HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
VIDEO PRESS CONFERENCE
September 4, 2020
BB: Sorry to keep everyone waiting, we are running a few minutes behind this morning. Appreciate your patience. We're winding down here with training camp. Sunday was actually the last official day of camp. Roster decisions are on the very near horizon, so we will be ready to work through that in the next day, hours. So that's a process, still obviously trying to get the team ready and continue to make progress towards being ready for not only the Miami game, but the entire regular season. We're going to have a few balls in the air here, but I think the players have continued to push through it and we are making progress, we just have to keep stacking these days together. Last night was a good night for the team, a good night for the organization with the kickoff event. That always gives us the feeling that things are getting closer. Congratulations to David [Andrews] for his great, unselfish off-the-field work and volunteerism for the organization. He has been a tremendous addition to our team for the last six years, so it's great to have him back after the time he missed last year. So, like I said, just trying to finish up some final training camp things that are on our list with the roster and then quickly transition into Miami, some of which we have already started on, but we will be in full game preparation mode once we turn the corner this weekend. Looking forward to getting started and just try to keep having good days here.
Q: Word came out yesterday that Cam Newton was named the starter, just what have you seen from him in camp and what does it say about him in that…?
BB: Yeah, we are not naming any starters at any positions, so any conversations that I have with the team will stay between me and the team, but we are not naming any roster, starters, positions or who's on the team or anything else like that, so sorry, I'm going to have to bypass that one.
*Q: Obviously over the years, Cam Newton a big physical player, pretty rare size for a quarterback. The last couple seasons he's had some injuries. What is your confidence level in his physicality and his ability to withstand the rigors of a 16-game schedule? *
BB: Well, he's certainly been a durable player. The injury last year was one of those foot/ankle injuries that we've seen take down players. It's a tough injury, but so far he's been out there with the exception of one day where he was excused for personal reasons. He's been out there every day and able to participate in everything. He's healthy and it looks like he's ready to go, but it's a long season and anything could happen to anybody. We all know that, so we will see how it goes.
Q: What went into the decision to name Cam Newton as an offensive captain and how have you seen teammates respond to him?
BB: Yeah, it wasn't a decision. The captains are voted on by the team and the players that they elected are the players they obviously want to represent them in various capacities that come with those positions. I think we have a lot of good leaders on our team. Some of them have been selected captains. I don't think that necessarily takes away from the leadership that many other players bring and we get leadership from certainly other players in other areas of our team that don't show up with the captain designation, but we've had a long history and a great roster of captains here and I think the players selected this year have all displayed very impressive leadership qualities and are obviously well respected by their teammates on both sides of the ball. I think they're all good selections but the leadership certainly extends past those positions, past the captain position. It always has and I'm sure it always will here. I appreciate the leadership we get from everyone and I'm looking forward to working with this year's group that has a couple new faces in it and some other captains that have been here for an extended period of time. It's a good group, we have already had some opportunities to get together and I look forward to the relationship with those guys in that capacity.
Q: Yesterday the team released Mohamed Sanu. What went into the decision to part ways with the veteran?
BB: Just one of those things that didn't work out. I have a lot of respect for Mo, but ultimately things just didn't work out. I think he tried very hard, I think we tried hard. I don't think it was anybody's fault or anything like that. It was just one of those situations that just didn't work out as well as everyone hoped it would have when the transaction was made. As always, we will try to make the decisions that are best for the football team, whether that's bringing a person in or releasing a player. Obviously it can go both ways. At this point in time, we felt like that's best for the team. Last year we felt differently. We're in a little different situation this year.
Q: As you turn the corner to the regular season, would you be able to pause even for a minute to think about the perspective. I know every season is different for you, but just given the circumstances surrounding this one, the virus protocols, new quarterback, etc. Does it feel even more different that season in the past?
BB: Well, I think you just said it. Every season is different. What we are focused on right now is trying to put ourselves in the best position for the 2020 season. What happened in 2003 or '09 or '14 or '15 or whatever. I mean, there are some lessons learned through the years of course, but I really don't think those have any bearing on what happens this year. We have a different group of players. We have different challenges and we have to identify and recognize the best way to maximize our opportunities as a football team in 2020, whether that's on the field, off the field, offense, defense, special teams, coaches, players, practice squad. And the rules change every year a little bit in one way or another, in some aspect of whether it's personnel rules or playing rules, whatever it might be. That's all just part of the game. We control the things that we can control and work on the areas we need to work on to improve and to be competitive and make a difference. That's what we will continue to do. I'll let you compare one year to another. Really, I'm just focused on this year and in particular, how to make the best decisions and do the best thing that I can to help our team over the upcoming days. Every day is important and we want to take advantage of each one. Definitely the roster decisions and composition of the team and other potential player movement throughout the league – there's going to be well over a thousand players that are going to have some sort of transaction in the next couple days and there will be some opportunities there and we will try to evaluate those and do what's best for the team.
Q: I'm curious with practice squads expanding to 16 players, how that affects your team-building strategy and when it comes to either adding or moving players to the practice squad, do you give preference to adding the most talent to the practice squad or do you prefer to add players with more familiarity that might be on the team currently that might not make the 53-man roster?
BB: That's a great question on the practice squad. I think each situation is different. Each player is different. I think when you put a player on the practice squad, first of all there's reason why he's on there. That could be a number of different things. He could be a developmental player, he could be a player that, like you said, knows your system and maybe is more game ready that someone else. It could be a player that because of the depth on your 53-man roster, that you really need that player to practice, you need that practice squad player to participate in practice so that you can maintain the quality of practice that you want the best you can so that you can prepare your team for all the things you need to prepare them for. As you know, some of those positions can fluctuate during the course of the year depending on how the team needs, how those change and possibly how the players change. For example, if a developmental player starts to improve and develop, then his situation might change a little bit Or if you have a developmental player that maybe isn't developing and you feel like you have given him enough time and you don't see the progress that maybe you'd hoped for, then sometimes you could move on to somebody else and work with another developmental player. So again, the bottom line is there's a reason and a purpose for each player to be on the practice squad, but they are not all the same and it would depend on a number of factors that are specific to the individual player but also the needs of the team and the depth of the team and your practice needs. I would say some kind of combination of all of those.
Q: With the fickle nature of this upcoming season with the potential for any player to go on the Covid list at any moment, do you see the practice squad trending towards a developmental style player or more towards a game-ready, veteran-style player?
BB: Again, I think there's a place for both. It would depend on, a lot of the practice squad depends on what you have on your 53-man roster. You can't really carry the depth that you want on your 53-man roster at all positions, but you will probably be fairly satisfied with it at some positions. If you are satisfied with your depth at a certain position and your numbers are good and you feel like the quality is good there, then I don't know how much you really need a practice-squad player there at that spot because you will want to give those reps in practice and those opportunities to the depth that you have on your roster. Whereas, there could be another position on your roster where you don't have a lot of depth and if you have a developmental player at that position and a player with some experience that maybe for whatever reason you don't feel is a roster player at this moment, but if something were to happen because of your lack of depth, he could quickly become a roster player. Then you might carry two or three players at that position and none at another. So a lot of the practice squad is dependent on what you have above that on your 53-man roster. I think this year is a little bit different because we will have to take into consideration the shorter Injured Reserve rules and also the unlimited DFRs. That changes things a bit too and that can kind of be combined with the practice squad to help the team's depth. It's really a combination of all those and because it's so fluid, I'm sure that will change over the course of the year. As your needs change on the team, that will probably affect your practice squad decisions as well. Now, the practice squad pool is going to be a little watered down when you add those extra players that the teams are able to have, it will be interesting to see how many practice squad players this year... so in the past, there have been a certain group of players that have been excluded from practice squad because they haven't been eligible. This year, the eligibility rules have changed and it will be interesting to see whether that brings more of those type of players in there, the ones who would have been ineligible in other years or whether it would be more of a continuation of, let's call it practice-squad eligible guys, younger players with less experience and so forth. I don't know. I'm sure there will be both, there will be some variance from team to team and position to position and be based on the 53 needs above it. I think it will be interesting to see how all that plays out. Again, when we put a player on the practice squad it's for a reason. It's with a purpose and that could be for a variety of things, but he would fill some type of need or potential need. That's what his role would be.
Q: Bill, what is your view of the competition at kicker as we get close to crunch time in setting the initial roster?
BB: I think that is pretty close gap and it's a similar decision. I think that every team that I've ever been on, this has come up, where you have a veteran player with experience and a very accomplished career, with a younger player with potentially a long career ahead of him that has less experience and may, at this particular point in time, you just have to see where you feel like the competition is but then also look at it and say, 'OK, where are things going to be halfway through the season? Where are things going to be a year from now or maybe two years from now?' So, that changes sometimes the evaluation. Now, those are projections and there is no certainty there, but when you look at players that we've had on our team, James White would be a good example of a player that didn't play his rookie year. I think he was only active for a game or two. Obviously [Tom] Brady never played. So, if you evaluate players where they are at one point in time and then evaluate them a year later, sometimes you can have a drastic change and in those two cases I'm glad we didn't make the decision based on where they were at the end of their rookie training camp, to not have them on our team on a longer-term view. Not everybody falls into that category but there's two good examples. Shane Vereen would be another one. Guys that didn't have production at one point in time but then in a relatively short period of time, that changed, maybe expectedly, maybe unexpectedly. So, those are the kinds of decisions you make when you have a very experienced player versus a rookie. I think obviously, when the rookie, at a particular position, I'm not saying this is the case with a kicker. I'm saying generically, if you have a rookie who's already moved ahead of a player with a lot of experience and you have every reason to think that the rookie will continue to improve, then that's a pretty straight forward decision, that's pretty easy. But if it's the other way around where those two lines are going to cross at some point between the experienced guy coming close to the end of his career and the inexperienced guy ascending to a higher level – when and how does that happen? Position is a factor. Again, this is not like you can carry seven defensive linemen. This is a kicker, so that decision is a little bit different than it is at some other spots where we can play more than one guy. I can remember those conversations going back to 1975 when I was with the Colts and coach [Ted] Marchibroda. It was the same thing then – this guy with experience versus this guy with inexperience. I didn't really understand it at that point, but at that point in time, the experienced guy in those conversations, was always better but then in the long run that wasn't always the case, as I cited with a couple of our examples. It's a really tough question, Mike [Reiss]. It's really challenging for every coach, every team. It's not like college where you're going to have all the players all the time. Here you have to make choices. You can't keep them all. You have to make a decision based on… and either way you could be right. When you make that decision, either way you know you could be right or you could be wrong, depending on how fast or slow those tangents pass. It's a great question, though. That's the hardest part of this time of year is those types of decisions.
Q: Today would normally be the day after the preseason finale and you would have tape on all the players around the league from the preseason. How much does not having that process complicate the process for your pro staff in the next 24-48 hours in anticipation of who might be available?
BB: That's a really good question that you just asked and I would say this year for a couple of reasons, things are different than they normally are. I identify the situation exactly the way you described it. The fourth preseason game would have been last night and now we're sitting here and making decisions and all that. Who's going to be available? I think a couple of wild cards or unknown this year are – number one, every player is eligible for the practice squad. That's a big change because in the past, if you released a player that wasn't practice-squad eligible, you know that player would be available. Honestly, that player would probably, 99 percent would want to play on a roster. With the practice squad, I think there's an argument for a player to, do you want to be on a practice squad knowing that you're very close to playing on a team in a situation you know you're comfortable with versus going to another team where as soon as they find somebody better, they might want to replace you with somebody else? Again, it will be interesting to see how many how many of the practice squad spots go to those players. So when you say 'available', I'm not sure that, even though it's the same guys that might be available this year from last year, just say hypothetically you took last year's guys that were all available, if all those guys actually would have been available in this set of rules, and especially with the three-week IR situation, I think the practice squad, if you have an experienced player on the practice squad, it's a lot easier to get him up. You have those couple free activations. You have the three-week IR rule, so I think that might change a little bit. The other part of that is, I think, all the other 31 teams are probably sitting there just like we are, saying, 'I haven't seen as much of this guy as what we normally would.' This is a tough decision without seeing a player play that doesn't have a lot of experience, how confident are you that he's better than somebody else that you've seen play? There are some examples that are clear cut, but there are some that are gray and some where the veteran players have probably clearly played better than the rookies, but again, these guys haven't even played a game yet, so it's not a fair evaluation, yet that's the ones we have to make. So, I legitimately think that we're in this situation. I imagine a lot of other teams are too, that we don't really know exactly what we're going to do because we have so much less evidence in than we would have from three preseason games. I think a lot of times in preseason you feel like after three games, 'Alright, I have a pretty good idea where this guy is. There's another preseason game.' Now, maybe something will really change here based on the fourth preseason game but I'd say more often than not, it doesn't change significantly. Where you were at the end of three weeks is probably where you are at the end of the fourth game. Not always, but generally speaking, that's probably more true than it's not. So, I think the variables this year lead to more uncertainty there. There are a few players that I feel confident that we can identify that will be available, but I think there are going to be a whole lot more that when the rosters are turned in on Saturday, that I don't want to say are surprises, but there will be some people there, and it will be interesting to see how teams handle this rookies versus experienced players-type of, I don't know if dilemma is the right word, but choice that they're going to have to make. Again that's a great question. There's a lot less shopping of players this year than what there would normally be, where teams could anticipate the way it was going to go. You could kind of tell what other teams were going to do for most roster spots and you kind of knew who was available. If a team was going to release a player, they'd rather trade him and get something for him than release him and not get anything. So, I would say it was a little more defined. Maybe that will change in the next 24 hours. It might, but I'd say that's where we are for now.
Q: Eliot Wolf has been with the Green Bay Packers and Cleveland Browns. Does it help to have somebody on your staff who can bring that perspective and knowledge of the veteran players around the league and to add what you already have in-house?
BB: Sure, I think it's always good to have a different perspective on that. The people that have been here for an extended period of time, which, some of them are no longer here this year. Many of them still are. Guys that have been here a long time have a very good understanding of what we're looking for, how we do certain things, what the process is and maybe players like this we've already talked about before and either liked or disliked for similar reasons. You don't have that history with people who are new to the organization. It takes a little time to build that up. That's sort of the time that we're working through. But as you identified, the plus side is, when you come from a different organization, or two organizations in the last couple years, have a fairly recent background of other philosophies, other ways of doing things. Certainly, he's been able to help me in terms of, 'Take a look at this. Here's the way we did this.' It might be something we tried and we don't want to do it that way to it might be something that's, 'No, I hadn't really looked at it that way, that's a pretty good idea.' It's good to generate new ideas like that. I think Jedd Fisch has done that similar thing on offense. He's brought in some new ideas and things that we weren't familiar with, at the same time, dedicating the majority of their time to understanding, learning what we do do, so they know how those types of things apply. Some of the other new people in the organization, whether it be Vinnie [Sunseri] or Joe [Houston] or other guys like that. There's some of that from everybody too. It's good to have a new perspective. It's also obviously very good to work with people who have been here for a sustained period of time who have a lot of experience in our organization and our system that have an intimate knowledge of how all the inner workings are. I think that's a good blend to have both ways.