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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Tue May 21 - 02:00 PM | Thu May 23 - 09:55 AM

Bill Belichick Press Conference

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



BB: OK. We are going to go over to BC [Boston College] this afternoon…make sure we get some, good timing work we can get in and I thought that worked out pretty well for us last week. So we'll be over there this afternoon. One of the big emphasis points today for us is third down and I think Pittsburgh is a real good third down football team. Offensively they're right at the top of the league. I think they are by far and away the best team over third-and-10 or more and they are pretty good under 10 as well, maybe second in the league or something like that. They really do a good job on third down. They've got like a sixth receiver with Kordell [Stewart] the way he can pull the ball down and run and their backs run hard and the receivers are big guys that can go in their and take the ball away from you on some short routes and that kind of thing. Of course defensively they bring every blitz in the book. They bring all their safeties. They bring their corners. They bring their linebackers and blocking [Jason] Gildon and [Joey] Porter and those guys, they're pretty good pass rushers. Today's a third down day for us and will be I think a real key point in the game to be able to handle not only their third down defense, but the noise situation and all that. So that's what we will be doing today. We'll have the noise at BC too.

Q: Is there a team in all the tape you've watched that really did a good job of containing Kordell?

BB: I wouldn't say anybody just locked him down, no.

Q: Close?

BB: Well I mean I think Baltimore is a pretty good defensive football team and they in the first game did a reasonable job. Jacksonville and Oakland did a decent job. I wouldn't say they just slammed the door shut or anything, but yeah they were competitive. Cleveland in the snow was…that was, I mean the elements weren't great, but they are a pretty good defensive team too. They did OK.

Q: Is it important to keep him in the pocket? Is that the key thing or does that matter?

BB: No, it definitely matters. I mean you definitely don't want him getting outside. The thing about Kordell is he's fast. I mean this guy can really run. It's not like he's a threat to pick up the first down and then slide. It could be a lot more than six or seven yards when he carries the ball and they have a number of plays that…where they, what they do is he goes back and the action of the play goes one way and then he runs whether you want to call it a sweep or a reverse the other way. So everything that as a defensive team is telling you the play is going over here, he keeps the ball and goes the other way, but he does it with a bunch of blockers. He is not on his own. The play is designed for him to, whether you want to call it sweep or reverse or boot leg or whatever you want to, however you want to call the play, but it comes with him being just as a running back with blockers in front of him and they have more blockers really than you have defenders because you need to match the play over on the other side where it started. They do that quite a bit and they have also a couple plays where he goes up the middle, but most of it's the outside stuff and those are…I mean it's like an option in that they have one more guy than you have to defend it. So it puts a lot of pressure on the defense and it's something that we haven't seen much of. I think teams like Tennessee and Baltimore and teams like that that play them twice a year have a lot more background of seeing that type of play than we do.

Q: Do most teams put a spy on him?

BB: Well some do, some don't. You know Kordell has seen a spy since 1995 when he came into the league. So that spy is nothing new to him. The problem with a spy is, like for example a play we saw this morning with the Jets, the Jets tried to spy him. The problem is Kordell is faster than the spy. I think that's always a problem. It's always a problem for you defensively when you put a guy on, whether it be Randall Cunningham or Kordell Stewart or Aaron Brooks or guys like that, even a guy like [Doug] Flutie who's not quite as fast, but he's super quick. When you put a guy on those guys the first thing you've got to say as a coach is, 'Can he get him? Can he get him?' There is no point in just spying with somebody who can't, who's not athletic enough or fast enough to track him down. And that's the problem with Stewart, the only guys that are fast enough to get him, you need them out there covering Hines Ward. You can't put Ty Law on him, you need him out there covering Hines Ward and [Plaxico] Burress and those guys. So that's the dilemma. You can spy him, he's seen a million of those, but even if you do you better have a guy that can get him.

Q: You are familiar with Indianapolis where you guys pulled a few things out of the hat. Is that the kind of thing where you only pull that once or every few months?

BB: Well you know Pittsburgh has so many of those trick plays that I think they only need to use them once because they've got so many other ones that they've got to get to. They don't want to spend too much time on just one of them. Pittsburgh has as many gadget and I'd say plays like that, whether you want to call them trick plays or gadget plays, key breakers, as anybody in the league. They've run…the first time I've seen it, I can't remember when, I'd say 20years, a triple reverse. But they've run the direct snap to Hines Ward. They had one play, I'll tell you another play that I don't think I've ever seen before in 26 years. They ran a play this year on offense without a quarterback in the game. You know I've been in the league a long time and I've never seen the quarterback not be on the field on an offensive play.

Q: Did it work?

BB: Yeah, they snapped it to Ward. But he's not a quarterback, he's really a receiver in our book. So they give you the reverses, they give you a lot of different types of screens, they give you gadget plays-the throw back to the quarterback, the direct snap to somebody else, the Ward playing quarterback, the single reverses, the fake reverses, really they do it all. The halfback pass, the double pass, you name it they have run it. And again a little bit of a problem with a game like this where you want your preparation to be so thorough and you're going all the way back to look at as many games as you possibly can. Each game you look at you just see more and more, just the volume keeps going. So at some point you've just got to say, 'Well Ok this is…we know they can do a thousand different things, but there is only going to be 70 plays in the game. They can only do 70 of them so you pick out the ones you think that are most likely to hit. But they've got a ton of them, they really do. They have a ton of them.

Q: Being that there are that many of them what's the main thing…?

BB: Be alert. You cannot go to sleep for one second against the Steelers because they have the gadget plays, they have big-play receivers, the have big-play running backs and they've got a big-play quarterback. They use the cadence well. They are in and out of different personnel groups. Finding them is a little bit of a problem, but they have a real speed back in [Amos] Zereoue. They have a real power back in [Jerome] Bettis. They have kind of an in between guy with Fu [Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala]. So they have a lot of different combinations in there and you really have to be alert defensively to A.) the situation in the game and B.) the personnel in the game. They do a real good job of just, they just keep throwing it at you and sooner or later you fall asleep, you miss a tackle, you turn a guy loose and they've got a big play.

Q: [Inaudible]

BB: No. These guys set the standard. They are very aggressive. They come in there and they will crack it. It doesn't make a difference who it is: safeties, linebackers, defensive ends. Whoever they are cracking on they will come in and crack them and they do a real good job. They take a lot of pride in it and it's important to them. A lot of guys, all they want to do is catch the ball. These guys will go in there and they'll block and that's what turns five-yard runs into 25-yard runs is being able to block those guys in the secondary that would normally come up and make the hit. They do an excellent job and they are very good at it. They will do it on first down, second down, third down, too. You know you go in there on third down and you put five or six defensive backs into the game and they come in and crack in and then you've got Fu and Zereoue and those guys running around the corner and that's a problem. They do a real good job of it. I mean this is a good offensive football team now. This is a good offensive football team. They can run it. They can throw it. They run it outside. They've got a lot of gadget plays. They've got a quarterback who makes plays when it looks some other things are shut down then he takes off and makes something on his own. This is a good offensive football team.

Q: What did you think about Ty Law's comments about their receivers?

BB: That they are taller than he is? I don't know. What Ty needs to do is just be prepared to play the best offensive football team that we've seen this year and that's what our defense needs to work on and that's really the best thing he can do to help himself and help us.

Q: Do you believe in that bulletin board material?

BB: You know I think that we have a lot of respect for the Pittsburgh Steelers, their football team. I have a lot of respect for the team, the owner, the head coach, the whole organization. They are the best team in the AFC this year in the regular season. It's really an honor for us to be able to play them in the AFC Championship game. That's the way I feel about it and I think that's really, I'm speaking for our football team and our organization there too. Right now they are the best until somebody can knock them off. We've got a chance and that's what it will come down to. This is a good football team.

Q: Are they a better offensive football team than St. Louis?

BB: Well, different. St. Louis doesn't run the ball like Pittsburgh does. Pittsburgh has got a more balanced running attack. St. Louis' receivers don't crack like Pittsburgh's do. I think that St. Louis is a more explosive team in some respects, but when you are playing in the northeast at this time of year in January the elements that Pittsburgh has on their football team I think make them as formidable an offensive football team as you could have at this time of year playing where they are playing.

Q: On Ty Law's comments…

BB: What if you guys play it up? Come on. I can't believe it. I can't believe it. I talked to him about it today. In fact he said he was misquoted. So I don't know, you guys will have to ask him about that. I'm not going to..

Q: It wasn't that bad. I was surprised.

BB: Well you guys talk to Ty about it. Let him clarify what he said and meant to say or didn't mean to say or whatever it was. I know Ty has got a lot of respect for their football team and their receivers and their quarterback too. So we know what we are up against this week. Like I said, this is a good football team.

Q: You've faced a lot of adversity this year in [Andy] Katzenmoyer and…?

BB: Right, we know them. Don't list them all.

Q: But they haven't seemed to face as much and it seems almost like it is two different teams as to how you have gotten to the AFC Championship game? Does that hold an advantage for either team that you have had to scrap and they didn't have any hiccups along the way?

BB: I don't know. I really don't. In watching them the last couple weeks here really we started to work on Pittsburgh a little bit because we had a chance to play them and now we've got them. What I'm seeing is Pittsburgh, looking backwards, I'm seeing them in the middle of January and looking back. It's not a team that I've really followed that closely from start to finish like we would do with our division teams or teams that you know are on your schedule. So I don't think I'm really an expert to comment on their whole…everything that's happened to them this season. What I see is the team looking from January back through December and into November and then a little bit before that, but most of our focus has been on the second half of the season and what they are doing now and trying to prepare for it. They've obviously had a lot of continuity. I mean they obviously lost [Mark] Bruener, but they've had some young guys step in and play real well for them and then they've had a lot of the established people that have been good football players look like they are still pretty good to me.

Q: You haven't played them in a while, how far back with film did you go?

BB: We've seen all their games this year in one-way or another. We've seen all their games this year.

Q: You don't go back any further than that?

BB: Well, right. I think in this particular case, I think each year or each game you have to make that decision. Sometimes I think it is real important to go back to a previous year's game, but in this case it's a new offensive coordinator. Some things of their team, some of the elements have change a little bit. You know Kendrell Bell and [Casey] Hampton on defense. You know Burress' year on offense. You know their offensive line is configured a little bit differently now than it was last year. I think the team that maybe we are seeing this year we might have seen in the second half of last season, but at this point I don't think it's really a real good use of our time to go back and study the second half of the 2000 season. I think we've got enough right here. You know they have won 14 of their last 16 games. I mean why would you change much of what you are doing when you have had that kind of success. I think for us to know Pittsburgh well enough to play them Sunday, we can see what we need to see in the last 16 games, but even the last half of the season. They pretty much are what they are and you wouldn't want to change too much because they've had so much success in all aspects of the game.

Q: Chris Sullivan was released by them in training camp. Is there anything he can do to help you in the preparation?

BB: Well I think Chris and Mike Vrabel have both done a good job in practice of really helping our scout team guys play the defense the way they know it's played. They're both real smart guys and they've helped our guys out when Pepper [Johnson] shows them the card and shows them how to play the defense. 'Hey you've got this guy. Make sure you get across that block.' You know that kind of thing helping our guys out so that our offensive people can get a good look at the play and that's something that we talked about on Tuesday when brought the team in, about how important it would be for our scout team players to try to simulate Pittsburgh because they do some things obviously in the 3-4 defense that are kind of unique. You know their quarterback is sort of a unique player. Their outside running game is, I wouldn't say it is totally unique, but the way they do it is very effective and it's a huge challenge. So we really need to get a good look at those things and the players that are involved there really tried to help their teammates show the other side with the kind of look that they need to see. Yeah Chris and Vrabel have both been real good there and [Grey] Ruegamer on offense too. We got him from their practice squad last year and in terms of some of their blocking and schemes and those kinds of things. He'll give guys like Steve Neal who doesn't know Pittsburgh's offense very well at all, believe me. Guys like that that are out there running it, you know try to help them out.

Q: Has Damon [Huard] been playing Kordell?

BB: Yeah, we've had a little bit of everybody in there. We've had a couple like Kevin Faulk. We've had Damon in there. Of course Drew [Bledsoe] has played it, so yeah we're…you know trying to do the best we can. We don't have Kordell. We don't have them, so we have to either work a back in there or let Drew or Damon just scramble around.

Q: This late in the year I imagine a lot of players are hearing from relative that they haven't heard from in a long time…?

BB: Right, sign me up.

Q: What do you tell the players as far as how to handle that?

BB: What I tell them is don't worry about anything but Pittsburgh. OK, don't worry about anything but Pittsburgh. That's it. Nothing else really matters. Let somebody else deal with it. Worry about the game. It's the AFC Championship. It doesn't get much bigger than this. Some guys…I mean let's face it when you play a championship game some guys are going to look back on it and it will be the only one they play in or coach in. But that's the way it is going to go for some people in their careers. You know these opportunities don't come down the road, you just can't count on them every year. Maybe it will happen again, maybe it won't. But I think we've all got to look at it like this is pretty much a once in a lifetime opportunity and now's the time to put everything it, not hold anything back and not get distracted by any outside issues.

Q: Do you screen your phone calls?

BB: Inspect the packages when they come into the office.

Q: Can you talk about Otis Smith's contributions?

BB: Otis is, number one he's a real smart guy so he really understands football. Not only his position, but training and longevity in terms of taking care of himself and training to be a football player, but he is blessed with some natural ability, he has some speed, he can run so at least you are starting with something there. He uses his intelligence and his work ethic and his natural skills of speed and hands and then the instinctiveness that he has picked up. He has remarkably been able to keep that going at a very high level for several years. It's impressive. It really is. He is a great example for the younger players to see too. Guys like Anthony Pleasant and Otis Smith, guys that have been around for a long time. Younger players look at them and kind of wonder, 'Well how are they still doing it, why are they still here?' Well one reason is because they work harder then everybody else and that is pretty evident. Nothing says it better than that.

Q: Is there anything specific about Pittsburgh that they do better then other things?

BB: They do a lot of things well. They are not the best in the league because they only do one thing well, they are good across the board. I would say it starts with a very physical group. They're tough, they're physical, they're good tacklers. They will really come in there and smack you whether they are taking on a block, whether they are making a tackle, whether they are jamming a receiver, they are a tough, physical football team. They tackle well. You don't see a lot of yards on this defense after the first guy has got a shot at them. They don't give up extra yards because guys are waving at them and trying to grab their shoelaces and that kind of thing. They will come in there and hit them and wrap up and whatever you get you get, but you usually don't get a lot more than that. They don't make a lot of mental errors, they don't make very many mistakes. It is hard to look on the film and say, 'Gee I wonder who is supposed to be covering that guy.' They are on them, you have got to throw it in there, you have to catch it and you have got to clock them. They are not going to, like I said, miss tackles and make plays that just give you easy yards. You are going to have to work for it and they are tough and they have got some real good football players. So sooner or later they get you whether it is on first down or second down or on third down when they have got to get off the field. They have enough people that can rush the passer and plenty of guys that can cover. They have an aggressive scheme and they just force you to make a lot of good plays and usually they make as many or more than the other guys.

Q: What are the differences in preparing for Kordell and Randall Cunnigham?

BB: I would say the main difference would be the type of plays that they run within that system however the offense tries to use that player. There are a lot of similarities, there would be a lot of similarities, but if one team uses the quarterback to run sweep plays and another team uses him to run quarterback draw type plays you would defend those plays differently even though it is a similar type of athlete doing it. If one team tried to use the guy to throw a lot of long balls because he had tremendous arm strength, but another team just tried to run their basic offense then again you would just defend it a little bit differently.

Q: How about the differences between them as quarterbacks?

BB: I think there's definitely some similarities. I mean both guys can out run you. They can beat you with their feet. They can both throw the ball as far as they need to throw it and as they have gained experience in their careers they have made good decisions on going to the weakness of the defense with the ball. Kordell has clearly crossed that bridge. He is making a lot of smart plays that a good experienced quarterback would make and then sometimes when those aren't there then he can turn back to his athletic ability and get out of some trouble. He is not like he was earlier in his career where I thought there were times when he would just try to be an athlete and try to, like in basketball, just try to go one on five. He is not doing that. He tries to take what's there and then if you take that away then he will start improvising, but he is not too quick to pull the trigger and they have a number of plays that really feature him whether it be option plays or quarterback sweeps or quarterback draws or plays like that that when he gets out in the open field he has so much speed that he can take that six yard run and make it a 45 yarder. I mean this guy is fast.

Q: Can you talk about Ken Walter's progress?

BB: I think Kenny made good progress probably the first month that he was here. Early in the year, I am talking about the summer now in training camp, he really wasn't able to kick on a daily basis. He would kick and then take a day or two off and then kick again. He was kind of on that routine coming back off of his injury. We brought him in in training camp and thought about having him there as competition because he did do a good job in Carolina. Brad [Seely] coached him down there and we have a history with Kenny and have a lot of respect for what he could do, he just physically wasn't able to do it. Then when we made the switch in the season, it's tough some of these guys talk about how brutal practice is and all of that, but when you get right down to it we don't practice Monday, we don't practice Tuesday, we practice Wednesday, Thursday, Fridays light, we don't practice Saturdays, so we are practicing two days a week really. When you get right down to it so it is hard for a player to get into the rhythm that he needs to get in particularly at a specialty position like punter where you are dealing with the snapper and the rushers and directional kicking based on the rush and that type of thing. It takes a guy a little while to get into that groove and I think that he made good progress there in the first two or three weeks that he was here. I don't think that his first week was by any means the best that we were ever going to see from Kenny, but gradually he has gotten more comfortable, gotten into more of a tempo and the last half of the season he really hit the ball well. Not only inside the 20, but when he was backed up and in some pressure situations and in some windy situations.

Q: Do you have a contingency plan at all for him, I know his wife is expecting?

BB: To delay her. I talked to Kenny about that and most of the experience, not that I am any expert, but most of the experiences that I have had on that is the first one usually takes a little longer, so that is what we are hoping for.

Q: But you aren't a doctor?

BB: I am not. I am not.

Q: If it is a situation where she is having the baby Saturday morning…

BB: Right and Kenny I talked about that and we could go through a thousand scenarios what if it happened here, what if it happened there, I think the best thing we can do is when it does happen we will take it as it comes and try to make a decision at that point in time if it is a time that…if it's an important thing. Don't get me wrong, but in terms of the football team there is a convenience problem.

Q: Does he have one of the beepers and will you sneak in and shut it off?

BB: I think he has about three of them, yeah.

Q: What if it happened on Sunday, what would you do?

BB: Well Adam [Vinatieri] is our backup punter and you have to have a backup punter and a backup kicked and he would do it.

Q: Have you shown them the Todd Collins play from the '97 playoff game?

BB: Back in '88? No we haven't shown that one. No we are trying to stay positive.

Q: Can you talk about the contributions about the guys who don't get a lot of press?

BB: There is a lot of credit that belongs in that locker room. A lot of guys that never get mentioned and never get talked about, but guys on the practice squad, guys like Maurice Andersen and Setema Gali, guys like that, Drew Inzer, [Scott] McCready they go out and they give us a great look every day. They help get us ready to play. Some of the inactive guys, guys like Leonard Myers that hasn't played in quite awhile runs pass routes on the defense really takes pride in beating the defensive backs because he is defensive back, then he goes over and plays defensive back and gives us a good look on Charles Woodson or Evans or Aaron Glenn or whoever it is that we are playing. Those guys haven't seen the field for quite awhile or in some cases at all, but they come in every day and every week and they understand what their job is and their job is to get the other guys ready and in time their chance will come, but yeah it is a real team effort down there and it is not just the Freddie Coleman's that step in and make a play or Patrick Pass that steps in and makes a couple of plays that maybe you haven't heard from in awhile, but it is guys that aren't even on the field that are down their contributing. Arther Love giving us a look at tight end to get the other guys ready, the defensive guys ready. I mean you can't say enough about everybody. I mean we could sit here and name them all, but they have all chipped in and we appreciate everything that everybody has done.

Q: In August as you were preparing for the season a lot of people in this room were saying, 'If things break right maybe 7-9'…

BB: A lot of guys had us lower than that too.

Q: Obviously a lot of things have broken right and a lot of things have broken wrong, are there things about this team that have surprised you or that you didn't expect?

BB: Well some of the people that we are talking about now we weren't even talking about back then I mean Kenny Walter being a good example. He wasn't even on our team. When we went to training camp I thought that our team was significantly improved from last year. Now how to translate that into yardage or wins and losses or points or third down stops or red area, I mean that is another question, but I really felt like our football team was improved. I saw a better team in the offseason. I saw a better team in the mini camps. I saw a better team when we got to training camp and I saw a better team even in the preseason games understanding that preseason is preseason. Now what all of that is going to mean when you get to the regular season, I knew we had a better football team, how much better in terms of wins or yardage or any of that kind of thing, there is no way really I think you could measure that. So I am not surprised that we are better and we are improved. Some of the guys that weren't here that have really come through and had terrific years for us, some of those guys you might expect it from, say a Troy Brown, other guys, like a Tom Brady, nobody would have thought that he would be in the Pro Bowl this year. Defensively you can say the same thing. A lot of people would have expected Lawyer Milloy to be in the Pro Bowl and be one of our best defensive players. I don't know if anybody thought that Otis Smith would still be that or that we would get the contributions that we've had from Roman Phifer and Anthony Pleasant. You know it is going to be better you just don't know where it is going to end up. That is really the thrill of Pro Sports and football. That is way 80,000 are out there every week and however many tune in on TV, you just don't know how it is going to turn out and that's exciting for us to be a part of it and for all of the people who are watching it

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