Bill Belichick on his Patriots: ‘We have a lot of things going on’
|08.26.13 at 4:36 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Will Tim Tebow play a lot on Thursday night in the preseason finale? How much will the starters play, if at all. How much planning is going on for the first two games of the season? How much review still needs to be done on players to get down to 53 by Saturday’s 6 p.m. deadline?
All of these questions and much more is on the plate of Bill Belichick and his staff as they plan for the preseason finale against the Giants while also keeping an eye on the Bills and Jets, the two teams they’ll play in the first five days of the regular season.
Adding to the intrigue was the news Monday that undrafted free agent Jeff Tuel could get the starting nod at quarterback for the Bills in the preseason because of a concussion to Kevin Kolb (possibly career-ending) and a knee injury to EJ Manuel.
However, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported Sunday that Manuel is progressing very well from his scope of last week and might be on track to start against the Patriots on Sept. 8.
If he isn’t ready to go, then it’s Tuel time for the Bills against the Pats. What does that mean to Belichick?
“The analysis and all that is not really there yet,” Belichick said of the Washington State product. “It’s more just a few first look and just trying to get to know the teams.”
The season opener will also be the first real NFL game experience for new Bills head coach Doug Marrone. So, tendencies will be at a minimum.
“Opening day is always a hard game to prepare for, no matter who it is because you either don’t have any history or you have a lot of history, more than you need,” Belichick said. “You have to try to figure out what that balance is. I think that most teams that go to training camp and spend the weeks in training camp, the weeks in the preseason games, you’re certainly going to see some of that on opening day. A team isn’t going to come in there and not do anything they worked on all year on opening day and have a whole new scheme. But I’m sure everybody has some wrinkles, has some things that they’re holding back, has some changes that they haven’t shown that you have to be ready for and that’s part of opening day.
“We’ll have them, I’m sure Buffalo will have them and we’ll see how it all turns out and then things will start to settle in a little after that but that’s part of opening day. Yeah, you can look back at all the stuff he’s ever done at New Orleans, the Jets, Syracuse, this year. Yeah, you can put an encyclopedia together but there’s still only one game. There are only so many plays you can run in that game. I’m sure they can do the same thing: they can go back and watch all our games from the last decade and find some relevance. But you have to put your chips on some number and go with your preparation there and if it changes, deal with it during the game.”
In general, with the flurry of activity around the league combined with his own in-house roster decisions, including what to do with Rob Gronkowski (PUP), DL Armond Armstead and WR Mark Harrison (NFI), this is arguably the busiest week of the season for Belichick and his staff.
“This is a big week for us,” Belichick said Monday. “We have a lot of things going on obviously. We have a roster reduction that has to be done tomorrow; we made a few moves today. As our coaching staff, trying to get things ready for the Giants obviously, evaluate our team, start to get ready for Buffalo and then we have a Thursday night game right behind that that we can start to do some preparation for before we get fully into the Bills ‘ a lot of moving parts. As always there are some conversations with other teams in the league at this time of year relative to roster movement and things like that. We’ll just try to take it one day at a time here and just chip away at all the different things that are happening.
“We’ll do the best we can to balance that off. As a football team, there are things we have to work on regardless of who we play. There are things we have to work on for the Giants and also looking ahead to the regular season. A lot of balls in the air this week but that’s the way it normally is this time of year. We’ll just do the best we can to cross things off the list that need to be attended to. Getting healthy, it’s been a competitive camp, a lot of guys are bumped and bruised up and we’re trying to get guys as healthy as we can heading into the regular season. Gave the players an extra day off over the weekend, hopefully we can use the time here and the longer week next week to start to get as healthy as we can heading into the opener and into the regular season.
Here is the remainder of Belichick’s presser from Monday at Gillette Stadium:
Q: What are the positives and potential negatives if a player goes outside the coaching staff for outside quarterback tutoring? Is it possible for a player to be over-coached where there are too many voices and the player can get a bit paralyzed?
BB: Yeah, sure, probably all those things are true. I’m sure there are some real good things, I’m sure it can be maybe somewhat counterproductive. I think whenever you’re talking about a specific skill that’s very specific like that ‘ throwing mechanics, kicking mechanics, punting mechanics, golf swings, things like that ‘ it’s such a specific skill that sometimes there’s somebody that may have particular expertise there and maybe a connection to that particular player relative to confidence or guidance or mechanics of their familiarity of that player that could be beneficial. But I’d say I’ve probably seen it about how you described it ‘ both ways.
Q: With two division games to start the season and the short week, have you decided how you plan to use the starters this week?
BB: No. We’ll just worry about today today and tomorrow tomorrow and get to Thursday on Thursday.
Q: Does the short week early, against the Jets, affect things at all?
BB: No. It will definitely affect things but not at the moment. I think this week is self-contained.
Q: How much of a challenge is it to keep an eye on what’s going on around the league when you’re in the process of cutting down your own roster and preparing for a game?
BB: Again, most of that’s really done by Nick Caserio and the personnel department. They handle that. Again, it’s pretty common at this time of year for every team. I don’t think we’re any different than the other 31 teams on that. I don’t think this year is any different than last year or the year before. It’s just that time of year. It’s kind of like the day or two before the draft. This isn’t like that but it’s similar in that by the calendar you can kind of know when those things are going to be happening and that’s where we are at this time of year. Other teams probably have a little bit of a surplus at one position and have a need at another position and just trying to match them up if there is a match. Those kinds of things, it’s pretty common. I don’t see anything that different about it this year but it is still part of the process and it’s time consuming and something that you need to do to help your team or possibly if you have a surplus at a position, maybe there’s some way to get value out of that, I don’t know.
Q: With so many teams resting their starters for the fourth preseason game, is it productive? Would the NFL be better without it?
BB: I’m not really worried about the NFL does. I’m just trying to do what’s best of our team. That’s what we’ll try to do is maximize this week and our opportunity against the Giants.
Q: Is it helpful for you as a tool to evaluate still?
BB: We’ll take whatever time we have and do the best we can with it.
Q: Have you noticed more of an ease when it comes to Aqib Talib now that he’s had a full year here with the offseason program?
BB: I think Aqib picked up our system very quickly when he got here last year and has been confident and very fluent in it. I don’t think it’s really been a problem. Certainly he’s a lot more comfortable in it now than he was last December but even when he got here, he adapted pretty quickly. He’s a smart guy, he has a lot of experience. I don’t think there’s really anything that we’re doing that he hasn’t done before. Maybe it was called a little differently or maybe it was a little adjustment to a call or that type of thing but I think fundamentally, the things he has done, we do and he’s just had to adapt to maybe some terminology or relatively minor things I would say.
Q: As a coach, would you rather have the team back on the field quickly after a game like Thursday night or is it good to step back and evaluate for a few days?
BB: I think we just, regardless of what happened Thursday night, we still have a lot of work to do on our football team. We just have to take advantage of those opportunities to do it. As I said, there are a lot of things that we need to work on. One is, as I said, the health of our team, the rest of our team. Certainly our execution and things like that, preparation, all those things, we need plenty of work there too. It’s just trying to find a balance there. We had a short week last week with Detroit. It was a productive week for us, we certainly learned a lot out there, found out a lot of things we need to work on. But coming off the Tampa game, it was a short week that week. Now we have a little bit more time. It’s a seven-day week and then we have a little longer obviously heading into Buffalo so we’re just trying to use the time the best we can.
Q: Can a player change your mind based on his performance in the fourth game or is the evaluation pretty much set at that point?
BB: I think there are a lot of conversations that are still going on. I don’t think there’s a whole lot that’s set. There are a lot of things we’re still kicking around. Some things will take care of themselves, some things will settle themselves. Other things we’ll have to make a decision on. When it comes time to make that decision, we’ll get as much information as we can and try to make the best decision that we can for the team.
Q: What kind of offseason has Dont’a Hightower had?
BB: Good, real good. He had a good spring; he’s had a real good camp. Versatile player; he’s a smart guy, I think he had good understanding of what we did last year but it’s certainly better this year. He has a lot more experience. We’ve asked him to do more; he has more responsibilities and he handles those with very few errors. Dependable player that’s adjustable and has a lot of versatility; big guy that can run and do a lot of different things for us.
Q: There have been a lot of combinations among the linebacker group. How does that work between them all knowing all the assignments?
BB: Again, it’s that time of year. We use a lot of different combinations at pretty much every position. I think that’s important to create our depth for ourselves and also to give players an opportunity to increase their value by having versatility. We know through past experiences that we’re going to need more than just the guys who are in the starting lineup on opening day to have a good football team. We’re going to have different combinations, we’re going to have to play them. We’ve already done some of that. Those experiences hopefully will serve us well down the road if we need them. I’m sure we’ll need some. I don’t know which ones but we’ll try to prepare for all of them.
Q: How has Adrian Wilson been adapting?
BB: Good. I think he’s adapted well. He’s a smart guy, he has a lot of experience, very professional. Really an intense player, his focus is on his job. His preparation, his work ethic, all is very, very professional.
Q: Given the forced changes at the tight end position, do you still view that whole thing as a work in progress?
BB: I think every position on our team needs to progress. I think we’re like that everywhere.
Q: Have you had a chance at all to scout or game plan for Week 1?
BB: Yeah, we definitely have people on our staff that break down those films as they come in. We look at them for personnel reasons but we also look at our early opponents. Obviously we’ve seen Tampa, some of our early opponents on the schedule. Yeah, we’ve definitely broken those down. As a coaching staff, as we get to it, then we get to it. The offensive coaches, defensive coaches, special teams, myself, as we get to some of those games, we get to it. Obviously we don’t have to have a schedule for them just yet but there are some things we can get a jump on.
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