PATRIOTS DL VINCE WILFORK
JANUARY 8, 2013
Q: Do you guys account for the fact that the Texans may feel like they owe you one after the regular season game?
VW: Yeah, we know that. They didn’t play their best game. They know that and we know that. Come Sunday we are expecting their best. It’s all or nothing from here on out and for us; we have to be able to execute. If we don’t execute, we’ll have troubles. First, it starts with their running game. It starts with [Arian] Foster – the more touches that he gets, in the passing game or on the ground, the better that team is. But I’m pretty sure they’re sitting down there saying, ‘You know what? They played us in the regular season and things didn’t go well.’ We basically outplayed them and they feel that they are a better football team and they are a better football team. There’s a reason that they’re in the postseason and there’s a reason that we’re in the postseason. So I don’t think anything from that game is going to play a huge factor. I think it will give them more momentum or give them more of an edge that they will want to come back up here and face us and try to beat us in Foxborough. So we can control what we can control, and that’s going to practice and working hard and trying to fix little kinks and stuff. We had a good chance to get back to work last week. We had two days of good practices, working on things that we think can help us moving forward. But it’s going to come down to execution – that’s what it’s going to boil down to. A bunch of guys making plays – who can make the most plays and who can execute well. That’s what this game is going to boil down to.
Q: What are some of the challenges of facing a team that runs a zone blocking scheme?
VW: Well always cut blocks. That’s something that they do very, very well. Their zone running scheme, stretch runs [and they] mix in a couple scheme runs. But playing cut blocks is always a big challenge when you’re facing a team like this because it seems like – I don’t care if you’re getting cut on the front side or the back side, that running back sees it and he hits it right off that cut block. So up front it’s going to be very important for us to try to stay on our feet and make sure that we are playing our blocks pretty good. And hopefully everybody around us is doing the same thing. But it’s always tough. Any team that runs the ball the way they run the ball and has the play-action and the bootlegs and all the stuff that comes after that, it’s a big challenge for us. But we’ve faced it, we’ve seen it a bunch of times, so we kind of know how we want to play this game. If we play it the way that we need to play it, we’ll be OK.
VW: Absolutely. I expect to see the best. Whatever they have, I expect to see it – the kitchen sink if it’s called for. But last week you saw why this guy is one of the top offensive players in the game – not just a back, but a top offensive player in the game – the things that he can do with the ball in his hands in the pass game and running it. He’s a great blocker when they ask him to block. I mean he’s a special player and we understand that. We know it starts with their running game. I mean you can’t x-out the receiver,
Q: You must have been pretty happy that you guys built an early lead in the last game and were able to take Arian Foster out of the game. Is it a huge relief for you to see the offense come out like that?
VW: Well anytime that you can get a team one dimensional that’s a big plus. Every team tries to do that. We try to do it, I’m pretty sure Houston tries to do it. It just bottles up a bunch of things when you can get a team like that one-sided; knowing when you can expect the pass, you can expect this and you can expect that. But when a team is on track and when they are running the ball good and throwing the ball good and the play action is good and the special teams are good, it’s tough. So you have to be able to play 60 minutes of good football. So we’re at the time now where we’re going to have to play that. We’re definitely going to have to play that from here on out. But starting with this game first, we have to put it together for one game and then move forward hopefully.
Q: Do you get an added sense of excitement at this time of the year? You have played a number of big games over your career, but is there still a step up in adrenaline for you?
VW: Absolutely. I mean, you lose and you go home, plain and simple. There’s no more next week or next time that we face them. You’re talking about next season. So we all have to be at our best. I have to be at my best, my teammates have to be at their best and the coaches have to be at their best. Coach [Belichick] has done a great job this year putting us in situations that make us successful. So hopefully we can carry it on, but we all have to raise it a notch just a little bit. Going forward we’re going to have to play like that. Like I said, hopefully this isn’t our last game. We go into this game like our backs are against the wall. You lose and you go home. That’s reality. There’s nothing else to it. You can’t sugar coat it; you lose and you go home, you win and you move on. We want to win and we have to do everything that we can to try to win. It starts in practice.
Q: For you specifically, what have been the physical benefits of the bye week? Do you feel like a new man after a few days off?
VW: I mean you could take it however you want to take it, but I think everybody treats it different. For me, it was doing what I needed to do to feel good. [I] still worked out, got a chance to watch football, got a chance to enjoy my family and got a chance to get away. Just clear your head and prepare for what’s soon to come hopefully. That’s how I approached it. Just knowing my level of play had to go up and my teammates’ level of play had to go up. So the best way to do that is to show; lead by example. A lot of times people think you have to talk; you don’t have to talk a lot. If you go to work and everybody sees that you’re boosting your level of play, they’ll follow. That’s my goal. Go out to practice today and boost our level of play up and hopefully guys can see that and hopefully I can bring some guys with me. We have a great group of guys now. I’m pretty sure that they’ll be ready, they’ll be excited [and] they should be. We’ve worked very, very hard to get to this point, but we can’t stop now. We can’t stop now, especially if we want to continue to play. So we have to do whatever it takes to win.
Q: After winning the Super Bowl right away as rookie, are you surprised that you have not won another one yet? Are you hungrier each year to get another one?
VW: Winning is hard. Winning one early in my career, you kind of get the sense that it happens like this all the time, but it doesn’t. It’s very, very hard to win at this level – at any level. We all play this game for one goal: to be champions, plain and simple. You can’t take a situation and overlook it. And the situation for us is the Houston Texans. We can’t overlook this team. We have to go in and play good football. If we play well, we’ll be OK, but if we don’t, we’ll be in trouble.
Q: A lot of times players will get a big contract and then their level of play drops off on the field. That really has not been the case with you. What do you attribute that to?
VW: I’m a football player. The passion and the love for the game that I have – money is good, but at the same time I played this game through high school, through college and now I’ve got the chance to play this game and people pay me to play what I love to do. So I never try to let that justify why I should play and why I shouldn’t play. It’s all in the heart: the passion and the love for the guys that you have in this locker room, love for the organization. That’s how I was brought up: I always loved sports, mainly football – I loved it – and until the day I don’t, that will be my last calling. But as long as I’m enjoying myself, I’ll continue to play no matter the price. It’s just love for the game.
Q: As a fellow University of Miami alum, were you pleased to see that last Sunday was not Ray Lewis’ last game?
VW: You know what, that guy means so much to the NFL. When I’m old and retired, this game is going to go on. People are always going to remember Ray Lewis. Always. He’s going to be remembered because the love that he has and the passion he has – I mean the way he can get guys to rally around him, it’s unbelievable. He’s a special guy. He’s a special, special guy, especially [as a] football player. He has every tool to be a great player. When you talk about being great and you talk about defense, the first person that comes to your mind is Ray Lewis. What he’s done over the years is ridiculous. He’s just a hell of a player, he’s a hell of a person. He’s just a great, great icon.
Q: Did it stir up some emotions watching him play last week?
VW: When I saw him come out and do his [dance], it was special, because everybody knows that trademark from him – his dance. You know, Bill [Belichick] called it a war dance. When he did that it sent chills up your body because he’s been doing this for so long. It’s hard to see a guy that’s been doing it for so long and at the level that he’s been doing it – it’s unheard of. That’s class. When you talk about greatness, you’re talking about greatness right there. He’s one of the best that has ever done it. His name can be with some of the greatest of all-time at the position and he shows it. For 17 years he’s shown it.
Q: Your name has been showing up on these all-pro lists as one of the four best defensive linemen in the NFL. What does that mean to you?
VW: It’s always an honor to get recognition like that, but to me I have always believed I was put on this earth to play football. At the end of the day that’s what I know: football, I know football. I know I can play football. I know what it takes to play football. I know what it takes to win. I know how it feels to lose. I’ve been in a lot of battles in my life in football. So all the recognition and accolades that come with it, that’s great. But at the end of the day I want to win, plain and simple. I try to do whatever I can to help this ball club win, because at the end of the day that’s what you get judged by – wins and losses. So I’ve always rolled like that and I’m always going to roll like that. I’m a big fan of team. If I wasn’t, I would be throwing shot put somewhere – which I can do. That was fine, but I love playing football and with football comes teammates, coaches, discipline, fundamentals, technique – [there are] so many things involved and it’s always a challenge. I’m always challenging myself to get better and until the day that I can’t, or my body tells me, ‘You know what Vince you can’t do it anymore,’ I’m going to continue to do it.
Q: Could we see you throwing the shot put in the Olympics one day?
VW: Man, I might be too old then. Those years have passed. But it’s fun because I actually have shot puts at my house. I bought them a couple years ago and last year I went out in the yard to see if I could throw it and I was OK [laughs]. I was OK, it’s like riding a bicycle.
Q: Did you throw it 70 feet?
VW: No, not 70 feet. I don’t have that in me anymore.
Q: How much do you think playoff experience matters?
VW: Well it only matters if you make it matter. You have to understand what’s at stake. I think that’s the biggest thing, for this team to understand where we’re at [and] what it’s going to take to win. That’s when you talk about how many times you’ve been in the postseason and stuff like that. But if you can’t put it out and you can’t execute, I don’t care how many times you’ve been at this level or how many games you’ve played in the postseason, it won’t matter. It will not matter. So we have guys that have been here before and we have guys that haven’t been here before. So our job is to make these guys understand what it takes to win, especially in a situation like this. Like I said, we have some good teammates – great teammates. They understand what we need to do to go out and perform our best. We just have to go out and execute.
PATRIOTS WR MATTHEW SLATER
January 8, 2013
Q: What has it been like getting a chance to work with the core special teamers this year?
MS: It’s been a blast; I’ve had a lot of fun with these guys this year. It’s a group that takes a lot of pride in what we do and we have a lot of fun doing it. I think there’s a good combination of veteran guys with experience and young guys that are willing and eager and understand this is how they’re going to make their bones in this league and they’ve embraced their role. Overall, it’s been one of the most fun seasons I’ve had as a part of this team. Hopefully we can keep it going.
Q: How much does playoff experience matter?
MS: I think it helps a little bit but every year is a different year. What happens in the regular season usually has no bearing on what happens in the postseason. I think it helps for guys that have played in the big games to know what to understand and expect as far as the speed of the game, the intensity of the game – it’s nothing like a regular season game. Like I said, every year is different, every team is different, every situation is different so you can’t really rely on past experiences to kind of expect it to be the same when you get to the game this year.
Q: Can you convey the speed of the game in the playoffs to some of the younger players who have never been there?
MS: We can try to preach to them all week and try to put it in their head but I know for me, until I got out there and actually felt it, I didn’t understand what it was like. But we’ll be on those young guys all week to let them know, ‘Listen, this is not the regular season. This is not what you guys have experienced up until this point.’ But I think until they get out there the first couple series, the first couple plays, then they won’t really understand what it is.
Q: I know some guys have said the difference between the preseason and the regular season is the same as the difference between the regular season and the postseason. What is your take on it in terms of the jump in speed and intensity?
MS: I can agree with that, definitely. The preseason obviously is a different feel and you go to the regular season and it’s a much different feel; the speed. I think the jump is just as drastic from the regular season to the postseason. I think it’s a one-game season for everybody and nobody is holding anything back, not that we do that during the regular season but it’s a drastic difference.
Q: You have had success during your five years here. How hungry does it make you personally that you’ve had that success but have not won a Super Bowl yet. How hungry does that make you to go all the way?
MS: I think the sole reason that you play this game is to be the best and you want to be the best team. This is the ultimate team sport. To be able to come as close as we did last year and have past failures in my previous seasons here, it just drives you and motivates you more. I think that we’re a team that’s very hungry. We don’t feel like we’ve accomplished anything, we don’t feel like we’ve arrived at all because it’s all for naught unless you do something in the postseason. We’re very driven, very motivated, very focused – myself personally and my teammates. We feel like we have a lot left to accomplish and hopefully we’re able to do that.
Q: What are the benefits of playing a team in the playoffs that you have faced in the regular season?
MS: I think that you’re familiar with their personnel. Usually a team like Houston, we wouldn’t have played them in the regular season because they’re not in our division, but we have some familiarity with their personnel and their schemes. I think it’s important for us not to rely on our past game and expect this game to go the same way. It’s nice that we know their personnel, know how they feel out there, going against those guys, competing against them but we expect it to be a totally different ballgame. We expect this to be a different team that shows up here this weekend and we know we’re in for a fight.
Q: Are there any drawbacks to playing a team you’ve already played?
MS: I wouldn’t say there are. Each game is its own and I think that will be the case this weekend.
Q: Does being familiar with their personnel affect or impact your preparation this week?
MS: I think it will a little bit. I think you go back and look at the tape and see what things worked for you as an individual and as a team and what things didn’t go so well. I think you can know what to focus on, what you can do better, what you can continue to do well hopefully. Experience is a great teacher and we’ve had some experience with these guys this year, so hopefully we can use that to our advantage.
Q: How does experience help the coaches and coordinators and how does that help you guys?
MS: I think our coaches do a tremendous job each and every week of putting us in great positions to have success. This staff knows how to prepare for the postseason; they know what it takes to win, starting with Coach Belichick. He knows how to get his teams ready and the coordinators, they’ve been in big games, they have that big experience. Them as the leaders of our team essentially will, hopefully, trickle down and help the players get prepared and focused; their experience will kind of rub off on us as we prepare for this weekend.
Q: Who has the most pressure this week – you or Houston?
MS: I think both teams have a lot of pressure on them because it’s a one-game season and whoever doesn’t perform well, their season is over. I think both teams have pressure on them. It’s the playoffs – every team left has pressure on them at this point.
Q: Can you tell a discernible difference between three days off versus one or two that you might have seen in the regular season? What’s the benefit of that? How much of an effect has that had on the team?
MS: It was definitely a good opportunity for us to take some time and kind of lick our wounds a little bit. I don’t expect it to give us some great edge or advantage come Sunday. These guys are going to come in here hungry. They feel like they owe us. We can’t think, ‘Oh, well we had the bye so we’re going to be OK.’ That’s not going to be the case at all. Hopefully we get everybody healthy and out there on the field this week, but when it comes down to, it we have to go line up and play the game this weekend.
PATRIOTS WR DEION BRANCH
January 8, 2013
Q: What kind of style are you seeing from
DB: It’s a little of everything. I think Coach [Wade] Phillips has all the guys playing great. I think the best thing about that position for him and the rest of the guys is that they can trust their front line and front seven to get to the quarterback and that allows them to do a couple things in the back and make some plays. They do a great job. I think overall all those guys are playing pretty good.
Q: When the front seven can get there like that, does the ball need to come out quicker or is that too simple?
DB: Trust me, we want to make sure we get the ball out of Tom’s [Brady] hands and make sure that we’re doing what we’re supposed to do and we’re where we’re supposed to be at for Tom. We can’t worry about what the front line is doing. We have to do our job. I think so far everything has been good. We have been doing it and right now we need to do a little bit more for the guys to make sure we’re down the field where Tom wants us to be and I think we’ll be OK.
Q: What are the differences between
DB: I think they’re both about the same. Both of the guys are pretty physical guys, very instinctive players. They’re great with the ball; they have a lot of great hand-eye coordination. Both of those guys make plays on the ball. I think the safeties – [Glover] Quin and [Danieal] Manning – both of those guys are very active as well, especially in the run game. I think they have the right guys in place to run the system that they’re running.
Q: Do you still get pumped up for the postseason?
DB: Always. I get pumped up for the regular season games, all of it. It’s a blessing just to play this game and now to be in the position that we’re in.
Q: You have a lot of guys on this team who play big roles who have never been in the postseason before. How do you tell them what it’s going to be like?
DB: I think this is the time for the veteran guys to show them that in practice and in the meeting rooms. We don’t want to wait until game day, that’s sort of too late. I think it’s all about getting focused, being in tune right now in the meeting rooms and our walkthroughs and then carrying it over to the practice field. Once the guys see the sense of urgency that the veteran guys are putting out on the football field, the guys that haven’t been a part will just fall right in.
Q: Did that start last week or did it start today?
DB: It started last week. We had some great practices last week and then started off today as well.
Q: What are some of the benefits to playing a team in the postseason that you played in the regular season?
DB: I think the only thing is we both have film on a game from a couple weeks ago. I think that’s about it. As far as what the score was, the game that we won four or five weeks ago doesn’t matter. This is a one-game season. We play each other at 4:30 Sunday, that’s the only game that matters, for both teams, especially for us.
Q: Does it help to look at their most recent game from last week as opposed to looking at the film from your game with them in December?
DB: It’s good but the difference is they’re playing Cincinnati. We know for a fact that it’s going to be a totally different game plan. We don’t do the same things that Cincinnati does. It still rolls back to the film that we have of each other. Once the game starts, there’s going to be a bunch of different things they’re throwing around on both sides of the ball. Once the game settles down, we should see exactly what they’re doing.
Q: Do you have to wait for them to start the game to see what they’re doing?
DB: No. I think our biggest thing is to make sure we come out and start fast, regardless of what they’re doing. We have a great game plan and I know we’re going to continue to progress as the week goes on. Today we started with some great plays, went out and executed those plays and we’re expecting the rest of the week to be the same. We want to make sure we start fast.
Q: What is the game plan?
DB: Man, that’s a tough one. You almost got me.
Q: How much more forward do you look to a playoff game as opposed to a regular season game when you’re at this juncture in your career?
DB: I think that’s the most important thing that you just said, going into my 11th year and I’m still having a lot of fun. I love playing the game. I enjoy being in the locker room, being around my teammates and I think this is what it’s all about. We spend so much time together as players. This is where we want to be, this is the position we want to be in and hopefully we can better ourselves as the postseason goes on.
Q: Does the way last season ended provide extra hunger and motivation?
DB: You can say so but last year was last year. We want to make this team, the 2012 Patriots team, a special team. Each year is going to be something different. We’re a lot better than we were last year. We don’t have the same players. That team, the 2011 team, was totally different from this year. But you can use that as a little motivation.
Q: Tom Brady needs just one more win to be the all-time winningest quarterback in the postseason. What is his demeanor as he leads the team in the playoffs?
DB: You see it in the classroom, you see it on the practice field. This is the same leader that when I came into the league in 2002, he’s still the same way. He’s still motivating guys, pushing guys. He’s a perfectionist and we all strive for it. At the same time, we all know that we’re going to make some mistakes but let’s make sure we do a little bit more, make a lot more plays than our opponents and that’s what it’s all about.
Q: Do you use the Jets loss in 2010 after beating them in the regular season as motivation?
DB: I promise you we don’t think about that. That one hasn’t come up at all.
Q: Some people say that you guys lucked out. What do you think about that?
DB: Anybody can say that. Just like we felt like we threw a bunch of games early in the season. We got the number two seed because that’s what we deserved. We put ourselves in that position. We went out and didn’t take care of business on our own so we had to depend on someone else. I think most of all, there’s nothing we can do to control that part. We can just go out and play and the position we were at with the seeding, it is what it is.
Q: What about some people calling the Texans a cupcake game?
DB: No, trust me, you’re going to see a different Texans team. That we all know, I promise you that. They’re a great team. They’ve been a great team all season long. Unfortunately they ran into a couple stumbles but that’s football. Trust me, it won’t be the same team that we played five weeks ago.
Q: How big of an advantage could it be to have Rob Gronkowski back?
DB: It’ll be great. It will be big for us. I’m pretty sure the coaches are going to continue to install Gronk through the game plan to make sure he gets his touches and he’s around the ball.
Q: Knowing that you’re closer to the end of your career than the beginning, do you give it any thought that this could be your last time?
DB: No, I don’t think about that part. I don’t think about, especially ending as far as the postseason. Each year, whatever team you’re on, that may not be the first goal. Your first goal is winning the division, if you win the division, you’re in the postseason. No I don’t really think about that. I’m just year-to-year.
Q: How about thinking about how the opportunities are more limited now?
DB: Exactly. This is what it’s all about now, the opportunity. Just make sure I’m there for my team whenever my name is called upon; just doing my job.
Q: Where did you watch the first game when the team played the Texans on Monday night?
DB: Me and my wife watched the game in the basement.
Q: Up here?
DB: Yeah, I was here.
Q: How fired up were you for the game even though you weren’t playing?
DB: It felt good just to see the guys doing the things that they did do in the game. You always know it and because I’m around it, but when you’re away from it and you’re watching as a fan, I was very pleased and very happy to see that. It’s really nothing new because we can do a lot of great things if we go out and execute our plays the way we’re supposed to; that type of performance.
Q: Do you talk to the TV when you’re watching the game?
DB: No, I actually have it on mute. I put the television on mute.
Q: Did you watch the game thinking you might be back in that kind of situation?
DB: Trust me, however the marbles fall, I just let them fall. There are a lot of things you can’t control in life. Trust me, if I was one of the personnel guys, I’d be around every week [until I’m] 40, 45 years old, but that’s not my decision. If I was one of the personnel guys… but I don’t make those decisions.