New England Patriots special teams coordinator Scott O'Brien met with the media today, just before the team hit the field for Day four practice at Training Camp. Here are some of the subjects that he touched on:
On Aaron Hernandez Returning Punts In Camp
"I think anytime you're a ball handler, one of the hardest things to do is to catch punts. It's not only a great drill for any receiver as well as punt returners to focus in on trying to catch a ball that normally is tougher to catch than a quarterback throwing you a ball."
"They go out every day to get their work done. Nobody's ever, every good enough. There's always something that they're focused on. If we come off the field one day and there's something we notice technique-wise that we weren't doing correctly, that becomes the emphasis the next time we go out there.
"But they go out every day to get better, they're pretty good self starters. They know what it takes. They know where they're at. Physically, they're in good shape. They're getting their timing, they're getting their rhythm and trying to improve every single day.
On Rookie Nate Ebner, And His Potential To Make An Impact On Special Teams
"Well, I think physically he has the skill set to have a chance to do what he did in college here, and to compete here. And so that opportunity is going to present itself, but as far as being a skill guy, to us it's really too early to tell because with all of our young players, we're starting them at a position with every phase so they can just get acclimated to terminology, techniques, before you can even advance. What we always try to do is to put our players in positions, no matter what it is, with us in the kicking game, it's different from the standpoint of they have to have the physical skills that we're asking them to do. It's not like being a running back or being a linebacker on offense or defense, we're asking them to do something physically that they have to have the physical skills to do what we're asking them to do and then work on the technique involved there. So, he's like all of our young players, he's starting at a position, he's learning the system, and he's going out and working his technique, and overall, all the young guys are working hard and doing a pretty good job."
On The Development Of The Team's Kickoff Return Game
"Obviously, last year, was an area of still inexperience for us. It's like any phase, at the end of the season you're always looking to improve no matter how good you or or how poor you are. But you're evaluating schemes, personnel what you have, what you can go forward with.
"It's like anything, it's a point of emphasis for us, but it always is. In our case it's a good example of the learning curve of the things that happened the way they happened that were either good or bad, and hopefully we can learn from those things and continue to improve."
On Julian Edelman's Development As The Team's Punt Returner
"Well you know in Julian's case, I mean he's one example of a lot of examples through the history of the National Football League, had no experience doing it, had some natural instincts, pretty good ball skills. But again, there was a learning curve for him, not only catch that ball, understand what the ball was doing in the air, how it was going to come down, and worked really hard on it. The biggest improvement for him, like all young guys, is not only learning our schemes and what our strategies are for certain situations, but field awareness. When you're on the field, what's happening to the coverage that you're going to face, what do you have to do as a returner, what decision do I have to make. And it's hard for young guys, even if they had experience coming in with us at the beginning, let alone a guy that's never really done it. And he's worked hard, he's still working on it, he still has some things that he has to improve on there, but he feels more comfortable now. It's like he plays everything before the play even happens, and that's what you're looking for."