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Belichick puts the wraps on the preseason with a Friday afternoon conference call

09.02.11 at 8:15 pm ET
By

Bill Belichick (AP)

On a conference call with reporters Friday afternoon, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Friday that releasing players is the “worst part of the job.”

New England, which released eight players on Friday, must pare down the roster to the league-mandated 53 active players by Saturday afternoon. While he acknowledged that it is part of the team-building process, he added that it doesn’t make it any easier.

“Guys work hard, they give you everything they’ve got, they go out there and compete, and not everybody can make it,” Belichick said. “It’s always a tough time of year for myself and all the other position coaches as well, because those guys spend a lot of time with those players in meetings, watching film with them, out on the practice field in smaller groups, and really try to develop a good working relationship with those players and it’s hard to see it end.

“But unfortunately, we all understand that’s part of the process and the business. It doesn’t make it any easier, but it’s something — I don’t want to say you get used to it — but it’s something you have to deal with every year. It doesn’t really get any easier. It’s always a grouping of people and you’re affecting their lives and their families and their careers and trying to do what’s best for the team, but that still can be tough. It is tough.”

Belichick also touched on a number of other subjects. On Nate Solder’s performance Thursday night at both right and left tackle, Belichick said the rookie “did some good things,” and lauded his overall body of work through training camp and the preseason.

“I thought his run blocking was good. I thought his pass blocking was good. He had a couple plays that, like everybody, could have been a little better,” Belichick said of his effort against the Giants. “But the kid’s learned a lot. I think he’s had a lot thrown at him in the last month. I think overall he’s handled it very well, very maturely.

“His techniques improved. He’s worked hard. He’s a tough kid. This is part of the experience, playing on the other side [of the line] and then actually come back to the left side in the second half. He got good work on both sides of the ball. I think all those snaps in the long run are just going to help.

Belichick also had some good things to say about Matthew Slater, who has three receptions of 40-plus yards in the preseason. The UCLA product has done a lot of things for the Patriots over the course of his three-year career, and it appears that versatility has won him a spot on the 53-man roster.

“The more things a player can do and the ways a player can contribute, the more value he has, and Matthew’s such a hard working player,” Belichick said. “Nobody outworks him. He’s gotten better every single year and we’ve moved him around a little bit: We’ve played him at safety. We’ve played him at receiver. He’s done some kickoff returns. He’s been a short returner. He’s been involved in all the other phases of the kicking game as well.

“But he keeps working hard. He gets better and he’s had a real good training camp. The versatility helps him and the fact that his performance has been good, that helps him too, so he’s got some things going for him.”

Backup quarterback Ryan Mallett appeared to struggle at times over his final drive of the game on Thursday, and Belichick said that it’s a “good learning situation” for the young signal-caller.

“Things happen in this league fast. They get disguised, so it looks like one thing and then when the ball is snapped, it turns out to be something else,” Belichick said of Mallett, who ended the preseason 36-for-63 for 357 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. “That’s something that all players have to constantly work on: seeing the right keys, reacting to them quickly and not being deceived or not misreading the situation, but getting the read properly so that we can all be on the same page with the execution. I think that’s something that every quarterback needs to see and definitely a young quarterback needs to see and can learn from.

“Practice is practice and we can watch film and have meetings and all that — and that’s good for preparation – but seeing it in game speed in game conditions is a great learning tool. Tom [Brady] and Brian [Hoyer] and Ryan [Mallett] all saw that last night. That’s the great part about preseason games: you’re able to get those live game exposures at that tempo, so it’s a good learning situation that we need to handle better all the way around.”

As for Brandon Meriweather, Belichick said the safety has had a “good” camp, and that when it comes to a lack of snaps, the Patriots “mixed their rotations” at safety throughout the preseason finale.

“It’s been good,” Belichick said of Meriweather’s camp and preseason. “Brandon has been out there every day. He’s worked hard. He’s been able to do everything and I think he’s gotten better, worked a lot on his man-to-man coverage. He’s out there practicing like everybody else is.”

While more personnel decisions must be made before the final cuts are submitted on Saturday, Belichick and the Patriots are clearly just as anxious as the rest of the league to move on to the regular season, which opens Sept. 12 against the Dolphins in Miami.

“I met with the team this afternoon, and I think everybody’s ready to put all this behind us and start moving ahead to Monday night in Miami, a division game on the road,” Belichick said. “It doesn’t get much bigger than that, so we have a lot of big challenges behind us. I think everybody’s looking forward to stepping up and stepping up to the plate and see how we do here.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Brandon Meriweather, Brian Hoyer, Matthew Slater
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