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Bill Cowher Pre-Game Press Conference

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BC: Hello, guys.

Q: Hi, Bill. How are you?

BC: Good.

Q: Did you use the AFC Championship Game as an example of what you needed to improve upon to win the Super Bowl, or did you look at the whole season?

BC: Well, I think you look at the season. Certainly the games are magnified any time you get into the playoffs. As soon as the schedule came out, we knew we were going to open up against New England, and knew we would be looking at that game again, anyway. It's more a case of hopefully the experience of last year is something we can draw back on. But I think you have to look at the season as a whole as opposed to putting it into one game, as usually the playoffs are. We try to look at the whole picture.

Q: Have you second-guessed yourself about the week leading up to that game and some of the things that went on?

BC: Well, I think every coach sits back and reassesses every game they play. Anything that you may have been able to do differently is something you learn from. I think that it's a very natural reaction for any coach. I think that one thing that we pride ourselves on here is that you put the preparation in and you recognize and you prepare and you take the right approach to an opponent is that you never know how a game is going to unfold. You've got to be able to deal with the circumstances that exist and so I don't think you dwell on it. You look and see what maybe you could have done differently in case the situation comes up again. So, hopefully you learn from it, but you certainly have to move on. I think that with every game and with every season, hopefully you can grow as a coach, grow as a player and hopefully there will be something that you can draw back on in future references.

Q: Is there any solace in the fact that you got beat by the team that eventually won the Super Bowl? Was there any solace in that to know that they were that good?

BC: I don't know if there's any solace in that. I think that everyone knows that in this business, there's such an evenly distributed skill level and there's talent on every team. I think that on any given day, anybody can beat anybody and I think we all recognize that. There's a fine line between the top teams and the teams that enter the playoffs. So I don't think you look at it from that standpoint. I think the thing that you look at is that you realize how close you are to winning the championship and I think that's the thing that you take away, that you were that close and hopefully you can get back there and seize the next opportunity that comes.

Q: The Patriots have gotten a lot of mileage out of the perceived lack of respect that they got from your team. Do you, in hindsight, feel like things were said or done leading up to the game that might have fed into that and that might have been a mistake?

BC: I think a lot of things were blown out of proportion. I don't think there was any disrespect shown towards the New England Patriots. They earned their right to play in the conference championship and we earned our right to host it. I don't think games are won or lost based on what's said prior to a game. I really don't. The game's still being played on the field, and people can use different things to motivate each other. Teams use different things to motivate each other. When you're that close to a championship and have the opportunity to go to the Super Bowl to win one, I don't think you ever disrespect anybody, and I think some of those things get blown out of proportion. It's one thing during the course of the season to say things that may be perceived as disrespectful. But certainly, we have tremendous respect for New England. They earned the right to get there and they proved that by culminating a great season with a championship. So, no, I don't think that. I think a lot of that was blown out of proportion.

Q: One of the things that people in this region took exception to was that you said that you wanted your team to be ready for New Orleans before the AFC Championship was even played. Was that taken out of context, or do you regret saying that?

BC: I mean, that's what we were doing as an organization. I talked with the owner and there were a lot of things that I'm sure New England did, but they just didn't … I'm sure they were doing things behind their doors. Again, if anything, it was that once that week started, we knew what we had to do. We focused on the game at hand and if people took that as disrespectful, they were searching. They were reaching for something to use as bulletin board material. Like I said, I don't think it had any affect on the game whatsoever and when that game came out to be played, we were ready to play, they were ready to play. They made more plays than we did, and what we said leading up to the game had no affect on what was done on the field.

Q: Bill, do you have a better team now than you had on that day in January?

BC: I don't know. It's a new year. I think you still can't assess any team. I think what a season does is that you develop a new personality, you develop a new chemistry. There are no guarantees and no shortcuts. The place were we were a year ago was developed during the course of the season. That's what built the character on this team and that's what built the backbone of this team. I think that in every season, it's not always how you start. I think New England proved that a year ago. It's what happens during the course of the year. It's how you deal with adversity. It's how you make up your team and the things you have to deal with along the way. Do we have a lot of returning players? Yeah, we do. So does New England. I think when you look at this game, you're seeing a lot of the same matchups that you saw eight months ago. Everyone's made a lot of how we've kept our team together. I think New England's done a good job of keeping that Super Bowl team together as well.

Q: You had a situation last year where [Jerome] Bettis was hurt. How's he doing now?

BC: He's gone through all of training camp. I thought he's gotten better with each game. I think he's gotten more confidence with each game. He's healthy going into this. Even last year, I think Jerome has even said it earlier this week, he felt good going into that game. That wasn't a case where he was playing hurt. We wouldn't have put him out there if he was. New England did a good job of stopping him when he was healthy in the playoff game. He feels good going into this game, and hopefully he'll be able to have some of the same results he had a year ago. Time will tell. But, I like where he's at and he's had a good training camp and a good preseason and I think he's ready to go.

Q: Will this game, coming so early in the season against two good teams, be a measuring stick for how good both teams are?

BC: I think it's good from a standpoint that both teams have great respect for one another. Certainly we do for New England. Certainly as we go through training camp, we realize that we're going to be playing two of the top teams in the AFC from a year ago, certainly with New England and with Oakland. We realize that we've got to come out of the blocks and we're going to be tested early. I think that as high as New England's expectations are … They feel like they're the top dogs and they're going to get the best efforts every week, but we feel like we are as well. So, you get a good feel for where you are and it's good to have an opportunity to play the defending champions in a nationally televised game, opening up their stadium. It's a big challenge for a football team, and we're looking forward to it.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about Mike Vrabel?

BC: Mike Vrabel was a great contributor to this football team. He was probably one of my favorite players. I think that when you look at our football team, we play a 3-4, we had a Pro Bowl player in Jason Gildon, we had a young player in Joey Porter who we felt good about, and Mike was unfortunately behind those two players. I would have loved to have kept him. He wanted an opportunity to go somewhere he could play more on first and second down, and I think that he made a good decision and he's certainly an integral part of New England. He's a good football player. He's smart, he's productive, he's got a great feel for the game. That's what he was when he was here. We just couldn't put him on the field with the defense that we had. We felt good about two outside linebackers. It worked out well for him, but I have nothing but respect for what he gave this football team when he was here.

Q: Has Kordell [Stewart] rebounded from that game last year? Did that game give him introspection?

BC: I think so. Again, like all of us, we feel like we had an opportunity and we didn't seize it. I think that Kordell had a very solid year last year, and he recognizes that in this business, what you do the previous year creates no guarantees for this season. So, he's had a very good offseason, he was very committed to the offseason program and training camp. He's a very focused player right now, as is our football team. It's a long year and there are many obstacles ahead of us, and we're looking forward to the challenge.

Q: Thanks for your time, and we wish you good luck not just for this week, but for the rest of the season.

BC: Thanks. I appreciate that.

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