Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel addresses the media during his locker room interview at Gillette Stadium on Thursday, September 11, 2008.
Q: Quarterback Tom Brady visited you guys here at the stadium yesterday. What did he say to you guys?
MC: He just gave words of encouragement, to go out there and execute, have fun, win and do the things that you need to do.
Q: How important will his advice be to you throughout the season?
MC: His support has been important to me the last four years. It will continue to be important and I will continue to lean on him for support and guidance.
Q: How hard is it to remember to have fun when it seems like there is so much pressure on you?
MC: Well once you get to the field it is business as usual. It is more of the outside distractions that if you let it become a distraction it will be a distraction. For me, it is just go and play ball as usual, try to have fun and realize it is a game. It's a fun game and I have been doing it for a long time so go out there and enjoy it.
Q: What are some of the things you have done to minimize the outside distractions?
MC: Not watch a lot of TV and don't read the papers. Just go out there study the game plan and focus on what I need to do when it comes to football.
Q: What is the best advice Tom Brady has given you?
MC: It is really to just focus on football. That there are going to be a lot of outside distractions and there are going to be a lot of people that want your time right now. Really just focus on what's important and that is to help this team win.
Q: Do your four preseason starts become more important now because you were able to work with a lot of the first-string guys?
MC: It definitely becomes very valuable to get out there and have four starts under your belt before you even start the season. Then I got in there and got my first one under my belt last week. It is exciting. We are definitely going to the [New York] Jets to not only play well, we are going down there to try to win.
Q: How different will it be Sunday against the New York Jets when you take the field for the first time as an NFL starter in a regular season game?
MC: It will be the same as usual. I am just going to go out there and do what I have done in the past - prepare as hard as I can and put myself in a good position to be successful and have fun.
Q: What do you remember about your last regular season start that was when you attended Chatsworth High? (The game was on Nov. 24, 1999 in the third round of the Los Angeles City Invitational playoffs against Palisades Charter High School. Palisades won, 49-42.)
MC: It was a long time ago. We lost to Pali, but it was in the third round of the playoffs and it was a lot of fun. I think we played well but we rushed the ball better.
Q: Is it tougher to prepare as a starting quarterback or as a backup who has to go in a game at a moment's notice?
MC: I think the toughest job in football is always to be a starter because everybody looks to you for guidance. Everybody looks for you to get out there and perform. That is definitely the toughest [job]. The second [toughest] is being a backup quarterback because at a moment's notice, like last week, you never anticipate it and you hope it never happens due to injury but it comes up in this game a lot. You just have to be prepared.
Q: How much of a difference do you think it makes that you haven't started a game since high school?
MC: To me, it really doesn't make a huge difference. We have been training and the coaches get us prepared week in and week out. If the coaching staff didn't believe I could execute the offense then I wouldn't be here right now. There is something to be said about that and it is what it is.
Q: Is it still weird to go out to practice and not see quarterback Tom Brady there?
MC: It is and it isn't. It's one of those things as a team that you have to rally, close ranks and move on. We would all love Tom [Brady] to be here but the fact is he is not. We have to move on as team. We can't look back, hope and wish and do those things that a lot of other people are doing. We have to move on and get ready for this week.
Q: What are your thoughts on the New York Jets' defense?
MC: They are a good defense. They have a great scheme and disguise well. They have made some off-season acquisitions with [Calvin] Pace, [Kris] Jenkins and [Dwight] Lowery is playing at the corner position as a rookie. He is playing well right now. They have [Darrelle] Revis and [Kerry] Rhodes, who is one of the top safeties in the league. We have our work cut out for us. They are a great defense and they will create a lot of problems for us but hopefully not too many. We will be studying hard on them.
Q: What do you bring to the table that quarterback Tom Brady doesn't? How are you guys different?
MC: I don't really like to make comparisons to myself and Tom [Brady]. Tom is who he is and he was the MVP of the league last year. I am who I am. I am just going to go out and try to execute and play my game whatever that might be. We will see come Sunday.
Q: What do you think your strengths are?
MC: Hopefully I have a lot of strengths and like I said, I don't want to get into breaking down my game versus Tom [Brady]. I don't want to say 'he throws the ball better than me' or 'I throw the ball or can run and do those things.' We are different quarterbacks and that is how it is going to be. We are going to go out there and try to do the same thing, which is get wins.
Q: Does it help when you are playing a team like the New York Jets who have a similar defense to yours?
MC: They are very similar to us in many ways but they are very different in many ways. It is one of those things where you have to go out and every week you play a different defense and get ready for a different defense. Kansas City [Chiefs] was very different from what the [New York] Jets are going to be. While they are similar to what we see in practice everyday, there are still a lot of differences that we have to prepare for.
Q: What were your text messages like last Sunday and Monday?
MC: I definitely became a lot more popular after Sunday's game. There is no doubt about that. I think I had around 150 text messages and half of the phone numbers I don't even know.
Q: Who usually sends you text messages after games?
MC: My mom.
Q: Have you heard from your brothers Jack [pitcher for the Houston Astros] and Justin [pitcher for the Birmingham Barons, a double-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox] who are both playing baseball right now?
MC: I talk to my brothers [Jack and Justin] all the time. There are constant conversations among us. They are a great support factor for me because they are in sports, they are in the spotlight and they know the ups and downs of this game. I constantly lean on them.
Q: Have they given you any brotherly advice?
MC: Not really. They just said go out there and have fun.
Q: Do you see your brother Jack's career, working through the minor leagues, similar to your career?
MC: Well both of us in our careers have faced a little adversity. We continue to push forward and we continue to go through those tough times. At the same time, once you persevere and get through it to get to a time like this where you have finally reached what you have been working so hard for it is all worth it.
Q: When you finished playing at Chatsworth High, did you think it would take nine years to start a regular season game?
MC: Not really, but it is not frustrating. It is just the course it has gone. I am here now and I am looking forward to it.
Q: Does it make you angry that some people have already written the New England Patriots off?
MC: It is what it is. There are going to be a lot of people that make predictions on the outside and you can't do anything to control it. Nobody can foresee the future and nobody can say we are going to win 15 games or lose 15 games or do whatever. All we can do as a team is rally, gather together, work hard and go out there and put a good performance on Sunday.
Q: When you were deciding what college to attend, how much of a factor was it of what other quarterbacks were going to be on the team? Was it a surprise to you to be behind on the depth chart at the University of Southern California?
MC: I came in behind Carson [Palmer] and Carson obviously did very well in college and was the Heisman Trophy winner. Then I competed versus Matt [Leinart], Matt came in a year after I did and the coaches decided to go that way. That is one of those things where you can't really look back and do the 'what if' thing. I definitely anticipated being a starter there but at the same time I ended up here so it all worked out.
Q: How important was the NFL Pro Day for you?
MC: Pro Day was very important for me because that was really the only time that I had to prove that I could play at an NFL level and that was really through the physical drills they put me through which was running and throwing the ball. It turned out pretty well for me. I had a good performance and it sparked some interest.
Q: How tough has it been for you to be an understudy for all these years?
MC: You just kind of fall into that role. You continue to work hard and learn a lot from these different quarterbacks from Carson [Palmer], [Matt] Leinart and Tom [Brady] especially over these last four years. You start to take little bits and pieces from each of their games and use them in your game to try and get better.
Q: Do you think you will have some butterflies this Sunday against the New York Jets?
MC: I hope not, I hope not.
Q: Were you surprised that you were drafted in the NFL with no starts in college?
MC: I was pretty surprised; I am not going to lie. Without a lot of college film, a lot of people had written me off already. When the Patriots called, I was pretty happy. It was a good day.
Q: Did you go to the NFL Combine?
MC: No, I didn't go to the combine.
Q: How has it been to wait since high school to start a regular season game?
MC: It really hasn't been that big of struggle for me. It is just about going in, getting your work done and be ready when that opportunity comes. It is here now. Did I think it would take as long as it did? No. At the same time, I went and had a great education at USC. I had a great experience there. I came here and I have learned behind the best the last four years. All in all, it is not that bad.
Q: As the summer wound down and training camp came to an end, were you concerned at all that quarterback Matt Gutierrez would take the No. 2 spot?
MC: I was confident in how I played in preseason. It is obviously evident when the coaching staff says 'we trust you and you are the No. 2 guy.' A lot of people don't see what goes on internally and can't break down the film and do that. I was getting good feedback form the coaches throughout [the preseason]. I was confident from there feedback on where I was at.
Q: Are you motivated to play well this week by the people that doubt your ability and were excited to see quarterback Tom Brady get injured?
MC: I was just happy to do well and be able to be there for the team and be able to go out and put together a few scoring drives to win the game. That is ultimately what it comes down to - to be a wining quarterback. I can't understand for the life of me why people would cheer when somebody gets hurt. I guess that is the sick world that we are sometimes in.
Q: Former New York Giants quarterback Jeff Hostetler talked to you guys after a practice during training camp this season. Did you appreciate what he had to say more than others with the situation you are in now?
MC: It is always interesting to hear older players come back and talk. It was very interesting and encouraging to hear Jeff [Hostetler] come back and speak to the team. I got a chance to meet him after practice. His situation is very similar to mine. He went in when the New York Giants were 10-0 at the time and [Phil] Simms goes down and no one has heard of Jeff. He goes in and leads them to the Super Bowl. I am not predicting anything. I am just saying people can be successful even though they might not be well known.
Q: What did you and Jeff Hostetler talk about?
MC: We just talked about playing that position. He had to wait six years and didn't throw a pass in the NFL until he got his opportunity. It just goes to show as long as you keep working hard and keep putting one foot in front of the other you can have success in this league.
Q: Any public speaking class at the University of Southern California prepare you for this media attention?
MC: Not at all, I am not going to lie. I am getting kind of hot. Maybe we need to get a fan in here next week or something.