Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Friday, November 12, 2010.
BB: Winding it down here for Pittsburgh. How [are] you guys doing? Hay in the barn? Are those weekend stories written? Alright, whatever you need here.
Q: Start off with Tom Brady. Since the last time we talked to you, he showed up on the injury report with the foot. Is there any level of concern about his effectiveness this weekend?
BB: We'll see how it goes today and list him accordingly this afternoon.
Q: Is there any worry fundamentally or mechanically since it's a foot injury?
BB: We will do the same thing we always do. We'll practice. We'll go through the week and list his participation in practice based on what it is and list his status for the game just like we do everybody else's based on what we think it is after we get through the whole week - after we get through Friday's practice.
Q: How has the transition been so far with the new specialists?
BB: I think good, actually. [Shayne] Graham and [Matt] Katula have worked together down there in Baltimore, so they've played before. It's definitely a question of getting used to it and timing and so forth, so we've done that for a few days and we'll see where we're at. I imagine it's alright.
Q: I would assume it's more important for Zoltan Mesko to get used to those two guys?
BB: Yes, certainly. He's the other important part of that in the field goal aspect, but also in the punting game with Matt and Zoltan and the personal protector and the calls and so forth. It affects the center in terms of blocking responsibilities and snap location sometimes [and] things like that. There is a lot going on there. Hopefully we can do a good job with it. We'll find out on Sunday; I'm sure they'll test us out.
Q: Do you ever make an effort to practice bad snaps with Zoltan?
BB: Oh, sure. Yeah, we do bad snap drills with the holder and the punter, absolutely. That's always part of the mental preparation every week - just to go through those and have the drill where the ball is high, low, on the ground, wobbly, wet ball drills - we do those periodically.
Q: Is that something you may tell the long snapper in advance? To snap that ball poorly?
BB: No, no, it's more of a drill so we can work on - the holder or punter or whoever it is - work on his footwork or his hand placement, how to catch a ball or how to put it down, or with his footwork and what his body position should be in handling the snap in punt formation. You can compare that to a shortstop in terms of getting his body in front of the ball and having to block it and protect it so it doesn't go through and having to keep it in front of you and all those kinds of things. Whether you should short hop and try to take it before it hits the ground and sliding over in front of it - all those fundamental things, that's all.
Q: Since the Miami game, teams have been kicking away from Brandon Tate, so how do you prepare your receiving team in reacting to that?
BB: The most important thing to us is our field position at the end of the play [and] how far out we can get the ball for our offense to take over. That's the goal, not who handles it or any of that. What's our starting field position? We just try to maximize whatever those opportunities are. Wherever the kick goes, that's something we can't control. Once it's kicked, we can handle it properly, make the right adjustments [and] have returns that are more favorable or advantageous for those types of kicks. You can't necessarily always count on that. I think some of the kicks that we've had in the last few weeks have been at least partially reflective of the conditions on that particular kick in that particular game. So, that's part of it, too, and the returning, of course, goes with it. Kicking's not like going out to the driving range and putting the ball on the tee and hitting it as far as you can hit it. It's like golf; it's situational. Sometimes you're trying to kick it to the left or kick it to the right, hang time's more important than distance or the quickness of getting the punt off is more important than the distance on it and so forth and so on. There's a lot of situational punting that plays into the return game as well. If they situationally kick you, whether it be directionally, or mortar kicks, or squib kicks or overload the coverage with the kick or all those kinds of things, then those plays are a little different than other plays where they just kick it in a more conventional fashion than situational. So, we always have to work on those and be ready for them. We know we're going to get them, potentially, from any team. Kicking's not just how far you can kick it and in the return game, it's not just how far they kick it to you. There's a lot of other things that play into it.
Q: How much do the coverage guys have to get used to Shayne Graham?
BB: You have to work with any kicker in terms of the timing and the approach to the ball. Each one is a little different. We've done some get-offs with them, in addition to just some normal coverage plays, absolutely.
Q: How would you describe how Brian Hoyer has responded to the added opportunity he has had this week?
BB: Brian has been consistent, like he's been all year. He gets opportunities every week and maybe a few more this week. He's a very dependable guy. He works hard [and] knows the team's plan. I think the year last year has really been good for him in terms of his overall background and understanding of things. Sometimes you put in a new play or you put in an adjustment to it and it's something that we've been through before, [that] we've run, there's a background to it, and it's just a lot easier that way than when you get a new concept or a new play for the first time. So, he's about like he always is: well prepared, consistent, focused kid.
Q: Now that you've added Jonathan Crompton [to the practice squad], does Hoyer no longer do scout team stuff?
BB: Each player has certain responsibilities out there. Again, that varies from practice to practice or period to period, how we break up the reps and who takes what and who does what. That's part of, like we've talked about before, part of the assistant coaches' job. It's a really important thing to do. It's something that definitely goes under the radar for the most part, but when you're an assistant coach, you have the players that you're coaching and you have X number of plays and it's an important decision how you distribute those plays - which players get which plays, how many they get, the exact ones they do get in terms of their preparation when you can't run everything and everybody can't take all the plays. The ones that you give to the various players, there should be a reason for them and some type of rotation that gives everybody work and everybody improves. But, you've got to be selective as to who does what, who's in with who and who takes which plays, and, again, that can have a lot to do with the preparation of the players and the team. When you get to the end of the week and you get into a game and call a play, and the guy hasn't run that play in practice because another guy ran it - whatever the reasons were - that can affect your timing and so forth. So those are really little decisions, but they're big decisions and they're critical decisions and those are the ones that the assistant coaches... You know, each coach looks at his team and you have to get everybody ready but you also have to get the guys that you think are going to be doing it to be sure that they can do it, number one, and that's what a good assistant coach does, at any position.
Q: Mike Wallace has exploded onto the scene [for Pittsburgh]. What was the book on him coming out of college that he slipped to where he did in the draft?
BB: I think Wallace is a top vertical receiver. His yards-per-catch average is very high and rightly so. He gets behind a lot of people. He's a real fast player. I think we've seen other players like that. There's always - well, I wouldn't say always - there's some degree of questions on players like that on how much they can impact the game in the deep part of the field and if they can't, what their production will be when it's not a go route. We can look at a lot of players that have come out of the draft that were fast players that were taken high that weren't able to do some of the other things that they needed to do or players that weren't drafted as high that ended up being maybe more productive players because they were so productive in the deep part of the field and they were able to contribute in other ways, too. So, part of that is a function of your offense and how you plan to use the player and part of it is a function of the player's skill and how much he's able to develop maybe the things you don't see in college when you ask him to run that on offense. So, that's part of the guess work you do when you're drafting those players - how much you project them to even be able to do or be able to improve. [It's] a very unscientific process, as we all know.
Q: What has made the Steelers so good at retooling and restocking over the years?
BB: Well I think consistency is a big part of it. I think if I were looking at the Steelers and I was their personnel coordinator, I think I have a pretty good idea of the type of players they would want at each position for their system. And they've maintained that system over a significant period of time so you can look at players - whether they're pro players or college players - and say, 'Okay, this is where this guy would play in their defense or I don't really see what his role would be on defense.' And I'm sure that their personnel department is very well-schooled on what they're looking for and they know what type [of] players fit into their system and what type [of] players haven't done as well with them and maybe why they didn't do as well as they thought they would - we've all had those type of players. But, I think the consistency and the continuity of their system and the experience of multiple drafts and multiple personnel decisions at the same position in the same system really give you a good formula or good basis of saying, 'Well, this guy did well and this player is similar to him or this player is similar to another play who didn't do as well, [so,] why is he going to do better? What distinguishes him from an unsuccessful guy we've had at that position and vice versa?' So, I think that's a big part of it, too. I think that's what you try to do in every organization but, really, one of the big things is time. It just takes time. You need to go through a draft and another draft and another draft and another draft and be able to compare players in this year's draft to players in other drafts that were similar but something was better or not as good and try to see the differences and project how one player will do relative to another. So that experience helps a lot. And having a good football team is a good way to stay a good football team [because] you don't have a lot of needs. You can pick the players that fit your system. You can be a little more patient and [Pittsburgh has] done a good job in developing the younger players. It's a credit to their personnel department. It's also a credit to the coaches and their assistant coaches for bringing guys along and having them be productive early in their career and for a lengthy career.
Q: In talking to members of the defense, they've been saying that they feel like they don't really have an identity yet. Do you place much weight in the concept of an offense or defense having an identity?
BB: I don't know. What's an identity?
Q: When we ask the guys, they seem to say that they are still trying to find out what type of role they have on the team.
BB: Well, defensively, to a certain extent, things change week from week depending on who you're playing. Pittsburgh is one offense; Indianapolis will be another offense. Cleveland is another offense. I don't think you can... To me, it's hard to play every team the same. It really is. You have a core, you have a foundation of things you do [and] you build off that and that's where it all starts, but then you have to address the problems that other teams present to you. If you can handle it all with just doing one thing, then great, but I think that's probably the exception. I think that's harder to do. A lot of times a player's role, at least in our system, a player's role or his responsibilities or how we want to play the game varies a little bit from who we're playing and what they do and who their personnel is. We talk to our players about that a lot every week. [We say,] 'This week, this is the most important thing in your job and you have to do a, b and c,' and next week, those three things might not be the priority; it might be different. Even though it's the same defense, even though it might even be the same call, but as far as a job description goes, it definitely changes, I think, from week to week depending on what you feel like you have to stop [and] what we're trying to do.
Q: Can you talk about Rashard Mendenhall and the challenge that he brings?
BB: He's a real good runner. He does everything well. He catches the ball well, runs inside [and] runs outside. He's got good vision. He breaks tackles with his quickness, his speed and he's got good power to run through some hard tackles and does a good job of lowering his shoulder and getting an extra yard or two and pushing the pile. He's got a real good skill set. I think he's just a good all-around back. They can use him on first down, second down, third down, passing game, running game, inside runs, outside runs, short yardage [or] long yardage. Wherever they use him, he looks like he has the ability to handle all those situations. He's a tough guy to stop and he can hurt you in a lot of different ways. That's really the mark of a good back - a guy that can do a lot of different things - you can't just take one thing away from him. He's got a lot of skill and a lot of production. They do a good job. They use him in a lot of different ways and you have to really watch out for him; you don't know what he's going to do because they ask him to do different things and he does them well.