Patriots coach Bill Belichick held his first press conference of training camp – and his first since the final day of the draft in April — and while he acknowledged that a trade is in the works to bring Albert Haynesworth from Washington to New England, it isn’t done yet.
“I talked to (Redskins coach) Mike Shanahan last night and we are in the process with Haynesworth, but that’s not complete yet, so I really can’t comment on that at this point until it’s completed, if it is completed. We’ll see how all that goes,” he said in his opening statement.
It is interesting that Belichick used the word “if” the deal for Haynesworth gets done – it could be usual Belichick-speak, his not wanting to speak in absolutes, but given Haynesworth’s history with conditioning tests, the big defensive lineman’s health and condition could be a concern.
Asked about Haynesworth, Belichick declined to speak further on him or the process or conditions of the trade, saying again he wouldn’t discuss any of that until “when it’s finished, if it’s finished.”
Belichick also was asked about having guard Logan Mankins back, and the team’s negotiations with left tackle Matt Light.
On Mankins: “Of course, it’s great. You want to have all your players under contract. You want to have all your players healthy and on the field practicing. That’s the goal every year: to get that, and then evaluate and go from there. Each player, to a degree, is its own challenge. Every guy has got their own hurdles to go through physically, contractually and so forth, but the more you have out there [and] the more that are participating, the better it is to build your team that way and evaluate it. Each guy is important. I hope we can get them all out there and on the field and practicing as soon as possible.”
On Light: “Any announcements we have about personnel would be when it’s completed. But we’ve talked to a lot of players in the last few days – college players, the free agency period when that was open, of course our own players, other players. I’m sure we’ve talked to hundreds of players in the last couple days. I can’t even imagine what the number is of players, agents and so forth. The ones that we acquire and get done, then we’ll talk about those. Otherwise, it isn’t really something we can discuss.”
Click the full entry button for the full Q&A from Belichick’s press conference.
Opening statement: Welcome back. Well, it’s been a very busy three days for us , going on four now I guess from Monday until this morning. We’re trying to juggle a lot go balls in the air between player personnel rules, contract rules, practice rules, assembling a team, trying to get everybody in here, trying to get them out on the field, start getting our training camp going and trying to adjust some practices and things like that from what we normally do. So, it’s just trying to get everything underway and get a smooth flow here. There’s a lot of work to do, but we’re excited to get started. It’s good to see everybody back and we’re just kind of taking it hour-by-hour – I wouldn’t even say day-by-day yet. It’s one step at time – try to get through practice, or walkthrough this morning and get through practice this afternoon and just try to get everything up and running. As usual, there have been a number of and will be some [more] personnel transactions. We’re right in the middle of free agency throughout the league and we’ve been involved in some of those as well. I talked to Mike Shanahan last night and we’re in the process of acquiring [Albert] Haynesworth, but that’s not complete yet, so I can’t really comment on that at this point until it’s completed – if it does get completed. So, we’ll see how that goes. Otherwise, it’s good to be out there, it’s good to get going and I’m looking forward to the start of training camp this morning.
Q: Are the terms of the deal done? Are you just waiting for a physical?
BB: We’ll talk about it when it’s done.
Q: What kind of player do you think he is?
BB: We’ll talk about him when it’s finished – if it’s finished. We’re not there yet.
Q: Philosophically, can you talk about your view of the pass rush coming from the inside and could you potentially need a guy who could be destructive on the inside?
BB: Of course. Defensively, the two things you want to do are pressure the quarterback and cover the receivers in the passing game. That’s what pass defense is: those two things working together and the timing of it, the coordination of it and the execution of it. That’s what the passing game is all about. You can never have too much pass rush. You can never have too much pass coverage. You’re always trying to improve that.
Q: In the past when you guys have made acquisitions for players who had rocky roads in previous locations, how much due diligence did you do and how important is it to sit down with that player, whether it was Randy Moss or someone else?
BB: I think anytime you acquire a player, however you do it, you want to be comfortable putting that player into your team. So whether you draft them, sign them, trade for them, however you do it, that’s what you want to try to do.
Q: How comfortable are you with the leadership in your locker room?
BB: I have no idea. We haven’t even set foot on the field. This team is a new team. It’s a new year. It’s totally a blank slate. I have no idea what we have right now. We haven’t even gotten in the huddle yet, so we’ll take it day-by-day and see how it goes.
Q: Would it be accurate to say that every player that took the conditioning test yesterday passed it?
BB: We have people that are in different stages of practice. Some are practicing [and] some can do some things but can’t do other things. Other people won’t be able to participate very extensively at this time. We’ve got players in all different categories, and we’re actually still working through that. Some things changed this morning from yesterday. Some things will change by this afternoon. Again, we haven’t seen these players in months, so the status of what they can and can’t do, we’re still trying to determine that in a number of cases. I don’t even know if I could accurately tell you what our players can and can’t do. In some cases, we haven’t seen them.
Q: Do you think the new rules governing practices will make it harder for you to evaluate new players?
BB: It doesn’t really matter. Whatever we can do, we’ll do. We’ll do the best we can. Whatever it is, it is and we’ll work within that structure. What our opportunities are to coach the team within that structure, that’s what we’ll do.
Q: We’ve heard you say before that most players’ biggest jump is from year one to year two. Are you worried about players like Devin McCourty and Brandon Spikes and rookies from last year that maybe their growth has been stunted?
BB: Well again, every team in the league is in the same situation on this, so the opportunities that our players have are the same that every other player in this situation has. It’s different from last year, it’s different from the year before, but there’s nothing we can do about that. Right now, our focus with all of our players – young, old, first-year, second-year, rookies, tenth-year – [is] on going forward, having a good camp and getting ready to play the season. That’s where we’re at right now, so we can’t really do anything about anything that’s happened in the past. We’ll try to make the most of our opportunities we have this season.
Q: What were your thoughts when you saw the rules eliminating two-a-days?
BB: I mean, the player personnel rules, the practice rules, the contract rules, those have even changed hourly over the last few days. They’ve been adjusted or modified or changed or whatever you want to call it. So it’s still an ongoing process. Whatever they are, then we’ll adjust to them.
Q: With juggling so many balls as you said, are you delegating different areas to different people?
BB: Yeah, sure. We have different people in our organization that are responsible for all the different areas and trying to coordinate them all together and do the best we can in each of those areas, whether it’s contracts, coaching, player personnel, on-field decisions and so forth. That’s why we have a full staff and everyone has worked very hard at it. It’s just a lot to catch up on in a very short amount of time, but every team in the league is doing the same thing, so that’s the way it is.
Q: Have you been able to meet with the team or get playbooks to the rookies?
BB: Yeah. We met yesterday. The only on-field activity we had was the conditioning run, but we were able to have meetings yesterday. I’d say at least we’re assembled. We haven’t done anything yet, but we’re assembled. Today will be the first day we’ll be able to walk into a huddle, call a play and go out and line up and see if we can run it.
Q: Have you talked to Albert Haynesworth at all?
BB: Again, we’re not going to go through the process. If it’s completed, then we’ll talk about it then.
Q: What’s been the most challenging part of learning all the new rules?
BB: It’s just all happening in a short amount of time. It’s been pretty fast and furious with all the things going on with the league as well as free agency, signing undrafted players, brining in the draft choices, new policies and new rules on the draft choice contracts and all that. It’s just been the combination of all of those things. There’s no insurmountable mountain here; it’s just getting it all done.
Q: In the past, some of your players have said they felt they had a conditioning edge in fourth quarters due in part to their hard work in training camp. Under the new structure, can you expect that same advantage?
BB: You’ll have to ask the players that. Again, we’ve just seen the players in the last two days, so you’d have to ask them how they feel. I’m not sure about that.
Q: Do you believe that to some degree the league is telling coaches how to coach?
BB: We’ve always been under a set of rules and we do the best we can to be compliant with them.
Q: You mentioned some of the guys are at different states of readiness. Do you have a list of who will not be practicing or any status updates?
BB: No, I really can’t tell you that because we’re just going to be on the field for a walkthrough this morning. We still have guys that are in various stages of us trying to find out where they are, what they can do, whether they’re ready for the next stage of practice, running and then eventually contact and so forth. We’ll know more this afternoon than we do this morning and we know more thing morning than we did last night. It’s still ongoing. We’ll see who practices this afternoon, but I don’t know that list – how complete or incomplete that is right now.
Q: How pleased are you that Logan Mankins is here and signed after the issues last year?
BB: Of course, it’s great. You want to have all your players under contract. You want to have all your players healthy and on the field practicing. That’s the goal every year: to get that, and then evaluate and go from there. Each player, to a degree, is its own challenge. Every guy has got their own hurdles to go through physically, contractually and so forth, but the more you have out there [and] the more that are participating, the better it is to build your team that way and evaluate it. Each guy is important. I hope we can get them all out there and on the field and practicing as soon as possible.
Q: Has there been any contact or discussion with Matt Light?
BB: Any announcements we have about personnel would be when it’s completed. But we’ve talked to a lot of players in the last few days – college players, the free agency period when that was open, of course our own players, other players. I’m sure we’ve talked to hundreds of players in the last couple days. I can’t even imagine what the number is of players, agents and so forth. The ones that we acquire and get done, then we’ll talk about those. Otherwise, it isn’t really something we can discuss.
Q: Do you have to reconfigure your goals for rookies based on where they are now and their lack of offseason work?
BB: I’m not really sure what goals you’re talking about. I think the goal is the same for every player and every coach every year: to do the best that they can to be as well-prepared and perform at as high a level as they can. What other goal is there? That’s what it is. That’s what it is for all of us; I don’t care if it’s a 20-year veteran or a rookie. We all have the same objective and you do everything you can on a daily basis, on a weekly basis, in terms of your preparation, your conditioning and your practice to get to that level. What’s that level going to be? It’s different to every one of us. We’ll just take it day-by-day and see how it goes.
Q: What was your reaction to the end of the lockout and specifically Jeff Saturday’s comments about Robert Kraft?
BB: I know that Robert has worked very hard on this in the labor part of it. Obviously, I haven’t been a part of it, but I know he spent a lot of time traveling. He’s talked to me a number of times about some of the things that were going on and his involvement in them. I know he put a lot of time and effort into it and I’m glad that he was part of getting it resolved. We’re all glad to be back on the field and doing what we do – coach, play football, whatever it is. I know he had a big part in that.
Q: How much did you discuss these changes with him? I know some owners got input from their coaches.
BB: We share opinions on things, but what happened in negotiations and all of that, I have no idea.
Q: Given the way the season has come about, do you think it will be more difficult for new players coming in to grasp what you’re trying to teach them?
BB: I mean, there’s less time, but I think it’s somewhat incumbent on us as a coaching staff and an organization to give the team the best opportunity to perform well. That may be doing things a little bit differently than we’ve done them in the past to accommodate the schedule that we’re working in. We have the same training camp, but we don’t have the same lead in time. We’ll make the modifications that we think are best today – and that may change going forward here in the next few days or weeks – to try to maximize the opportunities – meeting and practice opportunities – that we have with our team. Whatever it is, we’ll try to do it the best we can for our team.
Q: As far as how coaches are able to handle players today, how different is that than when you started in the league?
BB: It’s changed over the years. I think that’s obvious. A lot of things have changed. There are a lot of things that are different than when I started coaching on a lot of levels, whether it’s with the players or the technology and the equipment that we use and so forth. That’s part of it. I’m sure are lot has changed in your business over the last few years and since you’ve been doing it. That’s the way it is for all of us. Everything is changing. Bob Dylan talked about that a few years ago.