TB: He’s a good place to start. He’s a great player and been a great player for a long time. We’ve played these guys a bunch over the years. We kind of know what we’re up against. He’s having one of the best years of his career. They have a good defense. They are top-10 in a bunch of categories. They really have some good safeties that cover a lot of ground, really fast corners. They’re physical. They have a good team. We just have to outscore them I think. We have to go out there and put points on the board. That’s what our job is going to be.
Q: What do you think about your former teammate Darius Butler and the job he’s done for their defense?
TB: He’s done a great job. I always had a lot of respect for Darius and what he was able to do. He’s an incredible athlete. I’ve thrown him a lot of interceptions on the practice field; hopefully I don’t throw him one this weekend.
Q: Have you heard from your former teammate Deion Branch after he signed with the Colts?
TB: Yeah I think that they did that this week. As for our defenses, I’m going to worry about all those guys and prepare for all those guys and that’s part of guys changing teams and so forth. It’s nice to see a guys get an opportunity, especially one of your great friends.
Q: Any chance you’ve spoken to Deion since yesterday or even in recent weeks?
TB: I keep in touch with a lot of guys. Over the years I’ve had a lot of great friends that I’ve been lucky enough to play with on this team that are just great people and you’re always wishing the best for those people. Certainly the guys that have played receiver here are the guys I’ve been closest with because that’s probably where the most interaction is. All the quarterbacks I’ve been with and certainly all the receivers I’ve been with – I certainly keep in touch with those guys.
Q: Does seeing the Colts come back from that 28-point deficit change in your mind how you see that team and can you relate to a comeback like that?
TB: It was a great game, a great team win and they got into a hole there and just had to dig their way out. Like I said the other day, once you get some momentum going on your side, it’s pretty remarkable to be able to do that. Down 28 points there in the third quarter – they just made a bunch of good plays and it took them until the very end to win and the defense made a great stop there in the fourth quarter with two minutes to go. There’s going to be a lot of close games – we’ve been in a lot of close games, they’ve been in a lot of close games, probably more than anybody in the league. They find a way to win them. That’s how they got to this point. Hopefully we can go out and be the team that goes out on top.
Q: Is there a notion on either side of a lead that no lead is safe and that if you get down that anything is possible?
TB: Yeah, they were 11-5 in the regular season and 12-5 now. They’ve had a great year and been tough to beat. They beat some of the best teams in the league – teams that are still in the playoffs now. They can play with anybody. There’s no question about that. They have plenty of skill and plenty of playmakers on offense and defense. They have great special teams, one of the best kickers of all time. They’re good in all areas and you don’t get to this point without being one of the best teams. It’s pretty easy to see why they’re playing this weekend.
Q: We asked Andrew Luck about the motivating factor of playing in the same playoff game as you. What about for you personally – when one of the great young players is coming to challenge you in a playoff game?
TB: I don’t necessarily approach it like that. My motivation is pretty simple. I just try to win, that’s what I try to do and try to be part of the reason why we’re successful. That’s part of doing my job and trying to be the best I can be for the team. It really doesn’t have anything to do with anybody on the other team and their motivation might be. To be a professional athlete and to play at this high level with this level of competition, winning is the only thing that’s important. That’s one goal and one objective that I’ve had for a very long time.
Q: There’s a tradition in baseball where you don’t talk to that day’s starting pitcher. As the game nears, do you become a little more anticipatory and restless for the game to kick off?
TB: I could still use a few days to get ready so we’re already on a relatively short week. I’ll be ready once the game’s kicked off. Once that ball’s kicked off, I’ll be prepared. But I’ll use all that time to find ways to prepare and get ready. Everyone probably has a routine or a way to get ready at this time of the year. Over the course of the season you find different things that work and don’t work. I’ll use every day.
Q: How does your mood evolve for a game of this magnitude?
TB: It’s incredible to play in this. These are the moments you dream about – to be in the NFL playoffs and you have a chance with eight other teams to be the last team standing. It’s why we work hard. It’s why every guy puts a lot out there. You sacrifice a lot of things. A lot of people would die to be in our positions. I don’t think you take those things for granted. I think you cherish those and understand the opportunity that’s ahead. It’s different than a normal week. There’s no, ‘Hey, we’ll get them tomorrow. We’ll talk about the corrections on Monday.’ You have one opportunity to get it right and that’s all you can ask for as an athlete and the great part is that once that ball is kicked off, none of that other crap matters. It’s just the players that are ultimately going to go out there and decide who wins the game by how we play.
Q: You can impart your wisdom upon the younger players who have never appeared in a playoff game before. But in reality do you have to play in it for a while to understand the intensity and pressures of what the playoffs are all about?
TB: I think you just try to play it really well. There’s a first time, really, for everybody, so I don’t think that can be used as an advantage or an excuse. It was my first time in 2001 when we played in a playoff game and we did pretty well. Like I said, the difference is that there’s no second chances. You have to get it right and you try to get it right against the other best teams in the league. The other teams have earned the chance to get this spot; we earned a bye to advance to this part in the playoffs. Now we have to go out there and try to advance to the third round but you have to play really well. This team makes you earn it. You could have a 28-point lead but it really doesn’t matter unless there’s no time left on the clock. This is a team that’s good in all three phases, they put pressure on you to do the right thing on every single play. Hopefully that’s a skill set of ours, too. Hopefully we can go out there and play well on every single play and see if they can slow us down.
Q: Do pressure and nerves affect play calling and how a player plays?
TB: I’m not sure. I think there’s always pressure to the games that we play. There’s a lot at stake for every player and every coach and every fan and every family member. There’s a lot at stake for everybody. You just understand that. A lot of us have been dealing with it for a long time. You just try to go out there and do your best. I think that’s the most important thing.
Q: I think Robert Mathis has sacked you more than any quarterback outside his division. What do you think when you see him coming after you? What goes through your mind?
TB: I can’t really run away from him, so that option’s out the door. You have to understand where he’s at. He really has a sense of urgency. It’s one thing to sack the quarterback. It’s another thing to strip-sack him and the ball’s flying all over the place. You have eliminate those types of plays. They’ve had a lot of those types of plays this year which have been a big benefit to their team where he runs the edge, the quarterback’s standing back there, here he comes and strip-sacks him. We just really can’t let that happen. That’s why he’s one of the best players in the league – because he makes those types of plays happen. He makes them on a regular basis, it’s not a fluke when he does it. That’s a trademark of their team and we have to try to stop one of their strengths, probably one of their best strengths and still go out there and be aggressive enough to move the football and get the ball in the end zone.
Q: You talk about consistency over the course of the season and keeping an even plane. Is it hard to do this time of year or do you find it more important to be the same guy you’ve been from the preseason right on through?
TB: I think consistency as a team and as an individual and what you bring to the table always has to be really important. That’s what professional athletes do and that’s something that really, you learn to do because you can’t ride the highs and lows of the season because the season’s too long and you don’t have enough emotional energy to go up and down and up and down. You just try to put it all in as best you can and watch the guys who do it pretty well and learn from them. But yeah, going out there and being consistent and dependable is what you hope for as a football team. I hope we know what we’re going to get out of each other this week. We put a lot of time and energy into our preparation – all the games, all the practices and it comes down to one game.
Q: You put another player on injured reserve this week. Do guys not even blink anymore at this since it has become a common thing and you still have gotten this far?
TB: Yeah, there have been a lot of guys put on injured reserve and it’s happened to plenty of other teams too. You have to learn to deal with it and overcome the adversity of it. Hopefully the guys who are filling in are capable of doing the job. We’ve been able to sustain to this point. We have to be able to continue to do it.
Q: Why has this team been able to sustain. What’s been the key?
TB: The guys who have taken those roles have come in and done a good job. We just have made the critical plays when it mattered most. No matter who was out there at what position, we won enough games to put ourselves in a position to get us to this point. It’s fierce competition in the NFL every week and you have to be at your best and do it as consistently as possible. That’s going to be another really important thing this week – to be at our best.
Q: How do you feel physically and how happy were you that practice was indoors today?
TB: I feel good and I’m ready to go and that was very surprising for all us players.
Q: Do you have a cold?
TB: A little bit, but I’ll live. I’ll be there. Hopefully not on the injury report. I’ll try to talk my way out of that one.
Q: How encouraging is it that running game has really clicked the past few weeks heading into cold, playoff-type football?
TB: Our running game has been really good all year. Truthfully it’s been really a great strength of our team – our ability to run and I think that’s our offensive line and how physical they are and how consistent have been this year. That’s been a big strength of our team to take a lot of pressure off our passing game. The way the running backs have run – Stevan [Ridley] and LeGarrette [Blount] and Shane [Vereen] have been great. We have to keep that as a strength of ours. Guys that are able to go in there and really impose their physical style of play against the other team and the way we did it two weeks ago against Buffalo was awesome, the end of the Baltimore game was awesome. Hopefully we can go out and stay balanced this week and try to keep them off balance so they really don’t get a beat on what we’re trying to do. It’s going to take a lot of great efforts from a lot of guys so hopefully we’re in a position to do that.
Q: How have you changed your approach in the playoffs since your early seasons? There’s footage of you head-butting teammates before your first Super bowl. Do you still do that before games? Do you still get that excited?
TB: I’m pretty emotional. It just depends on the moment. I’m a pretty emotional player. All the guys are emotional and they try to bring it and it’s an emotional sport.
Q: Do you still head-butt people before the games?
TB: I have, yes.