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Transcript: Bill Belichick Press Conference 10/14/2001

Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick talks to the press about the upcoming game against the Rams on Sunday in Foxboro on Wednesday, November 14, 2001.

BB: Well we don't have any roster moves to announce right now. I am sure that at some point this week we will probably do something with Hakim [Akbar], but right now we are just going to kind of wait and let that situation settle. So I don't really have anything for you there. Just watching St. Louis I think the thing that's been most impressive to me and I am sure that we will all see it when we see them in person is just the speed of the team. I think they really have two speeds, fast and then faster. They have got a lot of guys that can run even the guys that they bring in, that don't start for them, like [Trung] Canidate and [Az-Zahir] Hakim and people like that. They just seem to be faster then the ones that are already in there and the same thing defensively. They bring in some pass rushers, guys like Little and all that even though they look pretty fast when the regular group is out there the guys they bring in are even faster than the guys that they take out. This is a team that has a lot of speed on both sides of the ball and that transfers into the kicking game. They are very explosive obviously and very dangerous. It is just hard to pick out any one thing to say, 'Well this is what you have got to stop' because there are so many things that you have to stop that we are just going to have to do a good job of offensively blocking a lot of fast people on the front and having to beat man coverage because they have a lot of corners that cover well [Dexter] McCleon and of course Aeneas Williams, one of the top corners in the league, and [Dre'] Bly. They have a couple of young safeties with Herring and [Adam] Archuleta they are all over you. Good cover linebackers. Then offensively they have all of the weapons that have already been expounded on by a lot of people, I don't think that I need to do it. They are an impressive football team. This will be a good challenge for us Sunday night and it will give us a good measure of how we match up with probably the fastest team in the league. I can't imagine there is anybody faster than this, I mean I hope not.

Q: The Rams have been referred to as a finesse team, is that an absurd statement? Is there any validity to that? What is a finesse team?

BB: I don't know, I think they have their own style of play and that style is to throw the ball very quickly, but that doesn't keep them from throwing it deep. They throw it deep probably more than any other team in the league, but the quarterback doesn't hold the ball. They have a lot of speed and therefore when you have speed you end up stretching the field and the running game with Canidate and [Marshall] Faulk. So there is a number of outside plays. I think that Orlando Pace is one of the top tackles in the league. I think they have a good solid offensive line that functions well together. I know a couple of those guys and have had them and they are tough guys. So I think that they are a very efficient and explosive offense and they do what offenses are supposed to do and that is score points. They have scored 153 points in the first half of their games this year which I think is more than a third of the league has scored total, probably double digit teams that haven't scored 153 points this year. That is what they do and they have got some good aggressive players. I think Marshall Faulk is one, he is a tough player, he really is.

Q: Is that why some people label them a finesse team because they are so quick and explosive?

BB: I don't know I really can't speak for anybody else, but I would say that they have got a lot of good football players and they know how to get the ball in the end zone. They have got some players that will go toe to toe with anybody. I think Orlando Pace and Faulk and those guys on the offensive line, [Ernie] Conwell. I think Conwell is a tough, physical blocker, probably one of the best blocking tight ends in the league. He doesn't get as many accolades because they have just got so many other guys, but they have some tough football players.

Q: Is that almost a slur in the NFL for somebody to label a team a finesse team?

BB: Not if you're good at it. It is like labeling a basketball team a fast break team. If you can fast break and score a lot of points, if that's what they are, that's what they are. If you are a halfcourt team that is a big, physical rebounding team and you are a halfcourt team then that is what you are. This is a fast break team and again they are faster than anybody that I have seen, as fast as anybody in the league and the more guys they bring it looks like the fast they get.

Q: What did the Giants do against them defensively?

BB: Number 92.

Q: Is it as simple as that, their front three or front four guys…?

BB: 92. Not front, 92. Michael Strahan, he was pretty much a one man wrecking crew in that one. He had a bunch of sacks and he had some pressures and tipped some balls and he had a very productive game. There are guys like that when I was with the Giants we had a guy too, 56, I mean they could ruin a game and I would say Strahan did about as much as he could to ruin that one. He had a big time game.

Q: Because of their talent and speed on offense do you have to be a little more careful about blitzing them, does it become more imperative for your front three to be able to put pressure on the quarterback?

BB: Well you can get it either way. If you blitz them and they hit you, you've got nobody back there and if you let them throw they have so much speed they separate the field. Again it is not only their speed to get behind you, but they are so fast they separate the defense vertically. They have got guys standing there 25 yards down the field in a heartbeat and then there is another guy standing there five yards down the field. It is just a lot of space to cover down after down after down. That is what's tough is the stretch that they get on the field horizontally and vertically. Horizontally they have got guys standing on the sideline, [Kurt] Warner can make the throws, he can get them out of there in a second and put the ball on a rope 20 yards, 25 yards down the field. Then you have somebody else running down the middle and you have Marshall Faulk and Canidate and Hakim sitting down there in the flat and they throw it to them and then they run for 20 yards, if your lucky.

Q: So where do you start, can you prioritize the problems they face?

BB: Well you are going to have to do a good job all the way around. Like I said, you just can't take away on thing. Marshall Faulk and the running game, if he runs for 185 yards in the first half it will be a long day just like it was for Carolina. So you have got to do something about that and at the same time you can't give up 20, 30, 40-yard completions down after down in passing game and that is a combination of pass rush and pass coverage. It isn't like you can just double one guy. It isn't like you can just double [Torry] Holt or double [Isaac] Bruce or double Hakim. I mean [Ricky] Proehl has made as many big plays over the last three or four years as any player has on that football team. I am sure that is why he is there because he consistently comes through in the clutch and makes plays that are difference making plays in the game. Conwell is an excellent tight end he just doesn't get the notoriety that they do, but you can see him doing everything too. He carries the ball, he blocks, he catches screen passes, he catches plays down the middle, he is a good player.

Q: Have you ever faced a bigger challenge, you have done a lot of scheming against a lot of teams over the years given what you've got and given what they've got is this challenging for you to try to come up with something?

BB: I would say that when I was with the Giants in '80 we had less on defense against the '80 Chargers. It was like the J.V.'s playing the varsity. As I have said earlier…

Q: What was the score of that game?

BB: I don't know.

Q: Sure you do.

BB: I don't know.

Q: If it was 16-14 you would remember.

BB: Yeah, let's say, they must have had 40 points at halftime. They were running out the clock at the end of the second quarter.

Q: Was that in San Diego?

BB: Yeah they played that San Diego Super Chargers about every four minutes. They didn't even get finished playing and they already started. This is what I can compare it to, the Redskins they scored 500 points, but a big part of that offense was John Riggins and he pounded at you and pounded at you, not that Marshall Faulk won't pound it at you it is just a different kind of pounding. The Vikings when they had their 500 point years with Robert Smith it was the same kind of homerun hitter in the backfield like Marshall, but they had a couple of big receivers. But it seems like St. Louis has got about three or four big receivers and then they have Canidate and Faulk and Conwell. They have got the best quarterback statistically in the league the last three or four years. The guy has already thrown for whatever, broken a record for 10,000 yards or I don't know how many yards he has thrown for, it is a lot. Whatever the other teams have done I think you can just top it off a little bit with what St. Louis has produced and it is not just stats, it's wins. Defensively they have improved their team speed on defense and they are playing well on defense. I think they have gotten a couple guys like Aeneas Williams, I am sure is a big lift to them, Ken Herring, guys like that that are not only good football players, but they are experienced and good leaders in the secondary to go along with guys like Bly and McCleon. Add Archuleta into the mix and you have got a pretty talented secondary that has also been in a lot of games and knows how to play. They have young, fast guys up front. It is a pretty good-looking team.

Q: Do you know [Mike] Martz?

BB: I haven't had much, our paths haven't crossed too much fortunately.

Q: He's an offensive guy?

BB: Yeah, but even they are in the NFC we are in the AFC. He has been with Washington and St. Louis and I have been in the AFC and haven't crossed paths.

Q: How can the elements affect a team like St. Louis? It is not a coincidence that Tampa Bay has never won a game under 40 degrees or that Green Bay is so tough at home, how can it affect a dome team like St. Louis, do you put any stock in that?

BB: No I think that's, the elements are the same for both teams out there on the field it is just how you deal with them and you never now until Sunday, until game time. I think more then anything elements affect the kicking game. Even the days we have had out here, we had some windy days, it was a little windy last week, it was a little windy and colder against Indianapolis and San Diego. I don't think the wind really affected the passing game that much in those games. I mean [Doug] Flutie, he threw in it fine. I thought our quarterbacks threw it, I don't think it was the wind, I think there were other factors. Now it affected the kicking game, there is no question. Both punters or all of the punters in those games have had a little trouble and the field goal kicking, I think it definitely affects that more than it affects the passing. I think the quarterbacks, if they have got good arms, unless it is a monsoon, but unless it is real bad I think that most of the quarterbacks in this league can handle it and it is not that big of a factor.

Q: The conventional wisdom in this case would seem to be to keep your offense on the field and the ball out of their hands to gain an advantage, but it must be exasperating to know that you can have the ball for 8:35 and they can come back and score in 21 seconds which they have the capability to do?

BB: Right they sure do, yup. They have a lot of missiles and there is no doubt that the best way to slow down their offense is to keep them off of the field, put them over there on the bench, but the bottom line is that you have to score some points. Having a ten-play drive and punting it and giving it to them on the 20, I mean I don't think the care whether they get it on the 20 or the 50. 30 yard that is one play for them, it's no big deal, so I don't think field position affects St. Louis at all. Whether they drive it 80 or drive it 40, I don't think they really care. It only takes about 30 seconds longer anyway.

Q: Did you say on Monday that [Tom] Brady is going to get the majority of reps in practice with the first team this week?

BB: Sure he is going to start and get most of the reps, sure.

Q: At what point will you know that Drew [Bledsoe] is ready…

BB: I don't know. I don't know. If I see it then I see it, I don't know.

Q: He will be given the opportunity in practice to prove whether or not he is ready?

BB: Yeah we will start to get a better look at Drew this week because again he is not really in a rehab situation. He is clear; he is ready to go. He will do what he can do and we will take a look at it. I can't tell you what's going to happen or what isn't going to happen. I have no idea.

Q: It would seem more logical to decide that he is going to start this week rather then try to bring him in off of the bench in the middle of the game?

BB: Yeah, I just don't know. We will just have to see how it goes.

Q: Can you tell us the percentage of reps with the first team that each guy is going to get?

BB: No.

Q: How does a guy compete for a job in practice during the season when most of the time the number one guy has got to prepare for the game and therefore has to get most of the reps, how can someone compete at that position?

BB: The only thing a player can do is prepare and be ready to play and take advantage of the opportunities that he gets. That is all he can do. It is a coach's decision about playing time. When you are in there, you're in there and when you are not, you're not and all you can do is take advantage of those reps. The better a player looks at those times then the more opportunity he is going to get.

Q: What adjustments do you have to make with Brady as teams get more film on him and kind of see what he likes and what he doesn't like?

BB: I don't really get a great sense of what Brady likes and what he doesn't like. Our offense is what it is. We try to have a balance so that we are not overloaded in one thing or another to make it easy for people to defend us. I think we have to have some kind of balance running the ball, throwing the ball and be able to throw it in different directions deep, short, screen passes, those kinds of things. In order for an offense to have any kind of effectiveness and we have been effective offensively is when we've had balance and we have been able to keep the defense from loading up on one thing and that is what we are going to have to continue to do no matter who the quarterback is. We just can't go back and throw it to one guy and throw one route. I don't care how much he likes that route, there is no team in the league who can do that very long. So we are going to have to stay balanced and that has been our focus all year and when we have had it we have had our most success and when we haven't had it we have had our least.

Q: I notice you listed Terry Glenn as questionable this week how do you feel in regards to whether he can contribute this week?

BB: It is questionable. We will see when he gets out there in practice. I think he had a better week last week. I think he was closer last week than this week whether that is going to be close enough for St. Louis we won't know until we get out there and practice and give it a couple of days and see how it goes.

Q: Does Drew move up to the backup quarterback spot and Damon Huard move to the third quarterback?

BB: I don't know.

Q: Is that going to play itself out in practice this week?

BB: Well I don't have anything else to go on. I don't know how else I can put it to you guys. We are not going to draw straws. We are going to let the players go out there and play. We are going to take the ones that are playing the best, that we think will play the best and those are the guys that are going to play whether it is at left tackle, quarterback, middle linebacker, safety, punt returner, kickoff returner, whatever it is we are going to play the guys that we think give us the best chance to win. It is as simple as that. Drew has not practiced with the offensive football team in seven weeks. He has run some scout team plays on defense, he has thrown some passes to the wide receivers against nobody covering him, that is what he has been doing. He has been coming off of an injury, he has been rehabilitating, he has not taken one snap with the offensive football team in seven weeks. How is it going to look when he starts doing that? I don't know. I can't tell you. I would be fabricating something. I haven't seen it. We will see how it goes.

Q: Does Drew know that you are not starting him this week?

BB: Sure the whole team knows it.

Q: Because he made it sound like he is doing everything in his power…

BB: He should that's what every player should do. That is what we want every player to do. I will take all of that we can get. That's what this game is about to get as many good players as we can get and we are going to need everybody. That's what a competitor should do. I couldn't ask any player to do more than that. To come in here every day, every week and prepare like he is going to play and win and if we get that, we will win. That's what it takes. I don't want anybody coming in here thinking I am not going to do anything this week or this isn't really my time or I will be ready next week coach, I am not interested in that.

Q: You admitted the other day that there is going to be a lot of questions about this did you talk to the team about how to handle it when we are down there peppering them?

BB: Sure. I know we are going to poll the coaches, we are going to poll the fans, we are going to poll the fourth graders, the barbers, we will poll everybody. I understand everybody is going to talk about that, that's fine. Hey I know there is a lot of interest in this team. I know there is a lot of interest in the football season right now and I am glad of that, nobody is happier about that then I am, but as far as making football decisions, getting ready to play the Rams, we have to block all of that out. There is nothing we can do about that. All we can do is get ready to play probably the best football team in the league right now. What the polls and what all the other speculation and controversy and talk is going on that is outside of anything that we have any control over. We are just trying to get ready to win a football team, that's it.

Q: Will you take this on a week to week basis or will you at some point just say, 'Tom you are the quarterback?'

BB: I don't know. All of the above, they are possible. Right now we are going into this game the way we are going into it and we will go from there.

Q: Is this the biggest nuisance a coach can have to have questions like this all the time about the quarterback?

BB: We are a better team this week then we were last week. We have got another player. We have got another player that hopefully, he certainly has the right attitude, but hopefully with a little better execution and a little more opportunity we will have a better football team than we had last week because we have one more guy that can help us win. We had several guys that from an injury standpoint are healthier than they were last week that are going to get more reps in practice and I hope they will play better. I think that we have improved our football team in the last few days just because we have gotten a couple of more guys back and if they perform they way they we think they are capable of performing than that just gives us more to work with and we are going to need all we got for this game.

Q: It sounds as if as you discussed St. Louis and how good they are that most of your players will have to play the best game they have ever played just to stay in the game?

BB: I told our team we are going to need our best game this week. I don't think there is any doubt about it. We are going to need our best game. We are going to need to player better than we played against Buffalo, better than we played against Atlanta, better than we played against Indianapolis. We are going to need out best game, but I think that we showed signs from during the year that we can play good on defense, we can play good on special teams, we can play good on offense and that is what we are going to need to do. Look, I don't think that we are going to be able to go out there this week and turn the ball over three times and miss double digit tackles and give up long kickoff returns and blow a couple of coverages, have seven or eight penalties and we will win the game. I don't think that will happen at all. We are going to have to go out there and play a good game.

Q: Who is going to be your Michael Strahan?

BB: Where is the other Michael Strahan in the league. I mean he is a tremendous football player. He is having a great year, he's had a great career, he is having a great year, he had a great game against St. Louis. He was all they could handle, but I think that what we have to do it is not so much about finding one guy to win the game as collectively playing good team defense, a combination of pass rush, stopping the run and pass coverage in all situations. Not just third down because this is the most explosive team in the league on first down. Actually they are one of the best teams on third down in the league, but they are never in third down. I mean you can't stop them on first and second down so half the time you don't even have to worry about third down. But it is not just third down, it's first down and second down, it's third down, it's the red area, it's keeping them out of the end zone and it is going to be team defense for us. I am not staying Strahan stopped him by himself, don't get me wrong. I mean the Giants had a good game plan, they had a lot of guys play well, but he was particularly destructive.

Q: Do you remember another team that has scored more touchdowns than the amount of times they punted?

BB: Again the teams that I remember coaching against are the Chargers, the Redskins when they scored 500 and, I forget whatever it was 30 or 40 points that year and the Vikings when they had their 500 point year a couple of years ago. Those are the big scoring teams and in all honesty I can't remember those teams punting a lot either, but these guys, right they don't punt, they are not in third down, I mean they get the ball and then a few plays later they are in the end zone. They have had a couple of turnovers now, the last few weeks they have turned the ball over a couple of times, but it is not a question of punting. It is either they lost it a couple of times or they are scoring and they don't care about those field goals either. On fourth down they go for it. I would say there has probably been at least four or five times just in the games I have seen on fourth and one, fourth and two when they are in field goal range and they go in on fourth down and go fourth down and pick it up. I don't think they are kicking field goals unless it is probably more than five, something like that. They are very aggressive, they're very aggressive.

Q: One of your strengths on defense, obviously you know your strengths if you look at the defensive backs, a team like New Orleans on first down they sometimes had seven or eight defensive backs in the game do you envision being able to do that kind of thing?

BB: Yeah I think every team in the league that plays St. Louis you are going to have to use more defensive backs against them then what you would normally use. Most of the time they really are in five wide receivers. I mean you can call them whatever you want, but Marshall Faulk, when he played at Indianapolis when Lindy Infante was the coach he was there third receiver. He was split out half of the game. So he is every bit as much a receiver as Ricky Proehl or Torry Holt or anybody else and the same thing with Canidate. Even though they line up in the backfield half the time they are split out anyway and even if they are in the backfield they are running wide receiver patterns out of the backfield. So with Canidate and with Faulk that is like having another receiver…Conwell, he is an excellent tight end. I think he is probably one of the most underrated guys, I would say that he might be the most underrate guy on that team. A guy that nobody talks about that is really a good football player and then they have got their receivers. Sometimes they split Warner out and they let Canidate or Faulk be at quarterback and it is really like a sixth guy then. So they just keep coming

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