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Transcripts: Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and Stephon Gilmore Press Conferences 1/2

HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK

Press Conference
Thursday, January 2, 2020

BB: We're obviously closing in on the biggest game of the year, so we have a couple more days here of preparations to wrap things up on the Titans. But as I said, this is a really good football team. They do a lot of things well – very, very explosive on offense and a tough group to stop. We're looking forward to the opportunity and the challenge, and as I said, we've got a couple more days here to wrap things up and we're going to use all of our time – we need it – and try to put everything together the best that we can to be ready to go.

Q: What have you observed from Stephon Gilmore in terms of bouncing back from a bad play or game that he feels like wasn't up to his usual standard?

BB: Yeah, Steph's a very consistent player – his performance, his preparation, his effort. So, I see the same thing from him week-in and week-out, day-in and day-out.

Q: What have you seen from him in terms of his accountability to his teammates? How does he approach himself and what standard does he hold himself to?

BB: Yeah, he works hard. He always tries to do what's best for the team. I think everybody has total respect for his commitment to the football team and his effort and dependability. Put me at the top of that list.

Q: Have you found that there is a best strategy for getting players, especially young ones, past a loss and onto the next game?

BB: Yeah, I just try to do what's best for our football team each week and each day of each week. So, that's what I've done. That's what I'll try to continue to do. Every play or every situation, every game is different. They're not the same, so I just try to do what I feel like is best each week.

Q: With all of the history you and Tom Brady have, is it strange to think that it's at least possible that this could be your last game together?

BB: Yeah, we're focused on the Titans. That's all I'm focused on, so we'll do everything we can to get ready to go and play the best game we can play Saturday night.

Q: The Titans use quite a bit of multiple tight end sets. What's the challenge of facing a team that can play that many players at that position?

BB: I mean, they usually play situationally. So, you don't usually see all three of them in the game together. It happens on a handful of plays, but not that often. You could see [Jonnu] Smith on any down, but he doesn't play as much on third down, but he plays some. I'd say they use them kind of based on the package that they're in, the personnel group that they're in. They don't just rotate them in-and-out on every play where all three guys do the same thing.

Q: Is there a challenge in trying to determine if one of them is acting like a fullback or a tight end on certain plays?

BB: Yeah, they do a good job of – in their 12 personnel – they do a good job of using multiple formations and multiple roles for those guys. Yeah, 12 can be 21, 12 can be 11, 12 could be 12 – the conventional 12 looks. Yeah, we have to identify that. I mean, that's fairly common. We've seen that – I don't know – probably eight, 10 games this year, some version of it depending on who the players are. But, it's a good way to present multiple attacks on the defense without having to change personnel. And they do that with the running back, too. [Derrick] Henry's in there a lot. [Dion] Lewis is in there on third down some, but again, Henry can be in there and they can do everything they want to do. So, they kind of do the same thing with him, too.

Q: What has stood out to you about Harold Landry's play when you watch them on film?

BB: Yeah, he's really had a good year. He's fast, quick off the ball. He's got good length, can turn the corner. He's made a lot of good edge plays, and with [Jurrell] Casey inside and some of the blitzes that they run inside, it keeps the quarterback from stepping up. And if the quarterback can't step up, then that brings the edge rushers into play. Edge rushers force the quarterback up, it brings the inside rush into play. So, they have a good complement between their pressure, their players and their scheme. It combines to be effective.

Q: Can you use the loss to the Dolphins as motivation, and in some ways do the Patriots feel like underdogs?

BB: I mean, I don't know what we are or aren't. It doesn't matter. We're just trying to get ready for the Titans, play our best game on Saturday night. That's it.

Q: Is that a motivating factor you can use after a loss?

BB: We're past last week. We're past every week. This is a one week season. That's it.

Q: With Elandon Roberts catching a touchdown last week, what do you remember about Mike Vrabel as a pass-catcher?

BB: Yeah, good. Mike had a lot of production for us.

Q: Any resemblance between Elandon and Mike?

BB: I mean, they're both defensive players. Elandon's played in the backfield, Mike played on the line, but they both played defense. 

Q: In the past we've seen you on the sidelines meeting with a large group of players and coaches during the game. Since this is something that you can't do regularly, how do you choose the right moments to share whatever you're trying to share with a group that large in a game?

BB: Yeah, I don't know. Again, I just try to, during the game, do what I can, do what I feel like is best to try to help our team. That's all I want to do is try to help our team win, so whatever that is, I'll try to do it.

Q: Jonnu Smith has had several explosive plays this season. Is he a tight end that you would categorize more as a big receiver than a traditional tight end?

BB: No, I wouldn't put him in that category. He's just a really good tight end. He can do a lot of things: blocks well, runs well, is a good receiver. I mean, hell, they played him at tailback. He looked pretty good back there. So, he's a very athletic player, hard to tackle, catches the ball well. He's great after the catch – probably the best in the league. I mean, I can't imagine anybody better than him after the catch. No, he looks like a tight end to me. And a good one.

Q: Adoree' Jackson looks like he's trending toward a potential return this week. What kind of boost would he give the Titans defense if he can get back out there this week?

BB: Yeah, I mean, you'd have to ask Mike that, you know, what role he'd play. But, I mean he's obviously a very talented player. He also returns punts, so he can factor in there too, depending on where they are with their other punt returners. Again, I don't know. That's really more of a question for Mike. But, we've played against Adoree' in the past. Very athletic guy, good ball skills, quick, runs well. He's a good player. Obviously, would help any defense, so I'm sure they'd like to have him back. But what role he'd play, I don't know.

Q: How much time do you spend with Tom Brady going over mechanics? Is he kind of left to his own devices because he knows his own mechanics so well?

BB: Yeah, I meet with the quarterbacks every week and we talk about a variety of things, that being one of them, and other things. So, I'd say weekly.

QUARTERBACK TOM BRADY

Press Conference
Thursday, January 2, 2020

Q: What has the mood in the locker room been this week?

TB: Excited and focused. We know we've got a big challenge, a very tough test. Great football team coming here. It's playoff football and everyone knows what's at stake, so you certainly have to earn it to move on. You have to play good. A lot of plays come up over the years when I think about playoff football, and if you're on the wrong end of one of them, it's your season. If you're on the right end, you move on. You don't know which play is that going to be and you can't take anything for granted. Guys are working hard and trying to do the right thing.  

Q: You talk about not taking anything for granted. Do you ever find yourself getting nostalgic about how this might be the last time you play in this stadium or anything like that?

TB: I'm not much for nostalgia. I'm just pretty focused on what I need to do. This week has felt pretty much like every other week for the last 20 years. So, just trying to focus on what I need to do and this is a team that gives you a lot of challenges, and [we] just have to go out there and try to play really well. They're going to force us to really be tied together. When we're not and when we haven't been this year, it hasn't looked very good, and when we have been tied together, it looks pretty good.

Q: You mean tied together in terms of what?

TB: Everyone being on the same page and working together and anticipating and confidence and all those things play into it. That's kind of where it's been this week. 

Q: There's been a lot of discussion of you on the sidelines during the game against the Dolphins with new shoes and doing some jogging in the second half. What was going on there?

TB: Nothing, just I felt good, I felt good. I don't think the white shoes are going to make it this week, though. I think I'm putting those things back to bed. They're not making the cut for this game, so I'm back to my dark colored shoes.

Q: You've talked about things you've needed to improve on from last week. Is some of that mechanical?

TB: Those are always important. I wish they were perfect every week ,and I do think some things – sometimes you get a little off and you've got to just go back to the fundamentals and study some mechanics and stuff like that. I try to focus on that every week, some weeks a little more than others. It's a game of skill, it's a game of technique. If you're a golfer, not every shot goes 150 yards, for me at least. Not even for the pro golfers. Every jump shot doesn't go in. It just doesn't happen like that. So sometimes, passing the football is a little bit like that, too. There are some days where you feel like, man, everywhere you're aiming it's just going and then sometimes the timing is a little bit off, decisiveness is a little bit off. It could be mental, it could be physical, but all those things play a factor, and you just try to get back to the spot where you really feel like you're most confident. 

Q: How do you get your swagger back after your confidence was maybe knocked down Sunday against Miami?

TB: Like I said, I think every game is a little different, everything challenges you a little bit differently at different times. The week before that, we played Buffalo and it was one of our better weeks, and then last week wasn't our best week. Hopefully this week is our best week. A lot of things happened over the course of the game. One play could lead to another good play, which could lead to another good play, which leads to a good series, which leads to a good quarter, which leads to a good half, which leads to a good game. Sometimes, you've got to battle through it and it comes down to a couple plays at the end of the game and it's not perfect. There's been a lot of postseason games that have been like that where we're not blowing teams out 45-nothing. These are tight games, and it's one great catch or one great tackle or one great interception or one great strip sack. That's just part of playing football this time of year. You're going up against a lot of good football teams, and we've got to be able to make the play. And if we don't, we know what happens, and if we do, we know what happens. That's part of postseason football.

Q: How is the confidence right now?

TB: How's the confidence in what in particular?

Q: Just moving forward and having confidence that you'll get the job done on Saturday night.

TB: I think we always feel like we have a great plan. I feel like we're going to go try to execute the plan as best we possibly can. That's been no different than what it's been all year. I don't think we go into any games going, "Man, I really hate what we're doing." I really do love what we're doing, trying to attack them the right way and go out there and score enough points to win.

Q: You're approaching your 41st playoff game. As you get to these games, what is your mental stamina like?

TB: Yeah, you've got to feel good. You've got to feel good to be in this position. There's a lot of teams that aren't playing this week, so I think you look at this like a great opportunity to do something you love to do, which is go play football. If you're not looking at it like that, then you're in the wrong place. To have the opportunity to play for this team, in the playoffs, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter which weekend it is – the first weekend of the playoffs, second weekend, third weekend, fourth weekend – the team that wins is going to move on, and the team that plays the best is the team that's going to win. Just focusing on playing our best this week is where it's been. The physical preparation is done, but the mental prep will keep going for the next, however long we've got. What is that, 60 hours? Forty-eight hours, 60 hours or so, a little less, give or take? I was no math major at Michigan. I was a general studies major so I didn't have to take a language. I was always decent at math. 

Q: Does it hit you at all that this could be your last home game as a Patriot?

TB: I haven't thought about those things and I wouldn't be thinking about those things anyway. It's felt like a normal week for me, so I just approach practice like I always have and try to do the best I could do. That's what I'm going to do this weekend, as well.

Q: Do you hear people wondering about it?

TB: About whether it's my last game? I haven't turned the TV on. It's probably not the best after we lose to turn the TV on and listen to all you guys' shows and stuff like that. Probably weren't too many great things happening, so I tried to lay low this week. 

Q: What do you recall from the practice battles between Julian Edelman and Logan Ryan?

TB: They were pretty great, and they're both very talented players that make you pay when you make a mistake. They know each other really well. I have a lot of respect for Logan. Logan was a hell of a player here and it was hard to see him go, but he got a great opportunity to go to Tennessee and we've played him a few times. He's just a competitor. He's a football player – he's mentally, physically tough, good in the run game, really good blitzer, really good hands. If you make a mistake, he makes you pay. I'll be very conscious of where he's at so I don't make a mistake that causes us a big problem.

Q: When it comes to this group, does it ever come into play that this playoff stretch could be the last time the core group is all together? Is there any added motivation that you would take from understanding that?

TB: I just think it's important for all of us not to take anything for granted. I think that's what you think about because, if you think about it, every year that we're in the playoffs, it's really that same thing – the team will not be together if we lose, whether that was 2010, '11, '12, all the way to now. Even if you're going to the Super Bowl, it's the same feeling. It's, "This is our last one and let's try to go end it the right way." I know this game, we haven't played in this particular round of the playoffs, but it doesn't matter. If we win, then what's the difference? We've just got to go win. You've got to go win, you've got to do everything you can when that ball is kicked off to do the best you can to help the team win and put yourself and put the team in a great situation to go win. It's not easy. It's tough. We're going against a great football team – they're going to make it tough, we're going to make it tough on them. That's what makes for great football games.

Q: You have 30 playoff wins and the other 11 quarterbacks in the playoffs have 26 playoff wins combined...

TB: Is that pretty good?

Q: That's pretty good, Tom.

TB: That's pretty good.

Q: There are a lot of playoff stats like that. How do you ensure that past performance and a so-called "playoff mystique" in this building isn't what you rely on come Saturday?

TB: I don't think, like I said, taking it for granted – as much as all those other games were great to be a part of, they're not going to help us win this game. This game will be determined by the guys that are out there and 60 minutes of football on offense, defense, special teams playing a great complementary game. Both teams have talked about being physical. There's nothing in the past that matters. Obviously, I think knowing what to expect can be a little bit helpful if you use the experience wisely, but it's not going to help me complete a pass this weekend. I think what's going to help me complete a pass is making a right read against a right coverage and throwing to the guy that I feel like gives us the best chance to win. We all have a lot of games that we've played, but at the same time, playing good football will surpass all those things. Playing with each other, like I said, all of us communicating the right way, playing hard, playing physical and not taking anything for granted out there and not knowing which play is going to make a difference in the game, because a lot of these games that we've played in have come down to the very end.

CORNERBACK STEPHON GILMORE

Press Conference
Thursday, January 2, 2020

Stephon Gilmore was selected by New England Patriots media members as the 2019 Ron Hobson Good Guy Award winner. The award is given to the Patriots player who is most helpful, available and accommodating with the media. Previous award winners were WR Matthew Slater (2016), DB Devin McCourty (2017) and RB James White (2018). Following his award ceremony, Gilmore spoke with the media.

Q: Do you see yourself as a good guy? Do you try to be a good guy?

SG: I try to be a good guy. You know, no matter what – win or loss – I try to be respectful and give the most accurate information I can. That's just the way I was raised. That's the way I am as a player on and off the field.

Q: You said after the game last week that you felt like you let your team down. How is that all going to change Saturday night?

SG: You know, I don't think about it. It's a new week and I know the things I have to do in order for us to win. I'll take full responsibility for everything that I do and I know what I have to do to help my team, so I'm always hard on myself no matter what. Good or bad, I put it behind me and get ready for the next play or the next game.

Q: Does the team feel that they're underdogs?

SG: I don't believe in underdogs. You know, it's the playoffs, so you have to prove yourself on Saturday. No matter what you did in the past, it's a win-or-go-home, so that's how I look at it.

Q: What have you seen from matchups with Corey Davis or A.J. Brown that you can't see on film with guys like that?

SG: Obviously, you all know we practiced against them. They're great receivers. They're having a big year and [Ryan] Tannehill's having a big year, so it's going to be a dogfight. Prepare as much as we can, and I'm looking forward to the matchup and giving it all I got for my team.

Q: When you first came to New England, what was your first reaction to the different media intensity that comes with the Patriots? How long did it take for you to get used to all of these people being in the locker room?

SG: Yeah, it was a tough adjustment. Just from where I came from – there were probably like five media people in the locker room, maybe six, seven, then I come here and it's like 20. So it was a big adjustment, but it's good. Everybody wants to know what we're doing and have much respect for our team because of the hard work we put in each and every year. So, it was a big adjustment, but I think now I'm used to it.

Q: What are the expectations of being a Patriot and how have you embraced it? How is it different than anywhere else you've been?

SG: Yeah. I kind of try and look at the small things, you know, follow the players that've been here. There are a lot of guys that have been here that've been successful falling in with a good coach that pushes you every day no matter what you did in the past – allow you to forget what you did in the past, and be ready for the next game and try to prove yourself each and every week. So, I just followed from my teammates. Everything here is earned, so that's one thing that I like about here. You have to earn it no matter where you came from. So, I think that's the reason why my game elevated this year, or since I've been here. So, it's a good thing.

Q: Is there any difference in preparing for a rookie wide receiver versus a veteran that you might have seen multiple times before?

SG: No. I don't think of years, I just look at what I see on film because that's the only thing that matters. He [A.J. Brown] is a good receiver, he makes big plays, he can run and he's strong. So, he's having a good year for a reason. 

Q: What are the challenges of going up against this Titans offense that seems to be peaking at the right time?

SG: It's a big challenge. They can do everything. They can run the ball, they can throw it. So, any time you can do that and be balanced, you're going to be a good offense. So, it's going to take all 11 guys, and trusting each other and playing for each other.

Q: What's the energy like around the team? Does it feel any different than previous weeks?

SG: Just focused. We're always focused, but we know we have to earn the right to play next week, so that's how we're thinking about it. Just go out and play one play at a time. It's not going to be perfect. Just go out and go 100 percent for your team, and whoever makes the most plays, that's who's going to win.

Q: A lot of talking heads say that the Patriots are going to win because it's January and the game is at home. How do you block out the noise in a situation where you've had success here, but still need to win the game on the field?

SG: Yeah, I don't think that matters – home or away. Playoff time, you have to go out there and earn it. There's a lot of situations that've been happening over the previous years where it don't matter what team is away or home. Whoever plays the best, that's who's going to win. So, that's how we look at it.

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