San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson addresses the New England media during his conference call on Wednesday, October 8, 2008.
Q: How important is it for you guys to be home for this game?
LT: It's important because it's the next home game and it's obviously important because we're more comfortable playing at home when we need a win. We don't have to travel, which is a good thing and playing it at home is always-from our history-has been good for us.
Q: The Chargers have gotten off to a slow start the last few years and have had to claw your way back. Is that frustrating at this point?
LT: It is frustrating because you don't like to start that way; you would rather not. It does make it difficult trying to fight your way back, but I think this team has the character and the right people on it to fight back and get where we want to be.
Q: Last season you got back to even by November, and I'm sure it must be frustrating to have to fight like that, but does knowing that you have the potential to do that sustain you a little bit as you sit at 2-3?
LT: It does help because you know you do have the ability and the skill positions to do it. For us, it's all about going out and making sure we prepare and making sure we really understand what's ahead of us: everybody that plays us is going to treat us like an elite team in the National Football League, [it's the] same way with the Patriots. Everybody who plays the Patriots plays them like they're an elite team. Sometimes I think you get caught up in not knowing how teams are going to come out and play you so hard.
Q: Obviously you guys have lost an elite player in Shawne Merriman and the Patriots have lost an elite player in Tom Brady. Does that bring you back down to the rest of the pack a little and does it change the dynamic of this game at all?
LT: I think as far as the standpoint that people may look at us talent-wise. It does obviously take you down on the talent pole across the board as far as teams are concerned. But I think it's a perfect opportunity for guys to step in. Obviously it's tough to replace somebody like Shawne Merriman and also Tom Brady, but at the same time somebody has to step up and take their place. You won't replace them, but hopefully you can get some production out of them.
Q: What do you see right now in the Patriots Defense that you need to pay attention to?
LT: I think their front; their front is always what controls their defense to me. They've got one of the best fronts in football when you look across the board: [Vince] Wilfork, [Richard] Seymour, [Ty] Warren, [Mike] Vrabel, [Adalius] Thomas. You look at those guys and they're as good as anybody in the league, so that's what my concern is when I look at their team. I think those guys are what make their defense go and when they get out there its pretty tough to move the ball on their defense.
Q: How much is your toe problem hindering you as a runner?
LT: As a runner you need pretty much everything that you have as far as your legs are concerned: feet, toes, knees, hamstrings, all that kind of stuff. Obviously when you hurt one part of it, as a runner, it hurts you. But it's football and as long as I've been playing there's no way that I can expect to not ever be hurt. But I've got to play through it and that's just part of being a football player.
Q: Is this just another game for you? Or with all the things that have been said and some of the bad blood and the close games you've had, is this a little bit of a different week?
LT: No, it's the same game. It's just another football game. We can't make it bigger than what it is. It's the sixth game on the schedule and it happens to be the Patriots. So that's the way we're going to approach it. We can't talk about anything, really and truly, in the past because we haven't beaten them. For us, it's just another game.
Q: What are your memories of the AFC Championship game last year?
LT: [It was] a tough-fought game that the Patriots-they made more plays than we made, obviously-but for us, they did a great job in the redzone, keeping us from scoring. And they scored when they needed to score.
Q: What about personally for you?
LT: There's nothing really to remember about it. I didn't play much. That's the only thing to remember, or really, to forget.
Q: What did you learn about your quarterback [Philip Rivers] in that game, playing on a really bad knee?
LT: What did I learn? I learned what I already knew about him: that he's a tough joker and at all costs he's going to try to be out there and play, whether he's hurt or not. Another thing is that he obviously has a high tolerance for pain that he can stand up to it and he can play through it.
Q: After the game last year-I know it was a close game with some frustrations-Nick Hardwick called Richard Seymour 'dirty'. Do you think that's how you guys feel about the Patriots, that they're a dirty team?
LT: We don't feel anything more or less about the Patriots than we do about a lot of other AFC teams that we play on a consistent basis. You learn things about teams when you play them a bunch and obviously we've played them a bunch. That's how Nick felt after that game. That doesn't mean he feels like Richard is a dirty player all the time. Maybe some things happened where he felt like that, but no, we don't feel like they're dirty players at all. They're football players. We see these guys in the off-season all the time and there's no love lost at all. It's not like we don't want to talk to them when we see them. But during the game when we've got to play against them, we want to kick their butt just like they want to kick our butt.