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Bill Belichick: Ray Lewis ‘has done a good job for them since he’s been back’

01.15.13 at 2:20 pm ET

Ray Lewis may have lost a step or two over the years, but Bill Belichick said remains the centerpiece of the Ravens defense. On a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon, the Patriots coach praised Lewis, who is in the midst of his final season in the NFL, and said that even though he was on the shelf for a stretch this season because of injury, “he certainly adds a lot” to the Baltimore scheme.

“Ray is an instinctive player, always has been,” Belichick said. “Very good in the running game, play-actions and screen passes and things like that; does a good job with the underneath combination patterns. He certainly controls the defense in terms of checks and adjustments, that kind of thing. He certainly adds a lot. I’€™m sure that they’€™re glad that he’€™s back in there for a variety of reasons: his plays, leadership, being able to quarterback the defense and certainly the front. He’€™s done a good job for them since he’€™s been back in there.”

In his Q&A with the media, Belichick also briefly addressed the Chandler Jones situation: The rookie defensive end appeared to be hobbled shortly before the end of the first half in the divisional playoff win over the Texans and he did not return to the game.

“We do the same thing with every player — any players that are in for treatment [Monday] and [Tuesday] — well everybody was in [Tuesday] and the guys that came in for treatment today, we’€™ll take a look at them [Tuesday], take a look at them [Wednesday, make a decision as to whether or not we think they can practice,” Belichick said. “If we do, then we’€™ll put them out there and let them go through the early part of practice, the warm-up stages, some individual work and see how that progresses and make the decision as to whether or not to put them in the group for team drills that come later on in practice.

“We do the same thing with every player in that category. If they’€™re not ready, then they don’€™t practice or they practice on a limited basis. If they’€™re able to continue and do the things that all the other players doing, mainstream program players are doing, then they do that.”

Following are a few other highlights of his conference call.
Vince Wilfork called the Ravens a complete team. How do you define a complete team and how hard is it to achieve that in the NFL?

“I think that’€™s something that you should ask Vince about if you wonder what he means by it. I’€™m not really sure. I think they’€™re a good football team, they’€™re well coached, they have good players. They’€™re strong in all three phases of the game. They’€™re a tough team that won their division and that’€™s won many games on the road. They’€™ve been able to win games in different fashions ‘€“ high scoring, low scoring. Big kick in Denver there ‘€“ tough conditions, end of the game, long kick. They’€™ve had a couple of those this year. They’€™ve done a good job all the way around. They’€™re a good football team; like I said, they’€™re well coached. They have a good program from their owner, Steve Bisciotti, and General Manager Ozzie Newsome, player personnel people. They’€™re really a solid organization, probably one of the top organizations in the National Football League from top to bottom, from the owner all the way down to the their practice squad players. They’€™re solid all the way through. That’€™s the way I see it.”

Is it an even bigger point of emphasis to stop opponents from scoring at the end of halves, given how each half ended in your game and how Baltimore scored at the end of the half in Denver?

“Yeah, sure. As you said, it’€™s a point of emphasis every week. We never want to do that. We always think that the end of the half can get a little different than the rest of the game because of situational play and also sometimes offensively teams change their method of attack and what they’€™re doing and how they’€™re doing it and that kind of thing. So you have to adapt and adjust to what they do. We have to do what we’€™re doing better. It’€™s definitely a point of emphasis and I’€™m sure it will be important in this game. We’€™ll definitely work on it.”

Did you see on emotional letdown or change from your guys or does it just come down to execution on both sides?

“No, I don’€™t think it was ‘€“ we were trying to do the right things and we did some things that were good, but then we did some other things that weren’€™t as good as they need to be. Houston was able to take advantage of some of the things we were doing. It’€™s a combination of better coaching, better playing, maybe better preparation and hopefully it will be better this week.”

I know you always emphasize that players should go to the ball. What makes Rob Ninkovich so special that enables him to get to the ball so often?

“I think it starts with his skill set. Rob is a good athlete. He has good body control, good balance, good hand-eye coordination, all those things, in addition to being a strong guy that’€™s fast and has good quickness. Rob is an instinctive player and he’€™s played through the course of his career between down as a defensive end and on his feet as a linebacker. When we were more in a 3-4 defense, he was up on 3-4 plays and down on sub plays. He has a lot of experience doing both those things. I’€™m sure there are times when he’€™s down that his linebacker experiences as well as his regular role, but just having a little more experience of playing on his feet, especially on some outside runs and things like that, helps him. Vice versa, I’€™m sure there are times when he’€™s a linebacker that his training on taking on blocks and knowing how defensive linemen play that that helps him perform better in that area too. He’€™s a good player and he’€™s versatile and he can gain from his experiences playing the complementary positions. If he has to drop into coverage as a defensive end, he can fall back on some of the things he’€™s learned as a linebacker in terms of the drop, the technique, reading the quarterback, where the receiver’€™s primary routes are located, all those kind of things. His versatility as an athlete and his versatility as a football player compiled with his instinctiveness, all those things come together in favorable form.”

What kind of differences have you noticed, if any, in the offense since Jim Caldwell took over, in terms of the operation in general and the schemes?

“I’€™d say there are a few subtle things, a few things that have a little bit of an Indianapolis look to them, more so than earlier. I’€™d say it’€™s basically the same offense. There are a lot of things that look the same. Again, I don’€™t think you can change your offensive system in a week or two. That would be a lot to ask and I don’€™t think they need to. But they modified it. It’€™s probably a better question to ask them, as I’€™m sure there are some subtle things that are done internally that as an outsider you wouldn’€™t really be aware of.”

Read More: 2013 playoffs, Bill Belichick, Ray Lewis,



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