New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick addressed both the New England and New Orleans media prior to this morning's practice at their Gillette Stadium complex. In the transcript below, the three-time Super Bowl winner, discussed the workouts, his relationship with Saints head coach Sean Payton and some of similarities of the structure of their teams based on the influence of Bill Parcells.
BB: I appreciate everybody coming out early this morning. It's been a good couple days for us here. Looking forward to today. It's just more situation work with the Saints. I thought yesterday's practice was probably one of the most productive practices I think I've been a part of in my career. [It was] good work [and] certainly a good tempo. We saw a lot of things from the Saints that we haven't seen working against ourselves. They're obviously very good. They do a lot of things well, so there were a lot of things that we were able to evaluate and also adjust to. We can walk through them, we can talk through them, but it's different when a good team does them and hurts you with them and you have to make those changes. That part of it was great. Sean [Payton] and Gregg [Williams] and his whole staff do a terrific job with their team. It was just really good work for us all the way around and I think our players responded well to it. We'll do a little more of that today and then kind of pull things together tonight, talk about managing the game, playing time, and so forth. But right now we're just really trying to get another quality practice in this morning and fine tune things tonight. But [there's] no better preparation for a game than working against the team you're going to play. We've seen a lot in the two practices yesterday. We'll see a lot more today. It's been a great learning experience for our football team, not just the players but our staff as well.
(on 2010 Patriots Hall of Fame Inductee Sam Cunningham)
Sam Cunningham – I think the [Patriots Hall of Fame] induction ceremony is tomorrow. Just a quick word on that – [He is] kind of a guy that played at a time where a lot of people don't really probably right now appreciate what fullbacks were in the 70s and early 80s. [They were] guys that not only blocked, but ran the ball, caught it and really never came off the field. There wasn't a lot of substitution back in those days and Russ Francis and Cunningham and guy like that, they were on the field all the time, not just on first down or third down or those kind of specialty players. He was a big ball carrier, a hard guy to tackle, a very good runner, a good blocker, caught the ball well, very good in short-yardage and goal line. He just had an outstanding career professionally after his great career in college. [He was] a very tough guy to defend – the kind of player that, like I said, you don't really see too much anymore – the Franco Harrises, the Sam Cunninghams, the guys that were fullbacks, but also had an element of tailback in them just on a bigger frame. Congratulations to him and certainly our team has a lot of respect for what he's done for this franchise in his career.
I think that's really about all the updates I've got. Looking forward to going out there and getting a good day of situation work in with the Saints this morning.
Q: When you talked about how productive it was, were you happy with the way that you guys responded to what they did, or were you happy with what they forced you guys to do?
BB: We did the things that we wanted to do. Some [were] good. Some need corrections or some weren't so good. I'm sure they feel the same way. They did a lot of good things and then there were some things I'm sure they need to correct, too. It's good for them; they're seeing a 3-4 team. Offensively, our system is a little bit different than theirs and that's good for our defense and it's good for their defense. Our defensive systems are a little bit different from each other, so that's good for our offense and it's good for their defense. We [had] good work on our punt team and punt protection and some kicking situations yesterday afternoon and today we'll work on New Orleans' punt team, our punt return, punt block and things like that. So it was a good review of all the kicking situations and we hit red area, third down, move-the-field type situations, fringe, high red area, really everything but goal line and short-yardage. We had some great two-minute situations come up yesterday. Again, against [a] team that runs a little bit different plays and defenses from what we've seen from ourselves out there the first week and a half of practice, so it was great. We need to see all of those things and we saw from them and hopefully we'll learn from them
Q: What are your thoughts on Jimmy Johnson going on [the TV show] Survivor?
BB: Well, that's quite a contrast from the environment that I usually see him in. The times that I've seen Jimmy most recently [were] either in this [football] environment or on a boat fishing or relaxing on a nice day down in the Keys, having a good time. I hear it's pretty rough on Survivor [and] everybody takes some mosquito bites. Jimmy is great guy. We've had a great relationship. I have so much respect for what he's done. At the time he did it, he really kind of was one of the first guys to do things the way he did it and build a team from scratch with the responsibility he had and all of that. But seeing him out in that environment, I give him a lot of credit. My hat is off to him. I don't think I could handle that.
Q: You mentioned your relationship with him and how you've met with him a number of times and he's kind of enlightened you on things. Do you as a coach in the fraternity of coaches have kind of the same thing with Sean Payton?
BB: It's different, but yeah I think there are some similarities there. It's so much easier with somebody like Sean who is not in our division. We don't play him very much. It's a lot easier to talk and exchange ideas and all that than it is with somebody like when Bill [Cowher] was at Pittsburgh and we're trying to hammer each other once, twice every year and playoff games and everything else. It's hard to do it in that situation. Sean and I have both worked for Bill [Parcells] and in a way we have similar backgrounds in a structural sense. He has more of an offensive background; mine is more of a defensive background. That being said, we've worked for the same head coach and a similar environment and we've been able to talk. We really got to know each other at the Pro Bowl after the '06 season and again, that was another pretty relaxing environment, going fishing and just hanging out and talking about all different things: organization, staff, players, away trips, you name it. Just the variety of stuff that comes up… 'Hey, what do you think about this? What do you think about that?' Sean is a sharp guy. He's got a lot of great ideas. He's innovative. He's creative. He certainly has a strong philosophy, but I wouldn't say he's so set in his ways that he wouldn't change anything. He's experimented with some different things and it's good to exchange ideas like that. But Jimmy has really been helpful to me personally, just being able to talk with somebody who has sat in pretty much the same situations that you've been in. 'What did you think about? How did you make this decision? When you had to consider A, B, C, how did you sort that out? What was your thought process? Why did you do what you did?' We actually had a number of interactions between the two of us while I was in Cleveland and he was in Dallas and also in Miami [when] he was there. Just talking about different things. Why did you do this? Why did you do that? That's been very helpful, too, and he's really given me some great advice and guidance. [Patriots Strength & Conditioning Coach] Mike Woicik worked for Jimmy in Dallas and so even though, obviously, I wasn't there, I think I have – from Mike's perspective, at least – a pretty good understanding of some of the things they did. And we actually incorporated some things into our program here when I took the job that were really Dallas things kind of through Mike Woicik, as an example. Jimmy has been – and again, it's a lot easier now that he's not in Miami. I mean, he is, but he isn't. He's not with the Dolphins. So we can talk about things. It's not competitive; it's just as friends.
Q: How did you react to the stories last year that came out about Sean Payton's imitation of you?
BB: I don't really know anything about it.
Q: He told a story in his book that the week leading up to the game he practiced your intonation.
BB: Well, based on the way they played, I'd say he did a pretty good job, whatever he did. He did a pretty good job of it.
Q: The Saints have been pretty open about the fact that the Patriots are the team they want to emulate in trying to repeat Super Bowl championships. What advice would you give him?
BB: Well, I don't think he needs any advice from me. He's doing a great job with his team. I'm just trying to coach mine and believe me, that's a full-time job. I don't think right now I'm in a position to try to give too much advice to anybody else. I'm just trying to see if I can do a better job of coaching the Patriots and helping us be the best team that we can be. But I think he's doing just fine. He did a lot better than I did last year, so I think I'm the one going to him for advice, not the other way around.
Q: Sean said that when you traded practice schedules, there were similarities that could be traced back to Bill Parcells? Did you see that as far as the structure?
BB: It's been so easy to work with them. It's been so easy. 'Do you want to do this? Yeah, we were thinking the same thing. Do you want to do that? Yeah, that's the way we do it.' Most of the conversations, that's the way they go. If he brings something up to me [I say] 'Yeah, great. That's the way we do it.' The individual one-on-one drills, the team drills, the down-and-distance stuff, how we call things, it's been very easy to work with them from a structural standpoint, which I expected it would be. I really did, just from our relationship and when we talked about it in the spring and then a couple times over the summer and then when we both came to training camp. It's been very easy. The degree of difficulty on this from a coaching standpoint and working together has been very low. No time and a lot of benefit, so those are the kind I like.
Q: When you compare and contrast, how much more productive are these practices when you have another team come to Foxborough?
BB: I think they are good. You certainly need to work against yourself. You need to develop your own team, but then there is a point where I think you are ready to take on somebody else. And I don't think we would have been ready for that a week ago. We needed some time to get some things straightened out on our end, but then there is a point where you need to take the next step. I feel like this is part of that process of just seeing different players. We have good players but so do they and their players have some different skills than ours do and it's good to match up against different types of guys and different plays, different schemes. The two-minute was great yesterday because there were some situations that came up that the way our offense would handle them, our defense has seen that two or three times. And then to go up against them in those same situations, the Saints handled them a little bit differently and that was good for us to be able to react to those and vice versa. Offensively, we saw some different looks from the Saints defense in two minute that our defense hadn't presented. We had to coach through some things on communication and some adjustments that we just hadn't seen from our defense. Again, I don't think we would have been ready for that a few days ago, but I think now this is a good time and it's been very beneficial.
Q: How good do you think their offensive line is and all the way across the board?
BB: I think they're pretty good across the board. I think they are very good offensively. They are well coached. They have a very good scheme. They don't have many bad plays. They don't turn the ball over much. They don't have many negative plays. They don't have many missed assignments. I'm not saying every play is perfect, but there are not a lot of bad plays. Then that leads to the quarterback and Drew's [Brees] decision making and command, accuracy. [He's] very accurate [and] reads coverages well. [He] does a great job making decisions with the ball. And then offensively I think they are very well balanced. They're a very big offensive line. They're physical. They've got a great tight end who has a lot of versatility in [Jeremy] Shockey as an inside receiver, as an outside receiver. He's a hard guy to match up to. They have good backs – guys that can run with power and get downhill. They're good in the passing game. I think Pierre Thomas is a guy that's very underrated in the passing game. Obviously, [Reggie] Bush is a dynamic player that brings a dimension to the offense that is very unique. He's hard to deal with and then so are the receivers. The receivers are big. They're fast. They run well after the catch. They're good on third down. They have good quickness. They catch the ball well. The combination of all of those things – the line, the tight ends, the backs, the receivers, the quarterback, the coaching, the system – they give you a lot of different things to defend. You might be good at handling some of them, but it's hard to be good at handling all of them and then the ones that you're not good at, then of course that's what you're going to see the most of. When you're spending time worrying about these three or four things, they're attacking you on some other front. It's hard to do a good job on the breadth that they give you offensively. And they're very good at it. It's not that they just run it; they run it and they run it well. They're physical but at the same time they're capable of controlling the ball, but they're also capable of making big plays and spreading the field on you and getting it in space to receivers and tight ends and backs that are very dangerous in space. They're good.
Q: Turning toward tomorrow a little bit, is it ridiculous to think that Wes Welker could actually play?
BB: We'll see how it goes here yesterday and then today and make a decision on that. I don't know. I'm not saying he will; I'm not saying he won't. We'll evaluate it and see.
Q: Does having all of this work with the other team going into this game affect how you prepare for the actual game?
BB: No, not really. There are a lot of things we need to work on and those are the things we're going to work on and that's the way we would approach a preseason game anyway. I think that we've all seen enough things out in practice – they've seen it from us and we've seen it from them – that it's not one thing. There are multiple formations, there are multiple defenses and however they hit out there in practice, they may hit different in the game. Or a few of them may repeat, who knows. But again, it's obviously a better example to do it against an opponent, but it's the same thing we would be doing if they weren't here. We would still be running their plays. We'd still be running their coverages. We'd still be running their punt rushes. We'd be doing all the things that we did yesterday and today, we'd just be doing it ourselves and obviously we can't do it nearly as well as they can and vice versa. I think it helps the young players. The younger players – it's hard to get them enough practice reps to be real confident going into the game. A lot of times they get thrown into the game with a minimal amount of practice and these practices have afforded really all the players, not just the guys who are at the top of the depth chart, but it's really afforded all the players an opportunity to practice against what they are going to see and we can evaluate those matchups and also feel better about putting those players out there because they know more what they're doing. And certainly the special teams part of it has been good, too. How many punts do you get in a game? How many kickoffs? The situational plays that we went through yesterday – the mortar kicks and the squib kicks and the onside kicks – how many of those do you get and if they're in the fourth quarter, who's in there for those anyway? It gives us a good chance to go through those situations with our entire team, not just the guys that are out there, and actually get them. You can go through an entire preseason and not get an onside kick, so it's good to be able to get that not just against ourselves but against the timing of another team and how they line up and how they do it. All of that stuff is good and it's done in a controlled situation where you're less concerned how many plays everybody is out there and the injury factor is lower probably than it's going to be in a preseason game.