New England Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on January 24, 2008.
Q: Richard Seymour picked the Giants to get here in a pool with his friends. How about you?
MV: We've been there. We've had those season before where you play well, you flash it and then it kind of goes away for a few weeks. Certainly when we played them the last week, they played their best ball when they needed to to do well in the playoffs in the National Football League - after Thanksgiving and on the road in the playoffs.
Q: Is that how you judge your team, after Thanksgiving?
MV: Well, there's a few things I've learned from Bill [Belichick] and that's one of them. Kind of take a look and see what teams do after Thanksgiving, see what kind of shape they're in, what kind of plays they make, how they play, how tough they are. A lot of those early season number - I guess you want to win every game you play, but you can make a lot of hay after Thanksgiving.
Q: Their toughness was demonstrated in that game. They didn't need to beat you to make the playoffs.
MV: It's a physical football team. They're built like that and I think Coach [Tom] Coughlin wants them - That's the type of team he wants. That's the type of team he had in Jacksonville and certainly with the Giants. Right across the front, they have big running backs, they have physical linemen, big receivers that'll block, so we have our hands full.
Q: What advice do you have for the guys that haven't been to the Super Bowl?
MV: I just think the biggest thing is when you come off the field for pregame warm-ups there's about 50 minutes to where you're just sitting there, as opposed to maybe 10 minutes in a regular season game. There's a lot of time. I remember in 2001 Bill had been through it before and said don't go out there and kill yourself in pregame warm-ups because you're going to come back down and you're going to cool off, then we're going to have to stretch again and we're going to have to get warmed back up again. Just little things like that, where you take it for granted where you think it's a normal game, but really there's a lot of logistical things that factor into the Super Bowl with TV and the time that we're out on the field and coming back in. Then when you finally leave, then it's two minutes. Then it's the national anthem and they're kicking the ball off.
Q: Anything about the week itself?
MV: I think everything with the hotel, it's a road trip for us, really. We've actually stayed at this hotel, so it'll be nice knowing the surroundings. When we played Arizona, I think we stayed at this hotel, so not too much [is different]. Practices are going to be the same, meetings are going to be the same. You'll meet with the media, your day is done at 5:00 or 6:00, after you're doing watching film and have watched practice.
Q: Can you talk about how your relationship with Bill Belichick has evolved since you first came here?
MV: Yeah, I think obviously I have a lot of respect for Bill and what he's done with this football team and the decisions that he makes. I certainly don't always agree with everything that he says or does, but I think ultimately the end result is very positive. I just think that he's given me - He gave me an opportunity to come here. He said I won't ever promise anybody a spot, but there'll be an opening for you to compete and be an every-down player. And then from 2001 on, it's kind of evolved. My role on the football team has kind of evolved, where the first year I just played first and second down and then the next year I played on third down and did a lot of other things. I just think it's just expanded since I've been here. He's not really caught up in the guys that are supposed to be good player or allegedly good players. He wants guys that are going to go out there and work, be smart and are dependable and consistent. Those are the kind of guys we have on this football team.
Q: You've been able to joke with him - you have a good relationship. Has it been like that from the beginning?
MV: I think that any time you have a certain comfort level with somebody, I think that certainly if he's able to give it to us, I figured why not give it back to him.
Q: You've been around long enough to understand the way fans think. Talk about the fact that it's Boston/New York for the Super Bowl.
MV: It's no Yankees/Red Sox, but it's going to be determined out on the field. It will be fun for the fans to go out to Arizona and to enjoy some good weather, I guess, and leave the east coast and go out there. I think the fans will have a great time. I know the players will enjoy it and, most importantly, I think we'll have to go out there on the field and prove and fight to see who will be the champions.
Q: All three Patriots Super Bowls were won by three points and the red zone becomes much more important in the Super Bowl. With three big red zone stops last week, is that something you hope to carry over to the Super Bowl?
MV: Obviously it's something we want to carry over. It's something that just doesn't happen. You just don't go out and hope you're going to stop them after you've given up an 80-yard drive and just hope that you're going to stop them down in the red zone. So you have to put some time in it and work at it. You have to look and see what they like, what they had success with in the first game - which they did, and that was a big thing. It was the reason the game was so tight, I think, was their ability to convert on third down and their ability to score touchdowns in the red zone.
Q: You talked about when you first came here and Bill Belichick calling you. Do you ever think about how close that was?
MV: It was just between Pittsburgh - It was either going back to Pittsburgh and resuming the same role that I had with the Steelers, which Coach [Bill] Cowher welcomed me back. He said, hey, I totally understand you looking somewhere else and seeing if there's an opportunity there. If not, give me a call and you're welcome back here.
Q: Adalius Thomas shifted from inside to outside. Can you talk about how he's handled the role?
MV: I think with AD, I think the expectations that everybody had of him coming in here were so great because he was such a sought-after free agent in the offseason, but he came in and I think just became one of the guys in the locker room. [He] put everything else aside and just learned kind of what we do here and how we do it, learning every position - learned inside, learned outside, and certainly in his flexibility, I think his talent has enabled us to do a lot of things. It's enabled me to be outside and it's allowed him to play inside and outside and also cover. He's a great coverage linebacker. He doesn't get enough credit for it, but he does a great job. He's just a big athlete that we can put a lot of different places.
Q: How fine a line is it between tough, hardnosed football and the dirty play that some fans or some people think they're seeing?
MV: It's just like, you know, for a player or anybody, you just can't throw out accusations. A guy - You come off the field and you win or you lose a game, emotions are very high. There are plays that happen to me, that happen to everybody out there that if you wanted to spin it another way, you could say, man, that was a dirty play. But, I mean, it's football. There's going to be some things that happen that aren't by design, maybe certainly you didn't want to do, but they happen. And so guys can come in after the game and if they say this guy's a dirty player, then red flags go up. That's a you-problem; that's not our problem.