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Bill Belichick Press Conference Transcript - 08/30/02

BB: We got back pretty late last night and haven't had a lot of time to evaluate things so this morning just a couple of quick impressions from an injury standpoint I don't think we have anything at this point that appears to be too serious. We'll have to evaluate that as we go through the weekend. Nothing that significant to report right now. Just a quick run through the game, a couple things I thought looked better. One would be punt return; it was encouraging to see that we finally returned a punt in the preseason. I thought we had some production in the red area; we scored touchdowns down there, which was good. Our defense was able to put a little pressure on the quarterback, we had a couple of balls on the ground, we couldn't get them, but there was a little disruption in there. I thought the players were alert. There were a couple of good situations that came up in the game, we ran little bit of a almost like a no huddle situation down there on the goal line right at the end of the half. I thought that Damon (Huard) and the offensive players and coaches handled that pretty well. They were able to have an opportunity to score and come out of there with some points. I thought there were some good things that happened in the game. Everybody's got a clean slate and we're going to have to spend a lot of time as a staff over the weekend talking about not only personnel decisions on who to keep but how things are going to work out on the roster the practice squad so forth but also how we see some of the units forming together, the utilization of some of the players and what specifically their roles will be at least in the short term in the early part of the season. Those are things that we definitely haven't had a chance to finalize in anyway this morning. We're just trying to get a look at the film and get some quick impressions before the players come in today so we can go through the corrections with them. We have a lot of work ahead of us this weekend. Some things we need to give a little more direction to as we head into year. None of that has been really addressed since the end of the game

Q: Not in terms of wins or losses, how good can this team be? What are your concerns?

BB: As I said before, I don't know if you know really for sure what you can do well and what you can't do well until you start playing regular season games. In terms of the teams work ethic and their attitude and their ability to adapt to different situations, I think that for the most part has been pretty positive in training camp that hasn't really been a problem, but what our real strengths and weaknesses will be this year, the jury is still just like it is with the other 31 teams. I think we've had a lot of learning situations in training camp and in the preseason game and that's the way we've tried to approach them, not with any type of finality but just here's how we want to handle this situation, here's how we want to execute this particular look that we have, this is how it should happen and we'll see how that gets done starting next Monday night. I really think it would be hard to say this is what we're going to be able to do and this is what we're not going to be able to do we're still a work in progress. I don't know that we know that, I don't know if anybody else knows it either, I don't even know if we know that about our opponents, you've got some impressions but we'll see what happens when the games really start.

Q: Do you look for numerical balance at each position?

BB: That's a tough question. That's something that provokes some of the longer discussions because you have to try to balance your long-term and short-term goals and you also have to try to balance what you think the talent level is; again you go back to the 2000 season we kept 4 quarterbacks there was some sentiment that wasn't really necessary and wasn't a good idea, if you feel like talent is there then there probably is, there's a justification for it. Sometimes you go a little short because you just don't have the quality at that position but then you run the risk of a lack of depth and one or two little nicks and pretty soon you got a real problem. For example last year, for the most of the year, until really right at the end with Arther Love we basically went through the year with 2 tight ends. So that could be a problem, you're down to one guy and then you're going into games like we were at times last year with an offensive lineman having to be a tight end and that type of thing. They're all real good questions and we try to discuss those thoroughly and try to just balance it out you could make a case for any scenario. You could make a case for being heavy at a position, light at a position or having a right number even thought you don't have the right players it's not an exact science; you have to look at each year and each particular situation as it is and make the best decision. That's what generates some long discussions and some late nights this weekend.

Q: Are you overall pleased with kick-off returns? Has it improved at all?

BB: It's definitely improved. We haven't had this much good field position on kickoff returns in an entire year. At least we've gotten off to a better start on that; again how good that will be in the regular season remains to be seen when teams start putting their absolute best out there. It's been a big point of emphasis in training camp, we haven't been satisfied with it the last two years and it did look better in preseason, whether that will continue I don't know. I think the blocking has improved, we've actually had some holes to run in and a lot of times that was a problem, you could put anybody back there and there wasn't really much to work with. We've given the returners an opportunity to find some seams, and they've done a pretty good job running the ball so hopefully that can be a strength of our game this year instead of a weakness like its really been the last two years.

Q: Compare how you feel with this season's opener to how you felt about last year's opener.

BB: Probably about the same. I think it's pretty much the same every year; I really do. The dynamics may be a little bit different, but in the end it comes down to you worry about a lot of things until you actually see how they're going to formulate and what the actual results are going to be. It's kind of like practicing and then going out and playing the game, things look good in practice or things don't look good in practice and then you get in the game and sometimes it's that way and sometimes it isn't. It's a little bit the case in preseason too but there have been some positive signs, we've also had our share of problems, we've been inconsistent at times, whether that will work itself out remains to be seen. I think that's the question that's in every coaches mind at least it's been in my mind pretty much every year even when I was a special teams coach or defensive coordinator or whatever, you head into the year with those same concerns about how will it be when this happens or when that happens, are our opponents going to be able to take advantage of these things are we going to be able to hold up there ok. That's probably the way I feel right now.

Q: Are you concerned with the offensive line's ability to open up holes?

BB: I'm concerned about everything. I think there were times when our running game has been respectable here in preseason and there have been other times when it wasn't very good. Last week we couldn't pick up one yard in short yardage situations so that's not good when you can't gain any yards and you only need one. Again, we'll have to see how that unfolds, last year the running game took a little while to get going and eventually I think it became a relative strength of our team, whether we're able to do that again or not this year of course remains to be seen. There have been some signs of life, but we need a better average per carry and we need more production in the running game than basically what we've gotten in preseason.

Q: What concerns you the least?

BB: To pick one thing, our field goal kicker.

Q: How do you assess Kenyatta Jones after four preseason games under his belt?

BB: He has made a huge jump. Our two tackles right now are second year players and Greg's (Robinson-Randall) a third year player, (Tom) Ashworth is a really a second year player, he only really has one true season under his belt (Adrian) Klemm's a third year player that can play out there at tackle a little bit so we have a very young group of tackles; however it works itself out I think all those guys have made good progress, they've all had good camps, they're all better than they were, how that will match up against the competition; it will be interesting to see how that goes. We have a lot of youth there, we have some depth and they've all improved and I think as long as they continue to get better, that's really what we're looking for. Kenyatta has done a good job of playing more consistently, not that he doesn't have his bad plays out there just like everybody else does, he's playing more consistently and he's doing things better than he did at the beginning of training camp and better than he did in the Giants game. Is it perfect? No. But it's better.

Q: Your offensive line is relatively young with the exception of (Mike) Compton. Is that unusual to make this many changes on the offensive line?

BB: Well don't forget though, last year half the time he was at center, half the time he was at guard. Half the time (Damien) Woody was at center, half the time he was at guard so there was some swapping going on last year too, just with those two players in particular. Every year is a new year and each year when you go to training camp and when you start the season as a head coach you've got to do what you think is best for your football team. You put the players out there and you let them compete and particularly in a case like the offensive line, it's not what's the best spot for one guy, it's what's the best line that you can put out there and in the end that's what will drive the decision – what's the best 5 guys we can put out there. If that's Woody playing left tackle, then Woody will be at left tackle. If it's Compton playing right guard, then it will be Compton at right guard. However that turns out, it turns out. But I think that we're fortunate with some of those players with Compton and Woody being two that they are versatile and can play guard or center. That's a plus for us. Klemm is another guy who has played guard and tackle. (Joe) Andruzzi has played both guards. What the final verdict will be, that's one of the things that we really need sit down and talk about this weekend; fortunately, Joe's been able to play in the last two preseason games, he got a little bit more work in last night and 3 weeks ago he wasn't even in the mix. That's a situation that's improved a little bit. I think from an overall standpoint one of the things that Scott (Pioli) and I talk about on the offensive line is just the change in the situation and the three years we've gotten a lot of younger players on the offensive line I think those guys are a lot closer to the beginning of their careers than the end other than Compton. Hopefully they can continue as a group to continue to grow and grow together. Overall that's not a bad situation on our team if we can grow to a good level.

Q: Is (Adrian) Klemm better suited at left guard than at right guard?

BB: That's a good question. I can't stand here and say yes, I am not sure if I can stand here and say no either. Part of the problem with Klemm has been, frankly, that he hasn't been on the field. This is the first training camp that he's, forget about training camp, this is the first time in three years that he's extensively been on the field and the situation that we got into with Adrian was does he have the ability to play probably every position on the line; I think he could probably play center too; he certainly athletic enough. But the problem is he just hasn't had enough snaps at doing it. What our determination was in training camp, instead of trying to jump and jack him all over the place, since he was playing left guard after we a little short handed there, he was playing left guard, he was improving, he was showing real good progress, let's not slow him down by putting him somewhere else and see how that goes, let's leave him there. And Adrian's continued to improve; I think he's had a real good training camp. Could he move over? I don't know. He might be able to. We just haven't really had the opportunity, I don't think, a good opportunity to move him without running the risk of losing the momentum of the progress that he's made playing at that spot and that's really what it's come down to. I don't know if that's answered your question or not, but that's really been the history of the situation, had he started all last year at left guard could we move him over and play him at right guard, I think that would have been a horse of a different color there and then if it doesn't work out you can move him back. We're just trying to find where a good spot for him is and where he can play well and help our team and we found one and there may be four others too. We just weren't able to determine all of that in training camp this year.

Q: Do you have plans to bring Jamal Anderson back this week for another round?

BB: I wouldn't rule it out. I wouldn't rule it out, nothing is set in stone by any means, but I wouldn't rule it out.

Q: Are you glad that Joe (Andruzzi) has made progress over time?

BB: Joe's made a lot progress the couple weeks and I think he's a lot closer than he has been at any other time. He just hasn't had the opportunity to go through what some of the other guys have gone through in relative terms I think he's a little bit behind but he's making progress and he's making it at a good rate. Do I think he's where he's going to be, no. He's so far ahead of where he was 2-3 weeks ago. We've got to be encouraged with the direction that that's going.

Q: Is it fair to say that David Givens and Fred Coleman are going to give you a hard decision to make?

BB: Yes. Both players have played very competitively on offense and special teams. They both made repeated plays in those areas of the game, they're both relatively young players so having said that there's the expectation they would improve and so it's a combination of trying gauge (a) where they are now, what they will be able to contribute this year versus their upside as they are able to play more and gain more experience. I think that both guys have made a number of significant plays not only in the preseason games but also in the training camp practices. That's a real competitive situation; I think we had that in a number of positions. That certainly will be one of them.

Q: Speaking of Givens, last night was an emergency situation?

BB: It was a dire emergency. To have to play a game almost a half a game, it wasn't like it was one play, with two wide receivers and a line backer in the secondary…

Q: (Larry) Izzo looked pretty good at safety.

BB: Oh yeah that was great.

Q: Did Givens ever give you the idea that he could play other positions?

BB: It was an emergency situation. Neither Fred nor David had even practiced at corner ever for us. The only thing that (Defensive Backs Coach) Eric Mangini did was just talk to them about it, look if you have to play here's what we want you to do, try to do it ok? So that was it, we played two coverages and that's all they did, so I don't even think you can evaluate somebody on that. They just had so little, but we didn't want to put some of the other players in the game at that point, so we just finished up with them. But, I don't think they showed us much except that they haven't ever played the position before which is about what we expect.

Q: Do you like your rookie class this year?

BB: As a group, they've impressed me. They really have. The only thing I'll say on that though is, it's a long season and we've seen a lot of players year after year get off to a fast start and then fade we've seen other guys start slow and then come on. So I think it's a little early to try to predict the outcome of the elections now. I think that they've all shown good, positive things in practice and in the preseason games when they've had an opportunity to play. It's not perfect but they are working hard and they are making some solid improvement and of course (Antwoine) Womack's the only guy who has not been on the field, the guys who have had an opportunity, it looks like they can bring something to the table and overall its been a group that has shown some positive things particularly when you take the collection of all of them into account.

Q: Two or three things you could take away from the Washington game?

BB: I think we handled some situations, like I referred to the one at the end of the half that was kind of an unusual situation, we're in kind of hurry up mode down there with your goal line offense, again we finally had some production in the punt return game. Overall I thought our special teams at a decent level, hit the quarterback a couple times, those would be some positives.

Q: Is it possible that they (Coleman & Givens) are battling with one of the defensive backs?

BB: Absolutely. It could be six receivers. That's certainly the value of back up receivers versus back up safetys, back up corners, back up running backs, what they give you at their position, what they give you in the kicking game, how versatile they are has a lot to do with their value to the team, there's competition going on there on both sides of the ball it's just not between two players. Absolutely.

Q: Coleman and (Matt) Chatham are battling for the same position. Is that safe to assume?

BB: Yeah, I think to a degree. They don't play the same position on special teams and that absolutely would be true. What you would get into though is just whether you feel that the quality of, again going back to the 2000 season, your fourth quarterback is greater than the value of your third tight end let's say or the value of your seventh line backer, or the value of your tenth offensive lineman or your ninth offensive line man whatever it happens to be. If you go heavy at one position, you have to go short at another one. There's no other way around it, it's just simple math. Wherever you are carrying extra guys you're going to have to carry fewer somewhere else. If you feel like the quality at that position, you know we have six receivers that we want to keep, then we're going to have to keep one less somewhere else. If we feel like we've got five receivers that we want to keep, then that will provide one more spot at some other position. And that's really, it comes down to balancing your numbers so you have enough depth but it also is going to reflect the quality of players that you have at that position and sometimes if you have what you perceive to be one or two quality players rather than to let them go and let them go play for somebody else than play with a guy at another position that you think is just maybe a guy you are trying to replace, you keep the extra depth at the position and hope that some how or another it can work to a positive for you whether it's you play more multiple receiver sets or you use them in special teams or whatever the reason is or you just hope that the guy like (Tom) Brady grows into the position and can eventually become a significant player or a contributing player.

Q: Do you feel that it might harder to sneak and get guys through waivers and get them onto the practice squad because of your status as the defending Super Bowl champions?

BB: When we look at the waiver wire, I don't think we really take a lot of consideration into well this player was released and that was their record or that player was released by another team and their record wasn't as good. Our evaluation is based on the player. When Joe Smith is released we look at Joe Smith whether he plays for the Louisville All-Stars or the Pottstown Bad News Bears. It doesn't really matter. We're going to evaluate that player based on what we think he can do if we had him, where he would fit for us, where his potential role would be, and what the fit would be. Whether other teams look at it differently than that, I don't know. But our attitude is look at each player, look at his specific situation, what he brings to the table, what his abilities are, there's obviously a reason why he's out there, there's some reason why that team has released him and then make that evaluation. It's not, 'ok let's check the rosters of the cuts from the good teams or the teams with the good records.' If this guy was cut by a team with a bad record then he couldn't help us, we don't look at it that way whether other teams do or not I don't know.

Q: (Cameron) Cleeland, is he hurting from the recurring Achilles thing?

BB: No. His leg tightened up on him last week in the Carolina game. He had a pretty good week of work, we were on a short week, just didn't feel like he would be 100 percent for the game so we left him here. I'm optimistic, we'll see how he looks over the weekend, see what kind of progress he's made since we left on Wednesday and see what his availability is next week and make some kind of decision on that.

Q: Overall are you confident with his durability?

BB: I think that…am I confident in his durability? I don't know if I am confident in any player's durability that's why you have to have more than one player at every position. Cam's had some injuries. He hasn't had any problems with his Achilles. He has been injury free there. The Achilles has rehabilitated without any setbacks since we got him. Let's put it that way. Any player can go out there and get injured, that's unfortunately just part of the game. There's no way to predict that, but some guys do seem to get a few more than others. Until you see them out there repeatedly day after day and week after week-a guy like Lawyer Milloy who never misses a practice and never misses a game, I guess you feel better about his durability than a player who just can't practice with that kind of frequency. You know in terms of Cam's Achilles, it really hasn't been an issue. He got off to a late start in training camp because of the rehab and had a little minor problem last week, but I don't know that that necessarily means he is snake bitten.

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