PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
BB: First of all, I’d just like to express my condolences and sadness on the passing of Don [Banks]. That was shocking. I’ve had an opportunity to work with him many, many times. Very professional, very passionate. I just had a lot of respect for the way he did his job. Our condolences on behalf of the organization, too, to the Banks family. We’ll miss him. On the Brady contract, you know it’s always good to come to an agreement with a player – any player – so that’s a good thing. I’m not going to talk about the contract, so we’ll move on from that and focus on what we’re here for, which is a great opportunity to work against the Lions. Very appreciative of this opportunity from Matt [Patricia] and his staff and the organization. It’s a good opportunity for our football team, our coaches, our players, our organization. So, a road trip to just fine-tune things on a lot of different levels and compete against a team that obviously we weren’t very competitive against last year – a little bit later than this, but still pretty early in the season. So, we’ll see where we are now, but Matt and his staff have been very welcoming and accommodating for everything that we need. It’s great personally for me, even though I was never part of this particular facility, just to look back on some of the pictures here in the facility – Charlie Sanders, who I coached, Lem Barney, Mr. [William Clay] Ford, and many other great players and great people in this organization. It has a long history, so I really appreciate the opportunity to be here and for our football team to improve over the next few days. That’s what we’re here for, just to continue to get better and to work towards the start of the season and the opening game. I’m sure we’ll accomplish a lot out there today; I’m sure we’ll make a lot of mistakes that we’ll need to correct from the coaching and the playing-end, but that’s what we’re here for. I hope we can be competitive more so than last time.
Q: What did you find to be the most difficult part of getting your program up and running, both in Cleveland and New England?
BB: Look, all that’s in the past. I don’t really care too much about that now, I’m just trying to do a good job with our team this year, get them ready to go. We’re into our second week now of training camp, and this is another step in the phase of our preparation, as I said for the opener and for the regular season. I’m really just focused on how I can help our team, and there’s certainly a lot of things that we can do better, that I can do better, that our staff can do better. We’re going to do the best we can at those. That’s really where I’m at right now.
Q: How was your experience at the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
BB: I actually spent a couple days there because I went over Saturday night for Ty’s [Law] induction. As always, the Hall of Fame was awesome. From David Baker all the way down to all the people we interacted with, which I want to say was practically everybody there – their research people, their archives, the people that showed us around and answered questions. It was a great experience. Because I was there a little longer, I got to see a lot of things maybe that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Certainly, it was great to see Ty and all of the people that came to support him, as well as the other guys that were there. Kevin [Mawae], who was with the Jets when I was there of course, and Gil Brandt, who I’ve had a long relationship with, and Ed Reed, who’s killed us so many times, but we can put a smile on our face now because we don’t have to deal with him on the field. So, it was great to see all of those people, and Tony [Gonzales] as well. That’s another guy that killed us when we didn’t double cover him, which was almost every play we doubled him. But, it was great. I think our team appreciated it. We saw a lot of the history of the game, the busts and the enshrines and other historical things about the Hall of Fame. I think one of the great things about the Hall of Fame that they pointed out to us multiple times, which I’m not sure I fully understood – but the Hall of Fame really is a Hall of Fame for every NFL player, not just the enshrinees and the ones with the busts. Literally, I could go to 1941, go to 1941 Lions and pull up my dad, and see the team picture, and see an article about him and so forth. Their objective, and I’d say they’ve achieved it, is so that every family member, son or daughter, grandson or granddaughter, or whoever could actually go there, or the player themselves could actually go there and not just see their name, but see something about the person. Pictures, articles, as well as stats or whatever the case may be, regardless if the player played one year or 20 years in the league. They’ve done a great job preserving the history of the game. When only 1 percent of their memorabilia and collection is on display, then you realize the enormity of what they have and how great and how special it is. It was quite a – to see Red Grange’s shoulder pads, Joe Namath’s cape, and Johnny Unitas’ high-top shoes – it’s just thrilling. It really is, to put it all in one place. It was great.
Q: When you keep signing Tom Brady, are you continuously surprised that he’s able to keep playing at this high of a level?
BB: Tom’s been very consistent throughout the course of his career, and I feel like we’re off to a good start in training camp. We all have a long way to go, but I know Tom’s worked hard. He’s put in a lot of time, a lot of work, as he always does. He’s very well prepared. We’re looking forward to just building this preseason, and continue to get better on a daily basis.
Q: With so few live reps before this week, how useful are these three days when you go up against another team?
BB: They’re great. I think you really identified one of the great values of this is the number of quality reps that everybody can get between the game and practice. I think throughout our entire roster, we feel very good about the opportunity. We’ll have to look at everybody against quality competition – getting experience to players that don’t have experience, guys that do have experience, to do it in a controlled setting where we can get third down, red area, two-minute and so forth. We’ve done it against ourselves, but now we’re seeing it against other players and against another team, a different scheme, and it’s a little more competitive situation. So, I think those are all good. I think it gives us a great opportunity to start to begin the process of seeing an opponent, recognizing the adjustments we need to make, making those adjustments quickly – both as a coaching staff and as players, and in each unit. This is a great opportunity, and especially with Matt and his staff, and how well I feel like we can work with them. Certainly, it’s gone very smooth up to this point, and I expect it to continue – the reciprocal cooperation to make sure that everybody gets as much out of it as we can, again, individually, by unit, and as an entire team. I think the structure of it’s been great. They’ve been great with it.
Q: Is there a sense of pride when you walk into a building run by guys that used to work for you?
BB: I know a lot of people in this building and certainly have a lot of respect for them, and wish them well. As I said, it’s a great building to walk into, period. It’s a tremendous facility and it certainly brings back a lot of memories for me from ‘76 to ‘77 when I was here. That being said, the real purpose of our trip here is to improve our football team. That’s what we’re here for, so I don’t want to get caught up in a lot of the other things. They’re nice and they’re there, but what we’re here for is to do what we need to do and help our football team get better. As I said, it’s a great opportunity, and we don’t want to miss it.
Q: What have been some of the keys to success for Kyle Van Noy?
BB: Kyle’s done a good job for us. He fits well into our scheme. The scheme that he was in before I think was maybe not as good of a fit for him, similar to when we got [Roosevelt] Colvin from the Bears. Sometimes, some players just fit into one situation and one scheme better than another. Kyle’s done a great job for us. He’s smart, he’s very instinctive, he does a good job with communication, he can call signals. We have multiple signal-callers on our defense, and that’s a good thing that helps us with communication and adjustments. He’s made a lot of big plays for us since we got him. I’m glad we have him. He’s done a great job.
Q: How valuable is this experience in terms of team-building and going on the road?
BB: Yeah, I think it’s a good opportunity. Hopefully, we’ll be able to take advantage of it. It was an area we weren’t very good in last year. I think there’s a lot of components to that, but the bottom line was we weren’t a very good road team at all, and that’s important in this league. You’re not going to last very long when you can’t play .500 on the road or better. So, hopefully we can improve on that, and this is an opportunity for us, as I said, to take some steps, get some things ironed out, start to develop a routine, and hopefully build on it.