New England Patriots center Dan Koppen addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on January 17, 2008.
Q: How important is it to have continuity on the offensive line?
DK: It's important. You know we've got guys that have been around here for a number of years and we know what's expected of each of those guys and we know what they're going to do and what their role on our offense is. When you're rolling the same five guys out there, or six, or seven, for that matter which we've had over the course of this year, it's important to know what they do. It's important to have trust in them and really just build on that each week and try to get better.
Q: No disrespect to the guys that have filled in on the right side of the line, but how important was it to have Stephen Neal and Nick Kaczur back at their positions?
DK: Those guys have been here for years and they know what's going on. Just Russ [Hochstein] and Ryan [O'Callaghan] came in and stepped in there when they needed to; they've done a great job for us. But Steve and Nick, they're our guys. We like having them in there and we're not afraid if they're not in there. It's one of those things where you've got to deal with what you have.
Q: What kinds of challenges does Jamal Williams present to you?
DK: A big challenge. He's one of those guys… He's one of the best in the league at what he does. He's just able to get in there and clog up the middle and not only that, he is big and he's strong and he's got movement skills and he's able to get [his] hands on you and push you back and do a lot of things that you wouldn't think a big guy like that could do. He's one of those exceptions to the rule. He can do it all.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia and what he brings to the table?
DK: We love playing for Scar. He praises you when you do something right and he's not afraid to get in your face and rip your you-know-what when you do something wrong, but he's always a guy that he's going to tell you the truth. He's going to tell you how it is and he's going to stand up for you. To have that as an assistant coach and especially as our line coach, it's really important to know, for us, that he's behind us. You can't say enough about the guy because he's withstood coaching changes and he always seems to be here so that's a credit to him.
Q: Not only do you have continuity on that line, you have great camaraderie on that line? How did you go about building that?
DK: It's day by day, week by week, year by year. Not only are we close in the locker room, but we hang out outside of the field. There's a respect for each other on the line and we just want to go out there and do our part.
Q: Have you found that camaraderie can help build continuity and help you feel comfortable on the field?
DK: I think so. I think if you like the guy next to you or have a respect for him, you want to play for him and that's what this team is about - everybody in that locker room has respect for one another on this team. It's about going out there and laying it on the line for the guy next to you.
Q: What do you know about the Chargers inside linebackers?
DK: [Stephen] Cooper is a great inside linebacker. He's physical and he can run and he's not afraid to stick his hat in there and make plays. [Matt] Wilhelm's also in there so they've got a really good combination of both those guys that can stick their hat in there on the run and get back and cover or blitz. Whatever they want to do with them, they know how to do it.
Q: After Tom Brady threw his 50th touchdown pass of the season, there was a real nice moment with you on the offensive line. Of all the records, is that your recognition as an offensive line?
DK: Tom did it. He's the guy back there throwing and we just try to give him enough time to get the ball out. I think as a line, we're really happy to see him get that record just because that's our guy back there and we want him to succeed as much as the team. It was nice to have. It was nice to get over with so we could move on and look forward to other things, but Tom's done a nice job of putting us in the right position all year. He deserves a lot of credit of this offense.
Q: I know you guys don't pay much attention to individual achievements, but is it nice to see Matt Light and Logan Mankins get the recognition with the Pro Bowl?
DK: Yeah, it is. We don't come into the season thinking, 'Yeah, we want to make the Pro Bowl or All-Pro or whatever.' It's always been, around here, about the team first. That's no different this year. It's nice to get recognized from your peers, the fans and your coaches across the league and all of that, but you can't win games as an individual. You have to win them as a team. It's all 11 guys on that field trying to do the same thing. We have guys in that locker room that understand that and what to be a part of that.
Q: How does Coach Belichick handle the pressure of these big games and how does that rub off on you players?
DK: He tells us how it is. He goes in there in the early meetings and tells us the keys to the game. He does that every week and if you look at back at it on Monday, after the games, if you do those certain things, we're usually all right. If you don't do those things, it's not a very good outcome. He comes in and tells us what we really need to do and we try to work on it each day.
Q: Do you still think San Diego flies under the radar?
DK: Since November, they're 8-0. It's the same record we [have], actually they've won one more. They're probably the best team in football right now. You've got to respect what they do on both sides of the ball. Me, personally, just defensively, watching them, they're the best team that we've faced so far and they've earned that right to be the best team. We're going to have our work cut out for us this week.
Q: What really goes on in the trenches, some of the R-rated stuff that goes on?
DK: I don't think… I think more skill guys is where you get all the talking and stuff. I think the big guys have a respect for each other and they just try to go out and play hard and do their job. We have to conserve our energy so we can't be talking and all of that stuff. It's not as bad a people think.
Q: Are you proud of the fact that you match up against 360-something pound nose tackles and the weight differential doesn't make a difference to you, that your technique is good enough?
DK: The line is all about technique. It's about leverage and getting your hands on the guy and working the finish. If you're big and you can't move, that's a problem, but if you're small and you can get your hands on a guy, that's part of playing the line. You've got to know how to do everything and work with what you have.
Q: Why is this organization so good at handling distractions?
DK: I think we've got good leaders in that locker room. We don't… Our job is to go out there and play football on Sundays. We can't control anything that's going on in the media, all we can control is what goes on out on the practice field and meeting and how we plan Sunday. That's what we're supposed to deal with. When you're worrying about other things, you're letting that affect how you play on Sunday. Guys have been around here long enough, we've got great coaches that keep us right mentally and keep us in check and it's all about that.
Q: In three of the last four games, Laurence Maroney has rushed for 100 yards. Is it more enjoyable when you get to run block?
DK: Yeah, I think so. As an offensive lineman, you always want to run block. Whether it's a run called or a pass called, we've still got to do what's called and that's not our decision. It's one of those things that if a run's called, we've got to give the lanes for Laurence or Kevin [Faulk] to get through and getting hats on hats and finishing and just allowing them to make plays because when they have the ball they're going to do things.