PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
Q: Was there any ability to be able to trade Brian Hoyer as opposed to just releasing him the other day?
BB: I think there's a lot of things involved with that situation. That'd be a longer conversation. We did what we did. We'll stand by that.
Q: I'm writing a story on the Patriots-Steelers rivalry this week. Is there anything special for you about playing the Steelers or about the Patriots rivalry with them given that they are both cornerstone franchises of the NFL?
BB: You probably will capture it and have captured it. It's really about this game, what our opportunity is in the 2019 season. We have a long way to go. I have a ton of respect for the Steelers, Coach [Mike] Tomlin and his staff, their players, the way they compete. We've had a lot of very competitive games with this organization through the years. It's always tough. We know it'll be tough on Sunday night. We just try to focus on that and I'll leave the historical analysis to you.
Q: You've talked about the continuity within that franchise over the years. Even though it's only Week 1, do you still expect that continuity from them?
BB: Well, they have a pretty broad system. They're able to do a lot of different things. They don't do them all every week. They pick out the ones that they feel like match up best against their opponents and go from there. They played us a little bit differently, so we know they're capable of adjusting what they do to fit the needs that they perceive they need to address. We'll start somewhere, but I think there's a good chance we'll have to make adjustments on Sunday night. That's the way it normally is on opening day anyways, so that's how we'll approach it.
Q: Is there a balance to be struck by coaches in allowing guys to play fast but also needing to play within the system and focus on their assignment?
BB: Right. I think that's exactly what it is. You want to be as aggressive as you can, but take care of your assignments and handle the responsibilities that are incumbent on you to perform otherwise the concept of the defense and the integrity of the defense breaks down. Yeah, it's definitely a combination of both.
Q: How have you seen Chase Winovich strike that balance so far?
BB: Yeah, he's worked hard at it. It's different than what he did in college, but he's worked hard at it. He's made a lot of improvement. I think his understanding is better than certainly what it was when we got him, what it was at the end of the spring. He really gets better every day. He'll keep working at it and he'll keep improving. We'll see how it all comes together.
Q: What have you seen from Obi Melifonwu over his time here and what stood out about him this summer that allowed him to earn a spot on the 53-man roster?
BB: Yeah, well, Obi has a lot of skill and as he's gained more understanding of our defense, he has the physical ability to be a versatile player but last year that didn't manifest itself because he came in during the middle of the season and just didn't have as good a base or background as what he really needed to realize that versatility, so I think this year he's a lot further along there and has a lot more value to our team and our defense because of the number of things he can do. He's a smart kid but also he's a guy that has a variety of talents that give him value to our defense and special teams in different areas.
Q: Even though there hasn't been a consistent level of availability among the receiver corps throughout training camp, are there things you can do from a play-calling standpoint that can mimic some of that continuity that Tom Brady would be looking for at that position?
BB: Yeah, Phil [Perry], I wish there was. I wish we could just wave a wand and all of that would happen, but unfortunately I don't really see how that would happen. We'll have to do whatever everyone that's been here for a number of weeks has been doing, go out there and get the reps together and get our timing and develop that consistency and continuity and confidence on the field. I don't know how to create that by just, like I said, wishing it or talking about it. At some point you've got to be able to go out there and be able to execute it. We've done some of it. We'll do more. We'll continue to do more and we'll see where we're at.
Q: How much carryover does the matchup with Pittsburgh from Week 15 last season have in this game coming up just because it was so late in the year? Or does it become moot because enough months have passed?
BB: I don't think it's insignificant, but there are changes and, again, both teams have had a lot of time to prepare for the game and also – both teams are different than they were at that point in time. They've also had a chance to add, subtract or modify things schematically that they're doing and both teams have some different players that I would anticipate playing significant roles in the game that weren't part of that game. Those things are all different. But there's a lot of people that did play in that game that will be playing in this game, so I do think there's a relevance. I wouldn't want to say it's zero.
Q: How did Troy Brown help the coaching staff to this point and is that an arrangement that will continue through the season?
BB: Troy brings a lot of experience to this team based on his time here as a player and the experience that he had. Becoming one of the great Patriot players of all time – it didn't start that way. It was a process for him and then sustaining it and then moving on and adjusting to life after football. He has a lot of great messages, he has a lot of good experience. Troy's always been a smart, hardworking guy that puts the team first, will do whatever he can to help. I'm sure going forward he'll help us in any way he can. We'll see exactly what that amounts to. I'm not sure at this point.
Q: Were you pleased with the way the whole situation of releasing Demaryius Thomas and being able to get him back went down, and can that be a little nerve-wracking to let a guy go like that knowing you could lose him?
BB: Well, the roster management at this point of the season always has some moving parts. There are some unknowns. Each year and each situation can be a little bit different, not just based on us but how other teams react to those different personnel situations and so forth. I would say each year it's really the same, you try to do what's best for your team. There are a lot of things to take into consideration. The perfect scenarios usually don't exist or it would be very hard for those things to happen, so you make your choices and, again, do what you think is best for the team, and then based on how that goes in the first wave of the transactions then you adjust to it. It's a continuing process throughout the entire year, so where it is today and where it is next week and where it is in October, what the team's depth and competition is at the end of the season, I mean, there's a long way to go. We'll just have to see how it all plays out. I don't think anybody knows the answer to those questions right now. I don't want to say it's day-to-day, but it's not too much further away than that.
Q: When did you first discover Gunner Olszewski and first see his tape, and what led you to ultimately decide to bring him on board?
BB: Well, there were a number of steps in the process, but we saw enough to bring him in for a workout. We brought him in for a workout, ended up playing him at receiver. Didn't sign him immediately. Eventually put him on in the spring and he earned a spot on the roster. It's a long, winding road with some twists and turns in it. Not unusual for a player like that, but that's what it was. We'll see where that road goes. I don't think we're by any means at the end. I think he has a long way to go. He has a good opportunity and we'll have to see what happens.
Q: What's Gunner like as a person in the locker room?
BB: I'd say like most players in his situation, he's very competitive, wants to do whatever he can, is eager to learn, wants to try to play in the National Football League and earn a productive spot on the team, pretty much like everyone else does.
Q: How important was it to have a productive kicking operation last week in the final preseason game heading into this Week 1 matchup given that it will look different this year with Jake Bailey holding for Stephen Gostkowski's kicks?
BB: Well, as you know Bob [Socci], that's an operation that involves a lot of precise timing and execution by the skill players at their primary job and role on the team. It's always good to see good results but, again, it's a long season. A lot of things will happen along the way. I would say, generally speaking, the conditions aren't going to get any better than what they've been. There will be plenty of challenges and certainly the rushes will be more competitive and so forth, so we'll have to continue to work in that area but it's good to see some positive results but we have a long way to go and a long way to – a lot of opportunity to improve and hopefully we'll take advantage of that and have an efficient, productive operation there.
Q: How anxious do you get for the opener knowing you'll see for the first time in game action how your new units mesh together whether that be on offense, defense or special teams?
BB: Well, this game is just a step in the process. It won't be the final analysis but it'll be part of a continuing analysis. Yeah, we only play 16 regular season games, four preseason games. That's all we can count on so every opportunity – every game's an opportunity, every practice is an opportunity and hopefully we'll be able to take advantage of each of those opportunities, not just with the young players or the players that have less experience in our system, but with every player to improve both individually and for units to improve collectively with our overall execution. These are important opportunities for all of us – young, old, experienced, inexperience, whatever category any of us fall into and we all want to take advantage of them and do the best that we can, but there will be another game next week and there will be another game the week after that. It's a continuing process that there's a lot of baby steps, but in the end you can have a strong product if you just improve and go through that process every single day, but it's a grind. It's a good opportunity. Pittsburgh's a great football team and they do a lot of things well. They'll challenge us in a lot of areas. Hopefully, we can be competitive and cause them some issues, too.