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Patriots Playbook Thu Oct 21 | 02:00 PM - 04:00 PM

Dave Wannstedt Pre-Game Press Conf. 10-02-2002

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DW: Hello. Dave Wannstedt here.

Q: Hey, Dave. Can you hear us all right?

DW: Yes, I can.

Q: Dave, could you just talk a little bit about what led you to put Robert Edwards on the team? What's your take on his story?

DW: Well, really, Rick Spielman brought him in for a workout and he went through some drills and he looked like he had some quickness and all those things were positive. Then, medically, obviously he wasn't 100 percent. So when we talked to him in March or February this year, we talked in terms of, 'We're not sure where the knee is going to go from this point on. If it does work out, we would love to have you on this team, but we do have some concerns.' And he understood that. It was not a deal where, 'Hey, if you guys don't want me, I'll go somewhere else.' He was excited about being here, so we did take a little chance. We knew he would do a great job in the whole off season. I think the biggest test was really that first practice when we had a full inside drill and he carried the ball and got tackled. It wasn't really as much him getting tackled as it was how he would respond after he got hit. So we kind of went through that hurdle and then the third preseason game was really the game that he played the most in, and he had, I think, 11 carries in that game against Houston and bounced back and he hasn't missed a thing. He's been healthy. I don't know how comfortable he is saying where he was. I don't know if he'll ever be where he was. But he's awful close and he's done a lot of good things for us.

Q: Just so I get the time frame right, the original workout you had with him, was that right after the Patriots had cut him?

DW: Um…

Q: Because the Patriots had cut him in the middle of the preseason last year.

DW: Yeah, we may have brought him in then. I don't have it in front of me, to be honest with you as far as when we brought him in. But he was okay then, but he wasn't good enough to obviously sign to a contract. Then I know it was after the first of the year when we brought him in again and that's when we made a decision.

Q: Just being in the league as long as you've been, do you remember when he got hurt during Pro Bowl week and do you remember having a thought, 'Well, the guy's obviously done and he'll never play again'?

DW: Well, I never thought that, to be honest with you. In this business, guys get hurt. The thought never crossed my mind, but then again, I didn't realize the severity of the injury. My initial thought was, 'What a shame, here's a young player who has his whole future in front of him and now he's going to be slowed up with knee surgery.' Then, obviously, when you find out the details of everything that took place, it puts a little different light on it.

Q: You guys are independent and you make your own decisions, but is there a certain stigma attached when a player's original team cuts him? Does that put a seed of doubt in any other coach's mind who might pick him up? 'Well, if there's really nothing wrong with him, why did they let him go?'

DW: Oh, I think you have to look at every player on an individual basis. It has nothing to do with Patriots-Dolphins. It's looking at every player and looking at your situation on the team. There are an awful lot of Dolphins that are up there with the Patriots as we all know, and I think that each one of those guys, how they ended up there was a different scenario. I wouldn't use a spot to sign a player from another team just because he was from our division.

Q: Right. No, that wasn't what I meant.

DW: Oh, okay.

Q: Sorry. What I just meant in my long-winded way was if a guy has been cut by the team that he's been with for a while, whatever the team, and he's had a serious injury, does that make other coaches who might pick him up say, "Well, there must be something I'm not seeing here or he wouldn't have been cut"?

DW: Well, that's your initial thought, sure, with any player that's been cut. Then I think it's up to each individual team to do their own research and make their own opinions. Again, a lot of times, it comes down to needs and circumstances. Would we have signed him at the beginning of last season after the Patriots cut him? No, we wouldn't have. This was a time where we had the full off season and he could do his rehab and then we told him, "Let's see where we are in July when we start camp."

Q: Does he help your team in any intangible ways or in any subtle ways other than what he contributes on the field?

DW: Oh yeah. He's got great work ethic, as everybody knows, and he's a smart guy and he's doing special teams. He shows up every day and he's ready to work and he's willing to do whatever.

Q: Is his character just kind of an example to the players whereas you can say to work hard and you can ask them to give full effort, but if you have a guy who wants to play football as badly as Robert, is it kind of like a visual aid to look over and kind of say, 'Boom.'

DW: Well, I think it is. And you know what's been great is that I really haven't had to say that. I think that by Robert showing up and doing it, our players know. There's enough respect and enough knowledge of him, particularly since he was in New England. That they understand. We gave him a game ball after the Detroit game, when he scored his first touchdown, as you know, in the opening game of the season. I gave him the game ball, and I said, 'Hey, listen. This is not a game ball because it was a great comeback and we like you. This game ball is because you're helping us win games and that's the bottom line.' And that's how he's viewed now. Nobody's really looking … Hey, they're happy for him from the sentiment of what he's done, but at this point in the season, when he gets the football or he covers a kick, everybody's looking at him as any other player, expected to get out there and make a play.

Q: If he were forced into a situation to be your feature back, do you have any reservation of giving him the ball 20, 25 times a game?

DW: No. Not at all. No.

Q: Talk a little bit about Ricky Williams. Obviously, there was an evaluation process that you guys had to go through, because some people thought this guy was a nitwit. What information did you get that said, 'This guy's worth investing draft picks in'?

DW: Well, we all know how the draft works. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. We've been fortunate here from the fact that we've hit on a few draft picks and we've hit on a few free agencies. When we were debating and talking about maybe making a trade and trying to get a back and Ricky's name was tossed around, we treated that just like we would any college player coming out. In other words, we went all the way back and talked to Mack Brown and people at the University of Texas. Then we talked to the Mike Ditkas and the Bill Kuharichs, the people that drafted him and worked with him for a few years in New Orleans. Then we talked with the people who are currently on the staff, the players and coaches, and you just try to get as much information as you can. And still, you're taking a chance. There's a reason that people release players and trade players, but I just felt at the time, we're picking 26th in the draft and there wasn't anybody there, and Ricky's 24 years old, and we just felt like it was a good chance to take.

Q: How drastically has the mood changed from you being 3-0 and then Kansas City hangs 48 on you? What happened last week and how has the mood changed down there?

DW: Well, I hate to use the words 'wake-up call' or 'it shook our guys up a little bit.' Have we lost any confidence over it? No. I'll be honest with you, we didn't. I think there were enough guys involved and it was one of those losses where it was offense, defense and special teams. If the defense would have held them to 10 points and we threw five interceptions, then I think we'd have a little bit of an issue. But I think it was such a mess game from the standpoint of turnovers and plays on defense and by everybody. Our guys, I think what they said afterwards is the truth. There's a great lesson there. You have to be ready. We went into that thing … If you had told me we were going to hold Priest Holmes to 46 yards rushing, I would have bet you that we were going to win the football game. We fell into a little bit of a trap. We underestimated Trent Green.

Q: Dave, your team has I think the longest stretch in the NFL of making it to the playoffs. Yet, it hasn't made a lot of noise in the playoffs when it's gotten there. Have you made kind of an early-season goal of going deeper and making more noise in the playoffs a big priority? Have you looked that far ahead?

DW: No. That's never been talked about by anybody in this locker room and it won't be. Our goal is to compete to try to win the division. We're chasing the Patriots. They're the division champs. They are the Super Bowl champs. That's where we're at and that's the reality of it. If we're going to do anything, we've got to line up and compete with them.

Q: What's the challenge this Sunday? Offensively and defensively, how do the Patriots line up? What do they give you?

DW: I think they've been putting up a lot of passing yards and [Tom] Brady's playing outstanding. We know that. They've got a lot of weapons and they've got an outstanding running back, so you've got to defend everything when you get ready for them. There's no question about that. We expect to see something different from their defense than what we haven't seen, so that will be a challenge to our offense, to see how quick we can adjust and make some plays.

Q: Dave, how much tougher is it to prepare for them on offense this year as opposed to last year?

DW: Oh, it's different. You know, you have so much practice time and obviously you've got to make up your mind where you're going to put your emphasis. You only have so many plays to run and obviously they're doing different things, so our emphasis this week as a defense has to change. I think the thing that you can't get fooled with is that you can't go in saying, 'Hey, they're just going to run it or they're going to throw it.' I think they're still a balanced team and they have the people to do it and that's the way we've got to approach it.

Q: Dave, most coaches will use almost anything as motivation, but a few of the players, as you probably know, ran into some trouble up here when they sent a picture wearing their Super Bowl rings to their former Dolphins teammates. Did you find that amusing or did you use that for motivation this week, or is that just petty, sideline stuff?

DW: You know what? I've heard about it, but I haven't seen it. I think some of our guys had it up some places and they were talking about it, but I haven't brought it up and talked about it to be honest with you, because I haven't seen it. But our guys know and they have respect for those guys and I don't know if there's anything personal there or not. But I haven't heard any conversation about it, to answer your question.

Q: Dave, you mentioned earlier about taking it week-to-week and not thinking about the late-season fades that you've gone through. Around here, people compare the Miami Dolphins to the Boston Red Sox: great in the early part of the season and then fading down the stretch. Have you thought about it to change things that you do towards …

DW: No. I can tell you exactly why we didn't win when we got into the playoffs last year. It was because we didn't block and tackle enough. Maybe my mind is oversimplified, but that's basically what it comes down to. We went out and played Oakland two years ago in the second round of the playoffs. I talked to our veteran guys and we were as fresh and felt as good as we had all year. We went down 90 yards and throw an interception and they run it back for a touchdown when we're on the road. That's how you lose games. So, no. I know and our players know that we just haven't played good enough when we got in that situation. But that's so far off right now that that's a nice problem to have to deal with at that point.

Q: Dave, people attribute a lot about your early season success to the heat. Do you view that sometimes as kind of a backhanded compliment and do you kind of say, 'We've got some good players here, too.'

DW: Well, no. I think it's a combination of both. You still have to play good, to answer your question, and you've got to have good players. But, the humidity and the heat is a factor. It's not that it's 85 degrees, but it's that the humidity's 85, 90 percent. Everybody that comes in here and plays, you can't do much to get ready for that. Detroit went in the dome and worked out in the dome and came down three days early and practiced, and their players said afterwards that it didn't help them at all.

Q: Dave, we often hear people talk about teams having a certain identity. They might be a running team, a passing team. I was just curious, from a coach's perspective, do you put much stock in that?

DW: Yeah, I think you have to have a team identity. I think that the things that you emphasize and the things that you practice and the things that you talk about, you have to go out and be successful in doing those things. So, I think you do, and I think that our guys believe that we're running the football pretty good and we're stopping the run pretty good and we're a well-conditioned, tough team. And I think our guys know that and they take a lot of pride in that.

Q: Can you just touch on how that identity has evolved in Miami from the time you've been down there?

DW: Well, the first thing is that you try to get players that fit that mold. I think that by drafting Todd Wade, who's a big, physical guy, by drafting Deon Dyer, by trading for Ricky Williams, by signing a Larry Chester, by bringing in a Rob Burnett, a tough guy, I think all these things add to what you're trying to get done.

Q: Dave, you've been in the league a while. Are there many more unique guys than Troy Brown, a 5-10, go-to receiver?

DW: Wow. No. He does a fantastic job and the guy deserves all the recognition he gets. Obviously, when you win a Super Bowl, there's a lot of people involved, but he had as much to do with their success as anybody on that team.

Q: Do you guys prepare this week like he's going to play, even though it says 50 percent, questionable?

DW: Yeah.

Q: It's not going to make much difference?

DW: No, it doesn't, and we're assuming he's playing. We always address it like everybody's going to play, and we go that way.

Q: Even if he doesn't play, are you still concerned because it seems like the Patriots have done more this year than…

DW: Oh yeah. They're scoring a bunch of points. You're darn right we're concerned. No question about that. The way that they've been playing and making plays and they've got the young kid and they've got a lot of weapons. No question. A lot of experience, a lot of weapons and they're well coached.

Q: Dave, how's Patrick Surtain coming along? And, are you pleased with Jamar Fletcher's progress so far?

DW: Yeah. Jamar's going good. There's a lot made out of that, but he's played good. He's given up a few plays, but everybody has. Surtain is due to go out and practice today, to be honest with you, and we'll see where he's at tomorrow. But I'm expecting him to play. We'll see how he bounces back tomorrow. Right now we have him listed as questionable until he practices.

Q: Dave, you've gone above and beyond, but I have one last question I want to ask.

DW: Okay.

Q: How do you get to Brady? He's only gone to the ground with sacks six times this year.

DW: He's doing a great job of getting rid of it, and you've got to come up with ways to do it. We've been spending a lot of time there, so that will be a challenge for us. But we're spending time on that and trying to find a way. It hasn't been easy.

Q: You can't just say, 'Screw it, let's just drop back in coverage.'

DW: Ha. No, because then he'll sit back there forever.

Q: Thanks so much.

DW: Okay.

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