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Replay: Best of Radio Thu Feb 29 - 02:00 PM | Tue Mar 05 - 11:55 AM

Bill Belichick Press Conference

Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick talks to the press about the upcoming game against the Panthers in Carolina on Sunday.To read a transcript, click below.



BB: As I promised a short injury report. Any questions on that? This is really our big day to start with Carolina. We've done some introductory work last week and did a little scouting report on Monday, but this is…we are really going to hit it full speed today. As it has turned out this really for us is a championship game and I think that is the way we have to approach it. If we win the game we win the AFC East. It is as simple as that. So that is the way we are looking at it. We feel like we have everyone ready to go physically. We need a good week of practice. We need to play well. We have a chance to win the AFC East Championship so that is really what it all boils down to for us this week and that is where we would like to be.

Q: That is the immediate goal obviously, do you at all throw into the mix the possibility that you could have a first round bye or do you leave it alone.

BB: There are all sorts of possibilities, but our focus is just trying to win the AFC East Championship and beat Carolina. That game, the Jet/Oakland game might not mean anything depending on what we do so we have to take care of our business.

Q: Is the bye week ever a bad thing though, it is one less game you have to win?

BB: I don't know, yeah. Again, I am not really that concerned about next week or the week after right now it is just Carolina and we will deal with the schedule when we know what it is.

Q: When you talked about Carolina the other day you said they had good players on both sides of the ball…

BB: Yeah they do.

Q: Specifically what do you have to take away, who and what do you feel you have to stop to win the game?

BB: I think the real strength of this team, I think they are probably in the top three in the league, maybe second in the league in special teams. They have the best punter in the league, they have the best returner and [John] Kasay is an excellent field goal kicker. They are well coached, they have good core players on special teams guys like [Kory] Minor and [Jarrod] Cooper and [Dean] Wells and great specialists you know [Jason] Kyle. They have really good specialists all the way through. They are well-coached and they make a lot of big plays in the kicking game. They cover well, they return well and they kick the ball well. I think that is their number one strength. They are as good as anybody in the league in special teams, I think Philadelphia is ranked ahead of them, but that is really about it. Defensively they are very disruptive inside. [Kris] Jenkins, [Al] Lucas, [Brentson] Buckner, they kind of rotate those three guys in the middle and they do a pretty good job of protecting those linebackers, [Lester] Towns and [Dan] Morgan and that is a real strength for them. Their secondary is good. They are a ball-hawking group. I think they are right at the top of the league, top three or four teams in the NFL in interceptions whatever it is. They have had a whole bunch of them. [Doug] Evans we all know that he has got some, but so does everybody else, but they do a good job of hawking the ball and that comes from sloppy routes, poor throws, missed reads and occasionally it comes from tipped balls and that quarterback getting hit as he is getting rid of it and stuff like that. So they have had a number of interceptions, again, almost as anybody in the league and had them a lot of different ways. Then offensively they throw the ball, they throw it a lot. Last week they threw it over 60 times. They weren't sacked, I think the offensive line has done a solid job. [Chris] Terry and [Todd] Steussie are good tackles. [Jeff] Mitchell, the guy they signed from Baltimore is a good center and they have big receivers, real big receivers whether it is [Isaac] Byrd, [Muhsin] Muhammad, [Donald] Hayes, [Karl] Hankton, they are all good size guys other than [Steve] Smith and when Smith comes in his speed and explosiveness and all of that speak for itself. [Patrick] Jeffers is another big receiver. So they have real good skill players, good receivers, [Chris] Weinke has certainly improved through the course of the year and they can throw the ball and they do throw it a lot and they are good at it. Their running backs run hard. We saw that in preseason. [Richard] Huntley, [Nick] Goings, they run hard, they run offtackle and we didn't do a very good job of stopping them in the preseason and I am sure that they will test us out again Sunday.

Q: Did you like the way that your players came off of the break, I know that you have had some hard practices…

BB: Now wait a minute it wasn't like there was…hard practices now, there wasn't a lot of blood on the ground when practice was over. It was practice, it was practice. I think we got some things done that we wanted to try to get done last week in terms of addressing weaknesses that we need to take care of on our end. Whether that materializes in the game or not we will have to wait and see. It isn't like we haven't addressed things before. Sometimes those things improve, sometimes they don't. So we will have to carry that forward this week and into the game, but we did get them addressed. We watched tape on them, we walked through them, we practiced them. I do think the players have a better understanding of some of the situations that we need to address, but how that manifests itself in game conditions still remains to be seen.

Q: What are the things that you are looking for that tell you okay these guys are getting it?

BB: Sure, I think the biggest thing is just concentration and effort. I think it was about a typical bye week. I mean it was all right, I don't think it was unbelievable, it was all right.

Q: What are your reasons for not having [Tom] Brady come up to the podium?

BB: Just treat him like everybody else. I don't want you guys to be deprived so you have to spend time with him and can't go to everybody else.

Q: George Seifert won two Super Bowls, now if you have your way he will lose 15 games and he will be the first coach to lose 15 straight games, what do you make of that?

BB: I don't know I think…obviously George is a very experienced and a good coach I don't think there is any question about that. I think when you are a coach to a certain degree sometimes you are a big part of the situation that you are. I think George was real fortunate when he took over the 49er job. He had a Hall of Fame quarterback and he probably had another Hall of Fame quarterback. I would be hard pressed to name another coach who has coached back-to-back Hall of Fame quarterbacks with a Hall of Fame receiver all the way through there too. That is not always a bad position to be in. They had a good program and he won and won convincingly with it, probably as good a record as any coach in that time period. We are talking about four or five years whatever it was. Obviously it is a different situation in Carolina and it presents a totally different challenge. Again, I don't think you can just put up the records, you have to look at the total situation. They have a lot of salary cap problems, had to rebuild different parts of the team, but they have been very competitive all year. They have been in a lot of close games that have come down to the last play, the last quarter, I don't know whatever it is nine, ten games decided by a eight points or less or whatever the numbers are they all look pretty close. So if a few of those plays or games go the other way you are looking at a whole different story.

Q: So do you coach better when you have better players?

BB: There is no question about that - or not when you have better players, when they play better. Having good players is part of it, but they have got to go out there and play and if they play well, which a lot of good players do, but when they do that…I mean we have seen all-star teams that have had bad years too.

Q: People around the league may look at you and say that you have gotten more out of this teams and the players than most people expected, obviously the players deserve some credit, but is there anything you can put your finger on?

BB: I think the players deserve a lot of credit. Again, they are the ones that have done it and I don't know whose expectations really you want to relate it to. I mean the lower the expectations the higher the differential in the performance is perceived and vice versa. The higher expectations, I mean you could still go out there and play pretty good, but if it is not up to the expectations that are set then it is perceived as a huge failure. Obviously expectations have a lot to do with it, but I think if you just look around the league this year, last year it is pretty competitive every year. You see a lot of teams in the race right through the last week or two. There are close games every week. There are so-called upsets every week. It is pretty competitive.

Q: You have put together a lot of mix and match parts?

BB: Again, the best thing that I could is that I think that looking at July of this year relative to December of last year I thought that the team had improved. You never know how much it is going to improve and you never the circumstances and the events that are going to take place that are unique to each individual season, but I think our team definitely improved from December to July both in terms of personnel also in terms of the teams attitude and it's work ethic and it's commitment really in the offseason program that started in March. That improvement has manifested itself to where we are today and that is mainly due to a lot of hard work by the players and the chemistry that they have developed themselves. I don't think that the game plans are dramatically different. There have been changes, there always are changes, but I don't think the practice schedule is dramatically different, I don't think that the facilities are dramatically different. A lot of that stuff is pretty much the same. I think you can go back and look at our game plan against Miami last year or Indianapolis last year and you will see a lot of the same stuff on it, but it was a little more productive this year.

Q: Is part of your philosophy as a coach to be more in tune with the sum of the parts being greater than any individual part so that if you lose a part you don't have everybody looking around saying, 'Oh God what are we going to do now?'

BB: Exactly, I think that is what you have got to do. I think you have to maximize your team and sometimes that comes at the expense of individual players who may not be producing up to their maximum capacity, but because it is a team sport and you are trying to spread the production around to make your team more efficient than that unfortunately is the way it goes, but on the other hand that is the beauty of football being a team sport.

Q: How has Lawyer Milloy's season gone? Has he had a lot of different things this year or fewer things than he did last season and what does he still have to work on to be a better player? I know that you have been asked about him a couple hundred times but…

BB: No that is a good question because it seems like every time I answer the question and then you go ask him there is a little bit of a different answer. If I say that we have simplified things a little bit and then he says that more responsibilities have been added. No, I think Lawyer has had a good year. I think it started in March. He was a big participant in the offseason programs coming off the shoulder surgery and worked very hard to get his strength back and his physical conditioning back which is tough for any player when you are coming off a major surgery like that. The safety situation with Tebucky [Jones] and Matt [Stevens] has been a little bit of a transition. It is a little bit unusual to have three guys playing two spots instead of always just playing with another partner whether it was Willie Clay or whoever, guys that you just consistently get with and the same thing with the linebacker situation because the strong safety has to work very closely with the middle linebacker and that position has been a little bit in flux too with Bryan [Cox], Ted [Johnson] and Tedy [Bruschi]. I think taking into consideration those things he has made some significant adjustments this year and has had to make them. On the other hand I think he had a good offseason, came to training camp in good condition, had a good preseason and has had a good, solid consistent year all the way through. Really not a lot of bad plays through the course of the season. He has been productive. I don't think he has had quite the number of tackles that he has had in a couple of other years, but sometimes that is good that they are not making it down to the safety as much. He has given us great leadership and I think defensively he and Bryan as the defensive captains have done as good a job as any team I have been with that the captains have provided leadership and direction and really the right attitude about playing the game. When I say the right attitude I am talking about going into the game with a confident yet competitive, aggressive attitude. Not a phony one, not one that is kind of saying the right things that everybody wants to hear, but one that is sincere and legitimate and really sets the tone for the rest of the, particularly the rest of the defensive players, but I would say even for the rest of the team.

Q: I understood your answer, but is there any kind of specific example you could give to explain what you just said?

BB: The punt return against Cleveland. He is out there holding up the gunner. He does a good job of holding him up at the line of scrimmage. The guy eventually gets away, he goes down, Lawyer peels back, blocks [Dwayne] Rudd, a key block that springs him. I mean it is not only a guy who has been a Pro Bowl safety out there playing on the punt return team, but he is hustling to make the second block that springs the returner for arguably one of the key plays that helps you win the game. Those kind of plays are unselfish, they are team plays, they don't go down in the stats, but you recognize them and you appreciate them and honestly you don't win without them.

Q: Is he a guy that has had to give up some of the personal stuff?

BB: Sure, everybody does. I mean every quarterback wants to throw a lot of passes, every running back wants to carry the ball 30 times, every receiver wants to have 20 passes thrown to him, not to mention the tight ends.

Q: Under a former head coach he was always in the box. He likes to do that because he likes to hit people?

BB: Well sure, yeah. I mean what safety wouldn't want to be down in the box? I mean you don't have to worry about covering top-skilled athletes as receivers and you play in a confined area and you get to go up there and blow somebody up and basically nobody can block you unless they send some receiver in from outside to try to get you. I mean that's a great place to play. I mean I was here in '96 and he wasn't always in the box in '96. I can just tell you that. Sometimes he was, sometimes he wasn't. It's just like this year. If we think it's best to design it that way then we do it that way, if we don't then we don't.

Q: How different is he from '96? He was a rookie and didn't even start much then.

BB: Right, he didn't start until about the, what sixth or seventh game of the year, somewhere in there. Well, I mean he's a warrior. You know he's been through all the wars. I mean he's a football player. He was a rookie then, he's a football player now. He doesn't miss time, doesn't miss practice. He's there dependably week in and week out, year in and year out. I think he has as much respect probably for the way he plays his position as, I would think, anybody in the league. I mean he's just tough, consistent, dependable and he's a warrior, whether it's on the punt return team or whether it's on defense or whatever else he's asked to do out there. I think whether it's our team or whether it's the opponents, that everybody knows he's out there and he makes an impact and he consistently does it.

Q: Is there any way he could improve?

BB: You can always improve.

Q: What could he do better?

BB: Everybody can always improve. When you are a defensive player you can always read plays quicker. You can always react to plays quicker. Pass coverage is an area that certainly as a total team we could stand to improve on and that includes every player that is involved in coverage, be it a corner, safety, linebacker, anybody that's in pass coverage could improve in that.

Q: He's not a great coverage guy anyways or he would have been a cornerback? I mean he's a pretty good coverage guy.

BB: Yeah, I mean right. Safeties aren't corners and corners aren't safeties. Right, he's a safety. He's not a corner.

Q: Is Antowain Smith at 100 percent? Is he going to practice this week?

BB: He practiced last week. He'll practice this week. Yeah, he'll be there.

Q: Part of a byproduct of success is that assistant coaches get chances to be head coaches. Is it a kind of catch-22 as a head coach being with them for a long time and you don't want to lose them, but at the same time you'd like to see them get an opportunity?

BB: Right, exactly. I mean I've been in that position myself and I think Romeo [Crennel] and Charlie [Weis] and Brad [Seely] for that matter, who's really a coordinator of the special teams, I think those guys have done a great job this year and if they are recognized by somebody else for the job they've done then I think they certainly…I mean they've worked hard, they've been in the league a long time, they've paid their dues. If they had that opportunity I'd do everything I could to help them, if that's what they wanted to do, to advance it.

Q: Have you guys ever talked about that in goal setting, 'Where do you see yourself two years down the road?'

BB: Well I would say not very often. Maybe, at the most, once a year. Usually down the road for us is two days. It's hard to think about three years from now. I mean there is obviously some planning as a head coach or organizationally that you have to make for next year and the following year, especially when you do multi-year contracts. But for the most part though, the focus is the short term and I think as an assistant coach, really one week is long term for an assistant coach. And I've been there before too. When I was a coordinator and there were a couple years there with the Jets where you pick up the paper or your wife calls you and says, 'Well I see that so and so is interested in you or that you are going to interview with so and so.' And you know you don't know anything about it, I mean that's just rumors that come around this time of year. So a lot of that stuff gets tossed around and I've had my name thrown around on a lot of those things several different times and that's just the way it is. It's just the way it is. Sometimes there is something to them, sometimes there isn't. If that were to come down there is a formal way to do it in the league and if that were to happen then we'd follow those procedures like we always do and handle it that way.

Q: You have talked about concentration and effort as key areas of improvement on this team. How do you specifically relay that message to the team? Do you put tapes together that show their lack of concentration or effort?

BB: Sure, that is one way of doing it. Yeah, I think that is one way to reinforce it.

Q: Is that a way you use?

BB: Sure, we've done that this year. Yeah, we've done that this year. We did it a couple of weeks ago. I think we took about 10 plays, five of them were plays that I would say required very little concentration. Say for example getting off on the snap count, which is basically a junior high school type skill. And then there were other plays that took maybe five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten guys working in unison, in teamwork, to get a play executed and how those plays were executed in some cases a lot better than plays where even the most simple skills, the quarterback-center exchange to pick another example that came up in Miami, plays like that that are so fundamental to the game that require at the very minimum level of concentration and execution relative to plays like punt returns or interception returns or reverses where you have multiple ball handling and guys blocking from one side of the field to the other and having to sort out two or three different looks to get to the right guy, things like that. It was illustrated that it is strictly concentration. How can we get this done with 10 guys having to execute all perfectly for this play to work and this simple play that we have all done since junior high school and can't get it right. So yeah, you're right on the money.

Q: So you challenge them?

BB: Well challenge them and also point out this is not really physical, it's just mental here. Or you know, a guy dropping a ball right in his hands that probably any high school player could have caught versus making a catch that probably is as good a catch as the player's made in his career. You know, just to show the contrast of, 'Why did we drop this one and catch that one?'

Q: And the way you concentrate here is the way you have to concentrate there?

BB: Right, for 60 minutes every week, not just whenever you feel like it. You never know when those plays are going to happen.

You guys are right on it today. You are doing my job.

Q: Well we know football cold. It is amazing.

BB: You are right on it. It's the same stuff I am doing.

Q: In '96 three starters in the secondary were Ty [Law], Lawyer [Milloy] and Otis Smith. Otis had a little vacation in New York, but these three guys are still major contributors five years after the fact. Is that unusual at all? Or do people in the secondary last longer or what?

BB: It is unusual. I think particularly when you look at the rest of the people, how few there would be that you could say were in the same position that they were in '96. Yeah, I'd say it's real unusual. You know Ty and Lawyer were right at the start of their careers, they were in the infant stages, but Otis was, some people thought he was over the hill at that point. They really did. He's just kept on going and it's really a credit to his work ethic and mental determination and concentration, the longevity that he's sustained and it looks like is continuing to sustain.

Q: For a player, what is the difference between confidence and cockiness and do you as a coach look for the latter as well?

BB: It's a fine line. It's a fine line. It's a fine line. I would say probably the difference is just, it's concentration. It's concentration. The confidence and then the concentration that goes with it just takes you right to the edge. You are so confident and you are so in tune with all the things that could happen and your concentration is at a very high level, so when it does happen your execution is good. Versus cockiness or overconfidence where you take that for granted, your concentration level is down and when things happen you just don't react and respond to them as quickly and as precisely as you do when you are just on the other side of that line. And it is a fine line. You know I've heard a lot of players, and I can relate to it as a coach, I've heard a lot of players talk about the games being in slow motion. When you are really prepared and everything is really falling into place for you it's like you are, you are waiting for the play to happen. You've made your read, you're going where you are supposed to go and you are saying, 'Why isn't that play here yet?' You know you are that on top of it. Versus, the ball is snapped and everybody is going 100mph. You know you can't read the play, you can't figure it out. The quarterback can't see the receivers; there are too many guys in his face. The running back can't find…everything is just moving too fast and you feel like you are standing out there in the middle of an intersection and cars are running by everywhere. But I've heard players say, I've heard a lot of them say it, it's like slow motion out there. We got it. And that's the line and there's not a big gap there.

Q: Has it been like that most of the time this year?

BB: Well, I think it has been like that some of the time. I wouldn't say it was like that down in Miami.

Q: Well during this streak, during the last six weeks?

BB: Well maybe in the second quarter of the Miami game. I mean sometimes it just goes through time periods, but I mean as an example, I can give you one example. The one example that stands out the most in my mind was the playoff game in '86 against the 49ers when I was with the Giants. We won 49-3. That was one of those games where every single thing that we did just not only seemed like it was the right thing to do, but the players were just so far ahead of it, ahead of each and every play, that it was pretty close to a perfect game and that's not something that you really experience a lot especially in a big game like that. That's the one that really stands out in my mind. Whatever we ran, whatever we called they were on it and when they came over to the sideline they knew they were on it and that's kind of the way they expressed it.

Q: When you were looking at the free agents you brought in and the free agent pool were concentration and effort for 60 minutes, was that high up on your list along with physical ability?

BB: Yeah.

Q: These are guys that have that concentration and have that effort all the time?

BB: Right, I think the way we termed it would be just the level of importance of football. You know, how important football was? If football is real important to a guy then he's going to do the extra things, do the little things, do the offseason training, do the extra film work, do the preparation that he needs to do, learn the second position or the third position that you are asking him to do even though it might be a slim chance that he'll ever need to play it that you could count on him, but you know when you bring a guy in, a free agent in, and talked to him and a lot of his questions center around, 'Do I have to be here for the offseason program? When does training camp start? How many days off are there in training camp? Do we have to run sprints at the end of all the practices?' I mean you can kind of figure out after a while that this guy is really not about doing what it takes to play football. It's, 'Where are the shortest corners?' And, 'Let me go to the next team and see if the corners are a little shorter over there.' And that's not really what we are looking for. So we tried not to take that type of a player

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