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Bill Belichick Press Conference Transcript - 8/2/2012

BB: We're coming off last night's practice - I thought we had a good night there. We got a lot of things done - spent some time in the red area and dealt with a couple other situations. [We'll] probably slow some things down a little bit here this afternoon but I think the players are working hard. They've taken the coaching and things we've asked them to do and really tried to work on them. I see some improvement here. We have a long way to go, we have a lot of timing and execution to build but I think that we're moving in the right direction. Hopefully we can just keep taking one good step every day here and we'll see where we're at about a week from now when we go against another competitive team.

Q: Last night's scuffle - is it no big deal to you? Is it a good thing?

BB: Football is competitive. We're in a competitive camp. I think some of those things are just part of football.

Q: On that particular one, did you feel it was close to crossing the line where players could have gotten hurt?

BB: I think there's - football is football. We deal with a lot of things in football. I don't think it's a big deal.

Q: Derek Dennis - just signed today. What's the deal with him?

BB: It will be a couple days before we can actually get him out there. We'll try to catch him up with some information and material. When he's able to practice, we'll start practicing him.

Q: What do you like about him?

BB: We can give him an opportunity. We'll see how he does.

Q: Years ago players would come from their offseason jobs and try to get into shape in the preseason. When you started your NFL career, was that still happening?

BB: Yes, absolutely, it was still happening. I remember the rookies in '75 I think were making $19,000.

Q: Established veterans were still using training camp to get into shape?

BB: Yeah, there was no offseason program, there really wasn't. Mini-camps and all that, that was I think kind of just getting started; kind of an informal thing and not everybody would be there, that type of thing. Like you said, guys had other jobs or they were doing other things. A lot of guys would go back and finish school, take a semester of classes in the spring, the extra semester that they needed to graduate, things like that. Yeah, it was a whole different ballgame.

Q: One of the great strengths of this team over a lot your tenure has been the continuity along the offensive line. You're entering a year with some change and some injury concerns. How much of a concern is that for you, with continuity being so important for an offensive line?

BB: It's certainly an important part of our team. We'll just have to see how it all comes together. I think there are some pretty established players on our team that just aren't out there right now. What will happen when they come out there or if or whatever, then we'll have to see how all that takes place. Again, as I said before, one of the things like what happened to us last year was we lost our starting center in the opener against Miami. We ended up with four different players starting at center over the course of the season. By the end of the season, we felt like we had four guys that could play the position rather than we knew for sure we had one but we were really confident that we had four by the end of the year. Unfortunately those guys that aren't able to be out there provide opportunities for somebody else. It will just be question of whether somebody can take advantage of those opportunities and how much not being out there will affect the guys that aren't out there. We won't know the answer to that question until we actually get a chance to evaluate them. But I think they're getting closer. They're working hard. We'll just have to see how it all comes together.

Q: How do you feel Tavon Wilson is handling the transition from the college game and handling the information he's been given?

BB: Good. I think he's been on a steady course since he got here. He's very - Tavon works hard. He's very attentive, he asks good questions, he really pays attention and he's a hard working kid, both on and off the field. Steady improvement, long way to go, tough position to play and a tough position to transition into because of all the different things in the passing game and formations and matchups, all those type of things that veteran safeties would recognize - where the advantage of the matchup is to the offense and what we can do about it schematically or what we can do about it in terms of anticipation by formation and so forth. I think he's coming along. As long as we can keep making progress and keep heading in the right direction, I think eventually it will come together for a lot of these young guys.

Q: Can a scuffle like last night help bond a team? Have you seen examples where something like that happens and the players can become a more tight knit group and players police themselves and show leadership?

BB: I don't know about all that.

Q: Am I reading too much into it?

BB: Yeah, I don't know - a fight that crystallized the team? I don't know. Not any that I can think of.

Q: Have you seen much worse practice fights in your years?

BB: Yeah, I've seen a lot worse.

Q: Can you share the best one with us?

BB: The only thing I try to do is stay out of the way and not get hit, which that has happened more than once.

Q: You don't want any [former NBA coach] Jeff Van Gundy photos around?

BB: No. I'll be the last one to try to break that up - [they'll] probably go after me.

Q: This is Marcus Cannon's first real offseason. Has he had to start over in a sense or was he able to make enough progress last year?

BB: I think what he was able to do last year was build a base and get an understanding of the offense and things that we were doing and his position and so forth. I think he started at a much higher point this year than he did last year when he came back in October from the PUP situation. Of course the opportunity for him to be out on the field every day in the spring and in OTAs, the offseason program and now in training camp has been tremendous. That's so important for him. He's gotten a lot out of it. He's improved so many things from where he was at the end of the season because he just didn't have that base to build on last year. I would say he's way ahead of where he was last year. I don't think he would have been able to do a lot of the things that he's been able to do so far this year. He's still got a long way to go. He's still a second-year player with not much of a first year but relative to where he was last year, it's leaps and bounds ahead of that.

Q: How valuable is Dante Scarnecchia? We were talking about some of the changes on the offensive line - how important is he?

BB: He's awesome. Dante's a great coach, on every level. He's real good with 'Xs' and 'Os'. He does a great job with the veteran players. He's brought along and developed so many of our young players, rookie players, draft choices, free agents; taken guys off the practice squad and built them into starters or contributors on the line. He's invaluable. I think not only myself, but a lot of other people on the staff as well, other coaching staff members, rely on him for advice or ask him questions, take advantage of his experience. He's had not only experience on the offensive line but he's coached special teams, he's coached defense. He's really got a great breadth in his coaching career and experience level as well as great proficiency in the offensive line and how well he's done with that group since I've been here and before that. He does a tremendous job.

Q: Does the fact that he coached so many different positions help him now that he's focused on the offensive line? Does coaching on the other side of the ball help him coach on offense?

BB: I'm sure it has, yeah, I'm sure it has. If you're coaching one position, if you've coached the one on the other side of the ball then you have an appreciation for what that group is thinking, what they're seeing, what their keys are in a certain defense or how they change in a different defense, how their responsibilities change. It helps you attack them better, no question. Again, the whole special teams thing just gives you a total appreciation for the game. Guys don't just have offensive and defensive assignments to go back and study at night - they have special teams responsibilities. I think an experienced coach that has done that, you know how things can pile up on players and how one thing can run into something else. I know when I first came into the league you kind of lose sight of that. This is the position you're coaching and you want them to do better but there are a lot of other things that they have to do. If you haven't, like I said, coached on the other side of the ball, sometimes the things that you're telling them as a young coach may be with less accuracy or maybe less confidence because you're not sure exactly what that guy is being told or you just haven't been around long enough, there's just a different level of confidence. Having coached that really makes a difference. I know when I was coaching the tight ends at Detroit and we had Charlie Sanders and David Hill, I remember several meetings that we were in when they would ask questions about, 'What if this happens? What if that happens?' which I hadn't really thought about that happening. Like, 'Here's your assignment, here's what you do,' but then 'OK, if there's [something] a little unusual, what would we do in this situation?' I wasn't really sure and Charlie would usually say, 'We would do this if that happened, right?' because that's the way they'd done it before. Usually that was right but not always. Then when I coached the linebackers at the Giants, I can remember relating back to my experience of coaching the tight ends with the Lions of how a tight end thinks, how a head-up technique or an outside technique or the change of a stance or jamming a tight end, not jamming a tight end, how that affected all the tight end things. I could talk with a lot more confidence to an outside linebacker about 'Hey, here's what the tight end is going to do' or 'If you do this, here's what he wants to do or where he wants you to be' or whatever it was on a specific play a lot differently than I could a few years before when I was coaching the other position. Yeah, I think there's great value in that.

Q: Rob Ninkovich and Deion Branch have been out there the past couple of days but it doesn't look like they've done much. Are they fighting through anything physically?

BB: Probably everybody on the field is fighting through something right now. [We've] been out there practicing for a week in training camp. Everybody has a little something - even the coaches are slowing down a little bit. Guys do things, sometimes they do more one day and less the next. Sometimes they're managing a situation from the practice before or something like that. If they're out there, then they're either doing what they can do or they're close to being able to do more - one or the other.

Q: Alex Silvestro is in the white jersey with a new number. Does that signify that he's now officially a tight end?

BB: If we play him at tight end, now he doesn't have to report on every play. I don't think it's a status change as much as it's a procedural change.

Q: Keep it easy on those refs, right?

BB: Right. It's tough enough when we have to report on the goal-line plays and all that. But to have to report on every single play, if that's a position he's going to play on offense, might as well make it a little bit easier.

Q: The Saints practices - is that going to be the first time you guys have refs out there, whether they be replacement or any refs?

BB: Yeah, I think the NFL officials are coming, I'm not sure the exact date but maybe Monday or Tuesday, something like that, yeah.

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