PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
August 10, 2021
BB: So today we'll start with really the first preparation on Washington and be ready for Thursday night. Obviously, this is a good football team. Well coached. Coach [Ron] Rivera's always done a good job in Carolina and then had some success last year in Washington. I think he does a great job of having good, sound, fundamental teams that are tough and physical, so this is a good opportunity. I always have liked to play against Coach Rivera's teams in preseason. We played Carolina quite a few times since I've been here when Ron was there, so those are good games for us to work on our fundamentals and techniques and see the good, solid, hard-nosed, tough football that he teaches and that they're good at. They have a lot of very good players. They're an explosive team. On offense, they've added a lot of explosive players and one of the top defenses in the league, as they were in Carolina, so it will be a good opportunity for us to give us a chance here to start on our preparation. Obviously, this will be a watered-down version of it, and the next two preseason games will be a little different because we'll actually practice against the team before we play them. That obviously will never be the case during the season, so this is a good week for us to start to introduce some scouting report and preparation, methods for players to start to get into a routine on preparing for an opponent as opposed to going through our training camp or OTA practices that we've done up to this point. A lot of good learning experiences and opportunities for us this week. Try to take advantage of them and make the most of them and build off that.
Q: Having one fewer preseason game, does that change your philosophy on how you use players in these games?
BB: I think every game you just look at it as an opportunity. Of course you have to see the whole picture, but I think what we have to look at right now is just what's best for our team, what's best for each individual and how's that fit together as a team so that there's a level of continuity and so forth in what we're doing. So, we'll just take a look at this and then re-evaluate where we are after this game as we head into Philadelphia and Giants week. Right now we're really just focused on how to get the most out of this opportunity to prepare our team, to evaluate our team, and to see where we are after spending a lot of time by ourselves, where we are relative to looking at another opponent. Really just take it one day at a time here, and we'll wait and worry about Philadelphia when we get to Philadelphia.
Q: Also wanted to ask you real quick about Tedy Bruschi. He has been out I think three times. He seems to be really involved in practice. I know you've mentioned it before, but is he someone you'd consider trying to bring back into the program at a later time whether it is a coach or in the front office? Or is he someone you're considering trying to bring back into the family so to speak?
BB: We're happy to have all players come back. We welcome them back. We've had several, and I'm sure we'll have more. We're always happy to see those guys. Tedy, especially, obviously had a great career here. He was not only a good player, but an inspirational player and had a lot of leadership, and I know that our players, both our veteran players and our younger players, they enjoy talking to him as the coaches. Tedy brings a great perspective on his playing career, a new generation of players and other things that he's experienced. I always enjoy talking to Tedy, and I've learned a lot from him in our conversations this year, and we talk at other points in the season as well from time to time, but his insight is always valuable, and he has a great perspective and a lot of insight that I appreciate. It's great to see him, but it's great to see any other players. Willie [McGinest] was here last week and so forth. I hope we'll see many more in training camp this year.
Q: I wanted to ask you about James White, and not just his consistency on the field, but how he continues to emerge as a leader year after year in more of a quite way?
BB: James gives us great leadership both on and off the field. He's a player that if he doesn't say anything, you just watch what he does. He provides great leadership by his actions, the way he prepares, his consistency both on and off the field, his work habits and his attitude to always help the team and put the team first in whatever he's asked to do. But at the same time he also helps, I'm sure, his position group the most because he's with those players the most. We have several younger backs on the roster, but just in general he's very willing to help anybody, any player with their training habits or techniques or whatever it happens to be. As a coaching staff, he's one of the players that I love to talk to. How are things going? How do you think we're doing? Where are we on this? Where are we on that? He's very honest, and he has a good perspective. It's not too high, not too low. It's very honest and helpful. It helps me prepare and manage the team. I've always done that with the players that I thought had a good pulse on things, and he's certainly one of those guys, and that shows up a lot in the captains meetings that we've had in previous years. We haven't elected captains this year, but he does a great job in those meetings of verbalizing where we are, what we need to do, how we need to do it, so forth. As I said, I really enjoy my personal interactions with James and his views and his perspectives. I think he brings a great level of insight to our team, but in his own style, and it's an effective style. It's just different than some other guys.
Q: Obviously we all know Hunter [Henry] left practice early this weekend, and we're hearing he might miss a little bit of time, but aside from the specifics about how he's doing, I'm just wondering for a new veteran, he's played in the league for a little while, but this is his first time here learning this system, getting acclimated with these guys. How much are you thinking about how tough that might be for him to catch up? How do you feel about him being able to get back on the horse before the season begins, especially with this truncated preseason?
BB: Hunter [Henry] has participated in everything he's been able to do since he's been here. He's gained a lot of experience in the time that he's been here. I would say he's day-to-day. As players improve, this goes for everybody not just specifically him, but as players improve and they can do more, then we can gradually work him into things. It's a little different than the regular season where guys go on different lists. The return process is a little bit different then what it is in training camp because either you're getting a guy ready to play or you're not, and if you're not, then it's how much time do you want to spend with him when somebody else is actually going to be playing there in the game, so he's day-to-day. He'll come back as he can come back, and we have many other players in that same category. Hunter's a smart guy. He has a lot of experience. He's been here and done everything that we've done as a team, and so when we get him back, we'll get him back there, and the pace and the schedule that fits his physical situation, but he'll continue to make progress. There's still a lot of things that he can do. There are maybe some things that are limitations like other players have, but again we try to focus on what those players can do, not what they can't do, and so they'll continue to move ahead in the areas that they're able to.
Q: You mentioned Tedy [Bruschi] earlier and then James White. I was wondering if there is any specific younger guys that you see kind of moving into a role like that? A guy that you feel like you can trust that would have a pulse on the team. Somebody that could give you some insight that you'd look to kind of be the next wave of that leadership-type player?
BB: I think we have a lot of players that fall into that category, and that's how leaders emerge on every team, and every player on the team has a degree of leadership, and that's based on their performance and their attitude and their work ethic, so if a player comes in and works hard and performs well and has a good attitude and puts the team first and is unselfish, then that's about as much positive leadership as you can get. So we have a lot of guys that fall into that category. Leaders emerge by leading their peers and maybe some people that are under him. Second year players can have leadership within his group, and then rookies. Maybe he's not ready to lead veterans that have played 10 years and that type of thing, but there are different layers of it. We try to develop that on all levels. We have a lot of players that I know have leadership qualities and have the ability to lead in various groups, whether it's their position group or an age group or a unit, and this is when that happens, when the team comes together and training camp and preseason games, and things are more challenging and difficult in the spring in terms of schedule and daily routine. It's just the grind of training camp and so forth, but that's where those players emerge. We'll see how all that goes, but I think we have good leadership on this team. We have a lot of guys that work hard, that are unselfish and can perform well. Those are all good qualities to have.
Q: Do you find it takes a guy sometimes a little while to get to a point where they feel comfortable talking to you? They've been in the situation long enough that they feel like there's a comfort level to have a conversation like that with you?
BB: I think all relationships are a little bit different. I'm sure things like that vary from individual to individual, but you'd have to ask them that. I can't speak for them. I think it's rare to see a player very early in his career emerge as a top leader, as a captain. We saw that with [Jerod] Mayo. We saw it with Devin McCourty. We saw it to a degree with Logan Mankins, but those are more the exceptions than the rule. Usually it takes a little more time to I would say go into that kind of team leadership position. We're all growing. Every year is a growing year for all of us. Each year the team dynamics and chemistry and personalities change a little bit as new players come on the team. I'm not saying necessarily rookies, but players that weren't on the team last year come on to the team, and players that were on the team last year aren't on the team this year, so it's always a new formula, a new mix that will turn out a little bit differently than the year before based on that and also based on the circumstances that a team faces, whether that was Covid last year, whatever it is. I mean there's something every year that affects a team, whether that's a big win or a tough loss or an injury or whatever the circumstances are, and those shape the chemistry and leadership of the team as well that you just can't plan for or orchestrate. In the end it all happens, and it's not something that again a coach can orchestrate or dictate. That all works itself out within the group somehow.
Q: I wanted to ask you about Ryan Fitzpatrick. Just your general thoughts on him and whether his career, I mean 17 years, nine teams, if that's as unique a career as you've seen at that position in the league?
BB: It is. A lot of that was with the same coach, Chan Gailey. There was definitely a connection there and a consistency there between the coach and the player, whether that was a head coach or offensive coordinator play-caller, but Ryan's had a tremendous career. Certainly he's always been a tough guy for us to play against. He's smart. He's very aggressive, resourceful and very tough. You see him block guys downfield and put his head down to fight for extra yards and do some things that a lot of quarterbacks wouldn't do. He's competitive. He's resilient. He does a good job of using the weapons that he has and getting them involved, getting them the ball. When things break down, he's athletic and experienced enough to still make good plays in those situations. He's a tough guy to play against, and he's got a little bit of a unique style. Maybe it's not classic, but he throws the ball well. He throws the ball down the field well, and as I said he's tough and competitive and hard to tackle and will stand there in the pocket and make tough throws. If you try to do something a little bit different, he's got enough experience and is intelligent enough and has enough savvy to usually figure out what it is and figure out how to beat it, so yeah. I have a lot of respect for Ryan and the career that he's had.