PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
BB: We're winding down here and I think everybody's excited to get going here Sunday night. Obviously, a great football team with the Steelers. A team we know well, and that played very well against us last year so we're going to have a big challenge ahead of us. But we're excited to get going, excited to get started, and we'll see how it goes. We'll see where we're at, but we've had a good week of preparation. It's the first week; it's always the transition from coming out of training camp and starting to prepare for a team. That's different, we haven't done it before this year. The process has started, we've had plenty of time so we'll see what happens Sunday night. Look forward to it.
Q: Have you seen Julian Edelman mentor some of the younger wide receivers on the roster?
BB: Julian's got such a competitive attitude that I think it just rubs off on everybody. Everybody sees how hard he works, how competitive he is, and it makes you want to do the same.
Q: Is it interesting to see Julian become a mentor after coaching him his entire career? You saw guys like Fred Taylor mentor him, and then he becomes that kind of player at a certain point?
BB: I've seen a lots of players go through that transition and those phases that you mentioned. Pretty much all of them, so it is interesting to see them come in. Jerod Mayo, I mean there was an old one. From coming in as a rookie to being a captain his second year, to being one of the great Patriot players during the time I've been here, to transitioning out of football to now transitioning back into the coaching staff. Troy Brown – I wasn't here for all of Troy Brown's career, but I was here for the beginning of it in '96, and kind of a similar type of situation. So that's the extreme because there was even another chapter or two to those guys, but yeah other players. Julian's in that category, and I remember Tom [Brady], when he came in here he was the fourth-string quarterback. We've all grown.
Q: Tom was talking about taking about taking a special interest in the history of football over the offseason. Have you guys had discussions on those studies?
BB: Yeah, Tom and I have talked about that. We meet weekly, and over the course of 20 years a lot of different things have come up, but certainly in historical football. Players that I've coached or games that I've been involved with and football that I've been a part of, but also well before than that. Back into the 30's, 40's, 50's. Equipment, balls, schemes, strategy, training and so forth. Yeah, so over the years we've hit on pretty much every subject over 20 years. But yeah, definitely some football history conversations. Absolutely.
Q: Elandon Roberts is a new captain this year. How far has he come from being drafted to having this leadership role?
BB: Yeah, well Elandon's another one. His whole career, from Morgan State to Houston to here, he probably wasn't a very highly recognized player when we drafted him, but he's probably one of the most unselfish players that we have on our team. He'll do whatever he can to help the team in any way. He's also one of the toughest and most physical players on the team as well. He really is a tempo setter, an impact hitter, but his intelligence and his awareness and how hard he studies the game – football is very important to him, and that's reflected in the way he approaches it and the way he plays it. He's gained a lot of knowledge and a much greater understanding, both individually for his position and much greater depth in terms of the overall. What the offense is trying to do, defensive strengths and weaknesses of individual calls and so forth. So he's grown tremendously in those areas as well, but just as a teammate, I'm sure the players voted for him because of his toughness, his unselfishness, his dependability, his willingness to do whatever it takes to help the team win. You can't ask for anything more than that.
Q: The other running backs on the team have been praising Sony Michel for the way he's been able to absorb the playbook. What has impressed you about Sony's study habits and his aptitude for the game?
BB: Yeah, the big thing for Sony is just his availability to be on the field and to be a continuous part of the year. So from installation to the spring, even though he didn't participate fully in the spring, he was able to participate mentally in all of the meetings and walkthroughs and some of the on-the-field things that we did, and then in training camp he's been out there on a consistent basis, and that's how you get better. You work on your skills and then you pick up new ones and work on those, and then you pick up new ones and work on those and he's done that. He's a good athlete, he's a very talented player, he's smart. Football is important to him. He works hard. So if you work hard and you understand what you need to do then you get better, and he has.
Q: What have you seen from the progress of Ryan Izzo? Do you see him following in the footsteps of a guy like Trey Flowers, who missed his first year, but still stayed ingratiated in the program?
BB: Ryan's an extremely hard worker. We'll see how it all plays out, but he's certainly come a long way in terms of his physical development. His strength, his conditioning. He trained very hard with Moses [Cabrera] all last year when he wasn't playing, and he continued that in the offseason program in the spring. So I think physically he's better, certainly his techniques and understating of the position and the things that he has to do in our offense on certain plays and so forth is much improved. He's still got a long way to go, he hasn't played a regular game yet, but he's made a lot of progress and we'll see how it all comes together.
Q: When Stephon Tuitt is in the game, what problems will he create?
BB: He's very athletic, he's long and he's big. He's long, he runs well, he's powerful. He's a very talented player. He's one of the most talented players, one of the most talented defensive lineman in the league, so there's not really much he can't do. Big, powerful, runs well for his size, he's hard to block.
Q: What have you seen from Ted Karras?
BB: Yeah, Ted's one of our most consistent players. He comes to work every day, first guy on the practice field kind of guy. He's always in-tune and alert to whatever you're telling him, whether it's field goal protection or pass protection or training or whatever it happens to be. He's very alert, he takes everything in, works really hard. He continues to do that. His day-to-day performance inside the walls of our building and out on the field is very consistent. He gives you his best every single day. You never get less than that from him.
Q: Are you excited for Josh Gordon to get the chance to play again after seeing all that he's done to get back into the league?
BB: Yeah, Josh has worked hard. He's created an opportunity for himself, but you know I'm excited for our entire team. Everybody's worked hard, put a lot into it. It's time to start playing. Time to see where we're at here. This is what you put all of that time in the offseason, and training camp, and OTA's and all of the other things that go into it. This is what it's for, to start playing regular season games. I think we're all ready to go, or will be ready Sunday. We may need a couple more days, but we're getting close.
Q: How much have you seen Jamie Collins change, and is it a similar situation to when Patrick Chung left and came back?
BB: I'd say it's just a little bit different. Jamie has three more years of experience. He's always been a smart football player. I think he's more aware and just more experienced than he was when he was here before. He's done a really good job for us. We've asked him to fill multiple positions defensively. He's done that. He did that before, but he's expanded that a little bit. His experience allows him to communicate with more confidence. Calls, adjustments, things like that, alerts that he picks up. He works well with High [Dont'a Hightower] and Elandon, Bent [Ja'Whaun Bentley], all of the linebackers, so he does a good job with them. Kyle [Van Noy], I mean they all work well together. He's done a good job.
Q: In preseason, we saw Collins play inside and outside. What skill set does a player need to play in those different situations?
BB: Well we have a number of guys that do that. It helps to have length, especially when you're playing on the end of the line, and power to set the edge. Instinctively, it's more of a challenge. Seeing the game from on the line of scrimmage and seeing the game from off the line of scrimmage, it's kind of like two different games. It's not the same. Some players are very good off the line, some players are very good on the line, but it's hard for players to do both. So it takes a lot of work and it takes an instinctive player to be able to do that. To understand how to fit on blocking schemes from the inside-out, and how to fit on pass-rush and run defense from the outside-in, for the most part. So it's kind of like learning to play corner and safety at the same time. They're both secondary, but you're looking at the game from two different angles really. Again, we have players that do that and linebackers that are, again, very instinctive like Hightower, Van Noy, Jamie, all fit into that category. We've had some of those guys in the past. [Mike] Vrabel, [Rob] Ninkovich] – guys like that.
Q: What makes T.J. Watt such a difficult player to block?
BB: Pretty much everything. He's fast, he's explosive. He's very strong, but he's quick and he can avoid players, avoid blocks. He plays with good leverage. He's quick enough to move around guys and he's powerful enough to play through them. So he has a good skill set. He's a very instinctive player. He's a good pass rusher, he's got a high motor and he comes hard on every play. He does a lot of things well. One of the best guys we'll face all year.
Q: Did you have any feeling that Troy Brown may become a coach during your time with him as a player?
BB: Troy was a very smart player, as we all know. Troy played certainly a lot of offense; he was our best offensive player when I got here. But he was also a dynamic punt returner that won a lot of games for us, gave us a lot of field position with his punt returns. But he played other positions in the kicking game as well – field goal block, kickoff coverage, kickoff return. I mean, he was a player who was on the field a lot, and of course we eventually moved him to defense in '03 and '04, and he played over there. So when a player has that kind of versatility, not just physically, but that's a lot of learning, a lot of instinctiveness that comes into play there because you can't learn everything when you just move to a position for a short period of time like Troy did on defense. But he picked it up quickly, he was instinctive, productive, had good tackling skills and coverage skills, as well as skills he showed as a returner while running with the ball, and offensively as a receiver. To be able to do all of the things that he did in the slot area, recognize coverages, and when there were very small windows, he always seemed to fit in the right one just at the right time and make the right decision. When you put all that together and then put that on the other side of teaching somebody else how to do it – good communication skills, good personality – Troy's a very team-oriented person. It doesn't surprise me that he's good. He was good and helped players that played his position later on in his career.