New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Monday, August 24, 2009.
BB: OK, today we're starting our preparations on the Redskins - sort of like a normal Wednesday for us - it's not totally that, we're still in camp. The Redskins, this will be another good week for us in terms of what we have to get ready for: going down there to a hostile environment, playing on the road again against a real veteran team. The Redskins, defensively, are probably as good as any defense we'll face. They have an outstanding [defense], really across the board. They have a good front seven, good corners, good safety - [LaRon] Landry is really an impact player - [DeAngelo] Hall and Carlos Rodgers are as good, as talented corners as there are in the league. The front four is tough with [Andre] Carter, [Albert] Haynesworth, [Cornelius] Griffin and [Phillip] Daniels and, of course, the linebackers, [they] have added [Brian] Orakpo there, who rushed for them in sub situations. [Rocky] McIntosh [is an] outstanding player, leading tackler in the last decade or whatever. He's just a tackling machine. [They're] very, very good on defense. Offensively, they're a very veteran team as well, maybe except for right tackle. The line is solid, a couple veteran quarterbacks, good running backs, skilled receivers and very good tight ends - very productive players with [Mike] Sellers and [Chris] Cooley. [They're] good in the kicking game, good rush team. So we have a lot of things to work on. This will be a good challenge for us, a good opportunity to go down to Washington and play on the road and play against a very talented team, a very physical team. We'll see how we do in that type of environment. [It] give[s] us a chance this week to work on our weekly preparations, getting used to the scouting reports, the different cut-ups, the different ways we break down our opponents and get into more of a weekly preparations schedule, as opposed to a training camp practice routine that we've been in for several weeks. It's a little bit of a transition week here for all of us. Obviously, there're still a lot of other things going on as we prepare for not just this game but the start of the season and the opener. There're a number of balls up in the air, but a lot of attention this week on the Redskins.
Q: I know every team is different but there is a consensus that I've read around the league that the third exhibition game is the one where teams will make it as close to a regular season preparation as they can and play the veterans into the second half. How do you use it?
BB: As I said, I think the biggest thing is the overall preparation routine - let's put it that way. It's not so much of a game plan thing of: 'Oh, this is what they do. We want to run this play and when they do this, we want to run that play.' There isn't as much of that as just there is: 'Here's who their players are. Here's what they do, studying individual players, the more guys will get more playing time this week.' Generally speaking, with whatever it is, it is. We can't control what Washington does and I'm not really worried about that. But we focus on the players that probably play a little bit longer and we did less of that the first couple weeks because we saw so many different people at different positions and that's kind of what we expected. It's more of getting used to the preparation routine and I'm sure some of our players will play a little more than they did last week. There will be some players that play a little less. That will vary player to player, position to position and so forth. It's definitely another step and part of that progression is our preparation during the week and in some cases maybe extended playing time in the game.
Q: You mentioned some areas you wanted to see more consistency in. One of them was ...
BB: It would be all of them, really. I don't want to leave anything out, so don't ...
Q: Are there any specific areas you'd like to see more consistency?
BB: Yeah, all of the above. We need work on everything, which we should because we're at a certain point with a lot of things and some of them need to be executed better and coached better and there are other things that we need to add to it. Even some of the things that we're doing, there are still things that we'll need to add - adjustments and different situational things that vary. Kind of the standard situation that we put in, there are things that we need to adjust to that - different looks that we see, offensively and defensively - even though it's the same situation, we have to attack it or defend it differently depending on how our opponents do it. So that's all part of the process, too. That will be ongoing not only this week and next week, but really into the regular season. I'm sure there will be several weeks early in the regular season that we'll still be making those kinds of adjustments.
Q: While the situations may change, are you usually looking for the same things year to year? Are your goals for this week pretty much the same as they were last year in Week Three of the preseason?
BB: I'm sure some of them are similar, but they always change from year to year depending on what you're trying to emphasize and who your opponent is. Sometimes - even though you might want to work on something - it doesn't have a great application to that opponent or that situation. And then there are other things that you feel like this is a perfect time to work on something so you work on it. Maybe the next year it didn't quite match up the same way. Some of it is just taking advantage of what your opportunities are - silent count, for instance. We're on the road; it'll be loud down there [in Washington]. This is a good week for us to work on the silent count. We'll have plenty of that during the season where we'll need to use it. Was that the situation last year in this game? Well, not if we were at home; things like that. You can't control everything, but the opportunities that we have, we want to try to make the most of.
Q: You've generally gone with a veteran punt returner. What would a rookie have to do to earn your trust at that position?
BB: I think you really could probably say the same thing about every position that - to put a young player in there at any spot - you have to feel like he, A, can go out and do the job; and B, will improve and get better at it and be the best you have or somebody that you feel real good about performing that task, whatever it happens to be. To put any unproven rookie player back there at the start of the season, you'd have to have enough evidence based on practice and preseason games, or however you could measure it, where you felt comfortable doing that.
Q: What did you see from Tedy Bruschi last week?
BB: I thought Tedy ... [He] obviously got a chance to play last week and has had more of an opportunity in practice the last couple weeks and that certainly helped him with his timing. Obviously, he's a very experienced player and knowing what to do and all of that isn't a huge issue. But timing and recognition and reaction times and all of that, that's something that you can't train for. You've got to be out there and experience it on the field with your teammates. It's been good for him. He's gotten a lot more opportunity to do that and more yesterday. I think that's something that he needed. I think every player needs it.
Q: How balanced is the passing game versus the rushing game?
BB: I don't know. It's preseason. We're working on everything so we'll find out in the regular season where we are in everything, running game, passing game, kicking game, you name it. We'll find out when the real games start where everything is. Right now, everybody's working on everything. We're working on our stuff. Other teams are working on their stuff. Everybody is playing a lot of different people, trying to evaluate their players and their teams and get guys ready and look at new players and make roster decisions and all of that. All of that is trying to go out and play good football, but there're a lot of other things that are going on as well. Where is everything? We'll know in the early part of the season. That's when the rubber meets the road.
Q: Do you feel like you can maybe put more emphasis on the running game this year than in previous years because you have the guys to do it?
BB: No, we've always emphasized it. We emphasize the running game. We emphasize the passing game. We emphasize first, second, third and fourth down. We work on everything. We're not going to exclude anything, certainly not at this point.
Q: For the guys who will get more playing time, would you make your decision after this week, or when would you like to have those decisions made?
BB: I think when you make a decision, if you're sure about it, then you can make it whenever you're sure about it, whenever that happens to be. On a football team, there are just so many moving parts. There're so many different options and possibilities and when you have a roster like we have, like most teams have, every player out there is talented. Every player out there can do things at a high level. Some guys can do the same things. Some guys do different things. Some guys are really good at one thing. Some guys are more versatile at a number of things and maybe don't excel at one area quite as much as somebody else does. When you put together a football team, you have a lot of different jobs you have to take into consideration, all the different offensive and defensive situations, all the special teams situations. [It's] not just who do you want to put out there on first down, but there're all the different sub groupings and all the different big people groupings: goal-line and short-yardage and things like that. And then you have all the kicking plays and the kicking situations. So everybody contributes somewhere and you probably want to take them to the game and do that if you could, but we can't. So then you have to figure out what's the best way to comprise your team and where do you give yourself depth. It would be great to have depth everywhere, but it's really not possible with the roster limits, both the season roster and also the game day roster to have the kind of depth if you're going to run four wides or dime defenses or three tight end formations. Well, there's no way to have complete depth at everything, so somebody has to have two or three sports. And then when you get to your final roster, you decide, 'Where are we going to put that depth?' You can't have somebody for everybody. Somebody's got to double up. Maybe one player is better than another just from an ability standpoint, but from a versatility standpoint maybe that isn't quite the same. It's a combination of a lot of things that come together. It's not just: 'Is this guy better than that guy at the same position?' That's relatively easy - relatively - but when you comprise an entire roster and you get into a situation of: 'Who's our backup gunner?' Well, you better have one if somewhere along the line you might need one.
Q: As the starters play more minutes, is it harder for the players on the bubble to change coaches' opinions?
BB: I think it's important for every player to take advantage of whatever opportunities that they have. We've had two games. We've had a lot of snaps. We've played a lot of different people and some guys will play more this week than they did last week. Some guys played more last week than this week so it's a composite of all the different playing game situations and also the practice situations. Sometimes you put a player in the game and even though he plays 10, 15, 20 plays, you're still not going to get a real good evaluation of the player. Maybe the opportunities just don't happen to come to him. Maybe he's playing against a level of competition that's tilted one way or the other and it's not really equitable to what you're seeing with another player. That's where all the practice situations [come in]. I mean, we've had 30 practices so we have a lot of information from the practice field. We have some information from the games. It all comes together. There's no set formula.
Q: [On the battle at the long snapper position between Nathan Hodel and Jake Ingram.]
BB: I think they've both done a good job. They've been pretty consistent and there are always little things that you're always working to improve, or maybe perfect is a better word. It's such a specialized spot and job, but overall I don't think ... Really, we haven't had any problems with it. I'm not saying it's been perfect. There're things that could be improved. They've been efficient. It's a good competition. The extent that they've played, the operations men have been good with both of them in there, including practice. It's a pretty good competition.
Q: When it comes to those specialist roles would the kicker get a vote?
BB: I wouldn't put it that way. I would say that we are aware of the entire operation - whatever it happens to be - so that's part of it, how the whole operation works with different people in there. But again, I think at this point every player is focused on how to do his job. We've only been at camp over three weeks. It hasn't been a full month yet. Everybody still has a lot of things individually that they have to work on, no matter how much they train in the offseason. They are perfecting the skill and performing their skills, whatever they are, whatever position they play, in competition, in different circumstances, with different people around them. Everybody is involved in that. I don't think it's the player's mentality to be too worried about what should the coaches do about this guy or that spot or something else. They need to concentrate on what they need to do. For the most part, that's what they do. We all have stuff to work on. There are a lot of things that I have to do that - in all honesty - I have things I need to do myself for my own development as a coach for this team. That's really what's right in front of me and that's what I really need to work on. There're some other things that I need to do because it's part of the process, but I need as much time as I can to commit to my job and I think everybody else feels the same way.
Q: At this point, what are you still working on?
BB: Getting the team ready, getting back to being a football coach, calling plays, reacting to situations. Look, by the time the play's over and the ball's spotted, the clock is running. You don't have all day. You only have three timeouts. You don't have all day out there to make decisions so you better have an idea in your mind of what your options are going to be and then which ones you're going to choose based on the circumstances as they unfold and that's reaction time. You know, one second, two seconds or three seconds can mean a lot in making the right decision versus making the wrong decision in a situation. It can give your team an advantage, or not give an advantage. As a coaching staff, those are the things we have to do: our communication, our decision-making, our adjustments during the course of the game in between plays and in between series. The clock is running; we don't have all day. It's not time to have a meeting about it. Just have a quick conversation, make your points, figure out what's going on, fix the problems that your opponents are causing for you out there. So that's our job and we need to do a better job of it. I need to do a better job of it. We've only had two games. There're a lot of things I need to improve on just like everybody else out there.