Patriots head coach Bill Belchick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Monday, August 30, 2010.
BB: We're into our final week of training camp. It's a big week for us. It will give us a chance to straighten out a few things and then work on the Giants. The Giants are a real good football team. A little different than what we've seen. Physical. Real good in all areas. Offense, defense, special teams. They have a good style of play. It's very challenging. It will give us a chance to see the new stadium which we'll be back in, in a couple weeks. It's a good opportunity for us this week to get a lot of stuff done. Really our last chance till we get into a bye week later on this season where we're not getting ready for a regular season opponent here every week. It's important for us to try and iron out a few things. We'll have a good competitive test down there in New York, New Jersey.
Q: What are some things that you look for when you go into a new stadium for the first time?
BB: Well, any stadium, just getting familiar with it. The field conditions, the footing, obviously. The returners, the ball handling. Whatever the structure is, lights so forth. Not that that will be an issue with the Jets. The familiarity with it, the wind patterns, just being comfortable with the whole setup. Coaches press box, coming down at halftime. It's a lot of little things, but it's just easier when you've had a run through once before, and you kind of know what you are doing. 40-second clocks for the quarterbacks. Stuff like that.
Q: You talked about getting into regular season mode this week. Are there corrections you guys do with the film corrections just like it is in the regular season or is it more of a different approach?
BB: No, it's like it is in the regular season. Things that come up in these games, if you don't get them fixed, they are going to come up again. There are certainly a lot of fundamental things that need to be addressed. Hand placement, footwork, leverage. All those type of things that we've said them before and we are still in the stage where you need to keep repeating them and make sure that everybody understands. Any situation can be a little bit different or a different person [can be] involved, that kind of thing. There's always fundamental coaching going on, but certainly at this time of year, you don't want to gloss over it. Sometimes later on you get into a short week or other circumstances during the year, [and] you don't get to go through the film as thoroughly or sometimes not at all. In a lot of cases those corrections for the most part have been made. Those types of weeks, sometimes you'll pull out a dozen players that are a little different, a little new. First time that situation has ever happened or something is unique about it, and you can go over it with them. During the season, a lot of times the things you go over at that point, you've already gone over multiple times. I think that's really the case now.
Q: Leigh Bodden has had a tough summer being slowed down by injuries. What do you anticipate from him going forward?
BB: I think every player is kind of in the same boat. The ones that aren't out there, the best thing they can do, is be out there. That's really where it starts. And it's where they want to be. We just have to see how it goes here with Leigh. Take it as it comes.
Q: Along those lines, what are the chances of an injury report today?
BB: Less than zero.
Q: With the roster cut down tomorrow to 75, do you anticipate taking that down to the wire or will you be releasing something today?
BB: No, we'll probably just do all the transactions tomorrow. There's still a couple of moving parts that we need to figure out.
Q: Can you talk about that process in terms of what happens when a player gets called in? Is there a formality of the whole process?
BB: We talk to each player whatever his situation is. Sometimes we release him. Sometimes they are in a PUP or IR type situation. Sometimes they are involved in a practice squad type of transaction. Whatever it is, we talk to the player. We talk to his representatives and try to get everybody on the same page.
Q: Do you ever notice guys playing this last week with that in the back of their minds, maybe a little too tight or a little more amped up than usual?
BB: Sure. I think that there's anxiousness or an apprehension with players at this point of the season relative to a lot of things. We are all a little unsettled on something whether it's coaching decisions or whether it's players being on the team, what their role is, what their playing time looks like to them, so forth. I think a lot of us fall into that category for one reason or another. It's pretty common in training camp or any kind of a competitive situation like that. Once there is a deadline for certain decisions, at least something is determined after that. Maybe not everything, but something's determined.
Q: Obviously, you haven't been perfect offensively this preseason, but no interceptions and no fumbles that I can remember.
BB: Oh we've fumbled. They just didn't get it, but we fumbled.
Q: But no interceptions thrown. I know you guys have simplified the playbook a little bit thus far early on. Has this efficiency been related to a more simple offensive approach?
BB: I wouldn't say that we've necessarily simplified it. We haven't done everything that we're capable of doing or have done in the past. Let's put it that way. I don't know what we're capable of right now. We haven't done everything that we've done in the past. We've narrowed that down to fewer things, trying to do them better. Will we keep expanding or will we kind of find a settling point? I'm not sure. There are other things that we've done in the past, that we've talked about doing, that we could do. How much of those do we want to do? How much would that take away from what we are doing now? That's a big picture decision. That's also a little bit of a week-to-week game plan thing. Maybe we'll pick and choose and cherry pick on a week-to-week basis based on what we think we need. It's always better when we can work on it ahead of time. Work on it in training camp rather than fire it in there in the regular season, but that happens too. So there's going to be both.
Q: You often talk about young player's great development. Jerod Mayo, where do you see him in his development?
BB: I think he started high. And I think he's built on that. He was a good football player as a rookie. Very mature, very good at a lot of things. But he's improved tremendously over the last couple of years, too. He has a great feel for the overall defense not just his responsibility, although he's good at his responsibility. He has a good understanding of the total defense. The concepts, adjustments. Why you do one thing and not another, vice versa. What things apply to certain situations. He's very coachable. He's very team-oriented. He understands what we're doing and how we're doing it. I think he definitely understood some of that his rookie year, but I think he's gained a lot of knowledge as well as just playing experience. Little tips, things to look for. Little subtle things that he's a lot more aware of now than he was two years ago. No doubt that he started at a very high level when he came in here and performed well for us very early. But he's definitely built on that. I don't think he's leveled off. I think it's certainly improved steadily.
Q: Tom [Brady] has always been the leader of this team. But has he been a little more vocal this preseason, this training camp? Have you seen that? Or is it still basically lead by example? Has his leadership changed in anyway?
BB: No, not significantly. I think Tom's been Tom. He's always been a strong leader. He's always been vocal, but not overbearing. He helps the younger players. He talks to the veteran players. There's a good competitive spirit between him and some of the defensive players when we get into competitive drills. 2-minute, third down, team drills, things like that. I've seen that before, we see it now.
Q: From an experience standpoint, Brandon Tate essentially is a rookie in his second year, but we've seen him on offense, returning kickoffs, punts. How has he responded to that significant workload for a guy this early in his career?
BB: It's kind of his first year playing, but I think him being here last year, along with some other players who were here but didn't play very much, that was still a very good experience for him. And he learned a lot about preparation and our system and what opponents do and all those kind of things. Keys and things like that. Even though he didn't get a chance to do them. This training camp he's gotten a chance to do a lot of them. I think he's taken that background and that confidence and that's helped him play more aggressively, more confidently, because he's just more sure of it. He's not a rookie, but he is a rookie. I think he's done well with a lot of responsibilities. We've played him in a lot of spots on offense. And as you mentioned, he's also been involved in the return game. He's done a lot of things, and he's picked them up well.
Q: Mike Wright came in here obviously undrafted, and he might be a starter this year. Can you talk about how hard he's worked and all the different roles he's played in the time that he's been here?
BB: He's worked very hard. Mike is a very diligent offseason worker. He's one of those guys who's always in pretty good shape. He trains hard. He works hard. He's tough. We've asked him to do a lot. He's played in the kicking game. He's covered kicks for us and things like that. He's played on third down. He's played nose. He's played end. He's played inside and outside on a four man line. He's a very versatile player, athletic enough to do some of the more skilled things. Powerful enough to stand up against big guys or more than one guy, double teams, things like that. He's got a good set of skills. He's worked hard. He's very conscientious. He really wants to do the right thing. He takes the extra time to learn and get it right. He's really, from where he's started, he's really had a good career to this point. And he continues to work hard and build on it. Every year, he becomes more dependable, more versatile, a guy who has more experience, and uses it. Some guys gain experience and it doesn't really seem to help. He's a guy that gains experience and doesn't repeat a lot of mistakes from previous years or situations.
Q: He's a little bit smaller than typically some of the ends you have had here. And certainly, weight-wise, he's smaller than Vince. How is he able to succeed despite that?
BB: Well, there are a lot of guys who are smaller than Vince. He's not a small guy now. He's an explosive player. He's strong and he's explosive. His weight room numbers and his test numbers are competitive with probably most our linemen, but I'd say probably most good linemen in the league.
Q: Do you have a better feel at all for the placement of the umpire and the way that it will affect no huddle and hurry up situations in games?
BB: We ran it in the third quarter last week. It didn't seem to affect it too much.
Q: Is that something you want to use the preseason to at least monitor and have a better idea of how that will work out?
BB: I think we are more concerned about what we are doing. Whatever the officials are doing, they are doing. We'll adjust to it or deal with it whatever it is. Right now, we are more concerned about what we're doing.
Q: You mentioned the effort to get acclimated to a new stadium, but your own stadium has a little bit of a difference with a new playing surface. Two games on it, have you noticed any difference? Anything that's stood out about it? Or is it just still a field?
BB: No, I think it's definitely different. It's a contrast from where we were at with the old field at the end of the season. Newer, thicker, softer. We've only been on it a couple of times now, the two games and one practice. We are still getting adjusted to it as well. It's definitely a softer surface than what we had before.
Q: Does that change the cleats on the shoes and things like that?
BB: A little bit of footing, the cutting. Yes. It may not dramatically, but you are on a hard surface, you are on a soft surface. I think the players are aware of that, and they subtly make their adjustments with their speed and change of direction and things like that. The scoreboard is a little different too. It's great for the fans. It's a little more distracting for the players on the field with the brightness and all that. There are changes. As I've said, we've only been on it 3 times. We're still getting acclimated to it a little bit.
Q: Tom [Brady] mentioned today that you told him you guys would all be playing on Thursday. Did you mean that all be ready to play in case everyone forgets where the field is or actually be playing?
BB: I tell everybody to be ready to play every week. That's what we do. Coaches control playing time, but players should be ready to play every week regardless of the score, situation, field conditions, or anything else. That's their job. That's their responsibility. That's what it is every week. And that's not going to change.
Q: When do you determine that for a preseason game? Is it before you start practicing for the week or is it right before the game?
BB: I think each situation is different. It might vary with a particular player. It might be a group. It could be a team. It could be a whole unit. In the end, you do what is best for your team. Try to do what's best for your team. Try to do what's best for individuals as it relates to their particular situation, whatever that happens to be - experience, injury. Again, the players that they are playing with. There are a lot of factors there. You take those into consideration and make the best decision you can.
Q: One of the things coaches are apprehensive about at this time of year is, you've done all the work in training camp with all the two-a-days. You don't know quite how your team will look for real once the regular season starts going. Is that one thing that worries you and other coaches?
BB: I think every coach feels like that. I can't imagine that you wouldn't. Regular season and preseason are two different things. Teams start game planning against you. Then you find out a little bit more about where you're really at on some things. Preseason, you're running your plays, they're running their plays. Sometimes they match up, sometimes they don't. You're playing a lot of people. There are a lot of different matchups. It's hard to get a read on it. Once you get to the regular season, nobody holds back. You get their best game plan. You get your toughest matchups. You try to create them for them. Your weaknesses get exposed. You try to get to your strengths, but they don't let you get to them as easily. And you're doing the same. It's a whole different game. Until that happens, I don't think you are really sure where exactly everything is. It's different in the regular season.