New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Thursday, July 31, 2008.
BB: We continue to work through some situational aspects of the game. Of course we worked on goal line and you all saw that. We worked a little more in the red area. We are just trying to pull it all together here. We play a week from today and next week we will have to spend a little more time getting ready for Baltimore [Ravens] but we also have a few more situational things to work on and install. Hopefully in a week, it is hard to believe that it's only a week, we will be ready to go right out here next Thursday night. That is what we are pointing to schedule wise. We still have a lot of stuff to do to be ready for that. We are a lot further along than we were a week ago at this time. We are about where we need to be.
Q: How did the team do on the goal line?
BB: Well, it was the first time we did it. Some things were ok and there were other things we need to correct and improve on.
Q: Are you happy with what you have seen work ethic wise from the defensive line?
BB: I think the work ethic has been good. We have a good competitive situation back there where a lot of guys look like they are going to be very competitive with each other and they have been. Not only in training camp but going back to the spring camps. You start over every year. There are always new people in the offensive or defensive system. You always have to go back to square one and build your base. You can never really pick up from where you left off at the end of the previous year. Even though there are some new people there, I think the whole building process, the installation and learning it, is really an annual thing. I think that is coming along ok. Overall, I feel our execution in the secondary has been about as good as any other unit out there on the field.
Q: Going back to the goal line, is that a drill you like to do at the end of practice?
BB: When you do a contact drill like that in the middle of practice, it is hard to get back to a different tempo on the succeeding drills. I think it is better if you build up to that and then have a full-speed drill at the end of practice rather then jump up and down as to how we practice and what's the next drill we are going to do?
Q: Are you focusing on offense or defense when you are doing the goal line drill?
BB: It is our goal line against our goal-line defense. We win and we lose. Not in that period. At times we would work on our goal-line defense and we would run the other team's plays or maybe certain plays we would want to see. The offense would show those to us and vice-versa, where we would run other goal-line defenses that are a little bit different than the ones we run so we can practice against it. That drill was a competitive drill. It was our offensive plays against our goal-line defense.
Q: How much of Marcus' [Pollard] experience is influential to the team?
BB: He brings a high-level of experience. Of course, the most recent experiences have been in Detroit and Seattle. In Mike Martz's offense in Detroit and then [Mike] Holmgren's offense in Seattle with the West Coast offense. Those are what he has worked with the past three years. He is very professional. I think we all know that he is a very experienced guy and good in the passing game. He has done a lot of different things offensively in his career. I don't think we are doing anything that he hasn't done before. It is just a question of adapting to different terminology and a little bit of refinement here and there. He is a guy that has played a lot of football so we need to manage him a little bit like we manage other players at that age, but it is nothing abnormal. Just the balance of getting him the reps and experience in our system that he needs versus not overdoing it or wearing him down for a guy who has played as much football as he has.
Q: He said he was impressed you reached out to him personally.
BB: I would say I talk to most of them. If we are interested in a player then I usually talk to them. It doesn't mean every player I talk to we sign here. I would say most of the ones we sign I talk to relatively early in the process just to establish a relationship and let them know what we are looking for. We also want to hear from them and find out what questions they may have. Most of the time, if they have a question, it is going to come back to me anyway. Somebody else could answer them but they really need to be answered by me.
Q: He said getting a phone call from you was better than getting a phone call from the President of the United States.
BB: That is very flattering but…
BB: Certainly rookies have a lot of things to learn when they come into the National Football League. With all due respect to their college programs and that level, this is just a different level and different competition. I think that every player that comes into it has a lot to learn and a lot to experience. It is no different with this rookie class then any other rookie class. What each of them learned and how they experience it vary from player to player. There is a common thread of having to go through certain things together as a group or to pay your dues in the National Football League. I think all rookies go through that.
BB: When I was a rookie? In my first year in the NFL? Yep, I sure did. I got up and sang my school's [Wesleyan University] fight song and all of that.
BB: I don't think that would be good T.V. You can put that up there with my dancing video.
Q: Can you talk about rookie linebacker Jerod Mayo.
BB: Jerod [Mayo] just missed that one practice. Otherwise he has been here for all the spring camps and the whole training camp. He works hard and is a smart kid. Football is really important to him. He studies and is very attentive in meetings. He asks good questions and competes hard on the field. Linebacker is a tough position to play because there is a lot to learn there. You are involved in every type of play whether it is run, pass, play action or blitz. With everything we do, he is right in the middle of it. It is not like playing some positions where there is not as much action on every play. That is where it is at right now. He has a lot to learn but he is learning it and improving. He is working very hard. I have been very impressed with Jerod's work ethic, toughness and competitiveness. We will see how all that goes as we continue to add and he learns more within our system. He has acquired a lot of information and there is still a long way to go.
Q: Do you have to remind him there is only one punter?
BB: We want to work together. Everybody is out there competing, but at the same time we want to take care of each other because this is all we got. That is something we all have to do at every position. We want to compete, play hard and take care of each other. Sometimes there is a fine line because guys get a little out of control or they lose their balance. We want to try and avoid any of those types of situations but that is also part of the game.
Q: How much has he benefited from Adalius Thomas, Mike Vrabel and Tedy Bruschi on and off the field?
BB: I am sure that it is good to be around those players. Those guys are smart and experienced players that have had a lot of success in the league. I think you would have to ask him that question. Those guys are very willing to help the younger players. They have a lot of knowledge and have played in our system pretty successfully for a number of years. They have a good perspective on what it takes to play and be successful on the New England Patriots defense. That is important information that they could give to any rookie that is receptive to listening to it and taking the advice.
Q: How is Brandon Meriweather?
BB: I think it has been pretty steady. I thought he made a lot of improvement last season during the course of the year and in training camp. He had a good off-season and a good spring. He is having a good training camp. I think he is much better now than where he was last year at this time. He continues to improve on a regular basis. He works hard and takes coaching well. He doesn't make the same mistake repeatedly. I think he continues to improve but he still has a ways to go. He is only in his second year but he is making good progress. I like what he has done in camp. He has gotten some extra opportunities this year because Rodney [Harrison] has missed a few practices early and that gave him some reps. James [Sanders] has missed a couple of practices here. So he has gotten a lot of opportunities to play and I think he has taken advantage of those snaps and improved his level of performance.
BB: Yes, I have. There is pretty much only one way to go. He has improved though because he worked on it in the off-season. It has shown up better. Better in practice and better in training camp this year than what it was last year. I think a lot of the hard work he has done is paying off and it is showing in his play.
Q: Talk about Rodney [Harrison] missing a few practices?
BB: It is good to have him out there. It is great. We would like to have all of our players out there. It is good to have Rodney back. He brings a level of play and intensity out there to the practice field that is good for everybody. It is good for the defense, offense and for the entire football team. Nobody practices harder than Rodney. I don't think, in my career, I have ever coached a player that practices any harder than Rodney practices on a daily basis. He has a tremendous work ethic and is as good as anybody I have been around, especially on the defensive side of the ball. That carries over to other players and forces them to rise up to his level. It is good to have him back out there.
BB: I don't think we have time for all that. We meet with the players everyday. We talk to them on a daily basis from the first rookie mini-camp to the last game we play. We talk about things that are important to winning and to our football team. Some of that is related to other areas but in the end all those subjects are covered on a pretty regular basis. Basically, a player's job is to be in condition, know his assignments and work hard. That is a good start right there.
BB: That is a really good question. I would say both. We have a plan but right now long term for me is 20 minutes. That is the way it has been the last week. You go from a meeting to practice, from practice to a meeting, to a meal, to another meeting, to a coaches meeting and then watching film. You are just trying to keep up with your schedule and be productive within it. I think we are reaching a point here where our preparations for Baltimore [Ravens], which really start for us Sunday night, between now and then there will be a period where we need to step back and take a breath and say 'OK, lets go back and see where we are here. Let's think about it.' We do that on a regular basis anyway. Now we sit back and overview to find out where we are at the end of one week. We may be on schedule in some areas, a little bit behind in other areas and maybe we are doing a little better than we thought we would in some areas. Then we talk about the players and how they are doing, how the repetitions are going, what we need to emphasize in practice and maybe change the combinations of players to move guys so that they get more versatility. We have them work in different positions and manage a couple of positions where we are short on spots. All that is going to take place here in the next three or four days. I am not sure exactly when but that will all take place. It needs to take place. Then we will move forward and march on to the next week. Whether that is the same schedule that we have mapped out now or we have to alter it some. I am sure we will have to alter it some. That is kind of how it works. We kind of know where we are going in the second week but there are usually some things that have to be modified in order to make it as productive as we can.
Q: How is Jabar Gaffney progressing during camp?
BB: Jabar [Gaffney] has had a really good camp. Of course he had a really good off-season. He was one of our off-season award winners at his position. I think he followed up last season with a good off-season and good spring camp. He has taken it into training camp. He has gotten a few extra reps with Wes [Welker] being out. He is a very versatile player that played every position for us last year. Whether it was three wide receivers or four wide receivers. At one point or another he played in each spot. The X, Y, Z or F spots as we call them. He is a guy that picks things up quickly. Quarterbacks have a lot of confidence in him. He has been a very dependable player for us. His versatility during training camp and the regular season really helps us work other players and let them get the most benefit out of what they are doing. He is a guy that can bounce around a little bit and balance things out on different plays so we can maximize what some of the other players can do. He is really a key guy for us and was like that last year. He is ahead of where he was last year because he had an outstanding off-season and spring camp.