Some leftover soundbites from Bill Belichick’s afternoon conference call with the local media:
"I think first of all, we had some transition at that position over the last, going back to when Steve replaced Adam [Vinatieri] and then we had a little bit of transition there at the punter position, and then in the last three years we had a little transition at the snapper spot. This year with all those players returning -- Danny, Zoltan and Steve -- I think it’s a good group that worked well together last year even though we didn’t get Danny until the end of preseason, but throughout the season and in the offseason and then of course now so far in training camp.
"I think the continuity between those specialists and the rapport that they have and the time that they work together and the quality of their work is good and I think that it shows up in their performance. Our overall timing and consistency and I’d say overall execution on the punt snaps and punts and the snaps and the holds on the field goals and all that has been good, probably better than it was at this time last year; certainly getting Danny and also having the continuity has something to do with that.
"As it relates to the specialists, Stephen has had a good year, had a real good offseason and came to camp in great shape, has kicked the ball throughout camp and has kicked well throughout camp. Zoltan has built on his first two years and he’s certainly become a more consistent punter, his technique is better, his handling of situations with his experience has improved, he really doesn’t just go out there and kick the ball, but now he’s much more aware of circumstances and situations in the game [and] is able to communicate those to his teammates like the personal protector or the snapper or the gunners or whatever it may be. He’s done well.
"Hopefully we can continue to work that group together on a consistent basis and let them develop individually, but also together with their timing and their execution. It can only get better with more work and attention to the details of getting it perfect."
On the pros and cons of joint practices. "I think that as a coach you try to do what’s best for your team. If you feel like you can do something that benefits your team, then you consider doing it. If it works out, if the logistics and the timing and whatever circumstances that are involved work out to the point where it’s beneficial for your club, then that’s something that I would want to do. If the circumstances just don’t work out for whatever reason, then I wouldn’t be in favor of it.
"I’ve talked to many teams about doing something along the lines of what we’ve done this year or in the past with New Orleans and Atlanta a couple of years ago. Sometimes it works out; sometimes it doesn’t for one reason or another and that’s true on the other side of it. It has to be mutually beneficial. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t work, then I would prefer not to do it rather than do it and solve one problem but create two other ones down the line.
"The drawbacks of it are if it doesn’t work then you’d be doing more harm than good. You wouldn’t be able to reap the benefits of seeing the different players, a different scheme, if you’re traveling being in a different environment, adjusting to something other than what you normally do. Those things are good but they can be all outweighed by other things if it doesn’t work out right for you. I wouldn’t do it just to do it. I would only do it if I thought it was beneficial to our team."
On whether he is at the point where he hopes one running back creates separation in the position competition, or if he is happy with how the group is performing at this point? "Well, I can’t control how the players play, that’s up to them. What we can do is coach them and teach them to the best of our ability and prepare them for when they do play through practice, giving them repetitions and making sure they understand their assignments and all that. The players have to go out and perform, so I can’t tell you how that competition is going to work out -- whether it’s going to be a couple guys or a few guys bunched up close together or somebody is going to separate from the group or not. That’s decided competitively, it’s not decided by a coach; that’s decided by the players.
"We’ll see how it works out. We’ll let them compete and we’ll let them, over the period of, we’ve had over 30 practices this year and now two preseason games and a couple practices against New Orleans, we’ll have a couple practices against Tampa, we’ll take that whole body of work and we’ll evaluate the players based on all that and also to some degree how much they’ve improved and whether we think that improvement is on the way up or leveled off or maybe they’ve peaked. We’ll just have to see how all that plays out.
"We tried to play those guys last night and in a lot of cases just left them in the game, so they played on first, second and third down so it wasn’t always a third-down substitution. We did it more by groups that had practiced together rather than by down. Again, to try to help ourselves evaluate those players on all three downs and not necessarily pigeonhole them into one situation because that’s what we chose. We wanted to let them play in those situations and compete and see how it turned out. That’s what we did last night, and next week we’ll talk about it again and make a decision as to how we want to use those players in this week’s game, whether it’s the same way or whether it’s by down and distance or by some other method. That will be a week-to-week decision based on what we feel like we need for that position or for our overall offensive unit for that week or that game and that emphasis time."
On running back Brandon Bolden’s performance Monday night. "I think Brandon competed well and he definitely showed up with some positive plays in the kicking game and also offensively. He had never returned for us. He has done some in practice, not a lot. We wanted to give [him] an opportunity to do that in a game so he did. He handled the ball a couple times in the return game as well as playing his usual position on punt and kickoff returns up front.
"Again, just taking a look at different people doing different things, trying to see what kind of depth and versatility we have with some players before we decide for sure to lock in to one particular spot or maybe we use that person’s versatility in a couple spots if that’s what we need based on the makeup of our roster. I think he showed some versatility, he made some positive plays for us in those two phases of the game and there are other things that he can learn from and probably will execute better the next time around. Overall, I think a positive performance but not perfect."
On Deion Branch playing all but one offensive snap Monday night. "We played the players that we played and we told them they should expect to play a lot and a lot of them did. That’s kind of how that worked out. Deion did play a lot and of course he didn’t play last week, so this was really his first game action even though he’s been out on the practice field a lot. I thought he competed well and made three pretty good catches for us in pretty tight coverage and traffic so that’s always good to see. He’s worked hard through camp and it was good to have him out there last night and all the receivers played, well other than [Julian] Edelman, all the receivers that played, played quite a bit."