New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Thursday, August 14, 2008.
BB: We are rolling along here for Tampa Bay [Buccaneers]. It is kind of like a normal Thursday practice for us today as we are preparing for a Sunday game. As I have said all week, we are excited about playing this team. The challenges they present, going down there and dealing with the elements of the heat in Tampa and so forth. I think this is a really good opportunity for our team. We are looking forward to it. I know there are some reports out there about John Lynch. I can tell you that I met with John yesterday. He came in, we talked and he took a physical. But right now he is not under contract with the [New England] Patriots. Until he is, I won't have any further comment on that other then what I just said, that he was here. If and when that happens, then we will address it but until then I really don't have any other comment on it. That is where we are for today.
Q: Being that it is close to the end of training camp, how does that change your planning for the remainder of camp?
BB: I really don't think we are at the end of it [training camp]. To me, I see it as a transition as opposed to having a start and a stop and something else. With the way the schedule falls, we have those two games back to back with the [Philadelphia] Eagles and the [New York] Giants. Going from a Sunday to Friday and then a Friday to Thursday. That will be two short weeks back to back. That will be a transition for us. This week has been kind of a move from training camp into a little more preparation for the game then we had for Baltimore [Ravens]. We played Tampa Bay last year. They were a playoff team and have the same coaching staff. As opposed to Baltimore, who had new coaches and a new system. We are going to try and emphasize the preparation this week. Not quite to the extent we will for Kansas City [Chiefs] and the regular season but we are heading down that road. I just think it is a natural progression for us. We are trying not to treat it as a big 'It's this and now it's that'. To me, it is more of a phase we are going through. We are still working on a lot of things that we need to work on as a football team that aren't specific to Tampa Bay. They are just general things we need to make progress on to be ready for our season. It is part that and part preparing for Tampa Bay.
Q: Do you like what you have seen from cornerback Antwain Spann so far in camp?
BB: Antwain has had a really good camp. He had a good spring. He has been productive and has shown up on a lot of plays. He has played more at safety but he has been a versatile guy for us by playing inside in sub situations as well as outside. He has had a lot more responsibility as far as making calls and adjustments from the safety spot. He has picked that up pretty well even going back to the spring. Certainly that got him off to a good start and gave him a little momentum and gave him some confidence heading into training camp. He has kind of picked up where he left off in the spring. He has had a good camp. It is still kind of a new deal for him because he really hasn't had a chance to be with us all the way through. He came from Europe coming off the injury last year. This is really the first season where he has had a full off-season with spring camps, training camp and then the regular season. All that is good for him and has helped him. He has taken advantage of the opportunities that he has gotten there.
Q: How has rookie quarterback Kevin O'Connell looked so far and what have you liked about him?
BB: Kevin [O'Connell] has kind of gotten better each day. He is making a big transition from college to the NFL. He is going from a shotgun offense to an offense that is less than 50 percent shotgun. In addition, there are a lot of other differences with the reads, terminology and so forth. Kevin has gotten better every day. He works hard and is a smart kid. He is a talented athlete because he is big and can run. He has a good arm and pretty good accuracy. There are still a lot of things he has to work on just from a mechanics standpoint, with terminology, learning our system and getting comfortable with the reads and the adjustments. He has made a lot of progress and seems to get better each day. Now that he has a game under his belt with Baltimore, we will see how he does in the next opportunity he gets and what he learned from Baltimore, what new things will happen to him and how he will handle those situations.
Q: Tom Brady said yesterday that the quarterbacks asked you if they could switch to the white jerseys. What was the reasoning behind that and what does it change?
BB: I don't think it changes a whole lot. The red jerseys in training camp are good because of the work that we are doing. We are going at a good tempo and guys are rushing the passer. They may not be as aware of the quarterback in the pocket as what they are after 22 practices and a game. You just don't want people falling into the quarterback when they are throwing which is a pretty unprotected position for them. I think the red jersey is easier for everybody to identify but now that we are down that road I think we have enough experience to know where everybody is, what the tempo is, when to pull off and those types of things. Not just for the quarterbacks but in a lot of areas like playing the ball or potential collisions. We try to save those for the game and not blow each other up in practice.
Q: Does it help when you face a team like Tamp Bay in the preseason that run similar things as your week one opponent Kansas City?
BB: Well sure, I think it gives our players the opportunity to match up against different schemes and different types of players. Like with Baltimore, we faced some guys that were 320, 330 or 340 [pounds] on the defensive line. This week we will face some guys that are a lot smaller than that but faster, quicker, more athletic, that stunt more - that kind of thing. It is a whole different type of player that you are blocking. It is the same thing with some linebackers. There are linebackers that are almost like safeties in some cases. They are faster, quicker, a little bit smaller. Everything happens faster and they do more stunting. They run better and play at the second level faster than some other guys we have faced and even some of our guys in the 3-4. I think that it will be good work for us. We are going to have to face it eventually during the year. It is a good chance for us to evaluate our players on how we do against it. Also, it exposes them to that type of a player and the scheme they use as that type of a player.
Q: At this time of year do you designate a scout team?
BB: Yeah, we will simulate the other team's plays. It is a transitional thing where we work against ourselves some. We start to work against our opponents so we can at least prepare for what they are going to do and have some level of execution at it in the game. We are doing that more this week than we did last week. We will probably do more next week than we are doing this week even though it is a shorter week. That is kind of the natural progression. Some of the things that will come up at the beginning of the season are things that we will have worked on ourselves against each other. They are things that will come up specifically against a certain team. Whether it is an end-of-the-game play, onside kick or some type of deceptive play. Something like that where we will have to fall back on that base to have it covered and to play it properly or run it properly on whatever happens to show up on that situation. We can't prepare for every game with the 100 or so situations there are. We just have to go through those generically. When they come up, hopefully we are prepared for those. It is a combination of stuff.
Q: Cornerback Jason Webster has been out for a while. Is he still a mystery to you or do you have an idea of what he is able to do?
BB: He is day-to-day in terms of coming back. He is getting a little better each day. He is getting better and hopefully it won't be too much longer. The one good thing is that Jason [Webster] had a good off-season and was at all the spring camps and mini camps. We had a good opportunity to work with him there at a couple of different spots. Of course it would be good to have him and every other player back on the field. I am sure he is working hard to get back and when he is ready he will be back out there. Hopefully that will be soon. It is unfortunate with the time that he is missing. We have worked with him some but with him out that provides opportunities for other players. We will evaluate them. We just have to do the best that we can with the information that we have. It is not perfect but that is all there is.
Q: You have talked before about the importance of team defense working together on run coverage. However, at this time of year you are rotating independently. At some point, do you need to start only rotating as a unit?
BB: We do some work as a unit. At times we try to work units together. Again, there is a balance there. We are trying to get the right balance between working the guys who you think are going to play together or that you hope are going to work together, versus who is actually playing. There are some players with less experience, that if they are out there with a less experienced group it sometimes looks like a little bit of a fire drill and everybody struggles. If you put that less experienced player with a more experienced group then a lot of things fall into place for him and he gets a little bit of help. It is just a smoother operation. There is a place for both. There is a place for experienced guys being together, there is a place for inexperienced guys to be together and there is place for a mixture for those two to join forces. That is where the older guys don't always just rely on other experienced guys around them. At the same time, they learn how to work with inexperienced guys and inexperienced guys learn how to work with guys who have a little more anticipation and knowledge of the situation that is coming up. They can help the less experienced players. I think that is kind of good for everybody and that is what training camp is for. At some point, we will boil that down to the people who are going to work together. The people who won't play as much will get some work but not the same percentage. That is like everything else in training camp. You have players who have a lot of experience and other guys who have very little experience. You try to blend it all together. Some guys need one thing and other guys need other things. Some guys need more work in the passing game. Some guys need more work in the running game. Some positions have larger numbers. Some positions have smaller numbers. There is a lot of juggling going on through camp to try and maximize the benefits of each practice and each drill for the entire team. At some point, you have to get the team that is ready to play out there and start getting them ready to play. You have to kind of move on and in some cases leave some people behind. At some point you just have to get ready to play. Obviously, that day is a lot closer now then it was at the start of training camp. That is where we are headed.
Q: How have the guys you added since training camp started progressing so far without the benefit of the mini camps and not much preparation?
BB: Overall, fairly well. Considering that we have a pretty sophisticated system and there are a lot of things going on. It is not like coming in during the season where you are just looking at a game plan for what we are going to do against a particular team. You are coming into a situation where you kind of have to learn everything in the playbook and not only learn a lot of plays but also how they are against a lot of possibilities on the other side of the ball. The other side has just as many plays as we are learning. You add those up and it is a lot. All things considered, I think those guys have done a pretty good job of being able to go in there and at least function and run the stuff that we are doing. Sometimes you get in a situation where you have a player like that coming in and he just isn't able to get out there with the rest of the team because he just doesn't have enough background on what he is doing. We really haven't had too much of that considering the number of players brought in since the start of training camp. It has been surprisingly good.
Q: Would you say it is harder to come in during the middle of training camp as opposed to coming in during the season?
BB: Yeah, in one respect it is harder because there is more. We have a lot more plays in now than we would ever have in for a game plan. We also have to run those plays against a lot more things than we would ever have to run against in a game plan. So we have to run them against our 3-4 defense. We have to run them against Tampa Bay's 4-3 defense. We have to run them against Baltimore, and all the stuff they did on defense. Versus, if we were playing one team in the regular season, well they wouldn't run 4-3, 3-4 and all the Baltimore, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay stuff. If we run that play, we have to be able to execute it against whatever they show up in. In a season you would boil all that down. The bad part about the season is that when a player comes in, he can learn the game plan and learn how to run them against the team we are playing but then he doesn't have the background of all the fundamentals and a lot of the little things that are important to a play. With the little technique things or minor coaching points that can really make a difference. Now he is just trying to learn 'I block this guy' or 'I run this route' or 'this is who I cover on this play'. There are so many little things that go into it and he doesn't get the benefit of that because he is just trying to learn what to do on that play. It is two different challenges. Coming in and learning the playbook that basically everybody else has learned since the spring against a number of things you have to be able to do it against, that is a big load.