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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Thu Apr 15 | 02:00 PM - 11:59 PM

Bill Belichick Press Conference

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BB: This week for us is really a combination of two things. One is just self-improvement. Trying to address areas of our football team that we think need to be improved and maybe modified to some extent and then also getting a jump on Carolina. This is a team that I think really has a lot of talent on this football team. They have been in an awful lot of tough games and close games. I think they are a pretty good football team and they have a lot of real good football players. We are going to have to take advantage of the extra time to get ready for these guys because they really present some problems in all three phases of the game. That is pretty much our schedule this week. The practice tomorrow and on Saturday will kind of be split in those areas where there are some things that we just want to improve ourselves and address and other things will be specifically geared towards Carolina.

Q: Can you just give your thoughts on clinching a playoff berth and what it means to your team and this organization?

BB: We will see how it all washes out here after the next couple of weekends, but right now our big focus is just Carolina. We know that we can help ourselves by winning that game and that is what we need to try to do. However the other events go and where it ends up that will all get determined in due course.

Q: Are you happy to be in the playoffs though?

BB: Sure, but we will try to improve our position as much as we can and that is where we are at.

Q: When did you start to see this team as a playoff possibility?

BB: Just trying to win every game week to week. There are so many things that are out of your control in this league. It is such a competitive league and it just goes back and forth. Really that has always been a goal, but just week to week you try to get ready for each opponent and do what you can do every week and not worry…take care of the little things then the big picture kind of takes care of itself. That is our approach to it day to day, week to week and I think that is where it needs to be.

Q: At some point did the playoffs come into focus, you know, we are playing well and things are happening and this may be better than we thought it was going to be?

BB: I think somewhere in the last five weeks, once we got above five hundred and then started winning a few games that you could see it inching a little bit closer, but still every one of those games were big games and the next one coming up is a big game too.

Q: Besides getting healthy, what is the benefit of having the bye week now?

BB: The two things we are going to try to do with it is one address the areas on our team that we feel like need attention and two to get the jump on Carolina. To try to do a better job of preparation with them than we would have in the normal week with a little extra time and film study and game planning.

Q: Is it coming at a good time for you?

BB: It is what it is. There is nothing we can do about the schedule. When they schedule them we show up and play them. So whatever the time is we try to use it to our best advantage. It is not like college where you can have your homecoming game and then take a week off and then get ready for your big rival or the biggest game of the year, that kind of thing. You can't schedule it that way. Whenever the league says you play then you show up and play.

Q: Now that you know you are in the playoffs now do you change in any way the way in which you scout potential opponents, will you put more people at sites?

BB: No we would normally be scouting the teams that are in advance of the current team that we are playing anyway so now we do that toward the postseason, but no all of our attention with the team and the staff and the planning is just on Carolina. The people that would normally be involved in the advance scouting have to figure out what the options are, what the potential assignments are. Obviously we know more about some teams in this picture than others.

Q: Are you happy with the way the offense has been playing?

BB: I think we can improve in every area of the game, I really do. I think there have been positives all the way around. We have done enough things to win, but we can certainly stand to improve in all phases of the game. The last four or five weeks, at times some things have looked good, at times other things have looked good and vice versa and they have looked bad too. Consistency is something that you are always striving for and I think there are a number of things that we an address in all three areas offense, defense and special teams. Particularly when you look at a team like Carolina that really presents you a lot of problems and has a lot of really good football players that you have to address.

Q: The second half of the last game the offense didn't move the ball that well was that more contingent on the fact that you were trying to run time off the clock?

BB: We were on our one-yard line there in the fourth quarter, yeah, there were times where we were trying to milk the clock and make some first downs, but we would liked to have moved it better than we moved it. There is no doubt about that.

Q: What is the biggest danger or concern in playing a team with only one win?

BB: I think all you have to do is look at the film. Carolina has a lot of good football players. They lost two real close games to New Orleans. They lost a couple of overtime games. They have lost some real tough games, but they got a lot of great football players, at offensive line [Chris] Terry, [Jeff] Mitchell, [Todd] Steussie, three real good linemen. They have got a great group of receivers including [Steve] Smith their specialist and their kicking game is outstanding with [Todd] Sauerbrun and Smith. They are excellent defensively. I don't know, they have got to be right at the top of the league in interceptions. [Doug] Evans has got a whole bunch of them, I don't know how many he has got, but every time you turn on the film he is picking one off. Their secondary Evans, [Jimmy] Hitchcock, [Rashard] Anderson, [Mike] Minter, [Deon] Grant, I think is a real good secondary, probably as good as any secondary in the league. They have got a couple of young players like [Kris]Jenkins and [Dan] Morgan up front that are doing a good job. I think it is a real talented team. I think there are a lot of players there that can ruin the game. Evans can ruin it, Steve Smith can ruin it, any of those receivers can ruin it, the offensive line is tough, they have a big time kicker, a big time punter and a big time returner so anytime those guys get their hands on the ball Sauerbrun, he hits them 60 yards regularly, that is just an okay kick for him. So they do a good job in the kicking game, field position, they are well coached and a play here a play there and this team could easily have eight or nine wins.

Q: You have done some different things to motivate your team over the year, do you have to do anything different this week or next week because of the situation?

BB: Well we will do whatever we think will. We will take a look at it and do whatever we think can help, but right now this week I think the main focus for us is to get better as a football team, to address the areas that we are coming up a little bit short in and at the same time start the preparations on Carolina. I don't think we want to get so far into them that it is going to become stale when we do it next week. I think we need to get them introduced to them and understand some of the things that we are going to need to address and some of the problems we will be facing, but we have plenty of areas on our team that need to be addressed as well particularly as they match up to Carolina. Kickoff coverage against Steve Smith's returns, I mean that is an obvious area right there. Our overall ability to cover people in the secondary given the level of receivers that Carolina has. That is an obvious match-up that is going to be difficult. The same thing throwing the ball, our receivers against their secondary it has been really productive this year. That is another area that is going to be a difficult match-up. Our pass rush against that offensive line. There are a number of areas that they are pretty strong in that we are going to have to figure out some way to neutralize those strengths.

Q: Your team has done a good job of keeping focused on the challenge ahead is that attributable to the number of veteran players that you have brought in and they experience they can translate to the younger players?

BB: Sure I think that has definitely helped, but again it is a whole team issue. I don't think one guy, we have seen this is the past, I don't think one guy can go tell somebody else what to do and always get it done. It is great to have that example, but it's really up to each individual player to put forth the effort and concentration and the commitment that nobody else can do for them. There is nobody else that can go out there and learn the plays and run them and study film and be prepared to do that person's job. He might get a good example set by somebody else, but each guy has to go out there and do it himself. We have seen so many cases in the last four or five weeks where a guy gets called on to do something, maybe he is in the game for one play or two plays, it's [Terrell] Buckley's interception against the Jets or [Fred] Coleman's catch or [J.R.] Redmond's run or [Patrick] Passes' catch or whatever it happens to be, [Grey] Ruegamer playing the two tight end offense, you know whatever it is. Nobody can do the preparation for those guys other than those guys and so I think really, sure, it is helpful to have the veterans and I think they have done a good job, but I think you have to give credit to all the individuals on the team because they have all stepped up and been accountable.

Q: Also another thing to these guys have all been able to shut out the potential distractions and you have obviously had your share, Terry Glenn situation…

BB: All right we don't have to go through them all.

Q:…and they have been able to shut them out and stay focused, these are things that could have ripped any team apart…

BB: I think that is the biggest positive I could say about this team so far is they have just been day to day, just day to day. The next meeting, the next walk through, the next practice just try to get done what we can do in that time frame, don't worry about what is going to happen too far down the road, just concentrate on what is at hand, get the job done and then when there is a next one to do then let's get ready to do that one.

Q: You have mentioned several times during the season that you have a longer injury list, but I think you would agree with me that most of the players on that list are not your star players would you say that you have been fortunate thus far in terms of the amount of key players you have still standing?

BB: Well we have a lot of players on injured reserve so…

Q: A lot of those guys are not necessarily the key guys, I know you won't minimize anyone's contributions, but those are not your star players?

BB: We would like to have those players, but they are where they are. Yeah we have had a lot of guys miss games. I mean I don't need to go through the list for you, we have had some players miss quite a few games on both sides of the ball. We lost a lot of depth in the kicking game through the mid-season where we ended up bringing guys either up from the practice squad or bring them in for a week or two to get us through some tight spots. I mean you need the depth to get yourself through those positions, but I think that has definitely occurred. It has been a challenge in there.

Q: Have you had to kind of pull back a little bit more so this year than the past year based on the fact that other than the week after September 11th you haven't had a bye to this point?

BB: I think a little bit, yeah, I think a little. It has not only been the games, but it has been the physical nature of the games. We have had some real tough, physical games. Obviously division games, but even a couple of the non-division games, particularly the New Orleans game, Cleveland, those were tough hard-hitting games. When you try to go from a Sunday game like those type of games to contact in practice on Wednesday and Thursday and then tee it up again on Sunday and just do it week after week, I think it takes it's toll. So yeah we definitely have to pull it back at different points during the season and tried to make sure that the players were fresh and not coming off Wednesday and Thursday, getting banged around on Wednesday and Thursday so that we could be as physical and as fresh as possible on Sunday.

Q: How do you go about determining that from week to week?

BB: It is just a feel. I can't say there is any formula.

Q: Any player input?

BB: Well I talk to the players all of the time. I talk to them every week. Sometimes they…I have never had a player come up to me and say, 'Hey Coach we really need to go out and hit a lot today.' So I am not really expecting that, but we talk. I talk to them about you know, 'How are you doing?' Sometimes the skill guys talk about their legs and other times the bigger guys talk about being sore and being banged up. Everybody has got something so if you are looking…I can always find something. I try to get a feel from them, I try to get a feel from Mike Woicik our strength coach who, that's really his job to be on top of the players physical condition and their training and he can tell by the numbers and their workout in the weight room what overall, again each guy has got a specific, might have a shoulder, might have an elbow or might have something that slows him down, but I think he gets a good overall feel of the team and of course the coordinators Brad [Seely], Romeo [Crennel] and Charlie [Weis] from an overall standpoint talk a little bit about the team's physical conditioning, so there is input from everybody.

Q: Have you changed the way you approach that?

BB: Well I think it depends a little bit on where your team is. I don't think it's the same for every team. Last year we had so many young players…in all honesty I don't think you can give them enough work. A lot of them didn't know really how hard they needed to work and how they had to push themselves through the grind of the season and how they couldn't let some of the little injuries, they just had to learn how to play through them. I think that served us well with some of our second-year guys this year. In terms of this year's team we have a lot fewer of those players. Some of them are playing a lot of football like [Matt] Light and [Richard] Seymour, as examples. So they're getting a lot of work anyway. A lot of the guys that have gone through that regimen last year I think are much more, I'd say hardened, you know, [J.R.] Redmond, [Patrick] Pass, guys like that that went through that last year, [Greg] Randall, [Tom] Brady, guys that did a lot of extra work last year and probably got some benefits out of it.

Q: It seems like after every game this year your team walks away OK physically, but that opponents walk away beat up. Is that physical aspect something you have stressed this year?

BB: Absolutely. Yeah, that needs to be our game. I don't think we're…we need to understand as a team, and I think our team has gained that understanding through the course of the year, how we need to play. We need to play a physical style of football. We need to hit people and be aggressive and be physical. We're not a, we can't be a fast-break team. We can't run up and down the field with St. Louis. That's not our style and I think that we need to play a hard hitting, physical game. We need to try to be aggressive and control the line of scrimmage. We need to run hard with the ball when we have it, regardless of who's got it. You know, we need to gang tackle. We can't count on one guy to get him down. So that's definitely been a point of emphasis all year and that needs to be our style of play.

Q: Coming back from last year, was that something that was missing?

BB: Well it was emphasized, but I don't think we got it in the games like we needed to get it, no not at all. Right. I don't think we, last year, that we had the kind of overall as a team, I mean there's certain individuals that I think probably did, but as a group we didn't have the same kind of toughness, either physical or mental, that we really needed. It was probably reflected in record, too.

Q: Earlier in the year tackling looked like a shortcoming of this team. Was that something that had to be emphasized and reemphasized before they finally got it, which apparently they have?

BB: I think the biggest thing that's helped us is getting more people around the football. You are still going to have some misses out there, but the more space that the runner is in, even if you are a good tackling team you are just going to have more misses. They just don't show up as much when you have more people around the ball. I think we've done a better job of keeping the ball in a confined area and there has certainly been an emphasis on tackling, wrapping up on tackling, particularly with the guys in the secondary, that's improved. I am not saying it's perfect, it's certainly not perfect, but it's better than it was and I think we have some players that still need to get a full understanding that on defense you have one job, that's to get the guy with the ball and get him down.

Q: You have doubled the win total from last year and made the playoffs. Does that make this season a success?

BB: Right now we're…our goals are still in front of us. I think that's really the way we need to approach it. We've got a big game against Carolina. Carolina is a good football team. They have a lot of good players and we need to go down there and be ready to play a good football game against them, that can help us more than anything else. I think looking in the rear-view mirror back at the first Miami game and the Cincinnati game and the Indianapolis games and all that along the way. I don't really see where that does us any good. I am not putting any emphasis on it and I don't think anybody else is either. What really we need to focus on is, as I have been saying, correcting the things that are deficient right now on our football team, that aren't up to speed and at the same time starting on Carolina, which presents a lot of problems.

Q: You talked about the toughness of this team as compared to a year ago. Was there a point last season when you said, 'These guys just don't get it?' Could you tell right away or did you see that at the end of the season?

BB: Oh no, I think it was evident all the way through the season. Again, we played with a lot of young players last year, a lot of those guys really didn't know, tried, but just didn't know the standard that really they were being held to in this league and what it would take and I think we paid the price on that.

Q: Over your coaching career, what are the pluses and minuses of the bye week?

BB: You know there's an old saying that I heard the first year I came into the league. I think it is really true, 'Time is only good if you use it. If you waste it, it is not worth anything.' I think if you use the time efficiently it can be helpful. If you waste it, then I don't know what the benefit is.

Q: The team was good at handling adversity earlier in the season and now is pretty good at handling prosperity. Are those two completely different things from a coaching standpoint?

BB: I think it comes back to just short-term focus. I've been around a lot of professional football teams in a lot of different situations: good ones, bad ones, teams in different cities, teams with different types of coaches, teams with different types of players, old players, young players, fast players, slow players, you name it. But again the bottom line, the thread that I see in successful teams is short-term focus. Look at the next opportunity, get ready for it, and don't expect any kind of momentum from last week to mean anything one way or the other. Don't expect anything but the opponent's best game. Be ready to play yours. Do what you can do; you can't get bad practices back. You go out there on Wednesday and have bad practice and spend Thursday correcting Wednesday's mistakes, your not moving ahead on your preparation. You need a good day Wednesday. You need another good day Thursday. You need to pull it all together on Friday. You need to review it on Saturday and then you need to play on Sunday and any break in the regimen there hurts you. You can't get them back. You know you have a bad practice on Thursday, when are you going to make it up? You screwed that day up. In the long run, those days will come back to get you, they will. Pretty soon a bad Thursday is a bad Friday, a bad Friday is a bad Sunday, then what happened? Well you know, we weren't ready to go in practice on Thursday and that just starts the ball rolling. So I think whether it's adversity, prosperity, distractions, obstacles, challenges, whatever you want to call them, the only thing you can control is your attitude and your performance on what's going on right now. You can't worry about what happened six weeks ago or six weeks going forward.

Q: Was that always your approach?

BB: That's kind of always the way I've looked at things anway. It's really been pretty easy for me that way and I think when you grow up in this profession as I did as a child, Sunday afternoon at 4 o'clock is the bottom line business. You either won or you lost, that's it. And we all know the score. It's not business where you can make 15 percent and I can make 14 percent and everybody's happy. That's not the way it is. Somebody wins, somebody loses every Sunday. That's the goal each week. When that's over you start it, do it again. I can't think of really a better example than the '86 Super Bowl team with the Giants. I mean that was a team that just…we kind of bumped along there for a while and once that team really gained its focus and did it on a weekly basis, they performed real well. I mean really my first year in the league in '75 in Baltimore, we were 1-4. We started off the season 1-4. We won the next nine, beat Miami twice and you know when you are 1-4 there are 20,000 seats there or 20,000 people in Memorial Stadium. You couldn't give them away. By the end of the season they were lining up out through the lobby out into the parking lot and all that. So that was, again, once guys like Bert Jones and Mike Curtis and those guys…week to week, day to day, have a good practice, have another one, get ready to play. I guess I learned it in professional football, I learned it early there.

Q: In the real world over these two weeks not a lot gets done, there are a lot of distractions. Do you do anything? Is there anything you ask…?

BB: You mean like have a Christmas party?

Q: No. I mean they have social lives, is there anything that you ask them not to do?

BB: Yeah, I'll talk to the team a little bit about what my expectations are from here going forward to Carolina. Since Sunday, I really think that this is a time that they and I told them that they should spend with their families and their friends and loved ones and enjoy the holiday. It's unusual really that you get an opportunity to do that at this time of year. I'd say most of the years that I've been in coaching, you know the season is still going on and you have a game on Sunday and that leads into practice and Christmas doesn't fall on a Tuesday and all that. So you work around the schedule like you would in any other week. But this week I think we were able to fit that into the schedule earlier in the week, but now that we are back…it's just like having a couple extra days to get ready for the game and we need to use them. Like I said, time is only good if you use it and we need to use it, we need to put it to good use.

Q: College basketball coach Al McGuire used to talk about 3 o'clock shooters, that were great in shoot-arounds but not in games. Don't you have guys on this team that are great practice players but not in game and that are great in games but not in practice?

BB: Well I think there is a correlation between practice and the game. I mean I understand what Al is saying, but I think there is definitely some correlation particularly in the team aspect of football. I haven't ever coached basketball and baseball and some of the more really individual sports where there is really just an individual skill involved, but you know in football so much of every thing you do depends on what the other ten guys do on your team, not to mention the other eleven on theirs. So all that has to be coordinated and it needs to fit together for it to work well and so for guys not to be accountable and in sync and understand what's going on during the practice week and then to think we are just going to show up on Sunday and all of the sudden it's all going to magically just fit together perfectly, I think is…it's unrealistic. On the other hand, the other team gets out there and things that may look good in practice, they are a little more disruptive on Sunday because you are going against a team that knows how to run the stuff better than you do to try to show it to yourself. That's just part of the game. I think in football where everything has to be so cohesive between all the units and there is so many units involved, I think that's what makes the team aspect of it. I mean that's what makes football the great sport that it is, there is just so much teamwork involved.

Q: Does this team remind you of any other team you have been with?

BB: Well let me think about that one and we will talk about it after, when we finish.

Q: How was Christmas at the Belichick's?

BB: Santa was good to us.

**Q: What did you get?

Q: A nice necktie?

BB: Right. A belt?

Q: You got what you wanted though, playoff wise?

BB: You know what I really wanted was to be able to spend time with my kids and my family. My parents were there so it was…everybody is healthy and that's, really you couldn't ask for any more than that.

Q: Are you a practical giver or do you catch them off guard? Do you give them what you think they need?

BB: I give them what I think they need. You know they got pretty much everything they need, like most kids. I had one day to shop, that was it. One day.

Q: Do the players realize the incredible interest in this team right now?

BB: I think that definitely everybody recognizes the interest from the community and from our fans. But you know the fans have been here every week. They've been behind us every week. I mean they've been 60,000 out there in the Jets opener and all the way through the season. I mean from that standpoint, I am not saying there isn't a little more emotion and enthusiasm, but on Sunday afternoons this looks pretty good out here most weeks. I think everybody, it's me, I'm sure it's all the players, all the assistant coaches. More people stop you at the gas station or wherever and 'Nice going. How's it going? Good luck this week.' You know, that kind of thing and they are definitely supportive in the community, there's no question about that.

Q: You have mentioned things that have surprised you over the last two years. When this is all done will this team's run be in the surprising category?

BB: I don't know, I think that's for you to evaluate. Right now our real…I understand what you are saying, it's just I don't sit and think about that. What I am thinking about right now is how are we going to beat Carolina and that really is pretty consuming. You know I've had a chance to go back and look at our last few games and there are things that we just need to get corrected. There are just things we are not doing as well as we need to be doing them and how are we going to get those fixed? How are we going to find the time to get those things corrected, still get ready for Carolina and stop Steve Smith on kickoff returns and get some pass rush on [Todd] Steussie and cover their receivers and get open against the secondary and block [Kris] Jenkins and block [Dan] Morgan and block [Jay] Williams. I mean that really is where my focus and my concern is and I can't really rank it against the other teams in the city or another, honestly a year with the Patriots that I wasn't even here for. So I couldn't compare us to the '83 Patriots or the '76 Patriots. I mean I wasn't here for that.

Q: How much more enjoyable is it to come to work every day?

BB: Oh, sure. There is nothing more enjoyable than a win on Sunday or Saturday, as the case would be. That's what we work for. That's what we live for. That's our job and it's a great feeling when you can put it together and come off the field victorious, there is no better feeling than that in team sports. That's everybody chipping in, everybody pulling together, everybody seeing the positive results come out at the end of the day. Yeah, it's great and especially on Saturday having the fans and the atmosphere and the enthusiasm. It was a great feeling after the game, but that is long gone. I mean that is long gone and I don't think that Carolina cares one thing about that, they really don't. When we get down there they are going to be…they'll be after us and we'd better be after them **

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