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Bill Belichick Press Conf. Transcript 9/5/04

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BB: We are going to announce the cuts at the end of the day, so we'll skip over that one for now. And, just getting into Indianapolis, the thing with them is that they are a really explosive team. They, in preseason, led the league in turnovers defensively, so they are getting the ball out a lot, they are explosive in the kicking game. Cincinnati, they got the ball and two minutes into the game scored a touchdown against the Bengals. I would say we have a lot of respect for their ability to score points, score them in a hurry, and it is not all offense. It is their ability to turn the ball over on defense, make plays in the kicking game. They have a lot of good players, [and are] well coached. We have gone back and looked at the games from last year pretty close. [They were] pretty close games. A player or two here or there could have made a big difference, so we are really going to have to be on top of it this week. They have a winning streak in their openers and most of those had been on the road. They play well on opening day and we obviously didn't last year, so we have a lot of work to do there in terms of having our game to where they have been on a pretty consistent basis. So that is where we are.

Q: Based on the preseason, do you think the Colts are better defensively?

BB: Well, they turn the ball over. They are very disruptive, and they did that last year too. They scored 21 points on us in a hurry out there. They scored 21 points on Tampa to come back and beat them at the end of the game last year. It was a big win for them in Tampa. So, they have shown the ability to do that in the past. They really hurt us on kickoff returns last year. The guy led the league in kickoff returns until he got hurt. [They have] a good punter and a good kicker. They are strong in all areas of the game. But, they looked disruptive on defense this year in the preseason and they have shown that in the past. Freeney really had a big game last year against Miami. He had a couple big turnovers in that game, especially at the end, to help seal it for them. I think they look good and they have done it in the past.

Q: Do you have any concerns on the lack of pass rush you had in the preseason?

BB: Yeah. I have concerns about everything. We didn't turn the ball over in preseason defensively. We turned it over a lot offensively and had a really bad ratio there. So, it is not good either way. We didn't return the ball very well in the kicking game so that wasn't very good. And even the things that were okay, I don't know if they really mean anything. Last year they were okay and we were 4-0, but they weren't okay on opening day, so I don't really think that means anything either.

Q: How much of that had to do with mixing and matching the young players?

BB: I don't know how much of that has to do with anything. We are not going to know until opening day. We are not going to know until the early part of the season. Just because something looks good in preseason, that doesn't mean anything. Or, if it looks bad, that might not necessarily mean that it is going to be bad either. It is usually better if it looks good and you continue to build on it. I don't know. Everybody has been working a long time for these opening games. I don't think anybody has played their full hand, but they are going to start playing it this week.

Q: How much of your hand have you played up to this point?

BB: About the same as we normally do in preseason. I don't think this has been any different than any other preseason from that standpoint. [You] work on the things you want to get in, work on them for the season and hope that you have a good fundamental base to carry you on through to the regular season and all of those situations. So, I would say it is about the same.

Q: How great of an unknown is there on an opening day? Do you think they will do generally what they normally do?

BB: I don't know. They have had six months to work on the game and so have we, so I don't know. They might do what they did. I'm sure they are going to have a couple new wrinkles for it. I think after six months and we have had a chance to look at it, there is something we can do that we didn't do or maybe there is something we can do better. I think one of the things that you have to be careful of in this game is, the last time we played, both teams had had pretty close to six months of football playing behind them. And there is a lot of inventory that gets built up on a week-by-week basis through September, October, November and December, and even in those couple of weeks in January. Now, you are not anywhere close to that inventory. You might look at the film and say 'Well, yeah. That is something we did then or that is something they did then'. Whether your team could actually go out there and do that now, or whether their team could actually go out there and do that now, after only a few weeks of practice, that is a whole different ball game. Maybe you can, maybe you can't, I don't know, but it is not the same as playing it in January. And I think that is a big factor in both teams, or for any team really. If you have been playing football for six months, you can do a lot more as a team after six months than you can after six weeks, and that is where we are.

Q: How disconcerting is the element of surprise?

BB: It depends on how well prepared you are for it. There are some things that sometimes you get surprised in a game, with something that a team does, and it is something fairly easy for you to handle. Maybe you haven't worked on it but 'Okay. Here is what we want to do about it'. And you adjust to it. There are other times that maybe you know what you want to do but you just haven't had enough work on it, and your team is not comfortable doing it. Then it looks like it is a big mess. It is chaos. So, it just depends on how it affects you and that is hard to predict. There are some times where you go into a game and say 'Boy, if they do these one or two things, it could really be a problem', assuming they can do them, not just put it on paper. There are other things where you think 'If they go this way, if they go that way, we should be alright on that. We haven't worked on it a lot, but we have worked on it against another team or in training camp or in some other situation'. You feel fairly comfortable with it but it varies. It just depends on how the dice roll and how it hits against what you game plan for them.

Q: How much time do you spend on those eventualities?

BB: Well, again I think you have to be careful about defending a lot of ghosts, trying to prepare for 7,000 plays. They are only going to be able to run 60 or 70 out there, so they can't do everything. I think you better take care of the things that you feel sure that they are going to do, cover the things that could be a problem, that there is maybe some good reason to think that they would do. And then you are probably better off taking your chances on everything else or you would be spending a lot of time on things that they might do but will never happen, and it is just a waste of time. And it is confusing to the players. They spend all week worrying about stuff that they might do and then they don't do any of it, but they are thinking about that and the team is never even showing it. So, I think you have to be careful about being, and I don't want to say over-prepared, but I think overemphasizing something that isn't going to come up or doesn't come up, you are just spinning your wheels in the sand.

Q: When you had some success neutralizing Dwight Freeney it didn't seem like they had an answer for it. Based on preseason, do you see any indication that they will be better even if you neutralize Freeney?

BB: They play man, they play zone, they have a high percentage of blitzing, they have a lot of overload blitzes so that they can outnumber you from one side or another, and that is pretty well balanced. We had some opportunities last year but we didn't play particularly well in the red area on either side of the ball in either game, so that is a problem. And they did a good job of shutting us down there. So, if we get down in the red area offensively, we are going to need to find a way to finish the drives and get the ball in the end zones. And, defensively, when they get down in the red area we are going to have to do a better job of keeping them out of there on a consistent basis. And we really didn't do that very well in either game. We had one big one in each game, but, other than that, they got it in consistently.

Q: Are you concerned that the 5-yard chuck rule will adversely affect your defense, especially in this game?

BB: Well, we have played with it for four preseason games. You've been at all the games. It has been called a few times on us and it has been called a few times on our opponents. I think probably, overall, it has evened out over those four games, roughly. I don't have an exact number, but it wasn't like we had 30 penalties and they had none. It was whatever it was. I think that is probably the way it is. If we grab them and hit them downfield, I think we are going to get called, and if we don't, then we are going to be alright. And I think it will be the same for them. Regardless of what the rules are, whether it is the illegal contact rule, whether it is the blocking in the back rule on returns, whether it is the line of scrimmage violations on a lineman, I think if you are within the rules, you are okay. And I think if you are not, you better expect to get called for it and not think you are going to get away with it. You might get by with one here or there if they miss them, but you are not going to get by with it on a regular basis.

Q: Could the five-yard chuck rule help your offense because it will make your receivers better?

BB: It should be called the same way for both teams on both sides of the ball. So, if there are going to be more defensive fouls on that, then I would imagine we would get our share, and we've had some in preseason. If they hit them beyond five yards, I'm sure they are going to get called. If the other teams are disciplined enough not to do that and don't grab them, I don't think they're going to get called. It's going to have the same effect offensively throughout the league. In the kicking game, everybody is going to have to deal with the tighter blocking in the back interpretations. Offensively, everybody is going to have to deal with the line of scrimmage alignment, tightening up those calls, the covering up the tight end, the "X" receiver not being up on the line of scrimmage, and all of that. Everybody has had to deal with it. Look at the penalties in the league in preseason. There have been more of them, so obviously everybody hasn't done as good a job of staying within the framework as they need to, whether it's us or anybody else.

Q: Does a smaller receiver benefit from the new rule more than a larger, more physical receiver?

BB: If he can get away from the defender he can. If he can't get away from him and the defender can keep him in front of him, I don't think he's going to get too much benefit from it. But, there are a lot of different types of receivers, and the guys that can get open, whether they get open with their size, their quickness, their speed, or however they do it, if you're going to try to grab and hold and get those guys further down the field because you can't get them at the line because they have that ability to get away, however that ability is constructed, then they probably are going to get more calls.

Q: Have you found that they are calling the five-yard chuck rule or holding more often?

BB: I think it's both. Again, I don't have the stats on it, but we have had both of them called, and we have had them both called against us. I understand what they are calling, so when we've hit them more than five yards down the field it's been chucking, and when we've gotten a piece of the jersey and the jersey has come away from the body of the player, then it's been a holding call. And those have been called when we've been on offense, too, the same rule. I think there's a consistency to the way they're doing it. It's just being called tighter than it was before.

Q: Do you have guys that have had to relearn the position, so to speak, based on what is allowed?

BB: It's always been that emphasis. We've never told guys to grab their jerseys. We never told them, 'Hey, hit them eight yards downfield. That will be okay.' We've never done that. When a guy is running, and you're trying to collision him, is it four, five or six yards? The linebackers and the corners, they can't look down and see where they are. They're doing what they feel like they can do, and if it's too deep then they shouldn't do it. There's a gray area in there, and that's why the officials are there to make that call, whether it is or isn't in the boundary of the rule. There are going to be some close calls, and there are always going to be close calls on that rule and a lot of other ones. That is the judgment of the officials.

Q: Are the Colts' corners the same? Is there a little flux there?

BB: They changed their corners from last year. [Nick] Harper was mainly their third corner who played the star. Even though he played quite a bit of corner due to injury, he is now starting opposite of [Donald] Strickland. Strickland played free safety for them last year for most of the year when either [Idrees] Bashir or [Mike] Doss was injured, they were kind of hurt at different times, but Strickland was kind of the constant there. Now they've moved him back out to corner, looks like pretty much on a full-time basis, and it's been Bashir and Doss at safety with [Cory] Bird and [Anthony Floyd]. Those four guys have pretty consistently played safety with [Joseph] Jefferson and [Jason] David. Of course, it looks like Jefferson may be injured, but Jefferson and David have been playing at corner with [Walt] Harris and [David] Macklin gone.

Q: Have the corners been ball-hawking?

BB: They have a bunch of interceptions. I'm trying to remember the plays. [Nick] Harper made a really nice interception a couple of weeks ago against the Jets. He went up and took the ball away from the receiver on a go pattern. [Donald] Strickland had them against us. [Mike] Doss had one, had an interception, had a long return on it. I think that if you don't throw the ball accurately and put it into trouble, yes, they will pick it off. You don't have to worry about that. Strickland has really good hands, so does Harper. Harper and Strickland both had them against us in the first game, right? Strickland was on the tip, and Harper was over the middle there. They will be there.

Q: What was the rationale behind not playing any of the starters last Thursday night?

BB: I think I covered that after the game. I think we're on to Indianapolis at this point. I thought I covered that after the game.

Q: In terms of preparation, would it have helped the starters to get ready for Indianapolis to have played more against the Jaguars?

BB: We had just played Carolina a few days before. We already answered that question. I went through it after the game. I think whatever the answers are they're the same ones as what we talked about after the game. There is no new information. It's been three days ago. Nothing has happened since then. That's what it was then, that's what it is now.

Q: It just seemed unusual to not see any of the starters in the last preseason game.

BB: We're in an unusual situation. We played Saturday night in Carolina. It was a long trip back. We played Thursday, and we open the following Thursday. We've never had a schedule like that before.

Q: Was there a lot of debate about what you were going to do for the Jacksonville game?

BB: The schedule came out back in April, May, whatever it was. There wasn't anything new that happened from May to September 2, or whenever the game was. All that has been in the books. Tickets had been sold.

Q: When was the decision to sit the starters actually made?

BB: Mainly it was done when we looked at the whole situation and the whole preseason schedule. You don't get into training camp and the preseason saying, 'Okay, let's wait until August 20. What are we going to do today? What do you guys want to do here?' You lay out a format, you figure out basically how you want to approach the start of the regular season and your opportunities in training camp to practice and improve your team. Every day is an opportunity to do something, whether it's to rest, whether it's to lift weights, whether it's to have meetings, whether it's to practice once, twice. You have to make some adjustments along the way, but you try to have the basic outline of what you're going to try to do. Since the opening game is September 9 on a Thursday, and I don't think there are any plans to change that, then you kind of work backwards from there because that is what you are working towards.

Q: Does it ever become an easy day for the coaching staff to reduce the roster to 53 players?

BB: No, never. It never is because there are always things that are in flux. This week is a little bit different because today is a game-plan day for us. Today is Wednesday before Indianapolis. Everybody else doesn't have Wednesday until Wednesday, so it's the same for us and the Colts, but it's different for those two teams and the other 30. You have a lot of names coming through the transactions. You have the normal personnel-type conversations. Everybody has players that are a little less than 100 percent, and that affects the decision on the various lists that they can be on or the makeup of your team. How your team is going to look in one week and how it might look in two or three or four weeks could be a lot different based on what happens in the coming weeks and also players who may be available then that aren't available today. All those things come into play, and the improvement of your younger players is also something you have to make an estimate of. You don't know where a young player is going to be six weeks from now. At this point in time, a veteran player might be a little bit ahead of him, but six weeks from now that may change or six weeks from now it may not change. Maybe he's hit the peak, and there is not going to be much improvement from here on. You just won't know that, and maybe those veteran players will always be ahead of that particular guy. Maybe another guy will really take off and ascend in his performances and experience and become, with a little more confidence and some playing experience and so forth, he might be a lot better in four, five or six weeks than he is now or halfway through the season. So, you're trying to project that, not just where your team is today, but where it's going to be in October, where it's going to be in November. Those things all affect the decisions, and there is no scientific way to do it. You have to take the information you have, do the best you can with it and probably adjust it as we go forward. I'm sure that whatever we do today, there will be some adjustments to the roster in coming days or coming weeks. That wouldn't surprise me at all, either. It usually goes that way. Then when you add potential injuries on to that, it may force you to do it. I'm saying, even if you didn't have that you still might have some adjustments as you get a little bit more information. It's always a hard day, a hard time, then you have the veteran factor of players who have been in your system, played for you, won for you, that sometimes you have to move on from for one reason or another, and that's never an easy scenario. Even the guys that aren't veterans, the guys that have been here, that have worked hard, that have given you everything they've got, and you have to make a decision. You can't keep everybody. We had 74 players last week. We have to reduce to 53, so not everybody can be here. That's not a pleasant thing because we would love to keep everybody here. We just can't do it.

Q: Since today is like a Wednesday, is there an injury report that comes out today?

BB: [The report comes out every] Tuesday at four. That's a league rule. Whatever their rules are, we can follow them.

Q: Have you told the players who are cut that they have been cut?

BB: It's not final until four o'clock, so some yes, some no. It depends on the situation.

Q: Is there a possibility that someone could go out and practice today and then find out they have been cut?

BB: It depends on the situation. It depends on some of the circumstances that are involved. Even though we have to cut our roster to 53, there will be more than 53 players here with the Patriots beyond today. We know that. Everybody knows that, so part of it is just what we feel like could be the best flow. We're trying to take a lot of things into account. It would be a much cleaner situation if we were playing on Sunday, but we're not. So, we will deal with what we have and try to do the best we can with it. It probably won't be a perfect scenario for everybody, but that's the way it is.

Q: Who tells a player he has been cut?

BB: Usually what happens, it's not always the same because the circumstances aren't always the same, but normally what happens is the player is brought to someplace where we can sit down and talk to him. He's talked to by people in the organization. Scott [Pioli] and I talk to them. Then other people, the position coach, depending on the relationship, but different coaches will talk to them based on how much of a relationship they have had with them. If it was a big special teams player or if it was a position coach, depending on where the guy had come from. We explain to them what is going on, and it varies from player to player. Some players you release and you kind of tell them, 'We probably wouldn't bring you back. We just feel like you need to move on or we need to move on.' Other players you might have interest in bringing back, depending on the situation. You let them know that. Other players you tell them, if they want to know what the situation is or what they need to work on, sometimes they ask about that. Some guys are emotional. Some guys see the writing on the wall, maybe, and halfway expect it, or might even be relieved by it to a degree. All those things vary. That would be a normal situation, but not everything is normal, so they don't all happen that way. Sometimes the timing is different for one reason or another. I think the main thing is to try to be honest and up front with a player and tell him not what he wants to hear, me going in there saying, 'Well, I really wanted to keep you, but Pioli wanted to get rid of you so that's why we're cutting you.' One of those shots. We're not big on that. We just try to be honest and up front with the guy and let him know what really the situation is here, for better or worse, even though that might not be what they want to hear.

Q: Do you ever get overruled as far as cutting a player?

BB: Our decisions are really made collectively. I don't think there's a lot of independence where one guy does something and everybody else finds out about it, whether it's a game plan or a personnel decision or whatever. We try to plan things out and work them out and get everybody's input. Everybody may not agree with the final decision, I'm not saying that, and there's a time and a place for people to voice their opinions and then at some point somebody has to make a decision or collectively we make a decision. Then everybody goes forward with it, whatever that decision is, it doesn't make a difference what it is. I think there is a time and a place to discuss them, but at some point you have to pull the trigger and do whatever it is you're doing and move forward. So, when those days come that's what we do. That goes for everybody

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