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Honorary Captains Press Conference Transcript

Posted Jan 18, 2013

Patriots Chairman & CEO Robert Kraft, former Patriots OL Matt Light and RB Kevin Faulk address the media during their honorary captains press conference at Gillette Stadium on Friday, January 18, 2013.

RK: I just pinched myself coming over here because I was thinking as a fan sitting in the stands we had the privilege of one home playoff game in ’78 which we lost to Houston, and I thought about that. Today, we’re sitting here on the eve – our family has owned this team 19 years and this is our 17th home playoff game. We have a record of 14-2. I was thinking that last year we had our honorary captains, Drew Bledsoe, Ty Law, [Tedy] Bruschi and Troy Brown representing the ’96 and ’01 [teams], which were our first two championship games. Our two captains this year have been here for five. How do you do this? It’s about having great coaches, but most of all, it’s having great players and we’ve been blessed to have some wonderful players here. I feel a special connection and attachment to both Matt Light and Kevin Faulk, who have been here for five championship games but also our three Super Bowl titles. It’s my great pleasure to introduce Matt Light and Kevin Faulk.

KF: First and foremost I would like to say thank you to Mr. Kraft and the Patriot organization just for the opportunity and honor to be able to be the honorary captain for the AFC Championship game. It’s kind of different for me and I am pretty sure it’s the same for Matt because we are used to being on the other side of these in the locker room preparing for the game. But it’s one of those [things] right now where times have changed and we are on the other side of the fence preparing for it in a different way. To have the opportunity to do this and to know the guys that have done it in the past like Ty, Bruschi and Drew, it is an honor. You never think about what is going to happen at the end whenever you are done playing football. I never thought I was going to play 13 years in the NFL and to accomplish the accomplishments that we accomplished as a football team and to see this organization still on that same path after so many years, it just speaks volumes for the organization, the players, the coaches and just everybody around here. Once again I would just like say thank you for the opportunity to Mr. Kraft and the Patriots organization.

ML: So listen, as a fan, I have never seen anything but a win at Gillette Stadium. Besides what some of you know, as a guy that isn’t the biggest sports fan off the field, there is nobody that is going to be in this stadium that is going to be more fired up for this one than this guy right here. Secondly, the guy that is getting this honor alongside of me here, Kevin Faulk – if there is one guy that I can walk out on a field one more time with, it would be the guy that did it on third down and every time he touched the field I felt better at my position. And even if I was getting smoked all game I felt better when he was out there because I knew that he would get rid of it quicker. It is just an awesome thing to be back here and be alongside Kevin Faulk. To have the Kraft family honor us in this way, to share in this special moment, at this time of the year, when everybody is amped up, it is truly a blessing. As Kevin said, the time that I have spent here, the time that Kevin has spent here, you look back on it and you say, as an organization, as a coaching staff and as the guys you play with, as all those things were combined to form what we experienced, it doesn’t get any better. We really appreciate it and we are really looking forward to it. I know we are. It is going to be good.

Q: Will you tell Coach Belichick that they will take the ball if they win the coin toss?

ML: We actually need to have that conversation with him. This is a big game and we need to take this seriously. We are looking forward to that talk. We’ll coach him up and if guys have suggestions we’ll take them.

KF: I am on the other end of that question because I know exactly how it is going to go. Whatever we’ve been doing, that is what is going to happen.

Q: Is it weird to see 52 different guys? Does that make you feel old?

KF: That has passed by, about five years ago for me. It is different. Your mental focus is not actually on who you are playing. For me, my mental focus is on watching film to how they look on film. Other than just watching what they do as a football team it is totally different.

ML: I think if you back to that first game for me, when I looked at it I think part of the thing that is so exciting about this game for me is the turnover. I don’t think I felt that way when I was a player because I always felt like this guy is going to come in and I will be riding the bench. But when I watched that first game there were so many guys, because I wasn’t in that locker room, that I didn’t know and never seen and see these young guys on defense that are making big plays and you see these new faces on offense and some of old-new faces that have come back and it is awesome as a fan to see that kind of turnover. Maybe not the best thing for the organization in some cases, but ultimately when you have a system as good as this one they find a way to make it work.

Q: What does it say about the organization as a whole that they are back here at this point with almost entirely new team?

ML: I can remember being in the meeting rooms at the start of training camp and Bill [Belichick] would make note of that. He would say, ‘Hey look, this isn’t the same team as last year, obviously.’ And even if we won it all you can’t just rest on that. Ultimately, he would point out that we have a lot of new faces in this room and that was always the case. Everybody talks about that foundation, about the system and everything else, but you have to have individuals that are really better than anybody else to make that work. You have to have the top, and I am not saying that they have [people] better than anybody else in the league; I am just saying you have to people that really understand what it means to be selfless and put in a lot of time and never be satisfied and all those kind of things. And that is one of things that I miss the most from my playing days, is that that is hard to find in the real world.

Q: How different is it preparing for an AFC Championship game?

KF: It isn’t any different. It is a big game. We all know that, but it is not a game that you have to tighten up. These two teams are very familiar with each other. They’ve played each other for the past three or four years in the playoffs and in the regular season, so it isn’t any game where you have to tense up. It is a game where everybody knows what is at stake. We know we are going to have two smart, physical football teams that are going to try and not make a mistake because they know the other team is going to try to capitalize on it. So we know what kind of football game we are going to have. It is just the fact of how it is going to be played on Sunday.

Q: How much of a mixed blessing will it be to watch the Patriots play from the stands on Sunday?

KF: I don’t know if it’s a mixed blessing or whatnot, but in certain circumstances, it can be vice versa. It’s a good thing in a way, but as a competitor you want to be out there because you just left the locker room and you’ve just been with all of these guys. Like last week, to see the excitement on Shane Vereen’s face after the game that he had last week, that’s what I miss and I know that’s what Matt misses too. That’s what I miss: I miss seeing it and going into the locker room after a game like that. After a guy that I know – that I spent the whole year with in the meeting room – has a game like that, that really boasts his confidence level up, probably for the rest of his career.

ML: I feel the same way. I would have nothing to do with the regular season, but right now, daddy-o, let’s strap it up and get it on. I’m ready to go. I’d probably make it through the warm-up. About that time I’d probably fall out.

KF: I’d be there to help.

ML: You can help me out on that. I would just be crazy to think any former Patriot, any guy who ever spent time in this organization and knows what it’s like to be here, to not just be overly excited for this opportunity, what these guys are going through and the work that they put into it.

Q: What have been your impressions of guys like Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder?

ML: Obviously, the fact that they are massive human beings, 6-foot-8 or 9, agile, jungle-like quickness and really they actually work out and put a lot into it. It’s no wonder that they are doing really well. The guy who had that before kind of just limped his way through it. In all seriousness, it was a lot of fun for me to watch how two young guys come in and take command of their destiny. And really, I’ve been there and Logan [Mankins] has been there. They had to battle for everything they had and they never got discouraged or never thought it was too much. For me, that’s different from what I saw out of a lot of rookies who came in. Not every guy came in like a Jerod Mayo, who spent a lot of time in the film room from the second he got in until today. Not every guy is cut like that. Up front, it’s a tough deal. Up front, it’s difficult to deal with Dont’a [Hightower] every single day. The expectations that are placed on you – and guys do get hurt and go down obviously and they have to step in and maybe play on the other side and relearn some things. So, I’ve been really happy to see them do what they do and have the success that they’ve had. They’ve had a great year.

Q: What was the thing that stood out the most about Shane Vereen’s performance last week?

KF: I think they call it a hat trick. I’m not too familiar with hockey, but it’s back. Like I said earlier, and I’m going to speak to both [Stevan] Ridley and Vereen, for the guys to come in that first year the way they did, not having an offseason program and come right into training camp and try to adapt to an NFL-style offense and the coaches, I think they did a real good job. They played the card that they were dealt. I think this year it’s really showing the time that each guy put into it during the offseason. [with] Ridley, it came a little earlier than Vereen. You can see it in Ridley and he was really ready for it. And Shane, you could tell he was going to be a very smart and intelligent guy, but it might have taken him a little while longer because he really wanted to focus on what he had to do. Early on he got caught up in a couple of injuries and it kind of discouraged him. And like I said, as a competitor, you get very discouraged real easily when you’re not involved in the play, when you know your ability allows your team to make plays. You can see it in him. You just keep giving him confidence and telling him, ‘You’re going to make it; it’s going to come for you.’ And to actually see it happen last week, that’s why I said I was so excited. I was probably more excited than he was on a few of the plays he made. You needed that as a person and a player.

Q: In regards to your foundation, the Matt Light Foundation, can you talk about what it’s going to be like sitting in the stands on Sunday?

ML: We’ve got this raffle and we’ve done these things in the past to help raise money for the foundation. It’s been incredible. We have until two o’clock today, so a couple more hours before we pull the winner through some crazy computer program. The last count I heard, we were right around $160,000. For the Light Foundation and the work we do, it’s truly hitting it out of the park and then some. Basically, it’s four tickets to the game, two rooms for an overnight stay at the Renaissance [hotel at Patriot Place]), dinner at Davio’s. We’re going to go to the game, we’re going to have a lot of fun and we’re going to see it all happen. Netraffle.org, netraffle.org, netraffle.org.

Q: Is there something about having the ability to talk to the media more now that you’re at the end of your careers and not having to worry about what Coach Belichick is going to say?

KF: That’s a good question. Not really. It’s not about [Coach Belichick] looking over your shoulder. Matt never listened to what Bill had to say anyway, so it didn’t matter. It’s not about looking over your shoulder; it’s about understanding and being more comfortable. I know pretty much everyone by face and name now. So it’s being comfortable in front of all of you now. That’s about it for me.

ML: I took everything Bill said to heart. Sometimes you take it all the way to the edge of the cliff. You just don’t jump off. He calls me once a week to let me know what I’ve done wrong, things I need to work on and how I can get better and improve as a person. I always enjoyed the fact that I didn’t have to listen to stupidity in the media. And I don’t mean you guys, I mean from our locker room. He would show a lot of examples on what these other teams are doing and it takes the pressure off you as an individual. That was actually kind of nice.

Q: With Ravens LB Brendon Ayanbadejo and WR Anquan Boldin predicting a victory, does that bring flashbacks?

ML: You know what? The amazing thing is, I guess it is repetition, muscle memory. When I heard all that stuff I was like, ‘What is that going to do?’ They will go out there and they will do it on Sunday and they will prove it with what they do on the field, and it is pretty simple.

Q: Do you have words for the younger guys this week, particularly leading up to this type of game?

ML: No, you know what, those guys are so dialed in at what they do, they don’t need the old-timer that looks like he just stepped out of a cabin in the middle of nowhere to give them any kind of advice. I will groom one of these days. I thought about it coming here. I was like, this is horrible; this is a hot mess.

Q: I thought that was your playoff beard?

ML: It is, 100 percent.

Q: What is your favorite moment in an AFC title game?

KF: That is a good question. I can’t say the next one; we can’t do that one anymore. The memories are very deep. Like I said, we have had the opportunity to play on a lot of good football teams, and play with a lot of good guys. It’s too hard to pick out just one. There are a few of them. One that sticks out in my mind is probably the first one against the Pittsburgh Steelers. For me, it was an opportunity to grow as a football player and understand your role and what it meant. For me, I grew from that game. If you remember, I didn’t play in that game at all. I was watching it from the sideline. I grew a whole lot and for me to experience what I experienced, that experience for me was good.

ML: I have to agree with that. Being in Pittsburgh, celebrating, seeing all those towels hit the floor. I got one. I framed it. Correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t Corey [Dillon] have one awesome run down the right side of the field? I mean it was a heck of a run, he went and scored. I don’t savor a lot of those moments with those images in my brain, but for whatever reason, I can still see that. That game was an AFC Championship game on the road, playing in Pittsburgh, Corey going down there in a very physical game, which it always is against Pittsburgh. In a physical game, when you win the battle up front at the line of scrimmage and you can see that guy running that way, that doesn’t leave you.

Q: Was it cleanly blocked?

ML: Typically if a running back gets tackled, it is usually their fault, wrong cut or something [laughs]. No, probably not actually.

Q: What do you remember about former Patriots QB Drew Bledsoe stepping in during that game?

ML: That was wild.

KF: That was one where you knew at that point how much of a professional Drew was. You knew it was one of those situations where he had a heavy heart from the whole year and the situation. But to come in, in that situation, and know pretty much he could help his team win the football game and go to the Super Bowl – and not know what was going to happen later – and still put forth the effort to help his football team, that lets you know what type of leader and what type of person he was.

Q: Can you talk about the brotherhood and the ‘Patriot Way?’ How does that translate now that you’re not in the locker room?

KF: I love the term the ‘Patriot Way’ now because I am not in the locker room. Can somebody explain to me what the Patriot Way is? I am saying it jokingly because we know what it is, and when a guy comes in, everybody talks about letting the guy know what the Patriot Way is. There is no secret to it. A veteran guy that comes here, he wants to win football games. And when he wants to win football games, they are going to do whatever it takes, no matter what it takes. To be on the football team and stay there, if that means not being who he usually was, that is what is going to happen. All they want to do is win, that is the Patriot Way.

ML: I feel the same way.

Q: If you could put the pads on and face one of those defensive linemen again, who would it be?

ML: I don’t have a desire for that, I really don’t. If it was boxing or something, I’d go toe-to-toe with a couple of these cats. I think [Channing] Crowder and I would be a good matchup. I know that he lacks the size, and I am over it. I’m just saying from an all out entertaining, let’s get after it, let’s get it on. But I don’t hold anything against anybody. That was then and this is now.

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