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Bill Belichick Q&A, 4/23

04.24.10 at 1:41 am ET
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Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here’s the complete transcript between the media and Patriots coach Bill Belichick and the end of Day 2 of the NFL draft:

BB: OK. Well, it’s another interesting day in the draft room. It was nice, obviously, to be able to come into the day with multiple selections in the second round. There was quite a bit of movement, of course, with us moving up and then moving back. And we ended up taking the three second-rounders. I’m not quite sure where we started, but still in that round and then gained an extra third-round pick, which is now a second round pick next year. We felt that was good value with making the trade there with Arizona. So Rob Gronkowski, certainly an interesting player. Excellent size, very well thought of down there by Coach [Mike] Stoops and his staff. We visited him a couple weeks ago. I think as we saw there, in New York, he’s kind of a fun loving guy who enjoys having a good time, but he plays like that, too. He plays with a good attitude. He’s aggressive. He seems to be having fun out there and he was a good playmaker for Arizona in the 2008 season. And then [Jermaine] Cunningham is a guy that in some ways is a little bit maybe has a little less height than [Carlos] Dunlap, but was really an outstanding player for Florida. He’s had an outstanding career down there. He’s a tough guy, a hard-working guy, very well-respected on that football team in that program. I think he was one of the real leaders for them on defense along with [Brandon] Spikes and [Joe] Haden and of course Spikes came next. [He’s] a big guy – big for an inside linebacker. I have a lot of respect for Spikes, the way he went back to school to finish his career there. To try to win some more games down there. I think he showed a real commitment to his teammates and his school and to the program down there. [He’s] very well thought of, very highly respected and of course came with a good recommendation from Doc [Rivers], which I appreciated. Doc can keep an eye on him up here — keep his daughter a little closer to home. And then in the third round, Taylor Price is a receiver that is a talented kid. He played in what I would say was not a good offensive system last year. He certainly showed that he could have a variety of skills as a receiver. He’s a big kid, runs well. He shows the ability to play multiple positions – inside, outside, has the size to block, run after the catch, good hands. He’s an interesting player that didn’t have a lot of production certainly in part due to the offensive system he was in. That’s where we are today heading into tomorrow. We have picks in the fourth, fifth and a compensatory pick in the sixth round and then a whole bunch of picks in the seventh round. So hopefully we’ll be able to use those productively as well. I think there’re still some pretty interesting players on the board going into the fourth round. That’s a little bit unusual. There’re usually not a lot of guys, but I think there’s still a decent amount of depth in this draft. We’ll see what happens tomorrow. We came out of today with three tough defensive players, guys that have played at a high level of competition, played well and have showed they are good, solid, steady competitors. Then to add to guys on offense with size and toughness and I think for our football team it gives us some good competition and I look forward to working with that group of guys.

Q: Does Jermaine Cunningham play outside linebacker?
BB: He played on the end of the line of scrimmage, let’s put it that way. They used him in coverage some last year. He’s a pretty athletic kid – 265 pounds or something like that and 6-3. They did drop him into coverage some as they do with [Carlos] Dunlap. I wouldn’t say he was an outside linebacker. He was an end for them, but he did do some outside linebacker type duties. We’ll see how all that goes. I think he’s an end of the line player, whether that’s up or down we will see.

Q: You met with Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Spikes at the same time?
BB: Yes, that’s right.

Q: Can you talk about that? Was that something you were trying to knock two birds with one stone or were you trying to get them together?
BB: Well, we were in Florida and I felt like we were working out half of the first and second round. We saw all those guys – Tim Tebow and all the offensive players, [Maurkice] Pouncey and all them. Then, we saw the defensive players – Dunlap, Spikes, Cunningham and all of them. It was the day after their Pro Day down there. It was a good meeting like it always is with Florida. Those kids are very focused on football. Football’s important to them. They’re in a good program. It’s important for them to win. They know what they are doing. They’ve worked hard both on and off the field. They’re extremely well-coached by Coach [Urban] Meyer and his staff, so it’s a lot of fun to sit down and talk football with them. They play against other top players in the draft. The SEC competition, so it’s fun to watch film with them and watch them play against other players who are in the draft this year or who were in the draft last year or probably going to be in the draft next year if they’re underclassman. It was a good meeting. We spent two days down there and it was very productive.

Q: [On Pro Day at Florida]
BB: I think it was one of those years that they had a lot of players coming out into the draft and I do feel like I knew them fairly well. I had the opportunity … Coach Meyer invited me to their clinic in the spring similar to what I did at Rutgers this year and so I was down there, did the clinic and also watched them in spring ball. So I saw all these players in spring practice a year ago. So I kind of got a little bit of a jump on them there. There were a lot of players that I feel like I’ve seen a couple times down there and talked to. Then we brought them in and interviewed them here, saw them at the Combine, so probably a little more than a normal school. Part of it was the luck of the draw of being down there last year.

Q: Was there a point where you came to a comfort level with Gronkowski’s medicals?
BB: Yeah, when our doctors said he was OK. That was the point.

Q: What kind of challenge will not having 2009 have on him and maybe making sure he was going to be the same guy in 2010 that he was in 2008?
BB: I think you can see the workout that he still has the same skills he had in 2008. I don’t think that’s a question and our doctors feel comfortable with his rehab and where he’s at now. We go on their evaluations and recommendations. We have a deal. I don’t diagnose with the players and they don’t call plays.

Q: Brandon Spikes ran a slow 40 time, but when you look at him on film you see differently. How did you reconcile the time speed versus what you saw?
BB: Well, I think that’s the bottom line. He’s been a very productive player for them again at a very high level of competition. I would say he plays faster than his time speed. We know what his speed is in the 40-yard dash, but the amount of times that he runs 40 yards are a couple times a game and maybe that is the time he runs, but competitively on the field he’s fast. He reacts quickly and I think he covers a lot of ground. I think he moves as well as any inside linebacker I’ve seen in a couple years here. He probably moves as fast tackle to tackle as Jerod [Mayo] did, as far as recognizing things and moving quickly and getting over there and all that. So if it came down to a flat out long distance run I don’t know if he would finish first, but as a football player he plays fast, he plays quickly and he plays with good power and explosion and he’s a heavy hitter.

Q: How high did you rate Rob Gronkowski’s pass catching skills and how might you employ those going forward?
BB: He has good receiving skills. In 2008, Arizona used him both at the conventional tight end position and then also split out. They put him out of the formation, sometimes on the strong side. They also put him out on the weak side by himself back there and they throw it to him, particularly in the red area on slants and individual cuts back there. And he’s a big guy. He’s a hard matchup for a defensive back. He’s 6-5, 265, or whatever he is. He’s big and he plays big and he has a big frame. A lot of times he just boxes them out and they stuff it in there to him and he’s just a hard guy to cover. He’s a strong runner with the ball in his hands. He’s run through some tackles, made some yards after the catch. They used him in the passing game. They used him in a number of different ways – deep routes, middle read routes and also some individual isolation stuff and then the conventional passing tree we see most tight ends run. I thought he did a good job of that in 2008.

Q: What factor did Brandon Spikes leadership skills play into his evaluation?
BB: Good, I think we had that from a number of players, certainly Brandon was a solid team leader. [He] was very well respected in their program, as was Cunningham, as was Devin [McCourty] at Rutgers. I think all three of those defensive players are team captains, team leaders, some of the most respected people in their program from coaches, like Greg and Urban who’ve been around a lot of good football players and have been around a lot of good football teams. When they tell me those players have great leadership, work ethic and are amongst the most respected players they’ve coached … I’m not around them every day and when somebody like Urban and like Greg say that I hear it.

Q: You talked about the lack of complexities that Taylor Price comes from on offense, what do you see in him that tells you he can translate into a scheme?
BB: Well, I think in the opportunities that he had, you can see that. He has good hands. He can catch the ball. He’s big. He’s fast. He can run a variety of routes. And in the workout both at the Combine and at his individual workout when Nick [Caserio] and our offensive coaches were out there, they were able to put him through a [inaudible] what he would be running for us or something similar to that. They got a good evaluation of that. I think you saw all those things on tape, you just didn’t see a lot of them. You didn’t see a lot of opportunities for him to make plays in the passing game, but I think if he had been in a different offense and a more productive offense, he would have had more production. But you know, that being said, I think he did what he could do and he blocked and he hustled and made plays when he had an opportunity to make them. But, statistically, his numbers aren’t going to knock you out.

Q: It was hard to see on TV, but when you picked Gronkowski, they showed the commissioner checking on something and it seemed like there was a long time before the pick was made. Was there something delayed?
BB: Yeah, I’m not sure exactly what happened there in New York. We talked to Oakland and we made the trade with them to move up a couple spots and I know the clock was running and we it was a little bit late on the clock. We were hustling that in, but I think we got it in on time.

Q: What might Jermaine Cunningham add to the pass rush?
BB: I hope he’ll be able to contribute to us defensively running and passing. He’s a strong player. He’s got good edge rush ability. I think he’s a very instinctive player. He’s been productive against a high level of competition. The guys he’s played against are a lot of NFL tackles — last year or this year — guys who are or will be playing in the NFL I think you saw at LSU or Alabama: [Andre] Smith from two years ago; [Michael] Oher, Mississippi. We saw him against good people.

Q: Since you’ve been in New England have you had anyone that you would consider similar to Gronkowski?
BB: I’d say Kyle Brady. Kyle was maybe a little bit bigger, but that kind of frame. He ran well, big target, big physical guy; a guy that’s not a tackle, but not too far from looking like a tackle.

Q: Does Gronkowski give you an added ability in the red zone?
BB: We’ll see. He did for Arizona. I think he was, as I said, he was a pretty effective guy for him and at times they put him out on the weak side of the formation down inside the 20 or I saw him down there a few times on the goal line. But you could tell they were kind of isolating him and letting him kind of body up on some of those guys and stuff it in there too him. But he caught the ball well and seemed to have a pretty good sense of how to get himself between the defender and the quarterback and just take the ball away from the defender.

Q: You mentioned that Carlos Dunlap may have gotten a little more ink than Jermaine Cunningham …
BB: Well, you know, [he was] MVP of the championship game against Oklahoma and all of that. I mean, believe me, there was a lot of recognition for all of those players down there, but I think when Dunlap was the MVP … But you know, Cunningham is a pretty good player.

Q: And you had your choice of both of them …
BB: Well, we took Cunningham. Obviously, we think he is a better player for this team. And there are a lot of other good players out there, too. There are a lot of guys we didn’t draft who are good football players and will be good pros and I’m sure will give us more than we can handle on plenty of Sundays. But that being said, we took the player that we thought was the best for our football team. And Jermaine’s attributes – I think there’s a long list of those.

Q: You obviously made a lot of trades today and spoke with a lot of teams. Did you have any opportunities to make trades for players instead of picks?
BB: You know, there are names … There are a lot of things that come up over the course of the draft, but again, the wheel is spinning kind of fast and a lot of times guys get thrown out. ‘Would you be interested in this guy or that guy?’ Or that kind of thing, so that’s pretty common for those names to be thrown out in the course of a conversation. More so here on the second day, which is actually now is the third day, in the fourth through seventh round where teams have drafted somebody and now they have an excess at a position and, ‘Hey, would you be interested in this guy for a fifth or a sixth?’ Or whatever it is, that kind of thing. It’s very common.

Q: Does that kind of happen overnight? Do you lay the foundation?
BB: Sometimes they do. Again, I think there’s a certain amount of that. I’m sure there are teams that have a sense that they’re going to move on from a player regardless, but based on who they draft in the first, second, third round – whatever it is – they may look at their roster and say, ‘we’re going to go with a younger player that we drafted at this spot, and therefore so-and-so is available.’ And then inevitably the day after the draft, which will be Monday, there will some players on the waiver wire.

Q: Now that you’ve been through it, does the new format have any effect? Having all day today and all the phone calls that you get, does it make a difference?
BB: I think it was kind of a repeat of the first team. There were 32 players’ names off the board and some teams had filled needs and you kind of knew that they were now looking for their secondary need, whatever it was that they didn’t get on the first day. Not that they always drafted those needs, but there is sort of a correlation there, and it just started all over again. I think that’s a good way to put it; it was kind of like having two first days. Tomorrow I think will be very much like it’s been normally on the second day of the draft where I don’t think at this point teams are really necessarily filling needs per se. There aren’t too many guys that get drafted in the fourth, fifth round where you say, ‘well, this guy is really going to come in and take over this particular position on the team.’ Occasionally, but not very often. You’re drafting the best players or maybe a position where you need some depth, so it’s a lot less predictable which positions, or which type of players, or which players will be taken tomorrow as opposed to what we saw the last two days.

Q: Last year you mentioned that in getting players like Julian Edelman, the scouting process was very impressive. Do you feel like that has continued into this year and maybe that you are the most satisfied with the value and the talent?
BB: Absolutely, I think that Nick and his staff – Jon Robinson and the scouts – and also the pro scouts – Jason Licht and his staff – have done an outstanding job. We’ve seen a lot of players – we’ve seen all the players really. We’ve seen multiple looks at them – two, three, four, five grades on a lot of these players. There’s a lot more consistency in the grades that they’ve given them. It’s not as much of a spread; it seems like everybody is kind of seeing things about the same way – not exactly the same, but you can see a consistency in the scouting department, the grading system. I think that Jon and Jason and Nick and all of the scouts have done a great job on that. That comes from, of course, being in the same system for multiple years and looking at the players that we’ve drafted and other players that have come through the draft – and kind of going back and re-grading them. What should they have been? What do we really want to call this guy? What do we want to make him based on whatever the most important criteria are for his position? I think they’ve done a great job of that the past few years. And it was good before that, too. Obviously, Scott [Pioli] and his staff did a great job it in the previous years, but I think Nick and Jon and Jason and those guys and Floyd [Reese] – they’ve all done a great job.

Q: Do you look at Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes really being able to really complement each other on the inside?
BB: We’ll see. I think they’re both good players. They’re very intense. I think that they’re smart. They both have good power and explosion. We’ll see how it goes together, but I think that they both have a lot of physical talent, they have a lot of intangibles, they’re both very instinctive players, so it will be fun to watch that whole group — Gary [Guyton], Jerod, Tyrone [McKenzie] now coming back from missing last year, Brandon, Thomas Williams. I think it’s a good, competitive group there – Eric [Alexander] – all of them. We’ll see how it turns out, but I think Brandon and Jerod — to answer your question — they’re both very instinctive players, they were very productive in a good conference at a high level of competition that had them play against a lot of good backs and a lot of other good players and they played well.

Q: Did you have fun?
BB: Yeah, today was a good day. To have three picks in the first round, even though it wasn’t the first round, but three picks in the round today, certainly gave us a lot of options. And I felt like we came out with the three picks that we had in the second round. We came out of it with those. [We] had the pick in the third round that we gained from yesterday and then ended up with a second round pick next year. So I think we should continue to be able to replenish the team with the assets we have next year. I feel like we have certainly improved our team today and yesterday with the picks that we’ve made. So hopefully we can continue to make progress on that tomorrow. I think we’ve got to continue to work on it — just like we did last year with the [Julian] Edelmans and the [Myron] Pryors and the Brian Hoyers, going back to the [Matt] Cassels and the Pierre Woodses and all those guys – the Mike Wrights – and the free agents and late-round picks that we’ve had in previous years. So hopefully we can continue to improve our team tomorrow and find some guys that maybe aren’t the most high-profile guys in the draft, but guys that will help our football team. That’s what we need.

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