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Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater Press Conference Transcripts 11/9

Patriots Defensive Back Devin McCourty and Wide Receiver Matthew Slater address the media during their press conferences at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, November 9, 2016.


Q: What are the biggest challenges that the Seahawks present for you?

DM: I think, obviously, their running game. They're a team that prides themselves on running the football and then they make a lot of plays downfield. I think a lot of us watched that game Monday night and just getting the ball vertical, whether it be to [Doug] Baldwin, [Jermaine] Kearse, and obviously Jimmy Graham with the two one-handed touchdowns. I think, obviously, everyone knows they like to run the football, but the threat of getting the ball down the field, especially with Russell Wilson, he gets it downfield in many different ways whether it's  just a plain drop back and letting it go, or a scramble and extending plays and identifying the guys down the field. It seems like we were just talking about this a couple of weeks ago playing Tyrod Taylor and watching that game Monday night, seeing both of them be so dynamic at that. Extending plays, whether it's to run or to throw is something we're familiar with, but it's never easy going out there and trying to contain those guys. 

Q: How much can you take away from watching the Super Bowl XLIX game against Seattle?

DM: I watched it too just because the way we play sometimes is different, especially defensively. Some teams play us different, so just trying to go back and get a refresher on  maybe what worked in that game, what it seemed like they thought going into that game was going to be a strength. So just trying to get the X's and O's part of the game from that game, especially because it's a team we don't play too often, so just trying to get more and more knowledge and watching all the games they've had this season with the extra time, too. 

Q: Does Russell Wilson throw the deep ball differently, meaning does he throw it higher with more arc so that it's harder to follow?

DM: At times you see that, but to me, the thing with him is that he gets it out of there pretty fast. Just from being a free safety watching him, it's a look, and once he looks, it's just gone. It's not so high that it's easy to just run under it from no matter where you are on the field, but he does, he has an ability to drop it in there on those deep balls. I think the pass to [Doug] Baldwin on that Monday night was an example of that. It looks like it's a lot of air, but it was just enough for him to run under it and it drops right in there. To me, his biggest gift is being able to see it and get rid of it. Whether it be on the move or in the pocket, once he makes that decision, it goes and it gets there. 

Q: You face two big tight ends in practice every day in Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett. Is either of their skill sets equal to Jimmy Graham's skill set?

DM: It's very similar. When you combine all three of those guys, they're all very good at going vertical, getting down the field. Their size is really what makes it really tough to cover all three of those guys because once they get vertical and it's any type of jump ball - you saw Monday night a ball that, for a corner, is just out of your reach, they're able to go reach it whether it be one hand, two hands. They all make tough catches, too, so they're very similar as far as the threats and how they're used in the vertical passing game. Like you said, we've seen it a lot, but [Jimmy Graham is] still one of the better tight ends in the NFL, one of the top tight ends, so we've got to go out there and play well against him, try to make everything tough. He's going to probably make some plays out there because he's a good player, but we've got to just make it tough for him for 60 minutes. 

Q: Tom Brady said that whatever support he offered to Donald Trump won't result in a polarized locker room. Can you speak to that at all?

DM: No, I mean, I think the one thing that's certain is everybody has their own opinions in our locker room, but politics aren't going to divide our locker room. We're here to do a job but I think everyone is entitled to their own opinion and who you support. That's what politics are I think in any job or any workplace. 

Q: What do you make of the good health luck that you've had so far this year?

DM: Staying healthy, I don't know. I don't think you should ask me that. But no, we've put a lot of work into it; we do every year though, so I don't know. I think for us as players, we just try to follow the direction of everyone here, what they want us to do as players, how we should get ready week in and week out in the offseason, so hopefully that's the reason why we're staying healthy, and if we keep doing that, we'll continue to have good health. I think for me, being in this league for a while, sometimes freak things happen, you never know, but you've just got to keep going and doing what you're doing, and hopefully you stay healthy. 

Q: How unique was it to watch Buffalo and Seattle play each other Monday night where you just played Buffalo and you're evaluating Seattle, and how much do you think that could help you?

DM: It was unique. I think how much it helps us, I don't know because we would have watched the game anyways just on the coaches' copy, but it's always interesting when you watch a team play against a team that you just played just because we were so drawn in on Buffalo and what they do and how they play. Watching, you see different things, but for me, most of what I saw was when Seattle's defense was on the field because I had just studied Buffalo's offense. How much that helps me, I don't really think so, but I think we've learned a lot just from when we sit in squad meetings and Bill [Belichick] talks to everyone, offense, defense and special teams. We know something about what we try to do offensively and different things like that, so you learn both sides of it. I think it will help. I stayed up and watched the game [Monday night], which I usually don't do, but it's always interesting to watch the game of a team you're about to play really from a straight player standpoint, like they come out on them hard during 12 personnel, their formation. I tried to watch it like that when usually when I'm watching the game, I'm just watching for fun, but that felt like being in there watching film and studying an opponent. 

Q: When Jimmy Graham was with the Saints he was often flexed out where as in Seattle he plays more in line. How does that complicate covering him, if at all, and what have you seen in the evolution of his game over the last few years?

DM: I just think what they do offensively, obviously if [Jimmy Graham] is out wide, it takes away some of the things that they probably like to do with the zone run scheme and the play action and a lot of that, because when he's out wide, he's a receiver. Don't get me wrong, he's tough out there too because of what he can do, but in line, I think his ability to block and do those different things frees him up a lot easier.  Obviously, I think every team goes in defensively saying, 'We've got to know where this guy is, we've got to be aware of him.' But you saw there are times when he's in the middle of the field, he's wide open, and that's because of the run game, the play action and different things they do well where you know we've got to know where he's at, but because of the run game you're trying to be aggressive and stop the run, and he's able to slip and get vertical down the middle of the field. I think that helps their offense out, and obviously him blocking makes that capable. 

Q: How underrated is Doug Baldwin?

DM: I don't know. I think when we played him two years ago, we felt he was a really good receiver and made a lot of big plays and production. I still feel the same. I don't think you turn on a game where he's not making big plays and clutch plays for them, so from scouting and watching them, he's one of their top targets. They give him the ball, he makes plays, so here I don't think he's underrated, but I don't know the perception of him everywhere else. 

Q: If you guys smell a perceived weakness, do you spend more time talking about that or less time talking about that?

DM: I'm not big on people having a tough time in games past. I don't think that matters coming into the game. We know what they're capable of. We know that they want to come out and run the ball. We know that you can run the ball terrible for the last four games, but you come in here and run well, then all of the weaknesses and strengths and all of that is out the window. We've got the same model every week. We've got to make sure we go out there and stop the run. That will be another goal this week, to go out there and stop the run, and if we don't we'll have problems all night.     

Q: What was your reaction to the results of last night's election?

DM: I think for a lot of us, it was a time where - I didn't expect that. But I think you understand politics is different. Everyone is trying to win a race and you're doing different things to win a race. I think just talking to our chaplain, he said it best. We just have to pray for the leadership of our country whether you agree with it, disagree with it. You pray for the leadership and you believe there's a way everything will be all right. Everything doesn't go the way you want it personally, but that's where I'm at. Pray on it and hope everything works out well and believe in God. 

Q: What is the challenge of covering Doug Baldwin?

DM: I think you've got - I think a lot of times with receivers you try to group them for what they do, whether he's a short, intermediate type of receiver, good quickness, not a deep threat. I think with [Doug Baldwin], he has good quickness, runs a lot of crossing routes, option routes. He goes deep, he makes plays down the field, so I think what makes him tough is his versatility. He does a lot for their offense. When there are three receivers on the field, he'll be in the slot, he'll work in the slot, but he'll also work outside. In two-receiver sets, he's outside, so he's not scared to get out there in the run game, going out there and blocking linebackers. He's just a very good overall football player. He's more than just a good receiver; he's a very good football player. We've got to try to bottle him up as much as possible so even when they get him the ball quickly and he's trying to break tackles and make plays, we've just got to surround him and make sure we try to contain him and not give up a big play.  

Q: What goes through your mind when you hear that there are only 25 players left on this roster from Super Bowl XLIX?

DM: The NFL is all about change, and it's funny, I'm sure everyone wants to talk about the Super Bowl and how much of a rematch and revenge for them [it will be], but there's just not that many guys on the team. To me, it's just a very good football game. It's going to be two competitive teams that have won a lot and go into games ready and prepared to win. Similar to when we went to Pittsburgh a couple of weeks ago - like Bill [Belichick] said, if you like football, if you like competitive nature, Sunday night here will be the place to be and watch it.  


Q: What are your thoughts on the fact that only 25 players remain on the team from the Super Bowl XLIX roster?

MS: I think that's the nature of this league. You look at the average career length and it's about three and a half years, a little bit less than that. This is a young man's game, so there's always a lot of turnover. The NFL has always been that way. You just have to try to adapt and survive as a player and continue to improve and we all understand that's the nature of the NFL.

Q: The Seahawks rank fifth in return yards this season. How dangerous is the Seahawks special teams unit?

MS: Well you look at [Tyler] Lockett and I think he's proven himself to be one of the best returners in our league. He's done it from day one as a rookie last year and I think not only that, but the guys up front work really hard to block for him and Coach [Brian] Schneider, who I played for at UCLA, has a great mind for the kicking game. He's got some good, well-designed plays, but he makes them go. At the end of the day, he's got the ability, he's got the confidence in what he's doing back there and he does a heck of a job for them. 

Q: You did say you were going to go vote. What was your reaction to the results last night?

MS: Not getting into that. I respect you asking that but I'm here to talk about the Seahawks.

Q: What was it like watching the Seahawks-Bills game on TV on Monday night?

MS: You know I think it was a good game for us. Obviously we know Buffalo well, we know what they do well and to see how they matched up against Seattle was good for us to look at and there are some good things to learn from. At the end of the day it's going to be about the Patriots and how we play our style of football against Seattle and how they play theirs. Hopefully we have enough to match up against them. I know we're working hard and preparing this week and we'll be up for the challenge.

Q: What do you remember about the closing moments of Super Bowl XLIX, how the sideline was, what you noticed about the team and how they handled pressure?

MS: I think what we did was just to try to stick to our game plan. We had been coached to play a certain way all year and I think we handled it well. Are you asking about the postgame?

Q: Everything. From the last minute of that game, to the way it unfolded, the ups and downs, postgame and all of that.

MS: We just stayed the course. We understand it's a 60-minute game. Things are going to go your way, then things are not going to go your way. Then afterwards, obviously it was an emotional time for everyone. We put a lot into this. We sacrificed a lot mentally, physically. To achieve the ultimate goal is obviously a tremendous thing. You know, I tip my hat to Seattle. When you go back and look at that game they did the same thing. They stayed the course, they played hard, they didn't quit. I think you had two football teams that were well-coached that believed in the cause they were playing for. Unfortunately, one team had to lose the game. Thankfully it wasn't us. 

Q: What have you seen from the Seahawks in terms of differences on special teams compared to the last time you played them?

MS: Well I think the X-factor is [Tyler] Lockett. They've always had good core special teams players. You go back to Heath Farwell and Chris Maragos when they were there and obviously Ricardo Lockette who is now retired. They've always played well in the kicking game but they never had - maybe Leon Washington was the last guy they had that was as dynamic as this kid. Leon, they didn't have him obviously in the Super Bowl. Now they have young Lockett and he's doing a heck of a job. So I think that's the biggest difference - what he's capable of with the ball in his hands. He's a very explosive player who poses a lot of problems. 

Q: How much of your own two tight ends do you see in Jimmy Graham?

MS: I'll say this - he's very fun to watch. He's had a tremendous career for himself. I guess the biggest comparison is the size. I referenced earlier how I felt like we had two small forwards out there, he's no different. He's got tremendous size and that's not something that you can coach. He knows how to position himself to make plays and he's done it for a long time in this league. I've got a lot of respect for him as a player. He adds, obviously, a different element to their offense. This is a good football team, with him, without him, they always compete and they always play the game the right way. 

Q: What have you seen from Jonathan Jones that has made him as successful as he has been?

MS: He's very fast. He's very, very fast. Well I think Jonathan [Jones'] attitude has been tremendous. He doesn't say a whole lot. He just comes in here and works. As a veteran player you appreciate that. I think another thing about him is his toughness. The kid is tough. He's had some things that he has dealt with this year as a rookie that he's played through and done a great job. So [I] can't say enough good things about him, his attitude, his willingness to learn, and then the way he plays on Sundays - fast and aggressive. He plays bigger than he is and he's been a tremendous asset for us. 

Q: The Seahawks started from inside the 20-yard line four times. How important is it to keep that number growing?

MS: Well we hope that we are able to do that. We understand, as I said, we're going against a dynamic player. There are not a lot of guys like this in the league. I think our focus needs to be just doing our job, playing our principles, being disciplined, making sure all 11 guys are doing their job in kick coverage. When this guy gets the ball in his hands you just have to hope that we get enough guys to the ball before he does something to hurt us. 

Q: A lot of the fans feel like the Patriots haven't played in a month. Does it feel that way when you get closer to the game because of the bye week?

MS: It feels like it has been awhile. Sitting around last weekend, not having practiced for a number of days, you get out there yesterday and you're like, 'Man, it's been awhile since I've run around and been in the pads and whatnot.' I know we'll be anxious come Sunday night but I think now we just need to focus on out preparation because this is a heck of a football team we're getting ready to play.

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