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Transcript: Bill Belichick Press Conference 12/16

Read the full transcript from Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick's press conference on Thursday, December 16, 2021.


December 16, 2021

On Lawrence Taylor's rookie year and what contributed to him assimilating so quickly to the NFL:

BB: His dominance. The greatness of Lawrence Taylor. He's bigger, stronger, faster, more explosive. Even though he didn't really know what he was doing, instinctively as a football player, he's at the very top of the list.

On what he remembers about Lawrence Taylor's rookie year and what stood out to him:

BB: First practice. He played on all four phases in the kicking game, so he was hard to block on punt protection, as you can imagine. We didn't use him too much there. He was the gunner on the punt team. He was impossible to block. He played in the middle on kickoff return and he had some of the biggest hits I've ever seen. He played safety on kickoff coverage and you were never really concerned that they were going to get it too far, past the 30 or whatever. So, he dominated from the first day of practice. Playoff game against Philadelphia, he really was the difference in that game, just on covering punts. Then of course, once we started doing that with Taylor, then the Redskins did it with Monte Coleman, Dexter Manley, well Dexter Manley first and then eventually Coleman. Anyway, just other teams started doing it and so then it was kind of almost wish we hadn't done it. But there's nobody that really I could put in his category that I've coached. There may be others that I haven't coached, but I mean, he's head and shoulders above whoever the next player is. And I've been fortunate to coach a lot of great, great defensive players, but when you talk about Lawrence Taylor, now that's a whole different conversation. I mean, honestly, he could have played any position on defense except corner. He probably could have played corner too, but safety, linebacker, inside, outside, defensive end, defensive tackle. He played nose guard at North Carolina, so put him wherever you want.

On the role of the linebackers in the pass defense and in particular Kyle Van Noy:

BB: Kyle's a very good pass defender. Watching him in college, he was walked out in coverage a lot, for a player of his size and athleticism. You usually see those kind of guys rushing the passer all the time and playing more on the line of scrimmage. And then, he was kind of used in a similar role in Detroit, where he played off the ball a lot. So he's had a lot of coverage experience, which is, I would say rare for an outside linebacker both in college and for the early part of his pro career. So he has a very good understanding of what's going on behind him in the passing game, combination routes and how to leverage receivers and combine that with reading the quarterback and man coverage and working in combos and man coverage and things like that. I mean, there's obviously a lot of things in pass coverage that are a very high degree of difficulty and defensive backs spend all day and all week going through those and then you put a linebacker into that situation who's spent a lot of time defending the run, playing the outside running game, rushing the quarterback, running pass rush games, and then throw all that pass coverage on them and it's a big load. But Kyle's very, very good at that. Very instinctive in the passing game. He's an excellent run player, has played on the line and off the line for us, which that in itself is hard to do, but his athleticism in space relative to some other outside linebackers is good, very good and his instinctiveness is good, his awareness, ability to change coverages based on motion and things like that. He's not a defensive back, but it's certainly on the high end of the linebackers being close to defensive backs in terms of their awareness, their ability to adjust and recognize things in pass coverage like a lot more of what you would see from an inside linebacker than an on-the-line, three, four type outside linebacker. So he's done a good job for us and is able to play all those spots and honestly, you kind of forget about how easily he does it. You sort of take it for granted. Jamie [Collins]'s got some of those same skills too, so does High [Dont'a Hightower]. So we're really fortunate to have multiple players who can do those things and go in and out of different looks, fronts and coverage responsibilities and they all work well together.

On how much he reads into what an opposing player or coach says prior to a game:

BB: Well, we'll get ready and prepare for the game and play the game and see what happens.

On Davon Godchaux:

BB: Davon's been a really good player for us. He's played primarily on the nose, but then in some games and in the Buffalo game in recent weeks there have been more times where he's played at end because of Carl [Davis Jr.]'s emergence and play on the nose as well. So, between L.G. [Lawrence Guy], D.G. [Davon Godchaux] and Carl, it's three pretty good run players that are all on the field at the same time. So he's shown a lot of versatility and playing on the center, on the guard, in a two or three technique, and then out on the offensive tackle on a four or five technique. His pass rush I think has really improved this year. His transition being able to play the run and then when it's a play action pass, the transition from a run technique, go pass technique quickly and it's not an easy thing to do, because the play starts off as a run, but it's not a run. And so, he's really done a good job of that, has a lot of strength, a lot of toughness, runs well, has good quickness. And again, he's a very instinctive player. He understands blocking schemes and blocking patterns and so forth and does a real good job. Really protects our linebackers, like all the defensive linemen do. They do a good job on the front, which makes the linebacker's job cleaner. So yeah, he's been a great addition. Glad we have him and his versatility to play away from the ball as well as on the ball has been really beneficial for us with Carl getting more snaps on the ball.

On how his expectations of Hunter Henry matched up to the player he is:

BB: Yeah, pretty close to the previous scouting report from Kevin [Kelley] and Bret [Bielema]. Hunter's very professional every day. He's a very consistent guy. You know what you're going to get. He comes in here. He is well prepared. He's ready to go. He trains well. He's in good condition. It's taken a lot of snaps this year from the spring and OTAs to training camp to the regular season. Again, you get a very consistent player that's instinctive, very smart and if you make a little adjustment in a route or a technique or how to read a certain play, he gets it the first time and understands what you need him to do and how the quarterback is looking at it and how to help the quarterback, how to help the play, how to create separation or spacing depending on what we're trying to get done there. He's a big target. He's got good hands and he's a hard guy to overthrow. He has good catch radius and catches balls behind him and low and high. He's really, like I said, a very consistent player, whether it's the spring, training camp, regular season, seven-on-seven team drills, games, he's really a solid, dependable, good football player.

On what's impressed him or surprised him about Rhamondre Stevenson:

BB: Well, I've been impressed by Rhamondre's growth. He's very coachable. When you ask him to do something, he really tries hard to do it the way that you want him to do it. He's improved greatly in every area of the game. He's a player that has gained a lot of trust and confidence from his teammates, certainly from the coaching staff, really in every area. Running game, the passing game, ball security, blitz pick-up, run reads, run techniques, so forth, using the blockers and understanding the blocking schemes. He just gets better every day he goes out on the field. So, he's been great to work with and has really shown a lot of improvement, consistency, consistency in his daily routine and being out on the field just continues to get better, because he is out there practicing every day and trying to take the instruction and coaching that Ivan [Fears] and Vinnie [Sunseri] and Josh [McDaniels] are giving him. I think anybody on the team would tell you that he's improved tremendously from where he was, let's call it in July, to where he is now. We see it on defense, we see it on offense. He's just one of those players that's just gotten a lot better and he's pretty good to start with, but he just got a lot better in terms of adjusting his skills and his game to the team that he's on and what we've asked him to do.

On what qualities he looks for in hiring personnel:

BB: Well, again, in the end, you want to get the best position, best person for the position that you can. So it would depend on the position, the job and maybe who some of the other people are that they would be working with around them and how to best balance that out. But again, there's certain criteria for each position in the organization that I think we'd want to try to meet, or as many of them as we could. And then again, maybe a person has strengths in one area and maybe not as much in another area, but maybe of another person that has strengths in that area that's also part of that staff or group or, however you make it up. So always looking ahead, always understanding that people who have high level positions in our organization could obviously go somewhere else, be elevated in another organization. So you kind of have to think about what if that happened, how we'd want to handle that. And so there's all always a little bit of a, "who's the next person?" How do you help them develop and gain responsibility and become part of the process? Maybe they may not be a decision maker in the process, but at least become part of the process and understanding how it goes and what are their contributions and would they be ready to move up and so forth. Then there's always a possibility of bringing somebody in externally if you can find the right fit there. Again, depending on what you're looking for and what the other person's qualifications and experience was. So whether that was a person like Floyd [Reese] or Mike Lombardi or people like that.Obviously I have a background with those people but not recently. It was I would say, what, I don't know, 20 years with Mike and probably more than that with Floyd, 30 years maybe, I can't remember. So it's a lot different than going from one organization to another with somebody like with Scott [Pioli], when Scott came with me in 2000 to New England. We came together. So those other moves were a little bit different. In the end, you try to have a little bit of foresight but really each situation is its own unique circumstances and variables and you try to do the best you can, not only with that person, but the staff that goes with them.

On what kind of impact Brandon Bolden has made from a leadership and culture standpoint, especially with some younger guys in his position group:

BB: Yeah, Brandon's one of the best and always has been. It was great to get him back here. And a couple years we didn't have him whether that was '18 in Miami or last year on the opt-out, we certainly missed him and missed his leadership, his personality. He's always about football, but he has a nice way of putting a smile on his face, cracking a joke, pointing out a mistake that I've made, whatever. He's a good personality that blends that serious, competitive, business side with enjoying the process and enjoying what we do and giving us some of his best performances at the most critical times and biggest games when we need them most. And he's always done that, whether it's a couple plays a game, or catching five or six passes in a game, or taking over James [White]'s role this year. He's always ready to go. He's dependable, he's consistent. Everybody knows we can count on him whether that's in the kicking game or offensively catching a ball, blitz pick-up, running the ball. And I would say one of the most impressive things about Brandon this year with all that he's done is his unwillingness to give up his role in the kicking game and to continue to excel in those four phases where he's outstanding. But he hasn't forced somebody else to step into that role. He's maintained that role as well as taking on the bigger offensive role he has and that's been a big commitment from him, both the time commitment in terms of practice and preparation and obviously a physical commitment. So very, very fortunate to have Brandon. With a player like James White, it's hard to get both of them in there at the same time but then as soon as you need Brandon, this is where you really see his true value, professionalism and maturity as a player and as a person. And again, as far as leadership on the team, I think for any of us, whether you play running back like [Rhamondre] Stevenson and [J.J.] Taylor – young guys like that couldn't ask for a better role model than Brandon. But for anybody on the team, whether it's an offensive player, a defensive player, a coach, anybody, the way he goes about things, his consistency, his unselfishness, his willingness to do whatever the team needs him to do. And play tough, play through something when he is banged up, play in tough situations and come through is really an inspiration for all of us. So, he's had a great year for us and, and he's really, really come through so many times as he always has when we really needed him.

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