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Bill Belichick Press Conference Transcript 12/7

Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, December 7, 2016

BB: Alright well, it kind of feels like we're back in the division here this week. We've had a lot of games with the Ravens through the years, and after being in the NFC West this is definitely a team that has a lot of familiar faces. [They're] really playing well. They obviously played great against Miami. They're really strong in all three phases of the game, outstanding on defense, very explosive on offense, well-balanced and always good in the kicking game. This will be a big challenge for us this week, a lot to prepare for. Good players, good scheme, well-coached, it's a good organization. It should be a good opportunity for us to really take the extra time to try to tighten up as many things as we can and be at our very best Monday night. That's what we'll need.

Q: Are there some defenses that stand out more than others and are the Ravens one of those defenses?

BB: Well, they're very good against the run. They're very good on third-down. They don't give up a lot of points. They get you in a lot of long-yardage situations. They convert on third-down. It's hard to score. They don't give up many big plays, so it's pretty simple really. You have to drive it and if you can't convert on third-down and you don't get big plays then it's hard to score, and that's what they've done a good job of.

Q: Do they beat themselves at all?

BB: Rarely. They don't turn the ball over, don't give up big plays, play good in the kicking game.

Q: Has Eric Weddle been doing some of the same things he used to do defensively when you last saw him in San Diego in 2014?

BB: Yeah, well I mean, he's fit in to the Ravens defense with [Lardarius] Webb and [Eric] Weddle as the safety combination. They have a lot of speed and range back there. Webb came in as a corner so he has some coverage skill. Weddle's somewhere in that range to safety to corner skill-wise. He plays safety but he has some skills. They're both very good at playing the ball in the deep part of the field. Again, they don't give up many deep balls. Those guys have good range, good anticipation. Weddle does a lot of different things for them. He plays near the line-of-scrimmage, he plays back, he covers in man-to-man situations. He's obviously a good zone player so he gives them a lot of versatility.

Q: They've had some turnover on offense with a new coordinator since the last time you played them. What seems different about this version of their offense?

BB: Well I mean, I'd say it goes back to [Marty] Mornhinweg. I mean we've seen Marty through the years, the West Coast offense; a lot of the things that are his principles. I'd say there's a lot of that in place with the team. When you look at Marty who was with the Jets, who we played twice a year, you look at Marty with the Ravens and kind of merge the two personnel-wise, scheme-wise. The quarterback is the same so [Dennis] Pitta, Steve Smith, [Marshal] Yanda, [Jeremy] Zuttah - they've got a lot of the same guys. There's definitely some turnover. I mean - I'm not saying that - like there is on every team. I think when you merge those together you kind of see what it is.

Q: Is Dennis Pitta's production for them a result of the West Coast offense or is Joe Flacco just simply finding him more in the passing game?

BB: Both. He's a very productive receiver. He always has been. They spread the ball around on offense like a lot of West Coast teams do. They play their players in a lot of different positions. You get different combinations of 'X' to slot to outside receiver and they use multiple tight ends, but [Dennis] Pitta's definitely a go-to guy in the passing game. You've got to do a good job on him, but the other players are explosive, too - [Breshad] Perriman, [Mike] Wallace, [Steve] Smith, [Kamar] Aiken. They all show up.

Q: What are some of the things that have made Steve Smith so productive for so long?

BB: He's fast. He's quick. He's good with the ball in his hand. He was a returner earlier in his career. He's strong for his size, very competitive. He does a lot of things well. 

Q: Where does their mental toughness come from? Is it the coaching, the general manager, ownership, or is it just the organization as a whole?

BB: Yeah, sure. They're all a part of it. I imagine you probably wouldn't last very long there if you weren't [tough]. Yeah, probably it's a combination of all of those things from the owner to the general manager to the head coach to their team leaders right on down the line. Tough, competitive group every week. 

Q: How long does it take you to tell that a player like Kyle Van Noy, who joined midseason, is going to be able to contribute in a full-time role?

BB: I don't know. That's a tough question. Each player is different. Sometimes those players are forced in I would say kind of before you want to put them in or before they're really ready based on need, injuries, whatever. Sometimes they're not. Sometimes it takes guys a little while to really get a grasp of it and then they can take it and run with it. Some guys get it right away and maybe kind of never really rise much above that. Some guys get it right away and they take it and run with it. Some guys have trouble getting it or it's just not a clean fit for whatever reason. I think each player is different and each situation is a little bit different. When you bring a guy in during the season it's a lot different than drafting a player or signing a player in free agency because at this point, or a few weeks ago, whatever point it was, you bring a guy into your team and your team is already formed. Everybody has a certain number of roles and they're I'd say identified, and then you bring a player in and you project him into a certain role or competing for a certain role. It's a lot more specific. It's different than at the beginning of the year or at the beginning of training camp when kind of everybody's out there doing everything and seeing how it all unfolds. This is much more specific. Even if you were to claim a player, if you had a couple of injuries or something and you signed a player to come in at that positon, again, it would be very specific. 'Here's what this player would be doing at this position. This would be his role. This is what we have to try to get him ready for this week or in the next couple of weeks.' It's just different. Again, it's just different than any other process where you're starting kind of from square-one. You're on a little bit of an even playing field and everybody's going at roughly the same pace with sort of the same opportunity. This is much more specific.

Q: When did you start to see that Kyle Van Noy could be a regular contributor on defense?

BB: I mean he started off well. I think he started off well right away. He came in and learned things and picked things up. Again, with a player like Kyle [Van Noy] part of it is just getting to know him, getting to work with him, getting to know what things he does well, things he picks up on quickly, things that are instinctive to him and maybe things that he hasn't done before. Particularly with a player like Kyle who played primarily at the end of the line at college and played off of the line at Detroit, didn't rush very much at Detroit, and then we saw him in a little bit of a different role here. Not unlike [Shea] McClellin, who played on the line and then played off the line in Chicago and then has played on the line and now a little bit off the line for us. But again, he's been here longer. It's been a little bit of a process, so guys like that that are on-the-line or off-the-line players. Part of it is you have them here and you're not even 100-percent sure where the guy is going to play. We had that with [Akeem] Ayers a couple of years ago. Going back, Rosey [Rosevelt] Colvin was like that. He was an off-the-line player for the Bears and he was an on-the-line player for us, so with guys like that you can see why he doesn't fit in maybe with another situation. You project him a little bit differently in your situation but you don't know exactly how that's going to go either. Some of it is trial and error and learning and getting a feel for him and getting a feel for what we do. Maybe that's something that he can relate to or maybe it's something new that he has to get more experience with. I think the assistant coaches, like Brian Flores in this case, a lot of that really falls to the position coach to teach the player the basics of what we're doing. We can't get into everything because some of it we're just too far down the road on. But the basics he needs to know - get into those, work with the player, get feedback from the player, practice him, see how he acclimates to the things he's been asked to do, how well he can do them on the practice field, and maybe how that carries over into the game. The same thing with our special teams coach with Joe [Judge] and Bubba [Ray Ventrone], what positions has he played, wherever we need him to play, how is all of that going and those are the guys that really are the hands-on that spend a lot of time with those players that really give good feedback as to I think not saying a year from now, but for right now 'I think this guy is this,' or 'I think this guy is more of that,' or 'We want him to do these two things. I think he's going to be able to do this one really well. I'm not sure about this other one. It's going to take a little more time,' or whatever it happens to be.

Q: Have you ever targeted a player in the offseason for the intangible ability of toughness that they can bring here to your organization on top of the pure football ability they possess?

BB: Yeah, sure. Yeah, I mean look, if you want a tough team, you get tough players. If you want a fast team, you get fast players. If you want a big team, you get big players. If you want a quick team, you get quick players. It's hard to get all of those. Those guys go in the top five picks in the draft. After that, you decide what you want. If you want tall, long guys then you go get them. If you want tough guys, maybe they're not tall and long but they're tough. If you want fast guys, you go get fast guys. Maybe they're not tough but they're fast. Maybe they're not tall but you get what you want. Sure, there are guys that have those different qualities and if that's what you're looking for, that's what you want, then there's probably somebody out there that would have that quality and maybe not one of the other ones that you want. Maybe somebody else is looking for a different quality. They're all important but you've got to prioritize somewhere. If you can't get everything then you prioritize based on what you feel is most important to your team.

Q: Did Rodney Harrison fall into that category as someone that you brought in not just for his skill but for his mental toughness?

BB: Yeah, I mean Rodney [Harrison] had - I mean, you're talking about a Pro Bowl player, so he was fast, he could cover, he could tackle, he tough, he was instinctive, so you could check a lot of boxes with him. I'd say those are the fairly easy ones. The harder ones are the ones who are - this guy's got this box, the next guy's got that box, and this guy's got another box. When you get that player you're going to be saying, 'Well, he doesn't do this but he does do that,' so you take him for what he can do, not for what he can't do. If you want to focus on what he can't do, then you probably shouldn't take that player, you should take another player who checks the box that you want to check.

Q: How do you measure intangible characteristics like toughness when evaluating a player?

BB: Toughness, intelligence, work ethic, I mean, those things aren't - you don't get that out of vertical jump. Whatever characteristics you want, you put whichever ones in there. Dependability, whatever adjectives you want. 

Q: Do you measure those things based on references you have across the league or on the college level?

BB: I mean, if you can count on that, yeah. It's not; I mean, with all due respect to the colleges, it's different. A guy could be one thing in college; I don't think that ensures that he's going to be that at this level. In fact, I'd say that's not necessarily a predictor. It might be; it might not be. But yeah, you can put whatever criteria you want into evaluating players - their physical criteria; their other criteria, intangibles or whatever characteristic you want to call them. When you're picking a team, picking up players, at some point, there is going to be a pool of players there that are going to be relatively equal in value; some with certain attributes and others with other attributes. Which ones do you value most, or which ones are more important to your system, or which ones do you think can maybe be improved that are weaknesses but possibly could not be weaknesses over a period of time that you could change? All of those are factors. 

Q: Is it just strictly durability and physical characteristics that you measure toughness by or is it mental and being able to deal with that side of things too?

BB: Yeah, it's all that. There are a lot of different types of toughness. Going over the middle and catching a ball when somebody is getting ready to hit you hard - that's one kind of toughness. Lining up against a guy that's big and strong a few inches away is a different kind of toughness. Taking on guys that are bigger than you in the run-force and linemen and things like that, that's another kind of toughness. Receivers cracking on ends and linebackers and safeties; there are different kinds of toughness. Then there's mental toughness - kickers, it's a non-contact position but there is a lot of mental toughness in those specialist positions; snappers, holders, kickers. There is an element of physical toughness but there is definitely an element of mental toughness that is different than a guard's toughness. They're different. I think you have to recognize that. There are some guys that are tough in a certain way; maybe they're not tough in another way. Maybe a guy won't go in and crack block, a receiver won't go in and crack block, so you could kind of say he doesn't have that element of toughness, but he could catch the ball and get somersaulted on the hit and hang on to it. That's another kind of toughness, so there are different - some guys can play through a lot of pain and a lot of injury but maybe they're not the most physical players. Other guys are very physical players but maybe they don't deal with bumps and bruises as well. We're all different. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. I don't think there is any right or wrong answer. There is some kind of mosaic that encompasses all of that. 

Q: Is there any example of something that you can't teach a guy who comes in during the season as you don't have the time with him that you had with the other players during the offseason?

BB: There is a degree of difficulty on different things. There are some relatively low levels of a degree of difficulty, and then there are some that get higher and more complicated. Communication that involves multiple people in a very quick recognition, you might try to avoid that. Maybe a receiver that motions into a bunched look where you have three receivers together, maybe in training camp you've practiced this with your guys and you have a couple different ways to play it, and then when the pattern unfolds then we match it this way if we're in this call. Then we match it that way if we're in a different call. You don't have the time to rep all those looks. You don't have the time to go through all the problems, like it's good if they do this but it's not good if they do that, and then how do we handle all of those variations and so forth. Rather than deal with a situation like that, maybe you just say, 'Ok, here's what we're going to do. You two guys are going to combo these two guys and that's it. Or we're going to lock it. We're not combo-ing anybody, like you have your guy and we can't get picked.' But that's how we're going to play it. Rather than having multiple, maybe two ways of playing something that if you had an experienced team and guys that  have been doing that all year, you might not think twice about making that adjustment. Or blitz pick-up instead of - we're three-for-four but it could be this guy could have two or that guy could have two depending on what gap the defender is in or how it unfolds. Maybe if we're three-for-four, maybe we just go three-for-three and we throw hot off the fourth guy. Normally, we could pick up three-for-four but it's just too many looks, too many things, too much communication. If it's just hard, then we'll just go three-for-three, and if the fourth guy blitzes then we'll run a route that the quarterback can throw into before he gets there and we don't have him picked up. So things like that I would say you try to figure out what you can do, what you can't do. Sometimes I'd say, a lot of times where the problems come is you're playing a team that you think, 'Well this is what we're going to get and we can handle,' but then unexpectedly in the game, you get something a little bit different than that and then you haven't really gone over it or you haven't prepared them. It's not really the player's fault because you haven't covered it. It's not really your fault because you don't want to sit there and cover 50 things that aren't going to happen, in case they happen. That's really just confusing. Sometimes they just get you on it and then you pay the consequence of that play. Those are the things you deal with, making those kinds of decisions and those kinds of adjustments. You can make it ultra-simple and everybody knows what to do. Can you handle it when they start calling plays that make that style of defense or offense tough? Then you run into other problems. That's the decision you've got to make. 

Q: You spent your life around a lot of Navy servicemen and women due to your time at the Naval Academy. Is there any added significance to the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor today?

BB: Yeah, absolutely. That's a big one. Tim Gray has done a lot of work with World War II. I know he's in Hawaii now. A pretty big day in our history, certainly in Naval history. For me, the lesson on Pearl Harbor and for us as a team individually I would say is not what happened on December 7, although that was a lesson there, but the response and what the response was from our nation, from our military, from our civilians and from our population to battle the world on two fronts and win both of them. What this country did under [President Franklin Delano] Roosevelt's leadership as well as the multiple military leaders to go fight in Europe and then go fight in Southeast Asia and Japan in response to what happened on December 7, 1941 is pretty impressive. I remember my dad talking a lot about that - when it happened and when he found out. Then when he went into the Navy and went to Great Lakes and then eventually went to Europe and eventually went to Okinawa, it was a tough time for this country but it was a great example of the patriotism of our citizens, men and women fighting together, pulling together and being victorious in a lot of different ways. It's a special, special day, one we hope we don't have to see again. A tough day for the Navy, though. But they responded, they bounced back, and then the Battle of Midway, that was really a huge turning point that had that not gone the way it did, then I don't know, it probably would have been a longer fight.

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