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Sun., Apr. 19, 2015 12:00 AM to 10:59 PM EDT
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Willie McGinest Conference Call Transcript
Q: I just wanted to ask you, it is obviously an honor to be the captain for this Sunday's game. Last year, one of your former teammates Tedy Bruschi was named to the Patriots Hall of Fame and you kind of get the feeling that being named a captain is a precursor to being named to the Patriots Hall of Fame. What are your thoughts on that, especially because your eligibility is coming up pretty soon?
WM: First and foremost it is an honor and I am humbled by it. Especially because for all the other great Patriots that played alongside me and I played with, just the respect and the professionalism Mr. [Robert] Kraft showed me, giving me my opportunity to come into an organization and help be a part of one of the blocks, one of the building blocks of creating what it is today. I take a lot of pride in that. One of the things is, I always messed with Mr. Kraft especially this year in the Thursday Night Football game I was giving him my measurements for my jacket size when we had Tedy Bruschi on set. I'm sure it will come. I understand how things work. But I'm more than honored and happy for being a captain and the jackets and all that stuff will come. Me and Mr. Kraft, we had conversations about that. I'm excited. I'm excited for the guys that have already been inducted. Those guys, they put a lot of work, sacrifice and commitment into that organization and I was happy for Tedy. I was able to be there to introduce him, have some fun with him. But I am sure my time is coming. I'm patient.
Q: You've been a part of four AFC Championships. What makes playing in the AFC game so special?
WM: First of all, you have to get there. It's a tough conference. The AFC is a tough conference. There are a lot of good teams in that conference. It is no walk in the park, by far. When you are able to get there, whether you are the first or the second seed, you are in the dance. It is a brand new season and everybody has an opportunity to advance and move forward. The unique thing about it is I was extremely lucky. I was extremely blessed to be in that many games. Once you are in it you kind of try and make it seem like it is just a regular game but it is not. It can be overwhelming but we had good teachers. We had the right people on our teams. We had the right coaches in place that kind of kept everybody level headed and prepared us the right way. We went about our business. We understood that the AFC Championship was the most important game because it was the next game and you were one game away from getting to the Super Bowl.
Q: Does this team remind you of former Super Bowl teams?
WM: The one thing I don't like to do is compare players, compare teams, but there are a couple similar traits that this team has that we had as well. They are a tough team. They are a smart football team. They fight to the finish. They don't ever give up. Maybe, like us in our first year in 2001, where a lot of people didn't consider us as household names, a lot of younger players or players that were kind of off the radar that kind of bought more into the team aspect of things, of being unselfish instead of the self-promotion type thing. Everybody on our teams became somebody because of what we did on a consistent basis. I think these guys have the unique opportunity to do the same, to make those names for themselves, to be in these big games, to make those plays, to go out and prove to everybody that they belong. Even though there is a new regime, there is a new tenure there as far as the players, the structure and the foundation, the way we laid it is still there and they are still successful. They are still making plays. They are still playing in these big games and finding ways to win, and surprising a lot of people when they get doubted.
Q: What do you think about the rookie linebacker Jamie Collins? He has size and athleticism about him, and some people would even compare him to you.
WM: Yeah, you know he can have a bright future. We're just seeing a little bit right now. He's just getting started, so I don't want to throw him in the Hall of Fame yet. I had a conversation before the game and I think he is extremely talented. I think he is extremely athletic and if he is able to keep growing to learn the game, to understand the game – he's got great teachers there in Bill Belichick, Matt Patricia, the defensive coordinator, [linebackers coach] Pepper Johnson and guys like that. If he can keep absorbing all the things to learn, he's going to probably be an impact player not just on that team but in the league. Some of the things I've watched or witnessed him do, he does a little bit better than me, especially as far as his coverage. I probably weigh a little bit more than him – I was a little bit bigger, but he's long. He has size. He can play in the run game. He can cover a running back or a tight end out of the backfield or off the line of scrimmage or split out, and he can put his hand in the dirt and get after the quarterback as well. So he has the tools. It's all – once you have the tools and you have the assets – the game of football, the majority of the game is mental. So, that's the other part to it, and I think he has the opportunity to go out and just keep growing and become one of the Patriots great linebackers.
Q: Tom Brady is dealing with an illness. What do you remember about the 2004 AFC Championship when he had a high fever, and the way that he was able to work through that?
WM: Well, you know like I said, we had a lot of tough guys, and Tommy was one of those guys that was extremely tough and mentally tough. Guys like Tom and some of the other guys we had on those teams, you had to drag them off the field. It didn't really matter; we put the team before ourselves and sometimes even our health. We wanted to win. We didn't want to be the guy that was the cause of us not being successful or winning games. So, I have a lot of respect for Tom, as your guys know. He's my brother, and he's always been that way. He's always been competitive. He's never wanted to quit or be one of those guys to not be prepared or ready or be available, so that's a great start to being a great football player and to being one of the best players in the league. He encompasses all that.
Q: What does it mean to you guys to be able to come back, the Super Bowl winners, and the way that the organization embraces you and allows you into the locker room and talk to the players on the team?
WM: Well that's home. That's home and we always consider ourselves as family. We just weren't a football team with players under contract. The group of guys that we had, that were there, were special. We were brothers, all the guys that played, and we were all family. Mr. Kraft has always been open and had a lot of respect for us. We have a lot of respect for him, and I think it's special. I think it's unique. I think it's the way it should be. It's the perfect example of a first class organization, a first class owner, coaching staff and a group of guys who all believed in a certain vision – had a certain vision. We all believed in the way the game should be played a certain way. Yeah, were there sacrifices? Of course, but we sacrificed because there was an ultimate goal, and that ultimate goal every year was to be the best that we could be, and if that was enough to get us to a Super Bowl and win it, then good. If not, we understood that. Like I said, I have a lot of respect for the Kraft family and the organization and how they embrace me and you know I worked hard. I worked hard for that. I sacrificed for that, and for them to recognize that and for [Bill] Belichick to embrace me and have us around the players, I think that's good for both sides. You know? Those players have heard about us. They know and understand the tradition and the foundation that was laid. We understand also that it's a different time now, but there are a lot of things that are similar. There are a lot of common goals – the sayings, the way they are prepared, some of the things that they do, it's still in place. There is a winning formula that's there. So, I am humbled by it and I am excited. I couldn't be happier.
Q: What are your keys for the Patriots to win against the Broncos on Sunday?
WM: I think what the Patriots have to do is, when you go into a hostile environment, you've got to take care of the football. I think that's number one. You look at the first meeting in Foxborough, there were a lot of turnovers on both sides; they'll clean that up. They're one of the best at making adjustments and cleaning up things that happened, especially when you play a team earlier in the season, going forward. The other thing I think they have to do is, of course, play sound football, play the right technique, don't get caught up in the AFC Championship, but get caught up in the game one play at a time. We've heard the obvious all week: they need to run the football. They have a great committee of running backs there that understand what they need to do, and the game plan and making adjustments. There are going to be adjustments in that game that they're going to have to make. When you play against a guy like Peyton Manning, we played against [Broncos Head Coach John] Fox in the Super Bowl when he was with Carolina, so we understand that they're going to make adjustments, things are going to change. They've got to be able to withstand the momentum swings in the game, and when you're playing against a team like that with a lot of firepower, you've got to limit the big plays and force them to go the long, hard road. Something we came up with: ‘Don't give anything away, make them earn everything that they get,' and it's going to come down also to quarterback play. Both of these quarterbacks [are] experienced, Hall of Fame-caliber, and it's going to come down to who can make the plays in the crucial situations. And the guys around them too, the supporting cast is going to be big. You hear a lot about [Tom] Brady and Peyton Manning, but the supporting cast is going to be big. Somebody outside of the big names is going to have to step up and make some plays and prevent plays, whether it's the running backs, the receivers, somebody on defense, somebody is going to have to step up and make plays.
Q: Can you take us back to the AFC Championship Game at Pittsburgh? Do you remember any part of that game, the noise level and everything else?
WM: In that game, the key is to jump out and jump on top of them. That was a good football team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the crowd was rowdy of course, the Terrible Towels, all the things they had going on. The best way to silence a crowd when you're on the road is just to get out on them, jump on them, and once you do that, it kind of changes a little bit. So you've got to focus. You've got to be mentally tough, you've got to block out everything and just focus on your assignments, focus on your job, and not get caught up in what's going on around that, and I think if they do that, they'll have a good shot.