PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
VIDEO PRESS CONFERENCE
May 27, 2021
BB: Well, I'll just start with a couple of quick comments on Adam [Vinatieri]. I've been very fortunate as a head coach to have some outstanding kickers from [Matt] Stover to Adam to Steve [Gostkowski] and Nick [Folk] most recently, but Adam's really, in my mind, the best of all time. His consistency, his ability to handle clutch situations and make the biggest kicks and just the longevity of his career, I mean it was a quarter of a century and the consistency is just remarkable. It was such a pleasure to be with Adam even from his rookie year in '96 to then when I came back and it was obviously right in the prime of his career and made so many big kicks. We were in so many close games, during the time when he was here and I was the head coach, we were in so many close games that his ability to consistently put points on the board was incredibly valuable and obviously the first kick in a Snow Bowl to tie it, it has to go down as one of the great kicks of all time, if not the greatest. And then, two game winning kicks in Super Bowls just doesn't get any bigger than that but one thing with Adam, you never felt the pressure of the moment and he certainly didn't seem to, so it gave me and our team great confidence and again, I was very, very fortunate to have a player of his caliber in my time as a head coach. And then as I said, before and after we had some pretty good ones too, but Adam was really, really special. So, tribute to him and his great career and one that I'm sure will place him in the Hall of Fame in five years. That's where he should be.
Anyway, the OTA process, it's good to get all the players out there, obviously, and to be working with a full team. We had the phase one period which was a little longer than, not counting last year, of course, a little longer than what it's been. Phase two was a little shorter, so we're working right from phase two and into phase three of the OTAs, but it's good to get the players out there in a voluntary program. So, the guys that are here are here and it's great to work with them and other players are in their individual situations. So, that is what it is, but I'm impressed with the way that the guys are working, and we have a long way to go. We'll just take it day by day. We're trying to develop some fundamentals here and install some basic teaching and playbook material. Obviously, we have a lot of new players and so, as always, we built from the ground up but that's certainly the case this year. We just try to keep stacking these fundamental days on top of each other and hopefully at the end of the spring, we'll be as prepared as we can be to head into training camp at the end of July. So, we'll see how that all progresses. We'll just take it one day at a time and it's good to be out there and good to be on the field working with everybody. It's certainly a big and welcomed change from last year.
Q: In the short time that Mac Jones has been here, what have you learned or observed about him that you wouldn't have known otherwise?
BB: I think all the quarterbacks are working hard and again, it's this starting over process for everybody. So, some of them have been here, some of them haven't, they've had various levels of opportunity to work in our offense but really, we're starting everybody at the same point like we always do this time of year. So, Mac dove into the playbook and continues to do that and like everybody out there, we all have a lot of things we got to work on and that includes everybody and so that's what he's doing. That's what everybody's doing.
Q: How do you think Cam Newton has approached this offseason and how do you think he's going to handle the challenge of having a first-round quarterback?
BB: Cam's been here all the way through. He was here at the beginning and has been a consistent participant, continues to give us the usual leadership and energy that they bring to the field and to the workouts and to practice, so Cam's very professional and I'm sure that he'll continue to work hard and do his best out there like he's always done for us. It's never been anything but that from the day he got here.
Q: How important it is to have someone like Matt Patricia back and what does he envision for his role?
BB: Yeah, it's great to have Matt here. He's obviously an outstanding coach and has a lot of experience and gained some experience in areas in the last three years that he didn't have as much of an opportunity to be in prior to that when he left. So yeah, his advice and counsel and presence has been valuable for us in a lot of ways. So yeah, I'm extremely glad that he's here and appreciate the contributions that he gives us on a daily basis.
Q: After not having an offseason last year due to the pandemic, how nice has it been to have an in-person offseason this year?
BB: Yeah, it's been good. It's good to have the opportunity to work with all the players, whether it be young players or new players or guys that are coming back on their second, third year or in some cases, well beyond that. To work with them face-to-face, to be on the field to interact with them and to see them improve and to try to improve and to take the coaching and the instruction that they're getting and turn those into better plays and better reps the next day or the next opportunity they get to do that. So, that's what you want to see this time of year, is the improvement of each player individually and then collectively to start to put a team together out there, so that we can call plays and run plays and everybody know what to do and then refine the techniques and reads and adjustments and so forth as we go and that's the phase and the process we're in and it's obviously great to be a part of it and we're making a lot of progress daily. Of course, we have a long, long, long way to go, but we're chipping away at it.
Q: With guys coming back from opt-outs, do you have any sense on where Dont'a Hightower is as far as coming back?
BB: Well, with all the players that are on the roster and not here, then my expectations are that they intend to play, but we know things can change and that's always part of life and part of football. So, we'll take it as it comes but the guys that are here are working hard. They're getting better every day. They're learning, they're physically improving their training and their conditioning, and their strength and explosion and their fundamentals and techniques are improving, and I know that a lot of the guys that are aren't here, I know they're working hard and I know the guys that weren't here for a period of time, one, two, three, four weeks that have come here are doing the same thing. I can see that some of those guys have worked hard. Some of them have some things to work on but I'd say generally speaking that the guys that have come in, that haven't been here the full time, have been in pretty good condition and are ready to go. And again, each guy has his own circumstances, so I'm not going to get into that, but we'll see how it goes on for some of the players that aren't here, which there's a number of them that aren't, but we'll welcome them when they get here. It's all voluntary. So, when they're here, they're here and we'll work with them.
Q: On Adam Vinatieri, is he a good illustration for players coming in now?
BB: Well, I mean, there's a lot of great things about Adam's career. As you referenced, he wasn't a number one draft choice. He didn't come in with that type of a pedigree. He did all the things that he could do and I think for all of us really, it's a process. Nobody comes in, even if you're drafted in the first round or whatever, everybody's got a long way to go to improve in this league and some guys do more than others obviously and certainly Adam took advantage of his opportunities, much like many, many other players have here from Troy Brown to Steve Neal to, you can just keep on going with all the free agents that we've had here that have come in and had good careers. So yeah, I think there's a lesson from all of them, but there's certainly Adams gone to the absolute top of his profession and position, and nobody's done more or done it better than he has and that's a credit to his hard work, mental toughness and his ability to have that kind of longevity, which encompasses a lot of a lot of things, but he's done them all.
Q: What are you seeing from Matt Judon?
BB: Well again, for all the players at this point, I don't think this is a big evaluation period. I think this is a teaching period and everybody's really trying to get in shape and get comfortable with what we're doing and so forth. So, whether it's WebEx meetings or individual drills or a sprinkling of some group and team drills in there, we'll see how it all comes together with everybody. I don't think there's anything, any revelations at this point on anybody.
Q: Have you gotten any sense from the League if the IR and practice squad rules that you had last year are going to continue into this year?
BB: All of that's out of our hands. However that gets decided, it gets decided and honestly, I'm just trying to worry about coaching this team and trying to do a good job to help our team prepare and improve through the spring. So, whatever those rules are, they are. We're a long way from dealing with those right now.
Q: When do you get a sense for what the team looks like on the field rather than on paper?
BB: I don't know. I mean, let's take it one day at a time and try to do the things we think will help the team the most. We have a general outline and schedule but that gets modified for a variety of reasons as we work through the process, so that's what we'll continue to do. I don't have any timeframe or expectations other than I want to go out there and try to have a productive day today. We've talked about how we can do that. Hopefully we can get that done and then we'll talk about our next opportunity and what we can try to do then, both on an individual basis and collectively as a team or in groups, however it's broken down and that's really how I try to look at it and how we try to do it. So, it's a much more short-term focused than picking out some random date somewhere in the future that I don't really know what that means.
Q: During your comments about Adam, what was your thought process, mindset and your relief once you saw those three Adam kicks go through?
BB: Well, the first kick in the Oakland game was, that's the greatest kick I've ever seen. The conditions were very difficult. It was cold, there was some wind, but more importantly, there was five inches of snow on the ground. Now the overtime kick, which was a hard kick too, certainly by today's standards where there aren't very many games on grass and there's a lot of dome games and turf games and so forth, but that was obviously a great kick too and it was a pressure kick, and it wasn't easy. I'm not saying. But there was a timeout and there was time to clear the snow and so forth but when we look back at the kick during the regulation, the depth of the snow, the length of the kick, the conditions, I mean, to just make that kick in practice with no rush, no anything, would have been a great kick. To do it in the pressure that he had and the game conditions and all, I thought that to me, that's the best I've ever seen in person or on film. And then obviously the two Super Bowl kicks were last play of the game. Well, the Carolina game though, we kicked off after that, but essentially the last play of the game, game winning kicks, a lot of pressure. I think the Ram game was again a long kick, but I would say the Carolina kick, one of the things about that was just their rush and they had blocked a kick earlier in the game, they blocked a lot of kicks that year. That's probably one of the all-time great field goal rush teams. Again, the rules were different than what they were back in the 70s when you could run with the double jumpers and there was some different rules that made the rushes a little more effective schematically maybe back in the 70s to early 80s, but with what the rules were at that time, in 2003, that was a great rush team. Those guys were long, strong, explosive off the ball and were hard to block. And so, not only the kick, but the kick against a really good rush, having to get the ball up, I mean a bad kick there, that could easily have gone the other way. So, I think that was really probably one of the underrated kicks that Adam had, just because of the degree of difficulty on the other side of the ball. He had a lot of big ones. Like I said, we were in a lot of close games and seemed like every kick was a big kick. You know, it's 13-10, 17-14, 21-17, to make a 24, whatever, he had all those kicks that the points were just at such a premium there and '01 and '03, even '04, we had a lot of tight games that it's hard to single them out, but certainly those four, you've got to put them near the top of the list. I thought the Carolina kick was an underrated, great kick. I mean, a game winning kick in a Super Bowl, I don't know how you can say that's underrated, but that was a good rush team.
Q: What's the challenge of having four quarterbacks on the roster?
BB: That's really a situation at every position. It doesn't matter whether you're talking about 13 offensive linemen or eight defensive tackles or four quarterbacks or nine receivers. It's hard to get everybody the right amount of work or to get them the high volume but I think you just try to balance that out and give everybody an opportunity, try to spread the reps out and it's very important for players at every position to learn from the guy who's taking the reps. So, even though they're not in there taking it, mentally they can still take it and still go through the process and in the quarterback's case, is pre-snap keys and real-time timing, rather than watching it on film and that kind of thing, but real-time timing of, 'Alright, here's what happens when the ball snapped, here's what I see, here's where I go with the ball,' but again, that's true of every position. So, that's what a good player will do. That's what a good professional will do. They'll take advantage of every rep, whether they're in there or not, and then take advantage of the ones that they are in there on the field for. We emphasize that with all players and the place that they get, they get and the team needs depth and you never know what's going to happen at any position. You can go from very quickly to having too many to not having enough. And so, at this point in time, we feel like all those players are good players and Brian [Hoyer] has the most experience and Cam [Newton] had a lot of experience from last year and Jarrett's [Stidham] had some off and on opportunities but he'll continue to get opportunities and so will Mac [Jones]. So, we'll just see how it goes.