New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference on Friday, December 04, 2009.
BB: Well, whoever is responsible for the Miami weather in December up here, nice work. It's better than it was in training camp. It was nice to get outside today - nice day. It's kind of the exact opposite of last week - a team that we weren't really very familiar with versus a team that we just played a few weeks ago and have a lot of familiarity with. As I said earlier in the week, we certainly need all the time because of all the things that Miami does, but we're a lot more familiar with this team than some of the others we play, especially the NFC teams. [We're] looking forward to the game here, back in the division. [It's] on the road, so we know it will be tough. Hopefully we can go down there and play a good, competitive football game.
Q: With a short week of preparation and as well as you guys know them, how did you do as far as preparing?
BB: We did our normal thing; we just had to accelerate it a little bit. We didn't practice as much on Wednesday. And then Thursday and Friday were a little bit longer than normal, trying to combine Wednesday and Thursday, and then Thursday and Friday to squeeze it all in. But again, at this time of year, I think there's a lot less pressure on that end of it. Teams are playing Thursday night and Saturday games here in a couple weeks, so it's enough time.
Q: Joey Porter was pretty quiet the first time around and he was inactive. Since then he's put up some numbers. Has he looked reignited on tape?
BB: He's a dangerous guy. We've always had trouble with him. He does a good job. He can play the run. He's an explosive player. He can catch things off the backside. [He's] obviously a good pass rusher. I think you always have to be aware of Joey Porter. Maybe his numbers weren't good the game before you played him, but I don't think you can go into a game with him, or Jason Taylor, or Cameron Wake or any of those guys - to be honest with you - and not have a lot of respect for them, or you will after the game.
Q: When you a play a divisional opponent for the second time, is it any easier when they're close together like the Dolphins are and a lot of stuff is fresh in your mind?
BB: Yeah, there's some recall. I think you still need to go through the process because each team is different. There are situational plays, and their down and distance tendencies, and formations, and of course they keep doing things to disguise it and change it up as we do, as every team does. You still have to go through the whole process, but I think the big thing is you know the personnel. You know the players. You've played against them, you've matched up against them and you kind of know what their strengths and weaknesses are, or know how you match up against those individual players. I would say there're not a lot of players playing in this game that didn't play in the last one a month ago. The X's and O's, the schemes, the formations - those matchups always change a little bit. But I think it does help you to know the players, and how they use them and what their roles have been through the course of the year. Whether they used them that way in the last couple weeks or so, you still know that that's basically the guy's role on the team and you can prepare for it.
Q: You got Fred Taylor back in practice today and Sammy Morris was back last week. How do you feel about the way the depth at that position is starting to come along?
BB: Well, it's great to have Fred back out there and Sammy, too. I think Sammy is the kind of guy that each week here for the last couple weeks has looked better. You could see a real jump in his quickness, his explosiveness, his ability to make sharp cuts. Not that it wasn't there, [but] it just looks better kind of each day and each week. And I'm sure it will be the same for Fred, too. Yeah, it's good to have him back out there. It was good to see we had several faces out there that weren't there on Thursday.
Q: When you have that type of situation where Fred Taylor is back and does his first run-throughs on Friday, and maybe Sebastian Vollmer a little bit. How effectively can you put forth a game plan which includes those guys - hypothetically based on Friday, or do you have to go with what you know?
BB: Yeah, I'd say it's a little bit of a question mark. Yeah, because again, what happens between Friday and Sunday, it could go three different ways really. It could get better and it could be OK by Sunday. It could stay the same, in which case it would make it a tough decision. Or, after going out there and doing something, you can realize this player just isn't ready, so that clears it up but then you don't have it. And a lot of times you really don't know that until after practice or Saturday morning when they've had 24 hours to see, 'Well, I went out and did the most I've done all week. It feels great.' Or ' I went out and did the most I've done all week and I don't know.' And sometimes you need a little bit of that time to see how it is the next day, but it's obviously a great sign when a guy goes out there and practices for the first time on Friday, and comes in on Saturday and says it feels a lot better than it did yesterday. The work didn't set him back. The extra healing time has helped and now you feel like on Sunday he'll be even better. So that's one scenario, but it doesn't always happen that way.
Q: Is the practical decision-making different then? Say with who travels and who doesn't?
BB: If a player is not going to play, then you don't really need to travel him, and put him on a plane to go three hours and then put him on a plane to come back. I don't think that's necessarily the best thing either. Now, if you think the player has a legitimate chance to play, or it's an emergency thing where if something happens to somebody in front of him, then he might be an option - well, that's a possibility. But if you know the player is out, what's the point?
Q: It seems like sometimes you bring guys back from injuries on Fridays. Is there some kind of thinking to that? I don't know if it's the way that you structure practice on Fridays?
BB: Yeah, Friday, I would say is of the three days - Wednesday, Thursday and Friday - the least physically demanding of the three. So a lot of times you have to consider - depending on how long the player has been out - which practice you want to start him back on. Do you want to start him back on a Wednesday practice, which is a lot of times our most competitive practice with the most contact and the highest speed and the highest tempo? Or if you do it on a Friday, then you're starting him at maybe a little bit lower tempo and see how that goes. And then maybe the practice on the following Wednesday, the player has a little more confidence. At least he's been out there; he's done it. It's been at a little bit lower tempo or speed, but at least he's been doing football drills. You know, we can go out there, and run in the bubble, and do jumping jacks, and do sit-ups and run up and down the field, but it's not the same as reading and reacting and performing your skills as a football player. So going out there and practicing is really the first chance that we get to see that, especially for a player that's been out. If it's a guy who played Sunday, didn't practice Wednesday, practices Thursday, then that's a little different story. But a guy who's been out two, three, four, five weeks, whatever it is, he needs that time of playing football, not just running through the ropes and hitting a couple bags. You've got to have the other 21 guys out there too.
Q: Is it also that you can get an evaluation of him when he comes off and then he'll have some recovery time and you can reassess?
BB: Sure. Yeah, and again, each case is different. I don't think they're all the same. Sometimes you put a player back out there Wednesday. Sometimes you put him back out there Thursday. Sometimes it's Friday. Sometimes it has to do with his progression. Sometimes it's the tempo. Sometimes it's other circumstances that come into play, so there's no set 'it's always this way.' It's A, when's the player ready, and B, then once he's cleared medically to do it, then it becomes a coaching decision as to when to do it or how to do it. Maybe you put him out there on Wednesday and you just let him do scout team stuff and if that goes OK, then you let him take his offensive or defensive reps on Thursday. There're 100 different scenarios.
Q: Last time you played Miami, you lined Vince Wilfork up at defensive end because you felt like the strength of their offense was their tackle ...
BB: I don't ever recall saying that. I think those are your words, not mine. We put him at right end in that game because we felt that was our best way to compete against the Dolphins.
Q: When you throw a wrinkle like that against a team, can you throw it again? Or do you kind of say to yourself, 'Hey, it worked once, but they'll clearly have something to combat it.' Or do you say, 'It was successful, let's do it again.'
BB: And when you're on the other side of that, you're saying the same thing. When somebody does that to you, you've got two reactions to it. One is if it was successful, 'until we stop it, they might do it again' or 'they did that this time, they'll probably do something else the next time.' And you could be right or wrong. So that's part of the challenge of game planning. It's no different with anything else either. It's not just a player in a different position. It could be a formation or a play. So you run a play that works or a formation that you can see gives them trouble with an adjustment and then now you're at the next game and what do you do? Do you go back, and do the same thing and say, 'Well, they couldn't handle it. Let's do it again'? Or do you say, 'Well, they're going to be working on that. Let's go to something else'? And sometimes you can out-dumb yourself by going to something that hasn't worked and giving up on something that has. And sometimes you can out-dumb yourself by doing the same thing every time, knowing their spending the whole week on it and not moving on to something else. You guys usually let us know which way we go on that.
Q: This is a good week for out-dumbing because the Saints did things defensively that the Dolphins didn't do in the first meeting, in terms of leaving Vontae Davis by himself on Randy Moss. Do you say, 'Well, they might do some of the things New Orleans did' and alter from that? Or do you just say, 'We're going to do our stuff and if they adjust we have a plan B'?
BB: Well, I think every team does things differently from another team. We do things different than Buffalo did them. New Orleans does things differently than Miami did them. Everybody is different and you've got different players, so the game planning decision ultimately comes down to how much do you want to do what you do and how much of what somebody else does can you apply or how much of what somebody else does you want to try to shift and kind of do what they do. And then, OK, what kind of problems does that bring for you? Yeah, you can do what somebody else did, but if they were very familiar with it and they knew how to adjust it and they know how to handle different problems that come up within it better than you do, then well yeah that's a good idea, but you can't go out there and execute it, which in the end is really what it comes back to - what can you execute? We can draw up anything we want on the board. 'You guys go here, you guys go there', but then when the play starts, can you actually get done what you need to get done? That's where it comes down to execution. I think that's, in the end, in my opinion, more important than the X's and O's. You can put the X's and O's wherever you want them, but if you can't do it, then what good is it? So you've got to be able to execute where you put them and depending what your system is, and where you place them and what changes you make, sometimes you can, sometimes you can't. But you've got to decide how much you want to commit to that. If you want to change from what you do to what somebody else did in another game, you've got to decide how big of a change that is and then how well you can actually do it.
Q: Can you point to any reasons why you have had as much success as you have in December in recent years?
BB: I'd say any success that we've had has been because the players have played well.
Q: But is there anything you do to keep them fresh?
BB: No, we try to prepare the best we can every week, but ultimately the games that we win here are because the players go out and play well. If they don't play well, then we're not going to win. When they go out and play well, then we have a chance to win. With a bad plan, or bad coaching, or with the players in bad positions, they can't play well and we're not going to win.
Q: Three of your four road losses have been by one possession. Is that where being the home team can work in the other team's advantage?
BB: I personally don't think so. I think the advantage goes to the better team. At home, on the road, at a neutral site, I think the teams that win those games are the teams that play better. And at that point in the game, I think that being at home or being away is probably pretty neutral. After 50-however many minutes of football, if it hasn't provided a big advantage to that point, I doubt that it would in the last whatever the time frame is.
Q: I wanted to gauge your reaction to the NFL's recent policy on concussions.
BB: I'll just say that whatever that policy is, we'll comply with it. I have a lot of confidence in our doctors and trainers. Certainly, those are injuries that we've always dealt with. It's not like it's something new. We've always tried to put the players' safety first. There's nothing more important than the health of our football team. We have no football team without healthy players; there is no team. So there's nothing more important than that to us. Whatever we're required to do, we'll do. Whatever judgments we'll make will be what's in the best interest of the players' health and safety because it's not in our interest to be anything other than that. Whatever they decide to do, that's a decision that's made way above and beyond me or anybody on our medical staff or anybody in our organization. So if this is what we do, then that's what we do.
Q: I've seen a prevalence of head injuries this season, and it's not just players who play a skill position and are exposed to big hits. We've seen offensive linemen, too. Is it because they seem to have head-on collisions every single play?
BB: I think - I'm no expert on that - I think when you look at historically the studies on that and you've see enough games to know, you see two guys running at full speed run into each other and it's a violent collision and they both get up and go back to the huddle. And then you've seen other plays where there's barely contact. Sometimes there's no contact and players get seriously injured. And you have all the ones in between. I'm not smart enough to know what the ... And if we could identify exactly what the causes were and what the preventions were, then everybody would use them. I don't know that we can do that - or I can't do that. People smarter than me out at Harvard, MIT, or Johns Hopkins, or wherever they're working on this kind of stuff, so we'll go with what they think. A couple of the worst injuries we've had in this league, when you look at those particular plays, there's barely any contact, really. There's - I don't want to say none - but compared to other plays that we've all seen where there are big-time collisions ... I don't know that it's always the impact of the hit as much as it is other factors.
Q: The hit that Ben Roethlisberger sustained looked like almost a glancing blow...
BB: I didn't even see it. I didn't see whatever happened to him.
Q: Do you think that expanding the game day roster and allowing all 53 guys to be available on game days - this new rule might impact that with guys having to come out.
BB: I don't know. I think that that's a decision made by a lot of people above and beyond me. It's a league decision. It's a competitive decision, and ultimately those kinds of decisions would have to be made by a vote and maybe to some degree collectively bargained. I'm not sure on the combination of things. I think that's where you have the lawyers and all of the people that figure out all the things about the league. I'm just trying to coach a team, and I've coached teams where - it was a long time ago - you had 40 players. There was a time where there were 38 players, and now there're people who think we can't play with 45, we need 53. But again, if you go back to the teams that had 38, 39, 40 players, they were listening to people say, 'Well, we used to play with 36.' It's just a matter of perspective and there're a lot of factors that go into it. Again, I'm not smart enough to analyze all of them, so I'm sure you could make an argument and a case in any direction, and then at some point, somebody has to make a judgment on it.
Q: There was a story about Dan Henning when you and he were together at the Jets. I think you said each week he'd bring in five new plays or new things that he wanted to put in. What kind of creativity did you see from him offensively when you were coaching with him, and does all of the stuff they're doing now not surprise you because you saw where he was willing to go with that?
BB: Yeah, when Dan was with the Jets, when we were together there with Bill [Parcells] there in the late '90s, of course we worked against him in training camp, and then you saw their plays and all during scout team periods. They'd run them against us and then we'd run our defenses against the other team's stuff, but you would see their plays and I thought they were very creative. Bill - I mean Dan - well, Bill too, but Charlie [Weis] and Dan [and] Todd Haley was part of that, Bill Muir, all those guys, so it was ... You did, you saw a lot of different things. And a lot of the plays that you see there now are plays that we ran at New York. Honestly, some of them are plays that we still have that Charlie - when we came in 2000 - were the same plays that we ran there. [They were] some of the same plays that we saw in Carolina back in '04, so there is definitely a lot of carryover. But it's a very multiple - I don't want to say 'complex' is the word - but it's simple within it, but from an outside look it's complex because of the formationing and the personnel grouping and all of that. When you get right down to it, it's not a zillion plays; it's a core group of plays that get dressed up and disguised differently. And of course, that all stems back to Joe Gibbs and Dan Henning when they were with the Redskins in the '80s. I mean, Joe Gibbs and Dan Henning, they had two running plays. They had the Counter and they had the Counter Trey - I mean the zone play and they ran the Counter Trey and that was it. They had two plays and won whatever it was, two Super Bowls. But you could never get ready for the play, you had to get ready for the formations, the shifting, all of the different ways that they broke up. They probably had 20 passes, 25 passes. It wasn't a lot of plays. But one play you've got [Art] Monk in this position, the next time Monk's somewhere else, the next time Monk's somewhere else. One time it's three tight ends. One time it's four receivers. One time it's two tight ends. So that was hard. It was a core group of plays with a gillion formation and differ looks. It's more than that now, but it has those elements to it.
Q: What's your favorite gadget play you've run?
BB: Favorite gadget play that we've run? I'd have to say it'd be something that worked.
Q: The Tom Brady down the sidelines against Miami in 2001?
BB: Yeah, that was one of the days where everything kind of worked, even throwing it to Brady and Patrick Pass in the flat there for a touchdown. The double pass against Pittsburgh a couple years ago. The ones that work, you remember those. The ones that don't work you try to forget them pretty quick.
Q: What's the worst gadget play you've seen run on any level?
BB: Well, one of the worst ones I'd say that I ever ran was in '79 against the Rams, when I was the special teams coach on the Giants. We had run five or six fake punts that year, and hit all of them and so we went out to play L.A. in the Coliseum and we didn't have a real good team. [Dave] Jennings was our best ... It was [Phil] Simms' rookie year and Jennings was one of our best players, All-Pro punter. I mean, he was great, and he could throw. He was a very athletic guy, so we had several fake punts that we hit. And unfortunately we were punting a lot, so that gave us more opportunities than we needed. We went out to the Rams and Brian Kelley was a fullback, so we snapped the ball to Kelley and he ran a sweep. And kind of once he was about to get tackled, he stopped, turned, and lateraled it back to Jennings on the other side of the field. The play didn't work very well. It wasn't very well executed and then when Jennings caught the ball, he thought he had a chance to get the first down, but he really didn't. But he thought he did, so he ran for the sticks there on the sideline and then about three guys hit him about four yards short of the first down, knocked him out of bounds. I mean, he got knocked over by the cheerleaders. His helmet was on sideways, he's looking out through the ear hole. The ball is out there on the track somewhere and [Head Coach Ray] Perkins looks over at me with that look of 'what are we doing? This is our best player,' and he looked like he got run over by two Mack trucks. So we go all the way over to the other side of the field and get him off the track and put him back together again. He got killed and then Ray said - which I would have done the same thing [but] I wouldn't have done it as nicely as he did - he said, 'Look, we're not running any more fakes like that again. Just forget that.' He didn't quite put it that way, but you get the idea. So that was one that didn't work that luckily Dave and I can still smile about. I mean, to be honest with you, it wasn't a lot different - the play was different - but the result wasn't a lot different than what we ran with Brian Moorman on the fake in the Pro Bowl. Sean Taylor hit him and I mean, that was ... I mean, Brian could have taken less of a hit on that. Jennings caught the ball coming from the other side of the field and didn't really have ... Brian was running. At least he had a little chance to, but Sean Taylor hit him. That was a massive hit. It was right in front of our bench. I thought it was ... Oh, my God.
Q: Did you get any calls from Bobby April about the Brian Moorman hit?
BB: I'm telling you because he ran that one against us in '02 or '03 - it was like the longest run of the year. He gained 38 yards or something. We couldn't come close to catching him. We had a force guy out there; he just out ran him and the whole rest of the team. And then you get out to the Pro Bowl and say, 'Well, this guy's fast. I don't know how much they're playing for a fake punt over there,' but he wasn't as fast as Sean Taylor was, I'll tell you that.
Q: He popped up pretty good from that.
BB: He did. He did. I mean, he took it. I mean, Brian's a heck of an athlete, he really is, but I mean, he got killed. But he did, he bounced up and I was happy to see that because you hate to see a guy [get hurt] on that kind of play. That wasn't the idea. And in all honesty, on special teams out there in the Pro Bowl, there's hardly any contact. I mean, that's almost flag football, really. So it kind of surprised me that ... But he got lit up though. That was a big hit.