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Bill Belichick Video Press Conference Transcript 7/31

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media on Friday, July 31, 2020.

BB: Good to see everyone, kind of. Always good to start camp and get into the process. It was a little bit different this year. A lot of things from a logistical and rules standpoint didn't fall into place until about a week ago. So, we've tried to move quickly to accommodate everything that's been put in front of us. The number one thing is safety for everybody involved – players, staff, the organization, all our support people and so forth. So, biggest thing is to try to start the season healthy, and that means healthy, in a safe environment, with all the required testing and so forth that we've been through. I think the players have done a great job of responding to that so far, and both in the recent week and the previous weeks and months before that, that overall has been really a very good thing for us throughout the entire spring. Organizationally, Robert [Kraft] and the Kraft family have responded with facility upgrades, really at the highest level, to put ourselves in the safest environment we can create on all different sorts of levels. We'll use as much distancing as we can and other safety protocols that are in place, some of which I think are beyond the requirements – in some cases well beyond the requirements – just because we feel like that's the most important thing and the right thing to do. That's really number one on the priority. As of Monday, we'll be moving into kind of the Phase One of our offseason program. I feel like this is a little bit of a combination between March, when we signed our free agents – even though we've talked with them and met with them virtually, we still some of them haven't had face-to-face, in-person meeting – and also kind of a combination of rookie minicamp, the first minicamp after the draft where the rookies come in and start to join the veterans. So, this is going to be a little bit of a combination of that. We have a break-in period here where the players can begin to train and acclimate themselves to conditioning and so forth getting ready for the football season, and that will gradually ramp up into training camp. But, for a while here, we're I'd say, again, very much in a start of the offseason program, rookie minicamp type of state and we'll move through that at the pace that we can, and then in a couple weeks, close to a couple weeks I'd say, we'll actually be in training camp. So, that's what it is. Again, we're prepared for that. The players have done an excellent job of coming back, virtually of course, to this point, but coming back and staying on top of a lot of the information we gave them in the spring. I think we'll be able to move forward when we get the opportunity on the field, football wise – not training, that will start again this week – but from a football standpoint, it will be a little while here, but I think we'll be ready to go when it's time to kick in. Really, no evaluations of really much of anything. I think this is, again, a period that we get the players ready to go, both schematically, terminology, all that, physically with our training, and then once we get out on the field, then we'll start to see how it's coming together. But right now, that's in the future, but it's not in the near future. I'd say that's kind of the update for now.

Q: You had six players that chose to opt out for the 2020 season. What was your reaction to that?

BB: Well, I respect all of them, and I respect all the players on our team. We all have to make decisions. I talked to those guys and they explained their situation, and they had to make the decision that was best for them, and I totally respect and support it 100 percent.

Q: It sounds like there is going to be an opportunity for players to continue to opt out over the course of the next week. Are you anticipating more players deciding to opt out, or do you think the players you have now will be the ones you're going into the season with?

BB: Yeah, well again, Phil [Perry], I think everybody's got to make their own individual decisions on that. They have to weigh their own situation. Each one of us is unique and we all have different lives, situations, families, environments and so forth and so on. So, there's no two situations that are the same. Everybody will have to make their own decision on that. My crystal ball is kind of cloudy right now, so I have no idea what will happen along those lines. I think everybody in the league, every team in the league, every player, every coach, everybody in the league is involved in that to some degree. So, we'll just have to see how it turns out.

Q: I think the question everyone was curious about this offseason was, when you were sitting on that bench filming that commercial, what was the sandwich?

BB: Yeah, it was pretty good. It was pretty good. Yeah, I don't know. I think it's one of their super dupers or whatever. But, yeah, I haven't ever done anything like that. I think we mentioned it on the BBF [Bill Belichick Foundation] website, but it's kind of a difficult environment to raise funds now for charities, foundations and so forth for a number of reasons. This is an opportunity to spend a day to be able to fund the initiatives that we have in the foundation for student-athletes and the various sports programs that are, I would say, in a little tougher shape than maybe what they normally are financially from an opportunity standpoint. Appreciate the opportunity that Subway gave me, gave the foundation and the support that they gave us. Yeah, it was a fun commercial to do. And everybody loves sandwiches, so hopefully they will be OK with it. I know I'm going to get killed in the rookie shows on this. I know that's going to happen, but I'll just have to swallow it.

Q: What appealed to you to bring Cam Newton to the team? In the past couple decades, there hasn't been too much question this time of year about who will play quarterback for you. How are you approaching that specific spot this time of year?

BB: Well, I think that spot is the same as all the other spots on the team. We've got a long way to go and we'll see how things turn out. I can't control how players perform. That's up to them. We'll give everybody an opportunity and see what happens. I don't know.

Q: What appealed to you about Cam to bring him aboard?

BB: Yeah, well, things worked out. We spent quite a bit of time with Cam, and he spent quite a bit of time with us. I think there was some mutual interest. We went and spent quite a bit of a number of different people and a number of different conversations, just trying to see how the fit would be and it was very positive on our end. I'm glad it worked out.

Q: Is there any story behind your face covering?

BB: It's one of the Sankaty [Head Golf Club] gators, yeah.

Q: How will the lack of preseason games present a distinct challenge for you and the staff? Obviously, in the past you used those games to help evaluate players, and you don't have that opportunity this year.

BB: Right, well, we'll just have to take advantage of our practice opportunities and create as much combination of competition to evaluate the players and also situations to get our players ready to play in regular season games and combine those things as we go forward. It will be a little different set up, but that's what college teams do every year. I think ever since the beginning of college football back in – well, I don't know about all the way back when Rutgers started in the 1870's – but that's the way it's been. You go to camp for three weeks, then you start the season. There are no preseason games, and you evaluate your team and you get ready to play. I mean, that's what all college football teams do. So, I don't think it's anything that's revolutionary here. This is just we haven't done it that way in the National Football League for a while, and I certainly haven't done it that way. I mean, I haven't coached in college, but as a college player and growing up around college programs, I can remember those periods of time leading up to the start of the season. Teams had their scrimmages or whatever you want to call them and ways to prepare their team and at the same time evaluate the players. It's a process that certainly goes into the early part of the season. This is just football, that's all. I don't really see it any differently.

Q: Did the nature of this offseason and not being able to get on the field direct you in Cam Newton's vicinity, because you know his resume?

BB: Yeah, I mean, I don't know. It wasn't that way, so I don't know. I don't know if it had been different, if it would have happened differently, I don't know. I don't see why it would have, but I'm not sure.

Q: Because you missed the offseason reps, did it make it more difficult to evaluate where Jarrett Stidham was after his first year?

BB: Yeah, well, everybody missed those. So, that's what it is. It's the same for everybody, and that's the way it went this year and that's the way it went in 2011. Some years are different than other years. There's nothing we can do about that. We can't change it, so we'll just try to make the most out of every opportunity that we get going forward. That's all we can do. The meetings were beneficial for all of us, for the players and the staff, and we have a couple new staff members. But, just kind of bringing things together – I mean, I felt like we did what we could do. We got a lot out of the opportunities that we had. They were different than being able to go on the field and practice, no question about that, but again that's what it was, so we tried to take advantage of that and we'll continue to do that. When we get opportunities, we'll try to use them the best we can.

Q: It was announced that Troy Brown will be joining Ivan Fears as one of the running back coaches this season. What went into the decision to move Troy Brown over to work with the running backs?

BB: Troy spent the year with us last year, and of course has a tremendous amount of experience here. He'll continue to work with other positions, as well – the returners and the slot receivers. But just given the conversations I've had with Troy, he's very eager, he is a very instinctive football player and coach, I think that he was always great with the ball in his hands as a runner, he was obviously a great receiver, and I think that's a big part of every running back's job, and he was a strong player in the kicking game, as well. So, it was an opportunity for him to be involved with a little bit of a different group. We've moved a couple coaches around this year that I think just expanding their – coaching at different positions, coaching different players helps them become better all-around coaches. Cole [Popovich] was with the running backs last year and this year will work with the offensive line. Stephen [Belichick] was with the safeties and will be with the outside linebackers. So, there's I think a lot of benefit to that. Josh [McDaniels], Matt Patricia, we could go on and on about all the coaches that have switched spots around here. But, I think Troy has done a great job with them and he'll certainly be involved in other things besides that, besides just the running backs.

Q: Will players who eventually go on the COVID reserve list have the opportunity to stay involved remotely with meetings even if they cannot be in the building with you guys?

BB: Yeah, there's protocols on that. And again, when you say, 'Test positive,' that there are a lot of different levels and circumstances and so forth and how long that lasts and what the symptoms are and so forth and so on. In any case, we'll follow the protocols and however the players can be involved, we will certainly attend to them and help them work through whatever situation they're in and treat it just like any other injury, if you will. Or, if a player gets sick during the season, it's a similar-type of thing we do with them – how we try to get them back to full health and maintain whatever level of fitness and staying on top of the game mentally that way we can. We'll take it on a case-by-case basis. I'd say we have a general plan on how we want to handle it, but I'd say each situation's different and each player's different and sometimes the position and where they're living and so forth. We've talked about a number of scenarios, and I think that whatever happens will fall into one of the ones we talked about, but we're not there yet, fortunately.

Q: You were saying that everyone will get a chance at the quarterback competition. How can the coaching staff build and install a playbook when you want to make sure the playbook highlights the player's strengths, but you're not sure who the quarterback will be yet?

BB: I think that's – rather than answer a specific question about a specific position, it's really the same for all positions. You set up a general structure that you implement. Everybody needs to learn certain fundamentals, certain basics and every player, no matter how long he's played, whether it's two years or 20 years, there's still a basic progression to training camp at that player's position. That's really what we're going to do, that's where we're going to start. That's where, in my opinion, what needs to be done, regardless of who the player is, what position he plays, again, whether he's been here for 10 years or this is his first year. There's still a process we have to go through and there's certain fundamentals and basics in our offensive, defensive and special teams systems that need to be taught. It would be very hard for any player to function well without doing those, so I don't think you start training camp off with your team putting in a triple reverse and a double-reverse pass and things like that that may highlight a particular player or that type of thing. Those are the kinds of things that come down the road a little bit. In order to be a good football team, you need to be good fundamentally, you need to be sound, everybody needs to be able to execute basic assignments, techniques and make basic adjustments and those transcend to everybody and every unit. I don't think there's any way around that. That's what we've done, that's what we'll continue to do. I think that's the way to do it. We've had a decent amount of success that way and I just don't see it happening any differently.

Q: Are you aware of any players who tested positive today?

BB: I appreciate the question but I hope you can respect the fact that legally, by state and federal law, we're not allowed to talk about that, so I'm not going to answer that question today or any other day. I'm just simply not permitted to do that. So, that's the way it is. Now, if an individual player wants to talk about his medical situation, that's something else, but that's not something that I'm permitted to do, so I'm not going to do it.

Q: What factors led you to believe that keeping 80 players for camp was better than 90?

BB: You have two options: if you keep that team at 90, you have to split the team into two different groups and if you keep 80, you don't. Everybody's going to have to go to 80 on August 16. There's probably going to be other teams that go to 80 on Sunday or Monday. Those were our options, to keep the team together now or keep them apart and have separate virtual meetings and then bring them together at the start of this week or continue to keep them apart and bring them all together on the 16th when the rosters, the mandatory cut down to 80 occurs. We felt like this was the best option for our team, so that's why we did it.

Q: You brought aboard Jedd Fisch as quarterbacks coach. What was the connection there and how did you get to know him?

BB: I think a lot of our staff knows Jedd and I've known Jedd for a number of years. Of course, he grew up in New Jersey. Obviously, I'm a lot older than he is, but a few connections back there in New Jersey when I was with the Giants. He's been in a number of different places both professionally and collegiately. We've talked about players that he's coached, or even when he was at Jacksonville and so forth. Jedd's got a lot of experience on the offensive side of the ball – quarterbacks, coordinator, play-caller, receivers, skill positions – so I think his experience and overall coaching experience, knowledge, knowledge of being a position coach, coordinator, even the interim head coach experience there at UCLA. He just brings a lot of experience and wisdom to our staff and a number of our other coaches have interacted with Jedd over the years. He's made a good transition; I'm glad we have him. He's done a good job of acclimating himself, bringing in some good ideas, but going back to what I said initially, learning the fundamentals and foundation that our team and specifically our offense is built on. Before we start adding things to it, we need to understand what we need to do from a fundamental standpoint, and he's done an excellent job of doing that and merging those two together. Look forward to working with him this year. He's been here, but none of us have really had a chance to work together very much. Looking forward to that.

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