probably yes but that is not to slight anybody else because we take every opponent seriously and have a lot respect for everybody that we play.

**Q: There is a short time between the time you play them in the preseason and the game in the regular season. Is it going to hurt you in the evaluation of your team because you don't show your game plan as much in the preseason as you would in a regular season game?

BB:** I would say overall no. Again, for the most part in preseason we try not to get into a lot of extensive game planning because it doesn't really help you to evaluate a player when he makes a play because the scheme just works out. It just happen to match up well against something that they were doing. What we really rather do is play more basic, frankly so they do know where we are. I think most other teams look at it the same way. And we know where they are and lets see who can play, not to run something that looks good just because it matches up well against what the other teams are doing. At the same time you want to give your players a chance. There is no sense in running into a defense that has four guys right at the point of attack right where you are trying to go, it is hard to evaluate that too. You don't even have a chance on the play. There is a balance there. I definitely don't think that our mentality is to try to get into making players look good because it's a scheme that matches up well. We want them to try to make plays because they are making plays.

**Q: Do you find that giving Mike Vrabel more reps at the line of scrimmage he might be able to accentuate his strengths a little bit more?

BB:** Most of Mike's career he has been on the line of scrimmage at Ohio State and at Pittsburgh and here. Mike is a versatile player and he can play off the line as well as on the line. But, I think it's hard for linebackers to play both spots. It's just different. It's a different look at the plays. Different techniques are involved. I think one or the other is probably better for every player. There are times where it is good to have the versatility to be able to do both because that gives you some flexibility on defense to do some different things. But for the most part I think it is easier for the guy to play either on or off the majority of the time. If he is going to do both, then you are probably going to have him in both spots 50 percent of the time roughly so that he gets comfortable playing both positions.

**Q: Would you say his pass rush has been one of the more pleasant things you have seen from him?

BB:** Well, I think it has been good. I think Mike has been a good pass rusher for us. He has shown good pass rush ability for three years now. It isn't anything that we haven't seen before; it's not that unexpected. I think that he has done a good job with it, I am not saying that. That is something that he came here with, his skill level, and is still able to do. He uses his hands well. He has good quickness off the edge. He has got some strength for his size. He has some pass rush ability and we have seen that before.

**Q: You have Vrabel, Rosevelt Colvin and Tedy Bruschi all playing at the line of scrimmage. Is it easier for them to step into those roles than maybe others who haven't played it as much?

BB:** Yeah, I am sure it is. Playing with your hand on the ground and playing up on your feet are different. Not that we haven't seen players go in either direction from down to up or up to down, but it's definitely different. It's a different mentality and certainly the reads and the reactions are different. Having that as previous experience, again this would be in that category too, if you are asking them to do that now when they are not normally used to doing it and they can fall back to a lot of experience that they have had doing it in the past. That definitely helps. When your hand is on the ground, defensively, you are reacting to movement. You are getting off on the ball. Your whole everything is different than when you are playing on your feet where you are reading the backs, you are reading the guards, you are reacting to a whole different set of movements. It's a different skill.

**Q: A third year player should be getting better and better every year. Do you feel that Tom Brady is any better in this camp than last year and what are the subtle ways he is improving?

BB:** Well, I think the first thing for an experienced player and I would say probably three years is a good starting point on that. Any player that has been in the league for two years or more, one of the first things they need to do is just get up to the playing level that they have been at. Through reps in practice, through getting their timing down and so forth. Now, with each player there are some specific things when you start to get into that level of experience that they can work on depending on maybe what changes you have make in the scheme or maybe it is just an area that you have emphasized to the player to improve in. Hopefully you will see that from those players when they put a little more time and attention into whatever that specific area is. I think the first thing is for those players to get up to their playing speed that you are used to seeing them at and they are used to being at. I think Tom falls into that category. He has been efficient as a quarterback in the practices and the games in terms of running the team and making decisions and seeing things and so forth. There are always some specific things that any player can improve in and I would put Tom into that category too. We asked him to be a little more precise on certain things in the passing game and the ball handling and play action and he has worked on those and I think they are getting progressively better. I think that is pretty common with all players whether it is four years, five years, six years, seven years, I think all of those guys kind of fall pretty much into that same boat.

**Q: Is it uncommon at all to have that many guys up and down on the line of scrimmage?

BB:** I don't think it's uncommon at all when you are playing a 3-4. That's probably more the rule than the exception.

**Q: The Giants guys they have the ability to do that.

BB:** When you look at the other teams in the league, look at Pittsburgh [Jason] Gildon and [Joey] Porter both play down, the guys they draft a lot of them play down, [Alonzo] Jackson he played defensive end at Florida State. Houston, Atlanta, I think that is probably what you find on those teams too. The same type of guys.

**Q: Has Vrabel just developed more since he left Pittsburgh?

BB:** Yes.

**Q: Has he really taken his game to the next level since he came here?

BB:** I think that Mike's game has improved and he has had a lot of playing time defensively and that experience always helps. I thought that when Mike had an opportunity to play in Pittsburgh he played well. That was one of our big motivations when we signed him because we thought that we saw a good level of play just with the way that their team was made up and the opportunities that he got were somewhat limited in that system. Has he improved? Yes. But, I think that a lot of Mike Vrabel is still the same Mike Vrabel that we saw in the 2000 season, his last year in Pittsburgh.

**Q: Can you talk about how you see Bobby Hamilton's role will change for you this year?

BB:** I don't think that Bobby's role will change too much for us. He has been a very consistent player for us over the last three years. He primarily played on the left side of the line, almost exclusively on the left side of the line and that is where he is most comfortable and he has been very productive there in terms of tackles and assist and making plays on a per-play basis as a defensive lineman. Bobby is a hard worker; he is a real good role model for our younger players such as [Ty] Warren who is also playing that position. He is a very good team player and an unselfish player and he has done a real good job in a lot of different areas both his on the field playing and his off the field leadership and the way he leads by example and helps other players, not just younger players, as well.

**Q: How would you assess the linebackers in this year's training camp?

BB:** I would say as a group probably as strong as any area on the team. Like any other position, it's a few weeks into camp. I don't think it is where it is going to be. I think it's coming along okay to good. But we still have a ways to go just like all of the positions do. It's not we are in October and we have been playing 10 to 12 weeks of football. We have been playing three maybe four now.

**Q: How does your defense size up against the rest of the league?

BB:** On a league-wide basis, I would say we are probably smaller, below average in terms of weight on the defensive line. There are some big guys playing on the defensive line but I am not sure that is all quality weight either. Regardless, I think that overall we are probably below average in terms of overall size on the defensive line without looking at it statistically but that would be my guess.

**Q: Would you like to be bigger on the front?

BB:** Well, I mean you always like to be big, fast and quick. You have guys that are 320 pounds that runs fast and is quick and is a good instinctive football player, you would rather have that over a guy that is 280 with the same attributes. Usually, that is not the way it works. Sometimes, what you gain in size and sometimes in strength, sometimes you sacrifice in some other areas. I think the guys are the biggest fastest strongest best football players, a lot of those guys are Pro Bowl-type players or they are amongst the best players in the league at their position. The other guys that have less of something, less speed, less size, less quickness, find a way to make up for it, if they are good players, in some other areas. That is always what you are looking for but when you don't have that you have to offset it somehow in other ways.

**Q: Has Fred McCrary been what you have been looking for?

BB:** Fred has come in and done a solid job. Unfortunately he missed a little time there at the beginning of camp. He is a veteran and has a good understanding of what the fullback's role is. The fullback is a player kind of like a linebacker where a lot of plays, a lot things don't happen the way they are drawn up in the play book. You have a guy to block on this play but there are a lot of people in front of you and a lot of different things can happen a usually it's not just go block that guy. Defenses stunt, guys fall down, you have got to sift your way through a lot of traffic sometimes to get to your blocking assignment, and sometimes your assignments change when a lineman takes your guy and then you have to take his guy and all those kind of things. It's a position where instinctiveness and experience and making the decisions is a very important part of that position. Fred has got good experience and he definitely knows what he is doing there. He is a pro and he makes, for the most part, good decisions on the football field and there are a lot of them that position has to make. It's not nearly as clean as what some other spots are in terms of their assignments and play after play it happening the way you think it is going to happen. Those players have to make a lot of adjustments.

**Q: I noticed him more in this game. Would you say he stepped up a level in the last game?

BB:** He played more. I think he did a good solid job against the Redskins. He had some opportunities and did show up positively in terms of…well he had one opportunity to run with the ball and was involved more at the point of attack on a few of the blocking plays. I think he did a good job.

**Q: What is your assessment of what you are getting from Corbin Lacina?

BB:** Well, Corbin is a veteran player. He has a lot of experience playing guard in the league. He is a strong player and a physical guy. I have never been with him or coached him personally so we have to wait and see how his style of play fits in with our system and our offense. I think he brings experience and playing strength and an aggressive attitude to the position.

**Q: Because he is a veteran, would you say it is easier to pick up your system?

BB:** Probably. Corbin has been in a couple of different systems. Usually when a player has been through that, he has pretty much seen most of what is going to happen at his position. What we are doing is probably not anything revolutionary to what other teams are doing the terminology will be a little different. Some of the adjustments or techniques may be a little different. Whether those are big adjustments for him or something that he has done before and now he just has to change the terminology or go back to the way he did it three years ago instead of the way he did it last year at Minnesota, there could be some of that. Again, it's different with each payer. It's not like getting Bobby Hamilton from the Jets who three years ago was more comfortable playing in our system than he was in the Jets system because that system was changing. This is one where he may be coming into something that is a little new for him. Then again, it may be something that he has already had, it just was in a different color jersey.

**Q: What is it about players like him that have been in the league for as long as he has?

BB:** When you build your roster, when you build your team, you just go through the process. You have a certain number of guys from last year, say 55 guys. You sign a few guys in the offseason wherever they come from, whether they are free agents or whether they are players that weren't in the league the previous year and you get your roster somewhere into the neighborhood of 60. You take your draft choices, seven to 10 choices, whatever it is which puts you in the 65 to 70 ballpark. Then you sign 10 or so college free agents and there you are at 80. That is how you get your 80 guys. Somehow, someway, you end up needing more people than that. Then you either get those free agents that weren't with the team that want to be with a team out of college. Whether it is the Frank Moreau's or whether it's the Thabidi Davis' people like that and they could be college type free agents or you take them from another pool, the Corbin Lacina pool and that is where they come from. You just look around the league, there are only so many options there. There are the college free agent guys, they are the veteran players, they are the two, three, four year players that have been with teams that are looking for another shot that for some reason or another there are more players than there are spots.

**Q: After you get your 80, do you then have an informal contingency list?

BB:** Absolutely. We go to training camp and here is our 80. Then we will say, where is olur next list. If we need a guard, where are our guards? If we need a tackle, where are our tackles? If we need a corner, where are our corners? That is why you keep talking to players and you keep talking to their agents so you constantly keep that list updated. If you know the player, maybe that is good enough. If you don't know the player, you might bring him in to work him out and just make sure there is not an injury problem or a physical condition. In some cases, that is why a player might not be signed at the beginning of training camp. It may be a situation where he is not fully recovered or there is some question as to where he is physically in terms of his rehabilitation from a previous injury, that type of thing. You absolutely keep that list updated on a very regular basis. As other people take players off of it, you reevaluate it or sometimes other teams will release players that don't get picked up immediately and they may go on it. Or you may release players yourself and say, 'Okay we don't have a spot for this guy right now, but if things change he could be right at the top of that list.' And we have players in that category as well. It's an ongoing process and there are a ton of names out there and then of course we always get quite a few solicitations from players who want to be on those lists. They will come in, they don't need a contract, they will play for nothing, they were really good in junior high school and haven't been able to continue their career for the last 10 years because of other commitments but they are ready to go now and just want a chance.

**Q: The signing of Lacina, was that simply to fill the void after Brenden Stai's retirement or are you just not comfortable with the depth there?

BB:** I think there are a lot of factors involved. The retirement could be one. We are always looking for depth at the positions. Sometimes when you are under the 80 man roster limit which we are, we take a look out there and say, 'Okay, who are the best players in this group? Is there somebody that could factor into our situation? Okay, we have spot for them, let's take a look at him. We didn't really have spot at another point in time because of whatever reason we were filled up. For the reasons we were at 80 at other positions with other people.' As those situations change, then you make that evaluation. Do you want to bring somebody in for depth? Do you want to bring somebody in because you have a chance to look at them? Do you bring somebody in because you have had a depletion at this particular position and you need people who can play and now you can give them an opportunity that you couldn't give them before? It could be any of those and probably a combination of all of them in this case.

**Q: Did you tell him that he is not allowed to retire?

BB:** We now make that as part of the questionnaire for all offensive linemen, especially guards. Honestly, we have done that the last couple of years too. After it happened the second time, we said, 'Well maybe we are not making it clear enough.' Talking to Brenden, we absolutely put that on the table to him and there was not even a quiver with it. Again, things change. There aren't any absolutes in this business. Sometimes you're from day-to-day, from week-to-week, from month-to-month, they don't stay the same.

**Q: Rodney Harrison made an impact early on. How has he fit in? Has he fit in as well as you thought he would?

BB:** I think Rodney is a good football player. He has a lot of experience in the league. He has done all of things that we have asked him to do at one point or another in the different systems that he has played in San Diego, I haven't had any problems with Rodney at all. I think he will be able to do what we want him to do. I don't think there will be a problem.

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