New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Friday, July 30, 2009.
BB:: So we are just kind of getting in the camp routine here and going through the grind of training camp. That's what's necessary. We go from afternoon practice to the night meeting to the morning meeting to the morning practice to the afternoon meeting to the afternoon practice and on and on. We have a lot of little things to do. We've got stuff going in everyday: fundamentals and techniques to work on on a regular basis. [We're] out there in pads [and] able to execute some of the blocking and tackling and physical parts of the game that we didn't do much of - or any of - in the spring, so it's going to be like that for awhile. I don't know if there's any big news items from day-to-day. The news is we are working hard and trying to do the things to get the team ready.
Q: Of all the nose tackles you've coached through your career how do you assess Vince Wilfork?
BB:: Vince is a very good player. He does a lot of things well. He's a very strong player, a smart guy. Vince is very instinctive. He has a good feel for blocking schemes and what the offense is doing as well as having a lot of physical talent. He's real good at everything. Some guys are better run players, some guys are better pass players. I think Vince can really play on all downs.
Q: Has there been any change in interest of any free agents out there?
Q: What changes have you see in Tully Banta-Cain since last year?
BB:: I think Tully is the same player as he was when he was here. I spent some time with Tully both when we signed him in the spring and then in the spring camps and even in training camp. I think we are really trying to define his role and the things that we want him to focus on first. Tully is a pretty talented player and he's a versatile player and he's done a lot of things for us. He's played in the kicking game. He's played outside linebacker. He's played defensive end. He's played on the edge in a lot of sub situations and he can do all those things, but we really tried to narrow the focus for him a little bit going into camp. I'm not saying he won't be required or asked to do all those things, but we want to try to concentrate on fewer things to start with and then build on that base, so I think he's working hard on that. I think athletically, physically he's pretty much a similar player to what he was when we had him a couple years ago in terms of his weight, his strength, his speed, his quickness. I'd say pretty much about what they were.
Q: When you are trying to fill a spot that was pretty much vacated by someone like Mike Vrabel who played pretty much every down and was versatile, how or when do you decide if it can be filled by one guy on your roster of if it's going to be a group of guys?
BB:: Well, Andy [Hart] each year is a little bit different as you know, so the plays that you put in the schemes that you run aren't necessarily 100 percent the same as what they were the year before. There is always some carry over and there is certainly a good basis from one year to the next, but there are differences too. You just evaluate the players you have at every position and try to, in the end, do the things that you feel you collectively as a team will be able to do effectively and that may include an individual doing a lot of things. It may include several guys sharing a role, if you will. It can take on a lot of different forms. I never really look at it that way. One guy's got to do what somebody else did. Collectively, as a team we have to do whatever it is we're trying to do. How do we get that done? There are a lot of different ways to do it.
Q: Along that line, is your approach the same every year?
BB:: Well, you always have young players and you have veteran players and there is always...There's that pull of the rookie players, the younger players that need a lot of time. They could use every play on the field that they can get. Then there are other players [where there] is a point of diminishing returns for them where they need plays to get ready, but they don't need all the plays and all the looks that a young player would need who hasn't seen all those things, so you try to balance that out. But I think what we try to do is have a system broad enough so that it gives us the flexibility to use different players [and] different schemes and try to take what we need and maximize it and make the most of it. So whatever that package happens to be - whether it's the front, the coverage, the pressure, the technique or whatever it happens to be - we have a basis and a foundation, but within that we hope to have enough flexibility so that we can utilize players with different skills. Randy Moss and Wes Welker - both very good players, both have very different skills and they both can be productive. So really, that's true to every spot on our defense that we try to have enough flexibility to utilize the skills of the players.
Q: Is Shawn Springs' issue cleared up?
BB:: You know, Shawn didn't do a lot this morning. I think he will build up and do more going forward.
Q: How valuable is he [Shawn Springs] as a veteran presence for a guy like Darius Butler?
BB:: Well, it's good to have Shawn. He had a good spring and he worked well with our coaches and our other players in there. He has a lot of versatility. He's played corner. He's played safety. He's played inside and played outside and he's played against a lot of different players in the league and a lot of schemes. So he brings a lot of experience and versatility in that area. Now we will get to training camp and put it all together and see what will be the best combination for us out there collectively as a team, so that's kind of the next step. But Shawn certainly brings a lot of positives to us. How that's all exactly going to work out, we'll just have to wait and see.
Q: For all the things that Julian Edelman can apparently do, it looks like catching a punt could be new to him. How long does it take for a young player who has never done that to get used to that idea?
BB:: Well, it's like everything else; It varies from player to player. I don't think there's any set formula or time. It depends on the player, but catching punts [and] catching kickoffs are two different things: the way the ball spins, the way it turns, the distance on it, recognizing to get the jump on it so you're under it properly takes some experience. I think that Julian has worked hard on that. He's got good hands and we've worked with a lot of other players and there're a lot of other guys that haven't handled kicks before that handle them very well after a little bit of practice. Other guys, that's not really their thing, their strength. I think with rookie players it's a little early to judge them after a practice or two on what they can or can't do on pretty much anything.
Q: With the progress that he's shown between the OTA's and minicamp, do you see him as a quick study?
BB:: You know, we will see. The hard part is still coming. We are only in the third practice, so it's not like we have all our offense in and it's certainly not like our defense has all our defense in. As the plays increase and the defensive multiples come into play there're different possibilities, things that can happen. But Julian has worked hard. He's a smart kid. I think he's instinctive as a football player, but he's still got a long way to go.
Q: As a coach, do you worry about contact this time of year?
BB:: I think you've got to try to get your team ready, whatever that is. Contact is...some teams don't have any contact and other teams have probably more contact than we do. I don't know. I don't go to those camps, but [that's] from what I understand talking to other people. So I don't know what the right thing is or isn't to do. I think you have a feel for your team and you try to get your players ready to perform the skills that they have to perform however you want to try to do that.
Q: You were excited to get Darius Butler. Is there a certain corner that he reminds you of?
BB:: I think that will be a better question to ask after he's played a little bit. Let's see what his playing style is. I think some of the things we are asking him to do as a corner are different than what he did in college, so in all honesty, this is the first time we've seen him do some of the things that he's doing. He really didn't do some of those things in college, but Darius is a smart kid. He works hard. He's got good talent. He's fast. He's quick. He picks up coaching points quickly. You tell him something and he understands it. I think he has a good feel for concepts and for the passing game, where receivers are - what's threatening, what's dangerous and what isn't. He's coming along. He's made a lot of progress, but he's got a long way to go.
Q: Does Adalius Thomas play the inside?
BB:: Yea, Adalius pretty much played everywhere. He's played inside. He's played outside, at linebacker. He's played defensive end. He's lined up down inside. He played in the kicking game. He's pretty versatile. If you go back to Baltimore they played him at corner at times. I don't think there's...we probably don't have a more versatile player on defense than Adalius.
Q: Would you play him at corner?
BB:: Maybe in a situation, goal line or short yardage or something like that. Yea, I think he could. I mean, he actually played corner at Baltimore, but I mean, I think it would probably be as more of a role against a bigger formation, multiple tight ends - things like that.
Q: What sticks out to you about Ray Ventrone that has allowed him to stay around here for a few years?
BB:: Well, Ray is fast and he's tough. No one works harder than Ray. He's a smart football player. He puts his heart and soul into it every time he steps onto the field. It doesn't matter if it's regular season or postseason game or a walkthrough practice. He has that same intensity and same level of competitiveness on every single play. You've got to love that about Ray. He's a tough kid. He's got good speed. He's got good quickness. He's strong for his size. He's not a real tall guy, but he's well put together. He's got good power and he plays very aggressively. That stuff will carry a long way.
Q: How has the transition gone for Bill O'Brien from receivers coach to quarterbacks coach?
BB:: Well, Bill has coached the quarterbacks before in his career and also worked with the quarterbacks two years ago when Josh [McDaniels] was coaching them. He's had experience at that position. He's coached really all the skill positions and has also been a coordinator in college, so I think he has a good understanding and a good background of offensive football, particularly those positions. I mean this process has started for us way back in the spring when we met with the quarterbacks and then did some individual drills and OTAs. I think it's an ongoing process that will continue all the way through the year, but Bill's done a good job. He's very well prepared. He's smart. He's been in our system a couple years and been in a lot of other offensive systems. I think he's got a good familiarity with, obviously, what we do but some of the things that go with it - adjustments and some of the ways the defense has tried to defend us or attack us as the case would be and how to try to deal with it. How to try to attack them or deal with different adjustments that they make. I think as far as his relationship with the quarterbacks, again they are all different and in different stages. Tom is probably as experienced as any quarterback in the league to Brian [Hoyer] who's probably as little as experienced as anyone in the league. And [Matt Gutierrez] and Kevin [O'Connell] are probably a little in between. That's common in every position where you have an experienced player and you have other guys that have some experience and you have some guys that are rookies.
Q: How do you think Kevin O'Connell has progressed until now?
BB:: I think all of the quarterbacks, this time of year, all the quarterbacks are in the same boat. They are working with a lot of different receivers, they are running a lot of different plays, they are seeing a lot of different coverages. The big thing for them is to understand the offense and be able to see the things that are happening and work on throwing mechanics and all that. A lot of the timing is not going to be exactly what we are looking for because of the number of people that we have doing it. I think Kevin has made progress over the spring. I think he certainly understands the offense better than he did last year. He's got to continue to work on the execution. The offense demands a lot of different things and has a lot of different elements to it. Multiple receivers, multiple tight ends, play actions, spread offense - all those kinds of things. I think Kevin's come a long way in terms of being under center, which is something he did very little of in college at San Diego State. Most of the time he was in the shot gun, so some of the things under center are mechanically a lot better than they were last year.
Q: Have you and the organization ruled out signing Michael Vick?
BB:: Have we ruled it out? I don't know that it's ruled in or ruled out.
Q: Some teams have said, 'We are not going to sign him.'
BB:: Well I'm just answering your question and I'm saying I don't think it's ever been put that way, so I can't really answer it.
Q: Are you interested in signing Michael Vick?
BB:: We are coaching the players that we have on the field right now, so that's who's here. So anybody who isn't here, is there a potential that they could be here? Yea, there probably is, but right now they're not. We're coaching the 80 players that are here, so until we get somebody else we are coaching them. If we get somebody else in here, which I am sure at some point we will, then we'll coach them [with] the players that are here. Who that's all going to be, right now it's the 80 players that are here. That's all I can tell you.
Q: It sounds like you're not ruling that out?
BB:: Karen [Guregian], I am coaching the players that are here, that are on this team. I am not coaching anybody else. I'm sure at some point somebody else will be here, I don't know who that's going to be. If I knew they would already be here.
Q: Is that something you need a couple weeks to assess?
BB:: I don't think there is any time frame or any set criteria, no. We signed players a couple days ago. We signed players last week. Last year we signed a player or two at the beginning of camp. I don't know. If we need somebody and we feel like that player can help our team and puts us in a better situation than what we had, then we'll do it. If we don't than we won't.
Q: How different is it not having Rodney Harrison here and is Brandon Meriweather stepping in that leadership role?
BB:: I think Brandon is certainly one of the better leaders on our team, certainly a leader in secondary. Brandon has a lot of confidence. He's played a lot of football in his career at Miami. Basically, he started in our sub defense as a rookie and then [again] last year, so he's very comfortable and confident in our system as is James [Sanders]. Brandon and James both give us good leadership back there and good presence. They've been through a lot in the secondary in terms of all our adjustments and how we do things - that type of thing. So, they both give us good leadership back there. Rodney, of course, is a real special guy. He was a pleasure to coach, but he's not with us this year, so we are coaching guys that are here.
Q: [On Sebastian Vollmer]
BB:: Sure I think all those offensive lineman - Sebastian and [George] Bussey and defensive lineman too, the big guys have made a lot of improvement in the time they've been here. The NFL is a different game than what they did in college, particularly pass protection techniques - they understand them and they're trying to work hard to get them. They certainly don't have them down yet, but [it's] a lot better than what it was at the beginning of the week and even a lot better than what it was in the spring. I think they are definitely headed in the right direction. Sebastian is a smart kid. He works hard. He's got a lot of things going for him: his length, his athleticism, his intelligence, strength and his toughness, so I think if he works hard and continues to improve he has a good future in this league.