PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
August 22, 2018
BB: Alright, we're looking forward to going down to Carolina tomorrow. This will be a great opportunity for us against the Panthers - a real good football team, do a lot of things well, have a lot of good players, well-coached, consistently one of the top teams in the league and do a lot of things that create problems for us that have been good for us to work on this week and good for us to see as we develop our team and other experiences to get us ready for the regular season. Looking forward to this opportunity. I think it will be a good - like it usually is down there - a good crowd, good environment. So, it's a good opportunity for our football team.
Q: James White said yesterday that while players like him are antsy for the regular season, you've done a good job of challenging them in practice so they get better every day. Is that something you have to do with the starters, just to keep challenging them in practice?
BB: Well, we all have a long way to go and we've got to rebuild everything, all three areas - offense, defense, special teams - plus all the situational work, and this is the time to do it. So, every year it's a different group of people. Even though some are the same, there are new people and we have to go through all those situations and processes to get ready. So, yeah, it will always be that way.
Q: Are you emphasizing third down and red area particularly in practice?
BB: Always, sure. Always. Those are two critical areas.
Q: You mentioned this is a good opportunity to work on things that you'll see in the regular season, even though you won't see the Panthers specifically. Does seeing a mobile quarterback give you a good idea of how guys might handle that kind of situation when the regular season comes up?
BB: Yeah, that's one of the many things. The system they run is good. It complements the pressures and so forth defensively, complements each other, so you have to really be alert for a lot of different things. They have really a dominant front seven, probably as good as any front seven in the league, and offensively they have an excellent running game. They always do. They ran for over 200 yards against Miami. Norv's [Turner] offense is very well-balanced. They do an excellent job of running the ball as they always do, play-action, they get the ball down the field, they're a good red-area team. So, special teams - you know, they've always been a good special teams unit. They have some very good players like [Colin] Jones and [David] Mayo. They're always good at the return game - not sure who we'll see back there. We've seen [Christian] McCaffrey back there last year, but they have [Damiere] Byrd and some explosive returners, strong-legged kickers, so we'll get a good look at all of it.
Q: Charles Johnson just announced his retirement. You went through something similar last year with Rob Ninkovich. What's it like when a veteran realizes during training camp that he's reached the end of his NFL career?
BB: Well, it's different for every player, so it would be hard to - I wouldn't want to try to lump them all together. I think we've had that with players like Rob and Tedy [Bruschi] and so forth. They've been very unique, special players, special situations, and I've talked about those quite extensively when they occurred for us. So, yeah, that's - really I'm just trying to get our team ready to go on Friday and that's my main focus right now.
Q: Tom Brady mentioned this week has more of a regular-season feel because it's a road game and the meeting schedule. How much can that be beneficial for some of the younger guys preparing for the regular season?
BB: Well, the idea is it's beneficial for everybody, so we try to get our entire team on an approximation of a regular-season routine - the coaches, the players, our practice schedule, our cooperation with each other, the different units, offense and defense, the lines, the skill players and so forth. That's certainly a cooperative effort to prepare. The kicking game - our preparation on that. So it's a little different than what we did for the majority of training camp. We've done a little bit of that, did a little bit of that against Washington, more against Philadelphia and more this week. So, we've changed some things on our schedule around off the field, in our daily routine, changed some things on the field, and that's just the progression into the regular season.
Q: How helpful is it for a current player to go back and watch film of older players who excelled at their position? For example, for a receiver to watch film of Randy Moss?
BB: We use that. We use plenty of film of players as examples of plays or techniques or examples from other players, other years. I mean, we go all the way back to '01, '02, '03, '04, '05 and all the years in between. I show them, I know our position coaches use them on different techniques and different plays, different situations that we can learn from through the years. So, yeah, we do that - I mean, not extensively, but we certainly do it, yeah.
Q: Does it help to have continuity on the coaching staff that they remember what to point out and where to look for those examples?
BB: Well, and some of those plays we can actually call the play - we were in this defense or we ran this play in this situation and they know what they play is because we still have it or maybe it's something that we ran and we've changed it so that this guy does this and that guy does that. It's a little bit different than the way we ran it in whatever year and this is why - to handle something else that we want to deal with as we progressed it over the period of time. Yeah, that comes up, especially as we get further along into situational football. We've seen many of those and we'll see many more of those situations before the start of the regular season. But, some of the individual player techniques, the way they do things are very good for other guys who are doing it now and maybe didn't see some of those players - the Rodney Harrison's, the Bruschi's, the Troy Brown's, the Moss', the Kevin Faulk's, guys like that, Dan Graham, you know, a lot of them that we can use as examples. So, yep, sure.
Q: How's the picture quality on some of those videos?
BB: Yeah, some not so good. A little grainy. A little grainy.
Q: In spite of the injuries, how is the running game coming together right now?
BB: Well, everything on our team is moving forward. We'll see where it is when we open against Houston. We're trying to make as much progress as we can every day in all the phases of the game that we're working on. We're definitely getting better. We're not where we want to be. We have a ways to go, keep trying to get there. It's a long process. So, just keep grinding it out.
Q: What goes into the decision-making progress on whether a player like Rob Gronkowski or Devin McCourty will play in a preseason game?
BB: It's the same for every player. We talk about every player. If the player's available, that's the first question, and then based on a lot of other circumstances - multiple players at one position, what combinations we want to see, our players in with each other against other opponents and so forth. So, it's a combination of a lot of things. We talk about each player and have usually a general plan for how we want it to go and then we see how it goes during the game. Sometimes we have to make adjustments and sometimes we can kind of stay on a schedule that we laid out - usually a combination of both.
Q: As you are evaluating players, how they contribute in the kicking game is a part of that. Are you still at the point in the summer where you might experiment with a player who hasn't played a ton in the kicking game and you might try him in a game situation? Or do you know by now, with the 90 guys on your roster, who can do what as far as the kicking game goes?
BB: No, I think there's still a lot of unanswered questions. And again, as we go through training camp like we always do, there's - especially at this point in time, that second, third, even fourth week of preseason, now's a good time, or maybe sometimes the best or only time, to play players in multiple positions. So, maybe not his primary spot that he's been in but now maybe it's a different spot and that may - not that we're trying to necessarily move the guy to a different position - but give us more depth and see how his versatility is able to help our team in the long run. Or, when we get into 46-man rosters where we have depth in multiple positions from possibly one player or two players can fill four or five spots type of thing, if that's possible. And certainly in the kicking game, where you have, let's call it a minimum of 66 players, right? Not counting some specialty situations like the hands team and kickoff after a safety and things like that but just the big four - kickoff, kickoff return, punt and punt return - and then you have field goal and field goal block, that's 66 spots that you have to have somebody behind the primary guy in each spot. So, you start doing the math - I mean, you can't get one guy to back up each spot, so we have to develop that type of depth for ourselves, particularly in the kicking game, but on offense and defense as well.
Q: Jeremy Hill hasn't done a lot in the kicking game before arriving here. What have you seen from him?
BB: But he's done some things, yeah. He's worked in there - really all our backs do. I mean, honestly, most everybody on the team. It's always harder to work in some of the offensive and defensive linemen, and quarterbacks, obviously, and those guys are more on the field goal team and field goal rush team. But, some of them can give us depth in other positions in the kicking game, and so that's good. But, so then therefore the majority of it falls to, if we go to a 46-man roster and we start eliminating a chunk of offensive linemen, some defensive linemen, quarterbacks and even a couple skill players I'd say can pretty much be eliminated except for let's call it the hands team or something like that, you're pretty quickly down into the 30's for all those positions. So, that's why some core guys that are able to play on every team are important, but you also have to supplement that with other players who can chip in and play on one or two teams or at least be a good backup on multiple teams.
Q: It seems like Eric Rowe has spent most of his time in the slot. How have you seen him adjust moving back outside so far this summer?
BB: Yeah, well, he spent quite a bit of time in the perimeter last year, too. He's a - look, similar to what we just talked about, Eric's a player with good versatility. He played safety in college, has played on the perimeter, he's played inside, he's played in some dime situations for us, rarely as a linebacker, obviously passing situations, but he has multiple skills. He's a smart guy. He's able to handle multiple assignments. So, again, we need players like that. Every team needs players like that on the roster. Every guy doesn't have to be able to do that, but you've got to have somebody that has some versatility. He certainly falls into that category.
Q: On a week that mimics the regular season, is there any additional game planning that could go into the third preseason game?
BB: Nothing that would compare to the regular season. Yeah, I mean, there's some. We're not going to run plays that would have no - that would just be bad plays. We don't want to do that. But, as far as game planning in preseason games relative to what it is in the regular season, yeah, not even close. You know, the things we do we'll have to cover against what we've seen Carolina do and what their basic fronts and coverages and blitzes are, their basic formations and personnel groups and basic concept of plays. So, we'll work on those, but we're not going to put in a lot of plays specific for what they do, which we would absolutely do during the regular season. So, it's way different in my opinion. I don't think it's even close.
Q: Teams talk a lot this time of year about where they have depth and lack depth, which can often lead to trades. Is that process helped if you have a good relationship with another coach or another team? How do those relationships manifest themselves this time of year?
BB: Yeah, well, there's no question it's always easier to talk to a team you're not in direct competition with, either that's not on your schedule, certainly not in your division. But, if they're not on your schedule or if they're not in your conference, that makes it a lot easier. That doesn't exclude other teams that maybe you're in more direct competition with. Again, trades are theoretically maneuvers that will help both teams. When two teams make a trade, both teams think that they're improving. That's why they make it, right? So, if you can find a trade partner and you're helping your team, then that's usually a good thing. But, certainly it's a lot more common and easier to deal with teams that you're not in direct competition with. I don't think you see a lot of trades with teams within division trading players back and forth. Draft picks is a little bit different, but probably less of that, too. And then AFC to NFC, that's usually a pretty easy trade from that standpoint. A lot of times those relationships, again, can be developed because you're not in direct competition with that team. But, that doesn't exclude - I mean, we have, I think, good relationships with really all the teams in the league, but we don't do a lot of transactions with the ones in the AFC East. So, that's pretty normal. That's the way it's been with most every other team I've been with, too. There hasn't been a lot of activity between teams that are in the same division.
PATRIOTS QUARTERBACK TOM BRADY
August 22, 2018
Q: You were asked after the game about the new helmet and [Scott] Zolak had mentioned on the broadcast it's different looking at you in that helmet - when you watch yourself do you have the same experience that it's different seeing yourself in that helmet?
TB: Yeah, definitely. It's a little bit of - it's probably why I've never switched because it was always a little different than what I was used to. But they made it pretty good so it's actually - I think there's still a few little tweaks I'd like but for the most part it's really comfortable. I asked the guys, I said, "Do I look any younger or faster in it?" They said yes so I feel like I might keep it.
Q: You've talked about the facemask being different. How does that relate in any way to your vision and how important is that at your position?
TB: Well everything is - you know, it's like a - you've seen something a certain way for a long period of time so I like as much vision as possible with the peripheral vision. It's all important, it all matters so yeah, just making sure it's kind of similar to what the experience has always been. Like I said, there's still some tweaks to go and I'm working it out. But overall, hopefully the helmet provides more protection and I'm able to - I've been wearing a very old helmet for a long period of time but it's worked pretty well too so that's why I haven't been - I've been a little hesitant to change.
Q: Is it important that you don't have to turn your head to survey the defense?
TB: Yeah definitely. There's got to obviously be some protection over here because fingers can get, you know. It hasn't happened too often in my career but I've had a few hands get through the mask a little bit and typically quarterbacks have much more open, like receivers probably do, with the vision. Yeah, I mean, the more you can have the better. It's not quite going to be like the old Sean Landeta punter one where you had the one bar but it provides enough. But I really like it. It's been a good transition, smooth transition, which is all I could ask for.
Q: How beneficial can this first preseason road game be for you guys with the noise and the environment?
TB: It's - again it's another important step and I think you play four preseason games and everyone is getting lots of different reps and I think this week has mimicked much more of a regular season week. We still had quite a few meetings and stuff at night which we don't have as much during the season but just in terms of the install and scouting reports and getting to know our opponents. We've had extra time to watch our own film study so I think everyone likes to feel like they're getting accustomed to what is coming and hopefully we can go out and play really well. Again, we got a few more weeks until they all matter and I think we're just trying to stress the urgency and get guys to really understand what we're getting into and what it takes to prepare and go out and play consistently every single week. It should be a great test.
Q: Is there excitement or anxiousness because you know you're starting that installment but at the same time, the season is a couple weeks away and if the team isn't ready, where is the team at?
TB: I think there's - you know, we're all - attention's dividing a little bit from the coaches to the players and us trying to obviously get ready for the regular season but still get ready for the opponent that we're playing. We're practicing against each other and then some periods we're practicing for Carolina. Some we're just focusing on individual things that are going to help us over the course of the year. So it's just a lot of things happening, we're trying to prepare for a lot of things. But that's kind of typical this time of year. If you've been through it hopefully you've been able to adjust. So there's just a lot happening here shortly and I think we got to be as prepared as possible to be ready to go for our opener. That's what it's all about, getting ready for that game.
Q: You said on radio yesterday that against the Eagles you felt a little bit of rust. Is that normal for you this time of year? Do you feel you are where you typically are through two weeks of the preseason right now?
TB: Yeah, I think the thing when you get in the games is just the timing is different because they can actually hit you and in practice, you know rushers come and they stop. So you get a false sense of security of how long you can hold onto the ball and when they don't stop, you got to get rid of the ball quicker, you got to make faster decisions, your footwork has to be better, your pre-snap reads have to be better. So all those things time up and I like to be someone that can really anticipate things and be really efficient with what I'm doing and the more time you have actually doing it, the better. And there's only one way to simulate it, that's to play. So when you get out there and play, you take advantage of the experience. I've also had a lot of games and a lot of experience doing it so naturally it comes back relatively quickly but I think it's still really important to get out there and feel it and do it. Not too many players I've ever played with that could just seamlessly go out there like they never left. There's been a couple but I feel like I got to get out there and play a little bit and feel the timing and try to really get up to game speed as best as possible.
Q: It might be hard to compare years but did you go into last week knowing it would feel a little rusty or did you expect to feel that way?
TB: Yeah, I think it's definitely - I've had to experience a lot too, you know. It's just again, you don't get hit for six or seven months. You know, lot of the times the way to prepare for it is to actually do it and just not having the chance to do it, you get rusty. I think you got to figure out how to get that stuff and shake that off and then be as prepared as possible for when they count for real.
Q: Is it concerning to you that you haven't been able to get the kind of reps you need with Kenny Britt in seven-on-seven, 11-on-11, due to his injury?
TB: I think it's just different stages at different times whether it's Kenny or other players. You have set-backs with injuries and so forth and you don't get the work but when you are out there you just try to get up to speed as best you can, so spending extra time when you're available, I think that's important. You know, Kenny was here at the end of last year so had a lot of reps with him and hopefully he can make the most of his opportunity. I think everyone's really trying to do that this time of year, is whatever chance they get, you got to go out there and you got to show something. You got to really show the coaches, to the personnel people, that you can be dependable and trusted and you can get out there and make the plays that are going to help us win.
Q: Can you develop chemistry with Kenny Britt when he's not on the field, like in the meeting room?
TB: Yeah, definitely. And I've said - you know, everything's really important. I think gaining trust in people is more than just being on the field. It's attitude in the morning, in the weight room, anytime we're interacting in the locker room, whether you're involved or not involved. I mean, what kind of conversations people are having and how important football is and how important it is to making that a big part of your life and I think that's - I think those coaches are judging all the players on that all the time and this is - everyone's putting a lot into it and if we want to get a lot out of it, that's what we have to do.
Q: When I spoke with Chris Hogan, he said it's an ongoing process to build trust in each other and he said it restarts every year. Do you feel like every year you have to restart on building that trust with receivers or whoever it may be?
TB: I think so. I mean, yes and no. It doesn't magically happen, I know that. But at the same time, when you've played with guys for a long period of time I think you know the body language, you know kind of the things they may do really well, things they may do maybe not as well. The coaches have those things too. The experience you got with certain players I think is very helpful but at the same time I don't think you take it for granted. You got to get out there and practice it, you got to see and gain that daily trust and a big part of it is things change over the course of an offseason, they change over the course of a season, gameplan, new routes, new schemes, new matchups. You got to go out there and show it on the practice field so that we can all gain trust in each other.
Q: Were you able to work with Kenny Britt at all during the offseason?
TB: I wasn't here in the offseason.
Q: Outside of the facility at all?
TB: No, I wasn't here.
Q: Do you have to get used to a new road routine as you go to play a road game for the first time this season?
TB: It's pretty similar. I think the way we've done it has been pretty similar over the years so it's just been kind of, you see the schedule and you know the timing of things. But it'll come back pretty quickly. I'm glad we got two games under our belt but both have been at home and it's definitely the travel and so forth. It's always nice going away. I feel like we're kind of all going to accomplish something. We're really focused, there's no distractions and it's all about playing a football and trying to take another step that we need to take in order for us to be prepared for the opener.