Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio addresses the media during his conference call, on Tuesday, December 28, 2010.
Q: On the contributions from 'street free agents', is it rare to get that kind of production from multiple players picked up off the street, so to say, during one season.
NC: I think really any player that's on your roster, you're looking for production in some capacity. A lot of it is contingent upon who's available and who's healthy to play that week. I think every team during the course of the year has to manage the roster. I don't think we're any different than any other team. So [for] the players that we bring into our program, the expectation is the same. Those players have come in. They've worked hard, they've had opportunities, and they've made the most of their opportunities since they've been here. That's no different than a player that gets here that's only here a week or two, relative to a player that's been in the program for the entire season. In the end, it's about the players going out there and performing and a lot of it, too, is that the coaches do a good job of preparing those guys for the game. We just go through each week and try to prepare for that particular week. It's contingent upon the players doing what they can to keep themselves ready, because really, you never know when your number is going to be called. Those players have gone in and they've given us some snaps and they've helped us win some games. Any time you have players that can help your club win games, then that's a good thing.
Q: For a guy like Mike Wright, whose health situation has been enough to keep him out for seven weeks or so, is it a situation where you're holding on as absolutely long as possible before putting him on IR? Or can you guys just wait a long time because you have some depth at defensive line?
NC: Yeah, we're just trying to take all the information that's accessible to us, the information from the trainers and the doctors, and we just try to do what we feel is best for the club. Mike hasn't been out there. Whenever he's ready then he'll be back on the field. Mike made contributions to our team this season and in previous seasons as well, so you just try to manage it week-to-week, based on the information that we have at our disposal and just make the best decisions for the team that week. that's what we'll continue to do.
Q: From an overall health standpoint, you guys held six guys back from travelling to Buffalo, four of which have started. So now with Miami and then the bye week, how beneficial do you think this will be for you guys health wise to have a little bit of a break, and do you think you can be close to full strength by the playoffs?
NC: It's hard to tell. I think really, this week we're just focused on Miami. We'll start practicing here tomorrow and then we'll see where everybody is from a health perspective. Every situation is different based on their individual condition and individual situation. We'll approach it the same this week like we do every other week. We'll prepare for Miami and then we'll worry about the playoffs when we get to that point. It's a week-to-week thing. That's just kind of how we operate around here.
Q: In breaking down the roster and how each player on the team entered the league, you guys have 21 players who entered the league as undrafted. How rare is that from your experience in the league?
NC: I guess it means we should have drafted some of those players. There are a number of players - if you go back to Green Bay and the number of free agents they had making contributions to their team, whether it was [Sam] Shields, whether it was [Frank] Zombo, whether it was Cullen Jenkins. You can go on down the league and each team has a number of players that fall into that same classification and category. However they end up on our team, to a degree, we can control that, but in the end, once they're here, everybody is judged based on their performance and everybody is presented with the same opportunities and then it's up to the players to perform on a week-to-week basis. I don't think the guys that are here are any different than some of the other teams and the situations they've been in. However they get here, they get here. Once they're all here, we essentially tell them the same thing and the expectation is the same regardless of who the player is. I think those players that have come in in that situation have come in and they've worked hard and they've made the most of their opportunities. It's a credit to them. It's a credit to the player. Obviously the odds were stacked against them a little bit, so to speak, but I think they worked hard and they put themselves in a position where they could make a contribution to the team. As an organization, it think that's all you can really ask.
Q: Now that Carolina is locked in as the number one pick, it also means that you guys have the 33rd pick. I don't know what you were expecting when you made that trade last year, but that's a pretty nice added benefit to now have three picks in the first 33.
NC: With all due respect, the draft is X months away. We're really not even focused on that right now. We're focused on the Dolphins and trying to finish of the duration of our season. We'll worry about that when the time is appropriate.
Q: Just going back to that number of 21 undrafted players. Just in terms of context, is that high for you guys based on what you've seen from your time here? Is it an around-the-league average from what you've seen?
NC: You know, it's probably something I would have to go back and study and look at. I think the way it works every year, just with the draft, you draft X amount of players whether it's eight or 12 or whatever it might be. And then there's another eight to 10 players or however many players it takes to fill out your 80-man roster. The numbers are going to vary on a year-to-year basis. I'd have to study it, quite frankly, to tell you a little bit more what the averages are. We don't spend too much time looking at that during the season. I think that's more of an offseason exercise. Like I said, I'd have to get back to you on that in order to give you an accurate answer.
Q: Tonight they're announcing the Pro Bowl team. Does it matter organizationally how many players are rewarded with that honor after a year like this one?
NC: I think it's hard to reward every player that's here. The Pro Bowl, it is what it is. I think we all kind of know how that's voted. It's a fan vote. It's a player vote. There are a number of things that go into it. I'd say that there are a number of players this year that have made a significant contribution to our team in some capacity. So I mean, that's the most important thing and I think the players will probably tell you that as well. It'S nice to be recognized league-wide, but the most important thing is the recognition they receive and the respect that they receive from the players that they are with on a day-to-day basis. That's the most important thing. There have been a number of players who have made contributions at different points of the year, and in the end, that's the most important thing. There are a lot of great players that play in this league and unfortunately, they don't have the opportunity to go to the Pro Bowl, but a lot of that is sort of out of their control. I think our players...you can ask them what they think, but I think it's nice just when you get contributions from as many players and you can within your program, and you want them to do well and be successful.
Q: You're more of an offensive guy. Can you speak about the streak that Tom Brady is on as far as 319 consecutive pass attempts without an interception? Do you have an appreciation for that? He almost got picked off in the Green Bay game with tipped passes and things like that, so there is a little bit of luck involved, but I assume there is a great deal of decision making and being so protective of the ball that goes into it?
NC: Yeah, I think Tom deserves a lot of the credit. I mean, he and Billy [O'Brien]..the amount of time and preparation they put in on a week-to-week basis...Tom is probably one of the most prepared players. He prepares as hard as anybody on our team and anybody in the league. He makes good decision with the football. I think one of the most important things as a quarterback is you want to try to make good decisions with the football. You have to make them quickly. They're going to be under duress. But he prepares as diligently as anybody. He practices the same way. He wants to be perfect. He tries to be perfect on every throw. And in the end, there're X amount of things that can happen during the course of the game. Like you said, there have been situations where the ball has been batted up in the air and it happened to fall on the ground. That's circumstance or whatever the case may be. I think it's a credit to Tom and really, it's a credit to the offense as well because if you want to execute, the players have to be in the right spots, the receivers have to be in the right spots [and] the protection has to be [right], so there are a lot of factors that go into it. But in the end, Tom is the one that's pulling the trigger and he's very diligent and very conscious taking care of the football. And turnovers have made a difference for our team this year. I think one of the things on the week-to-week basis, the team that wins the turnover battle, more often than not, comes out on top. So we talk a lot around here about ball security and taking care of the football. The reality is, whenever the ball is in your hand, you sort of hold the fate of the entire team in your hands. But Tom has done a great job all year. I think he's been consistent every year, just making good decisions with the football. Quite frankly, it's a remarkable achievement and it's a credit to him.
Q: You mentioned ball security with the entire team. Along those same lines, it's been seven games since anybody on the team has turned over the ball. You talk about emphasizing that, but you talk about things all the time and they don't always play out the way you stress them. Can you talk about the entire team and this impressive run of not turning the ball over at all?
NC: Really, it's a team-wide thing. It goes both ways. I think our players have taken a considerable amount of ownership. They understand the importance of ball security and ball possession, whether it's their technique, how they're carrying the football and those types of things. And it's something that our coaches, offensively, we preach to the players and they take ownership and vice versa. We've been able to get it off the opponents defensively, and really, it has an impact on the game and how it goes. When the defense turns the ball over and when the offense is taking care of the football, that carries over into the kicking game as well. It's really team-wide thing. I think the players deserve a lot of credit because, in the end, the ball is in their hands and they've taken ownership and they've done a great job of securing that football. There's nothing more important than ball possession and ball security every single play. We need to continue that moving forward. Hopefully that won't change, but I think it's a credit to the players and the coaches. They do a great job of implementing... There are drills and different things that you can do during practice to sort of simulate that, but in the end, in the game, it's a different situation because there are other factors that are involved. Hopefully we can continue to possess the ball and when you posses the ball it means you have more chances to score and offensively, in the end, you're on the field to score, so that's the goal.
Q: Is there anything in particular from a player standpoint that you think they need to accomplish in this final game of the season?
NC: I think any week, you really want to go out there and you want to play well in all three phases. You want to play consistent. You want to minimize mistakes. And the reality is we're playing a good team. Defensively, they are third in the league on defense. They have 39 sacks which is the top of the league. There're a lot of problems. There are a lot of good players that they have on the defensive side of the ball. Offensively, they've got a lot of weapons. Devone Bess is probably one of the better receivers, slot receivers - probably one of the more unheralded receivers in the league - but he gives us problems every time we play them. And Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams present issues when they have the ball. The idea is to prepare for a good opponent and go out there and play well. And that's the most important thing.