New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Monday, August 17, 2009.
BB: A couple of transactions to announce here from over the weekend. Shun White returned to active duty in the Navy so he's on military reserve. We released Mike Richardson, signed Chris Taylor, and this morning, consummated a trade with the Broncos for Le Kevin Smith to Denver. But [we were] back out on the field yesterday afternoon and again this morning, lots of situational work to start getting ready for Cincinnati. I think, as I said, this is a very important week for us in terms of building on the base that we started from the first two weeks of training camp. A lot of the things we're working on now are building blocks in order to get to the higher plateau that we need to be at. It's important that we continue to escalate our game here at every opportunity that we get out there on the practice field. In all honesty, there aren't that many left until the start of the season. We're well past the halfway point so that's where we're at here for today.
Q: How does Jerod Mayo's role change going from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense?
BB: The techniques really don't change much. Some of the responsibilities change a little bit because of the placement of the players. In a 3-4, he's on the weak side. In a 4-3, he could be in the middle, on the weak side, on the strong side. From a technique standpoint, those responsibilities stay the same. There's a lot of carry over.
Q: Can you talk about the progress Tank Williams has made coming back from injury?
BB: I think Tank is a guy that has really looked better each day that he's out there, physically and also from a confidence standpoint. He's done a really good job in the tackling drills. He's done a good job in pass coverage. He's a smart, very dependable player and - from where he was in the spring, to where he was in the start of training camp, to where he is now - I think he's made several, significant steps. I think [those steps are] very noticeable to everybody, to the defensive coaches, of course, who are seeing him every day, but also to the offensive coaches that are working against him, how much more competitive he is in each area of the game, be it special teams, defense, one-on-one coverage, things like that. It's really been noticeable in every area so he's doing a good job.
Q: Obviously, you've been doing this is for a while, but it is still scary to see guys getting carted off the field because of the heat?
BB: Yeah. Well, you never like to see a guy on the ground, period. At the end of a play, or heat, or whatever it is, you always kind of hold your breath every time that happens.
Q: What kind of instruction or education do you give everyone for dealing with the heat?
BB: Our trainers and doctors have talked to the players about that since the beginning of training camp. We didn't wait until yesterday; all that has been put on the table early. We do take all the medical steps that that department feels are necessary, which there are a number of them to deal with it. That's their area of expertise and I think they do a great job of preparing the players for that and also monitoring it. We know we're going to have to play in it so it's something we're going to have to deal with and condition for.
Q: What are some of the differences and challenges in bringing in long-established veterans, like Fred Taylor or Joey Galloway? How do you see those two specifically in that process?
BB: I think every new player on the team is kind of in the beginning, starting from the same spot. They start leaning the play book, their assignments, their techniques, and it grows from there. Certainly, some players have a lot more background than others and sometimes there's more carryover from what we're doing with one player than another. But you never know exactly what that is until you get the player in there and start working with him. Both Joey and Fred have good experience in all areas of the game. They're both been great players, very competitive players, very productive players and they've been involved in a lot of schemes as well, route running, play-calling, with Galloway, route adjustments, blocking schemes with Fred, pass protections and adjustments in pickup and adjustments on running plays against different stunts and the way defense plays. But a big part of that - regardless of who the players are, whether it's a rookie player of a veteran player - is just getting the feel and the timing with his teammates on whatever the group play is that we're doing and kind of understanding where he fits and what he should do in a certain situation and what everybody else is going to do around him to make it all work like it's designed to. Joey and Fred have both done a great job of that and Fred, in particular, is very, very professional in terms of his attentiveness, note-taking, attention to detail and he really works hard to try to get the information and the plays and his assignment and techniques done the way the coaches ask him to do them. I mean, he's just exceptional.
Q: It seems like around the league the Patriots are being talked about as the team to beat. Why do you think that is and do you think people forgot that the Patriots didn't make the playoffs last year?
BB: Well, I don't really know what anybody is or isn't saying around the league. That doesn't really matter to me. What we're concerned about is this afternoon's practice, correcting the mistakes from this morning, trying to talk about some new things, get some things installed that we need to work on this afternoon, get ready for the Bengals on Thursday night and go out there and have a good practice. That's really where our focus is. What everybody else is doing and saying - I'm sure they're all busy in their camps with their teams as they should be. Right now, we're just trying to improve day to day and practice to practice.
Q: What kind of progress did you see in Ron Brace in the game last Thursday?
BB: I thought that in the game he played well. He handled himself well, maybe a little bit better in the game than in some of the practice opportunities. He certainly has a long way to go, like all the rookies do. But I thought he was strong at the point of attack. He had some opportunities in the passing game, where he was able to get some penetration in the pocket, was in on a couple tackles, made a play in short-yardage, was in on a couple plays, but - more importantly - played his technique well and was pretty stout at the line of scrimmage. There are definitely some things to work on and some things to work with, but, again, we have a long way to go. There're a lot of things that he needs to improve on as well.
Q: Is there any background on acquiring Chris Taylor and what do you expect from him?
BB: He's been at Houston, has played some, and we had an opportunity to get him on the roster and we had a roster spot. So we had an opportunity to add a couple players and we felt like he'd be a good addition and be competitive in this camp. We actually had worked him out maybe about a week, week and a half ago, something like that, but we just didn't have the roster spot or the opportunity to work him in at the time. But, as that has been created, we felt like this is a move we wanted to make and he'd be competitive with the group.
Q: You're always a proponent of players proving themselves in practice and that carrying over to games, but do you ever have players that don't practice well and then show up big in the games?
BB: You know, I can't think of too many examples of that. I'm not saying it's never happened, but I can't think of too many cases there where a guy just doesn't practice well but that's really just some kind of great player.
Q: Just based on raw speed, do you have any idea who your fastest player is?
BB: No, I couldn't ... If they were out there having a race, there are five or six guys who would be pretty competitive on that. It probably depends how far you're racing. I don't know that. I'll say this about a lot of guys in this league, there are a lot of players that would be ahead in the 20 [yards] that wouldn't be ahead in the 40. There are a lot of guys that would win the 40, but wouldn't win the 100. There are some guys that would win the 100, but would probably be behind at the 20 and the 40 mark. All of those are significant distances on a football field. There's a lot to be said for initial burst and explosiveness. There's a lot to be said for 20 speed and certainly there's a lot to be said for long speed. I would say, in a lot of cases, it's not always the same guy that would be first in each of those categories so it kind of depends what you're talking about. And then, when you combine that with size, it's one thing to be small and fast; it's another thing to be big and fast and that really ... You're talking about a horse of a different color then. To answer your question, I couldn't give you a definitive answer, but also I think it would depend on exactly what you were talking about in terms of speed.
Q: When you see a guy like Usain Bolt run a 9.58 in the 100-meter last night, do you ever think about bringing a runner like that in here?
BB: I mean, not right at the moment. Could it happen? I don't know. We've coached some fast players. [I] coached Michael Bates in Cleveland and he was an Olympic sprinter so they weren't any faster than Michael Bates and he was a good football player for us. So, yeah, we've had those kind of, over the course of my career, I've coached those kinds of players, those kinds of sprinters and those kinds of athletes.
Q: With the Le Kevin Smith trade, is that something that came up at the last minute or had you been talking about that for a while? And, on the back half of that, is there a second part to the trade that whatever you might have received, is that going to someone else connected to considerations?
BB: Yeah, we'll see how all of that works out. There are still a couple of wrinkles that need to be ironed out in the whole deal. But I'd say it is and could be ... it should be related to the Oakland trade, yes, for Derrick [Burgess]. At this time of year, Mike [Reiss], you have a lot of personnel conversations; not necessarily, "we'll trade you this guy for that guy," kind of thing. [It is] a lot more of the nature, "How's it going? We're looking for depth here." Or, "we don't have much depth there." Or, "we feel like we do have depth here and we really could use somebody in that position. Would you consider this?" And, "we might be interested," and that kind of thing. There are probably four or five of those conversations every day or two with different clubs, different coaches or executives in clubs. I wouldn't really characterize those as trade talks, but more kind of you're thinking about your team and sort of what you might be interested in; maybe it's a specific player, maybe it's more of a position, a guy who might be practice squad eligible, a guy who might be a veteran player at a certain position. So it could take on 1,000 different characteristics in the end. "Hey, we're interested in this guy. What would you want for him?" Or, "We'd give you this for that. Would you be interested in that?" That's what it comes down to if you're going to make a trade. But I'd say the nature of the personnel discussions would be, at this time of year, pretty extensive. So for every 50 discussions you might have, probably less than one trade [occurs].
Q: You made the trade with Scott Pioli for Mike Vrabel and Matt Cassel and this one, I assume, with Josh McDaniels. Is it at all awkward to have these conversations with former colleagues? Or, is it actually comfortable because of the trust you've built with them?
BB: I would say more the latter and - again - it's a situation where they know the player. They've been with the player so there's probably ... When you trade for somebody, you want to know what you're getting so I'm sure that's part of it for them. We've been on the other end of that, too, and that's important. But I certainly have a high level of trust with both Scott [Pioli] and Josh [McDaniels]. Whether it's with Philadelphia with Greg Lewis, or Tampa with Alex [Smith], or Oakland with Derrick [Burgess], you know, there's no real, "it's got to be this team or that team." You just never know where those opportunities are going to be and you never know who's going to be interested in working with you. So we try to keep all the doors open other than just probably one or two teams I doubt we'd be having a lot of trade talks with.
Q: With so many running backs in camp, how much of a challenge is it to get them all enough repetitions for your staff to evaluate them?
BB: Well, I don't think we have too many running backs in camp. We just signed one, which gives us six. I think at five, they were getting quite a few reps so, actually, to have a sixth guy - we actually had a sixth player with [Eric] Kettani all the way through the spring and then we had to put him on military reserve before the start of the training camp period - so we definitely would have gone to camp with six had be been available. Since he wasn't, we just manipulated our roster in a way we thought would give us the best camp competition and depth. But as we signed Chris [Taylor] now to put six running backs on the roster, I think that's actually a better number for us to work with. We were trying to be at that before; it just didn't work out that way for a while. I think - if anything - we're on the borderline of too few backs instead of too many. I think they're getting plenty of work.
Q: How would you characterize Adalius Thomas's time here so far?
BB: I would say that Adalius has brought a presence to not only our defense, but our entire team, both on and off the field. He's a vocal guy, communicates well, tough, physical player and has performed in a variety of roles for us defensively and to some degree in the kicking game. He's touched a lot of different areas for us. But he's strong, physically and mentally, strong guy, smart guy, doesn't make very many mistakes, knows what to do, prepares well. [He] is a tough, physical player in the game and in competitive situations, and makes a lot of good decisions. He's pretty smart.
Q: Darius Butler was talking about his performance on Thursday and said there were some positives and some negatives. Does it say something to you as a coach that he followed up one of his negatives with a positive?
BB: Yeah, but I would say that is probably pretty much true for all the rookie players. There wasn't like a whole string of negative plays and a whole string of positive plays or vice versa. There was some element of good ones, not so good ones, a couple real good ones, a couple real bad ones, a couple that were OK. I think for all of them it was a good learning experience and they showed up and I don't think anybody lost their confidence there after a bad play. That was really pretty much the only penalty in the game with Darius - other than the holding penalty on Dave [Thomas] - but, I mean, with the younger players. There weren't a lot of fouls committed and things like that. I don't think that those players lost any confidence. I think as a group they probably gained it as they went along and preformed deeper into the game - with not all of it being perfect or great by any means - but to some degree an improvement from beginning to end.
Q: With the heat the way it is, do you find it's easier for players' games to slip, mentally, and is there an added emphasis on that?
BB: Absolutely, yeah. Conditioning and mental discipline are very directly related as it goes to assignments; little things like alignments and penalties and off sides and snap count and things like that, absolutely. Fatigue can definitely lead to errors on that end of it. That's really what physical conditioning is about - to be able to not only have your body do it, but mentally to be sharp and alert enough so that you can think and make good decisions when you're tired, in two-minute situations or long drives, down in the red area, or on the goal line, or things like that. That's one of the reasons why we do our two-minute drills at the end of practice and things like that that require a lot of thinking, that require quick reactions. Even our red area at the end of practice - which usually comes at the end of a drive where conditioning could be a factor - we try to do those things in a sequence similar to the way they'll come up in a game so that players can practice that level of conditioning and concentration in those kinds of situations.
Q: The Patriots had the fewest false starts in the league last year. Does that go to the mental side of the game?
BB: It might have last year. It doesn't mean anything this year. We don't want to have penalties. We don't coach penalties. We don't want our team to be penalized. We don't want to give the opponents second opportunities or free yardage that they don't really have to work for. Absolutely, penalties are a part of it; so are mental mistakes, as well as physical mistakes. But mental mistakes - when you just turn a guy loose or drop a ball to miss a coverage - that's a lot of easy yardage - or turnovers or things like that that are pretty much uncontested - that you can just hand the opponents by not mentally doing the right thing. We absolutely try to avoid those things - the penalties - those things that just lead to a lot of problems.