It was Bill Belichick's first news conference of training camp on Wednesday, but the New England Patriots coach was in midseason form.
Here is the full transcript:
Bill Belichick: Good morning. How are we doing? Happy training camp. All right, it’s always good to get started here. You know, going back to the end of the spring, I felt like our players really overall had a real good spring. We got a lot done. Some guys really made big, strong jumps, maybe a little bit more than normal or maybe we anticipated. But we practiced well, obviously not perfect. We have a long way to go -- I’m not saying that -- but I thought the players really did a good job of doing what we asked them to do, made a lot of improvements, worked hard, did a lot on their own and I think we’re in position to take the next step here and be ready to go in training camp. I think that was reflected in the last couple days. Players came in and focused. [We] had a couple good days on the field. It’s been, obviously, modified, scaled back with the numbers that we have, but guys that were here were able to do some things that we weren’t able to do in the spring, have already shown progress on some things they’ve worked on in the time away. So, we’ll see how it goes.
Everybody else came in today. We’ll get started with just the normal process of getting going in camp today and be ready for tomorrow when we go on the field. A couple days of non-padded practices and by the end of the week, we’ll be closer to playing real football. As always, excited for the start of the season, excited to get going. We’ve got a long way to go. We haven’t done anything. All of us -- starting with me, the coaching staff, head coach, everybody -- it’s a new season for all of us. We all have a lot of work to do. I certainly have a lot of skills that I need to refine and improve and work on to get them to the level that they need to be at for the football season. But that’s what training camp and preseason games and so forth are for. So we’ll work to do those things individually and collectively as a team and as a staff. So that’s all part of it, but we’ve all got a long way to go. We’ve all got a lot of work to do, and I think we’re excited and looking forward to that opportunity. So we’ll get started today with the full group and just take it one day at a time.
Did every player report today?
BB: Yeah, as far as I know. We haven’t had a meeting yet this morning.
We didn’t get a chance to talk to you after Julian Edelman’s suspension. What are your thoughts on not having him for the first four games of the season?
BB: Yeah, well, Julian is a very hard-working player. We’re all disappointed, but it is what it is. He’s moved on, we’ve moved on, and we’ll just take what we have now and do the best we can with it. I’m sure he’s -- you know, he’s been here the last couple days. I think he’s got a good attitude, a good work ethic and he’ll make the most of the opportunities that he has, whatever those are.
BB: Yeah, there’s never any contract news. We don’t talk about contracts, personal matters.
Were you bothered that they didn’t come to OTAs?
BB: Right now, we’re getting ready for the start of training camp, so everything that happened last year, in the spring and all that, I’m not focused on any of that. I’m focused on what we need to do in training camp. Again, we’ve put ourselves in good position to do it. There’s some things we’ve got to work through. We have players in different stages of rehabilitation and availability and so forth. But that being said, we need to have a good training camp and look forward to doing that, which will put us in position to be competitive during the season. That’s where my focus is.
We know you’re all focused on this year and we understand that ...
BB: That’s right.
I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t ask you about last year.
BB: Yeah, last year is last year. I’m not focused on last year.
What about the fact that everywhere we go, folks want to ask about Malcolm Butler?
BB: Yeah, we’ve talked about that. That’s multiple months ago.
Is there going to be any more explanation about why he didn’t play?
BB: I’m focused on training camp.
Would you do it any differently?
BB: Training camp? We’re getting started. We’ll work on that right now. We’ll do the best we can.
Do you care that the fans want to know more about this?
BB: I’m focused on doing the best that I can for the 2018 New England Patriots. That’s my job. That’s what I’m going to do. That’s what I’ve always done in the past. Every day that I’ve coached here, I’ve done the best that I could for this football team and I’ll continue to do that. Right now, my focus is on the 2018 season -- not 2017, not 2014, not 2007, not 2004, not 2001, not 2000. I’m not focused on any of those seasons. They’re done.
For this season’s team, is it important for you to address the Malcolm Butler thing with your team?
BB: It’s important for me to have a good season in 2018. I’m going to do everything I can to do that -- do the best that I can for our football team. That’s my job and that’s my responsibility. That’s what I’m going to try to do. Hopefully you can respect that, but maybe not.
How much longer do you think you’ll coach?
BB: Again, I’m focused on getting ready for the team, getting ready for training camp and for the regular season. That’s what we’re doing right now.
Is there anything different heading into this season for you compared to other seasons?
BB: Every year is different. Yeah, every year is different. You bet.
How has this one been different?
BB: We have new players, a different schedule -- I mean, everything is different, 2018 is 2018. There’s never been another year like it. So we’ll do the best that we can to prepare the best in all the things that we have to deal with and there are a lot of things going forward that we don’t even know what’s going to happen. When those things come up, we’ll try to do what’s best for the football team and put ourselves in the most competitive position that we can.
Is it still as much fun for you?
BB: Yeah, every year is challenging. It’s challenging. I mean, there’s no easy games in this league. We don’t play the Division III teams. I mean, it’s the National Football League. Every team has good players. Every team has good coaches. Every team has the same salary cap, draft choices, everything else. It’s very competitive. We respect all of our opponents. We respect every team we face, every player we face, every coach we face -- always have and always will. So I have total respect for what we have in front of us. We’ll have to do our best to be competitive. That’s our goal.
You mentioned your own skills that you want to refine and improve. Is there anything specific for yourself that you want to improve upon?
BB: Everything. I haven’t coached a game since whatever -- six, seven months ago, whatever it was. So, yeah, I’m a long way off from doing the things that I need to do. Now, we had practices in the spring and that’s part of it for all of us -- for the coaching staff, our communication together, our individual, fundamental coaching and preparation, our work together as a staff. But yeah, every year is a new year. You have to start all over again, you have to rebuild that. Each player, each coach, each team has to rebuild it. You can’t pick up where you left off. It’s been too much time since the last and it’s different.
Is there anything specific you’ve learned in the offseason, whether it’s technology or something else?
BB: Yeah, I learn things every year. Sure, I mean, there’s things that we’ve looked at that -- some changes we’ve made, some that we’re going to look at, see how it goes and maybe modify them as it moves along. I mean, our team is different. We’ve made some adjustments in our schemes and things like that. Sure, we’ll evaluate those as we go, just like we always do.
One thing that is different is that you do not have any joint practices scheduled for the first time since 2011. In your experience, what benefits have come out of having that time to work as a team vs. during training camp?
BB: Yeah, just that. I mean, you work as a team, you set your schedule, you work on the things that you want to work on. Yep, and there are advantages to both. We’ve done it both ways. It just didn’t work on this year. So, I mean, I don’t think it’s a big thing. The things we need to do in practice, we’ll try to get accomplished in practice. You know, we have four preseason games and I think there will be plenty of competition for us to get ready for the year.
In the last two days, a lot has come out about Jimmy Garoppolo. One of those things is that you would text him after every win last year. Is that true and have you maintained a good relationship with Jimmy since he left the team?
BB: Yeah, again, Ben [Volin], those are things that happened months ago, and honestly I’m not too focused on October, November, December of 2017. I’m trying to get our team ready to go for training camp. That’s where I’m at. So I’m not going to engage in stuff that’s happened eight months ago. I mean, we can talk about a million things that happened 20 years ago. I’m not there.
One of the big issues for this season is what’s going on with the national anthem policy. The owners and players are talking about it now. But do you feel like you need to speak to the team about any sort of policy you might have as a team?
BB: Well, as you said, right now the policy is being reviewed by the league and the players association. I’m not involved in that.
What do you think of some of the work that’s being done by guys like Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater and Malcolm Jenkins in Philadelphia? It seems like there is a lot more focus now on social justice initiatives.
BB: Yeah, well, those two players for us have been great players, great leaders, and done a great job for our team, both on and off the field. You’ve had to talk to them about what their involvement is in other things. Again, I’m not involved in that. I haven’t been in any of those meetings. You’d have to talk to Devin and Matt.
We know you added Bret Bielema to your staff this year. What does he bring to the table?
BB: Yeah, Bret did some things for us in the spring, and going forward, we’ll kind of see how it goes. I’m sure it will kind of work its way into some areas. I’m not even sure exactly what all those are at this point. But we’ll see how it goes.
We’ve only seen a little bit of Malcolm Mitchell over the last year or so. Can you give us an idea of where he is physically right now and what he needs to do to get on the field consistently?
BB: I can’t really do that now, no. I mean, that’s part of where we are on these first few days of training camp. Physicals, conditioning run and so forth, and that’s really for every player. Some of the players who haven’t had any injuries or setbacks or haven’t been getting treatment for anything, [we] kind of know where those guys are. But we have a number of players that are in various I’d say degrees of availability or in various stages of rehabilitation and preparation for the season. Those guys have been not away from us for a month, but they’ve been being treated. They’ve haven’t been active on the football field. As we get into those drills and periods, then we’ll know more.
So we’ll play some players on PUP, NFI lists and when they’re ready to come off, they’ll come off. And other players that aren’t on those, it doesn’t mean that they’re full availability; it means that they’re not on those lists for one reason or another and that we’ll do certain things with them based on their physical availability. So, you know, that’s the way it always is this time of year. There are a lot of guys in different stages, from postseason surgeries, from offseason injuries and so forth, and we’ll just have to see where everybody is. We have the first couple days of practice that are not padded and padded practices start on Saturday, so we’re in a couple different stages of training camp here. So we’ll just have to see how all that goes. But I’d say it’s no different from what it normally is with call it, I don’t know, 10 to 15 players that fall somewhere in that overall net of conversation.
There was a report that you might be shopping Malcolm Mitchell in a trade. Is that true?
BB: Yeah, I’m not really going to engage in media speculation, unless you have some professional comment on that, which I haven’t seen any. I certainly haven’t talked to any media person about Malcolm Mitchell, so you’d have to talk to whoever that is.
How would you characterize the work that Mitchell put in to try to work his way back from injury?
BB: I think all of our players work hard. We have a good training staff. We have a good medical staff. I think all of our players have been accountable and have done the rehabilitation that either us, them or some third party has been involved in. We haven’t had a guy in a long time that hasn’t been compliant or diligent with that of trying to do what he can do to get on the field. Some things respond at different rates than others.