Bill Belichick isn’t giving any clues as to likely return of Rob Gronkowski
|09.23.13 at 9:02 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Rob Gronkowski could finally make his 2013 debut this coming Sunday night in Atlanta against the Falcons.
The prevailing sentiment has been that the Patriots were keeping him out of game action until they really needed him. It would appear with the Falcons starting a stretch of games against more difficult competition on paper, this would be the right time to activate him.
But don’t look to Patriots coach Bill Belichick to commit one away or another.
He wouldn’t even broach the subject in the past tense when asked Monday by the NFL Network’s Albert Breer how close he was to playing against Tampa Bay. Here was their exchange Monday, beginning with Breer asking about Gronk and then Danny Amendola.
Q: How close was Rob Gronkowski to playing yesterday?
BB: I don’t know. He was inactive.
Q: Did he have a shot to play?
BB: He was inactive.
Q: Going into the day, was there a chance he’d play?
BB: He was inactive for the game.
Q: What about Danny Amendola?
BB: He was inactive too.
Q: I know they were inactive.
BB: They were inactive so they didn’t play.
Q: I think you have an idea how close they were.
BB: Well, they weren’t able to play. What do you want, percentage points? They couldn’t play.
Q: Going into the day, did you know they couldn’t play?
BB: They were inactive.
Q: That doesn’t answer my question.
BB: They were inactive, it’s as simple as that.
As it turns out, Breer wasn’t the only only chided by Belichick on Monday. During his weekly appearance on Salk and Holley, Belichick chastised Michael Holley about five minutes into the interview for asking the coach how he coaches up and motivates the Patriots when they are facing a team with a losing record.
Here is the remainder of Bill Belichick’s presser from Monday:
BB: It was good to win yesterday. I thought our team did a good job and I felt like we improved in all three phases of the game and a lot of things individually. Hopefully we can just keep working hard, just keep practicing well, keep grinding away and continue to show improvement on a week-to-week basis. That’s what we really need to do at this point in the season. This will be a big week for us coming up with Atlanta: good football team, going on the road in the Dome, tough place to play. We’ll have to do a lot of things right but hopefully we can just keep plugging away and improve on the things, which we have a lot of things, but improve on those and try to maintain some consistency in some of the things that we’ve done a better job of. That will be a big challenge for us this week.
Q: Is it nice to get back on a seven-day work week for the first time to get in the regular season rhythm?
BB: Yeah, sure. The Sunday night makes it a little bit different. I don’t know if this is normal ‘ I don’t know what normal is. You know, we were pretty much on that last week. Monday wasn’t a real big day for us. It was a day to get back out there but not a big preparation day for us like it was before the Buffalo game on that long week. But I think we’re into kind of a regular Wednesday, Thursday, Friday routine with Tuesday being a big day to prepare for Wednesday so hopefully we can do that tomorrow.
Q: We saw Marcus Cannon the left side of the line in the first few weeks and yesterday saw him on the right side of the line for Sebastian Vollmer. How would you assess how he’s held up overall in three games?
BB: He also played last week for Dan [Connolly] at guard. He’s played really all the spots except center for us. His experience, his versatility, I think that happened in the spring too, in OTAs when Dan wasn’t out there and Sebastian, so he was able to play at both guard and tackle. As you mentioned, left tackle some when [Nate] Solder was at tight end and he’s also worked at guard. He’s got good versatility, smart guy. He came through for us yesterday. I thought overall our line blocked well and we were able to run the ball competitively against a good run defense. All those guys did a good job; he did a good job too.
Q: Is left tackle a new thing for him this season?
BB: He played it in college. He’s worked at both tackle spots extensively and then he worked at guard quite a bit. Well, he played guard some last year and he worked more guard this spring so he’s, if you broke it down, he’s probably had as many snaps at guard as he’s had at tackle when you go all the way back to May.
Q: Were you pleased with the defensive pressure you had on the quarterback yesterday after watching the film?
BB: Everything can always be better. There were times where it was good. There were times when we contained him when he tried to scramble out. He had the one run, four or five yards whatever it was. They tried to bootleg us a few times. Overall, we were able to keep him in the pocket. Of course you always want to get more pressure.
Q: Logan Ryan saw his most extensive action yesterday. What did you see from him?
BB: Yeah, he played competitively. He played both inside and outside and also played in the kicking game. He’s working hard. A lot of guys had an opportunity to play yesterday, some more snaps than others, but I thought overall as a team that the players were ready to play. Overall they played hard and played at a competitive level. Yeah, definitely put him in that category.
Q: You played a handful of snaps with just Devin McCourty at safety. What kind of advantage does that give you? It seems like a different look.
BB: We’ve done that in the past. It’s not a big thing.
Q: From a personnel perspective, what are some advantages or disadvantages that look can give you?
BB: I think more of that look came against their three-receiver sets. So our third corner was with their third receiver. Yeah, it’s just a different matchup for us.
Q: Where’s the line when you have an offensive lineman who can play any spot, between versatility and wanting him to be really good at one spot?
BB: That’s the great question. I think you either have to be really good at one spot or you have to be able to do multiple things. That’s really the catch. We’ve had guys like Steve Neal, Dan Koppen, in the past that were very good football players for us that only played one spot and they never played anything else. Steve never played anything but right guard and Dan never played anything but center but they were very good at that spot and they were able to hold down that spot and we didn’t need them to play anything else. Then there were guys that were versatile and played a number of different spots ‘ Dan Connolly would fall into that category. He’s played, he’s started for us at center, he’s started for us at left guard, he’s started for us at right guard. He’s played all his positions and played them well. Each player has a different niche, has a different set of skills. Some guys are the Dan Connolly, Mike Vrabel types, other guys are the Steve Neal, Dan Koppen types. I’d say the players that can only play one spot but they’re not at that Dan Koppen, Steve Neal kind of level, then somebody else can come along and play at that level but also be able to do a couple other things for you, then that’s where the competition gets thick.
Q: Is there any advantage having these NFC games together?
BB: I don’t know. Whatever the schedule is, we just play the games that are on the schedule. Whatever opportunity we have, whatever information we have to work with, then we work with it. We can’t make any more or less out of it than what it is. If it’s a long week, it’s a long week. If it’s a short week, it’s a short week. If it’s AFC teams, NFC teams’¦honestly I don’t even really give it a thought. Whatever we have, we have, just try to make the most of it.
Q: Rob Ninkovich just signed an extension. Do you try to identify core guys like that and what’s the importance of getting that done early?
BB: Anytime you do a contract, there’s an agreement on both sides. Both sides want and agree to get it done. That’s where you have a deal. That was the case in this situation and I’m glad it worked out. Rob has a done a good job for us. He’s come in here and gotten better each year. He’s gotten a bigger role for us each year. He’s played linebacker, defensive end, played all special teams. He’s a versatile player that’s given us a lot of production and a hardworking guy that I think is a well respected player on the team. I’m happy we got it done.
Q: Is he one of those guys that the more you gave him, he showed he could handle it and that’s why we see the progress here from week to week and year to year?
BB: I’d say that that’s true. I don’t know that I knew or anybody knew it was going to turn out that way. Again, a lot of times a player’s offensive or defensive play time stems from his special teams performance. When a player can play in the kicking game and he’s at the game every week because he’s there in the kicking game, then the offensive or defensive coaches can start to utilize him in some kind of role on their respective side of the ball. If a player does well in that role, then that can expand. A lot of times, that’s how it works. There have been numerous cases of that around here, whether it be BenJarvus [Green-Ellis] or Rob, we can go right down the line. There’s Kyle Arrington, there are a lot of guys that I would put in that category. His opportunities in the kicking game led to more opportunities on defense, his performance on defense led to more opportunities on defense. Like everybody else around here, everything he’s gotten he’s earned. He had no right or entitlement to anything, he just came in here and earned it. He’s been doing it for several years now.
Q: Do you have to remind your players that you’re playing a veteran quarterback with a strong team?
BB: Every week is a challenge in the National Football League. Every team has good players, every team has good coaches. Every week is a challenge. Atlanta is a big challenge but so was Tampa. We’ll turn the page on them and move onto Atlanta. Sure, it’s a big challenge to go down there. They have a good football team, they’re well coached, they have good talent. I have a lot of respect for the people in that organization, the players, what they’ve accomplished, how consistent they’ve been. We know it will be a big challenge down there, no question about that.
Q: What are the differences between playing slot corner and playing on the outside?
BB: I think when you play inside, you’re really playing to a degree, a linebacker or a safety position. Even in man-to-man coverage, it’s different because the receiver has more options and the [slot] corner, if there is help, is closer to help than the [outside] corner is, if there’s some kind of inside help. If there’s no help, then the inside corner has more space to defend, across the ball or back outside as well as vertically compared to a corner who is more isolated in the area he has to defend. Once you get into combination of zone coverages, then that player’s responsibility is either that of a safety or linebacker depending on the coverage and what exactly you’re playing. That brings in a whole different awareness and conceptually playing as a linebacker or a safety as opposed to playing as a corner, if that makes any sense. All positions are difficult but I think it’s a difficult position to play because of the amount of things that happen and how fast they happen: tight ends and backs coming in or outside receivers coming into your zone or things like that. Whereas, as a corner you’re defending more space but there are less moving parts out there. There’s less guys that can get into your area. It’s usually just one or maybe two guys, whereas when you’re inside in the slot, there could be four guys easily that could get in there and once they get into tight splits and things like that, trying to sort all that out, I’d just say it’s a different game. It’s not playing safety but it’s not playing corner. It’s a little bit of a hybrid spot. There’s certainly a lot of awareness, a lot of things that those players have to see that are unique. It’s not a linebacker, it’s not a corner, it’s a nickel position.
Q: Is a guy that plays both well an exception or should guys at this level be expected to play both well?
BB: No, I think it’s like anything else. Some guys you can move them from the left side to the right side, from inside to outside, from ‘X’ to ‘Z’ and you wouldn’t even know it, you couldn’t even remember where they are. Other guys, you move them from left corner to right corner and it’s like teaching them a different language. It’s like English and Chinese. Or from right outside linebacker to left outside linebacker or left tackle to right tackle or left guard to right guard. I’ve seen players that you try to move them and it’s just, they’re not comfortable doing it, they don’t perform well and then you put them in that spot. Then there are other guys that you can move them around, inside to outside linebacker or left end to right end or ‘X’ to ‘Z’ and it’s seamless, apparently, it seems seamless. I’m sure it’s not to them but that’s the impression that you get. I think each player is different, each situation is different. I don’t know that you ever really know the answer to that until you actually work with the player in your system and put him through that situation and see how he responds to it. I’ve coached a lot of players and I wouldn’t want to sit here and say, ‘Well, this is the way it is or isn’t.’ I’ve had them on the punt team: you move a guy from one side of the center to the other side of the center, it’s the same protection, everything is the same but it’s not the same. Then the next guy you move and you can’t even remember which side he was on because they both look the same.
BB: They move them around too. As you saw yesterday, Jackson was inside, he was outside and they also switched-released him a couple times where he’d line up in one spot but as the ball was snapped, he released to the complementary position. Same thing with Atlanta, they move those guys around. They have a good group of receivers in [Harry] Douglas and [Tony] Gonzalez and they put them in different spots and do different things with them. We haven’t broken it down probably, or at least I haven’t, thoroughly enough to know what all the tendencies are but I’ve seen them in a lot of different spots and it seems like they’re dangerous wherever they are. Like with Jackson, you have to find them first and that’s part of it. Then covering them, that’s another issue. That’s when the fun starts.
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