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Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript - 9/19/2003

Belichick: You never stop learning. I’ve been in the league 29 years and I learn something everyday.

BB: I don't have any changes to the injury report. We're just hoping the weather holds so that we can get as much good practice in as we can this week. But whatever it is, it is. That is where we are.

**Q: Anything new on [Rosevelt] Colvin today?

BB:** No updates.

**Q: What is taking so long? Is it just the testing process?

BB:** I guess. I don't really know. I know that he is out.

**Q: Do you get the feeling that it is more than a week he is going to be out?

BB:** I think that is a good possibility, yes. But I really don't know.

**Q: I will end it there.

BB:** Mercifully.

**Q: Where would you say Tom Brady is on the learning curve?

BB:** I think Tom is an experienced player at this point so there are not a lot of new things. There is learning every week. Every week is a new week and a new game plan and a new opponent and little wrinkles and all of that. In terms of the overall picture, I think that he has been through just about, not every, but just about every situation a player would go through.

**Q: With a guy like Phil Simms when he retired he said that is when you learn the most.

BB:** You never stop learning. I am not saying that anybody at their three, four, five-year level as a player is the same as a 15, but incrementally it is not like they haven't been through those situations before. Not that everybody can't learn something. I've been in the league 29 years and I learn something everyday. I know that I know a lot more now than I knew my fourth year. Sometimes there is a point after you have been through everything that you are pretty far along the road and I would say that is where he is.

**Q: Where would you say he excels? In what area?

BB:** Mentally, overall accuracy, game management.

**Q: Is that something that you have seen improve steadily?

BB:** I think he had elements of those in the beginning when we got him in 2000. I think they have improved. It was a big jump from 2000 to 2001 and I think there was a big jump from '01 to '02. As we got into the '02 season and now going into '03 that it is gradual. There is not that explosive jump that you see with a player that is just gaining experience in the league. He is an experience player at this point.

**Q: Was the jump from 2000 to 2001 more physical?

BB:** Yeah, he was probably 205 pounds. Not that he is 260 now, but he has added some strength, and has matured physically. But I think it has been a combination of both

**Q: With the absence of Colvin, does that have the potential to have a deflating affect on the rest of the defense knowing that he may not be out there for a while?

BB:** I think everybody hates to see a player get injured whether it be Rosie or anybody else. At the same time, we have lost two good players in the last two weeks and guys have stepped in for them and performed well. That is what team defense is all about is everybody rallying together and performing well as a unit whether that is one person stepping up or a combination of more than one person stepping and filling that role. That is what football is all about. That is what team defense is about.

**Q: Do you fear any kind of emotional affect on that? It's not really just the two players that got hurt obviously with Lawyer Milloy gone he was supposed to be part of this defense originally. In essence the team has lost three starters since the last preseason game.

BB:** Right. I don't really see it as starters. I see it as players that contribute to the team. We have a lot of players that contribute. There are more than just 11 players out there playing for us on defense. It has been that way for a long time. I think it will be that way heading into the future, that it is not just 11 players. It is 15. It is 16. You would like to have all of them and you would like to have everybody available every single week and every game but sometimes it just can't work out that way.

**Q: With the injuries, how much does it change what you can do schematically?

BB:** I think we have to keep an eye. I think that is a good point. One thing that you worry about is your depth. When you have people in place in terms of depth and you feel like, 'Okay, something happened, will we still be able to run this?' But there is a point where if it trickles down far enough, guys that haven't had as much experience doing it, you have to keep an eye on that. It is definitely a concern.

**Q: With the inexperience with some of the guys in the secondary, does that pull back at all some of the schemes that you use?

BB:** I think every year is a different year. Some things from this year are a little bit different than last year. Some things from last year are a little bit different from the year before and so forth. Teams game-plan you differently and they attack you. I would say overall that we are doing pretty much the same things we have done. The percentages sometimes vary how much we play this coverage or that coverage or this front or that front but it is still fundamentally pretty much the same. We have made some adjustments. There is no question. There are new players back there. We have made some adjustments [with] other guys who have played together for longer might have been a little further along in some of the things like where the combination receivers on different formations and that kind of thing. That is probably something that we are working toward. We are not quite to the point where we were in other years doing that.

**Q: Are you concerned with Antowain Smith's lack of production?

BB:** I think that offensively, we are still looking to improve our overall production offensively in all areas of the game and that includes the running game. It includes the running backs, it includes the line, the receivers, the passing game, the whole works. We obviously didn't have too much production in the first week. It was better last week but some of that was the result of favorable field position and turnovers. I think we could still be more efficient moving the ball offensively. That includes everybody. I wouldn't single anybody out offensively and say, 'Well that is the problem. If we could just get this guy to feel better, everything would be great.' I don't think that is really the case. I think it is a little wider than that.

**Q: Is there a point of imbalance I guess you would call it that you would be willing to accept if the offense seemed to be working?

BB:** Sure.

**Q: Is there a point where you see that working as opposed to being totally balance?

BB:** Sure, it could work. We have won games and other teams in the league have won games doing more of one thing than the other. You want to be balanced, maybe not necessarily in terms of yardage but in terms of just keeping the defense honest, I would say, I don't know what the league average is but it is probably between 55 and 60 percent passing, somewhere in that neighborhood. I don't think hardly any team is 50/50 but there may be a couple but there aren't many. It is good to be balanced. But if something is not working, to me, there is no sense in banging your head against the wall and trying to force something in there when something else is going better. Sometimes that is dictated by what the defense is doing. Sometimes it is dictated by the efficiency of your team. We have been down that road before where we have tried to make something go and it didn't go well. I don't think you just keep doing it just to say we are balanced but we are not winning. That doesn't really get it for us. It is the winning that is important.

**Q: Don't some things depend on your ability to at least convince another team that you can still do something? Could you see a point reaching where some teams might say, 'They are just not going to run the ball, so we do not have to worry about that?'

BB:** Sure. If that happens, they are going to force you to either execute those plays very well or come back and balance it up. There is no question that is a possibility. It is going to happen. Teams are going to overplay certain parts of your game whatever they are. Then you have to have some way to compensate for it.

**Q: It doesn't seem ideal that you would want to be running maybe a five wide formation in the fourth quarter of a game and you have a big lead risking the potential of not taking time off the clock with incompletions. Does that put undue pressure on the quarterback to be perfect in those situations?

BB:** I would say that is something that we talked about going into the game. It was definitely a game plan strategy that we had in the Philadelphia game. Tom and I talked about it before the game and I said, 'Look, if we get into this situation here is what we are going to do and here is why we are going to do it,' he understood that clearly and I think he saw it the same way. That was our decision going into the game. If we had to do it over again, we would probably make the same decision for a variety of reasons. Schematically the way Philadelphia plays, whatever you are doing, you have to know what you are doing because they give you a lot of problems and they give you a lot of different looks. Some times, at least in our case, we thought it was better to handle it that way. Again, that is something that Tom and I talked about that probably Friday or Saturday before the game. It was well in advance, when situation actually came up.

**Q: Is his general ability to avoid mistakes make it easier?

BB:** Sure. I have a lot of confidence in him being able to handle virtually any situation that we are in offensively, ahead or behind, time outs or no time outs, weather conditions. To me, he has proven that he can handle those situations well and make good decisions and I don't mind having the ball in his hands. I think that he will make good decisions with whatever comes up. You never know for sure what that is going to be but you want somebody who instinctively will have good judgment and I think he has shown that he has that.

**Q: Tom has been real good at spreading the ball around. How much of that is the offense and how much of that is him just recognizing?

BB:** Well I would say both. Number one, Charlie [Weis] uses a lot of different personnel groups and they have a lot of different people on the field. It is not always the same guys, so that lends itself right there to having different people to throw to. I think that Tom does a good job of seeing the coverage and throwing the ball to the weaker part of the coverage rather than just looking for one guy and always try to jam it in there to the same guy whether he is open or not. That is a function of the quarterback reading the defenses and reading the coverages but it is also a function offensively of having multiple personnel groups and multiple people in the game so that we can utilize more than just the one set of skill players.

**Q: In you experience, have young quarterbacks tend to lock on a specific group of guys?

BB:** I don't know if there is a set rule on that. Probably some do more and some don't. Some of the guys that I have been with, I can probably think of good examples of both. I think at this point, I think that Tom is pretty comfortable with the offense and what all the options are. There are certain coverages where you need to go one place and there are certain coverages where on the same pattern, you just really need to be throwing the ball somewhere else. That is the best way to avoid turnovers. It is the best way to avoid bad plays, not that we aren't going to have any, I am not saying we are going to go the rest of the year without turning the ball over but that to me is the best way to avoid them is to avoid that kind of traffic in the passing game and take care of the football number one.

**Q: When Tom breaks the huddle, how often does he know the primary receiver and the secondary receiver or does it depend on what the defense is showing?

BB:** What I think normally what happens is when you call a play based on the down and distance that you call and based on the personnel that they have in the game, you have an idea of what you are expecting in the situation. 'Okay, it's first and 10 and we have the ball on our side of the 50-yard line, here is what we think they are going to play – it's 40 percent this, it's 20 percent of this, it's 20 percent this, it's 20 percent of something else, and then it's a few maybe one time throwing.' You are looking for maybe three things and you get in a certain formation and then by that formation, maybe you pick up another key so now you can narrow it down to, 'Well it is probably one of these two things based on where the Will linebacker is or where the strong safety is,' or whatever your keys are. Then the quarterback gets a snap from center and he ahs to verify, even though he goes out there and says, 'I know what this coverage is. Here is the look. Here is where the corners are, here is where the safeties are. Here is where the linebacker is. Here is where the mic is.' He is 99 percent sure that is what it is. He still has to take the snap and verify that read after the snap. When they don't do that, there is going to be at some point along the way where the defense is going to show that look, they are going to change the defensive coverage a little bit and the quarterback is going to anticipate it is one thing and it is something else and it is going to be a bad play. What a good quarterback will do is he will take all of that information and put it in the bank. He will be 99 percent sure that he is right and then when the ball is snapped and those reads verify it, then that will just make him more decisive in making the right decision. I think it is sort of like when you go up to a red light and there is no car in front of you and the light has been red for a while. So you are slowing down and you are going into the intersection and you see the cars coming the other way stop and you know that light is going to turn green, but you can't just hit the accelerator and run in there until the light turns. You just can't do that but you don't want to slam on your breaks either. As soon as the light turns green then you can go ahead and re-accelerate and go through the intersection. I think it is a little bit like that. The quarterback comes to the line, he is pretty sure that, 'Okay, here is where everything is. Okay, there it is, that verifies it, boom! I got it and here is what I am going to do – I am going to read high-low on the corner. I am going to read inside-out on the mic linebacker,' whatever the key is on that particular pattern. That is the way I would see it. If he gets a key that is different from what he expects, like all of a sudden the weak safety comes up right on the snap and times up and he is blitzing, in his mental clock it has to go off that, 'When this happens, here is what I do. I now know that this guy is not picked up I have to throw it to this receiver and that receiver has got to break it off. I have to still see it before I throw it but here is what I am anticipating happening and that type of thing.

**Q: As a defensive guy, how tempting is it to mess with the quarterback and change up something at the last second?

BB:** Well that is what you do defensively. Those defensive guys, they have meetings and they have walkthrough's and they have practices too and that is what they try to do. They try to say, 'Okay here is a coverage we have been playing a lot and people have seen us play it and we are going to change it up a little bit this week. It is going to look like this, but it is going to turn out to be something else.' Once the ball is snapped, everybody has got to go to wherever it is they have to go. You can fool an offense or a quarterback or a tight end if he has got some kind of read on his pattern, even the outside receivers. A lot of teams, for example with the outside receivers, when they have an outside route called, if the corner comes up and presses then that outside route converts to a fade and it become a go-route. If the corner is up there pressing and the receiver is saying, 'Okay on this route, I am going to run this fade.' Then right prior to the snap, the guy backs off, 'Okay well now there is some indecision there. Is he pressed or isn't he pressed? Does the quarterback think he is pressed or does he think he is off?' Both guys have to see it the same way. That is the type of thing that defenses do to try to foul up the timing. That might have been what happened in the Philadelphia game. I am not sure exactly. The receiver stopped and ran him out, the ball was thrown deep, that is the type of communication that quarterbacks and receivers have to have. Those are things that you try to do defensively. In the end, when the ball is snapped, you have to go where you have to go to get to your coverage and the quarterback will read that even though he might think it is 'a' and it turns out to be 'b', then when he reads it he should make that decision accordingly. That is what they are taught to do.

**Q: Is it just a handful of times somebody gets fooled?

BB:** I think fooled is a hard word. It comes down to execution. When you have 11 guys moving around out there, you can't see all of them. You can concentrate on a few, maybe three or four and pick them out and concentrate on them, and then you have to kind of have to feel the other guys. It's hard to see what all 11 people are doing whether you are a quarterback, a free safety or a middle linebacker, whatever position you are playing. You can key on two or three guys and have a pretty good idea of what they are doing. Sometimes you do get fooled and what looks like one thing, turns out to be something else like play action. Sometimes the defensive linebackers or defensive backs will think it is a run and it really turns out to be a pass and they get fooled. Other times they see it and they just don't do the right thing. The quarterback sees a coverage. He should throw over here on this coverage and he is throwing over there nine out of 10 times, but this is the tenth time and for whatever reason he either guessed at it or just didn't quite read it right. Something just didn't go off and it didn't all click together and so instead of going here with the ball he went there and just made a mistake. Sometimes that happens on defense too where a guy is supposed to rotate one way and for some reason somebody gets a little bit confused and doesn't see the right thing in the formation and he rotates the wrong way. Those things happen too. They are just mistakes and what you hope is that whichever side of the ball you are on, that if you are playing your thing correctly like offensively, if you are reading the pattern correctly when they make a mistake in the coverage, that would take you to the weakness of the defense and you are able to expose it.

**Q: In your football career do you remember a season where you actually went into the year with a group and finished it with the same group?

BB:** We might have in New York in 1986. Phil Simms got hurt in 1990. In 1986 I think we pretty much had the same defensive unit…no we didn't Terry Kinard got hurt and Herbie Welch finished at free safety that year. It is probably hard to think of a year where somewhere along the line you haven't had to make some adjustments.

**Q: Could you just comment on how making those adjustments is often the key to a team's success like in the Super Bowl year making the adjustments to Brady? Going to plan b and plan c and adjusting to that.

BB:** In a way, I think you kind of answered your own question. That is the way it is. You are going to have to make adjustments along the way. That is why when we practice we put 11 guys out there and then we substitute people in so that by the end of the drill, maybe 18 or 20 people are working. Whether it is offense or defense, whether you have four receivers and you have the three receiver set, then those four guys have to be able to cover those three spots if you have three tight ends and those three tight ends have to be able to cover the two tight end's spots and right down the line. Sooner or later, you are either going to get into that by an injury situation or sometimes it is just a rotational to try to keep your people fresh or to try to maximize the efficiency of the players within a game. You use different guys throughout the game or within the game so that everybody is performing as efficiently as they can. You talk about depth on your team, but that is what depth is. It's being able to play more than one guy at that spot because sooner or later you, in this game, you have to be prepared to use multiple people.

**Q: Are there other elements to managing depth other than getting practice reps?

BB:** Sure. It starts in the classroom and it starts in training camp. What is hard to do is you go through training camp and your five offensive linemen play the same spots and all of that. Then you go to the first regular season game and you active say seven linemen or eight. So somebody has got to start doubling up somewhere. Then you go in the first or second regular season game and say, 'Okay, this week I want you to instead of learning left guard, you also need to know right tackle.' That is a lot because you haven't even looked at right tackle and here you. You have all of the even number of plays are now on your side instead of the other way. Everything is all flipped around and your footwork is different and everything and you are trying to get ready for one week and you have to go in there and play and it is tough. Sometimes you have to do it but that is not really what you would like to do. What you would like to do is in training camp say, 'Okay, the first you are going to work here. The second week we are going to work you over here at right guard instead of left guard so you get used to that.' Then you guys come in and right, 'Well they have changed the first team, now so-and-so got demoted. Instead of playing right guard, now he is backing up at left guard and somebody else is in right guard.' That is not really the way it is. We are trying to build depth on the team so that seven guys can play five spots, so that four can play three, so that three can play two and that kind of thing. Sooner or later, you are going to need to do that. You hope you don't but sooner or later, you probably are somewhere along the line. Philadelphia, you look at them, those guys on the offensive line have started three straight years. That is awesome. That is a great situation. They have got good players. They have played together. They know each other. They have had a lot of experience and they have never had to make any changes and that is great. You hope it is that way, but it doesn't always work out like that.

**Q: How much of managing depth is financial?

BB:** That is a part of it. The more experienced your depth is, generally speaking, the more expensive it is. If you want to have depth with un-drafted college rookie free agents, knock yourself out. You can probably gets as many of them as you want. But if you want to start paying for guys with experience, they are going to cost more. You just have to decide where you want to spend it. It is hard to have everything there. It is hard to have veteran experience relatively higher priced players at every position. You are going to have to pick out a few but it is going to be hard to afford it all the way across the board.

**Q: For you specifically, is it more important to have more of those guys and less of those guys than the top?

BB:** I don't think you can look at it that way. I think you have to look at your team and say, 'How can I get the best team out there? What is the best thing for this team?' I don't think there is any text book, at least for me there isn't, that says, 'Okay, well this is how it is going to be – we are going to have this many guys here and that many guys there and as many guys somewhere else.' Sometimes you feel like your rookies are ready to contribute sooner than others. In that case, maybe a rookie can provide some depth. In other cases, you have rookies who are there but they are really not depth. They are more of a potential guy for the following year. Do you have depth? You have a name on the board; I don't know if you really have depth in November when you need it. On the other hand, if you do have depth there then that creates some options somewhere else. I couldn't give you any definitive answer like, 'Here is what we want to do.' You just take a look at what you have and take a look at what you think your needs are going to be and then try to adjust them from there. Obviously if you have a 35-40 year old player in certain positions, I think you have to be a little bit more concerned about the people that play that position than if the guy is 25. That being said, you are just as vulnerable with younger players as you are with older ones but you just know those older ones they just can't go forever.

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