Q: Can you speak to what you have seen from Ryan Allen this year in terms of situational punting?
BB: Yeah, sure, Rich [Garven]. Punting is such a situational play, and it's not just standing there and kicking it as far as you can. It's making the right kick in the right situation. So, sometimes part of that's the rush, sometimes part of it's the coverage, sometimes part of it's the field position and game situation, time left and so forth, and certainly the elements and field conditions come into play there, too. But, overall, he has done a very good job for us in those not just situational punts, but last week when he was backed up and had to hit for distance and coverage, field position, into the wind, he did a good job of that, too. Ryan works hard and he's really a guy that pays a lot of attention to his job and all the little things that we ask him to do. When those situations have come up, he's done a good job of executing them.
Q: Did you have a chance to watch any of the college football games yesterday? What are your thoughts on Nick Saban and Brian Daboll getting back to the title game?
BB: Yeah, I did see those games, a couple of the games on and off yesterday. There were a lot of great games on. Certainly, Notre Dame, that was a big finish, too. But, yeah, I have a lot of friends in college football, and sometimes they play each other, so it's hard to root for one and root against another. But, yeah, definitely happy for the SEC teams, for Nick and Brian, you know Kirby [Smart], and so forth. But, there were some great games yesterday.
Q: Dion Lewis did not receive as many touches in the first four or five games of the season as he is now. Was there a point in the season when you saw something from him and decided his snaps needed to increase?
BB: Again, as we've talked about before, every week is its own week, and every week we try to do what's best for the team and make the best decisions for that week. So, that's what we did. When players get opportunities, the better and more productive they are with those opportunities, usually the more they get. So, I'd say it's some combination of those factors and probably hard to go much beyond that.
Q: How important has the downfield blocking been from your receivers in the success of long runs? Specifically, what have you seen from Phillip Dorsett in that facet of his game?
BB: Well, I think overall, our receiver group blocks well in the running game. They compete hard to do that. I think Chad O'Shea has done a good job with those guys and Josh [McDaniels], also, makes it a strong point of emphasis. We talk about it a lot. They work at it and do a good job. That's a tough thing because not every run really gets to that point, so you're doing it a lot, but on certainly more than half the plays, I won't say doesn't make any difference, but the play just doesn't get to the next level, so those blocks don't really matter. But then when it does, then they're the difference between call it a single-digit run and a much longer run. So, you have to really just be diligent and grind it out and be consistent and do it all the time. And, eventually, when we get to that block, then it becomes a critical block, and that's when we need it the most. But, those guys all have a good work ethic to make those blocks and take pride in them. The receivers have overall done a pretty good job of competing in that area.
Q: How valuable has it been to have Nick Caserio provide continuity at the top of your personnel department?
BB: Good, good. In Nick's case, he directs everybody else in the college and the pro end and coordinating those things with the coaching staff. So, it's good to have continuity and consistency in those areas. But, we know there's turnover in this league and there's turnover in this team. When those things happen, then we take the appropriate steps and try to continue to put a competitive product on the field.
Q: Is there anything about playing the Saturday night divisional game that is preferred or different, other than simply the time and date, compared to a Sunday afternoon game?
BB: I mean, I think you're talking about a few hours of difference between 8 o'clock Saturday night and whatever it is, 1 o'clock Sunday afternoon. So, it's a few hours. I don't think it makes a whole lot of difference going forward. I mean, if you win, which is a big if - I mean, if you win, it gives you a few more hours than a team that played a little bit later. But, I guess that's about it. Preparation wise, the bye teams have a different schedule than the teams that are playing. We all know that. But, I think at this time of year, a few hours of preparation one way or the other, as we saw when we played Pittsburgh, I certainly don't think those things are insurmountable ever, but definitely not at this time of year.
Q: Many players on the current roster were not with the team in the spring, training camp or even the first part of the season. Could your provide insight into the process of integrating these guys into the team, especially in the week-to-week environment that exists during the season?
BB: Well, that's a tough question because, again, it depends on when you're talking about the players come onto your team. So, there's a big difference when a player comes onto your team in training camp or in September compared to mid-season or December, as we've gone through with a couple guys this year. So, the bottom line is you look at the window that you're facing - the short window, so the immediate game or the immediate practice - whatever your first challenge is, and try to get the player ready to do that so that he can at least start to take some steps in the right direction, then you build on that, and depending on what your time frame is, you adjust it accordingly. I mean, each situation's different, each player is different, each position is different, and if the player's role is let's say definable, then you work on that role first and you get to the other potential roles or maybe backup roles as a secondary level of preparation. So, really, you do the best you can. The player does the best that he can. There are a lot of things that a player has to acclimate to on a new team. That's not just the playbook. It's teammates and the way certain things are done and practice tempo and all kinds of things. So, you try to pick out the ones that are most immediate, most important and build on those and go from there.
Q: Will you ever encourage players to watch film on various players around the league to perhaps pickup subtle nuances of their game and not just for the reason of needing to mimic their skill set in practice on the scout team?
BB: Sure. We do it all the time. Yeah, do it all the time. You could say to a corner, 'Hey, watch how so and so played this receiver. Make sure you watch this game or watch the way he played him in the red area,' or something like that. Or say to an offensive lineman, 'Hey, watch this game. Watch the way so and so blocked this guy - the way he set him or the way he did whatever it is he did.' So, yeah, there's plenty of that where you tell a player that the way we want to do it is the way that somebody else did it. There's usually an example of that. If you're trying to illustrate what we want to do, there's usually an example of somebody else doing something similar to that with some success, or conversely, 'This isn't the way we want to do it. Watch this player in this game and you see the trouble that he had doing it that way. We definitely don't want to do that against this particular matchup.' But, that's fairly common. Of course, we always try to tell our players how the other team is going to run their plays so that when they practice them - because our offensive players don't study the other team's offense and our defensive players don't study the other team's defense - but we do want them to understand how they need to simulate the plays that our opponent is running, and so we show them those plays and make sure that they understand the key points. You can't tell them everything but, 'This type of runner likes to cut back, or this type of runner loves to go outside, or this type of player isn't going to go outside. He's going to always try to get downhill or this quarterback is going to scramble and run. This quarterback is going to scramble and try to look deep,' those kinds of things; whatever the coaching points are for that particular guy or that particular situation, because if you don't tell them that they're not going to be able to get it on their own. They're not even looking for it. Yeah, we try to do that. I think there are examples of it, as I just gave, on both of those, whether it's simulating what another player does or watching another player play a guy that you're going to play against and learning from his play against him.
Q: Is there more time to do that this week with the bye or would you want to see who the matchup is before suggesting that kind of thing?
BB: Right. Well, right now we could play one of three teams, so that's a lot to get ready for. It's hard to get ready for one team in this league in a week, let alone get ready for three. I think this week's a little bit more about us, about doing the things that we can do better, about each individual player and coach trying to look for areas of improvement for himself or his group or what he does. Hopefully, be able to apply that in some way to whoever our next opponent is. There are a lot of things that if we do better it doesn't really matter who the opponent is. There are just things that we need to understand better, or execute better, or just practice and get a better timing and maybe relationship, or things like that on those plays that would help us no matter who we play. I think those are some of the things that we'll spend a little more time on this week.
Q: What has made Ryan Allen so efficient in punting the ball with all of the different weather conditions that you get in New England?
BB: Well, Ryan's gained a lot of experience since he's been here. He's operated in those conditions in practice and in games. I know he's learned from those opportunities to kick in various weather situations repeatedly. So, you do it and you learn from it and the next time you try something a little bit different and maybe some part of that works, maybe some part of it doesn't. The next time you continue to build off of it over a period of time and then heat, and cold, and rain, snow, crosswinds, wind in your face, wind at your back, so forth and so on. You just get used to it. You learn what you can do, what you can't do, how much is a problem, how much isn't a problem and try to combine all that with game plans and the strategy of the situations in the game, but in the end it comes down to being able to hit good balls, make good punts, whether those are long, or high, or in a direction; whatever it happens to be. Ryan's a smart kid. He works hard. His game is important to him. He's very coachable. He takes corrections and understands what you want him to do and tries to do it. He's gotten better in a lot of areas. He'll continue to work hard and hopefully continue to improve.
Q: Are there certain things that you coach a punter on throughout the week regarding technique?
BB: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, definitely. Again, there's a lot of different techniques depending on the type of punt that you want to hit, whether it's for distance, for hang time, for both, directional, plus-50, to a single gunner, accounting for the wind and so forth. Those techniques change depending on the type of punt that you're trying to hit. Sometimes your timing changes based on how much of a rush there is, or if you have to bring a gunner in and maybe you can't block everybody, or you need to get the ball off before a player that's not blocked gets to the punter; things like that. So, there are a lot of different situations in punting and therefore there are a lot of techniques that go with those particular individual punts that have coaching points with them or corrections that go with them. Again, it's sometimes easier. Sometimes when you do it you can know what you did wrong, know if you made a mistake right away. Sometimes it's easier when somebody else is watching you that's not involved in the mechanics of the operation. They can observe it and sometimes they see it a little bit better than you do. There's a give and take on that, too. A lot of times when you're coaching those guys you see something. Sometimes it's a fine line. It's hard to see it, but the player can feel it and he can tell you kind of, 'This is what happened on this.' Sometimes he knows how to fix it. Sometimes he might need some help from the coach to help him fix it or help him correct the mistake. Those are very fine-tuned skills. Again, it's a lot like hitting a golf shot. The difference being, of course, there are guys running at you and you have to handle a snap and all. You can't just put the ball on a tee and swing. But, the mechanics and the technique and all that, on a golf swing it just doesn't take much for a good shot to be a real bad shot and punting and placekicking are a lot like that, too. A couple of inches one way or another, or the tilt of the ball or something like that - an inch or two on the step or an inch or two on the ball placement - those kinds of things can make a huge difference in the result. [You're] trying to work for that level of consistency, and timing and execution that's the same over and over again. That being said, it never really is the same because each punt is different. Each snap is a little bit different. You start moving all of those situations into the equation and they look the same but there are subtle differences. They're important differences and good players are able to make those adjustments. Ryan's done a good job of that. It's great to be sitting here on Tuesday talking about all this punting. It's great. You don't get a chance to do that. Actually, you know, I really enjoyed [coaching punters]. I enjoyed coaching [Dave] Jennings, [Sean] Landeta, [Tom] Tupa earlier in my career. Those guys were all right-footed punters and they were all good and could really - they could do a lot of good things. We've had a lot of left-footed punters recently. You just kind of have to look at it a little bit differently, but still the fundamentals are the same. I've been fortunate. I've had a lot of guys that have had good hands, could handle the ball and could place the ball pretty well at those positons throughout the years. It's been a good thing. The kickers, really, you go back to [Matt] Stover; he was pretty good. Obviously, Adam [Vinatieri] and Steve [Gostkowski] here. I've been real fortunate to have good specialists, good guys at that position. Same thing with snappers - Lonnie [Paxton] - Joe [Cardona]'s done a real good job for us. Lonnie was great. It's nice to put your head on a pillow and not have to worry too much about those positons.