The Patriots get an extra day to prepare for Monday night's showdown with the Dolphins in Miami but Bill Belichick conducted his final press conference with the media as is typical on Friday. The coach discussed the idea of playing a division opponent after such a quick turnaround as the teams are set to meet for the second time in three weeks.
Belichick was asked how he intended to use the extra day of preparation time.
"To try to prepare as well as we can," Belichick said. "Again, at this time of year, there are a lot of situations. Teams have played 12 games. There's a lot more to cover than there is in Week 3 or Week 4. Not that there isn't a lot then, but just more things have come up.
"We're doing more things than we did two months ago. They're doing more things than they did earlier in the season. So, the number of variables now becomes exponential as we add 10 things and they add 10 things and now you've got a hundred things and you can't practice a hundred things.
"We have a lot of things to work on, go over, and again, whether we did or didn't play them recently, it doesn't really have too much effect because we have to go back and we all need to review it. I mean, I wasn't thinking about them last week, but now all that has to come back and it all has to be reviewed. You've got to be ready to react to it and handle the variations that come off it, and that comes with preparation that there's no shortcut to it. You just have to do it."
Captain D-Mac –The coach was asked some questions about staying focused and how one player in particular – Devin McCourty – handles such situations. Not surprisingly, Belichick was quite effusive in his praise of his safety.
First Belichick was asked if McCourty was one of the players he relies on to make sure the team's success is not taken for granted. He said McCourty "would be at the top of that list, 100 percent." Then he was asked to expand a bit on how the safety has evolved in that area over the years.
"He does it every day. Devin just does a tremendous job – the leadership that he's given us, the professionalism, the embodiment of the team and putting the team first, I mean, on every level," Belichick said. "I don't know how it could be really much better or any better than what it is. He does a tremendous job every day from 7 in the morning when things start going here, to our meetings, to our walkthroughs, to the practice field, to the film sessions, to game days, to after the game – the way he handles every situation, he does a great job for us. The leadership he gives us is tremendous. I don't know what else to say."
You the Man!! –Belichick didn't save all of his praise for just one of his players. Nate Solder is the Patriots nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award and the coach was asked what the tackle brings to the team.
"A lot. Nate works hard, he's always been a great teammate, a great worker in the weight room and on the field, very diligent, always tries to do his absolute best, whatever you ask him to do," Belichick said. "He started off playing right tackle for us and then left tackle. He played a lot of jumbo tight end his rookie year. He's always embraced whatever role it is we've asked him to take on and has done his absolute best with it.
"Off the field, I think his involvement with his family and what he does in other areas, charitable areas and with underprivileged children and hospital visits and so forth is exemplary, and that's been well recognized, as well. Yeah, he does a great job."
Lining up nicely –Finally, Belichick was asked about the condition of his offensive line and whether or not he's seen any differences from last year.
"I think they were in good shape last year. I think they're in good shape this year," he said. "I mean, we do a decent amount of running and we run after practice. I stand right there when they run and I can feel them run by. I mean, I'm not timing them, but I can feel when they're running fast. I can feel when they're not running fast. I can feel when they're breathing heavy. I can feel when they recover quickly.
"I think that group, the entire group, not just whether it's Cam [Fleming], or LA [LaAdrian Waddle], or Ted [Karras], whoever. Not just the guys that play but all of them. I think it's a well-conditioned group. I would say they run well. They run well as a group.
"That's, I think, one of our strongest groups considering their size. They run fast. They run hard. They recover quickly and then they run fast again and run hard again. You don't see that group look like they're struggling to keep up. They more than keep up. I think they've worked hard all year and they're in good shape."