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Coach Belichick Talks to the Media After the First Mini-Camp Practice

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The following is a transcript from Bill Belichick’s press conference, compliments of the Patriots’ media relations department:

Opening statement
BB: It’s always good to get back on the field this time of year. You have the young guys come in here that are eager beavers and really just want to try and soak everything up. It’s kind of the ultimate contrast from the last game of the year, when you’ve been working with the guys for 15-20 – however many weeks – [on] game plans, [and on] real sophisticated stuff – as much as you can do it in this league, and this is kind of the other end of the spectrum and [that] is what we will build toward. It’s good to have some new faces out there and its fun as a coach to be working on some fundamentals and some real basic things, which they all need. It’s a good reminder for how far some of our veterans have come and hopefully where these guys will progress to – some of these spots. It’s a long way to go. One step at a time, and we’re underway.

Q: Can you talk about Jermail Porter and his situation compared to Stephen Neal’s? What does wrestling bring to the table?
BB: It’s hard to compare two guys that haven’t played football to playing football. When we brought Steve in, we started him on the defensive side of the ball and eventually moved him to the offensive side of the ball. We just have to see how it goes here with Porter. Right now he’s working on offense, but [we’ll] flip him over and just see how it goes. We’re just kind of taking it day by day and see how he does in different drills and in different situations. [We’ll] just take it one step at a time. I don’t really have any expectations other than as long as he’s improving we’ll keep working with him and see maybe where the best fit for him may be. But I don’t really know that until we’ve had a chance to see him play a little bit. But he’s certainly a good looking kid. He’s got a good frame. He’s got good balance, we know that from wrestling.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about the decision to trade for Alex Smith?
BB: You know, that’s something that’s kind of been, I don’t want to say in the works, but it’s been out there for a little while. It just felt like, given the player, the situation and what the compensation was was something that we wanted to do and we feel like Alex is a good… He’s a good player. He’s done a lot of different things for Tampa Bay, in the passing game, in the running game, pass protection, [is] a smart guy, athletic. And Coach [Jon] Gruden’s offense, which they ran down there, you see him doing a lot of different things. [He] lined up in different spots: playing on the line, playing off the line, playing in motion, playing split out, different kinds of routes and so forth that they run. So I think you see him with a versatile set of skills. He can play in the kicking game, [you have to be] athletic to play in the kicking game. We’ll see how all that comes together, but we felt like, at this point, it would give us good depth at that position. We felt like the compensation was fair so we went ahead and did it.

Q: Can you comment on George Bussey?
BB: Well Bus had a good career in Louisville. He played left tackle. Then, this year, a little bit there, at guard for a couple games and parts of different games during the season. So I think he’s got some versatility between tackle and guard, [and is] a smart kid. Over the last couple of years they’ve done some different things, but I’d say it’s kind of a pro style type of offense and he’s done well. So we think he’ll be competitive in those spots. Again his versatility is a plus and his intelligence is a plus, so that means I don’t think mentally that will be a problem – he’s used to doing these kinds of things. So we will see how that goes, but I think there are a couple different options with him.

Q: Brandon Tate – do you know where he is at?
BB: I think he’s down at lunch right now. Where he’s at as far as? I’m not sure I follow you?

Q: He wasn’t participating in drills, but he was there.
BB: Oh right, yeah. He’s rehabilitating the knee injury. We will just take that as it comes, day by day. When he’s ready, I’m sure he’ll be out there. I know he’s working hard to get back out on the field. Our medical people are working with him this weekend and I’m sure he’ll do everything to be back out there as soon as he possibly can and we’ll do everything we can to help him.


Q: On Brandon Tate – what’s the benefit of having him out there and watching those drills? How much can he soak up even though he can’t participate?
BB: He does his rehab at other points when he’s not on the field. I don’t think he’s falling behind on the rehab, so while he’s out there he can see what we’re doing and try to mentally watch it just like any other player who’s not in there actually practicing that particular play. They mentally get the play from the coach, watch it and try to go through their head. That’s really what any player who’s not in the actual play should be doing. If he’s not doing that then…His rehabilitation comes when we’re not on the field.

Q: Not in terms of draft status, but does Myron Pryor have similarities to Vince Wilfork?
BB: Well, Myron played…Again, he played in a pro-style of defense there with Coach [Rich] Brooks at Kentucky. So I think there are some elements of the things they’ve done to what we do and what we would do defensively. But at the same time, I think there are some differences in the techniques. There might be similar defense, similar to Wilfork’s defense in Miami. I’m sure there are some similarities. But again, he’s had NFL type coaching. I would say that was true of Vince also at the University of Miami. So from that standpoint, I think he might be a little more acclimated with some of the techniques anyway that we’ll see here and not necessarily the quality offensive line that we see. But that will come in time.

Q: Can you talk about Ron Brace and the pluses and minuses of him being a local guy? Do you think it is added pressure?
BB: Well, I think there are some positives and negatives. I don’t know about all that. I think there are expectations. Each player has their own expectations. I don’t know if it really matters where they come from, if they come from Alaska, Boston or Texas. They have their own expectations, but I think it is a positive that he’s been around here. He has some familiarity with the area. It makes the relocation a lot easier. All the normal things that any of us would have to do in relocation, hopefully that is an easier adjustment for him. Defensively, he’s been in a good system. They’ve had a lot of success there. They had good competition last year with [B.J.] Raji, the other tackle. I saw good competition in the ACC. It’s going to be a big transition to the NFL, that goes without saying. But in relative terms he’s had about as good preparation for it as anybody else has had at Division I football. I think being closer, being around here, that it helps with the relocation process.

Q: Going back to Jermail Porter – how do you find a guy that’s never played football?
BB: That’s what scouts do. They turn over a lot of rocks. You’re at a lot of different schools over the course of the fall and the spring and you come across a lot of names and a lot of people. Sometimes you find some that are interesting and you want to pursue a little bit further. No set formula. You just keep digging and digging and digging, and sometimes you find one in a place where you don’t expect to find one. And I would say that’s probably what happened with Jermail.

Q: Do you think with the Stephen Neal experience it has opened you to take tips on guys that haven’t played before?
BB: No. I think it’s always been like that. We’ve always looked at that. In Cleveland, we had guys like Orlando Brown from South Ohio State. He went on to be a very good player in this league. Wally Williams, Florida A&M, went on to be drafted a real good player in this league. Guys like that – Bob Dahl was a defensive lineman in college and ended up playing on the offensive line for us. You find them in different spots: small schools, haven’t played football, offense to defense, defense to offense. That’s not anything that’s been happening recently. It’s always been there going all the way back to the kid from Dallas. He was a basketball player who ended up playing safety for the Cowboys. He played strong safety. Guys like that [and] Antonio Gates. Those guys are out there.

Q: You had several non signed players out there. You obviously need to fill out the ranks of a camp like this. How much of a real long shot is it for one of these guys to be able to show you enough for you to want to sign them?
BB: Well, it’s a little bit better than a regular tryout. If you just try a player out, you take him out there and maybe you have one or two other guys with him. Sometimes it’s just a player by himself and you put them through a series of drills, and maybe coaches try to simulate a situation and you see how he reacts to it – that sort of thing. Then off of that workout, half hour, 45 minutes, an hour, you take a gauge on it the best you can relative to the other players you have at that position and what you’re kind of used to working with there. You can kind of tell [if he’s] athletically competitive or not. The advantage of this is you get to see them. It’s a longer look – it is a couple practices. You have some other practices. You have other people out there, [so] you can see them doing some competitive drills against each other, 7-on-7, 1-on-1, punt team. It just gives you a longer look at those guys. In the end, after you try out a player and you put him through a couple practices, you are probably at the same point. Then, sometimes, you maybe wish you hadn’t signed him. Sometimes you think, ‘We’re going to be alright with this guy.’ I think you have a little higher percentage of having that feeling after a camp like this, after two, three, four practices than after you do after a half hour, 45-minute workout. After a few days, it all catches up, you’re in the same place. You just try to find it a little bit sooner this way.

Q: This was your first practice with some of these new coaches. Is there a building process?
BB: Yeah, a little bit. Most of these coaches have been in the system, so I think they have a pretty good understanding of how we do things, and we’ve talked about that. We’ve had meetings in the offseason and so forth about practice schedule and drills. So I think that’s pretty well established, but working with somebody new is working with somebody new. You get to know them and I know everyone is a little bit different. We have a couple of new coaches on our staff as well that haven’t been with us before. So it will be a little bit of an adjustment there, but we try to spend time in the offseason in preparation for these camps and practices of getting everyone on the same page. Even though Scott O’Brien hasn’t been with us, I’ve coached with Scott and we can talk about times and drills, and so forth. We can come to a pretty quick understanding of what we’re both looking for.

Q: As far as a learning curve goes, is it a give and take or do you follow the same schedule every camp?
BB: I think you go into a camp like this, or a training camp for that matter, with a schedule and you try to stick to that schedule. But in everyone of those you have to make some kind of modifications along the way based on your depth; how quickly the players are absorbing the information and actually being able to go out there and use it. Some of the things we did out there today that didn’t look too good. We’ll have to make a decision this afternoon whether we want to fix those on film and think we got them straightened out and think we got them figured out, [or] run them again this afternoon and put in some new stuff; or whether we want to cut back on the new stuff and just concentrate a little more [because] we weren’t satisfied. That’s always the balance you always get into. In training camp, we are on a much tighter time frame because we are preparing for preseason games and are getting ready for the regular season. So you just can’t take a week to be doing the same thing until you get it right [because] there will be a lot of things you’ll never get through. In a camp like this, you really could do that if you wanted to. I don’t think it would set anyone back too far if we didn’t progress as far as we were scheduled to progress. But we would like to keep giving them information, see how they handle it both mentally and from a technique standpoint – give them some different things to do and see how they do those. We’d like to stay on schedule, but inevitably it gets modified a little bit. And sometimes you are moving on a little quicker than you thought and things you said, ‘Well we wouldn’t probably be ready for in this camp? Maybe in the last practice you decide, let’s go ahead and throw those in, I think these guys can handle it. You just have to make those decisions every day as you go.

Q: What did you like about Brian Hoyer during his career at Michigan State?
BB: He was a productive player. He played his position well and he was productive. That’s really what the bottom line for a quarterback is. He’s a guy who can move his team, get the ball in the end zone and make plays to help his team win – manage the clock, manage the team, and handle the games conditions at that position. So-in the end that’s what it’s about and he did a good job of that at Michigan State.

Q: Will you comment on what you’ve seen for Darius Butler and what you expect for him?
BB: Well my expectations are the same for all the players at this point, all young players. It’s to come in, learn our system, work hard and understand the techniques and pay attention to some of the finer points in things that are going on, so ultimately at training camp they’ll be able to compete against players that have already done that. Right now, there is a huge gap between any of those players downstairs that are rookies and our veteran players. Our guys have been through the system. They know it. They’ve trained all spring, and they’re much more familiar with what we’re doing. We’ve got to try to close that gap with the young players so they can compete with them from a conditioning and training standpoint physically. From a mental standpoint, as far as terminology, nomenclature, and all those things go, and also from a technique standpoint of how we do certain things technique wise to be effective. In some cases they have to learn new ones or improve the ones they currently have. Right now, I think for the rookies is that it’s just a game of catch up. We have the expectations that they will come in, work hard and that they’ll keep improving. And if that happened, then at some point, I think they’ll be in a position to compete with players who have been doing that a lot longer. Darius has a lot going for him of course. [He’s] a good athlete, had a terrific college career, was used in a variety of different roles at the University of Connecticut and had shown good skills. But getting ready to compete against the receivers and other [defensive backs] on our team – he has a long way to go to get to that point. But hopefully each practice, each day, he will get a little bit closer to it and when we get to the spring camps and finally the training camp in July he will be ready to do that. My expectation for all the rookies is t


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