**Q: How quickly would you trade the co? MVP trophy for a Lombardi trophy?PM:**
It's always been about team honors and team goals, and usually if you have a good team season some individual things like the Pro Bowl that Dwight, Marvin and I are going to, well that's what it's always been about for me. That's what Coach Dungy preaches about all season is the team and I think that's why we are here in this game on Sunday, because this is the best team that I have been on since I have been playing in the NFL. Everybody is contributing. Offensively we are doing some good things, but Dwight and Chad have had great years on defense. It's a boring answer for you but you've got to have it all ?? you hear about the Patriots, such a team concept. And I think we have a great team concept as well.
Q: Can you describe how much you enjoy the challenge of matching tactics or strategies with a Coach Belichick or Romeo Crennel?PM:
That's the thing that gets caught up in this whole week and Coach Dungy talks about this all the time, Coach Belichick and Coach Crennel aren't going to be playing on Sunday. The guys that are going to be playing, Bruschi, who I think is one of the top middle linebackers on the team, Vrabel makes a ton of plays and Seymour is the man, Rodney Harrison ?? I thought losing Milloy was going to be a big blow to the team, and replaced him ?? probably the only guy who could have replaced him is Rodney Harrison, because of the intensity and the athleticism that he brings. So it's the players on the field that are going to decide it.
I think some people think Coach Dungy is our defensive coordinator. I think he spends more time in our offensive meeting rooms more than the defense, he is talking to me about what the defense is doing. Romeo Crennel is their coordinator and Tom Moore is our coordinator, and you put a game plan in, but it's the players who make it work and the reason these guys are good is because of their players, they are solid players.
Nothing is ever easy against those guys. That's what it's going to come down to. If they stop us on third down, they are going to say well, they out?smarted the Colts offense and they had Peyton confused. Probably not true. If they stop us, it's probably because we couldn't block them, couldn't play pitch and catch, that's all we want to do. We didn't do that the first time. We missed some open guys, we turned over some, and you can't do that against a team like this.
Q: There have been rumors around the locker room about you going to classes and aroma therapy? Has that helped you calm down and aleve a little stress? Is that true?PM:
I don't think so. I think it has been a relaxed playoff run for us. We got some guys ?? we have enough guys that have been around that were there against the Jets last year, they were there in Miami when we got beat, just sort of made up their minds to go out there and change it. Do something about it, so we have been focused and intense, but it's been a relaxed and just a fun atmosphere and that all starts with the head coach. Coach Dungy creates that atmosphere and it's not ?? you got to be careful between the word "relaxed" and kind of, lazy, silly, that kind of thing. It's a productive atmosphere, the guys are upbeat, and they are intense, and they are enjoying it, and that's been a fun way to play all season and it's all because of Coach Dungy.
Q: Peyton, Your dad was talking about the friendship that you have struck up over the years with Dan Marino, and I am wondering if you could talk a little bit about that, maybe how you picked his brain over the years about learning the quarterback position. And he also said as sort of a side note that it kind of rankled you whenever you heard criticism of Marino not having a Super Bowl ring, which is kind of parallel to the stuff that you had to put up with up until two weeks ago.PM:
The criticism on him ?? it always bothered me when I was in high school as a quarterback. My dad has always been my hero as a football player, my favorite quarterback, but when I was growing up, Marino was the quarterback that was playing, and I sort of picked his mind as my favorite quarterback of that era.
It's all you ever heard about, you take Marino, you take Karl Malone and Stockton in basketball, and I don't know, it always just kind of bothered me. I love the way he competed. I love the way he just let it out there on the field, just left everything out there. And I called and left him a message the other day and told him there is a good quarterback out in Mississippi looking for a place to play next year, so see if he can take care of that.
So I am a quarterback fan. I like all quarterbacks and I have a true appreciation for what Tom Brady does, the job that he has done. And I pull for quarterbacks every week, except when I am playing against them. I hate to see a quarterback get booed, get pulled, get hurt, have one of those color?blind games where you throw it to the other guy all the time because I know what it's like and I know how tough it is. So I guess I find myself, if people are taking a shot at Marino I get defensive about that because he was one of my heroes, and that's just how it's always been.
Q: Peyton, two questions: One, what do Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley do to the wide receiving core? Secondly, what has a team done to support Brandon during these days?PM:
The team has been extremely supportive of Brandon, and Coach Dungy always talks about priorities. It was a no?brainer when Brandon and his wife and their son, Cameron became sick. We have been supportive. He was there at practice today and everybody puts their arm around him. I was asking him how everything is, and he is asking me about the game plan. We are trying to keep things in perspective and priority, and Brandon is doing a great job of trying to keep his life in balance this week. But I believe he will be ready to go on Sunday.
I can't say enough about ?? everybody talks about Reggie and Brandon, but you got to throw Troy Walters in there as well. The one game Brandon got hurt, which never happens, Troy came in and did a good job, so I am just honored to have those guys as teammates and to call that group my receiving core.
Marvin gets tons of the attention and he deserves every bit of it, but that core, that's been the best core that I have had individually as a unit in the six years that I have been playing. It just makes my job so much easier and the quarterback is going to get a lot of the credit, but when you drop back and have all those different guys that you spread the ball around to, and they are doing great things with the ball after the catch, and I just appreciate their work ethic.
There is no work ethic better than Marvin Harrison. He is there every day. He demands to go against Walt Harris and Nick Harper. He doesn't want to come out and all those guys are taking after his work ethics.
Q: Is Tony as quiet and laid back as everyone thinks or do you guys see a side of him that we don't, and what is that side?PM:
Well, an NFL coach, quiet, laid back doesn't even make sense, doesn't even apply. He is extremely detail oriented and extremely disciplined. Those are the first two things that jumped out to me in the talks that I have had with him when he first got here.
He asked me some questions and told me what his plan was, and that's kind of how I am, a detail?oriented guy. I am a note taker and he played the game, which I think you don't have to have to be a head coach, but it certainly helps. We've got good guys on the team. We've got guys that understand that if you give everything you got on the practice field and do the right things, they don't have to yell and scream at you.
He will yell and scream, you have heard him, but I think it's more guys just aren't giving effort, if they are just being lazy. Guys want to play hard and play well for him, and that's the big thing this year, is guys want to ?? he motivates you because you like him so much and because you see him working so hard to get the game plans ready and put people in the right positions. It makes you want to play better for him and win for him because he is our leader. He is the guy and I am honored to be his quarterback.
Q: These guys stopped you on the one yard line last year. Does that make you all the more hungry?PM:
Obviously, that's the way the game ended, but there were a lot of chances in that game for us to make some plays different. When you watch the film, you see a lot of things that ?? most of the cases where the Patriots were making the plays and we weren't.
So that's what it's going to come down to, is who makes more plays on Sunday, and certainly that last play has gotten a lot of attention, and Willie McGinest made an outstanding play, but there were plenty of plays before that. We had opportunities and we just didn't get it done.
And you don't get a second chance in the NFL. But we do have a chance, and it is up here, and they have been tough at home, but we think we can do some things better this time around than we did the first time. At the same time, these guys, they are an extremely good football team.
Q: You have studied a lot of film, you have seen the history of the Patriots in late season games, I am sure you have seen some of the crazy ways games have ended here, guys plowing the field so the kicker can kick. I notice you are not staying around to practice today. Any thoughts on maybe the game coming down to some crazy thing like that?PM:
In these playoff games, the game against Denver, you don't have those very often. Against Kansas City, even though we didn't punt, but we had to make a tackle the last play of the game to secure the win, so you expect it to be a close game and you go down to the wire, and absolutely, you want that ball in your hands. I know Dwight wants them to have the ball and wants to stop them. Marvin and I, we want to have the ball to have the chance to go down there and throw the touchdown or set Mike up for a field goal.
It is true, that is why you play, and you do want that opportunity and especially in a magnitude of this game. So I expect it to be a close game and I think it's going to come down to who has the ball in the fourth quarter and whether they make the play or don't make the play, and hopefully we will.
Q: You have, basically, only been stopped on one drive in the playoffs, the fumble against Denver. Do you have a sense that, like, in practice, things are just crisper, have been easier, and before games did you have more of a sense than an average game that you guys were going to be firing on all cylinders?PM:
You don't have a sense that you are going to go out there and not punt the entire game. That's a hard sense to get. We have had excellent weeks of practice. We have had another awesome week this week as far as guys being on the same page, catching the ball and doing the right thing.
I think you have to practice well. It helps you play well, but it doesn't guarantee anything. And what we did against Denver, against Kansas City, it doesn't carry a whole lot of weight coming into this week and playing this team. It's an entirely different team, different defense, different players, and I wish I had some secret answer and a headline for you, but it just is going to come down to who executes the best. And we have executed well the past two weeks, but we have another new challenge this Sunday.
Q: I am sure since your Pop Warner days (Inaudible) until the next biggest game in your career, is this the biggest game in your career?PM:
You have to say it is, because I don't think it gets any bigger than the chance to go to the Super Bowl. I think they all are big in the NFL, and I get a little tired of the fact that it seems like now ?? with me this year that regular season games, that's no big deal, let's see what he does in the playoffs, and I don't like that. I think in college you have that, I think in college when you are playing a team, maybe a division 2 school, you are in Tennessee and if you don't beat them by 40, the fans are mad. That's how it was.
In the NFL all of the teams are tough and all the players are so good. In the playoffs they get even tougher, but yeah, with what's at stake, you have to say that, but I didn't think about that until you just kind of brought it up. I have done the same routine this week and had the same mental preparation, and all I know is what I have always done, just to prepare as hard as I possibly can and go out and play as hard as I possibly can and that's all I can control.
Q: Peyton, how did you interpret Marcus Pollard's remarks after the Kansas City game?PM:
Marcus Pollard, he is a piece of work, he has always got something for you. And like Coach said, who cares? What does it mean? What does it matter? I think the Patriots were pretty fired up to play anyway against us because it's a chance to go to the Super Bowl. I didn't hear what he said, I don't know who did the interview, I don't know how it came out, and it doesn't matter a bit to me.
What matters to me is that he is going to be playing for us on Sunday. We need him as part of this team. And if some of their guys are fired up because of that quote, then hey, that's great, but it's kind of what I expected in the first place.
Like I said, all the other distractions, it's just going to come down to who plays better. That's what it's going to come down to. But that's the first I had heard about it. Captain Bratzke and I will not sit him down tomorrow and talk to him about what he had to say. Everybody is their own man in this league, in this game, and we are all professionals, and we are just going to go out there and play.
Q: You know Marvin has a tendency to tense up with a lot of cameras around, yet he walks to the podium so cool in a crowded room. You guys seem like you are really enjoying the moment.PM:
We are excited to be here, we are. We have worked hard for this opportunity. Those weight lifting sessions that Chad, Dwight, Marvin and I participated in during the month of March in Indianapolis, just a couple of months ago after we got our butt beat in the Jets game, nobody really wants to be there in March. But you are there and you lift, work, run, and you know it's going to pay off for you at some point.
So we are excited to be here. We deserve to be here and this opportunity, we absolutely need to enjoy it. We have worked hard and I have stayed up late every night studying tape like I always do. If everybody got their two or three lifts in this week, Freeney did his TV curls, everybody keeps the same routine, yeah, you got to enjoy it. It's supposed to be fun.
There is pressure, and Tony talks about just playing well when the stakes are at their highest. And we have done that so far this year, and I guess you would have to say the stakes are at the highest they could possibly get up to this point on Sunday, and we expect to execute.
Q: We know that you call your own plays, you go to the line, and you audible quite a bit. Have you ever walked up to the line of scrimmage and looked at Romeo Crennel's defense and say, "What is this"?PM:
Tom and I have a system that's kind of been in place for six years. And I guess the best thing Tom and I have, and it's something I never take for granted, is the trust that he has in me. I think I have had it for a pretty long time. I probably didn't have it so much my rookie year when I came up here in '98 and hit Law in stride against New England. But you earn that as you play and he has been my coordinator the whole time, you earn that trust.
He calls the plays, but every night he looks at me and says you got it, or if I send a signal to him like I got something, he says, "take it," and if it doesn't come out right, that's the plan. That's how it's working, and I have earned that trust and I appreciate the fact he does trust me, but he calls the plays and he is the coordinator.
Yeah, like I said, they do some things on defense, they move around and they have good schemes, but they have good players. I am telling you that's what it's about. That's why they are a good defense. And Romeo Crennel, I just know him from the handshakes after the game, but it seems to me he would be a good head coach with the job he does with the defense, but he has good players, and I am just impressed with the players, the speed, the athleticism, the way they play together, and how smart they are. They are always in the right spot.
So if you do lose a ball against them, you have to learn it, and it's tough. So that's really what good defense is about is they are great players and obviously great coaches like Romeo Crennel