QUARTERBACK TOM BRADY
January 18, 2019
Q: Both Bill Belichick and Julian Edelman spoke about being nervous before this game. After all these years, do you still get nervous for the AFC Championship game?
TB: Do I get nervous? A little bit. Yeah, a little bit. Probably more so during the week than probably leading up to the game, but more like Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, just as you’re preparing and trying to get to know the other team. I feel like the more I prepare, the less nervous I get because I can kind of expect how things are going to go a little bit more if I have a little more information on the team. So, the more film I watch, the less nervous I get, and as soon as the ball’s kicked off, there’s not too many nerves.
Q: As we approach the 25th anniversary of the day Robert Kraft bought this team, how fortunate do you feel that you’ve been here with this team?
TB: That’s pretty cool. That’s pretty cool. I know I’ve been here for quite a few of those years and the story of him buying the team was pretty cool. I saw it on social media earlier. To have the team still here and to have the kind of success we’ve had is really a great credit to him and everything he’s put together, his family. The community supports everything that we do. It’s such a great sports region and they support us, the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, so it’s been really fun to be here, especially for a California kid.
Q: When you prepared earlier this season for the Steelers and the Chargers, I assume you probably came across some of their games against the Chiefs. What did you think of Patrick Mahomes when you were watching him play against some of those defenses?
TB: Yeah, he’s had really a spectacular season, and you’re right. I remember seeing the [Los Angeles Chargers] game earlier in the year – I think that was their opener – and they played so well. And then they went to the Steelers and everyone thought, ‘Man, the Steelers are going to have this great season,’ and it was 28-whatever right out of the box in Pittsburgh and started watching, like, ‘Holy cow, how are they doing these things?’ And then you watch some of the plays that they were making and just explosive play after explosive play, and Patrick, obviously, making these great throws to Tyreek [Hill] and Sammy [Watkins] and [Travis] Kelce. They were running the ball to Kareem Hunt at that time. And they just kept it going all year, and they’re really hard to stop all the way across the board. They had just game after game of this huge productivity, and I think that’s what every offense tries to emulate is consistently, week after week, creating these explosive plays. Some of it is really player driven, some of it’s the scheme and the plays driven, but Coach Reid does such a great job of changing things up and giving a defense different looks and I think just the dynamic aspect of that offense. And then we played them in Week 6 and saw it first-hand how quickly they can score and how quickly Patrick runs around and throws it to Tyreek and whatever, 70-yard touchdown. So, I think that was great to play them earlier in the year and get a feel for some of that. Hopefully, we can all learn from it and take the things from that game that we’ve learned from and go out there and use them and try to play our best game of the year. This is a good time to do it.
Q: On championship weekend, you and Drew Brees are on one side of 40, and you’re playing against Jared Goff and Pat Mahomes, who are 23 and 24. Have you talked to Drew at all, saying, ‘We’ve got to beat these young whippersnappers this week?’
TB: Well, I was that age at one point, too. I mean, I remember pretty well – it’s a little while ago, but I still remember it – my first playoffs and having the experience to go to the AFC Championship game. It was different. I flew to Pittsburgh to do a press conference with Lawyer Milloy on Friday and waited for the team to come on Saturday. It was a little bit different. But, it goes fast and I’m sure it will go fast for them and their young career. Jared and Patrick have had great seasons, great offenses. And we’re still here plugging around, me and Drew, doing our thing, having a lot of fun doing it.
Q: What role has good health played for your team this year?
TB: Yeah, I think we’ve stayed away from some of the bigger injuries, which we’re very fortunate to do. And you’re right, I mean, you know my belief on injuries. I think a lot of them are preventative. I try to take as much responsibility and accountability for my injuries as possible so that I can be out there. Sometimes you have bad luck in football. It’s obviously a contact sport. You can take a bad hit and that’s your season. Our team’s been very fortunate in that sense this year to not really take those things. The guys have done a great job staying healthy and trying to go week to week. Obviously, you need your best players out there, and the guys that you expect to deliver, you need them playing well. The only way to play well is to be healthy. If you have a bad whatever and you can’t do your job – if you’re a runner, run, or if you’re a thrower, throw, or if you’re a blocker, block – I mean, it’s hard to do on one arm or one leg. But, if you can feel good and you can feel like you’re trending always toward feeling your best for Sunday, I think that gives you a lot of confidence. Even some of the games we lost this year, I think you come out of those games and you think, ‘Wow, OK. A positive, we didn’t lose anybody.’ I think we’re at this point this year, and we’ve been pretty healthy to this point.
Q: What are you expecting from the Chiefs on Sunday considering that they want to get to where you guys have been?
TB: I think we’re expecting, really, what they’ve done all season. They’re the No. 1 seed. They’ve played really well against a lot of good teams. They’ve been in all these games. Even the games they’ve lost, they’ve been into them right to the end. They’ve had some close games, some close games at home. We’ve studied, obviously, all the games this season, and they’re good. They’re hard-nosed, they play in the Midwest, used to the cold weather. You saw in the game against Indy, they were obviously ready to handle it and Indy wasn’t, and it ended up being kind of a blowout. They play hard, they’re well-coached, good on offense, good on defense, explosive returners, veteran coaches, nothing’s going to surprise them. We’re both trying to get to the same place. That’s what the playoffs are all about. It’s going to be an exciting game.
Q: We know Patrick Mahomes’ history and the baseball background that he has. How did your baseball background and being a multi-sport athlete help shape you into the athlete and professional you became?
TB: Yeah, I mean, I always enjoyed playing all the sports. I still do. But, I think playing all the multiple sports was so great. You know, I played a lot of basketball, a lot of baseball, a lot of football, a lot of dodgeball, kickball – wasn’t very good in English or math or any of those things, but pretty good with the ball in my hands. But, yeah, that was great and that was a different time growing up where you could really focus on a lot of those things. Now, I think so many people are into these intense sports at such young ages, and I think the burnout factor for a lot of people and a lot of kids starting at a young age, that definitely happens. But, Pat, obviously you see his baseball background in some of his delivery. He delivers it from a lot of arm angles. He’s got a lot of whip from his throwing. That’s a good quality to have as a quarterback, throwing from multiple angles and trying to manipulate the rush and throwing lanes and so forth. But, yeah, I mean, we all take a little bit from our youth to try to use it as we get a little older.
Q: Is there an alternate universe where you’d end up as a Major League Baseball catcher?
TB: Nah. Nah, I fell in love with football, so that was the one for me.
Q: After all the success your team has had, is there actually a genuine feeling of disrespect in that locker room?
TB: I mean, we’re going against a team that’s the No. 1 seed in the league. I’m sure there’s a lot of people that are thinking they’re going to win. Everyone can have their own opinion. We certainly have an opinion, and we’ve got to go out there and execute our best in order to accomplish that. So, it’s going to be a tough game. I mean, we’re not certainly expecting to go 15 minutes into the game and think that it’s over. It’s going to go down to the end. They’ve got a great team. Like I said, we feel like we have a team that can compete well against anybody. We’re going to need to play really well, and that’s what makes for a championship game. Hopefully, we can have our best one of the year.
WIDE RECEIVER JULIAN EDELMAN
January 18, 2019
Q: Do you get nervous before games? If so, how do you manage that?
JE: Yeah, I mean, I think the nervous process is definitely part of doing something that you care about. I definitely get a little nervous, but when that happens I just try to go back and just go over everything that we put in and it's kind of like studying for a test. Just going over your game plan, going over film, going over everything they do and trying to just prepare yourself to the most you can possibly do. I definitely get nervous.
Q: Do you embrace the underdog role that you guys seem to have taken on?
JE: I'm just worried about Kansas City.
Q: Is there a genuine feeling of disrespect in the locker room?
JE: Honestly, I don't know. I don't look into stuff like that. We're just worried about Kansas City and doing everything I can to prepare myself mentally, physically and emotionally to go out and play my best game. I don't know, I'm sorry.
Q: What have you seen from Kendall Fuller as a member of their secondary?
JE: He's a very athletic guy that plays into the techniques very well. He's scrappy. He's got good quickness. He's got downfield speed. He plays the ball in the air very well. He's a good football player. I have to keep on doing everything I can these next 48 hours to prepare myself just in case I have to go against him.
Q: For the coaches, there's so much film to watch because Kansas City does so many different things. Do you think you'll be watching film and preparing up until the very last minute just because they do so many different things defensively?
JE: Definitely. I mean, it's the AFC Championship. You do everything in your willpower to go out there and go out confident, and usually when you're confident it's because you're prepared well and you had a good week of practice and you know everything inside and out. I would definitely agree with – did Coach [Bill Belichick] say that?
JE: Yeah, Coach.
Q: How much pride do you take as a receiver in your blocking ability?
JE: I take a lot of pride in it. It's part of our job. It helps the team go and just as the tight ends, the linemen, they all have a job. The receiver has a job to block as well, so it's part of our game.
Q: They say Arrowhead Stadium is the loudest stadium for opponents. Do you notice that and does it present a problem on Sunday?
JE: I mean, I guess you notice it because it's loud, but you try to do everything in your power during the week. Coach [Bill Belichick] has the stereo blaring and working on nonverbal communication and all of those types of things. It's going to be a hostile environment. You expect that. They have an unbelievable fan base over there that loves their football just as ours, so you know they're going to be all riled up. But we're not going to worry about that. You're going to worry about just going in, trying to communicate what you've got to do and go out and do it.
Q: What was the benefit for you of being a multi-sport athlete growing up?
JE: I don't know, honestly. I'm just not even in that mindset. Sorry. I mean, I played in high school. Versatility.
Q: A lot is made of Patrick Mahomes given his baseball background growing up. Do you think you could have ever played another sport professionally?
JE: Honestly, I'm just worried about the Kansas City Chiefs. I'm sorry. I'm not going to sit here and go down memory lane about 'High School Harry' baseball player over here, you know what I mean? I wasn't very good. I'm playing football for a reason.
Q: How would you describe how confident you guys are heading into this game?
JE: I can't speak on anyone else but, personally, I had some good practices. Take advantage of this time and try to be as confident as possible after this next 48 hours. This is an important time to tighten everything up, cross your t's and dot your i's and just get ready.
Q: Does it help that you've been in this situation so much and Kansas City hasn't?
JE: Honestly, I don't think it really helps at all because every year is a new team. This team is completely different than any team I've been on that's been here in New England. We've got a lot of young guys. There's some veterans. I'm sure they have some veterans that have played in important ball games as well.
Q: What do they do so well defensively to defend against the screen game?
JE: I think they just chase very well. They got high-motor guys. They got savviness and obviously they're well-coached enough to kind of see those types of things and they're high-effort guys as well with great athletic ability. Anytime you have that combination, it's definitely a good team that goes against screens.
Q: Do you try and get into a different head space at all for a road game versus a home game?
JE: I mean, I guess you do; yeah. We haven't been on the road in a while. I'll talk to you after the game on that one because we've still got a little more time to get in that head space. It's still Friday now. I'm very routine oriented, honestly.
Q: Can you just talk about what you're expecting from them on Sunday, given that they're trying to climb the mountain that this team has climbed before?
JE: I expect their best. They're the number one seed for a reason. They've got an offense that can light up the scoreboard. They've got a defense that can take away the ball and they've got a special teams that can complement both that are very dangerous as well. You expect to play the number one seed's best game and that's what you're preparing for.
Q: How has your mindset changed from your first time in an AFC Championship Game until now?
JE: Mine's never changed. It could be your last game.
CORNERBACK JASON McCOURTY
January 18, 2019
Q: How much are you looking forward to Sunday?
JM: Oh man, a lot. I think myself and every guy in this locker room, you relish the opportunity to still be playing football this late in January. It’s a huge game, biggest game of our season obviously so guys are preparing their butts off to get the opportunity to go out there Sunday.
Q: Are you nervous for the game?
JM: I’m nervous before every game. I’m nervous before a preseason game I think. There’s those same pregame jitters. You’re getting ready to go out there and play in the game, you prepare all week, a lot goes into it. I think when the results are so big, when the stakes are bigger, you’re probably a little bit more nervous then. The one thing is it’s something that you’ve done numerous times, over a hundred times playing in a NFL game so I think once you get out there, once the game gets flowing, you settle down quick.
Q: How do you sleep the night before?
JM: I toss and turn a lot. That’s normal for me but at the end of the day, you go to sleep early enough that you make sure you get enough hours to be ready to go when kickoff starts.
Q: Patrick Mahomes has a unique style of play. How have the scout team quarterbacks done mimicking that for you guys this week?
JM: They’ve done a good job of obviously knowing what he does, trying to do some of the things as far as scrambling, trying to roll out and be able to buy time and make throws down the field. They’ve done a good job of challenging us, especially in the back end, of making sure we’re keeping our eyes on the quarterback and we’re doing the necessary things throughout the entirety of the play to make sure we end up on the successful side.
Q: Have you noticed that compared to other locker rooms, this team seems to have a real love of the game and for each other?
JM: I think those two things are definitely here in this locker room but I would say the same for the other two organizations I’ve played for. Throughout the year, guys build bonds, especially throughout training camp, you’re just together so much and I think those bonds carry on throughout the season and throughout any adversity you hit. I think sometimes I compare last year when I was in Cleveland, when you go 0-16, there’s a lot of adversity and those relationships grow a lot. So I think no matter what team I’ve been on, there’s been a love for the game. It’s a game you grow up playing and then a love for one another as you go through different things throughout the course of the season.
Q: Have you ever faced another quarterback like Patrick Mahomes that makes you defend as much of the field for as long as he does?
JM: Man, I can’t say I have and it’s amazing. You turn the film on, you’ll see him throw with his left hand and you’ll see him roll out to the right and throw the ball back across the middle to the other side of the field and you’ll just be like, “How does he do it?” So you think it’s a one-time occurrence and then you’ll watch another game and he’ll do the same thing and you watch another game and he does the same thing. He’s doing it at a high success rate so I think you really haven’t seen a guy – I haven’t played against a guy that does this so many times and really doesn’t make mistakes while doing it and knows what he’s doing when he’s out on the run. You can tell that this isn’t something that came about this year. This is something that he was probably doing last year in practice with them, he was doing while he was in college. He’s a guy that’s really good at his craft.
Q: Is that the byproduct of two receivers that stretch the field and a dominant tight end too?
JM: When you have that many weapons, it opens up so much for your offense. Like you just said, a guy like Tyreek Hill that can get deep from the backfield, from the split-outside, inside, a tight end as good as [Travis] Kelce and also with [Sammy] Watkins and [Chris] Conley on the outside – they don’t really put a receiver on the field that runs slower than a four-three. When you talk about that type of speed and those type of weapons, everything in an offense is available for them at any given time.
Q: Why is it important for you to wear a shirt with a message here today in the midst of preparing for this game?
JM: I just always have on something whether it’s a funny t-shirt, whether it’s something that has meaning to me. I think a lot of times, we just come out and we wear anything and I think sometimes you can wear something that means something to you and somebody may read it and you saw it, read it and may take the time to look something up or read a little about it. I think it’s important for us with whatever platform we have, to use it the way we want to use it so it can be used in another way.
Q: Do you remember that meme that came out of your brother Devin looking at Tom Brady that had the caption, “Everyone should have someone that looks at them the way Devin McCourty looks at Tom Brady?”
JM: Yeah, there’s been a few pictures like that over the years.
Q: What has it been like for you to be on the same team with Brady and what has impressed you?
JM: Are you asking me if I look at Tom Brady the same way Dev [Devin McCourty] does? Without a doubt. I think one year Dev said he was a good looking guy. I guess I won’t go that far but he’s amazing to talk to. I think from afar, you get to go against him multiple times, you get to study him, every time you go out and play and you watch the games and you just see how time after time, he shows up and shows out. I think being in that same locker room, asking him questions at certain times throughout the year or just sitting on the sideline and listening to him tell a story or something of that nature. I think when you’ve reached a level of greatness that he has, he’s just charismatic. Guys want to be around it. You want to hear about it. For me, I think I look at myself and I’m like, “Man, I’m an old guy, I’ve been in the league for ten years and Tom’s almost doubled my career.” So you enjoy the fact that you can talk to him about the history and the different things that he’s been through.
Q: Can you think of one question you asked him that you loved the answer?
JM: Not a question but the fact that every time he sees me and Dev, he always goes, “Alright guys, move a little closer. Alright, spread out.” And he always says no matter where we’re at in the building, we’re no more than six inches away from each other. That’s kind of been an on-going joke throughout the season.
Q: What have you learned about him this year that you think is the key for him being successful for so long?
JM: I can never answer that question. We’ve got another game to play. I don’t know who could be listening. I don’t want to give away any of Tom’s secrets.
Q: Julian Edelman has those “Bet against us” shirts. Is that underdog mentality a real thing in the locker room?
JM: I think that’s for each individual guy. I think for us, different things motivate you, push you a little bit harder and I think sometimes it goes deeper than just the team you’re on. There’s a lot of guys that are in our locker room that maybe got passed up for a scholarship in high school and maybe got drafted like myself at the end of the sixth round and you’ve just always had that chip on your shoulder and no matter what you go through in life, especially with football, there’s just always someone or something. I think that type of mindset, no matter if you’re 16-0, you’re rolling through the playoffs, no matter what the situation is, there’s always going to be somebody that’s doubting you or saying something about you. I think for certain guys individually, it may be something that kind of gives you that extra kick.
Q: How has the scout team done replicating Tyreek Hill’s speed in practice?
JM: They’ve done a good job. We have some good receivers that are doing a good job with the speed. Really with the scrambles and everything that you possibly can do, I think at the end of the day, depending upon positions, who you have, it’s not going to be the exact same on Sunday. But I feel like we’ve gotten the best look that we possibly can throughout the course of this week of our guys mimicking Tyreek Hill, [Travis] Kelce and that goes all around – [Patrick] Mahomes, the whole crew.
Q: Is it helpful to have seen him before in the season because it won’t catch you off-guard as much?
JM: Oh, man. Unless you’ve gotten faster since Week 6, I don’t know if it’ll pay dividends. I definitely think it’s there. You turn on the film and obviously it pops, you know it. Once you get out there, it’s just confirmation of it. I think it helps anytime you see a team for the second time. As much as we may think it helps us, they have the same thing. They got the chance to go against us and see what we were going to do the same way so we’ll see on Sunday.
Q: How big is it to have J.C. Jackson playing so well going into this matchup?
JM: My guy Jerald. He’s been fun to watch for me as an older guy here and him coming in as a rookie and talking to him all throughout training camp. I remember like a day or two into training camp, I went up to him and was like, “How did you not get drafted?” I think early on, you guys saw it too, preseason games, training camp practices, he just was always around the ball making plays, catching picks, batting balls down. He’s just continued to grow and not only his ability, but his knowledge of the game picking up on defense from a game plan standpoint, starting to understand what ways offenses are going to try to attack us. It’s always fun as an older guy just to watch that and continue to talk to him, not only about game plan and football but also about life. Just going through and remembering back in those days when I was a rookie and everything that you go through, just continuing to talk to those guys I think is a ton of fun and it’s always exciting to see him have success.
Q: What are you expecting from the Chiefs on Sunday?
JM: I’m expecting a hard-fought football game. A really, really, really good team that’s going to be out there in Kansas City and we know that. I said it earlier this week, when you get to this point in the season, no matter who you’re going against, it’s going to be the best opponent that you’ve played. Obviously we got a chance to play them earlier in the season and they’ve grown a ton since then. So we know Sunday, 5:40 p.m., it’s going to be our toughest game of the season and it’s going to take a lot of execution for us to play a really good game to be able to compete with them.
Q: Have you noticed anything different in practice or is it just business as usual?
JM: I felt like as soon as our regular season ended, coming in, it was just a little bit different. Even for me as an older guy who’s never gotten an opportunity to play past the regular season, you can feel a little bit more juice. I guess you would say it’s just different. When you prepare that week, if you don’t get the results you want at the end of that week, you’re coming in Monday to clean everything out. I think Dev [Devin McCourty] said it before the game, at that point, you’re playing for work tomorrow. I think that’s the difference as you prepare. It’s not like, “Hey, we’re going into this game and hey guys, we’re coming in Monday or Tuesday after this game to review the film.” If you don’t win the game, you’re not coming in to review the film so I think that’s what changes the preparation and the mindset a little bit once the regular season ends.
PLAYERS IN THE LOCKER ROOM
RUNNING BACK SONY MICHEL
(On if a heavy workload in the run game helps get him into a groove)
“It all depends. At the end of the day it’s all about [execution]. You’ve got to execute. No matter if you’re in a groove, it’s a teamwork thing because everybody is hitting on all cylinders together.”
(On developing a rhythm during the game with the offensive line)
“I would just call it execution. Execute consistently.”
(On his vision as a running back)
“I kind of just follow my rules. As running backs we have certain rules, certain things we’ve got to be looking at and that’s kind of stuff that I just focus on and I guess it happens for me. From [the media’s] perspective, you guys look at it as vision. I just look at it as following my rules.”
(On the Chiefs defense)
“[They’re] playing some good football. [We’ve] just got to be prepared for a good matchup. I’m sure they’re going to come out and be swinging and we’ve just got to be able to swing back.”
(On some of the rules he follows as a running back)
“Patience, aiming points, who you are reading on the play. Details like that.”
(On playing in cold weather last week and what he expects on Sunday)
“Just another football game. I mean, it’s going to be cold. You’re going to be a cold winner or a cold loser. Either way you’re going to be cold.”
(On if any of his teammates have given him advice on what to expect in an AFC Championship Game)
“It’s kind of just keeping that same mindset. Just keep grinding. Try to be consistent. Not really changing anything, just keep doing what we’ve been doing. Focusing on what you’ve been focusing on and everything will happen for itself.”
WIDE RECEIVER MATTHEW SLATER
(On whether the nerves of playing in a big game go away after the opening kickoff)
“For me personally, yes. I think once you go out there and the ball is kicked off that first time and you connect those pads with somebody from the opposing team it’s time to just play and execute and try to go out there and do your job. For me, the nerves usually leave after that.”
(On if he feels more prepared for an AFC Championship Game given his previous experiences in those games)
“I’d say yes and no. Every game is different. Every situation is different. We’ve never played an AFC Championship Game in Kansas City so this experience is going to be different. I know that having been in these games that you just have to focus on doing your job and try not to let the situation get to you.”
(On if being the underdog factors into the game at all)
“We have to play the game. They have to play the game and we’ve got to play the game.”
(On if being the underdog motivates him)
“Sure. A little bit. I’m not supposed to be playing in this league anyways, so we’ve got plenty of motivation.”
(On what he expects from the Chiefs on Sunday)
“Their best shot. They’re going to be well prepared. They’re going to execute at a high level. Their crowd is going to be into it. It’s going to be a very tough football game for us.”
(On if he considers the noise at Arrowhead Stadium to be the loudest in the country)
“I would certainly agree that it’s the loudest in the country based off of my experiences in this league. The one thing that we can do to control that is to try to play well and execute at a high level starting from the opening kickoff. Knowing we are going to have to deal with it at some point, we’ve worked hard to prepare ourselves to deal with so we will see how it goes.”