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Bill Belichick Press Conference

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BB: I think everybody has a copy of the injury report. It is kind of the same situation we have been in with Willie [McGinest] and other than that status quo. We made a couple of roster moves in the last couple of days. We placed Ben Kelley on injured reserve, he has had a foot problem and we signed Steve Neal off of the Philadelphia practice squad and signed Chris Sullivan, defensive linemen that you are all familiar with. That currently puts our roster at 53.

As we begin preparations on Buffalo we are obviously spending a lot of time looking at the first game, a very tight game, 14-11 with a couple of minutes to go in the game. I thought we had some problems offensively. We had some problems when [Alex] Van Pelt came into the game. I think Buffalo showed the kind of spunk that they have last week when they came back against Carolina. They are tough. It is going to be very similar to the Cleveland situation. We have got a real tough, physical team, a guy who likes to run the ball with [Travis] Henry. Their offensive line is coming back together and it seems like Van Pelt is giving them a lift at quarterback. He is getting rid of the ball quickly like he always does and they are not taking a lot of negative plays, sacks and losses and that kind of thing and he has thrown ten touchdown passes. Defensively it is a group that I think is very well coached. They have a good scheme. It is the Titans defensive scheme and they keep the pressure on you. The corners have done a good job. We had trouble blocking the front. We gave up some pressure on the quarterback, gave up some sacks, so we need to do a little better job than we did the first time in that area.

Q: How much different are they now since the last game?

BB: I think offensively they look significantly better. The offensive line looks more consistent. They were kind of playing musical linemen there from the beginning to the middle part of the season. Now that has started to settle down. Even though [John] Fina has been in and out a little bit, but getting Fina back has helped, getting [Jerry] Ostroski back has helped and they really have six guys now playing five spots and that looks better. They are getting [Eric] Moulds the ball. Moulds had a huge day against Miami. He had 200 yards receiving. Van Pelt, as I said, is just not taking the negative plays. He and Rob Johnson have thrown about the same number of passes roughly, for about the same number of yards roughly and Van Pelt has only been sacked maybe a third of the time and has a lot less yardage, maybe a quarter of the sack yardage or something for a relatively comparative number of attempts and amount of yardage. He is a guy that doesn't scramble around like Rob does so he doesn't present that kind of problem, but he releases the ball quickly, he makes quick decisions and gets it out of there in a hurry and it forces your coverage to match the routes a lot quicker. They still have a lot of fire power on offense with Peerless Price, Moulds, [Jay] Riemersma, Larry Centers. Henry ran the ball last week and he is running better and again the continuity that he is getting from the offensive line certainly is helping them. I think offensively they are better than they were a month ago. I am sure that they have worked hard and you can see the improvement that they have made.

Q: I know it is an oversimplification to say that they have nothing to play for, but do you concern yourself at all with what type of mindset they might come into this game with?

BB: The last five games we have played with Buffalo the score has been practically even. They have been relatively low scoring game, I think each team scored about 13 points, this is going back two and a half years. It doesn't matter whether the quarterback was [Drew] Bledsoe, [John] Friesz, [Tom] Brady, it didn't matter whether their quarterback was [Doug] Flutie, [Rob] Johnson, it doesn't matter who the coach was. I mean Buffalo and New England have played tight, competitive games whether they were early in the season, late in the season. Whatever the weather was sunny, snowy, windy, in-between, they have been tight games, they have come down to the wire. They have been tough, physical, hard-hitting games and you can put a lot of different pieces into the puzzle, but the end result has been that it has been very, very tough and very close and I am sure that is what it will be Sunday in Buffalo. That is what we are expecting and we better be ready for a tough, physical game because that is what it will be. We have had several of them in a row New Orleans, Cleveland, the Jets, I mean that is the way it is. That is what we need to be ready for.

Q: Did you see the Monday Night Football game?

BB: No.

Q: What do Manning's problems this year say about quarterbacking in the league today?

BB: I don't know. The last time we saw Indianapolis was our game out there and there is a lot of talent on that club. I know they have had some injuries and that always hurts you when you lose a Pro Bowl running back and they had some other guys banged up, but that is really, I don't mean to be disrespectful or anything else, but really that is the least of our problems. We have got our hands full just trying to get this team ready to play and play Buffalo. Every team has got problems and we have got ours that we have to deal with and that is really where we try to give our attention.

Q: Chris Sullivan was a fairly versatile player while he was here if not spectacular and he takes the money and goes to Pittsburgh and after a succession of injuries things never worked out, what do you see him bringing to the Patriots?

BB: When I came here Chris became an unrestricted free agent and we talked to Chris and your right, he ended up signing in Pittsburgh and I understand why that happened. There was a better offer there then what we could make, but as you said Chris is a versatile player. He can play a lot of different spots both in regular and sub. He is a pretty smart guy, he can play in the kicking game and you can never really have too much depth on the defensive line. Willie has been banged up here for a couple of weeks and we want to make sure that we have enough depth at this time of year on the defensive line to handle the situation. We have talked to Chris and had him in for a physical and considered signing him earlier, but his wrist wasn't really, we felt like it wasn't back to 100 percent at that point. So we talked about this one at other points during the year, but with the roster spot that is available and also with the fact that he is now, I think, healthy enough to play that we felt like this was a good time to do it.

Q: Does this mean that you are concerned about Willie's return?

BB: No, no, again we talked about this a month ago when Willie was playing some of the best football of the year. It was a situation where I don't think you can, look depth is hard to get, it is hard to get period and it is especially hard to get in December and if you have a football player that you think is a quality person and a quality player and particularly one that is versatile that can play in the kicking game, who can play a couple of different positions for you on defense, those guys are hard to find. Again, we would have taken Chris earlier had his physical situation been better and now that it is we feel fortunate to be able to get a player of that quality at this time of year.

Q: What are your thoughts of working [Bryan] Cox and [Ted] Johnson back into the lineup?

BB: I am for it.

Q: But at what spots and the way that [Tedy] Bruschi and [Roman] Phifer have been playing are their opportunities going to be limited and you are pretty much a 4-3 team now, would you consider going back to a 3-4, is this a good problem to have?

BB: Well sure. We will take all of the good football players we can get and it is good to have Bryan and Ted both back out on the field. We were kind of skating on thin ice there or a couple of weeks when we had to move Tedy inside and that position looked thinner, but right now it is good to get those guys back and we will find a way to use them. Maybe they won't all be out there at the same time, but we will find a way to use them and I think that they will be productive for us.

Q: Cox said that he was a healthy scratch last week?

BB: Yeah Bryan could have played. He played against the Jets and played a handful of plays. He was in for a couple of key ones, particularly the goal line play, but he is better now then he was then and he certainly could have played last week and I am sure that he will be able to play this week. It is really a coaching decision as far as his overall effectiveness and how close he is to being able to really be productive for us. I mean I know that he can be productive, but how far we can take that, how many plays, how many situations and the same thing with Ted [Johnson] and Bruschi has been playing really well. He has done a terrific job so that has been a real plus for us.

Q: You talked Monday about Roman Phifer and his improvement as a pass rusher, what about players that learn and get better later in their career there are some that do and some that don't and some that do kind of stick out?

BB: Yeah you are right they stick out and they stick around. Guys like Otis Smith, there is another player that six years ago really didn't start, wasn't playing a lot of football, was a special teams player and a good one in Philadelphia and he has continued to get better and work on things to really help the team and he is playing really well. You can find those guys and I think it is the work ethic, it is the attitude and it is year-round. It is not, show up and start playing and trying to play hard, but it is prepare like Otis does and Troy [Brown] and Roman and those guys do. They prepare hard in the offseason. They are working from February until July to be physically ready and then they are very astute mentally and are able to use their experience and their knowledge in a positive way to get a little bit of an edge on the competition. Whether it be making the team and playing well to create a spot for themselves or whether it be competitively against the opponent on Sunday afternoons and I have tremendous amount of respect for those players. They work at their job and they know what their strengths are and when you point out the weaknesses then they work at those and try to shore them up and they do. They keep getting better and from a conditioning standpoint those guys are, their age is what their age is, but in terms of durability and performance they are able to keep it going and really those types of players, you don't see them on the injury report that much either. They train in the offseason, it is not 100 percent, we can all find examples both ways, but being well-conditioned and being ready to go year-round helps the longevity and again keeps the guys off of the injury list.

Q: You are judge on your record of course and certainly based on your record people will come to the conclusion that you have done a much better job this year in your capacities than last. Is that accurate, is it just that you were a lot more constrained last year by things that were beyond your control in the first season?

BB: Everything is just about the football team. It is not about me or one player, one position or anything else, it is about the team. This team has, collectively, they worked hard starting back in March. I know that probably doesn't mean much to you or maybe to the fans and all that don't see that work, but as a coach when you are here every day and you see guys coming in and working hard and getting better and doing things that they really don't have to do. Make a commitment to the team and to each other and to see that carry through into the mini camps and training camp and Tuesdays and Wednesdays and Thursdays. Preparing for games, watching extra film, staying late after practice to work on things that you know will help them play better and they know eventually will help us win games. I mean everybody has done it. We have had guys that were on this team last year, guys like Lawyer Milloy that were here the first day of the offseason program. They have worked harder than I think they have worked in the past. We brought in some new guys and we have had some younger players step in. So it is just really, I think you have to give credit to the total team. It hasn't been about one guy. We have had a lot of injuries. We have probably had more people on injured reserve than any other team in the league, but at the same time guys get opportunities. They are stepping up, they are taking advantage of them and in a lot of cases they are working hard for that one chance. Fred Coleman is a good example of that. I don't think it is about, it is not about me it is about what the team has done…

Q: Well it is not exclusively about you, but you brought those players here…

BB: Yeah but I can't play. If you put me out there we would get beat 500-0. You have got to have players to play football. I know what the right tackle does, but big deal, somebody has got to block him.

Q: In a similar vein, you can't dictate who will become a leader on the team, but how do you about the way that has come together?

BB: I think it has come together well, but I can't dictate it and I wouldn't try to. I think when you try to force chemistry on a team and force leadership to me it usually doesn't work. It is something that just has to work itself out. It has to grow and the more that guys do together and the more that players and coaches and a team interact together whether it is being in training camp and living together 24 hours a day or whether it is playing dominoes in the locker room or fighting together in a comeback victory at the end of the fourth quarter or traveling to away games, I mean all of those kind of things. There is a certain amount of chemistry and cohesion that builds up and again I think these guys have done a good job. They seem to generally like each other, fit in well together with each other and have a commitment with each other so that when they walk out on the field you are not doing it because you want to do it for yourself you are doing it because everybody else is counting on you and you don't want to let anybody else down. That is the way I feel, I think that is the way the coaching staff feels and I think that is the way a lot of players feel. I think my biggest responsibility is to the football team. I want to try to do the best I can to give them a decent game plan and give them a chance to win and I think that when they walk out there they know that everybody is counting on the to make a block or make a tackle or cover a guy or snap for the punter or whatever it is. They are the only ones that can do it and they have got to do it well or they are letting everybody else down and that is really the kind of chemistry that you want on your team. That is the kind of commitment that you are looking for.

Q: You were talking about the mindset of Buffalo, do you worry at all about the mindset of your team with a big game next Saturday against Miami, going against a 2-10 this week and how do you handle that with your players?

BB: I think every week you try to set your team into the position both mentally and physically, the best possible position you can to play the game. Regardless of what the other teams record is or whether it is home or away or at a neutral site. All of those things are out of our control. What is in our control is our attitude and our work ethic and what we do in terms of preparing for the game. So each week is its' own unique week and when the game starts it will be 0-0 and the team that plays the best, that is the team that is going to win. It might not be the best team, it might not be the team with the most all-pro players, number one draft choices and all of that. It is the team that plays the best on Sunday and when the game starts at one o'clock that's when we start keeping score. The rest of this doesn't matter. We have been in that position before. Last year we were in games where we didn't have as many wins as the other team and we prepared hard and we won some of those games so we know what that feeling is like. It never stopped us from working hard or from trying to get to the point that we wanted to get to and I am sure that is true of all of the other teams on our schedule, whatever their record is.

Q: You talked about late bloomers like Phifer, looking at Antowain Smith a guy that played one year in high school and took two years off after college before entering the pros, can you evaluate or gauge how important football might be to a guy like that who worked in a factory two years supporting his grandparents, has it altered his character at all?

BB: Well that is a tough one for me to answer because I didn't know Antowain at that time so it would be hard for me to say how it changed from one point to another, but just from what I have seen and what I know about Antowain, I mean he is a very committed and dedicated athlete and he is dedicated to the team. It is not about his individual stats or what he…like everybody, he wants to perform and produce and like we all do, like every player does, but the bottom line is doing what helps the team win and he has done a lot of things from blitz pickup to making plays in the passing game to playing in the kicking game when he has been asked to. Whatever it has been he has done whatever he has been asked to do to fill the role or carry the ball as the case might be and that's really what has impressed me about his character. I do think that there is certainly an element that as players get older, chronologically, whether it is their third year in the league, but they are 30 or their eighth year in the league and they are 30, you get to that point as a player where you know you only have so many years left, however many it is and when you have an opportunity and it is one that is a good one and you can take advantage of, I think there is an extra motivation there to try to make something in that situation knowing that it might not come along…you don't know if it is going to come along again. Dan Marino, a good example there, Super Bowl his first year and you think you are going back every year and sometimes it just doesn't work out like that.

Q: Following up on that point, some players when they get cut either they fade away or the step up to prove that they aren't all done, do you think that plays into why some of these players like Phifer become better players and still learn?

BB: Well, yeah, I think that's definitely a solid point. I think there is a lot to be said for that. A lot of times you see guys go one way or the other. We have a little saying down there you can see it coming into the building, 'Each day you either get better or you get worse.' You don't stay the same, but just in Roman's situation I don't think we can characterize him as some kind of throw away player because he had a real good career with the Rams. When he was an unrestricted free agent he was signed by the Jets and to a pretty substantial contract and there was quite a bit of interest in Roman as a player. I think that team, if you look back at it you will see that there was some significant cap and money problems there and I think that him not being with the Jets is more a function of their salary situation then it was poor performance. He had other options this year as well too. Again, it wasn't like it was, Roman is not a player that I don't think is well respected in the league, I think there are a lot of team that would like to have him playing for them or would have liked to have had him play for them this year and made some approach to him on that. I think he is a pretty solid, pretty consistent guy, but I definitely know what you are saying. Some of those guys, once they get cut the first time then it seems like it is just down hill and whether they are cut or resigned or whatever to it being the end of the career and then there are other guys that turn around and start the ascent again. I think that says a lot about a player's competitiveness. Sometimes it is circumstantial. Maybe Antowain Smith is an example of that where maybe it is circumstances as opposed to effort and attitude, but I think that is part of the judgement when you are trying to put together a team. I think Scott [Pioli] and the personnel people have done a good job of trying to identify that with players to try to figure out exactly where they are mentally and from an attitude standpoint in their career.

Q: Can you talk about Troy Brown the season he is having on both offense and special teams?

BB: Yeah it has been all right, I mean yeah what can you say about Troy Brown. He just epitomizes what every coach wants in a football player. He was elected team captain by his teammates. He has been on every single special team other than the field goal team and we would use him on every team if we could. I mean he is on the field goal block team, punt return, covers punts, covers kickoffs and kickoff returns we would play him everywhere. He is an unselfish player that will block and run routes that he knows he is not the primary guy on to free it up for somebody else. He does a good job of just doing all of the little things. Third and six he gets you seven, third and seven he gets you eight, I mean he is really an aware and smart player. His judgement returning kicks and handling the ball is very good and again it is unselfish. He is the kind of guy that will take a punt that is rolling along that a lot of guys will let roll because if they pick it up it will hurt their average and if he can save the team a couple of yards he will do it. I thought he really made a heads up play a couple of weeks ago where the ball bounced off, I think it was Terrance's [Shaw] shoulder on a punt return and he was really alert and came up with it and saved us a turnover. He is a heady player, he is smart, he is well prepared, works hard in the offseason and really is strong in all aspects of the game. You can't say enough about the guy.

Q: Did you talk to Terry [Glenn] after the game and the update for this week, is it all systems go?

BB: Yup that is the update, all systems go, well put.

Q: Do you allow yourself to look at playoff scenarios at all?

BB: No. Look, I know it is your job and I know that that is part of being a fan and covering the team and all of that, that if today was the last day of the season this team would play that team and that team would be here and somebody else would finish there and all of that, but that is not the way it is. It is not the way it is. I made that point to our team last week. We showed them a race and we stopped it as all of the horses turned the final turn and headed for home and said, 'Okay if the race ended right here who would win?' Well who cares? What difference does it make? I mean what difference does it make who is ahead as the horses round the final turn and head for home. The only thing that matters is when they cross the finish line who is in first, that is what matters. You can't think of any race or not many, I don't think you can, any kind of competition where who was ahead at a certain point, what difference does it make? It doesn't make any difference. Sometimes you are ahead you get further ahead, sometimes you are behind and you catch up. That is what it is about. It is about where we finish not where we are in the middle of December. Right now it is Buffalo, that is it. 9-5, that is all we can do anything about, that's where we want to be

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