HEAD COACH BILL BELCHICK
BB: We're back in this position here - second time around against Denver. It's a team that we've had a great rivalry with, and obviously they're the number one seed. They're the best team we've played this year. Done a great job starting at the top with John [Elway] and Matt Russell with personnel, obviously Coach [Gary] Kubiak, Wade [Phillips] - they've all really done a great job with that organization putting together a lot of great players, great coaches. They've had a great year. Number one seed, beat us earlier in the year, so we know we're going to need our best game Sunday. That's what we're working toward. Make sure to do everything in preparation and execution our very best they can be, so I think that's what it's going to take. Excited to be in the game. Great challenge, great opportunity, and I'm looking forward to it. But we know how tough Denver is, and they're a very resilient team. I know they've been through a lot of tough situations this year, a lot of close games, three overtime wins, been down, came back like they did against us a couple of the times, so we know they're physically and mentally tough. And they're led by a lot of great players on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game, so a lot of challenges for us here.
Q: How important is dictating tempo and rhythm to you?
BB: Not as important as points. They name of the game is the score and not giving them up, so that's what's important. So however that happens that's what I'm for.
Q: What are the benefits of moving the practice inside, which we don't see too often?
BB: We've got some things we want to get accomplished today. We've laid out kind of the week, what we're going to do. We're going to do what we think is best this week, have our team ready to go on Sunday. So that's the structure of the whole week.
Q: Can you address the difficulties of playing on the road?
BB: We play them wherever they're scheduled, so where we're scheduled to play, we show up and play and compete. That's all we do.
Q: Are there any difficulties playing on the road vs. at home?
BB: It is what it is. The game is in Denver, so we're going to show up and play it.
Q: From your experience going against Wade Phillips's defenses, how much does he change up the second time you face him? Did you notice a difference between the first time they faced Pittsburgh and the second time they faced Pittsburgh?
BB: Yeah, definitely. Look, Wade is a great coach. He's one of the great defensive coaches in the league over the past, really 40-something years, 40 years, however long it's been. And he does a great job. He does what he needs to do. If he needs to change, he'll change. If he doesn't need to change, he won't. But regardless of what he does, he stops people. He doesn't give up a lot of points. They turn the ball over. They play great situational defense, and that's the way it's been ever since he's coached defense as long as I can remember through the National Football League and all the different places that he's been. We've played against him in multiple spots as a head coach, as a coordinator, but the thing in common is his defenses always play well. They're always well-prepared. They're hard to run against. They're hard to throw against. They turn the ball over, and they play smart, situational football. So he's got a lot of different tools in his bag. Whichever ones he decides to use, we've got to be ready for and deal with. So I'm sure he'll make whatever adjustments he feels like he needs to make, and they'll be challenging for us. They always are.
Q: How much of what you saw in Pittsburgh was what you've seen from Peyton Manning throughout his career and how much of it was Gary Kubiak?
BB: I don't know. We've got to be ready for Denver. That's their coaching staff, their players, their great players and whatever it is they decide to do, so that's what we're going to prepare for. Peyton is a great player. He's had as, you know, we've had tremendous battles against him through the years. There isn't a playoff off our team that I have any more respect for than Peyton Manning, so his preparation, his consistency, his skills, I would never, ever, ever underestimate him under any circumstances.
Q: How different is Denver's offense with Manning as opposed to Brock Osweiler?
BB: They have good variety in their offense. Again, Coach Kubiak is a great coach. He's had a lot of success against everybody moving the ball, running, passing, play action, whatever it happens to be. Whatever they decide to do is out of our control. We have to defend it. We have to be ready for a lot of things. I don't know what percentage of what is going to be. Whatever it is, we have to deal with it. So we'll prepare for what they've done, things we think they might do whether they've shown them or not, and we'll go out and play the game.
Q: How do the Broncos use Emmanuel Sanders? Can you not guard him one-on-one?
BB: Well, they've got two great receivers. They're both tough matchups. Look, they have good skill players period, but with Sanders and [Demaryius] Thomas in particular, they've gotten a lot of production with both those guys. They use them a lot of different ways. I don't think it's any ... You can't just take away one thing. They're both great catch-and-run players. They can both beat you on intermediate routes, come-backs, in-cuts, slim posts, things like that, and then they're both great down the field with vertical routes, double moves or just deep patterns, goes, posts, post corners, things like that. They can threaten you at all levels of the defense, and that's what makes them a problem. It's not just one thing.
Q: What element does DeMarcus Ware bring besides just being a great pass rusher?
BB: He's a really good defensive player. They've got a lot of them at that position. They've got [Shaquil] Barrett, they've got [Shane] Ray, [Lerentee] McCray's played for them, obviously Von Miller. So they've got five guys they play out there, and they've all been productive. I mean they're all good. When he was out Barrett came in and played. Ray played, and obviously Miller is good. Ware is good. They're all good.
Q: Your team is notorious for not giving the other team bulletin board material. The Broncos have given some this week. Have you used anything they said as motivation?
BB: We're focused on the Denver Broncos and the game, so all the rest of that is a bunch of hot air.
Q: Can you comment on Patrick Chung's contribution late in the season and in the playoffs?
BB: Pat's been solid for us all year. He's done a really good job with all the things we've asked him to do - play in the kicking game, pass defense, tackling, run force. He's been a really consistent, dependable guy, same as last year. He's one of our steadiest, and he's a critical matchup player for us it seems like every week. And that's why he's here. He does a good job in all those situations.
Q: How does Jerod Mayo's continuing desire to come back and play after injuries resonate with you?
BB: Yeah, it's tough. I feel bad for Jerod. Nobody's worked harder than he has, and I know how disappointed he is and we all are. And I personally am because I've seen the hard work that he's put in, so it's very unfortunate.
Q: What have you seen from how the Broncos use their tight ends?
BB: Well, they use everybody - tight ends, backs, receivers, and multiple personnel groups. They've been in 13, 12, 11, some other variations with a lot of formation variations as well. So they do what they need to do. They see a weakness, they exploit it. So I don't think you can think that just because they haven't done something or just because they ... Look, if they see it's there, then they're going to hit you with it whether they've shown it or not. So you've got to be sound. You've got to be disciplined. To a certain extent, you have to be balanced because if you give them an obvious weakness, they'll kill you with that regardless of what their tendencies are. I wouldn't say they have a lot of tendencies. Coach Kubiak does a great job of that. They're well-balanced. They do things in a very balanced way. They obviously do a great job of self-scouting, and you've got to defend everything.
Q: What is it about Julian Edelman that allows him to miss time, come back and not miss a step?
BB: Well, I mean Julian is an experienced player, and he's taken a lot of snaps with us. Even though he didn't play at the end of the season and with the bye week and all that, he had an opportunity to get some time back in there. But that being said, I'd expect him to get better this week than last week with the extra time and the extra amount of time he had to work with our offense and the quarterback and so forth. Hopefully, that will continue to improve with him and other players that fall into that similar category.
QUARTERBACK TOM BRADY
Q: What's the thing you most respect about Peyton Manning and his game?
TB: There are a lot of things. I think just his consistency, the durability, his ability to always seem to come through. He's just been an incredible player, and incredible leader for his team. There have been so many games as a team he's been a part of that they've won. So, you can see that he leads a great team.
Q: Is there one thing that you emulate that he's done? He came into the league ahead of you, so you said, 'You know what? That's something I should try to do.'
TB: He's a great passer. He's so accurate, he throws it on time, he knows where everybody on the field is, offensively [and] defensively. He knows how to look defenders off, put the ball in the right location so his guys can catch and run with it. I think he's just a great pocket passer and he's incredibly accurate [and] throws on time. He's been a remarkable player.
Q: I know every time you play against Peyton Manning you say it's about the two teams and not the two quarterbacks. But do you understand the historical value of the 17th meeting of this game between you two and other great historical rivalries?
TB: I wouldn't compare it to any of those rivalries, but I think playing someone 17 times is pretty cool; especially someone as great as him. To play against those Peyton Manning-led teams, you know you've got to play 60 minutes and you're going to be in for a tough game. They're going to take advantage of opportunities that they get, so we're going to have to do a good job of taking care of the football, because you don't want to give it to these guys on a short field. So, it's going to be a big challenge for us. They present a lot of challenges on defense. They've got the best defense in the league; the best rush, the best coverage, one of the best teams against the run. So, they do a lot of things well, and certainly it's a huge challenge to go out there and beat them.
Q: You might tell us that it's not you versus Peyton, but do you think the quarterback who plays better will lead their team to victory on Sunday?
TB: It's going to be a team effort, there's no doubt. I'd love to play as best I possibly can and try to have my best game of the season, so that's where my focus is going to be. Hopefully our defense plays as well as possible, but it's going to take all three phases. We had a 14-point lead against them last time we played against them in the fourth quarter and lost the game. They've been in a lot of close games. A lot of them have come down to … They've had three overtime games that they've won. They've had some games come down just to the end, onside kicks and so forth. They've got a great team and they challenge you in all three phases. Offensively, we can't just play well and expect to win. We're going to need the entire team to play well.
Q: You just mentioned a whole bunch of games that you've had against the Denver Broncos just recently. Do you guys feel like you almost have to go deeper into your bag of tricks because you guys have seen them so often just recently?
TB: They're a great team and they've got a lot of good players. I think that's the hard part about playing them, is there aren't a lot of things you look at on film and go, 'Wow, I really want to run that again.' Even our first game, we missed some opportunities that maybe we could have taken advantage of, but in the end we just didn't play well enough and I think that's how that defense has played all season. When you watch the opposing offenses, yeah, you may make a couple plays, but you don't make enough to score enough points to ever get away from these guys. They haven't been in a game where it's been out of control because their defense is so good. They've got some great guys on offense and some very good special teams units, so that's why I said it's going to be a 60-minute game [and] maybe more.
Q: You mentioned playing them in Week 12. How much do you think you can take away from that game, especially with so many key guys back in the lineup for you guys?
TB: That's great for us to have some of those guys back that weren't playing that particular week. They were missing some guys, too, which I wish they were out this week, [but] unfortunately they're not. There are only two teams left standing, so I think we feel like we're one of the best teams. They feel like they're the best team. That's why it makes for a great game. We're going to be as healthy as we can be. It was good to have our guys on the field last week, that was a big part of us getting better and making some improvements, and we're going to need to do it again this week."
Q: Coach Belichick was just on here and basically mentioned it's like division games with Denver so many times. From your standpoint, is it frustrating for you that you haven't had the success against Denver as you've had against your real division rivals?
TB: It's always frustrating for me when we lose. So, yeah, I know we've had a lot of lonely feelings when you're driving out of that stadium. We've had some pretty tough losses there over the years, because they've had really good teams. That's what it comes down to. They've always been a great organization. They've always had good coaches and good players. It's just a great organization, so it's not surprising they were in a Super Bowl two years ago. Last year, they were one of the top seeds. This year, they've had a great season. It's always a challenge going out and playing anybody on the road, especially a team that's as talented as they are. They've just got a lot of great players, really good coaches that put those guys in a position to play their best. It's not easy to go in there and win, but we're going to give it everything we've got. It should be a lot of fun.
Q: We know about your preparation for games. How do you balance that now that you've got a family with young children versus earlier in your career when you didn't have that?
TB: It's a lot different. When your daughter doesn't get any sleep at night and you're up, that's part of us being parents and dealing with things at home and stuff. There's a lot less time to recover if you miss nights of sleep, [but] I think things are pretty efficient for me this time of year. I've been at it, and my kids are getting a little older now, too. So, at least I've had a few years to kind of get into a routine. I think that's probably a challenging thing for a lot of players in our career. Family is a big part of everyone's life, and then to add it to a really busy football schedule, it's a lot of give-and-take. It takes a lot of support to have.
Q: Rob Gronkowski is a tough guy to tackle. You see defenders try to get him up high sometimes and they'll bounce off of him, so a lot of times you'll see them go low and try to take out the legs. As his quarterback, how much concern do you have when you see that that's the way defenses try to tackle him?
TB: That's just something he's got to deal with. They're going to try to get him down however they can. Some guys have different techniques and styles to doing it. However they're going to tackle him, that's how they're going to tackle him and Rob's got to be aware of that. Just like the big running backs; when Steven Jackson or LeGarrette [Blount] are running through the hole, you've got to tackle them. It's kind of a daunting task, so they're just going to try to get him down any way they can.
Q: Tom, there's been some ribbing coming from the other side, some name-calling. I suspect you don't want to get in a shouting match back-and-forth, but maybe address the question of whether you work the refs a bit more than some other quarterbacks in the league?
TB: I'm not sure. I'm not sure what the other quarterbacks do. If the refs want to throw the flag, I love when they throw flags on the defenders, absolutely. It advances our team, so that's just part of football.
Q: How do those conversations go? We've seen you talking to the refs after you've been downed.
TB: I don't remember much from them. I've taken a lot of hits over the years.
Q: Coach Belichick said that the main thing that makes Denver's defense a great defense is they're a very good situational defense. As good as they are in first- and second-downs, and all situations, how do you characterize their good situational defense?
TB: It's good [in] short-yardage situations, third-down situations, third-down in the red area situations, fourth-down situations. They've got a lot of good scheme [and] they've got a lot of good players. They've got a lot of smart players: T.J. Ward, Chris Harris, Aqib Talib; [Darian] Stewart is a really smart player. [They have] smart linebackers and they've got a very experienced defense. They know what it takes to get the job done, so I think that's the part that makes it tough, is sometimes you get them in a second-and-one like we did in this last game, and it goes from second-and-one to third-and-three. Now you're going for it on third-down, you miss it, and you're off the field. So, what's normally second-and-one, and you might run the ball and get a first down on the next play, but these guys, they try to shoot gaps and knock you back and get you into third down. They've done a lot of those things and that's why they're one of the best teams, that's why they're so good at keeping teams from scoring points, because all of those different situations become very challenging. It's hard to drive the ball 12 [or] 13 plays down the field, because they have so many dynamic players, guys who can intercept the ball, strip the ball from the quarterback, they've got rushers, they have linebackers who can cover, big, physical defensive front that makes it tough to run the ball. So, that's why they're the best in the league.
Q: Tom, the New York media has been having some fun at your expense because of some of the things we were talking about earlier. Care to comment on some of the things you've seen, some headlines and other pictures on the front of these papers?
TB: No. I haven't seen any.
DEFENSIVE BACK DEVIN McCOURTY
Q: Devin, you've gone against Peyton Manning a lot. What do you see from him now that is different from the past or is he different from the past?
DM: No, I mean it's much of the same. We know what he likes to do; getting the offense out there and being able to survey the defense and look over everything and try to get them in the right place. Obviously this year he missed a couple of games there, but even watching him last week against Pittsburgh, same thing, trying to get guys in the right spot, getting the ball out quick and not just throwing the ball, but getting them in the right run plays for the defense in every situation.
Q: Devin, how do things change this time preparing for them? Last time it was Brock Osweiler and this time it's Peyton. Do things change defensively between the two quarterbacks?
DM: Yeah, I think it's a little different depending on which quarterback is in. I mean, you talk about a guy like Peyton Manning, who has years of experience seeing every defense, he knows what he wants to do. I think when he's out there, no matter what's in the game plan or what's not, he's able to check to different things that he's seen throughout his time. When Brock was in there it was more [about] running an offense, running [head coach Gary] Kubiak's offense. What they do, whether it's play-action passes, different run game with the stretch-run and I think whereas Peyton is in, it's just different variables that you don't know that he's getting to that he's always done throughout his time in the NFL.
Q: How important is it for the run defense this week considering Kubiak, he's kind of tricky, he either runs on any down or passes. How important is that to stop the run this weekend?
DM: Oh, it's huge. I think Bill [Belichick] read off a stat today. I think it was 10 games where they rushed over 100 yards - they've won nine of them. That's a great stat for an offense and I think it's big for us to go out there and play well and stopping the run because when they run the ball well they usually win. It's kind of a direct correlation for us that we've got to make sure we go out there, play well in the run game and I think that will set up the rest of our defense, but if they are able to run the ball and get five or six yards on a first down, move the chains on a second down, it will be a long day for us because they have a quarterback who can drive the field and make plays, make the right decisions to score points on us. I think we've got to try and get them behind and try to play good defense on first down and not let them just pound us and be able to pound the ball because I think we know with Peyton Manning one thing he can do is throw the ball and get the ball out to all the dangerous receivers.
Q: Devin, I know Peyton is back being the starter, but have you guys talked about Brock Osweiler at all this week just in case you see him play?
DM: Yeah, I mean we always do as a defense. I think one of the best things for us now is that we played in that game, we played against Brock, so we actually have that game experience, but definitely talked about him and different things, but I think our focus really is on Peyton. You don't want to spend too much time on a backup and let Peyton go out there and carve us up, so we spent a lot of time on just being ready for Peyton.
Q: Devin, I wanted to ask you about Jerod Mayo. He ends up on injured reserve after Saturday's game. What has he been like as a teammate and a leader of this team?
DM: It's tough. Mayo is kind of the heart and soul of not just the defense, but really the team. He gets everybody going. Being able to watch him, he's a special leader. Energy level is always high. No matter if it's 6:30 in the morning and the training room is packed with treatments and guys are trying to get healthy. He's usually in there getting guys going. I think it's a big loss for us as a team, but this time of year, playing in the NFL, things happen. I just hate it for him, personally, you know he's battled and worked his way back from different injuries and being able to help us out a lot this year defensively I think has been huge for us so knowing him, he's a tough guy. He's going to rehab and do everything he has to do, but it just sucks he won't be able to be out there on the field playing.
Q: Shades of Vince Wilfork here. We're learning that Darius Fleming is a hero this playoff time rescuing a woman from a [car] wreck and even getting 20 stitches that he played with in the last game. What can you tell us about that?
DM: We've got great guys around here. No matter the time - playoffs, regular season, we're always out in the community trying to save people [laughs]. Darius was really quiet about it, but once the guys on the team got a hold of it, we forced him to give a speech and everything. I think him, if you ask him about it, he explained it very simply. He saw a woman's car that looked like it was smoking and he just jumped out of his car and he'll admit there was probably some easier solutions he could have done, but I think it was nice. It was nice and dramatic, kick the window in and pull her out [laughs].
Q: When did you ask him to give the speech and what was that like?
DM: It was cool.
Q: Was it before or after the Kansas City game?
DM: We can't talk about all of that, but we got the hero's speech. He gave us the account of what happened and a lot of cheers went on. It was a happy time for us.
Q: I'm not sure if it's appropriate to ask a football question following that. Can you talk about Peyton and the checks that he makes? Is there an inherent risk in trying to kind of match wits with him? How, as a defense, do you not get caught up in the counter-adjustments that he makes to make sure you stick to your principles, even though you're trying to disguise what you're going to do?
DM: I always say for us we're lucky. You're going against Tom [Brady] every week, especially in training camp you're going against Tom where he knows our signals and even knows what we're saying, so those two guys are hard to outsmart. It's hard to really think that you're doing something that's really fooling them. You have to have a good game plan and go in there and really try to execute it. You can't get out there and start guessing and thinking that he knows everything, we've got to try something else in the middle of a play because he's already on top of that. I think we've done a good job at times here going against him at just executing our game plan, sticking to what we talked about during the week might happen and what we think he'll do and just going out there. Obviously you go against a guy like him, there's going to be times where we're wrong and he's going to make a play. They got him back there and they've got some great receivers with [Emmanuel] Sanders, [Demaryius] Thomas, [Owen] Daniels at tight end. We know they are going to make some plays, but I think as long as we stick to the game plan and execute at a high level, we'll have a chance.
Q: Devin, kind of along the same lines, what has it been like, a lot of people are looking at this as Manning vs. Brady, what has it been like to play with and play against two of what people are calling the greatest quarterbacks in the game?
DM: It's been pretty cool. You go into it and you're just playing football, you're not thinking about it, but after each game you kind of look back at that and usually see two quarterbacks make some great plays throughout the game and throughout different situations to give their teams chances. Being on the defensive side, it's our goal to try and make sure Tom looks better at the end of the game. They'll always talk about it's not about them two going against each other, it's just about the defenses trying to play and stop two of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play the game. I'm sure Denver is the same way with their defense. It's a huge challenge. I think defensively in the AFC Championship Game with an opportunity to try and advance to the Super Bowl, you can't ask for a better challenge then going against two of the greats. If you deserve to be there then you have to go out there and prove it on Sunday.
Q: We know Patrick Chung is a big hitter, but what are some of the other aspects of his game that you have grown to appreciate over the season?
DM: I think if you just watch his season, his coverage skills. Obviously he does a lot in the box and in the run game, but you look at the different tight ends we've played and who he's gone up against and how he's played. I think if people just took time and just watched that you'd be blown away with the success he's had going against some of the best tight ends in football. I think what he did last week against Travis Kelce, I thought that was great. He went out there and performed at a high level. When he had to cover him one-on-one and single, he did a great job. When he had to play in the run game, he was there making tackles and I think just his fight. You watch that tight end screen where he had just the end of Kelce's jersey and he's just holding on and waiting for the rest of the guys to get there. He's been great for us this year and I think he's played at a high level all year long.
Q: This is your fifth time going to the AFC Championship. Do you prepare any differently? What is the experience of the past? How does that affect this year? This time around?
DM: I think with each time that you go you gain a little bit more experience. So as far as doing things differently, I just think that you do more. When you've played in this game and you've lost and you've played in this game and you've won, you know how fine of a line it is as far as preparation, how you play, how you execute, what gets done. It's such a fine line, so you understand if it's watching an extra game of film, getting the guys together for an extra hour or something and watching some film, you know that could be the difference. Sometimes you still fall short, but you know there's no tomorrow, so if you lose this game you have a whole offseason to think about it, so you might as well put everything into it and try to get a win. We have a good amount of guys who have played in those AFC Championship Games that understand that and we'll push everybody on the team to just try to do a little bit more and see if we can advance.
DEFENSIVE END ROB NINKOVICH
Q: Rob, being on the field your main objective is stopping Peyton Manning, but during the course of all these games, do you ever sit back and think about the rivalry between Peyton and Tom Brady? I know it's about the two teams, but from the player's standpoint, do you see that this will go down as one of the most historic sports rivalries?
RN: Honestly, not really. For me, I'm focused on myself to try to be the best player I can be. Again, two great football players with a lot of history. You respect the things that they've done, but you're just trying to focus your best on what you can do to play well, and that's where I'm at.
Q: Devin McCourty was just saying that it really helps having Tom Brady in practice and going up against him and not trying to outsmart yourself when you're going up against a quarterback like Peyton Manning. How important is it when you're out on the field Sunday to not try to think too much, but read-and-react?
RN: That's pretty much football; just go out there, play fast and the more you think … Overthinking things aren't going to help you as far as playing fast and being a good football player. We go against Tom and he's one of those guys who is very good at understanding what defense you're in. So, Manning is obviously very smart, understands concepts, so you just have to do a great job defensively. And again, he's seen it all.
Q: How key is it for the run defense, especially playing against Gary Kubiak's offense? You never know when he's going to pass or run. Just your thoughts on that?
RN: Well, you have to stop the run, definitely. Very good football team, you have to respect every back that they have, they run hard. I think you have to definitely have a mentality of stopping the run. The fundamentals of basic football are run the ball, and defensively, stop the run. It's going to be a challenge. They're a good football team, they run most plays well and we just have to play well together up front.
Q: We just learned about Darius Fleming's heroics. What are your thoughts about what he did and how he brought it to the team after?
RN: It represents his character. He's a great person, and I think anyone in a situation where someone's life could be in danger, you have to act on it and not just watch. So, I think he acted and did what he had to do. It's definitely somebody that you want in a situation like that, to kick in windows and taking stiches. Definitely great what he did.
Q: The quarterbacks of the teams don't talk about how they play against each other and how they're not really focused on the rivalry. So, given that it's the defense versus the quarterback, how much fun will it be to play in Ninkovich versus Manning, VII?
RN: He's very smart. Manning is obviously, like I said earlier, he's seen everything, so you understand the importance of how well I have to play. Really, that's what I said earlier, is I focus on myself to try and be my best come Sunday. So, really, that's watching as much tape as I can, giving myself an advantage on anything. I think at this time, like Devin [McCourty] said, you do everything you can to make sure you're as prepared as possible.
Q: This team has had a lot of success on both sides of the ball, plugging in new guys when players get injured. Can you talk about what helps this team do that, and what you need to do to be successful when replacing players?
RN: I think we do a great job starting back in OTAs and minicamp of everyone understanding fundamentals and concepts. Unfortunately, there are always going to be injuries, 100 percent of the time, every year. So, you have no idea who it's going to be, so you just have to be prepared the best you can. And if you're a guy in a role who has to step up, then you have to step up, and that's the mentality you have to have. Throughout the year, again it's been unfortunate some of the things we've had to deal with, but that's just the nature of the game.
Q: You talked about the extra preparation you have to do for these games. How do you balance your personal and family life with that when you have to put all this work in?
RN: You do as much as you can here, obviously while you're in the building, and then when you go home, instead of watching TV you just watch some tape on your iPad. After the season is over, I have time, but right now it's all into what I can do to play well.
Q: And everyone is cool with that?
RN: Yeah, it's my job.
Q: Would you like to address the [shirt] model you're wearing there? 'Adapt or Die,' it might fit into this idea of plugging in players, I suppose?
RN: Hey, you've got to adapt. That's the way it is. That's the way of the world.
WIDE RECEIVER MATTHEW SLATER
Q: We talked the other day about playing in another AFC Championship Game. Can you talk about what it says about this organization that you guys are there again?
MS: It's so hard to be consistent in this league, and I think that's something that every franchise hopes to establish, is some consistency and stability, and we've been really fortunate to have that here. I've mentioned it a few times throughout the course of the week; I really think a lot of that credit goes to Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. The way they've approached their roles - and they're all different, obviously - has really allowed this franchise to have the success that it's had.
Q: I've got to ask you about Darius Fleming. The cat is out of the bag and we're learning about his heroics. Last year it was Vince Wilfork - I don't know what's with you guys and the heroics around this time of the year? What do you think about this younger guy showing such character?
MS: I truly believe that we have guys around here that understand the important things in life, and they value the right things. I think you hit it on the head, it really speaks to their character. It really speaks to the things that they value, the way they were brought up, the things that they believe in, and Darius has been a stand-up guy since he's gotten here. When I heard the story, I wasn't surprised at all, because you look at Darius and the way he carries himself, the way he treats people. He's a tremendous young man, and we're obviously all very proud of him. You never know what you'd do in that kind of situation, but what he did was pretty remarkable.
Q: And then 22 stiches and he goes out and plays, and we don't even know about it?
MS: How about that? How about that? Again, it speaks a lot to his character and who he is as a man.
Q: The last game, late in November in Denver, the game turned on a special teams play. I'm just wondering if you guys talked about that, or if it underscores the importance of all three phases of the game? Because you had pretty much control of the game until that play.
MS: Certainly. Obviously, we were all disappointed with the way that game played itself out, and as a unit we felt like we didn't do enough to help our team win the game. It's no mystery we had a rough stretch there for a couple of weeks, where we weren't performing up to the level that we're used to. We're thankful for another opportunity to go into that hostile environment and contribute in our phase of the game, and we'll see how it goes.
Q: This time of year, there is a lot of preparation involved and you have a young child now. How do you balance what's going on here with your family life?
MS: My wife is the MVP. She's really been great about that, allowing me to take care of the business here that I need to, but my family will always be the most important thing to me, and football will always come after my family. Definitely, there is time management involved; I can't dilly-dally around here like I used to. But I'm excited about what's going on at home, and obviously excited about what's going on here.
Q: What do you mean dilly-dally around here?
MS: I've been known to have some long conversations with guys after-hours [and] hang around the training room after-hours. So, I take care of my business and get out of here now.
Q: Any words of wisdom from dad about playing in a big game this weekend?
MS: My dad has always told me to never take these situations for granted. I've been very fortunate - this is my fifth AFC Championship Game - and I've always tried to approach every one like it's your last. My dad has always told me … His final words to me in every conversation are always, 'Take care of your business.' Whatever it is for that week, just take care of your business. Certainly, I try not to take these moments for granted, this experience for granted. It's a true blessing, so the Slater family is very excited about this weekend.
Q: There's obviously an enormous amount of consistency with this organization, like you said. I'm also noticing a lot of humility amongst all of the players. How do you remain so humble after so much dominance over the years?
MS: That's a great question. I think we understand that we've been very fortunate. Some of the games that we've won, people would say we've been lucky, and obviously the ball has to bounce your way. But we realize how hard it is to do what we're doing, and we realize that we're very fortunate and we've had some breaks along the way. There are a lot of teams that wish they were in our shoes, so we don't take the success that we've had for granted, and at the same time we realize it's not just us as players that are making it happen, but there are a lot of people involved in the process that allow this team to have the success that it's had. Like I said, I feel like I speak for everyone when we say we're in a great situation and really feel fortunate to have the people and the circumstances in place that we do.
PATRIOTS LOCKER ROOM QUOTES
WR DANNY AMENDOLA
(On how much more effective the offense is with everyone being back healthy)
"We all love playing together and we have a lot of playmakers on this team and we're going to go out there and prepare this week and get ready for the Broncos."
(On why the team has historically struggled playing in Denver)
"They're a good football team. They play hard. They're well coached. They fly around out there defensively so we're excited to prepare for them today, Thursday and Friday."
(On how the team is able to handle outside distractions)
"We just try to ignore all the noise outside the building. We don't really read much into anything besides our focus on the preparation, the playbook and what we need to do to get a win."
(On what it means to lose a veteran like Jerod Mayo at this time of year)
"He's a captain of our team. He's a great player, a leader in the locker room and any time a player like that goes down you're going to miss him. He'll still be around and helping us and getting us ready as best he can with whatever he can do."
(On if he has spoken to Mayo since he was placed on injured reserve)
"I haven't seen him yet. He'll be in the building so I'm sure I'll see him today or whatever. [He's] just a great guy, a great teammate. Like I said, any time you lose a guy like that it's hard for the team."
(On what makes Denver's defense so tough)
"[They're] just real athletic - up front [they're] athletic, DBs are athletic, knack [for] getting big plays. We played each other and we're familiar with each other. We know each other so it'll be fun in preparation."
CB MALCOLM BUTLER
(On the Broncos offense)
"They can run the ball a lot, they've got a good running game, good running backs. They've got a quarterback that's able to adjust calls at the line of scrimmage and they've got two good weapons on the outside along with other receivers. We just have to go out there and make plays."
(On whether he listens to reports about Peyton Manning's arm)
"Not at all. No, I don't."
(On the importance of keeping quiet this week to avoid tipping off Peyton Manning and Denver)
"[We] just [need to] do what we've been doing. When we get out there, he's [Peyton Manning] going to have a clue of what we're doing. The guy has been in the game for a long time. Whatever we throw at him, I'm pretty sure he'll try to handle it and try to take advantage of it. We don't know what's going to happen, so we just have to wait and see."
(On whether there's a key to slowing down Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders)
"Yeah, playing good defense."
(On the difference in technique between playing a receiver like Demaryius Thomas and some of the smaller receivers the team has faced this season)
"The smaller guys have good quickness. The big guys, they've got good body mass to push off. They can muscle you around. Just got to do what you do out there."
(On what makes Emmanuel Sanders so difficult to cover)
"He can stop on a dime. He can go vertical. He can get in and out of his breaks. He can do a lot. You just have to be out there competing every play."
(On whether Emmanuel Sanders' style is comparable to Antonio Brown or Julian Edelman)
"In many ways. They all can do pretty much the same things. They all can do different things."
LB DARIUS FLEMING
(On what transpired last week when he was involved in rescuing a woman from a vehicle accident)
"I want to say it was Thursday. I was driving home from here, just left treatment. [I was] on Route 1 and the lady - there was a semi [truck] four cars ahead of me. Three cars were in-between and the semi made a real sudden stop, made a right turn, and it kind of threw the three cars behind it off so the lady in front of me couldn't stop. She rammed the car in front of her. That car continued to ram the car in front of it and I was about to go around it but I noticed that the lady in front of me - she kind of was jumping around the car, passenger seat, back seat. Then I noticed the car started to smoke and I didn't really think much of it. I just thought she was trying to get out of the car then I realized the smoke was building up inside of the car so I was like 'You know what, I probably should get out of here and try to assist her a little bit.' I tried to open the doors. It wouldn't work so then I was just like 'I've got to get her out of here because I don't know if this lady can breathe or what.' I started banging on the window. It wouldn't break so then I just started kicking the window. Eventually it broke. I pulled her out and made sure she was OK. At this time a lady was coming out of the adjacent building and was assisting her, so I noticed my leg was bleeding pretty bad so I was like 'I probably should get out of here.' [I] came back here, got it bandaged up a little bit and then went to the hospital and they did the rest of the work."
(On what they did for you at the hospital)
"Well, I had some glass in my leg so they got that out, took a couple of x-rays to make sure there was no more glass in there, and then they started to stitch me up and that was that."
(On if the 22 stitches he received affected him much during Saturday's game)
"No, I mean I didn't think about it too much. Obviously, you've got stitches in your leg so it's kind of on your mind. I was just excited to be able to play because the first thing that came to my mind was 'My leg's cut up pretty bad' so I wasn't sure how that would affect me and how it would affect my game. I was fine though. It didn't do much."
(On if instincts just took over throughout that situation)
"Yeah, guys are like 'Why didn't you grab a brick?' The smoke inside the car started to freak me out so I was like I can't tell the lady, 'I'll be right back.' It's kind of like, 'Get her out of here right now,' so that's just what came to my mind."
(On if the woman spoke to him at all throughout the course of events)
"She was just very appreciative in my helping her. She was like, 'Thank you' and at this point I was just making sure she was away from the car and then that was that."
(On how he was able to kick through the window)
"I just started kicking it - kicking it with my right leg. It didn't break right away. I wasn't sure if it was going to break but on the third kick it broke and that was that."
(On if he has ever had any experience like that before)
"No, I've never experienced anything like that. I don't think it was that crazy but I'm just glad I was there to be able to help her and who knows."
(On how he felt being able to get some time on the field during the game Saturday)
"You come in each week, you prepare to play. Obviously, I know my role on this team but that can always increase and it did a little bit on Saturday, so I was glad that I was able to contribute and just help us get the win."
WR BRANDON LAFELL
(On playing at Denver)
"There's no concern about playing on the road. At this time of year, you just have to be playing good, so whether we're playing at home or on the road, we know we have to go out there and play our best game. We can't have too many mistakes against a team that's been playing good football. I think this team has won three overtime games this year. They've been down a lot and always find a way to win games so we know we have to play our best football at this time of year."
(On concern about defenders hitting low on TE Rob Gronkowski)
"It's no concern because nobody we've played this year has tried to tackle Gronk up high. If they did, he'd break a tackle and make a lot of yards after the catch. But it's been like that since I've been here. Every time we play, [we hear about] 'hit Gronk low,' but he knows how to protect himself."
(On if you felt frustrated after Saturday's playoff game)
"We won, man. I'm good. As long as we're winning, I'm great."
(On getting open faster to reduce pressure on the offensive line)
"When we're going fast and Tom is able to get the ball out of his hand pretty quickly, it's hard for those guys to get in their pass rush. By the time they get to their pass rush and make their move off, or their second move off their first move, the ball is going and a lot of guys get real frustrated by that. We play at that tempo. We're getting those guys tired and by the time we're past the 50 [yard line], the pass rush is dead."
(On the Brady-Manning rivalry)
"I think it probably started when I was in middle school. I've watched a lot of these games and was part of two of them, last year when they came up here and this year when we went down there, but he [Manning] didn't play. But it's not him [Manning] vs. Brady. It's us vs. them. The better team is going to win."