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Bill Belichick Press Conference Transcript 10/16

Q: Are you feeling any better?

BB: Oh yeah, I'm good to go - feel great.

Q: You guys claimed Rashaan Melvin earlier this week. What made you guys interested in him?

BB: We were on him all the way back to college at Northern Illinois. I think we were close to getting him. He ended up signing with Tampa, and then it's kind of worked its way through. But he has good size, good length, runs well, tough kid. We had an opening on the roster with Nate [Solder's] situation so we had an opportunity to look at him. 

Q: In general, does it make it difficult for you guys to find defensive backs who fit what you're looking for because you ask them to do different things, whether it be tackling or playing inside and outside?

BB: I've seen worse, let's put it that way, other positions with other situations. I think what we're looking for is realistic. We always look for competition. We always look to get better. I mean, don't get me wrong. I don't want to take anything away from the coverage abilities of corners now. In the National Football League, you can't win if you can't cover. You have to be able to cover. Tackling is definitely a part of it for us, but you don't want to put a bunch of guys out there that can tackle but not cover. That's a big problem, too. 

Q: What is your reaction to Nate Solder being placed on injured reserve?

BB: It's too bad - tough break for Nate. Nate works really hard in the offseason, is one of our offseason award guys. I think his work ethic and his training and all that is as good as it can be. It's just unfortunate. It wasn't really that big of a hit or anything. It was just one of those things. 

Q: You have a couple options on the offensive line. I know you probably won't give away what your plans are, but how do you feel about having those options and what will go into the decision of how to configure the offensive line?

BB: Well, depth is really important on your football team, so to have depth at every position really, you never know when you're going to need it but you know you're going to need it. We'll see how it goes. We've got guys in this building that we feel like will be able to take care of the situation. We'll figure out what we feel like is our best option before game time and be ready to go.

Q: When Matt Light came in, you tried him on the right side, but it turned out he was a left guy. With Sebastian Vollmer, what did you see from him when he played left tackle?

BB: He blocked [Dwight] Freeney his rookie year. Yeah, Sebastian has played left, and he's played left and right well. Marcus [Cannon] has been playing left and right this year and has played them both well. Again, that's part of the flexibility that we try to build in throughout the course of the year - training camp and OTAs and practice squad, scout team reps and things like that, where guys work in different positions because when you only take seven linemen to a game, everybody's got to double up somewhere. It's just all part of it. I think we're fortunate that we have guys here that can do that, that have flexibility, and we'll just try to see what our best options are for Sunday.

Q: Could who you play at left and right tackle vary depending on your opponent?

BB: Sure, it could, yeah. 

Q: As opposed to Nate, who was somebody you could just plug in at left tackle, no matter the opponent?

BB: Well, his rookie year, he played tight end and right tackle. It just would depend. Again, some players have more position flexibility than others. If they have it then there may be an opportunity to use it. If they don't then you try to plug them in at that spot and let them go and let them play good. Steve Neal played one spot, but he played it well, so that wasn't a guy we were going to move around. Steve was playing right guard, and that's pretty much all he ever played for us. He played it well and we had other players that had more position flexibility and we moved some of them. So, that was Dan Koppen. Dan Koppen played center - that was it. He never played anything but center. There is nothing wrong with that, but if you have guys that have position flexibility, that's good, too, and at some point you're going to need that from somebody. But not everybody has it. Guys that can play one position well, great. We can use that. 

Q: What have you seen from Anthony Castonzo in his fifth year?

BB: Yeah, he's done a good job for them. 

Q: Is there anything in particular you've noticed from him?

BB: Anybody that plays left tackle in this league has got a lot of challenges every week.

Q: The NFL is designed so that teams that lose are rewarded with higher draft picks and supposedly better players, but you have been able to find gems and diamonds in the rough. What do you think you're seeing in your players that other teams are not?

BB: I don't know. Every player is different. I'm sure every team in the league has players on their roster that weren't drafted or that were released by other teams that they picked up. Sometimes it's the system. Sometimes it's the situation that guys are in - injuries or things like that that prevented a player from showing what he could do or being fully visible. We've been right on some guys, we've been wrong on them. So has everybody else in the league. I don't know. That's a hard question to answer. There are a lot of moving parts and each situation is different. Every guy has got a story, I mean literally. You just try to keep making the best decisions you can. Some work out, some don't. You keep churning. 

Q: How much extra works typically comes from preparing for an opponent that doesn't know or is choosing not to say who is going to play quarterback?

BB: We prepare for all guys on the active roster. We just don't prepare for one guy. It wouldn't make any difference. Last week, [Tony] Romo was out, so we didn't have to prepare for Romo, but it was [Brandon] Weeden, it was [Matt] Cassel, [Kellen] Moore - we don't know what they're going to do. And after the first play of the game, anything can happen. Whoever you think is in there could be somebody else anyways. It's the same thing with [Blake] Bortles or [Ben] Roethlisberger or any of those guys. Roethlisberger is there to start a game, can't finish the game and he's not there the next week. That's the NFL. It's like that at every positon. We know who the players are, we know who the backups are we think based on what we know, what we've seen, what we anticipate to happen. Who would be the next perimeter corner, who would be the next inside corner, who would be the next safety, who would be the next dime guy? Maybe they wouldn't use dime; maybe they'd use nickel. Who would be the next nickel guy? Whatever it is, we have to be ready for that. It's one play away from happening. We always prepare for all the players that are on the active roster. Then we come to the game and before the game we cross off the seven guys who are inactive. So, OK, this week they only have two tight ends active or they only have, whatever, five linebackers. Or here are the guys who are inactive - whether they're injured or whether they're inactive for other reasons, whatever it happens to be - then before the game, that hour, well the meeting we have before the game after the inactive list has come out and we can cross some guys off, and maybe that gives us an indication, a little bit more information of maybe what type of game it might be. If a team has got maybe it looks like extra DBs active for our game and maybe less defensive linemen, maybe that's an indication it's going to be more of a nickel game. Or vice versa, a team keeps extra tight ends and running backs and fewer receivers, maybe it's an indication they're going to try to play bigger, that type of thing. But until that point, we work with everybody. With all due respect, I know a lot of people live and die on the injury report, but I don't really care what's on the injury report. Look, I don't know how these guys are going to be, either. We can put down whatever we want. But they're humans - some get better, some stay the same, some don't get better. There is no way to know for sure, and there are a lot of times it comes down to game-time decisions. I'm saying that about our team, and I'm with them and I'm talking to our doctors and trainers every day, but other teams, they're going through the same thing, too. Just because a guy is on the injury report, and whatever he's listed as, that doesn't really mean anything. Guys that aren't well can make quick recoveries. Guys that are well can not turn the corner. So, we're ready for those guys, too. Honestly, I don't even care what's on the injury report. I really don't even look at it. Unless the guy is definitely out, then OK. If he's not, then to me, we've got to be ready for him. 

Q: How often do you alter your game plan after the inactives are announced?

BB: I guess it would depend on what's on that list, but I'd say probably not too much. Look, you know a lot more after two series into the game than you will after looking at that inactive list. Obviously if there was a player that was a critical player for you in your game plan that wasn't going to play, then maybe that would alter something a little bit. You're going to double a receiver, and the receiver is inactive for the game, then OK, we're not going to double him. That knocks that call out. Do you replace that with a different call or do you go the next guy, or do you just say, OK were not going to double anybody. Here's what we're going to do. But I'd say those situations are not that frequent. If you had that situation going into the game, like OK this guy has got a bad hamstring, not sure whether he'd be ready to go or not, then we're going to sit there and say, alright if the guy plays then here's what we're going to do. If he doesn't play or maybe he doesn't play all the time because we know he's dealing with something, maybe he's in on some plays and out on some plays, then we wouldn't game plan him when he's not on the field. There really aren't too many of those situations where out of the blue somebody that you think is going to play that's a very significant part of the game plan totally catches you by surprise. But if that were to happen - say a guy got suspended or he had a family member die or whatever, came down with some bug or something the day before the game - it's no different than if he got hurt on the second play of the game. You make that added adjustment.

Q: Why are the first 15 plays such a big deal as far as how the game might go?

BB: Well, I think it depends on the game. I don't think that's necessarily true every week. I think some weeks it's true, some weeks it isn't. It just depends on the way that team tries to approach it. Some teams have a game plan, whether it be on offense or defense, and they kind of start out playing that game plan, like Dallas did. You could see that game plan the first series. Halftime adjustments, I mean that's ridiculous. Why wait till halftime? There it is. The first series of plays you can see what they're going to do, so you better start dealing with it. There are other teams that maybe anticipate that you're going to play a certain way and they script the plays, and a lot of times the scripts are to break their tendencies like, OK we've done this so we're going to start the game and show this but do that. We want to get the ball to this guy because we want to try to get him going, so we're going to put this play in. So maybe those first few plays are just how they want to start the game. Maybe that's not really the game plan at all. Maybe that's just they want to break their tendencies, they want to show you something, they want to throw a deep pass to back the corner off so they can throw in front of him. They want to throw a quick pass to get the corner up so they can throw behind - I mean whatever. So sometimes those plays are significant in terms of, OK here's the way it looks like they're going to play us. Sometimes it's not. Sometimes a team will come out and play zone coverages the first few plays to see what kind of formations you're using, see kind of how you're trying to attack them offensively, and then once the game gets going, then OK, here they are, let's go after them - that type of thing. It doesn't always declare that way. A lot of times those first few plays are just a little bit of mirage. You've got to be careful about this is what it's going to be when really that's not what it is at all. That's just the way they want to start the game. That's not really the way they want to play the game. I don't think there is any set book on that.

Q: How does Sebastian Vollmer's athleticism help him?

BB: Good. Sebastian is a good athlete. He's long. You're talking about guys like Sebastian and Solder that are tall, have long arms, their length is hard to get around. And then we combine that with foot quickness and technique. Again, those guys are tough to get around. Against smaller players, smaller defensive end types sometimes that the tackles see, they can just with their length cover those guys up. With some of the longer defensive ends that they see, then their length matches the defensive end's length, so they don't get out-lengthened if that's a word. I don't think we had that at Wesleyan. That's why I didn't score too well on the SATs. But they don't gain an advantage on length. They have an advantage in terms of overall size and wingspan against some of the smaller guys they play against, and the bigger guys out there that might be a power-rush-type defensive end, they're strong enough to anchor down against those types of players - the 285-pound Jeremy Mincey's of the world, big, strong, powerful defensive ends that they're strong enough to anchor them. Really that's what you're looking for in a tackle - a guy who is long, a guy who has got good feet and a guy who is strong enough to play with power against those kinds of matchups. Length is not everything, but it's definitely important. We talked about Light - Light didn't have great length. I'd say his length for a tackle was probably average. It wasn't elite, but he was a very good technique player and he had good feet and he had very good technique. He just always had the perfect or very close to perfect sets, and he was a very disciplined, focused player. Again there are different playing styles, but I'd say those are some of Sebastian's strengths, those are some of Nate's strengths, some of Marcus' strengths. And in all honesty, it's hard to find a guy who can play both tackles. There are a lot of left tackles that would have trouble playing right and a lot of right tackles that would have trouble playing left. To find a guy who can truly swing and play let's say to a starter level in this league at both positons is not the easiest thing in the world to find. There are some really good left tackles, some really good right tackles. Not all those guys would be able to play the complementary spot. Again, that's not a good thing or a bad thing. Like we talked about earlier, everybody would love to have a good right tackle. Everybody would love to have a good left tackle. You have a guy who can swing, that's good, too. But you'd be happy with one or the other for sure.

Q: Do you feel like you have that with Marcus and Sebastian?

BB: That's what I'm saying. Marcus probably played right tackle for over half the year two years ago when Sebastian was injured. He's worked at both tackles through every game this year, so he's played on both sides. Sebastian's played on both sides. Nate had played on both sides. I mean, we're fortunate to have those types of players. That's not always the case at that position. Nick Kaczur was another guy who played left tackle in college, played mainly right for us, but if had we ever needed him to go to left he probably would have been competitive over there. Logan [Mankins] was really a left tackle at Fresno for four years. We put him at left guard because we had Light. But when he had to go to left tackle a couple years ago, he was able to play left tackle. So again, I'm just saying those guys aren't the easiest to find. We've been fortunate to have them. 

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