Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Friday, January 8, 2010.
BB: Playoff time. How are we doing here? Do you have it all figured out? Good, I'm glad somebody does.
Q: With 16 games down, Darius Butler has a season under his belt. How have you seen him progress?
BB: I think Darius has learned a lot this year, like all the rookies have. He's been healthy. He's gotten a lot of reps, a lot of practice time. I think he's learned a lot about the game, as a returner, as a defender — both in the passing game and in the running game. He's got a real good future. I'm glad we have him. I think he's learned a lot. I think he's got a lot to learn, but he works hard at it and he's a smart kid.
Q: We saw him make the big play against Houston and we saw some good speed. Is there any temptation given his history playing offense, maybe try him out on the other side of the ball?
BB: No, not right now.
Q: Going forward?
BB: I don't know. I think right now he's got plenty to do on defense.
Q: How has Julian Edelman handled practice this week? Have you noticed anything different with everyone talking about him?
BB: I don't think you would notice anything different about him. He's always shown up in practice. He makes good plays. He's taken plenty of plays in there over the course of the year for Wes or for other players, getting reps in practice. He does a good solid job. He keeps his mouth shut, works hard, tries to get better. [He] takes coaching well. If you tell him this is how you want him to do something, he tries to do it that way. He's a very conscientious kid. He's worked hard in the return game and in special teams as well as in offense. That's kind of the way he always is, that's the way he's been this week. I haven't noticed anything different.
Q: When you are making substitutions, is it as simple as Julian going in for Wes or do all the wide receivers learn all the different spots?
BB: As you know, we move them around. When we move Randy [Moss] around, somebody else has to move around, too. Yeah, that's part of it. So depending on the play or the call there's always an element on that, not necessarily on every single play, but within the game plan or within each game there's an element of that, of guys being in different spots.
BB: I think it can. With the receivers I don't think it's as much about building depth as it is just running plays the most efficiently, the best way you can run them. But there's something to be said for that at other positions.
Q: Do you think there are similarities between Sebastian Vollmer and Michael Oher?
BB: Yeah, I do. I think it's really interesting. Both of those players have played on both sides and they've both done a good job. Michael is — as we all saw coming out of college from Mississippi — a strong physical kid, good run blocker. He's a guy that seems like a go to guy for them in the running game. They like to run behind him, not that they don't run behind [Jared] Gaither, but they like to run behind him. He's done a solid job in pass protection. Sebastian has played both sides and has done well in the running game and passing game, too. It's a tough position to play, especially in your first year. I think both guys have done a very competitive job of playing it on both sides.
Q: Have you seen his movie?
BB: Not all of it, but I've seen most of it.
Q: What did you think?
BB: I thought it was interesting. There's a lot of interesting facets to his life and his career, just to the point that he got to. It kind of cut off there, where the story ended when he went to college, and then we've all seen it grow from there. But the whole process of what he went through in his youth...
Q: Did you grade Nick Saban's performance in that?
BB: Nick looked good. All those coaches looked great. None of them are at the schools they were at in that film - Nick, Phil [Fulmer] and Lou [Holtz]. That was quite a cast.
Q: Did you get a chance to see any of the game last night?
BB: Yeah, I saw very little of it. I turned it on, they were ahead 24-3. I guess it got pretty close, but I didn't really see too much of it. But it's a great win for Nick and the Alabama program. You all know what I think about him. He does a tremendous job. He's a great coach. He's as good as anybody I've ever worked with. I've learned an awful lot from him and I'm happy for him. I have friends on the Texas staff, too, and I know the disappointment they feel. And they have a great program. They had a heck of a year, too. It's tough what they went through last night with the injuries and all that when you get to that game and end up not having your starting quarterback. I'm sure that's tough. Two great programs, it's the kind of games that are good for football.
Q: Laurence Maroney hasn't seen any action since fumbling the football. How does a player go about getting his confidence back?
BB: He's gotten plenty of plays in practice. He just wasn't active this week in Houston. He's carried the ball plenty of times in his life. He's gotten a lot of reps out there both on the practice field both last week and this week. I'm sure he will be ready to go. Laurence, I don't think lacks any confidence. No, I don't think that's a problem with him.
Q: A lot of people have talked about how much better the communication is with James Sanders back there, but what about his physical presence? It looks like he's been hitting a lot more.
BB: I think he's always played like that. He's a physical player. He's a strong hitter. He's a good contact player and he's had a few solid hits. Again, those are the kind of hits that you like for your guys in the secondary to give and make those receivers, tight ends, or whoever it is catching the ball feel those hits coming inside and make them a little more hesitant. You don't want receivers and offensive players feel real comfortable coming over the middle, catching crossing patterns and things like that. You want them to have that respect for getting knocked around and James brings that. And Brandon [McGowan] brings that, too. They are both pretty physical players in there. They've had some solid hits this year.
Q: The Ravens don't blitz as much as they used to but they still pressure. How do they get pressure?
BB: It starts with [Terrell] Suggs. He's one of the best pass rushers in the league. He's outstanding and he's outstanding in the running game, too. He's a guy that you've got to game plan for and you've got to deal with him and you've got to be careful what the matchups are with Terrell Suggs, run or pass. They do pressure some, definitely not as much as they did in previous years. They are more of a zone-blitz team than a man-blitz team. They mix those in, you're going to get them. There's no doubt about it. It's not like they don't run them, but they don't run them every time, so you have to be careful. You have to be alert for them, but they also mix in their other coverages. They change it up on you. It's hard when you call a play on them to really be able to count on it. 'Well this is what they're going to be in.' It could be one or two or three things in any situation, whether they're in their regular defense, their dime package or their nickel package, they spin the wheel. You can catch several different things and you see that throughout the course of the game, even in critical situations — fourth-quarter, third-down and things like that. You see different defenses and they keep you honest.
Q: There's some talk down there that Ed Reed might not be able to play full time. How different does their defense look with [Tom] Zbikowski in there?
BB: I think Tom's done a good job for them. I really do. I think he's played well for them those four games, or however many it was, that Ed missed. I think he played well. I think he brings a very physical presence to that position. He runs well and he's a smart guy. I think he's a good player. Ed Reed is Ed Reed. He's easily the best safety in the National Football League that we play against that I've seen. I just think he's in a class by himself. It would be hard for me to say that anybody's another Ed Reed. He brings something to the game that's rare. And offensively, he's a hard guy to account for because of the way he plays and his skills and his instincts. He's really good, but I think Zbikowski's played very well for him. I think he's had a lot of good plays in the deep part of the field. He's a good hitter. Like I said, he's a very physical player. He brings a real physical element to that position. I don't think anybody can play free safety as well as Ed Reed can.
Q: What has the continuity of Kevin Faulk meant to you over the years?
BB: It's been pretty special. He adds a lot to our team. On the field, what he does, he makes plays, he returns, he can really play in any situation and play well. He's brought that continuity of the program. When we came in, in 2000, he was here and it was his second year, I think, so he had been here as opposed to Brady and guys like that who were that first draft class. But he had been here and he has that experience and the continuity. He's been through everything. He's been through the way it was before I got here and he's been through the highs and lows of the last 10 years. And he's always done a great job in his preparation, his leadership. And as a teammate, I think he's one of the most liked and respected players on the team by everybody - offense, defense, special teams, coaches, I mean everybody. He's got a great attitude. He works hard. He's a great player. He always puts the team first. You can always count on him to do the right thing and put the team first and be ready to go. And that's meant a lot. That respect, when he says something, people really listen. Because he doesn't have a lot to say all the time, but he will speak up and when he does I think it carries a lot of weight and he has a lot of respect.
Q: He talks about how he appreciates playing now because his son who is 13 years old is starting to play himself and he watches his dad play. Can you remember when his son was three years old?
BB: Yeah, he's grown up. He's come to training camp. We had him out there at practice early in the year running plays for us on Saturday.
Q: How was he?
BB: He's pretty good. He's pretty mature for his age. I haven't seen him play, but I know dads like to brag about their kids, but he's probably pretty good. He's certainly got a good teacher, a good mentor there. It's fun talking to Kevin about him as his boy's grown up and playing football and how to do that when you are a coach or a player and it's your son. You want to get involved, but you don't want to get too involved. You want to say something, but you're better off not saying anything. It's kind of interesting. We've talked about that. It's kind of funny.
Q: Do you have any concerns with Randy Moss not practicing today?
BB: No. It wasn't injury related.
Q: The Ravens are a very physical team. Do you remember specific plays from their defense?
BB: I think one of the ones this year was the play in the Indianapolis game, where Reed made the tackle around the two-yard line, spun the tight end around. I think it was [Gijon] Robinson and [Ray] Lewis came in and finished him off, knocked the ball out and they recovered it on the five- or six-yard line. But it was a contact play, it wasn't a strip or punching the ball out. It was Reed hitting him and knocking him off balance and then Ray Lewis coming in there and finishing him off. I think those are the kind of plays I see this year that you think of. They've got a lot of physical guys there - [Haloti] Ngata, Trevor Pryce, [Dwan] Edwards, Suggs, Lewis, [Jarret] Johnson. They're a hard hitting team, [Dawan] Landry. There's no doubt about it, Zibikowski. And that shows up in the kicking game, too. They are a very physical coverage team, too. Some teams you play in coverage are fast and athletic, jump around a lot of blocks, and are quick, and fast in space. And then other coverage teams were big, and physical, and power, and kind of try to crush the returns and some teams have a mix of both. They have a lot of powerful guys. They have a couple fast guys out there like [David] Tyree, [Frank] Walker, Cary Williams, Zbikowski plays on the perimeter a little bit. But they have some big guys - tight ends, backs. They're a very physical coverage team. So it's defense and it's special teams, but that's usually the same guys. Most of the special teams guys are on defense, so a lot of it's the same element.
Q: Oher was taken in a slot in the draft where you were originally. Was he a consideration before the trade?
BB: Well, I think as we saw the board coming out, he was one of the players that as it was dropping to our pick and then after we backed off, he was one of the players that was still there on the board and certainly a guy that we were considering. But at the same time, we felt like this was a player there was going to be other teams looking for him. We all know how tackles go, [Andre] Smith went high and [Eugene] Monroe went high and I think there was a third one. But [Oher] was one of the ones that was maybe a top 10 guy, top 15 and now we're down there and we hit 20 and he's still on the board, so you could kind of feel there was somebody coming up to get him, the teams at the top of the draft or at the bottom of the first round like Baltimore was. There were teams in the top of the draft that didn't get that guy in the first round that would try to come from 34, 35 or 36 and Baltimore we felt like it was a good fit there because we weren't going back too far. We felt it was a fair trade.
Q: You said in the past that, like Vollmer, a guy looks the same playing on the left and on the right. Is it pretty rare that you see two guys like that, Oher and Vollmer, who play both of those positions seamlessly?
BB: I think it is and the fact that they've actually done it. It's another thing to say, like Jake Long who played left tackle for Miami, he could do the same thing at right tackle. And maybe he could, I'm not saying he couldn't, but he just hasn't done it. He's played left tackle both years down there. Whereas Oher started out on the right, he plays on the left in their unbalanced line package, which is significant. Then, in our game he moved over to the left when Gaither got hurt, [Marshal] Yanda came in, then he stayed over there for several weeks and then he moved back to the right side, same thing with Vollmer. He played on the left side for Matt [Light] and played on the right side for [Nick] Kaczur and has played both. It's not only unusual for those guys to have that skill, but for it to actually happen and be pretty good, that's pretty unusual. It really is. I doubt Baltimore or us went into the year saying we're going to see this guy play both tackle. We're kind of hoping he can play one and you're not going to have to move him, but both teams have had to do it and both guys have done a good job.
Q: [On pass rush]
BB: That's really what pass defense is all about. It's all about timing. The more guys you send, theoretically, the quicker you can get there, but the less players you have to cover with. And you've got to have them covered, without much help. You've got to have them covered by the time those players get there. The fewer players you send, then the more people you have in coverage and the more you can delay the pass and the openings and the longer it gives those rushers to get there. Whether you are talking about bringing three, four, five or six it's kind of incremental. It doesn't always work out that way, but in theory that's what you're doing. The more you bring than the tougher it is on the coverage, the more exposure you have on the back end. And it's not just exposure on post patterns. You don't have any help back there so the defenders are playing on top of the receivers, are playing higher and there's easy throws in front. So that's usually what you're giving up. You could give up deep balls, but for the most part defensive backs, knowing when they don't have any help, have to play high on the receiver so if the offense has a short pattern on its relatively uncontested compared to when you have defenders underneath that. That's the trade off. The more you bring, the more pass rush you have in theory, but the fewer guys you have in coverage the more exposure you have back there and the more guys you drop off then you lose your numbers on the pass rush. That's kind of the balance.