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Bill Belichick Press Conference Transcript - 08/14/02

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            **BB:**  We had one roster move today, we signed Jimmy Hitchcock.  That will give you something to write about for today, a little story.  My history with Jimmy goes back to when he was coming out at North Carolina and I spent some time scouting him when I was at Cleveland and then coaching him here in 1996.  Just felt like that the situation at corner that we have which is as you know is a little thin and Jimmy's experience both in the League and a little bit in the system would be something that we could benefit from.  That's why we made that move, it's good to have him back.  Otherwise, we practiced last night at the stadium again trying to acclimate ourselves to those surroundings and conditions and today we picked up the preparations on Philadelphia and we'll work on Philadelphia from here out through the week and the next two weeks after this are both short weeks so with each succeeding week from now on will just be on the preseason games the Philadelphia game, the Carolina game, the Washington game and then we have a longer stretch before we open with the Steelers.  But as far as camp type things, the last two days are days where we feel like we got caught up on some things that we haven't been able to give as much attention to in the last, say the Giants week, but now I think starting today I think we're at a point where we've go to prepare for the last 3 preseason games given the time frames that we're working in the next three weeks so from a teaching standpoint I think camp is, we've done what we can do and we're going to have to get our team ready for the last 3 preseason games in the time we have left.  That's pretty much my update.  

**

Q: What is the corner back situation right now, where's Tommy Knight at right now?**

BB: Tommy Knight is not practicing, Brock's (Williams) not practicing, I would say with both those players, I don't see them practicing this week and I don't see them playing. I don't think they are close enough to be ready to play against Philadelphia this week. We'll just have to re-evaluate them day-to-day, but I would think that we won't see them this week.

**

Q: Was Jimmy (Hitchcock) out of the league last year?**

BB: Well he was at Carolina last year and he hadn't signed with anybody in the off-season.

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Q: What happened in 1996 with Jimmy? He was pretty much banished to the bench, was it because he was so young and he wasn't getting it? In the year of their Super Bowl run, if I recall correctly, in New Orleans he wasn't even allowed to suit up for the team photo because his coach was so upset with him. Do you recall what happened with Jimmy Hitchcock?**

BB: Well I don't know about that New Orleans thing. I don't think he received much playing time towards the end of the year, I think you're right about that, and had gotten more earlier and his relationship with the head coach you would have to speak to those two parties about that. I wouldn't really try to get in the middle of that relationship. Just from my personal standpoint as his coach at that point, Jimmy's a smart guy, works very hard, has a very good work ethic and has good physical abilities, had a pretty good career in this league and one that we think can be extended a little bit longer. He hasn't really had any injuries, he's been healthy and I don't think there's really any reason why he shouldn't continue to be able to compete.

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Q: The heat, how does it change your day-to-day approach to practice? Would it change your practice schedule at all?**

BB: It doesn't really change it much. We've had some warm days and we've had some really pretty mild days. But heat acclimation is something that every individual needs to get used to there's no other way to simulate it other than to be in it, just talking about it's going to be hot is not going to get it. We'll have some games in the beginning of the year that could potentially be hot, you never know. If they are part of the acclimation for us is getting ready to do that, we'll continue to practice in it and we're going to get some hot days I imagine and we're probably get some cool one's as we go forward. If the players need a break we might take a couple minutes break and give them a chance to re-hydrate or let them cool down a little bit. I think at this point in training camp we've been out there, we're heading into the mid to high twenties in terms of practices and conditions and workouts and I think they should be in pretty good condition they've been exposed to heat at various times through the camp. I think we've got to go out there and play through it just like the opening game against Cincinnati last year we had to go out there and play through it. There's going to be days when it's going to be hot and there's going to be days where it isn't. We're going to have to play through whatever the conditions are.

**

Q: Against, the Giants some of your front liners played about a quarter, some played more and you said before the game that individual situations were going to dictate that more than a general plan, is that the same for Philadelphia?**

BB: Yes, I think that would still be the case, although the percentages of the situation may vary a little bit with the second game but I think that the general concept would hold true.

**

Q: How much time will the quarterbacks see (Tom) Brady, Damon (Huard)?**

BB: We'll have to really talk about that a little bit later on right now we're just starting our preparations trying to get everybody ready but I think that there's guys that need to play and our starters need to play so the exact time on that we'll have to wait and see. I think it would probably be at least as long as they did in the Giant game.

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Q: With Walt Williams having left camp, are you guys a little more shallow at running back? Would you consider bringing someone in?**

BB: I don't think we necessarily need to bring one in, I think if we felt we could improve the team by bringing one in we wouldn't rule that out. The back field situation is related to the receivers situation, its' also related to the tight end position and you know anytime you have three receivers on the field you don't have as many backs or tight ends, however you want to slice it up, and if you have more than one tight end on the field then that usually cuts into the linebacker situation. Patrick Pass is a player that can play half-back or full-back has played both for us. So we really have four guys that can carry the ball in addition to Marc (Edwards) who is a full-back that also can carry the ball.

**

Q: How does special teams look? Will there be any new faces on the coverage team?**

BB: Well that will be determined by how the players perform during practice and during the preseason games. I think that some of the players that we have acquired on the team since the end of last season have either Special Teams background or Special Teams potential in their resume. How that manifest itself will just be hinged on what their performance is. But we'll give those players an opportunity and see how it unfolds.

**

Q: Could you talk about the salary cap and the difference between coaching without a cap and how much more difficult it is coaching with one?**

BB: Well just to clear up the situation when I got here I'd say that the numbers was high in the 30's to around 40 were the number of players under contract I think in the 2000 season we ended up with over 20 rookie players on the team including the practice squad so our total was a 60 man squad and there was also obviously some injury reserve people there as well. I know we were in the 20's in those rookie-first year type players but I can't remember the exact number whatever it was. There were constraints there, even last year was a similar situation we started the season, the calendar year, another 10 million over the cap and didn't re-sign some players and released some other one's and restructured some other ones like everybody we made it work but there was a little juggling in there. The salary cap system, it's a part of the game that everybody's playing under the same rules and you can spend a little more one year but some where along the line you're going to have to pay that bill and it's just a question of management really. How you do it and how you manage it, each of the 32 teams can set their own criteria for that, the only thing that I would say is when you come into a situation as I did or as other new head coaches or general manager's or new personnel people do annually wherever it happens to be each situation is a little bit different and you just have to take it for what it is and work it from there. As opposed to being in the same situation year after year and whatever situation you're in, you're the one that controlled those decision that led up to it, that's the way it was and I understood that when I accepted the job.

**

Q: It's a headache for everyone, but obviously if you're smart and you're good at managing it, it's another advantage for a coach to have over the other team.**

BB: Yeah, it's a level playing field. Everybody's got the same cap every year, when you look at it over an extended period of time, 5 years, 10 years, whatever it is, everyone's got the same thing to work with, same draft choices, how you utilize those and the decisions you make, that varies from team to team but that's certainly in contrast to the non-salary cap years. I think that the challenge in those years, and one thing you saw a lot more of, was veteran holdouts. That was the only recourse that a veteran player had, if he felt like he was underpaid and the team wasn't going to trade him and they weren't going to cut him and he couldn't change his situation then he would hold out and then at some point they would either restructure the contract or the guy would miss all of training camp and come in and play the regular season and make what he was going to make anyway. That was the veteran's leverage; in a lot of cases you kind of had that every year. You had your 3 or 4 holdouts and you kind of knew they'd be in at the start of the season and they knew they'd be in at the start of the season but they knew they weren't going through 6-8 weeks of training camp because of their contract situation. Then every once in a while those would get resolved and they would come in. When I was at the Giants we had them at running back, linebacker, defensive line, offensive line. I wouldn't say it was common but it wasn't uncommon and everybody had them where as now, but now it almost never happens, well I won't say never, but you may have one or two guys a year that hold out on a veteran contract. A lot of players aren't signed and they get signed by teams at various points during camp but there aren't very many veteran players that are under contract that don't show up for training camp, there have been a couple but for the most part that's much more infrequent.

**

Q: You have great input on this team. How difficult do you think it would be, hypothetically, to work in a situation where the front office is making the majority of the personnel decisions?**

BB: Well I think when you have a football team you have a lot of people working in the organization, nobody can do everything, no one person can do every job, it's impossible. You have to have a team; it's about teamwork; it's about a lot of people working together in a lot of different areas. I don't think there is a team where that doesn't exist. In our situation, we have a lot of people where we collectively talk and give input and collectively reach major decisions. I think that's a good way to do it. I think that's probably the way most teams do it, now all are structured a little bit differently, no question some are different from others, in the end I think it's hard for one person to be able to do everything that a professional football team has going on with the way it is now.

**

Q: Do you see the Patriots as stingy, financially, having a reputation for bringing in quality players and fitting them into a niche at maybe a little bit less than some other team were willing to pay, in terms of how they bring in veteran players?**

BB: I'd say no that because this organization has spent to the cap probably every year since Robert (Kraft) has owned the team, certainly every year I've been here and certainly the immediate years prior to my coming here they've spent to the cap. However that money gets distributed, just like on every other team, it gets distributed. Whether every single player feels like he's overpaid or not, I don't know but in the end all the money gets paid to player's and player's salaries. All the money that can be spent does get spent. Even in the case of a new cap rule or contract situation this year; what has been implemented this year is what they call qualifying contracts. And the qualifying contract says that the veteran player's minimum depending on his year's of service could be $600,000, $650,000, $750,000, whatever it is, under certain conditions the club would only count $450,000 of that towards the cap. So in essence what you have is a team that does a qualifying contract, which I would say we've done more than any other team in the league but we certainly have to be at the top of league if we haven't done the most we got to be right up there, then that says that the team is actually spending above the cap, if you will, on those qualifying contract the differential between the minimum and the qualifying deal at $450,000 comes out of the clubs expenses naturally, but doesn't count directly towards the cap and there's no limit to the number of contracts that you can do. So in essence, every qualifying contract is that much cash over the cap. If we're not leading the league in those contracts we're right at the top of them. I think that stands for the commitment that ownership and the organization has towards spending and compensating the talent

**

Q: What's the status of Troy Brown and Daniel Graham?**

BB: Daniel [Graham] did a little bit last night, Troy's [Brown] making good progress, he's getting closer, he's day to day, it could be any time. I think Graham is likewise, day to day; we're going to practice twice tomorrow, they worked out this morning; we're in practice this afternoon. I don't know that those guys will practice on double days, we'll practice twice a day for this week anyway, but they're both progressing. Like I said, [Daniel] Graham did a little bit of work on the field yesterday, I would expect Troy [Brown] to be doing some soon.

**

Q: Bill, How indispensable has Romeo Crennel been during this training camp?**

BB: Well, Romeo does a great job, there's no doubt about it, he does a great job. I'd hate to think of where I would be without him, where we would be without him. We were without him in 2000 so I sort of know a little bit where we'd be, but he's a guy I have great respect for, I rely on heavily, I think that he has a real good command of the position, the defense, the team, the coaches, he has a lot of experience in the league and he's very good at being analytical and understanding the big picture as well as specific position techniques and little detail and those kind of things. He's a very well rounded person and coach and works hard, is very thoroughly prepared and, out of all the people that work for him players and coaches, at the same time has a real good repor with the big group and most of the individuals, probably all the individuals.

**

Q: You get a lot of credit for the defense; do you think Romeo is underecognized?**

BB: I think that's absolutely true, I think Romeo has done an excellent job of managing and making critical decisions defensively both in strategy and in game situations. In utilization of personnel, which we use a lot of different people and in different combinations, and no body knows better than I do that that takes a lot of time and commitment to get it all right and to get it fitting together so that it all works and it's not a mess and it's not counter productive. Yea, he's done an excellent job in all those areas. He's certainly probably underrecognized, is that a word? But, you couldn't say enough about the job that he's done.

**

Q: Facing Donovan McNabb this weekend, is this a good thing to experience in the preseason?**

BB: Yea, there's no doubt, sure, every team you play in the preseason you face different challenges and it's good to experience some of the things you're going to experience during the season at this point so we can learn from it, teach of them. No question, this is a really good experience for our defense to work against, not only an athletic quarterback like Donovan [McNabb] but also a very skilled one in passing. You know Andy Reid's got an excellent offensive system, the west coast offense so to speak, and he's been there several years now and they're an efficient offensive football team. Defensively, Jimmy Johnson is to me, one of the top defensive coordinators in the National Football League. He's very difficult to prepare for, I think his team play, wherever he's been they've always played well. We'll face a lot of those same challenges, in terms of playing the Eagles on the offensive side of the ball. We're getting ready for a pressure defense, a multiple defense, a defense that creates a lot of problems for you, both on the scheme standpoint, and they have good personnel, they have an excellent secondary, their linebackers are fast, they got a couple guys that can rush the passer, so this is a real good challenge for our football team this week, not to mention that they were the number one special teams in the unit in the league last year. They went to the NFC championship game, they're a solid football team, and I think we'll get tested on every front this week. It will be a good challenge for us.

**

Q: (On the coaches accepting the change in the salary cap)**

BB: Well, I think that it was a little bit of an adjustment, but a lot of those same principles took place before the cap. Before the cap, the situation you have is, as a football team, you control every salary on the team, so once you decide to pay whoever it is the most money, and the next guy the second most money, and the next guy the third most money. Really they better be your three best players, you weren't dictated by any system, you weren't dictated by any . . . you know, it just was what it was. It's like any other business; you want your highest paid employee . . . should probably be your best employee, and most valuable employee. What happened in the situation that I think happened prior to the salary cap every team had to face was, okay, you give a guy a salary, you make him your fourth highest player, now all of a sudden you got three or four guys that are better than him, now you got three or four problems. What are you going to do? Are you going to jump all them up above him, or are you going to get rid of a guy who right now, looks like he's a little bit overpaid relative to your other people, but again, unlike in this system, the problem then was, do you cut them, but you lose a good player. Maybe he's overpriced, but he's a good contributor, but if you cut him you lose a good contributor, and where are you going to get another one from, nobody else is going to give you one, it's not like there was a free agency pool on the market. There were a few more trades, but those are relatively infrequent, so back in those days before the salary cap, and I think I've mentioned this before with the Giants, but you sit there and look at your football team and say, 'okay, we need a left tackle, where are we going to get a left tackle.' Well, there's only one place you can get a left tackle, you got to draft him. Unless somebody else is going to trade you one, and you pays the premium there with a draft choice. That's the only way to do it; you wait for somebody else to cut him, by that time the guy was, done. So you draft a left tackle and then what, when's he going to be ready to play? One year from now, two years from now, three years from now. That's your only choice, if you don't draft one this year, then you're another two years away, If you don't draft one next year then you're another two years away, so the only way you can really improve your team is to draft one, and then wait for your draft picks to mature, however long that took, and this is just a totally different process. But again, I can easily remember sitting there in New York thinking, here's our defensive team from last year, we took two receivers in the first two rounds, we took a guard, then we took a linebacker in the fourth round. This guy's not going to play for us. We got what we had last year, we're not going to get anybody else, who are you going to claim off of waivers, somebody else's, 46th guy, well he's not going to play for us. So we got the same guys this year as we did last year. That's a very unusual situation now to look at your team and say, 'you know those same 22 guys we had on defense, 21 of them are going to be the same guys, we're not getting anybody else.' It's just a little different process, in some respects it's like college football, where you get guys for three years, four years maybe, if they're good enough they come out early, or they go the junior college route and you get them for a year or two. Hope you can get a year or two, and then they're off anyway, they're out of eligibility, so a lot of the veteran contracts are really one or two-year type deals. It's a different game in college football, don't get me wrong, but your turnover on your team, and the process of resetting your team every year is a lot more like college football now, than it was 10, 15 years ago when it was the same guys every year, and the teams that you played, they had the same guys every year too. It wasn't like there would be one or two new guys, okay they drafted a couple new players, you take a look at the film to see what those two guys look like, but the other nine or ten guys on that side of the ball are the same guys every year, you know it was a very slow turnover.

**

Q: Art Modell was a huge fan of Andre Rison. How much did you learn fro deal like that?**

BB: I think when the salary cap came in in '93, and when it first started there was a couple year transition where there wasn't a cap, and ten there was a cap, and what most teams did, and not Cleveland, but what most teams did was, Reggie White and those kind of deals, what they did was pay the guy as much as they could pay him on the first non-cap year so that in the cap years, two, three, four and five in the contract, counted the lowest, so you pay a guy 20 million dollars, give him 16 in the non-cap year, and then one in each of the next four years, and there's his 20 million dollars, and only one of it counts. But once that ran its course, then you've really had more of a true cap, not a declining cap, then it started to go the other way, where the money was counted more at the end of a guys contract than at the beginning, then there were different philosophies and a lot of it was trial and error, and maybe the individual situations that each team went through. What a lot of teams elected to do was to pick out a few players, pay them as high a price as they could to secure those players, and then fill in the rest of the team with what was left. So you might have, six, seven, eight players taking up 50 percent of your cap, and then 40 players taking up the other 50 percent of your cap. Some teams, a team like San Francisco, who had Jerry Rice, and Steve Young, and guys like that, who had a lot of money in a few players. Dallas, the big three down there, Reggie White, guys like that, you had a few players who took up a lot of cap space, and some of those teams were very successful, and I think other teams started saying, 'yea, I think that's the way to go, lets go out and' . . . I mean I don't want to name names here, but there are a lot of guys who got a lot of big contracts based on the fact that, 'we need to secure this individual player.' There were other teams that didn't do it that way, and now each team again is making their own decisions, but they have a lot more history with which to decide what their cap strategy's going to be than they did, say even in '98, '99 because the cap really hadn't run its course, the first two or three years were still affected by the negative contracts before they started to incline now. There's probably enough data where people that analyze can figure out how they want to structure their team and their contracts better than they could, say four or five years ago.

**

Q: Last year at this time Tom Brady was the most improved player at training camp. What were some of the things you wanted him to work on in the offseason, and how has he improved this year from last year?**

BB: Well, at the end of every season, as a staff we sit down and talk about each individual player and we go through every aspect of that players performance, whether it be, weight room and offseason training, his injuries, his flexibility, his special teams play, how he did in the running game, how he did in the passing game, it's broken down into several different categories depending on the position of the player, and then identify what are all the areas that we think the player can improve in. Say, there's eight or nine of them, whatever they are, and then we usually try to narrow that down and say, 'here's what we want you to do in the offseason.' Like, say a player like Steve Neal, Steve Neal needs more, he just needs to play more football, he just hasn't played enough football, well there's nothing you can do about that in March, we don't have any practices, we don't have any games in March, so there's no sense in making that a March goal for Steve Neal, there's nothing he can do about it, so we break it down into offseason goals, things the player can work on say from March to May, May and June during minicamp. A lot of times we'll structure those goals ourselves, like say for example Patrick Pass played full back last year, this year we want him to get some reps at halfback in minicamp as an example. Or two years ago, Tebucky Jones, we gave him reps at safety in the minicamps, so we could see what he looked like there. And then once we get to training camp, we reset the training camp goals based on what we can accomplish in training camp. So if a guy need a lot of upper body strength, well that's a march to June goal, where in training camp it's pretty unrealistic to think that he's really going to improve his upper body strength when he's out there practicing twice a day. Tom's goals would be just like everybody else's goals, offseason goals, minicamp type goals, training camp to regular season goals, he would be just like everybody else, I don't want to get into his specific, you know, those are private conversations between the coaches and the players, but just generally, he can improve his physical strength, and he's worked hard on that. Mechanically, there were some things we asked him to work on, and also in general I understand that not just in our offense, but the way that different defenses played us, and having stood out there and faced it for him was a lot different than watching it on film or watching other quarterbacks throw against it, he'd actually seen it, and I think could relate to some of the things a little bit differently because he could tell, and say, 'I could feel when this guys cheating up, or I can feel when the safety's are tightening up on blitz coverage's.' So it was a combination of physical development, technique, and overall football understanding

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