BB: We had to downgrade some people on the injury report with flu-like symptoms. Hopefully those will clear up later on in the week, but that is the way they are now so that is why they are listed the way they are. I have talked to the team the last two days, but especially today about the closeness of the games that the Dolphins and the Patriots have played over the last four years in the regular season. How all of those games have come down to just a couple of plays or a possession late in the game and that type of thing. How important it is in the red area and on the goal line, two minute situations all those type of plays where there could be a swing of a couple of points one way or the other as well as the obvious ones like the turnovers and that type of thing, but those plays closer to the goal line have been big in this series when the two teams squared off in the past couple of years so I have tried to emphasize that and hopefully we can get those points in our favor.
Q: It looks like the inside linebackers, [Bryan] Cox, [Tedy] Bruschi and [Ted] Johnson, all played in all different situations. Is there a rhyme or reason to that or are do you just want to keep them fresh?
BB: We want to play all three players on first and second down and then on third down Bruschi plays more in the pass coverage and sub defense and Cox plays more in the rush. Last week was a little hard for us to get a more even rotation because there was no huddle. First down was third down and third down was second down and right down the line. You couldn't really make the break situationally on first, second and third down because they were staying on the field and if we tried to sub they would have just quick snapped us and cost us 12 men on the field and that type of thing so we kind of had to stay with it. But in a normal game-type situation what you saw in preseason with those three guys with the way they played pretty evenly in terms of the number of plays, both Bruschi on the punt team and kickoff return and Cox on the field goal team and Ted Johnson on the punt return team in preseason they also got some plays on special teams to help us out there. We tried to kind of split that up pretty evenly and at all three times this year each player has at one point or another missed a little bit of time due to injury. Then of course it falls on the other two.
Q: Does Cox play on the strongside when Ted Johnson is in there?
BB: Cox plays on the strongside, Bruschi plays on the weakside and Ted can play either side. I mean actually either guy can play either side because when they shift the tight end or if we get two tight ends in the game the strongside becomes the weakside and the weakside becomes the strongside. They have to know each others spot anyway because it does occur, but in basic formations Bryan will be on the strongside, Bruschi will be weak.
Q: You talk about team defense a lot, I was talking to Pepper Johnson in training camp and he mentioned that when he played he knew everybody's position around him, do you feel like you are getting to that point where everybody else on the defense knows everybody else's position? Does Ty Law need to know…
BB: What the nose is doing? No, but I think we are definitely making some progress in terms of everybody understanding the positions that are related to what they are doing, no question about that. We kind of have a saying about the corners not having to know what the nose guard doing and the nose guard not knowing what the secondary is doing, but I think it is good for the players to be familiar so that if a defensive back hears a line call at least he knows it is a line call and it is not anything that pertains to him so he can disregard it as opposed to there are some calls that pertain to a lineman, some to the linebackers, some to the secondary and some that transverse between the two segments, whatever it happens to be. For example you could have a defensive back and a linebacker having a combination of in and out coverage on two receivers, or sometimes it could be two linebackers, sometimes it could be two defensive backs. There are some things like that, but I think that the overall communication and understanding of the defense is improving. A lot of the situations that are coming up this year are situations that we dealt with last year. I think that is a good reference point for the defense to be able to go back and say, 'Okay this is the way we handled it against Miami last year, we are going to do the same thing this year,' as opposed to last year a lot of that stuff was new for the first time. Okay here is new situation like Miami they run a lot of four wide receivers on third down which is something that we haven't seen a lot of this year. We saw a little bit of it, but not a lot. Now there are some things that are a little bit different with four wide receivers as opposed to two wide receivers. Last year it was trying to teach the concept, now it is reviewing things that we have already worked on and we have already used in game conditions before. That is a big help.
Q: Now that you are half way through the week, do you have any more sense of Drew's [Bledsoe] status?
BB: He is not going to play against Miami.
Q: I know, I meant his timeframe for being out?
BB: I doubt that he would play next week against San Diego let's put it that way. What it sounds like from talking to him and just from being around him this week I don't think he will be ready next week. How quickly that will improve, I don't know, but I don't see it happening the next ten days.
Q: If the team continues to do well would you stick with [Tom] Brady longer?
BB: I know where you are going with that one, but right now Drew is not going to play this week Tom is. We have got to get Tom and Damon [Huard] ready and that is what we are focused on. Players that aren't here, when they come back we will evaluate them when they come back and fit them in, whoever they happen to be. We have a couple of guys in that category, but right now that is a ways off.
Q: Have you seen any difference in him at practice this week having been with the first team for a second straight week?
BB: Sure, I think he feels a little more comfortable with it just the execution of the plays, doing them with the same guys and having a little more familiarity with the receivers, [David] Patten and Troy [Brown]. I mean Drew has been throwing to them and Drew has been getting 90 percent of the reps when he was the starter and now Tom is getting a lot more. The communication between the quarterback and the receivers or the quarterback and the tight end on blitz adjustments and things like that it should, it is going to progress.
Q: What makes Otis Smith still a pretty good player at his age and at that position?
BB: Otis is really a unique guy. I know Daryl Green played or is playing well into his career at that position. That is a position where when the physical skills, the speed particularly and quickness start to go a little bit you don't see a lot of players be able to sustain it at corner, but physically Otis is a young player. First of all he started his career kind of late and he didn't get a lot of playing time early so there wasn't a lot of tread on the tires when he really started playing in the mid-90s. So it has really been five or six years where he has had a lot of snaps. Otis takes real good care of himself. He is in tremendous condition. He works very hard all year round in terms of his training and his flexibility and his conditioning. Mentally he is a very intelligent, aware, well-prepared player. So I think he does a lot of things to give himself the absolute best advantage in terms of preparation, physical conditioning and those types of things. On top of it his skills are probably pretty close to what they were when I first had him here in '96. He is a big corner that runs pretty well and he has been able to maintain a pretty good level at that speed.
Q: Do you limit his plays at all?
BB: Well we have been rotating the corners through. He and Terrell [Buckley] and Ty [Law] have been kind of rotating through from all the way back in preseason and again that's kind of a little bit like the inside linebacker situation that has kind of helped us. Ty missed a couple games, preseason games and was slowed a little bit by the toe and Otis missed the Jet game and we don't want Terrell out there every play either. So I think that that rotation has been good. It has given us good depth. All three guys have given us a pretty solid level of play. We really don't care who is in there. Then when we go to sub, then usually all three of them are in there.
Q: Are you doing more substituting this year than last year because you have better depth?
BB: Yes. Last year it was hard to take players out of the game because a lot of times you felt like the ones that you were putting in were very inexperienced or there was a drop off in play, particularly on defense. This year we have, when everybody is healthy, I think we have good depth at the linebacker and at the secondary positions, both corner, safety, inside and outside linebacker. We are still a little light on the defensive line in terms of numbers even though all of those guys usually play and contribute in the game. We just don't have the numbers there that we have at linebacker and defensive back. Yeah it is a much better situation than what we had here last year.
Q: Do you ever get the sense that any of the players are disappointed that they have less playing time?
BB: It is not like they are only out there for five or ten plays. When you split it up and you get into special teams and all of that you are probably talking about in the neighborhood of 35 to 50 plays depending on how the game goes and how much you are in sub situations and how much you are on defense and time of possession. But I would say somewhere in the 35 to 50 play neighborhood and that is still a lot of plays. I think that it has helped our kicking game to be able to do that because we haven't been restricted from using some of our starters on special teams. For example at the safety position you see Tebucky [Jones] in the kicking game, you see Matt Stevens in the kicking game, you see Lawyer [Milloy] in the kicking game as well as our backup safeties like Je'Rod Cherry and Antwan [Harris] when he has been in there. Rather than just pick out two guys and kind of limit them from the kicking game and just use the third or fourth guy in the kicking game we have been able to get plays out of all three of those players in addition to Je'Rod who is primarily on special teams.
Q: Is it your sense that in general other teams in the league use a similar system as you do, that they rotate as much as you do?
BB: It varies a little bit depending on where the depth is on a team. As you know we saw some teams that rotate players all of the time. For example, we didn't play them yet, but Carolina. They rotate their defensive linemen continuously through the game. It is hard to find some of those guys in the game for more than three or four consecutive plays. That's just their rotation. Again with Carolina, they didn't rotate their linebackers very much at all. They played the same three guys [Hannibal] Navies, [Dan] Morgan and [Lester] Towns. So sometimes you see it in one spot and not another it depends, sometimes it is the philosophy of the defense or the team and sometimes it depends on the personnel. I think you see a little bit of both. I think that teams that have depth at positions though, that usually you see that depth showing up. Sometimes on offense it is the tight end/fullback position. Where sometimes it is a fullback in the game, sometimes it is two tight ends in the game. Like Cincinnati as an example used [Marco] Battaglia and [Tony] McGee as tight ends and then they also used [Lorenzo] Neal as a fullback. So two of those three guys were almost always in the game. The question is which two.
Q: Was it your sense that one of the teams' problems last year was that the good players that were in the game all the time were just getting too tired?
BB: I think at times that was a little bit of a problem. I think it was more of a problem at the beginning of the year than at the end. I think what happens though is that you get guys who are worn down. So to play 60 or 70 plays, 16 games straight every week I think that takes a toll. I just think realistically the guy is not going to be at the same level all 16 weeks. Some weeks he is going to be fine and feel good and then other weeks there are going to be things that are going to nag him and he just never really has a good chance to turn the corner and get over it because he is taking every play in practice, he is taking every play in the game. Tedy Bruschi was a good example of that last year. He played every play on defense in regular and sub, goal line. He was on the punt team, he was on the kickoff return team and he played 1200 plays or whatever it was last year. That's a lot of plays for anybody.