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Bill Belichick Press Conference

Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick talks to the press about the Bye Week.To read a full transcript, click below.



BB: We are going to be on a regular Monday type of schedule today. Bring the players in and look at the tape of the Carolina game, go through some corrections and that type of thing. Then tomorrow will be a regular Wednesday for us and Friday we will do some work as well. I don't have the exact schedule on that yet we will try to let you know by tomorrow. Basically this is a situation where the three teams that we could potentially play are Baltimore, Miami and Oakland. We worked on Miami and played them in the next to last regular season game. The Ravens we worked on a little bit in preparation for the possibility of catching them for the Wild Card Weekend. The team that we knew we wouldn't be playing the Wild Card Weekend was of course Oakland. That may be a possibility coming up here in the divisional playoffs so we will put a little time on them so that we'd have all of the bases covered until we know for sure which of the teams it is that we will be that we are facing. So that is what we are doing.

Q: The hot talk right now is that you will play Saturday night at 8:00pm do you have any comment as to what that might mean as far as your preparations?

BB: No not really. The only thing that would affect us is just whether we are working with a…how long our preparation week would be. If Oakland wins Saturday then we know on Sunday who we are playing. If the Jets win then we would have to wait until Sunday after the 4:00 game to see how the Baltimore/Miami game comes out. It would affect us that way in terms of our preparation, but otherwise we will just take it from the game time and work back.

Q: You don't think that weather conditions might be better for an afternoon game then a night game?

BB: Well it might be.

Q: Do you think that matters to a warm weather team, like a Miami?

BB: I don't know. It didn't seem to bother them up here last year when we played them in the last regular season game. I don't know. But that is not really our focus right now. Our concern is the preparation of any one of those three potential teams. All of them obviously very good, with a lot of strengths and making sure that we know them as well as we can and then once it is determined for sure who we have then we will put all of our energy into that one.

Q: At different times during the regular season sometimes a team will face a team that they know if they just take care of what they do best, things will come out, in a playoff scenario do you have to pay more attention to your opponent's tendencies than you normally would?

BB: I think our preparation will probably be about the same. I mean we try to be as thorough as we can and making sure the players know what all of the possibilities are, but really more importantly trying to boil it down to what we think are the most likely things to occur and not try to swamp them with everything that could possibly happen and we will do the same thing. We have got 16 regular season games on all of these teams and we will look at the ones that we think are most appropriate to how we think we would be attacked or we would want to attack them. I think it will just be pretty much of a normal…however we would normally prepare I think we would just follow that same guideline.

Q: How do you gauge what edge your team has on days that you work and days that you don't? What is a good rule of thumb there?

BB: I think you just have to evaluate the way you feel about your team that particular week or in that particular situation. This one is a little bit unique for us because we did have the bye week prior to the Carolina game so when we do play again it will really be one game that we played over the past month and I think that we will probably do a little more work this week in practice, a little more contact then maybe we would do in a normal week or in a normal bye week type of situation because we have been off the field for a little longer than normal.

Q: Why is it so difficult to score on you in the red zone?

BB: I think really the credit has to go to the players and the coaches. That was one of our major targets last year after the season that we spent a lot of time in the offseason on, third down and red area and red area defense and making sure that we had a good fundamental base going into the season. We spent a lot of time on it in training camp and I think it served us well through the course of the year. I think that the players are well prepared in that area for the things to expect. Not just from team to team, but just in general. There are some things that are a lot more frequent down there that just don't show up out on the field because of the field position change and I think their awareness is better, but knowing where you are on the field, knowing where your help is and knowing how quickly things can happen in the red area. I think that is the biggest difference is how much quicker the plays are or have to be in the red area compared to out in the field. There is less space to throw and the run forces are quicker and defensively you just have to react to everything a lot faster than you do in a normal out in the field situation.

Q: Is there an example of somebody that has been plugged into the defense this year that wasn't there last year who has made a big difference in the red zone?

BB: No I think it is team defense. I definitely think it is team defense and some of that is third down defense, some of it's sub defense, some of it is goal line defense, some of it's just normal 4-3, 3-4 defense. It transcends all of the situations and there have been a lot of people that have been involved in all of those different aspects.

Q: Injury-wise are you going to hold anyone out this week?

BB: I don't think so. I think we are okay.

Q: How about Terry [Glenn]?

BB: I expect all of the players to be here and be ready to go.

Q: Can you talk about Lawyer [Milloy] and how he has evolved since his rookie year?

BB: I think that when I came back last year the biggest change that I noticed in Lawyer was just his overall confidence, but again that is going back to his rookie year. I am sure that through the '97, '98, '99 seasons that grew significantly, but his overall confidence and leadership ability in the secondary, his decisiveness in making calls and making decisions that…in pro football because of the passing game and the number of different formations and multiple receivers and those kind of things, the safety really has to be kind of the quarterback on defense. Sometimes the middle linebacker is, particularly on early downs and running type situations, but in all of the passing situations that quarterbacking really has to come from the safety position because just the nature of the position being in the middle of the field and being able to start the communication there and extend it out to the corners. I think those are areas that he has really grown in and his overall preparation and understanding and he is a smart kid, things came easily to him as a rookie, but through more experience and more preparation I think that that has grown as well and he has a real good understanding of these tendencies and can anticipate plays and situations well.

Q: What has Ken Walter meant to you and how was he ever on the street?

BB: Players ask him that every day, they ask him that every day out there in practice. 'How come you didn't have a job when the season started?' He was injured and he came off of an injury last year and I guess that Carolina was probably a little hesitant about when he would be ready to come back and punt. We contacted Ken in the summer and talked to him about coming up and working out early in training camp to provide competition at the punter position and at that point he was just beginning to workout. He was only kicking maybe one or two times a week. He just wasn't able to go out there and kick day after day after day, his conditioning wasn't there with his leg. He continued to workout on his own down at Davidson and then we made the change during the year after we brought him up and saw him more consistent and the workout was more endurance than what we had seen earlier in the year. I would say that those are probably the circumstances that led to why he wasn't on a roster at the beginning of the season. He has meant a lot to us in terms of field position. His hang time has made the punts, I won't say easy to cover, but coverable. The players can get down there and make plays on the returns and force fair catches and that kind of thing and what he has been able to do, I would say inside the 20, but really a lot of it has been inside the ten. I mean the back spin he has been able to put on the ball has been remarkable and it has created a lot of good field position for us defensively.

Q: All things being equal, do you prefer to game plan for a team you have played and seen twice or for teams you haven't played or seen?

BB: I think it's all pretty much equal. It's different, but whatever it is you just have to take it and maximize it. I don't think it really…we've done both. We've played division teams that we know well. We've played new teams like Atlanta and New Orleans and teams like that that we haven't had exposure to in the last year or so. You just take what you have and just start working it and grinding it through and see what you come up with.

Q: Are you compelled to change if you have played a team twice?

BB: Sometimes that's…that's the age-old question. They know that we know; we know that they know. I think in the end when you know teams very well there are still going to be common denominators in the coming game. There are certain things scheme-wise and just the matchups that are undertows that are going to occur, but you know sometimes the look is a little bit different or the disguise of how you get to those points are a little bit different in attacking each other. It's kind of subtle, but I think that's really the game when teams know each other, particularly within division opponents and continuity in the coaching staff that you see those subtle changes rather than a drastic change in the game plan.

Q: This week a couple of coaches are in the situation of playing teams in back to back games. How does that affect how coaches prepare?

BB: Well I think they are different because of the way you described the situation. If you know you are going to play then again like last year when we played Tampa in the third preseason game and then opened with them. We knew that was the schedule. Whereas when it happens unexpectedly like it sort of did with the Jets and Oakland, then that sheds a little different light on it. So you know you certainly hold some things back when you know you are going to play a team in a week or two. You know when you are out there playing with everything on the line there is nothing to hold back. Then you just have to after the game take stock and decide whether you want to keep going in that same direction or, I think they'll adjust and alter it a little bit.

Q: With games as close as those were, from a coaches standpoint, do you think you did most things right and not have to tweak things?

BB: I'd really have to study the game a little bit more closely to make that call. It's hard not being involved in the game to know how they felt about what things they think went right and what went wrong.

Q: Have you been approached by any teams to talk to any of your assistants?

BB: No we haven't had that yet, but I know we have a lot of good coaches on this staff. I feel very fortunate to have the quality of staff that we have here and if somebody can help improve their career professionally, then I'd do whatever I could to help them with it. But that would have to be forthcoming from another team.

Q: You have been involved with lots of different playoffs, but how is this different?

BB: How is this playoff situation different from other ones I have been in?

Q: You, your family, geographically?

BB: Well I have been in the playoffs in New England before, so there is some familiarity there. I've been in the playoffs as a head coach before in Cleveland in '94, so there is some familiarity there. I mean each year is different. Each mix is different. The teams and the circumstances that you go into the playoffs, the mix is always different. But I think the similarities are just the experience of being in these situations, being in these kinds of games, knowing where your team is at this point in the year as opposed to maybe a bye week or a game that occurs at another point in the season.

Q: In this case, any measure of vindication in…?

BB: No.

Q: A couple of weeks ago you bucked the trend of a bye-week pitfall by beating Carolina. Would that be a reason to pump up the volume a little bit in practice to keep up the intensity to avoid the bye-week pitfall again?

BB: I think really what I am more concerned about is the time off we had between the Miami and the Carolina game. It'll be almost a month with just one game until we step on the field a week from Saturday, almost a month where we have only played one game. You know to have our timing and keeping the players used to the contact, not trying to get anybody hurt obviously, but used to the contact, used to the timing and more of a mental frame of mind where things are happening a little bit quicker in practice to try to simulate game conditions when you haven't been playing. You know that other game, I think those are the things that kind of concern me more and I do think that we got off to a relatively slow start in the Carolina game. Now we had a couple of touchdowns called back and maybe it would have looked different had that not happened, but I didn't think we were especially crisp in a number of areas. I wouldn't say all of the areas, but in a number of areas in the Carolina game and you don't want to start off slow at this time of year against anybody.

Q: I would think in the course of a 16-week schedule where you play one game a week it would be easier to bring intensity every game than in the NBA, but how much does the intensity increase during the playoffs?

BB: It definitely increases; there is no comparison. There is no comparison between playoff football and regular season football. It's at different level, just like there is a different level in preseason to regular season. There is a different level of play there. I don't know if I could really describe it or put words into it, but you know it when you see it and I've seen it and it's different.

Q: Every play?

BB: Well I think everything leading up to it … everything is on the line. It's not a situation like there is in some other sports where it's "the best of." It's one game. You have one day to perform and if you win you keep going and if you don't that's it. So everything is on the line from the very first day you start preparing in meetings and practice and every play. We all know that in close games, and you've got to expect close games in the playoffs, that the outcome of those games can swing on a play or two and we don't know which play it is going to be, nobody does. So I think there's a heightened importance on every single thing you do leading up to the game and within the game. Everybody knows what is at stake. That's your only chance and you want to make the most of it. So there's definitely an accelerated level there.

Q: Do you count on veteran players to give other players examples of what you just said?

BB: Absolutely. And I'm sure that those players will. I am sure they will. And they've done it and I think we've seen that through this stretch, the last few weeks of the season. We've seen…I'm not sure what the right word is, intensity maybe, but…urgency, I think we've seen that and I think we are going to see more of it and the players have done a great job of not only leading by example, but also talking to some of the younger players behind the scenes and telling them, 'Look, here's what it is going to take.' And also to the younger players, 'Don't take for granted that it's like this every year. I've been in the league X number of years and some years you are in this position and some years you are not. Just because it happens to you this year, don't think it is going to be like that every single year. This is a great opportunity and one you don't want to let slip through your fingers.'

Q: Given the change in intensity in the playoffs has what Tom Brady has been through enough to prepare him for the playoffs without having ever been through it?

BB: Well it is probably not the same as being through it, but again these last few games have been…they've been real important games. Each one, it's been playoffs at stake. It's been a division title at stake. It's been the seeding…so there's been a lot riding on the last few games, but being in the playoffs is different from not being in the playoffs. There is a difference there and sometimes that can be good and sometimes it can't. But I think that Tom is…I have a lot of confidence in him. I have a lot of confidence in the way he goes about his preparation and how to perform and I'm sure he'll make the adjustment OK, but it's a little more of a step, there is no question.

Q: If you see a guy or two who may be relaxed in practice will you be quicker to jump on them to set the tone?

BB: Jump on a player? I doubt that it would be that calculated. If it was something I was upset with, I'd probably voice it. When you go out there and practice every day, there's going to be mistakes out there on the practice field, especially when you're putting new things in. You're running plays against a defense that you haven't run them against or haven't run them against in a couple of weeks. Every team has their own unique defenses or plays. That's why you practice, so the players can see that situation and hopefully react to it well in the game. The first time they see it is on the practice field and what you want them to do is to be attentive and to focus and be learning. It's a learning situation. Practice is like being in the classroom. It's a learning tool. If they don't seem to be learning, then I think you do need to do something with it. You need to call it to their attention or make them aware of it, but I think for the most part, practice isn't always perfect, but I wouldn't necessarily be too quick to jump on somebody just because they've learned something in practice. That's just part of what practice is.

Q: Has Antowain Smith exceeded your expectations?

BB: No, not really. I think he's run about the way we thought he'd run. He runs hard, he's powerful, he's got good speed. If he gets into the open, he can chew up a lot of yards because he's fast. He's a powerful guy around the goal line and I think we saw him do all those things in Buffalo. He's just done it a little bit more this year. He's had a little bit more opportunity. I think he's shown plenty of evidence of that in the past. Just go back to the Seattle game a year ago. I think you'll see a lot of the same things in that game that you've seen this year in a Patriots uniform.

Q: Has Larry Izzo brought to your special teams what you've expected.

BB: Yeah, Larry's been … you just can't say enough about Larry Izzo. The guy has just been tremendous this year. He's a really good football player, a really good special teams player, but the leadership and the importance that he has brought to the special teams from a player's standpoint, as a coach, whether it's me or Brad Seely or any of the other coaches who coach special teams on our staff, Romeo [Crennel] or Dante [Scarnecchia], we can all talk about it from a coaching standpoint, but when you have players that are as intense and as honest about it as Larry is, that just brings it to a higher level. He does a great job with the players, getting them together and they watch film on their own and they talk and communicate about situations so that when they come up in the game we can react to them better. And he brings that intensity level to the practice field. He's very demanding of himself and also of his teammates in terms of execution on the practice field and how that carries over into the game. I don't think you could ask a player to do any more than Larry's done in the kicking game and for the players involved on special teams this year. He's been a tremendous asset.

Q: You've talked about how players have the confidence that other players have their backs. Does that also exist between you and Romeo?

BB: I think it has. I think that's a good point and a good comparison. I feel real confident with Romeo. We've been through so much together. So many situations, so many ups and downs. We've dealt with so many different players that it's pretty unusual for something to come up that's just totally new for us at this point. There's always something that we can relate it to, good or bad, either drawing on a past success or drawing on a past problem. We say, 'We don't want to make that mistake again, here's how we can fix it.' And even before I mention something to him, he's already moving in that direction anyway. So yeah, I feel a great level of confidence with him and that certainly allows me to trust in what he's doing and what the defensive staff's doing and concentrate on other things as they occur.

Q: Charlie [Weis] worked with the Giants when you were there…

BB: He worked for me in '90.

Q: It must be rewarding to be able to bring someone back on your staff whom you have had past successes with.

BB: Yeah, it is. And I've been real fortunate with that through the course of my career, that a lot of those people who have worked in that type of position, the entry level position in the NFL where they're breaking down film and starting to learn how pro football is coached, those guys have gone on and had tremendous success throughout the league. Charlie is certainly a great example from the Giants. But in Cleveland, we had many guys there. Phil Savage runs the Ravens' scouting department. Chuck Bresnahan is the defensive coordinator with the Raiders. Jim Schwartz is the defensive coordinator with the Titans. Eric Mangini, as you know, has done a tremendous job. Those guys, a lot of those guys have really gone on … Kevin Spencer has been a special teams coach in the league for a number of years. They've come in and they've learned it and they've really grown and we have some guys now who are in that same boat. Obviously we had a very good year in 1990 and Charlie and I had a good relationship when I went to Cleveland. But we stayed in contact and rejoined here in New England and in New York. He's a guy who's a real bright guy, a real smart guy, he picks up things in a hurry and has good instincts and at the same time, he's decisive. As soon as he gets the information, he knows what the options are. He makes a decision and he goes with it. He won't waver and go back and forth. He'll be decisive, and I think those are great qualities. I don't know if he got them all from me. Probably not.

Q: Would you expect that some of your assistants would be looked at for coaching openings?

BB: I think that we have a lot of good coaches on our staff and I'm proud of the job that they've done. Again, I've been an assistant and a coordinator in this league for a long time, and I've been in that situation with a couple of different teams and at this time of year, there are a lot of rumors, there are a lot of names that are flying around for a lot of jobs in this league. I've been through that and I know what it's like. You pick up the paper, you listen to the radio, you hear that you're considered here, you're considered there. And that's all you know about it. You're just sitting there doing your job and that's all you know about it. The procedures and all of that, that's the way it's set up, that's the way it's going to go. I'm sure that people in the league are looking at some of the people on this staff and saying, 'This guy's done a good job, that guy's done a good job.' It happens the way it's going to happen. I'm going to do all I can to help those guys. But in the meantime, we're going to concentrate on the job that we have to do and work towards that.

Q: How difficult is it to prepare when your opponent is not yet known?

BB: You control the things that you can control and you adjust to the things that you can't. We've had to make adjustments this year, whether it be weather, scheduling, short weeks, long weeks, you adjust to the things that you have to adjust to. There's a basic schedule and there are certain things on the checklist that you have to get done and you either get them done on a normal schedule or in a timely way given what you have to work with. I think this team has been through a lot of different scenarios in terms of preparation. We know what we need to do to get it done and we're going to allocate the time to do it, however we need to adjust, we're going to get our bases covered and make sure everyone is as prepared as we can be.

Q: You mentioned three possible opponents and you don't know a lot about Oakland or Baltimore. Do you do more film work on them or do you wait?

BB: No. We're not waiting on that. We had to do some preparation on Baltimore last week because there was a possibility that we could have been playing them on Wild Card Weekend. We've done, obviously, the most work on Miami, playing them two weeks ago in the regular season. The team that we really didn't work on heading into last weekend, into the Carolina game, was Oakland because there was no way we could have played them this weekend. Now there's a chance we could play them and so we need to catch up with Oakland and continue to work on Baltimore and pick up on what Miami's done the last couple of games against Atlanta and Buffalo last week, so when we know for sure who it is, whether it be Saturday night or Sunday, that will accelerate. But we should be in pretty good shape because we've done all we can do and we'll just have to wait and see who the opponent is.

Q: Your team is not statistically on top in a lot of categories, but you're one of the teams with the bye. How is that possible?

BB: The reason we have a scoreboard up there is to keep track of points. If you look at the points statistic, you won't see us at the bottom of the league. You probably won't see many teams in the playoffs at the bottom of the league in points scored or points given up. So all the other stats that you want to there in there, sacks and yards and percentage of this and percentage of that, they're great, but in the end it comes down to what you do with that field position and what you do with those opportunities and what they end up in terms of points. I don't think you'll find us at the bottom of the league in many special teams categories, either. I think that from a special teams standpoint, we've been pretty competitive all year.

Q: When you were here in '96 there was a similar situation. Does that help much from the players' perspective or from your perspective?

BB: That was so long ago and so many things are different from what they were then. Other than the surroundings and the name on the uniform, those things are obviously the same, but so may things have changed, I think it would really be a stretch to make a comparison to that. There are just so many things that have changed.

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