RUNNING BACK SHANE VEREEN
(On if it was nice to have Tom Brady back at practice)
"Absolutely, absolutely. He's a fighter. I was never really worried about it."
(On if it was important that Brady missed Wednesday's practice)
"I think the most important thing is that he's healthy, that he's ready to go, and he's been doing this for a long time, so he's the last one that I'm worried about."
(On if his focus has changed because of the magnitude of this game)
"We know the stakes are higher. We know the games get more important as the season goes on, and we take that into account each week, and each week the games get bigger and bigger. This is the biggest game of the year right now, so everything is [of] the utmost importance."
(On what changed over the last few weeks to improve the team's play)
"I think things just started clicking. We started focusing on the little things that we need to get done each and every week, and we really started during the week in preparation in each week. We were able to put on some good football the last couple weeks, and hopefully we can continue to do that."
(On if there is a different feeling around the team knowing that they can run the ball with success)
"I think what it is, it just gives the offense confidence knowing that if we can run the ball, everything will open up, especially the pass game, and so it just all goes hand in hand."
(On why the run game has blossomed so much lately)
"That's a good question. I think it just maybe took a little longer this year than in the past seasons. Maybe we're focusing on certain things that we wanted to focus on before, but the bottom line is we're trying to play physical, and when we run the ball well it's a good sign. "
(On if there is a danger in looking back too much at the first Broncos game this season)
"I wouldn't say there's dangers. I would say that you've just got to take it with a grain of salt. You can learn some things from watching the film from earlier, but at the same time we know it's kind of a different defense. They're kind of playing a little differently now, and you've got to be able to adjust."
(On what Denver does on defense)
"Against San Diego they forced them into a lot of third and long situations, they were creating a lot of pressure on the q[Quarterback], and I can imagine that they'll be trying to do the same this week.
(On if he can appreciate the Tom Brady-Peyton Manning rivalry since he was in college when it first started)
"College? I was [in] high school, maybe in elementary school. Leading up to it, with all the media and with everything you kind of feel – you get the sense that this is a bigger game than normal, but at the same we're just trying to focus on what we have to do to win, and let Tom worry about what he has to [worry about]."
TIGHT END MATTHEW MULLIGAN
(On if the altitude in Denver will make him get tired a little bit faster)
"All that kind of stuff – it can affect you in any type of weather. If the weather is cold at home, if there's rain, if there's all this other stuff, we can't really worry about that. I really don't fixate on that at all. I'm just thinking about my plays, what I can do to get myself ready for the game."
(On how mentally strong he gets at this time of year)
"I think any team that's made it to this point, you'd have to be mentally strong, obviously the last two teams in the AFC. So I think it's a building process, I think there's always things that we can work on, but as far as being mentally strong just for this game, I think it's an accumulation for the whole year. You would hope to think that you'd prepare well enough and you'd do the things you need to do during the week that the mental part will come and you'd go out there and be able to play physically fast."
(On if the confidence level on the offense has grown over the past few weeks)
"I think any time you execute well, and you start seeing things starting to be accomplished more like you would see them on paper and things, you're really starting to play well, that always builds confidence. But I think you can't relish in that and you have to continue to push forward, continue to strive to get better, because there's always something you can do better in football."
(On if the coaching staff does a good job in making sure the team doesn't get complacent)
"I think the coaching staff does a good job in all facets. They're always getting us ready. It's one of the best coaching staffs I've ever been around. We're really fortunate to have these men, Josh McDaniels our Offensive Coordinator, my position [Tight Ends] Coach George Godsey, they do a fantastic job, so really at the end of the day, they do such a good job of putting you in a position to succeed. It's just up to you."
(On if he can appreciate the historical context of the Brady-Manning rivalry)
"Our thing is really focused on the game in general. Especially on the offensive side, it takes 11 guys. It's not just one guy, so to start thinking about two individual players wouldn't be fair to the rest of the team anyways, and to be honest, if you don't have the rest of the guys out there executing, neither one of those guys can do their job either. I don't focus on anything that Manning does because he's on the offensive side of the ball. Just focused on Denver's defense."
(On playing a road playoff game and whether the crowd is a factor)
"We had some noise out there today, so we're getting prepared for it. We can't worry about all that stuff. We've played in loud environments before and we're just going to have to worry about what we're doing and be on our best."
(On if he's enjoyed these past few weeks more considering how good the running game has been and the credit that the running backs have given the tight ends for blocking well)
"I enjoy any time that we win, and that's what it all comes down to, is when your teammates are doing well and you're winning as a group, and that's the ultimate goal, is to win the game. So as far as my accolades go or any recognition like that, I could care less as long as we're winning. But it always helps when you have fantastic running backs, that we do, it makes my job a lot easier."
WIDE RECEIVER KENBRELL THOMPKINS
(On reports that a poll found Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to be the least liked NFL quarterback)
"I wouldn't say that. Tom came to practice today. He will tell his jokes, he made us laugh and we had a good practice."
(On what it means to be playing in the AFC Championship Game)
"We are kind of just trying to treat it like a normal football game. I mean, you know, going in there and trying to control the things that we can, execute the plays. Obviously, it's going to be a loud place so we're obviously working on communication and just taking care of the things that we can."
(On what "Next Man Up" means in the locker room)
"I mean, pretty much it's being ready for the opportunity. I mean, you know, we've got a lot of great players here on this team and everybody here prepares each and every week for the opportunity and when it comes it's just being ready to go out there and just execute and try and make a play for this team."
(On how Tom Brady looked in practice today)
"We had a good practice. We had a normal day."
(On how Brady, specifically, looked in practice)
"That's something you've got to ask the coaches."
CORNERBACK KYLE ARRINGTON
(On what makes Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker so good in the slot)
"I would say his dedication. Just watching him here, I know how many hours he put in with Tom [Brady] off the field, so I can only imagine him and Peyton [Manning] doing the same. You can see it on film. He's a tough guy, you know to come off of concussions or whatever the case is, hard hits, he gets right back up."
(On facing Welker Sunday)
"He's the ultimate competitor. It's going to be a challenge, like I said, everybody's got to do your job this week. If not any other week, this week, to do your job."
(On how facing Welker in practice over the years made him a better defender in the slot)
"Wes was a heck of a teacher, I will tell you that. Like I said, definitely looking forward to the challenge. It should be a great day Sunday."
(On if he sees similarities between Welker and Patriots wide receivers Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman)
"Well, I mean definitely they are both slot receivers. You can see the comparisons right there but I mean they are different in their own right. Wes is utilized in a good situation over there in Denver. Danny is obviously utilized and Edelman utilized over here and it's a great situation for them."
(On Denver Broncos safety Mike Adams' comments regarding Julian Edelman and Wes Welker)
"Julian, like I said, he's another one of those guys who's a great competitor and he definitely has that chip on his shoulder. He's just a scrappy competitor that comes with being an undrafted guy. It's a great experience, even when Wes was here, to go against a guy like Julian every day. Those guys are just terrific talents."
DEFENSIVE TACKLE SEALVER SILIGA
(On him spending time on every one of the four teams remaining in the playoffs and what he gained form his time with them)
"You know, every team has helped me out. They've helped me out especially with the way I play, because I have picked up a little something from every team I've played for. So, I mean they've been a big help to me as well. I've taken advantage over there and took a little part of what they play with and added it to my game."
(On whether he has a chip on his shoulder for not getting a shot until now)
"Definitely. Just because or where I started and where I'm at now, I'm always going to have something on my shoulder just to prove that I can play in this league, I have something to contribute and I have something to give."
(On his thoughts about being inserted into the lineup in the middle of the year)
"It's been an honor for them to put that much pressure on me. I'm willing to take advantage of all the opportunities that I have and keep pushing forward and keep doing my job."
(On whether he has gotten much feedback from Vince Wilfork)
"Vince, he helps me a lot. That's one of the biggest guys that even has really helped me on the field. You know, coming [to] the sideline and seeing him and having him help me or fix something has been a big help to me."
(On what it says about a guy like that who is helping out the younger players because he wants to win so badly even though he can't play)
"I mean, that speaks big about Vince. He's willing to help me out, he's willing us win. Even though he really can't help us physically, mentally he really helps me out because, I'm on the field and there will be a look that I don't understand, but then I come to the sideline and he tells me and then I go on the field and see the same look and it's fixed. I understand what's going to happen. It's a big help."
(On whether Vince Wilfork is like an assistant coach in that regard)
(On the biggest difference for him with the Patriots, because he was cut from a few teams before he was signed here)
"I'd say the biggest [thing] is opportunity. Everywhere else I've been I really haven't gotten the opportunity that I've had now. For [Head Coach Bill Belichick] Bill, Bill's [given] me the opportunity to have now to do what I'm doing, and I'm taking advantage of it. I really didn't get much opportunity when I was over there on those other teams."
(On whether there is one specific thing that Coach Belichick told him to help his game)
"He keeps it vanilla. He keeps it basic – you know just go out there and play ball. Don't think too much, just play ball and do your job, and do your job well."
(On whether he has changed his technique at all)
"Yeah, every week I will change it for who I'm playing against. For the most part, the techniques are basically all the same."
WIDE RECEIVER MATTHEW SLATER
(On the media speculating that this season has been Head Coach Bill Belichick's best coaching job and how he would rate the coaching job)
"Well I'm definitely not one to rate Bill's coaching jobs. I think he does a great job every year. So, he's done a great job keeping us in the right frame of mind considering all we've been through this year. I think the guys on this team have done a good job of just being professionals, going about their craft and being ready for when their number has been called. That next man up mentality that you've heard us speak of all year has really been huge for us because a lot of guys have stepped up when their n8umber has been called and we've been able to keep the train moving."
(On how Bill Belichick has gotten the team to buy into the 'next man up' mentality)
"Well, I think he just does a good job of having us believe in what we're doing. Guys have really bought into what we're trying to do here and believing in the goals that we've set out to accomplish. We prepare ourselves to have success by the way we work day-in and day-out by on the field and in the meeting room, but it definitely starts with our leadership and Coach and some of the veterans on this team."
(On whether he has seen a drop in production at positions where the next man up has been required to play, because sometimes the next man up is not good enough to replace the guy that went down)
"Well, we're getting ready to play in the AFC Championship game, so I would say the next man up has been good enough."