Bill Belichick held his pre-practice press conference a short time ago. Here are some highlights:
I thought it was a good day for us yesterday, improved our team, there were a lot of things out there that we haven't seen, to compete against another team is good for us, we spent a lot of time last night going over film with the players, as a staff, as far as critiquing ourselves as coaches, what we need to do better and the players and how they competed against each other as far as matchups. I've spoke with coach Schiano, we have some things planned for today we want to get accomplished and I'm sure we'll have another good day out there.
Today's practice plan
It's the day before the game so we'll tempo it down a little bit, we have specific situations we want to get covered, offensively, defensively and in the kicking game, there's a little more emphasis on those today than yesterday. Yesterday was a little more of the core stuff - first, second, third down, today we'll work on some more stuff, specific situations, end of game things, kicking situations that might only come up once or twice a season. We work on those things against each other, but we know what we do, so if you work against a different team you see a different play or a different defense or a different punt rush or whatever it is, so it just makes you be better prepared for those situations whenever they come up.
How Jeff Demps looked yesterday in his first practice
Uh, like it was his first practice. He has a long way to go.
On his criteria for choosing teams he'll conduct joint practices with:
Well I’d say just the number one thing is it’s not really about beating somebody in practice, it’s about working with somebody and getting better. We’re not here to win a drill or, you know, trick Tampa on something – that’s not the point of it. The point of it is to work on what we want to work on and work on what they’re working on so we can become better, so when we walk off the field we’re a better team then when we walked on it. And that’s the way we practice against each other is we compete against each other in a way that we can improve each other, not get guys hurt, not have a bunch of piles, not fight and get all caught up in the ‘did he gain five yards, did he gain two yards, did we sack the quarterback, did we not sack the quarterback’ – you know, we pull off, we don’t hit the quarterback, we don’t hit guys, the same way we are with our guys in practice.
We take care of each other, but we work hard, and we set up the drills so they are competitive drills, not tilted one way or the other, so that you can have an equal competition, equal evaluation, we made some plays out there and they made some plays out there and both teams can learn from those situations, but it’s not about going out there and ‘winning’ the practice – it’s about going out there and working on our team and making sure that when the players are on the field they’re at comparable levels too. We want to compete with both athletically and also schematically with players that are, you know, their experienced players and that are the best players, and at the same time some of our less-experienced guys aren’t ready to handle some of the things that…so they should compete against simpler plays, simpler formations, where they could do something formation-wise or blitz-wise that we just aren’t ready to handle with that group of players, so what good is that? We’re not ready for it and so, ok, they did it because we’re not ready for it. So we want to try to compete on an equal level and let the players play and then when they grow then obviously they’ll be able to move to that higher level, but you’ve to evaluate them on what they know how to do first; things like that go into it. Again, it’s working together, not just Greg (Schiano), but the entire staff has been great to work with – the assistant coaches, the coordinators, and so forth, that we’ve tried to create game-like situations but structured in a way that we can…we know what we’re doing we can get the right people on the field, being competitive with each other and not get into a situation where somebody’s overmatched or under-matched.
Assessing the conditioning level of the Patriots:
Even though it wasn't that warm yesterday it was still humid, it's probably a little bit warmer than what we've been used to, so it was good to experience that. I'd say we have a ways to go, not just in our cardiovascular conditioning, but just in our football conditioning. Honestly, we probably won't be there until somewhere in October, but we keep getting better at it all the time, work on it on a regular basis. You know, there's a fine line there - you don't want a team that's worn out so that you're not productive in practice, but at the same time, you want to push a little bit harder to keep getting your team into better condition and sometimes that's hard because you have more depth at one position than another, so it's not always equally distributed. But we do the best we can on that. I think it was a good day for us conditioning-wise and I think Friday night will be another good day for us conditioning-wise, where we'll improve our conditioning as well as improve some of the football things that we're working on.
Is it typical to peak in October in terms of conditioning?
I think we talk about people being in mid-season form and it's a cliché, but it's true. In a lot of ways, once you’ve played six, eight, 10 games including preseason, then you’re mentally in that quick–reactive mode for 60 minutes, you're physically in it, your timing is such that you've been doing it against a lot of different situations that it should be at a better level than it was the first couple weeks, that kind of thing, all those things. Yeah, I’d say somewhere in that neighborhood. There’s not one player in the league that’s going to have played 60 minutes of a preseason game – certainly won't be one on our team, let’s put it that way, I don’t know about anyone else’s [team]. So for them to be ready to play 60 minutes on opening day, some of them will do it, but three, four, five, six, eight games into the season, it will be a different story – for us and for basically everybody else. It's a process, and I don't really know how you can short cut that process. I don't know how you can walk into camp and say, ‘Okay, everybody is ready to play.’ I just don't think that’s – I mean, yeah, you can go out there but I don't know what that would look like. I think there are some definite concerns relative to the athletes, so it's a steady process.
On what longtime defensive assistant Pepper Johnson brings to the team:
Pepper has worked with the linebackers before, but I'd say the big thing with Pepper is, unlike really anyone else on the staff, he’s actually played in our system. I’ve coached the way I’ve coached at the Giants and at Cleveland and New York and so forth, but he’s actually played it and I think there’s something to be said for that. There’s certainly a perspective as a player who’s played in the system relative to a coach, even though I’ve coached it a long time, he has the perspective of playing in it that I just don't have or our other coaches don't have – (defensive coordinator) Matt Patricia or (defensive line coach) Pat [Graham] or (safeties coach) Brian Flores or any of those guys. Nothing against them, it's just different. Bryan Cox is kind of – I mean there’s something to be said for a player who's played the game – particularly played the system you're coaching and can coach it. He has a perspective on it that as a coach having never played it, I just can’t give. And they can talk about, ‘Hey, when you're out there in this situation, here’s what you're thinking about,’ or ‘Look, the coach is telling you to do A, B and C, but really what you have to worry about is C; A and B, yeah, but forget about those and let’s make sure we get this one right.’ Things like that, things that happen in a game. And they talk to our players, Pepper talks to our team, not just the defensive players or the linebackers, but our whole team about that from time to time about just what it’s like – especially the rookies – what it's like to play in a preseason game, what it's like to play in an NFL game, the difference between NFL and college football, what the adjustment was for him, what he’s seen from other players that he’s coached in that experience, what things to expect, what's different from a pro game and a college game, things like that that I think helps them make their transition. He brings a lot of that to us.