Coach Bill Belichick spoke to reporters today at Gillette Stadium as the Patriots continued preparations for Sunday’s game against the winless Tennessee Titans. To read the entire transcript, as provided by the Patriots media relations department, click the “full entry” button at the bottom of the post.
What’s the decision of practicing in the stadium?
Belichick: “Oh, just change it up a little bit.”
I was wondering, from an Xs and Os standpoint, what’s the best thing that a real productive third receiver can give you? Does it prevent Randy Moss from getting double teamed?
Belichick: “I think when you put a player on the field, you’re kind of looking to see what matchup that will bring from your opponent. The question always comes: Do you feel like putting this player on the field? It gives you an advantage over the player they’re going to put on the field. Or is the player their putting on the field better than the player you’re putting on the field? Or what you’re going to get out of it. Talk about — say Wes [Welker], as a slot receiver, as a third receiver —–if that’s what you’re talking about there’s not too many teams that matchup better against him as he would matchup against them. So there are a lot of advantages to doing that from a match-up standpoint. Of course, the more receivers you have on the field the fewer guys you have on the edges, the fewer blocking combinations you have and things like that. From a scheme standpoint, those are the drawbacks to it. You have more options in the passing game, less options at protection, less options in the running game, which is OK [but] you just have to decide what you want to do, which match-ups you’d rather have. So it’s part personnel, part scheme.”
Joey Galloway has had a long career and a lot of production. How has he handled the last two weeks and have you taken some time out to talk to him?
Belichick: “Yeah, we talk to all the players. We are here every day. I don’t meet with every player every day, but I talk to players, coaches talk to them — position coach, coordinator, whatever it happens to be. I think everybody’s in the same situation. We go through a week of practice, everybody prepares and most players are active and a few aren’t. Sometimes injuries take care of that, and other times it’s game plan or game decisions based on the players that we feel like will have the biggest role or the most important role in the game. A lot of times we don’t know who that’s going to be for sure until around this time. Sometimes it’s a game-time decision based on injury. But a lot of times we go through the whole week of practice, and get everybody ready, and try to decide which players are going to be active and which ones aren’t.”
With the trade deadline coming up on Tuesday, why is it difficult at this time of year for a team like yours to upgrade a position and make a trade?
Belichick: “Well, there are two things that make trading difficult in the National Football League. No. 1 is depth. I know there are some injuries in baseball, but there aren’t too many. For the most part, those guys don’t get hurt; they play all year. Whereas in football, you have more of that. You really have to think about trading somebody because who are you going to replace them with? You probably don’t have anybody, so that’s just one less player that you have and no one has — generally speaking — excess players at any position where you can just get rid of them and then have somebody to replace them. That’s one issue. And the other issue, of course, is the system. [You] bring in a player this late in the year that doesn’t know your system and hasn’t been with you. At this point in time, we’ve had over half the practices for the entire year that have already occurred because of the number we have in training camp and in preseason. [To] bring in a player now and teach him your system is tough because — even if he learns it on paper, or in a playbook and [is] actually going out there and doing it — [there are] limited opportunities, so you trade for a guy and by the time you get him ready to go, the season is over. Now, in the Jets/Cleveland case with Braylon Edwards, I think there are a lot of circumstances around that, but from a scheme standpoint, there’s quite a bit of similarities from the Cleveland scheme to the Jets scheme, and they probably felt like this was a player that they could catch up scheme-wise. Every case is different, but I think that might have tipped the scale a little bit. You see more of those kinds of moves in preseason when there is an advantage to getting the guys in there and being able to spend that kind of time with them and those number of practices.”
Do you scout the AFL?
Belichick: “Again, I think most of the players that are in that league are players that didn’t have an opportunity to be in this league, and had they had the opportunity to be in this league, that’s the league they would have been in. I’m talking about even in training camp. We scout every league to some degree. We scout all the players. We all know there’s a low percentage of players, we know where most of the players are, but occasionally you find them somewhere else and we at least scout them — not as heavily as college, where the majority of the players come up from- — but there are other places to look for them whether it’s the Arena League, Europe in the spring, or that kind of thing.”
Do you think that could work? The NBA has the NBADL and they can send guys down.
Belichick: “Again, I think it’s unlikely — I’m not saying it’s impossible — that a player in a league like that would have more value to your team than a player on your practice squad. If he did, then why wouldn’t he be on your practice squad? He would have really had to have slid through the cracks, and the whole league missed on him, and all of a sudden he is playing somewhere else and is just devastating. I think most teams would probably feel like they had better players on their practice squad than in another league, certainly at this point in the year. At the end of the season, [you] sign a guy, bring him to training camp and let him compete with who you have, no problem.”
If a guy misses practice for a non-injury reason, are those absences personal in nature?
Belichick: “It could be. It’s not injury related, so you go through your mind and your imagination and think of all things, all reasons why a player could miss practice. If it’s not injury related and it could be any of those things. Does that help you out?”
When you look at Adalius Thomas, he has only one sack this year and doesn’t have any interceptions . . .
Belichick: “Well, nobody has an interception. You could put Vince Wilfork in that category. We don’t have any interceptions. If you take Randy’s out of there, we only have one interception.”
How would you overall assess Adalius’s performance thus far?
Belichick: “Probably like the whole defense, some good things, some things could be better. We don’t have enough big plays, defensively. We’d like to have interceptions, fumbles, sacks, negative plays; we could use more of those from everybody, defensively, play better team defense in the red area on third down. We haven’t given up a lot of big plays, but we could certainly do a better job of getting off the field on third down and keeping them out of the end zone. He gives us a lot of versatility. He does a number of different things for us. But collectively, as a defense, we could definitely use more production, that includes the coaching, the scheme, the players, everything. I’m just saying as a total defense — the staff, the players, everything — we need to do a better job. I don’t think it has been bad it just needs to be better.”
Your longest completion has been 36 yards and Tom Brady mentioned earlier how you have been hamming on getting those deep passes. Can you talk about how that would help the offense and how you would like to see more of that?
Belichick: “If the big-play opportunities are there … I don’t want to throw the ball down the field in double- and triple-coverage just to say we threw it down-field in a double coverage. But when our opportunities are there we have to hit them, otherwise they are just foul balls. If you hit them out of the park and they’re foul, it doesn’t matter, it’s no different than a swing and a miss. When we get our opportunities to hit those, then we get the right pattern against the right coverage, and get it protected, those are the ones you want to make the defense play and we haven’t really been able to do that this year. We hit some intermediate throws and those are good chunk passes — believe me those are good, too — but you’d like to have a couple home-run balls, and keep the defense back there, and make them think about those and that will open up some other things. But we just haven’t been able to do that this year for one reason or another. Hopefully, they’ll come.”
Does being able to do that really affect how a defense is going to approach an offense?
Belichick: “It depends on … You’d have to ask the defense. It might affect some. Others might say, ‘Yeah, they haven’t hit them, but we don’t want them to hit them against us. We still respect their ability to hit them and we’re not going to give them to them.’ So I think you can go either way on that. If you don’t think they can hit them, then there’s no point defending them. If you think they can hit them, but they just haven’t hit them, then you’re probably going to keep defending them.”
Do you notice a big difference schematically with what the Titans are doing under defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil than with former coordinator Jim Schwartz?
Belichick: “You know, we haven’t played them in a couple of years. The last time we played them was in ’06, other than a preseason game, which I don’t think is really reflective of the defensive schemes. But I’d say generally, no. Generally, no. They play pretty much the way that I remember them playing — the way they played when Jim was there. They do a good job in the running game. I mean, nobody’s run the ball against them. There are no long runs against them. They’ve given up some yards in the passing game and had some injuries in the secondary, but I mean overall, it’s a good defense. They’re physical, they’re fast, they’re tough. You’ve got to be careful, they’re a good ball-stripping team. They’re certainly a good pass-rushing team. You don’t have all day back there to hold the ball. I know Chuck; we had Chuck in Cleveland. [He’s a] great, great competitor, smart guy, has a real presence on and off the field, has great leadership. I think they’re a real good defensive football team, I really do.”
If Matt Light can’t play, does that put Sebastian Vollmer in at left tackle?
Belichick: “It could. That’s certainly a possibility. That’s the way we finished the game last week. That’s a possibility.”
Will Junior Seau suit up?
Belichick: “If he’s active, he will.”
Next week, there is the possibility to start the clock up on PUP player Brandon Tate. Is he healthy enough for that to even be a consideration?
Belichick: “You know we’ll have to check with the trainers and all that. Since it’s not an option until next week with the PUP players — either Mark [LeVoir] or Brandon — that’s something that we’ll evaluate next week. With those players, it’s no different than Steve Neal last year or the guys that have been on that before. You take them in Week One, and then you step it up in Week Two, and you step it up in Week Three, and Four, Five and Six. And then when you get to the final week there, then you decide whether ‘OK, now the player has been stressed to the maximum level. How is he holding up?’ And then you make the decision at that point. You don’t make it in Week Two. You don’t want to put him to the top level in Week Two, when you have four more weeks to do it. Why do it then and take a chance that he’s not quite ready then, and then you set him back? So you just keep stepping it up all the way and then you get to the end and say, ‘OK, well if everything has progressed along, then he’s ready to go.’ If at any one of those steps it’s not quite there, and then you have to back off a little bit, then you start the process again. There’s really no way to know on that until you get to the finish line. I’m not trying to give you the runaround, I’m really not. It works out that way, but I’m really not trying to do it. But I mean, how else would you rehab an injury? You don’t run a guy full speed if he’s coming off a leg injury three weeks before you have to and see whether or not he’s going to pull it. That just wouldn’t make sense, so that’s the process you go through. You get to the end of the process and this is his most demanding week. This week is more demanding than last week. Last week was more demanding than the week before. The week before was more demanding than the week before that. So this will be his most demanding week. [We’ll] take a look at it at the end of the week and see where he’s at. If everything goes good, then that’s a possibility, same thing with Mark. If they’re not ready, then we keep going until either we have to do something or we know for sure that they’re ready.”
You’re probably not aware of this because it’s mostly just chatter among media and fans, but given the fact that a third receiver hasn’t really stepped up behind Randy Moss and Wes Welker, people are saying ‘Well, maybe this guy [Tate], a third-round pick, could fill that role.’ Is that a realistic expectation this year?
Belichick: “I don’t know. He hasn’t been on the field for one play all year, so I really couldn’t answer that. I mean, it’s not his fault, that’s just the way it was. He wasn’t out there in the spring and he was on PUP when we went to training camp, so I’d have to defer to the fans and the media on that one. They probably have a lot more insight into it than I do at this point. I mean, we haven’t seen him play, so I can’t answer that.”
You’ve had Isaiah Stanback on the sidelines on the road. Is that about a role in which he can help you guys, or is that about his own development just hearing the calls?
Belichick: “Well, he’s really our third quarterback. I mean, he’s not on the roster, he’s not our third quarterback, but he takes reps as our third quarterback. So in terms of knowing the plays, and helping with the call sheet and some of the things that we do in preparation for the game that a normal third quarterback would do — whether that was Kevin O’Connell, or then when Tom [Brady] was injured last year, [Matt Gutierrez], or when it was Matt Cassel, or whoever the third quarterback is. That’s part of their development: to be in all the meetings and go through all the game planning, help with the call sheet, and be at the game and understand some of the things and the processes that go through the game and the preparation that leads up to the game. He’s a part of that, even though he’s not on the active roster. He’s our third quarterback, but he’s on the practice squad. The only that really is different is that he’s not eligible to play in the game, where all those other third quarterbacks were eligible to play. I mean, they never actually did play, so it was really the same thing that he’s doing.”
If you go with a third quarterback as an active guy, then you lose a roster spot somewhere else. Was that a difficult decision to make — whether Isaiah Stanback would be on the active roster?
Belichick: “Really, I think all personnel decisions are difficult to make. There’s not any player on our roster or our practice squad that we don’t think is a good player that we think has no future. If that’s the way we felt about them, then they wouldn’t be here. So we feel like every player on the practice squad, and certainly all 53 of the players that we have, and even some other players – some players on PUP, some players that are on injured reserve – we feel like all of those players have a future and would have a role on the team, too. Could we keep one over another? I’m sure that all those have been discussed or debated at some point here, sometime along the way over the course of the last few months. So there are really no easy decisions with players like that. If any of them had clearly established themselves, then we wouldn’t be talking about it. They would have established themselves like younger players that have done that. So the fact that they haven’t, whether that’s a situation where they’re not ready, or they’re still developing, or maybe they just didn’t have the opportunity to do it yet and we just don’t know until they get that opportunity — the Matt Cassel-type of situation. Those are decisions that you talk about and could go either way. There are a lot of different moving parts, and a lot of factors that weigh into it and in the end you just have to try to decide what you think is the right thing to do. But the more obvious it is, the easier the decision is. The less information, the less real hard data you have to go on, it’s just practice and what you’ve seen from the players until it’s actual true performance, then there are more question marks.”