New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was all business Monday as the team begins preparation for its Sept. 9 season opener against the Tennessee Titans.
Monday was the Patriots first full day of prepping for Tennessee. During Belichick's press conference the coach touched on readying his team for Sunday's game, Titans' running back Chris Johnson's speed, opening day butterflies and more.
"We’ll try to catch up on [Tennessee's] all three phases of the game here," Belichick said. "Tennessee is a well balanced team, very good and well coached. They have a lot of young players on their team, but they also have a good sprinkling of veteran players that are very good players. They’re consistent and do a lot of things well in all three areas. We know it will be a great atmosphere down there, a lot of intensity in the game against a good football team. We’ll start getting ready for it here – things like the noise and things like that – to try to prepare our team the best we can for what we’ll see on Sunday."
Below is the transcript from Belichick's press conference Monday, provided by the Patriots Media Relations Department.
Q: It will be hot and humid as it usually is down there this time of the year. How much do you think your preseason experience in Tampa Bay will help you prepare for that kind of weather?
BB: Yeah, I hope so. It was a humid night down there when we played. We practiced at 1 or 1:30 p.m. just about every day this year, so we’ll see.
Q: It is really a homecoming for you right?
BB: Kind of. Yeah, kind of. One of many. I can’t say I remember too much from my year there – nine months or whatever it was – but that’s where it got started.
Q: There is very little chance of you getting the Titans in snow again this week like you did a few years ago.
BB: Yeah, that was a pretty early game too, wasn’t it? Like October? I think we were all a little surprised by the elements that day. But no, it won’t be like that.
Q: Is Brian Waters’ absence still in the same category as it was during mini-camp and the offseason? You described it as an excused absence at that point.
BB: Well, he’s not on the roster. He’s either an active player or he’s not an active player and he’s not an active player; he’s not on the roster.
Q: Would he be considered a contract holdout?
BB: I really don’t have any more to add to the situation.
Q: When you watch Tennessee and see Jason McCourty, do you see a lot of Devin McCourty in him?
BB: Yeah, I mean there are definitely some similarities, as you would expect. They’re both fast [and] they’re both aggressive, good tacklers, good solid players. We’ll never get a better look at a guy than we will this week from Devin. It’s about as close as it gets.
Q: How about the Titans’ two offensive tackles? They are both good players, but from a media perspective you don’t hear a lot about them – possibly because it’s a smaller media market – but what do you see from Michael Roos and David Stewart?
BB: Well, they’ve played together for seven years. They came in the same year and I think Stewart didn’t play too much his rookie year, but then by his second year he was in the lineup. Of course Roos started every game at left tackle for them for eight years. That’s a great situation, really, for a team to have two tackles come in and be that consistent. Really, they have a lot of continuity on their team there. [Leroy] Harris has been there six years – speaking of the offensive line – and started the last three. The center has been there; he just hasn’t started. He’s played behind [Eugene] Amano, but he’s in there. Of course [Steve] Hutchinson is new to Tennessee, but [has played] 12 or 13 years in the league, whatever it is. They’re very experienced. Stewart and Roos have been consistent for them. Roos is a big, athletic left tackle and has got some All-Pro and Pro Bowl recognition through the years, as he should. Stewart is a big, physical right tackle that’s kind of a classic right tackle. Those two guys are similar to the profile that you’d expect from those two positions and they’ve done a good job for them.
Q: How much catching up does Matt Tennant have to do and where does he stand in terms of fitting into your system?
BB: He’s been here one day and he’s working at it. Players will be off [Tuesday], so that will give him a day to catch up. I think some of the things that they did in New Orleans are similar to what we did, but I’m sure there are plenty of differences too. He’s a smart guy and he’s got some experience in the league, so we’ll give it to him and see how quickly he can grasp it. Even yesterday he was able to go out there and do some things, so hopefully it won’t be too long.
Q: Will he primarily play on the interior of the line?
BB: Yeah center, guard. He’s played all three spots, both in college and at New Orleans and we would plan on working him there.
Q: Did you go back to look at any of the tape from the joint practices with New Orleans before you went after him?
BB: We looked at that when we played him. So after we practiced against him and played him, we looked at all of their players, we talked about everybody – all 80 of them or however many there were in practice: ‘Here’re their offensive linemen, here’re their tight ends, here’re their receivers, here’re their backs,’ and we talked about those guys, some of whom we knew, some of them are new and we didn’t know. We went through their whole roster, as we did with Tampa. And that’s one of the advantages of working against another team: you can really get to know their players. Instead of like when we practice we say, ‘Ok there’s [Nate] Solder and Chandler Jones,’ well, when you’re watching us against New Orleans you go, ‘Ok who’s their player, who’s our player,’ so we watched them all then
Q: It seems like the Titans are able to generate a lot of pressure with their defensive edge guys. What have you seen from them in that area so far and over the last month?
BB: Well certainly [Kamerion] Wimbley is an experienced guy that gives them a good edge presence. They have a young defensive line; they get a lot of pressure from everywhere, really. I think [Karl] Klug gave them a lot of pressure inside last year. They have good edge rushers, they have good inside rushers, they’re athletic, they’re quick and they don’t stay blocked very long, whether it’s the run or the pass. It’s a very active defensive line, they have good depth, they role those guys through, they play a couple groups in there, so I’m sure we’ll see – whoever is active – I’m sure we’ll see most of them.
Q: You have said in the past that as long as you have been doing this, you still get a few butterflies or get a little bit anxious before the first regular season game. When does that kick in and when is it over?
BB: I’d say opening kickoff is usually when it ends, it’s just the build up to it. Now we’ve got all of their games from last year, we’ve got all of their preseason games, we’ve got all of the things that they’ve done [and] all of the things that they maybe could do or they have some history in the past. It’s a lot to get ready for – and they’re looking at the same stuff that we are. You can’t do it all, but you want to sort of prepare for it. You’ve got to be careful about putting all of your eggs in one basket and then find[ing] out that it was the wrong choice. On the other hand, you don’t want to spread yourself so thin that you’re defending everything in the history of football. There are 16 games last year and four games this year and it’s a lot to break down on a team, but that’s opening day and that’s what makes opening day so unique. After you really see a team on opening day – and certainly after you’ve seen them play two weeks – then you can certainly funnel things in a lot tighter. Some of the things you were thinking they might do, it’s clear they’ve moved on from and they’ve emphasized other things and I think the overall scheme of the team declares a lot more, certainly, by the end of September than it does on opening day.
Q: Is preparing for a guy like Jake Locker a challenge because of his inexperience?
BB: Well, I mean there is a decent amount of film on him. He played in a couple games last year and he’s had a lot of playing time this preseason, which has been limited, but still. I think we have a pretty good feel for what they’ve shown. Now, what else they have that they haven’t shown, we’ll have to see how that unfolds. We did work on him coming out [of college]. I think he’s pretty much the same player that we expected to see coming out of college: athletic, good arm, smart guy. He can certainly get the ball down the field and he’s a hard guy to tackle and he’s elusive, all of those things.
Q: Is it hard to replicate the speed of Chris Johnson?
BB: It is – and Locker, relative to our quarterbacks. Chris Johnson’s got tremendous speed. They have good backs all the way through, all of those guys are good, but Johnson’s speed is unique and I’d say Locker is pretty fast, too. It’s hard to replicate that and we need to do that so that when we see it in the game we’re not surprised by it, because we know those guys; they both can run, but Johnson especially, he’s real fast.