New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Friday, May 2, 2008.
BB: Well, it's good to be back out there. Obviously there are a lot of new faces. It's always an exciting time of the year to work with new kids and see their eagerness and really start at a fundamental level with the most basic terminology, plays and techniques. It's a good reminder of where everyone has come from. Certainly these guys have a long way to go but they are all out there with a good attitude and are working hard. I met with them this morning and gave them all the information. It seemed like they were able to get most of it so we will get those things corrected and give them some more this afternoon. We will keep plugging along. It's good to be back out there. There are a lot of bodies out there so we will have to evaluate those and see how some of them shape up by the end of the weekend. I think you all had us outnumbered today. It was a pretty well-covered practice. No doubt that we were going to slip anything by you.
Q: For Matthew Slater to see action on each side of the ball, is that a legitimate possibility for the pre-season?
BB: I don't know. We will do that this weekend and in spring camp and see how it goes. We have talked to him about it and he will learn both spots. We will evaluate it and see how it looks.
Q: Usually, rookies who make a roster have to contribute on special teams. How much did it help to have a couple of these guys have experience in that aspect of the game?
BB: I think it all helps. The more a player can do, the more valuable he is to the team. The special teams area is a third of the game and that's important. We need players to do that. We have players on our team that are good and have been productive special teams players. There will be competition there but it helps every player, especially every young player, to participate in the kicking game and have versatility in skills so he is not just locked into one spot and able to compete on a couple of different levels.
Q: Is that what has attracted you to some of those guys?
BB: Oh sure, absolutely. We look at everything players have done. Guys that have not just played but have been productive in that area, that we feel can compete on our team in the kicking game. It certainly helps their overall value to our team and to their draft position.
Q: With seven spots away, you traded up to get Slater. Was there urgency there? Did you have your eye on him?
BB: Yes, we thought we needed to move up to there.
Q: Can you elaborate.
BB: Well, that is the kind of range where those types of players go. You get into some of those rounds and based on what the player does, certainly speed is a big factor. You see the faster players don't last too long. I felt like we would get more by moving up with the fifth-round pick by putting the seventh with it, than we would have taken another player in the seventh round.
Q: What is the biggest adjustment these guys have to learn coming from college?
BB: Well, I think each situation is different. It depends on where they come from and what they have been taught in college and so forth. I really don't know… it depends on each guy. In general, they have to learn how to deal with a much more sophisticated and intermediate passing game than what they see in college. In college, they throw the ball deep with play action or lob up some deep go routes. There is a lot of underneath patterns like screens, quick three step passes and things like that. It is much more of an intermediate passing game at this level.
Q: Wheatley distanced himself from questions about his wrist. Is that a concern of yours at all?
BB: He played all year last year.
Q: What are you looking to seek out of the rookies as they progress through here?
BB: To give them information. You have to start somewhere. So it's giving them information, letting them go out there and do some things on the field, come back, correct them, talk about them and move on. Then they will be gone for a couple weeks and when they come back we will continue the process. We will give them more information, more practices and try to get them as ready as we can to compete in training camp.
Q: Is it harder or easier to evaluate these guys when they are all starting at the same base versus if you had them start out with veterans who knew their position and job?
BB: I don't know. I've never brought in a rookie with 30 veterans. This is the way it is. All the rookies are here and then we put them in with veteran players, when the veterans come in. I mean some teams have camps where they bring them all in together but that's not the way we do it.
Q: In a short practice, what does a tryout guy have to do to prove that he can stay in?
BB: We go with what we see. It is better than taking them out there for a 45 minute workout by themselves. We put them in some team situations and let them work with whoever the people are around them in his position, adjacent position and people across from him. Then we evaluate the best we can and look at film. These guys are all here for a reason. They have all done something. We take a combination of the information that we know about them, what we have seen them do on film and combine it with what we have seen them do on the field and in the classroom. Then we make a decision.
Q: Was there a need to bring in offensive guys to balance for practice this weekend?
BB: Well our roster, we had a couple more offensive players than defensive players going into the draft. After the draft we probably have more defensive players than offensive players. In the end we only get enough players to have a good competitive camp and training camp. We want to teach as many people as we can in spring camp. There will probably be a little over the final 80 man roster limit in the spring because we can like every other team. That of course will drop when we go to training camp. If we feel like a player can compete and that he has an opportunity to compete then the decision will be to sign him. If we don't, we will probably look for somebody else. So right now we are not at the 80-man roster.
Q: What if guys had a question about the information you give them and the playbook? Are they encouraged to call you and ask questions?
BB: That's what we get paid to do. We get paid to coach the players. We don't have the alumni functions and recruiting golf tournaments and all that. We coach the players, that's what we are here for.
Q: As far as positions go, would quarterback be the most complicated position?
BB: I think every position has a lot to it. I think there is a lot to quarterbacking too. I don't want to minimize that but there is a lot to every position. There is a lot to be aware of, a lot to learn, a lot to recognize and it all happens in a short amount of time. A play is over in two, three, four seconds. You have a lot going on there in a short amount of time. Every position has an element of that. Quarterback in a passing game probably has more of it then any other position, not in a running game but in a passing game.
Q: What about putting Kevin O'Connell with the receivers?
BB: They all have a long way to go. They are taking their first step in a 26-mile race. It's like trying to call the Boston Marathon after one block. That's what you're really talking about. There is a long way to go.
Q: Do you review the film of this weekend and review what goes on out there? If you do, do you offer the player suggestions of things he has to work on before he comes back here or do you wait?
BB: Well the things he can work on, we tell him. When each player leaves here, we sit down with each player and tell him the things they should do between now and May 15. Some of those things need to be done in a team setting and we will take care of that when that time comes. In the meantime, there are a lot of things players can work on individually. They can certainly study some of the material mentally they have been given and physically the techniques that we use some of the skills we ask them to perform, I'm sure are different than what they have done in college. We will give them those, plus other drills to go with it. Conditioning, weight training and getting ready to enter into the off-season training with our veteran players who have been at it for a couple of months now. They will be able to work on some of those things on their own. There's plenty of things we can give them and talk to them about. They should and I'm sure they will work on those. In addition to that, when they come back there will be other things that will be priorities. We will know more about them on Sunday then we know today. We will just take that information and utilize it the best we can. There will be a lot we will learn after training camp. Like I said, its just one small step.
Q: The linebackers you drafted all have different physical skills but they all seem to have football intelligence in common. How important do you think that trait is?
BB: I think it's important. If the player doesn't have the right assignment or doesn't know what to do then it's hard for him to do the right thing. Physical talent is great but at this level pretty much everyone has a pretty high degree of talent. Some more than others but everyone has quite a bit or else they wouldn't even be here. I think it's important knowing what to do, learn it, understand how and when formations change. Understand when the offense runs different plays how they can end up in other spots and have other responsibilities. Like I said, when a formation changes, or the way a play develops they end up actually playing someone else's spot in certain situations. Where the offense kind of forces you into a different position. I think all or that is knowing what to do and being able to grasp the concepts, being flexible and transfer those onto the field in game situations. That's what makes good players great.
Q: Will [Shawn] Crable have it?
BB: We only have had one practice. We will see how it goes but everyone will be able to do it. Everyone we brought in here will be able to do it and all of our players. It is something you have to work on. It's not something one person can work on and complete individually. They have to do it collectively with their teammates and they all have to be on the same page. It's not like we are running a 4-40 race. Everyone has teammates around them and communication to make. If you do this, I do that. If you do something else than it changes what I do a little bit. That is a big part of it too, not just what you're supposed to do. You have to be balanced and consistent with what your teammates doing.
Q: Is there a fine line between getting them on the same page and whether or not they can handle a lot of information?
BB: I think anytime when you put in a teaching schedule, whether it be rookie mini camp, in a spring passing camp, in training camp or during the week where your game planning for a team on Sunday. Based on experience and what the aptitude is of your team as you are able to determine that. You can set up a schedule that is pretty close of what it's going to end up being. As you go along you modify one way or another. Sometimes you see that you're able to move a little faster than you thought and sometimes you need to slow it down a bit. You need to back track and double back and go over some things or clean up some things that are keeping you from moving forward to where you want to be. I think that is always part of the process. You set up a schedule, you start to get on that schedule and then you have to modify it. You always end up modifying it to some degree, one way or another along the way. That's where I'm sure we will be. Until everyone gets on the same page there is really no point in moving ahead if your team is so staggered in their development then you cant ever really function as a team. You will just have a bunch of guys running around out there wearing the same color jersey. You have to drop back to the point where everyone can move in one unit.
Q: On film, how impressive were Wheatley and Slater?
BB: They are both good. They both had a lot of production.
Q: How about their transition?
BB: I will certainly give them an opportunity, we will find out.
Q: How comfortable are you will the current collection of cornerbacks that you have on your roster?
BB: We are always looking to improve our team at any position. We have done that in the past so if we have an opportunity to improve it, we will. We will just have to see what we have.
Q: What caught your eye about Jonathan Stupar of Virginia?
BB: He did a good job at Virginia. He played on the line, blocked on the line of scrimmage. He has pretty good hands, played in a good system, which we know Al [Groh] runs. So we have seen him do a variety of things. I wouldn't say he really falls into the category of a receiving tight end or blocking tight end. He is kind of somewhere in the middle, having skills in both. He is a smart kid who played in a good program.