Patriots Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Thursday, August 5, 2010.
NC: We'll be back out there this morning in full pads. It looks like we're going to deal with some elements here today, which I think will be good for the club as far as ball handling is concerned with a lot of the skill people [and] defensively kind of staying on our feet and playing with balance. So this will be good for us here this morning. Hopefully we don't get any too severe weather. As far as the roster is concerned, there's no movement as of yesterday. I know Bill [Belichick] talked about that in the morning. We're still at 80 here this morning, so we'll go from there and I'll try to make sure I stay away from throwing any footballs in Mr. [Robert] Kraft's direction and make sure nothing happens.
Q: So are you grateful to still have a job after almost hitting him with the ball yesterday?
NC: Yeah, at least he came over there and shook my hand, so we were able to have a good laugh over it. I guess my arm is a little stronger than I thought it was.
Q: When so many guys are battling various things that are keeping them from participating in practice, are there other ways you are able to evaluate guys who aren't on the field? Do they still have an opportunity to make an impression?
NC: I think the more time that you can have as many players out there as possible is always good, so you can see them within the context of what you are doing on the field. But those players are doing what they can to get themselves back on the field. There are still some things that they can do as far as off the field is concerned. They are still participating and partaking in meetings, so they're taking in the information. The biggest thing is they're just not actually being able to apply it on the field. They're working hard and when they're back, they're back, and they'll just have to work at their pace to get back up to speed with everybody else.
Q: Along those lines, what has kept Ron Brace from participating?
NC: He hasn't passed the physical as of yet, so when he's healthy, when he's ready, he'll be back out there practicing.
Q: With Aaron Schobel now being released, is he someone you would be interested in given his style and his past success against you guys?
NC: That's a good question. I think this time of year, any player that gets released, we kind of go through our normal procedure and our normal process as far as evaluating the player, figuring out exactly what his skills are, how that would fit. He's no different than any player that gets released this time of the year, so we'll do our due diligence here moving forward and then we'll see how it all comes together here at some point.
Q: You guys signed Eric Ghiaciuc and you mentioned having one workout with him in the afternoon and then one at night. Can you discuss what the workouts consist of, what kind of stuff you're looking for, and who watches them?
NC: I think the workouts are another good question. We've done a number of workouts going back to June and even through training camp. I think we've worked out more than two dozen players over that period of time. So it depends on the situation. Sometimes the player has been out of football or he's coming off of an injury or he may have a particular situation. So number one, especially this time of year, you want to see, 'Ok, are they in shape?' and determine whether or not they are actually going to be able to make it out there and make it through a practice. Typically, it's our staff, our scouting staff, and our department, we go out there and we conduct the workouts. You're looking to make sure the player is healthy, that he's in shape and then obviously, if you feel the player has a particular skill set or he is able to do something to help your club, then you'll add him to the team. A lot of it, too, is that you're doing your homework, doing your due diligence to stay prepared in the event that you have to make some roster moves contingent upon what happens out there at practice, etcetera
Q: You mentioned practicing in the elements. What goes into the decision to stay outside versus going inside?
NC: Whatever Bill wants to do, that's what we do. We take the approach that - look, we know what it's like to play up here. We're going to play in everything: wind, sleet, rain, snow, it doesn't really matter. You have to prepare for those. Inevitably you're going to have to deal with them, so you might as well go out there and practice and see how the team handles it and see how they respond.
Q: How different will the preparations be when the Saints come in next week, as opposed to when it's just you guys?
NC: I don't think that schedule has been determined exactly as of yet - how that will all work - but I would say there will be some similarities in terms of some of the drills, some of the team work, some of the situations. I think Coach [Sean] Payton and Bill will kind of determine how that works, but I don't think it will be too different. The biggest difference is you're just working against different personnel and different players, which will probably be a little bit refreshing, not only for our players just to kind of be able to hit somebody else [but] just to be able to work against a team the caliber of the Saints. I think it will be good for us, so we'll kind of get a barometer of where we are, both individually and collectively as a club when the Saints come into town.
Q: In the last two years you've had around 25 draft picks, so is this an exciting time now to see how the young talent is developing?
NC: I think, really, you're looking at your team - not necessarily young, old, veteran, first-year player, second-year player. You really want to see how the team comes together. Every year is its own entity. Whatever happened last year is done with; we're moving forward. So whatever players you bring in, new and old, you want to see how they work together, how they perform on the field collectively. So I'd say it's more within the framework of the team as opposed to anything individually as it relates to a specific group or age group, etcetera.
Q: Has anybody impressed you or surprised you so far?
NC: I think there are a lot of players that have had good days [and] they've had bad days. I think really, what we're looking for is individual improvement and collective improvement. The individual improvement starts with the technique that is being taught in the meetings and then you go ahead and do the individual drill on the field and you want to see that player be able to perform that skill. We've had a couple examples of some players who have taken the coaching, whether it was re-routing a receiver or an inside linebacker taking on a guard, [a] certain technique, you want to see the player be able to apply that skill in the individual drill and then carry that over to the team work. I would say everybody is working to improve. Everybody is working to get better. Everybody has had some good plays and some bad plays. I think the most important thing is just the overall consistency on a day-to-day basis and the dependability. [We're] just trying to figure out who those players are because in the end, those are the players that are going to be around to help your club during the season.
Q: Are you satisfied with where Taylor Price is right now, having missed the OTAs? Are you satisfied with where he is right now and has it come as fast as you would have liked it to?
NC: Sure. Some of that is out of our control, obviously. Taylor was here when he was here, and I think he's worked hard. He's got a good skill set. He's big. He's physical. He can run. He has good playing strength. He has good hands. I know he has dropped a few balls here and there, but I think he's working at a good pace, and he's trying to get himself acclimated as quickly as possible so he'll have ample opportunity to go out there and perform. I think he's moving in the right direction.
Q: Are you happy in what you've seen in both of the tight ends - Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez?
NC: Yeah, I think that group collectively - I would throw Alge [Crumpler] in there as well - they kind of all complement one another. Obviously Rob and Aaron are both young and they have a little bit different skill sets than Alge. The three of them sort of complement one another, so that group right now - I think they're working at a good pace. They've been productive on the field, but obviously the true test will come, especially for the rookies, once we get into a game setting. Practice is one thing; then how they perform in a game situation, we'll see how that goes.
Q: Aaron Hernandez looks comfortable in the passing game. Is that in direct correlation to Florida and the schemes that they ran?
NC: I think Aaron is an athletic guy. He's fast. He's got good quickness. He's got good vertical speed. He gets into the defense quickly. He catches the ball well. So I wouldn't say it's necessarily a matter of schematics. I think it's just a matter of a particular player's skills and then what he's showing on the field were some of the things that we saw from him as a player at Florida.
Q: Can you compare and contrast Darius Butler and Devin McCourty in terms their style of play?
NC: Sure. I think there are some similarities and there are some differences. Darius is very athletic. He's got good quickness. He's got good playing speed. He plays the ball well. Devin is a little bit bigger, a little stronger. I'd say their vertical speed is comparable. I'd say there are some similarities and some differences, but ultimately with any defensive back, I think the most important thing is you look at their quickness, you look at their playing speed, their ability to cover and tackle and then play the ball. Those are some of the key components as it relates to a defensive back, whether that's a corner or whether that's a safety. I'd say there are some similarities but there are also some differences between those two.
Q: When you guys selected Darius Butler last year, there was a trade up that you guys made. Do you recall anything about that, since obviously he was a guy you liked?
NC: I can't remember the exact dynamics of how that all worked, but he's player that we had liked, that we had spent time with before the draft. Prior to the draft, we went down to Connecticut and spent some time with him and worked [him] out. I think however it worked itself out, we're happy that he's here and we're glad to have him on the club.
Q: Devin lines up against Moss a lot in practice and Moss wins a lot of those match ups. When he's close, do you ever take Devin aside and tell him he was in good position and reinforce the fact going up against a future hall of famer?
NC: I'm sure you could pose that question [about] a lot of defensive backs who have played against Randy. I think it's good for all of our defensive backs and it's good for the receivers to work against one another. Randy is kind of a unique guy. He's obviously got very good ball skills. He's got very good vertical speed. How they line up against one another, obviously the formation kind of dictates who ends up where. I think it's good for our receivers to work against the defensive backs, and it's good competition. They're going to see good receivers no matter who we play, whether it's in the division [where] you've got Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, [Brandon] Marshall is down in Miami. Our defensive backs are going to play against good receivers and vice versa, so I think this is good work for everybody involved.
Q: Can you learn on a day like today where you are in training camp, not only because of the elements, but as far as the physical and mental grind?
NC: Right now we are almost kind of at the midpoint of training camp in terms of number of practices before we get to the regular season. I think the biggest thing is just the overall, day-to-day consistency of the team's performance. You spend a lot of time in a lot of situational football, a lot of team-specific, two-minute, red area, short-yardage, goal line, because inevitably those are going to be the key plays in any game. There's only going to be a handful of them, but they can be the difference between winning and losing. So I think you're looking at the team performance in the context of those particular segments, and then just the overall consistency and dependability of the club to try to eliminate some of the mistakes, whether it's a false start, whether it's an interception, whether it's a dropped ball. Try to minimize those and just try to build on the other things and this way, by the time the season rolls around, hopefully we have that cleaned up.
Q: Anything new with Derrick Burgess?
NC: There's really no update. We've staying in contact with Derrick, so if anything changes, once we know we'll impart that information to you folks.
Q: Can that situation stay that way indefinitely?
NC: It's hard to say. Here's where we are right now and we'll just kind of deal with it on a day-to-day basis.
Q: As a coaching staff, are you guys satisfied with the communication? With no coordinators, are you satisfied with the way the staff is communicating and executing what Bill wants?
NC: Yeah, I think the staff works well together. We've got a lot of experienced coaches on this staff and a lot of guys that have been coaching football for a very long time. I think there is good continuity, good communication. They work well together, so the most important thing is to make sure the information is being communicated and imparted to the players. I don't think that has really been an issue at all up to this point.
Q: When Matt Patricia puts on the headset, he's talking to the play caller, right?
NC: I'm not exactly sure who he is talking to. I know he has the headphones on, so however that communication exactly is working, I'm not exactly sure.
Q: In your opinion, has Bill Belichick been more hands-on this year or is he the same Bill you've seen in past years?
NC: I think Bill is handling the club the way he does every year. In the end, he's going to do what is best for the club. Bill is involved in everything. It's his team and he is going to do what's best for the club.
Q: You said you talked to Derrick Burgess. Do you have a sense of how much he wants to play?
NC: I think we'll just keep those conversations between ourselves and the player.