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Bill Belichick Press Transcript - 1/22

BB: Just a couple of quick updates on our situation. As far as [Tedy] Bruschi goes, I spoke to him this morning and he is doing a lot better than he was on Monday. We will just take it day-to-day. I know he is doing all he can to be ready for the game. We will just evaluate it as it goes along. That is where that is. Carolina, we have spent a lot of time looking at Carolina, as I mentioned earlier in the week I hadn't looked at them at all until after the Indianapolis game. Two of the words I would use to describe the Panthers are very tough and physical. I think they are well coached. I think they are very well coached. They have good schemes. They have good players. Their players are tough and they play hard. I think they have played very well in these three post-season games and obviously that is where they are. Offensively they have some big-play players. They have a good running game. They have a very efficient quarterback. They have a good offensive line and their receivers are big-play guys. Their receivers are big-play guys. They are fast. They break a lot of tackles. I know that [Steve] Smith is not physically that big but he has great balance and he is a strong runner, pound for pound he plays big. It is a very explosive team. What happened against Dallas, Smith takes a three-yard pass and goes 74 yards or [Muhsin] Muhammad going up for the ball in the endzone or [Stephen] Davis going up against Dallas breaking off a 25-yard touchdown run through the line of scrimmage and outrunning the secondary, so it is a very explosive group. You can't let them out of your sight there. It is the same thing in the kicking game. They have excellent specialist. Their kickers are as good as any in the league. Smith is a good returner. [Rod] Smart does a nice job on kickoff returns if they elect to use him back there as well. They are a good kick blocking team as evidenced in the Tampa Bay game. I think they are solid in all phases there and again extremely well coached. Defensively, they put a lot of pressure on you. They like to blitz a lot. You saw the Philadelphia game. You saw how many times Carolina blitzed them and how successful they were putting pressure on them. They do that a lot. They did it against Dallas. They did it against St. Louis. They do it against everybody. They have a strong front. They have good coverage people. I think their secondary is very good. [Ricky] Manning has done a great job for them out at corner, not just in the Philadelphia game where he had all of those interceptions but he has been solid for them in the last month or so as he has gotten more playing time out there. They bring [Terry] Cousin in as their third defensive back who started the majority of the year. With [Mike] Minter and Deon Grant back there, they have a very good secondary unit. The last time we played against Grant, he picked off a couple on us. It is a good secondary. It is a good linebacking group. They are fast. They are active and it is a very good defensive line. They have good pass rushers. They are strong against the run and they have a good scheme that John [Fox] has developed down there. I think they are playing very well right now. They are going to be a very physical team. I have said this the past couple of weeks but I think it really is true that it gets tougher each week and I am sure this will be our toughest game of the year. That is what we are expecting.

**Q: How different is it preparing for a team that you haven't seen in a couple of years?

BB:** It is different. It is definitely different. You kind of have to start right from scratch. The guys that you have seen, it has been a couple of years since you have seen them and sometimes their style of play has changed or they have improved in one way or another, particularly the younger players have improved their recognition or the skill set. So that is different. The schemes change even if it is the same staff, to see a team in the regular season, when we did play them it was in preseason, but to see them in the regular season and also see how they made their transition with their personnel or even within their scheme, there is a lot there. Even in this case when you are looking at 19 games.

**Q: How much easier is it when you have seen them? Like two years ago, you knew what to expect in terms of the match ups with St. Louis. How different is that? Do you lose an edge there?

BB:** No, I don't think you lose it or gain it. They haven't played us, we haven't played them. I think both teams have to get to know each other better than you would if you were playing a division team or a team that you had played recently which would be the equivalent of playing a division game when you don't repeat a game against somebody five, six, seven-weeks later. We are all going to have to go back a lot further than that. But that is just what it is. I don't think it is any big advantage or big thing one way or the other. It is just a little bit different that is all.

**Q: What type of challenge does your offensive line face against this Carolina team?

BB:** I think our offensive football team as a whole is going to face as good a defense as what we have seen all year. They are not giving up many points. They don't give up many yards. They rush the passer well. They are strong against the run. They are a good tackling unit. There really aren't a lot of big plays. Even teams that break through the line of scrimmage or catch those passes when they are open, they close on them quickly, they tackle them well and they don't get many yards after it gets started. I think overall, they are a well coached defensive unit. They are tough and they have a lot of talent.

**Q: Does [Kris] Jenkins present some problems?

BB:** Sure. Yes, Jenkins is tough. [Brentson] Buckner is tough. [Mike] Rucker and [Julius] Peppers as their ends, and then they rotate the other guys through there as well, [Al] Wallace and [Shane] Burton and all of them. They use all of their defensive linemen similar to what Tennessee did where there is just kind of a rotational thing where they get them all in there and they are all pretty good. They are very physical and they are very athletic.

**Q: I have read some things over the past week about [Jake] Delhomme just saying he has some of the same general characteristics as Tom Brady. Do you see that on film?

BB:** I think that Jake has been a very efficient quarterback for them. He has made a lot of big plays in the passing game. He is athletic. I think he scrambles pretty well. He can get out of the pocket or when he gets flushed out of the pocket he can run and pick up some yardage and make some plays with his feet. So he is not a statue back there by any means but he has made big plays to Smith, he has made big plays to Muhammad, he has made big plays on third down. So, I think he is a good decision maker, he is a good thrower and he has good receivers. He has been effective.

**Q: In training camp you said you would use both of your backs. How did that manifest and why did it change?

BB:** It just worked out that way. It was orchestrated. It just worked out whether it was by game plan or in a couple of cases where maybe one player was a little healthier than the other for a certain week or a period of time. It just happened that way. It could have just as easily happened another way. It wasn't, 'Well this guy is going to be this game and that guy is going to be that game.' We never thought about it that way. You just take each game as it comes, 'What is the best thing to do this week? Here is what it is and let's try to go out there and do it.'

**Q: How impressive is it to go from a 1-15 team two years to ago to being in the Super Bowl?

BB:** I think the Carolina Panthers organization has done an awesome job. We played them at the end of that 1-15 season. They are every bit the team that we are right now. AFC Champions against NFC Champions. We both accomplished the same thing to this point and that is why we are going head to head next week. What they have done in the last two years from their overall program has been better obviously than anybody in the league.

**Q: There are new players and new staff. Do you see any hold over from when you played them in 2001?

BB:** Sure. There are some of the same players that are there. Rucker is there, Morgan is there, Minter is there, Deon Grant is there, Smith is there, Muhammad is there. Yes, there are other players that were there before. Everybody is not new. There are a lot of new players and there is a new staff from the 2001 season.

**Q: Can you see much from that film?

BB:** Well we will look at it. I think what they have done recently is certainly going to be a lot more important to us than what happened two years ago. We will definitely look at it though.

**Q: You brought in some key veteran free agents this year. In the case of guys like [Rodney] Harrison, [Tyrone] Poole, [Chris] Akins, and [Rosevelt] Colvin, was film work almost all of why you went after these guys or was some of it their personality and things you found out about them from other people that have coached them? How did that break down?

BB:** I would say it was a combination of all of those things. Anytime you bring somebody onto your team like that, you bring everything with them. You can't take one thing and leave something else behind. That is just not the way it works. So you evaluate everything about the player that you can – his physical conditioning, his injury situation, his performance on the field, how you feel he would be in terms of fitting him into your program positionally and his experience and so forth. You take all of that into consideration. Sometimes there are things that you say, 'Well this just doesn't look like it is going to work.' It could be any of those. Other times, you see them all fitting reasonably well or maybe this is something that we are going to have to work through and then you have a plan to work through it. I don't think you want to add somebody onto your team knowingly and then once they get here say, 'Okay, now what are we going to do?' I think you want to try to think those things out ahead of time. I think that Scott [Pioli] and his staff do a good job of that. If they bring a player up then a lot of times it will come with a qualification, 'This guy has a lot of strength. Here is one area that isn't maybe the strongest part of his game, here is how I think we can manage it.' Okay, then you have decide whether that is going to be functional or not.

**Q: In the case of Harrison and Poole who had retired…

BB:** Well that was two years ago.

**Q: and Harrison was hurt last year. How much did that, in the Harrison case, play into your decision that he had this injury and could you just look at the film and believe that he was healthy and would be a better player?

BB:** Unfortunately, players get hurt all the time. That is nothing new. So, you evaluate the injury, you evaluate the player and decide what you think the player's performance is going to be going forward. Looking at the past is usually somewhat of an indicator but what is more important is where you think it is going to be going forward. We have seen that going both directions. Some guys have years that aren't as good and then their years are a lot better. Other guys have good years and the next years aren't as good. What you want to do is decide when you want to buy.

**Q: When there is a veteran player like a Harrison or a Poole that you like, is it a case of now you decide that there is a need on your team and you are going to look at extra film of them or have you been looking at film for so many years that you just instinctively know this is somebody we want to go after?

BB:** It depends on the player. Sometimes you happen to see a lot of a particular player on film. Not that it is planned that way. Sometimes it just works out that way. Obviously if you have played that team, there is a lot better chance of that. If you haven't played the team, then I think you do your due diligence and go back and watch the player actually perform and take into consideration what the circumstances were in his performance. Sometimes it is his physical conditioning. Sometimes it is where he was being utilized in a different scheme. There could be a lot of factors involved there, who his teammates were that he was playing with, how much of it was the function of one person, how much of it was the function of the entire unit. We all know there is a lot of teamwork that takes part in a number of different areas of the football team. A lot of times that can make individual players look good or bad relative to how the people around him are performing. I think you try to evaluate all of that. It is an inexact science but that is all you have to work with so you utilize all of it.

**Q: Is there an advantage of having been to the Super Bowl just a couple of years ago as opposed to a Carolina team that is going in there not knowing what to expect as far as the whole hoopla situation is concerned?

BB:** I think the advantage in the Super Bowl will favor the team that plays well. I mean that in all sincerity. You can take everything else and put it in a pot and do whatever you want with it, add the spices in, cook it high, cook it low, put in whatever recipe you want, but in the end, whatever team plays well in the game, that is who the advantage goes to. All the rest of it is really superficial. I think it is overrated and not nearly as important as playing a good football game. What color socks we wear and all of that, what time the game is, whether the roof is going to be opened or closed, I don't think those things are nearly as important or favor anybody as much as which team plays well.

**Q: You talked about Carolina coming from a 1-15 season to the Super Bowl. What does it say about this organization going that you have been there twice in three years?

BB:** We are proud to have done that. But really looking forward that doesn't really mean anything. The only thing that means anything is how we play against the Panthers 10 days from now. That is the only thing that really matters. Nobody is really concerned about what happened this year, last year, two years ago, 1985, whatever it was. Nobody really cares about that. It is about this game.

**Q: How much does this particular defensive experience and intelligence allow you to shake things up in a game plan? It is not the typical NFL defense.

BB:** That is a tough question. I don't know what the 'typical NFL defense' is. I can tell you the ones that I have been around and I think this one is a very flexible and adaptable group, let's put it that way, as far as the ones I have coached. Our experience level here is pretty good. At the same time, though, it is not just experience. It is also about the flexibility of the individuals involved and I think that these players are smart, they are conscientious, they work hard, they try to do what you tell him and if they don't understand it, then they ask questions to try to get it right. I think that gives you the confidence, as a coach, to try to put what you think are the best match-ups and the best configurations on the field. Ultimately it is up to them to execute them and if they feel comfortable and confident doing it, then I feel good about it. If they don't then we are better off throwing it out and trying to find something that they feel comfortable doing. There is a good give and take there. I think there is good communication and feedback from players in that area. Sometimes if you try and do something and you get out there on the practice field and you can just see that this isn't going to be what we want to do in the game, it just isn't going the way we pictured it going here in practice, we have no problem eliminating it. We just say, 'Hey that was a stupid idea. Let's get rid of that and let's go with something that we think we will be able to execute better.'

**Q: Talking about the defense against the Bills, during the week when you were prepping on it, how much did that feel like you were taking a risk? Was it lack of confidence? Was it a nervous time?

BB:** We had played the team a few weeks before, so we went with the plan we thought was best. I don't think there was any lack of confidence.

**Q: Two guys that have been playing key supporting roles for you this year have been Larry Centers and Don Davis. Can you talk a little bit about those guys and how they fit in on the team?

BB:** I think what they have in common [is that they are] two good solid veteran players that weren't with us last year but have come in and given us a strong addition, both their respective sides of the ball, offense and defense, but also in the kicking game. Don has played very well for us in the kicking game. He gives us that veteran experience to the defensive players, so that you know no matter what you have in the game plan, the next guy in you feel like can do it as well as the guy who is getting the most practice time. The same thing with Larry. Larry has come in and helped us in a number of different areas offensively. In our regular offense and also some in our sub offense, as a receiver and a little bit as a blocker. A little bit in the run, a little bit in the kicking game. Their experience level, their toughness and their ability to adapt to a different system that neither one of them had been in and I think they had both been in some systems that were substantially different from what we do, I think again speaks to what I was talking about with their flexibility and their ability to adapt to a change.

**Q: What has Coach [Romeo] Crennel meant to this team?

BB:** Well we wouldn't be where we are without him, let's put it that way.

**Q: Three years ago when you kind of hit the ground running, do you ever remember thinking, 'if I had had more time, I would have done X differently?'

BB:** I think anytime if you have more time you try to use it efficiently. Whatever is available. We have played all types of different games throughout the course of the year—Sunday to Saturday games, Sunday to Monday games, preseason, all those things. You take the time and you try to use it as efficiently as you can. Whatever you have you try to use, whether it is six days, eight days, 14 days, whatever it is.

**Q: Playing Carolina, with their defense, does that put a premium on your red zone?

BB:** The red zone is always important. The name of the game is always points. If you don't score points you aren't going to win. And if you give them up you are going to lose. Anytime it involves points, there is nothing more critical than that. Field goals, that is the number one thing. Every time that team is out there or their team is out there and it is a point play, offensively and defensively the closer you get to the goal line the more important the plays are because the higher the likelihood is that points are involved. That is what we are all playing for, is to have the most points on the board or to give up the fewest. There is no way to [overstate] the importance of the red zone. It is impossible.

**Q: What do you remember about the 1972 Dolphins?

BB:** They won all of their games.

**Q: Were they pretty good?

BB:** Not bad. They had a pretty good coach. I'll tell you what, they had a pretty good coach, one of the coaches I was fortunate that when I came into the league he was coaching and coaching in my division. I think Don [Shula] is really, obviously, one of the all-timers and should be. He was probably, outside my family, a coaching idol that I looked up to even though I never coached with him. Living in Annapolis, him being the head coach of the Baltimore Colts, having the TV show 'Corralling the Colts' and being on there talking about the game every week. He was a guy I probably saw more of than anybody else. Who better to look at than Don Shula?

**Q: With bringing back J.J. Stokes, what went into that decision?

BB:** I thought he was the best player available.

**Q: Just as far as offensive line, are you comfortable with two back-ups?

BB:** I thought he was the best player available. That is why we re-signed him.

**Q: Going back to the running backs. Their major differences in style, is that a major asset in your flexibility in planning? Does it also cause the defense confusion?

BB:** I think defensively you have to be aware of who the backs are in the game. For example, in looking at Carolina, there is a difference between [Stephen] Davis and [DeShaun] Foster. They are both good backs. They both make plays. They have a difference in style. Defensively you need to be aware of that. I'm sure teams that play us look at our backfield situation the same way. These players have different styles, they have both been effective, but they don't quite do it the same way. It goes without saying.

**Q: With this free time, are there any special rules or restrictions that you will have [on the players]?

BB:** Try not to get arrested.

**Q: Can you talk about your relationship with Scott Pioli?

BB:** Well the two things I guess I would say about Scott is, number one, he is outstanding at what he has done professionally and I would say he is one of my best friends. That covers a lot of ground, both personally and professionally. I guess in a way I look back at myself and when I first came into the league, I didn't know anything and I feel like I learned a few things along the way with some years of experience. When Scott came in to the league he didn't know anything and through his years of experience he has learned a lot along the way. I think he is at the top of his profession in terms of doing what he does. He does an outstanding job in all the aspects of the personnel department and that covers a lot of ground. As we know, it is college players, it is pro players, it is free agents, it is your own players, it is contracts, it is cap planning, the whole nine yards. I think he does an outstanding job and I consider him one of my best friends.

**Q: Does it help that he knows innately what you need?

BB:** I think that we have spent so much time together that we both have a good understanding of what we need collectively as a team. Sometimes I think you have to play a little bit outside the box and you look at a player and say, 'this guy is not exactly what our profile is, but he may be an exception to our rules. Here is where he would fit.' Sometimes I bring that to him. Sometimes he brings that to me. Then we evaluate it accordingly. Usually if we disagree then we are better off moving on from that guy and finding somebody because there are so many players that we do agree and see eye to eye on that, every once in a while when we don't, we feel like rather than try to force it down the other guy's throat, we just move on to somebody that we both feel the same way about and that just strengthens our convictions.

**Q: Coach, you said that Carolina's secondary was very physical and they were very physical against the Eagles. Do you expect the same from them in the Super Bowl and what is the best way to handle them in the short passing game?

BB:** Sure. That is the way they play against everybody. They did it against Dallas. They did it against Philadelphia, St. Louis, the Giants and right down the line, all the teams they've played. They are very physical in the secondary. They get up and challenge the receivers. They don't let them run easy routes and catch easy balls. They make you really work to get open and force the quarterback to throw it into tight coverage. As a result, the line has a chance to get there because the receivers are very seldom just sitting there waiting, waving for the ball. There is usually somebody right on them and they are struggling to get free and the quarterback has got to make a good throw. They have played that way all year. I am sure they will play that way against us.

**Q: What is the best strategy?

BB:** I think all receivers have a little different styles of play. Some guys are bigger, some guys are faster, some guys are quicker, some guys are slower, they all have different styles of play and the bottom line, when you get right down to it there are only two things that matter for a receiver. Every receiver has to be able to do them, one or the other, one way or the other, and that is get open and catch the ball. If you can't do those two things I don't know how you can play receiver. However they do it, whether it is speed, whether it is quickness, whether it is strength, whether a part of it is scheme, whatever it is, that is what it comes down to. If they can't get open and catch the ball, what good are they? It would be like me going out there. I can't get open. I can't catch the ball. There are thousands of guys that can do that.

**Q: You talk about your defense being able to adapt. In terms of the defenses you have coached through the years, is this a smarter defense?

BB:** Again, it is hard to compare things like that because our defense, first of all, it isn't made up of just 11 guys. There are a lot more guys than that. We use multiple people in multiple roles. Some weeks some guys have bigger roles than others, or different roles from week to week. So you are talking about a lot of moving parts there. I don't know about comparing it to another group. This group is pretty good at it relative to the other ones that I have coached.

**Q: You have had different back-up quarterbacks in the past. Is that a game plan decision?

BB:** That is a game decision. They are game decisions based on what we think is best for the team. That is all. No more, no less.

**Q: I mean as far as it being suited to what the other team is?

BB:** Whatever we think is the best thing to do for that game, that is how we do the inactives—well, sometimes it is based on injuries, which hasn't been an issue at that position but on others it has. It is based on what we think is best for that game. That is not trying to say anything about the previous game or the future game. It is only trying to say something about that particular game, not necessarily the opponent or our game plan. It could be a combination of both or some combination of neither, really. Whatever it is, it is for that particular game.

**Q: Do you remember the atmosphere the last time you played them?

BB:** It was in preseason of '02. Oh, you are talking about the '01 game. It was the last game of the season. I think we had a bye week the week before. Fortunately we made a few more plays than they did that day. It was a rainy day. We had a couple of defensive turnovers. They had some turnovers on us, but we were just able to make a few more than they did.

**Q: Warren Sapp essentially said that he thinks the Pats are going to get whipped. Is that something you share with the team?

BB:** I am more concerned about what our preparation is for our team and what state we are in playing the game. I think that has more impact on how we perform than anything else, so that is where I will focus my attention.

**Q: How much would you say that Tom Brady has matured over the last three years?

BB:** I think Tom is pretty mature. I think he was pretty mature when he came here as a rookie four years ago. I think he is pretty mature now. I think he has gained a level of experience and performance on the field, from that standpoint. He obviously didn't have any playing time in 2000. He worked into the lineup in the '01 season and so forth, but in terms of his personal maturity, he is pretty mature. I think he has been mature and I think he is mature.

**Q: Since you and Scott have been here, Rosevelt Colvin being the exception, a lot of your free-agent picks have been lower profile. Was there an incident in your career to galvanize your thinking that maybe some of the big-ticket guys every year just weren't worth getting into bidding wars like that?

BB:** No, I have never said that and I don't' feel that way. I don't know how you would characterize the Rodney Harrison signing. There were certainly other teams interested. We have signed players that other teams have been interested in. The only factor really that goes into our decisions is what is best for our football team. How can we improve our team, and if we think can do it and there is an interest there and if we think we can't, then we table that one with the caveat that maybe at some point it would help our football team. You never want to rule out something that, at a later point in time, could factor into your favor, so that is the way that we look at it. There are no set rules or regulations on that. I know there is a perception of it, but it is just not that way.

**Q: Do you feel like there is better value sometimes out there?

BB:** No. Not necessarily. I think there are a lot of players in this league that have high contracts that are worth every penny of them. They are damn good players and they deserve that and that is why they are making it, and I don't think there is any problem with that.

**Q: Can you discuss a little bit how Antowain Smith has been for you in the postseason?

BB:** He has played well. Again, on the backs I think that we will get production out of whatever back is in the game. That is the confidence we have in them and I think our system is flexible enough to utilize multiple players, not only in the backfield but also at other positions, and we have every confidence that when we put them out there, they will be productive and do a good job. That is what they are here for and that is where our confidence level is.

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