PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
October 6, 2023
Q: Good to have J.C. Jackson back?
BB: Yeah, good to see J.C. You know, try to get him caught up here and see how that goes, but got him in here late Wednesday night, Thursday, so catching up with him.
Q: Any chance he'll play on Sunday?
BB: We'll see. We'll see how it goes. He got a few snaps yesterday, see how it goes today. We have a few moving parts here, so just got to figure it out here as we get to the end of the week.
Q: Now that you've had Will Grier in the building for a couple weeks, what stands out to you about him?
BB: Yeah, sharp guy. Good understanding of – he's been in a couple different systems – but he has a pretty good understanding of the offensive system and kind of what we do, what's different about it from Cincinnati to Dallas and vice versa, picking up terminology. I think he's getting more comfortable each day, each week. Good arm, pretty athletic kid.
Q: Do you see him as competing with Bailey [Zappe] for the backup job or is that depth chart at quarterback pretty much set?
BB: Yeah, no, I think we just take it week by week here, and I think before you can really, realistically, get in there and play, you've got to have a pretty good command and understanding of the offense, play calling, be able to let the other 10 people do their jobs. But, again, Will's sharp and he's picking things up pretty quickly. I mean, if we had an emergency and we had to put him in there, I think, yeah, we could try to get him ready. But, I mean, the other two guys are just further along at this point.
Q: Is competition on the depth chart more difficult during the regular season just because there's fewer practice reps for non-starters?
BB: Well, again, all the players that have been here are pretty familiar and should be able to do whatever we need them to do in their roles. So, I'd say it's just with players that are new, very new, Will would be an example of that, some of the guys on the practice squad that have only been here a couple weeks. It's just harder with those guys, yeah, because you can't get them as many reps as you can in training camp or in the spring. So, unless you're just wiped out at that position and they're forced in, then they get ready to play. How well they play and how well-versed they are, that's a whole other story, but they have to play.
Q: Cody Davis and Trey Flowers have been out on the practice field this week. How does it feel to have them back out practicing with the team?
BB: It's good to have all the players that haven't been able to practice back out there. That's what they're here for. That's what we want them for, so it's good to see them out there. So, Cody and Trey were on the PUP side of it. [Riley] Reiff was on the IR side of it. Different categories, but in the end, functionally, it was the same – guys that have been out that are now coming back. So, it's good to see those guys back out there, and, again, that's what they're here for.
Q: What have you seen from Mac Jones over the last few years, just his ability to bounce back from a not-so-good performance?
BB: Anybody who plays or coaches in this league has not so good performances somewhere along the line. So, part of the job, part of the situation, every week's a new week. Mac's pretty mentally tough. So is everybody else around here. I mean, you have to be in this league. If it just goes from bad to worse, then you're not going to be around very long. We all get knocked down, got to get up and go back in the ring.
Q: Russ Francis passed away about a week or so ago. I was curious if you could share your thoughts about a guy that had a pretty serious impact on this franchise and maybe the league as a whole?
BB: Yeah, Russ was a pretty special player, really unique type of guy. At the Giants, we didn't play against them too much because there were different conferences, but we got them a couple of times, and then we got them when he went to San Francisco. They weren't in our division, but it felt like it seemed like we played them twice a year. So, coached against Russ a lot, tremendous athlete. He was really a prototype tight end, super athletic, good blocker, strong, good football player, really good football player. I got to know him a little bit here when he came back for a couple of events back here, got to spend some time with him. Fun-loving guy, sat out his senior year at Oregon, you don't see that very often. In any case, great guy, really a love of life, love for the game. He's about as good as we faced, and we faced some pretty good ones when I was at the Giants. I'm talking about that era, the 80s, late 70s. Chuck [Fairbanks] drafted him. He was in the league before I got in the league but was one of those guys who was really a good player. Not a wide receiver, but he had some wide receiver skills, I would say, for a a tight end, kind of like [Rich] Caster did at the Jets. Back then, most of the tight ends were more like tight ends tight ends, a version of an offensive lineman that could also run and catch a little bit. They could split Russ out. Russ had some, like I said, receiver skills. Keith Jackson was like that at Philly, couple of guys like that. He had some special skills as a tight end, and he could block and he was tough. And, he was tall. He was a big target. You couldn't overthrow that guy. He had a huge catch radius, good hands. Yeah, he was tough. Sad day, sad for that, and obviously Tim Wakefield.
Q: Dick Butkus also passed yesterday. Just curious if you have any thoughts on what he meant to football in general?
BB: Yeah, protype middle linebacker, in everything, from his playing style to the look. He was a Chicago Bear if there ever was one. You know, I got to spend a little bit of time with him at the NFL 100, the Super Bowl in Miami when they introduced us, spent a little time with him down there. That was great to get to meet him, talk to him, spend a little bit of time with him, ton of respect for Dick, his play style, what he did for the game. At that time, the way he played, he was the ultimate middle linebacker – tall, long, too – obviously a great run player, great tackler. But, he had a lot of length. It was hard to throw around inside. Then, they had [Brian] Urlacher, who was another long guy in the middle of the Bears' defense. It was just hard to – those guys that are 6-4, 6-5 – I think [Don't'a] Hightower, Jamie Collins, [Leighton] Vander Esch. Those bigger, taller linebackers inside are a problem in the passing game, they really are. It might not seem like a lot, but really, zone coverage and all of the zones are a lot smaller with those guys. Yeah, Butkus was a heck of a player. Butkus and [Mike] Ditka, I mean, those are your two Bears.
Q: We saw Riley Reiff kick inside to guard this summer, obviously played a lot of tackle throughout his career. Is he locked in to one position at this point or is he someone that you could move around?
BB: Well, again, it's always good to have versatility when you can have it, not everybody gives you that, but some guys do. He's comfortable playing different spots. Some guys need to lock in to one spot, and he's comfortable doing multiple things. He gives us that versatility if we need it, at both spots – guard and tackle.
Q: Atonio Mafi has stepped up for you every game this year. How have you seen him grow since this summer?
BB: I think he just keeps growing through his whole career. Started as a defensive lineman, played one year at UCLA on the offensive line. You know, we had him out at the East-West game. Even his growth from the East-West game, to the spring, to training camp was a lot. He's been out there every day. He works hard. He's a smart kid. He's really smart. He just doesn't have a lot of experience playing on the offensive line, but gets better every day, doesn't repeat a lot of mistakes. There's just some things he hasn't seen a lot of. The more he sees them, the quicker he reacts to them. He's grown in all areas – fundamentals, just overall awareness, recognition and playing against different types of players – some guys inside are big, powerful guys, and there's other guys – especially when they kick [defensive] ends inside in passing situations, those ends move inside. The Jets would kick [John] Franklin-Myers in when they bring [Bryce] Huff in the game, stuff like that, so now you're blocking a defensive end, a guy like [Deatrich] Wise [Jr.]. We do that some too, with Wise and Keion [White], kick those guys inside. It's a different type of player to block, so those different matchups and different pass rush games, it's a lot at that position. He gets better every day. He's got a good future, if he keeps working hard and keep working on his fundamentals and just be a really good fundamental, technique player, he's got a chance.
Q: How's Jonathan Jones progressing?
BB: It's good to have Jonathan back out there this week. He did some things last week and was able to do more this week. So, coming to the end of the week and see where we are with him, but certainly a lot closer than he was this time last week. It will probably be today, maybe tomorrow, that we'll make a decision on this, but I'd say that he's got a chance.