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Patriots Unfiltered Tue Sep 29 | 11:55 AM - 02:00 PM

Bill Belichick Press Conference

B: As you know we spent the last few days trying to finalize our roster and head into the season. We will face a very strong Sunday in Tampa that we saw two weeks ago, but they are a very formidable opponent. They have a lot of strengths on that team. They are excellent defensively. They force a lot of turnovers. They have added three significant players on an offense that already was a pretty good group and they are very good in the kicking game and this team has been picked as one of the one's to beat in the NFC. I think based on what I have seen that is right on the money.

Q: Tampa Bay's running game, you did a good job against it in the preseason, how good is it?

B: I think it is pretty good. I think all three players that they have added have really helped the running game. Keyshawn (Johnson), (Jeff) Christy and (Randall) McDaniel. There is a number of plays, like on (Warrick) Dunn's run last week against Kansas City, that was maybe a 45-yard run. Keyshawn probably got him an extra 20 yards at the end of the play by running over a couple of people. (Randall) McDaniel and (Jeff) Christy are very good blockers inside and that's really helping them. I would say Tampa Bay's running game isn't as much like it is with a lot of running teams, it is not the yards it is the attempts. The more they can keep grinding it and grinding it the more comfortable they feel and rightfully so, they have good guys carrying the ball.

Q: Do you have any interest in picking up a running back and I am thinking Skip Hicks or Adrian Murrell who may be available?

B: First of all I can't comment on any player that is on another team it is tampering and you can't do it so I wouldn't have any comment on those players or any other players in terms of acquiring them, but I think that our roster is set for right now and that could change. I don't foresee it changing in the next couple of days, but I am not ruling it out either. I certainly don't want to sit here and say it won't happen, but I am not anticipating a lot of changes in the next few days.

Q: Is that a concern for you that you are just carrying two tailbacks?

B: Well Harold has played running back in three of our preseason games and he can certainly play the position. So he would be our third running back and he will also be our third fullback so I think we are three deep at those backfield positions with five players.

Q: What roles will Faulk and Redmond play?

B: I think we have some flexibility there. This is another week for J.R. that hopefully he can continue to make some strides and gains in what he is able to do. Depending on how we feel about where he is for this game how much we use J.R., Harold and Kevin we really won't finalize that until later. We will just try to get them all ready. I think that probably all three will contribute in one way or another.

Q: Kevin Faulk has performed well in the preseason on special teams, how much will you put on his plate? Will he play on special teams?

B: That is a good question. We want to try to take advantage of him as much as we can without getting into a situation where the returns will be diminishing. So we will have to try to balance that. Some of that we really won't know until game time. As a plan we want to have him involved as much as we can without over extending him. You kind of have to walk the tightrope on that.

Q: Where is the team at in adapting to the system? Are they where you expected, are they ahead or behind? Does Otis Smith help?

B: Otis knows it pretty well. I think that we are going to have to go through probably a half a season to a season worth of regular season games before we really have it down. I think there are things we have down and depending on what we see I think there are certain things that we can adjust to pretty easily. There are other things that we haven't had a lot exposure to in live game situations and how quickly we will adjust to those I'm not sure. It is one thing doing it in practice is another thing for it to come up in a game.

Q: How about with the coaches, how are they adjusting?

B: Probably about the same rate.

Q: After five preseason games do you evaluate yourself far as where you want to be and do you think the team perceives you as how you want to be perceived?

B: I don't really know how the team perceives me, you would probably get a lot of different answers on that one. You would have to ask the team that question, I don't think I could answer that one. I try to evaluate myself and my performance daily and weekly. At the end of each week we analyze not only the game, but how the preparations were leading up to the game and if we were to play again what things would we do differently and what things we would try to do better and what areas maybe we miscalculated. Either over-evaluated or under-evaluated in either terms of preparation or match-up or a situation that came up in a game, a substitution or whatever it is. That is an ongoing process I don't think it ever really ends, at least it doesn't end for me. Each week you go back. As part of this weekend one of the things we do is recap training camp and there are some things there that the next time we do it, it will be done a little bit better and hopefully it will make it a little more efficient.

Q: Have you figured out your center situation as far as the shotgun?

B: We are all set.

Q: But you have figured it out?

B: Yes, we know what we are going to do.

Q: What about right cornerback is that still up in the air?

B: I think all four of our veteran cornerbacks are going to play. How much they play, when they play will be dictated a little bit by Tampa's end what they are doing.

Q: Can the defense still not do certain things in your defense?

B: No question, no question.

Q: Is that frustrating?

B: No, I think it is just the building block situation you can't learn how to divide until you know how to multiply.

Q: Have they got it as quickly as you would have expected?

B: I think that it is going along pretty well it is just the volume of offense we see in this league, the number of different situations that come up are quite extensive. There are some good offensive coaches and good offensive systems that do a good job of attacking defenses and in five preseason games, seven weeks, in trying to get your system down that is just not enough time to do that and address all the independent ways that teams are going to attack you form week to week. You just can't see them all and we haven't seen them all in preseason games because a lot of teams don't want to show specifically what their attack would be against our style of defense. They just run their plays like everybody else is doing in preseason. We will get tested in some areas that we haven't been tested, there is no doubt about that.

Q: How do you feel going into the opener? Do you feel reasonably confident that 'this is what I have, this is what I don't have, I probably won't be shocked by anything'?

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            **B:** I would say probably the latter. I think I know what we have and I think I know what we are basically going to do, but you never fully know until the pressure is on and the big lights come up.  

Q: Do you have the practice squad yet?

B: We have four players on the practice squad Patrick Pass, Rob Gatrell, Olrick Johnson, and Garrett Johnson.

Q: After seeing Michael Bishop in the preseason, will we start to see more of that?

B: Possibly.

Q: Will the early season success be based on the defense?

B: I think our success will be based on how our team does as a unit and I think everybody is going to have to contribute to that. We have an experienced quarterback, we have some experienced receivers, we have experienced players at every position. We have them on the offensive line, fullback, guys aren't all rookies. Special teams there are some core players on special teams that have been through kicking situations for one, but sure there are some younger players that are unproven to this point, but I think that most teams are going to have some of those. I don't think anybody is going to have to carry anybody. I think the whole team is going to have to carry itself. If we are not efficient in any area then we will probably have problems.

Q: Is this defense farther ahead at the end of camp then it was back in 1996 when you put it in initially?

B: Yes, no doubt about that.

Q: Is what you are going to do this year the same as you did in 1996 or is it going to be dramatically different from what you have developed the last three years?

B: In 1996 we actually changed a pretty significant part of the defense maybe about four or five games into the year, maybe after the Jacksonville game or somewhere after the bye week I forget exactly where it was. Then things really improved quite a bit from that point. I think if you look at our performance in 1996 those first five or six games, I forget exactly how many it was, we had some significant problems and then from that point on I think we caused more problems then people caused us. In answer to your question that year there was a pretty significant change and some alterations that we made I would say about a third of the way through the season.

Q: What you are doing now is what you do the second part of 1996?

B: There is some carryover. Things have changed and adjusted quite a bit in the last three years subtly, but that particular year there was a significant change in the way we put it in and then the way we ran it in the last 12 or 13 games of the season.

Q: What was the specific part that you tried to address in the changes?

B: In 1996 we opened in Miami and they rushed for 160 yards that was a problem. Jacksonville threw for about 2,000 yards and Baltimore threw for another 2,000 yards, the ball moved up and down the field that was the main problem. It also went in the end zone. There was some point in there, I want to say it was around the bye week, there was some point in there where we made some changes and looking back I would say they were definitely for the better. Some of that had to do with that particular team. Putting Lawyer Milloy in the game helped. Putting Tedy Bruschi in the game that helped. Those were two other personnel changes that probably coincided with better performances.

Q: Was it primarily the strategic changes rather than the personnel?

B: Probably a combination of both and probably poor coaching in the secondary contributed to those problems.

Q: Does that involve an adjustment that you had to make within your system because of the players?

B: That was a combination of both. The defense that we put in 1996 was different from the defense that was played here in 1995. I don't think that there was anything wrong with what was put in, but the way we ran it, it wasn't as successful as it was after we modified it and that was putting Willie (McGinest) at a new position and Todd Collins was at a new position. We played the first couple of games with a rookie defensive lineman that caused us a lot of problems. Getting him out of the lineup that probably helped solidify things a little bit.

Q: How different is this defense from Steve Sidwell's?

B: I wasn't here, I couldn't compare it.

Q: Looking back and seeing what you are doing today how is it different?

B: I mean I think there are some similarities. I think you would probably have to ask the players that played in both of them that would have a better feel for that than I would. I don't really know what some guys were asked to do or how they were asked to do it.

Q: Will Ted Johnson and Henry Thomas practice?

B: I think we should have everybody out at practice today.

Q: Are you comfortable are you with preparations in your first preseason for the regular season opener?

B: I think we are ready to play the regular season, put it that way. I don't think three more preseason games would get us any more ready. You are never ready for the regular season because you see some many things in the regular season that you don't see in the preseason, but five more preseason games wouldn't do any good for that. Teams just don't attack you and you just don't get the same game planning in preseason that you get during the regular season. Until those things start happening and the match-ups you just don't see what you are going to see in the regular season. I'm not saying we are where we want to be. I think we have a lot of work to do. I think we have a long way to go, but I think we have done about all we can do for preseason. It is time to move in. Just like in mini camp, you can have ten or twelve mini camp practices and I don't think you are going to get much better as a football team if you had 75 mini camp practices.

Q: Also in terms of this particular one game, some coaches will spend the whole summer getting ready for the season opener. Are you pretty much in that category, you have all the information you played them in the preseason, you know the match-ups and now you have to face the big picture?

B: Right, clearly there are things behind the curtain that we haven't seen and we are not going to see and if Tampa played 10 more exhibition games we still wouldn't see them either. We have looked at a lot of Tampa Bay defense and that has remained relatively constant. Offensively they have a new coordinator, they have anew system and I'm sure some things they did at Tennessee will show up and I am sure there will be a lot of things that won't. On the defensive side of the ball we have to allocate our time as to how much do we want to defend what we are pretty sure that they are going to do versus how much time do we want to spend on things that they might or might not do.

Q: As a defensive coach do you marvel at the things Tampa's defense could do?

B: They have a certain style of play and it has been pretty effective for them. I think their style of play defensively compliments their style offensively too. It is a well-coordinated system. The players that they have fit what they are trying to do. I think when you look at a football team, people talk about being predictable, when you look at a football team I think it is good when you can say this team is predictable because they have a philosophy and you know what they are about and that's what it is. When you look at Tampa Bay's defense you see quickness out there, you see a lot of speed on the front seven, so you know when they draft a player or sign a player on defense that is the kind of player that they are going to get. It's not like 'what are they going to do?' You know what they are going to do and they do it well and I think that is the mark of a good organization, good drafting, good coaching, a good plan in place. I mean you look at certain teams, you look at the 1970 Steelers or the 1980 Cowboys, they had a certain style of play. You knew what the Cowboys were going to do and the way they were going to play the game. I'm not saying you could call every play, but you knew the way that they were going to play, but defending, that was a different story. Stopping the flex defense, stopping all of the shifting, and all of that stuff that Tom Landry did down there. Joe Gibbs at Washington he knew what he was going to do, but stopping it was another story. You knew they were going to have big physical offensive lineman and big physical linebackers. Buddy Ryan's defenses you knew what they were going to do, but stopping them was a different story. So I think the idea of having a philosophy and developing it and being able to sit here and say, 'that's what they are and that's what they are going to be and they are pretty good at it,' is about a big a compliment you can give to a professional football team.

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            **Q: Given that answer do you think it will take a couple of years for fans to see what the Patriots philosophy is or will it become obvious sooner?**  

B: I hope not, I don't know. We are going to try to do what we want ot do and we need to do it well or this is a competitive league if we can't play well then it is not going to bode well for anybody.

Q: Are you concerned about Ted Johnson with all of the injuries he has had?

B: On a personal level I have never had a pulled muscle because I have never run fast enough to pull one. It is hard for me to relate to that. I think with Ted Johnson it has been unfortunate. I don't think there is any good explanation for it, certainly none of our medical people have one. The way I look at it and the way I talk to Ted about it this year hopefully he has got them out of the way. Nobody works harder then Ted does, nobody is more diligent. Nobody trains harder. I can't explain it.

Q: Do you start to worry that maybe he is too fragile for the game not for lack of trying?

B: I wouldn't call Ted fragile, I just wouldn't. I can't sit here and give you an explanation. You guys could fire them all day on that one I can't sit here and give you a reason. It's happened, it's unfortunate, we are moving forward and I know he is too and hopefully that's the end of it.

Q: So it's not that he has bulked up too much for his body frame?

B: He didn't look too big in 1996.

Q: From the perspective of your team does there come a point where you have to move on because he can't play that much and you can't rely on him?

B: We haven't even played a game yet, so he hasn't missed a regular season game, we will see what happens.

Q: Will he automatically come back as a starter this week or does it depend on what he does this week in practice?

B: No, I don't know what he can do. I can only go by what I see and then I can evaluate. I can't dream up what somebody is going to be able produce or not produce until they get out there on the field.

Q: Is there a comfort level with Ted Johnson playing that position even though he is not ready?

B: I don't think anybody would be comfortable playing with anybody that is not ready. Now being ready and how long you can sustain that, that maybe another question. Maybe a player could play for a certain number of plays and you just have to manage it that way. To put a player on the field that not everybody is comfortable with is not really what you are looking for.

Q: How much will it change or will it not change your game plan if a player is not playing, does one player determine a game plan?

B: It would depend on each specific game, each specific game plan. It might be a big factor in one game, it might not be a big factor in another game depending on what you are doing. There are some game plans and some match-ups and some weeks where there are one or two central players in the game plan and then there are other weeks when that shifts to other players. For example this week obviously an issue for us, and an issue for every team that plays Tampa, how are you going to handle Warren Sapp? What are you going to do about him? And that is not Terry Glenn's problem that's somebody else's problem. Some other week it might be how are you going to handle Deion Sanders? How are you going to get your receiver free from him or are you going to throw his way or whatever it is. One week your central game plan may be around a big blocking tight end, the next week the issue may be some little quick receiver that you have a hard time matching up against. It varies from week to week. Depending on the severity of that situation how much you want to address, how big of a problem it is, then that's where a lot of times the game plan adjustments take place. When you adjust one part of the defense or offense, whatever it is, if you change your protection the last thing you want to do is try to effect the other 8 or 9 or guys. You want to try to keep everything as much the same for them as you can and then okay, 'we'll work on this, you two guys do this' and it handles that problem and it doesn't screw everybody else up. It would be hard to say where that bullet would hit every week unless you knew a specific team, Marvin Harrison that is going to be a problem when we get to Indianapolis, Mike Alstott, that's going to be a problem, Warren Sapp that's going to be a problem

Q: Does Alstott's presence make the Ted Johnson even more valuable this week?

B: Anytime you can get a good player on the field it is valuable and it is helpful, it doesn't matter what the position is and who the player is, there is no substitute for quality football players strengthening your team. Ted is that and if he is able to help us this week I am sure he will be beneficial.

Q: Are you worried at all about repercussions of using Michael Bishop in the red zone offense?

B: As a general statement I would say that anytime you make a strategic decision on offense, defense, or in the kicking game to do something, if at any point in time that decision causes you more problems then it causes them, then you probably made a bad decision, regardless of what it was. If you decide to go into the game and use 9 foot line splits because you want to split the defense out, but the run through the gaps all day, whatever problems you caused them you have caused yourself a lot more that you can't handle, whatever that decision. Anytime you use a tactic as a coach you have got to figure out if what we are creating for our opponents is worth it at our expense. In terms of both time and whatever all the other issues are if confidence is one of them, or whatever they happen to be. If we felt that way then we certainly shouldn't do it. If we feel like it is beneficial and it helps our attack and it doesn't take too much away from anything else, because every time you do something it limits what else you can do, then it is probably with it. You are always juggling those balls, you go into the game plan meeting on Tuesday on offense or defense, on offense you have 55 plays up there, half of them are new. 30 or 40 new plays, these would be great, but you can't run all of those. You can run what you know how to run and then you can add a few things to it, but there are 30 or 40 good idea there, but you just can't do them all. If you tried to do them all then you probably won't do much of anything very well so you pick out the ones that are the most important and you go with those. Sometimes you don't go with any of them you just say, 'hey we are going to go out there and play our game' and not try to get into a lot of new stuff if you don't think it is worth it. That's the coaching dilemma it comes up every week. You are always sitting there on Friday after you have really had a chance to study the team even more thoroughly, you've been out there practicing and you sit there on Friday and say, 'if we did this it would really be a problem for them', but it is two days before the game and you have to make the decision is it really worth it or just go with what you have got.

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