WIDE RECEIVER WES WELKER
Q: What does an award like the Ed Block Courage Award mean to you? Does it carry a little more weight because it comes from your teammates?
WW: Yeah, absolutely. Being able to come back from the offseason that I had and last season, the way it ended, it was definitely an honor and I'm definitely happy to have my name on the Ed Block Courage Award. I think it was kind of by default, in a way, just because of the circumstances and I was really the only one who was hurt this offseason and things like that, but it's definitely an honor to be in the same breath as him.
Q: How much personal satisfaction do you take in being able to overcome what you've overcome? A lot of people thought that we wouldn't see you until October.
WW: I'd say I take a little bit of satisfaction out of it, but at the same time, I just wanted to get back out there with my teammates and go out there and play ball and go out there and do what I love to do. So, being able to do that and get back as early as possible was a key thing for me and [I'm] just trying to keep it going through the rest of the season.
Q: During that moment in Houston, could you have envisioned feeling the way you do now?
WW: I mean, yeah. I definitely wanted to be back for the start of the season and then carry that on into the season and make sure we're putting ourselves in an opportunity to go out here and win against Miami this week, and put ourselves in a good spot for the playoffs.
Q: There are going to be a lot of fans and critics who are going to say, 'Let's not have what happened to Wes last year, happen this year.' What do you say to that?
WW: I say that I'm here to play football. That's what I get paid to do. I love playing. So, no matter what's at stake or no matter what the deal is, I want to play. I know people probably think differently about that, but I don't worry about other stuff, and whatever Coach Belichick decides for me, that's what I'm going to do, but I'm always ready to play.
Q: Has he given you any indication on how much you might play?
WW: I have not [talked to him about it]. For me, I'm going out there and preparing for Miami and getting ready for them. They're a strong team that hasn't given up on the season, so we're definitely coming out and making sure that we're coming out prepared to play.
Q: Some people have said that your injury is something that no one is even talking about anymore and it's a non-issue. Is that true?
WW: Yeah, I mean this is the first time I think I've heard about it since - I don't know - it's been a long time, so thanks for rehashing this memory. But, I'm just happy to be back out there and excited about this week and practicing and getting better and getting ready for Miami.
Q: How important is continuing momentum into the playoffs, especially since you're going to have a week off?
WW: Yeah, it's very important. Not playing for a week and taking that week off, it's good for you, but at the same time, you want to keep it going. So, definitely this week is key for us to keep that momentum and stay on top of everything and be ready to play.
Q: Looking forward, what is the most important thing a young player needs to know about the difference between a regular-season game and a playoff game?
WW: I think the season really starts now. Understanding that it's been a long season and everything like that, but you have to stay on top of it and make sure that you're pushing through and understanding what's at stake. Don't let up and don't get comfortable. Every play in every game is so important and so crucial, and you have to stay on top of that.
Q: This team doesn't have an official offensive coordinator, but is that almost Tom Brady's role now on the field?
WW: He definitely has a lot of input and at the end of the day, whatever Tom likes, that's what we're going to be doing and whatever he's comfortable with. I know our coaches do a good job of game planning and getting ready. From there, it's up to the players to really get ready and run the plays and make sure that we're understanding what coverages we're going to see and getting ready for them.
Q: Does the nature of this offense, with so many variables, make it more likely that things happen on the fly?
WW: [Brady]'s definitely the guy pulling the trigger, so whatever he decides out there and whoever gets open, that's who he's going to give the ball to. [We] make sure that we're all in the right spots for him and let him make the reads from there.
Q: Does this team really take on the personality of the head coach in terms of taking it one practice at a time and doing your job?
WW: I think as much as it can. [Coach] does a great job of staying on top of us and making sure that we're not getting ahead of ourselves or anything like that and making sure that we're focused on Miami this week and what a great team they are. [He makes sure that we] continue to go out there and play hard and get ready each and every game, each and every play. And be ready for the Dolphins this week.
Q: Does it surprise you how many unheralded and undrafted guys have been making big plays and contributing to this team?
WW: Maybe a little bit, but at the same time, there are a lot of good players here and a lot of good coaches trying to get these ready and understanding that when your number is called, you've got to take advantage and that you're making the plays necessary to make us go.
Q: Is that a credit to the system that these no-name guys can come in and play the way they have been?
WW: I think it's a credit to everybody and understanding our system. Our coaches definitely do a great job of preparing guys and staying on top of them, but at the end of the day, the player's got to go out there and do it and make sure that they're doing it in an aggressive and physical way and making plays. That's what it's all about and that's team football and something that we definitely pride ourselves on.
LINEBACKER ROB NINKOVICH
Q: (On the most discouraging part of his career)
RN:Two years ago would be when I got cut from New Orleans being a snapper. That was probably the most discouraging part of my career. You go from a defensive lineman to a long snapper, and then getting cut before camp even started to even show you can do it.
Q: Given all of that, how rewarding is this year?
RN:This year has been another year where I've been able to achieve some of my goals that I had written out a long time ago. It's a good feeling, but I still have some more to go.
Q: You had the big game obviously against the Dolphins earlier this year. Does playing them have any extra meaning given you once played for them?
RN:Well, it's always fun to play against a team that you've actually been on and you know the guys on the team. Hopefully, I can repeat, have a repeat performance.
Q: How much have you looked back on the Dolphins game throughout the year as proof of what you're capable of?
RN:Well, it's over with, so you can't look back on what you've done. It was one of those games where I knew I could do it [and] I knew I had that in me, so it was a confidence booster.
Q: What about this system allows linebackers to come in and be able to contribute right away or is it the player?
RN:I think it's a combination. I think it opportunity. Some guys are given an opportunity to go out there and whatever it may be, fail. Some guys don't even have a chance to go out there. I think that certain players have been given opportunity and they haven't failed, and they've done well and they've made some plays. It's one of those things where you get a chance, and you've got to make the best of it.
Q: It seems like anyone who walks in here, they watch you, they watch someone else, they say, "I need to be able to do that, also."
RN:There are a lot of good football players all across America that hadn't had a chance that probably, possibly could have had a good career in the league or done something in the league. All you need is that opportunity, and that's life: opportunity.
Q: Does the coaching staff show confidence that if you do what you're supposed to do, it doesn't matter who you are, you're going to play?
RN:I think that's one of the best things about the Patriots is it's a performance-based evaluation of how good you are and if you can help the team out and do anything for the team, you're going to have a chance to help the team.
OFFENSIVE LINEMAN RYAN WENDELL
Q: There are obviously several examples of you guys on the offensive line working your way up from the practice squad and no one knowing who you are to being in a starting role. How has the metamorphosis gone for you?
RW: I think it's gone alright. I think offensive linemen don't want anybody to know who they are anyway, so it's not a bad deal.
Q: How do you feel you've performed not only last week when you had the starting role but also in other games where you have filled in on the offensive line?
RW: I think you have to ask the coaches about that. They're the ones who make the grades. Ask one of them.
Q: How has run blocking gone for this team overall to have performances like you have had this season?
RW: I don't know. I think the guys all work hard, trying to do their jobs. In the end, we get yards because the running backs run hard.
Q: How important has it been for this offensive line to gel given all the changes you've had throughout the season?
RW: I think it's real important for the line to have to gel. We have five guys who all have to work together, and I think we've done a good job about it. I hope we can keep doing a good job about it.
Q: Do you guys feel more and more comfortable with each passing week?
RW: I think definitely the more time you spend with guys, the more comfortable you get with them.