TB: To tell you the truth, I don’t really think about any of that. I’m just trying to win a football game this week. I think we’re very short-term focused and playing against a great football team that obviously deserves the right to be here. We know how challenging of a team they are, both schematically and personnel-wise. All of our focus is on this week.
On whether it is important for him to stress each part of the defense and make the Ravens cover downfield and sideline to sideline.
TB: Sure, I think it’s important to put stress on their whole defense. I think whatever they’re not covering, that’s what we have to be able to focus our play calling on and certainly our execution. If they’re covering us deep, we’ll throw it short. If they cover us short, we’ll throw it deep. If they’re playing the pass, we’ll run it. If they’re playing the run, we throw it. I think that’s part of the chess game. That’s why we spend all morning here trying to figure out what to do for this game. You play against a team like this, that’s able to adjust because of their personnel and because they do a lot of things schematically, there are a lot of ‘what ifs’ in preparation throughout the course of the week. That’s really what we’re trying to hone in on this week.
On how the Patriots used
TB: Yeah, well Brandon has had a very good season. He’s been very consistent. Even when he hasn’t had production in games, he’s been open on plenty of routes. He’s just done a great job all season being able to get open in tight coverage and play a bunch of different types of corners and certainly the guys this week, Cary Williams and [Corey] Graham and Chykie Brown, they’re very good players too. They have a lot of help on the inside part of the defense with Ray [Lewis] and [Dannell] Ellerbe and Bernard Pollard, who’s a great player and certainly Ed Reed, who is one of the best to ever play the game. I think they have talent everywhere and their coaches really put them in a great position to be successful.
On what it is like to play against Ray Lewis.
TB: I’ve always said and I said last week, it’s really a pleasure to play against him. He’s really been so consistent over the years and durable and tough. He’s so instinctive. He doesn’t give up hardly any plays, make a ton of tackles. He’s great in the pass game, great in the run game. He blitzes well, like he did a few years ago. He’s really a playmaker for them, so they give him an opportunity to make those plays. You see when he makes a play, their whole sideline gets really amped up. You always have to know where [number] 52 is at. He’s always right in the middle of the defense but whether he’s blitzing or covering or he’s free in the middle of the field, you always have to take him into account.
On time he has spent with Ray Lewis off the field.
TB: I don’t know that we’ve ever really done that; just on the football field.
On his life off the field and how he avoids the negative trappings that come with being a celebrity.
TB: I really love playing football so I think a lot of my time and energy is spent focused on trying to help this team win and trying to be a good teammate and a good leader. Like I said last week, I take those things very seriously. I try not to buy into what people say or think. I just live my life and certainly enjoy being the quarterback for this team. There’s nothing more fun than running out onto the field in front of 70,000 people cheering for us. That’s what it will be this weekend.
On whether he enjoys the other activities like photo shoots that come with being a celebrity.
TB: I have no idea. Some extra free time on my hands, I guess.
On what Baltimore does to consistently play the Patriots tough.
TB: I think they have great personnel; they have a lot of playmakers at each level of the defense. It’s not like you beat this team 50-0. It’s always a tight game. There’s tight coverage, there’s tight throws, there’s tough reads because schematically they do quite a few things. It’s never easy. There’s not an easy throw, there won’t be an easy throw this weekend. I think they really challenge you. That’s why they’re in this game. That’s why our guys will see if we can step to that challenge. There not just going to hand you the ball, hand you points, hand you easy scores. They’re great in the red area, they’re great on third down, they really make you earn it. That’s what we have to have our mindset and that’s what we’re going to need to really be able to do here in a few days.
On what the ‘Patriot Way’ means to him.
TB: I think Coach [Belichick] always talks about doing your job. You do your job so that everyone around you can do their job. When people trust each other, then you can play with anticipation and confidence and ultimately go out there and play aggressively. There’s no really no secret to it. It’s just coach puts a lot of pressure on us in practice every day to perform at a high level. When we don’t, we certainly hear about it. When you show up to work every day, you better have your game face on because you’ll end up on the low light film the next morning. I think the guys bring that attitude every day and over the course of a long season, it results in enough wins to get us into the playoffs, give us a chance.
On whether there are players that have a hard time buying into that concept.
TB: I think I was one of those guys that had to learn that too. Tedy Bruschi took me aside and Willie McGinest took me aside and Lawyer Milloy took me aside. I think that’s part of the responsibility as a veteran player that you learn from these experiences and you try to convey the message to some of the younger players so they don’t have to learn the hard way. A lot of times you have to learn the hard way in life.
On the Patriots’ ‘Next Man Up’ mentality.
TB: I think coach tries to put together a depth chart that’s full of good players. The more good players you have, the better your team is going to be and you can withstand certain injuries to players and there’s certainly a point where that gets to. I think we have pretty good players that are able to step in and the expectations for the position not necessarily the players. So whoever is in there at running back has to do the job of the running back and do it very well; same as quarterback, same as receiver, tight end, offensive line. We’ve had quite a few moving parts at all those positions this year but obviously with Shane [Vereen] did the other night, that’s a huge part o the reason why we’re playing in this game. Who knows who it’s going to be this weekend. Hopefully we all go out and play really well.
On how the team has adjusted to life without
TB: We learned a little bit about ourselves. Certainly you prepare as if everyone is going to be there and things happen in the game and you have to be able to adjust. There was quite a bit of adjusting the other night. The same thing can happen this weekend. Whoever is on the field has to perform at a high level. This is the biggest game of our year. There are really no excuses at this point and there’s nothing beyond this week that’s guaranteed so we have to go out there and earn it. It’s going to take 60 minutes. In Baltimore’s case last weekend, it took 77 minutes so as long as it takes to get the win, that’s what we’re going to need to try to figure out how to do.
On the level of respect he has for Joe Flacco.
TB: Yeah, Joe has done a great job since he came into the league. I’ve played against him a bunch of times and he’s always played really well. [I’ve] watched a lot of film on him and their offense this year and over the last few years I’ve had a chance to do that. He’s obviously a great leader. You get your team to this position, it takes a lot of guys but they have a lot of confidence in Joe. He’s does a lot of really good things.