Belichick Q&A on the last day of the draft

Here is the full transcript of Bill Belichick’s press conference with reporters on the Patriots’ draft.

Bill Belichick: “We’ve got another one in the books here. We started off the day kind of waiting through that fourth round. When Marcus Cannon was on the board there in the fifth, we felt like that was a good value for that pick. He’s a very highly-rated player and obviously we felt comfortable enough to take him at that point, so that was that. Lee Smith was an outstanding blocker at Marshall. Actually, I crossed paths with his father when I was at Cleveland the first season there. We finished up with Markell [Carter] who has had a very productive career at a smaller school. And then of course, Malcolm [Williams], a fast, physical back that has been very productive in the kicking game. That’s where we’re at. Now we’re kind of in a different mode for right now. We’ll see how all that works out. This is one step in the team building process. I’m sure there will be others to come, but maybe not for a while. We’ll just have to wait and see.”


When you said you felt comfortable taking Marcus Cannon, did you mean in terms of his health status?
BB: “Obviously there was a reason why he was still on the board there.”

It seems like it’s been fairly recent that he was diagnosed. Do you have any idea how soon his treatment will be done?
BB: “No, I’ll just say that we were comfortable with the situation and all that it entails.”

Do you prefer him at guard or tackle, or just kind of play it by ear?
BB: “With all these players, once we get them and get a chance to work with them, we’ll look at their skill sets and put them in different positions. We move people around quite a bit anyway in our offense and defensive systems, so we’ll see how it all works out. I’m not sure exactly what’s best for anybody. I assume we’ll play [Ryan] Mallett at quarterback, but the rest of them, we’ll see how it goes.”
Was it difficult to evaluate a guy like Malcolm Williams who didn’t have a whole lot of starts?
BB: “No, I think there was enough there.”
You definitely can’t sign any rookie free agents, correct?
BB: “Yes.”
Can you talk to them at all?
BB: “No. It’s no different. All the players are the same now. We had kind of a different set of rule for the draft choices, and now that the draft is over, all players are the same whether they’re rookies or 10-year veterans or whatever. We can’t negotiate with those players or communicate with those players at the present time. That’s gone back and forth here in the last few days, but that’s the way it is today.”
Lee Smith talked a little about his long snapping ability. Is he the kind of guy that can help you at multiple places?
BB: “We’ll see. We’ll see.”
You didn’t take a front-seven player very early. Does that mean that maybe you are more comfortable at those positions that people may think?
BB: “I think it’s more an indication of the way the draft went and I think when you see a lot of players get taken at a certain position in a draft, I think naturally, value-wise, gives more value to another position or another spot and I think you see that in every draft. When there’s a run on certain positions or a lot of players get picked in a certain position, then that elevates the value of another position. In the end, when it’s our turn to pick on each choice we try to take the player that we feel has the most value and is the best fit for our football team.”
Was Markell Carter just a 4-3 end? Does he project at outside linebacker?
BB: “Yes.”
But does he have any experience?
BB: “A little bit. Not extensive.”
With something like 14 defensive linemen being taken in the first round, did it really have an effect on the later rounds as far as a drop off?
BB: “I don’t know how other teams had their boards evaluated. I go back to what I said before: for each pick we evaluated what was on the board. We can kind of see what’s coming and we can also kind of see what’s behind us. In some cases we moved one way or another. It’s a general draft answer, but we move one way or another based on the way we see the board going. Sometimes you can’t move. That’s part of it, too. Each pick, each draft, each situation is fluid and it’s different.”
The Marcus Cannon pick is really fascinating because on Thursday he began cancer treatment. Did you guys know prior to Thursday about the diagnosis?
BB: “Like any medical situation, it’s a process. I don’t think anything in medicine just happens in 30 seconds. There’s a process that goes through. I’m not a doctor. I’m not that familiar really with any aspect of medicine. We have people in the organization that know way more than I do about that and we rely on their judgment and opinions.”
Since it’s not an ACL or a torn labrum and you don’t know how long he’ll be out – it’s deciding how the risk and value match up, I suppose. Have you ever encountered a draft decision like that?
BB: “Well, a lot of players have medical situations going into the draft and each one is different. Each of us is unique and not everybody’s injury is the same or does it heel at the same rate or the same way. Guys play different positions with similar injuries, so forth and so on. We could drop up examples ad nauseam, but the bottom line is you have a situation, you evaluate it and you make a decision on it. Whether you decide to take that player or you decide to pass on that player, then you make the decision at that time based on all the information that you have. Some of those decisions end up being right; some of them don’t. That’s the way the process works. We did what we thought was right at that point. We’ll see how it works out.”
Since it’s a unique health situation, do you tell him to focus on his health now and football eventually whenever he can? How do you approach his situation?
BB: “It’s a very unique situation because as of right now, we don’t really have access to the player, which we really didn’t prior to a few hours ago anyway. Again, we’ve talked about that. I think that we all understand what the situation is and in the end we felt comfortable enough to make that selection. How will it all work out? There are certainly a lot of moving parts and so forth – some of which we can control, some of which we know, others of which, as things go forward, we’ll all have to find out how it turns out.”
If this lockout continues, what kind of updates can you give on his treatment? Can team doctors talk to him?
BB: “It has changed pretty much hourly here over the last few days, so whatever it is, that’s what it is. Whatever it is, we’ll comply with it. When it changes, we’ll comply with that. It’s gone one direction; it’s gone back. Who knows where it’s going to go going forward, but whatever it is, we’ll be in compliance with it.”
Six of the nine picks were on offense. Did you have a sense that you would probably lean in that direction going into the draft?
BB: “No. I couldn’t say that. I can’t say in any draft that I really know what direction it’s heading in. I think when you’re picking at six or seven or something like that, then you usually have a little better idea than you do when you’re further back. Things always happen on draft day that are unpredictable and that’s the exciting part of the draft – just seeing how it all turns out.”
Some of your draft picks came at positions where you have free agents. Do those picks give you a little bit of coverage no matter what happens with that?
BB: “The players that we drafted, we have rights to. They’re on our team. We’ll see how it goes with them when we can actually get them out there on the field and start evaluating them. In the meantime, there’s nothing we can do about free agency, so there’s nothing to talk about there until we can actually talk to the players and see whether or not there are deals to be made.”
But certainly these guys provide options?
BB: “Well, I don’t know. That depends on how they perform. It depends on what they can do. We’ve seen plenty of rookies not contribute very much and we’ve seen other rookies that contribute more. I don’t think there’s any way to predict who’s going to contribute what. We just go through the process and see how it goes. We hope it goes well, but we all know it doesn’t always work out that way.”
Was the trade with the Eagles a straight swap? What was the reasoning on that?
BB: “We talked to the Eagles and we wanted to make the trade. They wanted to make it; we wanted to make it, so we made it. You good on that?”
It seemed like you tried to go after guys who were team captains again this year. How much, if at all, does that go into your evaluation?
BB: “As we’ve talked about, each player has his own profile and all the things that go into that belong to that player: his vertical jump, his leadership, his work ethic, his everything. We look at the composite of one player, compare it against other profiles and try to make the best decision for the team. We don’t go into the draft saying, ‘We want to get four team captains.’ We don’t go into the draft saying, ‘We want so many guys over 6’4 or so many guys from Easton Mississippi or so many guys that whatever. ’You just look at each situation and try to make the best decision you can on it. I’d say those kind of things – I wouldn’t say they are purely coincidental because certainly we value leadership and we value some of the characteristics that normally are associated with that type of position: respect and hard work and unselfishness and things like that. But we’re drafting football players and not everybody is a team captain. There are plenty of good players that aren’t, but there is something to be said for that.”
We saw some significant changes with the running back group in this draft. How would you characterize that group and how the diversity of the skills of those players could help you?
BB: “Well, the skills of the two players that we drafted, we’ll just have to see how they do. We think that they’ll be able to be productive for us, but how exactly all that works itself out, we’ll just have to see. It will be based on their performance and what they do with the opportunities they have. I think both guys can run. Both guys can catch. [Stevan] Ridley’s a little bigger back than [Shane] Vereer, but I don’t know.”
How good is Eric Moore? He really played well at the end of last year, and as people talk about the pass rush, I would imagine Eric more, having played in the NFL, might be as good as some of these guys on the board?
BB: “I think his career speaks for itself. He’s been a productive player. He was a productive player at Carolina. He came in here at the end of the year at the tail end of the season and was able to contribute. I don’t think that’s the easiest thing to do. A player has got to have some things going for him to be able to do that. But again, it would be nice to work with him through an entire season, whether it’s mini-camp, training camp, whatever it happens to be and really give him an opportunity – or Danny Woodhead or players like that that weren’t with us the entire season, to give them an opportunity to start from the beginning, whenever that is, and work all the way through it, and see if that is helpful to their performance and their production.”
Jon Gruden said during the broadcast that if he were still coaching he would be pretty discouraged with this lockout because he would want to get his rookies in and see how injured players were healing and everything that goes with OTAs. Would you say you are frustrated with this situation?
BB: “I mean, how Gruden feels is how Gruden feels. I don’t really have any comment on that. We just got though the important process of our season and that’s the draft and adding players onto our football team. It’s been, as usual, exciting to evaluate the draft class and make the selections over the last three days and we have plenty of things we can work on in terms of our new opponents and preparation for the season and so forth. All that other stuff is out of our control.”
What did you think of the schedule? Did you have any thoughts on how it’s set up for you guys?
BB: “No, when they schedule them we show up and play them. We don’t have any control over it. It’s always nice to play Sunday at 1:00. There aren’t very many of those games, but that’s not anything we can control. The other teams are playing at the same time we are. Whatever it is, it is. When they tell us to play then we show up.”
You’ve never showed up late for a game?
BB: “Not intentionally.”
Who is the best talent evaluator/draft guy that you ever saw as far as managing the risk-value aspect? You kind of did a lot of that with taking guys like Ryan Mallett or Lee Smith or Marcus Cannon. Who was the best at isolating things and determining if they were big problems, little problems, or things that the guy would get over as he got older?
BB: “That would be hard for me to say, in all honesty. There are other people that have the advantage of being able to evaluate 32 draft rooms. I can only evaluate one. I know what we’re trying to do and believe me, that’s a full-time job. But to really understand the dynamics or the process or the grading scale or the philosophy in other draft rooms, It’s just a guess. I really don’t know. I’m not in them, so I can just evaluate what, in the organization I’m in, we try to do. And whether that’s better or worse than what somebody else is doing, honestly I have no idea.”
Is a lot of it feel, then? Just pick by pick instead of saying, “That was a risk. We can’t take a risk here?’
BB: “I think historically, you can certainly look back at previous drafts and find somewhat comparable situations – players coming off ACL injuries or players that missed the season the previous year and get an idea, maybe, of what the discount is on those players or players that have other issues that are somewhat similar. Does that mean that somebody couldn’t go away from that? Of course they could. Some players are off the board; Other players are in play on the exact same issue. It’s just a question of what each team [thinks]. They have to make their own individual decision on that. I think you kind of get a sense of what the league-wide opinion on a player is and we certainly use that, although it’s very subjective. It’s no exact science. If we trade or move, where we think we’re going, what we’re moving to or what we’re moving away from, but again, that’s very subjective. But one team can do whatever they want to do. We see that. We saw it again over the last three days. Teams make picks that probably none of us expected, but based on what they want to do, they did it. All you can do is react to it. You can’t control any of those.”

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