NC: Just had a few minor roster moves that we made yesterday. We claimed tackle Dustin Waldron – he's a guy that we actually worked out in the spring this past year. During the draft, Dante [Scarnecchia] went out to Portland, or a long way away, and spent the day with him. So we'll bring him in, put him in the mix and see how he does. We put Jamey Richard on Injured Reserve and then we had signed Derek Dennis earlier in the day prior to practice. So it puts the roster at 90 and there are really no other changes in addition to that, so that's where we are today.
Q: With the NFL rosters set at 90 now, is it tough to find offensive lineman at this point?
NC: There are a lot of players that are still out there, so at this point in the year you try to go back to your list, your information you have on file. Some players you might know better or more intimately than others – a guy like [Dustin] Waldron, just having done the workout and having spent some time with him. You try to put guys in different categories across positions and what we've found in the past is that those players who we at least have some degree of contact or some relationship with, you might start with them first and then you work your way down. There are such a vast number of players that are out there, everybody goes through it and you just try to develop your list based on all of the information that you have and then you go from there.
Q: Was Derek Dennis a pre-draft study?
NC: I mean we studied the Temple running back and they had a number of senior offensive linemen. When you go into a school, you're really looking at everybody so we'll write the report on everybody that's a senior or a starter and there are going to be some players that don't play. So we see a vast number of players during the course of the fall and on through the spring.
Q: Is it possible to even sign a guy blind at any point with the amount of work you guys do?
NC: Really there's a risk involved in any player that you sign. You can maybe mitigate some of that risk with a player that you know a little bit better than others, so it's just part of doing your homework. Some players you might have a little more information on relative to others and if there's a player that maybe we don't have as much on, then there are ways to find out and discover that information if you need it.
Q: It's been several years since the Patriots have had an offensive contribution from the fullback position. This year you have two 'real' fullbacks in camp [Spencer Larsen and Tony Fiammetta]. When you decided to bring those guys in was it a philosophy decision or just a best player available type of situation?
NC: I would say with both of those players in particular that they've been effective in their role for their respective teams. We've had fullbacks in our offense; we haven't had fullbacks in our offense. With that position, like some other positions, in addition to playing in the kicking game, it goes back to one thing we talked about the other day – depth of the roster, being able to do multiple things in multiple facets of the game, whether it's in the kicking game or offensively or defensively. Both of those guys are good football players in their respective roles and we'll see how they do once we actually get into a game situation and how they perform in this offense.
Q: What did you like about Ras-I-Dowling coming out of college?
NC: Big, long arms, athletic; played the ball well and ran well. He had his season kind of short changed there last year, but he's worked hard, had a pretty good spring and he's been out there every day. So he's moving in the right direction.
Q: You've had some draft picks in the past couple years like Terrence Wheatley and Darius Butler that haven't worked out and you've had to find players like Kyle Arrington and Sterling Moore. As a scouting department do those types of finds wash away the missed picks?
NC: I think it's just part of the process. Some players work out, some players don't work out and there is always a number of different reasons why that happens. So in the end, the players are going to determine how it all unfolds based on their performance and if somebody plays better than the other than that's the guy that's going to end up sticking around regardless of where they come from.
Q: Is it humbling to be wrong at times in the draft or do you just accept it for what it is?
NC: I think the draft process in general, like I said, there's risk in any player that you acquire and bring into your program and how it works out, there are a myriad of reasons why one player works out relative to another, but you just try to do your homework and move forward. That's all we're really focused on.
Q: Ras-I Dowling, who is 6-1 210 pounds, got beat for a reception the other night by a shorter running back, Stevan Ridley. Do you assess Dowling's play differently than the play of other players at the position who might have different measurables?
NC: We don't really get caught up in evaluating one particular play, but when you have a position, you have a certain skill set and criteria that you're looking for that player to possess – regardless if it's a defensive back, offensive lineman, receiver, etcetera. They're going to have some good plays; they're going to have some bad plays. The most important thing is whether or not you teach them the technique and can they apply the technique and if they can't apply the technique or maybe one play they do it better than another, then try to figure out 'Why didn't you do it well? Can you go back and correct it and try to improve upon that?' That's really the most important thing, which I'd say is thematic of this camp. We've gone through about a week, eight days or whatever it may be. We kind of started at point 'A' and we're working our way through camp trying to improve the techniques and the fundamentals that relate to your position. Really at this point you're trying to work at can you improve, can you correct and can you have consistently with the performance on a day-to-day basis? In the end that's the most important thing.
Q: How promising was Dowling's season prior to his injury in 2011?
NC: I think he got hurt in camp so we really couldn't see that much. It was hard to get a true evaluation – all we can really go off is when we evaluated him in the draft.
Q: How does Ras-I Dowling's size help him? Can that be an advantage?
NC: I think if you look at the league there are a lot of bigger corners that are playing – [Antonio] Cromartie. There are a lot of players that are long [and have] length. Sean Smith down in Miami is 6-3 or 6-4. So part of that is you're playing against some bigger receivers, so there is a size element that comes into play. So is it perfect? No. But there are different sizes and different types of defensive backs. In the end their effectiveness is going to be based on how they can actually execute the defense, execute their skill set and actually go out there and perform at the highest level possible.
Q: Despite the fact that he went undrafted, Kyle Arrington is a tough guy to overlook because every time he seems to be on the verge of being replaced an opportunity arises where he's going against taller guys, or faster guys or quicker guys, but he just matches up. Is there a point where you try to go for a body fit and see if it works? Sometimes the guy who isn't the body fit is the better guy.
NC: I don't think we've ever looked at it in terms of body fit. I think you look at the position in general and say, 'OK, here are the things at that position [that they're] going to be required to do or we're going to ask them to do and can that player do it?' Some can do more than others, some do less. Let's say you have three criteria and they can do two out of the three at a high level, well that's fine. If they can do all three then you probably have a pretty good player. Now if the guy can only do one thing really well, then he better do it at a real high level and you can help compensate for maybe some of the things that he has a shortcoming.
Q: With a guy like Kyle Arrington, does his strength help mitigate his lack of height?
NC: Kyle, he's put together well now. He's 195 pounds or whatever it may be. I mean he's maybe a little bit short, but he's strong, he's got good playing speed; very mentally tough. There's a guy that's really improved form the time that he started here – he started on the practice squad. He's put in a lot of work and it's really a credit to him and the coaching staff that he's been able to make himself into a pretty good player.
Q: When is the first roster cut?
NC: I want to say it's the Monday or Tuesday after the third preseason game – somewhere around August 24 or 25, I believe. It's after the third game. I don't know the exact date – I'm not on my calendar right now.
Q: Are you at the point in the year where you begin to try to figure out what other rosters look like? With the 90 player rosters you're going to have a greater influx of players into the pool. Are you trying to figure out and maybe read some of the same things that we're reading around the NFL to get a gist of where guys might be?
NC: Yeah but, who's telling the truth? You read half the articles –
Q: We are.
NC: Right, I know you're telling the truth [laughs]. Everybody has a varying opinion about, 'This guy's having a great camp; this guy's an all-star.' Until they actually go out there in the preseason and you can actually see them perform, that's really the best thing that you have to go off of. That's why during the preseason, the first two weeks, we'll track every roster and there are some players you might think, 'OK, there's probably a pretty fair chance they're going to make it' and there are some players that might not be as certain. We'll study those players. We kind of put them in different groups and categories, because there is going to be a vast amount of players that at different points are going to be released and become available. Our pro personnel staff will spend a lot of time going through and evaluating those players, doing the write ups, putting them in our system and then start to group them by position so that when we get to the final cut-down, if there is a player we like, whether or not we want to claim him, whether or not we want to sign him or however we want to handle that, we will try to be as prepared for that as best we can.
Q: So will your department be on the practice field as much throughout the rest of camp or will you be out at games scouting?
NC: We'll still be here. Actually our college scouting staff has been here for the past week, so they're going to leave here today and they'll go out and start to visit the colleges in their summer practice. The rest of our staff will be here, we'll still be watching our practices and once the games start coming into our system, we'll start to watch the videos. So some might be inside, some might be outside – it just depends on who has a lot of work to do and who doesn't.
Q: Is trade talk any more prevalent at this time of the year than it is at other points of the calendar?
NC: I think this time of the year there are always discussions that you have with teams or some teams might reach out to you. I'd say it's no different this year than it has been in years past. I mean could it happen? Yeah. Will it happen? It all depends. It's a case-by-case basis.
Q: Has there been any change with the Brian Waters situation?
NC: No updates there.
Q: From your time working in the game or even growing up, when you think of all the quarterbacks who have played at a high level in their mid-to-late thirties, or even their forties, who comes to mind for you? Like Joe Montana, late in his career?
NC: I would say at that time, when I was growing up, I was more of a fan than anything else. I wasn't really studying. I mean I probably knew more back then than I do now about football – that's probably subject to some debate. But Joe Montana was a great player, [Dan] Marino was a great player, [John] Elway was a good player, [Troy] Aikman – those guys were fun to watch. I hate to admit it, but I was a Cowboys fan growing up. For whatever reason, it was fun to watch the Cowboys. Mr. [Robert] Kraft will probably be thrilled to hear that. There have been a lot of good players that have played late in their career and really it's just about being able to maintain a certain level of performance and some can do it longer than others. It all depends on the individual.
Q: One guy who comes to mind as a quarterback who just kept going is Vinny Testaverde, who was here.
NC: I'll tell you what, Vinny was in immaculate shape. I don't know how old he was when we had him, probably close to 40. [He's] a great guy, kept himself in phenomenal shape and could really spin the ball. It was really impressive to watch. So that was a guy that we had here in our camp; even Doug [Flutie] to a certain extent. He was like a little kid out there – loved to play football, was in great shape, enjoyed playing and had a great arm. I mean the guy played 20 years of professional football – it's really a credit to him. So yeah those are a couple guys there if you had to pick a few.
Q: On the other end of that spectrum, how is Ryan Mallett developing throughout camp?
NC: I think the quarterbacks, they've done some good things in camp. I think it's been a pretty good competition. I know Bill [Belichick] alluded to this the other day, I think, the competition between Brian [Hoyer] and Ryan has been pretty good. They've both had their share of good plays; they've both had their share of bad plays. I think the most important thing is to try to eliminate the number of bad plays or mental mistakes or whatever it may be. Like I said last week when I talked, when we get into the preseason they'll have plenty of opportunity and we'll see how they perform when we get into game situations.
Q: We were talking about mentoring from veteran quarterbacks who can have a big impact. Can Tom Brady do that for Ryan Mallett or is that something you don't ask of Tom?
NC: There's a fine line between the player focusing on trying to improve himself in order to make sure he goes out and performs at an optimum level. But I think that meeting room in general, having been in a few different meeting rooms, I think the communication is good and I think everybody picks up something from one another. So I think each player is kind of focused on what they have to do, because if you start worrying about what somebody else is doing then it takes away from what you're trying to do. Tom's obviously got a lot of experience, he's a veteran, he's got a lot of knowledge and I'm sure those guys can glean some information from him.
Q: With the players being off tomorrow, are you off too, or do the coaches and staff not really get a day off?
NC: Yeah we're in training camp so there's plenty to do. You can ask Bill [Belichick]. I'm sure he'll be forthcoming about that.