New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, November 12, 2008.
BB: This week has flown by. We are finishing up a lot of the situational stuff and things we didn't get to yesterday. We are almost ready to go. How is it going out there?
Q: When you think of Matt Cassel not playing that much in college and him not having much game experience, is his learning curve more steep compared to others?
BB: Not as steep as Stephen Neal's. It is all relative. Matt was in a great program at USC. He played behind two great quarterbacks Matt Leinart [and] Carson Palmer and they ran a pro offense. That is as much of a pro offense as anybody in the NFL. I understand that he didn't have the game experience and there is no dispute in that. But as far as being in a pro offense and playing in a great college program with Pete [Carroll] in USC and Leinart and Palmer competing at that level, which he was competitive with both of those players in terms of playing for the starting position - at least that was the way I understood it. He played behind a pretty good quarterback here. He is a smart guy. It is not like he has never been in a good program before.
Q: From week one Matt Cassel took over to now...
BB: He has been here four years. He has played in some preseason games, he has played in some regular season games and he played in all the preseason games this year. From the beginning of the season back in July when you look at the training camp snaps, which are probably about even and then the preseason games, he had a lot of playing time there. He's taken most of the snaps at quarterback and certainly most of the snaps in games at quarterback for our football team this year. So, that is just the facts.
Q: (On Matt Cassel's first time seeing a team for the second time...)
BB: I think when we played the Jets the first time... we know they are a game plan team and they do things differently from week to week, so what you have seen in the past from them doesn't necessarily indicate what we are going to get from them. And that is still true whether they did it against us or didn't do it against us we can go back to games where they blitzed 30 times in a row or we can go back to games that there were five blitzes the whole game. I don't think that necessarily means anything with the Jets in our games or watching them in the other games. So, it is kind of the same approach to them defensively. You have to be ready for everything and you have to see how they decide to play you in any particular given game not what the scouting report says or not what they did in some other game, you may or may not get that. That is the same way we will go into it this week.
Q: Have you seen progress with Brett Favre in the Jets system?
BB: They played well the last few weeks running the ball, throwing the ball. Brett [Favre] has done a good job. He has gotten them in the end zone and they have scored a lot of points. But, it is good overall operation offensively. It is him [Brett Favre]. It is the receiver. It is the [offensive] line and the running backs. But, he has done a good job but so has the whole offense. You can probably say that about every aspect of their offensive football team.
Q: The last couple of weeks you have been able to keep the big plays to a minimum, what do you attribute to that?
BB: The scheme is a little bit different from week to week. We don't always play the same coverages or the same looks every week. It depends on who we are facing and what they do. Again, the basis of every defense is to keep the ball in front of you. If you have help than you use your help behind you. If you don't have help behind you than you are the last man and you have to keep it in front of you. The defenses are already designed. There is nothing designed to give up those big plays so we have to play with that mentality. That is a function of the pass rush, the pressure on the quarterback, disguising coverages and so forth. It is not just one to the corner, the safety or whoever - it is making the ball come out on time with the pass rush and disguising the coverages so it is less clear for the quarterback, where the weaker parts of the coverage are and so forth. I think it is team defense when you give them up and it is team defense when you stop them.
Q: How gratifying is it for you to have had BenJarvus Green-Ellis so far down on your depth chart and you have plugged him in and he has been so successful?
BB: It is good for your scouting system. I think it is a credit to Scott [Pioli], your scouts and that part of the operation to keep players like that in your system and there's been a lot of those functional opportunities too. If certain things hadn't happened then BenJarvus [Green-Ellis] might not have gotten the opportunity. That has been true of other players in other years and other situations where it has maybe taken longer or those opportunities didn't come as quickly or sometimes they did like [Tom] Brady. There are examples all the way around. The most important thing for the player is to always be prepared you never know when those chances are going to come. But when they do come if you are ready to take advantage of them you can really make something. If you are not than probably someone else is going to get it pretty soon.
Q: Did all of those snaps that Matt Cassel took in preseason help him build a good rapport with Wes Welker?
BB: I think any snaps that any player gets are helpful for his development either long term development or the timing in execution of that particular season. They are all important. Training camp is important. Preseason games are important. Regular season practice and games are important and it all adds up. For players that are able to stay out there for all of it and get everything that gives them a little bit more than somebody else. That doesn't mean that some people that get less snaps don't play well and sometimes managing them and keeping them healthy or managing some kind of physical situation that they have, that overrides the practice reps. So there is a balance there. But certainly you would like to be out there and have everyone out there practicing as much as they can with the people who they are going to play with to help the timing and execution. It has helped Matt. It has helped everybody that has been able to do that especially younger players like [Jerod] Mayo, [Gary] Guyton, BenJarvus [Green-Ellis] and even Kevin [O'Connell]. Kevin has taken a lot of snaps this year and has gotten a lot of opportunities to play in preseason and to play in practice more than he expected or more than we expected.
Q: (On players working out pregame...)
BB: Every situation is different. There is no set formula. Sometimes they are working out to work out and they have already been ruled out. Sometimes they are working out to see what they can do. Sometimes they are pretty well in the plans but it is just a, let's make sure here that it is game day and a player that hasn't participated in a while, let's make sure that everything is the way we think it is or the way it was the last time we practiced on Friday. But every situation is different so it all depends on each individual, the circumstances, the physical condition, what we are trying to evaluate or what he is trying to evaluate. Some guys just like to go out and do it to give them confidence and piece of mind. It is really not a coaching thing or a medical thing - they like to do it. So, there is no set formula on it.
Q: What has it been like to have Tom Brady back around?
BB: It is always great to have Tom around. He is a very positive guy. It is great to have him.
Q: With the short week do you compact your game planning and make time for everything or do you say, 'We just don't have enough time to fit everything in?'
BB: I would say more the latter. We have to prepare for everything. We have to have a red area plan, we have to have a third down plan. We have to have a two minute plan. There are some things that on a week like this you sit down and say, 'That is a good idea, that would be a good thing to do but I don't think we can get it done this week so save that for another day.' So, there are plenty of those too but that is more of a specific play or maybe an adjustment or something like that. And there are some of those that you put in and say, 'Well, I think we really need this, I wish we had a little more time to work on it but we are going to try to get it ready in the amount of time that we have.' So plays like that can go in or out but from a total preparation standpoint we will cover everything, all the situations that we normally cover in the week and some less thoroughly than others but at least if they come up, hopefully, we will know what to do. So we can never count on being able to talk about it during the game, I don't think you every want to do that. But it is a cram course.
Q: When looking at undrafted free agents do you develop an appreciation for these guys that have come out and been successful for you?
BB: I appreciate them, absolutely. Guys that are undrafted have a certain degree of underdog status, long shot or whatever you want to call it. So, it is great to see those guys that nobody talks about or nobody has any hype for do well and be able to play, compete and have a job and position in this league. To me that is what the NFL is all about. It is all about competition and it's about performance. That is not necessarily the way it is in everything else but on the football field that's the way I see it. The guys that play the best, they play the most and the guys that don't have to earn it. The guys that start from the bottom and come all the way up and earn it as free agents like a lot of us have - players, coaches - it is rewarding to them and overall to the system. It certainly helps you when you deal with those guys in the future. It is easy to point to those guys that aren't drafted and say you are going to get a fair shot here whether it is BenJarvus, Gary [Guyton], Mike Wright, Matt Cassel, Matt Gutierrez, Stephen Neal - you can go right down the line. It is not about your pedigree it is about your performance and I like that. That is the way it should be and that's the way I try to make it here.
Q: Speaking of Matt Cassel, you have kept him around and given him a chance...
BB: I didn't keep him around because he is a good guy I kept him around because he deserved it [and] because he earned it. There are plenty of sixth and seventh round draft choices that aren't here and there are some that have gone on to do very well. But it is based on what they do. It is based on their performance and what they do with the opportunities that they get. Not where they were drafted. We have cut second, third, fourth round draft choices. So, those guys aren't better than the guys who come in and aren't drafted - we are going to keep the best players and the guys that deserve to be here. That's what we believe in, that's the way we try to run the team and I think going forward the people who look at our situation say with confidence, 'We are going to get a fair shot there' based on our track record or at least I hope so because that really is true.
Q: Do you think of that track record when undrafted free agents are ready to sign?
BB: Yes, absolutely. I think we can point to whether it is Mike Wright, Stephen Neal, late round draft choices like [Matt]Cassel, Patrick Pass, [Tom] Brady and guys like that. We have had those guys - we have had them every year. [Gary] Guyton, BenJarvus [Green-Ellis] and there are plenty of guys on the practice squad that have gone from the practice squad to the active roster - Russ Hochstein, Antwain Spann, Pierre Woods is another undrafted free agent. So, if you sign with us you are going to get a chance. If you play good enough then you are going to get a roster spot. If that means that some other higher draft choice or some other big name, high profile guy doesn't play as well than that is competition. That is what this leagues about and that is what this teams about.
Q: Do you have any update on Adalius Thomas?
BB: No, I don't - maybe after practice.