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Bill Belichick Press Conference Transcript 12/2

Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Friday, December 2, 2016

BB: I know everybody has the information about Rob [Gronkowski]. Obviously, we're all disappointed. Nobody's worked harder than Rob and has been a better teammate and all that, so hopefully things will work out as positively as possible with him. All the information we gave you is really all we have for now. I'm sure there will be more coming in as we go through the next few days, so we'll just take it as it comes. It's an unfortunate situation for him. That being said, we're turning our attention to the Rams. It's a big day for us today in terms of pulling a lot of things together on the Rams - a team we don't know very well. Hopefully we can take today and nail down a lot of the situations, tie up some things, loose ends that we've had to deal with here during the week, and be ready to go on Sunday. It'll be a good test for us. Those guys have a lot of good players, a lot of talent, and they're a very explosive team, so we'll have to do a good job. 

Q: How fortunate do you feel to have a player like Martellus Bennett at the position to help fill the void without Rob Gronkowski?

BB: I'm happy to have all the players we have.  

Q: Although it's happened before, is it a blow to the team to lose a player of that importance in the locker room and on the field?

BB: Again, we appreciate all of our players. 

Q: I wasn't insinuating that you don't.

BB: I'm just saying, you want to rank them and they're all important. They're all important. Rob [Gronkowski] is a great player, but they're all important. 

Q: Are you happy with the depth at tight end that you have right now with Martellus Bennett and Matt Lengel or do you think you might need to add more depth going forward?

BB: We'll always do what we feel is best for the football team. 

Q: Do James Develin's abilities become more important to utilize now?

BB: We'll do the best we can every week. That's what we do. 

Q: What goes into the decision to make a joint statement with Rob Gronkowski's family regarding his injury?

BB: I would say this was a situation that the team and the player felt like was the best thing to do. 

Q: There was a report yesterday that there might have been some concern about Rob Gronkowski's back going into -

BB: The statement is - I have nothing to add to that. 

Q: As Rob Gronkowski is a fan favorite, is there anything you want to say to fans who might be disappointed as well?

BB: Yeah, I just said it. 

Q: Will the determination as to whether or not to put Rob Gronkowski on the Injured/Reserve list be made today when you get the results of the surgery?

BB: I don't know. 

Q: In the statement, it says Rob Gronkowski is not expected to play for the remainder of the 2016 season. Does that include the playoffs as well?

BB: Read it, Mike [Reiss]. Just read the whole thing. I mean, there is obviously more information coming, so right now, we have what we have. When more information comes then there may be another decision to be made. I don't know. 

Q: The initial report about the surgery came out of Buffalo.

BB: I have nothing to add to the statement. That's all we have right there. 

Q: How much more, in situations like this, do you sit down with Josh McDaniels and make adjustments based on the personnel you have available?

BB: We do it every day. We do it every week. That's what we do. 

Q: Do you feel confident that you have plenty of other options to lean on despite this being a tough break?

BB: We'll do what we do every week. 

Q: What went into the decision to designate Jacoby Brissett to return from the Injured/Reserve list?

BB: It's what we felt was best for the team. 

Q: Is he someone who can benefit from increased practice reps this year, especially being a rookie?

BB: Of course, yeah. Sure he could. I don't think that's what that's for, but of course he could. Every player that's out there that practices benefits from them; otherwise, there would be no point in practicing. All the players that practice, that helps them get better. It helps everybody. No doubt.  

Q: Was the team aware of the extent of Rob Gronkowski's injury when the decision was made to designate Jacoby Brissett to return from the Injured/Reserve list?

BB: We've talked about everything we can talk about here.

Q: What do you know about Matt Lengel and what have you seen from him in practice?

BB: Matt [Lengel] has got a little bit of experience. He was on the Bengals practice squad last year, so he's picked things up. I'd say he's ahead of a rookie type of player, so he has some experience there. He's got some skills and he's done a good job with what we've asked him to do. He works hard and he's been a dependable guy.

Q: Some tight ends tend to block better than catch or catch better than block - does Matt Lengel have a particular strength that is greater than the other?

BB: Yeah, we'll see. We only have tape from so many games, so I don't know if you could really categorize that, so we'll see. 

Q: How much have you seen from Dion Lewis and his ability to make people miss since his return?

BB: Yeah, I think Dion [Lewis] has gotten better progressively each practice, each week. Based on watching him practice for a couple weeks before we activated him, we felt comfortable playing him, and that's part of his game, obviously, is his quickness, his change of direction, his acceleration. I think all of those things were evident. I think they've gotten better, but I think they were all evident when he returned to practice after the original - I'd say the initial break-in period. 

Q: What about Todd Gurley makes him so dangerous given his history of making long runs in the past?

BB: Everything, really.  He's strong, he's got good power, he's got good pad level, and he's fast, he's explosive; he runs through tackles. He can make people miss. He really can do it all. He's got power, he's got quickness; he's got vision. He can beat you in a lot of ways. 

*Q: Do you have to preach to your guys that even though he hasn't done it this year - *

BB: You can see him doing it. You can see him doing it plenty. You can see him catching the ball, making people miss, see him running with power. I mean look, not every - just because it's not a 40-yard run, doesn't mean it's not a great run. A lot of times, the first guy who gets to him is 35 yards down field. That doesn't make it a great run. There are a lot of five-yard runs where there's nothing there and the back gets five yards. I mean, I think some of the best runs you'll see are five-seven-yard runs. How does a guy get seven yards when you look at the play and there's nobody blocked? You think he's going to lose a yard or at best, get back to the line of scrimmage, and he almost gets a first down. There are great runs that are seven-yard runs and [Todd] Gurley's got a lot of great plays, special plays. Just because it's not a 50-yard run doesn't mean it's not a good run. You see plenty of them on film - breaking tackles, making guys miss, finding yards when it doesn't really look like there are many yards there. That's what good backs do. It's not just about how many yards a guy gains. I mean, that's I don't think - you've got to look at the play.  

Q: What are some of the strengths of Trumaine Johnson?

BB: He's long, hard to throw over. He's got a big reach. When he's close to a receiver, it's hard for the receiver to catch the ball. A lot of times, you see defensive backs close to a receiver and the receiver comes up with it and the defensive back just doesn't have enough length to make the play. Trumaine [Johnson] has got really long arms, he's behind a lot of receivers and he's able to reach across them and knock the ball down. It's hard to throw over him. The interception he had against Arizona - [Carson] Palmer just couldn't get the ball over his head. He's a good tackler. He has good quickness for his size. He's a bigger guy but he actually has pretty good quickness to even handle some of the receivers that, you would think [because] they're a lot smaller than him, usually they're a lot quicker than he is, but he does a good job against them. Then when he gets his hands on them, then they're in trouble, so he's got a lot of talent. Good ball skills - if he gets his hands on the ball, he's going to turn it over. 

Q: Do you construct a secondary with the idea that you need the bigger guys to cover traditional receivers and smaller guys to cover slot receivers?

BB: That's if you move them around. If you don't move them around, if you play a guy at one positon and he plays on the right side or the left side, you cover the guy that's over there, which I'd say is more the situation than not. There are some teams or some situations where you've got him, he's got the next guy, you've got somebody else, but I'd say that's by far the lower percentage of the plays, by far. Generally, you see a corner play - some games are different. We'll match to this guy and somebody else matches to that guy. Teams will do that. There's some of that, but by and large, most teams play at one position and whoever is in that spot, that's who they cover.

Q: When you get into matching up is that a byproduct of strictly the matchup itself or does the offensive complexity and the amount they move guys around play a factor?

BB: Absolutely, yeah. Look, the easiest thing in the world is for one player to match another. 'OK, you go cover this guy.' Alright, great. But what do the other 10 guys do? That's the problem. It's easy to matchup one guy. That's simple. What do the other 10 guys do? What if he's here? What if he's there? What if he goes in motion? What if he's in the backfield? What if it's this personnel? What if it's that personnel in the game? Then how does all the rest of it matchup? That's where it gets tricky. You can be spending all day, literally, on that. OK yeah, you take this guy but what are you going to do with the other 10? Now if he's always in the same spot then it's a lot easier in terms of scheme to matchup and make your adjustments and so forth. And again, there are a lot of different ways to matchup. You can matchup and put your best guy on their best guy, or you can matchup and put your best guy on let's call it their second best guy and put your second best guy on their best guy and double him. If you're going to put your best guy on their best guy and double him anyway then you kind of lessen the matchups down the line. It's like setting a tennis ladder, or whatever. If you put your bad guy at one and you win two through seven, great. If you put your best guy at one and he gets beat by their one and then your two versus their two, you know. That's what you're doing. You have a three to four-man ladder there with the receivers and your DB's [defensive backs], except we don't have to match them that way. You can match them however you want.

Q: I wasn't expecting a tennis ladder reference there.

BB: Well it's the same thing. It's how you want to match up. Do you want to match one against one?

Q: How do you get your offensive line ready for a Rams defensive line with players like Aaron Donald who are hard to replicate in practice?

BB: Yeah, it's hard to duplicate. Yeah. You'd love to have two or three Aaron Donald's to put out there and be Aaron Donald but there's not very many of those guys. But yeah, you try to simulate the best you can. You try to put guys out there that would do that. They have some bigger, more powerful guys too, like Cam [Thomas], like [Michael] Brockers, guys like that. So they have some different types of players on the defensive line. [Robert] Quinn - very fast off of the edge, so that's another different type of player. Good like Donald but much different than Donald so you try to simulate that; yeah.

Q: What makes linebacker Alec Ogletree so effective?

BB: He runs well. Yeah, he's got very good speed, can cover sideline-to-sideline. He's got good range in the passing game so he's kind of like the Pittsburgh linebackers with [Ryan] Shazier, and [Lawrence] Timmons, and guys like that, [Kiko] Alonso from Miami. Guys like that that really their game is range, speed, athleticism and he's got decent size; I'm not saying that. But there's a lot of middle linebackers that are kind of the run-down types that come out on third-down that are - let's say the run defense is better than the pass defense. A guy like Ogletree, he gives you a lot of value that you don't want to take him out on third-down. He runs well. He's got good coverage skills. They play a lot of 2-Tampa coverage where he is really the middle of the field player from the middle linebacker spot, so those things. Between him and [Mark] Barron, really when they're in nickel defense or even when they're in base defense it's not that far from dime. Barron's really a DB [defensive back] or has been a DB. Ogletree is a very athletic coverage-type of linebacker that also plays Mike [middle linebacker]. They have a lot of coverage players out there without having to actually substitute into a dime group. They predominantly play nickel so nickel's really dime with Barron and [Lamarcus] Joyner as the two inside guys, and then Ogletree gives them a seventh good coverage player out there. That's a lot to put on the field. Most teams don't have that. 

Q: Has there been a point in the season thus far where you've seen Malcolm Mitchell make a mini leap in his rookie year?

BB: Well, Malcolm [Mitchell]'s year has been not a straight line. I think the spring was good. The early part of training camp built off of the spring was very good. Then he got injured. Then he missed, whatever it was, three or four weeks in there and there was kind of a rebuilding process of him getting back timing, confidence. In the meantime, the offense had accelerated quite a bit from where we were in the spring and where we were in the first let's call it two weeks of training camp to where we were by the second, third, fourth regular season game. So there was some catching up to do, timing, confidence, strength, so forth. And then it's been a good progression I'd say from somewhere there, like around the third, fourth week of the season, somewhere in there. He came back earlier than that but I think again there was kind of a catch up period that took place to a degree. 

Q: The Vikings played last night without head coach Mike Zimmer in a kind of emergency situation. Does your team have a contingency plan in place for something like that?

BB: Yeah, that would be going into the category of an audible.

Q: How would you address a situation like that? Is it something you would just go over once before the season starts?

BB: Like a lot of things we do, it's on an as needed basis. Kind of like the nine-foot line splits. I don't think you need to talk about those every day. I'm still waiting to see them, right?

Q: You've previously said that you've evaluated quarterbacks coming out of the draft that you know will likely be off the board before your team picks. Was that the case with Jared Goff as well?

BB: I didn't meet with him personally, no. I watched him at Cal [University of California]. I saw a lot of him actually two years ago. That's kind of when I started on him, watching Chris [Harper] and the other receivers that came out. Cal's had a bunch of receivers and backs in the last two years in the draft. They've probably had five or six guys, whatever it is. So I remember when Chris came here, talking to Chris about [Jared] Goff, kind of like 'What's the story on this guy,' and he's pretty good. But everybody was talking about him not coming out early and whatever, but just watching him play - this would have been in 2014 right? Yeah, the '14 season and then I watched him more in '15 because I had seen him in '14 and talked to Chris about him. I kind of got a feel there plus I knew a couple of coaches out there at Cal so I kind of followed up on that. It was pretty apparent to me then that this guy was an NFL quarterback. I mean I didn't know what round it was going to be or anything else, so that was going back to his freshman, sophomore year. So I've seen quite a bit of him from the last three years, but I haven't had a lot of personal interaction with him, no. In fact, none.

Q: How has Logan Ryan done in his role playing  a little more in the slot this year at nickel cornerback?

BB: Yeah, I think Logan [Ryan]'s really helped us playing in there. We were kind of in a little bit of a transition earlier in the year with the secondary and Logan in particular, outside, inside. I think the last couple of weeks he's really given us a good level of communication, of run force. He's made several tackles in the running game, plays off of the edge, but again the overall communication and consistency in there has been good. We'll try to build on that. So I think that's been a positive for us here over the past couple of weeks. I'm not saying it couldn't go back to a different situation but we sort of saw this coming over the bye, kind of looking ahead at the next few games and the next part of our schedule. Defensively where we are is kind of where we want it to be here through this period. I think he's really done a good job in there of playing not only the slot position but again the communication, the decision making, some of the adjustments that come from that inside spot that have to relate to linebackers, sometimes the end, certainly the safeties that there are a lot of moving parts in there that a good experienced player at that position - it doesn't show up on the stat sheet. It doesn't show up necessarily on film but in terms of the overall operation, the overall communication and smoothness of the defensive play and help everybody else play better. It's definitely there and he's done a good job of that. He and Duron [Harmon] and Patrick [Chung] and Devin [McCourty] - however that goes with those guys inside. They're all pretty experienced guys that have all played together, some of them all the way back to college, that have a lot of confidence, and trust and communication with each other [and] with High [Dont'a Hightower] in there. I think that's really been something that's become more of a strength for us defensively. Again, not that it shows up in the stat sheet but just in terms of the overall defensive group that's become a real strength for us here in the last couple of weeks and he's done a good job with it.

Q: Do you ever have to have a conversation with a player when his role might change and could affect his playing time?

BB: Yeah, sure. We always talk about that. It's not an easy conversation because everybody wants to play more but at the same time everybody wants to have a good team and everybody wants to win. Everybody wants to do their role. We all want it to be bigger but sometimes we have to understand the bigger team picture, which I think our players do. Again, that's not always. But you give that up when you play football. You give up some of your individuality. You give up some of your individual preferences or individual control you have to play the great team sport of football. If you want to go out there and run track, or swim, or throw the shotput, or play tennis or whatever it is; great. There's nothing wrong with that and you control everything. You control how you practice. You control when you practice. You control how hard you hit the ball or how soft you hit it or whatever. Play golf. Then you're your own team but when you buy into a team sport, not just defensively but offensively and in the kicking game, practice for the show-team, practice for the other side of the ball, so forth and so on, then you make a commitment to the team. And that's different than playing individual sports. All players, that's something that all players have to deal with but that's part of playing football. But to your point of Logan [Ryan], he does a great job of that. But yeah, do all players want to play more? Do all players want more opportunities? Of course they do. But we have to try to set up a system and a structure that we feel like gives our team the best chance to win and I think everybody respects that.

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