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Bill Belichick Press Conference Transcript 11/11

Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Friday, November 11, 2016.

Q: It has been reported that the team might be looking to activate Dion Lewis in the near future. Has there been any chance to his status?

BB: There hasn't been. Yeah, we'll see how it goes here as we get closer to the game.

Q: Have you been encouraged by the progress Dion Lewis has made out on the practice field?

BB: Yeah, he's working hard. Yeah, he's working hard. I think this is what he needs; to be around football. Rehabbing and running up hills and doing pushups and all that, I mean it's great, but that's not playing football. He's gotten a lot of good football snaps over the last however many days it has been. Yeah, it's good.

Q: What's the biggest indicator to you that a player coming off of an injury is ready to return to game action?

BB: Yeah, I think you just have to go by what you see. I mean the fact that he's been cleared medically tells you that he is to a certain point. Then it's a question of how he looks on the football field. Some of that is relative to what you remember from him in the past. Some of it is relative to what is out there that he's competing against.

Q: Is it safe to say that seeing snaps from him in a game mean a lot more than just observing a player in practice?

BB: Yeah, that's probably true. Although I think it depends on how many snaps we're talking about. We see a lot more snaps in practice than possibly we would see in the game. So just picking out numbers, I have no idea, but you might have 15 game snaps. You might have 75 practice snaps. Do you ignore those 75 plays that you've seen for a handful in a game or vice versa? I don't know.

Q: What can Dion Lewis add to this offense?

BB: I don't know. We'd have to put him out there and see.

Q: Has James White shown enough this season to be able to continue to contribute once Dion Lewis is able to return to game action?

BB: I think James White is good; is a good player. What he does is good. Could somebody do it better? I mean I don't know. But it would take quite a bit I would say based on where he is and how consistent he's been with what he's done. It would take somebody playing pretty good to be better than him.

Q: Since Marshawn Lynch retired have you seen the Seahawks change the way they play offense at all with perhaps more of an emphasis on the passing game?

BB: No, I think their offense is the same. The play-calling, you know, I mean you'd have to ask them. I'm not really sure, but no, I would say their offense is their offense. I don't think there's a lot of new plays or a lot of plays been thrown out that we saw before that we haven't seen since. I wouldn't put it in that category at all. I think they have a good system. It's a well-balanced system. They run the ball with the quarterback under center. They run the ball a lot out of shotgun. Those are kind of two different but complementary-type running games. Same thing with the passing game; they throw the ball under center. They throw the ball with the quarterback in the shotgun. They run play-action. They run drop-backs. They run misdirection plays. They take shots down the field. They throw a lot of catch-and-run plays so they're a well-balanced offense. They can hurt you a lot of different ways.

Q: When you use a two running back formation how does that stress the defense? What kind of a challenge is that for them to matchup with?

BB: Well, it depends on what the backs do. But if they both carry the ball then it gives you two guys that can carry the ball instead of one, as opposed to having say a tight end back there or somebody like that. If you free release one of those two guys then which guy is it? It depends on who the players are. I mean I don't know. Who's the other person back there?

Q: How important is Earl Thomas' skill set in allowing their defense to do what they want to do?

BB: Yeah, well he's more than just a middle of the field player. This is a version of Ed Reed. He makes a lot of very instinctive plays. He anticipates very well. He's got good speed, good range, good ball skills, good anticipation. So he makes plays that maybe the conventional safety wouldn't make because of, like I said, his anticipation, his experience.

Q: What does Kam Chancellor add to their defense if he's able to return this week and how does he complement Earl Thomas?

BB: Yeah, well he's the down safety. I mean [Kelcie] McCray's really taken his spot and played the way that I would say that Kam [Chancellor] plays. Earl Thomas plays the way Earl Thomas plays and I guess [Steven] Terrell would back him up if something happened to him, so it's kind of two different positions. But I mean Kam Chancellor is a good football player. He's big, he's long. He's kind of like a linebacker. He's got that kind of size, that kind of hitting ability, but he's a safety so he adds a very physical element to their defense and a lot of experience. This guy's played a lot of football, been in a lot of critical situations, made a lot of big plays for them so he's a good player. But look, we expect all of their guys to play so until they're ruled out we'll prepare for all of them.

Q: Which area of Malcolm Butler's game has grown the most this season?

BB: I don't know. I mean hopefully all of it. I mean I don't think a player just improves in one area and then not any other ones. I mean hopefully there's some kind of rising tide lifts all boats, lifts all the parts of a players game, hopefully. I mean we've had a lot of practices. We've been at it for three and a half months and hopefully over that period of time preparation, communication, technique, scheme, hopefully it's all improved some. I hope it has.

Q: How difficult is it to find a versatile free safety like Devin McCourty or Earl Thomas?

BB: You're talking about two first round picks right there. Ed Reed is another one; another first round pick. Generally speaking the better players go higher in the draft. Not always, but generally speaking. There's a lot more Hall of Fame players from the first round then there are from the other rounds; yeah. Good players at any position get gobbled up in a hurry. It's an important position to have defensively. Those players don't get involved in every play but the plays that they are involved in are significant plays. They're open field tackles. They're passes that are thrown a lot of yards down the field. They can be game changing plays or game winning plays if you will. Turnovers - things like that. That's kind of the nature of that positon. It's not like playing guard or defensive tackle where every play you're right in the middle of every play. Some of those plays are - there's a handful of plays every game. Like when you grade a free safety you get maybe 70 plays in a  game but, you know, when I coached that position you grade the player on every play. Which one is going to be right and which one is going to be wrong but you could have five minuses and it didn't even matter. And then it could be 68 plays and two not so good ones and it's a bad game. It's a lot different than some of the other positions that are on the field. You don't get very many chances. The ones you get are critical. You want to do things right all the time because you never know which one of the plays is going to be the critical one, so it's important but its important when the opportunity comes that the player is able to make the play and do what he needs to do in that situation. It's different than some of the other positions on the field, it really is, but critical once it comes up. Then it's the most important position on the field.

Q: You've mentioned that there are some players with such a unique skill set that you can only find them at the top of the draft. How do you work around something like that and are there certain positions such as offensive tackle that fall into that category?

BB: Well, I'd say when you look at the league that's probably the way most people see it. You see the players that get taken in the top of the draft. I mean there's a lot of times there are runs on those pass rushers, offensive tackles, quarterbacks. I mean players at the position that maybe if a team has to stretch at a little bit because of the value that they place on the position and how hard it is to find those players then that elevates the player's draft status. A guy like [Richard] Seymour, you know they're hard to find. Guys that are – Leonard Williams – or guys like that, guys that are long and have the strength and ability to play defensive tackle as a run player but are long and can be impact pass rushers at that position. I mean they don't grow on trees so they're hard to find, if you get a shot at a guy like that relative to what else is out there and so forth. Those guys are hard to find, definitely. Seymour, he's a rare type of – his talent is rare. You just don't find it at the top of the draft or anywhere really.

Q: How hard has Patrick Chung worked to improve his coverage skills as a safety?

BB: Yeah, really hard. Pat [Chung] always works hard. I don't think there's ever been a day I've been out on the practice field and come off and felt like Pat didn't work hard. He works hard all of the time. He can be banged up, he can be dealing with something but he still goes out there and has a lot of mental toughness and can work through it. He always works hard. I don't think you could ever – I would never question his work ethic or effort as long as I've ever coached him. But as I've said before, going back to when he was here the first time we drafted him he was a competitive coverage player then. There are not a lot of safeties you can put in the slot against good, quick slot receivers and be consistently competitive. I mean I'm not saying it was a shutout every time and all that. There's times where Wes [Welker] beat him. There are times where he covered Wes, too. It wasn't like we had a list 10 or 12 guys long, guys that were on that like 'Oh, they went out there and went toe-to-toe with Welker all day when he was in his prime there.' That's a tough assignment, but I'd say Pat has that kind of quickness. He has size, I mean for a corner, not for a safety but for a corner. He's a decent sized safety but when you look at him as a corner coverage-type player he's got some strength and he's got I'd say better size than most.

Q: How important is it at that position to be able to balance coverage skills with the ability to tackle well?

BB: Yeah, he's good at both of them. Yeah, those are all the – you start talking about Pat's strengths – that's what they are; open field tackling, in-line tackling, coverage ability. We put him in the slot there against receivers, against tight ends, put him up against good backs. He's a very good tackler. He's very good in the open field. We see that in the kicking game, too. This is a guy that earlier in his career did everything in the kicking game. He never came off the field on special teams. He's a pretty special athlete to be able to do that. There are guys that can run, there are guys that can hit. He can do both and he's got quickness that a lot of players his size [don't have]. I'd say he's got more than most players his size have which makes him good in those short space coverage situations.

Q: How do you deal with situations where you really like a player and his contributions but through some reason or another he's just not a fit for your team at the time?

BB: Well, I mean we know when we start we can't keep everybody. Unfortunately that's part of this business. It's not a good thing but its reality. We all know that. The players know it, the coaches know it, but yeah, it's hard. The players work hard to do everything you ask them to do but you can't keep everybody.

Q: Do you ever find that you really like somebody but you just have to go a different way?

BB: Yeah, well I mean look, I like all of our players. I like all of our players that work hard, that are dedicated, that are tough, that give you everything they have. I wouldn't say that every player that's been here would fall into that category. A lot of them do, most of them do, but not every one. I mean there are some players you release that I don't think you feel bad releasing them. They either weren't talented enough or they really didn't work hard enough or they really just weren't competitive enough so it's a pretty clear cut. Those aren't hard decisions. There are a lot of other ones that are hard. I think it's hard when a player does everything you ask him to do, he works as hard as he can, he gives you everything he's got and sometimes it's just not enough. There are just other players that are better than him that are ahead of him. Now I'd say a lot of those players because of the quality of team that we've had here, the quality of players that we've had, a lot of those players play somewhere else and that's professional football. I don't think we should act like it's never happened before. Players from our team play on other teams. We have some players that have been on other teams. That's the National Football League. Sometimes it's a system fit, opportunity, I mean it could be a lot of different factors. It's not because you release a player or coach - look, I've been released. Sometimes it doesn't work out one place and works out somewhere else and that's life. A lot of us have been in those situations.

Q: How valuable is Richard Sherman's knowledge of the rule book and his ability to use that while playing at full speed? And can you compare him to anyone you've had in the past here?

BB: Yeah, I mean I've never coached [Richard] Sherman personally, so I don't really know what it's like with him day to day, but he's a very competitive player. He's a good football player. He does a lot of things well – he tackles well, he covers well, he's long, he's got great ball skills and he's very productive. He's a guy that's an impact player and you've got to know where he is on the field. He can change the game. All the other things on a personal level I've read and heard about like everybody else has, but I can't really speak to that first-hand. But I'd say he's very instinctive. He knows that when he has his guy covered that he can look and see the ball or maybe help on somebody else even though it's not his man because he is in control of his guy and he's confident that the quarterback's not going to throw it to him, or he could recover if he did. He makes some good instinctive plays on that. I think it helps every player and coach to know the rules. I mean, the more you know the rules, you can take advantage of them and not have fouls called on you because you don't know. Sometimes things are unavoidable. You're playing fast and something happens, you grab a guy or whatever, but to have rules infractions just because you don't know what the rules are, I think all players want to try to avoid that. All coaches want to try to avoid it. I'm not saying it still doesn't happen. It's a thick rule book. It can get kind of tricky on some things as we saw the other night, and sometimes the officials need to talk it over. That's part of what makes football the great game that it is. There's a lot of strategy and different situations involved that make it, as well as a physical contact game, make it a thinking game. Also, there is a high level of skill with the skilled athletes that play it, so that's all part of it. We try to do the best job that we can to teach our players the rules, to play within the rules, to do what we're allowed to do and not go beyond that. That's exactly what we try to teach. I think that's what everybody tries to teach. I think Pete [Carroll] does a great job of that, too. They do things that cause you problems that if you aren't alert, they'll get you on it. You've got to be very disciplined against them. They're very good. They got New Orleans two weeks ago on the field goal. They got them to jump offside, so things like that. They play smart, situational football. 

Q: What is the significance of Veteran's Day for you especially with Joe Cardona on the roster?

BB: Yeah, obviously a huge day for our country to recognize the people that defend our freedom. We talked about it this morning. When you go into the service and you take that oath and you say that you'll put your life between the freedom of this country and somebody that's trying to harm us, I mean that's – it doesn't get any more – you can't do much more than that. That's pretty big, a pretty big oath, a pretty big pledge. For people who have done that, we have tremendous respect and appreciation for. We're fortunate we have one on our team and I think [Joe Cardona] is a great representative of not only the New England Patriots, but the United States Navy and servicemen in general. I'm glad he's on our side and I know we have a lot of others, any other of the thousands of men and women that are serving this country and have served this country for our freedom. I'm very proud of that, recognize it. We'll recognize it today, we'll recognize it obviously on Sunday on the Salute to Service. We had to clear up a couple of years ago that Veteran's Day wasn't a day for players that have played so long in the league being anything special. That's really not what we were talking about. We were talking about the real veterans. There was a little confusion on that a few years ago, but we got that worked out. 

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