PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
BB: I guess I'll start this morning, just take a couple minutes and say a short tribute to Paul Zimmerman. Certainly express my condolences to the family. Paul was a great ambassador for professional football, and I think that what he did through the years with his background and insight on the draft, I would say some of the behind-the-scenes organizational insight that he gave due to his great sources and trust that he created with so many people was pretty interesting reading in the Sports Illustrated columns. I always kind of felt like Paul and Will McDonough were kind of two of the really well-connected, respected writers that covered the game, certainly when I came into the game and then for many years thereafter. So, certainly a sad day to hear about his passing. He made a great contribution and certainly popularized a lot of things that today have blossomed into major, major stories and events that I'd say he was in there on the ground floor on. So, moving onto Green Bay.
Q: Did you have much of a personal connection with him?
BB: Yeah, I talked to Dr. Z a lot, yeah. He was at all the owners meetings and would always talk to you, call you before the draft, a couple times during the year. You know, we played in some big games through the years with the Giants and here, and of course he was always at those. So, yeah. He was a great guy. I mean, really got a lot of respect for him.
Q: Talking to the players this week, they have talked about how they're ready for a 60-minute game, which could possibly come down to a two-minute situation at the end of the game. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have had a lot of history with that. When you see them operate the two-minute offense, what stands out to you about their excellence in those situations?
B: Yeah, well, I mean with Rodgers, it's the San Francisco game, the Chicago game, our game, Dallas game last year - I mean, you just go right down the line. He's got a million of these. They're a very good football team, they have a very good scheme, they're a very good situational team and Rodgers is a tremendous player. So, he's great in those situations, he finds matchups. In [the] San Francisco [game], he scrambles for 30 yards with 40 seconds to go. I mean, that's not a conventional type of play, but it's the kind of play he makes. We know he can throw it short - catch and runs - he can throw it deep, he can run, he can scramble and extend plays, he's got great presence, great awareness and got a great sense of the situation, the play that needs to be made in that situation, and he makes them. So, he's really hard to stop because he does so many things so well. And again, very well-coached, has a lot of great players around him and weapons and he knows how to use them. So, yeah, he's tough in every situation, but he's really tough in those situations.
Q: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix played every snap for the Packers this season. With him now being traded, what have you seen from the players who might be stepping into that starting safety spot?
BB: Yeah, well, we'll see on Sunday. They have a lot of experienced players back there. Certainly, [Jermaine] Whitehead's done a good job for them in a lot of different roles. [Josh] Jones is a very talented player that I'm sure has more than enough skill to play that position - not sure where exactly they are on him. But, I mean, give him a good opportunity to play, I think he would play more. If it's [Tramon] Williams, it's Williams. I mean, they have a lot of depth at cornerback with the two rookie corners. So, they have a lot of options. They play a lot of defensive backs anyway, so we'll have to be ready and see how it unfolds, but obviously they did what they thought was best to do for their team. I totally respect that, and they have a lot of good young players and depth in the secondary, so I'm sure they're planning to move some of those guys up.
Q: What makes Kenny Clark so disruptive?
BB: He does everything well. He and [Mike] Daniels are two really good players. Kenny has a little more length than Daniels does, but they're both quick, they're strong, they're active, play on their feet well, have a good motor, can go all day, play a lot of snaps. You know, some defensive linemen don't play as much as they do. They're in there a lot and they're productive a lot. So, both hard to block. Again, Clark's got a little more length, but they're both very disruptive players. And with their instincts, their quickness, their playing strength, high motor, good effort, makes some plays from behind, they're hard to knock off the line of scrimmage - just two really good players.
Q: Is there one lesson you can pinpoint that you learned from Dr. Z?
BB: No, I mean, I just had a great relationship with him. I had a lot of trust in him. He was always honest and whatever he told you, you could take to the bank. If he asked you something off the record and you gave him an honest answer, that would be the end of it. You would never read about it. Or, he would ask, I would say, some in-depth questions that you wouldn't normally get from a lot of other of the people necessarily that I talked to. He would ask different types of questions, in-depth questions. And, again, he was very involved in the draft and that wasn't a big - there weren't very many people that did that. I mean, again, Will did it, obviously Joel [Buchsbaum] did it, but Joel was a grinder. I mean, he watched film, he saw every player. That was a different type of draft preparation. You know, Dr. Z knew the players, knew the teams, had a lot of great resources and connections, kind of like Will did, and they were able to put things together at a level that was, I'd say, pretty high, pretty accurate. I mean, for a guy who wrote about the draft a week before the draft and would get quite a few things right, it was, I thought, pretty impressive. You always wanted to read that story. It was usually a week before the draft.
Q: Duke Dawson has been at practice for a little while. What kind of confidence do you have that he can come back and contribute?
BB: Yeah, he's making progress every day. Certainly, the time that he had to rehab and get healthy or get stronger, so forth, was good for him. Now it's good to get him on the field, get him in there working on the scout team, taking some defensive reps. So, we'll see how it goes. I mean, he's, I'd say, closer every day.
Q: With guys like Sony Michel earlier in the year or Dawson now, what can you do as a coaching staff to make sure he hits the ground running when he does get back?
BB: Yeah, well, the No. 1 thing for any player is just to be healthy when they come back and be able to do everything physically that they need to be able to do. And, in the meantime, there's a lot of staying up on the material, staying up on any new calls or adjustments that we put in so they don't fall behind on those, doing walk-throughs and keeping up on the film. And then, as they get progressively healthier, start to do individual drills that don't involve contact or don't involve stress on the injury part that is being rehabilitated and be able to work on those things - like catching balls, for example, things like that, where you may not be involved in running but you can work on your ball skills, things like that. So, you do what you can do, and what you can't do, you wait until you're able to do it and then you start doing that. But, you certainly don't fall behind in the things that you are able to do just because there's something that you're not able to do, if that makes any sense.
Q: The Packers have blitzed considerably more in the last few weeks. What sort of challenges does that present when you face a team that has blitzed 45 percent of the time in the last three games?
BB: Yeah, well, they do a good job mixing it up. Certainly, if you're not picking it up, they're going to keep blitzing you. So, I mean, I'd say that's the message. If you can't handle it, then Coach [Mike] Pettine will just keep firing them in there. So, yeah, they give you a lot of different looks. There's a lot of different combinations that they use to pressure, and the ones that we're working on this week, we may not even see those. We might see something else or could be different guys, different players in different spots, so it's not quite the same identification that you had on film from another game, and sometimes that's confusing. You know, a guy's a safety and now he's a linebacker, he was a nickel and now he's a corner, and he was a corner and now he's a dime and so forth. So, making sure that we have the right guy - you know, make sure that we know who we have, that we have a hat on a hat. Then you have to block them. I mean, that's the other part of it. Blocking Clark, blocking Daniels, blocking [Clay] Matthews - blocking those guys, that's an issue, too. But, you've got to pick them up. If they run free, then that's obviously a bigger problem. But, it's definitely a challenge. They do a good job of it and they give you a lot of different looks. I mean, it's similar to what we saw in Buffalo. That's part of Rex's [Ryan] defenses, too.
Q: Aaron Rodgers had the knee injury earlier this year. Do you see any limitations from him?
BB: I'd just watch the end of the San Francisco game. I think that will take care of that for you. Yeah, he looks healthy to me. If he's got more left, then that's even worse, but he's plenty athletic, is moving well. I mean, they're having a hard time catching him and tackling him. So, maybe it can get better, I don't know, but it still looks pretty good.
Q: Does their multiplicity on defense stem more from a high volume of different designs and concepts, or will they just shift personnel to different assignments within certain looks that makes it look different?
BB: Yeah, concepts, really a lot of them stay the same. Yeah, that's a great question. A lot of the concepts stay the same. They just move it around and it looks different, but they know what they're doing because it's the same thing that they've done, but it's from a different look or a different alignment or a different personnel grouping. So, it looks different to the offense, but it's not that much different to the defense. And, certainly after the ball is snapped, they end up in places that they're frequently in. But, they have a number of - you know, the same guy could cover the flat, he could cover the middle, he could blitz inside, he could blitz outside, he could run a game, and then you have five or six different guys that can all do that. So, every guy can do two or three things, and then when you multiply that times multiple looks, and then change the offensive formation, which kind of then can displace their people a little bit - it doesn't look quite the same if it's two-by-two as if it's three-by-one, or if it's empty - now you have exponential possibilities. So, you're looking at one play on film, but if we're in a different formation, it would look differently and so forth. The wheel can get spinning pretty fast there. But, fundamentally, a lot of it is carryover for them. Like, they're not drawing up 50 new plays every week. They move them around, but most of the time they end up in places that they know how to play, what to do and they match the patterns and so forth well, coordinate the rush well because there's a carryover from what they do.
Q: Have you been impressed with Julian Edelman's ability to get back to looking like himself so quickly after a year off the field?
BB: Yeah, well, I thought Julian had a good camp, and he showed, even from the spring when he was out there, that he was pretty close and had a good training camp, was able to do those things in camp. So, I think we saw that. I don't think you're exactly sure what you're going to see the first time, but by the time we got through the spring and into training camp, I was pretty confident when he came back that it would be where it was earlier this year, and I'd say it has been.
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