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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Fri Apr 09 - 12:00 AM | Sun Apr 11 - 11:59 PM

Bill Belichick Press Conference

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BB: Well, just on the injury update. We placed Curtis Jackson on Injured Reserve yesterday. He hurt his ankle in the game and six weeks at this point is just not really a manageable situation, especially with our overall lack of depth at that position. So we'll evaluate what we are going to do at that spot as we get to the end of the week. We have a lot of bumps and bruises. We've got a lot of guys that are getting over things and I'm concerned about it. We had quite a lengthy staff meeting yesterday with the coaches and talked about it. I can't ever remember in my career having to scale practices back to the degree that we're going to be doing today and probably through the week. As far as that other roster spot goes, we'll just fill it with whoever we think at the end of the week, where the greatest need is and who can help us the most. If I knew where that was I would do it now, but I'm just not sure. I'm concerned about the offensive line situation. I'm concerned about the receiver situation. I'm concerned about some of the injuries, guys that are banged up a little bit on the defensive side of the ball. So we're just pulling out all stops to try to get everybody as much treatment and get as healthy as we can for what I know will be a real physical game on Sunday. Buffalo's a team that, the last three times the Patriots have played the Bills it has gone into overtime. We had two last year that were just obviously as tight as you can get them. I think offensively Buffalo's a real explosive football team. They've got a quarterback who can throw and run. They've got a number of good receivers: [Eric] Moulds, [Jeremy] McDaniel, Peerless Price, [Larry] Centers, [Jay] Riemersma. Those guys are all very capable of making big plays and getting the ball down the field. [Travis] Henry's done a good job of running hard. I think that Buffalo's got a couple of offensive linemen, experienced guys that probably will be back this week and I am sure that that will make a difference for them. But offensively I think this is a real explosive group that can move the ball, particularly in the passing game and that they are pretty efficient with it. Defensively, they have a good front. They have a couple young players up there, but they put a lot of pressure on you and they've got a pretty good secondary, particularly at the corner positions with [Antoine] Winfield and [Nate] Clements and [Ken] Irvin. Those guys are doing a good job for them and I know that they'll blitz and they'll pressure us like they do everybody else. So we'll have to be ready for that. Clements has done a good job for them in the return game. He had a big play last week against the Colts where he made a couple guys miss and then outran the punter on a long run. So I think they have some explosive, play-making guys that we're going to have to do a good job on or if they get away from us, we'll have trouble catching them.

Q: I know Drew [Bledsoe] is still listed as 'Doubtful,' but where is he on his recovery? Has he been able to step it up and do more day by day?

BB: He practiced with the team last week. He'll practice with the team this week. Before that, it was scaled back. Now he is practicing with them just like everybody else is. There's no difference between him and what Damon [Huard] or J.R. [Redmond] or anybody else does. So that's where he's at, but he's 'Doubtful' for the game. He'll be no more than the third quarterback and that's where he is for this week.

Q: Can you, as to the timetable…?

BB: Whenever the doctors say. Whenever they clear him, they clear him. It doesn't have anything to do with football. It has to do with what his situation is medically and what the concerns are for that. That's all we are talking about.

Q: Your situation with injuries at the offensive tackle positions, I assume Grant Williams will return to the left side. What about the right side?

BB: We are just trying to scramble that together. I don't know. You know Mike Compton's played out there in the past and we have Tom Ashworth on the Practice Squad who works at tackle and Kenyatta [Jones]. So we're just going to have to try to, obviously if we get any healthy guys out there that we'll put them in there, but if that's not the case then we'll have to try to get everybody else ready and whether we bring somebody up or don't bring somebody up from the Practice Squad will just depend on where we are at around game time. Again, we have a spot to do it and if we need to do it, then we will.

Q: You said you were concerned about the offensive line and at wide receiver. Is [Terry] Glenn practicing this week?

BB: Terry's better. We'll see today. We'll see today. We'll go out there and get loosened up and we'll see whether he practices or not today. I think he's certainly better than he was last week and where exactly that will put us, I am not sure.

Q: [Greg] Robinson-Randall was hurt early in the game, but he toughed it out and played. Was it a case where he had no options and he had to play or was it that what he did just didn't kick in as badly as it was?

BB: Well I think when you get into a, we all know, when you get into a game situation the adrenaline gets going and whatever the pain or discomfort is, you know you are thinking about the game, the juices are flowing and you play and you worry about it later. I don't think that necessarily any damage was done. It was something that, like a lot of things, that at the end of the game aren't a big problem but by after the game or by the next day it gets a little bit sensitive and then you have to work your way through it. That's where we are with Greg. I don't think this is any kind of career-threatening injury, but whether he'll be available today, this week, next week? It's going to be days, I don't know how many, but I think that's what we are talking about.

Q: You said you've had to scale back practices. What aren't you able to do?

BB: Well we are not going to go out in pads. We've cut back the number of plays, the number of reps. We just don't have anybody to run them. You know the things that we feel like we've got to get done, then we're going to do those. There are some other things that we would like to get done, we just don't have enough guys to be able to last out there and practice like we normally would or by the time we get to the game, we won't have anything left, we'll leave it on the practice field. So we are going to have to be very judicious in the plays that we select and you know we are going to get into the situation where we are going to have defensive backs running pass routes and defensive linemen playing offensive line on the scout team and stuff like that which is not really what you are looking for and it doesn't give the other side a good look. But those are the only healthy bodies we've got and that's all we've got to work with. We're just going to have to work our way through it.

Q: Did you have any idea that it would be this many guys? Did they kind of trickle in or did you know on Sunday that you were pretty banged up?

BB: Well it is a combination of both. Some of these guys, it's a problem that's lingered. Other guys surfaced during the game like with Curtis Jackson and Greg, we knew about that during the game. Other guys, like the flu and stuff like that, some of those came up on Monday and Tuesday. So it's a little bit of everything, but when you put them all together it's about a third of the team.

Q: Is this a new one with Willie [McGinest] or is it just a continuation of what he has been dealing with all along?

BB: I think it is a little bit of a continuation.

Q: Regarding Drew, has he been cleared medically for a little contact, no contact, full contact?

BB: No contact. He hasn't had any and don't plan on giving him any until that clearance is given.

Q: Matt Light was 'Questionable' last week and without playing is down to 'Doubtful,' did anything happen?

BB: No, I think…when I listed him as questionable I was kind of hoping that things would come around by the end of the week. I think the fact that he didn't practice last week, until he gets out there and practices I don't think I could, I mean I guess I could list him as 'Questionable,' but until he gets out there and practices I think that he's still a ways away from playing. I was hopeful that he might be able to practice last week, you know towards the end of the week, but it just didn't materialize.

Q: Have you been contacted by the league in any way regarding their unhappiness in the past with your injury reports?

BB: No.

Q: The lack of their completeness or anything like that?

BB: Nope.

Q: I know they sometimes say something to teams that they think are not being as forthcoming as they should be, I just didn't know…?

BB: No.

Q: I just didn't know if this updated, lengthy list was because maybe they had expressed some unhappiness?

BB: Not that I am aware of.

Q: Did you talk to the team about how to handle Terry Glenn questions with the latest unusual circumstances with the lawsuit and headlines?

BB: I didn't mention it to them.

Q: Do you think it is a distraction to them? Do you think they are leery about having to answer questions about it?

BB: I really don't know. I don't even know if they're…I have no idea. I couldn't even tell you if they are aware of it or not aware of it. I really don't know. But I didn't say anything about it, no.

Q: It seems like a non-factor to you?

BB: Well I don't know. I mean I can't honestly tell you what somebody else is thinking. I mean I don't know what you're thinking. I don't know what anybody is actually thinking. Sometimes I don't even know what I am thinking.

Q: Sometimes guys play through injuries in important games and some would argue that all game are important. Buffalo is coming in and they are struggling, could this be a trap game?

BB: They're not struggling. Look, I have a lot of respect for Buffalo. They could easily have won three or four games, easily. I mean they had San Diego beat. They were in a lot of games. The last three games we've played them have been overtime games, you can't get any closer than that. So regardless of who the coach was in the last couple of years, who the players were, [Doug] Flutie/[Rob] Johnson, Bledsoe/[Tom] Brady/[John] Friesz, you can put in any part of the equation you want, three games in overtime. I think that says where these two clubs are when they get on the football field. I'd be surprised at anything less than that this week. It's going to be a tough game. Buffalo's a physical team. They've got real good skill players on offense. They can move the ball. Mike Shepoard's the offensive coordinator. I've worked with Mike for several years. I know what kind of coach he is, what kind of worker he is, what he can produce and what they can produce offensively. I have tremendous respect for the job that he does and defensively, you know, the problems that they bring. They've got a lot of young players and they've got a good blend of experienced players. This is a pretty formidable team.

Q: So there is no thought of all that we can…?

BB: No. Are you kidding me?

Q: Hold guys off until…?

BB: No. Are you kidding me? We need them this week. I don't need a bunch of guys coming to me in December saying, 'Put me in coach.' We're four and four. We've got division games. We've got NFC games. We've got big games coming up. We need to win them. I mean I'm not looking to next year, believe me.

Q: Because of the injuries, do you gamble more or less when you make up your game plan for Sunday?

BB: Boy, it's tough. It's tough. You kind of just gotta walk the tight rope, you know. What if they are? What if they aren't? What if they are and then what if something happens during the game? You've just got to walk the tight rope. I know that Charlie [Weis] and Romeo [Crennel] have asked me those questions 20 times yesterday. You know, 'what do you think? Will he, won't he? Maybe? Do you know any more than you knew five minutes ago?' No. I mean it's tough. It's tough. But as a coach you've just gotta…look any time you go into the game, you could lose a guy on the first play. We played Buffalo last year Friesz, goes out. Drew had his thumb hit on the second or third play of the game, whatever it was. I mean that can happen in any game, any time. So you always have to be prepared for it. I think that the tougher situation though, is where you are really, you know you are on the fence. Can he play? Can't he play? Sometimes it's easier when you just go ahead and just count him out. I think in some cases that's, as a coach, that's what you have to do from a preparation standpoint. You have to just count certain players out and then if they are there, great. You really want them to be there, I am not saying that. But from a planning standpoint it's a lot easier to count them out and then plug them in than it is to count them in and then take them out.

Q: When you are making the game plan, defensively would you gamble more with blitzes because of the injuries? On offense would you gamble more with razzle-dazzle? Or does that make any difference?

BB: Well I think you set up the basic way that you want to attack the opponent and then as you're plugging the players in to that type of attack you see what you've got to work with. I mean if you want to run four receivers against Buffalo because you think that that would be a good way to attack them and you've only got three healthy guys, you know it puts you in a tough spot. So those are the kind of decisions that when you start to make up the game plan you've got to take into consideration. Well whose playing? You know it was like last week. Last week was a good example of exactly what you are talking about because we got into the situation at tight end where Rod [Rutledge] really wasn't available to practice. We felt like we had to have a two tight end package for the goal line and possibly a situation at the end of the game where we are backed up on our own one yard line or that kind of thing. So we ended up practicing that situation with Rod on Friday and also with Grey Ruegamer. We got to the game, we didn't really know which way that was going to go. Rod was inactive. We got to the end of the game. We used Grey in that situation and that's how it came out. Had Rod been there, Rod would have been the tight end. So that's the kind of thing that you just have to juggle them in the air. But this week we are doing it at tight end. We're doing it at receiver. We're doing it on the offensive line and to a degree a little bit at running back. So I mean that's four loose wheels instead of one that you have to tighten.

Q: With two tackles being out, not to assume that Tom is going to be pressured in the backfield, but when the protection has broken down he seems to have a pretty good pocket awareness for a guy who's only started a few games. Is that something that is just inherent in the player or can you help a guy with that?

BB: I think you can help him, but I think it's an instinctive thing that a quarterback has. Not to oversimplify it, but that is the difference between baseball and football. You know in baseball you take the ball get on the mound, take the resin bag and throw it when you are ready. In football you've got to make those same throws, but there are a lot of things going on around you. Sometimes you've got to step up, side step, you know a receiver falls down, a guy's in your way, whatever it is. And that's the difference between throwing a football and throwing a baseball. In Tom's case, I think a lot of it is instinctive, but you also try to as a coach make him aware of—this is a defensive lineman that really likes to run up the field so the thing you don't want to do is run out the back of the pocket right into him, you want to step up. Or some teams are teams where the ends really like to start up field and then come inside and that is a situation where you don't want to step up or you'll just step right into the guy. I think from a coaching standpoint you can help the quarterback anticipate that situation, but in the end he's got to react to what he sees on the field. I mean he just can't guess at it. You know some guys just have that sense where they're just standing there in the pocket and the guy comes on the blind side and just at the last second he knows when to duck and the defender will go right over the top of him. I don't know how you can coach that.

Q: How different are these new Bills under this new regime?

BB: Well it's a different scheme. They have a different scheme. You know Gregg's [Williams] scheme on defense is similar to the Titans' scheme. Offensively, Joe Pendry was the coordinator last year and now Mike runs more of a "West Coast" type offense where they run a lot of tailback running plays, but they also run a lot of option routes, crossing patterns. You know, I'd say more of a four or five receiver passing game rather than more of a one or two receiver passing game and then last year with Flutie and with Pendry they also went to a lot of empty backfield, no-back sets. Even though Buffalo does that now, it is certainly not as frequent as what it was last year. So the schemes are different, some of the players are different. You know they've made some changes at quarterback. You know they've got a new back and some young players on defense, you know [Erik] Flowers and [Aaron] Schobel and guys like that. And in the secondary as well you know with Henry Jones and some of those guys not there anymore. So it's a combination of new players and a new scheme that we need to get ready for.

Q: What do you see in Johnson now that maybe wasn't there before?

BB: It looks to me like he's more comfortable, just looking at the seven games this year, he looks more comfortable in the recent games, particularly the San Diego game. It looked like earlier, I mean we went through the same thing last year. You put in a new system and it takes you a little while to get some of the subtle adjustments and defenses do things to you that you haven't worked on and so forth. But it looks like he's in-sync with Price and Riemersma and McDaniel who hasn't played the last couple weeks, but he's really a good slot receiver and of course Moulds. And Larry Centers has given them a big lift out of the backfield. I mean he's caught a lot of balls and he's a good outlet receiver and runs hard after the catch. So Rob's got a lot of guys to throw it to and then when that breaks down he can pull it down and run. Maybe not quite like [Michael] Vick could, but not bad. He's pretty athletic back there.

Q: Why has there been such a change on third down conversions on both sides of the ball and are you satisfied?

BB: Well I am glad to see that we are making progress there and that's been an area, as you know, that we've been emphasizing for all last year and then in the offseason. The third down and red area were the two major targets that we wanted to overall improve on. The team this year, you know I'd say offensively that there are a couple factors. One thing that helps you is staying out of the long-yardage situations. We've given up a lot fewer sacks this year and not that the running game has been spectacular, but it's been a little bit better and you know I think we've gotten good play out of our quarterback and receivers. Defensively, it's certainly not where we need it to be and it's hurt us in a couple games, but I think overall we're a little better in the secondary than we were last year and if we can make the quarterback throw on time and not let him stand back there and have a little bit better coverage, then that will help. But you know we haven't been a good defensive team on first down this year and I think our lack of production on first down has led to therefore problems on third down. We are one of the lower rated teams in yards per play on first down and if first and ten becomes second and ten, you're ahead on the count. That makes it a lot easier than those second and shorts. I think we need to play better on third down and I think our first down defense can help our third down defense.

Q: Why is Kevin Faulk not fumbling this year?

BB: Well I think there's a couple things on Kevin. When you look at Kevin last year, one of the things that he had to go through last year that was tough, was that he had no offseason. He hurt his ankle in the '99 season and then he rehabbed his ankle the entire spring last year. He was able to take part a little bit in the mini camps, but on a limited basis and really wasn't ready to go until training camp started. Now he had a decent preseason, but he just didn't really have any training. It was all rehab. It was all getting his ankle back. This year I think the big difference for Kevin, one of the big differences for Kevin, is that fact that he's able to train for the season rather than rehab an injury. You know Mike Woicik and Charlie [Weis] and Ned [Burke] have spent a lot of time with not just Kevin, but J.R. and Patrick [Pass] and all the backs in terms of taking care of the ball and working on some of the finer points of the game whether it blitz pickup or route running, whatever. And every drill that Kevin did last year in the offseason was with a ball with a string tied to it so that whatever he was running, whether he was doing shuttle drills or sprints or whatever it was, we could have Mike or Markus [Paul] would pull it from behind and try to pull it out or try to work it away from him. So that all this training was done with ball-security and I think that that definitely has helped. I mean not that he hasn't fumbled this year, he's had a couple balls on the ground more in the kicking game than carrying it, but you know I think the awareness and the overall concentration and the work that he's put into it are definitely paying off. I think Kevin's a much better football player than he was last year. You know, sure there were times last year when we were frustrated with some of the mistakes that happened, but Kevin's a conscientious kid. He works hard. He's tough and in his defense, not being able to train for the season I think last year hurt him. Whereas this year we felt like with a full year of training he should be better and he has been and it's really I think due to his hard work and diligence. It's kind of like some of the same things that I've talked about with Brady. I think that Kevin's another guy like Tom that, he's not the same football player this year that he was last year. They've actually improved.

Q: With four guys on the defensive line on the injury report is this an opportunity for Riddick Parker to step up for you and to that end, how has his progress been?

BB: Good. I think Riddick has been stepping up for us. Riddick played quite a bit last week in the Atlanta game. I think around 25 plays or something like that. [Richard] Seymour was in that same category, somewhere in the high twenties or low thirties, whatever it was. You know [David] Nugent gave us some plays in Denver as did Riddick the week before and I think that's what it is going to be. I mean I honestly think that's what it is like every year, but it's like that in the second half of every season, is you are going to have some guys you don't know what position before the year starts, but there are going to be guys that are going to have to step up and Riddick and Nugent and Seymour…just relative to what Seymour did the first half of the season we're certainly hoping that physically his health will enable him to do a lot more in the second half. Parker, Nugent, those are guys that we need more production out of them if they get the opportunity. And we'd love to have Willie. We'd love to have Pleasant and Hamilton and Brandon Mitchell and all those guys, but if the opportunity comes where we've got to plug somebody in for them then we hope those guys are ready to go and they'll be able to step up. But I think Riddick and David Nugent both have given us good quality snaps in the last couple weeks when they've had to play.

Q: You played pretty well on the road, two out of the last three, and now you have three in a row, four of five, at home. Is that going really going to tell the tale of what happens to this team this year?

BB: Well yeah, home or away I think that seven of our last eight, or the next seven games, lets put it that way. The next seven games are either against NFC teams or they are division games and the NFC teams are really like division games because you know that's who we are playing this year. I mean that's who everybody in our…so it's those are going to be, not to take anything away from the Carolina game, that's game two. The one game we don't play is Cleveland, that's not, I'm sorry. Seven of the next eight games are division games and NFC games, so there's no doubt, that's going to make or break us. I mean those are games that, in the end, how we do in our division and how we do against the NFC, that's going to go a long way to determining the success or failure of the season.

Q: I know they are common opponents, but AFC games would be the next tiebreaker after division head-to-head match ups and your division record. Why would the NFC games be more important, simply because they are common opponents?

BB: Yeah, because everybody is playing the same, I mean four out of five. We play four of the five NFC West teams, but I mean basically those teams are all common opponents. The teams that we are head-to-head with, if we are beating the NFC teams and they are losing to them, then that's where you are going to be able to, you know you are going to make up a lot of ground and you know you are playing the same teams

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