As the Patriots prepare for their final regular season matchup with the Miami Dolphins, we heard from a few of the Pro Bowlers in the locker room on Wednesday. Listen to Devin McCourty, Jerod Mayo, and others in this edition of Locker Room Uncut on Toyota's Patriots Today.
PATRIOTS GUARD LOGAN MANKINS
Q: Were you surprised to be voted to the Pro Bowl after only playing eight games this season?
LM: Yeah, I guess so. I wasn't too worried about it.
Q: Do you see it as a sign of respect from peers, coaches, and the fans that you only played half a season and they still voted you in?
LM: Yeah...I must have tricked them into voting for me.
(On winning teams having more players voted to the Pro Bowl)
LM: I guess so. We had some guys make it and we have other guys that we feel should make it, too. I'm sure every team in the league feels that way. It's one of those things where you can't vote everyone in; only a certain amount of people are going to make it.
Q: Does it help that you've made it in the past and sort of have a reputation for being that type of player?
LM: Yeah, I'm sure it does.
Q: What's the team's approach going into this final game?
LM: [We're] trying to get better. We've got a tough game this week. I don't know about Miami's offense, but I watched the defense today. They are top in the league in quite a few categories. They're really good against the run and we're going to have our work cut out for us. It's going to be a tough game. I know a lot of the guys down there play hard and they're going to look at this as a big game for them still.
Q: Is Cameron Wake just an edge rusher or can he show up anywhere? Does he have inside moves?
LM: Yeah, most of the time he's coming off the edge, either the right or the left side. That guy has had a heck of a year. He's had 14 sacks; that's a pretty darn good year.
Q: How much has the contract situation driven you this year?
LM: Not really. I don't know if you've ever watched any of our games, but I tend to play hard the majority of the time. I don't think I'm playing for a contract right now.
Q: It's seems like your name is out there more now than it has ever been and it comes at a nice time for you.
LM: Oh, yeah, I guess so. I'm not too focused on that right now. [With] Miami, we've got a big game this week, so I'm looking down the road to that.
Q: Something Bill Belichick and Tony Sparano both said today was that you are known around the league for your physical, tough play and your smart play. What does that mean to you?
LM: It means a lot. I'd hate to be known as a wimp or a dummy, so I'll take the first one. That's a lot better.
Q: What does another Pro Bowl mean in terms of your career and to be recognized by not only the fans, but coaches and players as well?
LM: It's nice. That's not why we play the game, to make the Pro Bowl; we play to win games. If it happens, it happens and you're happy about it, but if you never make one, I guess that's just part of the hand you're dealt.
Q: So you're obviously really looking forward to this Pro Bowl vacation the week before the Super Bowl?
LM: We'll talk about that when we get there.
Q: Is it safe to say you'd rather not be going to the Pro Bowl and be getting ready for the Super Bowl instead?
LM: You know, I have such a hard time looking past one week at a time. I don't even want to speculate what I'd be looking forward to.
Q: Bill Belichick was asked about your performance and he talked about how good you've been. The next question was how do you not sign a guy who has played as well as you have this year and in past years. He sort of didn't know how to answer it. Do you?
LM: I don't know. I've never signed anyone to a contract, so you'll have to ask the people that do that.
Q: How do you prepare mentally for a game this weekend that really doesn't matter as far as the standings or the playoffs are concerned?
LM: Well, it means something to us. Every Sunday that you go out there, you're playing for your pride and your teammates. You don't want to let the guys down beside you, so you're still going to play hard. You don't want to lose a game ever, I don't think. So, that's how we look at it: we're going to go out and try to get better and try to play the best we can.
Q: With what happened with Wes Welker last year, does that change anything when you consider injuries in the final game?
LM: I don't think so. If you're going to get hurt, you're going to get hurt; it's part of the game. No one ever wants to see one of your key guys get hurt like we had happen last year, but we know it could happen at any time.
Q: Can you talk about getting the honor after playing just eight games?
LM: Hey, I don't know. It happens. I didn't vote for myself, so I don't know who did.
PATRIOTS LINEBACKER JEROD MAYO
(On whether he was excited to make the Pro Bowl)
JM: I was very excited. It's my first one. It's a great honor.
(On how he found out he made the Pro Bowl)
JM: Coach [Bill] Belichick called me [and] let me know.
(On how he feels this year has gone for him)
JM: I think it's been a pretty good year, but I still see room for improvement. Every time I watch film, there are always plays that I want back. Our record speaks for itself. We're doing pretty well right now, so [we're] trying to keep it rolling.
(On hoping the Patriots season is still alive when Pro Bowl occurs)
JM: Exactly. You really don't want to play in the [Pro Bowl]. You really want to keep playing these postseason games.
(On recognition of four defensive players making the Pro Bowl)
JM: It's great for the team in general, but specifically [for] our defense just having guys named to the game, named to the team, it's a great honor for all of us.
(On staying focused on Miami game this week)
JM: My focus is all on Miami right now. We want to keep this thing rolling. You really don't want to go into the postseason after a loss, so we want to keep it going.
(On whether players need time off for Miami game)
JM: Everybody is ready to play, no matter what. We all want to win this game and keep it going.
PATRIOTS CORNERBACK DEVIN McCOURTY
Q: Does it feel good to be recognized for making plays back there in the secondary as a group with two of you making the Pro Bowl?
DM: I don't think it's as important that we were selected for the Pro Bowl, but I think we are happy about the progress we've made looking back at Week 1 and Week 2 and those early weeks in the season. We felt like we made a lot of mistakes that we knew better about and then being able to see our performance just get better and better is really exciting.
Q: How important is the role that the coaching staff plays?
DM: They play an incredible role in my part of this team because I'm a rookie. Coming into this situation I didn't know much about being out there playing in the NFL. Just all of the meetings and extra film watching and meetings with the coaches – that's the only reason I am still on the field making plays.
Q: What is your approach and the team's approach to this Sunday's game?
DM: We're competing. I think each week when we get ready for a game, our focus is to get better, learn about our opponent and then go out there and compete on Sunday.
Q: You still have a long way to go, but did this year go as well as you could have imagined it going?
DM: I really didn't imagine it. I'm not really into trying to make out your whole season before it has even started. I've kind of just taken it one week at a time, each practice at a time. [I'm] just trying to get better.
Q: Have you gotten a lot of reaction in the past 24 hours from friends and family congratulating you?
DM: Yeah, definitely. As soon as it came out a lot of friends and family sent text messages and phone calls. A lot of people that know me are just as excited as I am. PATRIOTS
SAFETY BRANDON MERIWEATHER
(On him being recognized for the development of the secondary this season with Pro Bowl selection)
BM: I don't know. I wouldn't necessarily say me alone. I think all of us had our part in it. As you can see, [Devin McCourty] also [was selected to the Pro Bowl], so all of us had our part.
(On what he has been doing to improve this season)
BM: I don't know. I've just been doing what my coaches ask me. I haven't been going outside of the box, trying to make plays. I'm doing all the little things. I've been just doing what my coaches ask me and it's been paying off.
(On the biggest improvement in his game this year)
BM: I think my communication. My communication with not only the players but with the coaches and everybody on defense.