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Bill Belichick Press Conference Transcript 12/18

Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Friday, December 18, 2015.

BB: How are the Friday warriors doing here?

Q: What is your understanding of the changes being made to the officiating procedures in the playoffs?

BB: I got the same memo you guys saw. Talk to them about it, I don't know. I read the same thing you read.

Q: You had said yesterday you think the offensive pass interference has been officiated more consistently. Can you expand on that?

BB: No, I don't have anything to say about it. I'm just trying to get ready to play Tennessee, coach against Tennessee here. All the rest of that stuff is out of our control. It's not my job – it's somebody else's job, let them do it, see if I can coach the team, play halfway decent this week, play better than we played the last time we were home. It wouldn't take much.

Q: Is Stephen Gostkowski the most effective outdoor, inclement weather kicker you've ever seen?

BB: Yeah, he's up there. The two guys we've had our probably as good as you can get, so I've been very fortunate to have Adam [Vinatieri] and Steve. They've both kicked in some very challenging conditions and kicked well. I think that's really the measure of it is how they kick against other guys that are kicking on that same day. It's hard to compare a kicker here to a kicker in a dome, but when they both kick on the same field on the same day then you can see how kickers – not that they're ever on the field at the same time – but at least you can see how they kick in comparable conditions. Steve, I have great confidence and trust in him in all situations. He's very mentally tough and consistent to whatever it is to deal with it and make it, still play well, still perform well.

Q: What made you interested in claiming Leonard Hankerson off waivers?

BB: He's been a good player and he was available. It's not that frequent that you see players like that available at this time of year, so we claimed him.

Q: What are the procedures of releasing a player off injured reserve?

BB: Well once he's healthy, once they're healthy, then you can release them off of injured reserve.

Q: So it's on an individual case-by-case basis?

BB: Once they're healthy, yes. If you release a player who's injured then you have to designate that he's injured and then typically there would be some type of settlement between the player and the club. So like at the end of training camp for example there are a number of players throughout the league that get released at that point that are waived injured. So say they have a hamstring injury or something and they are going to be out for three or four weeks, not long enough to go on injured reserve, but they're not healthy, so by the CBA … Yeah, maybe you'd release the player anyways depending on how your roster shakes out. But regardless, per the CBA, you can't release a player who is injured, so if he's injured then you would waive him but designate him injured, so if somebody else claimed him they would have notification that he's not healthy and then make their own decision at that point. If he's not claimed then he would revert to your injured reserve list, but he wouldn't be on long-term injured reserve because it's a shorter injury, so once he's healthy then he would be released form the roster. That would be the waived injured category. If it was injured reserve then that would put him out for the entire season, so once you pass that six week mark then you would have the option to either keep him on injured reserve and have him on your roster – and depending on what his contract status is you might have him for the following year, again depending on what his contract says – or if he's healthy then you could waive him off of injured reserve, but you're waiving him healthy. You're not waiving him injured, if you will.

Q: What have you see from Leonard Johnson in his short time here?

BB: Solid guy, works hard, pretty smart and understands concepts, communicates well. He's in the middle of the defense, so he's kind of like a linebacker when he plays in that nickel spot. He's got a corner outside of him and a safety behind him and a linebacker or somebody inside him, so there is some communication and kind of fitting in the right place depending on what the run force is or what the coverage is and that kind of thing. So he's a good communicator. He does a good job of working with those guys so that they all kind of have it defended properly, again whatever it is we're talking about there. He has some experience playing in there, so a lot of the concepts and all are familiar to him. He's just got to understand what we're doing and what our verbage is and get everybody on the same page with it. He's got good playing strength, he's got good quickness, and instinctively he has good awareness and instincts in the passing game.

Q: Are you impressed by his dance moves?

BB: Not really.

Q: What have you liked about your pass rush this season?

BB: Team defense is always a function of in the passing game, pass rush and pass coverage, so they play off each other. One without the other really can be negated, so what you need is both at a competitive to high level. The better our coverage, the better our rush, the better our rush, hopefully the tighter our coverage, so they go hand in hand. A lot of times guys make pass breakups or get interceptions and the perception is it's all about the coverage, but that's usually not the case. A lot of times when there is pressure on the quarterback, the perception is it's all about the pass rush, but a lot of times that's usually not the case either. It's team defense. They all tie hand in hand; they go together. The better you rush, the better you cover. The better you cover, the better you should rush. We've been fortunate in a lot of games we've been ahead so at some point the game kind of becomes a one-dimensional game and that's a lot easier to defend than when you have to defend everything for 60 minutes. So there have been points in some games where we haven't had to do that, which is always where you want to be.

Q: You are on pace to have more sacks than any team you've ever had here. Do you look at the front seven as a group that is getting more pressure on the quarterback than you've had in the past?

BB: Yeah, I don't know. Again I'm really a lot more interested in wins than sacks. But the offense playing good, scoring points, playing from ahead puts the defense in a better position. Coverage helps the pass rush, pass rush helps the coverage, run defense helps the pass rush. I mean nothing helps the pass rush more than a good run defense. They're all tied in together. In the end, it's a part of a winning formula. I think we talk about just straight numbers and all that, honestly I don't really even pay that much attention to them. I mean I'm happy when we hit the quarterback. I'm happy when we tackle them, don't get me wrong, but that's all part of a lot of other things that are going on, too. Just like I'm happy when we score a touchdown, that's great, and the guy who scored it, that's great, but there are a lot of other components that lead to that that are important as well. I don't think we want to overlook those.

Q: How different was Dick LeBeau's zone blitz when he came out with it?

BB: I'd say he definitely popularized it. When I was at the Giants, we ran some of that, but it was nowhere near to the degree that he ran it. We would just bring an extra guy at times based on formation or tendency or particular key, that kind of thing where we just add another guy in and still play zone behind it. When you have a 3-4 defense, the teams that ran the West Coast offense, they only had one protector on the strong side, so they get three guys out to the strong side and they would only have one blocker, so they would have to throw hot if you brought two guys over there. But the zone blitz really killed that because there was a guy standing there to the guy that you were throwing hot to. I think once kind of everybody saw – and again the West Coast offense was pretty I'd say more prevalent and it didn't have as many variations as it has now both in the running game and the passing game. Back in the early to mid-90's with San Francisco and Mike Holmgren and all those guys, the zone blitz was a very effective way to play that offense because of the amount of three out strong, only one protector on the strong side, that if you brought two, they didn't have it. I think it really became popular there, and then that evolved into bringing two up the middle and two off the weak side and doing it out of sub and everything else. Dick was really the one who made it an entire package. I would say at the Giants when we used it, it was more of either a very small situational call like short yardage or tight formations or that kind of thing or it was again something kind of specific. He made it just as a general defensive principle and developed it in a way that was very comprehensive on a number of levels –from a coverage standpoint, from attacking the pocket standpoint and also from a run defense perspective. Dick was really the guy that put that whole package together. Again I think there were maybe some random satellite elements of it here and there, and again I had some experience with that at the Giants, what we did, but nowhere near to the degree that he did it and popularized it.

Q: You brought in a few other new guys this week. One of them – I won't even try to pronounce his first name – [Ishmaa'ily] Kitchen.

BB: Yeah, Ish. Kitch. Yeah, Kitch.

Q: What is it about him that made you interested in him?

BB: He's a young player but still a pretty experienced player. Kind of a little bit light at defensive tackle depth-wise and again he has some experience, which I think at this time of year it's hard to find players that fit into that category, which Hankerson does, which [LaAdrian] Waddle does. We're kind of fortunate there. A strong run player, big stout guy, moves fairly well, not a lot of length.

Q: You mentioned Waddle …

BB: Waddle is again another young player, third year, started at tackle for the Lions, came off an injury this year. We feel like he's a very talented guy and a solid guy. We'll see how it goes. Again it's hard to find guys like that any time of the year. It's especially hard to find them now. You know who at times we've played with at tackle – we ended up with Bryan Stork playing tackle – so this is an experienced tackle who is still young and I think has a lot of good football in front of him, but we'll see how he fits into our system.

Q: You talked recently about positions that would be hard for players to adapt to when they join a team midseason. Where would running back fall into that category?

BB: I think it depends on what you ask the player to do. If you hand him the ball, [it's] probably not too difficult. Once you get into the passing game – pass protection, pass routes, adjustments in the passing game – you're talking about a much, much, much, much more complex and a lot more variations. In terms of running the ball you just get the footwork, get the ball handling and give the player an understanding of the blocking scheme, which he's probably I'd say in most cases seen before – zone schemes or some kind of gap schemes. There are basic fundamentals in the running game. You either basically zone block them or you gap block them. Everything pretty much fits into one of those two categories. I would say most backs have probably somewhere along the line run those, but when you start getting into the pass protections and base defenses and sub defenses and routes versus man, routes versus zone, situational plays and all that, it's a whole different ball game.

Q: With LeGarrette Blount injured, you have just two running backs on the roster. Have you gone into a game with that number before? Is that rare?

BB: I think we've done it a couple times. It's certainly not ideal. But could we do it? Given our offense, we have versatility. We have other ways of dealing with things. But we played the majority of the game last week with two. Again, it's not ideal, but you've still got to do what you feel like gives your team the best chance to win. Again I would say if you lose two of any player at any position – pick any position you want – there are probably going to be some issues. I mean you might be able to lose two receivers and still, but you're not going to be able to run your sub packages with multiple … You're going to lose something on that. There is just no way to go into a game and have three of everything. It's impossible.

Q: I know you won't divulge how your workout with Steven Jackson went, but can you talk about how much you respect …

BB: I'm not going to talk about players that aren't on our team. I mean, there are a thousand players that aren't on this team. There are just a lot of guys in there working hard getting ready for this game and those are really the guys I care about and those are the guys I'm focused on. I'm not going to talk about guys that are somewhere else. It'd be pretty disrespectful to the guys we have on our team.

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