PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
BB: Last practice here, really, to get things rolling for New York and some other things that are on the list. So, hopefully we can have another good day and then go down, take a look at some guys against the Giants.
Q: In your experience as a defensive play caller, is there a rhythm to that job?
BB: Could be. Yeah, could be.
Q: How long did it take you to feel like you had that rhythm?
BB: Well, every game is different. Every game is different. It's hard to talk generically because every week of preparation is different and what you're going to try to do is different and what they do is different and then the game situation unfolds and that has its own elements, each individual game. So, it would be really hard to just put out a blanket statement there, I think, because so much of it is specific to a particular game, situation, personnel, etc., etc.
Q: How important is confidence in terms of making on-the-fly decisions?
BB: Yeah, well, preparation is a lot of that, but then once the game starts, then that trumps the preparation. So, that's what [President Dwight D.] Eisenhower said, right? Before the battle, everything is about preparation. Once the battle starts, preparation doesn't mean anything. You've got to adjust to what the battle is. So, I think there's a lot of truth to that.
Q: After months of preparation for the season, are you guys ready to turn the page to be focused on one opponent?
BB: Well, we've done that the last three weeks in varying degrees. We've gradually increased our preparation from Washington to Philadelphia to Carolina. Certainly not the level that it would be for a regular season game, but it's increased each week so that we can, as coaches, get ourselves into the right situation for the season, and players, that they can adjust to the schedule and also get their routine in terms of preparation, film study, personal, whether it's massages or tubs or treatments and so forth, rest - you know, just managing all that together. So, getting into - yeah, so we've gotten closer to that each week. We're not there yet, but I'd say we've gained on that process. Training camp is to prepare for a 16-game regular season schedule and it's to prepare for the opener. It's a combination of those two things and, obviously, to make the roster decisions, which both of those are part of that conversation. So, there's more than one thing involved in training camp.
Q: As he makes the switch to left tackle, have you seen Trent Brown adjusting throughout the preseason to new situations that he might have seen in a game that he hadn't seen before?
BB: Definitely, and he's done a good job of that. Yeah, there are things that come up every day. There are things coming up in games, as Dante [Scarnecchia] alluded to - for not just him, for everybody, but maybe a little more for him just because of the switch. But, yeah, he's done a good job with that.
Q: Are you impressed with any players that are able to make the switch from one side of the line to the other, especially at tackle?
BB: Yeah, well, I mean, I think [Sebastian] Vollmer did a good job of that, especially early in his career when he played I think it was left tackle at Houston, then right tackle in the East-West game, then we worked him at right tackle in training camp, then he played left tackle against [Dwight] Freeney. So, for a player that didn't have a lot of experience as a football player and didn't have a lot of experience in the NFL when that happened to him his rookie year, he ended up playing both sides. Yeah, that was pretty good.
Q: Was that one of the more impressive things you've seen when Vollmer lined up against Freeney without much experience? If I remember right, he held his own.
BB: He sure did, yeah. Sebastian is a player that improved tremendously in a very short period of time. He had trouble at Houston. He had trouble in the East-West game, in the All-Star games. When we drafted him, we thought this was going to be a multi-year project. [We] loved everything about him - his intelligence, his length, his athleticism, his toughness, his work ethic - we just thought it would take a while. So yeah, he had a long way to go and he closed the gap very, very quickly, I think quicker than any of us could have realistically expected. But, I'd say by the time we got to this point in training camp, he'd made some pretty big strides. So, I'd say it was more surprising early and then less surprising as we got into the season because he jumped over a lot of landmarks or measuring sticks early in his career in the first training camp.
Q: When evaluating players who will fill in the back end of the roster, how do you weigh this fourth and final preseason game within the context of what they've done all summer?
BB: Yeah, well, the most important thing in evaluating players is their improvement. So, if a player's improving, then you're most likely to take the high water mark as opposed to where he was three weeks ago when you feel like he's passed that and he's shown that that wasn't the player that he was. He's taken the experience, the coaching, the reps that he's had, and he's become more efficient at those things, whatever the position is and so forth. So, when you see that improvement, then you start to weigh what happened most recently over mistakes that were made a month ago if you feel like those have been corrected and that we've moved past those. So, that's the most important word for any player, young or old. But, especially players with less experience, if they're improving, then you're most likely to look at what they've done most recently. If they're not improving, then you're most likely to look at what they've done most recently, which is less than what it was before, and that's usually not a good thing. It could be alright if it's high enough. I mean, if the guy's a really good player and he's just not as good as he used to be but still better than everybody else, then that's good. But, when a player starts at a lower level and is moving up, then if he's moving up and he's moving up at a good rate and you think that rate is going to continue, then that carries a lot of weight. Even though he's not there yet, if you think he's going to get there, a lot of times you bank on that. Vollmer would be a good example of what we were just talking about there. Yeah, so it's all important. We evaluate everything, but if there's a rising trend, that carries a lot of weight. So, this is the last opportunity. If guys that have been improving the last couple weeks can add onto that, it will absolutely help them. It could help them a lot.
Q: What's the realistic number of players that will get picked up around the league after roster cuts?
BB: Yeah, I mean, I don't know. You'd have to look at the historical numbers. Probably around 30 to 35, but it changes from year to year, and obviously it's specific to certain players and certain teams. So, I think we can look at a lot of rosters - our roster and other rosters that we've studied - and see if this player makes the roster and this other player is released to the league, there's going to be a lot of action on that player. So, I think we can identify a number of those players. But, specific to those players, there's a lot of other players that I think you put in the other category that are going to be available and there probably won't be a lot of activity on those players - maybe at the practice squad level but on the roster level, not as many.
Q: Do you have an idea who those players are right now?
BB: Absolutely. Yeah. What do you think we've been doing?
Q: I understand that you have an idea about players on your team, but with players on other teams, also...
BB: Yeah, sure. We look at all 31 teams. Yeah, what do you think we're doing? We're in camp. We're not having watermelon rolls and badminton contests and all that. Yeah, we're working on football. We look at our team. We look at the 31 teams. Yeah.
Q: Vollmer is calling the games in German this year...
BB: Yeah, we've got Sebastian doing the German. We've got [Martin Morales] doing them in Spanish, Mexico. We've got it all covered.
Q: Do you ever tune in?
BB: Yeah, that was one of the - Sebastian was part of the rookie skit. The rookies didn't have much material, which they usually don't, and I suggested to him, 'Why don't you just get up there and imitate the head coach and say what I would say in German?' So, he did. No one knew what he said, but it was pretty entertaining. He had a great sense of humor. Yeah, Sebastian had a really good sense of humor.
Q: Is this one of the busiest weeks in terms of trade talks between teams?
BB: Again, it depends. We've already seen a couple transactions in the last few days. There's a lot of talking. We'll see how much actually gets done. Again, you can talk about things - that's fairly common. To actually find something that works for one team, that works for the other team, that both teams want to do, is less common, but I'm sure it's going to happen. And, again, at this point in time, it's a little bit of a make an educated guess as to who's going to be available and who isn't. If you feel like you have to trade for a player to get the player, then you're more likely to make the trade. If you think you can get the player without trading for him, or if you have two or three players that if you get any one of those you'd feel like that would help your team and doesn't necessarily have to be one particular one, then maybe you're not as anxious to trade and you wait and see what's available. Like I said, if you get any one of two or three guys, then you feel like you're alright, then you're less inclined to make the trade. I think it's all very specific - your team, your needs, the player, what the compensation is, the contract. There's a lot of things, and then it has to fall in place going the other direction, too - the other team getting another player with comparable value, draft pick, salary, so forth. So, there's a lot more talking than there is trading.
Q: There's always conversation, especially around this time of the year, about the length of the preseason and the necessity for preseason games. You started when there were six. Do you have an opinion on what the ideal number would be?
BB: It doesn't make any difference what my opinion is. We have an agreement, we have a collective bargaining agreement between the players and the National Football League, so it is what it is for all the teams, so that's what we work with. And so I'll leave it to you guys, some of the other experts, to comment on that. I'm just trying to coach a football team. We have our parameters and that's what we're working with.
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