Bill Belichick met with reporters midday Tuesday, just before the Patriots took the field for the opening day of three-day mini-camp, which is mandatory for players (the offseason workout program and organized team activities are technically voluntary).
Here is his opening statement:
“We’re back on the field today, this is just a continuation of the OTA program for us; feel like we’re making progress this spring, obviously we have a long way to go,k but the players are working hard and we’re heading in the right direction. All of the players are here except for Brian Waters, he’s excused for personal reason, and of course we have some players out there who are not participating who are in various stages of rehab, and we’ll evaluate them on a day by day basis. That’s the update here; another day at the office.”
Asked if Waters, who is expected to play this fall, has given the team any indication about his plans, Belichick said, “I don’t have anything to add.”
On adding receiver Jesse Holley and what he might be able to bring to the team, Belichick gave a more general answer: “We’ve added and released a number of players here in the last couple of weeks, so with all the players coming in, we feel like there’s an opportunity for them, and for the players that were released, we feel like for whatever reason that it’s time to move on and there are other options that are better for the team.”
Which of course led to a question on why Chad Ochocinco didn’t work out in New England: “Well, I don’t know. The bottom line is that’s in the past; we’re focused on today and trying to go out there and think about when we step on the field. I haven’t thought of that too much.”
Belichick spoke more favorably of Jermaine Cunningham, the linebacker/defensive end entering his third season.
“Jermaine’s had a great offseason; he’s really worked hard, he looks good,” Belichick said.
Asked if the lockout last season had a negative effect on Cunningham, he replied, “I’m sure it was a combination of things, but whatever happened with our players last year, good, bad or indifferent, it’s not that important at this point – we’re just trying to move forward and evaluate the team on a current basis and give everybody the opportunity out there to show where they’re at, show what they can do. We’re not really focused on what happened last year, we’re trying to get ready for this year.”
So what does it mean if a player is having a good offseason?
“Player’s physical improvement, overall mental grasp of what we’re doing, what we can see on the field – which is non-contact – but reactions and technique and things like that.”
On getting Rob Gronkowski signed to an extension, Belichick said, “Of course. Any player that we sign, we’re glad to sign him, otherwise we wouldn’t do the contract.”
As for another contract, Wes Welker’s, and the July 16 deadline for the two sides to agree to a longer-term contract or Welker must play the entire season under the franchise tag, Belichick said, “Well, it is what it is. The rules are the rules, so whatever they are, we’ll comply with them.”