Technically, Dean Pees holds that job now. But Beisel was speaking figuratively, not literally. What he craves is a complete understanding of a defense that he appeared to struggle with in his first season with the Patriots.
"I want to get to that point where I'm completely comfortable and I'm out there coaching the defense," Beisel said at the Patriots' three-day minicamp. "This is one of those systems where (learning it) is (an) ongoing (process). There are things that we continue to add, day in and day out."
No matter what tweaks the Patriots make this season, Beisel should be better prepared in Year 2. "It's like anything -- when you've been doing something for a long, long time it takes a while to adapt to change," said Beisel, 27, who spent his first four seasons with the Chiefs. "The fortunate thing about having this offseason and going into my second year here is that I've had time to adapt."
With Bruschi planning to sit out the 2005 season after a stroke, or so we thought, and Johnson retiring on the eve of training camp, big things were expected of Beisel and fellow free agent Chad Brown last year. They were the Week 1 starters inside, but both quickly fell out of favor and eventually were replaced by Mike Vrabel, who shifted from his outside spot, and Bruschi, who made a triumphant return in Week 8.
Brown was let go in the offseason, but Beisel is back to take another crack at the lineup. At the minicamp he was working inside with Bruschi, while Vrabel and Colvin manned the perimeter, where the Patriots are without Willie McGinest, who signed with Cleveland as a free agent.
Asked how he thought Beisel was fairing in his second go-around, Bruschi said, "I think it's a little too early (to tell). This is his first minicamp with a whole year under his belt. Let's get through the minicamp and a couple of weeks of training camp and see how he's adjusting."
Beisel is seeing more time at the "will" linebacker spot than at the "mike," where he played much of the time last year. The "will" gets to run around a little more, while the "mike" is more of a stay-at-home run defender -- a job description that fit Johnson perfectly.
Beisel admitted that last year's demotion was difficult, saying, "It's always tough mentally when you're not playing as much. As a player you prepare all year to go out there and perform on Sundays. When you're not getting that opportunity it's definitely tough."
Still, he chalked it up as a "learning experience" and said it didn't affect his confidence.
"I don't think there's any question" that he can be successful in the Patriots' system, Beisel said. "When you play in this league you can't go out there and question your own abilities. That's not the case at all."