Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, September 14, 2011.
Q: You had a chance to work with Philip Rivers at the Pro Bowl – what impressed you about him on and off the field?
BB: Off the field, very impressive. [He's] really into football, very smart guy, understands and is very interested in talking about football, schemes and players and all those kinds of things. He’s really into it. Like Peyton [Manning] was, like Matt Cassel, Tom [Brady] and all those guys, they’re all very similar like that. Good arm, can really throw the ball down the field, big guy, sees the field well, he’s got good poise, picks up things easily, football comes easy to him, it looks like. He’s very into it, very detail oriented type guy both with what the offense is doing, what the defense is doing, what to expect, what adjustments to make, all those kinds of things. Good guy to work with, as was Peyton, as was Matt Cassel. It was a really good group – all three guys are like that.
Q: Have you noticed any change or approach from San Diego now that Greg Manusky has replaced Ron Rivera as the defensive coordinator?
BB: They have a new wrinkle or two in every game you have to be alert for. Greg is a very experienced coach – was with San Diego a few years back and then had a lot of success, we played against him when he was at San Francisco. I think their basic system is the same, of course they game plan from week-to-week to try to take advantage of things or do things to create problems for you. I’m sure he’ll have something for us, as he always does. But really what it comes down to is they’re a good fundamental team, they’re really sound. They can rush, they can stop the run, they can cover, they can play zone, they can play man, like I said they have a good pass rush, they do a good job of tackling, they disguise well. They’re a real good defense, one of the best in the league.
Q: Is Shaun Phillips one of those guys you have to account for on every play?
BB: Yeah of course. Why would you let him go loose in your backfield? It’s suicide.
BB: I think that’s the nature of any offense. You can’t move your five linemen, you can’t move the quarterback, you usually have a running back in the backfield so the players you move are your receivers or your tight ends and we’ve always done that. Both Aaron and Rob are versatile players, they can do some different things, they have different skills and they’re smart. You can move them around and give them different assignments and they’re able to handle that. But that’s part of the nature of the tight end position I think. Whether you’re talking about [Antonio] Gates or [Anthony] Fasano or whoever we play next, that’s what most teams do. It is part of the formationing, in a lot of cases, you set your defensive front based on a tight end’s location, you set your secondary rotation based on the tight end’s location so maneuvering those guys around, putting them in different positions, having them do different things, that’s what creates problems for the defense. I think all teams do that to some degree.
Q: Do teams treat Aaron Hernandez as a tight end when they’re setting their defense?
BB: You have to ask them how they treat him, I don’t know. It depends on who we have on the field, who they have on the field, who else is in there but you’d have to talk to other teams about how they treat him, I don’t know the answer to that question.
Q: Can you talk about the new offensive lineman, Donald Thomas, you signed today?
BB: [He] played locally here, played at Connecticut. [He] was at Miami, looked like he was going to earn the starting job then he got injured, came back – he’s played a decent amount of football for them. [He] was with Detroit last year at the end of the season. We played against him in preseason, worked him out here last week. Strong, good physical player who has played inside, but also has a little bit of experience playing tackle. So we’ll work with him and see how it goes.
Q: In the week leading up to a game, do you personally get a lot of one-on-one time with individual players and the new players?
BB: The assistant coaches spend the most time with them. So in this case [Donald Thomas], it would be Dante [Scarnecchia, last week with [A.J.] Edds it was Patrick Graham. But I talk to the players, get him on the team, tell him the things we expect for him, what his role is, or kind of what the plan is going forward and then usually talk about that during the week, how it’s going, questions, things like that.
Q: Do the one-on-one meetings vary from week-to-week based on who you see you need to spend additional time with?
BB: Yeah, I would say that it would be fair to say that, about all the players. There’s 53 players, plus the practice squad, plus some other guys, so it would be impossible for me to have regular meetings with each player on a regular basis. Some of it depends on that player’s situation or that game or whatever happens to be going on that week. [I] talk to different players at different times, different groups – sometimes I meet with a positional group, sometimes I meet with individual players, sometimes I don’t. It’s not a real set pattern. I try to do what I feel like would help the team and what is necessary. I would say, football, it’s an interesting point on how to handle that. You only have so much time, so how you allocate that as a head coach relative to certain players, groups of players, your coaching staff, other people in the organization – it’s one of the challenging parts of the job, it really is. In all honesty, I could sit down and talk to every player about things that I think are important. It’s not that I don’t want to talk to them, it’s just there are other demands too. You try to hit, like I said, the things you feel like will make the most difference or do it in the most efficient way. In watching other head coaches, being on Coach Marchibroda’s staff or Coach Parcells’ staff and watching how they handle their interaction with different players and how they do that, I think that’s an interesting management part of the job. It changes – it’s not the same every day or every week but it’s interesting to watch other people do that and as a head coach it’s definitely a challenging part of the job – that interaction with the team and your time management with all the different people connected with the team. There’s no book on that – at least I haven’t read it.
Q: How long has Dan Connolly been your backup center?
BB: Dan has been here for a few years, he’s been on the practice squad, he’s been on the roster, he’s played center, he’s played guard, he’s returned kickoffs, so he’s been a pretty versatile guy for us in playing all the inside positions really and playing in different roles. Last year, he was the starting left guard for weeks and right guard and he’s played center, has alternated in there. [He's] played in the backfield in short yardage and goal line situations, little bit of tight end in short yardage and goal line or multiple tight end groupings, big people groupings, that kind of thing. He’s done a lot of different things for us.
Q: How many snaps does a backup center get in practice?
BB: Just in round numbers, if you have 110 plays in a week of practice, times two, offense and defense times the before practice, what we call the quarterback/center exchange period where the quarterbacks and centers work on just the exchange, sometimes ball handling with the backs or cadence or timing up motions and things like that, you get the center, so there’s probably another 50 there or so. So what’s that – I’d say over a couple hundred a week. It’s not all the same two guys. Ultimately all the quarterbacks take the snaps from all the centers. That’s part of it. We rotate them so the quarterbacks walk down the line, you’ve seen us do it before practice, they take them from one guy and a couple minutes later they slide and take them from another guy and switch them. Each center snaps it a little bit differently, each quarterback takes it a little bit differently – his hand placement, the pressure he puts on it, you try to make it the same but each one is a little bit unique.
Q: Do you have enough information yet to know if you need to make a short-term or long-term decision on Dan Koppen?
BB: No, we’ll just take it as it comes.
Q: How would you describe Chad Ochocinco‘s level of understanding of what you guys are doing offensively?
BB: I think he’s good. I think he understands it. He understands what we’re doing.
Q: If you’re going to judge Chad Ochocinco’s ability to be on the field, does that just come from the reps in practice?
BB: As you know, we have various personnel groupings and we have different people in different groupings and certain people are in one grouping, they might back up someone in another grouping or vice versa. Some players may only play in one grouping, it all depends. There’s no set formula on that. It’s a game plan thing and some groupings get played more in one game than another. I think when you add up all the skill players, I’m sure we’ll be able to come in here after every game and say ‘this guy didn’t play a lot and this guy played more.’ We’ll be doing that every week. If you want to pick out a guy who didn’t play as much as someone else, you’ll always be able to pick one out.
Q: Are you hoping and expecting to see Chad Ochocinco’s role and reps expand as the season goes along?
BB: I’m hoping to win a game. I’m trying to beat San Diego. That’s what I’m hoping for.
Q: Do you think Chad Ochocino will be a key guy in that?
BB: I think all the players that participate in the game will have an important role in it, absolutely. But it’s not really my job to try to pad up individual statistics for any player on the team. I’m not really interested in that. The only statistic really I care about is the final score. That’s what our goal is. I know everybody else wants to talk about and write about individual stats and what each individual’s production is but really I’m concerned about the team’s success, that’s the way it will always be.
Q: Has Chad Ochocinco approached you for a one-on-one meeting?
BB: I’ve talked to all the players from time-to-time, including him, including everybody else.
BB: I think they’re both, Danny and BenJarvus, are both good, productive players. When they have the opportunity to carry the ball or catch the ball, they’ve done pretty well with it. As have our other backs, both this year and I’d say, through the years. That’s really what it’s about – just being productive with the opportunities. Sometimes they come in different quantities, could be catches, could be runs. Part of that – the running game helps the passing game, the passing game helps the running game. I think both guys run hard, they both can make yards for us. They’ve both shown the ability to run inside, outside, catch the ball, pick up the blitz. Whoever is in the game we have confidence in. Sometimes that’s done by a rotation, sometimes it’s done by certain personnel groupings, sometimes it’s done by other things that are a factor in the game plan. Whenever they are called upon they give us a good effort. They play well and they’ve been productive.