On Wednesday afternoon, Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald answered questions from the Houston media on a conference call. The following is a transcript of their respective interviews.
Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt
(on the challenge of replacing both coordinators after last year) "Well, there's always transition when you have that. We've got some good young coaches that we feel very good about as far as growing into those positions. It's always hard when you lose good coaches that have worked hard for you. What we did we hope, by promoting from within, you keep from losing a lot of the progress that you've made. Hopefully, we'll play a little better and justify the fact that we're not a bad football team."
(on what he sees from the Texans defense) "I see a physical, young, aggressive defense. They've got a lot of young players and they are similar to us from the standpoint that they've made a few mistakes that have led to big plays. I really see a defense that is improving."
(on seeing WRs Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald on the field together) "I think anytime you're a fan, you want to see the best at any position when they are competing on the field. In my opinion, you have two of the best players at that position in the league. They'll both be on the field this week, this Sunday when the play. I certainly feel very strongly about Larry, but from watching Andre Johnson play all these years and watching him on tape this year, I know what kind of player he is and he's a very good football player. It's exciting because a lot of big plays in the game are going to be made by these guys you would think so it creates excitement."
(on RB Chris Wells and how to get more balance offensively) "First of all, we can't fall behind like we did against Indianapolis. When we played Jacksonville, we had much better balance and I think that made it a lot better overall. Chris Wells, we just haven't had a lot of opportunities to get him into the flow of the game. Some of that was because he missed a lot of time in training camp with his ankle. Some of it has been the way the first three games have gone. You never know how games are going to go and we're hopeful that we'll get the opportunities to see him carry in this game and we'll have success doing it. In this league, especially week in and week out, you never know."
(on what stands out from the Texans weapons) "I think that the quarterback, when he's comfortable, operates at a high level and he has a lot of comfort in his tight end and his wide receiver and they've both made big plays for him. (RB Steve) Slaton, when he gets rolling is certainly a force. I think they've got a number of different ways to attack you and they do a good job of incorporating all of their guys into it. It's going to be tough. It's going to be a tough matchup for us, just from the standpoint of trying to match up with all their weapons.
(on how much tougher is it being the defending NFC Champions) "Well, I don't think we've really bought into that too much. I wish that our play had reflected better that we hadn't, but we were a 9-7 football team that a lot of people didn't feel should be in the playoffs. So I don't think we have any reason to think that we can just show up and beat anybody, as indicated by our first three games. I think the message that we've tried to give to our team is that we have to continue to work the way we did at the end of the year last year. That's what won games for us, as much as anything. How we prepared and how we played and this year, whether teams look at us differently or play us different or not, I don't know. What this year has been about for us has been mistakes. We've just made too many mistakes. Whether it was turnovers or busted coverages, things like that have made it difficult for us to win games."
(on DE Antonio Smith being on the other sideline) "It will be different. Any time you have a player that has made significant contributions to your organization, especially when you've had one of your best years ever in the history. It's tough. It's tough not to have Antonio with us because he did so much for us. We certainly wish Antonio the best because he is such a good guy first and foremost and a good teammate. It'll be tough to see him on the other side of the field but we all understand that's the way the NFL works and our guys will be fired up to see Antonio and understand the matchup we're going to face in playing him."
Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald
(on if he gets anything out of going against a great receiver like WR Andre Johnson) "I've got a unique position this week. I might be the third-best guy on the field (behind) Anquan Boldin, Andre Johnson. Kevin Walter is a damned good football player, and we've got another one, Steve Breaston. So I'm just fighting and scratching to get some balls this week and try to get this team a win, to be honest with you. But in all seriousness, 'Dre is an unbelievable player, man. Every time you watch him on tape, he just makes play after play after play. And it's not like here. We've got two guys who are Pro Bowl guys on our team at receiver. 'Dre is, I wouldn't say he's by himself, but you know every week he's going to get his opportunities, and every week he just rises to the occasion. He's a special player and a really good person as well."
(on the one thing that impresses him most about Johnson) "The thing I like about him best – most people probably wouldn't get to say this, either, because they don't know him – but he has a really quiet humility about him, quiet confidence, and it really makes you like him even more, the way he handles his business. I mean, he's had all the success somebody can ask for in the NFL, and he handles it with so much class. He's a beaming example of how to do it right in the NFL."
(on if it's better or worse to be Larry Fitzgerald now after his record-setting playoff performance) "Well, it depends on what game you're going to catch me after, I'd tell you, to be honest with you. Off the field, I liked it better before. I go places now and it gets to be a little problematic. But I guess that's what comes with the territory. It's funny, you dream your entire life about being one of the best players you can possibly be, but nobody ever tells you about the stuff that comes with it off the field, you know what I mean? So it's kind of funny."
(on what his scouting report is on Johnson) "Well, first of all, he puts so much pressure on your team because he's so explosive off the line of scrimmage. You watch him run past, I mean, he comes off the ball. I've watched every single route he's run so far. Every week, my video team gives me every single route that he runs, Reggie Wayne runs, Randy Moss. I watch all of my peers pretty much every week when I've got free time at my house. He attacks the defense. He forces you to show your hand in what you're going to do immediately. And then he has such great timing with (Matt) Schaub that even when he's not even open, Schaub puts the balls in there tight for him and he just makes tremendous catches. He just continues to run at full speed all the time, and he forces coverages to dictate their hand. And that's why he makes so many plays down the field."
(on how his style is different than Johnson's) "I wish I had his speed. I would love to have that kind of speed. Andre, when he's jogging it looks like he's running. He's so explosive. My game is a little different. I'm not as fast as him, I'm not as explosive, but I think we're similar in terms of the way that we attack the ball down the field. I think that we both are big-play guys that like to spread the field and stretch the field."
(on what causes off days for a great player like himself) "It varies from game to game. Sometimes, defenses do a good job of just scouting you and taking way your strengths. I wouldn't consider those games bad games. They might not be as productive as you would hope for on a personal level, but sometimes defenses, they're just a step ahead of you. And then other games when you're not playing well, you're not running your proper depth, things like that, those things frustrate you the most because those are the self-inflicted blows and those are what great players or any player wants to stay away from."
(on Texans CB Dunta Robinson saying he feels 100 percent for the first time) "Damn. That wasn't the news I was trying to hear (laughs)."
(on what he thinks about Robinson) "If we played Dunta a month ago, if we played him two months ago, he's going to come out there and play. The one thing that you've got to love about him is he goes out there and he competes his ass off every single snap. I mean, he goes out there and mixes it up. I watched a couple of routes he broke up on Jacksonville. He's really starting to get his timing and get his feet up under him, and he does a really good job of locating the football down the field and making plays on it. So when we have our opportunities to go against him, I have to make sure I'm doing everything that I'm coached to do to be able to beat him. That's even going to be hard, because he's a great player. This is definitely a game where I'll be able to measure where I'm at."
(on what it'll be like to see DE Antonio Smith on the other side) "I've been in the league six years now and as you guys know, the NFL rosters change weekly. But me and Antonio came in to together, and I just saw him grow as a man, as a football player. It was kind of bittersweet for me personally, because me and 'Ton, we really had a great relationship. We have a good relationship as it is. I know his family, and so I didn't ever want to see him leave. But it's always good to see a guy go out there and get a good pay day like he has. He's earned it, and I'm really happy for him. I can't wait to see him and just tell him that in person."
(if his dad gave him any advice about dealing with fame and success after the playoffs) "No, he didn't really say anything about dealing with it. He just said be yourself, just go out there and honor God and keep God first. He'll direct my path. I know that he's always done it. Nothing's really going to change about off-field success or any of that stuff. I'm a football player. I want to be the best at what I do. I'm going to continue to work to get there."
(on who the best receiver in football is) "Oh, man. That's really a tough question. I think the top five guys, that could change weekly. It's all about matchups and who's playing well. 'Dre obviously is in that top five. Reggie Wayne, I definitely have to put in that top five. I would put myself in that top five. You've got (New England) Randy Moss. (Philadelphia) DeSean Jackson's playing lights out right now. (Carolina) Steve Smith's playing lights out right now. You've got a lot of guys around the NFL that are playing really good football, so it's hard to say from week in to week out. I think you kind of have to assess that after the year is over."
(on which Steve Smith he was referring to) "(Carolina Panthers WR) Steve Smith is great, but Steve Smith from the Giants right now, he's playing lights out."