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Bill Belichick Press Conference Transcript - 05/02/03

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BB: Well, we kicked off mini camp this morning. We'll be going five times over the weekend. Twice today, twice tomorrow and once Sunday morning. Mainly what we want to try to do is to evaluate the players and get an idea of where they're at and where some of the skills are, what things we can get them to work on in the next couple of weeks when they're back home or back at school wherever they're going to be prior to the May 16th date when we can bring them all back here on more of a full-time basis. Also, at the same time, to try to get them going on our plays, our system, our terminology [and] try to give them some on the field application here in the next couple of days but also some information that they can apply and study in the interim while they're going. But, we'll try to get them caught up as much as possible and try to bring them up to speed. Obviously they've all got a long way, they're all behind, but the guys who have been here working on a regular basis that had the benefit of the offseason as well as other multiple years of experience. So, we know they have a lot of catching up to do but we're going try to start gaining ground on it as of today.

Q: What are some of the things specifically you will be looking for in getting these players ready to play?

BB: All of these guys have to make up a lot of ground in many different areas. Number one start with their physical condition, their training program and trying to get them ready for an NFL training camp, which they haven't experience before. It's a lot longer. It's more strenuous than what they've been through. The terminology [and] understanding it [and] not only the fundamentals of our offensive and defensive system but also the techniques, the stance, the hand placement, the depth of the routes, whatever it happens to be by position, as well as special teams. We're going to spend a lot of time with these guys on special teams during this weekend. Normally, not always, but what you find is a player who is a so-called 'star player' in college, a lot of times they take them off special teams when they become starters so they can play the freshman and sophomores in those roles which maybe some of these guys did but that might have been three or four years ago. So, bringing them back into, or if in some cases maybe they never were in the kicking game in college, that now becomes a real important aspect of their contribution to an NFL team or our NFL team now. All of those things and the whole logistics of moving, getting relocated, we all know what a process that is and it's more than just checking into a hotel room. It's getting set up on a lot of different levels. Sometimes that can involve more than one person. Each case is different. We want to try to assist and smooth out the transition as much as we can both on and off the field and specific things with the terminology, the techniques, the overall training and conditioning and of course some X's and O's.

Q: Do you feel for defensive linemen it takes them longer?

BB: That's a tough question. I think it actually depends on the player. Some guys make adjustments quicker than others. Some guys have more experience than others in what we're asking them to do. It really varies from player to player. I think that we're probably not going to know the answer to that until well into training camp, if not well into the season, because even in mini camp's or rookie mini camp's or mini camp's in June or even sometimes training camps, some guys start fast and then never really pick it up. Other guys start slow and then really come at a different pace. Sometimes guys go up and down a little bit. You see a couple of good days and they drop off, then they bounce back. It's just going to take the test of time to really evaluate how a player is going to progress. It's too hard to make a generic statement, 'Well, they're going to be here at this point or there at another point or here by the first of August, here by the first of September, here by the first of June.' It's just tough. You just have to take each player individually. As long as they are moving in the right direction and making progress, then that is encouraging. When that doesn't happen, then you've got to evaluate with the player, 'Well, how much further are you going to be able to go?'

Q: Do you know who's who yet with the numbers?

BB: For the most part, yes. We've got a couple of dual numbers there with the white and the blue, but I think for the most part, yes. The quarterback is in a red jersey, so you know, we'll pick him out.

Q: What struck you about Eugene Wilson today?

BB: Well, I think it's the things we've seen from Eugene before and he's got some quickness. He's an athlete that is quick and has good ball skills and those are certainly two of his strengths. For a corner he's a decent sized guy. So I think that those are a couple of things that jump out at you.

Q: Additionally, you've liked cornerbacks that show good fundamental tackling. Does he show much of that?

BB: Yeah, I think that Eugene is one of the better tacklers at his position coming out this year. I think that is a strong point for him, not a weak point.

Q: And that's something that you really stress anyway.

BB: Anybody who plays on the defensive side of the football is sooner or later going to have to tackle. It's usually sooner. It's really hard to play with defensive players that aren't good tacklers. It just cost you too many yards when they've got to bring a guy down. There's a few situations where you might be able to get by there for a while but I mean in the end, I think it will eventually be a problem. I thought in [Asante] Samuel, just to follow up on Wilson a little bit, has really a lot of similar qualities to Eugene. I'm not saying they are the same player but I think that they both have a lot of similar qualities in terms of ball skills, quickness, competitiveness, overall understanding and intelligence on the defensive side of the ball.

Q: Why is it so tough to find a complimentary cornerback that you can plug in and just play at a high level?

BB: Well, I mean Otis [Smith] has pretty much started out there for three years.

Q: But you've always tried to find one right?

BB: I think we've created competition at every position. Whether it be quarterback, offensive line, corner, linebacker. There's competition at every position especially at positions like receiver and corner which are multiple positions when you get into third down and passing situations. There's no team in the league that just plays two corners. Everybody has got at least three a lot of times four, sometimes five. It's the same at receiver. There's no team that just plays two receivers. Everybody has got multiple receivers, multiple corners, and try to have multiple pass rushers. I think at that position you have to try to create depth for on your team.

Q: Since 1995, and I know you weren't here then, this team has never drafted a corner who assumed a starting role other than Ty Law. Is it hard to go out and find guys like a Charles Woodson?

BB: Well, I think corners are probably a little bit like tackle in terms of the majority, I'd say on the defensive line as well, of the corners and the majority of the defensive lineman and the majority of the offensive tackles, quite a few quarterbacks are high picks and there will be more of them that there are, than aren't. I don't know what exactly that says, but that's what it is. Relative to other positions such as safety, centers, positions like that where when you look down all the players that played that position in the National Football League, you see a lot of fourth and sixth round choices, free agents, just not all first round picks. There's certainly a difference in some of the positions. There's a difference between corner and safety. There's a difference between tackle and guard. There's a difference between defensive line and other positions in terms of where they're drafted and how many are high and how many are playing. But we can all find exception to those too.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about Kevin Watson and Joe Montgomery and some of the off the field things we've been reading about?

BB: Well both of those players are not signed. They are in for tryouts, so that's what it is. We're looking at them, we're having a camp ,they're here and we'll evaluate them and see what they can do. Watson is a guy that, as you mentioned, there are some other things that he's been involved in. Our philosophy organizationally is that we believe in a professional athlete carrying himself and acting like a professional athlete. We've all made mistakes, made a lot of them. Sometimes, we feel like it's proper to give a guy a second chance so-to-speak or not close the door on somebody just because they made a mistake depending on what the circumstances and the situation was. Joe is a real good athlete, a guy who has had a couple of serious injuries in his career based on what our medical people have told us is that those are in the past and he was out there today so we'll evaluate him and everybody else and see what that looks like.

Q: How does Antwoine Womack look? Are you trying him at fullback?

BB: Antwoine works out at fullback and if he's not the starting halfback then he would certainly, or somebody whether it's him or somebody else, is going to need to be a swing back for us. It's not going to be Kevin Faulk, we know that. Antwoine is a bigger back. Maybe he could have some versatility in terms of playing halfback and fullback, and see what we've got in the kicking game. To me, the encouraging things is just having Antwoine back out on the field and letting him take some reps and work on his skills. If in the end, he ends up being the starting halfback or getting a lot of playing time at halfback then maybe he won't play fullback. If he doesn't, then maybe that's an opportunity earn a spot on the roster, earn some playing time and combine it with his other skills and have some versatility there between halfback, fullback and special teams. I can't answer the question, but we are trying to keep our option open on that one.

Q: Is he 100 percent?

BB: Yeah, I think he is fine. He hasn't had any problems the entire offseason since January, 15,16 months, whatever it is, post-surgery. I think he's definitely turned the corner.

Q: Is there a limit to how many players you can bring in for tryouts?

BB: No. There's only a roster limit to signed players. Again, as you know, all the draft choices are not signed. So even though they're here, we have rights to them but technically they don't count on the roster limit because they're not under contract. Of course we expect that they will be at some point, so we're going to have to take that into account. In terms of the current count, they don't count until they're actually signed.

Q: Is Bethel Johnson fighting with some injuries?

BB: Yeah, you know he tightened up a little bit out there today. A couple of other guys did too, so we'll just have to take a look at that. Unfortunately, we've had this situation before and I know other teams go through it as well. You bring guys into rookie mini camp and everybody has been on their own program for two, three, four months, whatever it's been since the end of their college days and you put them out there and some guys end up tightening up and have a problem or whatever it is. So we always have to work through that.

Q: Can someone lose a shot to make the team in these three days?

BB: Well, I don't think that anybody is going to make the team in the next three days. I think the question for us is we didn't draft a back. I mean we did in terms of Womack, since he didn't play last year and he's new on the team, so we did but we didn't however you want to look at it. We didn't draft one. There are some guys in here who are free and we're taking a look at them. If we decide to add one then it will be because we think he'd be competitive in that situation. If we don't, then we won't sign him and we'll go with what we got or wait and sign somebody else. That's a decision I really can't make until the end of camp. Certainly we're not going to sign anybody today and project him as he's going to be our starting running back and cut two or three other guys. I don't see that happening, no. I don't think we're heading down that road.

Q: When you go from station to station, do you look at particular players?

BB: Yeah, I try to look at each player and come off the field and feel like I had the opportunity to look at every guy doing certain things. I try to look at the schedule before I go out there. Here are the drills, this is going on so I want to be here, that's going on so I want to be over there. We have it on film, so we'll get to see it again later on this afternoon and tonight as well. It's not that I wouldn't see the guy if I didn't happen to see the drill, but I definitely try to look at, in this case, specific players. The scheme at this point isn't really that important to me. I think it's important to the new players because they don't know it. But, the things that we're doing scheme-wise are pretty fundamental. They're very basic and we've done them a thousand times. The coaches know them inside and out. It's getting the new information to the players. This is more of a player evaluation than, 'Well, gee, this pattern looked pretty good against this coverage.' We know how to fix the coverage, but at this point, we've just got to see if we can get the players to play it.

Q: Did you see Johnson at all before he tightened up?

BB: Yeah, in the bags. He was going through the bags and I saw him for a few minutes over there and then he tightened up in the bags.

Q: Did you see anything in him that you didn't see when you drafted him that you maybe weren't sure about like quickness?

BB: No. I think he's got quick movement.

Q: How do you like that guy in the red jersey?

BB: Which one?

Q: The quarterback.

BB: I think this is going to be a good camp for Kliff and I'm really interested to see where he is by Sunday. Again, for him, it's a new offense. In college, he played in a system, where there was a lot of shotgun and a lot of spread offense. Now he's under center in the I formation, play action passes, turning his back to the line of scrimmage, having to turn around and find receivers, read coverages, things like that that are a little bit different from some of the things he did last year. I think it will be interesting to see where he is after 40 plays of 7-on-7, 40 plays of team, or whatever it is, 45 plays of team by the end of the week, and see how he progresses after 90 or 100 plays by the time this is over. So, we're looking forward to seeing that, but I think Kliff's got the ability to manage the team, at least he's shown that in college. He can throw the ball and has got pretty decent quickness in the pocket. We're not talking about Donovan McNabb, but I think he's got enough athletic ability in the pocket so that … He's a good prospect, a good guy to work with and we'll see what happens.

Q: He struggled throwing the ball today. Do you think that is why he dropped so far in the draft?

BB: Again, when you look out there on the practice field today, you've got quarterbacks and receivers that have never thrown balls or caught balls from each other. They've never run the routes that they ran, they might not have run them ever. They certainly haven't run them with the people who are throwing them. We've seen plenty of times when our veteran players overthrow passes and drop balls and don't run the route as precisely as you'd like it. It's the first day out there and there were a lot of balls on the ground, there's no doubt about that. There were some handoffs that were jumped offside. We expect more than that, but it's a rookie mini-camp type of thing. We'll see where that is in a few days. I think it's really a little too early to evaluate the skill players based on one morning practice. Again, they've never even done the things together that they were asked to do today.

Q: When you are taking a Division III player, [inaudible], is that the case? What do you do with a guy like that?

BB: When you look at kids from that division, it's so hard. There are a couple of problems, but one of the main problems is that it's so hard to foresee them playing against comparable players. I think the rule of thumb for a Division III player to play in the NFL is that those players would be able to dominate that division. That's not to say that every player that dominates Division III plays in the NFL, but I think regardless of what position the guy plays, if he's been an NFL player, there's a good chance he was dominant at that level. Again, the reason for that is that most of those players are not NFL players or even heavily recruited players. He's in a way playing against lesser competition. It's not his fault, it's just the way it is. How to project that player into a higher competitive level, I don't think anybody knows until they really get in there and compete at that level, whether the kid just maxed out and he's playing against better people or whether he's not being challenged at all, whether he will meet and exceed the challenges when the higher ones are presented to him. That's really a tough question. It's a tough projection and that's why that jump in competition usually leads to those players being discounted a little bit in the draft. Again, from a scheme and a competitive standpoint, if a guy goes to Miami, he's playing against NFL players. They're not all coming out this year, but the juniors and the sophomores that they're going against every day, they'll be there. Those receivers this year, the defensive backs weren't drafted, but they're going to be. Those are still NFL players, they're just not in the NFL yet. It's a little harder to say that about some of those Division III teams.

Q: For how many guys was speed their asset?

BB: I don't know.

Q: Was it a concentrated effort?

BB: It always is. You always want to take a look at the combination of speed and quickness, but I don't think you want that to be overridden by football intelligence, instincts, work ethic and overall football ability. Speed and all that, the Troy Brown factor, I mean whatever he has is pretty good. He's not the biggest guy, he's not the fastest guy, he doesn't have the highest vertical jump, but he's a good football player. Tedy Bruschi, there's plenty of them. They're on every team. It's important, but it's not everything.

Q: [on drafting for speed]

BB: I think when you're drafting in the first and second rounds, you want to try to draft speed. You can get slow guys in the sixth round. There's no need to take them really high because they're there all day. It's not like they're coming off of the board quickly. If you want fast guys, you want big guys, you want big guys who are also fast, who area also good football players and have had productive years in college, you're probably talking about the top half of the first round. Then you're giving up something after that. You're giving up some size, some speed, some production, whatever the issues are. Certainly if you want to try to take the faster players and you want to try to take those guys that are good football players, you're going to have to take them higher in the draft. They're just not going to be there later. If you get a faster guy later in the draft, then probably there's a reason for it: lack of production or some other circumstance.

Q: Do you ever make it a point to say to them, 'Hey you can make this team,' or is it up to them to catch your attention?

BB: I talked to the team last night and sure, that's exactly what I said. Once everybody is a Patriot, they're a Patriot. It doesn't really matter what round they're in, how many years they've been to the Pro Bowl or anything else. We're going to play the best players and that has been pretty well documented over the last three years. Everybody has an opportunity to do that, they are all professional athlete's and believe me if one of these left, we've got 300 names sitting out there that we could bring in that would cover any one position. There are a lot of people that want the opportunity that these guys have. It's up to them to take advantage of it. If we didn't think they had the skill or the ability to compete then they wouldn't be here. With that being said, there is a long way to go and they are not all going to make it. We know that. Everybody will have the opportunity and there's probably a Lonie Paxton sitting in there somewhere. We didn't know Lonie Paxton when it was him. Three years later, we know that now. Maybe three years from now, we'll look back and say 'That was 'so and so' this year.' But our eyes are open on that and the competition is open. It's up to the players to be able to create a spot for themselves and generate some interest based on their performance.

Q: Any impressions on Chas Gessner? Could he be one of those Lonie Paxton guys?

BB: Any of them could. Look, if we knew that Lonie Paxton was going to be Lonie Paxton we would have drafted him. What team wouldn't draft a free agent who would eventually become a valuable member of the team? There is a reason why they didn't get drafted and then there is a reason why they make it. If people had seen that, they wouldn't have been free agents. So I am sure any of these guys can do it.

Q: Did any of these guys long-snap in college?

BB: I don't think … Not as the primary long-snapper, no. Some of them did it a little bit earlier or they've done it as a back-up that kind of thing but not as primary long-snapper's, no.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about what you do like about Gessner? Obviously he's a pretty big target.

BB: Yeah, he's big, he's smart. He's been very productive at Brown. You can put on pretty much any game and you can see him catching a ton of passes, short, medium, deep. He's got good size, a good red area receiver, and real good hands. He's big, he's productive and how that would translate in the competition and the coverages that the NFL plays right up to the Ivy League coverages, we'll just have to see that. Compared to a guy like Sean Morey, he's a different type of receiver than Sean. Obviously the same school and level of competition and all of that, but just brings a different set of skills. We'll see how those match up against this competition.

Q: Did Gessner pull up lame today?

BB: Yeah he pulled up too. He pulled up on that long pass.

Q: Do you simplify your terminology while they're in transition?

BB: Yeah, well we start simple. It's like learning a foreign language. You take a few basic terms, try to get them to understand those, build on that, get that down, and take the next step and build. Again, the terminology is something that is very easily worked on by players when they leave here. We can give them the information, we can explain it to them and then if they want to they can take it home for two weeks and study it and have a pretty good understanding when they come back. It might be harder to get a guy to throw passes like an NFL quarterback would throw it or run routes. It might be tougher for a corner to go in and cover receivers that he is going to have to cover in the NFL, but in terms of learning the terminology and learning the plays and that kind of thing, they can definitely make some ground up on that in the next couple of weeks if they'll work hard and apply themselves. So, yes it's a big step and I think also, we've had a lot of guys come through here and it's pretty do-able.

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