Archive for April, 2008

Paul Pierce Issues Statement On Gesture Controversy
April 30, 2008

I don’t want to take the focus away from the playoffs. In sports, emotions run high. After playing for 10 years in Boston, I think Celtics fans know that I am a passionate player.

I 100% do not in any way promote gang violence or anything close to it. I am sorry if it was misinterpreted that way at Saturday’s game.

In fact, through my Truth foundation I am committed to giving back to youth groups and making sure young people have the opportunities to succeed in life.

I am extremely proud of the work I have done through the foundation to provide positive influences and safe havens for inner city kids.

Bill Belichick Recaps The Draft
April 28, 2008

BB: Who would have ever thought you would be covering a Bill Belichick draft with no offensive linemen, defensive linemen, or tight ends taken, right?

I think I should certainly comment on the draft room this year missing the presence of Bucko [Kilroy]. He’s been such a pillar here for so long, particularly as it relates to the draft. I always remember walking into the room with Bucko every draft and he’d have his charts there and he had the values and how they were going to be picked off the board, and it was such an exciting day for him and all of us. Even in the later years, he still never lost his enthusiasm and zest for these two days, so he certainly is in our memory today in this first draft without him.

We started off the day with the three picks in the third round. [We] had [Shawn] Crable on the line and we were actually going to take him in that first pick and San Diego kind of swooped in there and made the trade, and we picked up a second-round pick next year and ended up trading back, or losing that pick, and then we slid back and took Crable on the first of our third-round picks. We’ve been on him and kind of watched him for a long time, with the whole Michigan connection from Pierre [Woods] and the coaching staff up there that we’ve got a pretty good relationship with. I think there are probably a lot of similarities between Shawn and Pierre: they’re both tall guys, very rangy, fast, good special team players. I think that that’s, like I said, a guy that we’ve been on, really, for quite some time and followed with some interest.

[Kevin] O’Connell is a big, strong athletic quarterback, [who] runs well, very athletic, played on a passing team in a passing league, in all honestly not behind a real good line, so he was kind of on the run a little bit, but I thought he held in there and did a pretty good job of being productive and making good decisions. A lot of times he was under a lot of pressure, as well, so we’re looking forward to working with him, obviously.

[Jonathan] Wilhite is a kid we saw at Auburn in the spring. Actually, Nick [Caserio], Scott [Pioli], and I, Dean [Pees], we were all there. The guy has had good production in the kicking game, good production defensively. [He was] really a three-year starter down there, other than a few games he missed here and there, but he’s been a pretty durable, productive kid. It goes with [Terrence] Wheatley; I think there are similarities between those two players.

We picked up [Matthew] Slater. That was the fifth round where I think we moved up to get Slater, traded up for him. He’s been a very productive special teams player. High-quality, great character kid, comes from, obviously, a good family.

And lastly, we saw quite a bit of him through the years at [Nebraska], whether it was back when they had [Adam] Carriker and the two safeties, in watching [Zach] Bowman there this year, [or] last year the outside linebacker, Stewart [Bradley]. So they’ve had a lot of good defensive football players there at Nebraska and this is kind of a senior group and we’ve seen him for a couple of years. But he’s another guy that’s good-sized, runs well, and he’s a real competitive kid, smart kid and I think he has a little bit of position flexibility for us in the inside positions as well.

And of course, yesterday on the Wheatley pick, Terrence has been a very productive player for Colorado. He’s played inside and outside on the corner positions, he played the slot, he’s a good kick returner, a good special team player, good hands and another smart kid and a very experienced player in a good passing conference, and hopefully he’ll give us some good depth in the secondary and a little bit of position flexibility.

That’s kind of the rundown on those players and now we’ll-when the draft is over here, hopefully shortly-we’ll be moving on into some free agent signings to kind of fill out our roster and get our numbers up for training camp, so even though the draft is kind of over, it’s really not over because there’s still a lot of work to be done. I think that Scott and the scouts have done a great job in this entire draft. We got a late start on it, but they’ve come up with a lot of good information and they’ve certainly prepared the coaching staff well for the different contingencies that have come up and getting information on the players. And now heading into this free agency period after the draft, hopefully we’ll be able to supplement our draft with some quality players that weren’t drafted. So that’s kind of where we’re at.

Q: Did you go into this assuming it was going to be a more defensive draft?
BB: No, we went into it open minded. We really did. We certainly wanted to get younger and faster on defense, but I have been saying that for the six years. This has been really since the 2001 season. We just had some opportunities here the way things fell that there were players that fell into that category. Whether it be linebackers or defensive backs. [Matthew] Slater in kickoff and in special teams is certainly a fast player and even though we didn’t draft [Kevin] O’Connell because of his speed he runs very well. I think we improved our overall team speed and got some quality guys and some guys who have been productive at good programs.

Q: Is Slater labeled strictly as special teams?
BB: Well, I think his forte is in the kicking game and we will see how that develops. But he does have flexibility; he has played on both sides of the ball so we will have to see how that goes. We listed him as a wide receiver but that may or may not end up being the way it is. We just have to see how it is. Again he is a smart kid. He’s fast. He’s tough. He handles the ball pretty well, as we’ve seen on kick returns, and tackles well, as he’s done on the coverage team, so we’ll see how it goes. Maybe a little bit of both. I don’t know.

Q: You mentioned in pre-draft press conference that quarterback was the one position where maybe the value idea didn’t necessarily apply. What about Kevin O’Connell made him a good value in the third round?
BB: I think I said that about the first round. After that I wouldn’t agree with that. I thought he was a good player in a good program. Like I said, he played sometimes in adverse conditions and I thought he showed a lot of poise and a lot of ability.

Q: Kevin [O’Connell] had mentioned working out with Josh [McDaniels] and how much he enjoyed that. How much did feedback from Josh go into making that pick?
BB: It’s one of the factors, no doubt. Anytime we visit with a player, whether it’s us going to him or him coming to us or whatever, that’s part of it. I think the more important part most of the time is what the player does out on the field over a number of games or years or his career and of course the feedback that we get form the coaches that he played or sometimes players that we know who are familiar with him. So it can come from a lot of different places, but our scouts have been out there all year watching him play and Josh’s visit out there was certainly valuable information. I think Josh got a good feel for what he’s done schematically and what his reads were and things like that and obviously Josh had some good things to say about him as part of our evaluation.

Q: What about the depth of cornerback now with some of the guys you brought in though free agency and now two rookies? You think you have enough?
BB: I don’t know. We’ll put them out there and let them play and find out. It’s about competition now. Once everybody’s here, it doesn’t really matter where they came from or how they got here. We’ll just put them out there and let them play and the players who play the best will play the most and the players who don’t play as well will be behind them. First it’s kind of a teaching situation in the spring camps here and trying to get everybody indoctrinated into the system if they haven’t been and learn what’s going on so we can kind of level the playing field and then the bigger part of the evaluation starts of course in training camp, but to some degree it will go on a little bit in the spring, but it’s more of a teaching camp and terminology and getting everybody familiar with what they’re doing and all that so they can go out there and play when we get to camp. So that’s when we’ll really find out.

Q: You have had good success with bringing guys in during the middle of the season in the defensive backfield and getting them ready pretty quickly. Is there something about the system you have that newcomers can adapt quickly?
BB: It’s hard. It’s hard. It’s not the way you want to do it. Sometimes you have to do the best you can if you get in a situation. But you’re a lot better off brining a guy in in the spring and go through training camp and the whole teaching progression, that’s why we set it up that way. But that’s not always possible. If you bring a person in midseason you just have to try to scramble and try to get them on a week to week basis until you can get caught up and kind of go back and go through some of the terminology and lay the foundation. But a lot of times you’re just getting them ready for one game, it’s just a game plan thing and you skip over some of that. But I don’t think it’s easy. I think it’s hard.

Q: Both [Matthew] Slater and [Bo] Ruud come from NFL families. As a rookie coming in, how do you think it will help them in the game and their knowledge of the game?
BB: Well, I’m sure it’s helpful. Chris Long is another guy that has been through that. I think it’s helpful and there is certainly a lot more that haven’t had that than did. Having grown up in kind of a football family, a coach’s family, in my situation there are certainly things that you kind of learn and understand. Some of it is by osmosis .

Q: The corners you drafted are both the same size. When you made the picks there was some other corners on the board. What was it about smaller guys that you felt made it a better pick?
BB: We picked players we thought were best for our football team each opportunity we got to pick. Things that Terrence [Wheatley] and Jonathan [Wilhite] do, we feel like they do well and that’s why we picked them. There are other good players that went before we picked players and there were other good players that went after we picked ours as the draft progressed. It’s nothing against anyone else; we just did what we felt was best for our football team based on all the things we took into consideration.

Q: How did [Shawn] Crable run compared to other linebackers that would project into what he could do for you?
BB: Well there is not very many of them. When you go through the 3-4 outside linebackers, some of them fall that way and then other players with similar size and measurables fall the other way as defensive ends. There are not many there that can toe the line and do both at a good competitive level. There is probably a little bit more of one or the other. In Shawn’s case, he is more a linebacker than a defensive end. For a linebacker, I think he is good. He’s got good range. He’s tall like Pierre [Woods], with a tall thin frame, but he’s got exceptional strength. He plays a lot stronger than he looks. He sits kind of like a basketball player, but he plays strong and he is strong. He has good upper body strength and plays with good leverage, but he kind of has a thin lower body.

Q: At Michigan he played more 4-3 but did they have 3-4 package?
BB: They did a lot of that. It’s just that in college, like in the bowl game against Florida and games like that, they got spread out a lot. Then a 3-4 team that became a 4-3 team or a 4-man line team I should say, in passing situations, then that’s what the outside line does is drop down. He rushed a lot. He did a lot of work in practice rushing a lot against [Jake] Long and a lot of other great tackles. You know, I think any player coming into the NFL, that’s an area that he can certainly improve on, his pass rush ability. Every college player can but [Shawn] has got the tools to work with. He’s got a good first step and he’s got long arms and a long body. He’s got enough length to make those tackles.

Q: I read somewhere where they likened him to Carl Banks. Do you see any of that?
BB: Well, I made a comparison to Pierre Woods. He reminds me a lot more of Pierre Woods than he does Carl Banks. Are there some similarities to Carl Banks? I don’t know.

Q: What separates a guy like that? Woods went undrafted. Crable was one of the top picks.
BB: Woods was one of the top players in the country as a sophomore. He didn’t play as a senior. You’d have to ask Michigan why they didn’t play him, or maybe they thought they had better players. I don’t know. That’s a question they’d have to answer. Athletically, he was an astounding player as a sophomore. I think he got some… the same thing as a junior and then he didn’t play much as a senior. A little like Brady. Brady didn’t really play full time his senior year at Michigan either until the last three or four games and then he obviously played well against Alabama in the bowl game and all that, but Brady was in and out of there too with [Chad] Henning. Really you should ask Michigan why they played the players the way they did. We can just evaluate the players the way we see [them].

Q: But he was undrafted…
BB: I’m just telling you he didn’t play as a senior. It’s kind of like Brady… it’s hard. It’s one thing when you’re talking about Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams or Laurence Maroney and Marion Barber, it’s another thing when you look at a player and he doesn’t even start for his college team or he’s in a rotation, that type of thing. It’s hard to… if a guy can’t start for his college team, it’s hard for you to go out there and say, “We feel like he’s going to come in at this level and play. Or why were there better kids than him?” In some cases there weren’t or maybe it was a system thing or whatever. Sometimes that skews it a little bit.

Q: With [Terrence] Wheatley and [Jonathan] Wilhite, is their development now in any way comparable to Asante [Samuel] and Ellis [Hobbs] when they came in?
BB: Well, I think both of those players are productive players. Both Wheatley and Wilhite have been productive players in their programs for several years, as Ellis and Asante were. They have a little different playing styles, but they all have good ball skills and all have good hands and they all run well.

Q: What has been the challenge over those six years, as you talked about getting younger and faster. What has been the challenge of doing that? It seems like you have taken more of a step in that direction this year than the past five years.
BB: I really don’t think we have. I just think it kind of worked out that way. There are times when we are sitting on the board looking at players like Logan Mankins or whoever. I mean he is a good player and I’m glad we have him. It was a good pick. He’s not a defensive player and he’s not a fast player, but he’s a good football player. There’s nothing wrong with taking Logan Mankins, I’m not saying that. You need those kind of players. We have taken plenty of offensive players around here. One year it was almost a complete offensive draft with [Chad] Jackson, Dave Thomas and [Garrett] Mills two or three years ago. It wasn’t intended that way. It was kind of what was on the board and we looked at what the best value was and we did what we felt was best for the football team. I don’t think you want to skip down and skip past a lot of good football players to get one just because it’s kind of a position you would like to have. We would like to have all positions. We will take whoever the best players are, and try to manage a team as best we can. Sometimes it’s pro free agents or trades or you find other ways to fill out the roster, but it’s hard to force guys. If they can’t do what you want them to do I don’t think there is much point on forcing them in there and then be disappointed with them and a year or two later you still don’t have anything. I know it looks good on the draft grading charts. Need a guard, draft a guard. Need a corner, draft a corner. Need a tight end, draft a tight end and everybody gets an “A.” But two years later if those players really aren’t performing in those positions then what do you have?

Patriots Take Terrence Wheatley (CB, Colorado) In Round 2
April 27, 2008

Q: For those who haven’t seen you play can you define your style of play and how you view it?

TW: My style of play I guess is very consistent. I don’t give up a lot of big plays. I try to make as many big plays as possible. I really don’t pattern my game off of anybody, but I do try to learn from pretty much every corner in the league. All the corners in the league are obviously there for a reason. I definitely try to learn from everybody. My style of play is a little bit of everything. Little bit of physical, little bit of speed and a little bit of smarts. A little bit of everything.

Q: What were your expectations coming into the draft? Did you expect to be a first day pick?

TW: I really didn’t think about it too much. I really wanted to go into it and enjoy the moment with my family and my friends. It was a situation that a lot of people don’t get the opportunity to enjoy, so I didn’t want to worry about it too much. Whatever happened, happened. The way the draft works, it’s such a circus on draft day. Everybody has their pre-draft board and mock drafts and all that, but at the end of the day when it comes time for the draft everything kind of changes and today was no different. I just wanted someone to give me a chance, and the Patriots gave me that and that to me is awesome.

Q: What were you doing when you got the call?

TW: When I got called, I was actually just walking out of my bedroom. I went to go change. My parents had the air conditioning on and it was a little bit cold. I went to go grab a coat and that’s when the phone rang. I put the phone down and it showed up as an unknown call, so I thought, ‘Yeah that probably could be important,” so I picked it up and low and behold it was the Patriots. I ran down stairs to tell everyone to keep quiet so I could hear. Then I had to run outside to talk on the phone because they were all yelling and screaming at that point. It was just very exciting.

Q: How did you develop your speed? It seems like that would be a big part of your game?

TW: I was always a track guy when I was a kid. I always wanted to play football as a kid but my parents felt like I was a little bit too small for that. You know how moms are. Moms don’t want their little babies to get hurt. I’m the oldest, so they didn’t want the oldest to get hurt. So [I] ran track and that’s something that I would do, but I always tried to work on speed. Speed kills, and, especially at this position, it’s very difficult to make plays if you don’t have speed. If you take a false step or anything, your speed has to be able to catch you up and take care of that mistake. I do all sorts of stuff with it, pulling tires, running extra hills, doing extra leg work. I try to get my legs as strong as humanly possible. I do a lot of speed training. I do a whole bunch of track workouts just to keep the speed up.

Q: You’ve had your share of wrist injuries. Do you feel that you are past that? Are you hindered in any way or do you think you’ll be okay heading into training camp?

TW: It’s not an issue at all. I played with it for a whole year. It’s not a big deal. There’s really nothing more to say than that. I played the whole year with it and I’ve proven that I can play with it. It’s completely healthy, so I’m going to go out there in training camp and see what I can do.

Q: You made a name for yourself in the return game. How much do you think your contribution on special teams made you an attractive pick for the Patriots?

TW: I think it helped a lot. When you come in as a rookie, number one, you have to be able to play both positions. They don’t want somebody that plays just one. So when you have multiple things that you can do, that definitely adds to your draft value. So I think that helps a lot, but it also shows my toughness, too. When you look at the number of plays I play on defense, I rarely come out, and then I’m still on every special teams outside of field goal. That does say a lot about you as a football player, not necessarily just an athlete. Obviously you’re an athlete, but you have to be a real tough guy to do that, because you’re playing an extra 20-30 snaps every game than everybody else. You have to be in extra shape and everything, so I think that definitely helped me a lot in this draft, especially with the Patriots.

Q: You had a lot of tackles the last couple of years. Do you like a physical style of play? Do you like mixing it up in the run game?

TW: It’s fun. It’s fun. I love it. It’s fun. Especially, I guess, because everybody perceives me as a little guy. It’s always nice to come in and give it to the running back every once in a while and kind of show him that I’m a little dude but I’m not going to back down from you. So I like to mix it up from time to time. Why not? It’s football. It’s a contact sport. I definitely love it.

Jerod Mayo On Joining The Patriots
April 27, 2008

Q: Were you surprised that it was the Patriots who called your name and that high?

JM: I definitely was surprised. This is a winning organization and even for them to have a pick this high really surprised me. I’m just overwhelmed and I’m ready to get to New England and play for a great coach and a great team.

Q: Did you have any inclination at all that the Patriots were interested in you?

JM: I had a great visit when I came down there. The coaches and I sat down and talked football for a long time. Like I said, I just had a great visit and I felt like we clicked. I’m just excited, man, I just can’t even explain right now. I just got drafted and I’m just excited. I’m pretty much speechless.

Q: Usually when players think about getting drafted, they think about getting drafted by teams that are rebuilding or not very good. What does it mean to you to come to a team that has been in Super Bowls?

JM: You hit the nail on the head. It’s like a dream come true pretty much. You don’t expect a team that only lost one game last year to have a top 10 pick, but at the same time, they were winning before me and they would be winning even if I’m not there, so I just want to come in and make a contribution and learn from some of the greats at the position.

Q: Given the fact that this team has had such a great history of linebacker play recently, what does it mean to you to be joining that corps?

JM: I can’t help but to be good as long as I listen and take notes and learn from a great coach and a great coaching staff and great guys like Junior Seau and Tedy Bruschi and all those guys. I’m just going to be like a sponge and try to take as much in as possible.

Q: Are there guys in the NFL right now who you try to model your game after?

JM: Not at all. I just try to be Jerod Mayo. At the end of the day, I think after playing with [New England] and learning from the coaches here that I will be a good linebacker and you’ll be asking another linebacker about that question. I’m just excited to get there. I feel like, learning from these guys, these are the best. Junior Seau’s a Pro Bowl guy, a Hall of Fame guy. I’m just going to be a sponge and learn from him and hopefully I can become just as good as he is.

Q: If someone has only seen your statistics, is there something they would be missing? What are some of the intangibles you bring to the field?

JM: I feel like I bring a winning nature. The Patriots already have a winning nature. I feel like I bring a work ethic. They already have that as well. You can’t really bring too much to a team that only lost one game in a season. I’m just excited to be in the position that I am and to be able to learn from some of the greats in the game.

Q: Do you feel you’re better suited to play outside or inside?

JM: I don’t have a preference at all. Wherever coach wants to put me, pretty much. I can learn from a couple of the best outside linebackers or I can learn from a couple of the best inside linebackers. So wherever coach wants me to play, I’m willing to play. Like you said, I’ve played all three spots. We even have a 3-4 package in our system at Tennessee and I feel the transition won’t be a problem, but like I said earlier, I am just going to be as sponge and learn from those guys.

Q: You mentioned there was 3-4 package at Tennessee. Where did you play in that package and how often did you guys use that package?

JM: To be honest, I played the inside guy and the outside guy. I know, you’re going to say, “this guy is a versatile guy.” I was fortunate enough to be able to play the outside and the inside. Like I said, wherever coach wants to put me, that’s where I’m willing to play.

Q: As you thought about the draft and who might take you, and if you went to a team that was not as good as this one, did you have a different idea of what your impact would be?

JM: To be honest, my mindset was set on – any team I go to I want to make a contribution, whether it be starting linebacker or on special teams. Whether it be a 1-[15] team or anything like that, I want to make a contribution somehow. The Patriots, they pretty much have their team set in stone. These guys only lost one game last year, I just want to come in and make a contribution whether it’s on special teams or as a starter.

Q: Coach talked about the fact that you had faced the best competition in the SEC. Can you talk about how that helped you prepare for the NFL?

JM: Just having SEC pride… that’s pretty much the minor leagues for the NFL. At the same time, the NFL is a whole new game. The game speed changes, everybody’s good. It’s more of a mental thing I think. Like I said, I’m just going to be a sponge and try to learn form those guys and see how they study film and study tendencies and things like that. Hopefully it won’t be a major adjustment for me.

Q: Over the last couple of years, what kind of preconceived ideas did you have or do you have about the Patriots and that group of linebackers in particular?

JM: That they play hard. They’re always making plays and that they’re winners. They win a lot of games, ever since I’ve been watching those guys. Coach Belichick is great. The 3-4 defense, those guys put a lot of pressure on offenses and that’s the type of defense that I like to play in.

Q: You said a minute ago that you just want to come in and make a contribution. How confident are you that you can come in and make an impact your first year?

JM: To be honest, I’m really confident. When people hear contribution, they think, “Well, this guy is going to come in and get Defensive Rookie of the Year,” And things like that. That’s a goal of mine, but at the same time, you can make a contribution on special teams. That’s one-third of the game. If that’s the case, then that’s the case. If I come in and do become a starter and I want to make a contribution there, that’s a way to go. Any part of the game, any aspect of the game that the coaches want me to play, I feel like I can succeed in.

Q: Coach Belichick said that you were one of the higher rated linebackers on their board in a while and the Patriots, under Coach Belichick, had never drafted a linebacker higher than the fifth round. How does that make you feel that they used a first-round pick, No. 10, on you?

JM: It makes me feel great. He’s a great coach, a Hall of Fame coach. Just to have a compliment like that come from a guy like that, it’s just means the world to me and I can’t wait to get up there in New England and just learn from him, study the game with him and become a great player.

Q: When you made your trip here to New England, what struck you about the organization? I’m assuming you’ve been to other places as well. What was different about the Patriots? What impressed you about the Patriots?

JM: To be honest with you, I had 11 visits during this whole process and there wasn’t an atmosphere that you felt the winning tradition like you did when you walked into the building with the Patriots. I’m not sure if that’s because I watch all of their games, but it was just in my mind. I felt the vibe from the coaches and just from everybody, everybody from [Director of Scouting Administration] Nancy [Meier], I just felt this was a winning organization and I’m just happy to be here.

Q: Coach Belichick has been noted for taking rookies in and pushing them a little bit mentally. Tell us a little bit about what he talked to you about and maybe any mental games he might have played with you.

JM: I wouldn’t say he played any games with me or anything like that. He just told me, “The draft is a crazy thing and you never know what’s going to happen. We would love for you to be a Patriot, but we just don’t know what’s going to happen. If it does happen, then it’ll be a good experience for you.” If it didn’t happen, then he thought I’d be a good player somewhere else. I’m just happy to be a Patriot. I’m just ready to get up there.

Q: I know where your thoughts are now that you’ve been drafted by this team, but when you were growing up what pro football team did you follow? Which players did you try to emulate?

JM: To be honest, growing up in the Hampton, Virginia area, we watched the Washington Redskins and then I started watching Baltimore. They had a great defense. These past few years, the Patriots’ defense has been very stout. I feel like I can be a part of this defense and make contributions. Let me ask you guys a question. What headlines am I going to get about the Mayo last name? What can I expect from you guys? I’ve heard a lot of them, but I was just trying to see what can I expect.

Q: What’s the best one that you’ve seen?

JM: I’ve heard a lot, but ‘Hold the Mayo’ is always going to be the No. 1 thing, but that’s kind of getting played out now. I’m trying to see what you guys are going to throw at me now that I’m coming there.

Q: (Pause) Extra Mayo? How about that?

JM: Oh, so everybody goes quiet now?

[laughter]

Q: Where were you when you got the phone call? Who called you? Where were you? Did you have a draft party with friends and family?

JM: Actually, the plan was to do yard work. I was in the back yard picking up leaves. I know this time of the year, you don’t expect to see leaves, but we have leaves in our backyard. I was picking up leaves with my mom and I couldn’t do it any more after one bag. I was sitting on the porch, just sitting there thinking and Coach Belichick called me. I was very excited. I had a little get together, a little cookout, but nothing big.

Q: Where else did you visit?

JM: There was 11 of them. I might miss a couple, but I’ll give you some. The Bills. Detroit. Pittsburgh. Cleveland. Atlanta. St Louis. Dallas. Somebody help me out.

Q: The Jets?

JM: Yeah, the Jets. I don’t remember. It seems like forever ago. It’s somewhere on the Internet, I promise. Google it.

[laughter]

Q: Where did you think you would wind up?

JM: To be honest, I wasn’t really sure. Wherever I was going to end up, I felt like I was going to go in there and be a sponge. I was just fortunate to come to a program that’s already established with a winning tradition. I wasn’t really sure. I was just waiting to hear my name called.

Q: One reason that Belichick hasn’t draft linebackers this early is because they say that the defense is very hard to learn. Did you see any schemes at all and did he bring that up at all? Maybe you were a little different and you could take it on maybe earlier than most?

JM: No, as a matter of fact, when I went up there for my visit, we sat down and went over a couple of plays, adjustments, things like that. Then, they took it off the board and had me draw the plays back up with adjustments. I feel pretty confident in my skills to learn systems and things like that, but they taught me the very basic plays. I’m expecting it to get a lot more difficult. But at the same time, I feel like learning from the great guys that they have in that linebackers’ room that I’ll be able to catch on pretty fast.

Q: How much do you enjoy watching film?

JM: Oh, I love watching film. I’m always trying to get a competitive edge whether it’s in the film room or in the weight room, anywhere. I’m always trying to become a better football player. That’s just me.

Q: Did it catch you off guard that you went 10th overall today?

JM: Like I said, I came into today with no expectations. I was hoping for the best and expecting the worst. I had no expectations. I wouldn’t say that I knew, but I was hoping it would be somewhere in the first, but I just didn’t know where.

Bill Belichick On First Round
April 27, 2008

BB: Everyone okay with a 10-minute format today? Whipping things right along, we are excited to have Jerod [Mayo] join our organization. He is a pretty versatile player, did a lot of things down at Tennessee. Played inside, played outside played in sub defense, played in the kicking game. He is a smart kid, runs well, pretty physical player and I think he will be a great addition to our football team. Where that fits, we will have to wait and see and how that goes with all the other players on our team. He has some versatility and has played at a high level and against some great players in the SEC. He has played against a lot of the best players in the country. I thought he did a real good job. We were on the clock at seven, the timing, we did a little bit of prep work with the New Orleans trade last night and a little bit before we were on the clock. Things did go a little bit quicker than they had in the past. I’m glad we got that done. I felt that that trade was one that would help our football team. I feel good about that. But I think that pick in the third round will be helpful whether we end up using it to pick a player or trade up or whatever it is. We will see how that goes. You know, we added a good player on defense and added one last year. Hopefully we can continue to get a little bit younger on the defensive end of the ball going forward.

Q: There was a cornerback picked next. Why did you decide to trade down?

BB: We did what we felt was best for the football team and there’s a lot of good players on the board. There were good players that went before us and after we picked Jerod. It’s the pick we felt was best for the football team and I’m glad we have him.

Q: In regard to the prep work on the trade, did you feel that was going to happen today?

BB: Well no, we anticipated that scenario and New Orleans was certainly looking for Sedrick Ellis. I think that was no big secret and when he was still on the board that kind of led to the next step of going through and executing that trade.

Q: Was there anyone taken before that would have caused you to decide differently?

BB: We didn’t go through the hypothetical; we just took the situation as it came up. You know we were on the clock and we had a trade partner so we felt like it was a good trade for our football team so we did it. I felt like it was a good decision for our team. If something else was to happen, you know, I don’t know.

Q: Would you have made a different decision with a different team in regard to the trade if there were different players on the board?

BB: I don’t know but that’s what was there. It’s not like you have another option to trade with anyone of four or five teams. That was the trade and I think it worked out fine.

Q: With the three third-round picks, have you got flexibility?

BB: I wouldn’t rule anything out. I’m not afraid to trade one way or another. We will just see how it goes and take every situation as it comes up. Whether that’s moving up in the second [round] or picking players or picks in the next year. We have done all those things so I don’t know how it’s going to go what options are going to come up. We will do what is best for our football team.

Q: When was Mayo on your radar?

BB: Well really after all the juniors declared. He had a very good combine workout but he was the guy, I think that everyone that scouted the SEC, our scouts that scouted that conference knew about him. He was a very productive player down there for Tennessee and has been for a couple of years now. He had a good workout and he was a productive player in every game. He is a versatile guy; we brought him up visited with him. He’s very intelligent player, he’s a good football player. He’s smart, he understands schemes and concepts, he runs the defense, makes the calls, makes adjustments and all those things. I think that he has a lot to offer.

Q: Could you see him getting better inside as the season went on?

BB: Well I think he was pretty good when he was outside. I think he played well at Mike and Sam and Will so those are all 4-3 off-the-line positions and in the 3-4 defense we have only two off-the-line positions but sometimes we can adjust the front and he plays in those different spots and so forth. Certainly he improved over the course of the year but think he was pretty good at the start of the year and think he was good last year and pretty good the year before that. He has been a productive player at a top program in a top conference at a couple of different spots and that includes against the run and against the pass and on fourth down and in the kicking game and I don’t think there was much more he could have done.

Q: He has had two knee surgeries and he is fully recovered but that is obviously not a concern of yours?

BB: No, no of course not our doctors feel fine about him. I wish my good knees were as good as his bad ones. I think he is healthy and has been a very durable guy and a very productive player.

Q: Is your vision for him next year impact or developmental?

BB: Well, I will just have to see with everyone else and see how it goes.

Q: Was he rated higher overall than linebackers in previous years?

BB: He is one of the better linebackers we have seen in awhile. You know we haven’t been picking at this point in the draft either. But I’m glad we were picking where we were and for the right reasons but there has been other good players that have come through, guys the last couple years but we were so far away from where they were getting picked there wasn’t much for consideration.

Q: Over the years you have not drafted a lot of linebackers in the early rounds.

BB: It worked out that way. There were no grand plans to take him or not take him. We evaluate all the players, grade them and then when its time to pick. You take a look at the players available and pick what’s best for the football team. It worked out that way this year, it could have worked out differently in other years but it didn’t and that’s the way it fell. Whenever we pick we do what we feel is best for the team and sometimes those options, you don’t control them.

Q: Did you talk to [Junior] Seau and is his status a consideration with the pick?

BB: That’s not really a factor.

Q: [Mayo] is a player that gets better each year. Did that have an impact on your decision?

BB: I think everyone gets better with more experience and more play time. He is pretty good and he has been pretty good. It’s not like he was no good and then gradually got better. He has been a good player since he’s been there. That is a top conference and it’s against a lot of good players. The [Darren] McFaddens, the Georgias and the Floridas. They play a lot of good football teams and I don’t think you have a problem finding him in any of those years in any of those games. He was there for all of them.

Patriots Trade Down, Go For Extra Mayo
April 27, 2008

The Patriots traded down, swapping picks with the Saints, and then taking LB Jerod Mayo from Tennessee at #10. Reaction from Belichick coming shortly.

In Pursuit of Perfection
April 25, 2008

No, I (or the Celtics) believe that the Celtics are going to go thru the post season without a loss. ..and really who cares if you’re perfect, as long as you manage to win your last game of the post season (right Patriots?)

The “Pursuit of Perfection” I’m talking about concerns the Celtics 22 year old (he would be a senior at the University of Kentucky this year) point guard Rajon Rondo, who has played virtually flawlessly so far this post season and something he told me after Wednesday night’s game two 19 point win over Atlanta.

After he finished his round of interviews, I pulled him aside and jokingly mentioned that his game was slipping since he went from game one’s total of no turnovers (which is remarkable for any point guard, much less one playing his 1st ever playoff game), to committing one turnover in game 2. His reply is what caught me a little off guard. He was very disappointed that he committed that one turnover and replayed the circumstances of that turnover (an errant pass in the last half minute of the 1st quarter). He said-in all seriousness, that he wanted to go through the entire series without a turnover and casually mentioned that he now looked forward to accomplishing that in the next playoff series.

Now, I love the fact that Rondo has such high expectations but I am a little concerned that he is ready to deal with the reality of the situation, and the reality is that no individual turnovers by a point guard for entire playoff series just doesn’t happen(at least not yet). Not by Magic, or John Stockton or the Cous. Unfortunately turnovers are going to happen to the very best, and it gets tougher on the road which is where Rondo and his teammates will be Saturday night in Atlanta for game 3. And we’ll all be watching the stat sheet for turnovers committed by Rondo, or not.

KG Defensive Player Of The Year
April 22, 2008

Not much of a shocker here, but Kevin Garnett has been voted the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year. He is the first Celtic to receive the honor since its inception in 1982-83.

Garnett received 90 first place votes and 493 points overall. Nuggets big man, last year’s winner, and UMass product Marcus Camby was a distant second with 178 points.

Garnett averaged 9.2 rebounds (7.3 defensive), 1.4 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game, but his effect on the Celtics team defense cannot be measured in statistics. His incredible intensity on the court and in practice rubbed off on all of his teammates, especially the younger guys like Perkins, Powe, and Big Baby. Everyone went hard defensively on just about every play, and you can pretty much trace it back to KG. As a team, the Celtics held the opposition to 90.3 points per game, second in the league (just a fraction more than the Pistons).

According to the press release, “Kia Motors will donate a brand-new 2009 Kia Borrego seven-passenger SUV on behalf of Garnett to Boston Centers for Youth and Families, the cities’ organization supporting the same youth as Kevin’s “Big Ticket Challenge” program.”

-SI

KG Is Intense (photo courtesy AP)

It’s better, already
April 21, 2008

A few days ago I wrote that it couldn’t get much better, sports wise, that it is right now here in Boston (at least until June when the weather is warmer and the Celtics might be winning a World Championship).

I was wrong. It is already better.

1st off, is there a better sports weekend anywhere in the world than this one right now, and I’ve got to start with the Bruins putting on the best hockey game in these parts in over 10 years (maybe even 20). Saturday night’s 3rd period was was the most exciting 20 minutesof hockey with the B’s outscoring the Canafiens 4-2 to win 5-4. It just may have been the most exciting moment/game in the young 13 year history of the new Garden (Celts had some pretty exciting games in their run to the Eastern Conference finals 6 years ago, but none that had the garden this loud).

The Celtics win their 1st playoff game-is there any reason to think they won’t win their next 5 games, at least.

The Red Sox have the best record in the American League and are presently running all over (8-0 in the 6th) the woeful Texas Rangers on another beautiful Patriots Day.

And oh yah, the Marathon, the 112th running of 26.2 miles by over 25,000 crazies, I mean athletes. This years race was won by Robert Cheruiyot( of course I had to look up how to spell his name even tho this is his 4th win- Hey I’m paid to pronounce, not spell..as is obvious). Dire Tune was the women’s winner in the closest finish in the history of the race beating Russia’s Alevtina Biktimiova by 2 seconds to take $150,000. home to Ethiopia. 1st place finishers aside- this really is a race for the other 25,000 runners and the million people out on the course enjoying a sunny spring day.

What a day for everyone here in New England! …except that is for Rangers left fielder Milton (notoriously short tempered bad boy) Bradley who just lost a David Ortiz ball in the sun and fell down backwards with the ball landing right next to his head on the track for an rbi double. Tough Break.

Madness At The Garden
April 20, 2008

Let me preface this by saying I’ve never been much of a hockey fan, despite spending my early years at Albany Academy, a “hockey factory”/school (where they put you in skates before they put you in class) and growing up near RPI (the college that produced Joe Juneau and Adam Oates, among others).

That said, I’m being converted (and educated) by a raucous crowd here at the Garden for Game 6 between the Bruins and Canadiens. It’s almost like a college game, where the visiting team has it’s own section (pretty much the entire goal zone beneath the Bruins banners) that is very nearly drowning out the home fans.

That has led to some entertaining exchanges between the fans, who are booing EVERY time the other team touches the puck. Add to that some big hits, great saves, a fight, and two breakaway goals and you have an exciting hockey game.

Phil Kessel, seemingly banished by Coach Claude Julien, has ressurrected himself here. Hey, you have to score to win games, so it was only a matter of time before the light hitting (yet high scoring) Kessel made his way back into the lineup. He was all alone against Montreal goalie Carey Price and took him one on one early in the second period to tie the score at 1.

Montreal got it back a few minutes later when Tomas Plekanec, just released from the penalty box, found the puck in his lap, and beat Tim Thomas. It was awfully close. Makes you wonder who controls the door… what if he kicked his way out (I kid, I Kid)?

Speaking of things I don’t understand, why are the Bruins Ice Girls never on the ice? Can we do something about that? Might as well call them the Stands Girls or something (UPDATE – they proved me wrong by making their way on to the ice for a promotion during the 2nd intermission). At least they are giving out hockey hankies tonight instead of the dreaded thundersticks, which seem to have disappeared after only one game.

Another thing that mystifies me… the Canadian advertising on the boards. I know baseball teams with Japanese players do it… but this just doesn’t feel right. There are spots for a Canadian radio station, pizza chain, and airline. Come on local advertisers, step up! Fill those boards (and buy more time on Channel 5 too – hint)!

A lot of shots late in the second period, but no lighting of the lamp. Second period comes to an end with the score Montreal 2, Bruins 1. We’ll check back in after the game with more.

-SI