DEFENSIVE BACK DEVIN MCCOURTY**
(On how he feels since the last time he played in a game)**
"I'm feeling alright, doing pretty good."
(On what this week of practice is like)
"I think it's big for us just to get better during this week. It's always different at this time of the year. You've already been through a full season and I think you've really got to kick in [and be] mentally tough to find the things that you've not done so well or the things that you've done well and just try to attack it this week. We've got a week where it's not so much about preparing for someone because we don't know who we're going to play yet. It's all about fixing the things we feel we need to fix and trying to get better this week."
(On whether he has ever dealt with concussion issues before)
"No, but I mean a lot of injuries are usually first time [occurrences]. So, you just take it one day at a time."
(On the difference between regular season football and postseason football being about the urgency and intensity of the game and what he would say to the rookie defensive backs about what to expect in the game)
"I think that's really it – urgency. I mean, you talk about each week could be your last week of playing for the season. I think it's just urgency, but [I would] just tell those guys it's football though. Just keep doing what you've been doing, keep preparing and get ready to go."
(On whether there is a possibility that you can over-prepare for the game as a younger player)
"I don't think so. I think our coaching staff does a great job all the time, year-in and year-out, getting us ready for the different things we need to do. Around here we don't really believe in over-preparing, so you know just trying to keep those guys going and understanding the situation. At the end of the day it's about coming out and playing your best football right now, because that's what we'll need."
(On how much he relishes the opportunity to play postseason football after already having a couple seasons of experience in the postseason)
"Oh it's huge. Just to be able to be in this position, it's big for us. You know, we've got to take advantage of it. You see a bunch of teams throughout the league [who aren't in the postseason]. I'm really close with my brother [Jason McCourty, cornerback for the Tennessee Titans], and talking to him five years in and not making the playoffs, I really understand how fortunate we are to be in this position. It's all about now taking advantage, seeing what we can do, and now nothing else matters from the regular season. It's all about what can you do in the playoffs and how can you find a way to win."
(On Rob Ninkovich feeling that this team is mentally tough and whether he feels the team has gotten mentally stronger over the course of the season)
"Yeah, I think we've seen that throughout the season. I think now it's key that we understand that's over. We've got to be mentally tough for the postseason – we've got to be mentally tough this week. Know the opponent, get better on the field and I think take it each day at a time. We had a good practice today and now it's all about going out tomorrow and being ready to go and get a good days work in."
(On how much of a relief it is for him to get back on the practice field)
"I mean it's always good to be back on the field if you miss any time. I'm just happy to be back on the field."
CORNERBACK AQIB TALIB
(On how the team is approaching this bye week not having to prepare for a specific opponent and whether the focus is on the team getting itself better)**
"Yeah, we're going out there, practicing against each other and working on technique stuff; staying in shape, a lot of technique-work."
(On whether his hip has felt better the last couple of weeks)
(On whether the secondary is playing the best it has all season long right now)
"I think we're playing well, but I think we can get a lot better. We can get a lot better. We really break down the tape, so we see a lot more than you all. I don't know if you all break down the tape, but we see a little bit more than you all see. We've got a lot of work to do. We can get a lot better."
(On whether that needed improvement is collectively or individually)
"It's collectively. Of course individually, but we just can get a lot better."
(On the specific areas that the defense needs to collectively get better in)
"Being in the right spot. The way we do things, there's a certain way you want to play Cover-2 of man and stuff like that. So, being in the right spot, the correct depth on zone drops, stuff like that."
(On whether he will watch any of the game this weekend)
"Sure, I'm a fan. I'm a football fan, I'm tuned in."
(On the cold weather not bothering him because of where he grew up)
"No man, it doesn't really [bother me]. I played college in the cold; I grew up in the cold. It is what it is."
WIDE RECEIVER MATTHEW SLATER
(On the difference between regular and postseason football)**
"The change in the speed of the game and the intensity of the game is big. Whether you are a rookie or a veteran, it doesn't matter. It is an adjustment for all of us. All of us have to step up our game. All of us have to prepare a little bit more. It doesn't really matter if you've been there before or haven't been there before. It's a new team, new players and we just have to come out and try to be ready for what it's going to be like a couple weeks from now."
(On the school of thought that at this time of the year, the rookies are no longer rookies because they have a full season of experience)
"They certainly do, and they can't have the mentality that, 'Oh, I'm just a young guy and the team isn't going to be depending on me to make plays.' The most unlikely of guys have stepped up when you look at the history of the playoffs and the history of the NFL – it's the no-name guys that make plays in the big games that help their team win games. We're going to be leaning on our young guys heavy, and I know that they're going to be preparing as hard as they can to put forth their best effort on Saturday."
(On why postseason experience in these situations doesn't matter)
"Well I mean it helps. It helps, but at the same time we're a different team than we were last year or the year before that. We have different players, we're going to be playing probably different teams than we have in the past, so it's a clean slate for everyone. Obviously as a veteran you kind of have an idea of what it is going to be like, what we were talking about earlier, the speed of the game, but it really doesn't matter. It's about the team that goes out and executes the best come game day. It's as simple as that."
(On the best way to take advantage of the bye week)
"You've got to take advantage of the time that you have to prepare. You can look at yourself as an individual and see what you can improve upon. Obviously we don't know who we're going to play so it's more of a self-scout week and looking at what we can do as the Patriots to improve. I think it's important to take advantage of getting rest while you can. I mean, you've played 17 weeks of football. The body's not as fresh as it was Week 1. So, if you can try to get that body back, that's huge and just doing the little things to try and give yourself an edge."