TB: Yeah, it was a good day of practice. There was a lot of things that we had to cover and things that we talked about that we needed to do better, and got off to a good start today. It’s just important to kind of keep the pedal to the metal, and there’s a lot of teams that are working this week and getting better and playing games, and we can get better and not play and still advance. I think it’s just important for us to go out and be focused, try to do a great job of what the coaches have talked to us about, the details of the particular plays, and why they worked and why they haven’t worked, and just try to make some improvements.
Q: Was it more focused on you guys at practice today, or was there a little preparation mixed in on who you could potentially play next round?
TB: I think just us being better in general is going to help us. I mean, regardless of who we play, we just have to play really well, we have to be at our best. So I think it’s just important for us to, like we did today, just be really focused in the meetings, and then go out there and practice in these types of conditions where it’s a cold and windy day, and we may get one of those, and to try to be as mentally and physically prepared as we could possibly be, because we’ve worked pretty hard to get to this point, and you don’t get these opportunities very often, so it’s in our best interests, all of us, to be at our very best and not really let anything get in the way of what we’re trying to accomplish. It’s fun, I mean it’s a great position to be in because [it’s] playoff football and a chance to really prepare and get a jump this week on our preparations and make it a great week so we can really just go into next week ready to go.
Q: You guys have done well with the bye in the past. Why? What advantages does having the bye give you, and how do you take advantage of that?
TB: When it comes down to it, and we play next Saturday night, the team that plays the best is going to win. The only thing you can do at this point is prepare to play, so our preparation has to be really good, has to be really solid and focused. Like I said, it’s about our practices and about our intensity and trying to figure out what we can do better than what we’ve done since really the last time we got a chance to evaluate ourselves, which was before the Carolina game. I know the coaches spent a lot of time trying to figure out the things that we need to do better, and they talked to the players about that, whether it’s certainly a lot of things we can do better, and we’re going to need to do better, because the margin of error at this point is not big, very small.
Q: Do you feel like the team has evolved to where you need it to be right now, or is it still evolving?
TB: I think every week we change a little bit with the game plan and the scheme of what we’re trying to do, and then the game plays itself out early, and then you’ve got to try to either go with the plan or change the plan. It constantly evolves and changes, and you have to be smart enough to be able to adapt and change those things pretty quickly, because at this point, if you lose you can’t wake up the next day and go, ‘Oh, we’ve got them, we’ll get them next week.’ No, there’s no next week. There’s one game, and it’s the most important game of the years?
Q: When you have so many players who haven’t been to the postseason before, do you ever offer advice to them about what to expect? Is it a lead-by-example kind of thing, or do you actually go and talk to somebody about it?
TB: Coach [Belichick] handles the team pretty well, so he’s got a great handle on what he thinks the team needs to hear. I think the most important thing is to go out and play well, to be at your best. It doesn’t matter if you’ve played or haven’t played or how many games you’ve player, you’ve got to be at your best, and I think we’re all counting on each other to be that way.
Q: But is this different? When you take the field, is there a different atmosphere and pace than a regular-season game?
TB: I think the execution has to be – you’re playing the best teams, so I think you just can’t make – the mistakes are really magnified, I think that’s the difference. You can’t – when you play a good team, it’s hard to beat good teams and not play your best. Typically, if you play less than what you’re capable of, you don’t get the win, because the other teams are just too good. Some days if you play a team that struggles and has been struggling, you may not play your best but you still may win. Usually it doesn’t happen that way in the playoffs, so that’s why we’ve got to be able to eliminate turnovers, not turn the ball over, just make the other team earn it, be at our best, be right on our assignments all the time, be [as] mentally and physically sharp as we could possibly be, and then see if the other team can beat us.
Q: How did your relationship with Bill O’Brien develop over time, and what are your general thoughts about him and his time here?
TB: That was a long time ago. Yeah. Truthfully, I’m just trying to stay focused on this week, and that’s really not in my thought process right now.
Q: You were 8-0 at Gillette Stadium this season. What is it that you like about playing at this place?
TB: Well, we’ve got great fans that come out and let it rip. I think they are always into the game, and the communication at home is really important for an offense, and our communication on our offense, there’s a lot of it, so the better we can communicate, the more we’re on the same page. Typically the less chance there is to make a mistake, because you can just communicate pretty easily. If I want the receiver to do something, I just yell out there and tell him. When you’re on the road, there’s different non-verbal communication that you try to use. If you don’t get it right on one play, that one play could be a difference in the game. But there’s a little margin of error you get at home with your communication, because it’s just pretty easy to communicate as an offense. But it’s equally as difficult for a defense, though. It’s a home game for our offense, but for our defense, they get crowd noise and they have to communicate. We’ve done a good job winning because we go out and execute well, but on offense I think our communication is typically better at home than it is on the road.
Q: Will you watch the Wild Card games this weekend? Do you think there is value in watching those games, or do you actually prefer not to?
TB: I’ve done both. I mean, I’ve watched and I haven’t watched. I don’t know, sometimes you get really riled up watching the game, and then you start cheering for teams to win or lose, and then, you know… Yeah, you don’t want to ride the wave, so I try to just – I’ll use my time as best [as] possible to prepare myself, so whatever it needs to be, that’s what it will be.
Q: What are your thoughts on the running game and the role it has played in the last two weeks as you approach the playoffs, a time when the running game takes on a little bit more of an importance?
TB: Sure. Yeah, I mean anything can happen in these games. I’ve been a part [of] a lot of them, and you never know what’s going to happen and how the game’s going to play out. You always have an idea of what you think you need, but everything’s on the line, so whatever we need to do to win, and if it’s handing it off 70 times, then that’s what we’ve got to do. If they’re having a problem stopping it, then we’ve got to be good enough to take advantage of that, and vice versa if that’s throwing the ball. Whatever they’re having a tough time defending, that’s what you’ve got to be able to get to. So it’s important not to be one-dimensional in these games, and like I said, the mental and physical toughness is something that is really important this time of year. You get less than ideal conditions out there, and we play in an environment where it’s not 70 degrees and no conditions like you may be in a dome, or you may be somewhere else in warm weather. With us, it’s not the way it is, so you’ve got to try to play to your strength, and part of our strength is hopefully going out there and practicing every day, understanding the elements, the conditions of what we deal with, the wind, the snow, the rain, and then as you know we’re out there almost every day, so you just get used to playing in it, and hopefully by getting used to it, you can develop the mental toughness to deal with it and put the weather out of your mind and put the rest out of your mind and just focus on your opponent, and when all your attention is focused on your opponent, you can be at your best. But you don’t want all these built-in excuses of why you’re less than your best. You just try go out there, and both teams are playing in it, and because we get a chance to play in it all the time, maybe we can use that as an advantage.
Q: It seems like good teams pride themselves on finding different ways to win. How do you feel you guys have evolved in that regard so that you’re not just a one-dimensional offensive team?
TB: I think, like I said, it’s going to be a matter of what they’re doing a good job with defending and what we feel we’re doing a good job of executing, and there’s a little spot in there what you’re doing well, what they’re not doing well, and then you try to get to it and you try to make your adjustments over the course of the game. Last week we just did a great job of running the ball, and the line played so physical. It was awesome to watch to end the game like that and to rush the way we did. The way we ended the game against Baltimore was just awesome. I mean, I haven’t been a part of that in a long time because we’ve just got a very physical offensive line and backs that run really hard, and that’s hard to defend, especially over the course of a game. That hopefully can wear the other team out by making them tackle you, making them stop you, making them figure it out, make them come up and hit you in the face, and I think our team has done a good job of that. Our offensive line has done a great job all year of that, our backs are really feeding off that, and that’s been a big strength for us. It needs to continue to be a strength, and hopefully that opens up other areas of our offense that, once you’re doing something really well and they kind of focus on it, then maybe you can do some other things really well off of that.
Q: How do you think things have developed between you and
TB: We’re still working at it today. We’re just continuing to talk through things and situations, and when you haven’t had years and years of experience, you use as much time as you can to really communicate what you need to. We’ve had a lot of practice opportunities, a lot of game opportunities, and hopefully we just keep doing better as we move forward.
Q: Other NFL teams are interviewing Josh McDaniels and are interested in him. I suppose you’re not surprised by that, given what he’s accomplished here and throughout his career?
TB: No, I’m not surprised by much anymore in the NFL. He’s a great coach, and I said the other day, he’s one of my best buds, and I’ve been around a long time, so I know him pretty well. I’m glad he’s my coach.
Q: Does that affect you at all just to hear that there’s a possibility that another team might try to reel him in? I know you been through this before multiple times?
TB: Yeah, multiple times. But it’s a credit to those guys and what they’ve accomplished, and it’s a very flattering thing when other people are interested. But they’ll make their decision based on whatever they make their decision based on, and I’ve still got to go out there and do my job, which is ultimately what I owe this team and what I signed up for and what I promised Mr. Kraft when I signed my contract, and what I commit to Belichick and all my teammates, that I’m going to try to do the best I can do. It doesn’t matter who’s coaching or who’s running routes or who [I’m] handing the ball off to or who’s blocking or who’s playing defense. I’ve got to go do my job, so that’s where my focus is.
Q: Did you watch the ball drop?
TB: I was asleep. We had early morning practice.
Q: Are you going to catch any of the hockey game at the Big House in Michigan today?
TB: That’s today? There’s a lot of good things on today, so [I’ll] be channel-surfing.
Q: What do you think it’d be like to watch a hockey game with 100,000 fans?
TB: Pretty cool. It’s a great environment, so I wish I had a chance to get back there at some point to watch a football game. Maybe when I retire, but to do a hockey game in there is pretty sweet. It’s a lot of people; I know they did it at Fenway a few years ago which was really cool, so it’s a great – really neat experience. Really smart of the NHL to do that.
Q: Did you choose “Public Service Announcement” by Jay-Z as your walkout song, or did they choose that for you?
TB: That’s been my choice for a long time.
Q: What is it about that song?
TB: I’m a big fan of his.