Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Thursday, July 29, 2010.
BB: I hope everybody had a good break. Time to get to work. We're excited about the start of camp. We've actually been here for a few days with the rookies, some of the early guys, the quarterbacks, injury guys, and so it will be good to get out on the field today. Looks like a nice cool day today; the players' prayers were answered. Hopefully we'll get some heat going forward. [We're] really looking forward to the start of camp. We've had a lot of guys who have worked really hard in the offseason and that's obvious in their physical conditioning and I think their attitude and being ready to go. We have, unfortunately, a few guys that aren't quite ready yet, but they're all in that day-to-day category. We'll see how it goes on a day-to-day basis, but hopefully we'll see them out here at some point here in training camp. We'll just take it one step at a time. We've got a long way to go. We've got a lot of practices in front of us – about 20 or so before the Saints come in. So each day, hopefully, we can get a little bit better and start evaluating our players and putting our team together and have a good, competitive camp.
Q: Does that day-to-day category include Wes Welker?
BB: It includes everybody.
Q: Is there a specific focus or theme or general message heading into this camp?
BB: I think, as in most camps, the early part of camp is devoted to fundamentals. We work a lot on teamwork in the spring, different blitz situations and just a lot of team work – running game, passing game, third down, red area. Now is the time where each player individually really needs to build a good base on his individual techniques – his footwork, his hand placement, his leverage, doing all the little things. And if that base is built well in training camp, historically I've seen that that will usually carry over for the bulk of the year. It's just hard to find time to do those individual technique drills later in the season when you have fewer practices and you're more working on game planning and things like that. I think that's a big emphasis for us and obviously, from a coaching standpoint, just putting the whole team together, watching our younger players, seeing how much they've improved, and seeing how it comes together with the new players that we've added on to the team, and just evaluating the whole mix there. We'll see how that goes. We really haven't had a chance to do that much. The spring has more of a teaching emphasis and now we're in a good, competitive camp. Between our practices and working against the Saints and the Falcons in preseason games, I think we'll get a good look at it.
Q: Can you update us on Wes Welker's progress and how he has had to approach the rehab?
BB: [He's] like everybody else who has had an ACL [injury]. It's a long rehab. Players go through different stages of it. You work on things and improve on them and if there are no setbacks, then you go to the next level. If you hit a little sticking point then you back off and wait until that clears up and move ahead. There's a long way to go and we'll see how that whole process takes place. I think the last 10 to 20 percent on those injuries is the hardest part to get back. We'll see how it goes.
Q: Can you talk about releasing Shawn Crable yesterday?
BB: Yeah. Shawn, unfortunately, hasn't really been able to participate in a lot of things that we've done. We didn't pass him on the physical and just didn't feel like he was ready to compete and participate right now.
Q: Did you say he did not pass the physical?
BB: He did not pass the physical and just isn't ready to participate here in camp.
Q: When you say 'right now,' does that mean there is a chance of him returning?
BB: Yes. I would say probably – yes, I think if Shawn physically is healthy, then he would have a good chance to compete on the field, based on what we saw coming out of college and in limited opportunities we've seen to evaluate him in the last two years. But right now I just don't think he's there.
Q: If a player did not pass the conditioning test could that be why he did not pass the physical or could he not take the conditioning test?
BB: Yeah, that's all part of the physical. There's the physical and being in condition. It's all-inclusive.
Q: You've certainly seen a lot of training camps. In your mind, has it changed much since when you came into the league?
BB: Compared to when I came into the league, there is no training camp. It's very short. The number of two-a-day practices that most teams have [is less]. When I came into the league in 1975, we started camp July 5 and our first regular season game was September 21, so it was two and a half months of training camp, three scrimmages against the Redskins and I don't know how many two-a-days – it had to be 30. It was forever; it was two and a half months. It was all of July, all of August and half of September of training camp, preseason games. It was like a full season and then a regular season. So has training camp changed? They [the players] have no idea.
Q: Is this good or bad? That sounds so incredibly excessive –
BB: I'd say two things: one, in those days, you didn't have the offseason program that we have now. At the Colts, our weight room consisted of an open room with a universal gym in the middle of it. That was the weight room. That was the weight program. There were no OTAs. There was none of that. So you take the spring and add it on the fall. And we were in camp a long time. A lot of teams like the Vikings and Bud Grant and those guys, they didn't come to camp July 5, believe me. I think that you need time to get a football team ready, to get a football player ready. I think it's hard to just walk out there and start playing at a high, competitive level in our sport without putting players at risk. And we'll see, at the beginning of training camp all teams will start to have – the injury list will pile up and that will gradually decrease by the end of training camp and then when the regular season starts, those injuries will reoccur. Some guys will be out for the year, some guys will be out for a length of time and then as the season goes on, the guys that are out for the season will start to come back. That's the way it usually goes and I would expect it to go this year. I think we are probably in a good spot right now. This is probably about right – you get two weeks before the first preseason game and then play four preseason games. It gives you a chance to evaluate the younger players in about half of those snaps, and it gives you a chance to use your veteran players who are competing for playing time or who are your better players. It gives you a chance to give them about half the snaps in practice or in games to get ready. Could it be a week longer, a week shorter or whatever? I think generally speaking, this is a pretty good pace to get a team ready for a regular season game. I don't think we need the time we had in 75 – let's put it that way. Nine preseason games - because those three scrimmages against the Redskins were about 120 plays per scrimmage – so it was a long camp.
Q: How drastic of an effect would a 17 or 18-game season have?
BB: I don't know. I haven't been through one of those, but I'm sure it would take its toll.
Q: You have two instances where you will be practicing against another team, which is different than usual. Can you talk about the thought process of joining up with the Saints and Falcons?
BB: I think it starts with just having a real good relationship with both organizations, with Tom [Dimitroff] and Mike [Smith] down in Atlanta and Sean [Payton] and Mickey [Loomis] down at New Orleans. I spent quite a bit of time with Shawn at the Pro Bowl after the 2006 season and Thomas, of course, and Mike Smith. We've talked about that from time to time, not just this year, but it just worked out. We're playing them early in the preseason and right away we talked about it as something we would want to do that would be beneficial. I think that's the most important thing – the logistics and then having a good working relationship with the team. Not that we didn't have good working relationships with Andy [Reid] in Philly or John [Harbaugh] at Baltimore – teams we've opened up with in the past – it just didn't logistically work as well for both of us, but maybe that's something in the future we could do.
Q: Does this help from a competitive standpoint, too? Since traditionally training camp is a little repetitive in dozens of practices against yourself. Does this inject life into training camp a little bit?
BB: I think there is definitely an element of that, absolutely. I also think that it gives you a different look at their plays that they run that we don't run. There are looks that New Orleans and Atlanta will give us that we will see in the preseason games, but we'll also have a chance to practice against them and I think that is healthy too they have different players than we do so the matchups are different. You get to evaluate your players against not just your own players, but against other players at a high level and see how you [match up]. It's not always just ability; it's how a certain player matches up against a player or type of player. I think that's valuable, too. I think that's good. The other thing that's always a problem is trying to get your team ready for the first preseason game. You've got 75, 70 guys – however many are going to play in the game – and trying to get them practice reps where they are really prepared to play…it's a lot easier if you can just practice against the team. That is the scouting report; that is the preparation. And then let them go out there and play and the same thing for their team. Thomas and I have talked a lot about that – Sean as well. Rather than us trying to simulate you guys, we'll be us, you be you, and we'll let them go out and play in the preseason. You can also control things like red area and third down and punt rushes and thing like that. Those things may or may not come up in the game, but you can actually script them and practice them to get a look against another team – rushing the punter, rushing a field goal, inside the 20, blitzes and things like that that. Like I said, you may or may not get those plays in the game. I think that's good work, too.
Q: Have you thought anything about the schedule as it stands? Do you spend any time thinking about the teams you will play?
BB: We've spent a lot of time in the spring thinking about our opponents. We have new opponents. We have the NFC North and we haven't played those teams in four years, so we've gone back over Detroit – that will be on a short week- and then Chicago, Minnesota, Green Bay. And then the AFC North – we've had a pretty good history with Pittsburgh. We played Baltimore last year. Cleveland and Cincinnati – a new staff in Cleveland and Cincinnati, we played them recently, but still they've had changes there. So those are all new.
Q: And in terms of strength of schedule?
BB: You guys are a lot smarter than I am at figuring that out. Three years ago, Miami was 1-15 and the next year they won the division. I think each year is a new year, and what a team looks like on paper and what they actually are in the fall and how they perform are two different things. Each year it seems like we have three or four new division winners. We have teams that go from one, two, three wins to double-digit wins and playoff teams and so forth. I don't know how you project all of that. I don't really spend a lot of time worrying about that. I think you do your preparation on your opponents – both the new ones and the ones you are familiar with like the Jets and Miami, teams like that, Indianapolis, and then you take them as they come and do your best to get ready for each team each week.
Q: From a coaching standpoint, do you enjoy training camp?
BB: I think players understand that they need to prepare. I think they know that. No matter how many times you go out and run around the track and no matter how many sit ups you do and chin ups and all of that, you can't replicate being on the field with 21 other guys and playing football. I think any experienced player understands that. I really do. However that is constructed, however you set it up, it's a necessary part of preparing for the season. If you want to play well and have a good team and have a good season, that's all part of it. I certainly can't remember a good season I have ever been a part of that wasn't also part of a productive training camp and preseason. I think those things go hand in hand.
Q: Is Logan Mankins here and has there been any progress?
BB: No. All of the players that are here are under contract and Logan is not under contract. >