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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Thu Apr 15 | 02:00 PM - 11:59 PM

Bill Belichick Press Conference

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            **BB:** We re-signed Sale Isaia. He was out on the field today. You know unfortunately we have had a little bit of a rash of injuries at one spot.  It's always the toughest situation to deal with, is when they all hit at the same position. You know we've had a few on the offensive line. It doesn't look like there is anything that's too long term there, but it certainly has thinned us out this week. [Damien] Woody's got a sore knee, he's day to day. Of course [Adrian] Klemm hurt his elbow out there today, I'm not sure what the status of him is. We're looking at him now. And the other guys, like [Joe] Andruzzi's day to day, [Matt] Light, [Mike] Compton, those guys won't be gone too long but they certainly won't be back in the next couple days. So we are a little thin there. [Drew] Bledsoe as I am sure you saw practiced today. So he was back out there and that's kind of the injury front. This morning was a big special teams practice for us. We wanted to evaluate particularly our younger players in the kicking game. We did all the facets of it. We tried to do it at a high tempo so we could really evaluate the players more than try to teach the system or that kind of thing. We're trying to see what guys can do in those facets of the game and how well they had performed after we had a chance to instruct them and teach them. So that's what we did this morning. Of course we finished up a little bit on the goal line, that kind of follows up the red area emphasis that we had over the weekend. Just a quick comment too, on the Korey Stringer situation. I scouted Korey when he came out of Ohio State. I don't know him personally real well. I've had limited contact with him. Regardless, anytime a young person loses their life prematurely it's a very tragic situation. There's no way that I could find the right words to express how unfortunate I feel that this is for his family and of course all the people that he is very close to. It's a tough situation. It makes it a somber day I think for all of us involved in football.  

Q: Bill, what steps do you take to keep something like this from happening on your team?

BB: Well I think the most important thing from my standpoint is the physical when the players actually come to training camp. Of course we have a…we try to educate the players on their nutrition starting in the spring in the off-season program, and hydration and all those points. We weigh them in every day so that they don't get dehydrated. You know we report injuries immediately so that they can get treatment. You know we can get them taken care of before they get too, you know don't let a problem linger and then four days later come in and say such and such is bothering me. So we try to be prompt in all that. But to me the biggest thing is when a player comes to training camp, as everyone knows we do the running test and every pro team that I have been involved with in my 26 years has always had a running test with it. What the running test shows is whether or not a player is able to exert himself physically in a fairly strenuous situation, but a controlled situation. For example, last year during the running test we had a couple people that couldn't finish it. They stopped about half way through and that's of course the body saying 'I've had enough.' So we test them in the running test and Mike [Woicik] tests them on all the different strength tests-the vertical jump, the bench press, you know things like that. Again just to make sure that…if a guy can only bench press a hundred pounds then obviously he has some kind of deficit in his shoulder or his pec[toral], whatever the injury is and you can kind of spot it before a player gets out there and can't really defend himself. We always worry about injuries when guys are tired. It's kind of OK if everybody gets tired at the same rate, but you don't want one guy to be tired twenty minutes into the practice and everybody else be relatively fresh. That imbalance is when injuries I think have more of a tendency to occur. I don't think there is any exact science to it, but any time you put, in our case 87 players, out on the field you want to make sure that before they go out there you they're at least at a certain level of conditioning and that they can perform to whatever your established minimum is. Whether it is a twelve-minute run or gassers or interval running or whatever it happens to be.

Q: This is a very macho sport and it obviously needs to be. What pressure is there for a player to keep going through certain things? How do you get players to know they have to be tough but that they have to know when their body is telling them something?

BB: Well, I don't think that is any exact science. It comes down to judgment and communication and to a certain degree supervision by the people that are working with the athletes. Whether it be coaches, trainers, strength coaches, conditioning coaches, nutritionists, and so forth. Again what we try to do, and look I am not saying that we've got all the answers now, I not trying to preach here. You asked the question of what we do. What we do is we start in the spring. We start in April and we take the younger players on our team, the guys that were on the practice squad and that were rookie players last year and so forth and begin the educational process with them at that point in the off-season program and talk about nutrition, about sleep, about hydration and all those things that relate to training. And as Mike works with the athletes, you know supplements, and try to get them to have confidence in the people that we have working specifically in those areas, nutrition and so forth. So that if they have a problem or anything, that there is any sign of any problem coming on, that they'll address them. Then when the rookies come in, we can't really start working with the rookies until May, you know the May 15th rule. We talk to them in those little mini-camps after the draft and all, but when they come in on a full-time basis in May, then that's the start of there education. We train them and we go through plays and try to teach them the system and all that. We also start them in our off the field program. Whether it regards things like local laws regarding to licensing, car licenses, getting their car registered, finding a place to live, doing their laundry, finding housing, cars and all those types of things as well as the physical training part of it again from A to Z. And that process starts for the rookies in mid May and runs through mid June, basically a month of a whole assortment of things that we run through. Nick Carparelli and Berj [Najarian] and Don Lowery and all those guys work in different areas and we bring people in who are experts in those different fields including nutrition, to talk to the players. That's how we try to do it.

Q: Even talking about what you just talked about when something like this happens do you even step back and reevaluate that you are doing everything correctly?

BB: Yes and I think that's a constant…that's a constant thing, evaluation that we try to do organizationally on everything. Whether it be training, the draft, game plans, you name it. Either when we are in the period or when the period is over then we always try to come together and say 'how can we do this better, are we maximizing this, is this the right thing to do?' Maybe it is the right thing to do for 20 players, but there are five players that we say they didn't get much benefit out of that and we should either put them in something else or try to address it to them. And any time you are dealing with a football team, you are dealing with a lot of different types of athletes. We have some guys on the team that weigh 175 lbs. and probably could barely bench press 200 lbs. Then we have other guys that weigh well upwards of 300 and are as strong as any athletes in any other pro sport, or stronger. Some guys are fast. Some guys are slow. Some guys are big. Some guys are small. Some guys are 21. Some guys are 30…whatever Lee Johnson is. So there is a big spectrum in there and there's a lot of different things that we have to address. The training is not the same for a 21 year-old defensive back as it is for a 35 year-old offensive lineman or whatever the case might be. We are constantly trying to reevaluate that. When the draft is over we sit down with everybody and say 'how can we do this better? What was good? What was bad? Where do we need to improve?' Next year when we go through the draft we take out those notes and start that process right there or make the changes now if we know that they're going to effect us a year from now. So we…look nobody is going to help us. It's not like in business maybe where you could hire a consultant or somebody come in and have somebody evaluate your business that way. I mean Miami is not going to send anybody. The Bears, they are not going to send anybody to give us tips on how to run a football team. We have to internally evaluate ourselves and try to make ourselves better that way. That's the only way to do it.

Q: Bill, how do you specifically address to the players what to do if their body is going into deficit?

BB: That's not my field of expertise. We have doctors and trainers and our conditioning coaches and they know much more about the actual physical conditioning of it and the specifics of electrolytes and carbohydrates and all that. I mean I'm no expert in that. I monitor and I have to supervise it, but I rely on the people who have spent a lot more time studying those things and who are experts in their fields. I rely on them. I rely on our doctors, our trainers, and the people who are in charge of the strength and conditioning program on our football team. They rely on each other. So there is a built-in crosscheck there.

Q: Does the team have in place a protocol for this type of situation?

BB: Again I can't comment on a specific incident somewhere else. I have no knowledge of that incident and what the specifics were and all that.

Q: If a guy was throwing up on the field, would you get him off?

BB: Sure we have emergency medical procedures. But I don't want to get in a specific incident because there could be other things involved in it. I mean I just don't know. If something happened then I would tell you what I know about the situation, but I don't know anything about that situation.

Q: Did you talk to the team this morning about Korey Stringer and the incident?

BB: I haven't talked to them yet. I just really heard about it going out and I don't have probably much more information then anyone else has. I am sure you have a lot more information than I do in terms of the team. I mentioned it to a couple guys who I know knew him, but no I haven't addressed the team on that yet.

Q: Have you had a situation like that in the past where you had to have somebody rushed off or monitored?

BB: Oh, sure. I mean we've had…since I've been in football I can remember players getting I.V.'s after a practice for loss of fluids. Some of it is preventive. Some of it's a semi-emergency type situation, guys going to the hospital you know because of loss of fluids and electrolytes and their body cramping and that kind of thing. I've seen that before.

Q: Is it something where you have learned things and adjusted what you do or is it strictly a medical situation?

BB: Well I rely on their input and their judgment on it, absolutely. I talk to our doctors, trainers and our conditioning people on a…well our conditioning people I'd say probably, I don't know, five to ten times a day on either the status of certain individual players or the overall condition of our team or what we need more of? What we need less of? And how they think we are doing and so forth. You know I have a lot of communication with the trainers and the doctors. They are here either daily or every other day. So I try to stay on top of the situation as much as I can. Again I am not preaching to you and saying that we have everything perfectly under control. It's as chaotic as I am sure everywhere else is. That is what we try to do.

Q: You have made it clear in the past that you kind of covet hot days in camp. Why is practicing in the heat important?

BB: I think what is important is to have your team in good physical condition. I think that is important. When games are played in heat at some point your body has to prepare for heat. One of the hottest days that I have ever experienced on the football field was in 1994 when I was in Cleveland. We opened in Cincinnati. I forget the date, but it was the first week of September and that was a pressure cooker. We open at Cincinnati this year. So I have personally felt the heat and you know they are not going to reschedule that game. So that is what we are going to have to play in. So at some point you are going to have to condition your team to be able to meet what could be hot conditions. So those games in September, if they are not night games, if they are day games, Carolina, they could be hot. Carolina in September? I mean I don't know what the weather is going to be like, but I have seen hot days. You know your team has to be ready to play in those kinds of conditions. I think to take a team that's never been in hot weather and then have a game early in the season that's in those kinds of conditions, because you usually don't get them at night in the night games in preseason, chances are you won't be ready for it. So at some point you've got to prepare for those types of conditions.

Q: You have eased off on the team especially when there have been a lot of injuries. If it gets really, really hot would you tend to ease off some?

BB: Well I think that if you talk to anybody who's a conditioned athlete with experience then there is a point where things get counterproductive. So you want to train to a certain point and beyond that all you are doing is breaking it down so far that you are going to need too much time to build it back up on the other end. Eventually something is going to give. So again most of my consultation is with our coaches and our trainers. Again I also, I mean don't misunderstand this either; I also rely heavily on the position coaches because those guys are working hands on with each group of players. What the defensive backs are going through and what the linebackers are going through and what the wide receivers are going through may or may not be exactly equal. So I also try to get input from them on what…how they feel their particular group is doing both in terms of stamina and conditioning. Sometimes we'll have those players condition more or eliminate them from the conditioning if we feel like they are getting an excessive amount of running in practice relative to everybody else. Again just for example, last night when Isaia and [Bryan] Cox came in here. Before they went out on the field they ran last night. We had them out there under the headlights and they are running at 10 o'clock at night just like they did with [Richard] Seymour. But I just can't in good conscience put a guy out there without ever having seen him run or do the tests for Mike so that you feel like the player is at a certain level so that he can sustain it out there with the other athletes who are approximately at that same level or above it.

Q: You've been in football since the days when it was considered weak for players to ask for water?

BB: Let me tell you something. When I played high school football, and not that I was any good, I am not saying it that way, OK. But when I played high school football we had one bucket of water and we had 90 guys. And our coach was a pretty good coach. He is in the Maryland Hall of Fame. He won championships in football, basketball and lacrosse. I mean he was a pretty successful coach and has since passed away. We'd carry that one bucket of water and there was one ladle, you know you passed around the ladle and all that. And I'll never forget the day when he called us up in the middle of practice where we would normally have a break and it was pretty hot in Annapolis. Right there on the Chesapeake Bay and it was humid. It was more humid then it was hot. He called us up and said 'You guys stink. That is the worst practice we've had.' And he kicked the bucket of water over. And there it went right into a big pile of dirt, which was all the field was and then we had just one big mud puddle there. And I can't tell you how demoralizing that was to see that water and how thirsty we were just go into the ground and form mud. But that is the way it was.

Q: But do you think because of those stories and of that history that there is a stigma about toughness?

BB: I don't know. I don't know. I'll tell you what. I've read two books this summer. One was the book about Shackleton's voyage to the Antarctic and what those guys went through for, however many it was, 27 people down there, and what they went through for a year and a half of the survival in the Antarctic. And they all made it. And then I read the book on the tragedy of the whale ship Essex, you know the Nantucket whale ship what was out in the Pacific. And I think some of those guys were at sea in the Pacific for, I forget how what it was, like 73 days. And it is written pretty, I am sure just the way it was. So I don't know what the limit is. Obviously it varies from person to person. I just happened to read two pretty incredible survival stories in the last couple months. So what the human body can withstand and how long it can withstand it and the pain tolerance of certain individuals is remarkable.

Q: Last year at this time you had to cancel the scrimmage against the Giants because your team was pretty banged up. The offensive line is getting into a situation right now where you are losing bodies, have you given any thought to altering the practice schedule or anything like that?

BB: Yes I've definitely given thought to it. I think there is no question that we are going to have to alter the schedule to some degree because of the lack of depth at that position. We'll see where we are next week or as the days go by here, but we are going to have to make some kind of adjustment. Yeah, we are thin at that spot and we are going to have to make some kind of alterations a little bit.

Q: Do you see the possibility of a worst-case scenario or having to cancel it?

BB: Not at this point, I guess if it got…if a bomb went off and it got worse then it's possible. But I think…you know we are thin there. I think there are still things that we need to do and we need to get done. We need to take into consideration the lack of depth at that position, but I think we can still get things done that we need to get done for the team.

Q: Could you comment on the acquisition of Bryan Cox and what he is going to add both on and off the field?

BB: Well Bryan's strengths are his play against the run, he can rush on third down. He is a very powerful player both in terms of stopping the run and being an outside pass rusher. He is a very physically and mentally tough player. How exactly it is going to work out and what the mix will be on and off the field, I really don't know at this time. That will be decided on the field by the competition between the players. Off the field I don't try to create the chemistry on the team. I try to hold the team together but let the chemistry develop and let the players' personalities and their own interactions run their own course. I can't make one guy or two guys into something they are or aren't or try to create something that may or may not be there. Those things just, I think the chemistry on your team is a reflection of the personalities and the players that are there and their interactions. It would be hard for any of us to get in there and dramatically change that. You might be able to give it a little guidance. So I think we need depth at that position, at the linebacker position and that is why he is here. I have a lot of respect for Bryan as a person, as a football player. He's come a long way this off-season. He's coming off a broken leg and when we saw him back in, whenever it was, the end of February. He looked like he had a long way to go and looking at him later in the spring he'd made a lot of progress. And then coming in here yesterday he looks like he is in pretty good shape and he ran well and I know that he has worked hard to get into that type of condition. So those are all positives.

Q: As you saw him with the Jets he seemed to put up with very little in terms of teammates not putting in what they need to. That has to be something a coach likes to see?

BB: Bryan is a strong personality. He is a smart guy and he is very committed to both football, because I think he loves it, but also the team. He's a very team oriented person. His role on the Jets and his leadership and some of the things he did on the Jets team were very positive. He was an instrumental leader on that team. This is a different team. It is made up of different people. What exactly will happen here? I don't know. It might be more. It might be less. It might be the same. I can't predict that for sure, we'll just have to wait and see. He certainly has those leadership qualities; how it will all develop here, that will just have to run its own course.

Q: What are your plans for tomorrow night's practice and will the injury situation affect your plans?

BB: The injury situation will probably limit a little bit what we can do because if we were balanced at all the positions then we could have a practice that would give everybody about hopefully the type of reps and the type of opportunity we'd like to. Because of our depth on the offensive line we'll probably have to do what they can do and there may be other positions that might not get as much work as what they would be able to get if we had more balanced numbers. That's not an uncommon problem sometimes.

Q: Do you see this as a controlled scrimmage, how do you see it?

BB: I'd say pretty much a normal practice. But being at the stadium and being at night there are some things that we want to try to do to take advantage of that situation, some of the kicking and ball handling at night in preparation for the preseason game, some game-like substitutions, making sure that our communication with the coaches and the quarterbacks, getting the plays in and substituting people with in the game. Things like that are things that we can work on down there at the stadium in a more realistic way. We can practice them out here on the field, but it is just more realistic. I think the teaching is better to do it in more of a game-like situation.

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