There was a minor scare in involving Tom Brady when he took a hit during the Patriots 31-24 loss to Seattle last week, but the apparent quad injury he suffered (he has not been listed on the injury report this week) has not been an issue.
Brady hasn't missed any practice time as a result and Bill Belichick was complimentary of his quarterback's consistency during his Friday press conference just before the team left for San Francisco. In fact, Belichick also offered some praise of Jimmy Garoppolo for his role in the team's preparation at the same time.
"There are a lot of great qualities that Tom has and [dependability] is right at the top of the list. Certainly it's important for him to be physically healthy, but it's very important for the team, on a weekly basis, to be able to go out and practice and get the timing with the quarterback who is going to play in the game," Belichick said.
"If you're missing the quarterback, you can still get it and certainly we have a good quarterback in Jimmy, and Jimmy can go out and run everything that Tom can run. We've seen that. So I'm not saying that he's not capable or qualified to do it. He is, and he does a great job of it. When we put Jimmy in there, it's really seamless. Unless you were actually looking at the position, and if you just could just block out that position and say, 'Which guy was in there at quarterback?' I don't know if you would know a lot of times.
"But for the quarterback to have that kind of consistency with the snap count, the cadence, the way that his voice or mannerisms or reminders in the huddle, little things like that; the whole timing and everything on the line of scrimmage and running the plays in practice, that is a huge carryover to the games.
"Again, Tom's consistency to do that -- not only for himself but for the rest of the team and the ability for the rest of the team to have been able to count on that -- is very important."
Belichick and his team boarded the flight for San Francisco a few hours after he wrapped up his press conference but he still had time to touch on a number of things.
Rookie development - Rookie cornerback Cyrus Jones hasn't exactly hit the ground running in New England. He's had a difficult time with ball security as a return man and he struggled in coverage as an extra defensive back before getting ejected from a game in Cleveland in Week 5. That helped earn him a spot on the inactive list for the next three weeks before he returned for the loss against Seattle.
Belichick was asked about is development as a cornerback and the coach explained how reps on the scout team can be invaluable.
"He's worked hard. He's had, as you know, when you're working with the scout team, a lot of times, that's a better opportunity to develop as a player than working not on the scout team because you're working against our best players doing the best things that they do. You're seeing our best players trying to run our offense and you're out there on the scout team trying to cover it or defend it as the case might be.
That's a great opportunity to improve for practice squad players or scout team players, and that balances with the players who are playing trying to execute the plays that they're going to have to execute on Sunday to win. I would put him in the same category as a lot of other players in that they work very hard on the practice field to improve their individual skill and their craft and that's a great time to do it; a great place to do it, to work against our best players at the complementary positions, so he's done that."
Belichick was then asked a follow-up looking for some examples of players who benefited from the scout team reps the coach spoke of.
"All of them. [Julian] Edelman, Brady, [Ryan] Wendell, Steve Neal – Steve Neal didn't even play football. I mean, they don't just grow on trees. There's a process in all the guys. Dan Connolly. We had many offensive linemen that weren't even on the team for two or three years and then they … Wendell, I don't think he was on the team for three years and then he ended up starting for us. Steve Neal couldn't even find the field but was a good football player, but it was a process. Julian was another guy. He played three positions he had never played in college, and hasn't played the positions that he did play in college. I could go on and on. That would be a long list."
Winning identity - Belichick often says it takes several weeks to determine the identity of his team but on Friday he didn't seem to care about such labels. The coach was asked if he felt the team needed more swagger than it currently had and was indifferent altogether.
"Yeah, I don't really know what that means, so I can't answer the question. I'm just trying to win games. I'm not trying to create, I don't know, I don't know what the identity is. The identity I'd like to have is a team that wins a lot of games. We've had some of that around here, so I'll take that rather than being known as a, 'this kind of team' or a 'that kind of team.' I think if you're a smart, tough football team that wins games, that's what you want to be. The rest of it, I don't really know what that means."
Metric system - The new age of statistics that has swept through all of professional sports has evidently not made much of an impact on Belichick. The subject of quick releases for quarterbacks came up, and when it was posed in relation to metric websites the coach offered the following exchange.
How important would you say the quick release is to your offense? Would you say it's something that's been talked about more in years because of the advanced metric websites, or has it always been there?
"The, what now?"
The quick release, quarterback release.
"What metric are you talking about?"
The advanced metric websites that put emphasis on quick releases by quarterbacks.
"What is that? I mean, you could take those advanced websites and metric them – whatever you want. I don't know. I have no idea. I've never looked at one. I don't even care to look at one. I don't care what they say. As far as a quarterback goes, read the coverage, throw the ball to the open receiver and take the best matchup. That's what it is in a nutshell. The quicker we're open, the clearer the picture, the sooner the ball is going to come out. If we don't have anybody open, who is the quarterback going to throw it to? It's timing, decision making, execution by the entire offensive team. That's what the passing game is. The receivers have got to get open and catch the ball. The quarterback's got to read the coverage, make the right decision and make an accurate throw. All the metric pages and all of that, I mean I have no idea. You'd need to ask that to a smarter coach than me."