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Bill Belichick Press Conference - 8/26/2009

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, August 26, 2009. BB: First off, I would just like to say I have a lot of personal regret today on the passing of Senator Kennedy.

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, August 26, 2009.

BB: First off, I would just like to say I have a lot of personal regret today on the passing of Senator Kennedy. I send the condolences on behalf of the team to his family. He was really a guy that personally was very supportive of this team and also of me. He sent me a personal note on numerous occasions, almost annually: at the end of the year congratulating us on our success, or sometimes when things didn't go the way we wanted them to, notes of encouragement and that sort of thing. Of course, he was there on our trips to Washington. He was a great Senator from a great family in this area and certainly had an impact on all of us in one way or another. But his leadership and his courage were certainly something I personally always looked up to and I know meant a lot to the people in this state as well as the entire nation. From a roster standpoint here, we resigned Robert Ortiz and the other transactions we had, signing Tyrone McKenzie and he'll obviously be headed to injured reserve. That will be the next transaction on him. I don't know exactly when that will be, probably in the next day or so, couple days, whatever it is. Tank [Williams] was a tough one. I think Tank's a very professional guy, someone I really enjoyed coaching and had a lot of respect for when he played at Tennessee and Minnesota, especially Tennessee. He was a tough competitor, a tough guy for us to handle and he came in and did everything he could. He had, unfortunately, a knee injury last year, but he was a guy that I had the utmost respect and admiration for even though he never actually played for us in the regular season. But what he did in the offseason in every opportunity that he had was nothing but exemplary. I just wish things could have turned out better because of the work, desire and devotion that he put into his job and the leadership that he gave us on a lot of different levels - even though he didn't have the playing time maybe of some other people, but he certainly gave it to us in every opportunity that he could. Russ [Hochstein] has been with us for a long time, done a lot of different things for us, played everywhere from fullback to center and all the positions in between: guard, tackle, tight end, kickoff return, you name it. He's been a very versatile player for us, filled in during a lot of critical situations, did an excellent job and was also a great teammate. We all have a lot of love and respect for Russ. But in the end this is a decision that we made in the best interest of our football team. We wish him well, except for the games we compete against him in. But he's certainly meant a lot to this organization through the years, in the roles that he's performed and performed them well. Moving on to Washington; we're looking forward to this opportunity. I think this is a good environment, at the right time, for us to be going into. [We're] going on the road against a very talented and veteran football team. They are very good on defense. They have a lot of skilled players on offense. They can make plays with the ball in their hands: [Ladell] Betts, [Clinton] Portis, [Rock] Cartwright, [Chris] Cooley, [Mike] Sellers, [Santana] Moss, [Antwaan] Randel El, [Jason] Campbell. They have a very veteran offensive line, good in the kicking game, outstanding on defense all the way through their front seven to their secondary. They're very good at every position. I would say, certainly, as talented on defense as any team we'll see all year. [We're] on the road and we'll get a good evaluation of how things are coming together for us, and where we're at physically, and where we're at competitively, against a quality team. We'll be seeing three of the four teams in the NFC East. We know that's a great [division]. Those teams are very good and this preseason schedule has given us a good opportunity against some of the best teams in the NFC. This will be a good situation for us to go into Friday night and we're looking forward to it. That's where we're at here, today.

Q: You mentioned Russ Hochstein did a lot of things for you. Do you have another guy who does a lot of things like he did or is that an indication that the overall depth is better?

BB: I think that's a good question. We'll kind of have to see how all that works out going forward. I doubt probably that there will be anybody that will end up doing all the things that Russ [Hochstein] did, just like there probably won't be anybody that will end up doing all the jobs that Mike [Vrabel] did. But we may have somebody that does just as many jobs, just not the same ones. We try to build versatility on our team in every area: on offense, on defense, on the lines and skill positions and we'll keep doing that. We'll see how all that turns out. I'd say it'd probably be handled by more than one player.

Q: It seemed like Russ Hochstein was one of your most valued offensive linemen given all the positions that he was able to do. Was it something that the other guys did in training camp that impressed you or something that he hadn't done in training camp?

BB: Well, I think that we've had very good competition on the offensive line. The bottom line is, we do what we feel like is best for our football team. That's what drives every decision and that's what drove this one.

Q: Ryan Wendell and Dan Connolly had taken snaps at center in the preseason game. Is there anyone else outside of those two that would be in the mix to challenge the center spot behind Dan Koppen?

BB: Yeah, really all of our interior linemen have worked at center. Billy [Yates] has worked there. Rich [Ohrnberger] has worked there, Dan [Connolly], Ryan [Wendell]. So I think all those players can, not only that have, but to some degree can play that position as well. When you take seven lineman to a game, it's really hard to go into the game with one of those seven linemen only being able to backup at one position, whether it's center, right tackle or left tackle, whatever. That means you have five guys to play four spots so you are pretty thin there. If you do that, then you probably need to take eight linemen. We build that versatility in with all our guys. It would be pretty hard for them to not be able to play both spots inside and still be able to get to the game as a seventh lineman. So we work them all.

Q: When it comes to numbers on the offensive line, on the whole, when you are formulating your 53-man roster, have you gone into a year with three tackles or would that be considered light for you?

BB: I think last year on our final roster we had eight linemen, if I'm not mistaken. I think it could be anywhere from eight to 11. If you are an offensive line coach, the more the better. If you're the receiver coach or the defensive coach, the less offensive linemen means more guys somewhere else. It's just a question of how all that balances out. I think that if you look historically at our team, if you add in the practice squad players in addition to the 53-man roster, if you combine those two groups - since all those players are practicing and to some degree are with us on the team - then you will probably see that number at 10 or 11, regardless of whether it's eight and three, 10 and one, nine and two; however it breaks down. I'd say it will probably be in the 10 or 11 range there; sometimes 12, sometimes nine. But I would say probably in the 10 to 11 range historically at that position.

Q: Jerod Mayo mentioned that he spends a lot of time watching film with Pepper Johnson. They both played inside linebacker and you coached them both. Do you see similarities between those two?

BB: I think they have different playing styles. But I think they have similarities in terms of they're both tough, hard working, smart guys, very team-oriented and understand a lot of defensive concepts, not only at their position, but what everybody else around them is doing. They bring great leadership to the field and energy to the field at their position. They can run the defense, both in the huddle, the line of scrimmage and in meetings and those kinds of situations. They can take control of the entire situation because they have the presence to do it and the knowledge to be able to identify with position, every group.

Q: Getting back to the offensive line - Rich Ohrnberger missing the first part of camp - is he as far along as you would like him to be?

BB: No, of course not.

Q: Was his development accelerated because he missed the first week or so of camp?

BB: No, it's not accelerated. It's behind. If you have 30 practices and you miss 10 of them, you only have 20. I don't think those 20 practices for you can be more than 30 practices for somebody else. I mean unless - all things being equal - if one guy goes out there and works hard in 20 practices and another guy doesn't in 30; well, that's a different story. Assuming that everybody does what they have a chance to do, the guys who have practiced more and worked more should be further ahead. I'd say 90 percent of the time they are further ahead. No, Rich is behind. There's no doubt about it. I know nobody wanted to be out there more than he did, but those practices he missed at this stage are ones that he can't get back this year, unfortunately. But that's the way it is. He has to do the best he can in the situation that he's in.

Q: When did the long snapper become such a specialized position?

BB: I would say at about the time I came into the league in the 70s, middle to late 70s. A lot of teams, when I first came into the league, I'd say there were a couple long snappers in the league and most teams had a position player that snapped, either a center, linebacker, tight end. Then, in the 70s and the early 80s, that transitioned to having a snapper, a kicker and a punter. In a lot of cases, you had punters and kickers who were also position players still in the 70s. Then you got the specialists, like [Pete] Gogolak and guys like that, who came in and they were just full-time players. In the early 70s and even into the middle 70s, there were still teams that had punters, kickers and snappers that were position players. Even if you look at the Pro Bowl voting, I'm not sure exactly when that changed, I'd say 10-15 years ago. It hasn't been that long where the rule was you had to select a player who was a position player to be your long snapper. Like when you send in your ballot, you had to include somebody that was a snapper so that each team would have one or they picked one. At some point - I can't remember exactly when it was - they went to just strictly selecting a long snapper because, in all honesty, those players didn't snap anymore. It kind of got phased out, like the Lou Groza's and the Gino Cappelletti's and the George Blanda's, who were great kickers and also position players [who] went the way of specialists. A big part of that also was the expansion of the roster. The bigger the rosters, then the more specialization you have. So when you were looking at 39-, 40-, 42-, 43-man rosters, you have to combine some of those things, whereas now you get to the specialization with higher numbers. There's a certain movement out there amongst different teams and coaches and media and so forth about expanding the rosters and saying: 'Well, we have more players and are already paying a certain number of guys. So why not let them all play?' I think the downside to that is the more players you have, then the more specialization you have. So now you have a kickoff guy, a field goal guy, a snapper, a punt return guy, a kickoff return guy, you've got a blocking tight end and goal-line, you've got a receiving tight end and third-down and - defensively - you need all the people to match those. Before you know, you've got a plus-50 punt return guy. Then you got a guy on the long field to return punts when you don't have a lot of ball-handling situations. Yeah, you could take the roster to 70 and find a spot for everybody for that one situation, kind of like in college; you have a field goal snapper, a punt snapper, you've got 20 guys to do 20 different things. I'm not sure if that's good for the game. But obviously it's a longer discussion here. I don't mean to get carried away on a simple question. I just love to help you guys out and give you some information. Now, you can rip me on it for answering a long answer.

Q: Given how important it is to have depth in certain positions on game day, why wouldn't you want a position player to just handle snapping? Why has it become so specialized because it seems like it just takes up a roster spot?

BB: It gets into a bind there. One, is the skill level of it. Two, is the injury factor and, three, is just the … I think there are some other smaller things that add into it. For example, if you look at these offensive linemen, you just look at them out there on the field, they've got shoulder pads on that would protect them from an 18-wheeler, so then to be able to have the flexibility and the motion to be able to bring their arms over their head and snap the ball through the legs and all that when they have pads that are that restrictive, that's a problem. Little things like that. As specialization has increased at the NFL level it's also increased at the other levels: college and even in high school. You go to a high school game now and a lot of times, you see the team's best player do everything, but there are other players that - they have their own snapper, they have their own punter, they got their own kicker, they've got a guy that just does that, so those guys improve and they can be more competitive at the next level. But it's definitely a roster consideration. Another thing is the injury factor. Now again, I understand in the 60's and the 70's the guy snapped, he played linebacker, he caught passes, returned kicks - that's just the way it was. We've seemed to evolve into a different stage here, but you have a snapper in there who plays linebacker and he's out for a couple series with a sprained ankle, now who snaps? You really need two snappers now, not one. That's a consideration, too. It's a consideration on the holding. A lot of teams used to use backup quarterbacks. Even in some cases, wide receivers as holders. Same thing, you have a punter, a snapper and a kicker that can spend an hour a day working on that timing and that skill and you have a quarterback who at the end of practice comes over and holds 10-15 kicks. If you've got a punter that can do it, you probably have a better operation with him doing it along with the fact that a quarterbacks out for a series with a sprained ankle, so who's your next holder? So you come down to the player of the game and you don't know who your holders going to be on a key play like that. If you can afford it, I think you do it. If you can't afford it, if the roster was 36, 38, there would be some cutoff there that you would have to start doing that. You cut it down far enough and you end up with two-way football, but that's specialization. I don't know if the fans would want to see that or don't want to see that. That's an interesting question. Do they want to see 50 guys out there playing or do they want to see 30 that they know and can keep track of?

Q: You mentioned that you will see three of the four NFC East teams in the preseason, how much say do you have over your preseason opponents?

BB: They schedule them; we should up and play them. That's pretty much how it works.

Q: Did your preseason schedule workout well with the teams that you're facing?

BB: Look, every game is a great opportunity. Every game is an opportunity to go against a club that has their own scheme, their own set of players, coaches and things that they do that they have to prepare for. I'm not saying that, I just think Washington - here's a game we're going on the road, we're going up against a very good group of skill players, a very veteran offensive line, solid in the kicking game and really have outstanding players on defense, as good as we're going to see. A good time to see if we can get away from the corners, see if we can block their front, see if we can run the ball against their run defense. This will be a good chance to evaluate a lot of that stuff. They don't try to fool you on every play. They like to lineup and play, so it gives you a pretty good evaluation of whether you can lineup and play with them.

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