NEW ENGLAND CONFERENCE CALL WITH TAMPA BAY MEDIA
HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
(On New England cornerback Aqib Talib)
"Aqib's been great. [I've] really enjoyed having him on our team. He's, obviously, a very good player, but he's become a good leader for us. He's really got a lot of on-the-field presence, and his experience brings a lot to our defense, and our defensive backfield group off the field. He's just been a great addition to our team. [I'm] glad we have him. We gave up a pretty good [draft] pick for him, so I'm sure it was a good deal both ways, but we're glad we have him on our team."
(On Talib's work habits)
"Very good. [He] works hard. He was one of our offseason award-winners. He worked hard in the offseason, prepares well every week, practices well."
(On criticism Head Coach Greg Schiano has received recently)
"I have a lot of respect for Coach Schiano. I think he's done an excellent job. We certainly had good work with him, here, in the preseason. I think his team's well prepared. They're a couple plays away from being 2-0. That's the way we look at it. I think he's an outstanding coach. [He] does a great job with his team and his players, and they're very close to being a 2-0 team. [I'm] just trying to coach our team and get ready to go this week, and that's really what this week is about: about Tampa and New England on Sunday, competing against each other and seeing who the better team is on that day. All the rest of it – what happened in the past – didn't happen. I don't think it really has too much bearing on anything right now."
(On who deserves credit for winning close games)
"I think, in the end, it comes down to the players. The games that we've won around here, the players have made key plays in critical situations to win, whether it was two weeks ago against Buffalo with a drive and a kick by [kicker Stephen] Gostkowski or, last week, a defensive stop and an interception by Talib. The players are out there, they're the ones that are making the plays that win the games for us."
(On having different players step up each week and each season)
"Again, I give the credit to the players. The players are the ones that determine their roles and perform them. We bring players in and try to create a competitive situation, but, in the end, I can't go out there and play, neither can any of our other coaches. The players have to go out there, and they determine their own roles based on how they perform, and when they've shown that they can be productive in certain situations, then that gives us the encouragement, the confidence, as a coaching staff, to put them in those situations. But we can't perform for them; they have to go out there and do it themselves, and the guys that have done that have earned it through their performance. [There's] nothing, really, that we can do other than just give them an opportunity. What they've done is what they've earned."
(On the key to replacing injured offensive starters while continuing to win)
"Well, we've been in two very close games, and, fortunately, our players have been able to make the key plays that we needed to make at the end of the game to come out on top. But I think there's a lot of room for improvement on our football team, from all of us – from the coaches, the players, our overall execution and preparation. We're two games into the year, but we have a long way to go, and hopefully we can all improve and get better. I think that includes every single one of us – each player, each coach, veteran players, rookie players, new players, old players. None of us are really where we need to be, and we all need to work harder and improve, and, collectively, that'll rise up the overall performance level of our team. Every team in the league has players in and out of their lineup every week. That's, unfortunately, part of the game. It's hard to just line up with the same guys all the time; it just rarely happens in this league. So, whoever's in there has to be prepared to step in and do their job, that's why we have 53 players on the roster and eight guys on the practice squad. We expect them all to be ready to go when they get the opportunity to go in there and perform at their best level."
(On New England quarterback Tom Brady)
"There's no quarterback I'd rather have than Tom Brady. He's been a great player to coach through the years; nobody's worked harder than he has since he came into the league in 2000. He's improved every year. There are always things that he can work on to get better, and he's very diligent about those. He trains hard, he prepares well, and he's got great longevity, and I think those things are all part of it. [There's] no question: I've been very fortunate to have him as our quarterback here, as well as all the other outstanding players that I've been fortunate enough to coach in this organization."
(On players defensive players changing the way they hit)
"Absolutely, it's difficult. The way things are in the rulebook and on paper and the way they actually happen in the game and how fast they happen and the situations that players are in, are milliseconds. There are decisions they have to make in such a small amount of time, it's different than going after a quarterback who's-not stationary but he's in a relatively small area versus a guy who's moving, his angle's changing, he's falling to the ground or not falling to the ground and things like that, it's very difficult. We all have to play within that framework of rules. I definitely don't think it's easy for that group, but I think that the players are trying to adjust to the rules and it is what is. I don't know how you cannot hit receivers when they are trying to catch the ball but there's a legal way to hit him and there's a way that's not legal. The players have to try and make decisions so that they can do it in a legal way. It's not easy, there's no doubt about that."
(On New England handles adversity)
"I think all of our players are really competitive, they all want to do well and when we don't do well then there's a little bit of frustration that comes with that. Usually that frustration is self-directed, we all know that we can do better play better, and perform better, I'm sure that's a big part of really all of our players. It's not about what somebody else is doing, it's each of us trying to do a better job of what we're doing. I really think that's the way that our players on our team look at the performances, we're not worried about everybody else, we're just trying to do a better job ourselves.
(On the growth he has seen in Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman since the last time they played)
"I think Josh has real good physical skills and he's matured and developed a lot as a player, certainly from where he was in . Even working against him in practice the last two years, just seeing him on a consecutive day basis standing out there watching him throw the ball, run the offense, handle the team. He's definitely grown and developed as a quarterback and is a guy who can run the offense and has all the physical talent to make all the throws, scramble and get out of trouble, he's a hard guy to sack. I think that just the number of big plays that he's made, you know he had another one against New Orleans, - of course was called back an 75-yarder or whatever it was - but those are the kind of plays that not a lot of guys in the league that can do, but he does. He's a very explosive player, dynamic player and offensively Tampa can score as many as they're on the field. They can score on a long pass, they can score on a long run, and they've done that consistently over the last year and even in the couple of games this year they've shown the ability to do that. He's a big part of that, but as a football team they're a very explosive team. They can score on offense from anywhere on the field, they can score on defense, strip-sacks returns, interception returns, took the ball away from the Jets inside the 10 yard line, returned an interception for a return from New Orleans, blocked punts, returned kicks. So there's certainly no play, I think when the balls snapped that they're not a threat to score. That's just a tough team to play, when you're opponent is that explosive. Certainly the Bucs are."
(On his relationship and opinion of Greg Schiano as a person and coach)
"Both very high, but I think he's an outstanding coach. I think he does a great job, he understands the game, prepares his team well. He's very thoughtful and creative and is always looking for a better way to do things, always looking to improve and looking to find a better way to coach or prepare or motivate or whatever it is. Personally, I think he's very well respected among the players. I know that my son had a great experience at [Rutgers University]. Even going through all of the players that have come out of there - we've had quite a few of them or have at least talked to other guys, the Ray Rice's, guys like that who have gone on to other teams as part of the draft process, the respect, the credit they give to him for their development and their experience under him is extremely high. The Eric LeGrand situation, the way he handled that, the way he has continued to handle it, I think is unbelievable. [That's] a real great look at his personal connection and devotion to his players, and loyal to the people in his program. Outstanding on both accounts."