Published on August 7th, 2020 📆 | 8228 Views ⚑0
Bill Belichick has a new go-to phrase, still bad with technology (Belichick-isms)
Friday marked Bill Belichick’s second press conference of what’s been a unique start to the NFL season. Practices are closed, rosters are limited and training camp as a whole has been pretty weird as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
But even with all that going on, Belichick is in midseason form in stonewalling questions about quarterbacks and anything he doesn’t want to divulge.
Through two press conferences, Belichick has mentioned a quarterback by name just once. (Last week when he said “We spent quite a bit of time with Cam, and he spent quite a bit of time with us.”) This week, Belichick was all too ready to stiff arm any questions about Cam Newton’s status into the netherworld and focus on describing how to the team has been conducting meetings via zoom.
For anything else, it’s “Yeah, we’re in Phase 1.”
Welcome to Belichick-isms: An apparently recurring feature looking at the fine art that is a Bill Belichick press conference, where we look beyond the grumpiness and take a look at how and why the Patriots coach (usually) won’t answer our questions.
Belichick: “We’re you know on the fifth day here of what is really Phase 1 for us, so meetings and total of an hour walkthrough on the field today goes to an hour 15 minutes and then the players are running and lifting and doing things like that — not on their own but with the strength coaches, not with the football coaches. A lot of meeting time, time to get back into some physical activity and training, which is good. But really we’re still another four days of this before we start to move into Phase 2 and then a couple days of Phase 2 and then couple days of Phase 3 and then as Stacey (James) said then we get to the 17th. Moving along phases, what’s been set up. I think it’s good. The players are transitioning to a higher gear and higher volume and more intensity on basis that’s probably good for training. We’re following that and we’re kind of halfway through this first process.”
Notes: Belichick has talked a lot about the team being in “Phase 1 1/4 u2033 of training camp so far. By that, he means the team is doing the sort of conditioning, training and fundamentals work they’d normally do in OTAs and minicamps. What that means for us is that he’s not going to really talk about how any player looks or how he’s progressed. Expect him to lean on this phrase for a while during games.
Biggest Belichick-ism: “This is really Phase 1 for us.”
Question 1: What is it like working during the pandemic? How much flexibility does it demand? How much does your experience come into play?
Belichick: “We will this take it as it comes each step of the way. I think it’s maybe a little bit different and requires a little bit of thought and possibly creativity but again for right now we’re basically in the Phase 1 situation or environment and that’s what we’re doing. We’re doing basically what we do in Phase 1 with as I said a few modifications. It’s fine. We’re being productive. We’re using the time that we have to definitely make strides but there’s some things we can’t do. But we’re not gonna focus on those we’re gonna look at the things that we can do and try to make the most out of those. I think the players, coaches and the entire organization’s done a good job with that.”
Notes: So, it’s a little different. But also the same. But a little different. We’re on to Phase 1.
Biggest Belichick-ism: “We’re basically in the Phase 1 situation”
Question 2a: For you was there any decision on your part about potentially not coaching this year or were you always determined to coach through this?
Belichick: “I feel very good about the environment that we’re in. I feel fine.”
Question 2b: Did anyone on your staff opt-out?
Belichick: “Anyone on our staff? No.”
Question 2c: Are you considering keeping a quarterback or any player in quarantine this year?
Belichick: “I’d say as always, we’ll try to look at our options and do what we feel is best for the football team. That’s what we’ll continue to do.
Question 2d: So you haven’t decided yet if you would do that?
Belichick: “As I said, we’re in Phase 1. We’re proceeding in Phase 1. I can’t speak for everybody but I think my impression is that, as an organization, as a coaching staff, support people, the players, that there’s a comfort level with what we’re doing and who’s doing it, how we’re doing it and we’re being productive. So if concerns or problems come up, we’ll address those. But right now, I think it’s a good working environment. We’re getting a lot done and the organization’s taking a lot of steps to ensure everyone’s safety and an opportunity to do their job and do it safely and do a productively work certainly there’s a lot of responsibility on each one of us to do things in a way that don’t affect others negatively, that we take the precautions that we can and should. So that’s where we’re doing.”
Notes: This was a four-part exchange between Belichick and one reporter about specific elements of opt-outs — most of which haven’t been revealed. It starts with a pretty quick back-and-forth before the reporter presses on one particular issue. Then Belichick rips off a long response, which is an effective way to break the flow and end this line of questioning in a rapid-fire sense. It’s also loaded with classic Belichick-isms.
Biggest Belichick-isms: “We’re in Phase 1.” “Do what we feel is best for the football team.” “Do their job.”
Question 3: How has Cam Newton come to grasp the playbook so far? How is that process been going for him?
Belichick: “Yeah, well, as I said, We’re in Phase 1. We’re presenting a lot of information, going through phones. We have a daily walkthrough and that’s about it. So, again, as I said, the restart of football is going at a slow pace. Right now, the training’s ahead of the football. So that’s what we’re doing.”
Notes: Have fun trying to get Belichick to acknowledge that the team signed a former MVP to potentially replace the greatest player in franchise history. Sure. Yeah. We’re onto Phase 1.
Biggest Belichick-ism: “We’re in Phase 1.”
Question 4: How is Newton looking physically so far? Has he been able to participate in everything so far?
Belichick: “Yeah, well again the coaches aren’t on the field for the training part of the program. So I couldn’t really comment on that. Our strength coaches supervise them. The walkthroughs are the walkthroughs. They’re walkthroughs.”
Notes: This answer really hammers home how clever it is that Belichick opens the press conference by hammering home an emphasis on the team’s schedule and the logistics of the walkthrough. It allows him to say this with an air that implies he’s already answered a question. Also, referring to the restrictive nature of the team’s activities also lends authority to the idea that he doesn’t know how Cam Newton is looking physically. If you think Bill Belichick has no knowledge of Cam Newton’s current physical condition, I have some timeshares I’d like to sell you.
Biggest Belichick-ism: “The walkthroughs are the walkthroughs. They’re walkthroughs.”
Question 5: Have you had to narrow the scope of what you focus on this preseason because of the lack of preseason games and different practice schedule?
Belichick: “Again, I wouldn’t characterize our preparations as there are things that we can’t do. Again, pretty much everything that we’re doing is what we do do. Setups a little bit different, but we do Phase 1, we do Phase 2, we do Phase 3, we do training camp, we padded practices, we do practice in shells, we do walkthroughs in training camp. We’ll be doing all those things as we normally do. We won’t be playing preseason games. So that will definitely be one thing that we’ll need to prepare for differently than we’ve prepared for in the past. We won’t be able to have those same kind of game experiences that preseason games provide. But everything else is the same. It’s a modified pace or schedule. But the drills themselves and sequence of those are essentially what they’ve been. It’s just done in a different time frame and it’s done over a six-to-seven week period instead of the three days a week in the spring and then four days a week at the end and then a training camp here. Again, this is what every college team does. Every college team goes to training camp, whatever it is, three weeks, three-and-a-half weeks before their first game. Essentially after we get past, start on the 17th, that puts us about it in that four-week period until the first regular-season game. One of those weeks would be preparation the opener, so it’s very similar to what the college programs have always done and what they’re doing now. We’ve got to modify what we do to be more similar or try to replicate, to a degree, what college teams do every single year.”
Notes: Belichick is actually finding a lot of different ways to say that the team’s approach to training camp is pretty much the same, just with a delayed schedule and some minor logistical differences.
Biggest Belichick-ism: “Again, pretty much everything that we’re doing is what we do do,” whatever that means.
Question 6: Have you had restrict yourself, be less hands-on with players?
Belichick: “I guess we’ll see. Yesterday was the first day that we had a walkthrough with both the offense and defense on the field at the same time. Prior to yesterday, we were defense against defense, offense against offense. Yesterday was our first chance to do that. I would say it looked to me like all the coaches coached and players played pretty much like we always do other than you know masks and some other modifications, things like that. I didn’t see any substantial difference, no.”
Notes: It’s different. But also there are no substantial differences. Next.
Biggest Belichick-ism: “The coaches coached and players played.”
Question 7: How do you keep players engaged over virtual meetings? Is that a challenge?
Belichick: “Oh yeah definitely. We talked about that a lot. After about two meetings, we could see that that was gonna be the new way of the world. A decent amount of the staff meetings was dedicated to that, especially early. We had a lot of individual meetings. Our team meetings were more limited. The quality of having a meeting with 60 or 90 people as opposed to having it with four or five, the engagement’s a lot higher, the interaction’s a lot better. The mute button doesn’t have to be off like it does when you have a hundred people on the meeting and so forth. We learned a lot about those virtual meetings and we definitely did a lot of things to try to heighten the engagement, set up some competitive things, set up a variety of things. Then the coaches exchanged ideas. One coach would say, ‘Hey we did this’ and then maybe another coach would pick up on that idea and do it in a way that fit his room or his position. We might have a competition between the two rooms on a certain thing, let them compete against each other and see who’s better at whatever the activity was that was structured. I talked to a number of college coaches. They were, in a lot of cases, ahead of us on this because of spring ball. So they had their spring practice virtual meetings prior to the start of our offseason program, which I want to say was like, mid-April. A lot of those teams were doing the same thing that we were doing in terms of virtual meetings as early as the first of March. Some of those people had great suggestions, you know, ‘This really worked well for our team.’ ‘Our guys loved this.’ ‘We tried this and it didn’t work so well. Here’s the problems with it.’ ‘It sounds good but it didn’t go over that well.‘ There was a lot of that. Our coaches talked to several other college coaches and programs. Then we exchanged ideas. It’s always very educational for all of us to try to do. Some activities work better than others. Each coach kind of had to get a feel for his players. Their level of excitement to do certain things might not have matched a similar concept or game or whatever it was. We modified our teaching and the interactions, some of the games, some of the competitions, things like that we did over the course of the spring. Followed up a little bit on those in the first week when we came back. It was the 28th or whatever it was when everybody was still quarantined on the testing, so we were able to continue that from the spring. So, yeah, long answer to a short question there. But yes we did it on a number of different levels. We learned a lot as we went along. I think the players are responsive, productive. They certainly gave us a lot of good feedback too. A lot of those guys are a lot more tech-savvy and had some good ideas, way ahead of some of the people on the coaching staff, particularly myself. I’d probably be at the bottom of that tech list. We use some of their ideas as well. Collectively, I thought things went better than I thought they were going to, to tell you the truth. I thought they went pretty good. We followed up on it. Going forward, it might be something that I probably would have never even considered a year ago. Now after having a pretty significant amount of experience with it, I could see where there might be a place for it in the future. That’s kind of where we are, but thank you for the question.”
Notes: One of the big points Belichick has stressed about the lack of preseason is how college teams deal with it all the time. It can sound like a non-answer, but it does lend some insight into how Belichick operates. He has a long history of looking at college programs and identifying programs that are ahead of the curve and adopting those principles. In the past, it’s been schemes. This season, it looks like logistics. Also, it’s always fun to see Belichick acknowledge his well-established struggles with technology.
Biggest Belichick-ism: “I’d probably be at the bottom of that tech list.”
Question 8: How did it feel to be on a different calendar? Has it impacted you at all?
Belichick: “I think we’ve spoken about this before but in a lot of respects, this is similar to 2011. In many respects it’s different. But in terms of not seeing the players until training camp, it’s similar. We certainly had a lot more interaction with the players this year than we did during the lockout season and then we had the preseason games in that season that we’re not gonna have in this season. So there are definitely differences but there’s some similarities and some of the players and coaches that were here at that time, we’ve reflected on that. I think there are some things that we learned from that year that have application. Again, there’s other things that don’t. Each year’s different. This year, the ramp-up pace — instead of being during the spring and then taking a break and coming back to training camp — is all taking place in one sequence without a break, essentially, That’s a little bit different. But I think it’ll work. I think the players will be prepared physically and mentally to play football, assuming the conditions stay similar to what they are now. I think we’ve seen that. It’s been almost two weeks that we’ve been virtual to Phase 1 to now we’re starting to ease into a little bit of a higher Phase 1, which leads into Phase 2 and so I think the progression is logical. I think it’s working. We’ve got a long way to go and we have quite a bit of time before the opening game. So hopefully we’ll be in a competitive position at that point and I’m sure that we’ll continue to improve as a team like we always do in the first several weeks of the season. But again, that’s the way it always is. Eighty-man roster we’ve dealt with that before, although not recently. I think when you put it all together, we have and we will find a way to make it work and we’ll try to make it as effective as we can.”
Notes: The comparisons to the 2011 season, when there was a lockout over the summer haven’t been common. Belichick’s point about the similarities here are pretty notable and represent some good points.
Biggest Belichick-ism: “A little bit of a higher Phase 1.”
Question 9: Now that you and the players are back in the building, what’s been the biggest adjustment that you and your staff have had to make due to COVID regulations and the stadium’s new setup?
Belichick: “Biggest adjustment? Honestly I wouldn’t say any of it has just been overwhelming. We wear masks. There’s not a buffet line for food. The food’s ordered. It’s boxed and packaged. The dining staff has done a great job. The meetings are in bigger rooms. We’re more spread out. But essentially it’s the same meeting. We’re just distanced and wearing masks. I think everybody is just a little more conscious of the hand washing, the sanitizing, the distancing. We wear monitors and all that. There’s just a higher awareness of it. Fundamentally we’re still going over the same material. We have walkthroughs. We have meetings. We have training and conditioning. We’re gonna eventually have individual drills when we get to Phase 2. Then we’re going to get to Phase 3 and have 11-on-11 drills. So I don’t think it’s monumental, but certainly there are adjustments, none of which I would say are particularly inhibiting. It’s a little bit different, maybe a little bit more time consuming and just precautionary, but I think we’ve tried to address everything. And we’ve asked the players — and they’ve been great — we’ve asked the players for their input. If they see something that looks a little like it needs to be adjusted or corrected or whatever, they’re good to bring it up and then we take a look at it and do what we can to — whatever the situation is — try to improve it. We’re very fortunate here. We have a stadium. We have a big facility. I know there are other teams that are dealing with it in a much smaller training facility. We have a lot of big spaces and open space that we can work with. That’s very helpful in the environment that we’re in. We have great food service and a big training room, weight room and so forth. We’re able to accommodate with the visitors locker room. When you add that in, we’re able to accommodate I think 80 people I would say pretty comfortable. Of course we have some plexiglass and things like that up to take things a step further, but we’re able to handle the number of people and what we would normally do. It’s been pretty effective. Again, we’re not walking across the hall to a meeting. We’re walking maybe down the end of the tunnel to it, but again, to me those are relatively minor things. I’d say overall we’re doing things pretty close to the way we normally do them with, as I said, more masks, more plexiglass for sure. I don’t know what the plexiglass bill is around here, but it’s gotta be pretty high.”
Notes: This is classic Belichick ramble, the first big one of the season. It’s full of little tangents, but chock full of actual insightful information about the safety procedures put in place this season and how the team has had to make adjustments.
Not a Belichick-ism, but his best line of the presser: “I don’t know what the plexiglass bill is around here, but it’s gotta be pretty high.”
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