New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, August 9, 2009.
BB: A little bit of time off kind of refreshed everybody. It certainly seemed like we had a good-spirited practice out there today. [It's] good to have a few guys back out there that weren't out there at the end of the week last week. We kind of wanted to work on some stuff today that we work [on] against ourselves and starting tomorrow we'll be onto Philadelphia, start preparing for the Eagles and the things that they do. It's good to be back here in camp, start getting through a couple more days of two-a-days, go play the Eagles and start to see where we're at, at this point. I think everybody is looking forward to hitting somebody in a different color jersey.
Q: Now that he is back on the field, what is the most important thing for Shawn Crable to be doing right now?
BB: Those players that haven't been out there, it's really fundamentals. We did a lot of things in the spring, scheme wise, and taught a lot of defense adjustments, calls, all our coverages and blitzes and everything. But this is the first time we've been able to really get in pads and run this stuff in training camp; that's what it's for: techniques, hand placement, feet, leverage, defeating blockers, rushing, one-on-one pass rush - all those fundamental things that you really can't do in the spring. Now is the time when we need to build that base. That's true for everybody, especially the guys that haven't been out there that much.
Q: You don't have much of a basis of Shawn Crable on the field. Obviously, you know what you saw when you drafted him through early on last year but he got hurt and it's been awhile. How much does that set back your evaluation of a player?
BB: It definitely sets it back. Until you can see what the players can do, it's hard to evaluate them. Shawn [Crable] did a lot last year in training camp and in the preseason games, but wasn't able to do a lot in the regular season and of course work in the spring and missed a little bit of time here. He's behind, but he's a smart kid. He works hard and when he's had an opportunity to perform he's been pretty well prepared and I think he's looked good doing a lot of things we've asked him to do. Durability and consistency - that's part of it, too. So I know he's been frustrated by that. It's good to see him back out there now. He's got to put it behind him and move forward.
Q: Do you give Shawn Crable more of a learning curve as he gets back on the field than you would Richard [Seymour] and Ty [Warren]?
BB: When we put in all those defensive players and put in our defenses, we really can't wait for everybody. We have just got to put it in, and if guys miss something and they fall behind, they have to work hard to catch up because everybody else has to keep going. If we wait until everybody got there to put in a red area defense or a third-down defense, we might be waiting a long time. So we try to stay on our schedule, put in our installation and then - as the players get an opportunity to work on it - then they do it and if they fall behind then they have to spend extra time to catch up and get it when they can. Everybody is fighting to run the same race. You have just got to try to get the information. Some guys get more reps than others, but the game's on Thursday - they're not changing that. So everybody's got to hustle to get caught up and be ready to go.
Q: How is Derrick Burgess looking?
BB: It's good to have him out there. He's got a long way to go. It's a new system, new team, new terminology and all that, but we spent quite a bit of time with him this weekend and met with him and tried to bring him up to speed as much as we can. So he has some catching up to do, too. I'm glad we have him here. I'm sure he'll be competitive to help our team.
Q: I was reading that Carson Palmer was talking about Tom Brady's knee injury and he was saying how he still feels a little apprehensive after his injury. Is there any way the coaching staff can help a player move beyond that or is a guy pretty much on his own?
BB: I think each one of us is a little bit different when it comes to dealing with whatever their personal situations are - whether injuries or we can think of a thousand things that we all have to deal with. How Carson Palmer deals with his and other players deal with theirs, that's up to every individual player.
Q: Do you get any sense that Tom Brady will be apprehensive?
BB: Tom's always been a pretty focused guy, very focused. He does his job and there're a lot of distractions out there when you're at quarterback and a lot of things that can get you off track. But that doesn't happen much to him. I'm sure he'll be ready to go and he's worked awfully hard. I'm sure he's looking forward to the opportunity to play.
Q: Can you assess some of the differences between Shawn Crable and Pierre Woods?
BB: Well, I think we'll need to watch Shawn a little bit more. It's his first day back on the field. They are both tall guys. They have good length. They run well. They're athletic so they match up pretty well against those tall guys. They both rush the passer pretty well. They play in the kicking game. I think there are a lot of similarities between those players. Each guy is different. Every player has his own style of play and all that, but I think there're a lot of things that are similar about them. They both went to Michigan.
BB: When you see a defensive end in a 4-3, what attributes might you see in that player that leads you to believe that he can play the outside in a 3-4?
Q: I think the positions are fairly similar. Most of the 3-4 outside linebackers in this league are better going forward than going backward, but still at times they do have to do that. You get an opportunity to see them sometimes do that in their scheme, depending on what that is. Moving laterally and being able to slide down the line of scrimmage and contain plays, [those are] sometimes things that the defensive ends don't have to do so their lateral movement and their backward movement in a 3-4 are a little bit different than a defensive end's more forward movement in a 4-3 front. There are a lot of coverage adjustments too that they have to be aware of that mentally a defensive lineman doesn't have to worry about. Sometimes that can affect a player's aggressiveness [because] he has a lot to think about in the coverage. They run a simple play, but he's worried about a lot of other things, whereas defensive linemen have less to worry about from a coverage standpoint.
Q: Can you gauge the progress of the defense as a unit right now?
BB: Thursday night, that will be the first step, then Cincinnati and then right on down the line. You really don't know where you are at until you get into the regular season. In preseason, most teams just run what they run. They don't game plan specifically for you and we don't game plan specifically for other teams. The matchups are whatever they are and - once you get into the regular season - it's a whole different story. You find out how weak your weaknesses are and whether your strengths are actually strengths or not. When the game-planning and matchups really form during the regular season, that's really where you can evaluate where you're at in every phase of the game, not just defensively, but in every phase of the game. I think you can evaluate players in preseason, the techniques and how they're doing things. But, as far as your team, you get five, six games into the regular season [and] you get a good idea of what you think your problems are, what they really are, what you think your strengths are and what they really are, if they are in fact strengths.
Q: Is there a player that has surprised you so far?
BB: No. There's nobody I would single out on that. I think as a whole, the team's in pretty good condition. They're working hard. We're getting better and we have a long way to go. I don't think anybody's where they need to be yet, but I think we're heading in the right direction. [We're] certainly gaining ground from where we were 10 days ago. That's good, but we've got a long way to go.
Q: It looked like the players got a kick out of switching sides there at the end - the offense playing defense and the defense playing offense. Is that something you've done before?
BB: We had a little challenge on that so we let the two units compete there at the end. It looked like they had a lot of fun doing it. [There was] a little confusion, but that's alright.
Q: Did you discover any new receivers or running backs?
BB: You know, I'll have to look at the film on that one. Some controversial calls there, too, but I think the play-calling is in better hands than it was there at the end of practice. I'll put it that way.
Q: So Tom Brady shouldn't be concerned about his job?
BB: I think he'll be alright.
Q: I noticed that Derrick Burgess had to take a lap alone during practice. What was that?
BB: Yeah, we have certain things that we do in practice that …
Q: A little hazing?
BB: No, no. Just certain things that come of certain other things. Certain plays have certain consequences. Everybody does it.
Q: Do you take it as a source of pride that players see New England as a destination they'd really like to come to?
BB: Well, every situation is a little bit different. But it's certainly nice when you talk to players or a player or a certain player and they are interested in your team and your program. I don't want to say this is about recruiting, but some of it is about recruiting or situations or opportunity - and certainly the contract plays into that - but there are other things that play into it, too. I think that we have a lot of things going for us here and - overall - I think we're pretty competitive for players in the open market with our facilities, and the team, and maybe the perception of the team. I don't think that's a bad thing, and I don't think that's across the board. But I think when it happens, it's good. It's good to be at least competitive in those situations. At least you feel like you have a chance. I've been on the other side of it too, where there's really not much you can say to get them interested, and that's … there's not much you can say. You pretty much lose them.
Q: Have you decided how much Tom Brady will play in the first preseason game?
BB: No, we haven't even talked about play time or how we're going to do that yet. That's probably something we'll do here in a couple of days, Tuesday, Wednesday. Right now, everybody is preparing to play and everybody is going to go through the preparations and all of that. How we actually break it up, we'll talk about all of that a little bit later. We know who is available for the game and there are a lot of things that could change in the next few games. So we'll wait until we get as much information in as we can and then start putting that together. Right now, that's not really a big [focus]. In the next 48 hours, I'd say that's not really a big focus for us as a coaching staff.
Q: Can you talk about the jump Jonathan Wilhite has made since last year?
BB: Jonathan [Wilhite], I thought, made a lot of strides last year from the beginning of the year to the end of the year and then he followed that up with a real strong offseason, offseason program, and spring camps and got off to a good start here in training camp. Jonathan has really worked hard. He's become a very dependable player for young guy. He's smart. He's quiet, but he definitely understands not only what we're doing, but concepts and offenses and how they play. He's a versatile kid. He plays in the kicking game, can play outside, can play inside on the corner, can throw. So he's got a good variety of skills and that's always valuable when you can do different things with the same player. That helps him match up against different receivers, some fast receivers, some quick receivers, different guys that can run after the catch - he's a good tackler. I think he does a lot of things well and he's gotten better. It seems like every time he walks out on the field, it's been very, very steady.
Q: Did you watch the Hall of Fame ceremonies? Any anecdotes about Ron Woodson since you went up against him consistently?
BB: Without much success. No, I didn't get a chance to see them.
Q: Was there ever a week where you said: 'OK, we're not throwing to Rod's side of the field'?
BB: Just about every time we played them we said that, yeah. And when he played safety, you better be real careful on those in-cuts because he was sniffing those out. He'd come out of the middle of the field and dive down on those in-cuts and seam routes. [He was a] great player, excellent returner. He was definitely … They had a lot of guys you wanted to stay away from. He was at the top of the list. But then some of the other guys you went in to, that was no picnic either. He was a heck of a football player, both defensively and in the return game. And when he intercepted them - I don't know how many he returned, but he returned a few for touchdowns - so he was dangerous with the ball in his hands, like Ed Reed is or somebody like that, where not only do they intercept it, but then they score on top of that. [He was a] big guy, strong, good run force player. He was pretty good.
Q: What about Derrick Thomas? Did you ever have a tackle come to you and say, 'What am I going to do with this guy?'
BB: You know, we played Derrick when I was at Cleveland, we played Derrick and I think he's probably one o f the fastest pass-rushers to ever play. He had tremendous edge speed and certainly the field worked to his benefit down there in Kansas City, playing on turf. The crowd noise, he was great with that, too. Back in the day, when the defensive guys could simulate and they were going to flinch and do all those things and create a lot of false starts on offense and tackles laid off the ball and all of that. But if he got half a step on a guy, he was home. When we played him in Cleveland Stadium, it was my first year there, I think '91, and the field was real damp. I don't know what happened, but it was s real damp field and he had a little trouble coming around the corner in that game. Must have been the moisture coming in off the Lake, but it was real damp and wet. I think the grounds crew wasn't able to cut the grass. He was a great speed-rusher though, as opposed to Bruce [Smith], who could also get the edge, but he was much more, obviously, bigger, physical, worked inside better. But Derrick was a great speed-rusher. Definitely a guy you had to game plan for, kind of like the Jason Taylors and Dwight Freeneys of today.
Q: At this point, how do you compare Ron Brace to Vince Wilfork?
BB: Vince is way, way, way ahead of him. [He's] been playing a long time. I mean, Vince is as good a player at his position as there is in the league, a very experienced, versatile guy. Ron has never played a down in the National Football League; he's been out practicing for a week. He's not going to be able to make up that kind of ground against Vince Wilfork in one week of practice. There's just no way. So there's a pretty big gap there.
Q: Are you going to turn off the film for 30 minutes tonight and evaluate Tom Brady's acting on "Entourage"?
BB: Oh, is he on "Entourage"? I've never seen that so I'll wait to read the reviews on that tomorrow. You guys can do the reviews and I'll check it out there.