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Bill Belichick Press Conf.Transcript 8/6/04

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BB: We made three roster moves this morning. We released James 'Big Cat' Williams, Kurt Kittner and DeVonte Peterson. We got a lot of situational work done yesterday, both in the morning and then again in the afternoon. I think that we are moving along on that front, which is good; again we still have a long way to go. Russ Francis stopped by practice last night. I think it was good for all of us, especially the players, to see one of the Patriot greats there, and coincidentally, his banner was the one that was hanging right there closest to the practice field, so it was a real-life look at Russ, you know we have seen him a lot on that banner. That is really about where we are. We have quite a few guys banged up. We have some other guys out there who are less than 100 percent that are really working hard to push through it. We'll probably back off a little here in the next couple of days on the intensity of the workouts, and then be ready to pick it back up again. We open a week from today so we need to start those preparations here fairly soon but we still have some training camp things that we want to get covered before we get into even preseason-type game preparations. That is where we are.

Q: Was the Russ Francis visit planned?

BB: No, I didn't know he was going to be here. I guess he had some other things to do in the area and he stopped by. He has been by a couple of times before, but not in training camp. He told me it was the first time he had been at training camp since he was at training camp as a player.

Q: Did he talk to the team at all?

BB: Yeah. He had a chance to say hello to the team. A lot of guys came up to him and introduced themselves to him and that kind of thing. It was good. It looks like he could still play. He is pretty impressive. He was pretty good and he still looks pretty good. He kind of reminds me of Jim Brown. You could still put him in there and throw him the ball.

Q: With Williams, was it a case where he felt he has nothing left, or was it a decision that you made?

BB: You know, we had 12 practices and I think we just felt that it was time to move on. I have a lot of respect for Big Cat, I really do. He really came out of nowhere and played defensive tackle at Cheyney State. He had very little background and made himself into a good football player, played for a long time with the Bears, about 130-something starts at right tackle or whatever it was. I have played against him and coached against him several times and he is a tough guy, physically and mentally he is really a football player. He doesn't make any excuses, he works hard, he is a big guy and can still make the conditioning run, and very impressively, and he is a football player. Again, at this point, for where we are and given our circumstances and situation, we just felt like we wanted to be fair with him, and be upfront with him and let him know where we thought everything was going to be headed, so that we wouldn't be sitting here in a week or two and having the conversation that neither side wanted to have.

Q: With Kittner, did you just feel like he didn't deserve snaps?

BB: Well, I think it really comes down to the third quarterback situation and, to be able to split the few opportunities that we did have for the third guy two ways, rather than one way, I just think part of it, as ironic as it sounds, that Kliff [Kingsbury] has a little bit more experience, at least in our system, and is a little further ahead from that standpoint. He hasn't played in a game, but just in terms of practice, and what we can see from what we are doing running the team and being experienced in our system, he just has a little more of it. We felt like we should cut it down to just one player in that position so that that player would at least have a better chance, rather than doing it with two guys and maybe giving neither one of them a chance. So that is where we are on that one. We tried to get Kurt earlier. Had we gotten him back in the spring when the waiver wire fiasco was going on, it would have maybe given him a better opportunity, but that is the way it goes. We did what we could do and that was it.

**Q: What do you think the team learned from trying to defend their title in 2002 and the result from that going into this season?

**Q: I'm not sure. You would have to ask the players that individually. I think probably it was about what we expected it to be. We played a lot of good teams and teams played, you know every team in this league is good, but I think that the competition after a season like we had in 2001, probably brought out the very best in our opponents, and a lot of them are pretty good anyway. We hung in there, but we just fell a little bit short. Had we played a little bit better at certain times, we could have won maybe another game or two more games. So, it comes down to not really being able to play or coach well enough in that particular season to be higher than the third tie-breaker in this division and end up losing it.

Q: How can they use that experience to not have that happen again this year?

BB: Well, I think our preparation will be the same as it was last year, I think it will be the same as it was the year before, in terms of, particularly at this time, building the fundamental foundation in training camp, and then trying to carry that over in to the challenges of the regular season and game planning and so forth. I don't know how much different it is. We aren't sitting here saying 'Well, here is what our record was last year, so we are going to do it this way versus the year before, this is what our record was and now we are going to do it a whole different way'. I think that between the coaches on this staff who are pretty experienced, a lot of us have been together for a long time, I think we feel like we know what is the best way to run a team for us, what isn't very good, and we are trying to do the things we feel are best for the team, and not say 'Well its because we had this record or had that record', but 'How do we get the team better?' And that is really what coaching is all about.

Q: Can you talk about the [Dana] Stubblefield signing and where he fits in?

BB: Dana of course has a lot of experience in the league, has played a number of different positions. I think that he has a lot of versatility potentially for us on the defensive line, on regular and on subbing, and will play inside and outside. He is a big guy, pretty athletic. He has had a very good career; he has been productive in the running game and also been productive rushing the passer. I always like his toughness and his competitiveness, so we'll see how it goes. It is a new system for him, but he has been a pretty good player for quite a while, and we'll put him in there and see what he can do and see how that works with the rest of the group that we have.

Q: In a 4-3 he would play at defensive tackle. In a 3-4 system would he exclusively play end or can he play at nose?

BB: Yeah he has played both. He has primarily played defensive tackle in a 4-3 and, when you are at three technique, which is in that guard-tackle gap, you are only half a man really from being a 3-4 end, and when you are in that center-guard gap you are only half a man from being a nose. So, he has played very close to both the positions in our defense a lot. I think that he can do those, and that is where we will work him and we will see how it goes. Maybe he will be more comfortable in one or the other or maybe there will be more of a need for him in one spot. We'll just have to see how that goes.

Q: Was it the [Rodney] Bailey injury that made you sign him?

BB: You know, we had been talking about Dana for a while. I don't think he was quite ready to go there early in the spring, but as things have progressed along, he physically was ready and it worked out. So, I'm glad we have him. I think we would like him no matter who we had on our team. He is an NFL player that has had quite a bit of production and I think he could probably hold his own with whoever the group is.

Q: Did the THG incident concern you?

BB: I wouldn't have any comment on anything related to any of those subjects that I know you are going to ask about. We have been down that road before and I'm not a part of that. That is between the players and the league.

Q: Are you satisfied that you won't have to deal with that?

BB: I'm not commenting on that. There is no way.

Q: How is Willie McGinest doing?

BB: Good. I think Willie, you know Jarvis [Green] is back out there, and we've been adding a couple guys day by day, and I am hopeful that in a couple more days that we will be able to add to that group. I think Willie is close. He is part of that group and I think we have some other players that are in that group as well and hopefully they will be back out there soon. I think, overall, we have a group of guys that are really right at the doorstep as soon as we really feel like they are there. There is no sense in coming back one day early and then having some type of setback. You really want to make sure that, at this point, the player is ready to go and hopefully that will be the case soon.

Q: You said that everyone that was not practicing would be back at some point before training camp concludes. Do you still feel that way?

BB: At some point in camp. Yeah, basically, I would say so, yes.

Q: Including Rosevelt [Colvin]?

BB: Including Rosevelt. In other words, I don't see anybody, at this point, that falls into the Stephen Neal category that we had last year, who, it really looked like it was a long shot that he would play at all during the year and he never did practice. He was never really ever on the field. I don't see anybody in that category. I think they are further along than that. But that is just an estimate. You are not going to hold me to that as an absolute.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about some of the value that having a veteran quarterback like Jim Miller brings to your team?

BB: Well, it is funny, in the two weeks that Jim has been here, I think he has really brought a lot even though he hasn't practiced with the team. But just in terms of his understanding, he has a good way about him. He is a good worker. He is a good leader. He interacts well with other people on the team. I think he is one of those kind of guys that gains respect rather quickly just by the way he conducts himself. In talking football with him, he has obviously been through a lot. He understands what you are trying to do and can give you feedback and input on questions scheme-related or plays that you are talking about. How he sees things the way he does or maybe read plays that he has read a little bit differently in a different system and why, what were the pluses and minuses of doing it that way, that type of thing. I think he has been good. I think it is a valuable addition to that group where other than Tom [Brady] there is very little regular season game experience.

Q: Does he serve as a sounding board for the younger quarterbacks?

BB: I am sure that he does and veteran coaches for that matter.

Q: What did you appreciate about John Elway when you played against him?

BB: I didn't appreciate anything. [Laughter] He was throwing for a lot of yards and a lot of touchdowns against us. I think that John is one of those guys who comes along very rarely and that is why he is a first ballot hall of famer. He is a great athlete. He had a great arm. He was a great decision maker. He was a competitor. He was a smart guy. I only coached him one game, in the Pro Bowl after 1998 season. But that was his last game, right?

Q: Yes.

BB: There you go. I coached him in his last game. He played for about one quarter/quarter-and-half, whatever it was. But, he is a guy who was really one of the guys that could do it all. When he came out, he could run like Vinny [Testaverde], out run people, make plays with his speed, make plays with his arms, move his arm, strong guy, smart, good decision maker. To me the ultimate compliment for a player is a guy who can make his teammates play better and he did that. For years he was out there with a group of receivers that were all right but I think e made them a lot better than maybe they would have been had they been with another quarterback. That guy is pretty good.

Q: Did you ever show film of him to your quarterbacks? Is that someone that you reference a lot?

BB: No. I don't think so. We just haven't had that much personal interaction with him.

Q: [on Elway taking a backseat to the running game later on in his career]

BB: I don't think they would have won without him. He had a lot to do with them winning. With all respect to Terrell [Davis] and everybody else they had out there. That was a good team. Two years in a row, they were a real good team. I think he had a lot to do with it. Sure, I think that as any player goes through a career, they evolve a little bit and in some of the latter years, in terms of maybe their perspective and maybe in some cases, change their style a little bit. But John was pretty good all the way through his career, he really was. He was durable and productive. I mean, he won a lot of football games.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about Barry Sanders?

BB: He is an awesome runner. He had kind of a style and a quickness that was all his own. I don't know that I have ever coached against anybody that had the type of lateral quickness that Barry had. He could run too but he was a guy that could change directions laterally on the line of scrimmage and go from one hole and skip in and [he may have been] probably even a little quicker than [Walter] Payton. He was deceptively strong for his size, for whatever he was, 5'8. Can you imagine having Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders at Oklahoma State? He was a pretty special guy. When they got in those spread offenses when Mouse Davis went there and they were running the run and shoot and he was playing in the one back with a spread offense and defensively you really had to get out there and defend those four receivers. He was really a productive back. He was productive in any system, but he was really productive in that type of system because there was so much space to defend. He was so good in open spaces. He was pretty good.

Q: How you do you coach your defensive players to tackle him?

BB: Well, when we played Sanders, I still remember, we had a number of drills for him. We did tackling drills where we took our quickest runners, guys on the practice squad even if they had been defensive players or whatever, and just gave them a lot of space to work in and made them continue to keep the leverage, keep the ball on their inside shoulder so they could push him into the other defender who had the ball on his inside shoulder and they simulated Sanders and went back and forth , not to try to simulate his quickness, but to do it the best you can and try to make sure that you maintain the leverage on him because once he got outside you, the people on the backside couldn't catch him and that is where he made a lot of long runs. We spent a lot of time doing that. The bigger backs on the team wouldn't play in the backfield that week. We would take receivers, little quick guys like Stephen Baker, guys like that, where they would end up being the running back because they were fast receivers. You would take a guy like [Deion] Branch, if we were playing tonight, and put him in the back field and make the defense chase him around, just to try to simulate that type of runner. You just don't see guys like that, especially when they played on turf at home.

Q: How about Carl Eller?

BB: When I was in Detroit, he was in Minnesota. Eller was the end. Page was the inside rusher and [they had] [Jim] Marshall. That was a great front four. There was really nowhere to go. Eller and Marshall, between the two of them, it was a long day and then you had Page inside. Obviously they were pretty good. They were really good as a group, not to take anything away from any of them, but then collectively when they were all there, it wasn't like, 'Well, we are going to get away from Eller', Page was on the other side or 'We are going to get away from Eller,' Marshall was on the other side. 'We are going to get away from Marshall,' well there was Eller. They had such a good front four, that was a long day and we had a couple of long days against them at Detroit. That whole group together, I don't know if you can put a whole defensive line in at once, but that was kind of like the fearsome-foursome out there with the Rams with Deacon Jones and the Steel Curtain thing. As good as any of those guys were individually, when you looked at them collectively as a group, it is just hard to go overboard on one guy because the other guys were just as much of a problem as whichever one you want to pick out and highlight.

Q: Is the release of Kittner an indicator of how Miller is progressing?

BB: No, it is for the reason that I gave which was we had two young guys trying to split reps for basically one spot and we felt like we really needed to devote those reps, because there aren't very many of them, to just one player as opposed to two.

Q: How has the role of the fullback changed with guys like Fred McCrary? It seems like they aren't in high demand.

BB: Yes, I don't think there is any question. I mean, just look at the drafts. There aren't very many fullbacks drafted. Probably because they are harder to find and there is less of a role for them, throughout the league. When I first came to the league, everything was a two-back set. There was virtually no one-back offense and there was very little sub. There were hardly any three receivers. Almost all of the plays, unless it was on the goal line and even that, there were two receivers, one tight end and two backs. In the next 10 years between 1975 and 1985, that evolved into much more of a multiple tight end/multiple receiver, one running back type of offense where there was one primary ball carrier on the team as opposed to a Franco Harris, Rocky Bleier, guys they had here like [Sam] Cunningham and [Andy] Johnson, where it was really a two-back running tandem. It evolved to really a one-runner team. There is only one runner in the game at a time for most of the plays. The fullback's role had been altered because of that. Primarily with some teams it is more of blocking role, with other teams like in the west coast teams, it is primarily a pass catching role, blocking on linebackers, that kind of thing. Not so much blocking the big guys. Then other team's have just really moved away from the position and gone more to another tight end or another receiver in the game. There are not as many teams using them and the ones that do use them, kind of sometimes depends on what you are looking for.

Q: Is Fred more of an old time straight up blocker?

BB: Yes, I would say that Fred is kind of a throw back guy. Yes, I would. He is a good in-line blocker. He is a good receiver. He is not like Larry Centers who is really more of a pass catching fullback and he is a blocking fullback. Other guys are much more of blocking fullbacks. I think that he is a little more in the middle of the road similar to what Marc Edwards was, that style of play. You go from the blockers to the receivers and then you have the guys that do a little bit of both. [Rob] Konrad, guys like that, who are a little bit more multi-purpose. I would say he would fall under that role.

Q: Does Corey Dillon need a fullback? He is a bruiser himself.

BB: Well, again, if you don't have a full back in the game, then [that means] either one of two things – either you are truly in a one back set where you are spreading the defense more and you have one less blocker but they have one less defender or you have another tight end in the game who essentially fulfills that role of a fullback just not necessarily from the conventional fullback alignment, although sometimes they do. You see a lot of teams that line up tight ends in the back field as if he were the fullback. Those days are a lot fewer than they were when I was with the Giants. A lot of what we did was based off two back looks and it really changes the running game because when you have a blocker in the backfield, he has a lot of different blocking angles on the guys on the line of scrimmage who are linebackers than he does when he is on the line. There are a lot fewer people he can get to. If you line him up in the fullback spot, he can pretty much go from the strong safety on one side to the corner on the other side and anywhere in between with different blocking angles and combinations. It changes the reads for the linebackers and there are a lot of things that are a lot tougher in the running game. the downside is, offensively there are a lot more moving parts and if you can go that way, you are really committed to having a back back there all the time and a lot of teams seem less willing to do that. They really want the formation spread. It is easier to eliminate that guy as a blocker in return for eliminating another defender that they don't really know where the guy is going to be.

Q: Who was the primary fullback when you were there?

BB: [Maurice] Carthon. Well, first it was Rob Carpenter in the early 80's like 1981, 1982 somewhere in there. Then Carthon came in from the USFL say around the middle of the 80's, 1986, somewhere in there. He came from one of the USFL teams.

Q: You guys were 27-1 when going into the fourth quarter with a lead. Do you use that as a reference or a rallying point with the team?

BB: I don't think it is a big deal. In terms of how we try to do it and what we have done, I think it is the players being able to play well in those situations both defensively, being able to play situationally with a lead, but also offensively being able to try to control those situations. I am sure in some of those cases, we had the lead, lost it and maybe we were able to get it back, kind of like in the Carolina game. We are not really big on, 'Well, this is what our stats were from last year and the year before,' that kind of thing. We try to teach more of, 'This is what we do in this situation. This is how we would want to try to play it,' and emphasize playing it correctly based on the situation. We have had some success in doing some things. We have also not had it. I don't think there is a lot of dwelling on that. I respect the numbers and what you are saying, I am not trying to disagree with them. I am just saying we don't really approach it that way. We try to approach it more from an understanding of what we need to do point and then build on that

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