PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
Q: What were your impressions of Riley McCarron and Braxton Berrios in the kickoff return game and the impact of the new rules last night?
BB: I think it's about what we expected. It's about what we practiced. We haven't been able to practice it at the full-speed tempo we had in the game last night, but I think it's about what we thought it would be. As I said, the speed and just the technique and the speed of the play is obviously different in game than it is in practice, but I thought it played out about the way that we thought it would. I think we were close on a couple plays. We need to clean up a couple things and just coordinate the blocking and the returner setting up the blocks and handling the penetrators and get the deep players who are with the returner coordinated. So, we have some work to do there, but there were some things that were done close to the way we want it to be done. So, we'll build on those and try to fix some of the other things.
Q: When you're evaluating guys like McCarron and Berrios, how much of it is their individual performance and how much is dependent on the particular unit, especially in the preseason when you have so much personnel you're trying to evaluate?
BB: That's a great question. We try to evaluate the individual players based on their performance, but the other players on the field definitely affect that, so you can't ignore it. So, yeah, that's a good question and it's hard to blame one guy for somebody else's mistakes or credit one guy when another guy is really the one who made the play possible. So, you kind of have to try to take those into consideration. We try to elevate each player individually, but there are other things that go on on the field that are relevant, so we have to be aware of that.
Q: Watching practices, it seems like the competition level in the receiver group is very high. Would you agree with that and what have you liked from this group?
BB: Well, I think we have good competition in a lot of positions, Jim [McBride], and I'd put receiver in there with that. Unfortunately, we didn't have much production in our passing game last night, so hopefully we can improve on that going forward. But, those guys all have worked hard and they are improving. We've gotten better, but we need to be better in the passing game overall. It's not just them, it's the entire group - all the skill players and just our overall timing, execution in the passing game wasn't very productive last night, so we've all got to do a better job with that and coach it better and execute it better.
Q: Ryan Lewis has seemed to have a pretty good training camp and made a big hit last night. What is your overall evaluation of him? And what was your reaction to his non-block on the Geneo Grissom fumble return?
BB: Well, again, Ryan falls into the category of several other players that we have on our team that practiced with us last year but didn't have the opportunity to play in a game. This is the first game that he's really played in for us. Last year, he came to the practice squad at the end of preseason, and we have a few other players that fall into that category, as well, of maybe guys that played in the preseason last year but spent the majority of the season or all of the season on the practice squad and then are going into a new year with a new opportunity and actually play in the preseason games this year. It's a learning experience for everybody and I think overall that group has made a lot of progress. They have a better understanding of the system, more confidence and communication on the field is better. But, they're still young and don't have as much experience as some other players do. There's a long way to go with them. But, we're making progress there - certainly not there yet. We'll just keep working at it.
Q: You have played a lot of football the last few years with back-to-back trips to the Super Bowl. Does that influence the way you set up training camp, with some players taking less reps this year?
BB: Well, our overall schedule and situation is what it is. There isn't really much we can do about that, and playing late into the season the year before is definitely what we want to do, so not complaining about that. But, it does affect the following season, there's no question about that. In the end, we try to take everything into consideration that we have, what our opportunities are, where we are as a football team, collectively and individually with certain players that may need modification of their work load and so forth, and then try to do the best that we can with that time and those opportunities for our players and for the team development as a whole. That's a balance that we talk about every day. We have a general plan, but we discuss it each day, sometimes to modify it or occasionally make a change in it. But, usually we try to stick pretty close to what we've planned. But, there are times when we can't quite stay on schedule for one reason or another. Yeah, there's a lot of factors involved, but the one that you mentioned is definitely one of them that comes into play.
Q: Is it fair to say that Tom Brady is one of those players that has had his schedule modified this year?
BB: Well, again, each player - and there could be a number of factors involved in the decisions - but yeah, we have a number of players that their workload is affected by other factors. And so, again, we take that into consideration with every player. It's not any one player; it's every single player that we put on the field. Some guys can need modification for one reason or another, and depending on what we're working on that particular day, that may also contribute to what that player does or doesn't do and how beneficial that would be for him versus what the other alternatives are. That's the way it's always been - there's nothing new there. I think that's just how you have to manage your team, you have to manage your players and you have to manage your positions because sometimes positions - the depth or lack of depth, depending on which way it goes - if that's imbalanced with a complementary position on the other side of the ball, then that affects what you can do and how much you can do and the competition. I mean, you don't want nine guys going up against two guys - that type of a situation - so, you have to find some way to balance that out. But, again, that's all part of training camp when you're working against each other, and then what that shifts and you start preparing for a team where you're not really working against each other very much or as much, then that changes the way the workload is distributed based on your preparations for that particular week. But, again, that's all part of it. That's always been part of it. I can't imagine a coach that doesn't do that, certainly at this level. So, it's like that for everybody.
Q: How pleased are you with the depth on the offensive line? It seems like there might be more experience in that group than usual.
BB: Yeah, I would agree with that. We have some, not necessarily experience on our team, but experience in the league. We have several players that have had two, three years experience in the league that are very competitive for position on our team. We drafted one player and one of our players didn't resign with us in free agency. We only carried eight offensive linemen last year. So, there's definitely a lot of opportunity overall at that position and we have a lot of players that I think are pretty close in the competition, both inside and outside, and we tried to give everybody a good look last night, as we have through camp. Not everybody was able to participate last night, but the ones that did I think all had a pretty fair number of plays. So, we'll just continue to let that play out and see how it goes.
Q: Obviously, there is an element of small sample size in preseason games, so how important is it for a player like Jeremy Hill to maximize those opportunities that he gets like he did last night?
BB: Right, well, every day and every play is an opportunity. So, we encourage our players to take advantage of every opportunity they get, whatever that is - whether it's in practice, where it's in a walk-through, whether it's in games, whether it's on the scout team - and they're able to improve, work on their techniques and make impressions, positive impressions, with their performance in that area. So, it all matters. We watch everything. We see all the practices, all the games, offense, defense, special teams and just try to evaluate what we see, instruct the players on how to improve and take advantage of the opportunities they get and evaluate how they do and how they compare to each other when guys get similar opportunities, so we can eventually pick our roster and make decisions on playing time and so forth. Every day is an opportunity. Every play is an opportunity.
Q: I wanted to follow up on Jim McBride's report that Tom Brady was dealing with a sore back and that was limiting his reps. Do you have any further information on that?
BB: No. Sorry, Tom [Curran]. I don't.
Q: Were you pleased with the way Derek Rivers' training camp performance has translated into preseason games? And how much does he still have to get better given that he is coming off injury?
BB: Right, well, Derek's situation is a little bit different than some of the other players we referred to - guys that were on the practice squad, for example, last year that practiced the entire season but didn't get a chance to play in the games. Derek really didn't get very much in training camp and of course he didn't practice at all during the year. That's kind of the bad news. The good news was that the injury occurred very early and he rehabbed very well, so he's been able to participate in everything that we've done this spring. He hasn't missed a thing. He's worked very hard, very diligently and is in great shape and has been able to take a lot of reps, which he needs, and improve. He's still got a long way to go and there's an element of him making up the reps and experience that some of the players last year who were rookies, either on the practice squad or on the 53-man active roster, were able to gain some experience that he wasn't able to gain. But, as I said, there's nothing we can do about that now. The good news is he works extremely hard, he's in good shape, he hasn't missed anything out there, so he continues to practice hard, to learn, to get better, to make adjustments and improvements and just keep grinding it out. That's what he can do, that's what he should do and it's what he's done. So, we'll see how it goes.
Q: In a game situation last night, did it feel like Rivers took the step forward you would have wanted him to take in that scenario?
BB: Well, again, it's the first game action for all of us - coaches, players, everybody. There was certainly rust for all of us that we need to get off and smooth out and fine tune, and that includes everybody. I'm sure that as we build off this game and this week into future preseason games and even training camp practices throughout the next couple weeks that we'll see improvement. We'll just have to see how all that goes. I don't think last night - it's a start but I don't think it's where we're going to be. I hope it's not where we're going to be. We're all going to work hard to try to move the bar up, on the practice field and in the games, the preseason games, the opportunities that we have left. So, we'll see how it goes, but that's what we want to try to do.
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