New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Monday, September 1, 2008.
BB: Well, it has been a busy few days since we last got together. We had a lot of roster transactions. It is that time of year. I am sure there will be more before the week is over. We are just trying to get our roster set relative to the practice squad and some other moving parts that are going on there with guys going on the injured list and so forth and so on. I think that is a little bit of a work in progress for us as I am sure it is for most of the other teams in the league as well but in the mean time more importantly we are looking ahead to Kansas City. We have a lot of preparation work to do. This is a team we are not very familiar with. Since the last time we played them, they have a lot of new faces and they have kind of made some changes between the offensive coordinator and the scheme. They have a lot of young players on their team. They are fast, they are aggressive and they have a lot of talented players on this team. Especially their defensive line - their front seven are really very good. [Cornerback] Patrick Surtain, we have certainly had a lot of problems with him in the past, real good punter, good set of backs, very good skill players, receivers, tight-ends, backs, athletic quarterback - so a lot of things we have to get ready for against a team, like I said, who we are not very familiar with. At the same time, they have done some things this year in preseason but I am sure they've got some things that they are holding back as well. There certainly is, as always in the opening day, an element of the unknown. It is hard to prepare for but it is still something that you have to do. We are going to get out there on the field today, treat this like a regular Wednesday and push through the week here and try to have as much as a normal week as we can. When we come back on Wednesday, to have the last four days of preparation like we would normally have from Wednesday to Sunday for the game. We will get a little bit of a head start on it here today.
Q: Obviously, you have made changes to the roster in the past after setting the 53, but is this more [transactions] than usual for you?
BB: I don't know what usual is. I don't know what the norm is. It is just whatever you feel like is the best thing to do at that time. You look at your team. You look at your options. You look at your practice squad and the balance of your young players and more experience players. We have a couple guys on PUP [physically unable to perform]. We know that things are going to change down the road at some point with them but they're where they are now so really it is a mosaic of a lot of different forces that work. I can't say, this is the way it usually is or usually isn't. You kind of have to take it as it comes and look at your options and try to do what you think is best.
Q: You have had history playing against Deltha O'Neil.
BB: We got killed by him, yes.
Q: What do you see [Deltha] O'Neil has left at this point in his career?
BB: Well, we played him last year in Cincinnati and I did some work on him going into that game and saw him the rest of the season and in preseason this year. He is a very athletic corner, good ball skills, pretty big guy that goes up and plays a lot of press coverage - he has done that in the past. [He is] a physical player, good tackler, good interceptor, returner - we have seen the back of his jersey on that a couple of times.
Q: What took place between Saturday and Sunday that led you to release John [Lynch] and Chad [Jackson]?
BB: As I said, combination of roster forces. We were carrying a lot of receivers as it is. John is a great player and a great person. He was in here for a short time but I think he had an impact and it was a great opportunity to work with John and we will just see how that all works out going forward.
Q: Were you expecting Kevin Faulk's suspension and how did that affect the final roster cut down?
BB: Well, I think we are basically looking at it like Kevin is on the roster because it is just a one-week exemption. We are going to have to do something next week to get him back on the roster so I think that is kind of where we are starting from. Where we can take advantage of that extra roster spot, it is in there somewhere but it is only for a week. We will have to recalibrate that next week and that was part of the whole roster decision - was to try to include Kevin into the 53-man roster and then work it from there. We knew that was coming, yes.
Q: On Fernando Bryant's release.
BB: It is a hard decision to release any player really. All of the guys that were here had some element of their game that was competitive on the roster, whether it be for the practice squad or the 53-man squad. Different guys did different things on offense, defense and special teams but in the end you have to try to put together the roster that you feel like is best for your team going forward, so that is what we did. I am not critical of anybody that was here or what they did. They did their best and had we been able to keep more players, we would have kept more. I think there were many more deserving to be kept that could play for us, that could have helped us, that can play in the league but you can only have so many and so we have to keep the ones that you feel like give you the best chance to win.
Q: Does it now seem like another week of auditioning for that last cornerback slot? Does that add to the burden of preparing for Kansas City?
BB: Well, I think we have players in here that have been playing that can play it [cornerback]. We will see how Deltha [O'Neil] works into the whole mix. He will be out there on the field today. We will go through the week and see how that all develops. I mean, I really don't know at this point what it will be this week but I am glad we have him on our team and I think that he will help us. How exactly that is or when or in what spot remains to be seen. In the mean time, we'll go with what we have got at him in there and try to figure it out as we go. We have that at a couple different positions. I don't know what is normal or what is not normal but that is kind of common at this time of year - that you have players that you factor in that weren't factored in at an earlier point in camp, or maybe it is the last week in training camp or whenever it is but that is just part of the process. If you feel like it is good for your team in the long run, than that is why you do it.
Q: How has Jerod Mayo's work ethic helped his development?
BB: I think it has helped it a lot. Jerod has had a terrific attitude since he has gotten here. [He is] very studious and attentive. [He] really tries to ask a lot of good questions and pay attention. On things that he makes a mistake on or is not quite sure about, he is quick to ask about it. He wants to make sure he has it right. He very seldom makes the same mistakes twice. He might miss something that he hasn't seen but then after he has seen it, when it comes up again he usually does the right thing - makes the right read or right adjustment. I think that has helped him a lot. I think he has put in a lot of time off the field and that has certainly helped his play on the field.
Q: With [Kevin] Faulk's absence, do you feel like you have a guy that can fill that third down role and who would it be?
BB: Well, we have confidence in all of our running backs. They have all been productive for us. Between our backs, tight ends and receivers - we will put together the combination or combinations that we think are best for that situation. I think there are several different options there and we will try to have something in the game plan that will meet our needs but at the same time address what they like to do and what their tendencies are. I think it will be a combination of people we will use in those passing situations, some more than others.
Q: Can you explain the rule - if veterans were on the roster, they get a guaranteed salary? How does that rule play into the deciding of the roster?
BB: It depends on how long their tenure is. Then, a certain amount of that salary is guaranteed to them as a function. If they are on the roster - I am not sure what it is, game or week - [on] Thursday, there are a couple different variations of how far into that week it goes. I think you always have to keep a little bit of an eye on your cap situation. You can never just totally disregard it so you don't want to ever throw money, so to speak, or not be efficient with it. At the same time, you want to get the best team you can get out there, out there so that is the overriding part of it. Sometimes, there are financial considerations that you want to keep your eye on. But I don't think, necessarily, that drives the 53-man roster. Unless you are talking about a real big salary there. That is a little different story. In our case, I don't think any of those were any overriding factors. Whatever they were; that is what they were. I don't think that was driving decisions, like maybe there was in Cincinnati, where those three guys were 10 or 11 million dollars. Whatever it was. There was probably a lot more financial impact in those decisions then there were the ones that we made just in contrast.
Q: Are you going into this week expecting Tom Brady to start?
BB: We will prepare all the players during the week. We will give you the injury report on Friday. We will give you the practice report after we practice.
Q: Does it change what you do offensively if it is going to be Tom Brady out there or Matt Cassel?
BB: Well, the main thing we have to do is get ready for Kansas City. So that is everybody's job and that is the way we are approaching the week - for everybody to get ready for Kansas City. Every player is doing what they can and every coach is doing what they can to get ready for the [Kansas City] Chiefs. We are all in the same boat on that. There will be, like there are every week, decisions that will come down to the wire and there are plenty of them that won't. But the ones that do, do and the ones that don't - you make them when you can and you move on.
Q: What does Jason Pociask bring to the team?
BB: He is a kid we liked coming out of the draft a couple years ago. He is a smart kid. He played in kind of a running offense up there [Wisconsin] but I think has some skills in the passing game as well. He got hurt his rookie year so there really wasn't a lot of exposure to him. I saw him last year getting ready for the opener. I think he gives us a little bit of depth at that position. He is a young guy that I think still has some upside in his future, so we will see.
Q: It looked like Chad Jackson had all the physical attributes. Was it a problem for him to marry his physical and mental attributes?
BB: I think Chad worked hard. I think he had a good off-season and a good training camp. He took a lot of reps. He was there for every practice and I think he did everything he could do. I think we have good competition at that position. There were some things that he does better than other players - even players we kept. Then there are some things that other players do better than him. In the end in putting the roster together, we had to make some decisions and we kept the guys that we felt collectively would give us the best opportunity as a total football team. That is really what the decision is totally about. I think Chad is a good football player and I am sure he will play for somebody. It wouldn't surprise me if he played real well. It just didn't work out here, this year, at this point in time. I don't know any other way to put it. I think he has a different skill set than some of our other players and they have a different skill set than him. In the end, you have a lot of different needs on your team. You need guys to return kicks. You need guys to cover kicks. You need guys to play the X receiver, play in the slot and play outside. There are a lot of different combinations there and like I said, I think he have pretty good competition at that position. We kept the guys that deserve to be on the team.
Q: Do you think Kelley Washington will play a big role in the offense this year?
BB: I think Kelley has good receiving skills and we saw those last year in preseason. Last year, we had pretty good depth in receiver and all those players were out there every week so there wasn't a lot of opportunity at the receiver position. This year in training camp it has been a little different. We will see how it plays out during the season but I think Kelley has good skills and I think that he can definitely help us in the passing game. How that will manifest itself going forward, we will just have to wait and see. We have confidence in Kelley when he has had the opportunity to play and he has done a good job.
Q: Is part of this process with putting the roster together being flexible enough and being prepared when a guy like Deltha O'Neil, who you don't expect to get cut, does get cut?
BB: First of all, we look at every other roster in the league. When teams release their final rosters, let's just say, there are very few people on the waiver wire that it is a shock that they are on the wire. With any given team you might say, "OK, well we think these 30 players - it is going to come from 'this' group." I would say probably, not too often it would come from outside of "that" group. We have a pretty good idea of who is going to make other teams. Then there is a certain group of players, maybe 10 players. Well maybe it could go either way on these guys, but if they are released, it is not very often that we, Scott [Pioli] or other coaches and I, would talk and say, "Whoa, that is a total shock." You kind of have a sense that it is either him or the other guy all the way through. I would say that is how it was this year. I don't think there was anybody on there, that we had any interest in that was a real surprise that they were on there [waiver wire]. I'm not saying that we cut everyone else's team. I don't mean it that way, but I am saying the group of people that it came from was pretty much the group of people we had scouted that we had tapes on. So when those players were cut or even before they were cut, we started looking at them to see what kind of opportunity we thought they might have; what interest we had in those players if they were available; or, ultimately, when they were cut what we wanted to do with them if anything. That is kind of how it works. I can't think of anybody that was on that wire that we kind of hadn't talked about as a possibility. I am not saying we knew that it was going to happen but it was a possibility that they might be available. I think you do have to be flexible. It is a little bit like draft day. Although, on draft day, you have a lot more time to prepare and it is a lot more organized. This is a day when 600 players, or whatever the number was, were released. You are kind of going through a lot of people and are trying to put a team together to play in a week. At the same time, this is the best time of year to get players other than the draft because they are all available. Once they start going to other teams' practice squads, and then as the year goes on, players get placed on Injured Reserve and other players replace them. That list gets progressively smaller. On the final cut down day at 53, that is when the fewest number of players are protected during the year. The ones that are out there; if you want them, that is the best day to get them. If you don't make the move then, usually you are dealing from a smaller pool and usually a little less attractive pool than what that one is.
Q: Obviously, you have people who monitor the other teams rosters. How much different was it this year with some many players being let go on the last cut?
BB: Yes. It just more names. It is just a bigger pile that you are sorting through. Again, there are a lot of players on that waiver wire that had things going for them. They did certain things well - good run defenders, good pass defenders, good players in the kicking game, fast guys, big guys, tough guys and experienced guys - a lot of guys that have things going for them and you are just trying to evaluate whether those players would upgrade what you have at those positions or whether you would want to add them to the team for the things that they do. In some cases younger players, you think maybe they will be able to develop and improve. We have had a lot of those guys around here that have started off of the practice squad or who have come to this team and not had an important role, but then over a period of time have grown into a bigger or more significant role. Sometimes you take players with an eye toward the upside as opposed to them coming in and contributing on opening day or even in the first few weeks of the season. There are a lot of different forces that work there.