New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Monday, August 25, 2008.
BB: We are back at it here. We are definitely on a regular season schedule now these two days. We are trying to put three days into two and treat today and tomorrow like a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and compress that. The [New York] Giants game is a good opportunity for us in terms of going on the road, obviously playing a quality football team. It will give us a lot of things that we need to continue to work on. They are very good on defense, good skill receivers, good offensive line and good in the kicking game. It will be a good opportunity for us, all the way across the board for all the guys to participate in the game, get some experience and try to fine tune and get everything as ready as we can against Kansas City. Obviously, we still have a lot of work to do and we only have a few practices left from now until the start of the regular season and one more preseason game. We want to try to take advantage of those opportunities, make the most of them and gain as much ground as we can as a football team to get ready for Kansas City and also try to evaluate the roster in terms of making the cuts. We have to be at 75 on Tuesday, as you know, and then 53 by the end of the week. We've got quite a few decisions to make there and that will be part of it, as well as trying to get our team ready to go against Kansas City in the opener and the 15 games after that. You know, this is a tight week, short week, busy week but hopefully a productive one and one where we can take advantage of opportunities to make our team better.
Q: When it comes to guys who are on the bubble at this time of year. Is there a danger in them trying to do too much to try and catch the coach's eye during practice?
BB: I think that is always a concern for everybody. Guy's that try to do more than what they need to do and then not doing what their job is first. I think it comes back to do your job first, whatever that is. We all have an important job on the football team and we all have to do that job. Whoever is coaching the linebackers has to coach the linebackers, whoever is playing left end has to play left end, whoever is the contain guys has to be the contain guys. Everyone has to do their job, that is where it all starts. I think we never want to start trying to help too many other people out and get somewhere else and not be accountable for our own area. To the extent that you can ever get that under control and then assist someone else, that is great. That goes for all of us. I know everyone is trying hard to improve, to get ready to go, in some cases to make the team and show up wherever they can and take advantage of their opportunities and that's the way it should be. I think we have some competitive situations. I have already told the players and I constantly tell them, there isn't anything more you can do than prepare to play and play when you get the opportunity to play. Whenever those opportunities come will be determined by the coaching staff and not by the players although your performance affects your number of opportunities, but substitution and playing time are coaching decisions and not player decisions. I think they are better off not worrying about all of those and concentrate on what they can do to do their job better.
Q: You mentioned trying to cram three days into two. What does that mean for the players?
BB: Well, we can't take three practices and combine it into two from a time standpoint. We have to cut some things out, not run as many plays. I am saying if you add up the three days of practices, plays and so forth and then do it in two you are not going to come out with the same number. We still have to cover the same things. We have to cover first down runs, play actions, third down, red area, short yardage, goal line, two minute, all the kicking game plays and so forth. It would be like anything else. What you have normally 45 minutes to do, now you have 30 so you spend a little bit less time on everything but still try to get it all covered. Instead of running nine third down plays, maybe you run six. Instead of running 20 red area plays, you run 12 over the course of the week and you just have to trim that back a little bit. Same thing in the meetings, we have two days of meetings instead of three so everything has to go at a little bit of a quicker pace. From a game plan standpoint we will probably, it is preseason so there is not a ton of game planning anyway, trim things back a little bit because we know we have less time. [We will prepare] a few less plays and when you are playing more players than that affects it too. Not everyone is going to be in there running the plays anyway. It is hard to rep two or three groups for one play when you put in something new. Whereas, in the regular season if you put in something new you have one group and you give them two or three turns on it and hopefully you can get it. We will just have to compress everything.
Q: Have you noticed a lot of growth this year with the rookie group?
BB: They have worked hard. They have probably been as good a working group as we have had. They have worked hard off the field in the classroom, learning their assignments, watching film, spending extra time with the coaches, learning how to work the Avid equipment - doing some of their own cut ups and stuff like that. They've worked hard on the field. They make mistakes just like all rookies do and we will see how they perform over the long haul not just based on a couple of weeks. They have put a lot in it, they have been accountable, haven't had any problems with them in terms of discipline things or[being] late or that kind of thing. They are there early, they are eager, they are ready to go and they have consistently tried to do their best and try to learn from their mistakes. I think overall it's been a good group to work with and that goes back to rookie mini camp and the off-season program when those guys came in, in the middle of May, My 15-16 when they started here. They have been pretty consistent as a group.
Q: On the rookie's development.
BB: I don't know. We will have to see how all that plays out. I think you just keep moving along and you never know where it is going to go. Sometimes you hit a wall and it stops and sometimes it really takes off and goes a lot faster than you think it will. Sometimes it starts slow and you think, I don't know if we are ever going to get anywhere here - this is the best it is going to be and then all of a sudden it turns around and vice versa. Sometimes they start fast and finish slow and sometimes they start slow and finish fast. Sometimes it is a steady progression. I just don't think there is any formula on that. Obviously, we are going to have to make some decisions at the end of the week, like everybody else is and we will go on the information we have but it is not a perfect or exact science.
Q: In the rookie class, are there leaders within the group?
BB: Oh definitely. I think you see that in every rookie class. There are certain players that have a little bit more leadership within that class than other guys do. There are certain guys that maybe the other rookie guys look to and there are certain ones they don't. I think there is always that dynamic. I think sometimes when the rookies do some of the stuff with the veterans, like skits and stuff like that, it is a way for some of the team to see the personalities of the younger players not just in a football environment - out of the field, in a drill or at a meeting - but just a little bit of their personality and how they interact with their team, teammates and other rookie members. I think anytime you get a group of people, it settles in a certain way. That is not necessarily predictable but going back to 2000, even though [Tom] Brady was sixth round draft pick, by the end of the year I don't think there is any doubt that he emerged as the leader and front runner of that group. He certainly wasn't the best player, who had the most playtime or contributed the most in 2000 but just in terms of the hierarchy of the group - he clearly moved to the top of that. Maybe some of that was the position he played too but yes, you definitely see that.
Q: How has Ray Ventrone handled the change to wide receiver?
BB: Ray has handled it well. We used Ray last year on the practice squad to run routes for the defense as an offensive receiver and he really did a good job. At the end of the year when we had our postseason evaluations we talked about putting him at receiver and using him there because he had already had a year of defensive meetings. I think he has been able to keep up with some extra work with coach [Dom] Capers and coach [Dean] Pees just on keeping up on his assignments on defense for any adjustments or little things that have changed. I think he has had a year of fundamentals and background on that so he has a decent idea of what is going on with that. Offensively, he has spent the bulk of this year over there and from time to time we flip him back and forth. I think he can play both receiver and defensive back at a competent level. I think he has done a good job as a receiver when he has had the opportunity to play. He is a tough kid, he runs hard, he catches the ball well and he showed up in the kicking game. His versatility is his number one strength at this point but when he does play he has been productive in defense, special teams and offense. He is a unique guy.
Q: Victor Hobson has not taken that many play reps. How is he developing in your system?
BB: Well, Victor [Hobson] played a little more last week. He really has played inside [linebacker]. He played inside in college and played inside at the [New York] Jets when Herm [Edwards] was the head coach. They played a 4-3 and he played off the line [of scrimmage] and played inside the tackles. He didn't really go to the outside and play on the line of scrimmage until the last two years. It is a little different [now] than what it was [then] but I don't think it is dramatically different than what he has done earlier in his career at the [New York] Jets or at Michigan. I think he has picked up things well. He is a veteran that has been in a system similar to this from a terminology standpoint. He works hard. He's tough and has made some plays for us in the kicking game. He has made some plays for us defensively, particularly in the running game. He is strong and can take people on. He plays a good leverage. I think he has had a solid camp and has made the transition well. I don't think it has been a problem for him.
Q: When you get to the point where you have to make roster decisions, how do you evaluate a guy like Jason Webster who has missed a significant amount of practice time? Do you go based on what you saw in the spring at mini camps or is it a bit of a leap of faith?
BB: I think you answered your own question. That is really all you can do. You can't judge him on practices that he hasn't been at. You have to take what you have on film from Buffalo, which wasn't a whole lot from last year or before that and take it on the spring practices, the OTA's [off-season training activity] and the practices that he had here at training camp. I know Jason has been working hard and he is close to being back out here. He is day to day so whatever day that is, hopefully it will be soon, then he will be back and we will try to put him back into the mix. Again, we went through this last year with some players. Last year was [Randy] Moss, this year it is [Tom] Brady or Jason [Webster] or whoever. You have to go on what the information you have is. Sometimes you have more on a player than on another player but in the end you just have to take that and do the best you can with it.
Q: Is it the same case for Mike Richardson?
BB: Very similar. We had him here last year but he is younger less experienced. Jason [Webster] has more experience but less experience in our system. We kind of know Mike a little bit better but he is a younger player. We don't know Jason as well but he is an experienced player. It is different but similar.
Q: What did you see from Matt Gutierrez's playing career?
BB: Well, he had a very productive college career. I think physically he was able to do what we wanted a quarterback to do. He has good size, he is strong, he is a tough kid, he's smart and he can handle the offense. He played at a good level in college.
Q: How about Matt's [Gutierrez] work ethic?
BB: Well that is exceptional, even going back to high school where he played at DeLaSalle. He had a great career there. Really each player is his own player but I think a kid that comes out of that program, if you know anything about that program, they need to be pretty hard workers, pretty dependable and pretty consistent or they probably wouldn't be able to play there. He had a great career there and I don't think there has ever been any question about his work ethic, his toughness, his dependability, his commitment to football or anything like that. I think that is as top as it can be and it has been that way for us but that is how it was advertised of him coming in.