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The Patriots Have to Balance Winning and Staying Healthy

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Timing is important when asking Patriots head coach Bill Belichick a question. Sometimes he is in the mood to answer the media. Sometimes he is not. We just witnessed one of the greatest Belichick press conference moments and we can't afford to let his greatness pass us by.

Monday

Question: You've earned a first-round bye. How do you balance trying to win these final two games and also rest players who have some injuries or are recovering from injuries?

Belichick: That's a good question. I think we just probably do the best we can to manage all those things that you talked about. They are all somewhat of a consideration and we've just got to try to balance it out. I think each part of your question requires some thought and every decision impacts other things as well, so you just can't act independently when one thing happens when there is a residual effect to it one way or another as part of the conversation.

We'll just have to do the best that we can to balance all those things out. That's something we'll have to give some thought to and get as much information as possible because there are some guys that are in various states of physical health. We'll have to work our way through all that. It's definitely a challenging situation. I wish I had a cleaner answer on it, but really we're just going to have to work it out.

Belichick wasn't able to give a great answer because it's a fairly complicated question. The Patriots clearly want to win in order to lock up a bye week, but they can't really risk the health and playoff availability of some players that are currently less than 100% at this point.

So an intrepid reporter asked Belichick the following:

Question: Considering that nobody is truly 100 percent healthy at this time of year, how do you decide when somebody like Dont'a Hightower is healthy enough to play?

Belichick: That's another good question that relates to I'd say a whole number of factors - one, just strictly what's the player's medical condition, and so that can define it right there. If he's out, he's out.

Then it's "can play but less than 100 percent" and then that depends on or that conversation continues into how it goes in practice, how it looked in practice, how the player feels, possibly what you're going to be asking him to do in the game if you can determine that, but sometimes depending on what position it is, you can possibly narrow down sort of what the role would be or what you'd ask them to do.

How long is another question - how many and how long - so could the player go out there and play two or three plays - yeah, probably. Could he play 60 plays - no, you wouldn't want him to do that. So what's the right number in there? Maybe you could talk about that during the game or maybe it's something you try to define before the game and work the player's role into that.

But again at the same time you have to play the game and there are circumstances and events that happen within the game that you can't plan for. You don't know how it's going to go, so once you get into the game you have to be able to utilize the players that are available in a competitive way during the game.

It's again a long kind of complicated discussion, but again once the player is cleared to play and he's able to play and he feels confident that he can play and so forth, then some of these other things come into play. Until that point, then there's nothing really to talk about.

Two good questions in a row! Belichick expanded upon how he processes and handles injuries, which is like seeing the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot playing poker, and he gave a pretty good answer.

If a player is less than 100%, but still available to play, then it's up to the player and the coaches to figure out the player's utilization for the game. Some injuries, like knee injuries, can limit players from participating in 100% of the snaps. Tight end Rob Gronkowski and receiver Danny Amendola were able to play at less than 100% because the coaching staff kept them on a snap limit.

Some can play, some can't, some have their availability change over the course of a game, and some might play a little bit more if homefield advantage is on the line.

Belichick gave a great answer. Let's see what happens when a reporter tries to ask another question on the same topic.

Wednesday

Question: I know you talked in a conference call about utilizing players at this time of the year when the division is already wrapped up. Could you elaborate on that?

Belichick: No.

That's a perfect 10/10 response. Bill, we are not worthy.