Patriots coach Bill Belichick told reporters on Day 2 of training camp that asking him to evaluate players right now is a waste of time.
“You know, you guys are asking a lot of questions about what have we seen from ‘this’ guy, what are we seeing from ‘that’ guy. We’ve yet to put on pads, alright?” Belichick told reporters, before adding sarcastically, “I understand that this is a pretty talented group of evaluators in this room, but in all honesty our evaluations come more in training camp when we actually practice and we can fully execute the techniques and the plays that we’re trying to do.”
Belichick said that when the pads are on, that’s when camp begins.
“I would say real training camp starts tomorrow, we’ll continue for quite a while after that, including the preseason games, is when the real evaluations start,” Belichick said. “So I know everybody’s all excited when a guy catches a pass, but when the defense doesn’t jam him or they’re not allowed to really, because we don’t want heavy contact out there, aren’t competing for contact at the end of the play then it’s not quite the same as when all of that’s going on. I’m not taking anything away from the receivers. I’m not taking anything away from anybody. I’m just saying it is what it is. The competitive level out there is not what it’s going to be starting tomorrow, so to evaluate players competitively when they’re not on a competitive level, I have a hard time with. But I know a lot of the people are real good at that and they can make a lot more out of it than I can, but due to my personal limitations and my personal inability to make those evaluations, I don’t make them. We can keep asking about how everybody does on ‘this’ and how everybody does on ‘that’. The main thing for me is to see if they’re doing the right thing, doing it properly, how we can correct that, and then there will be a point in time where everybody will be able to go out and do it to the best of their ability against very competitive players on the other side of the ball and we’ll see what happens. That’s when the evaluations really start, other than if a person can’t take the instruction and do what you’re asking them to do or can’t do it properly, you can evaluate that. But in some cases it’s hard to evaluate how they’re doing competitively against somebody else when it’s really not a competitive situation.”
Belichick said evaluating players’ on-field work without pads is about seeing if they know the playbook and can execute it on the field.
“I think you can evaluate what you’re teaching them to do,” Belichick said. “Do they understand the plays? Do they understand their assignments? Are they using the proper technique in their assignment? Can you evaluate whether a guy can power rush, or whether you can stop a power rush, or whether you can stop the physical play or block physical players in there? No, and we don’t want to evaluate that. That’s not what this is for. So yeah, I mean in terms of evaluation it’s definitely limited. What we do want is so that the players understand their assignments, their techniques, adjustments that they’re going to have to make so when we can evaluate it, they already know what to do and there’s not a lot of ‘Do I do this? Do I do that’ hesitation, which then nobody looks good doing that, and it’s hard to evaluate a player when he’s not confident or sure of what he’s doing. If he knows what to do and he’s sure how to do it and he goes out there and does it the best that he can and the guy on the other side of the ball does the same thing, then you can see what you have. But we’re not really at that stage yet. We just aren’t. We’re doing what we can do, which is productive. We’re making progress and soon we’ll be able to get into a different type of evaluation practice.”
Ultimately, Belichick said, the Patriots haven’t done any real football yet in camp.
“We’re not in pads,” he said. “We’re not tackling guys. We’re not jamming the receivers. We’re not blocking each other in the running game, or very infrequently. We’re not defeating run blocks. We’re not doing any of those things, so we don’t evaluate them.”