PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
BB: Well, it's the last public practice, so it's always good to be out there and have the energy of the fans. We appreciate all of the fans that have come out to see us this training camp. We're just moving closer to the Eagle game. Again, a lot of things for us to work on. Hopefully we can take some steps this week to improve our team. I'm sure we will, I just hope we can do it at a faster rate than our competition is.
Q: Do you have any response to some of the inflammatory remarks that have come from Lane Johnson of the Eagles?
BB: We're focused on what we're doing. We need to have a good practice today and try to improve our team today. That's what we're going to do.
Q: When you look at your roster, how much do you weigh the value of a player's performance off the field versus their performance on the field?
BB: Every player has their own unique characteristics and that composite all comes together. Each one is a little bit different. We just try to figure it out the best we can. There's no set formula or anything.
Q: When adding or removing a player from the roster, is how they may fit into your locker room a component of that team-building process? Would their off-the-field challenges be a significant factor in that decision?
BB: Not unless it was something extraordinary, I don't think.
Q: What is your assessment of Ryan Lewis and what have you seen from him since OTAs?
BB: Yeah, Ryan had a year of experience last year on the practice squad and I thought really improved over the course of the season, and of course now he has an opportunity to compete in training camp. He's done a good job. He's, like a lot of players, making the jump from Year 1 to Year 2.
Q: When a new skill position player joins the team, how do you weight the physical mistakes they make in practice while knowing there's probably a lot going on in their mind as they're trying to pick things up? Is there a grace period for that?
BB: Well, yeah, I think you always have to account for the transition of a player that joins your team at some point during the season, in training camp or midseason, wherever it is. Again, I don't think there's any set formula on that. We just evaluate it and gauge it as the more time you have the easier it is to make the right decision. The more you know about the player and his fit on the team and his role and so forth and how well he can do it. Sometimes that takes time. We only have the time that we have, so whatever it is, it is. We just have to make the most of it. We'd like to have more in all situations, but that's not always possible. Sometimes you have to make a decision on less information than you'd like to have.
Q: There was a one-one-one drill yesterday where some of the offensive players turned around to play defense. Is that to give them a fresh perspective on the position and maybe to develop their counter moves when they go back to offense?
BB: Yeah, I think anytime those guys flip around - the defensive players play offense and offensive players play defense - when they kind of service each other, that there's a little bit of seeing it from the other side. Certainly there's a lot of conversation in training camp that goes on between the different units of "What did you see? How are you playing this? Are we giving anything away?" type of thing. That's just good teamwork and helping each other, making each other better. So the better we are on the practice field, the better we can make the other side of the ball, the better they are, so hopefully we can just keep ricocheting off of each other and ratchet it up.
Q: Where do you see your team at this point? Are they where you want them to be or shy of your expectations?
BB: Yeah, I don't really look at it that way. We just go day to day, try to make the most out of each day, try to accomplish as much as we can based on today. That'll affect a little bit of what we do tomorrow. There might be something we need to go back over. There might be other things that we feel like we're ahead on. I'd say that's usually the way it goes. Some things happen quicker, some things take longer. It's not always the same thing and a lot of times there are other circumstances that affect that. We just try to make the most out of each day.
Q: How do you measure trying to get a look at a player during a preseason game versus maybe your attitude about players trying to earn their playing time in these preseason games?
BB: I don't know if there's a balance. I think it's pretty much the way you stated it. You earn your playing time through practice, and if you can prove that you can be competent enough to be put on the field in games then we'll put them out there. We've had players here that have never played in a game because they couldn't show that on the practice field. The better you do, the more you earn, the more opportunity you earn. If it doesn't go as well, then there may not be many more opportunities. Yeah, you earn whatever you get.
Q: Is that approach more for newer players or does it stand for veterans as well?
BB: Yeah, it's for all of us every year.
Q: Going back to the earlier question about players working on the opposite side of the ball, are those drills ever the spark that leads to you thinking a guy could potentially play on that side of the ball if it was ever really needed?
BB: I guess it could be. I think we probably would see it before that. We'd see the player's skill set and try to project it to something else. But yeah, it could happen there; sure.
Q: Is that projection similar to things on the same side of the ball? Like say, a cornerback moving to safety?
BB: Well, I think if you move a player from one side of the ball to another you're talking about a major, major shift in terminology. To move a guy from a position on the same side of the ball, there's definitely some change and there is some technique and assignments, but at least the general terminology is the same. When you go from offense to defense, I wouldn't' say you're looking at it backwards, but you're looking at it backwards now. That's a little different.
Q: What is going to be the biggest challenge of the new helmet rule and is there anything you can do as a coach to better prepare your players?
BB: Yeah, well that rule has been in place now for several weeks, so we've talked about it. We've worked on it. We've played a game. We've spent time on it. It really comes up in games more than it does in practice. Although there have been some practice examples that we can teach from and that we've identified to the players so that they all can see it and not just the individual that's involved. It'll have more applications in games, but we're aware of it. We've taught it. We see plays from other games that we watch, whether it's a preseason game from last week or games that we watch from last year as we're getting ready for a team, situations that could come up. Our coaches would talk about that as the right way to do it or possibly not the right way to do it based on the new rule. We do that on the kickoff rule, the intentional grounding rule. There's been some other modifications that it's a little bit different than what it is, so when those come up we talk about them. But they've all been shown the specific example of "This is what it is," so at least we know what the standard is, or think we know.
Q: Is one of the tough balances of training camp debating whether to adjust your scheme based on the talent or do you have to be resolute in your scheme?
BB: Well, I think it depends on what your philosophy is. I think that's a question that comes up long before the offseason and long before training camp. You have to decide with your scheme what are the parameters? What fits into it and what doesn't? I'm saying for us we did that a long time ago. That was decades ago when that happened. We do what we do and that's pretty broad. I don't think we've had too many players that we couldn't accommodate. I hope not.
Q: How have you seen Eddie Pleasant progress over the course of his time here?
BB: Good, good. Eddie's an experienced player that's versatile. He does a lot of things in the kicking game. He's played safety. He's also played some corner or nickel position on defense for the Texans. He's a smart kid. He's been in a similar system. Not quite the same, but similar. He's done well. He's an experienced guy and I would say things come pretty quickly to him on the field. The concepts - the terms might have been different - but he's played the concepts that we've taught so he can relate it to something he's done in the past.
Q: You guys have had success in the past with undrafted guys making the roster? Is that a credit to Nick Caserio and Monti Ossenfort to be able to identify those players that could potentially help your team?
BB: Yeah, we try to bring in as many competitive players as we can. It's a credit to the people that identify them, it's a credit to the players that work hard enough to take advantage of the opportunities that they get to be able to earn that spot. Yeah, a lot of things involved for that to happen. In the end, it's really the player who earns the spot, not somebody on the personnel staff, but the players do have to be identified. That can come in a lot of different areas with those types of players.
Q: You guys have had an open roster spot for a little while now. What goes into the decision about whether or not to fill that or to leave you some flexibility?
BB: Whether or not you think it benefits the team to have that filled. What does the person do that you fill it with?
Q: Is the lack of injuries this year perhaps a reason you've been able to keep that open?
BB: Yeah, that and I'd say a combination of if there was a situation where we thought there was somebody we would want on the team at that spot, then we'd put them on there. If there wasn't somebody that stood out in that way to us for, again, whatever the reasons are - I'm not saying the player isn't good enough - maybe we just don't have a spot for him at the position that he is at. Sometimes there are players out there that you wouldn't mind adding on to your roster if you had a spot at the right positon. Sometimes you end up adding players to your roster that you wouldn't necessarily want to add to your roster but you need them and then you can put them into a competitive mix due to your lack of depth at that position. There's a number of things on that. If you have an open spot and you don't really know what's going to happen then you're able to use it. If you don't have it and then something happens, then you've got to create one. Sometimes that's another set of dominoes that gets tipped over. Fortunately, we haven't really needed to fill that, but those are the ways of looking at it.
Q: You've played both a 3-4 defense and a 4-3 here in New England. Is that something where in the offseason you'll identify what system you'll use and need to identify the players that can fit into it, or maybe you see in training camp that you'd be better in one scheme versus another?
BB: Yeah, it could be either one of those. Yeah, it could be either one. You could have the personnel that for whatever reason might fit a better scheme, or you might feel like you need a different scheme to deal with the challenges that you're having to face over the course of your schedule, in your division or the teams you have to play, whatever it is. In that particular example, because it's our base defense, it's played so little based on the amount of substitute defense that we play. You're talking about ten to 15 percent of your defense. I wouldn't say that's a major decision. It's a decision. It's important. It's no different than how you play goal line or the last play of the game. Those are minimal situations too but they're important when they came up. I'm not saying it's not important. You have to look at your major things first. If putting together your base defense, which let's just say is a nickel defense, which it is for most teams in the league now, then based on what you have and what you're facing maybe what would you rather play as your base defense? What type of front? What type of combination of linebackers and defensive linemen? Where would you deploy them? Over or under? 4-3 or 3-4? Whatever you want to call it. That might be a residual effect of what your major composition of the defense was.
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