HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
Video Press Conference
October 15, 2020
BB: I know everyone's aware of our connections with Coach [Nick] Saban and Alabama. So, just want to wish him a speedy and complete recovery from this COVID virus. I spoke with Coach Saban recently. We both talked about how much we've learned about this situation and some of the challenges that have come with it. I know he's been extremely vigilant and has put a great deal of thought and effort into the care of his team and players and he shared that with me. We both talked about things that we've done and have been helpful and so forth. As I said, just want to wish him the best from all of us here in the organization.
We're looking forward to getting back on the field today. We've certainly had a lot of meeting time, Webex meetings and things like that, but it's always important to get back on the field and to start to rebuild some of our fundamentals and execution that are so critical. We'll look forward to that today and tomorrow and throughout the week and look forward to playing on Sunday, as well. So, we continue to press forward with as much safety and vigilance as possible in our whole approach to football and all the things that surround it, our families and the safety of everyone involved here – players, staff, organization, so forth. We learn things every day and we continue to try to take steps to put everybody's safety at the very top of the list, and at the same time, try to accommodate the competitive aspects that we need to perform on the field. It's definitely a balance there, but we've got to put first things first.
Q: You've had four different guys lead your team in rushing over the first four games. No other team in the NFL has done that this year. What does that say about the level of talent and depth, not only in your running back room but also the performance of your offensive line as a group?
BB: Yeah, well, we have a lot of confidence in our backs, all the guys that carry the ball – receivers, quarterbacks, tight ends, whoever they might be. But, our backs have been a position that we've had good depth at for a number of years, at least on paper – I know we ran into some depth problems a couple years ago – but generally speaking, a high quality at that position and so feel like we have it now. I think that depth and competition is good for our team in the running game, in the passing game, in terms of depth and being able to have players on the field that can give you a high level of performance with a little bit different style and skillsets. So, that's really been, I'd say, a luxury for us. Our offensive line has done a very commendable job this year considering the number of changes and adjustments that we've made in the first four games. Hopefully that can settle down here going forward, but whatever it is, we'll deal with it and do the best we can. But, it's a hardworking group and they continue to make steady improvement from the beginning of camp through all the practices and the four games that we've played.
Q: Do you believe that depth and talent in the running back room makes you more difficult to defend because you can rotate fresh bodies in there and each guy has a little bit of their own special skillset?
BB: Yeah, I think I mentioned that. I think they do have different skills and we have many talented players in that group. What other people think of that in terms of defending us, I think you'd have to ask them, but I like the depth and the quality that we have at that position.
Q: What has been your impression of the way the rookies have handled this season? On one hand, they're adjusting to life in the NFL. On the other hand, this season has been far from normal. How have they adapted?
BB: Well, you're certainly accurate in saying it's been a challenging season for them and I think they've tried to do the best they can. It's new for all of us and new for them, but I think they've taken a responsible approach to it and continue to work hard and get better. They're further behind than any rookie group that I've ever had before based on the offseason situation and that rolled into training camp, too. So, they've got a lot of ground to make up to be competitive with players that have a lot more experience and have had a lot more training than they have, but they're working hard to be competitive. And I'd say that our coaches and other members of the organization have spent extra time with those guys to try to help them, not just on the field and on the football side of it, but also on the life skills side of it, as well, and coming to New England, adjusting to professional football and so forth. So, they've done their part and I feel like organizationally we've tried to support them probably more than we ever have because of the circumstances that you alluded to.
Q: What are your impressions of Le'Veon Bell as a player? Is running back a position where you would still consider adding somebody, or do you feel like your depth is such that you're well set there?
BB: Yeah, I wouldn't be able to really talk about anybody that's not a member of our team now. So, I'd have to pass on that one. Whatever I've said about Bell before on the record, I stand by that, for sure.
Q: You mentioned that you ran into depth issues at running back a few years ago. Is that something that you've tried to keep in mind since then, knowing how challenging it was? How critical has it been to keep that position well-stocked for your offense?
BB: Right, well, I mean, you always want depth and you can't have as much depth as you want at every position. You have to sacrifice something somewhere based on the roster size. There's a balance there between the number of players that you have and the quality of players that you have. Sometimes you have, let's call it, too many players because quality is there, and sometimes you don't have enough players. What depth looks like on the board and what it looks like in August and what it looks like in October and November are sometimes two completely different things. Which players are actually able to get out there and play and perform versus some names on a board or on a chart is quite different. It's something you have to constantly evaluate and stay on top of and plan for because you never know when you're going to need players at every position, not just that one. So, Nick Caserio, Dave Ziegler and their staffs do a great job of staying on top of all the personnel throughout the league and kind of what our next potential options would be depending on what we were looking for at every position. But, even at an individual position, there could be two or three different options at that position based on the need that you had. So, we try to stay on top of it and continue to monitor the depth. Where we are today and where we were last week and where we might be in a few days could be completely different. It's just something that you have to constantly monitor.
Q: Obviously, Gunner Olszewski make a comeback last week. What kind of improvements did you see from him over the course of the summer and into the season?
BB: Well, we've spoken about the rookies from last year at other points. I'm not sure if his name came up in that conversation or not, but like the rest of them, I think he's certainly improved, both physically and in terms of his rehab and conditioning, which started last year when he went on injured reserve during the season. And then as a player with a year of experience, even though it wasn't a full year of on-the-field experience, his experience in the system and in the league I think gave him a big jump in terms of what he needed to do personally from a training standpoint, from a technique and skills improvement and also just knowing how the rest of the league is – what to anticipate in terms of coverages, kicking situations and so forth. He's definitely a much better player and a much more experienced and aware player than he was last year, and I think that's shown up in the course of camp and in the game that he played in last week. So, it's good to have him back and hopefully he'll be able to make an explosive play for us along the way here.
Q: With Cam Newton coming off the COVID list yesterday, do you expect a regular workload for him at practice today?
BB: Well, we'll have to see how it goes. We haven't had an opportunity to do much here in the last 10 days or so. We've been on the field really one time. So, we'll just have to see how things go here and that's with everybody – it's not specific to any individual player – but just in general, we've talked about kind of getting back into things and evaluating a little bit as we go. We've talked about that as a coaching staff and I think we've just got to have a good awareness and feel for practice and see where everybody is. Are they where they were the last time we practiced regularly or do we need to make a little bit of an adjustment there? So, we'll just have to see.
Q: Do you anticipate Stephon Gilmore practicing today?
BB: Well, he would have to be cleared first.
Q: At the end of training camp, it seemed there was less movement among players with waiver claims and so forth. About this time every year, we're looking ahead to the trade deadline. Due to the circumstances of this season, whether it be the uncertainty day-to-day for teams with their personnel or the seventh playoff spot that maybe gives an opportunity for teams to be in longer contention for the postseason, is there a sense for what kind of movement there may be? Do you think the factors this year may make things different than they've been in the past when it comes to the trade deadline?
BB: That's an interesting question. I'm not sure I know the answer to that. We'll have to see how that unfolds. But you're right, there was much less movement at the end of training camp, and I would say even the movement now has been restricted and it's been restricted even further in terms of bringing players in from outside the organization in any capacity. So, that process now is really about a week before you could actually get them onto the field. So, that changes things, as well. Would that affect the trade deadline? I mean, I don't know. It might, but maybe it's a longer view than that, I'm not sure. So, it's a good question. We'll have to see how much activity there is or isn't. There certainly are a lot of unknowns going forward, not just this year but even in the next year relative to team building and salary cap and so forth. I think that may have everybody with a little less ability to really plan things out the way they want to do them and that may be causing some hesitation, as well. I think you're certainly seeing more players stay with the teams that they're on and teams using those players as depth with the injured reserve rules this year and the practice squad expansion giving teams more of an ability to do that, and I think we're certainly seeing that play out.
Q: Given the status of your current situation and that you're preparing for Denver again in what was supposed to be a bye week, does that make it more difficult to take stock of your team at this point in time? Would you normally use the bye week to do that more so than any other week?
BB: Well, certainly, yeah, it does. I think it's a little harder this year to, in your words, analyze your team, just because of the number of moving parts. Again, the way that things are configured this year – again, the injured reserve, the practice squad availability – there are a lot of things there that change not only our team, but the teams that we play very much week-to-week, as well. I would say it's a little bit harder this year to take that long-term view of team analysis and so forth, again because of the number of changes and adjustments that not only our team but other teams have made so far in the season and I think there's probably a good reason to think that it will continue that way to a certain degree. To me, we're much more in a week-to-week or a shorter term window – a two- to three-week window relative to getting players back and so forth – than what we would be in a normal situation.