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Bill Belichick Press Conference Transcript 12/30

Q: How has Nate Solder helped Joe Thuney this year on the left side of the offensive line this year and how has Solder performed overall?

BB: Yeah, I mean I think Nate [Solder]'s had a solid year. Other than that first week it's been great to have him out there on a consistent basis. From Joe [Thuney]'s standpoint I think it's been both Nate and David [Andrews]. Having two experienced guys on either side of him is never a bad thing. But Nate's done a good job. He's obviously blocked a lot of good players. He'll see another one this week. He'll see a couple of them this week, so he's been solid for us - running game, passing game, all of it.

Q: It's rare for a guy to miss all of the practices throughout the week and then play on Sunday. Is there some policy in place that you abide by in that regard or is it more just a matter of if they aren't healthy enough to practice then they aren't healthy enough to play?

BB: Yeah, there's no policy that I'm aware of.

Q: I was just curious if there was something maybe from your time with Bill Parcells that was an overall philosophy towards situations like that.

BB: Yeah, you'd have to ask Bill [Parcells] about that. I don't know. No, we don't have a policy. We do what's best for the team, which is also in a lot of cases what's best for the player depending on what his situation is. We do what's best for the team. So that's the policy. 

Q: It just crossed my mind so I figured I'd see if there was a general guideline for that.

BB: Yeah, no, I appreciate the question, but yeah, there's no handbook on what it is. It's what's best for the team.

Q: Michael Floyd mentioned that Jacoby Brissett has been helpful in putting extra time with him in order to get up to speed on the offense. Is that something you'll ask a player to do from time to time?

BB: Well, I think in a lot of cases we would facilitate it. I think in this particular case it helps both players. I think when you have to explain what you're doing to somebody else it helps you understand it better in Jacoby [Brissett]'s case. The coaches are involved in a lot of - I mean we all have the things that we have to do on a regular weekly basis. Preparing our different position groups, and breaking down film, and getting ready for practice, and organizing meetings and so forth, so it's hard for a coach just to drop what he's doing for two or three hours and go meet with a player. I mean we do that and we balance it all, but there's also a place where if you have a player that's available that can do it that it's kind of the right situation like this one is, then that can be beneficial to the coaching staff, can be beneficial to the player, can be beneficial to the new player to have somebody to go through that with. Not as a coach, but in this case probably the guy who's more important than the coach, the guy that's throwing him the ball. That's an important relationship to have between the receiver and the quarterback. Sometimes it works out. Again, there's no set formula or way to do it. In this case we happen to be in a situation where that has I think, again, there's a lot of benefit all the way around. I think it's been good. It's helped [Michael] Floyd and it's definitely helped [Jacoby] Brissett and it's helped Chad [O'Shea] and Josh [McDaniels] too.

Q: With Jacoby Brissett back in the fold as a third quarterback at practice how has that changed Jimmy Garoppolo's reps?

BB: A little bit. I mean the past couple of weeks that's also been a function of Tom [Brady]'s availability. So there's been a few times here in the last two or three weeks where Jimmy [Garoppolo]'s probably gotten more reps than he's gotten all year since the Cleveland game. But there have been practices where he's taken literally every snap, like he did prior to Arizona or prior to Miami. As it's worked out he's gotten actually more work not because Jacoby [Brissett] but that's actually helped us with Jacoby, too, by having two quarterbacks instead of just one if he wouldn't have been available. But again, Jacoby can do some other things in practice, too. There are things he can do to help the defense and, again, there's times where he can take individual receivers and work with them. Again, we try to use everybody that's available, figure out a way to be productive.

Q: How important is it for the scout team quarterback to approach practice with a competitive mindset in terms of helping the defense get ready for your opponent?

BB: Yeah, I mean that's an important part of that person's job. That extends to all of the other people who are doing the same thing. So the player who's playing [Jarvis] Landry, the player who's playing [Kenny] Stills, the player who's playing [DeVante] Parker, the player who's playing [Dion] Sims, [Jay] Ajayi, right down the line, all of them, the guy that's playing [Branden] Albert, [Laremy] Tunsil, all of them. The same thing on defense - [Tony] Lippett, [Michael] Thomas, and [Xavien] Howard and so forth. We spend time talking to those players about how that individual plays or maybe how they play a particular play like 'On this coverage here is what they're going to do. Here is how they're going to handle a vertical route, handle a cross route, handle a whatever it is,' and try to get the best look we can at those plays. That certainly helps our players prepare the best they can to see what they're going to see in the game during the week as opposed to seeing something else that's a facsimile but not really what it's going to be. It doesn't help the timing. So I think our players do a really good job of that. They understand how important it is for the people who are showing them what they need to see, and then they know it's incumbent on them to return that same look. And our practice squad players, that's probably their main role, which is a very important role that we recognize every week and they take that very seriously and professionally. That's their role, is to get somebody else ready. Someday that'll change, or might change like it does for a lot of our practice squad players where they're the one that's getting ready and somebody else is doing it for them.

Q: How do you think Jacoby Brissett in particular has done in that aspect of getting the other guys ready for the week?

BB: Yeah, no, he tries to do that, and Jimmy [Garoppolo] too. They've done a good job of that. And again, there are a lot of different components to that. How to read certain plays, mannerisms, cadence, audibles at the line of scrimmage, things like that. No-huddle tempo, like for example San Francisco, teams like that. The whole tempo, sometimes that's more of a priority than something else. I mean look, it's hard to get another teams offense down in a few hours but we try to prioritize it. 'Here's the things we need to see, we really need a good look on this, or this route, or this play, or this tempo, or whatever it is, this blitz, or this disguise.'

Q: How much time at this time of year do you spend with the coaching staff going over particular situations that could pop up over the course of the playoffs?

BB: We do it on a regular basis.

Q: How do you go about that? Is it going over film from practice or is there a different way of going about it?

BB: Well, if it's a specific situation we go over it in practice, yes, but mostly we have to create those situations in practice. It's fourth-and-two, or there's five seconds left, or there's 10 seconds left. I mean we have to create the situation to react to them when those come. I mean we talk about them after the game. We talk about them prior to the game that we're going to play. What we anticipate happening in these situations, what we want to call, what we think they'll do, and then there's just the generic situations that come up. You can flip on any game in the National Football League and probably find five, half-a-dozen situations in any random game that are worth talking about. And again, it doesn't really matter what they did. It's just 'OK, here's the situation. What would we do? Or what would we not do?' Every once in a while you see something that's a little bit different and that stimulates you again, like the San Francisco play where they tackled the receivers on the play before the half, took the holding penalty and forced a field goal, things like that that aren't - I won't say you've never seen them before - but maybe you haven't talked about them in a while or maybe you haven't seen them before. That comes up from time to time. Yeah, there's a lot of film to look at here. I mean you take a team like Miami that's been in all of the close games that they've been in, all you've got to do is go through their film and there are a lot of situations that come up and we talk to the team about that. Again, you don't know which situations are going to hit but there's the basic ones you have to cover and then there's always a couple that are maybe a little off the main road, which is worth talking about for when it comes up. And then there's usually - I know Dean [Blandino] sends you guys or the league sends you guys a weekly rules update and sometimes there's things in there that are worth pointing out. Again, especially if we get something from the league that's 'OK, here's what's happening on this type of play. This is the rule. Here's how we're going to call it.' You need to be timely on that because that's what they're sending their officials and that's how they're going to call it. So if it comes up again this is the way they're going to treat it. So I don't think you want to wait until next year on that because if that situation comes up again you want to be ready for what they've told you they're going to do. If they come down and say 'Look, we're going to crack down on whatever, this or that, and here's why. Here's some of the plays that are coming up and this is going to be called,' well if that's something that's in your framework, in your boundaries, and you do it then you're probably going to get called so you might as well change it.

Q: Are you going to miss the element of competition that came along with coaching against Rex Ryan in the AFC East?

BB: Yeah, right now we're just thinking about Miami. We're not thinking about anybody else.

Q: How valuable has Tyler Gaffney been the past few weeks on the scout team in mimicking some of the really big backs you've faced and will face again this week?

BB: Yeah, he's done a good job for us. Again, he's another guy similar to Jacoby [Brissett]'s situation. Sometimes it's a ball-security thing we talk to him about like 'This back kind of swings the ball around a little bit,' and even though he shouldn't do that he'll do it to kind of help our defense prepare for it or 'This is the way he runs a certain type of route.' Again, there are a lot of little things and the players do a good job with him, too. The linebackers - they'll say 'Hey, he'll cheat on this,' or 'He'll cheat on that when he's got protection or a certain route. He lines up deeper on certain plays or closer to the line on certain plays,' just as we go through the week to sort of help each other there. But yeah, he does a great job. Tyler [Gaffney] - he's a smart guy, very team-orientated. If you ask him to do something he's going to give you a great look. There's nobody that takes more punches than he does. He must get punched in the stomach 10 times a day. The defense is trying to take the ball out. That's his role. That's his job. But they're slapping at the ball, they're pulling at it, they're trying to punch it, half the time they miss. He does a great job.

Q: Did you ever have any interaction with former BYU coach LaVell Edwards?

BB: Not much. No, not really.

Q: Your team is at the top of a lot of the rankings in punt coverage. How much has the overall speed of that unit contributed to the success that they've had?

BB: I mean it's really such a team play. Obviously the punter is a very important part of it. Ryan [Allen]'s done a good job for us. The snapper is an important part of it. Joe [Cardona]'s done a good job for us, the other nine guys, the coaching, and all of the situational plays that come up in the punting game. Again, it's not like standing there on the driving range and just banging them out there. I mean every punt is different. There's a six-man box, there's a seven-man box, there's an eight-man box, there's an overloaded box. Who are the edge-rushers? What's the field positon? What's the down and distance? Who's the returner? The wind, the return tendencies based on are they vising the gunner, are they vising both gunners? Do they have a key guy that sets the return that's kind of the point of attack guy in the return game? Are we going to kick away from him or whatever the case might be? Who are their game plan rushers? How do we handle the guys coming off the gunners? The corner roles, the fake corner roles and all of that. The personal protector is a critical guy in all of that. Nate [Ebner] - he's done a great job for us. Definitely being strong down the middle there from Joe to Nate to Ryan is important, but everybody up front being on the same page, being able to pick up all of the different twists and having to involve a guy with his head between his legs as a blocker, especially when they put good rushers on that guy. I mean that's usually where you get one of their best guys so the challenge of snapping and blocking but also helping that guy with his block because he can't see and if they twist when he's snapping the ball, which they do, then other people have to come in play there. So it's really a great team play. The gunners not only making tackles but downing balls and playing with proper leverage and getting the ball to the other coverage players so they can be effective. I think it's the whole team really that has done a good job on that. We've had a lot of consistency there, a lot of the same guys lined up in the same spot week-after-week. Joe [Judge] and Bubba [Ray Ventrone] have done a good job of game planning that. It's a game within a game. It really is. It's a one play situation but so many of those situations are so - if you punt seven or eight times in a game probably five of them are going to be unique. One or two might repeat. You might have a second plus-50 punt or a second backed up punt with the same direction or the same wind or whatever it is. But there's a lot of variety in those plays and the later it goes in the game then the more it becomes really a situational game. And a lot of time honestly the yards aren't that important. Whether its 35 or 40, you know, it's nice if its 40 but that's not the most important thing. The most important thing is that it's not minus-20. 

Q: I'm not sure this was the league's intention, but now that you've had 15 games to monitor it do you feel like the new rules to the kickoff have made that play a more competitive and strategic play?

BB: Yeah, maybe a little bit. We'll see. I mean we'll see when all of the numbers come in and all of that. Again, I know for us we look at each situation every week and we're not in a controlled environment here, so there are some variables even though we haven't really had any bad conditions but potentially there are some variables here that other teams don't have to deal with. They could override any rule that you put in or anything like that. But it'll be interesting to see what the league-wide numbers are and all of that. I'd say last week was a good example though of some of the big proponents of 'We want more touchbacks.' We saw a pretty big concussed play with a touchback. So part of the touchback is 'Well, we think it's going to be a touchback so everybody's really not playing at the same speed because we think it's a touchback. It's going to be a no-play.' But then as a coverage team you don't know for sure the guy isn't coming out or not so you're playing it at full speed, so some of the concussions and some of the injuries look to me like they come on touchbacks. So we want more touchbacks - is that really solving the problem here as it's been presented by the competition committee? I mean I think you know how I feel about it. We'll see how smart some of that has really been to address the problems that we think are being addressed. I don't know. It seems like football - we've got a pretty good game here. It's been that way for a long time. It seems like the kicking game has been a great part of our game. But I guess we have a lot of people that feel like the game needs to be changed, so I don't know. We'll have to see where all of that turns out. I don't know what all of the numbers are. I couldn't tell you for sure. 

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