Q: When you see a spike in pass interference calls on Rob Gronkowski, how do you address that?
BB:It's now midway through the season, but we've been talking about since the first day of training camp. We coach the rule and we've got to do a better job of it, obviously.
Q: Do you see it being enforced differently than in the past?
BB:I'd say the whole offensive pass interference, forget about not with respect to any individual player, I'd say week-in and week-out that it's being called more frequently, but I would say with more consistency. I think the officials have really done a good job in cleaning up that whole rule and I'm not saying … Nothing's perfect, we're not perfect, they're not perfect, nobody's perfect, but I think there's a lot more consistency to the way that rule in general is being officiated. There are a lot of elements to it. There is the pick rule, there is the pushing-off rule, there is the end-zone, jump-ball kind of thing like we had in the Indianapolis game, so there are a lot of different situations that I would say go into that, whether it's at the top of the route, whether it's a pick at the line of scrimmage or whether it's a jump-all situation. But again, regardless of what it is I think that the officials have done a pretty consistent job with that. It's being called a lot more than it has been in the past in terms of frequency, and we've just got to do a better job of coaching it.
Q: Does Rob understand why he's being called for these penalties when you review them?
BB:Yeah, I'd say Rob has definitely changed the way that he's dealt with contact on those plays. Look, I mean I'm not saying I agree with every call. I think there are some plays that are clearly penalties, other plays that are kind of in the grey and then there are some plays that as a coach you say, 'What's a guy supposed to do? He's doing everything he's being coached to do – he's using the proper technique, this is the way we understand the rule, how can we prevent this?' And I'd say Rob has done a really good job of trying to play within the rules and use techniques that are not illegal, that don't bring those calls. Again, we've had a couple of them, but I don't think they're the type of calls where you look at it and say, 'Well they have to call this, you can't do that.' It's somewhere in that grey area, but it's over the line, so we've got to do a better job of coaching it.
Q: You guys said you practiced that final kickoff play in the Giants game.
BB: I think we practiced it maybe down in New Orleans. We practiced it, but in terms of actually talking about it, we talked about it prior to the game, prior to the Giants game, but in terms of practicing it, again those kind of plays, you practice them every maybe once a month, maybe once every six weeks and you kind of cycle through them and you get to it's been five, six weeks since we've practiced that type of a play and you go back and hit it again. Those aren't the kind of things you do every week.
Q: Those situations are so unpredictable, do you practice those things based on the calendar or the opponent you're playing?
BB:Both. I mean, with the Giants, they're a team that has done that before and they've actually done it with success, so it's something you kind of have on your radar with a team like that anyways, whether it's from scrimmage or whether it be on a return. And I think if you have a team that has a history or some type of trend of doing a certain thing then you hit it that week for sure because it's kind of on your check list. But procedurally, there are a thousand plays that can happen at the end of the game, we can't practice every one of those plays every week. Same thing in the kicking game, you start getting into the kicking game, there are a hundred situations in the kicking game that are kind of if the play comes up once a season it would be a lot. But they come up, so again, you hit those on an infrequent basis, but try to make sure that you cover them so if it does come up you know how to handle it.
Q: Is there anything the Bills have done this year that you guys need to prepare specifically for?
BB:Yeah, when we get to tomorrow, well today would be a normal Friday for us, but tomorrow would be a normal Friday or sometimes on the Saturday walk through or Saturday film we'll hit situations that have either come up with them that we've seen like, 'OK, here's what they did in this situation,' or talk about, 'Well in the past this is something that Coach [Greg] Roman did, maybe when he was in San Francisco or that Danny [Crossman] did that we have a history with him in special teams, or whatever it is. So yeah, that's part of the whole situational preparation.
Q: Have you had some instinctive players that just seem to be around the ball and make plays?
BB:Sure, and some guys just have a way of kind of finding the ball. I don't really know how they necessarily … It's not one particular thing, but a guy like [Tedy] Bruschi, [Mike] Vrabel, [Rob] Ninkovich, those guys just have a lot of production on the ball and it's all different – it's strip sacks, it's fumbles, it's fumble recoveries, it's interceptions, it's tipped balls. It's a whole random variety of things, but somehow they just seem to find their way. You could say the ball finds them or they find the ball, however you want to look at it. That's something that you … Same thing with these defensive backs, some of these guys really have great anticipation and awareness. I mean, look, you don't get 40, 50, 60 career interceptions – the Ty Laws and the Everson Walls and guys like that – without having some instincts. It's not just all good hands or coverage techniques or whatever. Somewhere along the line they just have that sense that puts them in the right spot and they have the ball skills to actually finish the play and get the ball, whether it's recovering a fumble or intercepting a pass or whatever, you have to have that hand-eye coordination, the ball takes a lot of funny bounces and there's … When you look at an offensive linemen, I don't think you really think of a guy like [Bryan] Stork or Marcus Cannon or whoever in that category. A lot of that is effort, too – just more hustle and effort and the more guys you have around the ball the better chance you have of getting it.
Q: Dont'a Hightower is listed as five pounds lighter this year. Do you see a difference in his agility and ability to move around the field and make plays?
BB:I'd say the bigger drop for High was a year ago, was from the '13 season. I think last year to this year has been pretty consistent. I mean, look, I don't even know what the weights are and I don't know who puts them there, honestly. And again, we weigh guys in on a regular basis and their weight fluctuates. You could pick out a guy and he's 315, he might be 310, he might be 320, so that stuff kind of … You talk about guys that are in the 260, 280, 320, 350-range, there is definitely some fluctuation there, and we monitor it on a regular basis, so I can't imagine somebody put something in a program whatever it was at the point that weight was taken. I'm not saying it wasn't an accurate weight at that point, but who knows what it is now. And honestly that's something that we monitor just in terms of our when we evaluate personnel, part of our pro personnel evaluation, so when a guy comes out of college he goes to the combine in Indy and he weighs in, which those weights are misleading, too, but that's another story. So whatever the weight is there, but then as the guy goes through the league, I mean what their weight was in Indy and what their weight is, is a lot of times two different things. We kind of try to keep track of that because to a degree it is important. I mean, Ted Washington, when Ted Washington came out of Louisville he was 295 – 295. I mean, I know that's hard to believe but he was 295. So what Ted was when we had Ted and what Ted was when I went down and worked him out at Louisville, it was the same player but it wasn't the same player at all. Now that was an extreme example but it's not that farfetched. But in High's case I would say his weight came down from what it was in the '13 season and this year has been more in line with last year and I'd say there is no question that he's quicker, more active and has still been able to maintain a good level of power and strength. I mean, I don't think he's really lost any of that.
Q: At the end of the season, do you sit down with players and ask them to get down to a certain weight?
BB:No, look, we do that on a regular basis. So like wherever you want to start, let's say we start the season in April, not every player is here in April, but let's just say it starts in April. Ok, we sit down with that player in April and say, 'OK, here's what we want you to do in the offseason program – weight, conditioning, technique, position, whatever it is, here's what we want you to concentrate on.' We get to the end of that, we say, 'OK, here was your offseason, you did this well, you need to do a better job of this. OK, now we're heading into training camp, here's what we want you to do – this, this, this and that.' We get to the end of training camp, 'OK, you did a good job of this, you still need to work on that, this is better or this still needs to be improved – conditioning, weight, strength, flexibility, etc.' We get to somewhere in the midpoint of the season and we sit down and have the same conversation. 'Look, this is what we told you at the beginning of the year, you've done a great job with this, you still need to do better at this, this, this and that, here's what you need to do – strength, flexibility, conditioning, weight, etc.' Injuries may play a part of some of those discussions. We get to the end of the year, somewhere close to the end of the year, 'Alright we have X number of weeks to go, here's what we need from you the last three weeks, four weeks, whatever it is, here's what you need to concentrate on. You did a great job of this, that and the other thing, but now we're into a different, here's what you need to do.' So we do it on a regular basis. We're not going to sit around here and waste a whole year and then say, 'OK, let's have a meeting and like alright we think you ought to do this.' We're not going to have a meeting every day, but there are certainly different points in the year were you can … And we do it for the entire team, too. It's each individual player, it's each coach, each position, each unit, offense, defense, special teams, running game, passing game, kickoff return, punt coverage, whatever it is, that we evaluate those at various points and, 'OK how are we doing? Alright we're alright on this, we're not so good on this, we need to make this change – whatever.' We're our own R-and-D team. We can't hire some consultant to come in here like a company can do and, 'Alright let's take a look at this and you guys do a study on that and tell us this, tell us that.' Who's going to do that?
Q: Do you taper practices to make sure you're at full strength at the end of the season?
BB:Well, there could be. It depends on the situation and it depends on the player, absolutely. You have some players that need more, some players that need less. And again, I think that's not just each player, it's the team. Even some guys that maybe are OK at where they're at, they need to work with their teammates. We can't just put 11 guys out there that have never worked together. In the end, we try to do what's best for the team, whatever that is. If it's work more, if it's work less, if it's taper down, if it's however we set the practice schedule. We can't do everything. We try to pick out the things that are most important, that have the most impact and do what we think is best. And sometimes doing what's best for one guy isn't what's best for another guy, but I don't know how else you can run a team. It's not like we've got a tennis team with nine guys playing their own singles match. We've got to work together.
Q: What have you seen in the progress of Malcom Brown?
BB:Good. I think the last maybe I don't know six weeks or so, have been really kind of a significant incline for him, not that it was ever bad – I'm not saying that. I think his progress was, training camp, early part of the season, different techniques, new defense, a lot of adjustments, but I'd say over the last maybe I don't know six weeks, somewhere in the area, his play has improved in everything – his aggressiveness, his reactions, his communication, adjustments that he has to make like after the ball is snapped, things that happen, those kind of things. So he's really done a good job. He's worked hard and he's taken the experience that he's had and he's built on it and it's become a positive. Some guys make mistakes and then they show up again. He's been able to correct a lot of those things and really take his game to I'd say a much higher level here in the last, I don't know, few weeks.
Q: How has Jimmy Garoppolo's athletic skills translated in practice as he's imitated Tyrod Taylor?
BB:Jimmy is a good athlete. We've had several quarterbacks like that this year that we've played against that have run well – [Blake] Bortles and obviously Taylor and you can go right down the line. So when those situations come up, teams that run those kinds of plays, bootlegs or quarterback keeps or even just loose scramble plays, he gives us a great look on those. And throwing the ball, too, some of it is running around, sometimes we've done things like put a receiver back there to run around, which is good for the defensive line or the pass rush to see a player that has that kind of quickness. Like when we played against [Doug] Flutie or somebody like that, I can remember putting whoever our quickest player was back there to run around to simulate the pass rush and how hard it was to contain him, but then you couldn't throw the ball. You didn't get the look down the field or the defensive backs would see a receiver in the game at quarterback, and again that was good for the line, but the guy couldn't throw the ball 20 yards downfield. But with Jimmy, it's obviously a different story, so he's given us a great look on the passing part of it but also the running part of it. And again, those players are smart. They run when they can run. They don't run when there's nowhere to run. If there's nowhere to run, they'll throw. But if you give them a spot to run, unless they have a great passing opportunity, they'll take advantage of it. I think that's really the key for us, if we have the player contained he's probably not going to try to run too much. If we don't, then we're vulnerable and he's going to get us. It's having the guy who can make that right decision and really give you that realistic look of, we don't really have it and he hurts us with it, whereas sometimes you're coaching on the film in practice and you're saying, 'Well if we were playing against this guy and this happened, this is what he's going to do.' But we can't really do that so that the players never really get that. They hear it, but they don't really experience it. But Jimmy has done a good job of that. He's moved and he's very athletic. He's fast and he's got very good quickness, and he can obviously throw the ball so it brings all those elements into it.
Q: Can you describe Matt Patricia's coaching style and in particular how he relates to his players?
BB:Good, yeah, good. Matt's really smart. He's had a lot of different experiences. He's coached in college, he's coached on the offensive side of the ball, coached on the defensive side of the ball, has been in this situation, this program for a long time so he has a pretty good understanding historically of things like the Vrabels and the Bruschis and the Troy Browns and all things like that that can have some relationship to sometimes current situations. He's really smart. This guy could probably build a plane and fly it – like this guy is smart-smart. He's got great recall and a really high IQ level in terms of just processing a lot of information. He's the kind of guy that he's got 10 projects going at once and then you're like, 'Hey Matt can you do this and do that – oh yeah, no problem.' He's got 12 going at once. Some of us can only handle barely one thing at a time. He's the type of guy that can keep a lot of balls in the air. But again, he's a blue-collar guy, certainly wasn't born with a silver spoon like most players, so they're just working for everything, working his way up through, I think he has an appreciation for that and I think he relates well to other guys who are doing the same thing.
Q: Do you guide him because of your defensive background?
BB:Matt and I have worked together for a long time so he's definitely a huge asset to me in a number of areas – again both historically, like, 'Hey this is what we did in this situation, think about that or should we do that again or the timing of it and so forth.' And again over a period of years, Josh is the same way, over a period of years, things that you did five, 10 years ago, I'm not saying they come up every day, but it might be, 'Hey remember when we did this against so-and-so back in '07 or '05 or whatever?' It's kind of the same thing here. For somebody that just got here last year or somebody that's been here for a year or two, there's no way that that's coming up – here's what we did in this situation back when we had this player. So there is some value to that. I'm not saying it happens every day, but guys like that – Brian Daboll, Matt Patricia, Josh McDaniels, guys that have been here for a really long time – they have some of those perspectives that are really good, so it's very helpful.
Q: They understand your thinking?
BB:Yeah, and again they can take a situation that happened, whenever it happened, and maybe it applies to something we're doing now and it's a good idea. If it was a good idea then, it might a good idea now, but maybe you're not really thinking about it or I'm not thinking about it. And again, a big part of the whole staff is just working together – offense working with the defense and particularly the defense working with the special teams because most of the players in the kicking game are defensive players so working their roles together and who's active and who's doing what and how to make it all work together as efficiently as possible, it's not the easiest thing to do in the world, I can tell you from experience. So I wouldn't say that's as much of a thing on offense. Again there are usually only a handful of offensive players in the kicking game. The majority of players are on defense, but that affects your defensive game plan and the roles that those guys play and the way that plays off each other. Again, there's a lot of staff chemistry things or staff relationship things that work like that that are maybe not as obvious, but they're really important and when they don't work well eventually it causes you problems and you're not efficient or just don't get the most out of what you have.