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Transcript: Bill Belichick Conference Call 12/1

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media on Tuesday, December 1, 2020.

Q: What have you seen from Justin Herbert on tape and how impressed have you been with his play so far this year?

BB: Yeah, he's impressive – very talented player, tall, sees things well, has a good arm, can certainly make all the throws. He's athletic, can escape the pocket, smart. They do a number of things at the line of scrimmage – you've seen him check plays, audible against pressure, change plays against check-with-me type situations. So, it looks like he's going be a good quarterback for a long time, a lot to work with and I know he's a smart, hard-working kid that likes football and I'm sure he will continue to get better, as he has this year throughout the course of the season. He's improved from the early games that I've watched, and like I said, has a lot of good skill players to work with – good tight end, good backs, good receivers. So, yeah, he's a good player.

Q: Were you able to spend time with him in the pre-draft process?

BB: Yeah, we evaluated him. I think he's got, like I said, all the tools. I think you saw that at Oregon. Even in the bowl game, he did about all he could do and did it well.

Q: In the midst of the pandemic, what are the logistical challenges of trying to set up a trip like this to not only play two games, but to stay out there and have all of the things you need to be effective while you do it?

BB: Well, the bulk of our travel plans are done when the schedule comes out. You have to secure transportation, particularly hotels and all that. You can't wait until the week before the game to set that up. So, those things are done well in advance and then sometimes details get ironed out based on the size of the travel party or maybe there's a time schedule change and so forth – work that out with the flight and the hotel. I would say, for the most part over the years and even including this year, I'd say 95 percent of all that is done well in advance of the trip. With an occasional exception here or there, there's 5 percent that's left to do during the actual week of the travel relative to some logistical change that might occur or something that pops up. So, really, that's all been taken care of. When we made the travel arrangements back in the spring, we were dealing with COVID back then, too. So, it wasn't like this was unexpected. It was all talked about then. For the most part, our travel this year has been fine. It hasn't been an issue.

Q: Is there an additional challenge of finding a facility where you can practice?

BB: Yeah, again, we went through that last spring and that hasn't been a problem.

Q: On Sunday, you had two big returns on special teams and obviously Adrian Phillips's interception, as well. Moving forward, how critical it is to set you offense up with some favorable field position through your return game?

BB: Yeah, I mean, that's always something you want to do. Play good complementary football and the units helping each other out – giving the defense field position, defense and special teams trying to create field position for the offense, and then the offense taking advantage of it when we get it. We've turned the ball over a decent amount this year. We haven't had a lot of return production until last Sunday. So, hopefully that will continue to get that. Even though we've been close quite a bit this year, finally we were able to actually realize it against Arizona. We will work hard to try to see if we can continue that. But, yeah, the field position, putting the offense on a short field, that's our objective every week.

Q: From your perspective, do you view rookie quarterbacks or young quarterbacks as being able to transition to today's professional game maybe more quickly than guys at that position have been able to in the past? The top three guys in the last draft have all had varying levels of success. Is that something you've noticed and is that due in part to some adjustments that their coaching staffs have made to make them more comfortable from a schematic point of view?

BB: Well, I mean, I think good players are going to have a certain amount of success at every position regardless. But, that's a big jump in year one, especially at that position. So, I don't know. You would have to talk to those guys and see what they think. It's hard for me to imagine that they feel like it's an easy transition and they haven't had any problems. I mean, I'd have a hard time believing that. Whatever they do or don't do this year, I'm sure the experience has been beneficial. I'm sure they have learned a lot. I'm sure they will feel a lot more confident and will probably be even better next year and in future years. I think we have seen that with a number of the young quarterbacks here that have performed well throughout the league in the last three or four years that they've gotten better. Some of them played their rookie year, some of them didn't, but it's a tough position to play. It's a lot to learn. It's a lot to process, both on your team and what the opponents do against you. Like I said, I think good players will play their rookie year if they are good players, but they will also get a lot better.

Q: With your travel out west, are the players going to be required to basically just be in their hotel rooms and then go to the practice facility, or will they be allowed some sort of freedom? If not, how do you keep them from losing their minds if they are just going from field to room every day?

BB: Alright, well first of all, we are traveling out there before the Chargers game, so it won't be a whole lot different than other road trips or the trip we had to Seattle. What happens after that, I mean, that's a whole other conversation. Right now, honestly, we are focused on the Chargers and getting ready to prepare and play them. But, I mean, there's not a lot of difference between this trip and the Seattle trip just in terms of time, scheduling and so forth, other than that was a night game. But, a lot of the other elements of it are very similar.

Q: Last week, you contained Kyler Murray pretty well. Was there any particular player on the scout team that played him last week during practice? This week, you face Justin Herbert, who is a different type of player. How important is it to stimulate him well during practice to have a great game Sunday?

BB: Yeah, that's one of the things that we really talk about as a coaching staff and the most important thing in terms of preparing for a team that we can do is our practice. So, trying to get a similar look at what our opponent does during their scheme and to get it executed well by the practice player and also to see players that can give us a good look at what we are going to see on Sunday, that's very helpful. Sometimes we use a combination of people. Sometimes one person can sort of fit that. Sometimes we use some of our regular players on the scout team. They can give us a good replication of the type of player that we are going to see on Sunday. This will be a combination of all those things, and we'll talk about it. That's one of the things we'll talk about today for our practice planning for tomorrow and through the week is how to divide up the players. Sometimes you might have one player that could be one of two players, and then you have to pick out which one you want him to be and that type of thing. So, each week is a little bit of a different conversion. At the same time, we want to try to give those players an opportunity to work on things that will help them in their position, either improve or prepare for the game. Like, if they are backup players that would have a role in our game, not practice squad players, then we don't want to necessarily ask them to do something that is totally different that wouldn't help them work on their skills. So, it's a great question and it's really a combination of trying to take all those into consideration, plus the overall health and physical condition of your team and individual players, guys that you might want to practice a little less or there might be players you want to practice a little more. So, it's a combination of working all those things out. It's really a weekly discussion that at times can become a daily discussion on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday based on what you are working on as you go from, call it, early downs to third downs to the red area. That could change a little bit, too. So, if you get a team like Arizona that maybe had a tendency to use the quarterback in the running game more in the red area than they did out in the field, then maybe the player you use to be that running quarterback is different than the guy you use on third down. So, again, I would say it's usually a combination of people, but it's very much of a week-to-week and even sometimes a day-to-day decision. That's a great question. It's always something we want to try to get ahead of, and like I said, try to present the best look at what our opponents do as we can so that the plays in practice have the most similarity to what we'll be facing.

Q: How much did Kyle Dugger's ability to read and react in the running game and his open field tackling show itself when you watched him in college? Is that the type of thing that can transcend the level of play, even though he was playing Division II? Were those things that were evident when he was playing at Lenoir-Rhyne? We have seen him get more reps as of late and show that ability to read and react and provide the run force.

BB: Yeah, well, Kyle's done a good job and does things that you mentioned, Bob [Socci]. His tackling's been good, physicality's been good, and as he gains experience, his recognition and all that is improving rapidly. To the earlier question, I think I talked about this after the draft, but I mean with all due respect, whoever he tackled at Lenoir-Rhyne, whoever he covered at Lenoir-Rhyne, it's just a lot different here. I mean, he never tackled Kyler Murray or Lamar Jackson or [Kenyan] Drake or any of these guys. Like, there's just a whole different – now, at the Senior Bowl, I think you could see, let's call it, comparable level of players at a comparable point in their career. Those matchups, I think, were a lot more helpful then the matchups in college. But, in college, you could see schematically and just from an instinctive standpoint, him reading the quarterback and playing the ball and taking angles. He was certainly a contact player, but I would say the level of competition was dramatically different. The Senior Bowl was a much better evaluation of him against a higher caliber of player than what we saw in college. And, I would say in college, the scheme was pretty basic. Again, at the Senior Bowl, you have NFL coaches, you have NFL-type coverages, NFL-type passing game, both in practice and in the game. So, you get to see two different to different looks at it. You get to see the practice look where players are practicing against the NFL team that is coaching them, and then in the game you get to see them play against another NFL style of play, but different from that other coaching staff. So, for a player like that, I'd say that was a big opportunity for him, and we felt like it gave us a lot of insight into the player.

Q: Is there a certain level of fearlessness, especially so in that kind of a role?

BB: Yeah, well, there's different levels of aggression and physical contact and play and so forth. I think he's definitely shown that. I don't think that's ever really been a question. But, look, as you move up in class and move up in the caliber of competition, it's always more challenging at the next level. We have certainly seen a lot of backs here and particularly that's where some of his high-contact plays have come in, whether it's blitz pickup or dealing with blockers and running backs running full speed. We have seen a lot of those guys this year and he seems very competitive with them. I don't think that's really a question. It's really technique and recognition, but again, good technique on contact is a lot better that bad technique on contact. I think that's really the challenge for all players is to try and put themselves in a good football position where you are able to play with power and strength and handle contact whether you are absorbing it, delivering it or defensively trying to avoid it get to the runner – avoid it or deal with it in some way. So, being able to strike on the move and being able to defeat obstacles on the move, blockers on the move is one of the most fundamental parts of football that exists.

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