Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media at the Brit Oval Cricket Grounds in Kennington, London.
BB: This is quite an experience for us, all of us, the team, the players, and myself. I've been in the National Football League 35 years and this is the first time I've been to a facility like this. So it's kind of cool and I'm looking forward to the experience this weekend at Wembley [Stadium] and the couple of days we have here in London. It would be nice if we could hang around a little bit longer and see the Tower of London and all that [laughter]. It's a great, great city with great history and I love that it's getting into football and the NFL.
Q: [On whose decision it was for the team to arrive on Friday]
BB: It was our decision. What we tried to do was get all of our work done in New England, all of our preparation. We have kind of a regular routine that we go through Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and the day before the game and then play on Sunday, so in this week we tried to cram three days–Wednesday, Thursday, Friday-into two and half-Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday and Thursday-and then traveled today. So we're just going to get out here and review some things today, just get loosened up and get acclimated to the time change and so forth. So today's really a review day for us. We tried to get our preparation done at that end and then do the adjustment part of it at this end.
Q: Over the last few years you've lost a lot of assistant coaches, and yet with the average amount of assistant coaches in the league around 17, you only have 12. Can you to talk about the less is more philosophy?
BB: Well I think every team goes through transitions as far as losing players, losing coaches or front office people. That's just kind of the nature of the National Football League. You look at all the changes of the head coaches last year and that's fairly common, so we deal with that turnover on an annual basis. I've always kind of thought that the smaller staff is a little bit easier for me to handle and the coaches that I've worked with, particularly coach [Bill] Parcells, is certainly one that lived in a small staff. I know my first year with the Baltimore Colts we only had seven of us, seven assistant coaches, and a lot of teams in the league had double digits, 12 or 13 coaches, that kind of thing. I just think from the head coach, if you have a smaller staff, it's easier to get on the same page and communicate well with them and make sure that us as a coaching staff are on the same page going to the players. I think the more coaches you have, when you have 20-something coaches, it's hard to get all of those people on the same page, let alone to get all of the players to have that kind of consistency, too. Certainly nobody can do it themselves, but I think when you have one coach responsible for a group instead of two or three, it's easier to get the kind of consistency and communication that you need within that group. So that's kind of why we do it that way. But that's how I was brought up and that's kind of what I know and I guess I'm comfortable with it. I'm sure other coaches have other ways of doing it and have good reasons and they're very good and they do a great job, too. I'm not saying it's the right way, it's just our way.
Q: Would you support an NFL franchise one day being based in London?
BB: Yeah. Whatever the league wants to do. Right now I'm just trying to coach the New England Patriots and do the best job I can with that team and, believe me, that's a full time job, so whatever the league wants to do or decides to do with the rest of the scheduling, the franchises, whatever it is, that's really pretty much up to them. I don't have any input on that. But I love coming to London. If we get to play a game across the ocean, I'd rather play it here than a lot of other places I can think of.
Q: How are you so successful bringing in guys who might have seemed unhappy in other scenarios and getting them to buy into the Patriots philosophy of "team first" like Corey Dillon and Randy Moss?
BB: I think that any time we bring a person into the organization, we try to bring in somebody who fits and can do their job, whatever that happens to be-- coach player, scout or whatever it happens to be. If they can do their job and we feel like they fit into the overall kind of philosophy that we have organizationally with Mr. Kraft, myself and the whole organization, then we feel like that's a good fit. And the players that you mentioned, I think were very successful in their own right with different teams and they certainly came into our organization and made huge contributions and they were great teammates for our players, great players on the field and they've provided a lot. Randy's been our team captain for the last couple of years. I think he's earned the respect of everybody in the organization, particularly his teammates, who have elected him [captain], and he gives us great leadership on and off the field. He's done a terrific job for us. Glad we have him.
Q: Have you decided about those open roster spots?
BB: No. We haven't. We'll probably do that after practice here today. Just make sure that everything is okay, everybody can do what we want them to do and so forth and we'll make that decision tomorrow morning. But certainly we're closing in on it.
Q: [on Tom Brady]
BB: That's a tough question because I haven't had an opportunity and privilege to coach all of those players that he could be compared to, but I have had the opportunity to coach him his entire career in New England. We drafted him in 2000. He came in very unheralded and he has been one of the hardest working players that I have ever been around. He's very smart. He takes coaching as well as any player I've coached. You tell him something, he understands it, he knows how to apply it. Sometimes when it pertains to a certain situation and not another one, he can certainly differentiate that. He's got great vision on the field. When he comes off the field after a play in practice or in a game and you ask him what happened, he can tell you six or seven things that happened in the play, what the coverage was, somebody that rushed that was in his way, what the linebacker did, where the safety was, how he saw the corner, whether the receiver ran the route the way he thought he would or not, and then you watch the film and it happens exactly the way he describes it. So he's got great presence on the field, like in the pocket, he just knows when to step up, when to slide, when to release the ball right at the last second before he gets hit. He's just got a great, great feel and presence for that. Those are some of the things that he does really well. Being smart, working hard, and he's worked very hard on his throwing mechanics and techniques. His accuracy and his delivery of the ball is really outstanding. He makes great decisions with it and so we give him a lot of responsibility in the offense, on the play calling, decision making and things like that. He does a great job of handling it and making the right decisions.
Q: Junior Seau told us outside that of the great things about you is your consistence as a decision maker. Is that hard to do and how do you achieve that?
BB: Well what I try to do is make decisions that are best for our football team. And some of those are hard, some of them are pretty obvious, but in the end I try to do what's best for the team and that excludes any personal feelings or personal relationships. It's what we feel like is the best thing for the football team. We're in a very competitive sport, competitive environment. We all understand that. There are a lot of players on this team, and coaches I might add, including myself, who have been released or changed teams for one reason or another. So in the end it's a competitive sport. It's based on performance and that performance is week to week and year to year. So that's how we try to approach it-we do what's best for the team on a weekly basis and try to do what's best for the team on annual basis. Sometimes that's not popular and sometimes that's not easy, but that's what we try to do. And that's what we try to do in order to try to stay competitive.
Q: During the offseason, you lost a lot of veterans on defense-Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Rodney Harrison. How do you feel like the defense is right now? It's very young.
BB: I think we have a lot of, you know, there was a point in time when all of those player that you mentioned and some other ones were young and inexperienced and not leaders either and they grew into those positions. And I think we have a lot of players on our team, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, who have those characteristics and have grown as leaders over the course of their careers and have taken a bigger role on defense this year, players like [Brandon] Meriweather and [Jerod] Mayo, Gary Guyton and younger players like that. But also some veteran players like Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, Jarvis Green, Eric Alexander, guys like that who are on our team that have been here for a while, whether it be a couple of years or, in some cases, like Jarvis and Ty and Vince have been here quite a while, that have stepped up and taken over those positions. So again our team is evolving just like every other team is. There is always a turnover, younger players replacing older players in one way or another at some point in time. That's the way it is in this sport. With our team, just like every other team, when that happens, the younger players have to assume more responsibility. It happened with Tom Brady when he was a rookie, second year player and took over for [Drew] Bledsoe. It happened with Bruschi when he was a younger player and took over for Vincent Brown. That's pro football.
Q: Are you happy with the way the defense played last week?
BB: Well last week was one of those games where a lot of things went right for us. It's very unusual to have a game like that. I'll be lucky if I see one of those in my entire career. Last week was last week, this week is Tampa. Tampa is a very explosive football team. They have a lot of young players. They're very dangerous in every phase of the game. They get a lot of turnovers on defense. They're an explosive return team. Good coverage team on special teams. Offensively, they have a good set of backs, a couple of outstanding tight ends, a very mobile quarterback, good receivers and a good offensive line. So we don't really care about last week any more. We're on to trying to defend and move the ball against Tampa and handle their kicking game, so that's our challenge this week
Q: Did you know that [the Patriots] are the most popular team in the UK?
BB: I didn't know that, but I'm happy to hear that.