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Transcripts: Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels and Bret Bielema Conference Calls 10/14

HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK

CONFERENCE CALL
October 14, 2019

Q: Tom Brady said that he appreciated receiving the game ball after Thursday night's victory. We know Tom broke some records during the game, but what went into the decision to give him the game ball?

BB: Well, I mean Tom breaks a record every week, so we could really probably give him the game ball after every game. But, I think this one's – I mean, in terms for what he's accomplished in terms of total career passing yards, it's pretty noteworthy. And, I thought he played well in the game. We, offensively, had to kind of keep it together here with some limitations in the second half. I thought he showed a lot of leadership and toughness and just passing ability and accuracy that helped us win the game.

Q: Over the past 20 years, is Tom's ability to let the game come to him and not force anything something you've come to appreciate? Julian Edelman said after the game that the offense never panics with Tom under center.

BB: Definitely. Yeah, Tom's got great poise on the field and he's been in a lot of critical situations with various elements: ahead, behind, weather, so forth. He's on the road, at home, you name it. He's been in pretty much every situation you could be in, so his experience and decision-making – we have total trust in him in all those situations and he's come through for us so many times before.

Q: What role does Tom have to play in the development of young receivers?

BB: What kind of role? I mean, the quarterback and the receivers need to work on their timing, execution and recognition. I mean, they need to see the same thing from two different vantage points and that's really what it comes down to is the quarterback needs to be able to see what a receiver sees, and the receiver needs to see what the quarterback sees and be able to make the right decisions on different routes, against different leverage and coverage. Same thing that linemen have to be able to see, only they're a little bit closer together on that, but they still have to be able to see the same thing when five guys are blocking five guys to get the right five on the five and handle whatever stunts, or twists or however the play unfolds after the snap. So, that's what execution is.

Q: Because he's been in the league for so long, is it more of young receivers like Gunner Olszewski and Jakobi Meyers trying to get on Tom's page, rather than him trying to get on their page?

BB: Well, we have to see it together.

Q: Do you plan to start practicing N'Keal Harry this week?

BB: If he's ready, yes.

Q: I know it may be hard to know, but how is he doing in terms of progressing?

BB: Well, we hope he'll be ready to go.

Q: The trade deadline is October 29th. I don't know how things would be for Nick Caserio, but two weeks out, how is the activity with that around this time? Or is there an uptick in conversations as that date gets closer?

BB: That's probably a better question for Nick. I mean, I don't know. When something comes up that's important that we need to talk about, we talk about it. I'm sure he hears different [things], I'm sure every situation is different, and it's not like we meet every five minutes and say, “What happened in the last five minutes?” That's just not the way it works.

Q: What have you noticed from Terrence Brooks on the defensive side of the ball? It seems like he's been getting more opportunities this year than he has in the last four or five years.

BB: I think that's one of the things that I talked about with him when we visited him and signed him – that we use a lot of defensive packages and our players play. All the players play, and as you said, that's something that he hasn't really had a lot of chance to do in his career. So, he's really embraced it. He's taken on a number of different roles and he's worked very hard to understand those. We have different multiples in our defense, and between the multiples of the defense and different positions, the wheel can start spinning there a little bit, especially for somebody that hasn't been in the system for multiple years like Devin [McCourty] and Pat [Chung] and Duron [Harmon] have. But, he's done very well with it and has given us a lot of solid play there as a part of different packages and rotations, but also for Pat. So, he does a nice job for us and continues to contribute in the kicking game, so he's been a very valuable addition for us this year.

Q: Did you get a chance to watch the Cowboys-Jets game? If so, were you able to take anything away from that, considering they're both on your upcoming schedule?

BB: I saw a little bit of the game, but I watched it this morning again on the coaches' copy, which is probably a little better for me. But, yeah, certainly the Jets made the big plays when they had to – the fourth-down stop, and then the double-move to [Robby] Anderson for the 92-yard touchdown, and then the two-point play. They were able to pressure [Dak] Prescott on that, on the throw to [Jason] Witten and win the game. So, they made a lot of big plays when they had to, but their offense was very productive. They had a lot of big plays in the passing game – play-action passes and a lot of chunk plays, a couple 30-yarders and obviously the 92-yarder. But, they were consistent with the running game and [Le'Veon] Bell banged out some tough yards, and that set up some opportunities on play-action. [Sam] Darnold clearly made a lot of good throws and he's a big, strong guy that's athletic in the pocket, and they have a lot of confidence in him, as they should. He knows their system well and ran it well, and they made big plays defensively. Did a good job on the running game, as they usually do. It's an aggressive team that pursues well and tackles well. So, it was a solid effort all the way around.

Q: What kind of difference does Sam Darnold make for that team, and what sort of challenge does he present?

BB: Sam's a very talented player. We know that. Again, he's big, he's strong, he can make all the throws: short, intermediate, deep. He can extend plays with his legs. He's also a strong player that's hard to bring down in the pocket. He can shed tacklers and stay on his feet and throw the ball and still throw it accurately. He's shown good toughness last year and this year. Going back to the opener against Buffalo, and then yesterday against Dallas, he shows good toughness in the pocket and he's a quality player. It certainly makes a big difference having him on the field for them. There's no question about that.

Q: What kind of adjustments and improvements has Ted Karras made from Week 1 to Week 6?

BB: Ted's been a very dependable player for us for four years. A couple years ago when David [Andrews] missed a couple games, Ted stepped in there and played center. He's played guard for us. Fortunately for us, prior to this year we've had Shaq [Mason], David and Joe [Thuney], have been very durable. But this year with David's situation, Ted's had the opportunity to play more and he's stepped in and played consistently like he really always has for us. So, we're very fortunate that we have him and have his experience. Ted's a smart player, he's strong, he can anchor the middle of the pocket and his communication with his teammates on the offensive line, which is critical for the center position to handle blocking schemes and protections and so forth, has been good. He's obviously grown each week, as you said, with the experience and the opportunity to continue to work together with his teammates. And the consistency and communication definitely improves little by little, but it's a new challenge each week because each defense is different. The plays we run are a little bit different and what they do is a little bit different, so there's certainly continuity and carryover. But at the same time, there's a newness and a variety to each week, which presents its own challenges both of personnel matchups and scheme adjustments. So, he's done a good job for us, though.

Q: Is N'Keal Harry's readiness more physical or mental that you're looking for?

BB: I mean, he's been able to keep up with everything. It's just physically, he needs to be able to show that he can go out there and participate competitively and at the practice level that we're at. Hopefully that's where he'll be, but we'll make our final evaluations on that before we put him out there.

Q: Devin McCourty said earlier in the summer that he felt like the defense was starting from ahead because of all the players returning from last year's roster. Is that something you feel has given the defense an advantage, especially with the level of turnover we see on NFL rosters from year-to-year nowadays?

BB: Well, I'd say at the safety position, I can't imagine that there's any team in the league that's had more consistency at that position than we've had over the last few years with Duron, Pat, Devin, and Nate [Ebner] for that matter. You know, Jordan [Richards] was here for three years, but obviously he was gone last year. But, there's been a lot a lot of continuity there and I'd say overall, when you look at our defensive roster, there's a lot of guys that have played a lot of football here. But, this year's [continuity] has probably been a little bit more, maybe than in the past. Adding a player like Jamie Collins, who's a new player, but he's not really a new player – that probably sort of counts as an experienced veteran player. So, yeah, I agree with Devin. Our carryover defensively is good. We did have a good head start on that, but I think over the last couple years we've had a pretty high level of continuity. Granted, we've lost a couple of big players here over the last few years – Trey Flowers, who was really a three-year heavy starter for us, and Logan Ryan, and [Malcolm] Butler and guys like that. They had played three or four years, so this year it was good to have Jason [McCourty] back with Steph [Gilmore] and Jon Jones and J.C. [Jackson]. So, there's good continuity there at the corner position, maybe a little more than we've had in the last couple years, but Steph's been here three years and Jon's been here four years. It's maybe a little more than it's been, but we've had a decent level of that over the last two or three years, too.

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOSH McDANIELS

CONFERENCE CALL
October 14, 2019

Q: What stability has Ted Karras given you in anchoring the middle of the line and how has his communication helped you in terms of play calling?

JM: Yeah, Ted loves football and Teddy works really hard at his preparation each week. He works hard to understand the opponent. He works hard at the things that are in our game plan. And he really works hard at the communication end of it, which is really critical from the center to the line, from the quarterback to the center, and vice versa. There's a lot of things that those two players do that allow our offense to function and operate the way we want to. When Ted was the guy that was kind of the swing guy the last few years inside, backing up the center, the guard, the position, and really preparing to play any and all of those spots in the game, he prepared like he was playing every week. Now, he has an opportunity and he's done a nice job of not only communicating and helping the guys around him set the table, distribute our blocking, whether it be in the running game or the pass game, but also he's just a tough guy. He really adds an element of toughness inside, which David [Andrews] did, as well. Ted's a guy that will do whatever is asked of him to try to help the team win and play well offensively. Really happy with what Ted's doing right now. I – a

Q: What sort of responsibility does Tom Brady have in developing the younger receivers?

JM: You mean, actually developing their skills?

Q: He's talked about how he can only do what he can do in terms of his preparation and it's up to them to get up to speed. How can he help them grow as players?

JM: I think that's a multi-faceted answer. I mean, No.1, the players are responsible to really – they come to work and their job is to improve at their craft. The coaches, our responsibility is to help identify the ways that they can make progress and then to put them in position in practice, whether it be through drills or group work or team plays, to give them an opportunity to improve in those skills that we're trying to work on. To me, where the quarterback comes into it is just our overall repetition and the trust and confidence we build through the reps we take at practice and the things we learn from those reps, good or bad, and we learn from both. And then the carryover from one day to the next is really on each man individually. I mean, that's how football works. We go out and we do something, and if we do it well, great. We try to repeat that as many times as we can. If we go out and we don't do it as well as we would have liked, then we make the corrections and then we have to be able to process that information the next day or the next week or whenever the next time is that comes up and not make that same error. That's always a challenge for every young player. I mean, that's just the burden of playing in the National Football League. You try not to be an error repeater. It's always a work in progress. Every player on our team we feel can get better and we feel can improve and make progress each week. That's the design of practice, the practice plan, how we set it up, what we try to do in our individual periods, group periods, team periods, and each player is working on himself, and then the groups that work together are working on just their overall repetition with one another. It's not different than pass protection between a center and a guard or a guard and a tackle when they're trying to pass off stunts or games. The more they do it, the more repetitions they get at it together, the more trust they build with one another, the better off they're going to play together. So, with a quarterback and a receiver or a quarterback and a tight end, whatever it may be, those things are just, we have to learn them, we have to grow from our mistakes and we have to make progress each week and try the best we can to not make errors that we've already corrected. I think our quarterbacks work extremely hard with all those groups during the course of practice weeks to try to make sure that we're building and progressing each week. Sometimes it may be slower than others, but that's certainly not from a lack of effort.

Q: Should we temper our expectations on the outside for drastic and immediate contributions from N'Keal Harry upon his pending return to the field?

JM: I think the fairest thing to do for any young player, especially a guy that's missed as much time as N'Keal has missed, is we have to get him back on the practice field. We have to make smart decisions about when he's ready to do what. Certainly, to put a player back in a position to say, “Hey, do everything, and do it all well, and do it all well under pressure, and do it all well under pressure against seven different defensive looks that you might get,” and different personnel on the field each week that he hasn't necessarily played against – I think there's things that hopefully we can build into and do quicker than others. I think the practice field and the results we get on the practice field will tell us when the right time is to use him in different roles. It's really no different for him now than it would be at the very beginning of the season, either. You know, you get him in there and he's going to make some mistakes, he's going to learn from them, hopefully he improves because of it, and I think we're going to use our practice repetitions and the work that we put in on the practice field each week moving forward as kind of the barometer to tell us when the right time is to do more or to maybe pull back and do less. The goal will be for him the same as it is for each one of our other players – let's try to put him in positions to do something he does well on game day. And if we're doing that, then we're being fair to the player and giving him an opportunity to go out there and play fast and be aggressive, which is the goal. Because all our guys, they'll do the best they can when they're confident in the things we're asking them to do and that they can play fast without thinking and go out there and do their jobs. We're going to try to figure out what that is as quick as we can. When it's time to move forward and add something to their bucket, usually the young players will tell us by what they do in practice that it's time for us to be able to add something new to their plate and add something for them to do on game day.

Q: When putting a player on the field who has a lot of talent but is less experienced, do you have to weigh the opportunity for great plays versus the chance of mistakes or plays that could hurt you?

JM: Again, our job is to always try to – look, if we can call every play and have it be minimal risk and high reward, that would be great. Sometimes that may not be the case. Sometimes you stick your face in the fan a little bit, not necessarily based on a player. Maybe it's a scheme you're trying to use. But, at the same time, you're always weighing what's best for the football team. And so if that means you try to manage those things little by little and make sure that you're putting the player in the right position and not a position to hurt the team, then that's certainly what we would err on.

Q: What did you see from N'Keal Harry when he was on the field during the summer, both physically and mentally?

JM: Yeah, N'Keal, he's a talented kid and he's got a long way to go. I think the thing with a younger player is always you see some of the skills and talents they have, and you also see a lack of experience just manifests itself in some things that they make mistakes on. But, every mistake is an opportunity to learn and improve, and that's the way we've got to think about that with all our players, especially the young guys, is when they make an error, hopefully that's a good thing moving forward that maybe we don't make it again. N'Keal flashed the things we've seen from him. He's a big guy that can go up and catch the ball. He's a tough guy to get to the ground when he has the ball in his hands. At the same time, like all young receivers, there's a lot of nuances to playing that position in our league that are critical to being a good player – releasing at the line of scrimmage, top of the route technique, finishing plays against tight coverage. Those are things that are all going to come with experience and repetition, and it's exciting to have an opportunity to continue to work with him. Really like the kid, he's diligent, he works hard, he's got a good attitude, he's a good kid, so we'll see how he can progress moving forward.

Q: How vital is the fullback position to what you want to do offensively? How is the current situation with two men down affecting that?

JM: It's certainly been a big part of what we've done. James [Develin] has given us such a high level of play at that position for a long time that it's really grown into an integral part of our offense in the things we do with him and how we use him. Jak [Jakob Johnson] stepped in and was doing a very admirable job in his place. So, if we don't have one, then it's the same mentality you take in a game. You lose a guy in a game and you're out of that grouping. You have to adjust and you use what you have left. There's always a way to move the ball, there's always a way to take care of a football, there's always a way to try to score points with what you have and in terms of your personnel groupings. So, that's the mentality we have to take, whether it be fullback, tight end, receiver, whatever the position is that we're a little light in. We have to take that mentality and find the best way to do it. To me, that's one of the great challenges in coaching and it's probably one of the most exciting parts of our jobs is to try to figure out how to do that on a week-to-week basis. It's not exciting for us to lose players, but for us, it's a great challenge and a fun challenge in trying to figure out how to continue to progress, improve, make adjustments and try to be productive while we're doing it if we lose a player or a grouping offensively. So, it's been a very critical part of what we do. We'll see moving forward how that manifests itself. I'm not sure exactly we know that answer at the moment, but we're going to work to try to play good football as we move forward and progress and play our best as we head through the season.

DEFENSIVE LINE COACH BRET BIELEMA

CONFERENCE CALL
October 14, 2019

Q: Danny Shelton seems to be playing at a very high level with you in his second year. What have you noticed in terms of him this year that has stood out to you relative to last year?

BB: Well, last year, obviously the things that we did, there's a lot of carryover into this year. Even when I first saw Danny come back in the spring and to where he was in the fall into camp, and now six weeks behind us and going into the Jets game this week, I would say his candor and his preparation are very detailed. Every day he wants to know what he can work on. We have certain things set up in practice that allow him to get good at things we are going to use during the course of week. He's concentrated on his weaknesses or the things he's perceived as weaknesses as, “Let's get these behind us, be a part of the past. We can concentrate on making them strengths.” That's really kind of what I've seen week-in and week-out – the way he uses his hands, the way he moves his feet, the power that he plays with. The plays he's gotten involved with are not happening by chance. They're really execution on his behalf.

Q: What have you seen from Deatrich Wise and how has he improved this season?

BB: Yeah, I think the last two games in particular, you've really seen a flash into what we've seen all along. He's come full circle just on his preparation, the way he's locked into the game plan. He's a very, very gifted pass rusher, but now he's made some plays. Early on last week, one of the first runs was a solo stop by him where he played off the guard and made a nice routine play that really kind of shows the evolution he's gone through – his ability to get on and off blocks, to make tackles. He's always loved to rush the passer. As long as I've known him, that's something he's really enjoyed doing. But, to make his game complete now is probably the difference that's set him apart.

Q: For a player like that, what does he need to do to see some more snaps?

BB: Well, it's kind of an issue within the way the games have unfolded. We played about 50 snaps the other day and we just don't have a high snap count, but his percentage has grown a little bit more with every game. Obviously, one game he was inactive for, but last week he started for us in base defense where he was in there with LG [Lawrence Guy] and Danny, and he also played for us on third-down packages. So, I think as the game has evolved this fall and as we get into more specific game plans for these upcoming games, it could put him in a more prominent position as far as the rep count. But the thing I love about working with Deatrich is that he truly does try to take advantage of every opportunity he gets. He doesn't really count or worry so much about where it is or how it comes about, it's just a matter of what he gets done when he's in there.

Q: What in your mind is Adam Butler doing so much better this year? Or is he just showing up more? He seems so versatile and continuously shows up play after play.

BB: I think Adam is a very unique player, and the fact that even last year he was more of a third-down role, a guy that was used in sub packages and used in certain ways. I really give a lot of credit to him. We talked in the spring about becoming a more complete player on early downs and being able to play certain techniques. He's long, he's athletic; he has a way to bend. He's one of those guys that really does very seldom ever get out of position. He has very good balance; understands leverage. He's a very intelligent player. He uses that Vanderbilt degree every day if you know what I mean. He truly is a guy that really gets it, understands it, can process it and the thing this year working with him during the course of a game, he literally understands when things happen literally on the spot. He can come to the sideline, digest what just happened, what they're trying to do, how we can combat it. He gives a lot of really good information. As coaches, sometimes you don't get all the most accurate information sometimes, but I will say that AB really does take a lot of pride in his skill set on game day and that's what's really shown up.

Q: So it's been as drastic to you as it has been to us from the outside?

BB: To me, last year I even kind of came to him because the one thing I've always tried to stress to Adam is, “Be the great you. Don't try to be something you're not. Don't try to be something that's not in your DNA. Just be good at what you're good at.” That's really what I've tried to stress to him and that's really come out. I don't know if he ever saw himself as an every down player in the past, and he's really embraced that role. The other thing, the assist only comes up in basketball where you have to give someone the ball to make the shot. But if they counted assists in football, he does more things to draw the attention or create a blocking scheme that frees up another player repeatedly within our schemes, and that's a true testament to him. I'd say that a lot of the other defensive guys, they would probably tell you they want Adam lining up next to them as much as anybody because he creates that type of play for other people.

Q: Overall, you seem to be doing a good job at staying out of second and third-and-short situations. What are the keys and how big of a part is Adam Butler to the run defense?

BB: I appreciate the question. The things that do come up during the course of the game – first, you need to be able to recognize them and I give a lot of credit to our players. Coach [Belichick] always stresses smart, tough, dependable players, and we have those guys all around us – not just in the defensive line but outside linebacker, inside linebacker, safeties, corners. They're just all very, very intelligent players. They're not just going and playing another down. They're recognizing what the down is. I think back to last week early on there was a play that I believe gained 8 or 9 [yards] on first down. So it was second-and-short and we had a routine call where Danny and some guys held the point inside and all of a sudden it became a third-and-2 and the play got plugged up by [Dont'a] Hightower who had a sack on the bootleg or the play-action to the right. All of a sudden we were off the field. Just as a defense to be able to recognize that moment, to be able to capitalize on it on second-and-short that created the third-and-medium, that created the third-down stop that got us off the field. That's a lot more preparation-oriented than anything. The guys are locked into that moment. To see it come full circle and to see the results is really fun to be a part of.

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