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Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript - 9/25/03

BB: There are no changes on the injury report. Today is a red area, third down, goal line type of day. Those are some of the areas where Washington is very good. They are leading the league on third down defense. They are a very good red area offensive team/goal line team and were last year as well. They do a good job down there so these key situations are always critical for us but especially this week because the team we are playing is one of the tops in the league and were last year as well especially offensively in the red zone they were very productive. So they do a good job down there. That is pretty much what we are and what we are working on.

**Q: How does Washington's linebackers stack up against the rest of the league, [LaVar] Arrington,

BB:** They are a real physical group. Of course, Arrington is a guy they like to blitz a lot. He is really probably got everything you want in a linebacker in terms of size, speed, athleticism, and range. He is a good blitzer, a good tackler, can play in space and can play against all of the big people. [Jeremiah] Trotter is a tough, physical, inside guy. [Jesse] Armstead is real experienced. It is hard to fool him on anything. He reads things very quickly. He gets to the ball and anticipates things very well and is a very experienced player. He is not as experienced as Bruce Smith, but close.

**Q: Can you trace the evolution of [Rick] Lyle's role from when you signed him to when you got [Ted] Washington to now?

BB:** It really hasn't changed too much. One of Rick's strengths is his versatility and from day one has always been responsible for all of the defensive line spots and has worked intermittently at all of them, both inside and outside. In training camp, as I remember, we would start him at one spot and then maybe after the first week or somewhere after a few days of practice, moving him so he got more reps at the other spot. He has played across the board. He has played on the left side, the right side, he has played inside in the tackle, and he has played on the nose. That is his role, his versatility. I feel like he can play all of them but he is not so specialized that he can't move around and that gives us some depth there.

**Q: Without showing your cards, is his role going to increased whether you play the 3-4 or 4-3 now with the injury situation?

BB:** With Ted out, there is probably going to be an opportunity for more than one player on the defensive line to have more playing time or more responsibilities, yes. But he has filled those spots, all of them really, at one point or another during the season. I am sure it will continue to be that way that we will count on him in depth all the way across the board and let some of the other guys concentrate more on just one particular position and just getting the reads down and those blocked reactions on the defensive line are so quick. When a guy does something, you have to react immediately to it to be able to play the play properly. It is hard to get guys that can play a lot of different spots along the line particularly in the running game. It is not as bad in the pass rush because you are just going forward and you are working on one guy. But in the running game, those block reactions are tough and Rick has the ability to do it from different spots. That is really an asset for us and him.

**Q: Is Ty Warren one of those guys who will get more opportunities?

BB:** I think he could. I think we will probably spread it around. I could see it, again, being more than one guy whether it be Ty, Jarvis [Green], Dan [Klecko], or Willie [McGinest]. They are all going to end up probably one week sooner or later somewhere along the line, have an increased role depending on the scheme and the situation.

**Q: When you lose a couple of starters on the offensive line, do you have to change blocking assignments, schemes or is it just the back ups have to just fit in there?

BB:** It can be a combination of both. I think anytime you have, whether it is an offensive or defensive system, one player that does something particularly well and you try to incorporate that into your system and then you don't have another player who does that same thing well, then when you make the transition you are going to have some type of adjustment. Either you are going to be asking a guy to do something that maybe isn't his real strong point or you change so you are not getting into that because you have a different player in there. No matter what position you talk about I think you are getting back to the same thing. In terms of the offensive line one of the big things is so much offensive line play is these five guys have those five guys. However they want to jump around and move around or stunt or twist or blitz or whatever it is. Those five guys have to block the other five guys and then the backs and the tight end, they are only accountable for usually just one guy, whoever their assignment is. It is all five of those guys on the offensive line getting on the same page and being able for five to take five so that they all see it the same way and they can all anticipate it, communicate it and then block it. That is really the key to the offensive line. There is some one-on-one pass protection, but even there a lot of times, it is three on two. There are multiple combinations involved.

**Q: How about with the communication there? You had [Dan] Koppen at center, a rookie, and [Damien] Woody was still out there.

BB:** Well, Koppen has played center all year, so he has had all of the reps in training camp. He has seen all of the looks that we have seen. He doesn't have the game experience that a Mike Compton or a Damien Woody or a Joe Andruzzi has, there is no doubt about that. He has done what we have done for whatever it has been, nine weeks now. I think he understands and knows what we need to do. There is always some nuances and a little different look or a little different personnel group from team-to-team and week-to-week. Overall, I think that he has got it and as he gets more experience he will get better at it. It is okay now, I am sure it will be better.

**Q: How does he stack up physically?

BB:** Koppen?

**Q: Yes.

BB:** In terms of?

**Q: The difference between college and the pro's?

BB:** It's okay. I think like all rookies, this first year in the NFL there is a growing process that they hit in the second year that they just don't have in the first year. Part of it is physical, part of it is mental. Sometimes it is conditioning or mental preparation however you want to look at it. I think it is okay. There are bigger centers in the league than him. There are probably some that aren't as big. I think it's okay. I think there is some room improvement; there is definitely room for improvement. I don't think it is one end of the spectrum or the other. I think he is a solid, physical, NFL center prospect.

**Q: With Woody at right guard and Joe at left guard was that an example or was that match up or was that what you were talking about a couple of weeks ago where you said sometimes guys are just more comfortable playing on the right side?

BB:** I think with those two players, I do not think it is a big thing with them. I really don't. Damien played left guard when Compton came in and snapped and he has played right guard. Joe played left guard in 2000. Then he played right guard. They have played both spots. I don't think it is really, for them in talking to them and watching them play, I don't think it is that big of a deal. I think that they can move pretty easily.

**Q: What is it about Bruce Smith that keeps him going after all of these years? He is still pretty dangerous on defense.

BB:** He sure is. I would say number one is his quickness. He is very quick off of the ball and that is where he causes you the most problems is when he gets into the blocker before they can really get on him. Or on pass rush where he gets off the snap and gets the edge on the blocker before the tackle can get a good set on him. Of course he anticipates things well through his experience, but he has got good quickness with his feet and good quickness with his hands when linemen try to punch him off and to try to swat the hands down and get him off of them, that kind of thing, so that he can skinny the corner and get the edge on the quarterback. He is quick and he is instinctive. He anticipates well. He is a hard guy to fool on things like screens and reverses and traps and stuff like that. He has seen a billion of those. He sees that stuff in his sleep.

**Q: When he was at the height of his powers when you played against in the Super Bowl, was he a major concern for you heading into the game?

BB:** I think he was for the team, not me personally. I was coaching defense so I didn't really have to deal with him too much. But, yes, sure. He is the kind of guy that can ruin the game for you. We talk about those guys and he is one of them. A couple of strip sacks or tipped ball or a turnover or two and that is the kind of thing that ruins a game. He is definitely capable of that. He is amazing. He has withstood the test of time and I think is really having a good year this year. He has done a nice job.

**Q: What is LaVar Arrington like as a player? He seems to be a guy who, from what I heard, likes to freelance. I heard that is kind of the way Lawrence Taylor used to excel.

BB:** I am not sure exactly what they tell Lavar but they do put him in a lot of different places. He is not always lined up in the same spot. When you come out of the huddle. It is not like you can say, 'Okay, he is going to be here,' or 'He is going to be there.' You don't know that for sure. But I think that he has got all of the skills that you want a linebacker to have. He is big. He is fast. He plays well in space. He plays well against the bigger people he has to play against. He pursues well. He is very seldom on the ground. He has got good balance and he has got a lot of power and explosion. He is a man and he can run. I think pretty much whatever you want him to do, he could do. He is, like most linebackers, more of a force when he can play into the line of scrimmage rather than drop in space and cover an area. But he does that too and they put him in man-to-man coverage and that is no problem. He doesn't struggle with that. He can do pretty much whatever you want him to do. How much of it is freelance and how much of it is there scheme, moving them around so they can get them on mismatches or get him where they think either the point of attack is or where they want to try to be disruptive, I am not sure how much of that is him and how much of that is them. But he moves around quite a bit. You have to know where he is.

**Q: Can you talk a little bit about Jesse Armstead?

BB:** Armstead I think is a very experienced linebacker. He is a guy that sniffs out plays quickly, the counters, the reverses, the screens, the draws, those kinds of things. It is hard to get him on that stuff. Trotter is a physical inside linebacker. He is, I would say, a typical mic, a good mic, that plays with a lot of power and has pretty good range on the outside plays. It is a very good linebacking group.

**Q: What are the advantages of using Arrington off the line of scrimmage on third down as opposed to the way the use the linemen?

BB:** When you say off the line of scrimmage…

**Q: Obviously they put him as a rush end, I believe.

BB:** He rushes a lot.

**Q: Is it just an unpredictability thing?

BB:** Let's say if you treat him as a fourth down linemen. So they have three linemen and you treat him as the fourth guy so you assign an offensive lineman to him. He drops into coverage then really you have got one of your offensive lineman blocking air and then somebody else is coming somewhere else that is going to either force one of your backs to stay in or they are going to be able to somehow penetrate into the pocket because you have got more of your line working in his direction. So you are relatively softer somewhere else. The advantages of doing that is to try to draw the protection one way and then hit it somewhere else. Then if you don't slide your protection that way and then they bring them, you are mismatched over there. So you are into a little bit of a guessing game. Defensively, that is the one big transition that we have seen in professional football over the last 10 years. There was a point and time were most teams played a 4-3 and the four linemen who rushed always rushed and the seven people who covered always covered. If one of them rushed, then it was a blitz. That was just pretty straightforward. Whereas now you have defensive linemen and 3-4 schemes and 2-5 schemes and all of those kinds of things, and you have multiple people dropping into coverage so instead of the quarterback just having to read seven guys, now there may be nine sometimes 10 potential players that can go into coverage. That is a whole different thing for the quarterbacks. Some of that has lead to the spread offenses both in college and professional football. So where you least force the people who are in coverage to get out there and cover and you can at least identify who they are and then read them from there. It's a lot different reading eight or nine guys than it is compared to reading seven believe it or not. It is a big difference. What you gain from using a guy who has multiple skills like that is to keep the offense honest and keep him from just loading up on him and when you do that then that opens up something for somebody else.

**Q: When you played them in the preseason, they had success running the ball up the middle and a couple of days later, you went out and got Ted Washington. How much can scheme compensate for your limited personnel on defense?

BB:** It just depends on how far you want to take it. I guess. If you want to get one thing stopped, you could probably get it stopped. You could probably put your goal line in and stop if it you want to but that is the extreme. Then you have all of the other problems. The more you put your scheme in to stop one thing, then the weaker you are somewhere else. I think you can probably load up your scheme pretty much to handle just one problem. It is as the problems multiply that just exposes so many weaknesses it is hard to hold up that way. An offensive team would have to be so one dimensional that you wouldn't have to worry about anything else?

**Q: How would you describe Kevin Faulk's progression from when you first got here?

BB:** The first year that I got here, Kevin was coming off an ankle injury from the 1999 season. Most of the offseason was spent in rehab and I didn't really have a chance to work with Kevin too much until training camp. He had a good training camp. As we have gotten know Kevin and his skills and appreciate the things that he can do, I think we have tried to put him in situations that are probably best suited for those talents and skills, returning kicks, catching the ball and certain things in the running game that create some space for him where he has an opportunity to use his quickness and his run vision. Kevin has worked hard at the things that we have asked him to work on such as ball security and things that all smaller backs have to deal with like blitz pickup and blocking and those kinds of things. Kevin has really taken it hard and worked as hard as anybody to try to improve on those things. As a result, I think that he is a much better player than he was in the 2000 season mostly due to his hard work and diligence and I think he has become more of a multi-purpose player for us.

**Q: Dave Meggett comes to mind, but have you coached a player that has done as many things as Kevin has?

BB:** I think Meggett is a good comparison. Meggett was a very strong guy even though he wasn't that big. Pound for pound he was very strong. Meggett played with some guys that were more of your traditional first down running backs that took a lot of carries, O.J. Anderson, Rodney Hampton, Curtis, guys like that. I think Meggett has a lot of the same return skills, catching the ball obviously. He's though. It wasn't that he would back from anybody, sometimes he would just get overmatched for his size, but it wasn't from a lack of toughness or strength for his size. He had good run vision and could run the ball, so I think there's some similarities there between those two players in terms of their physical stature and also their playing style.

**Q: Did it take you awhile to be convinced that he could be a first and second down back?

BB:** I think any player can be a first and second down player. I think any player can be a third down player. It just depends on what you want to do with those guys. For example, teams that ran the run-and-shoot offense, their third down backs were fullbacks. They were protection backs and that's what they were used for. A guy like Kevin or a guy like David Meggett or somebody like that, those run-and-shoot teams would never use a player like that. They were using the 230, 235-pound backs because that was his role, to be a protection back. You take other backs who are physically not that big, big power back type size, they can be every down backs too. I think you have to understand what their skills are and what you are asking them to do. If it's to do things that aren't really suited to their game then I am not sure that is really how you get the most production out of them or longevity could be an issue too, durability.

**Q: On that theme, is Deion Branch ready to be an every-down receiver for you?

BB:** Yeah, Deion is an every down receiver for us. We play our receivers in somewhat of a rotation from time to time, sometimes that has been as a result of the injury status. We use a lot of multiple receivers, but we definitely consider him an every-down receiver and a starting receiver. A lot of times we have three receivers on the field and he's one of them.

**Q: He came out of a college a good receiver, has he picked up other things such as blocking, some of the other things you look for out of a receiver?

BB:** I think Deion's game has improved significantly since last year. I think there is still some upside to him. The route running, the recognition of coverages and adjusting the routes, I don't think that was something he did a lot of, I'm not saying he didn't do any of it, but I think there is more of it in this league. And the big thing is for all receivers in the NFL is press coverage. A lot of college receivers just don't see a lot of press, man-to-man coverage. They see it in this league and that's a big deal. A lot of guys you see in college come out and they get 1,100 or 1,200 yards or whatever it is every year and they put up all these ridiculous numbers. And then they come into the NFL and they are not even on the team. A lot of the times that is a result of the tight coverage in this league and having to really get away from people and get open versus receivers that can just run and find spots and the quarterback get them the ball. The elements of dealing with that kind of coverage, the corners and the athletes in this league that can do that, that is something that just about all receivers have to adjust to. Deion would be in that category.

**Q: You've had a lot of experiencing coaching special teams that area has always been a priority to you, but have you ever done any hands on coaching of Adam [Vinatieri] or is Brad Seely doing hands on coaching of him in a way that you would other players? Or is he just left to his own place pretty much?

BB:** No. Well first of all, Brad is definitely the coach and he does work with him on a hands-on basis. They film him, look at this technique, just like you do with any other specialists, whether it is Lonie [Paxton], Adam [Vinatieri] or Kenny [Walters] or the holders. We spend a lot of time on that and it is coached very thoroughly. As far as my role with the kickers or really any other position, other than the quarterbacks when that has really been a little bit of a different category the last two years, I talk to him about some of those things. Certainly not to the extent or in the detail that Brad does, but there are definitely some things that we talk about technique wise whether it be with a specialists or with anybody else. I do feel confident because I've, even as an assistant coach, coached virtually every position on the field at one time or another. I think I've got enough of a background that there are certain things that I think I can tell a guy that will help him.

**Q: Speaking of special teams, with all the injuries, are you tempted to take some of your starters off of he special teams? For example a guy like [Tedy] Bruschi? Is that a tempting thing?

BB:** I think we are going to have to manage our whole team and that is something we have talked about. I think we are going to have to manage our whole team in terms of how much everybody is doing. That's a good example that you brought up with Bruschi, where we might need to cut back some guys reps a little bit and spread that out to balance the workload out all the way through. It is definitely something we've talked about. I would say this, I would not tell any player that we are not going to play him on special teams. I don't think that is really the approach I would take. We are going to do whatever we need to do to win and if that's play somebody in a situation, we are going to play them. But at the same time, from big picture standpoint, it may not be every single play or it may not be as many plays as maybe it would be if the make-up of the team, the depth of team at certain positions were a little bit different. Yes, we'll manage it with some of those guys where we need to.

**Q: You have stressed versatility with us, the current injury situation is a terrible way to prove your point, but do you at least feel your team is, besides physically, mentally better prepared to be adaptable to a situation like this?

BB:** That's a good question. You hope so. Because we do build a lot of versatility into our team and we recognize in training camp even though it is easy in training camp to line up the second right guard behind the third right guard and the third right guard behind the second right guard and just go right down the line. But that's not the way it is during the regular season. In the regular season you never have enough people, other than in the quarterback position, you never have enough people to back up every single position all the way through. You have to try to build your depth, in my opinion, early in training camp rather than…to me this would be a bad time to go up to a guy and say, 'Okay, by the way, instead of playing outside linebacker you are going to be a playing inside.' 'Instead of playing this you are going to be playing that.' That's not really the way you want to do it. Sometimes it happens that way, but if you can anticipate that sooner or later somebody is going to have to play more than one spot, then the sooner you do it the easier it is for the player to a) get comfortable playing it, or b) for you to recognize that uh-oh we picked the wrong guy here to try to move. This player is more of a one-position player and we are going to have to get somebody else. That guy is just a bag of tricks. Sometimes you need to identify that. We've talked about playing left and right guard, or left and right corner or left and right end. Some guys it is no problem. Other guys, you are really asking them a lot to make that transition. It is hard for them. Not that they don't want to do it. Not that they're not trying. It's just not the same. Whatever the situation is, I still think that's the best way to build the team. I think sooner or later you are going to be faced with a situation where guys are going to have to play other spots and the sooner you can prepare them for that, then the better off you are. You hope it's never going to come but you always have to be prepared for it and that includes in all the regular season games.

**Q: I am wondering if mindset and versatility go hand in hand? Is that something you try to establish early, along with speed, strength and quickness?

**Q: Especially if you see that for the role for the player. Absolutely. For example, in talking to Tyrone Poole, his ability to play inside in sub defenses, as well as his ability to play outside at corner and return punts, all those are distinct roles. A corner is a corner, but playing inside and playing outside, that is two different ball games. So in talking to him about things like that, sure you definitely want to try to get an understanding for where he is on that, how he feels about it and also what his expectations are. Some guys are different than others. But there is an example, but we definitely do address that. Now if it is a position that you really don't see the players moving a lot, you just really want him to play one spot, then if something were to happen to him, somebody else would take his spot rather than jump him around than that might not be as applicable.

**Q: Did you ever ask Eugene Wilson if he had played safety or would be open to it or anything like that?

BB:** I talked to him about that right prior to making the move. When we decided to make the move I talked to him and said, 'Hey this is what we are going to do. How do you feel about it? Are you okay with this? Here's why we're doing it?' This is what we are talking about here. I didn't expect that he would have any problem with it, but he didn't. So that's how that one came down.

**Q: Did you think before you drafted him, 'I think if I ask Eugene Wilson to play inside or outside in some other position, he is smart enough?'

BB:** We had hoped that. Based on the way he had played at Illinois, he almost always played outside. He had very little experience playing inside. And neither did Asante [Samuel]. So we had to make the decision, I think we really made it in the spring in the mini-camps, how many people can you try to work inside. I think if you try to work five guys inside then none of them gets enough work and none of them are any good. And if you just pick one, and something happens to him, you don't have a paddle there either in a boat. So there is somewhere in between. We talked about Eugene; we talked about Asante. After talking it through, we decided what the best thing for the team was, was to put Asante inside and leave Eugene outside. So that's why we did that. Could it have gone the other way? We talked about it. And we didn't do it, but I think if it were different circumstances, maybe it could have gone the other way. But in terms of the coaching part of it, the way I feel about it is the only way for a player to improve is to understand what a problem was or what his weakness is and then to work on it and get better. When a player has an attitude that is not coachable, if he has an attitude of 'well, I'm not going to take any coaching. I'm going to do it my way. And this is the way I'm going to do it, and that's it.' I don't really see how a player can ever get any better. He can keep doing it the way he is doing it, and if that's perfect than great you probably don't need to coach him. But at some point there is going to be a problem, either with the way he is doing it or how it works within the rest of the team. Then if he is not willing to change that or correct that, then I don't see how it could ever be any better than the way it currently is at that point. And frankly, usually it gets worse. Just in terms of being coaching or being open minded, it's to me just being able to accept coaching or constructive criticism. 'I know you are trying hard. This is the way you are doing it, but that's not really what we're looking for. We need to change it and do it a little bit differently.' 'Okay Coach, I'll try to do it that way.' Okay, great, but when it is, 'No, I can't do it that way, this is the only way I can do it.' Well then, how can you get any better? How can the player get any better? How can the team get any better? I don't know how to get over that one. So, you just have to deal with it the way it is and hope it is okay. But if it's not, I don't know how he can improve. That's what I'm talking about.

**Q: Has it been tough this to practice this week?

BB:** We've got fewer people, no question. We didn't go out in pads yesterday. We won't be in pads today. So we'll cut down a little bit on the contact, not that we are cutting down on the concentration or the execution levels or anything like that, but we'll do a little less contact. We've got some guys that are sore and in some cases won't run quite as many plays because fewer guys are getting more plays than there is less of a need to run quite as many plays.

**Q: Some guys are practicing who aren't going to play in the game?

BB:** I think that's the way it always is. You always, I wouldn't say always, you end up practicing some people, and then when you make your final inactive decisions, whether it is Friday or Saturday or whenever it is, sometimes Sunday morning, when you look back on the week you say, 'We practiced some of those guys and they ended up not playing.' Usually what we try to do is keep the door open so that the 45 guys, or maybe you are practicing 50 guys, well maybe there are two or three that would just get their scout team reps, but the other people there would be some scenario that they would play. Or there might be a guy, who you are just not quite sure about, and if he couldn't play then maybe there is one of two ways you could go and not necessarily just replace him with one guy. Maybe you have two options there and that kind of thing.

**Q: Do you have 45?

BB:** Well probably not. If the game were today, I would say no. At least today.

**Q: Do you think you will know Saturday before you get on the plane?

BB:** I would say Saturday. Maybe Sunday, but I could see a couple of these coming down to game-time Sunday morning decisions. I could definitely see that. If we know for sure on Saturday then that will be great one way or another at least we know, but if it goes longer than that then we will give it the full amount of time to see whether or not they'll be ready. And again, just so we know what they can do.

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