Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Friday, September 24, 2010.
BB: We're winding it down here. Hopefully today we'll have a good review day on everything, work on our situations and be ready to go on Sunday. As I said earlier in the week, I think Buffalo is a team that's been impressive with their physical toughness and the ability of their skill players. I think defensively they've really improved from last year, just looking at this game, compared to last year's games. And of course they're always good in the kicking game. So we've got a lot of challenges ahead of us this week, and hopefully a good day of practice here and we'll finish up the week and be ready to go on Sunday.
Q: Will you practice in the stadium today?
Q: With the open roster spot, is it the same situation as last week where you'll have to fill it?
BB: Yeah, we'll have to do something by game time.
Q: Any idea which direction you're going?
BB: Yeah, there are a number of options. We'll kind of get through the week here. I think there are a couple different ways we could do [it]. We'll see how it goes.
Q: Is there any way to estimate how many guys you will bring in to work out over the course of a season?
BB: No, there's no set formula on that. That's something we do every week. Every week we talk about personnel and we go through the players that are on our roster, the players that are on the practice squad, the players that are available that are out on the street that aren't with any team, the players that are on other teams' practice squads, and anything that might have changed from the previous week - for example, players that maybe were injured in preseason and they're getting healthier. Maybe they're not ready to play now so the team did an injury settlement with them, but they'll be ready in a couple weeks or they'll be ready in month, or as those situations change. Other players that we have on what we call our short list - if we were to go to somebody if we needed a player and he gets signed by another team, who's the next player? What guys do we want to bring in for workouts based on do we need a physical on them? Do we want to evaluate them? Is it a player we know? Maybe we don't need to work out a player that we know or have a lot of familiarity with, but maybe a guy that we don't [know] - a younger player or a guy that pops up somewhere along the line. You try to stay on top of the preseason games, but in all honesty, it's hard to watch a couple thousand players in preseason so these first, two, three, four weeks of the season you can really go back and take a closer look at the preseason games and really zero in on a particular player that kind of flashes at you in preseason. Then maybe you can go back and watch him in college and just do more work on him. Those players might surface on a practice squad and things like that. It's a constant process with no 'we have to have this many guys in,' or 'we have to have this many players on this list.' Sometimes you can have five emergency receivers and no emergency tackles, or whatever it happens to be. Where does your next player come from? He can either come from your practice squad or he can come from a player that's not with a team that's not practice squad eligible. Unless you put him on your team, you don't have him, but he might be your next guy. We go through that every week.
Q: If you do want to bring in a guy from another team's practice squad, can you work him out first?
BB: No. And say a team signs a player from another practice squad, you have to keep that player on your roster for three weeks, as opposed to signing a player that's not with a team [who] you can bring on and take him off. You could do that, but if you sign a player from another teams' practice squad, he has to stay on your roster for three weeks. Say you have a spot and you bring on a guy from another team's practice squad, put him on your team, and then you get an injury that week. Now you have to bring in somebody else to help you at that spot, but you don't have the flexibility of dropping the guy that you brought in the week before that you didn't have, that now you just had for a few days and you might say, 'Ok, he's really a guy we could afford to replace.' But you don't have that opportunity. So when you sign somebody off a practice squad, there's an opportunity cost to it. I'm not saying it's not worth it, but I'm just saying that's the cost to it. You have the player, but you have the player. You can't do anything with him either, so that limits your options if something else were to come up.
Q: So you really have to be sure about the guy you're bringing in from another practice squad?
BB: Or have plenty of room or have other options. And again, your practice squad players give you depth on your roster, so you can theoretically bring them up and put them on your roster. So there're eight guys right there, depending on what position they play or what they do, that could help you in one way or another, potentially. But eight guys aren't enough to support a whole football team. We don't have a kicker on the practice squad. There are a lot of things we don't have on the practice squad that if we needed one, you'd have to go get one somewhere else, unless you had some other way to handle it on your team. The thing I would just say is that constantly turns over. Every week there are things that have changed, things that have changed on your team. There are things that have changed with what's available on the street. There are other players that have been released from other teams or guys that have been dropped off their practice squads. There's a constant turnover there, I'd say up until probably about halfway through the season. And then once you get to about halfway through the season, then everybody is, for the most part, pretty much settled into where they're at. Normally at that point, teams are losing players and they just have to bring a replacement in, whereas now there's actually, I think, turnover that's occurring where teams are trying to upgrade their personnel or find better combinations.
Q: Kevin Faulk made a point of saying he's going to stick around to help the guys in meetings, etc. Leigh Bodden and Brandon McGowan are around, too. Do those guys go to meetings? Does it help to have those guys around, even though they are dealing with injuries?
BB: Well, the most important thing for those players is their physical rehab. So when they do that, that's the number one thing. We have 53 plus eight, so we have 61 active players here, and the only time the trainers can really work with them is when they're not at practice, not at meetings, not at things that are preparing them for the game. So, typically what happens, is the players who are on the team that need treatment and that type of thing, do it before and after practice and during the middle of the day if there's a break. So that's a lot of people for the trainers to handle. So when the trainers and the medical people are most available is during meetings and during practice and that's the time that a lot of IR type players would pick up their treatment and rehab - at those times when we have more people available to handle them. So how the meetings and the rehab and all that first together, it's a combination of what the player needs, kind of what's available, when he needs in terms of rehab, what the rehab is, who does it, when that person is available to rehab him and trying to fit that into a structure with the team. So he could be in a meeting, he could not be in a meeting, it could be different his week than it was last week. That's the variable. It can change and it can depend on the player and his situation, not even him as much as just the availability of the trainers and so forth.
Q: How does Kevin Faulk being out change the complexion of what you will do on third down? Has this week given you the opportunity to evaluate some other players? I know you can't replicate Kevin Faulk, but guys who might have some component of his skill set that might enable you to continue to do what you like to do in those situations?
BB: Sure. That's a challenge that we have offensively: can we do what we've done and have another player or person do what he did, or a combination of players do what he did, or are we a little different now? Do we find a little different way to do things? That's the decision you have to make. How much do you want to stay the same? How much can the person, whoever it is, do what you've been used to doing? Or would it be more beneficial to push things - not change your whole offense. I'm not saying that, but push things in a little different direction and do it that way. That's the kind of challenge you go through when you change a key player like that. Maybe it's combination of both, or maybe it's a little more of one and a little less of another. Maybe it changes from week to week. I don't know, but that's what you're dealing with.
Q: Does that give you and type of advantage this week in that the opponent doesn't know what you're going to do?
BB: I'd rather have Kevin Faulk. I think any time you don't have a good player, there's a little bit of uncertainty on their end, but we'd rather have the player. I think every team would feel that way.
Q: Must be difficult, too, because whatever you do and whatever situation arises where you try to get a read on what you'd want to do, you might not get a ton of them or you might not get good looks to run them against and you can't make a full appraisal.
BB: Honestly, it's like that every week. It's like that every week. You can just change the names, but it's a player here, a player there - it can be any position. Is he going to play? Is he not going to play? Or maybe he's out of the game and then what do you do this week? That's a function of what are your options, who are you playing, what do they do and so forth. Again, obviously, we'd rather have the player. [I] love Kevin Faulk. There's nothing I'd rather do than have Kevin Faulk on the team, but in some respects, going into a game no knowing whether you have the player or not is harder to prepare for than knowing that you don't have him. At least if you don't have him, you know, 'Ok, here's what we're going to do.' But, if you go the other way and say, 'Well, it's 50-50 whether this player is going to be ready or not,' you don't want to not have him if he's there, and at the same time you don't want to put all your eggs in that basket and then he's not there, and now you're really treading water with nowhere to go. You kind of have to either do one of the other, or do both and then whichever one happens, you've kind of wasted a lot of time on the other one that didn't happen. But those situations occur on your football team on weekly basis - ours and everybody else's. That's what coaching and preparing a team and managing a team, that's what it is. That's reality for us. There are hardly any weeks where that's not the case somewhere.
Q: So is it fair to say you haven't spent an inordinate amount of time working on what you're going to do on third down?
BB: No, of course we have. No, of course we have. We know what we're going to do. I'm just telling you those are your options. Like I said, maybe it's more of one; Maybe it's more of another. Maybe it's a combination of a couple different things. Those are your options. We'll decide which one's best of us. But it's really no different with Kevin, as good of a player as he was and all that, it's no different than him than somebody else. We'd be having the same discussion. You [the media] wouldn't, but we would.
Q: Stephen Gostkowski is off to a rough start. He's 1-for-4, although one of the misses was from 56 yards. Where do you think things are going wrong for him?
BB: I think [for] our whole football team in the two regular season games, there are times that we have been good. There are times that we haven't been as good. I think that's true for every individual player. It's true for every unit and it's true for the team as a whole. So our job, collectively and individually, is to strive to be more consistent and to execute better. So that's the kicker, the holder, the quarterback, the receiver, the corner, the nose guard, the coach, everybody, all of us. It's the same for all of us. Steve has had a good preseason. He's worked hard. It's still a combination of a snapper, holder, kicker; it's a whole operation. I think everybody can be better, including everybody. That's what we're all working for. I know we want to pin all the interceptions on the quarterback and the missed kicks on the kicker, but there are other things involved in the play and they all can lead up to the end result, so everybody needs to strive to improve.
Q: Do you like the operation there? Do you like it for the long-term or might we see some changes?
BB: We've got three young players at those positions. We're probably about the only team in the league that's drafted three players [and] put them in those three positions. Hopefully they can be together for a long time if they perform well enough.
Q: When you have a player coming off a poor performance, do you worry about or talk to them about confidence with them? Or is it purely physical - why they had a bad performance?
BB: I think everybody that's in the National Football league has had a bad day - every coach, every player. I couldn't list anybody that hasn't. We've all be through that. We've all had days where we haven't performed well. There have been plenty of days in practice where we haven't performed well, too. It's not just unique to the game. You can go out there and not have a good practice or not have good plays in practice and that's a part of football. It's part of being a competitor - finding a way to correct the mistakes and move on and perform better in the next opportunity you get. We all face that. That happens to everybody that's involved in this game. If you play at this level of competition, there are times you're going to come up short. We're playing against other good players, good teams, good coaches every week, too. They're working just as hard as we are. They're just as talented as we are. They're going to make some plays. We're going to make some. I think that's part of it. You learn to correct your mistakes and move on.
Q: Do you gauge a guy's ability to do that mentally? Do you have to get a read on that?
BB: I think that's part of coaching. The whole process is part of it: individual players, teams, units, units within the team, that's all part of it: Finding a way to make things better. Sometimes it's just using the technique better or doing one particular thing better. Sometimes it's the scheme of the play or whatever the rules or the adjustments...There are a lot of components that go into it. collectively, we're all a part of that: players, coaches, the system, the way it's communicated and so forth. If there's a problem, then we've all got to find a way to fix it. Sometimes it's a simple thing. Sometimes it's more involved.
Q: Earlier this week Brandon Meriweather mentioned that he kind of went off the program and was freelancing during practices. On one hand, it must be good to see players take some initiative to make plays, but on the other, rules are there for a reason. Has he improved? How far off the reservation had he gone? Can you kind of characterize the situation a little bit?
BB: Again, I don't think it's any different than any other player. We're with the players on a daily basis. We talk to them about their performance and the way they're playing. Part of football is being a football player. There are rules and there are things we all do, but then there are things that happen on any given play or in games or situations that aren't quite the way that they are drawn up, and football players have to be football players and they have to react and make decisions and improvise and do the right thing within the context of their responsibility. Every player has to do that. Things happen not quite the way they were supposed to happen, or your teammate doesn't do it quite the way he was supposed to, so you have to make an adjustment or he has to make an adjustment because of you. Within that, you try to develop consistency within the overall team - the way it's done. So there's a certain degree of that that's inherent in every player at every position. And then there's also a certain part of it that, when it takes away from your responsibly trying to anticipate or react to something a little quickly, then it can cause a problem. So you have to find that fine line. Every player has to do that. I'm sure each player can look back and find times where, 'I was a little too aggressive on that,' and other plays where 'I knew it. I should have just hit it a little quicker.' So it's trying to find that right balance.
Q: And with a young team on defense, you want to still play aggressive and play fast but play within the framework...
BB: You want that on your team regardless: rookies, five-year veterans, 10-year veterans, 15-year veterans, whatever. That's what you want. You want to be aggressive. You want to be able to take advantage of those opportunities that you can get a little jump on the play without giving them up, without exposing yourself, without putting yourself in a vulnerable position, either as a team or as an individual player. We do the same thing; that's what coaches do. You try to make calls that give you an opportunity to be aggressive and take advantage of something without having too much exposure. Just in case they don't do that, then what's the downside? What's going to happen if they do something else? Are you going to get strip sacked? Are you going to get hit for a 10-yard loss? How aggressive do you want to be? How much do you want to try to push the envelope on that? Again, it's a coaching, scheme thing. It's also individual player decision making on each play. It's complicated. It gets into matchups. If a guy is covering one guy, you play it one way. You're covering somebody else; you might play it a little bit differently. You're blocking on guy; you're kind of thinking a little bit more of this. You're blocking another guy, you might not think quite as much of that. That changes within the game, where people move and so forth. Part of being a football player is being a football player and making those kind of decisions. That's what instinctive, good players do; They make the right one.