Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Friday, November 11, 2009
BB: I'm still thawing out here. The summer's over. We're winding it down here. It's a little different than the weather we saw last weekend. That was good football weather. How's everyone doing today?
Q: What's preparation been like?
BB: Good. I mean, again, it's a team we don't know real well. We haven't played them in awhile. [There're] a lot of new faces. With Coach [Ron] Meeks as the defensive coordinator, there are a few changes from their scheme from when last time we played them, but it's still basically a 4-3 scheme with a lot of zone. But it's been a little bit of a cram course, like we talk about at the end of the year after team's play 12 games. There's a lot of film to look at. A lot of things that you see and have to prepare for that you know they have because they run them. That part of it is challenging. They've got a lot of good players, a lot of good players on both sides of the ball. That's the biggest challenge, good players.
Q: I know you don't want to talk about the specific discipline thing that happened Wednesday, but when something like that happens do you notice a reaction from your team?
BB: I'm just trying to get ready for Carolina. I think everybody's trying to do the best thing they can to get ready for the game Sunday. That's the way it is most every week, everybody tries to get ready for whomever it is we're playing. This week it's Carolina.
Q: Can you give us your thoughts on Carolina's running game?
BB: It's real good. It's real good. They have great backs - [Tyrell] Sutton, [DeAngelo] Williams, [Jonathan] Stewart, all of them. They run hard and [Brad] Hoover does a good job blocking. The tight ends do a good job. They have a good scheme. They run different types of plays, but they'll run it on any down - third and 15, third and 18 - they [ran] it against the Jets [and] they picked it up. [They have] a good inside game, a good outside game. They've got good scheme plays. They've got good zone plays. The backs are dangerous, they'll go anywhere. You've got to be careful with a guy like [Steve] Smith on reverses, it keeps you honest. They run some bootlegs and a lot of play action that goes with it, so I think it's well designed. The plays complement each other well, the running plays complement each other and then the play actions that go with it complement the running plays. They give you some different looks, some bunch formations, some two tight ends, some one tight end, crack the receivers. [Muhsin] Muhammad, sometimes when they put him in there close, it's like having another tight end. He's a big guy. He's bigger than most defensive backs, so he's a very effective player in the running game - crack blocking, coming in and getting safeties, blocking [cornerbacks] on the perimeter, things like that. All the elements of the game are in place. Obviously they have a good offensive line, some big guys in there, big, physical players; [Jeff] Otah, he's [a] huge, strong guy; [Travelle] Wharton, especially at the tackles. [They have a] good center, those guys can pull a little bit when they need to. Obviously losing [Jordan] Gross, he was a good player but they pop Wharton out there and he's a strong guy in the running game. I think they do a lot of things well. They have a lot of things in place. They're balanced. I think they had 1,800 yards rushing and 2,000 yards passing or whatever it is. It's pretty balanced from a yardage standpoint and that's unusual. Usually you see, even if a team's balanced in runs and passes you usually see a lot more passing yardage than running yardage, but these guys rip off a lot of long runs. It seems like they've got a 40, 50, 60 yarder every week. There's no problem picking out highlight plays, to show our team, from the running game, I'll tell you that, there're a lot of them.
Q: After a win you tell us that it's a culmination of the week's effort, what are some of the characteristics Wednesday, Thursday and Friday that leads you to believe you're having a good week of preparation?
BB: You see the team is alert on different situations. They see things. They know what we want to do against it. They get it executed and then it comes up in the game and you're able to do it or you get something a little bit different and they're alert and they make the adjustment to it. That's sort of like what we practiced, but not quite. Here's something that's a little bit different and they're able to make that adjustment whether it's individually, or collectively two or three guys having to see it and adjust to it. Those are good signs, when you go out there to practice and the things you talked about in meetings, the things you walked through, the things you've shown on film, when you present them to them they handle it properly. If it's a little bit different, not quite the way you talked about it, again, they're able to make those adjustments and sort it out. So if you see that on Sunday, some of those situations come up, there's always some new ones but some of those come up and if you're able to handle those and kind of as a carryover of what you've seen during the week of practice and preparation that's a good sign.
Q: Is one of the Panthers running game the size of their offensive line?
BB: Well, they're big, there's no doubt about it. They are big and they are physical. Sure that's a challenge. We see big lines every week, but these guys are big, big kind of like New Orleans big and they're physical. They take a lot of pride in their running game. And [Jeff] King's a good blocking tight end. He's not a lineman, but he's part of it and so is [Brad] Hoover. Those guys take a lot of pride in the running game. A lot of their job is blocking. They stay after it. They are aggressive. They finish blocks and the backs finish runs, too. And they've always got a fresh back in there, it doesn't matter who it is. Everyone of those guys runs hard, they run real hard.
Q: When you see a big offensive line, what adjustments do you make?
BB: I think the fundamentals of any matchup are - when you look at a player, you see his strengths and you also see his weaknesses. You say, 'OK, this is what he does well, but this is what he doesn't do so well and this is how we can attack that player or neutralize him.' I think every player has that, every player has things - especially in this league - that they do well and then they have things that they don't do so well, or you can hopefully matchup a player on them where you think that player can be competitive because of the way that they matchup. That's what we try to focus on. If guys do something well, then how do we neutralize it? How do we stalemate that? And then how do we take advantage of something that maybe they don't do quite as well as other players we've played? Or maybe our skills are a little bit better than theirs in a certain area - we have more quickness, we have more size, we have more power, they don't block moving targets as well, or they don't block stationary targets; whatever it is, [we] try to work that angle a little bit. That's why each one of those individual matchups across the board is important, whether it be the receivers and the [defensive backs], or the linebackers and the tight ends and the backs, or the linemen and the linemen, or whatever it is, those are all key matchups for us every week. Those are all key matchups for us every week.
Q: Matt Moore is expected to start Sunday, did you have much time to prepare for him?
BB: We saw him, of course, in '07 when he played. We saw him in preseason this year where he got a pretty good amount of playing time, especially in the Miami game which we saw that from Miami. So that was part it and, of course, last week. He's got a good arm, he's accurate. He can make all the throws. I don't think there's any question about that. He made some really good tight throws in all those games. He throws on the run, they run him in some bootlegs and things like that. I'm not saying he's Matt Cassel, that's not what I mean, but in the sense that here's a guy that went to UCLA and was at community college and then transferred again. He was with Dallas [and] Carolina. He hasn't had a lot of steady playing time, but it's obvious he's a good player, again, kind of like Cassel from the standpoint that you didn't see him play a lot, but when you did see him play you thought 'this is a good player.' That's what I would say about Moore. It's not like we've got five years of film on him, but every time you put the film on him it doesn't matter whether it was '07, preseason, last week; you see him do a lot of good things and he's pretty athletic. He can definitely throw the ball. He's got a good touch. He's got a good presence on the field. He looks pretty good.
Q: Are they using Steve Smith the way he was used early in his career?
BB: However you can use Steve Smith, that's how they use him. Whatever you want to do with him, they do - inside routes, outside routes, deep routes, slip screens, reverses, slants, whatever you can do with him they can do with him. They get him the ball a lot of different ways, he's a dynamic player. In the red area, they've got a lot of routes for him down there. Third down, they move him around - he's outside, he's inside the slot, he carries the ball, he fakes the reverses. They use him as a go to player. They use him as a decoy and he's good at everything. There's a guy, he's good after the catch. He catches the ball well. He's good on deep routes. He does a great job tracking the ball down the field. He's got terrific speed. He's got good quickness - he can get away from most anybody. He's good after the catch, he's been a great returner in his career. So how do they use him? However they can get him the ball, they will get him the ball.
Q: So the way they run the ball now with their two back set ...
BB: I mean, it's not all that much two-back sets now - maybe a third of the time. A lot of it is two tight ends and one back. There are some two backs in there, too, but they give you a lot of different looks now. They don't just line up in one formation and run three plays. I didn't mean to cut you off, but they put them everywhere.
Q: Tom Brady didn't practice Wednesday and Thursday. We saw him out there briefly when the media was out there today ...
BB: We wanted to make sure you got a good look at him. We were going to send him over to bring you guys some hot chocolate, too - just to warm you up a little bit.
Q: Wednesday and Thursday we could read into it and say that his absence was due to personal reasons in his life or it was injury related. Do you have any concern that he won't be ready to play Sunday?
BB: Well, I'm sure Tom will do what he always does, which is do everything he possibly can to be as ready as he can be for the game. I'm sure he'll do that and he has done it. So we'll list him on the injury report and see where things are at on Sunday.
Q: Does it make it difficult to not have him out there on Wednesday and Thursday?
BB: I mean, we go through that all year long. We don't always have every player at practice, so the ones that are there practice, and the ones that don't [practice] pay attention and get what they can out of it. Sometimes they take all the reps, sometimes they take limited reps, sometimes they take no reps. That's the NFL. That's the way it is with every team. [There are] some players every week, that's the way it is. We deal with that just like everybody else does.
Q: Is it difficult game plan-wise when you're putting stuff in and one of your prominent players is not out there?
BB: I think that's something you want to take a look at maybe, but it's the same thing. We play 12 regular season games and you're talking about guys that sometimes don't practice that have played eight, 10, 12 years - whatever it is. They run an in-cut on this play, they throw an in-cut on this play, they block a twist, they cover an in-cut. Can we not win on an in-cut? I don't think so. I'd like to think we'd be able to do that at this point in the season. I'd like to think we could. I'd like to think that we could throw one. I'd like to think we could cover one. I'd like to think we could block somebody. I'd like to think we could defeat a block without going out there and doing it four days in practice that we would still be able to be competitive on that. Now, that being said, you still need to practice, you still need timing, you still need to see the plays develop on film. But can everyone take part in all of them? No. But can those guys still go out there, and be effective and play? Yeah, I think they can. Is it better for them to practice? I'm sure it is. If everybody's 100 percent healthy, they'd be all out there practicing and that would be better, that would be ideal, but it's not always ideal. But I don't think that means it can't be functional.
Q: Does that mean extra work for someone?
BB: Of course, yeah. Whoever isn't practicing, somebody else is in there for them. And in the long run, it's a good thing. You don't want any player to miss practice, but in the long run it's a good thing for a player who doesn't get to play as much to be able to run our plays instead or just running the scout team plays, whether that's your eighth or ninth offensive linemen that are sometimes inactive, whether it's your backup quarterback, whether it's some of the guys that don't get a lot of playing time at their positions. If they get a chance to play, then it keeps them sharp doing our things rather than always running the other teams plays, so it's no different than training camp. If one guys out, that's an opportunity for somebody else to get better. When somebody comes back, that just gives us more depth and more people that can participate. Whatever you have you take advantage of it and make the most of it and make it a positive. Whatever the situation is you make a positive out of it.
Q: When Bret Lockett went on IR, you promoted Titus Adams. That changed the configuration of your team a little bit and what that's done to the makeup of your team?
BB: Well, as far as the makeup of your team, wherever you have an excess number of players on your roster - whatever the normal number of players is at a given position - wherever you have an excess of those players than most likely that's where, at least some, but maybe more than one of your inactive players is going to come from. If you have 10 linemen, you have two or three of them inactive. If you have 11 defensive backs, you have a couple of them inactive. If you have six or seven receivers ... Unless you have injuries, then you just take the healthy guys. But if you have choices, you usually have to deactivate people from the positions you're heavy in. So if you're heavy in a position and then you lose a player then that means that you can either bring somebody else in there - and still somebody's going to have to be inactive - or you bring in a player at a different position, which maybe sures up the number at that position a little bit and gives you a little bit more depth there. I would say in this case it probably balanced it out. I think we had 11 defensive backs with Brett [Lockett] and then depending on how you want to count [Matthew] Slater, he's played in both spots. But we had more defensive backs and we took a defensive back and added a defensive lineman. When we originally put Brett on the team and added him at the beginning of the year and Kyle Arrington, we put those guys on right there around the 53-man cut. Arrington was on practice squad, he came up three or four weeks later, but we added some people to the defensive backfield and now unfortunately we lost one. But rather than replace him at that position, we probably would balance it out somewhere else like we did with Titus [Adams].
Q: Are those decisions tricky this time of year because maybe this guy's going to be back in a week?
BB: No, they're not going to be back in a week. I mean, if they're on injured reserve, they're going to be out for at least six weeks and in some cases more, depending on the injury. The decision at that point is who's available and of course the further you get into the season the more attractive your practice squad players are because they've been with you longer, they know a little bit more and you've seen them out there on a daily basis versus somebody else who, let's say, was released at the beginning of the season and is now - OK, we're in the 13th week and maybe the player hasn't played in three months. Well, how long is it going to take him up to speed versus how long is it going to take for your practice squad player? He can kind of jump in there, he kind of knows what to do. Maybe he doesn't have as much experience or he's a younger player, but that's the trade off. He's more current than guys that were out of football now for awhile and that's less of an issue earlier in the year, you get in the second, third, fourth week of the season and you bring in a player that was just at training camp and preseason games a couple weeks ago. That's a little bit different than doing it now. When you look across the league, you look at the waiver wire on a Tuesday or Wednesday in December, that's just about what you're going to see. You're going to see 10, 11 guys going on injured reserve. And you're going to see 15 guys released, maybe 10 of them go on injured reserve and five of them are releases. And then probably 10 of those replacements are going to be from the team's practice squad and then five of them will come from somewhere else - a team changed kickers or something like that - and you find those players. With each week, it's going to be the same. We'll be talking about the same thing next week. When you look at the Tuesday and Wednesday transactions next week, there's going to be 10 to 15 players that will be out one way or another and there's going to be another crop of guys that will come in to replace them. And most of them will come from the practice squad. Historically, that's been the case and that's what I would expect to happen. You play a long season like this and unfortunately that's part of it. The longer you go into the season, the more likely it is you're going to lose players.
Q: For 10 minutes yesterday Adalius Thomas addressed his situation. I'm curious if you have any reaction to anything he said?
BB: My focus is on the Carolina Panthers. That's what I've been working on all week and that's what I'll work on until Sunday. Do you have a big story on it that I should read? I'll check it out.
Q: I'm sure you're aware of what he said, is that safe to say?
BB: I'm focused on the Panthers.
Q: Did the Jeff Rowe signing have to do with Brady missing some practice time?
BB: No, actually, it wasn't. It really wasn't. Jeff was in here, I want to say last Friday or Thursday, one of those days last week. At that point, we actually had a practice squad spot available because Terrence Nunn had signed in Tampa. But because it was a short week, we didn't really get started until Wednesday and because the week was so short we didn't feel like this was the right time to do it. So we just said, 'Look, we're going to do this on Monday.' We had a spot, we just didn't fill that spot last week. We only had seven players on the practice squad. When we moved Titus [Adams] up this week that gave us six or two spots available, with Darnell [Jenkins] and Jeff, but actually we kind of committed to Jeff last week. I'm sure you don't want to believe that, but honestly you can look at the transactions. He was actually in here and worked out last week. That's how that came down. Sometimes it just works out that way. Again, only having two guys out there throwing at this point in the year we felt like we should have somebody else to help share the load and he got quite a few reps this week.