FOXBORO -- One day after the Patriots traded Jamie Collins to the Browns for a compensatory pick, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia stood in front of a group of cameras and microphones trying to answer the same basic question: Why?
THE COLLINS TRADE: THE DAY AFTER
-- Curran: A drastic move for a not-so-drastic time
-- Lombardi reiterates: He's just not that good
-- Linebackers coach: Collins' 'freelancing' wasn't an issue
-- Butler: 'Shocked. Just shocked' at trade
Though he's not a member of the team's front office, though it's head coach Bill Belichick running the controls both on the field and off, Patricia worked closely with Collins on a daily basis and perhaps he had some insight as to why the Pro Bowl linebacker was no longer on the team.
"I think everybody understands Coach Belichick makes very difficult decisions about this football team every single day," Patricia said. "Obviously, like all of us, we care a lot about this team, we care a lot about our players. We care a lot about trying to make sure that we're always trying to do things that will help the team in any way possible.
"I don't really have a lot to say about [the trade] . . . Jamie was a great player, he was a great person, still is obviously. Close relationship with him. That's part of the reason we coach is to build those close relationships with players and help them become better players, but also better people. They obviously help us become better people.
"It changes. It's part of the league. It's part of what happens all the time. We understand that. We move on. We make sure we kind of focus on what's next. It's our next task. Look, whether it's roster moves, additions, subtractions, injuries, it's part of the game, it's part of what we expect. In general, for us, it's really about focusing on the forward part of everything.
"Obviously appreciate everything that he did while he was here. Won a championship with him. He was great in meetings, great just to be around. Just overall, everything was really good. It is what it is. We're just really focused on trying to take this week and get better. Take a look at the things we've been doing so far in the first eight weeks of the year. We got an eight game season coming up, and that's what we're focusing on."
Some of the indications made in different reports following up on the trade have been that Collins wasn't doing everything asked of him. Particularly in Sunday's win over the Bills, Collins has been criticized for doing his own thing at the expense of the team.
When asked if Collins wasn't meeting expectations on the field, Patricia chose to keep his focus trained on what's ahead.
"I think for us, it's just a focus of moving forward," he said. "That's really what it is. Jamie was a great player, a great person to be around, a great person to have in the program. Those decisions come up all the time. We're just trying to get ready and move forward and do what we always do."
Even when Collins' instincts were wrong -- as they were in a play highlighted by former assistant to the Patriots coaching staff Mike Lombardi yesterday -- there were other instances in which those instincts helped him make eye-opening plays.
There's a balance to allowing players to use their gut and having them do their job, Patricia explained.
"It's just football. Those guys are trying to play football," he said. "They're trying to understand. Everybody's trying to do their job. That's what we believe it. Part of that is you're going to do your job, but you're going to understand what everybody else's job is and be able to work together to play together. Those guys are out there playing. They gotta understand. They see things that you or I can't. Believe me, their reactions are way better than yours or mine in any case. They're going to be able to handle things that you or I don't even see."
Patricia added: "We try to teach from a conceptual standpoint, and the idea is for everybody to understand conceptually what are we doing or what are we trying to get done as a defense. From there, to understand how all those parts fit together so that when things happen on the field -- because it's not completely choreographed, it's not 100 percent accurate all the time -- you're going to see somebody that maybe should be here that's not because the guy across from him blocked him really well or whatever the case may be. Then understand how to replace or how to fit or how to adjust because of that is important to be able to do. I think the longer guys play together, the more they feel comfortable.
"It's amazing. They can read body language. They can feel one guy moving in a part direction. Through the course of my career, it's amazing to watch those guys play off of each other and react off of each other. Certainly that's part of the game and that's certainly something that you're going to want to have because you have to be able to react on defense. You have to be able to respond to what happens."
With one playmaker now out of the mix, the Patriots could turn to a handful of other players in order to try to patch together the role that's been vacated. That could mean more time for rookie Elandon Roberts. It could mean more time for the two linebackers the Patriots have acquired in trades this year, Barkevious Mingo and Kyle Van Noy.
Here's what Patricia had to say about all three . . .
On Roberts: "Guys that are up for the game are up for a reason and we expect them to perform at a high level for us. It's a process. It's a process for young guys that we bring in and we expect to develop. Certainly saw something in him going way back to the spring from a linebacker standpoint that he could handle certain things and he's grown since then obviously. By the time we got to training camp, got the pads on, saw some explosiveness, saw some power. He's got really good quickness, really good just linebacker instincts. He can see the ball. He knows where the ball is going. He's very fast to get there. All that's been positive. We're just trying to get him better and keep working. There's a lot of the game that he still has to learn as a young player in the NFL. There's a lot of the game that is still new to him, too. We're just trying to keep pushing him along and see as much as he can handle and as much as he can do."
On Mingo: "He certainly has some ability and some things that we see that we've used him for, and we'll continue to try to grow that through the process. He obviously is . . . We're still trying to break him in a little bit as far as learning everything and understanding what we're doing. He's doing a great job of studying and grinding and working hard so we'll see."
On Van Noy: "When you're kind of new for the first [time], there's a lot to learn, there's a lot to remember. We'll just keep pushing forward with it and kind of keep trying to grow."