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Bill Belichick Press Conf.Transcript 8/4/04

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BB: We placed Wilbert Brown on the reserved/did not report list. He was excused for some personal reasons but now it looks like he is not going to report to camp this year. That is where that is. I would expect in the next few days, say by the end of the weekend that, again, we have a lot of guys that I have been talking about who are close, I would expect by the end of the weekend we will have several more back out there. That may be sooner. It might be today. I might be tomorrow. It might be Sunday, I don't know. But, I think that is going to happen pretty soon. I think those guys are making good progress. Today, practice will be a little bit different from what we have done so far. We are kind of in the stage in the installation where we need to see some things that we just don't see from each other so we will be running some plays off cards and trying to simulate plays that we just haven't seen because we don't run them but we will be seeing them from somebody else and it is one of the more common things in the league that we have to address one way or another. We will start going through that phase of our practice and then as we go forward it will be probably a little bit of both. There will be times when we will just work against each other and then also mix in some carded stuff until we get into the actual game preparations where everything is specific to the next team that we are playing. That is where we are. I thought things went well last night. We started to get into some situation work, down and distance, substitution, play calling, two-minute drill, calling plays at the line of scrimmage, audible-ing on defenses and so forth that came up situationally. We got some live work in on the goal line and down in the red area. I think all of that is starting to slowly come together with still a long way to go but it is starting to formulate into some team and situational practices now. We will continue to build on that in the next few days.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about the adjustments of a rookie coming in for his second year?

BB: I think it is probably less of an adjustment the first year. The first year you just don't know what to expect and people come in from all different college programs and they are run in a variety of ways. Then, to come into the NFL, and even though probably each team is different, each camp is a little bit different. There are probably a lot more similarities in an NFL program than there are in all of the college programs. I think that is a big jump and they don't know what to expect. They have never been through it before and it is probably what they have heard from their teammates who graduated before them, that type of thing. Here, when they come back in the second year, there is a much better familiarity. I have talked to a number of players this year about it. They feel so much more confident. They know what to expect. There is not the anxiety of what is going to happen. They know what is going to happen. It just comes down to preparation. It is so much easier to prepare for something when you know what it is going to be rather than just to kind of prepare for everything and you are just not sure what is going to hit you and what direction it is going to come from. Also, of course, they know a lot of people they are competing against, whereas last year, they were all new faces. A guy comes onto the team like this he might not really have had much on the field experience with anybody or maybe just a couple of guys. So now, at least they have a much better understanding of what the people they are going against can do, what their strengths and weaknesses are, how they can compete against them better and so forth. Overall, they have just a lot more confidence and probably a lot less anxiety.

Q: With them being more comfortable does that make them more accountable for the mistakes they make?

BB: Definitely. They are accountable for that well into their rookie year. They are accountable for it as soon as they get here. But, they become even more accountable through in their rookie year. By the second year, those players should be past a lot of the situations that they might have had trouble with their rookie year. They should be well past that. No question about it.

Q: You team was great at creating turnovers last season. When do you begin to practice that?

BB: Defensively, I think it begins in our first meeting in the first mini-camp and goes all the way through to the spring camps and into training camp and then it goes to a weekly basis of our opponent where we think those opportunities are most likely to come from. What things we want to be alert to, to possibly cause them, some of those turnovers happen because you are there at the right place at the right time. You want to try to cause them and be as disruptive as you can to force the issue and create more for yourself and create the turnovers. We go through everything we can go through to try to facilitate that. There are different ways of doing it and there are different points of emphasis. You can show it on film, 'Here are examples of backs when they don't secure the ball. Here are examples of quarterbacks when they are vulnerable to having the ball disrupted when you are in the passing lane or strip sacks or receivers trying to run with it after the catch, those types of opportunities to turn the ball over.' Also, the specific technique of, you have probably seen it out there, with a fumble recovery or high-pointing on interceptions and then blocking after you intercept the pass so that you can maximize your return yardage and all of those kinds of things. There are a lot of points. It is stressed early but then the specific techniques and ways of doing it are worked on individually so that you can focus your attention to on that opportunity how to maximize the chance to get the ball out.

Q: The same way hitters study pitchers, can you with video show the players how to study a specific running back?

BB: We definitely do it. Which hand does the runner carry the ball in? Does he switch it? Does he always carry it in the same hand? Emmitt Smith always carried the ball in his left hand. Always. Walter Payton always carried it in his right hand. Some guys switch it. Some guys put it in their outside arm. Some quarterbacks they carry the ball the differently. They carry it lower. Some carry it higher and so forth. Receivers, some of them have habits where they try to stretch the ball out and stuff like that. Defensively, the thing you are most concerned about is to get the guy with the ball. That is number one. After that, sometimes if you are the second man in on the tackle of the second guy in on a play, if you are aware of a player's habits or the way he carries the ball or handles it, then sometimes the second guy can come in. If you are coming from behind when the guy doesn't see you and you are on a pursuit play and you have a shot from the backside, what to do in that situation. Now, fundamentally there are certain things you do no matter who the guy is but if you know for sure or if you anticipate that a certain player would carry the ball, then when you get in that situation, you might have a better chance of knocking it out. There are some guys that if you know the guy carries it loose you might be able to punch it out. If a guy really carries it tight to his body, you are probably not going to be able to punch it out and you are going to have to rake it over the top if you are coming from behind. Things like that.

Q: Because you have guys like Terrell Buckley, Tyrone Poole and Rodney Harrison are you able to anticipate that they will probably be able to have a more expert ability getting the ball loose?

BB: Well, I think you teach all of them the same. I think some guys can apply it better than others. Some guys have more experience doing it. One of the most important things in all of that is speed. The faster the player, the more times he is probably going to be coming up on somebody and have an opportunity to get him from behind when they don't see him or be in on a play where he might have a little more of a shot at the ball than a guy who is maybe a slower point of attack type of player. His disruption opportunities will probably come in a different form like being in the passing lane of the quarterback and more of a head-on type of contact rather than a pursuit play. You see some of the bigger and slower players, I am not saying they aren't good, they just don't have that kind of foot speed. You just don't see them making plays from behind. They do a lot of drills with those guys about chasing people down and stripping the ball out, it realistically isn't going to happen very much.

Q: What about on offense with Corey Dillon?

BB: His ball security is pretty good. But, that is something we talk about with all of the offensive players—the different ways of protecting the ball, and there are some common threads in turnovers that offensively you want to try to avoid being in those situations as much as possible.

Q: Such as…?

BB: Well, such as the quarterbacks having one hand on the ball. You know, you have to throw it with one hand but you don't have to hold it with one hand. So, to stand there and hold the ball like 'this', it would take very little to knock it out versus if you have it securely held with two hands, it would take a lot more to dislodge the ball. Again, backs switching the ball from hand to hand, that probably isn't going to gain too many extra yards, and it does expose a risk that otherwise wouldn't be exposed if the ball is contacted when the ball is switched from one arm to another. So, fundamentally there are some things that you don't want to do, and some players have certain habits when they make a certain type of cut or they have a certain type of move where the ball gets more exposed. Reaching the ball out is sometimes a good play when you gain the first down yardage, but it could be for an extra half yard, and to reach a ball out to get it punched out and end up in a turnover like what happened in Miami last year when Harrison scooped it up, can be a bad play. Some of it is fundamental and then some of it is judgment and trying to keep the best habits you can to protect the ball. You know every once in a while, someone is going to come in there and have a good hit where the helmet pressures the ball right on a contact point, gets dislodged—sometimes those things happens on plays where a lot of force is applied right where the ball is, and it comes loose. But there are a lot of other plays where that is not the case. The ball handling between the running back and the quarterback is another potential area that there could be some problems on and there are some rules that you want to follow there with your quarterback and with your running back relative to if there is a problem, what are we going to do about it. Like, here is the way it is supposed to work but sometimes, if the ball is short or if the ball is high or whatever, how do we prevent turning the ball over. It is one thing to lose two yards; it is another thing to give it up.

Q: Vrabel had a sack and a strip against [Jake] Delhomme in the Super Bowl last year. When he gets to that point where he knows he is closed in on the guy, does he choose to attack the ball because he saw something that Delhomme is prone to do or is it a standard thing for him to do in that situation?

BB: Could be a combination of both. If the quarterback is no threat to advance the ball or even throw it, then you might as well try to strip it as part of the tackling technique. So, when you tackle the guy, you bring your, in his case, right arm over the quarterback's right shoulder and try to dislodge the ball. If the guy is out there running and trying to escape, then you have to make a determination as to, if you try to get the ball are you going to still be able to get the guy, or should you just make the tackle and not worry about getting the ball and just make the secure play. And sometimes those judgments are made based on what the guy sees, but also what he is anticipating based on what he is seeing from other examples of that.

Q: Does Stephen Neal look rusty or does he look like he is ready to challenge for a starting job?

BB: I would say somewhere in the middle. I don't think he is in mid-season form after a week of practice, but he doesn't look like he did a couple of years ago when he looked like he had never played football. Which he had not.

Q: Do you think he has taken a step back?

BB: Well, every player has to come in and start all over every year, so no matter who they are, it could be a 15-year veteran, he is still going to have to come in and re-gain a lot of his fundamentals. It might come back a little quicker to him, but it all still has to be re-established. Most of those things, the players haven't done for six months. Even though they have done drills and all, it is not quite the same. So, I don't know about going backwards. I think that his development hit a road block there because he wasn't really able to work on football, he was working more on his rehab, so maybe he didn't advance as much as another player would have in that year and a half. I wouldn't say he has gone backwards, no, I think he is still as good and better than he was, it is just that the rate of development was slowed there for a time. No, I don't think he has gone backwards.

Q: Do you have a pretty good idea of how your roster is going to shape up?

BB: I think some things are a little more certain than others, but I think there are a lot of questions on our team, and I'm sure on every team. And even if you know what some of the players are, there is still the fitting it together and how what is the best way for you to play. Even if you think you know who the players are, the best way for that group to play, I think there is still some determination there and that comes a little bit with scheme, or maybe it is a rotation, or how exactly you want to utilize those players. Special teams is an important aspect of it for us. A lot of our starting players are involved in one aspect or another of the kicking game. Sometimes that role depends on what their involvement is on offense and defense or vice versa, or where the value is, where we think the player can have the biggest impact. So, sometimes their offensive or defensive role can be adjusted relative to their special teams role and vice versa. And, again, a lot of that depends on who else you have. If you want to use somebody that is really good covering kicks and you have two or three other guys that can do it just as well and you think they are going to be playing a lot less, then maybe you don't need that guy to cover kicks and maybe you use him on the return team. But, if you don't have those guys to cover kicks or they aren't doing as well as you think they were going to do and you really need him to cover them, then he covers them and then you put it together somewhere else. So, there are a lot of things like that. So when you say 'Is it set? Do I think Brady is going to make the team?', yeah, I think he will make the team. But there are a lot of other people that, what their role is going to be and how it is all going to tie together, no I think we are quite a ways off on that.

Q: Are there guys who you know now when the decision day comes?

BB: Well, we have a little over 80 players on the roster and, if you look at your 53-man regular-season roster, you have eight practice squad spots, injured reserve, PUP, you have a couple of guys in there in one category or another, you are pretty close to 65 right there. And then there are other players, and we have all seen from time to time, that maybe they are not on the roster opening day and then maybe they are very soon thereafter. Patrick Pass last year is an example. He wasn't with us for the first couple of weeks but ended up playing an important role on our team for the last 13 regular season games and through the playoffs. So, even guys that aren't in that first 65, it doesn't mean they are not in the first 65, it just means that you just couldn't carry them, or whatever the circumstances were, and they can still at some point later on come back and be a factor for you. So, now you are pushing the number closer to 70 maybe. Really. There are some more in the mix. Even though they are not on your roster, you are still out there and you are aware of them and they are the first guy that you go to when you have a situation where you need somebody. So, I think when you get to the point when you know the player can't contribute to your team in any way, shape or form, then it is probably best for everybody to move on. What is the point at that point? You know, there are guys who didn't make our team, and then they were on the practice squad, and now they are starting for us. So, if you give up the guys like that too early, you are just going to be playing against them. And I think that we have tried to do a good job of that, not only trying to recognize our own guys, but maybe looking at other teams, the Tom Ashworth's of the world, that we invest some time into, and then in a year or two, they end up being performers for you. So, it is a long process. There are some players on our team, [Scott] Farley being one that wasn't with us last year, that went to Europe, that is with us this year, you know, was in here last year for a couple of days but it was short, and now he is back and he is better than he was last year and he is more competitive. Sometimes it is really just timing.

Q: Assuming that Rohan Davey knows the system, is it now about him making good throws and good decisions?

BB: Well it is always about making the right reads and good throws. You never get away from that.

Q: Right, but assuming you are comfortable with what he does in other areas, like leadership, is it now just seeing him go out there and do it?

BB: It is definitely seeing him go out there and do it in games. There is no question. That is what it is for him. That is really what it is for every player that hasn't done it over a consistent basis, and even the ones who have, have to go out there and show it again anyway. But, particularly for somebody like that who has never really done it, only in a few limited opportunities in preseason. So, those questions are never going to be answered until he actually has the opportunity to do it.

Q: How do you get comfortable with a guy like that? Like in 2001 training camp, when did you feel comfortable with going with Tom Brady if you needed him?

BB: If you go back to 2001, Damon [Huard] was essentially the number two quarterback and, by the end of preseason, Tom was the number two quarterback. So, that was the period, at the end of those four preseason games, that was the point where we were comfortable making him the backup quarterback. Certainly not at the start of the preseason, because that is where Damon started out.

Q: So do you to get Rohan some snaps in the preseason?

BB: Oh, you are going to see a lot of Rohan in the preseason, I'll tell you that right now. He is going to play a lot in preseason. Sure. We'll have an evaluation on how he is doing, and so will everybody else. I think that is important. He is getting plenty of snaps in practice and he has done well with that. He got a lot of playing experience in Europe, but this is a little different level than that and he needs to be able to perform at this level, for the coaches' sake, for his sake, for the confidence of the team's sake, for everybody. Everybody needs to see that, and until it happens it is not going to happen. But, you can, I think, although it is not the final decision, you can certainly go a long way towards evaluating a player if he is consistent in practice, if he consistently does the things right in practice and performs well in practice, there is a whole lot higher percentage that he is going to do them well in the games than if it is no good in practice, to thing that all of a sudden in games that it is going to miraculously come together and it is going to be some big hall of fame performance. That almost never happens. So, the fact that things are in place, that he has progressed significantly in the past two years, all of the things that we have talked about are better, I think there is a much higher probability that he will perform better in game competition. But, that has to be seen.

Q: You have several other quarterbacks trying to get ready that I'm sure you would like to see. At what point does it cut into Tom Brady's preparation?

BB: Well, you have to prioritize and that is the last priority. The first priority is getting Brady ready, the second priority is a further evaluation of Davey in game conditions and getting him ready, and then, as time permits, we will evaluate the other two quarterbacks. But, at this point, they don't deserve to be ahead of Davey or Brady, and they are not ahead of them, and they are not going to get playing time opportunities ahead of them. The other two guys are priority players. And that could change in one play, but that is the way it is for right now

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