Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio addresses the media during his conference call on Tuesday, September 22, 2009.
Q: At the end of preseason, you discussed a little bit about what would be your role on game days. I'm curious, what has been your role on game days?
NC: I'd say it's probably pretty similar to some of the things I've done in the past as far as being up in the press box and communicating with Billy [O'Brien] or the rest of the offensive coaching staff during the game as to what we're seeing, what defenses are being played and the different personnel groupings. So from a game day perspective, some of the responsibilities are similar to what I've had in the past. Whether it's when I was downstairs coaching the receivers on a full-time basis or even when I was on the road doing some scouting, but would still be at the game on Sunday. So, I would say it's pretty similar to what's been done in the past.
Q: How has that affected your other job as Director of Player Personnel?
NC: Well, we have a great staff in place with Jon Robinson coordinating the college side and Jason [Licht] directing the pro side. Maybe the biggest thing is that I haven't spent much time on the road, but we allocate our scouts. Our scouts have essentially been out since training camp. Jon's been out, Jason's been out, and we stay in constant communication and dialogue. So, most of the work I've been doing has been from an in-house perspective. Everything is online with the video system. For example, with the preseason scouting, players on other clubs who are going to be released or you are going to sign to your practice squad, I'm able to take care of that work from my desk here with the access to the video system. So, really in years past I haven't gone on the road until the beginning of October, so we'll see how that goes moving forward. But I'd say for the most part, for the month of September, there hasn't been much change from a workload perspective as far as where I'm located on a day-to-day basis.
Q: How closely did you work with Thomas Dimitroff and what types of things did you learn from him?
NC: Tom and I had a great relationship and we still have a great relationship. I think one of the things I learned from Thomas is that he's a great communicator and a great manager of people. He had a way about him where he could handle the staff in a way that if something needed to be communicated, he was able to do that in a clear and articulate fashion. So I have a lot of respect for Tom and what he's been able to do with the organization. He took a club that was sort of at the bottom and last year they turned it around, won the division and made the playoffs. So, I think everything that Thomas has done he's earned and he's a smart football man who has a great personality and a great demeanor. He kind of went into a little bit of a firestorm, but he handled it as well as anyone could deal with it, so I have a lot of respect for Tom. I would say along with Scott [Pioli], Tom and I had as close a relationship as anybody through the years. He kind of taught me the ropes. As a matter of fact, my first time on the road, he and I spent quite a bit of time together, so I have nothing but respect for Thomas and I look forward to seeing him here this weekend.
Q: How much work have you and Jason [Licht] done on Derrick Brooks, if any?
NC: I think there are a lot of players we look at this time of year - players out of mini camp, players that were on clubs that played in the preseason or were released. We're constantly evaluating those players on a day-to-day basis. We're doing our homework and whenever we feel the situation is right for us to do something, we'll go ahead and move forward on it. But it's ongoing. Each day you're looking at different players to see if there's someone who fits what you do, or maybe who you want to bring in to do a little bit more investigative work on, or spend a little bit more time with on an individual basis. So, I'd say there's nothing specific to Derrick. There's a large pool of players out there with continuous evaluation and the dialogue is ongoing internally.
Q: Is anything eminent at this point? Are you in a holding pattern between game planning, personnel and prepping for the game on Sunday?
NC: I think where we are today is where we are with the club. Speaking specifically here today, our focus is really on the Falcons. I'm going back and forth today between the offensive game plan meetings and then bopping back upstairs to take care of some things that are personnel related. So, the process is ongoing whether it's today, tomorrow, this week or next week. I can't really put a timetable on it, but whenever it's most appropriate then we'll address it at that time.
Q: You're obviously not looking just for guys to play special teams. What stands out for you when you're scouting a guy that makes you think he would be a good fit when it comes to playing special teams?
NC: I think you're looking at their skill set and some of their components. I think Sam [Aiken] is a good example with what he's been able to do since he's been here. You're looking for his level of toughness, his level of competitiveness, a degree of playing speed because with of lot those special teams players in the league, you see a lot of common traits and I would say those three or four are pretty similar. So, the reality is that it's tough because a lot of players…For example, with seniors especially, who may be starting at their respective positions - whether it may be receiver, defensive back, linebacker - they may not be playing as much in the kicking game. So you're looking at how they are playing on their respective side of the ball. Then you have to be able to project how that's going to be in the kicking game. There's a component of playing strength, playing speed, toughness, competitiveness, and some of those side speed players might fall into that category as well.
Q: When you look at a guy like Sam Aiken and the situation you have been in the last two weeks at receiver with only four active, is there a temptation to put him out there on offense to play receiver, or do you not want to take him away from what he does on special teams?
NC: When we go to the game Sam has a role in the kicking game, but Sam also has a role offensively. During the course of the week he practices and takes repetitions, so Sam is prepared. He's ready to go. So, if there's an opportunity for us to put him in the game, or if we feel we need to put him in the game for a handful of plays - or however many plays it might be - we have the utmost confidence in Sam and what he's able to do offensively. Obviously, his role in the kicking game is significant, but there are some other players on special teams who also have a role on offense or defense. Whoever goes to the game has to be prepared on special teams and offense or defense - whatever their respective side of the ball is because you never know when an opportunity is going to arise. They have to make sure they are prepared. As a coaching staff and an organization in general, we're confident that if we put somebody in the game he's going to be able to perform his job and function well.
Q: So offensively, you don't feel like you've been limited the last couple of weeks having four receivers active - one of them being Sam Aiken, the special teams captain - or has it affected the game plan or your play calling?
NC: No, we realize there are only so many players we can go to the game with on a week-to-week basis. So, we've gone with four; sometimes we've gone with five. We've gone to the game with four receivers and felt confident in Sam if he had to go into the game, he'd go in and play well. So we haven't felt there has been any sort of limitations with the game.
Q: Terrence Wheatley was drafted in the second round a year ago and you guys probably had hoped he would be a starter. Are you at all disappointed or do you look at it like - at corner, you take a bunch of guys and some turn out, some don't. Is that more or less your philosophy on that?
NC: I think in Terrence's situation, we drafted him. There were quite a few things we saw that we liked and it's been unfortunate, but last year he had the injury and I think when he was injured in the Indianapolis game he was starting to perform well. That was probably his best game. He had a good camp and then unfortunately he got dinged up there a little bit with the knee in the Washington game. Terrence is a smart guy. He works hard. He's got good playing speed. He has good quickness. He's smart. He's tough. When his opportunity arises, he'll be prepared. He's working himself back and when he's healthy and we feel he's ready then he'll be out there.
Q: How much work did you do on Matt Ryan coming out of the draft and what are your thoughts on what he has put together in Atlanta in a short time?
NC: With a situation like that, we know what our situation is at quarterback, but you still evaluate those players. This way you know where the market is and you figure out from a draft planning perspective where there's a need and such. But I think Matt's proven in a short time that he's a capable player. I think he's tough. He's smart. He has a good arm. He makes good decisions with the ball and I think a lot of their success is attributable to what he did last year along with some of the players they have offensively with Michael Turner and Roddy White, and this year with [Tony] Gonzalez. So I think Matt is a good player. He had a good rookie year and it looks to me, based on the first two games, that he's been able to build on that performance and we realize we're going to have our hands full here on Sunday with Matt and the entire Falcons offense.