Patriots coach Bill Belichick had last spoken to reporters about seven hours before news came last Thursday that the team had acquired cornerback Aqib Talib from Tampa Bay at the NFL trading deadline.
There was no official announcement from the team, no quote from Belichick on what the former first-round pick might add to an oft-maligned secondary. And at noon Monday, when he led off the weekly conference call with himself, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Belichick still wasn’t saying much about Talib.
After a brief opening statement about preparing for the Bills, Belichick was asked what Talib brings to the table and what went into the team making the move for him.
“Right now, really, our focus is on the Bills and the players that will be preparing for the game with the team and the players that are here at this time,” he said, alluding to Talib’s ongoing suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drugs policy.
“We’ll take that as it comes. When he gets here, we’ll deal with that then.”
Belichick would not say when the fifth-year player is eligible to join the team, saying, “when the league allows him to . . . it’s not in our control.”
(For the record, his suspension ends Sunday, when he’ll miss his fourth game, so he can join the team Nov. 12.)
As for what he saw in Talib to make a trade, Belichick said, “I think he’s a good player. I think he can help our football team.”
Seeing Talib up close during the Patriots’ joint practices with the Buccaneers in August was part of the evaluation, Belichick said.
Patricia echoed the “we’re going to focus on Buffalo” line when asked for his thoughts on the cornerback.
Talib’s arrival likely will shuffle things in the secondary, and one of the questions is whether Devin McCourty will remain at safety, where he’s played the last two games because of injuries to Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory.
McCourty’s intelligence and his ability to have everything in front of him when he’s playing safety seem to suit him, though he is still the Patriots’ best cornerback.
Belichick would not say if the move to the deep part of the field for McCourty would be permanent.
“He’s a pretty flexible kid, both physically and mentally,” the coach said. “I think he can handle the movement. But I think the more consistent we can be as a unit, then that builds communication and better teamwork between the players that are involved.
“There are always going to be some moving parts, there are moving parts every week because of the team that we play and unfortunately we’ve had guys go in and out for various reasons, so it’s not perfect.
“Ideally if you could keep everything exactly the same every week, that would be great. There’s something to be said for keeping it the same; there’s also something to be said for trying to put yourself and your team in the best position that you can against that particular opponent. We try to balance those two forces.”
McDaniels was asked about the play of starting tackles Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer, and he was complimentary of the line as a whole.
“Like every position on offense we have room to improve and room to grow and room to play better than we have,” McDaniels said.
“We ask a lot of different things out of our tackle position. We ask them to do certain things in the screen game and they do. We ask them to pass-protect and single-block some good pass rushers and they’ve gone out there and really tried to step up and answer the challenge.”
Of veteran tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, who has begun practicing after starting the regular season on the short-term injured reserve, McDaniels believes every day is important in order for the coaches to make a proper evaluation on what he can contribute.
“You’re adding another competitive player to a competitive position on our team and then trying to get the best out of that position in general,” McDaniels said.
“It’s exciting to have another guy out there that can do some different things. He has a skill set that has certainly been productive in the NFL before.”
Shiancoe is eligible to return to play this weekend; the Patriots are also hoping Aaron Hernandez (ankle) is close to full strength, as well as Rob Gronkowski, who has been hampered by back issues.
Honor for Faulk
The Patriots announced that they will honor recently retired running back Kevin Faulk during Sunday’s game against Buffalo with a halftime ceremony. Faulk officially closed the book on a 13-year career, all of it spent with New England, Oct. 10 . . . Week 11 is the first week the NFL and its broadcast partners can begin shuffling games as part of flex scheduling, and the first change — the only change for Week 11 — involves the Patriots. New England’s game with Indianapolis Nov. 18 now will kick off at 4:25 p.m. The game originally was scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. It will still be broadcast by CBS.