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Belichick on The Big Show: ‘Wouldn’t rule out’ Welker in the preseason

08.16.10 at 10:50 pm ET
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Bill Belichick (AP)

For Patriots Monday on The Big Show, the Big O welcomed coach Bill Belichick for the first of his weekly chats during the football season. Belichick was wrapping up practice for the day, as the Patriots plans on flying to Atlanta to scrimmage against the Falcons before their preseason game on Thursday. With Belichick all ears, the guys asked him questions about the way the team gets ready for the season as well as updates on various players.

“I’m just working on the guys here, who are getting on the plane going to play at Atlanta,” Belichick said curtly about holdout Logan Mankins. When asked about the possibility of seeing Wes Welker step onto the field before the season, Belichick was a little more open.

“We’ll see how that goes. I wouldn’t rule it out, but I wouldn’t say it’s a definite either. We’ll just take it day by day, just like with everybody else.”

Below are highlights of the interview. To listen to the interview, click on The Big Show audio on demand page.

On playing another team during training camp because constantly playing teammates can get boring:

I just think it worked out, the way the schedule worked and the teams and the situation. It just worked out where we felt like it was a good thing to do. There are a lot of factors that go into it, definitely one of which is being on a Thursday game schedule all the way through the preseason. Those things are really hard to do, when you’re playing Thursday night one week and Monday night the next and stuff like that. The schedule worked out, the teams worked out and I just thought it would be a good experience. Mike Smith with Atlanta and Sean Payton with New Orleans and I thought [about it] in the past and the schedule hit this year, so it worked out.

On why he chose to do this kind of practice with this team this year:

Again, I think it was more of the way it fell. I think it went well last week with New Orleans so we’re hoping for another good week this week against Atlanta.

On what stood out to him so far in practices:

It was just great. I thought the way the two teams played together was outstanding. There was no chippiness or attitude or anything. Both teams were out there to just play football and I think that we got a lot better. We saw a lot of things in New Orleans that we don’t see from ourselves and that was a good experience. Some of the things we [did] see was against different players or maybe a little bit different schemes, so it just helps our awareness and work on things that we’re going to have to work on over the course of the season that are outside some of the things in our system, both offensively, defensively and in the kicking game. We covered a lot of kicking game situations that filled our awareness and situation football in those areas, so that was good to do them against another team instead of just the way that we do them.

It was good as well to just watch another team practice and see how they do things. That’s something that we rarely get a chance to do because we’re so consumed with what we do that the only time we get to see another team is on game day. Just to watch them practice and do drills and how they conduct themselves as a team and the staff and the whole organization and so forth. It was really beneficial week for us on many levels.

On how he determines when to move on down the roster during preseason games:

First of all, you never know for sure what’s going to be on the other side of the ball. You don’t really know what their situation is, whoever the players are in those positions. They may not be healthy or they might want to see a younger player in place of those guys, for whatever their reasons are. It’s really hard to control who you’re going to be playing against. Our discussions usually center around each individual player, how much do we want to see them play, what do we want to see them do and also, who do we want to see him with on our team, what combinations do we want to put together? Those discussions are contributions from the assistant coaches, the offensive, defensive, special teams staff and I have some thoughts, and then we just put them all together and try to coordinate it so that, for example, one player isn’t on everything — or maybe he is, based on what we see – the kicking game and the offensive or defensive series; he’s just out there doing everything at the same time. Sometimes we try to break that up a little bit and make it [so he isn’t] playing the kicking game in the first half and then defense in the second half, or vice versa.

It’s coordination that just comes from talking about each individual player, trying to get what we need from each guy, and then figuring out how to do it. It doesn’t always work out the way we want to and sometimes we talk about doing one thing for the first game and a second thing for the second game, third thing for the third game and trying to split it up that way. For example, with our running backs, rather than trying to play all the running backs in one game, it’s just not enough carries and opportunities for a guy to get into a flow, so we try to break it up so that the guys get an opportunity to play and then we change those opportunities the next week.

On playing Wes Welker in the preseason:

We’ll see how that goes. I wouldn’t rule it out, but I wouldn’t say it’s a definite either. We’ll just take it day by day, just like with everybody else.

On how the two rookie tight ends are adjusting to the system:

Well, they know a lot more now than they did a couple of weeks ago. They still got a long way to go. One good thing about our tight ends is that they’ve been out there every day. They’ve been healthy, they’ve worked hard, they’ve competed to work better. Aaron [Hernandez] and Rob Gronkowski, Rob Myers, those guys made some mistakes, like we all do, but they’ve learned and it seems like they’re doing things better the second or third times around. A lot of times, it’s a case where they haven’t seen it and they’re not exactly sure what to do, but as they see it and understand it; then it happens smoother the next time.

It’s a difficult position to play because the tight ends are involved in every single play, running paths and they have to block and pass protect, run routes and be part of the passing game on all three downs and goal line and short yardage and all of those kind of situations as well as all the blocking plays, both run and pass. There’s no play off for a tight end. He’s right in the middle of the action on everything, so there’s a lot to learn at that position, [especially] in our offense.

On Logan Mankins:

I’m just working on the guys here, who are getting on the plane going to play at Atlanta.

On Brian Hoyer:

I think Brian is taking a good step forward, as have all the players who were rookies last year. We had a lot of guys last year, and I think all of them – the ones that have played, and the ones who didn’t play as much last year – whether it’s [Sebastian] Vollmer or [Julian] Edelman or [Patrick] Chung, whoever it was that played a lot have advanced and those players who didn’t play as much, like Hoyer didn’t get many snaps, Brandon Tate, [Tyrone] McKenzie, guys like that, they’ve all improved quite a bit so overall I think that class has taken a big jump from year one to year two and Hoyer is certainly in that category.

He’s certainly light years ahead of where he was last year in terms of understanding the offense and being able to handle the whole operation and all the things that go with it, but he’s also worked on his throwing mechanics and been to the weight room and gotten stronger. [He] has a little more zip on the ball and overall throwing mechanics and poise in the pocket and all those things are better from a year of doing it. Even though a lot of it was in practice, he still gained experience and learned a lot last year. He’s taken a lot of reps this year, both in the spring and here in training camp. He’s probably gotten close to half the reps here in practice so he’s really built on those experiences and he’s doing a good job.

On the possible need to have his young defensive players turn into leaders quickly:

I think all of that takes care of itself on your team and it’s not something that you can really orchestrate as a coach. When you put people together, there’s a natural evolution of chemistry and whatever you want to call it, leadership or interaction, camaraderie within a group and I think all of that just happens because of the people and also the circumstances that surround those people. Certainly when you put that team under stress, like training camp and two-a-day practices and grind through it, it forces everybody to meet a stiff individual challenge and then as they handle it as individual challenges, some people have more of an ability to work with the guys in those situations than others do and those people start to emerge.

So again, that’s not something that I think as a coach, you can say, “Well this guy is going to do this and this guy is going to do this and that guy is going to do that.” It has to happen [on its own] and the person has to do it on his own and he has to earn everybody else’s respect. You can’t make people feel a certain way about a person, they have to earn that themselves. Whoever the best players are, those are the guys who are going to play the most and the guys that don’t play as well will play less, whoever that is. It’s young players, old players, veterans, rookies, draft choices, free agents. It doesn’t make any difference, it’s just about competition out there on the field and we’ll let it play itself out.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Logan Mankins, Patriots, training camp
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