HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
Friday, December 27, 2019
Q: Can you talk about coaching against one of your protégés?
BB: Well, Coach [Brian] Flores has done a great job with the Dolphins this year, and they've certainly improved a great deal from the beginning of the year, as you would think they would. Those guys' staff down there – we're familiar with a lot of those people and quite a few players, too. I know it's a hard-working group and you can see the improvement they've made.
Q: What do they do well on offense?
BB: Move the ball and score points. Just look at the Cincinnati game.
Q: Even though this is a regular season game, are you in playoff mode from here on out?
BB: For us, the only game we're focused on is the Miami game. We have an opportunity to miss a round of the playoffs, so that's our opportunity, and we'll try to take advantage of it.
Q: When you drafted N'Keal Harry, did you know that using him on plays like jet-sweeps and things like that might be a skill that would translate to being in the NFL?
BB: He showed good power and running skills with the ball in his hands in college. We felt like he could run with the ball. I wouldn't say we drafted him – I don't think you draft a receiver to run that play, but if there are things that the receiver can do that are productive when you get him the ball, then consider him.
Q: Stephon Gilmore is getting a lot of buzz as the potential Defensive Player of the Year. What is the impact that he's had on your defense and your team?
BB: I've talked about it many times – Steph has done a great job for us. He works hard, prepares well, he's very professional and he has a very good skill set. He's long, he's fast, he's a good tackler, he's strong, plays the ball well. He does a lot of things well, and he's done well for us all year.
Q: Can you see his influence on someone like J.C. Jackson?
BB: Yeah, sure. I think anybody can learn from Steph, both off the field and on the field. His technique is good, his preparation is good, and he has good awareness and instincts.
Q: Have you learned more about him in terms of his film study and preparation since you've signed him?
BB: Yeah, I don't think you really know a player until you spend a lot of time with him, day-in and day-out, where you really see what that player and what that person is like. We knew some things about him from Buffalo, but it's not the same when you spend every day with a player, so we know a lot more about him now. He's, again, very professional and impressive. He puts a lot into it, he puts a lot into his training, he puts a lot into his preparation and I think everybody has a tremendous amount of respect for him in part because of that.
Q: What was the first conversation with Elandon Roberts like when you approached him about playing fullback? What was his reaction?
BB: Whatever he could do to help the team. It's just the flip of middle linebacker, just on the other side of the ball. As a middle linebacker, you're searching out the guy with the ball. As a fullback, you're searching out one of the guys who's trying to get the guy with the ball. He played some back earlier in his career, way back, so he had a little familiarity with it. Elandon has a great attitude. He will do whatever he can to help the team, whether that's fullback, kickoff coverage, punt coverage, kickoff return, he's been on all the special teams and all that. He's very willing to do whatever he can to help our football team.
Q: Devin McCourty spoke about how preparing to play teams with familiar coaching staffs is harder. How do you game plan against a team with familiar coaching connections when you know that they know you as well as they do?
BB: I think there's a lot of truth to that – you know kind of too much. There's only, call it 65 plays in the game. We know they have way more plays than that, they know we have way more plays than that. You can only run so many, but you have to prepare for a lot more than that. Sometimes, you don't know what you don't know. The only thing you know about Cincinnati are the plays that we've seen. We know they have other ones, but we just don't know what they are. In these cases with Buffalo and Miami, Detroit, we know the coordinators. You have a pretty good idea of all the things that they have and this is what they do against this and do you think they would do that against us? Or would they do something else – you know, because there's more than one way to solve a problem and you have to prepare for two or three things. Sometimes that can be – it's kind of like opening day when you look at a team's – from the last 16 games or playoff games or however many games you look at them. Like Pittsburgh, you go all the way back through last year's Pittsburgh games and then preseason, they only got 65 – call it 160 plays total, 30, 65, 65 then 30, roughly. But, you're looking at 2,500 plays to get 160 out of. So, it's way more than you could possibly get. So, that's situational football and you don't know if you're going to be ahead at the end of the game, they're going to be ahead at the end of the game, two-minute, four-minute, et cetera. Some of that is just forced itself out by the situation. You still have to prepare for it and it takes time, but certainly, games like this, we know more than what actually is going to happen and so do they.
Q: We know you have a special connection to Navy. Was it interesting to see them catch a ride on the Patriots' plane to the Liberty Bowl?
BB: Yeah, I didn't actually see that but somebody mentioned that to me. It's great. I hope they play well down there. They've had a great year. Always supportive of Navy and Navy football. I hope they have a great week, a great experience and a great game.
Q: I hope they didn't leave any beer cans around the plane or anything.
BB: I don't think you have to worry about that.
Q: There was a situation in the Buffalo game when Rex Burkhead scored the touchdown in the fourth quarter and Buffalo got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Why did you decide to take the penalty on the kickoff and not move it closer to the 1-yard line to make it potentially easier for the two-point conversion?
BB: Without getting into it, I'd say because we thought that was the best thing to do. We had options and ultimately we took the option that we felt was the best for us.
Q: Could a two-point conversion be easier from the 2-yard line because there's more space to work with? Is that a factor?
BB: I wouldn't say so. That was part of the decision, but in the end we, as I said, did what we felt like was best. It was an interesting situation. A lot of times you don't – like in the Cincinnati-Buffalo game, where it's early in the game, you got a penalty, now the ball is on the 1, does that give you the impetus to go for two or not? It just wasn't really that situation. We were really going for two – I mean, not after a 15-yard penalty – but we would have gone for two in most any situation.
Q: Obviously it worked out in the end for you.
BB: Well, we looked at the – if it hadn't worked out we would have looked at that, too, and said, "OK, are we happy with the decision we made or not happy with it?" And so, again, based on all the things that we took into consideration at that time, I felt like that was the best thing to do.
Q: Ivan Fears just mentioned that part of Elandon filling in at fullback was, in his mind, that you couldn't afford to give up on all the 21-personnel stuff that you run and you couldn't give up in the scheme. Do you agree with that assessment? Why is it so vital to keep as many options open from a scheme standpoint?
BB: We have invested a lot in it. That's why we had two fullbacks in training camp and that's why we had two fullbacks on the roster. Any time you lose two players at the same position, it's tough to have the kind of depth to sustain that. There are some advantages that that grouping gives you if you can execute it, if you can be productive in it. We had run out of the normal options and we've looked at other options and that turned out to work out well. We didn't know at the time how it was going to work out, but it's worked out well, so it's been good for us.
Q: Did you explore other options at fullback after Jakob Johnson went down before you turned to Elandon?
BB: We looked at some other things, yep.
Q: Is there not as big of a free agent pool at that position?
BB: The other options are putting other players back there. It could be a tight end or it could be an offensive lineman. We've done that with Russ Hochstein or Mike Williams or other players that have done that. Then there are players that are off the roster, which, one of the great things about Elandon's situation is you don't have to commit a roster spot to something that is, maybe at that point, kind of an experimental nature. Roster spot for three or four plays – if you can afford it, great. If you can't, then that keeps you from doing it. The stars were in alignment.
Q: Any reaction to Antonio Brown working out with the Saints?
BB: Not really. Focused on Miami. Doesn't really have anything to do with us.
QUARTERBACK TOM BRADY
Friday, December 27, 2019
Q: On Sunday, you will be the first player at your age to start all 16 games in a season. How meaningful is it for you to redefine those boundaries?
TB: Yeah, it's good to be available to the team. That's what I try to do, and yeah, it's pretty cool. I didn't know that. Thanks for sharing that with me. Hopefully we keep it going. Yeah, we've made a lot of progress and this is an important time of the year. So, as important as the first game of the year is, so is the last game. This is really, essentially a playoff game for us. So, I'm happy to be out there starting and hopefully I can go out there and play well.
Q: Steve DeBerg, Vinny Testaverde and Warren Moon are the only quarterbacks who have started games older than 42. Do you know those guys, and what are your thoughts on that?
TB: I know Warren. I know Vinny, obviously – I played with him. And those guys were great quarterbacks. I heard a lot of them when I was younger because of Coach [Bill] Belichick. I played with Doug Flutie and I played with Vinny, so I had some exposure to older quarterbacks, and loved my time with both those guys and I'm still keeping in touch with both of them. They're just great guys, had a lot of presence and command, and I feel like I've learned a lot from a lot of guys. Really from everyone I've played with, I've taken something.
Q: How important is it for a team around this time of year to completely fill the bucket each week, but then completely empty it and start over the following week?
TB: Yeah, I think the thing about the football season is it's 16 individual games. But, in the end, it's a long span of practice, play, practice, play, practice, play. And I've said before, it's like a marathon. You have these individual sprints within the marathon, and it's really about the competitiveness that you bring on a weekly basis. So, everyone has the competitiveness through the first four games, through the first eight games, and probably toward the end of the year you get a little second wind because things kind of are a bit more clear as you go through the season. So, it's good to be at this point. Everyone's worked really hard, but the point for all of us is to go out there and win and do the best we could possibly do. So, I'm excited for this team to take the field on Sunday. We've got a lot play for. This is a huge game for us, and really to get to 13-3 is a great accomplishment. It's very hard to do, so we've got a lot at stake and we've got to go play like it.
Q: Does your demeanor change this time of year? Your teammates were talking about you giving a speech prior to the last game. Is that because these are essentially playoff games?
TB: Yeah, and I just would say a lot of guys talk at different times. I've been around a little bit, so I kind of pick my spots because I think if you speak too much, then it loses a little bit at the time. So, I just try to pick the right time to express the things that are important, that I feel are important, and everyone does that. We have coaches that do that. As a veteran player, as a captain, I feel like that's good knowledge for me to share, and that's just us going out there and understanding what's at stake. I think everybody puts a lot aside. You know, I think we all do. We all have jobs, and I don't have – I have a lot of grown-up issues. You know, you deal with kids, and family, and life things, and a lot of the younger guys don't. That's just the reality. And when you're an older player, you don't take those things for granted because you realize the things that you're putting off are very important and things that you can't get back. And the longer you do it, you try to express to them that these are important things, and if it's important for me to sacrifice for them, they've got to do the same. And that's the reality of football is it takes on part of your life because this is – you play for a long period of time during the season. The games are scheduled every Sunday. So, they take precedent over basically everything else. And it's just a lot of important things we're doing, and trying to do the right thing.
Q: What lessons have you learned from spending time with Joe Cardona?
TB: Yeah, we've all learned a lot from Joe and his service to our country. He does it quite a bit in the summer, and it's a real full-time job that he's got. So, he's a great player. He obviously has a great military career as a lieutenant, and we're all proud of him. He's just a great, great person. Glad to call him a teammate.
Q: What was it like when you were at the ceremony last June?
TB: It was great. Very powerful, and you just understand the oath that he's taking. Proud of him and all of his accomplishments, and those of all of our service members.
Q: Do you remember the first time a player asked you for your jersey after a game?
TB: I don't remember the first one, but it's a pretty popular thing to do now these days. So, I've got to kind of get with the program. But yeah, there's a lot of jersey swaps these days, but it's probably been going on seven, eight years. I don't know, you guys probably know better than me.
Q: Do you have to get extras made at the beginning of the year?
TB: Yeah, they do. We end up paying for them because they're expensive, but it's a nice gesture.
Q: Have you approached these last few weeks any differently given your contract status?
TB: No, I would say no different than I've approached it for the last 20 years. Try to do the best I can do and help our team win, be a great player and have a winning attitude. Try to bring it to the field.
Q: Tre'Davious White commented on your Instagram post that other players can't hit you the way you blocked him. How do you feel when other players talk about not being able to hit you or that the referees are protecting you?
TB: I was just trying to have a little fun, that's all – take E-Rob's [Elandon Roberts] comment, which I thought was pretty great, and have a little fun with it. So, Tre'Davious is a great player. Yeah, he does a great job. Yeah, I don't take offense to anything anyone says.
Q: Have you had a roughing the passer flag thrown from a hit on you this year?
TB: I don't know. You guys would probably know better than me. I'm not sure.
Q: How much have you kept in touch with and followed what Jimmy Garoppolo has been doing with the 49ers, and what are your thoughts on what he's been doing?
TB: Yeah, I kind of always keep in touch with different guys, and I actually saw Brian [Hoyer] and Jacoby [Brissett] today on FaceTime – they were FaceTiming each other. So yeah, I've had so many great players that I've played with that are on other teams. I talk to Matt Cassel, I talk to Hoy, Jimmy, Jacoby. All the guys I've played with, I feel like I'm still buddies with. So, it's cool. You know, you share a room with these guys for a long time. We've got a lot in common, and have just been great friends.
Q: What do you think about when you leave the locker room and get ready to run onto the field?
TB: Again, I think we play once a week and we play three hours a week, so you try to just gear up for that moment. So, you know you're pretty focused at that time. It's the night meetings, the morning meetings – you know, you get all your stuff ready to go and then you get a chance to finally go out there and play. So, you warm up, you're anxious, but then to get a chance to go out there and play is very exciting.
Q: Do you think the Navy Midshipmen will give you some good mojo from using your plane to go to the Liberty Bowl?
TB: I hope so, yeah. I hope so. That would be pretty cool, that would be great. Yeah. When is that game?
Q: New Year's Eve.
TB: New Year's Eve. Yeah, we're rooting for them.
Q: How was it, taking a moment to reflect, when you were on set for the NFL 100 team that airs tonight? How much fun was that?
TB: That was great. Yeah, it was very cool, and I won't spoil any of the details, but it was just a cool experience because I've been a part of some things the NFL has done over the years and they kind of make a big production out of a lot of these things. It's pretty neat to be a part of. There was a commercial I did last year – it was here right before we left for the Super Bowl. At Super Bowl 50, I went out with all of the other Super Bowl MVPs and I got booed by all of the Denver fans when I went on the field, I remember that. But, that was cool, doing it in my hometown. So, there's just a lot of cool experiences. I never thought I would be playing 20 years in the NFL, and certainly never thought I would be picked to that team. But, I've just played with a lot of great teammates, and great coaches, and a great organization, and played for Mr. [Robert] Kraft and it's been pretty sweet.
Q: Do you still feel like a little kid sometimes?
TB: Absolutely, yeah. Absolutely. I feel like that every day. I mean, I go out there and I play, I'm throwing the ball around to these receivers and you think, "Man, I'm just…" When I was a kid, I'd be in the parking lot at Candlestick [Park], throwing the football with my friends. Now I'm throwing to the best athletes in the world, and then getting paid for it. You know, "Hey, can you guard this guy? We're going to run this route and try to complete it." That's what we did when we were kids, and in a lot of ways I'm still doing it as a kid. I feel like a kid, and I think it's important to still look at it like that.