FOXBOROUGH – The weather concerns that forced the Patriots and Buccaneers to move up their Tuesday practice were nowhere to be found Wednesday afternoon, as the teams took to the fields behind Gillette Stadium under bright blue skies, though there were some wind gusts.
Bill Belichick was pleased with what his team got out of the first session.
“We had a good day with the Bucs yesterday, looking forward to getting back out there again today,” Belichick said. “We’ll keep working on some situational things as well as normal things, one-on-ones, things like that, things that give you an opportunity to see some matchups, but the team work and the situational stuff [Tuesday] was really good, and we’ll get another dose of it today.”
As is well-known by now, Belichick and second-year Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano are fairly tight, with Belichick endorsing the former Rutgers head coach for the job in Tampa Bay last year.
Belichick detailed some of the things he likes about Schiano as a coach:
“I’ve always had a lot of respect for Greg, I think he’s done a great job when he was in Chicago [where he was a defensive assistant/defensive backs coach from 1996-98], when he was at Miami [as Hurricanes defensive coordinator 1999-2000], during his whole career at Rutgers.
“He brought that program up and made it one of the top programs in the country, he did a great job with the student-athletes there, he had a long record of success with those guys, and he took a program that wasn’t used to being at that level and took it to national prominence on a consistent basis.”
Special teams was one of the day’s topics, specifically what makes a good gunner on the punt team and Matthew Slater’s ability to play that role.
“Well, some combination of speed, strength and quickness, the more the better of all three,” Belichick said. “That’s a tough position to play; you’ve got to deal with two guys, so you’ve got to be strong enough to deal with them or fast enough to deal with them or quick enough to deal with them, and then there’s all the techniques of not only dealing with the double-team but also the punts, the returns, the rushes, the wind conditions, knowing where the ball is, trying to defeat two blockers and then locate the ball and the returner, he different returns and so forth. There’s a lot of technique and skill that involved beyond just the physical part of it.”
Of Slater, a two-time Pro Bowler, he said, “Matt’s one of the best in the league, and I think he has a lot of the qualities that we were talking about.
“Anytime they have to double somebody, that makes one less guy they can use somewhere else in the return. He almost always draws two guys out there unless they’re in a 10-man, 8-man rush, but most of the time there’s two guys out there. He draws a lot of double-teams and deservedly so – he does an outstanding job of covering punts. Like I said, it’s a tough position to play, but he’s got a lot of the qualities that we talked about to be good and he does a good job for us.”