BILL BELICHICK, HEAD COACH
(on installing the gameplan prior to the team's arrival in Houston)
"We got a lot of things done in Foxborough. We practiced three days and had a walkthrough for one day. We have some things that were leftover that we picked up on today. We also reviewed some of the things we did last week. We will follow that up tomorrow. We will be ready; we have plenty of time. We will just try to pace ourselves through it."
(on playing in Mexico City next season)
"I will worry about that next year. Right now, I am worried about the (Atlanta) Falcons."
(on his reflections of Vince Lombardi and comparisons to him)
"Like any teenager whose dad was a football coach who followed a lot of football, the NFL, NFL Championship games and when the Super Bowl started, it was thrilling to watch those games. Our family was in Florida over the Christmas holidays and I still remember sitting there watching [inaudible] cross the goal line against the New York Giants. Super Bowls, I definitely remember that. That was the great way to finish the season, professional season. Our comparisons and all that, they are all flattering, but again, right now I am really focused on the job that we have to do against the Falcons. We can talk about all that other stuff some other time. Thank you."
(on why he thought Lions GM Bob Quinn would be a good general manager one day)
"Bob did a great job for me. I really appreciate everything that he did with our organization for 16 years. That is a long time. He was instrumental in putting together things we did in the personnel department. Also on a personal basis, I have asked Bob to do things. He did a great job of preparing us for our upcoming opponent or as I said doing special projects as it related to the opponent. He was very engulfed in our draft process. He did a lot of work there both on the pro end and the college end. We sent him out to look at various position groups or particular guys that we had questions on. Bob did a great job for us and he always gave a good honest opinion. It wasn't always something that we agreed on but that was healthy because it forged me to look at things and quite often he was right in his opinion and I felt like I was wrong in mine. He gave me great direction. Again, he did a great job in organizing the pro personnel department under Nick Caserio, our personnel director, but Bob handled the personnel department and he did a great job with that. I can't say enough good things about Bob and what he did for our organization and what he did for me personally."
(on what his number one priority is for his defense in the Super Bowl)
"To play good team defense. One guy can't stop them and we can't just stop one guy. They have too many great players and they are very well coached by Coach (Kyle) Shanahan and his offensive staff. They create a lot of problems for the defense. We are going to have to play good team defense and do a good job of coaching. I am sure we are going to have to make some in game adjustments and figure out some things as we go. They are tough and they are averaging 40 points in the playoffs, highest scoring team in the league through a 16-game regular-season schedule, which says a lot right there. They are consistent, they are really good and they are consistent. They move the ball and hang up a lot of points every week. Obviously the biggest challenge of the year, the best offensive team that we have faced. We will have our hands full we know that."
(on his roster construction process)
"That is a great question, one we can't talk about for a couple of weeks in all honesty. Now is important and we want to win now. We want to have a great football team this year or whatever year we are in. At the same time, we know we are going to have a schedule and we are going to have to play next year and so I think part of my job is to balance the competition and competiveness of our team for this year with being able to put a competitive team on the field next year. Sometimes you might help one a little bit more than the other or vice versa, but in any end I try to do what I feel is best for our football team. Balancing all of that, taking everything into account the best that I can. Of course I speak with a lot of people in the organization and we make a lot of decisions collectively with input from the coaching staff and, of course, from Nick and the scouting department. Nick and I work very closely on that. Nick gives me a good balance there, too, because, again, he can step back and look at it from a football building perspective. Sometimes I get caught up a little bit more in the game-to-game, week-to-week in the season that we are involved in. But, Nick does a great job in terms of draft choices, drafting philosophy and looking ahead to where our roster will be a year or two from now. We have acquired a lot of players by trade that we fit into our roster the last few years. It is a process where team building can come from a lot of different ways; waiver wire, draft, draft choices, trades, free agent signings, street free agents and so forth. We just try to make the best decisions that we can at whatever point and time those decisions are available to be made. Sometimes we can't control them, sometimes opportunities come along and we have to decide whether we want to get involved in there or not. It is a great question. It is a tough one. Each situation is a little bit different, every year is different, every team is different and every player is different so there is no set formula. We just try to do what is best for the team."
(on his advice to his children and how proud he is of them following in his footsteps in coaching)
"Well, I got some advice from my dad and I passed that along to my kids. My dad's advice was to not get into coaching. What I have always said to my kids or really any young people that have asked me that question is you have to follow your heart, do what your passion is. Don't just take a job because it pays a little more money, just do what you want to do. Live out your dreams and try to achieve them. They are in what they do because that is what they want to do, it is not my decision. I don't try to guide them into it, I don't try to guide them out of it. I try to help them the best I can like any father would try to do for his children. Ultimately, when they become adults and they are ready to make their own decisions then they have a green light to make them. If they ask for my advice I will certainly give them the fatherly advice, the best that I can. But in the end, they are the ones that have to live that. That is the same thing when kids are choosing a college or making a decision like that. They are the ones that have to wake up every day, go to school, play on the sports team and get the education at that school. They are the ones that have to be happy at the school, not the parents, not somebody else that is directing them. Again, you try to help them with the decision but ultimately it is their choice and they are the ones that have to live with it. I try to be supportive and not try to steer it one way or the other."
(on his evaluation of the Falcons' running backs)
"Tremendous, both very dangerous. They are both good, they have a little different style, but they are both very good. They are fast, they catch the ball well, they are hard to tackle and they catch the ball down the field. They are certainly dangerous on catch-and-run plays, check downs, screens, things like that. They are great running backs. They can get outside, they can run inside and they do a great job of breaking tackles. They make people miss in space, they run over guys, they run through them, they dodge them and they don't fumble. They do a great job of gaining yards with good ball security and run with good toughness. They get tough yards around the goal line, short-yardage situations or digging out that extra yard or two for a first down. These backs are really, really good. (Matt) Ryan knows how to use them and Coach Shanahan knows how to use them. It is not just the running game; they are a big factor in the passing game. Sometimes they are the downfield guys, which is a problem. Sometimes, more often the receivers are downfield and if they are covered they give it to the backs and they have space and then they make a lot of yards. It is a very difficult offense to stop, but the backs do a tremendous job of gaining the yards that they can gain and then making more yards on their own with their run skills and their toughness and playmaking ability. Coach Shanahan does a great job of using everybody, the tight ends, the backs, the receivers, in multiple positons and multiple schemes. They are very hard to defend."
(on the Houston Texans adding Wes Welker to their coaching staff)
"Nobody worked harder than Wes (Welker). Wes loved football. He was the first one in, last one out type of guy. Very instinctive player. Wes was a great player for us as a receiver but also as a returner and he was actually our backup kicker. He actually kicked in a game against us with the (Miami) Dolphins when they had an injury in pregame warmups. Wes is a football guy. He is into football. Whatever we asked him to do, block, run routes, return kicks, help us out in any way possible. Wes was a good football player, is a great football mind, works extremely hard and is a very instinctive player. He always seemed to do the right thing whether it was the slowdown, speed up, go under a linebacker, go over him, stop, keep going or pull up. He just had a great feel for where a quarterback wanted to throw him the ball and where he should be in the passing game relative to where other people were. I am sure Coach (Bill) O'Brien recognized that as well from coaching him. I am sure he will do a great job in whatever they ask him to do. He did a great job for us as a receiver, as a blocker and as a returner."
(on the difficulty of establishing an offensive rhythm at the beginning of the Super Bowl)
"Again, one thing about this game is you are playing against a great team. The six teams we played against were great teams and the Falcons are a great team. They have done a great job like they did last week against the (Green Bay) Packers, shutting them out and getting a couple turnovers and they are up 24-0 at the half. For us to move the ball and score points we are going to have to execute well and perform well offensively. Again, they do a great job of getting you into long yardage situations. They are very quick, they are active up front and then they can rush the passer, they turn the ball over and they strip it well. The reason we didn't score points in those games that you referenced was because we didn't deserve to, we weren't good enough to. We have to find a way to do better than that. Certainly we don't want to play this game from 24-0 or 24-3 or something like that like where Green Bay ended up last week. We have to avoid that or it will be a long night if we don't."
TOM BRADY, QUARTERBACK
(on finally having a chance to practice)
"Yeah, it was great because you've had a lot of talking and not a lot of doing, and now you have the doing. So the emphasis points that we've been talking about and it feels like we're getting ready for a football game. You can't get too distracted because obviously there's a lot of things to take care of and there's a lot of commitments and you've got a lot of people pulling at you and ultimately we have to be prepared to win a game and we're not going to be able to prepare on the bus ride over to the stadium on Sunday. Our families get here tomorrow, so tonight's a big night to get rest and preparation and anything that we need to do to try to put it in the bank. We know the challenge that's ahead of us and it's only going to get more hectic as we get closer to the game. So I think tonight's a big night for rest and extra preparation and recovery, so whatever we got to do."
(on the Patriots playing in Mexico next season)
"Yeah, that's very exciting. I look forward to it. It's going to be very cool. I've always enjoyed that experience, going outside of the country and I love being in Mexico and I spent a lot of time there over the years.
(on the fans in Mexico)
"There's so much passion for sports there and I know everyone loves soccer too in South America and obviously in Mexico - all over the world. But it's nice for other people to get to experience a sport that we love and it's going to be a great thrill to be down there."
(on convincing Patriot fans to go to the game in Mexico)
"Yeah, that'd be a hell of a trip. I would love for our fans to kind of show a great turnout down there. It's a long trip, but it will be well worth it."
(on looking back on the Super Bowl 13 years ago)
"My friend actually sent me a picture of he and his wife - my college roommate - of that 2003 game and he looked young in that picture. It brings back a lot of great memories. It was a great game and I'm glad we won. It was a hell of a game. It was tough and it kind of came down to the end like it always seems to with our team and I'm glad Adam (Vinatieri) made the kick. But it was a great game, great win."
(on dealing with the distraction of deflategate)
"I'm focused on this game and the importance to our team. We've worked really hard to get to this point and the attention should be on this game and it's been a fun week to prepare for a great opponent. It's going to be a great game."
(on what's been described as a difficult year for his family)
"It's personal with my family and I'm just hoping everyone's here on Sunday to share in a great experience. But, it's just been a tough year. Every family goes through different things and my family's always been a great support system for me and hopefully we can make everyone happy on Sunday."
(on whether his mother will attend)
"Yeah, I'm hoping she's able to make it. I'm hoping everyone's able to make it. But you know, it's a great game because it's the final game of the year and it's a culmination of a lot of things. It's the Super Bowl. It's great for your team, but there's also a lot of people that made an investment in you. They spent their time and energy on their weekend. They've worked their tails off all week for those two days and when Sunday comes on and they can do anything and they choose to watch the Patriots. They made an investment in us and we want to reward that. We want our fans to know that all the time they spent cheering for us has paid off. For our families, it's the same thing. I mean, I don't get home until 6:30 - 7:00 pm at night. My wife does everything for the kids in the morning - I'm out of the door at 6:00 am. And when you do that for five months it gets tiring for them. I think you owe so much to your family and your wife and your spouse or people who support you because they're pulling the burden at home for us to live our dream. Our dream is so important, but it's not their dream. They're sacrificing a lot of their loves for what we do, and you want to be able to reward them as well. That's why it makes it such a special game."
(on the emotional aspect of the game)
"I've got a good regulation of my emotions and I know when I need to get amped up and I know when I need to relax a little bit and I think you learn those things. You kind of have to be right on the edge. It's such an emotional game. You don't want to be out of control, but you can't play with no emotion. You strike different chords for different emotions at different times and I think I've always found - I know where my family kind of sits. I scout that out when I have all my tickets and when I go out pregame and kind of look around I kind of know where they're going to be and I try to make some eye contact and let them know I'm looking at them. You'd like to know where they're at too. It's going to be great."
(on whether it will be a special moment)
"Yeah, it will be. It's a special moment, it's always been that way I think. It will be as special as it's ever been."
(on the feelings and emotions of game day)
"It's a long day. I mean it's a long day because it's been a long week because there's a lot of things you're doing. You're doing a lot more things this week than you normally do for a game week. Just to get to the game, it ends up being, I don't know, a four hour game? A longer pregame and a longer halftime, so it's normally three, three-and-a-half (hours) ends up being four-and-a-half to five hours. So it's a lot longer than normal and it's the last game of the year, so it just ends up being a long day. You've got to be able to have something left at the end of the game. You can't waste it all early in the third quarter. It's going to come down to a lot of great execution over a long period of time and we've got to stay focused and my hope is that we will."
(on the maturation of Julian Edelman over time)
"I mean Jules is like a brother to me. I mean I just can't say enough good things about him because he's just been an incredible player and his development, his maturity, his work ethic, his toughness, his dedication to his craft. I mean his leadership ability. I mean everything has been spectacular. I've played with a lot of great receivers and Jules is right there with all of them. He's the lynchpin of that group and he makes our offense go when he's out there. It's been that way for a bunch of years. We move the ball, convert on third down, we score touchdowns in the red area and it's not just his play-making, it's his attitude, it's his leadership, it's how tough he is. I mean you see how big he is, he's not the biggest guy in the world, but he plays like it. He's been there every game this year, he's been incredibly durable and healthy and I love being in that huddle with that guy."
(on Jim Harbaugh calling him the best ever and saying he can coach)
"Well, I mean I'd do anything to help the University of Michigan. He (Harbaugh) wants me to be involved and I love it. I don't know about quarterback coach, but words of wisdom to that quarterback group - I would love to do that. Again, I said yesterday when you get compared to people -- and certainly people that are my heroes - I don't ever see myself in that light and I've never envisioned those types of things. I love this sport. I admire all the guys who have played before me and I realize how hard it is. I grew up a fan of Joe (Montana) and Steve (Young) and Dan Marino and John Elway and Warren Moon and watched them all and loved watching football highlights and watching guys' techniques and drop backs and throws. I'm a fan of all those guys. They paved the way for us quarterbacks today and we're paving the way for the quarterbacks of the future and I'm a hell of a lot older than most of the guys in the league now, so there's a lot of guys who are probably looking at me like I used to look at them."
(on the challenge of being so much older than a lot of his teammates)
"It is. I think that's part of the fun part for me. Your role always changes and still as a leader and as a veteran I still can express things to my younger teammates and see the things that they're going through and try to help them through those things because I've been through those things. I've had a lot of experiences where Tedy (Bruschi) helped me and Rodney (Harrison) helped me and Willie (McGinest) helped me when I was their age. And now I'm - well I'm older than all those guys - but I still have the ability to be a positive influence in their lives. It may not be like we're going out together on Friday nights, but it might mean more than that. I might be able to share things that might be able to help them in their career or help them with their family just because the experiences that I've had, taking care of themselves. I'm so on them about maximizing their potential and actualizing the things that they want to achieve because I've had people that really mentored me and if I can do that for other players, I love that. I try to embrace that and I have so many players on this team that are willing to listen and that's a great responsibility because I love being that person for them."
TIGHT END MARTELLUS BENNETT
(on seeing his family in Houston)
"I saw them. I saw my mom yesterday over at my high school. She was actually over there yesterday for a meeting. My mom teaches in the district so I saw her there. I got lunch with my dad and my brother. We got our haircuts at the barber shop like old times. I've been able to see them."
(on how great it is for him to be able to spend time with them in Houston)
"The number one thing is to be in the sun. I'm a solar-powered individual so sometimes in Massachusetts I don't get that much sun and I don't have as much energy. Here, I just replenishing my body here with so much sunlight, which is great."
(on playing the Super Bowl in his hometown)
"I don't think there could be anything negative about playing in the Super Bowl anywhere."
(on the possible distraction of playing a Super Bowl in his hometown)
"I don't have any distractions. I don't have that many friends. I'm actually an introvert but I like people sometimes. It's weird. I like to be alone but I also like to be around people."
(on visiting places in his hometown)
"I've been wanting to get over to Pappadeaux but I haven't had the chance to get over there just yet. I need to get a seafood platter but I'm trying to decide if I should eat all that fried food before the game or not. That's the only place that I'd like to get to. I'd like to get to my parents' house so my mom could make my favorite meal. My family is very black and very southern so red beans and rice, candy yams, beans, cornbread, fried chicken and purple Kool-Aid We don't call it by the flavors; we just call it by the colors."
(on returning to his high school)
"It's always cool to go back to your community and give back. Walking down the hall is awesome. The coolest thing about being here is that before the game you always think about everything you've been through to get to where you are. To be back in the same place that you started running those wind sprints, to get to this platform has been very interesting and kind of surreal for the most part. I just drove by the hills that I ran with my brother. Just the streets that I ran and the streets that I practiced and played football on with my friends. We would play Super Bowls as kids in our cul-de-sac and now be in the real Super Bowl, although those Super Bowls were very real when we were kids. There was a lot on the line in those games. That's like one of the coolest things to be able to go back to my high school where other kids have the same dreams. You realize that you provide hope for a community not only as getting out of the community but that things are possible. You show them that some of these things are actually possible and nothing is truly impossible."
(on things coming full circle)
"I don't think there is such a thing as a complete circle. It's not complete yet."
(on the Super Bowl's at home as a young kid)
"As a kid, I won most of those. There's times where you go so hard and you try and catch a ball that you run into a parked car. You come up with those. It's like getting hit by a linebacker in the middle of the field except the car is a lot bigger and it's not moving at all. Those were good times."
(on if winning as a kid is a good omen for Sunday night)
"No, all that (expletive) I did as a kid doesn't really matter."
(On if his brother Michael Bennett is coming to the game)
"I don't know. You'd have to ask him. I think so. I would imagine he would. You'd have to ask him. It's kind of weird when you're an athlete and you have to sit in the stands especially when it's your brothers game. If he comes to New England, I can get him into a suite or whatever. Here, the game tickets are normal civilian seats. Being 6-foot-5 with long legs, you're just not used to sitting in those seats. It's uncomfortable. I remember I went to my brother's game one year in Seattle and it started raining. I was sitting up high and I was just like, I'm never coming to this (expletive) again. It was one of the most uncomfortable experiences of my life. I couldn't enjoy the game. Then, he got paid and had a little suite so I always went to those games in the playoffs then. I don't know."
(on dreaming of being on a team like the Patriots)
"I'm still dreaming of wizards and dragons. I was thinking about going back to school this offseason to get a degree but the only school I really want to attend is Hogwarts. Once you start playing in the NFL, everyone's goal is the Super Bowl. That's the only reason you play. Nothing else really matters. That's the only reason you play the game, to get to the Super Bowl. I think everyone in the NFL shares that dream of winning this game. The thing is, only two teams get to do it a year."
(on fitting into the system in New England)
"I think the biggest thing in coming here is coming with no expectations. Coming with an open mind and just trusting Coach (Bill) Belichick. Everything he's done is proven. A lot of times, you get young coaches or have been in the league a long time, you feel like you know things. Coach has been coaching for 47 years. You know when he says something, it's easy to buy into it. Every single guy on the team buys into it. The biggest thing is, I just came in and did my job. I was the same person every single day. They know who I am and what they're going to get. I think everyone was like, that's just who he is every single day. If I don't tell a joke sometimes, everyone is like, are you OK? If there's a chance for a joke to happen, I swear the whole team looks at me and waits for me to say something. If I don't say anything, they're like man, you had a perfect opportunity but you didn't say anything. I'm kind of like the comedic relief. When you watch some movies that are super serious and then there is like the one character that makes some funny points to make laughter, that's kind of me in the locker room on this team."
(on the secondary that has given him the toughest time this season)
"I don't get the ball that much. I think some of the toughest defenses to go against are some of the ones that disguise really well. The Cleveland Browns did a very good job of jamming at the line. A lot of guys hit us. A lot of guys give us free releases, which is something that you don't want to do at the tight end position. I feel like the Falcons aren't really a team to jam us at the line but they can really run. Their linebackers are really fast; the safeties are really fast they love to fly to the ball. I think the biggest thing is that they like to undercut. We just have to make sure we make our routes because they will go under. They're fast enough to make those plays. Over the course of the season, there are just so many different looks that I get. It's kind of hard just to pick one team."
(on whether his personality overshadows his ability)
"I think I'm pretty cool and a pretty good football player. I think my style of play is why people don't bring me up when they talk about tight ends. Most times, I may have to block 49 times and then run eight routes. There's other guys that never block. I'm like well that must be nice, but then I look at how they leave their teammates hanging. The running back is coming through the hole and getting crushed because the tight end didn't want to stick his head in there. I think my style of play is not really that sexy. I'm just a blue-collar football player. There may be games where I have two catches but I may grade out with a 95 because I was where I'm supposed to be, doing my job at a high level. I like to kick (expletive). That's my style of play. I'm not a fantasy football player, man. You may draft me in fantasy football, you may be pissed off because one week he goes for 120 and the next he goes for 30 yards receiving. It's just what I do. I think I'll still end up as the top tight end statistically the whole year. When they have a conversation or whatever they do what they do, media-wise, but in the NFL when we play against other teams, everyone respects me. Guys come up to me and they're like man I think you're really good. You block and there's not too many guys that do what you do. I never really worried about what the outside people say about me. My teammates, coaches and teams in the league, they respect me as a football player."
DEVIN MCCOURTY, DEFENSIVE BACK
(on how he leads his life and the team spiritually)
"I think, for me, a lot has been with our chaplain Jack (Easterby) and Matt Slater. They've been great leaders. So for me, our weekly Bible studies Monday and then Saturday before the games, and I just try to take that message in my life each week. It's always a new lesson trying to stay in the Word, and I think that's the biggest thing. We talk about it individually and the group of guys is just staying in the Word and trying to live our life by that, not just coming to Bible study two times a week and kind of leaving it there but taking it outside and putting it to work. I think the biggest thing is, I don't think of it as leadership, but just holding each other accountable. I think that's been the biggest thing in our team—a group of guys just trying to be good men, be good fathers, good sons, good husbands and we're always talking about that and trying to encourage each other."
(on what it would mean to win a second Super Bowl with the Patriots)
"I think, for us right now, it's just focusing on the game. Like you said, not getting too far ahead of ourselves. To me, it's an honor just to be in this game—for the third time, having the opportunity to win the Super Bowl and win the last game of the year. I think right now, that's my focus—taking advantage of being here. Whatever happens after that, I'm sure we'll get another chance to talk and then we can talk about that."
(on Head Coach Bill Belichick's emphasis on performance over draft status or experience)
"Yeah, I think it's been great. I think it's our understanding and knowing that only your performance matters. He always talks about leadership is just attitude and performance. That's what he tells guys. If you want to be a leader, if you want to be a guy that has a role on the team, go out there and earn it. It doesn't matter where you came in. You look at our team, we have guys from all over the place—undrafted, first-rounders—and I think guys take that in stride and say, 'Let me work my butt off and see where I end up.' That's why you see throughout a whole season a bunch of names come in and out. I mean, two years ago, playing in this game, Malcolm Butler seals the game with an interception. I think it's encouraging to know that you play on a team where the politics and all of that outside of the game doesn't really matter. It's all about who goes out there and earns their spot and plays well."
(on his T-shirt collection)
"Polos are a little too fancy for me. I don't have a favorite, just try to switch it up. I've got a nice one for Sunday. I just try to have fun with it. I've always worn T-shirts, so it's a pretty good competition between me and my brother. He thinks he has good ones, but no one sees his because he plays in Tennessee."
(on how many T-shirts he has) "My closet is all T-shirts. Maybe like one hundred."
(on QB Tom Brady's leadership and his opportunity to cement himself in Super Bowl history)
"I think he is a big reason for our closeness. You ask him about all of that stuff, he doesn't really care. I think, for him, it's being a part of this individual team. I think he's able to break it up and enjoy each team he's won Super Bowls with, but I think right now for him, this individual team has had a great journey. He's happy to be a part of it. He's happy to lead us. He's trying to do what's best for this team. I don't think he lumps them together and thinks about his history and all of that. I mean, for us as players, it's a great opportunity. It's an honor to be able to practice with him, to learn from him, talk to him—just a guy who's been a great student in the game who has been able to have longevity and play at a high level for so many years. I know, for me playing safety, always being able to talk to him—he beats me on a play in practice, I ask him about it after, he always explains himself. He's really helped my career and I've been able to learn from him. It's just cool and I'm honored to be a part of his success."
(on if the Patriots' defense feels it is the underdog or is being portrayed that way)
"I think they have a great offense. I think it's no secret when you break down the game, us trying to stop that offense is going to be tough. I don't think anybody from the outside looking in is saying that offense has to try to score against that defense. It's all about if we're going to be able to stop them. I think, like any team, you go to the Super Bowl and I don't think anybody goes in the Super Bowl as a clear favorite of everyone. So I think, in a way, both teams feel like we want to shock the world, we want to go out there and win the big one. I'm sure there are guys on their team that feel the same exact way probably on defense playing against our offense, playing against Tom (Brady). I think you've got to have that attitude, that chip on your shoulder, especially in this type of game. Anything goes and you'll get the best from everybody out there on the field."
(on when he felt comfortable being a voice inside the Patriots' locker room)
"I'd probably say it was a shock to me a little bit in my second year in the league just being a captain, having a lot of guys that were older than me in the secondary either traded or released or not on the team anymore and looking around and really (Patrick) Chung being the oldest guy and me just being a year behind him as kind of the leaders in the back end. I think that year was a little bit of a shock, and then I think I learned to be what the team needed, whatever that was. Whether it was speaking, whether it was being quiet, I've just tried to go to that and be whatever the team needs in every different moment. This year, I've been able to have a lot of fun. I think we have great leaders on our team with (Dont'a) Hightower, (Rob) Ninkovich, even a guy like Chris Long coming in from a different team but a real professional. I think young guys like Logan (Ryan) and Duron (Harmon) have stepped up to be leaders, so I don't always have to be that serious guy. I can laugh and joke and have fun. I think we just have a good mesh. I just happen to be one of the captains. From the outside in, people think just me and High are leaders, but we have a lot of great leadership on defense from a lot of different people."
(on the challenge of facing the Falcons' running backs)
"Definitely. I think their two running backs are very tough to stop—obviously, on the ground, the stretch running scheme and their ability. (Tevin) Coleman's very fast, hits it downhill. (Devonta) Freeman really can end up anywhere, cutting back. So you add that in and then, at times, they split out and run receiver routes. It's not the normal running back splits out and they have maybe two routes to run. These guys run everything from out there. It puts a lot of pressure on the defense. You have to be aware and be alert for the different formations they'll give you—the empties, the stacks, the bunches. It's going to be 60 minutes. Nothing is going to be easy for us out there. They're going to be ready. Kyle Shanahan does a great job of game planning and getting matchups that he wants. We'll have to be aware of those things and just know our job and be disciplined out there."
(on the challenges of the Falcons' offensive scheme and use of multiple tight-end sets)
"I think with them is they have all three tight ends that can go out there and play. Matt Ryan will throw to any of them. They have some good speed and size, so I think, especially once you get in the red area, tight ends in this game are always tough. They're mismatches down in the red area and different things. I think, along with that, they're able to run every formation with different groups. They go out there with three tight-end sets, but you'll end up in empty with one tight end out wide, one in formation and one flexed. They do a bunch of different things, and I think all three of their tight ends are kind of interchangeable, so you're not able to say, 'This guy's going to be here or he only does this.' They all three do different things at different points in the game. That creates another challenge that no one really talks about, but as a defense, you have to be ready for the three tight ends, the two tight-end sets. We've studied that, and hopefully we're on that Sunday."
(on his time with current Bucknell Head Coach Joe Susan at Rutgers)
"I'd say, for Coach Susan, every time we were at practice, there'd be time where no one really wanted to be there. Whether it be training camp, he'd come in there and he'd start yelling, 'No other place you'd rather be, men.' And he would always tell us you reap what you sow. I always remember that as a player, as a guy that puts in work. If you want to have a good year, you want to have a good career, you've got to put the work in. Coach Susan, I still hear those words on training camp days in the NFL and different tough days and also in the offseason when you're working to get ready for the season."
(on his interactions with Patriots safeties coach Steve Belichick)
"I think, with Steve, the best thing this year that he's brought to our unit is just a different view. Obviously, we have a good amount of veterans in the safety group, so we've heard the X's and O's part, our assignments, but he's trying to do things and bring an angle to game of where we can go things a little different in different formations, how we can go make another play—maybe that's not drawn up on the sheets but that he sees from watching the film and thinks that we can go make. Then also, he just has a great outlook on the game. His dad is Coach (Bill) Belichick. He's been learning from him for years. Obviously, it's his first year as a position coach, but what he's learned about overall defense, I think he's able to bring. Talking about where the D-ends are going to be, where we need to fit. I think we've been able to take our thought process to another level with him just because of his understanding of the overall defense. It's been a great year, I think, for us as safeties just getting an opportunity to learn from Steve."
CHRIS HOGAN, WIDE RECEIVER
(on what goes into the offense)
"There is a lot of detail involved in the offense and you have to be able to pick it up quickly. You have to stay on top of all the little details. I think most importantly is being able to go out there and play fast, especially with a guy like Tom (Brady) who has been in the offense for a while. He likes to go out there, like things be at a good tempo. You know for me it was kind of coming in here studying the playbook as much as possible and taking advantage of all those reps I got during training camp, the offseason, stuff like that. Just so I can get used to the tempo, get used to how he likes to play, how he likes play calls coming in fast. The better I knew the offense the faster I was able to play."
(on being able to approach Brady to learn the offense)
"If I ever had a question Tom (Brady) is extremely approachable. So is Josh (McDaniels), Julian (Edelman), Danny (Amendola) - guys that have all been in the offense for a long time. If I ever had a question I was able to go off the field, in the locker room ask them."
(on when he started clicking in the offense)
"I think training camp I kind of started having a much better feel for it. I was able to kind of be at all positions and I felt comfortable at all those positions. At some point during training camp getting all the verbiage down and not seconding guessing. I was able to go out and play fast."
(on playing lacrosse in college)
"It was fun. It was some of the best times of my life at Penn State. I really enjoyed playing lacrosse there."
(on what skills transfer from lacrosse to football)
"There is tons of stuff. Just being a midfielder, eye hand coordination, trying to beat the guy in front of you. You are pretty much going against a man to man the whole time as a midfielder - attack man in that offense. So there are tons of translation from lacrosse to football."
(on making it to his first Super Bowl)
"A long couple days, but this was all part of the experience. It was fun for me to go on the floor and kind of experience media night. I mean how many times am I going to be able to experience that in my career. It was nice getting back, kind of getting back into a routine today, and back out on the practice field."
(on getting this far in his career)
"It is a gratifying feeling. I have really worked hard to get to this point. It has been a lot of bumps in the road, cut by many teams. Really had to work hard to get to where I am at today and to have a chance to play in this game and have this opportunity is pretty amazing."
(on advice for kids to who want to be like you)
"I would just say take advantage of the all the opportunities that you get. I was lucky to get a bunch of opportunities. I made the most of them, but I have also been on the opposite side of things. Where I was sitting on the couch during the season. For that, you have to work for those opportunities, and you have to sacrifice a lot. You have to work really hard to make it as an undrafted guy. A guy will play a lot of football. It is a lot of work, but you know if you get the opportunities you take advantage of them it will be worth it."
(on how did your role change when Gronkowski went out and are you still 7/11)
"I think I will answer the second one. I think I always - I might not have a job if I am not 7/11 anymore. I don't think my role changed. I think guys stepped up when Rob (Gronkowski) went out. I was just able to - Tom (Brady) was able to find me a lot of the time in the deep part of the field. For me it was just kind of just taking advantage of those plays and trying to make plays for the team. It seemed like I was always that guy down the field. I think as my role it was kind of just do whatever they ask me to do. If that was to run deep balls and try to make some plays when they came about that is what I was going to try and do."
(on your low point that still sticks with you)
"Really my rookie year when I was back in Miami. I had a great offseason when I was down there, a great training camp. That is where I got the nickname. I was on Hard Knocks all that time. It was great, a lot of exposure. A lot of good feedback from coaches telling me I had a good training camp and I got cut. It was emotional. Obviously anytime you get cut from a football team it is tough. For me it was an eye opening experience. As good as I played and as good as I thought I played it wasn't enough. I drove back that day all the way back to New Jersey and was working out the next day just to wait for another opportunity. Really from that moment on I haven't stopped."
(on the reaction of the AFC championship reaction of friends and family)
"It was crazy. I was very fortunate my fiancé was there, my parents were there, my brother, my sister, and a bunch of my friends were there. They really got to be a part of that whole experience. They have been there from the beginning. It was just fun after the game seeing all them. Just seeing how emotionally invested they are, in this as much as I am. Some of them I heard there were tears. I heard there was a lot of excitement when I scored a couple touchdowns. Obviously they were jumping up and down like crazy. I was just so happy they were able to be there and share that moment with me. It was special. It was very special."
(on how much more he feels like a target after having a big game)
"I don't think anything for me has changed. I have always been able to kind of stay grounded in that respect. I consider myself a pretty humble guy. This is the moment I work - the game we have worked for since April and dreamt about since you were a kid. I just want to go out there play good football, play as hard as I can and hopefully win."
(on Coach Belichick)
"Coach (Bill) Belichick is great. He is one of the best coaches I have ever been around. He does a great job of getting us ready to play every single Sunday. Getting us prepared for every situation that we are going to face and making sure we are ready for everything. So he does a great job of that every single week."
(on the Patriots pitch to bring him in during free agency)
"The organization. I think it was just when I came here they really didn't have to pitch much to me. I played against the Patriots for four years. I knew what type of organization they were. They are an awesome organization. They are a winning organization. So when I came to New England and got to visit the second I stepped in the door it was kind of a no brainer for me. This was a great facility, it was a great coaching staff, great organization, great owners. So everything about it was a fit for me."
(on running routes for Brady)
"I think it was just be on top of your details. He has been around the game for a long time and he likes things that specifically. I think as long as you stay on top your communication with them. Which is always a constant thing, communication with Tom (Brady). That is why the receiver, quarterback relationship works so well if you are able to talk to him. If you ever do things he likes right then it will be good."
(on what he would say to himself as a kid)
"Go play football in college maybe. I don't regret playing football at all. I think it would be to enjoy every single experience that you have and you make a lot of sacrifices in the NFL, which is part of the reason I am here today. But I would say probably try to enjoy it a little bit more."
PATRICK CHUNG, SAFETY
(on the difference between Safeties Coach Steve Belichick's coaching style and his dad Head Coach Bill Belichick's style)
"He's my coach and he knows football. He knows football and he's around our age so we can talk to him a little different. He can give us his input, he can give us his input. We know we can have fun in there and talk about things."
(on if he feels Steve Belichick relates to him well because of his age)
"Yeah, absolutely. He knows us, he knows football. It's good to have a coach like that you can sit down and talk to him."
(on if he relishes being a hybrid player)
"I mean you've got to do what you've got to do. I don't really know how to say I'm so versatile, I just got blessed with the body I guess. I can do a lot of things, but I work hard. Bill (Belichick) trusts me to put me in a lot of different roles and I take that as a privilege. I've got to go out there and show that I can do those things, pretty much.
(on pushing his body to be a versatile player)
"Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, it can be a small receiver and it can be a 300-pounder. I never know what's going to happen on any play. It is what it is, you've got to do what you've got to do. You've got a job, do your job or you won't have one."
(on the biggest challenge of the Falcons' offense)
"Everything. They have good receivers, explosive running backs, great quarterback. They're good, I mean we've got to slow them down. They're going to have their great players, they get paid, too. Just got to do our job and I think we'll be all right."
(on how he would describe the defense)
"What you said, smart, tough, physical, aggressive. We play for each other, we're a family defense. We're not the Bears, we're the Patriots. I don't care about what anybody says about any of that, we're a great defense. We've got to play our best game to win this game."
(on what it means to be a 'family defense')
"We play for each other, you play for the person next to you. I can go home and if I have a problem, I can call one of my teammates and talk to them. These are my brothers. If something happens to them it happens to me. That's vice versa, it's just how I feel. Our locker room is filled with good guys, not just a bunch of people doing a bunch of nonsense. Brotherhood."
(on the opportunity to play in Mexico next season)
"Yeah, I would love to go. I've never been there before. I always wanted to go. Should be a great opportunity to play football, go see Mexico and have a little fun."
(on his increased maturity during his second stint as a Patriot)
"I'm definitely not the man, I just grew up a little bit. Leaving and coming back taught me a lesson. Sometimes you've got to grow up in life and I grew up. I had to be more consistent and that's what I'm trying to do now; be as consistent as possible. Do my job and show Bill why he brought me back."
(on if he appreciates his second stint as a Patriot more than his first)
(on the first moment he realized the high level QB Tom Brady plays at)
"I would say the first practice. From the jump - from the first play to the last play he's competing, he's trying to make plays."
(on if the accurate placement of any pass by Brady has amazed him)
"I would say 98 percent of them. 98 percent of his throws, you know. Sometimes you're like, 'You know, it's Tom Brady.' You can't defend it sometimes."
(on if practicing against Brady has made him a better defender)
"Yeah, I mean, it helps. You have the greatest quarterback playing the game throwing the ball at you and you've got to try to stop him. It definitely makes our team better, our whole team really. Offense, defense, everybody's seeing it. You feed off of those kinds of things."
(on what specifically about Brady makes him so successful)
"It's everything. Touch, arm strength, decisions. It's everything."
(on planning for the Falcons' offense having two dominant running backs)
"It's kind of the same, you've just got two of them. Two of them, they can play at the same time, but mostly it's just one or the other. You know what their strengths are and what their weaknesses are, and just play your game. They're great. They're good running backs. They're both different but they're still very good. We've just got to do what we've got to do, play our technique and I think we'll be fine."
(on if the versatile Patriots running backs have helped the defense prepare for opposing running backs)
"Yeah, it definitely helped us. We do have a lot of variety in our running backs and it helps us throughout the season. Our scout team, offense and defense, yeah we're playing the game but they're bringing us here. They work hard and they make us better and sometimes they're whooping us. We feed off that and we compete more. Everyone talks about the 53-man roster but really it's all of us, practice squad, everybody."
(on if it's harder to cover a running back coming out of the slot or the backfield)
"It all depends on the back. They're both good. They both can do it from the backfield or motion out of the backfield. It really doesn't matter with these two. They're both good."
(on what the defense's priority is facing the Falcons' offense)
"It's our biggest game and the best team. They have a lot of players. You can't just say one person is a priority."
(on how he stays prepared for each game knowing the coaching staff has used the secondary in unconventional ways)
"Every game is different. The game plan is different. We learn it in the meeting room. We're all in the meeting room learning the same things so we're all on the same page and that makes it a lot easier."
(on the strangest thing he's seen Belichick do during a game)
"I'll tell you after this game."
[wysifield-embeddedaudio|eid="528301"|type="embeddedaudio"|view_mode="full"]MALCOLM BUTLER, CORNERBACK
(on how many times he has relived his Super Bowl 49-winning interception this week)
"Actually, I haven't. It's a new game, so you have to start right there."
(on how far away the NFL dream seemed when he was at West Alabama)
"It was pretty far away. I thought I wasn't going to get an opportunity, but I just kept working hard and I got an opportunity and I capitalized on it. You just have to believe, work hard and keep doing the right thing, even when it's not going well."
(on if his work ethic allowed him to get where he is now)
"Yeah, work ethic and capitalizing on your opportunities whenever they come."
(on what makes Falcons QB Matt Ryan such a difficult quarterback to defend against)
"He gets the ball out on time. He has Julio Jones, he has (WR Taylor) Gabriel, he has (WR Mohamed) Sanu, he has a lot of weapons out there, including the running backs - they can go out to the wide receiver spot also. It helps him out a lot."
(on being a player the casual fan is starting to recognize)
"Just keep building on the foundation that I've built. At the same time, I'm doing whatever I can do to help my team win, but also you want to have a great career at the same time. Just doing what I do - working hard."
(on if this Super Bowl week is a different experience for him)
"Yeah it is. You kind of have an idea of what to expect, so here it is."
(on what it means to be back playing in his second Super Bowl)
"It means a lot. We worked hard to get here and we deserve to be here. It doesn't mean anything unless you win the game. Sunday will tell it all."
(on if he prepares any differently for this game than the last Super Bowl)
"Not really. Just taking it as another game, but it's a bigger game at the same time. You just have to be ready to play. It's another game, it's a big game, it means a lot, but you have to be ready to play no matter what game it is. This is the big one, so you're either going to win or you're going to lose. You just have to be ready."
(on how he balances the fact that it is the Super Bowl while wanting to treat it like a regular game)
"You just have to balance it. Look at it as another game, but at the same time, it's a bigger game. The loss is going to hurt even more and the win is going to mean more. There's only two options, win or lose, so you just have to be ready."
(on how much he sees the Falcons' running game as an enabler for their passing game)
"We just have to go out there and play smart, tough, physical football. Play as a team, chase the ball, try not to give up anything big. Just go out there and play football. The only thing you can do is go out there and play and see how it turns out."
(on how much he visualized making the Super Bowl-winning play during his entire life)
"We all fantasize and have a vision of making a big play and things like that, but sometimes we think if we dream too big and it's never going to happen. It most definitely happened to me. I didn't have it in my mind that way, but it happened that way. That's it, the only thing that matters is Sunday."
ALAN BRANCH, DEFENSIVE LINEMAN
(on the importance of winning the battle in the trenches)
"It's important just like every other game. It comes to stopping the run and have those guys fight one-handed and try to throw the ball on most downs, giving our pass rushers and DB's a chance to make plays to get us off the field."
(on playing a game in Mexico next season)
"It will be interesting I guess. It will be pretty fun."
(on his performance this season)
"I just try to have fun out there, jump around, dance and keep it light out there. Football is such a serious sport. For me, I personally play better when I'm having a good time rather than when I'm wound tight and upset. I just try to go out there and do my best. Things were rolling my way this year. I took advantage of those opportunities."
(on what has led him to his success)
"I think it's just working hard and trying to stay positive. When you're in hard times it's hard to stay positive. You start doubting yourself, you start not really knowing what your future is because you're used to success to get you to this point. It's just being positive."
(on how the team prepares for its success)
"I know we're winning and that's how we got here. We're basically going to work, practicing hard for each other and it's paying dividends right now."
(on containing Atlanta's offense)
"Personally for me, it's stopping the run and stopping their two running backs who are at the top of the league in what they do. They're fast, quick and are able to cut whenever they want. I feel like if we can do that, then we're taking a step in the right direction. Everything else is above my pay-grade."
(on being a free agent after this season)
"I have thought about it just because I have four kids. I have to figure out where we're going to live and what we're going to do with our lives. Right now, it's all about focusing on the Super Bowl. My wife is great with not bothering me about that. We're just trying to get this one thing done and it's a big thing, so it's worth it."
(on his love for skateboarding)
"I love skateboarding. It's one of my favorite past times. It's easy for me. I've been skateboarding since around junior high not consistently. I started in junior high and I've always done it. In New Mexico there's not really much to do, so I got into sports, skateboarding and break dancing."
(on how his toe injury feels)
"I'm feeling good and ready to go. I got stepped on, too. It's kind of a thing that we had to deal with up front."
(on his relationship with the defensive line)
"I think they're closer in age to my oldest daughter than they are with me. Those guys are awesome. I feel like they're keeping me young. We're always joking around and having a good time. I really feel like we're a close-knit group."
(on the biggest challenge Atlanta's offense poses)
"Scoring on offense, passing and running the ball into the end zone. Obviously they have weapons and they're pretty cohesive, or they wouldn't have had the title of best running offense in the league. We have a lot on our plate. We have to figure out what we have to do to stop them or what our best game plan is at this point."
(on his success this season)
"I'm playing a lot. You have to be on the field to get a lot of snaps. I put in work and things have fallen in my favor. With the game plan and the system that we have with 'Matty P's defense, it just worked out. I feel like I've been ready to capitalize on opportunities my whole career and I finally had the opportunity in front of me to make a huge difference and have my hand in the mix when it comes to defense. I feel like I'm taking advantage of my opportunity and I have to keep it going for another game this year."
(on how much longer he anticipates playing)
"As long as this body holds up, I guess or whenever my kids say they want me home a little bit longer."
(on his kids)
"My kids love it. I go home and I try my best to give my wife a break, play around with them and try to wear them out, which never works. I try to have a hand in the upbringing of my kids. I cook dinner some times. I try to help out with showers and getting them ready for bed and sometimes getting them ready for school. I want to be a big part of my kids' lives. That's the most important thing for me right now."
(on what sparked his success this season)
"I'm having just as much fun and doing a bunch of the same stuff. Like I said, sometimes you just have to wait for that ball to roll in your direction. It finally has. I've been blessed with the opportunity to capitalize on my opportunities. I'm happy about that."
(on the importance of the scout team)
"Throughout the whole season they've been great, especially the offensive line guys. They give us a great look. I feel like they are pretty spot-on when it comes to mimicking our opponents game plan and style of blocking as well. For them to go out there and be like a chameleon and at the same time, have to master the offensive scheme that we have, is very beneficial. I think they do a great job getting us ready for the game on Sundays."
(on whether he's gotten good BBQ in Houston)
"No, I've been hitting up the crawfish spots."
DONT'A HIGHTOWER, LINEBACKER
(on if getting on the practice field gives the team a sense of normalcy this week)
"Yeah. The travel is a little different and these past couple of days have been a little bit different. So, it definitely feels good to get back on the field and get back to what we know and get used to and take advantage of the heat, which we didn't have back in New England. I know a lot of the big guys are doing that, too."
(on how much better Falcons WR Julio Jones is now than when they were teammates at Alabama)
"I see the exact same guy. He's a hard worker. He was productive then, he's productive now. He's been the same guy that I came in in '08 with. It's been a pleasure to watch him grow and be the No. 1 receiver in the league."
(on S Patrick Chung's impact on the defense)
"Honestly, I think Chung's a linebacker in a safety's body. Again, what you said is he's aggressive. Something that you don't see a lot of guys that come in to the box, pulling guards, whatever it is, he knows a lot of the blocking schemes. In a lot of senses, he's like a hybrid player - he's a safety and he's a linebacker. He knows the run fits (and) he knows the coverage aspect, too. He definitely helps us do a lot of things in the back end - and especially in the front - whether it's manning some of the best tight ends in the league or us putting him on a receive. He just does a really good job of covering, helping us. And he does a good job in the back end, as far as communicating."
(on how practicing against QB Tom Brady every day helps to prepare to go against other great quarterbacks)
"It's been a big part to us this year. Again, like we say, we have the best quarterback in the league, we go up against him every day. Going up against the best definitely helps prepare for others. And in a lot of senses, it makes practice a lot harder before you even get to the games. We just have a great look at that every day."
(on defenders saying they would rather play on Sundays than having to play Brady during practice)
"Absolutely. By far."
(on how Falcons QB Matt Ryan is different than what they see going against the scout team quarterback)
"You obviously, can't simulate a great player like that. That's like somebody trying to do that for Gronk (Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski) or Tom or some of the guys like that we have on our team. We've practiced all throughout the year with the practice team guys and going against Tom. Obviously, we're aware of certain things that Matt Ryan does well and some part of that is his accuracy, pre-snap, post-snap reads. That's football. That's part of it. We just to go out and be able to execute and have those sideline adjustments."
(on if there are similarities between the Falcons' offense and what they faced against the Steelers)
"A little, but not much."
(On Atlanta's offensive similarities to Pittsburgh)
"Both have great quarterbacks and both have really good wide receiving corps, specialists. Pittsburgh has two really good running backs and Atlanta as two as well."
(on if it's more difficult to go against Atlanta when they have two great running backs)
"I guess so. At the same time, there's only one ball on the field. Obviously, there's game plan stuff around having two backs in the backfield and all that other stuff. I guess it could be said the same with just having one really good guy back there."
(on how he feels about this Super Bowl appearance compared to his first)
"I feel the exact same way - I want to win. We're all doing what we can do to prepare for that. It's all going to come down to execution. We took advantage of that last week and we're trying to do the same this week."
(on how he has emerged as a leader since his rookie season)
"A lot. I obviously learned a lot from (former Patriots LB Jarod) Mayo. Watched him when I was in college and then getting to play with him. Just being a sponge with as successful of a player as he was, just trying to learn as much as I can. Now, I feel like the roles are reversed, I'm just trying to give back to the other linebackers in the room. But there's guys with experience or younger guys - just trying to be there for those guys and give those guys any tips I could give those guys and watch them or whatever it is."
(on how comfortable he is being a vocal leader)
"If something's broke, you've got to fix it. I'm not saying that I'm quick to bark, but obviously if a thing needs to be fixed, I'll be vocal about it. I'm not a big vocal guy, but if things need to be said, things need to be done, then I'll try to go about that the right way."
(on what makes the Falcons' running backs so special)
"(Tevin) Coleman is fast, I'll say that. He runs very strong. I think the thing about him is he trusts his speed. I think a lot of guys aren't used to his speed, whether it's a jet sweep or him getting it out of the backfield or running an out route or whatever route he's running, he just does a good job of getting separation. I'm not sure a lot of guys don't necessarily see that until game time - and by then, it's too late. (Devonta) Freeman is a great running back all the way around. I think the best thing for him is his vision. He has great vision. Whether it's setting up a cut-back run or open field, he just has great vision and he's hard to bring down. You don't see too many backs with that height and agility. Hard to bring down. They have a couple guys like that on that team. That's definitely what sets Freeman apart."
(on if Atlanta's speed will be a problem for New England)
"I think we have to start fast. I think, again, that's something on us. If we're not ready and we're not prepared for it - you've seen it all year with those guys - they'll jump to 14 or 21 points on you. We know what kind of team they are, we know what kind of team we are, we just have to go out and be ready for them."
(on the Patriots' running backs)
"We have a stable. However, you want it, we can give it to you. You don't see too many big backs like (LeGarrette) Blount, who has great vision, hops, agility - you don't see that from guys like that and then great open-field speed. James White, Dion (Lewis) - you like them up wherever you want, they run routes like wide receivers. We see that every day in practice, they give us a great look and getting us ready for this game. And then Brandon Bolden, when he gets in there, speed, agility. He's a great back. We get a great look all year long from that whole stable. They definitely have helped us to prepare for this game."
JOSH MCDANIELS, OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR
(on how the team constantly looks to improve as a whole)
"We are always looking to try to do the things that will help us win the most. If that means changing something, we'll change it. Changing schedules is very flexible to do that, if that means it's going to help us gain an advantage or better be prepared for Sunday. We've spent a lot of time self-scouting ourselves because we certainly know we don't do everything perfect. We're going to try to get better in every area of our preparation or our organization that we can each year. Bill (Belichick) is certainly not afraid to challenge us and promote change if that's what it takes to get better."
(on if Head Coach Bill Belichick's leadership style)
"I think he does a tremendous job of allowing people to have responsibility. He's the best listener I've ever known. He takes a lot of input and he makes smart decisions, but he also allows you to do your job. He's the best resource we could ever ask for, for us to do our jobs better. He doesn't micromanage you, he gives you responsibility and he expects you to do it well. There's a high standard and all of us try to meet that."
(on how he's seen Belichick change over the course of their working relationship)
"Bill is very consistent; you know? He's always trying to work to get better and that never changes. There's no doubt about that, that part of our process is never going to change. If we can improve any area of our preparation or organization, we're going to try to do it. He's been tremendous to me as a person, he's a great friend of mine. He's obviously a tremendous mentor to me in our profession. I owe him more than I can ever hope to pay him back."
(on if he marvels that Belichick is still driven to improve after coaching so many seasons)
"Yeah, I wonder sometimes. I've done it for 16 years and 16 years sounds like a long time, you know? When you're doing it at the level he's doing it at, competing hard every day into 40-something years of doing it, that's a lot of competition. That's a lot of preparation. That's a lot of hard work. That's a lot of dedication, a lot of commitment to the people that you're working for and working with. I think that inspires all of us to try to do the same thing. Do our very, very best every day because I know that's what we get from him."
(on the balance Belichick has encouraged him to have with football and life)
"Bill is great about all of that. Bill understands that we wear other hats, you know? I'm a father and I'm a husband. I'm a brother and I'm a son. There's a lot of things that all of us do that don't really have anything to do with coaching. He respects all that. He doesn't tell us what to do, we know what our expectations are and what our standard is in the building when we're working. At the same time, we also have time away and that's our responsibility to use that appropriately. I try to use that the best I can. My four kids and my wife are about to get here in two hours and we're going to enjoy this experience together for the first time. Those are the things that we've seen him do with his kids. Like I said, he's a tremendous mentor to all of us and he's a help in a lot of areas that go far beyond football. All of us are fortunate that we're working for him."
(on if he pulls all-nighters at work)
"I don't sleep at the office. If it ever got to be that hard then I might try to find something else to do. I think you've got to try to find a way to balance your health. Even if my kids know that I came in and saw them after they're asleep on a few nights here or there during the week, that's okay. I go home every night. I think most of our guys do the same thing. It's not worth it to risk your health and start doing that kind of stuff at a young age. Hopefully, (I) have got a long life to live and I've got a lot of little basketball games and gymnastic meets and all those types of things to attend. It's our responsibility to take care of ourselves, we know what our job is, we know what the expectations are and we know the time frame that we need to do our job in. It's our responsibility to do that."
(on what it's like if something is done not up to expected standards)
"We'll get it fixed and we'll do it better. We've got a lot of mutual respect in our building and it's a great thing that I learned when I came back after my experience in Denver, to look at him (Belichick) in a different light and a little different lens. I was that guy, now I look at him and watch him and see him nurture guys on our staff. Develop young people, give them responsibility. Maybe it's not perfect and then help them figure out how to do it better. I think that's a sign of a great leader and that's what he is. If it's not right, we're not going to get chastised for it. We'll figure it out together, he'll correct us and help us figure out the solution which is the best part about it."
(on how much the familiarity all 53 players have with each other contributes to success on the field)
"Yeah, I think it starts with the fact they're treated all the same. The guys that are starting on offense or defense or special teams, they're not treated any different than the guys that are on the practice squad. I think the players sense that right away. They understand that nobody is more important than the next guy and I think then they start to take an interest in everybody else's, you know, their lives outside of football. How they got here, why are we all together. Bill spends a lot of time talking to us, we're all here for a specific reason. We didn't end up here by accident. Again, I think that our guys have a tremendous feeling for the other guys that are in there because we made it. We went through OTA's together; we went through training camp together. We made the roster together, we made the staff together. To be able to understand what that person had to go through, where he's from, what's his family story outside of football. I just think that makes our bond even stronger. This group, we use the word 'love' a lot in our building and we don't have any shame in saying it. There's a lot of people that feel that way about one another. There's a lot of people that go to whether it's a family dinner or a bible study, whatever it is. We're all in this thing together to try to do the right thing and it doesn't always center around football. There's more to it than that, I just think the common goal for us right now as a team is to focus on that. But, we also have a tremendous interest in how well everybody's doing outside of the game. I think that just makes everybody better."
(on the Patriots using the word 'love' to describe the relationships in the organization)
"That's right and I think that happens in our building, on our practice field, whatever it is. That's the way guys feel about each other and the best part about it is our leaders and the guys, you know, they're not afraid to show that. They're not afraid to express that and the young guys feel, 'It's okay for me to tell this guy how I feel about him as a person.' I just think it's a unique circle of people and we're happy to be here. We're happy to have an opportunity to compete together on Sunday night, it'll be fun."
MATT PATRICIA, DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR
(on how much he uses time of possession as a part of his defensive strategy because of his confidence in the Patriots offense)
"I mean in certain situations in the end of the game you're going to play however it is that you're going to play the clock or whatever the case may be. In general, for us, week in and week out it's going to be different in what we're trying to do. This will be different than what it was the week before. We'll try to do our best to slow them down."
(on facing the Atlanta Falcons)
"They do when you get to this point of the year, whoever's left standing, obviously it's the two best teams of the league. This is certainly one of the best offenses in the league. One of the top two. You're going to see both of them come out this weekend. I have my job cut out for me. This is a great offense, very explosive and very dynamic. They have a lot of great skill players that they can throw the ball to. Great coordinator in Kyle Shanahan. He's a great guy. Great quarterback who really does a good job understanding the offense. They keep a great rhythm of the offense. Great pace. They can change it. They can move in and out of tempo. I think they've really kind of mastered who they are. They understand what they're strengths are and what their best at winning. I think their attacking defenses is one of their strengths. They find where maybe you have disadvantages."
(on the Falcons running backs)
"They control the clock with their running game and their quick passing game. They're doing a great job of both of those. Their running backs are phenomenal. Carrying the ball and then being able to catch the ball in the passing game. I hope it's a shootout. I hope we can slow them down a little bit, but we're going to try our best."
(on his thoughts on playing in Mexico next season)
"We love our fan base. We love to be out wherever our fans are and we'll try our best to make them happy."
(on whether Telvin Coleman or Devonta Freeman is a more dangerous running back)
"They're both dangerous. They're both extremely dangerous. A little bit different—they both have some different aspects about them that make them unique. They're both extremely good in the run game. They're different, but they're extremely good and productive, and they're both very good in the passing game. Both of them are very dangerous players. We have to do a great job on them, and it's going to be a big challenge for us against those guys."
(on the challenge of eliminating big plays by the Falcons' offense)
"We've just got to do a great job of trying to make sure that we limit those big plays the best we can. When they come up, you've got to kind of flip the page and get to the next play, and hopefully you can perform a little bit better."
(on if the defense will show the Falcons' something new or stick to what has worked before)
"Yeah, we'll try to do the best of our ability to try to slow them down. I mean, this is a great offense. You've got to give all the credit to them. They have a smart coordinator. He does a great job of scheming up the offense and putting his players in position to make plays. They have great skill players, a great quarterback. I think one of the things that's not talked about enough is their offensive line. They do a great job of the blocking schemes that they ask them to do. They're very athletic. They really do a good job of the pocket. They keep the guys off the quarterback. He's been able to hold the ball or get the ball out on time to his skill players. It's just a very complete offense. They have dangerous weapons at all the positions, a solid offensive line that's doing a great job, great quarterback, great coordinator. You've got to start there and that's where you've got to give all the credit and try to slow it down."