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Bill Belichick Press Conference Transcript 8/22

New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Q: Was it good to see Dont'a Hightower and Nate Solder return to practice today?

BB: Sure, yeah. It's good to see all of the players that are out there. Hopefully, we'll have more joining them soon.

Q: What kinds of things are you looking for when a player comes back to practice after some time off?

BB: It depends on the player. It depends on his position, what his situation is, but I mean we try to progress him into the things he can do, whatever limitations he has, then we do something else while we're doing those things. Sometimes it's walkthrough, sometimes it's individual drills, sometimes it's group drills, sometimes it's team drills, sometimes it isn't. I mean it could be some combination of whatever he's cleared to do. Then if he's not cleared to do it, then we do something else.

Q: What led to the change in the decision to do a joint walkthrough with Detroit and now will be practicing separately out there?

BB: Yeah, I think Jim [Caldwell] covered it.

Q: He said it had something to do with the way the practice had been classified. Is that correct?

BB: Yeah.

Q: What does that mean?

BB: I think he covered it. Ask him.

Q: Would that practice have been similar to that toned down session you had with Jacksonville the day before your matchup with them?

BB: Well, we're not doing it. I'm 100 percent with Jim. I think Jim covered it.

Q: Is it important for Dont'a Hightower to get a couple of weeks of practice under his belt before Week 1?

BB: We'll do what we can; yeah. We'll take it day by day. I don't know.

Q: Do you see Dont'a Hightower returning to signal calling duties on defense now that David Harris and Elandon Roberts have received some experience doing it in this system in his absence?

BB: Possibly. We'll see how it goes. It would depend on a number of things, but it's certainly a possibility. We'll see.

Q: What kind of qualities are you looking for from your linebackers to be able to play on the edge as opposed to off the line in the middle of the field?

BB: Well, to be able to play on the end of the line, the guy has to be able to play on the end of the line. He has to be able to play on the line of scrimmage against tight ends, against tackles, against outside runs, be an outside pass rusher. If he plays off the line then he doesn't really do any of those things. It's off-the-line coverage, it's off-the-line run fits. It's a different position. Some guys can do both, some guys do one better than the other or they play one and not the other. Some guys have done both.

Q: How much overlap in skill is there rushing the passer as a blitzer from the inside linebacker spot versus as an outside pass rusher on the edge?

BB: I think it's pretty much a different world. Yeah, the leverage is different. It's another body inside. The tackles and the ends are usually matched up one-on-one 95 percent of the time. Inside, I mean its backs, centers, guards. I'd say it's a different world in there.

Q: Are you seeing more and more offensive skill players that have the versatility to play all over the field, and are you seeing a trend in the league of more players that can do that and is it possible to identify if a guy can do that if he hasn't done it in the past?

BB: If he hasn't done it in the past then I think you can evaluate the skillset, but it's hard to know how it's going to go once you put him in that spot until you see it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. If you've seen him do it then you have a better idea of it, but again, what we see is a lot different than what sometimes teams see in college see or the schemes that they run defensively. Ours is different so there is certainly not 100 percent carryover.

Q: Have you seen more players come into the league that have the variety of skills to be able to be used multiple ways?

BB: Honestly, you're just looking for a player that can come in and do anything to help your team. If you start asking to see if a guy can do a lot of things, I think it's hard. Maybe you find one. Hopefully you do, but if you can find somebody to come in and just do one thing and make your team and help your team as a rookie, that in and of itself is pretty good.

Q: After two weeks of joint practices and one week on the road, what's been your impression of how the team has returned to its normal routine and tried to get back to the basics?

BB: Well, it's an adjustment for all of us. It's a process we've all got to go through. We're working our way through it. That's the way it's going to be all year. We're going to practice. We're going to have to get ourselves ready for the game. We're going to basically practice and train here. It's just getting back into the routine. I'd say we've got a ways to go before we're really maximizing everything that we do, but hopefully we'll get a little closer each day, fine-tune the process. We have new players on our team - veteran players, rookie players. It's certainly an adjustment for them, but we all need to get back into it. I haven't done it in six months and neither have any of our other veteran players, so it's an adjustment for all of us.

Q: How has David Andrews continued to progress and grow through his third offseason now?

BB: Dave works hard. Again, good veteran players are always working hard on things that they need to improve on, things they can do better and working with their teammates, especially in the offensive line. There is a lot of communication between the center and the quarterback, between the center and the other four members of the offensive line. Sometimes it involves the backs and the tight ends, so the center is always in the middle of that whether he wants to be or not. That's the position he plays. In David's case, it's not just about him and what he does. It's about how it times up with the quarterback and how it relates to other members of the offensive line in terms of snap count, blocking assignments, adjustments, audibles and so forth. He works really hard. He does a great job of communicating, but there's always more to do. There is always another level you can take it to. That's what we're trying to do.

Q: If you have a versatile player in the front seven, is his role at all dictated somewhat by what's around him and where you could be lacking depth as opposed to where his best fit is?

BB: Could be. Yeah, could be. 

Q: Even if it might not be the position he is best at?

BB: Yeah, absolutely. Defensive line, offensive line, secondary - sometimes you just try to get your best players out there - receivers. You get your best three receivers, or best five offensive linemen, or four defensive linemen, or best four or five defensive backs. Maybe one guy has to play a little bit out of position in order to do that. That's called teamwork. Yeah, absolutely. That's football. That's what you sign up for when you play a team sport. We all have to give up something, part of our individuality, part of our personal goals or preferences when we join the team. That's football.

Q: Are there any examples of that from past teams that stick out in your mind?

BB: Troy Brown playing defense. Julian Edelman playing defense. Mike Vrabel playing tight end. You can go right down the line. Rodney Harrison playing on all the special teams. Troy Brown playing on all the special teams. I mean I could give you a thousand examples. [Doug] Flutie drop-kicking.

Q: At what point do you start to turn your focus towards the Chiefs and that Week 1 matchup?

BB: We've watched the Chiefs. Yeah, I mean there's a lot going on for the coaches right now. This is one of the hardest weeks of the year for the coaching staff. Houston, Detroit, the Giants, the Chiefs, roster decisions - there is a lot going on.

Q: Do you have to keep the Chiefs and those first few games always in your mind when making decisions at this time of year.

BB: Yeah, well I don't think - I think it would be pretty irresponsible as a coaching staff to not watch the team in the opening game and then show up for the first week and then tell your team "Oh my god, look, here is something they're doing and this is going to be a huge problem where we've never even talked about it before." I mean, now look, if they surprise you with something, they surprise you with something. But if they're doing something and for whatever reason the teams that you've been playing in preseason or your team doesn't do that and it's something that you know that they do and they do it well and they're the opening game, I mean to not prepare your team for that and wait until three days before the game to start talking about it, I think it would be pretty irresponsible. We would never do that. It's not looking ahead. It's just preparing your team for the 16-game regular season schedule and we know what the first game is. There may be things in the second and third game that might fall under that category, too, depending on what they are and how much of an adjustment your team would need to make to handle those situations. We did that in the offseason. Part of that was planning for training camp with the things we need to work in training camp that we're going to need to do early in the season that we're not going to see from ourselves so where do we get that? You certainly follow that up with the preseason games and if they have a particular player or scheme or something that's showing up that you think could be a problem. To wait until the day before the game to address it, I personally don't think that's the way to do it.

Q: How will the short weeks coming up with the final preseason game next Thursday and then the regular season opener the following Thursday effect your preparation for that opener?

BB: Yeah, well we're really on a couple of short weeks here. We had a long week between the Thursday and Saturday game, between games one and two and now its Saturday to Friday, Friday to Thursday and then Thursday to Thursday, which is kind of a normal week but it's really not because it won't be until Sunday that all of the cuts are made. It won't be until Sunday that we get our practice squad set, things like that where if we were playing the following Sunday, that would all line up a lot differently than it's going to line up this week or this year in the opening game. Yeah, it's a tight schedule. Kansas City is on the same schedule so I'm not saying there's any advantage or disadvantage to it other than we'll be in a crunch in terms of preparing for the opening game and also dealing with whatever it's going to be, a thousand guys on the waiver wire or transactions and so forth. Nick [Caserio] and his staff do a great job of that. The personnel department will handle that to a point and at some point the coaching staff will be involved, but we'll mainly focus on getting ready for the opening game that week. But there is a lot crammed into these next two weeks because they're both short weeks. The Houston week was a long week. We had a good opportunity to get through the Jacksonville game, get into Houston, get some other things done. These two short weeks, six-day weeks - especially with Houston and Detroit being road games - that kind of shortens it even a little bit more. It just gets compressed a little bit. I'd say it is what it is. Every short week is a long week. Every long week is a short week. It all evens out.

Q: Does Dont'a Hightower's skill set make him equally effective playing both inside and outside?

BB: Well he's played both. He played both at Alabama. He's played both for us. I think he could play both, or one or the other, depending on what we were doing, what we were facing and how much was going on. I mean he's a very smart player, a very experienced player at all of those positions. I don't think that would be an issue. It would depend on what we were doing, where we felt like he would be most productive or where we needed him the most and go from there.

Q: How would you describe Alan Branch's athleticism relative to his size?

BB: It's pretty good for his size. He runs well. He's long. We've had some big guys here. He's one of the longer big guys that we've had, so his length, his height, his reach, his ability to take up a lot of space is unusual. But he moves well. He's obviously an experienced player. He played on the end, or on the tackle, on the guard, on the center, in the shades. He's done a lot of different things in his career so there's not a lot of teaching progression with him. Most of the things we've asked him to do, he has done before or he's done here over the last couple of years - three years, two and a half. 

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