Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio addresses the media during his conference call on Tuesday, November 10, 2009.
Q: When you look at the free agent pool, do you sign a guy to stop a weapon of another team? For example, Brandon McGowan matches up well against tight ends ...
NC: I think when we look at Brandon [McGowan] or any other free agent for that matter, you're looking at the player and his skill set and what he does when he's on the field. In Brandon's case, when he was on the field, he was a pretty versatile guy. He played both safety [positions], he played some star - where he'd line up in the slot. He was a good athlete, he ran well, he was tough, he was physical and he was aggressive. So I think with any player, you're just looking at their particular skill set, what they bring to the table as a football player, how that projects into what you do with your club. You really don't know until you actually have them in there and you start to move them around and see how they retain things. So really, you're looking at the football player, what he's done, and how productive he's been and in the end you try to figure out what his role is going to be.
Q: Are you happy with what you've found considering what, McGowan 's done against guys like Tony Gonzalez and Kellen Winslow?
NC: Well, I think it's a collective effort, too. Obviously, he has an assignment on a particular call, but there are 10 other guys that are involved. So Brandon's played, he's been productive, he's done a number of different things for us. He's played well to this point, just like a lot of other guys have defensively. He's done his job well and hopefully that will continue moving forward for him and the rest of the group, defensively.
Q: When you look at a team you know you're going to play during the season and you see certain matchups, how does that affect your free agent and draft search?
NC: I think really what you're trying to do is construct your team across the board and put players in place that you feel can perform a certain job or fill a certain role. In the end, you're trying to find the best football player you can for your team, realizing regardless of who we play, whether it's Tampa Bay or whether it's Tennessee, or whoever it might be, whether it's in the AFC or the NFC. In the end, you're going to face good football players at a variety of different positions, whether it's at tight end, whether it's at receiver, whether it's at running back. So to pinpoint maybe one particular team or one particular matchup, in the end, you're going to have to face good football players regardless of who you line up against and who you play. So from the team's perspective, you're trying to find guys who are good football players in terms of how they play their position and who we feel will have a role and be able to perform that role effectively, when they're on the club, when they're called upon - wherever that might be.
Q: Has Sebastian Vollmer's performance, stepping in for Matt Light, surprised you, even considering how high you guys were on him?
NC: I think Sebastian's football base has been limited and I think the one thing about Sebastian is the more that he played - and this showed up at Houston as well - the more that he played, you see the more comfortable he became. So the reality is he has a good skill set, he's smart, he's tough, he's athletic - for a taller player - he's long. He's being coached by arguably, in our opinion, the best offensive line coach in the league. He takes to coaching and he's a very coachable kid. He understands what we're trying to do. He's gone in there and he's done his job. He's working with a pretty experienced group - that group, those five who are in the game, whoever that might be, whether that's [Dan] Connolly, whether that's [Dan] Koppen, whether that's [Logan] Mankins, they all work collectively as a unit. So Sebastian's gone in there and he's had some decent games up to this point. And hopefully he continues the improvement, which is really what you're your goal is, and what your hope is for most young players is that they continue to grow and continue to improve. It takes some players a little bit longer than others and everyone's at different stages, but it looks like he's moving in the right direction.
Q: Are you guys at all interested in adding anybody in the running back department this week? Are you looking at anybody specifically who's been released?
NC: I wouldn't say we're looking at anything specific, but we're cognizant of who the players are, what the market is, who's available. So we evaluate that on a day-to-day basis and it's constantly changing, it's constantly evolving. Whenever that does take place, you do your homework and you make a decision ultimately that you feel is best for the club - whether it's now, whether it's later, whenever that might be.
Q: Have you guys reached any decision on Larry Johnson?
NC: Well, the way it works with a player like [Larry] Johnson - he's plugged into the waiver process, so technically he's still a product or the rights of another club. So he's plugged into the waiver process, we'll go through that today. We may or may not put in a claim for the player and I'd say probably right now, that's all I'm really going to say about that situation.
Q: You started to sound like to say you hadn't put in any claims. Do you anticipate putting in a claim on Larry [Johnson]?
NC: We'll talk organizationally and we'll make a decision here at some point that we feel is best for us. I think that we're happy with our running backs. We feel that we have good backs. Whether it's running back, whether it's offensive line, regardless of the position, you evaluate if there's a football player that's out there that you feel can help your club and it comes to pass, you'll evaluate it. But there are a lot of moving parts and there are a lot of components that go into it.
Q: Larry Johnson would clear waivers at 4 p.m. When would you decide?
NC: We'll make a decision whenever we reach it. I wouldn't put a timetable on it, but we'll make a decision. Then we'll move on whenever that may be.
Q: You have a lot of young defensive players doing things they weren't asked to do in college. How do you project those guys out from there to fitting into your system?
NC: I think that's a great point. I think that's the one thing that's different when you're evaluating pro free agents as opposed to players that are coming from college because they [college players] have been in a system that is probably a lot different than what we do. So really there is a projection element to them. There are a lot of components that go into it. You look at the player's traits, you look at his intelligence, you look at his toughness, then you look at his physical skill sets, and what he does on the field, and then you have to be able to project how that is going to fit. And - like I said a little bit earlier - different players maybe catch on a little quicker than others and everyone's learning curve is a little bit different. So until you actually have them here and until you have them under your watch and supervision, and you're seeing how they approach it on a day-to-day basis, it's hard to say, 'OK, by X day ...' or put a timetable on that player, is going to be comfortable enough with what we're doing and we in turn feel good about where the player is in terms of his development. So that's a difficult thing. It's not easy to do and you just hope that you're more right than you are wrong. It takes time, but I'd say relative to somebody who's played against NFL players, you're looking at apples to apples how they're playing against other NFL players. So there are some similarities, but then there are also some differences and that's probably the biggest thing as it relates to college scouting and college players. There is an adjustment that they are going to make.
Q: Can you discuss what happened with the release of Kendall Simmons last week and the promotion of Kyle Arrington - what you saw and where you project Arrington?
NC: Yeah, you know, Kendall, unfortunately, it didn't work out for us. Kendall has been a productive player in the league. I think he may have started 80 games or whatever it may have been. He worked hard. He did everything that we asked. And as is the case normally during the year, there are always a lot of moving parts as it relates to the roster. So in Arrington's case, he'd been on the practice squad. Like all of our young players that are on the practice squad, what we tell them is, 'Look, you need to prepare as if you're going to play this week because you never know when your opportunity is going to arise.' So in Kyle's case, he'd been practicing and improving. We've had some situations come up in the secondary and even on special teams. You know Eric [Alexander], his situation, so Kyle was ready to go. So we promoted him from the practice squad to the active roster and he went out and played and made a few tackles in the kicking game. So he did what we asked him to do in terms of being ready and being prepared. And it's hard because you're always managing the roster, and it's a day-to-day type thing, and you really never know when that is going to be and who it's going to be. So you just have to prepare as much as you can and have your contingency plan in place.
Q: Someone said that there was another team in contact with him [Kyle Arrington] and that may have played a role in the whole thing. How often does that happen and how common is it that you have to deal with that with your practice squad players in terms of make a hard decision on a guy based on another team making a move and putting him on the 53-man roster?
NC: Yeah it's hard because the reality is that any player who is on another club's practice squad or on our practice squad for that matter, they're technically a free agent. So they can be signed by any club. It happens. With what degree of regularity? It varies, but it does come up, and in Kyle's case more than anything, we felt good about the player, and his progress that he was making and that's why we went ahead and made the move. There were some other clubs that were interested, but the reason that he was here was because we liked him in the first place and the reality is that anybody who is on the active roster or the practice squad, they're a part of your club. And they can have an opportunity to play and they have to be prepared to play every week.
Q: Is it too early to tell if you'll have Brandon Tate play this game and how does that affect some of your planning as you start to assimilate your game plan at this point in the week?
NC: I think we'll learn a little bit more here later in the day. Bill [Belichick] has mentioned this a few times after the game. It usually takes a day or two to sort itself out. So we'll have a better idea tomorrow. If he's not available, or if any player's not available, then we'll just have to go to plan B, and just figure out what players are going to give you the best opportunity to win come Sunday and what players are going to be active. So it's an ongoing thing. I think we'll know a little bit more tomorrow as we head out to the practice field.