New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addreses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday, July 29, 2008.
BB: We had a walk through this morning. We have the officials here so we will have them officiate the different aspects of practice through Thursday as we try to tighten up our techniques in pass coverage, offensive holding, offensive line, play alignments and stuff like that. It will be good to work with them for the next couple of days and as I said yesterday, we will keep progressing in terms of building things together, different situations and starting to tie it all up. By the end of the week, at least on a practice format we should do what we need to do to play a game. Of course, start getting ready for Baltimore [Ravens]. So that's where we are.
Q: In general with rookies, how long does it take for them to earn your trust?
BB: There is no time frame, I couldn't tell you. Some guys - Lawrence Taylor, a week. Than other players who have been real good football players, sometimes it takes a couple years. It depends on where they come from, what they were asked to do, how much of a transition it is to the team we're on. Sometimes it's who's ahead of them and what the opportunities are. You want to see them keep improving. That is the most important thing when a player continues to work hard and improve than you keep working with them and see where it can go. Once they kind of level off, then you know what that level is and you evaluate it based on the rest of your team. So, I couldn't give you a time frame on any player. It would be unfair to the player.
Q: Do they have to convince you?
BB: We do what we think is best for the football team. Whatever that is, that is what we are going to do. Circumstances sometimes dictate what your moves are that we have to make, whether it's a rookie player or somebody else. Sometimes, when you have more options than you have more time to do it on your terms. Sometimes you get into a situation where you don't have much depth and somebody has to play whether that is a rookie or could be someone else.
Q: When you take a player and put them in a position they haven't played before, what goes into that move? Do you move them back if they're not working out?
BB: Sure. Players background, what you are asking a player to do and what you think will work. If you don't think it will work, you give it a try and evaluate it as you go through the process. Again, sometimes it's a function of who your other players are. Sometimes you need that versatility in a certain direction and in another situation you don't need that versatility because you have other players who have versatility in that other direction. There is no set formula. You do what is best for the football team and you try to evaluate that performance after you get a chance to see him do it. Some guys only do one thing and that's okay. They need to do it pretty good or they don't have as much value as someone who can do more things but if one guy can do something really well, than that's valuable too.
Q: Kelley Washington and Sam Aiken both were star receivers in college. What does it take mentally and physically for them to make that change professionally and to special teams?
BB: Well, physically there are a lot of different positions in the kicking game so physically a player has to be able to do whatever is required of him at that position. Some positions are speed positions. Some, size is more important. In the end, in the kicking game, speed is more important because your covering a large distance on the field. Sometimes much more so than you are on the scrimmage plays on offense or defense. You have a lot of offensive and defensive lineman involved in those plays. You rarely see the offensive and defensive line involved in the kicking game except on field goal teams. Speed is important, instincts, being able to figure out special teams, which is kind of an organized chaos play. There is a certain framework the play starts in and as soon as the ball is kicked it is a little bit different each time. A little higher, longer, shorter, left or right and everyone has to adjust to that whether you are blocking the return on it or whether your covering it. There becomes a lot of "instinctiveness" on those plays. Guys have certain rules and framework that they need to stay within, they also have to be able to adapt to the situation as there is fluid in the play. It is more like basketball and hockey where there is less structure on less of those plays. There is a little bit of that on the kicking game.
Q: Mentally, does it take a certain personality?
BB: That is a role, whatever role you have on the team. If it is just for a one play role like special teams, you're in for one play than you're out. If you are a third down player, you're in for third down and then you're out. Sure there is a different mentality than being in there every play. You know what your situation is and you are really focused on that and what's critical for that particular play. Where if you are there play after play you need to transition into those different situations. You have to have a certain level of awareness that changes from play to play. It is a little easier when you are specialized. On the flip side of it you're not in there for every play, you're not in the flow of the game like you are if you are playing down after down. It's like a relief pitcher coming out of the bullpen to try to get an out. You come in and that is your job. You're not a starting pitcher trying to go six or seven innings, trying to go a whole rotation of batters and the whole lineup. You are coming in to get one or two guys out. That is your job. It is a different mentality than a starting pitcher, there is no doubt about it.
Q: With the force out rule change, does that change the way you coach wide receivers?
BB: We still try to get our feet down. We still try to do it the same way. If we are forced out than, than we are forced out. There really isn't much else we can do. We are going to try to get our feet down.
Q: It seems like the rule the way it was would make the officials have to guess what would have happened.
BB: It is a little bit more awareness on the side line. A lot of times, in the past you teach the defender to play more of the ball because playing the man doesn't really help you. If you knock the guy out of bounds and you get the force out called than they will give him the catch anyways. So you might as well go for the ball, if you miss it, you miss it but the play is pretty much an out of bounds play anyways. Now, I think there is a little more of the defender to play the man as opposed to the ball and try to knock the player out than try to knock the ball loose. Again, it is a very fine line. We certainly don't want to miss an opportunity on the ball over there but in that split second judgment I think that there are players that can play it a little bit differently in that situation.
Q: Do you like the rule change?
BB: Whatever the rule is, we try to play by it. You will have to talk to the officials about that. Whatever the rules are we try to coach to the way the rule is written. If they change it and we have to coach differently than we have to coach differently. If there is replay there is replay, if there is not replay than there is not replay. Whatever it is, it is not our job to make the rules, it is to our job to understand them and play to them.
Q: What were the factors in bringing Dom Capers on-board?
BB: No it just worked out that way. Dom has a lot of experience of course on the defensive side of the ball. As a position coach, as a coordinator and as a head coach, he has worked in different 34 systems. Most recently, in Miami with Nick [Saban], in Houston, in Pittsburgh and in Carolina. So, he has worked for a lot of younger players, the two expansion teams of course. He has worked with veteran groups too. I think he has a wealth of experience and a great background in a lot of different areas, [3-4] defense, younger players, older players. He has a lot of experience in personnel. I think he adds a lot to our staff. Regardless of his age, he is a young, energetic guy and he coaches that way. He is that way on a daily basis. He is a good addition to our staff and I am glad we have him.
Q: Going back to the force out rule. Was that something that was around when you first entered the league?
BB: It's been like that for a while. You can ask the officials but it has been like this for a while.
Q: What are your first impressions of Sam Aiken at the start of training camp?
BB: Sam is one of our early signings. He was with us through the entire off-season program and of course training camp he has performed well all the way through. He has gotten off to a good start here in training camp. He did a good job in the spring. He had a real good off-season program. He worked hard in the passing camps and he showed up very positive here in training camp both as a receiver and in the kicking game. He is a big guy and strong - very strong for his position. He is tough, very professional and works hard at his job. Football is important to him. He is on top of things. If he makes a mistake, he really works hard to correct it and make sure he has it right the next time. I like his attitude, I like his work ethic and I like his versatility. He has done a good job. We have a long way to go but to this point he's been here since the first day of the off-season program and here we are at the end of July and he's been very consistent for us. I think he is a good addition to our team.
Q: Both Pierre Woods and Eric Alexander, what do you think about those guys?
BB: I think both Pierre and Eric both came to camp in excellent shape. Of course, they have some experience in our system but not a lot of playing experience. Not as much as some other people. When they have had the opportunity, particularly in this camp Pierre has gotten a lot of opportunity, I think they have taken advantage of it. Again, they are both off to a good start in terms of nine practices in training camp. We have a long way to go but they have used their experience in our system and their conditioning and work ethic in the off-season to show what they can do. They have shown upon a number of positive plays.
Q: With [Wes] Welker and [Mike] Vrabel being on PUP [players unable to perform], this gives opportunities to guys that wouldn't normally get it.
BB: Well, that is always the case. Every time someone is not out there than it gives an opportunity to someone else. You hope that whoever is getting that opportunity that they can take advantage of it and use that experience to upgrade their performance and their play. It doesn't make a difference who it is, it's those opportunities go to somebody and you hope that as a football team and individually those players can capitalize on those opportunities and can improve your team. In playtime or in depth for when the other player comes back. Even if that guy to replace him, doesn't replace him but gives you a higher level of depth and more quality on your team. Absolutely, you hate to see that. You want everyone to be out there but the ones that aren't, it does provide an opportunity for other players. Hopefully, they can take advantage of those opportunities and make the most of them.
Q: When you brought Kelley Washington in did you know where he was going to contribute?
BB: Kelley did play on some special teams at Cincinnati. He really played on all of them just not every play. He was on the kick-off return team, punt return team, gunner on the punt team and played a little on the kick-off team. He had a good camp, showed up and was productive in the kicking game when he had the opportunity here in practices and pre-season games and then in the regular season he ended up being one of our most productive players in the kicking game. Whether that was something that didn't come out in Cincinnati as it did here, or maybe their choice not to use him as much, or maybe his ability to play better here in our system, I couldn't answer that question for sure. He showed up early in camp and that performance carried all the way through the year. He made a lot of great plays for us in the kicking game. All the way through we started seeing those last year right around this time.
Q: Talk about what Marcus Pollard has brought to the team on and off the field?
BB: Marcus has a lot of experience in a couple of different systems. He was in the Indianapolis system, the Detroit system with Mike Martz and last year in Seattle. Not only does he have a lot of experience in term of years but also in some different systems. He has been exposed to pretty much everything a tight end needs to be exposed to. Different blocking schemes, routes, route adjustments, hots, site adjusts, protection all that sort of thing. He's a smart guys, he has a lot of experience. He is very good in the passing game, he's competitive in the running game. I think the big thing is getting himself into top playing shape. At his age, not try to wear him down and over do it but try to get him to that right point where he has enough experience in our system to go out there and execute it well. I think if we try to practice players that age and grind them all the way through camp, a lot of times they just don't last as long as what they could if you could pace them a bit. We are trying to find that fine line and balance with Marcus. He is an experienced player that has been productive for us in the spring camps and training camp. We are looking forward to getting him on the field and seeing how it goes in the pre-season. We will see how it goes with the rest of that group.