HEAD COACH BILL BELCHICK
Q: You were in full pads for practice yesterday. How much contact was there?
BB: Just like a regular kind of Wednesday or Thursday practice.
Q: Was it a good opportunity to work on the run game?
BB: Yeah, pads are always good for the run game, for all the line of scrimmage work, blitz pickup, short yardage, goal-line, tempo, pad level.
Q: Is there anything specifically about the Broncos running game that presented a problem for you last time?
BB: It was definitely a problem. We just didn't play very well. Give up 179 yards, I mean, that's not where we want to be.
Q: How much did the return of Sebastian Vollmer help the offensive line last week? Do you think you can duplicate that performance this week?
BB: I don't know. We're playing the game. [It's] always good to have any player. It's good to have every player back, any player back, so it's good to have Sebastian back. It's good to have any player back. I don't know. We'll prepare for it and see how it goes.
Q: Have you seen Denver's running game improve as the season has gone on?
BB: Probably the best it was [was] against us, so we saw it.
Q: How was the team's preparation this week?
BB: We'll see.
Q: How has Keshawn Martin developed in the offense?
BB: Good. Good, again, Keshawn had a good, relatively good background with what we were doing. A lot of the terminology is similar to Houston and what [Texans head coach] Billy [O'Brien] did. But still, it's different, and the timing is different. There are certainly a lot of differences, but he had a good start on that. He missed the couple weeks there around mid-season. But he's done a good job for us returning the ball and offensively and has played multiple positions, so he's been a solid addition for us. I'm glad we have him.
Q: Has he exceeded your expectations since you brought him in?
BB: We thought he would help us. That's why we traded for him.
Q: How much do you get back to the fundamentals of things at this point in the season while also working on scheme?
BB: That's a great question. It's a fine line. You try to ... There's nothing more important than fundamentals, so no play is good with bad fundamentals. It's just impossible. That being said, there are a lot of scheme things that come up over the course of the season that teams keep building. We build and our opponents build, and so each week, there's more to get ready for because they're further along. It's a lot different than the first game of the season when you only have so much time to work on stuff. We've had over 100 practices, and it keeps building and building. So you've got to deal with the scheme issues, and you've got to deal with the fundamentals. So it's trying to find that balance, but they're both critical. I mean, if you're out-schemed, you're out positioned, then you're in bad shape. And like I said, no play is a good play with bad fundamentals. Just, it won't happen, so that's the balance.
Q: Do you think that protecting the football is even more important this week?
BB: I don't know how anything could be more important than ball security in any game, so let's just start with that.
Q: How does Julian Edelman's play make the offense more successful?
BB: Just having another good player out there. The more you have, the harder it is to defend the more guys you have who can make plays. And Julian makes them, you know, after the catch. He's a strong runner after the catch along with some other guys we have. So it's the passing game, it's the run-after-catch game, and that helps spread the defense and opens up things for other guys. So the more threats, the more weapons you have on the field, the easier it is to attack.
Q: How rare is it to have a player like Dont'a Hightower in the middle of the field?
BB: It's good. I mean, that's kind of what we've always had though. That's sort of what we, the type of linebacker we've tried to have here.
Q: What makes him such a threat on the field?
BB: I mean, Dont'a really has a great set of skills. He's big. He runs well. He's very smart and instinctive. He's got a good feel for the ball and the passing game, which doesn't necessarily happen with all linebackers. He's played in sub situations. He's played sub linebacker. He's played inside. He's played outside. He's played in all the nickel and dime stuff. We saw that coming at Alabama. He handled that defense, which we all know [Alabama head coach] Nick [Saban] runs a similar type of system with adjustments and checks and things like that and we do our share of that as well. So he handled that well, and he's played in multiple spots. He did the same thing at Alabama. He rushed. He covered and played the run, was a good pass defender, was on the field on all three downs, played in the kicking game.
Q: Do you put more on his plate with Jerod Mayo out?
BB: Look, I think everybody's got to do what their assignment is; can't have one guy playing two spots. One guy has got to play one, and the other guy's got to play the other. So everybody's got a, we all have to share our load, do a good job of it.
Q: Do you envision filling that final roster spot?
BB: We'll see. There isn't any point in putting a guy on who [we're] just going to deactivate anyway. Do we, will we need to do that and use that move? I don't know.
Q: Are you required to add someone with the practice squad rules, or do those not apply in the postseason?
BB: Yeah, Nick [Caserio] and I will talk about that today. We'll make it work one way or the other.
Q: Shaq Mason played more right guard in the game last week and we have mostly seen him at left guard this year.
BB: He played almost exclusively at left guard this year, although he played right guard his entire career at Georgia Tech.
Q: Is that not a big deal? Is this a situation like Matt Light where you switched a guy over and it didn't work?
BB: I mean, I don't think Shaq was uncomfortable playing left guard. It wasn't like moving Matt from left or right or from tackle to guard, but he's played a lot of right guard. And you know, Tre' [Jackson] played right guard at Florida State, so we kind of had two right guards. Somebody had to move. We worked them both in the spring and decided to go into training camp with Shaq and [Bryan] Stork, which eventually became David Andrews, and then Tre' on the right just to be able to get them all reps and work it out. In all honesty, we really haven't had the opportunity to have a lot of consistency there now with Tre' out and Josh [Kline] and Shaq. Josh has played a lot on both sides, so this kind of worked out. If it was the other way I don't think it would've been a big crisis mode, but [we] felt like that was the best for us last week and we'll see what happens this week.
Q: So was it more of a matchup situation?
BB: No, I think we were just doing what's best for us. It's hard on the matchups. They move people around, and it's hard to match up inside. I mean, sometimes you can, but a lot of times it's the overs and the unders and the fronts don't always stay the same. It's one thing to have a nose and a center. I'm not saying there aren't matchups, but I'd say they're less predictable, in a lot of cases, at that position.
Q: As far as NFL databases go back, 13 different starting combinations at the O-line is an all-time NFL record. Has this been the most challenging O-line situation you've been in?
BB: I don't know. We just play. What we do, right now we're getting ready for Denver. I don't really rank them. Whatever the stats are they are. I don't really care what they are. Right now we're just focused on the Denver game trying to do the best we can this week, so that's really all I care about. The rest of the NFL database, great. [I'm] sure it's tremendous.
Q: What are the benefits of going to Denver early besides avoid potential weather issues?
BB: That's a factor. That's a factor.
Q: Are there other benefits?
BB: It's a one o'clock game, so it's a quicker turnaround than for example last time we played out there on Sunday night. So it's a little bit different schedule.
Q: What is Justin Coleman showing you? I know he's had some starts and stops with injury, but what is it that he's showing you behind the scenes that's allowing you to trust him when he's out there?
BB: He's done a good job for us. We haven't had a tremendous amount of depth at that position, and as you pointed out, when he's played he's done a good job. There were a couple of points in the season where it was a little bit of a strain to carry him to be honest with you, but in the end, we felt like this was a guy that we needed and we liked the way he played when he played. Unfortunately, the setbacks were what they were. He couldn't really play through a broken bone, a concussion, so that was, you know, it's what it is. So we had to kind of wait for those to, you know, for him to get over the hump on those, but I would say that he's never shown any signs of not coming back quickly, not being ready to go, that type of thing or anything that lingered. He's done a good job in the opportunities that he's had. You're right, there have been a couple of spots where he wasn't available, but I know we've hung in there with him. And I think he did a good job for us again last week.
Q: Was it hard to get an evaluation on him before the season?
BB: Real hard. I'd say he's a little bit like Malcolm Butler. I'd say he just doesn't look quite like the player he was at Tennessee, so I think there were some issues that probably he was dealing with at Tennessee that aren't there now probably, physically. And in preseason there wasn't a ton of great tape on him. He was on and off a couple of rosters, and he was here and I think Seattle, whatever it was. Teams are trying to get a handle on him like we were. Then we just, I think the end of the transactions - there were several transactions there - but in the end I think we signed him off Seattle's practice squad if I remember correctly. And we just made a commitment to him, and it worked out.
WR JULIAN EDELMAN
Q: Football game on Sunday.
JE: There is. A good one.
Q: Has it been interesting to watch the way this organization has kind of reloaded more - [Don't'a] Hightower has become [Jerod] Mayo and [Tedy] Bruschi and you've become [Wes] Welker. Is it interesting to see just how it reloads?
JE: With every team over time there's going to be new players and father time is undefeated when it comes to those kind of things. It's been a special journey for me to see where the team was and how it's gotten to where it's at [now]. It's one of those unbelievable things that you're fortunate enough to go in and play in so many big games. When the season is over, you look back and [say], 'Man, that's pretty cool.' But right now you don't think about those things. You're more thinking about trying to get to the next one and right now we've got the toughest team on the schedule that we played thus far with the Denver Broncos. So it's cool and it's been a journey, but we're trying to keep that journey going.
Q: Do you feel like you're prepared to go to Denver and execute the game plan?
JE: We're preparing, and we have a few more days, a couple of more days to take advantage of and go out there and tighten things up. It usually goes down to the best team preparing usually comes out on top. With a team like this and the type of game it is, you really have to honk down on just everything because you don't know if they're going to bring something new. You don't know if they're going to stay with what they've been doing, so it's one of those things where we still have two day to go out there and tighten things up and prepare [up until] the final day.
Q: How did you get things tightened up on your own? You had a couple of drops last week and you were pretty tough on yourself around your locker and you were mic'd up as well, so we could hear what you said on the field. How did you settle down and what did you work on this week to get all that in the past?
JE: Just going out and catching extra balls. Plain and simple. The game comes down to fundamentals, getting open and catching the ball. That's my job. Making the situation as hard as possible during the week, going out and doing more ball drills - all those types of things. That translates into confidence and going out and doing it during the game so we have some more time and I'm going to do some more.
Q: The Broncos took some shots at your quarterback. What do you make of all the noise and all the trash talk between games?
JE: It's just noise. We're focusing on what they do, not what they say. They're a really good football team and we can't afford to get into that game. We have to really just sit back and see what these guys do and go out and prepare for that instead of saying something. That's what we're going to do. We're going to focus on the process, and the process is through the preparation. That's what we do here.
Q: Can you talk about the matchups with their defensive backfield?
JE: They've got a bunch of All-Pro and Pro-Bowlers, a nasty good group - a good nasty, football nasty. They've got guys that can get after the pass rusher. It's going to be a battle. You've got [Aqib] Talib, you've got [Chris] Harris, you've got [T.J.] Ward. You've got a bunch of dudes over there that play the game the way it's supposed to be played. If you slack off and don't work on the fundamentals of trying to get open on these types of guys, these guys take advantage of that so we've got to take advantage of these next two days.
Q: You mentioned the ball drills you do just to get a little extra work in. We see you out here catching the ball one-handed before the game. How much do you feel like it helps getting extra repetitions, even though it might not be with one of your quarterbacks?
JE: I think it helps a lot. It wakes up your nervous system, your hand-eye coordination, little things like that. I've always been a big practice guy, whether it was baseball catching ground balls or hitting, swinging, do it as many times as you can until you feel like you've mastered it. Then do more. That's what I've got to do.
Q: You put Shakespeare on your Twitter account. Is that related to your return being dramatic? What is it that's inspired you to be quoting a little bit of Shakespeare?
JE: I was just sitting back thinking about high school and it came to my mind.
Q: How did you get on the topic of high school?
JE: I was talking to my sister and she said something about Woodside [High School] and I then began to think of [my teacher] and how she used to hound me with all the Shakespeare, but then you grow up and you're like, 'Man, this is actually pretty sweet.'
Q: What is it like to miss all those games in the regular season and to come back and get 10 receptions for 100 yards? Things are clicking on this offense like you haven't missed any time.
JE: There's plenty of situations that we didn't click. There's plenty of balls that I didn't get to bring in, so there's always something to work for and you can always be better. As long as you try to be better and continue to try to improve, that's usually when you play your best ball, so we've got to learn from the good things, the bad things and bring it over to this Denver game.
LB DONT'A HIGHTOWER
Q: In last season's matchup there seemed to be a sort of cat-and-mouse game between you and Peyton Manning at the line of scrimmage. Is that type of competition fun?
DH: I don't know if it's more fun as much as it is tricky. You don't want to be in that kind of fight with Manning. He usually wins with that. Last year we had a pretty good plan as far as trying to mix it up and trying to confuse him a little bit and it kind of showed early on, and in the game it kind of had him frizzed a little bit so hopefully we can do a little bit of that this year too.
Q: How long has it taken you to become the quarterback of the defense and what kind of skills does that role require?
DH: Just being a sponge since being here. I had a lot of good linebackers in front of me. I had a lot of good teachers - Pepper Johnson, Pat Graham, Matty P [Matt Patricia], [Jerod] Mayo, [Brandon] Spikes. I had a lot of guys who taught me, and then you know coming from a similar system in college and just these guys around me. It's easy to kind of talk to the players and my teammates. It's just easier now. It's just more of a defensive thing. It's not just one person.
Q: How frustrating was it to be knocked out of the first matchup this season with Denver and then see them be able to have success in the running game?
DH: Very frustrating but again, this is a different game. This is definitely a different team with a different mindset. We've got a good game plan. We've just got to go out and execute it. I don't really like to live off of old games but there is a bad taste in our mouth and we want to go out and change that.
Q: Do you take their previous success as a personal challenge now that you are back in the lineup?
DH: I do, but at the same time I'm looking at it as a whole different ball game; it is. We're playing something totally different. The situations, the standings are different. We're just ready to go out there and do what we've got to do.
Q: How much did the time off during the season help you physically?
DH: It helped a lot. Just a lot of treatment with [head athletic trainer] Jim Whalen, a lot of massages, just doing everything that I needed to do to get back, working with H [head strength and conditioning coach Harold Nash] in the weight room to get everything back so I'm feeling a lot better.
Q: Do you ever think how fortunate you have been to have played in an AFC Championship Game in every season of your career so far?
DH: Absolutely, blessed from the jump and just talking to Steven Jackson the other day - this guy's been a great player all of his career and he's just kind of always been on the short end of the stick. Just talking to him and him being as happy and as proud as he is to be here, for all he's worked for to be here, a lot of guys kind of take it for granted. It was kind of a slap in the face that we're all blessed to be here and we do things different around here and that's why we're here.
Q: What has Steven Jackson brought to the locker room in his short time here thus far?
DH: I haven't been able to be around Steven as much, but in the short time that we do have in the locker room you can just tell that he brings a lot to that running back crew. It's kind of funny just to see Steven and just a whole different generation of running backs. This guy's so big and then you see little James [White] and [Brandon] Bolden. They bring a lot. He brings a lot to the room and they really look up to him for leadership and he's just really done a lot for the short time that he has been here and I feel like a lot of guys look up to him.
Q: Do you feel that you have more responsibility now that Jerod Mayo's season is over?
DH: I think there's more on me, there's more on everybody. We know what Jerod meant to us and know what he still means to us but I think everybody's ready to step up to the challenge. We've been there before. Guys go down and other guys have to step up. We did it when I went down, when Jamie [Collins] went down, when Devin [McCourty] went down, so it's just part of it.
Q: How much pride do you take in your run defense individually?
DH: A lot. That's the number one thing I take pride in is being an aggressive downhill run stopper. That's what I do. That's what I take pride in. It means a lot to me but as far as the stats and stuff, I'm not big on that. As long as we win, we do what we've got to do, we get the win, that's all that matters to me.
Q: How much of your preparation for Sunday will be mental considering how your previous trip to Denver went?
DH: I feel like it's definitely going to be more physical. I'm trying to get the mental aspect out of it. I know there are going to be a lot of checks with Peyton. I know when that's his game you can't prepare for everything but from what I can do, again working with Matty P, Bill [Belichick], we've got a lot. Mentally I think we're headed in the right direction. It's just going to come down to execution come game day.
Q: Is the defense able to pick up on the way Peyton's velocity on his throws has changed a bit lately and does that make him more susceptible to turning the ball over?
DH: We do, and I'm sure Peyton does too. He looks a lot healthier than what he did this past game. He's still a good quarterback. I'm sure he knows that we're looking at that, too, and I'm sure he's going to protect that. We're definitely looking at that and we're hopefully going to take advantage of that, too.
Q: What has Jerod Mayo meant to you personally in your career?
DH: Just a lot. Again, I grew up watching Jerod in college so I mean just coming here and just sitting down and talking to him after being drafted and stuff, that meant a lot to me. I thought I was a smart football player but I mean that dude could be a defensive coordinator right now, so just literally learning so much from him has just really meant a lot for me and my career.
Q: How will things change for you out on the field if Jamie Collins is not able to go Sunday and what have you seen from him this week?
DH: You all know the answer to that. I'll let Jamie answer that one but just again, there have been situations in the year where Jamie has not been there or I haven't been there and guys have stepped up. [Jonathan] Freeny stepped up, [Darius] Fleming stepped up, whoever we've asked to step up we're going to count on them to step up and this year everybody's done a real good job of that. Hopefully Jamie will be out there but if not then it's kind of a next man up thing.
CB LOGAN RYAN
Q: Are you as tired as we are?
LR: This is the earliest media I've probably ever had to do. Let's knock it out. Let's all get through it.
Q: What time did you wake up today?
LR: I was up at 6:00. Well, with the baby I was up a lot, but up for good probably at 6:30 a.m.
Q: Do you figure to be matched up on either Demaryius Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders or could it be a combination of both at some point?
LR: Yeah, I'll be on the field and they'll be on the field so I'll probably see one of them along with [Andre] Caldwell and other guys that they roll in there, [Cody] Latimer and that. So they're all good players. They've got a good quarterback. He makes you even better. It's going to be a lot of fun. As a competitor, as a corner, there's no better matchup than playing some high-profile guys in a high-profile game. I think that's what we all live for.
Q: Do you see opportunities to make plays against these receivers and maybe undercut some of their routes?
LR: Oh yeah, our primary responsibility is to get the ball on defense. That helps so many games that we win in turnovers, the turnover battle, games that we get interceptions we have a really high win percentage, so our goal always is to get the ball and then next is not let them catch it. If we're in good enough position to play the ball then we're taught to go get it. We're always going to be aggressive in that end and try to go get those turnovers because it's a risk but it's a huge reward.
Q: How do you balance preparing for a specific receiver and studying his play while knowing that you might be switched to another receiver throughout the game?
LR: It depends on game plan. We're going to watch a lot of film as a team. We probably watch more than anyone can imagine here - 12 hour days in the facility a lot of guys spend - and then going home I might watch my matchup or a little bit of something that I haven't seen so a lot of time goes to film study because that's just the best way to prepare for what's going to happen, but at the end of the day games like this, they're going to have plays for our weakness. They're going to have plays game planned to try and beat us. They're going to have plays that they like to run so you can't really go out there and assume what they're going to run. You've got to kind of play everything honest but you have a good idea with the more you watch.
Q: What do you think you did against Demaryius Thomas in the last matchup that allowed you to be so successful against him?
LR: I think he was playing with a new quarterback. I think there were some timing issues there, but that might not be the same this time, but I just felt like I competed with the guy and naturally I didn't back down from any challenge. I kind of stepped up to the plate and took what I felt like was mine and went and played the ball, got my hands on the ball a lot, which I want to continue to do each and every week. That's something that I'm developing and growing as a corner, just going out there good and bad, just trying to compete with these receivers and holding my own.
Q: Is there any kind of stat that Coach Belichick has emphasized this week regarding a certain emphasis that you guys might place on getting some turnovers?
LR: No particular stat but if we win the turnover battle, just being a football player, when you win the turnover battle it definitely gives your team a higher percentage of winning. I just think that's a general football stat and then when you have a great offense and a great guy like Tom Brady - every time you can take a ball away and give him an extra possession - hopefully and usually he gets points out of it. Points equal wins in the playoffs and just in football in general.
Q: Is there any single reason why the team has struggled in Denver?
LR: I think they're a good team. I think that's why it's just tough. We usually play them in big games. We usually play them in the playoffs. We've won our fair share. They've won their fair share so I think everything's kind of even here. I think there's enough motivation just in the game itself to want to do everything you can to win this one.
Q: Peyton Manning called you a highly intelligent player. How do you view him?
LR: That's a good compliment. I think he's a highly intelligent player as well.