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Transcript: Bill Belichick Press Conference 12/28

HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK

PRESS CONFERENCE
December 28, 2018

Q: Elijah McGuire has been thrust into a bigger role for them out of the backfield. What have you seen from him over the past few weeks?

BB: A good player, explosive player, does a real good job in the passing game. He gets out quickly on a lot of routes and he’s been a very productive guy. He definitely looks like a guy they look for, [Sam] Darnold looks for when the primary part of the route isn’t there. He has a lot of confidence in coming to him as a secondary type receiver. He’s quick, makes yards with the ball in his hands. He has good vision in the running game. He’s done a good job for them.

Q: Were you in touch with Phillip Dorsett when he was coming out of the University of Miami for the draft?

BB: Yeah.

Q: What do you remember about him from then, and how have you seen him grow from then on?

BB: Yeah, I mean, he’s a great kid. I think everybody saw that at Miami – the coaches and the people that we talked to down there. That’s all positive. A productive receiver, fast, quick, good hands. He went in the first round, so a talented player. He’s been all of that.

Q: What does it say about his personality that he has been such a good teammate despite having a more situational role this year compared to being more of a lead receiver in his past?

BB: Yeah, he’s a great kid. He does whatever you ask him to do, does his best at it, tries to get things right. Whatever you need him to do, he’s there for you. We ask him to do a lot of different things in practice. Things that involve the kicking game, things like that. But in terms of his role offensively, whatever we’ve asked him to do he’s always done the best that he could and given us – the Super Bowl was a good example. But he’s always ready to go. He came in here, it was a tough situation last year with training camp over and having to re-learn the offense and all of that on the run. He worked really hard at it and did a good job. He’s done a good job for us this year whenever we’ve called on him.

Q: How would you describe the potential and the development of Derek Rivers?

BB: Good. I like Derek. I think he’s got a good future.

Q: What have you seen from him in practice?

BB: Yeah, I mean, he’s obviously been healthy. He’s worked hard every day. Last year we had a ton of injuries at that position. This year we’ve been totally healthy there so the opportunities, well we have more people for the same number of opportunities, but last year was a totally different situation so it couldn’t be more different from year to year. When he’s had an opportunity, he’s done well with it, both in practice and in games. I think he’s got a really good future. I’m glad we have him. He could be a good player. I think he is a good player, it’s just kind of a little bit of a situational thing right now.

Q: How beneficial has it been for the rookies that are on IR to still be in meetings and be learning around the team?

BB: Yeah, I think they’re all learning.

Q: Is there one specific thing they can pick up in the meetings as opposed to on the field?

BB: It’s everything. They should learn something every day and they should develop every day. That’s what we try to do with them. The only reason they wouldn’t is if they don’t apply themselves. There’s every opportunity to do that and we work with them, do extra things with them and they respond to it. They want to get better. They want to have a professional football career. They have improved. It just doesn’t show up because there’s no opportunity on the field for it to show up. It shows up in other ways, but it hasn’t shown up on the field.

Q: Stephen Anderson has been in kind of a different role this year on the practice squad after seeing some active roster time with Houston. How have you seen him adjust to that role?

BB: He’s done well for us. We use him in a lot of different roles in practice as well. He’s been great. He’s been one of the guys that’s been recognized on multiple weeks for the job he’s done for us, either as a big receiver or as the go-to tight end for the team that we’re playing. Also, in the kicking game. Yeah, he’s done well.

Q: In your system, do you view him as more of a receiver or a tight end?

BB: He has good skill in the passing game. He’s learned all of the positions. We have a lot of different formations and the tight ends are involved in so many of those. They’re an integral part of it. He’s smart. He obviously has game experience but he’s also a versatile player that’s able to do different things.

Q: How have you seen the chemistry between Darnold and Robby Anderson grow over the past few weeks?

BB: Yeah, well Darnold’s had a good stretch here since he’s come back with really all of the guys – Anderson, certainly [Chris] Herndon, McGuire. He’s gotten the ball to everybody. He’s thrown the ball well. They’ve been in a lot of close games – the Tennessee game, the Buffalo game, Green Bay game. Those are all tight games with a lot of critical plays in the fourth quarter or overtime last week. Obviously, they’ve gained a lot of experience, a lot of confidence. He didn’t throw the ball to just one guy. He’s done a good job. He’s scrambled, he’s made some key runs on some design plays and some improvised plays. I’d say overall their offense has continued to get better every week. They had a big output last week against Green Bay?

Q: How big of an attribute is Elandon Roberts’ physicality?

BB: Yeah, we like physical, tough football players. He certainly fits that category.

Q: Guys in the locker room have labeled him the hardest hitter on the team. What does it say about someone who came out of college undersized and has had such a physical impact?

BB: That’s his playing style; yeah. He’s fast and he’s compact and he’s explosive. [James] Develin’s a little bit like that. Some of that is the position that they play and the style that they play it with. I mean, I agree with that. I think everybody that is out there with him on a daily basis, that’s his playing style. He brings it every day.

Q: Has Dont’a Hightower’s instincts grown year by year since his time at Alabama?

BB: Well, I think, again, when we saw him at Alabama, we had a long meeting with him down there and other players on the defense. I remember they had a lot of guys in that room, but clearly he had great understanding of everything. At Alabama he played defensive end in their nickel situations. He also played inside linebacker and outside linebacker when Rolando McClain was there, and then Dont’a missed his junior year, or his next-to-last year with the knee injury and then came back and played middle linebacker. So he’s played inside, played outside, played defensive end in the nickel package. He was involved in coverage, involved in pass rush and, again, that system involves a lot. There’s a lot of line call communication, there’s a lot of coverage adjustments and he’s good at all of those. I mean, it’s hard to do those at one position. He did it in multiple positions and multiple personnel groups. When he came here it was really more of the same. Obviously, our system is different and what we see is different from our opponents and so forth, so there’s different types of adjustments and so forth, things that we have to deal with. Again, in the big picture it’s in the same box, if you will. His communication skills are good. He sees things very quickly. He’s decisive. He makes a decision, he makes it quickly, he makes it decisively and then everybody can go with it. He makes the right decisions. He’s got good length. He’s, again, a tall linebacker. He’s tall. Some linebackers don’t have the vision and the height that he has. He sees things quickly, where the backfield set is and the overall just vision of what’s on the other side of the ball. The same thing in the kicking game. We’ve used him in the past in some key roles in the kicking game on punt protection, punt return, so forth. He’s a very, I’d say natural and instinctive football player. A lot of it comes easy to him but he studies and he’s smart and knows the game plan and is in tune with what they’re doing. He works well with the line and the secondary, as well as the linebackers, which that’s important too. Some guys work well within their group but he works well with Devin [McCourty], Pat [Chung], Duron [Harmon], as well as the defensive line – Malcom [Brown] and Lawrence [Guy] and the ends and so forth, giving them calls and making sure that our communication and our assignments are correct on the different offensive formation adjustments we have to make. He’s good at all of that.

Q: How have the field upgrades to the indoor facility been working out?

BB: Good. Yeah, we practiced in there last Friday. The turf’s good. It’s wider. There’s a little more space there to do some individual drills on the side, so it looks good.

Q: Does that make it more likely for you to schedule a practice inside as opposed to staying outside?

BB: Yeah, it probably helps it a little bit.

Q: Ben Watson, a former Patriot, and Kyle Williams, an opponent you’ve faced twice a year, announced their retirement recently. Do you have any thoughts on those two players?

BB: Yeah, well, both great players, guys I have a lot of respect for. I knew Ben from when he was here but have stayed in contact with Ben through the course of his career. Kyle, I got to know at the Pro Bowl. That was a long time ago and I’ve seen him on a regular basis. Both guys are good people, great players who had great careers. I have a lot of respect for both of them.

Q: A guy like Antonio Gates hasn’t necessarily needed to keep elite athleticism to maintain productivity late in his career. Is that something you could see for the future of Rob Gronkowski?

BB: Well, I think if you talk to any player that’s played in the league for an extended period of time, there are adjustments that they make in their game over the course of their career, in other sports as well. It’s not just football. I’ve talked to a number of players about that in football as well as other sports. I think it’s pretty much a universal thing. As you gain experience you find ways to do things that are different than what you did when you were at a different point in your career. It’s probably true of coaches too, but certainly for players. I think every player evolves to a degree like that. Sometimes it’s a new technique. Sometimes your skills and emphasis is different, sometimes you’re in a different system. The bottom line is, right now everybody’s really just committed to this game for the Jets, doing the best they can to get ready for this one to go out and beat the Jets. That’s really what it’s about.

Q: I was just watching a piece on the SEC Network about Derrick Thomas. In today’s NFL, how rare is it for today’s linebackers to be able to kind of freelance out there and have the freedom to make their own plays and impact on a play, like a guy like Derrick Thomas used to?

BB: Yeah, I didn’t see the piece so I’m not really familiar with it. I’ve never coached Derrick so I’m not really that familiar with, I’d say, his style of play or what you’re referencing there.

Q: You never coached against him?

BB: No, we coached against him; yeah.

Q: What do you remember about him?

BB: Fast. If he beat you off the edge it was all over, and he beat a lot of guys off the edge. He did a good job of anticipating the snap count. He had a great first step, could bend, could get underneath sometimes the tackle’s punch. He was a great edge rusher, period. Probably as good of one-step quickness as, like Von Miller or guys like that that could really win on one step and then it was all over. If they didn’t win on their first step then you had to deal with their counter moves and all of that, but a lot of times they would just – again, that was back in the day where the rules were a little bit different than what they were. Defensive linemen flinched and things like that. They’ve changed that rule since then, but in Kansas City they were pretty good at that. The crowd noise was intense. A lot of times those tackles or tight ends, whoever it was, were late out of their stance or just a split-second late and he was by them. I remember when he came to Cleveland you couldn’t run on that field. It was like a different player.

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