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Jeff Fisher Conf. Call Transcript

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            **Q:  Hi Coach, how are you?

JF:**

I'm great. How is everybody?

**Q: Great. Coach, when you look at the Patriots and their offense and, this being a team that has been inconsistent over the years at running the ball, they had the best game they had this year running the ball against your team. Do you look at that and wonder how that happened? Are they underrated in their ability to run the ball? How do you explain that?

JF:** I believe that they are underrated as far as their ability to run the ball. You look at them and there were plays, big plays, throughout the year, not only in our game. Their run game complements the passing game very well. The three backs on the roster, and then there are some fullbacks that can carry the football and run effectively. We didn't play particularly well, and I think you can probably say the same for them in that ballgame. We gave up some big plays in the run game. They were well conceived and well designed and then we had some players missing tackles. We have given up some big runs over the season despite the fact that we were number one in rush defense. It just happens. And they do a good job executing.

**Q: How different are the Patriots in that you can watch other teams and watch their defense and have a pretty good idea of what they are going to do, but in terms of getting your offense ready for this scheme and the scheme of Bill Belichick, how difficult is it to prepare for something new every week?

JF:** Well I think you probably ask that question on a weekly basis. You probably get the same answer. What we typically have to do is prepare for everything. You have to be patient. You have to start with protection. It is a challenge when your offense on first down has to protect against the 3-4 defense and then on second down protect on variations of a 4-3. They do a great job week after week. One game plan doesn't resemble another. It keeps you on your toes and keeps you focused.

**Q: Jeff, one thing Coach Belichick talked about is the fact that he is not going to worry so much about the last time he played the Titans, but rather he will be more concerned about the last four weeks of the season for you guys. How much are you looking at it the same way? Are you looking more at the way the Patriots have played in the last month or the last time you played them?

JF:** We are looking specifically at the last month. Look at the points allowed—they got two shutouts in the past four games. They play very very well defensively. When we came up there in October, Ted Washington, [Mike] Vrabel and you had a bunch of players that were not there. Willie [McGinest] was not there, and the coaching staff did a great job of changing the scheme and giving them a chance to win. We have looked at this defense over the past four to six weeks and been very impressed with it. I would think that, as you said, he is looking at what we have done the last month offensively. We actually played better on offense during the middle part of the season after we left New England because we started a number of different quarterbacks and had some quarterback problems.

**Q: How is [Brad] Kassell doing playing in place of Rocky Calmus?

JF:** Brad has done a nice job. Rocky broke his leg in the Jets game and Brad has come in and played. Teams have typically attacked us with a 3-4 wide receiver package, so Brad hasn't gotten the number of snaps that he would have liked, but I thought he buckled down last week against a good running football team and did a nice job. He is in the right spot, runs well, is very enthusiastic. In addition to that he is on a number of our special teams.

**Q: Have you changed your sub packages on defense? I know the Patriots hurt you with that in the meeting up here. Is it a different look for you guys now?

JF:** We have a number of different looks, yeah. We have made some adjustments in the last six or eight weeks. We lost Andre Woolfolk, who was a rookie trying a new position. He was coming around at the time we were up there, but then we lost him to injury. We have moved some people around and we will continue to do so.

**Q: The way you guys are built, are you more adept at handling the cold than any other visiting team that might come to Foxboro because of your style?

JF:** We haven't had difficulty in the cold as long as I have been here. I think it is primarily because Steve [McNair] has big hands and he likes playing in the cold. It is not an issue to him. He has had some of his better days in inclement weather. We know it is going to be challenging when the temperature drops, but I do not pay much attention to it. I believe the players will be prepared mentally for it and they will go out and play hard. We do have a number of players from Florida that we are going to leave behind. We will bring them up on Saturday and we will put them up in a suite someplace.

**Q: Since losing Kevin Dyson, how have your secondary receivers stepped in to fill that void?

JF:** We feel that this is the best group of receivers that we have surrounded Steve [McNair] with since Steve has been here, and that is as long as I have been here. We have battled through some injuries the past three or four weeks, but [Derrick] Mason has had a great year and Justin [McCareins] can make big plays down the field and Drew Bennett has been effective for us since just coming back from a calf injury. We have depth and we feel like we are young and we have good size and most of the guys have excellent speed.

**Q: Coach, does Steve McNair just stop amazing you after a while, what he plays through and how he shows up. There has to be weeks where, as much as he wants to go, he is not going to be able to go, and then he goes.

JF:** Well this was the first time where this was the case, where we elected to just rest him. We did that against Buffalo where Billy Volek came in, and then he came back and was efficient for us and pulled out a win in the final moments in Houston. Then we made a tough decision because we needed to win against Tampa in the final game to have a chance at the division and the fifth seed and we elected to go with Neil [O'Donnell] and rest Steve. It paid off. Despite the fact that Neil made some poor decisions against Baltimore, we believe that getting the rest for [Steve] has really paid off and he will be fine. He is certainly not one hundred percent. The two injuries that he is playing with—against Houston and then of course the other night—one of those injuries would keep most quarterbacks out.

**Q: It seems like lately we have heard that Eddie George is not the guy that he used to be and that he carried the ball a lot and slowed down, but then he goes out and adds a huge performance for you against Baltimore and seems to, despite all of the reports about his demise, keep getting it done for you.

JF:** He has. He doesn't pay much attention to that. One of the things we have done all year is we have put a number of backs in the backfield and limited his carries. I think that decision has paid off for us now. He has gotten stronger for us in the last month. He had a real good game against Houston as well as against Tampa Bay, and of course he was determined to prove a lot of the things that had been said back in the Baltimore locker room about him were incorrect, and I think he got people's attention the other night.

**Q: Jeff, what is the key to building a sustained program like you have built? Not a lot of teams in this league can win 11 or more games four times in a five-year span now with parity every year in the playoff teams.

JF:** We are very fortunate to have good people around us. Floyd [Reese] and I have been together for a long time and he does a great job with his staff. The staff has the kinds of players we need to plug in and understands also that we are not always going to be right with them and he is patient with that. And we have not really had any coaching changes par say and I think that has a lot to do with it. Then what you try to do, and this is exactly what the Patriots have done, is you try to get your core group of players intact. We have done that with Eddie and Steve and the offensive line and of course some of the defensive players. Fortunately we have been able to play some younger players at times, and then we have had some players that were undrafted come in and help. We have a philosophy of play much like New England and I think it just shows. If you keep playing and you play physical and you play smart and you don't allow wins and losses to contribute to losing your perspective on things, I think you have a chance to win a lot of games.

**Q: Coach, you have your own style that has been very effective. Do you look at Coach Belichick—to him, every week in the NFL is a huge challenge. Do you look at that style of coaching with admiration? Obviously his style of coaching has yielded so much success.

JF:** There is no other staff in the league that is able to change like they do, specifically on defense, on a week-to-week basis. A lot of the philosophies around the league are to line up and do the same thing over and over again and try to do it better than the week before. Their philosophy is not only improve, but also do things different and just completely take things away. They do a great job of it. Like I said, there is no other staff around the league that does that and that is what makes it such a challenge. Our offensive staff right now is just wandering through the building scratching their heads. They are just wondering what they are going to get out of it next week and just hoping that they will be able to make the right adjustments.

**Q: Does that make this the toughest opponent you have faced all year?

JF:** Yes, there is no question. We have faced a lot of different types of defenses all year—defensive units that had different strengths and weaknesses that presented new challenges, but nothing like this. You are not quite sure as to what you are going to get.

**Q: When you look at the Patriots and how they overhauled their secondary from last season to this season, can you talk about the role that Rodney Harrison has had in that?

JF:** He is a tremendous player. He is an emotional player. He is all over the field. Rodney I would put in the class of Ray Lewis. He is going to show up where the ball is, you can count on that, and he is going to bring contact when he shows up. You have to know where he is and you have to protect the football. The receivers know where he is. He has done a great job in that defense. One of the better plays I saw him make was against the Jaguars when he caught Jimmy Smith after there was a missed tackle and Jimmy was going down the sideline. Very few players can make that play. It was a great angle and he did it with speed. He is a complete safety. He has speed, range and definitely will make the big plays where there is contact concerned.

**Q: We talked about McNair and playing hurt and everything. Do you worry sometimes that that overshadows that he is a really good quarterback or do you think the Co-MVP bears that out a little bit?

JF:** I think the Co-MVP and his first Pro Bowl selection this year I think bears it out. I think there are times when people talk about Steve and they talk about his ability to play through injuries. Steve is not totally crazy about that. Most players would like to go out there and not have people talk about the types of problems they are having physically. He obviously is very good when he is one hundred percent and he is better than most when he is not. He has had a great year, he had a great stretch and I can only imagine what would have happened had he been able to play in those two additional ball games, what he would have done for us.

**Q: When you look at the Patriot offense, what do you look at when you see Tom Brady?

JF:** Patience, number one. He is not going to make any mistakes and that is the reason they got on the roll. Not that he made mistakes early, but if you are going to get a chance at an interception it is going to be because a ball was tipped or deflected or went through a receiver's hands. He is not going to throw one to you. He is very decisive. He is mobile in the pocket. He does a great job changing things at the line of scrimmage. He will see a look he likes and he will get the ball out quick and he will make plays. He had a great throw against us on a touchdown pass in a blitz situation. He his very patient and he throws with tremendous accuracy. He spreads the ball around and it is a very unselfish offense.

**Q: Eddie [George] talked about the focus being on winning a Championship and last week's game is behind you guys because this is the challenge. Do you worry about your team's focus—there has been a report up here that Keith Bulluck said that there was frustration because they felt that they lost to a mediocre team the first time you guys played. Do you worry about that?

JF:** I heard some talk about that and I think those were comments for Keith immediately after the ballgame. Keith's opinion was that he and his teammates had been beaten by a team that was decimated by injuries and I think the first time around, despite how hard you work as a staff to create that perception in a player's mind that they have a real challenge, I think in the back of some of the player's minds back there, including Keith, there was the feeling that we should have won because of the injury situation involving the Patriots. I know he was frustrated. I know Keith and I will speak for Keith—he has nothing but respect for this entire team, to get on a roll and win the number of games that they did after us and to be in the position that they are in now.

**Q: Coach, they hurt you with a couple of big kick returns in that first game and I think you guys finished number one in the league against kickoff returns. Did you do anything different after that game?

JF:** We scolded them immediately after the ballgame. Yeah, we had a difficult time getting off blocks. I am very impressed with their special teams. They are playing as well now as they were before. We can expect to see some starters on those units, that is tradition there. We have to really play out of character just to compete with them on special teams. We were not efficient. We were not good with missed tackles. We got blocked. We were defeated in the special teams area. That is something that is obviously going to be a point of emphasis for us this week.

**Q: How many times do people come up to you and talk about the 'Music City Miracle'?

JF:** Here in town on occasion. It is brought up. When New Orleans flipped the ball around in that ballgame and then missed the extra point, it was brought up. We don't hear about it very often. It was certainly brought up when we played Buffalo, but it has kind of died down

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