Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio addresses the media during his conference call on Monday, November 02, 2009.
Q: There's been a lot of discussion in the news lately about concussions leading to serious health problems later in life. Have you guys paid a lot of attention to it and has it changed how you do things organizationally regarding injuries?
NC: I'd say it's something that we're cognizant of. I think in the end, the people that are most qualified, and we rely on them, are the medical staff and our doctors. So whatever input that they have - and they're probably a little closer to the situation than say myself or Bill [Belichick] - we take the information that they have and then we'll figure out what type of application it will have as far as practice or players. But really, in the end they're more qualified to speak on that. That's why we have them here - to consult with them on matters. It's a serious issue. It's something that the league is certainly conscious of and in the end, player safety is the most important thing. So whatever you need to do from a player safety standpoint to make sure that players stay healthy, I think that's what you're ultimately trying to do.
Q: What was the follow up on Brandon Tate's debut in the last game? From a coaching perspective, do you feel like there was anything he could have done on that interception to maybe prevent it from being an interception?
NC: I think it was good for Brandon to get some experience, whether it was on special teams returning kickoffs, he had a few plays there offensively. He made a nice play there in the reverse. I mean, I think there were some good plays, some bad plays, just like everybody else. In fact, on the interception, he ran the wrong route, quite frankly, and he knows that and we talked about that. But he went ahead and tried to make a play, so I think he tried to do what he could on the play. But I think last week was good for him and some of our other young players to go through practice and put them in some situations that maybe they haven't been put in as of yet, whether it's two-minute, red area. So I think it's good to have him out there. He's progressing along, so we'll see how it goes this week.
Q: With a player like Brandon Tate, do you guys try to maybe limit it a little bit to him running just one of the receiver positions, or do you try and see him in all of the positions, because I know you like to have that flexibility with the receivers?
NC: Sure. I think a guy like Brandon, he's been in the meetings all year, so we might tell him, 'Alright, look, on this particular play, this is where you're going to work.' But it's hard for any young player, whether it's him or Julian [Edelman], to give them a large volume right away. You try to start them at one particular point and let them sort of build on that and get comfortable with one particular thing. In the end, you like to have as much flexibility as possible so that you can move players around and you can use multiple formations. You don't want to necessarily pigeon-hole yourself. I think he's moving in the right direction. I think he's a smart guy. I think he works hard, so I think the more he's on the field and gets those real reps - I mean, it's one thing to look at it on a sheet of paper in the classroom, and then to go out there and do it on the practice field when you hear the quarterback call the play. 'Ok what am I [doing] on this particular play?' So we'll see how it goes, but I think he's moving in the right direction.
Q: With what Miami is bringing this weekend and obviously over the past year or so, and their drafting of Pat White...When you guys are scouting college players, does the immersion of that kind of stuff affect the grade of some players, and looking back and seeing guys like Charlie Ward or Tommie Frazier, might they have been graded differently based on some of the stuff that's in the NFL now?
NC: I can speak to Pat [White], just knowing him a little bit more intimately than let's say Tommie or Charlie. I think there are some teams - obviously Miami, this is one of the things they do offensively is this Wildcat package. He played in a system that was somewhat similar, but I think if you look at some of the college offenses, really they have a spread component to them where there's a run-pass option for the quarterback. So with Pat, from his perspective at least as it related to us, I think we evaluated his as a quarterback and I think the things he did as a quarterback - his mechanics, his arm strength, we knew he was athletic, we knew he could run the ball. I think it's all going to be relative to what you do offensively. I think if more and more teams try to employ something like this, then you might factor that into your grade, but I think if you're just grading a player for what he is...For example with Pat, you evaluate him - whatever position you're going to evaluate him as, whether it's as quarterback, whether it's as receiver, or as a running back. In our particular case we evaluated him as a quarterback and then we assigned a grade accordingly.
Q: Going back to Brandon Tate, on that route, was there something he should have adjusted to based on what he saw from the defense? Or was it just a brain freeze where he just ran the wrong route out of the huddle?
NC: Yeah, I think he just ran the wrong route out of the huddle. It was an honest mistake. He knew he had made the mistake on the play and we corrected it and we move on. As far as what happened on the field, he was trying to make a play and it just happened to work out [that way] and we just move on to the next one.
Q: When you bring in guys to work them out at this time of year, how much of it is to put together a list in your own mind of guys just in case someone gets hurt? How much of it is for practice participation? How much of it is just to keep an eye on other guys?
NC: Yeah, I think it's two-fold, because you have some players, especially when you get to this time of year in November, so you have some players, some veterans who may have been on rosters in 2008 and may have been productive, and then they haven't been in a camp. Maybe they ended 2008 on the injured reserve, or whatever the case might be. So there might be some good football players who had been productive that are still out there, so that's part of it. The other part of it is that you start to look at players that might be able to go on your practice squad. If there's a player that you liked coming out of college or you liked during the preseason, and you see some positive attributes on that particular player, then you want to bring them in, work them out, spend some time with them, have the medical information, and then make a decision on your practice squad. Or maybe it's even something for next year as you start to look into some of the reserve future type things. I'd say it's two-fold. Obliviously, it's commonplace throughout the league. Some are a little bit more on an emergency basis. For example, if you have an injury in the course of a game, then you have to act swiftly. Then also it's just maintaining that list of players who could be candidates to either sign to your roster at some point or to put on the practice squad for a myriad of reasons.
Q: Going back to Brandon Tate, when you guys were evaluating him the word that keeps coming up is 'electrifying.' How close did you guys grade him to someone like Percy Harvin and did you see them as similar types of players?
NC: I think both players were good with the ball in their hands. Both had good quickness. Both had good playing speed. They had different roles. The way that Florida had used Harvin, he was almost more of a de facto running back because he was very involved in the running game and they played him in the slot. I think Brandon played a little bit more in the perimeter from a receiving standpoint, and he also played in the slot. I would say they were similar from the standpoint that they were both good with the ball in their hands, but they were playing in different offenses and their schools employed them a little bit differently. So there were some things that were similar and there were other things that were a little bit different.