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Bill Belichick Press Conference Transcript

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, January 18, 2012.

BB: It's really an honor to be playing in the AFC Championship game. Our team has worked hard this year; have to give a lot of credit to the players for all the obstacles that we've encountered and endured and that they played through. [We're] excited about the game; great challenge going up against the Ravens. It's an outstanding football team. I think it really starts at the top there with Steve Bisciotti, who's done a great job putting together the organization. Ozzie [Newsome] and his staff have done a great job of putting together the personnel. Of course, John [Harbaugh] and his staff have done a great job of coaching the team to all the success that they've had - winning the division and winning last week against Houston. They have a lot of good football players, they're well coached, they have a good scheme, they're a really hard team to prepare for. They have some truly great players on the defensive side of the ball, future Hall of Famers, guys that are just really dominant at their position and have been for a number for years, or in Ray [Lewis] and Ed [Reed]'s case, about a decade. Offensively, of course Ray Rice has done a great job for them. They have a good, solid offensive line; group that has played together for awhile. [They're] getting a lot of production out of their tight ends, receivers, quarterback. Good depth at the running back position with Ricky Williams as well as Ray Rice. They're really solid in the kicking game, good specialists. Again, they're very well coached. They have a lot of experienced players there, physical guys - linebackers, tight ends, defensive back that give a lot of team speed and aggressiveness to that unit. [Lardarius] Webb has done a good job for them returning the ball. It's a really solid team in all three phases, all the way through, from the top of the organization to all the players, all the guys contribute. It will be a big challenge for us this week. Hopefully we have a good week of practice and preparation here and [we'll] be ready to go on Sunday. We're looking forward to it, but we know we have a lot of work to do and the Ravens are a good football team.  

Q: How do you manage the emotions of players this week? Obviously it's a little bit of a different week. How do you do that for yourself and for the players as well?

BB: We're just focused on the target. It's a big challenge getting ready for the Ravens. We have all we can do to prepare and perform well against them. Whatever else there is, there is. It's part of our regular schedule. We'll deal with it. Just really concentrate on what we have to do to play well on Sunday.  

Q: How much motivation do you take from the early losses in the playoffs the past few years?  

BB: We don't really care too much about what's happened in the past. We've won some, we've lost some, but right now this team is focused with the Ravens, what we have to do this week and how we can best prepare and perform well on Sunday. That's really all that matters. I don't think some game that happened two years ago or five years ago or anything else, I don't think that really has an effect on this game.  

Q: You've gone up against Ed Reed and Ray Lewis before. Have they improved as they've gotten older or gotten more savvy?  

BB: I don't know how much more savvy they could be. They're two of the greatest players to ever play the game, on the same team on the same defense for so many years. I don't know where to start. The play Ed Reed makes at the end of the game against Houston last week, I think that says it all, really. He's playing one side of the field trying to stay over the top of [Andre] Johnson, who they single up on the backside. I'm sure that they were looking for him. If he had single coverage, they'd want to throw it up to him, but Reed is over the top of him but they throw the Hail Mary to the other side and he comes all the way across the field and makes the play; really kind of a game-saving play. I'm not sure that if he hadn't made it, I don't know what would have happened there. Those are the kinds of plays he makes. He probably covers more field back there as a single safety than most teams can cover with two. He's got great instincts, he's a tremendous player. Ray Lewis, everything he brings to the game, his playmaking ability, his leadership, his experience, his ability to get people around him to play better both by his communication and anticipation and leadership and football savvy on the field. Those two guys, it would be really hard, I think, to put anybody even in their class, let alone above them. They're tremendous players with tremendous careers. Can't say I've ever coached against anybody better than Ed Reed in the secondary.  

Q: In what ways does Tom Brady's leadership trickle down to the rest of the locker room? How rare are those attributes?  

BB: I think Tom has done a great job for us as a player, and his leadership, his work ethic, I think we have a lot of players that do that. I think we have a number of players on our team that I would say are very professional in the way that they go about their job and preparation. Tom works hard, prepares well, studies a lot of film, knows what the opponents are doing and knows what we're doing. He can direct our team as well as anticipate things that are going to happen on the other side of the ball. I think we all know how tough he is. It would take a lot to take him out of a game or anything like that. He's mentally and physically tough and he's always there to compete and he competes at a very high level. I think he's earned everybody's respect and when he says something, we all listen.   

Q: Can you talk about Matt Light and the qualities that he's brought to the offensive line because of his longevity and stability?  

BB: Matt has had an outstanding year this year following up on last year. He's really had a great career for us. Matt goes up against some of the best pass rushers in the league at that position, really on a weekly basis. He'll certainly see another one, another great one this week in [Terrell] Suggs. Matt is again, very professional, he works hard, he's in good condition, always has been. Knows our game, knows our opponents' tendencies, studies film very well, practices well, is a very durable and dependable player. He's been a real stalwart for us all season and really for a decade. He's been here a long time and done a great job.  

Q: How has Aaron Hernandez responded over the last few days with that head injury?  

BB: We'll see how everybody is today going out there. I think everybody is today better than they were yesterday, yesterday better than they were Monday. The guys that are banged up are all working hard to get treatment and trying to get back out there. We'll just have to see how it goes.  

Q: Can you talk about the younger players that the Ravens keep adding to the defense?  

BB: Absolutely. Again, the Ravens have done a good job of bringing young players into their system on a regular basis. With [Cary] Williams and [Lardarius] Webb, the two corners, two younger guys out there. They're not rookies, but they're younger guys. They've done a real good job and play very competitively, inside and outside. Jimmy Smith's come in and done a good job for them as a rookie on the perimeter in some sub situations when Webb was bumped inside. They've done a nice job there in the secondary. The tight end position is one that they've brought in some young players. They replaced a great player there in Todd Heap and they've gotten a lot of production from those guys. Torrey Smith has had a great year for them as a deep receiver; made a lot of big plays. He's a big vertical threat for them, along with Lee Evans and of course [Anquan] Boldin and the tight ends. He's added a lot, so there are definitely a lot of young players that have contributed to that team. It bodes well for the continuity and consistency. They've been in the playoffs four straight years, they've won playoff games the last four years - nobody else in the league can say that. I think that speaks a lot to not only their talent, but also their consistency and how well they've performed over that period of time. It's not easy to do.  

Q: How tough is it on a defense to match up against Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez? How impressed were you with your defense's performance on Saturday?  

BB: I think you'd have to ask the other defenses about matching up on Hernandez and Gronkowski. We see them every day in practice and they're hard to cover out there, believe me. But how other teams see them, you'd really have to talk to them. Again, we're not really that concerned about what happened last week or some other week, we're really focused on the Ravens now. Whatever we did or didn't do in some other games, it is what it is. Some worked out well, some didn't, but right now we're just trying to put all the energy and preparation into the Ravens.  

Q: What did you see in Rob Ninkovich when you first picked him that made you want to take a flier on him?  

BB: In all honesty, when we picked up Rob it was prior of training camp three years ago. We were kind of short at the position and we needed somebody that could come in and play competitively at that spot. I think we released Vince Redd right around that time. Rob had a real good senior year at Purdue. We did a lot of work on him coming out of the draft. Smart guy, can play in the kicking game; had some good pass rush ability and did that in college. We felt like also he would have the ability to drop into coverage, more so than some other guys that were really more defensive end types. He'd been with a couple different teams in the league and we felt that in our system maybe he had a chance to do more versatile things that we would ask him to do rather than just zeroing in on one specific thing like rushing or covering but a combination of those plus playing in the kicking game and he's really done that. He's contributed for us on first down, second down, third down and fourth down since he's been there. He's been a very versatile guy. Smart, hard working, tough kid, that's really dependable. He's out there for us every day and works hard, does a great job of doing whatever role we ask him to do, whether it's on the punt team or kickoff return team or goal line or rush the passer, jam the tight ends. We've asked him to do so many different things. He's really embraced those roles, whatever they happen to be and done a great job with them.  

Q: How important has Vince Wilfork been this season, both as the centerpiece of the defense and also from a leadership perspective?  

BB: He's been huge. Vince has had a great year for us. He's had obviously a great career, had an outstanding year last year, but this year it's even gone a step higher. He's played a lot of plays. He's become really an every-down player, not just a situational player. He's been very productive for us in the running game, in the passing game, he's made plays in pursuit. His interceptions are legendary, as well as his runbacks. From a leadership standpoint, again, he's been outstanding. He, along with Jerod Mayo and Devin [McCourty], our other defensive captains. Vince with the most experience has done a great job of not only leading by example, but also doing the right things, saying the right thing at the right time. Guys that need a little boost, he props them up and guys that need to be put in their place, he'll do that too. I think he has a great, great team attitude. He embraces the success of the team. A lot of times it comes at maybe personal, eating up blockers and doing things, doing some of the dirty work that helps other players be productive. He's done a great job with that, embraced it and performed well in whatever role we've asked him to be in. Again, he's done a lot of different things for us: play end, play nose, play two-technique, cover screens. He's done a variety of things and again, he's done them very well, showed a lot of versatility this year.  

Q: What are the challenges in defending Ray Rice both running and receiving?  

BB: Yeah, very, very tough guy to defend. Similar to problems that we've had with [C.J.] Spiller, Reggie Bush in Miami, guys like that can run the ball inside, can run the ball outside, can run with power, can take short plays and go for long yardage, can take wheel routes and close routes and routes out of the backfield and out-run the defense and get behind them. He's a tough guy to matchup on and he does so many things that you try to stop one thing and you're vulnerable somewhere else. As usual, it just comes down to team defense, everybody doing their job. I don't think, obviously, any one person can stop a player of his caliber. It takes a great team effort to do that, whether it's running or covering or screen passes. It could be a screen pass for 50 yards, it could be a wheel route out of the backfield for 50 yards. It could be the crossing pattern against the Jets that went for 50 yards, it could be a running play up the middle against Cincinnati or two of them actually in short yardage that go for 60, 70 yards. We've seen him do it against us, so I have all the respect in the world for Ray Rice. He's a tough football player. He's versatile and he really can kill you in a lot of different ways, including returning kicks. I hope they don't do that with him.  

Q: What does Patrick Chung's presence mean to the coaches and to the secondary?  

BB: Patrick is a real good football player for us. He's done a lot of different things in his three years here as well, whether it's playing the deep part of the field, playing close to the line of scrimmage, blitz, playing as a slot corner in our nickel defense, things like that. He gives us a lot of versatility, so when he's on the field we can use him to match up with different formations, different personnel groups, different specific players that they have that we have to defend. That versatility really, it really helps you because you don't have to make another substitution. You can keep the same people on the field, you don't have to really declare what you're going to do. It gives you the ability to play different defenses and different combinations. Patrick is a smart kid and really understands football concepts, works hard, very in tune to not only his job but what everybody else is doing. He's been really good with Devin [McCourty]. We put Devin back there at free safety the last couple of weeks. Patrick's communication and ability to help and kind of get the anticipation of certain coverages or adjustments that we might have to make and working with Devin. Those two guys have spent a lot of extra time together and it's really paid off. Patrick is very team oriented like that, in terms of doing things to not only help himself but help his teammates and help the team.  

Q: How has Jerod Mayo been in terms of stabilizing the defense and how important has he been as the defense has improved throughout the year?  

BB: [He's played] a huge role. Jerod has been tremendous. We've asked him to do different things. He's played some at Mike, he's played some at Will when we had injuries to like Dane [Fletcher] and Brandon [Spikes]. We kind of juggled things around in there for a few weeks in midseason. He bounced back and forth. He came back quickly after his injury. Jerod gives us great leadership because he's right in the middle of the defense. He runs the front, he's involved in the coverage, some of our checks against different formations things like that - those really all have to run through him. He's very well prepared, smart guy that works really hard. He puts in probably as many hours as the coaches do in terms of his film study and preparation and all that. He's in tremendous condition. He really never has to come off the field. He's had a really good year for us and he's really a big-time leader on the field -  I would say both on and off the field, because he really sets the pace in a lot of ways for our entire football team, just because of his work ethic, his presence, his confidence and the way that he performs when he has an opportunity to play.

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