New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, August 2, 2009.
BB:: We juggled the roster a little bit here to try ... I'm sure there will be plenty of that as we go through camp, trying to get things as efficient as possible and deal with some of the numbers that are either up or down as we go through camp. I feel like we are still trying to emphasize all our fundamentals. We have a lot of fundamental periods, as you can all see out there - some involved in the running game, some involved in the passing game, others involved in special teams and so forth. That continues to be a big focus for us on camp and we are starting to get into some situational teamwork. We did some third down work yesterday, red area stuff today [and] different situations in the kicking game. We will be building on that as we head into this week and hopefully by the end of the week we will have a big bulk of those covered and be ready to start moving into the Philadelphia preparations. We still got a lot of work to do, but I think we're a lot further ahead than we were seven practices ago. We just keep plugging away and keep chipping away at the little things and eventually all the big things will come together and get tied up. I think the players are working hard. I respect their work ethic, especially these days. Days three and four are always the hardest days of training camp physically for the players. They are kind of hump days. [Once] you can get over this hump, then your body starts to get used to it. Hopefully, we can push through this weekend and then kind of get back and have a good start to the week on Monday and keep building on the foundation here that we've had on the first seven practices.
Q: Can you talk about the importance of getting the rookie long snappers in rhythm with Chris Hanson and Stephen Gostkowski?
BB:: Jake's [Ingram] an experienced snapper. He's done it in college, but it's still basically the same skill. It's just working against better competition and trying to refine it, make it even sharper, more accurate, faster and all those things. We're going through our protection things. Adjustments, we did that yesterday [and] we'll go back and hit that again tomorrow. Different rush looks with twists and things like that and the long and short snap accuracy as well as the coverage stuff. I think Jake's ... He's working at it. Like every rookie, he's got a long way to go, but his skills are a little more specific. He's probably further along in terms of reaching the top level at his skill than most of the other rookie players are because they have a lot more skills to master. But I think the competition between Jake and Nate [Hodel] is good. I think they've both done a good job. [Those are] two guys that are competing well against each other.
Q: What was the rationale behind signing Joey Galloway?
BB:: [He's a] good football player. Joey's had a lot of production in this league. He played both inside and outside at Tampa for Coach Gruden. He's also a good player with the ball in his hands, run after catch and some return skills earlier in his career and things like that. I think he's got good versatility. He's able to run good routes underneath, run good vertical routes and play inside and outside. He's a versatile guy that gives us good depth and quality in the passing game.
Q: Was it the kind of thing where you look at Randy Moss and Wes Welker and see how they complement each other? Are you looking at something [Joey Galloway] did to compliment them?
BB:: I think his versatility is important. Wes [Welker] is a little more of an inside receiver and Randy [Moss] is more of an outside receiver. Although they both do other things, Wes is more inside and Randy is more outside and Joey really has the ability to do both. He's probably played more outside than inside, but he's played plenty inside over the course of his career and at Tampa. I think he gives you the versatility to do both as does Greg Lewis. Greg's a little bit in the same category. [He's] more of an outside receiver than inside receiver, but he's also played in the slot. Anytime you have your receiving group, only being able to take however many it is to the game - whatever your number is, let's say it's four - you need to be able to cover three spots with four people. So that would probably be the least we would take would be four, so somebody has to have some flexibility there. If you have a couple players that can do that then that gives you more options.
Q: Can you explain what went into the decision to cut Vince Redd and what Rob Ninkovich brings to the table?
BB:: Well, Rob is a guy we did quite a bit of work on coming out three years ago at Purdue and [Anthony] Spencer was also in that class. When Spencer got hurt, then Ninkovich played and he actually had a very good senior year. He sort of came into the draft pretty much all on his senior year of production. He's an outside linebacker that has some value in the kicking game and some versatility out there in terms of playing the run, pass rushing and that type of thing. When he became available, we followed up on it and felt like he'd be competitive here in camp. Vince came in here as a free agent, made the practice squad and ended up playing at the end of the season. I just think where we are defensively, there are probably other teams where he would fit a little bit better schematically in with the skills that he has.
Q: Is there a different kind of pressure for rookies who are entering a position that has a lot of veteran players as opposed to a position that has a lot of new players?
BB:: There probably is. That is probably a valid point. I doubt any rookie looks at it that way to tell you the truth. I think most rookies come in and you give them information, you tell them what you want them to do. They are really thinking about, what do I have to do? How can I get better? What are the coaches asking of me and how can I get it done? I don't really think they are thinking too much about who's here, who's not here, who was here last year, where they came from, whether those guys did or didn't play together. They are just so consumed in their world and the competition to play in the National Football League, to make a team, to gain a spot, to have a role, that all the other stuff that's happening out there ... I don't know how much that really weighs on them to tell you the truth. They just have their plate full of what they're doing and that's pretty much all they need.
Q: There has to be benefits of joining a group that has a level of cohesion?
BB:: I think you can definitely see things in watching that group perform that if you were a rookie player watching our offensive line you can see them do things together, communicate and how they handle different twists, stunts and adjustments on the line as the defense presents them. That helps you understand - when you get in there - how you would do it and there's probably no better teaching tool for a rookie than to see a veteran perform a skill that he has to perform. I can talk about it. I can demonstrate it. I can draw it on the board. But for him to see somebody do it exactly the way it's supposed to be done, I think that's the best way. There's no doubt that having veteran players that know what to do and know how to do it - using them as an example to younger players - you don't have to do a lot of coaching then. You just have to say, "Watch how this guy does it."
Q: Do you cut the rookies some slack for a certain amount of time until they get up to speed with everyone else?
BB:: I think we know that they're going to be behind, that's obvious. But we've been at it since May 15. They've been here in different phases of the offseason program: conditioning, passing camps, minicamps, training camp, whatever it's been along the way. I think what you're looking for from the rookies is they are continually making progress, getting better and gaining a better understanding and translating that into a better performance on the field. As long as you see that and that's happening, then you are really inclined to work with that player because you're never really sure how far that can go unless it's just capped by his ability. When that levels off and even worse starts to decline, then you kind of know that this is the high water mark. Then you have to decide whether that's really good enough or not or whether it's time to move and try to find somebody else. That's sort of where you are with the rookies. You know they are behind. Some guys catch up at a faster rate than others, but I don't think there is any set formal on that. Some rookies start fast and then kind of run out of gas and fade. Other rookies start slower, and as they understand things they build up confidence, build up some speed and momentum and their play ascends quickly. It's not always a straight line curve. Sometimes it shoots up, other times it levels off. With some players it dips, it's inconsistent and erratic and you hope that you can level that out so you really know what you're going to get from a player on day-to-day basis. That usually happens, but not always. If it continues to be a roller coaster ride, then that's a tough decision for a coach because you don't know which player is going to be playing - the high or the lower performance player. That makes it a tough decision for coaches because with a young player you don't know really know if or when that's going to smooth out. Those are all some of the things that we try to deal with. It's very inexact and it changes from player to player and it can come and go in a hurry.
Q: Coaching requires passion and Scott O'Brien seems to wear his passion on his sleeve. Have you seen the players really respond to him?
BB:: Yeah, I've coached with Scott going all the way back to 1991. He is very passionate. He's really probably as good a coach as I've ever been around. He's very thorough. He has great knowledge, work ethic, good ability to communicate with the players and motivate the players. He's so thorough with his knowledge and understanding of the subjects that he's teaching that you gain an instant respect for him. I don't think anybody else knows the kicking game and the different components of it than Scott does, But at the same time he's a flexible guy. He's creative. He understands that players are different, games are different, that you have to be able to adapt and adjust and he's had a lot of experience doing that. I think he does bring a good passion to the game. He's just an outstanding coach in every aspect: personnel evaluation, game planning, strategy, fundamental teaching at every position - in the kicking game, including the specialists. He's probably as good a coach as I've ever had the privilege to work with.
Q: Can you talk about what the skills you that you have to have as a special teams coach that translate well to a head coaching position?
BB:: I think the big thing for a special teams coach is your dealing with basically with every player on the team other than the quarterbacks. Every player - receivers, tight ends, linemen, linebackers, defensive backs, specialists - you deal with all those players in one phase of the game or another and they have different personalities. They're different. They are all important, but they're different. They see things differently and sometimes they learn differently or you have to teach them differently. At the same time, you work with all the players from the veteran players to the rookie players and all the guys in between. That's a spectrum too where there are some players that special teams is very important to and there are other players that maybe look at it like kind of a necessity: "'I have to do this and maybe this will lead to other opportunities." And there are some players that really don't want to be involved in that aspect of the game. But, as a coach, you have to coach everybody. So you are coaching the different positions, the rookies to the veterans. Some guys are very passionate about that particular part of the game and I've coached other players who weren't very passionate about that aspect of the game as much as they were their offensive or defensive roles. There are a lot of challenges in that. For me, it was great training to be head coach when I was a special teams coach with Floyd [Reese] at Detroit and working on it at Denver, Baltimore and, of course, at the Giants. So those eight years were great training for me. Once I became a head coach, in working with all those different types of things, as opposed to coaching one group of players like the linebackers, tight ends, quarterbacks or whatever it is, it really broadened out.
Q: Have you seen where Sebastian Vollmer might fit in?
BB:: Sebastian looks like a very flexible player. He played mostly left tackle in college at Houston and when he went to the All Star games he played right tackle. We've worked him on both sides. In the spring workouts, he worked out at both sides and looked equally comfortable. So I would say from a technique standpoint and from a talent standpoint ... From a standpoint, it's rare that you have guys that are big enough and physical enough, which you need to play on the right side, that are then athletic enough and can handle some of the pass rushers that are over there on the left side. So that eliminates a lot of players. [Those] guys that are one or the other based on physical assets. Then, you have another group of players who might conceptually be able to play both but maybe their mentality or their comfort level of playing one or the other eliminates something, having a true swing tackle, that's a tough position to find. To find a player that's athletically able to do it and - on top of that - whose technique allows him to flip from one side to the other, from odd to even on the protections and odd to even in the plays. I know it doesn't sound that hard, but when you are flipping back and forth from one side to the other and you hear the play call; one time you are on the strong side and one time you are on the weak side. It's the same play, but it sounds different to you depending on what position you're playing. There's an ability to do that and it's just not something that a players comfortable in doing. But Sebastian seems very good at that to this point. As we go and keep adding more stuff, we'll see how it goes, But to this point, yes.
Q: (On Jarvis Green's pass-rushing ability)
BB:: I think - No. 1 - that that statistic [sacks] is a little overrated. A player's performance rushing the passer is measured by other things besides that, but I think Jarvis has been consistently a good pass rusher for us. He's done a lot of different things. He's rushed outside at end. He's rushed inside over the guard or center. He's been involved in our regular and substitute defenses. I think he's a versatile player that can do a lot of different things on all three downs for us. He's had a good camp. I feel like he's working hard. He's in good shape and he's shown up as a disruptive player on the front and in a lot of drills that we're doing and in the one-on-one rushes. I think Jarvis has been one of our most consistent players over the years that I've been here. He's a guy you can pretty much count on whether it's training camp practice, regular season practice, preseason game, postseason game, regular-season game. He's a very consistent player and he's shown that this camp.
Q: How would you measure where Kevin O'Connell is now to where Matt Cassel was this time last year?
BB:: I don't know. Again, it's always hard to compare players. Each player is different. Players have different strengths and weaknesses. That would be a hard question to answer.
Q: Do you have to make sure if there's interest in a possible veteran quarterback that Kevin O'Connell doesn't misconstrue that as a lack of confidence in his ability?
BB:: I've talked to the team about the personnel in the league. I think that you can pick up a paper or take a look at a transaction sheet any day and see transactions in the national football league in training camp. That's just part of camp and it's a part of every team. I think our players understand that this is the time of year we are in. It's pretty common, it's going to happen on our team, it already has and that again, in the end those are things that players really can't control. Those are coaching or organizational decisions. What's important to the player is his day-to-day work or improvement and focus on his job. So that's what we are all here to do [and] that's what we emphasize to them.
Q: Is it difficult to balance the coaching side and the business side of things with a player like Vince Wilfork?
BB:: First of all, my relationship with Vince [Wilfork] is as a coach and he's a player. So it's a player-coach relationship. Certainly, there is a business aspect to the game for all of us and there are contracts and those elements of the game as well. But my role really is to coach Vince and Vince's role really is to be a player under me as a coach. The other part of the business things get handled by other representatives either by Vince's or in the organization. That is really true of all players. I try to maintain my relationship with players as a coach, which is really what it is and their relationship with me as players, which is what they are. The other people who represent other interests on the business end of it then they do their job and then at some point the player, or the organization works in conjunction with those representatives to arrive at a final decision. But there's a lot of moving parts there and the business parts are usually handled by people other than players or coaches, even though we are affected by them. But the actual handling of it is done by somebody else, which is the way I think it should be.
Q: Getting back to special teams for a minute. Can you see how the elimination of the wedge is going to impact the special teams?
BB:: Well, I think if you are running a wedge routine then you won't be able to run that anymore. Not everybody ran ... With the rules changed, not every return had that element to it. I think there are other rules that you could apply to every play and there are other rules that only apply to certain situations, like the fumble rule and things like that. Those are a play a game at the most. The wedge rule comes down to a positioning of the players on the second level on the kickoff return. I think there's some interpretation there that's not totally clear to me. I'm not sure if it's totally clear to anybody and it's a pretty fast. That whole thing that happens with the wedge and when they meet the coverage people all happens in a pretty short amount of time. I think all the coaches, special teams coaches, the officials and all that, I'll be interested to see how all this gets officiated. So it will be interesting to see how it all turns out. I don't think it will affect us too much because that's not .... That really hasn't been a major thing for us. I'm not saying we never did it, but that wasn't the focus of our kickoff return blocking scheme. But it certainly is with some other teams and I think it will affect them more than it does us. We'll see how exactly that is officiated and how it gets called. Being a yard away when everybody's running full speed and then there's going to be a big collision between coverage guys and blockers. Where that yard is and if it does or doesn't exist at the right time, we'll see how all that gets officiated. I don't really have the answer to that question. I'm interested to see myself. I think there are a number of interpretations that will need to be made. They are on paper now like, this is how we are going to call this, but we'll see what actually happens once the plays occur. I think it's going to be a little harder than what is being described.
Q: [On James Sanders and how much he is hoping he steps up this year]
BB:: I'm looking for every player to step up this year. I wouldn't limit that to any ... There's not one player that I don't expect to step up, or they wouldn't be on our team. If they're here, then I expect them all to step up. James is an excellent leader. He plays with a good level of confidence. He's a very good physical player. He's a tough kid. Football's important to him. He's a very committed player, spends a lot of time in the classroom, studying, learning, watching tape, making sure he knows his assignments. I think he's a leader for any young player, forget young player, for any player to emulate and follow. I think he's very professional and you would like to have 53 players like James on your team in terms of his work ethic, his toughness [and] being a teammate. He's a high character player, but we expect all of our players to step up, so that includes everybody.