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Transcript: Bill Belichick Press Conference 9/20

Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference on Wednesday, September 20, 2017

BB: Alright, well, I feel like we're almost back in the division here. This Houston team is a team that we have a lot of experience with. We saw them a few weeks ago in West Virginia. We still have a lot of preparation to do, a lot of things have changed since that game for both teams. But obviously, the coach and the coaching staff - Billy [O'Brien] and his staff - we have a lot of respect for. They took a 2-14 team and had three good years, been to the playoffs, have won the division the past couple of years, won a playoff game last year. I think he's done a really solid job. I have a lot of respect for the coaching staff and those players. We had great work with them down there in West Virginia, so we could really see up close how talented they are and how competitive they are. We're going to have to do a good job in a lot of areas. Offensively, they have great depth at the running back position. [Deshaun] Watson has given them an element offensively that's very dangerous, of course. Good skill players at receiver, run the ball well. Defensively, still a top defense. They have good specialists in the kicking game, an explosive player in [Tyler] Ervin in the return game, two strong-legged kickers, good coverage units, big, physical guys, well-coached. We have a lot to get ready for here. A different style of team than we've played the past couple of weeks, so we need to do a good job of making that adjustment and getting a lot of things on our end corrected. Regardless of who we play, we just need to do some things better than how we've been doing them, so hopefully we can address that and improve it.

Q: Did the joint practices with Houston help you get a bit of a head start on some of their new players such as D'Onta Foreman and Deshaun Watson?

BB: Yeah, I mean I think we saw quite a bit of those guys. What I've seen from them hasn't been any big surprise. I saw Foreman. We've all seen Watson. They're doing things that we've seen them do in college and saw them do in preseason. We saw it in our preseason game. Whether we practiced against them or not, we saw them in the game. Yeah, I mean they have some good, young players, players that they've added to the team. [Zach] Cunningham is another guy that's getting quite a bit of playing time for them.

Q: What unique qualities did Bill O'Brien bring to your coaching staff when he was here?

BB: Well, he did a great job for us but that's really another day. I don't really care about 2009, 2010 anymore. But Bill is a great coach. I have a lot of respect for him. He works hard, has a very good understanding of the overall game. He manages the game well - offense, defense, special teams. He knows how to win.

Q: How has your relationship with him evolved from having him on your staff to now being an opponent?

BB: Great, other than this week. We're both trying to beat each other this week, but other than that, I have a great deal of respect and fondness for Billy and his family. There is certainly a great appreciation for what he did for me and for this team when he was here.

Q: Is this one of the more talented pass rushing groups you'll face this year?

BB: Yeah, I'll say.

Q: When you face a group like this, how important is communication on the offensive line in order to keep the quarterback protected?

BB: Yeah, I mean it's important. I don't think it's a huge mystery of where they're going to be. They move them around, but they are who they are. This isn't a big mystery. They're just good. Blocking them I think is a lot harder than finding them.

Q: Is the unique challenge with them that they have so many different skilled pass rushers? What is it about their pass rush that presents such a challenge?

BB: Yeah, they're good. They can power rush, they can speed rush, good counters, they run games well, good technique players, they're well-coached. Mike [Vrabel] does enough things to keep you off-balance. I'm not looking out there and saying "Well, we've never seen this before." There's some three-man rush, there's some four-man rush, there's some five-man rush, there's a lot of straight rush, there's power rush, there's games, multiple games. You're never sure exactly which one of those things you're going to get. When you start mixing them together you don't end up with the same thing repeatedly, so it's always something else different. A different type of rush, a different type of coverage, maybe players aligned in different positions, even though it might be the same players but just different matchups. They create a lot of problems.

Q: Is this a week you will reconnect with Alabama head coach, Nick Saban, about Deshaun Watson?

BB: I don't know.

Q: Has Deatrich Wise done a good job of trying to earn your trust since he's gotten here?

BB: Yeah, I mean Deatrich, he's coming along like most guys are in their first year. He's got a long way to go. There are a lot of things he needs to work on. He's making progress. If he keeps working hard, keeps improving, working on the things that he needs to work on then he'll get better, and maybe he'll be able to help us more.

Q: What positive qualities stood out to you about him when he was coming out of college?

BB: He was a productive player in a great conference. He played against a lot of good players and played well.

Q: How does a guy like that slip to the fourth round of the draft?

BB: Yeah, I don't know. You'd have to ask the other 31 teams. I'm not sure.

Q: How are you preparing for Deshaun Watson compared to the two previous quarterbacks you've faced?

BB: I mean this is not the first time we've ever played against a scrambling quarterback.

Q: How about Deshaun specifically? How do you prepare for him and his skill set?

BB: I mean we practiced against him three weeks ago. I mean, look, you have to defend the whole offense. You can't defend one guy or stop one guy on defense. You know the skills of those individuals and you take those into consideration. You have to also take into consideration the overall scheme and what they're doing and what your assignments are. In this case the different defenses and different calls that we have.

Q: What challenges does he present at the quarterback position?

BB: Very athletic, he throws the ball well, has got a good arm, has got a lot of poise.

Q: Back in August you mentioned that Bill O'Brien or Mike Vrabel being familiar with some of your calls was overrated. Why is that overrated?

BB: Because there's times out there where we have trouble getting our own calls. I'm sure they have trouble getting their own calls. I'd start with that.

Q: How unique of a player is J.J. Watt?

BB: Yeah, I mean the quickness that J.J. has with the power that he has is a pretty rare combination. On top of that, he's got great length and he's got a great motor. You're not talking about a 6' 1" guy. You're not talking about a guy that takes plays off. You've got to deal with his length, his power, his quickness on every single play. That in itself is difficult. He just wears guys down with effort and toughness. Then when you take the skill that he has and combine it all together, that puts him at a very - I mean you're talking about the best defensive player in the league for more than one year. He's got a lot going for him and he's facing it every week. It's not like he's sneaking up on anybody. You know when you're playing him that he's going to get some extra attention. Every team knows where he is and every team is trying to make sure he doesn't ruin the game, yet he's still very, very disruptive. He's a great player.

Q: How would you describe Whitney Mercilus? He appears to be a guy who has had some success against you in the past?

BB: He's had success against everybody. Mercilus is a really good football player; strong, fast, plays with great leverage, has length but plays with leverage, very fast off the edge and explosive. Not just speed, but he's got power. He's got good quickness, plays hard, good motor. It seems like every time I watch him he's gotten better. From each year to going back to our game in '15 and then last year in '16 and then the playoff game and then training camp, he just continues to improve. We could tell from being down there with him that he works hard. He's very dedicated to improving his individual techniques and skills. I think you can see - I mean he's a good player - but he's also a rising good player. He just continues to get better. He's very hard to block and if you don't block him he'll run you down. He's got really good pursuit and chase speed.

Q: What would your reaction be if one of your coaches came to you with the suggestion of managing Rob Gronkowski's playing time in order to keep him healthy for the stretch run of the season?

BB: We try to do what's best for the team, what's best for each player every week. That conversation goes on for all 53 players.

Q: What kind of a player has D.J. Reader become for the Texans on the interior of that defensive line?

BB: Yeah, I'd say he's another guy that's really improved. Obviously, very well-coached. I think his fundamentals have improved over the last year and a half. He was a little bit of a rotational player with Vince [Wilfork] last year. Now he's a full time player in his role. His techniques are much better. It looks like he's in better shape than what it looked like in college. His effort is good. He's strong. He reacts well to blocking schemes. He's got good quickness for a whatever - 330 [pound] - whatever he is - 325 - whatever it happens to be. He's got, obviously, very good playing strength. He's a good player. He's done a really good job for them. He's another guy that has just gotten better and better from last year to the start of this year to even, I would say, from preseason into the first couple of regular season games. He's a tough guy to block in there.

Q: How does it change your approach to watching a tape of a team when the quarterback has changed since your previous matchup with them?

BB: Well, it's no different than any other position. You look at the new player that's in there and you look at what things are different and acknowledge those, and you look at what things are the same and those things are the same. [C.J.] Fiedorowicz is out. Watson is in. [Julian] Edelman is out. I mean, you know, like every team goes through that. That's football, unfortunately. That happens in just about every team. We deal with it every week.

Q: Will you throw Tom Brady a bone and buy his new book?

BB: We see Tom every day. I don't really feel like I need to read a book.

Q: When you got Adam Butler as an undrafted free agent, did you envision him as someone that could play multiple spots along the defensive line or is that something that has surprised you since you first started working with him?

BB: No. No, when Adam and I were at Vanderbilt and we met down there that was one of the things that we talked about. I told him that was one of the reasons that we were interested in him, was his versatility, and when he wasn't drafted we had a conversation on the phone about him signing here after the draft [and] we talked about that again, about how his versatility would be a big attribute for him in coming here if he could make that work, which I'd say he has, to a degree. I think that's one of his strengths. He did it at Vanderbilt and I saw that and when we watched film we went through his different roles in their defense in regular and in sub. I thought he explained them very well to me. He had very good understanding of how he was playing when he was on the nose, on the guard, as a five-technique in their 3-4 defense and so forth, how it changed and what he needed to do differently and how he would adapt his technique or his read based on the different positons. It was clear to me that he had a very good understanding of that. He's been able to do that here, as well. Not perfectly by any means, but good and getting better. That's been a big asset for him to be able to do different things for us and give us plays inside and outside in run situations, in pass situations, running games and so forth. We've given him a lot. He's been able to handle it. He's certainly not at the end. There's a lot of work he needs to do but he's making progress in all of those areas. But no, that's not really a surprise. I think that's exactly what you saw at Vanderbilt.

Q: Is it difficult to find a player like him who is an undersized interior rusher than can also kick outside?

BB: Look, I would say good football players are hard to find. If you find a good football player at any position, then I like him. I want him. If they're good players, then we're interested in them and I think they'll help us. I'll take them at any position. They're hard to find.

Q: Has Alex Guerrero's role with the team grown in recent years and what exactly is that role?

BB: No.

Q: No, as in his role hasn't grown?

BB: No. He works at TB12.

Q: He was on the sideline during the game so I was curious.

BB: He works with some of our players. I think that's pretty well documented. He's not on our staff.

Q: You mentioned a phone conversation with Adam Butler. Other undrafted players have mentioned the difference between hearing from the head coach directly versus a member of the personnel department. How important has that been for you to be able to involve yourself in that process so that they hear directly from the head coach?

BB: Yeah, I don't know. You'd have to ask the individual player that. I know I've talked to other players, we all have, that have been on other teams, other organizations and a lot of times the player will make comments along the lines of "My coach wanted me to do this but the coordinator wanted me to do that," or "The coordinator wanted me to do this and the head coach wanted me to do that," or "The personnel guy drafted me to do this, but the head coach wanted me to play this way or somewhere else." So sometimes within an organization, within a team between the head coach, the coordinator, the positon coach, the personnel scout, director, GM, whatever, sometimes whether that's in college or in the NFL, sometimes it's not a totally consistent message. One of the things I tell the players is that whatever message I'm giving you, that's the way it's going to be. That collectively as a staff and as a head coach we're going to all be on the same page and whatever I'm telling you or whatever the positon coach is telling you, that we've already talked about that, and it's going to be consistent and that if you have any questions about it there is always somebody that can verify it, whether it be another player or another coach or somebody that that person knows, that that player knows or his representatives or somebody that can verify that, yeah, that's the way it was and there are other examples that we can cite based on our longevity. I just believe in being honest with the player and if it's not what he wants to hear then that's OK. We're probably better off with a different decision. I want to hear from the player how he really feels, not him trying to sell me something because that doesn't really help us either. If a guy tells you something and that's not really what it is, then if it doesn't work out, well that's sometimes part of why it doesn't work out. I try to be as honest as I can with the player. Sometimes things change and if that happens, I'll tell the player that. "This is what we brought you here for, this is what we want you to do, but look, this is the situation we're in now so we need for you to move and do something differently than what we talked about." I would tell the player that. That comes up from time to time, because I'm not really being dishonest about that. That was my intent with the player, but because of circumstances that may change and I want to do what's best for the team. But most of the time I'm able to tell the guy pretty clearly what we envision him coming in as and what the opportunity will be and then it will be up to him to compete in that situation and make the most out of the opportunity. If that's him doing it or somebody else doing it, I can't control that. I can't control performance. I can just control opportunity and the situation to a degree and then from there it's up to the player. But yeah, that's how I've always tried to do it.

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