New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick
Monday, August 27, 2001
BB: With the roster moves we announced yesterday, that leaves our squad at a point where we need to make six roster moves by Tuesday at four o'clock. I would emphasize roster moves there as opposed to cuts, because what we have to do is get to the 65 active players. There are other categories that players can be placed in that would comply with that limit. So it doesn't necessarily mean cutting players, it just means taking them off the active roster. The injury situation, I really don't have much more than I had yesterday afternoon. I still don't have the final reports in, really on all of our injured players and I probably won't be getting that until a little bit later on, early this afternoon. So I don't really have much more of an update from what I had yesterday. The thing we are focusing on this week is the preparation and the…trying to get our team in a regular season preparation mode for Washington, where we are putting all our attention on Washington—the scouting report, the game plan, studying them. Even though we have a shorter time frame, but to do a better job preparing for the game than we did last week and to do a better job of understanding how our opponent is going to play and how we need to play in this particular game. I didn't think we did a real good job of that last week, as a team. So we are going to put a little more emphasis on that, even though we have less time to do it. We are just going to emphasize it more and I think the players need to respond to it. We need to be in more of a regular season mode than what we were last week. So that's pretty much where we are. I think that there are a number of positions on the team where we have more than one player showing that he's or that they are capable of playing in the league and playing on a regular basis. We've been rotating some players in those situations and I think that we'll probably continue to do that into the regular season as opposed to naming one guy or two guys as starters. For example the inside linebacker situation with [Tedy] Bruschi, [Bryan] Cox and [Ted] Johnson or the running back situation with [J.R.] Redmond and [Antowain] Smith and that type of thing where we are playing more than one player with significant time, until we see something differently that those situations will probably continue…that the playing time will probably continue to be split up pretty substantially for those players involved. That's where we are at there and once we have a little better idea of which players will be able to play in the Washington game, particularly on the offensive line, then we may be able to make some head way there too. I know the guys that didn't play are getting better and they are closer, but we'll have to see where they are at out on the field this week, the [Adrian] Klemm, [Matt] Light, [Mike] Compton group.
Q: Wide receiver, are you any further along figuring out the rotation there?
BB: Yeah, the one guy that kind of has been left out the last couple of weeks is Torrance [Small], but Bert [Emanuel] and Troy [Brown] and David [Patten] have been having the majority of the playing time and a little bit of a rotational system and I would expect that to continue. I hope we can get Torrance back out there soon.
Q: Could you elaborate on how you shift gears to the regular season from the preseason mode?
BB: Well in preseason we spend a lot of time installing our system. These are the plays that we run and we go out there and practice them and learn how to run them and learn them against different looks. When we get to the game, you know we call them, run them and they're not necessarily…if we game planned the preseason, in other words if we said, 'OK these are the three best plays against the Giants and these are the three best plays against Carolina.' And then we get to the regular season and maybe we haven't run plays that we want to have in our system because we've always kind of selected the one that would fit best against the opponent. So in training camp you practice things and you get them ready to play in a preseason game and then you use them in that game. Sometimes it is not the greatest time to use them, but at least you get game experience with them and everybody understands or gets some experience running them under pressure, under game conditions. Then the next week you maybe do some of the same things, but add something new to it so that you are moving your system along and developing some balance and repertoire in the three phases of the game. When you get to the regular season you hopefully have a good base at that point and then you select the things that you think will work specifically the best against your particular opponent. There are times when we are looking at film and we are saying, 'well we know this isn't really a great play against this defense or this isn't really a great defense against that play,' but we learn from it and we are in maybe a little bit of a disadvantaged position. But we show the players, hey this is why we don't want to be doing this or if this situation comes up here's how we make the best of a bad situation. But when we get into game conditions and regular season, then the focal point is trying to attack our opponent and find the best mismatches and throwing out some plays that we think are less advantageous and emphasize the ones that would be more appropriate to their style of defense. And then also, we spend more time during the regular season really studying the individual opponent, so we know how one cornerback plays versus the other cornerback or how different guys pass rush and that type of thing, whereas in preseason there's less emphasis on that. We're playing a lot of people. They're playing a lot of people. It is hard to zero in on just one or two players, because you might be getting multiple guys at that spot. So as you get closer to the regular season and into the regular season that boils down and you can narrow the target a little bit. So it is a combination of those types of things. Also in the regular season schedule we're practicing once a day. We have a little bit more meeting time. Whereas in training camp we have more practice time and a little bit less meeting time. So there is a little transition there too, that…it's an adjustment.
Q: Charles Johnson seems to have fallen off a little bit, is he struggling at all or are you disappointed?
BB: No I don't think he has fallen out of it. I think that he isn't quite up there with Patten and Brown and Emanuel, but I think he's again a player that will see significant playing time. He brings some real strengths to his game and in fairness to Charles, he probably hasn't gotten as many opportunities as the other guys have and we'd like to see a little bit more of him. So maybe we can get him a few more opportunities this week, but I think he still factors into the mix. I expect him to be productive and I think he's going to help us, I really do.
Q: How do you feel about the situation at tight end at this point?
BB: I don't think we have any clear-cut…anybody who's clearly positioned themselves significantly ahead of the competition. I think that we are going to have to utilize all the players at that position to some degree and try to use them in situations where we feel like they'll be productive and where they'll be productive in the offense.
Q: Are the rookies just too far behind, injury-wise, to be able to come in and contribute?
BB: They're pretty far behind. Yeah, they're pretty far behind. I don't think they'll be much of a factor. You're talking about [Jabari] Holloway and [Arther] Love? Yeah, I don't think they'll be much of a factor for a while.
Q: What about nose tackle with Garrett Johnson?
BB: Garrett, Jace [Sayler], Brandon [Mitchell] played a little bit in there last week. We wanted to take a look at Brandon. Brandon got…he was up in the double-digit plays. So he got a little contact and some game experience coming off the injury and a little bit of playing time in there at nose. I think that position has gotten consistently better through the camp. I think all the players, including Brandon, have made some improvement in the last few weeks. I think that's coming along. One thing we need to do on the defensive line is create depth for ourselves. It's like the offensive line; you can only take so many of those linemen to the game on the 45-man roster. And because most of them aren't very involved in the kicking game, you're taking them to play offense or defense, whatever their position is, and that is basically about it. You know, the field goal team or that type of thing. The fewer you take, then the more other skill players you can bring. So if you can carry fewer offensive linemen, you know if you have one guy to backup at center and guard and another guy to backup at tackle, you can bring seven linemen to a game. But if you've got to bring a backup center, a backup guard, a backup right tackle, a backup left tackle, you know you end up bringing nine people to the game because that is the only spot they can play. Then that hurts you in other areas of the game. So creating depth on the offensive line and defensive line, in terms of players playing multiple positions, is something that we want to do a little bit more of this week to try and create that depth looking toward the, more the 45-man roster next week than the 53. To this point we have kept everybody pretty much in one spot so that they could compete and we could really find out how the players separate themselves playing the same position, but as that is starting to clear up a little bit multiple position depth is an important strength of the team and this is a good week to work on it for those guys.
Q: When [Willie] McGinest comes back, is [Roman] Phifer his backup or is he a guy that can move around to other places?
BB: Well I think first we have to see where Willie is at and when he is back and what he can do. And how extensive that…
Q: Is he back this week?
BB: I think he's got a chance. Yeah, I think he's got a chance. If he does what Brandon did this week, you know 10-15 plays in the game, that type of thing. Then there will be plenty of playing time for everybody else.
Q: But is Phifer a guy that can move around?
BB: Well Roman I think has some multiple skills. He does some things for us in the kicking game. He does some things for us on third down, as a cover linebacker and he can play the outside linebacker spot. I don't think we would move him inside if that is what you are asking. I think he has been more of an outside, edge player.
Q: Could he possibly replace Mike Vrabel on third down?
BB: Yeah, Mike has rushed some on third down. Could Roman rush?
Q: If Willie's in the game, how does Roman fit into that mix?
BB: Roman is a cover linebacker. He's played the cover linebacker spot with Bruschi, Rob Holmberg. They've played that position. The rush people have been…that's come from Greg [Spires] and Mike Vrabel, Cox. You know, McGinest would fit into that group.
Q: Getting back to the tight end situation, it seems [Drew] Bledsoe has always fared best when he has had security blanket to throw to whether it is a tight end or running back. Do you agree with that statement and if so are you going to try to develop a tight end or might it be a running back?
BB: Let's see, a couple parts to that one. Let me see. First of all, in terms of Drew's success throwing to the tight end when [Ben] Coates was here. When I was here in 1996 and Coates was the tight end, he's one of the best receiving tight ends to play pro football. He's up there with a handful of guys that have been as productive as he was. So, I know Drew likes to throw to tight ends. I know Drew liked to throw to Ben Coates and I think any quarterback in the league would have thrown to Ben Coates in his prime. I mean he was tremendous and not only could catch the ball, but knew how to get open and knew how to position his body and make those catches. So I don't know what came first there, the chicken or the egg. In terms of developing a tight end, we've taken some young players in the last two years to try to develop a young tight end. To this point, that is still a work in progress. We would like to see more production out of the position, but until we get it, it is still what it is. We would like to see the position be more productive though, there is no question about that. We are going to need to get that production one way or the other.
Q: Has [Jermaine] Wiggins made improvement as a blocker? Has [Rod] Rutledge made improvement as a receiver? What is [Johnny] McWilliams, is he a little of both?
BB: I think you have characterized it well. I think Johnny is a little of both. I think Rod is a better blocker and Jermaine is a better receiver. I think both players have made some improvement, Jermaine in his blocking and Rod in his receiving. I think Johnny is a little more of a combination, kind of a blend of the two. What we are really looking for would be for anybody to really excel in any area.
Q: Marc Edwards seems a little more involved in the offense, is that to take advantage of his skills or to get the fullback position more involved in the offense?
BB: Both. Yeah, both. Marc's had some opportunities and I think Marc is a good example of a player in training camp and a player in preseason who has had some opportunities to handle the ball and has been very productive with those opportunities and as a result as a coach that is what you look for and then you want to get him more involved because he has been productive with them. There are other players who have gotten opportunities that have a lot less production. When you meet that fork in the road between Marc Edwards and another player who has had opportunities and has been less productive, then the natural course is to try to give Marc Edwards more of a role, more of an opportunity to continue doing what he is doing. And that's really what training camp is about for all the players, it's to establish a role for themselves and to take advantage of the opportunities that they get. Nobody is out there playing the whole game. Everybody is getting an opportunity to play, whether it be on offense or defense or in the kicking game. Whatever their opportunities are, whenever they come along, the only thing they can do is maximize them and perform well in those situations. And the better they do and the more productive they are, then the more opportunities they get. That's really how it works.
Q: Has Marc Edwards shown you more than you thought you would get out of him?
BB: He hasn't really shown me anything or Charlie, I don't think we've seen anything we weren't expecting. Marc was a real productive player his first two years at San Francisco. He handled the ball quite a bit in the passing game and the running game. When he went to Cleveland he handled the ball a lot less. It's very difficult in the Cleveland films, we pulled out all of plays where he handled the ball and it's not very many plays, in fact most of them were in our game. If you add in all the other games that probably would double the number of plays that he had in our game, so half of his production was maybe in the New England game last year. Going back to San Francisco, he is doing things now similar to what we saw him do with the 49ers and for whatever reason he didn't seem to get the opportunities to handle the ball that he did in San Francisco or he has had here in training camp. He has always looked good doing that and he looked good doing it in college. So that was kind of what we had hoped and expected to see once he got the opportunity and he's come through.
Q: Earlier you spoke about Andy Katzenmoyer and Ray Hill going onto injured reserve has that already happened?
BB: No that has not happened yet. Those are the kind of roster moves that, we have some flexibility in terms of when we do it and procedurally exactly how we do it and those are some of things that we're working out. There are different players it involves, two that you mentioned are in the roster consideration in one way or another and the timing of it whether we do it now, whether we do it next week, procedurally exactly how we want to handle it with those players and some other players those are the kind of things that we're working on now.
Q: Have you given up on the shotgun formation as a snap?
BB: No I think we've used in every game.
Q: It looked like there were opportunities this past game to use the shotgun formation and you didn't?
BB: We have used it some we haven't used it exclusively, but we have used it at times. Again, I think if you look around the league you will see a lot of teams that are in the shotgun a lot and you will see other teams that are never in the shotgun. There are advantages and disadvantages to both that's why you see it in the league, but to be a shotgun team to you have to do certain things well and it limits some of the things you can do and it expands your options in other ways and vice versa. Being under center creates opportunities that shotgun doesn't. It puts the quarterback closer to the line. We've used both, I think we can operate out of either one, with the shotgun contingency being obviously consistent snaps.
Q: Where are Ted Johnson and Ty Law at physically today?
BB: I don't have the final reports in for them for the week so I really can't give you any more information at this point.
Q: Was Ty's injury an ankle, heel, toe?
BB: His foot is sore. I talked to him this morning he is feeling better, but I haven't talked to the doctors yet.
Q: As far as Johnson, he was evidently injured covering a punt?
BB: He had a sore leg in the game, we held him out. I don't anticipate that this is going to be a major injury.
Q: Doesn't seem like a big catastrophe at this point?
BB: Again I haven't talked to the doctors so I am not sure exactly where we are on this. At this point, as I said after the game, I don't think we have anything that looks like it is a real long-term injury.
Q: Can you discuss you comfort level with the offensive tackles at this point?
BB: What we would like to see is the two young tackles who haven't had a chance to play get a chance to play and that's (Adrian) Klemm and (Matt) Light. We have seen Greg (Robinson-Randall) play in every game, we have seen Kenyatta (Jones) play in every game and Grant (Williams) is a veteran tackle that can swing and play both sides and that's what he's done. What we haven't seen is Matt and Adrian play in game conditions in the preseason so I would like to see that and I would like to see that before the regular season starts.
Q: Is it possible to overstate the importance of that unit practicing together?
BB: No I don't think you can overestimate it. I think it's important and I think the more you do it usually the better results are, but you have to work with whatever you have to work with and if you have less opportunity to do then they don't postpone the game, there are no rain delays in the NFL, but you have got to get ready to play with what you got and go out and play with it.
Q: Have you seen enough of Matt Light to know even what you would get if he was healthy?
BB: No I haven't seen him.
Q: I mean you can kind of judge what (Adrian) Klemm and (Mike) Compton would be when they get back, but there is not much to go on…
BB: I am not talking about Compton I am talking about two young players that really have never had any significant playing time in the National Football League at tackle. Klemm played guard and a little bit of right tackle at the end of the season last year, but no significant playing time at left tackle in the National Football League. No I don't feel like I know enough about him at all.
Q: I know you said earlier that you wouldn't consider a guy like Bruce Armstrong is he popping up again?
Q: Would you consider any veteran tackle out there at this point?
BB: Anybody that is released or becomes available through the league, however it occurs, at this time of year we always consider them. We look at them even if we don't feel there's a spot on the roster for them now we determine whether we would want them as an emergency player if something happened. So that we have insurance at all of the positions or whether we wouldn't. Based on how that goes then they fall into some category either as a future consideration or as somebody that we feel like there are just too many players ahead of them that we would want before we would get to them for whatever the reasons are whether it be age, injury, style of play whatever the case might be in.
Q: Is Jim Pyne a consideration?
BB: Again all of the players that are released at this time of year we take a look at. Internally we take some type of action on a player.
Q: Anything specific on him?
BB: We are not adding anyone to the roster at this point in time.
Q: What about the safety and corner positions are they still competitive or are they more clear-cut than most?
BB: I think they are competitive. I think that those players have received significant playing time early in the games and in all three of the preseason games. I would expect that they would all get significant playing time once the regular season starts. I think that is one of the strengths of the team in terms of depth and quality of play and I think we're gonna try to maintain that by keeping them all involved and having significant playing time for all of them.
Q: On offensive line, how confident are you that it will improve enough to prevent situations like Saturday night?
BB: I don't how they will do, that is why I would like to see them out there.
Q: Do you feel it will be an improvement either way?
BB: Until I see them I don't know, but one thing I don't want to get into, I want to avoid the situation where we put them out there in the regular season and find out then. As I said to the coaches last night and talked a little bit this morning, some things we need to find out one or the other even if we know that if we try to run this play that we can't run it or if we try to play a certain player in a certain situation he can't do it. In a couple of cases we are better off knowing that now and finding that out rather than getting into a situation later on in the season where we are still considering it as an option. If we can't do it we need to know we can't do it and move on rather than keep it as an option and find out later on in the regular season games that it is not an option. Until we see them out there and get some better feeling for what they can do I don't know what it is going to be. We got into a situation like that last year in the opener against Tampa Bay where we played a player who really was playing in a situation that was new and it lasted for about a quarter and that was not a good situation to be in so we don't want to repeat