Read the full transcripts of press conferences from S Patrick Chung, TE Rob Gronkowski and S Devin McCourty. Plus, read partial transcriptions from select players talking in the locker room on Thursday, January 24, 2019.
SAFETY PATRICK CHUNG
January 24, 2019
TIGHT END ROB GRONKOWSKI
January 24, 2019
Q: What are your thoughts on this Super Bowl LIII matchup against the Rams?
RG: It's a great matchup. They're a good team, a solid team. They're very talented all around the board. It's going to be a lot of fun. It's going to be a busy week, for sure. It's going to be a busy work week. We've already started with practice today. We've got a couple. We've got to travel down there. We've got all of next week. You've got to just stick to it. You've got to stay focused and you've just got to stick to the grind and keep on working.
Q: How much fun were you having during the AFC Championship? We haven't seen you have a performance like that in a while?
RG: Thanks. It was good, but we're way over that game now. That game was cool, but there's other cool things out there. I read that quote from Marcus [Cannon]. Yeah, it was a good quote.
Q: How did it feel knowing that Tom Brady trusted you in some of the biggest moments of the AFC Championship?
RG: No, that feels good. We've always had that. I mean, you know, there's always situations where you're just not going to get the ball. There's times where the coverage is different and Tom just always reads all of his reads. It just happens to be that there were a couple more reads to go to me and it's been like that throughout the whole year though, from practices to games, practices today. It's going to be like that for the rest of the week with all of the practices and even to the game. He finds the open guy and he throws it to them.
Q: Can you share any experiences that lead you to believe you'll be more prepared for the grind of Super Bowl week now having gone through it before?
RG: I mean, it's really just to stay focused. There's so many distractions all over the place when you get down there. There's events left and right, every day, every night, morning to night. We're down there for one reason and it's to get the win. The only thing you remember from the trip is if you won or if you lost. You've just got to stay focused and put it all in so you can go out there and we can do what we've got to do.
Q: What do you think of the fact that this is your fifth time making the Super Bowl?
RG: It's just surreal, just being part of the organization here and just coming into – it was already established and just keep on grinding, keep on helping them out, keep on helping this organization out and getting wins. Coming out and doing the best football I can do every time I step out on the field. It's just unbelievable to be part of it and to keep the journey going.
Q: How is this different from going against last year's team in the Eagles?
RG: Yeah, I mean, every year is different. Every year is a different situation, for sure, and you can't really compare teams from the year before because it's just always different. Always different guys throughout the offense, defense. But overall, just the preparation, getting ready for the game I would say would probably be about the same. You've got to just stay focused, get to the practices, stay focused on the task and that's to play the game. That's not worrying about really anything else that's going on. We've just got to go.
Q: How tough is it to stay focused with all of the distractions going on?
RG: I mean, it depends what your mind set is. It's not tough at all if your mindset is to go out there and do the best you can possibly do when you step out on the field. That's just doing everything you've got to do throughout the whole week, just keeping it simple, not trying to look for other things to do, not trying to look for distractions. If your mindset is right it's just going to be another week just in a different city and you've got to keep preparing like that.
Q: What was your reaction to the positive reaction that spread on social media of you and Tom Brady on his Instagram post following the win on Sunday?
RG: What video was that?
Q: How much fun is it to play with Tom Brady?
RG: It's a lot of fun. The guy is just so precise with everything. Just the way he is out on the field, the way he prepares, the way he goes into these games. You know every single time you're going to get the best out of him no matter what the situations are and that's what's so great about playing with him. It makes football the best it can possibly be because you know you've got a guy that knows basically every situation and he's going to put us in the best situations every single time he steps out on the field to put us with a chance to win, every game we play.
Q: How gratifying is it to see the running game step up and be such a big part of the offense down the stretch?
RG: It's huge. I feel like it's what's making us. You've got to have that run game. You've got to be able to run the ball. It opens up the play-action, opens up the receivers and it's what we've been doing. It's what we've been doing to win. You've got to be able to run the ball, got to be able to just grind it out, just keep on going, just keep on going, whatever play is called. Just keep on grinding it out, keep on fighting. It's part of the game. Our running backs are doing an excellent job running the ball. Just the way that they're bringing it definitely helps out big time too.
Q: Have you had fun blocking for them?
RG: Yeah, it's cool. Like I say all the time, it's not cool to block the whole game. It's not cool to pass the whole game. I like mixing it up. I like the in-between and that's how it's been. It's all good.
SAFETY DEVIN MCCOURTY
January 24, 2019
Q: What do you remember about being teammates with Aqib Talib?
DM: He taught me a lot. He was veteran guy coming in, feisty, very scrappy guy, but we still remain good friends to this day. I think that's the fun part of playing in the league for a while – you have former teammates, you have friends that you get to compete against. He's one guy that I know will be playing his best football on the other side of the field. You see it even in their team how much better they played on defense with him, he's a leader. I think he really gets guys to follow him when he goes out there and plays and I thought he brought a great edge to our team when he came for the two years he was here.
Q: How do you notice that Rob Gronkowski has transcended the tight end position?
DM: Oh, I mean the guy's so hard to cover. I think a lot of people think of tight ends – so tough in the red area, making plays – but you watch him like you said down the field, crossing routes, catching the ball for five yards, breaking two tackles. I think just the way you look at his off-the-field of grinding through injuries, that's how he plays. I think it showed up Sunday when we needed him the most, making big catches, making big plays. I think for me, it's just cool – every time I'm asked about him, we came in the same year and to watch both of us kind of grow in this organization and become leaders, both be captains at times. You get to kind of be right next to a guy and see him grow, and obviously for me to watch what he's been able to, best tight end in football for years. That's not easy to do.
Q: What does it take to trust guys to push the distractions aside and make it to the Super Bowl?
DM: I think it's just what you said: trust. People are always talking about X's and O's and where you rank here or there, but no one knows except for us what we go through in the locker room, what guys go through personally when you come in here and you kind of put all that aside and you've got to lean on each other. I think both teams – I'm sure they have very similar stories to what we have in this locker room because to make it through 16 games in the regular season and then through the playoffs, you have to have a tight-knit group. You have to be close. You have to go out there when the game's hard and it's not going your way at times and to keep fighting. That's doing it for each other. So, I think any team you watch get to this point is like that, and this team is definitely like that. You'll hear it multiple times whether it's someone talking to their position group or Slate [Matthew Slater] breaking it down after the game, talking about each guy's character, talking about the bonds that we build, talking about being there for each other to help you develop as a father, a husband. It's so much more than when we just sit in meetings and go to practice, and that's why I love the whole journey and process of going to the Super Bowl. It's a week together one last time for a team that you feel is special, that you kind of want to take advantage of. That started today, so I should say more than a week, but it started today with putting everything in and having fun with this process. I know it sounds crazy because we always say you don't know if it'll happen again and we've been three straight years, but you really don't and you know it won't happen again with this team.
Q: You're the first team in 25 years to return to the Super Bowl after losing it the previous year. What did you learn from losing the Super Bowl last year?
DM: Well, first I would say did the last team win the next time they went back?
Q: They did not.
DM: Oh, so we shouldn't even bring this one up. I don't know, I think each time's different, like I said, each team's different. I think guys with experience, you try to help guys with the logistics part and the different things of studying throughout a long period of time – usually we don't have that many days to study an opponent, so you're trying to prep all of those things. But it's tough. I don't think you can take much from last year other than the experience of dealing with the things that don't actually involve the game at times. I think those are probably the hardest things to deal with. As much as we love our families, dealing with our families when they get in on Thursday and budgeting your time the right way – to me, those are the biggest things that you can bring over each time you play in this game. At the end of the day, you try to focus on being ready to play in the game Sunday because like Bill [Belichick] keeps telling us and says every year, "What you'll remember the most is the outcome of the game."
Q: How excited are you for your brother Jason McCourty?
DM: I'm excited. He's been a great guy just to see as far as excitement and being ready to go, but when it's time to lock in, he's locked in. I think that the guy you see running in the locker room yelling and screaming after the game Sunday and after a lot of our wins this year, when we come in here and we get ready to work, he's not focused on that. He's showing leadership of being ready to go, playing multiple positions and we count on him to do that. Along with him, Danny Shelton – those guys went from not winning a game last year to now playing the Super Bowl. You can't make this stuff up. I'm sure they never dreamed of that really or guessed that would happen this year. Those two guys are prime examples of the work we put in for the teammates next to us. We have guys in here that have won Super Bowls, won multiple Super Bowls, but this game's important because you know you've got guys next to you that went 0-16 last year. You know how special this is for them to be in this type of environment.
Q: How beneficial is playing with Brandin Cooks last year and going up against him in practice as you head into this game?
DM: You know him a little bit personnel-wise, but you're still got to dive into the film, see how they're using him. How we used him isn't necessarily the same or how he plays on the Rams. It definitely helps when you've played against a guy multiple times, it's the same thing when you've played against a guy that's in your division for years. You know him personally as far as how they run routes and what they might not like, you know different things like that. But you've still got to go and compete against him and try to make it tough. We know what Cooks brings. He's a fast guy, whether that's catching passes, going horizontally and getting vertical or he's getting vertical down the field. He's a guy that we have to know where he's at. We had to do that in practice a lot too when he first got here of knowing where he's at and recognizing his speed and what he can do.
Q: How challenging is it to get familiarity with the Rams while handling the heightened responsibilities and logistics during the Super Bowl?
DM: That's why I said experience really helps. Being done with everything logistically, I guess that was Tuesday and coming in here Wednesday it's like, "Alright, we're on the Rams" and the scouting report, watching film. I'm very fortunate that since the playoffs started, I go home and my wife's like, "Do what you've got to do." Throughout the playoffs she was like, "I want to go to the Super Bowl so do what you've got to do. I've got the kids, study film." It's the same way now. If she ever is on me, I'm like, "Do you want to win the Super Bowl or not?" That definitely helps at home with her stepping up and taking even more of a lead than she already has, and that's what we try to encourage and tell guys. For one, get as much studying and work done while we're here, do your normal kind of routine, going home, because it gets even harder once we get there and you're in a hotel now, you're trying to balance watching film, media and all of that stuff. So we try to get a lot of work done here and then just keep sharpening it as the game gets closer and closer.
Q: How can you describe the journey for you as you prepare to play in your fifth Super Bowl?
DM: It's been awesome. I can't ask for a better career. To be able to play in five Super Bowls – guys that are Hall of Famers, that are top-five players at their position ever, don't get that opportunity. So I'm blessed to be drafted here by the Patriots, to play with some amazing players and then have a coaching staff like we have here that works as hard as any coaching staff in all of football. I think it shows up and it gives us the right opportunity. But we're blessed, we have a lot of guys in that locker room that have played in five-plus Super Bowls or four, we've got guys that came here three years ago and have been to three straight Super Bowls. The truth is, individually it's not really because of any of us. It's been a group effort and it's been a lot of guys and a lot of different people in this organization putting in hard work for us to get there.
Q: It seems like the Rams use that fast motion a lot right before the snap. What's the challenge with that?
DM: I think the one good thing is we've seen that a lot this year. I would say RPOs last year were the biggest thing in football and I would say the missile motion is now. Each team runs some type of missile motion. The Rams make it tough because it could be [Brandin] Cooks, it could be [Robert] Woods, it could be anybody that they have over there that they've run it with. That kind of makes it tough, it comes from both sides, to the tight end, away from the tight end. But I think the experience of seeing it and kind of understanding the challenges we know, but a lot of times it's just gang tackling. When they give it, it's guys running inside-out and trying to get the guy down and then it's guys understanding that if you don't have that, you need to play your responsibility that you have on the play whether that's a gap, whether that's a man. It's one of those smoke and mirror things that if your eyes go straight to that and you chase that, teams are really good at running toss-action off it, downhill runs off it, so you really have to do your job on that. It's misdirection and whenever you get misdirection from an offense, guys have to do their job.
PLAYERS IN THE LOCKER ROOM
David Andrews, Center
(On the emotional and physical bond the team shares with each other)
"It might be weird for people who sit in offices and can't image doing that with their co-workers at times, but this is a different feel. There's nothing like the game of football. It's the greatest team sport in the world. You share so many ups and downs with each other. There's a lot of hard times with each other and a lot of good times with each other. With guys you played with a lot, you can share that bond and it seems like sometimes you spend more time with these guys than your actual family, so it's just a special environment and a special locker room."
(On preparing for the Rams)
"We're getting at it. This is going to be a big challenge. This is a great defense. They produce a multitude of problems. You've got [Ndamukong ] Suh, you've got [Dante] Fowler, you've got of course Aaron Donald. They've got the whole gambit so it's going to be a big challenge."
(On playing the Super Bowl in his home state of Georgia and if there's Patriots fans there)
"I never noticed growing up that there's Patriots fans but now, my last four years going home, I've definitely noticed a lot more Patriots fans and it's been really cool. But it doesn't really feel like you're going home. You're not going home, you're going to work."
Duron Harmon, Defensive Back
(On how surprising it is the Rams have turned it around from just a few years ago)
"I wouldn't say I'm amazed. They have a lot of talent, they have a lot of top three picks, a lot of great players, a talented roster and their coach brought a whole different culture there and they've really rallied behind him. He's been able to get them to play a lot of good football."
(On facing Jared Goff a couple of years ago and if he knew Goff would be good)
"Oh for sure, you could see the intangibles. The throws he made on film and in the game. I remember he threw a nine-route to the sideline and it was on a rope, and you realize why he was the first overall pick [in the draft]."
(On John Simon)
"He's brought a toughness. He's been a force there on the edge, turning the ball back inside for the 10 other guys. He's just been really, really good for us. He doesn't say much but his play does a lot of the talking. He's just a physical presence and I'm happy we were able to add him to the team."
Shaq Mason, Guard
(On rookie running back Sony Michel)
"He's incredible. He's a great back. We're glad to have him. He came in and from day one has put his head down and worked. Everybody is starting to see the fruits of his labor."
(On the bond the team shares)
"We go through everything together. Off-season, we're all together. There's a lot of long days and you've got to love somebody else who's putting in that same work as you each and every day. You know you're not the only one going through it. You can depend on those guys and your brothers to help you push through."
(On playing in the Super Bowl in Georgia)
"It's special for sure, but the Super Bowl is the Super Bowl. I wouldn't care where it's at. It's the biggest game of the year so it doesn't matter where it's played at."
Jason McCourty, Defensive Back
(On if it's sunk in he's going to the Super Bowl)
"It sunk in when those texts started coming through and everybody was asking for a ticket. They don't think that you have to pay for them. So I think that's when it really sunk in, but it means a lot. It's a blessing. I'm very grateful to have this opportunity and to still be playing football this late in January and heading into February. For me, you realize how special this is and how hard it is to get there. To be there with this group of men, it's been an unbelievable season."
(On watching Tom Brady get the ball in his hands with the game on the line)
"Confident, you're confident. I think that's been our team. Each side believes in each other. Even throughout moments in that game [against Kansas City]. We throw a pick down on the goal line early in the game and nobody on the sideline was like, 'Man, what are we doing?' It was just like, 'Alright, let's go out there and get a stop. Let's just get the ball right back to them.' And I think that's what it is. After the game you see Tom is excited to celebrate with the offense, with the defense and with special teams guys. And obviously for a guy like Tom, he's the goat. You've seen him do it so many times that sometimes you take it for granted and you just assume. For us, you're just sitting on the bench just watching one third-and-10 conversion, another third-and-10 conversion. For us, it's just exciting. You're like somebody sitting at home rooting for your favorite team."
Sony Michel, Running Back
(On how the execution has changed in recent weeks)
"Nothing has changed, it's the same mind set. It's your preparation, your practice and trying to bring that preparation to the game field and going out there and executing. That's basically our mentality."
(On running against the Rams' front four)
"It's a tough front. Those guys play hard, they're energetic guys with high motors who makes plays, so it's going to be a challenge. But that's what we play this game for – for great competition."
(On going back to Georgia to play in the Super Bowl)
"It's pretty cool to be in Georgia, but it's even more important that we're in the Super Bowl."