- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Coach Bill Belichick addressed the New England Patriots' coaching structure for the first time since deciding not to name offensive and defensive coordinators, noting Monday at the NFL's owners meeting that his workload won't increase.
Belichick was flagged down in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel for a one-on-one interview in which he also touched on the team's free-agent activity, draft planning, and how he's energized for the 2010 season. He also shared his opinion on the NFL's modified overtime proposal, the Patriots' struggles in 2009, and his excitement over the likelihood that the team will be visiting the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving.
Since deciding to forgo naming coordinators on Feb. 5 and announcing that he would become more involved with the defense, Belichick has not detailed how responsibilities would be divided.
"I'm not going to take on more workload," Belichick told ESPNBoston.com. "It just might be distributed a little differently. That's the way it's been in the past. My workload hasn't changed in the last 10 years. It's been distributed differently, from year to year, or even within a year, within different timeframes of the year -- between personnel and football, or offense, defense and special teams as it relates just to football."
This year, Belichick will lead the defensive meeting room, a role previously held by former defensive coordinator Dean Pees. On the decision not to name coordinators, he explained that the titles aren't important to him, and that there is no concern about a mixed message as to who is in charge.
"The most important thing is for the staff to work together and be efficient and help the players, and coach them to play better. That's what we're really focused on doing," he said, adding that there is also an emphasis on improving the schemes utilized by the club.
"I think some of our younger staff members have gained a year of experience and we have a number of veteran people on our staff that do a good job. In the end, we'll try to coach the football team to the highest competitive level that we can. That's our goal this year and that's our goal every year."
Belichick did not reveal whether he will call the defense on game day, and said there is no official announcement on any other coaching changes (the team has yet to officially fill the tight ends job). He pointed out that his own responsibilities on the coaching staff could change as the season evolves.
As for the Patriots' busy offseason, in which re-signing the team's own free agents has been a top priority, Belichick explained the club's approach was simple.
"Some of the best players in free agency this year were Patriots," he said. "We re-signed a number of them, and a couple we didn't. The players that we did re-sign are quality players, and I'm glad we have them. That's been something that has really occurred over the last six months, when you include [Rob] Ninkovich, Nick [Kaczur], Sam Aiken and [Mark] LeVoir, and guys like that [who previously signed extensions]. It's not any one guy. It's a group of guys."
Belichick sidestepped questions on the future of veteran linebacker Adalius Thomas, speaking only in general terms that a roster is ever-changing. He acknowledged that the team has had negotiations with veteran free-agent tight end Alge Crumpler, but said that nothing is finalized with him at this point.
On reports that the Patriots will visit the Lions on Thanksgiving, he said: "I'm kind of excited about the Thanksgiving Day game. That's sort of a traditional game. Those of us who have played those games in high school, especially in New England, that's a big day for football. So to be a part of that ... We did that in '02. It's a short week but it's a special day."
While Belichick seemed excited to look ahead, a look back at the 2009 season produced a predictable response.
"Couldn't win on the road. Just didn't really do very well against the best teams, and a number of those were on the road," he said. "We played some good teams and we didn't win enough of those games."
Belichick, who turns 58 on April 16, said he is energized to return for his 11th season in New England. He is the third longest-tenured coach with the same team behind Jeff Fisher (Titans) and Andy Reid (Eagles).
Asked how much longer he plans to coach, he said: "I don't have any number on it, but I'm excited about the 2010 team."
Belichick said that he believes the AFC East will be strong and touched on the increased number of NFL teams running the 3-4 defense, which is one league trend that stands out to him. He pointed out that about half of the teams the Patriots will face this year will have new schemes, which creates a different challenge.
Belichick also detailed one aspect of the team's pre-draft scouting, when asked how it seems every day a new report surfaces that the Patriots are working out a prospect.
"I checked on it over the weekend and when you include the Senior Bowl, combine and other recent things like that, we've either worked out or interviewed 212 players," he said. "So we talk to a lot of players; some will end up with us, most won't.
"That's just part of the whole process and it's an ongoing process. Sometimes you end up on a player late and it ends up not meaning anything at all. Sometimes you end up on a player late, like [Julian] Edelman or like [Matt] Cassel, guys that probably at this point of the process in their respective draft years, we hadn't even talked to. For whatever reason, they came into focus later. There is not a master plan on that. You talk to players that you're interested in, and sometimes that perpetuates more of an interest, and sometimes it diminishes it a little bit, depending on whatever the process is, how that plays out."
As for Belichick's interest in the NFL's proposed modified overtime format, his reaction spoke as loudly as his answer.
"As you know, I like the rules of the game as they are in regulation. I think that's the way it should be in overtime, but that's not the way it is," he said. "So whatever it is, it is."
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.