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Bill Belichick Press Conference Transcript

Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference on Tuesday, August 16, 2011.

BB: All right, so we're kind of winding down here for the week of preparation with Tampa. [We're going to] finish up some situational stuff today, [and] review the things we've been working on for the last couple of days. I think this will be a good test for us. Tampa, really, I think has been an impressive team. Last year they were 10-6 and played a lot of good football. [They] really dominated Kansas City last week in the first preseason game. They're fast. They're aggressive. I mean, they're obviously young. They have a lot of talented players and they play at a high tempo. So, I think this is a lot different type of style than what we saw last week from Jacksonville, so it will be interesting to see how we match up [against] not only different players, but a different style of play. So, that's where we're at here today.  

Q: You said on Saturday this was a big week for your team. Have you seen what you wanted to see at this point from them?  

BB: Yeah, I think the players have worked hard this week. I think we've improved in a lot of areas on the practice field. We'll see whether that can transfer over into the games, but yeah, I do. I think they've got good attitudes. We've pushed them pretty hard, and I think they've tried to respond both physically and mentally off the field in preparation, meetings, and on the field in terms of some practices, and in drills and things that we all know we need to do to get better. Overall, I think that's been good. We've had a lot of guys fighting through bumps and bruises, stuff like that – staying out there [and] working through it. They're getting a lot done, so overall, I think that's been good.  

Q: Yesterday you talked about the return guys and how there may be more judgments on whether to bring the ball out or not. Under the new rules, what kind of instructions or coaching situations are you going to tell these guys to get the best judgments on whether to bring the ball our or not?  

BB: Well, we have our rules and there're a number of things to take into consideration in that, but one of the things now to take into consideration is the team kicking off from the 35 [yard line] instead of the 30 [yard line], so they're five yards closer. So what our rules were when the kickoff was from the 30, we might have to adjust that a little bit. That's one of the things that we're kind of looking at just from the timing standpoint. We have rules for our returners, whether it be punts or kickoffs, and they encompass really all the situations that we can think of relative to the distance of the kick, the height of the kick, the situation in the game, the return that we have on and so forth. It's a pretty extensive list and a lot of that is teamwork and communication on kickoff returns with the short returner. Usually on punts, you just have one guy back there [and] he has to make all the decisions. On kickoffs, you usually have two guys back there: the guy who's catching it and the guy who's in front of him. So, they work in conjunction with each other in terms of communication and decision making. It's certainly a process. We've covered a lot of things – probably not everything that we will cover with those guys, and some of it we're trying to fine tune ourselves.   

Q: Is there a plus at all if you have a kicker who can hang it pretty well on kickoffs?  

BB: There's always advantages to that if you can cover it, yeah. Coverage is part of kicking and the placing of the ball and part of it's the coverage unit.  

Q: Is that something that Stephen Gostkowksi or whoever you have kicking off may be trying to work on?   BB. Yeah, sure. Yeah. It depends… again, if you can't cover it very well, then you'd probably take every touchback you can get. If you feel you've got a lot of confidence in your coverage team and your kicker's ability to place the ball with both location and hang time, then you might feel differently about that. That might not be the same every game; the situation may change. That's one the thing about playing here that we have to be very aware of in the kicking game – just how situations change every single week. If you're playing in a dome in St. Louis or Detroit or wherever, you know what it's going to be every single week, so you can plan accordingly. In our situation, because the elements affect the kicking game first before they affect even the passing game, we have a lot of situations that we have to deal with: we've got crosswinds, we kick into the wind, we kick with the wind, we've got weather conditions in addition to all the other variables of just the team you're playing and what they do and so forth. There're a lot of different options there and things that we have to [consider]. And the bad side of it is defensively, on the return team, we have to be ready for all of those different things, too: where they're going to kick it and what they're going to do and how the elements affect us. It's an interesting part of the game, it really is.  

Q: Are you interested to see how the numbers turn out? I know you've talked about hidden yards within a game before and what it impacts. Say you've got it down at the one-yard line and they don't get a good return because you hung it high. They've got it at the 15-yard line and that may alter their play calling, so they punt it away. Now you've got better field position. Are you going to be monitoring how the field is moving as a result of this, if at all?  

BB: I think you bring up a number of points. I think we've probably talked about most of those. Field position is part of the equation. There're are a lot of other things involved, but again, just on the whole thing, I think part of it gets down to how you feel you match up against your opponent. My guess would be, with all other things being equal, Chicago would see more touchbacks than some other teams would. But they may not because of the conditions that they play in – that may not statistically show up. But I think if they played on the same field as the other 31 teams in the same conditions, if you had a chance to kick it out of the end zone or not kick it out of the end zone, you would probably chose to kick it out of the end zone, if your kicker could do that. I think that's part of it, but with the field position that can be created on kickoffs – again, as it was explained to me, what the league and the competition committee were trying to do was eliminate the kickoff returns, which I think they'll do. They'll eliminate a lot of them, particularly early in the season when weather is less of a factor. Then that creates some other opportunities and certainly there's an opportunity for more momentum in the game, just like we saw last week in the Jacksonville game: score, kickoff, tackle them on the 11 [yard line], bad punt, score again. In two minutes, you've got a quick turn around. So, that can work both ways, too.  

Q: As a defensive end, what kind of a run player is Andre Carter? Is he a two-way player?   BB. A two-way player? Like tight end, defensive end or…  

Q: Not that kind of two-way player. Can he handle the run as well as he has rushed the passer in the past?   B: Yeah, I would say so. I think handling the run is a strength of his.  

Q: What skills does he show or what has he shown so far in practice?  

BB: He's a pretty talented player. He was a seventh pick in the draft or whatever it was, so I don't think you stumbled into that spot. He's got good size. He's long — he's got some length. He's got power, plays hard, he's got a real good motor. [He's] a well conditioned athlete. [He's] strong, runs well, plays hard, good athlete. He's obviously been well coached – his family, his career at Cal [California] and so forth. He's got a lot of things going for him: he's a smart guy, he understands football, concepts, [he] can make adjustments quickly, works hard. [There're] quite a few positives there.  

Q: Back to kickoff returns for a second…  

BB: We're really digging now, aren't we? It's the end of training camp. When was the last time we've had a press conference that's gone into kickoff returns in such depth? Go ahead, I didn't mean to cut you off.  

Q: It's okay.  

BB: Hey, I could talk about kickoff returns all day, let me tell you that. That was my life for 10 years almost.  

Q: If the intention of the league is to almost eliminate kickoff returns –  

BB: That's what they told us. I'm not speaking for anybody else. That's what they told us, that they want to eliminate the play.  

Q: When you're building a roster, does that lessen the importance of a player who has the ability to do that to you?  

BB: I think, really, you've got to think about it. If, instead of covering 60 kickoffs in a year, you think you're only going to be covering 30, then is that coverage player as important? Or on the flipside of it, in the return game, if you're going to be returning 30 instead of 60, is what the guys who block on the kickoff return – or if you have a designated kickoff returner, if you think you're going to be returning more punts than kickoffs – I'd say usually, it's the other way around, you're going to be returning more kickoffs than punts. But if you think you're going to be returning more punts than kickoffs, then maybe you put more of a priority on your punt returner than your kickoff returner, just as an example. So yeah, I think it affects it to some degree. I don't think it's the overriding thing; you know you're going to have to cover them and you know you're going to have to return them. It's not like a hands team where it comes up twice a season. We know it's going to come up, but with the same frequency? Probably not as much. Now, again, I think playing here in December, I'm not sure how much that rule is going to affect us. If you're kicking with the wind, you can probably put it on the 20 [yard line] and kick some touchbacks. If you're kicking into the wind, you're not going to get a touchback – I don't care who is kicking it. I think to some degree, in some places – here, Buffalo, New York, Chicago and places like that – it will probably have less effect. But again, you go to the dome stadiums or you go to the better climate stadiums where the conditions are pretty ideal most of the time, [if] the guy's going to kick it out, they're going to kick it out. If they can't kick it out, then they're not going to kick it out, but I think you're going to find more of them that can.  

Q: Brandon Tate obviously has some skills in that area. Would you consider trying him more in the punt return situation just because he may not be as effective or may not have the opportunities under these rules?  

BB: I think the thing about our returners in our specific case, is that our guys can return punts and kickoffs. Whether it's Brandon or Julian [Edelman] or Taylor Price or even Wes [Welker], those guys have really – they handle the ball well enough on punts. Usually what you get to on kickoffs is ball handing, and it's a lot easier to catch a tumbling ball than it is to catch one that's spiraling and spinning, so ball handling on kickoffs is a generally a little bit easier than it is on punts. I'm not saying it's easy, but it's more challenging on punts. And like I said, you've got another guy back there, and the ball is in the air longer, and there's nobody coming down and hitting you when you catch it. Punt returners – there's a lot of skill in the ball handling, the judgment of how quickly the coverage team's on you, the inside the 10 [yard line] all that type of thing. You also have to have some initial quickness to avoid somebody right away, whereas on kickoffs you can usually build your speed and your momentum on your returns. It's a little bit of a different skill. That's why some teams have one guy do punts and another guy do kickoffs, but again, I think we're fortunate in that our returners have all shown the ability to do both. I think in the end that's an advantage when you can work on them in both, because there are some things that carry over into both the punt and kick returns. They're different, but there're some things that are the same, so our situation is, I think, pretty good on that. As opposed to, let's say, when we had Bethel [Johnson] and Troy [Brown]; we had a kickoff returner and a punt returner where, really, Troy didn't do kickoffs. Bethel returned a punt against San Francisco, but for the most part he just did kickoffs, so it was a lot different situation there.   

Q: How would you assess Sergio Brown's camp so far?  

BB: Well, I'm not going to get into an analysis of every player. I think just in general, we're almost three weeks into it and I think really everybody that has been out there practicing has made a lot of progress. I'd say everybody has a long way to go, too. We're a long way from where we need be individually or as a team. Sergio is in good condition, he's worked hard, he hasn't missed any time. He's been out there on a consistent basis and he's gotten better, like I would say everybody else has who has been out there on a consistent basis working at it. How could you not improve?  

Q: Have you prepared for the Bucs like an actual game, or do you know now how many starters you will play?  

BB: Well, I don't even know who our starters are, so I couldn't answer that question. I mean, you go into a preseason game and you don't want to just tell your team, 'We're going to roll the ball out. Let's start playing.' How do you evaluate them? So we try to give them enough information so that we can evaluate their play. 'Here's the way we want to do this. Here's the way we want to do that. We are going to do this thing because of this player,' or 'We're going to do that thing because of that player that they have or this scheme that they run.' I mean, that's part of football: understanding what their strengths are and how to neutralize them. So, that's part of the evaluation. Of course, they're going to play a lot of people [and] we're going to play a lot of people; that's what preseason games are. So there are a lot of variables there in personnel, but I think you want to have your team well enough prepared that they can go out there and play rather than walk off the field and say, 'We didn't have any idea of what to do on this or that." So then what do you find out about your team? That they didn't have any idea of how to handle something. You want them to know well enough what to do so they can at least go out there and have a chance to do it. Does that mean win the game at all costs and run your triple reverse throw back pass – your secret play you've been working on – in this game? That's not really the point of it. It's to evaluate how the players play, but you have to give them enough so that they truly have the chance to play, and know what we're doing, and have enough of an idea of what the opponents are doing so they can compete against it.

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