- Field Yates, ESPN Insider
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Here are some sound bites from Patriots coach Bill Belichick's conference call with the media Monday morning:
On how offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels did in adjusting on the fly without Rob Gronkowski: "You have to go into every game with some type of backup plan for everybody. Certainly as it relates to your personnel groups, like at the tight end position, you use more wide receivers, or the wide receiver position, if that were to get thin, more backs or more tight ends. You have to be ready to handle all that. But I thought that the offensive coaches and the players did a good job adjusting to that; they went into some different personnel groupings, but those are things that we've practiced and we've prepared for."
On the fill-in tight ends, Matthew Mulligan and James Develin: "I think both of those guys, kind of like we talked about last week with James, but put Matt in that category, too -- they're both role players in our offense. Sometimes their roles are a little bit bigger or a little bit smaller from game to game; it depends on the game plan and the situation. But when they're called on, they've been very dependable. [They're] both smart guys that are tough and really compete well and aren't afraid to get their hands dirty and do some of the tougher jobs that need to be done on the football field."
Is this the type of thing where you can have one player replace Rob Gronkowski, or will it take multiple people? "I think Rob, similar to the conversations we had with [linebacker] Jerod [Mayo] and [nose tackle] Vince [Wilfork], I don't think too many teams have players of that caliber at any position to put in another Rob or another Vince Wilfork or another Jerod Mayo. Whoever is in there is going to have to fulfill some of those duties, but it may expand to more people like we ended up having to do yesterday offensively. More four-receiver sets, three receivers and a tight end, or something like that. Or it might result in the tight ends getting more plays or some combination thereof. However that may be, it may change from game to game. Obviously, we -- unfortunately -- had to play without Rob for games at the beginning of the season. ... We dealt with that already this year."
Are you able to draw on what you guys did without Rob during the first six weeks? "I'd like to think there's going to be some carryover there. Not only is it the first six weeks of the season, but the entire training camp, as well. I think that's the way we practiced and played most of the year, including the preseason -- that's 10 games. It was great to have him back and he was obviously a big contributor for us, because he's an outstanding player. I hope that his situation isn't as serious as what it might be, but if it is, then I'm sure it'll be some combination of what we've already done this year. Or maybe because we have a few different players and we're at a different point of the season, it may be some different things, too."