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Patriots quotes: Tuesday press conference highlights

Here are some of the more interesting questions and answers from Tuesday’s press conferences with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick as they prepare for Sunday’s game against Cincinnati.

∎ Brady

Q: This (Cincinnati) defense is pretty highly regarded and they’ve got a lot of first round picks in the front and back ends.

TB: Yeah, they can rush the quarterback. They have guys at all four spots that can rush and then when they bring the backups in, those guys rush. It’s really unique in that pretty much whoever is in there can get an edge on a guy, can get to the quarterback, force the ball out quickly. Then with (Terence) Newman, Pacman (Adam Jones), Leon (Hall), Reggie Nelson, they have first down draft picks everywhere. (Rey) Maualuga and (Vontaze) Burfict and (James) Harrison, they’re loaded. That’s why they have one of the best defenses in the league. There’s really no easy yards out there. They’ve been in some tight games this year; they pulled them out, especially the ones at home. They’re 2-0 at home. They play well, they’re good. I know the guys on defense really respect that offense and what they’re able to do. They’re explosive. We have to do our part as an offense to try to keep their offense off the field as well as going and scoring points.

Q: How do you fill the void of Vince Wilfork’s calming influence in the locker room?

TB: He’s a great leader. I’m sure that won’t change. He’ll be here giving everything he can to the team still. His presence in the locker room, on the field will be missed. At the same time, the train keeps moving. No one feels sorry for the Patriots. We have to keep fighting on, just as Vince would want us to do. He wants us to go out there and play well and he’ll encourage us. There are big shoes to fill, literally and figuratively, because he’s such a unique talent and player and person but we have to still go out there and try to win games.

Q: How important is it to have a receiver who can fight for the ball when it’s in the air? It seems like Kenbrell Thompkins has that knack.

TB: Yeah, that’s so important to trust that a guy can make a play when there’s one-on-one coverage. When the ball is up in the air, it’s up for grabs. I’ve been around a lot of players where, especially guys with defensive mentalities like defensive backs, they feel they need to go attack the ball. When I was in college with Charles Woodson, he would go after that football as a defensive player and that was his ball when it was in the air. Then when we put him at receiver, it was really the same way which made him probably one of the best receivers on our team at the time too. That’s really where I learned that, is you – not only professionally – you watch guys that attack the football. We’ve had a lot of guys that have played with us: Kevin Faulk, Troy (Brown) definitely did. You watch Tony Gonzalez the other night, he goes and gets the football when it’s in the air. That’s what a quarterback can really gain trust in: when that ball is there, your guy is either going to come down with it and certainly their guy won’t and if nobody does, nobody does. The risk-reward in a situation like that, which football is a game of risk-reward, especially when you’re throwing it, when you put it in a place where your guy can make a play on it and the other guy comes down with it, you have to think twice the next time you’re in that situation. But if your guy is always coming down with it, then you keep giving him opportunities. That’s how trust works and you build that in practice, you build it in games and you just keep working on it.

Q: Does Kenbrell Thompkins have that knack? That long reception, he stuck in there even though he’d have a player coming at him.

TB: Yeah, he did. He’s done great since he got here; that’s why he’s been out there so much, why he’s had so many opportunities because he continues to do those things. That gains trust, certainly in me but also Coach Belichick, (offensive coordinator) Josh (McDaniels), the other players on the team. When the ball is going to a particular guy and good things are happening, you just want to keep giving him the ball. You have to find different ways to get it, but whenever you’re coming down with those balls, that’s a great thing.

Q: What about Kenbrell Thompkins’ mental resilience? He had that diving catch one play after dropping a pass.

TB: The mental toughness that you show in those situations to put those past plays behind you is so important for all of us. You’re going to make some poor plays out there. You have to be able to put those behind you and move forward. He did that the other night. He’s done a great job of that, putting those plays behind him and saying, ‘Alright, what’s next?’ even when we win the game, he’s like, ‘That was good, but let’s keep getting after it.’ That’s what I really appreciate about him: his willingness to get better and make the improvements and like all of us, come to work every day and see what he can do to help the team win.

Q: Julian Edelman has 34 catches, tied for the NFL lead. What are your thoughts on his production this year in the context of watching him come into the league and convert from being a college quarterback?

TB: He’s done great taking advantage of his opportunities. He and I spent a lot of time together over the years. I’m glad it’s really paying off. He had a great opportunity to take advantage of and he’s done it. It’s a credit to him and his work ethic, his mental toughness. To play college quarterback with such – I’d love to see those old tapes of him running around because he’s kind of a spaz, I don’t know if you guys know that. I always say, ‘God, what were you like in the huddle as a quarterback? How could anyone look at you seriously?’ But I guess he did pretty good. He definitely can’t throw the ball so he made the right switch to receiver at the right time. He’s been great. Very hard worker, he’s dedicated, nobody works harder than Julian. It’s hard when you’re playing behind Wes [Welker] for all these years. You’re just not going to get a lot of opportunity because Wes was such a great player, was durable and Jules never got a chance. Now he’s got it and it doesn’t look like he’s slowing down at all.

Q: The touchdown pass to Matt Mulligan, how did you find him and why were you looking for him? He’s not a receiver.

TB: Matt’s done great since he got here too. He got here four weeks ago and you throw the whole offense at him and you go, ‘OK, learn these 1,000 things here and know them very well in the next 24 hours.’ He’s just been working really hard to understand what we do. If him to go out there and make that play, that was pretty cool for a guy that wasn’t even on the roster five weeks ago, to make a play like that in the game. It was a goal-line route, he was part of one of the guys out on the route. I was looking for Hooman (Michael Hoomanawanui), he got knocked down, (Zach) Sudfeld got banged around a little bit and nobody was on Matt. I just tossed it to him and he swallowed it up. That was pretty cool.

∎ Belichick

Q: What kind of progression has (Cincinnati quarterback) Andy Dalton made? Is he doing things now he wasn’t able to do as a rookie?

BB: Yeah, sure, every player. Of course, he’s getting good coaching, he’s in a good program, he’s with a good team. He’s definitely developed. His rookie year there was a lot of, or certainly an element of just managing the game with him. I think he’s well beyond that. He handles himself well back there; he does a good job of making changes in the offense at the line of scrimmage. They give him that responsibility, he does that. You can see him do it a number of times on film. Again, I think he utilizes all of his weapons offensively: the tight ends, the backs, the receivers, the deep balls, the intermediate, going to check-downs and secondary and third receivers – he does all that. I think he’s a good, solid player for them at that position with very good skill players around him and an experienced offensive line. Like I said, it’s an explosive offense.

Q: Is there a player or players that can fill the void for Vince Wilfork?

BB: I think everybody is going to have to, we’re all going to have to pull that rope. There’s no Vince Wilfork, you just don’t replace Vince Wilfork. We’ll still have his presence around the team and in the locker room and those types of things, which he’s great at. On the field, we’ll miss him but whoever is out there, those other 11 guys that are out there, we’re all going to have to pull a little bit harder, including the coaching staff and all that. It’s a big loss, but we’re just going to have to find a way to do it. That means everybody doing their job. Obviously somebody is going to have to replace him and whoever those people are, they’re’ going to have to answer the bell but collectively as a team, we’re all going to have to pull together. There’s no one person that can replace Vince Wilfork.

Q: Do you have to change what you want out of that position?

BB: Look, he hasn’t played every single play. There have been times when he hasn’t been on the field. It isn’t like we haven’t seen him not on the field but obviously he’s been a key guy for us and he plays a lot. We had to deal with that in the Atlanta game and we’ll deal with it going forward. We may do that, some things I’m sure we’ll continue to do, there may be a couple things that we may need to modify when he’s not in there. We’ll see how that goes.

Q: Is there a reason he wasn’t put on IR? Are you still evaluating?

BB: When we have anything to announce, we’ll announce it, I’ll put it that way.

Q: Is (LeGarrette Blount) giving you what you thought he was capable of?

BB: Yeah, I mean, I think he’s a good player and he’s played well. He’s played well for us, again, going all the way back to the preseason. He has good run skills, he has good vision, he’s a big, strong guy, he’s got good speed, catches the ball well. He’s been a dependable player for us. We asked him to do kickoff returns, he’s done that. He’s really done everything we asked him to do. We also have a lot of confidence in our other backs: Shane (Vereen) and obviously Stevan (Ridley), Leon (Washington), Brandon (Bolden), they’ve all done a good job too. We think we’ve gotten good production from that entire group. When we’ve asked him to do something, he’s stepped in there and given us good production. I mean really I thought the run that he had on the third-and-one in Atlanta was about as good a run as we’ve had all year. I don’t know about the spot on that one. He did everything he could to get that first down. It was a very close play. Nobody will every talk about that one, but I think that’s as good a run as we’ve had. I don’t know if it gained any yards, but it was a good run.

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