Patriots coach Bill Belichick addressed the media at Gillette Stadium on Friday. Among the topics he discussed were Wes Welker, who heads into Sunday night’s game against the San Francisco 49ers needing five receptions to become the first player in NFL history to record five 100-catch seasons.
“I think what it says most about him is his dependability and durability,” said Belichick. “That’s a lot of catches for a lot of years. To be able to go there and do it, week after week, against all the different coverages and all the different matchups we see, it’s a real credit to Wes’s ability but also his toughness and durability. He’s taken a lot of hits out there. Our slot receivers historically, Troy Brown, Wes, have always caught a lot of balls but he’s caught a lot for a long time. And he returns kicks for us at times and blocks. He’s a tough kid. He’s in there on a lot of plays. It’s not all catches.”
On whether the 49ers reflect the personality of their coach, Jim Harbaugh:
“They play very competitively, they’re physical with an edge. [He] was a tough guy for a quarterback definitely and his teams reflect that. He’s a strong personality and they play that way, aggressively.”
On San Francisco’s kicking game:
“[Kicker David Akers] can definitely change field position. He’s got a huge leg. Akers had the 63-yard field goal this year [against Green Bay]. We know he’s an excellent kicker and skilled. He had the on-side kick against us when he was with the Eagles in ’07. Good returners. They’ve got a solid kick game. They led the league last year. They’ve got a good balance of speed, size, toughness and specialists – kicker, punter, returners.”
On linebacker Jerod Mayo’s development:
“I think a lot of times rookies come in and they’re talented, they’re big and fast. They can run and chase the ball. But a lot of times, they’re just kind of running around out there. As they gain more experience and more understanding of the total defense, and where their teammates are and how things fit on different runs, they play with maybe a little more patience, maybe a little bit more recognition in terms of play-action passes and missed direction plays and things like that. Although Jerod is very good and has been very good at those. But I think certainly you get better at them through time.
“It’s kind of like the quarterback. A linebacker has to make multiple, multiple decisions on every play. Not only what assignment is but what the play is but all the way along the line. Different angles and how to take on blocks, how to tackle, the leverage you play with, the angle to run to and so forth. There are so many things that happen in a split second during the course of a play. Just like there is for a quarterback. The more of those things that you can do right, slow down and get the most important things, not get distracted by all the stuff that’s happening, just really zero in on the target. I think a good quarterback, or a good linebacker, the safety, it slows down for them and they can really see it. Then there are other guys, it’s a lot of bodies moving and they don’t see anything. It’s like being in a busy intersection with cars going everywhere. The guys who can really sort it out, they see the game at a slower pace and they can really sort out and decipher all that movement, which is hard but experience certainly helps that.”