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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Fri Sep 25 - 12:00 AM | Sun Sep 27 - 10:40 AM

Bill Belichick Press Conference

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            **Q: Is Ted Johnson going to play?**  

B: He might.

Q: Will he start?

B: He might. I really don't want to get into starting lineups or that type of thing, but if they are ready to play and they are ready to contribute then we will try to use them in a role that we think is appropriate.

Q: Can I ask you about the rules of the injury report, I know some teams have got in trouble in the past for not listing guys and then they don't play. If Ted is held back don't you open yourself up for a fine because it is obvious he missed it because of injury?

B: Not this week.

Q: It wouldn't be, it wouldn't be because he is not caught up in the scheme?

B: Right, it would be a coaching decision. That is what I tried to say on Wednesday was that whatever decisions we make to play players will be based on a coaching decision. What we feel their role is and what we think is best for the game, not because somebody is physically unable to play. The rules are just those percentages of what chance we think they can play from an injury standpoint. That's not from a coaching standpoint. If we wanted to bench a starter and play somebody else than that is a coaching decision.

Q: Do you have any response to Bill Burt's story about Parcells being confused about the score in the opening game last year?

B: I haven't seen it I just heard about it a couple of minutes ago. I am trying to get our team ready to beat Tampa. I really haven't thought about things that happened a year ago.

Q: Earlier this week you talked about the modifications you made to the defense in 1996, how common or uncommon is it to make those types of changes like that during a season?

B: I would say that the last few years it has probably been pretty common for us. With the Jets in 1997 we went through the entire training camp playing a 4-3 defense and then we opened the season against Seattle and played nickel that whole game and then from the second game on, who ever we played second that year, we were a 3-4. Then in 1998 it was a similar situation we were a 4-3 the entire training camp and then opened the season in 1998 against San Francisco and we were predominantly a 3-4 team in 1998 and then we played some 4-3 in the end. Then last year we opened up the entire preseason and the first half of the regular season playing predominantly 3-4 or I would say exclusively 3-4 and then at the end of the year we shifted and played more 4-3. I would say 1996 would be uncommon based on what happened in New York the last three years, maybe that is a trend.

Q: You beat Seattle 41-7 or something in week one and yet you changed the scheme?

B: They were really a three wide receiver team and so we played a nickel defense the whole game. I mean call it whatever you want, but it was a nickel defense.

Q: Then the next week you played a different scheme then you had played in the preseason?

B: We played a 3-4 right.

Q: What are your thoughts on what you got from the tight ends this summer?

B: I think the tight end position is going to be an integral part of the offense. They are involved in a lot of critical jobs, the running game, pass protection, pass routes, hot routes on blitzes and that type of thing. I think that position is one that we need to get a good solid level of performance from. I think it is similar from the offensive line in that we have had different combinations on the offensive line, we have played Rod and Eric, that position needs to become as steady, like we need to have happen on the offensive line.

Q: Three catches in the preseason is that because you weren't throwing to them much or because they weren't getting open?

B: In preseason most of the plays were run with the idea of just running our plays and however things happened, they happened. There was a minimal amount of game planning. Now as we get into the regular season you look for weaknesses and things that you think you can exploit and there is obviously a lot more game planning involved. There wasn't a conscious attempt to get them the ball and there wasn't a conscious attempt not to get them the ball. It wasn't a conscious attempt to get the ball to the receivers either. Sometimes it just works out that way. We just didn't feel that it would be appropriate in preseason to put in this group of plays to make sure the tight end gets the ball anymore then we would put in this group of plays to make sure that the x receiver gets the ball, but as you get into the season you want to maintain some kind of balance and I hope that we can get it from that position, both in terms of run and pass production.

Q: Eric Bjornson admitted after the Washington game that he was struggling a bit, how confident are you based on what you have seen on the practice field that he can be the guy who caught 47 passes?

B: I don't think there is a lot of evidence on the practice field for us to feel that that position is not going to be a solid position for us, but that still needs to be performed in the games. There have been some limited opportunities and there has been some production. There certainly could have been more and hopefully that production level will rise both in the running game and the passing game.

Q: Is Rod a decent pass catcher?

B: Yes. I think he can catch the ball above average for the position.

Q: Does he run well too?

B: For a big guy not bad. I don't think you could characterize him as an h-back type of receiver, but for a 270-pound guy he runs pretty well.

Q: Does he have the potential to be an all around type guy?

B: I think he does.

Q: What does he have to do to get to that point? It almost seems like it is concentration in terms of receiving rather than bad hands?

B: I can just go by this year. I think it is really a question of consistency. Rod makes a lot of good plays. Like most players out there on the field you can find plays that you can really like it just comes down to a consistency. You are out there for 60-70 plays whatever it is, down in and down out. Yes a guy has got an assignment and that is really what his record is, what he can do on those 50 or 60 plays. I mean anybody can throw up a good one here and there, but that is consistency and a lot of that comes with the offensive line and them working together. A lot of those are combination block like we talked about where the tackle and the tight end have these two guys or the tight end and the fullback have these two guys. They have to be able to communicate that and work it out smoothly and that is just part of being familiar with the system and having good execution within your system, both understanding what to do and also getting use to your teammates doing it.

Q: Do you think that Tony Simmons is at the point where he can reach that level?

B: I hope so. I think players that are in their second or third year that is usually the breaking point for most, not all, but certainly a large group of those players that maybe they don't play a lot their rookie year, but between their second and their third year they gain more experience in the system, they improve, and then they either go on to become full-time players or part-time role players or they drop off and somebody else moves up. I think that second and third year for those types of players is the critical year and really I think it has been for the players around here in the last couple of years. Not just this year but even looking back at the rosters players like that have been here for a year or two and then either they are in there are they are gone.

Q: Will Kevin Faulk and Troy Brown be returning kicks in this game?

B: They are ready to return, they can return we will have to make a decision on how much we want to ask them to do.

Q: Redmond would be a kick returner and punt returner?

B: Redmond can return too, yes.

Q: Antwan Harris?

B: Antwan Harris, Shockmain Davis, Tony Simmons are all guys that would factor in and (Chris) Calloway too. He has handled some punts for us. I think we have pretty good depth at the return position. We have a number of guys to work with there.

Q: Are you confident with Tebucky (Jones) at starting safety, obviously you are, are you more comfortable then you were?

B: Definitely. I think that Tebucky has had a lot of plays back there and he has taken a lot of snaps in preseason, probably more than any other defensive player. He probably has had more snaps on defense than any other player in preseason and I think that is benefiting him as well as the plays in practice. He is reacting quicker and he is communicating better. We felt like that was what he needed in moving to that position and I think that he has done reasonably well with it.

Q: Are his physical skills a little more comfortable back there and he doesn't have to cover as much is that the main way to describe that?

B: Again I would just say in our system he just fits better at safety in our system then at corner given what his physical skills are.

Q: Which are?

B: He is a big, strong, fast athlete that probably plays a little bit better going forward then going backward. When you are a corner you are almost always going backward. Not that he can't, everybody goes backwards, linebackers have to go back, defensive backs have to go back and that is why some defensive lineman can play linebacker, or those in-betweeners some of them can play linebacker and some of them have to play down. There are some players that just don't play very well moving away from the line of scrimmage moving backward and those players generally have to become under-sized rushers, that's their forte. With corners and safeties it is a little bit of the same thing too. Both players have to play backward to a certain degree, but the safeties play a lot less back and a lot more forward and the corners generally play a lot more back and a lot less forward. Athletically I think that might suit him a little bit better.

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            **Q: When you saw him at Syracuse did you envision him as a cornerback at all?**  

B: I personally pictures him as a safety, but then when he was drafted and placed at corner I could understand conceptually why you would want to take a look at him out there.

Q: Which is what?

B: Which is his size and his vertical speed. I mean there isn't any receiver that he can't run with from a speed standpoint. For the most part, let's put it this way there are very few safeties that you could move out from a speed standpoint and put at corner. I mean there are just not a lot of people that could do that. Usually in a secondary you either get a corner or a safety, it is usually pretty clear-cut. In Tebucky's case as fast as he is and as big as he is, he could conceptually I can see why he was tried at corner. Given the fact that he was given two years out there I felt like it would be good for us to look at him at corner through the spring and see how he has progressed because you really can't evaluate it unless you are right there working the player. In retrospect, 20/20 hindsight, if I knew then what I know we could have moved him to safety last spring, but after watching him at corner and then watching him at safety in training camp, I think for us we have got him in the right spot for what we do. If he were in another system maybe he would play at another position.

Q: Do you ever toy with switching Lawyer (Milloy) to free and Tebucky to strong (safety)?

B: Not really. We talked about the overall make-up of the secondary and I think that both players could probably play either position, but given what is available to us now I think that at this point that they are at the best positions for the New England Patriots. If Tebucky Jones was on an osh kosh pro team then maybe they would want to play him at strong safety instead of free safety, again I can't speak for another system, but I think for where we are that is the best spot.

Q: Is the strong safety position more taxing on the body then free safety?

B: That is a tough question, probably a little bit yes.

Q: at some point does Lawyer have to move to free safety at some point in his career?

B: I don't know there have been a lot of strong safeties that have played a lot of years going back to the Kenny Houston's and the Kenny Easley's I don't think he has to. Again the way we play defense to a certain degree the safeties are interchangeable I mean there are times when formations and offensive sets force the strong safety to be a free safety and the free safety to be a strong safety and we train them that way. Usually we just start training camp just playing right and left so they just learn how to play both. Then we switch them so that when the tight end moves or something like that, so now the free safety has never been a strong safety, they have already been in those situations and it is not a hard adjustment.

Q: Who is calling the plays back there, last year it was Lawyer?

B: At the safety position both players have to be involved in that they really do. If you are the safety on the right side it is pretty hard to communicate with the left cornerback. Somebody has to work on wither half of the field with either the linebacker or the corner. There are certain situations where one guy would make the check and in those cases it would be more Lawyer at this point because if his experience, but for both of them, communication is part of the safeties job description, put it that way. We tell them that from day one, 'Your job is to communicate, you have to understand what is going on with the total defense and you have to communicate that to your teammates.' If you don't do that then you can't play safety, just like you can't play linebacker if you do that, the other guys can't play.

Q: Do you think the difference between the two is the tight end responsibility and run support with the strong as opposed to the free, what are the biggest differences between them?

B: Again it would depend on the call. Both players have to play close to the line of scrimmage, both players have to play away from the line of scrimmage, both players play in the middle of the field, both players play in a quadrant to the outside of the field. Generally I would say that strong safeties play closer to the line than the free safety more often than not, but again there are points where it could be either way. Generally the strong safety has more coverage on tight ends and the free safety has more coverage on receivers, but again there are plenty of cases where it is the other way around. Generally, I would say the strong safety plays closer to the line and has more tight end coverage responsibility.

Q: Willie Clay never had the physical skills that Tebucky Jones has, but when he was here in 1996, probably experience-wise he was ahead of him, how far is Tebucky from reaching that level mentally out on the field where Willie Clay was?

B: That is a good question. The similarities between Willie Clay and Tebucky would be one, that they both played corner, Willie Clay was a college corner at Georgia Tech. One thing that I think helps the safety is to have corner experience because those corners are used to being out there in isolated one-on-one situations with no help and that's just part of playing corner. If a safety has never been in that position then when he goes out there he usually feels pretty uncomfortable. I have always liked to take corners and move them to free safety if possible. Even Eric Turner who played corner his red-shirt year at UCLA as an example, guys like that. Carnell Lake has played corner and then has moved inside to safety. Again even if he has played safety his entire pro career, which he moved back out, but (Rod) Woodson is a guy that moved from corner to safety. There are a lot of advantages of having a corner who can then move in and play safety just in terms of range, man-to-man coverage ability, and overall pass defense skills. Everson Walls is another one I had like that. On the other hand playing corner and safety is still two different worlds. It may not seem that way to the average person watching TV, but it is two different worlds. The angles are totally different, what you see is different, your responsibilities are totally different, but I think that moving inside is a big advantage. So really when I came here with Willie he had probably been in the league, I forget what it was, I would say five or six years whatever it was so he was where Lawyer (Milloy) is now. That was a pretty big gap between playing four games and playing five years.

Q: Did you ever switch one the other way from as safety to a corner?

B: From safety to corner, let me think here. Marcus Coleman was a safety in college, he was a free safety at Texas Tech, played corner his rookie year at the Jets and then when we got there we moved him to safety. That lasted about three or four games into the 1997 regular season and then we moved him back to corner and he was a corner ever since. That was obviously in hindsight the wrong move and I think that kind of led me to the Tebucky Jones situation because if we had just left Marcus Coleman at corner when we got there, obviously in the end everything probably would have been better of a little quicker. By moving him in the end it slowed the whole process down. So when I looked at Tebucky's situation I said I didn't want him moving to safety and then turn around and move him back to corner where he has been for the last two years. 'Let's just leave him at corner for awhile and see how that goes and if he is going to start at corner then great maybe we will just leave him there." But at the end of mini camp it looked like our best secondary would be with him inside so we moved him in and I think, this might sound dumb to say but in the end leaving him out there initially might have been the best thing for him. That might have actually speeded up the process so we didn't get into this checkers game. There are not many that move from safety to corner, but you get the guys like Carnell Lake who play linebacker at UCLA, Elvis Patterson who was a defensive end at Kansas, there are some guys that play linebacker and defensive line and then end up out at corner. It is rare, but there is always an exceptional athlete like that that for whatever reason ends up down and then at this level is just too small to play down.

Q: What about Brian Urlacher?

B: I didn't do a real extensive study on him, but he is a combination, he is one of those safety/linebacker type guys. Teams that play the eight-man fronts like Georgia used to do. We had a kid like that, Mike Caldwell who was from Middle Tennessee that we drafted in Cleveland. He played strong safety in college and was 230 pounds so he was really a linebacker. Dexter Coakley is that type of guy too that played safety in college and really plays a linebacker type position now, but there are elements of that safety position too. Again, I think that is kind of like going from corner to safety, there are a lot of advantages of moving a guy who is a safety to linebacker because he has that kind of experience and background. He is not afraid to be out there, I don't mean afraid, but he has had a lot of experience in more isolated coverage and playing out in space so he is comfortable out there. Whereas you take linebackers and you have to extend them out and put them out in space and a lot of guys are not very comfortable doing that.

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