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Rod Smith Pre-Game Press Conf. 10-23-2002

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Q: You were part of the back-to-back Super Bowl championship teams in Denver. I was just wondering how hard it was to win it the second time.

RS: It's tough. You actually become the deer instead of the hunter. Everybody's after you, everybody's gunning for you and everybody's going to try to bring their best game against you. It's a tough deal. Plus, you always get the toughest schedule and all that as well. That's why it's only been done a few times, because it takes a special group of guys to go in there and pull it off.

Q: So, you probably understand what the Patriots are going through this year in trying to get back to the mountain?

RS: Oh, yeah. They're still on the mountain. Don't take that away from them. They're still the Super Bowl Champs. Until someone knocks them off, they get to stay up on top of the hill. Like I said, we were very fortunate to get to do that for a couple of years and then that third year, everybody threw everything they had at us and knocked us down. That's the way it is. That's what comes with that glory and that fame. But what I told Troy Brown and [Ty] Law and those guys at the Pro Bowl, is that no one can ever take it away from you. No matter what happens the next year or whatever, that's some glory that you will always have and it's special.

Q: Is it hard to maintain the same intensity level the year after, especially with teams cranking it up a notch?

RS: Not really, because you have that taste of victory and you want it again. It was tough the first time, especially the route that they took. They took a route similar to the route we took our first year winning it. And so, when people don't give you a chance and all of that and suddenly you're the king of the hill, it took a special group of guys to do that and they still have a lot of those core guys there who know how to get it done.

Q: Rod, do you feel like you know the Patriots more so than any other team outside your division, simply because the teams have met so often? I guess it's been eight straight years now.

RS: Well, you know, they change up things a lot. Especially for us on offense, they run a lot of different things, they have an unconventional defense at times. They run the 3-4, the 4-3, and they'll switch it up. We practice one thing and they do something else. So things like that are part of the chess game. Their head coach is a defensive genius. So we'll have our work cut out for us and we know that. But it seems like we play them every year and it's always a good battle. I expect the same this year.

Q: Teams that are 5-2 at this point in the season you would think are in pretty good shape, but sizing up the AFC West and with one less wild card this year, how critical do the new divisional alignments make this game?

RS: That's why the league is set up the way it is: for competition. That's why they set the schedules the way they do and that's why the ratings are going to be higher than ever. Every game is a playoff game. Like when we lost to Miami a few weeks ago, I was like, 'We just lost a playoff game.' Then we win in Kansas City and I said, 'Okay, well, we just won the playoff game back.' That's how critical it is in the NFL, not just in the AFC West. Kansas City is the lowest team in our division right now, but they have the best offense. So there are just a lot of different things … It's definitely spread out against the competition, and it's tough. Every game is a playoff game. This is a playoff game for us. It's an AFC team, the defending Super Bowl champs, on the road. We have everything stacked against us, but we have to try to find a way to get it done.

Q: Obviously you play of the outside, but the loss of Tom Nalen, who's been through thick and thin with you guys and he's been a cornerstone of the offensive line … Can you address that?

RS: It's going to be tough. Tommy and I came in here together. We both started out on the practice squad together, so we have a little bit of history in winning championships and also losing tough games with him. It hurts me personally probably a little bit more than the other guys because they weren't here with him to see how he developed into a four-time Pro Bowl center. But, at the same time, we have a lot of young guys waiting in the wings who want to play. Unfortunately, this is the way they get their opportunity and we have to go into a place like New England for a lot of those tests. They're not backups any more, and the type of guys we have, I think they're ready to play. They focus and prepare every week as if they're going to be the starter, and now some of those guys are.

Q: Rod, can you talk about the Patriots secondary a little bit? They obviously have a reputation as being a pretty hard-hitting group.

RS: They're one of the best in the league, by far. They actually have six DBs that could start anywhere in the league. With T-Buck (Terrell Buckley) coming in in nickel and also with Victor Green, they have six legitimate starters. That in itself can cause problems. You can't think, well, they match up your third receiver with their weakest corner. That's not the case. In some instances, they actually bring in a corner who's better than one of the starters in some cases. We're going to have our work cut out for us. Their secondary is a very veteran group, very solid. There are a number of Pro Bowlers back there. Plus, they're the defending champs, they know how to play the game. They're very smart, very quick, agile, and they like to tackle. We've got to do some extra work this week and we know that if we want to try to give ourselves an opportunity to win the game.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about what having [Ed] McCaffrey back means to you?

RS: With the balance in our offense, it gives us another weapon. He's a huge weapon for us with his experience and his expertise, running routes, blocking, everything – knowing the offense and knowing how to play in crucial games. Eddie brings it to the table every night as far as coming to play. We need that. He's a very solid leader. He's a leader on our team. He's getting back into the flow of being the old Eddie Mac that I'm used to seeing. He's having a good year and I expect him to get better as the year goes on.

Q: Maybe you've got an old guy who's getting young – did Shannon [Sharpe] find the fountain of youth or what?

RS: I kind of bad-mouthed him all last week about how he calls himself "Big Play Sha." I said, 'Well, Big Play Sha, you haven't done jack for us all year.' I just kind of harassed him a little bit. He told me that he was going to have to have a breakout game, and he did. He had a huge game – one of the best tight end games in history. So, it was just a big plus for us. When you've got a game like that – I called it a playoff game – playing Kansas City in Kansas City, you need your big game players, and he's definitely one of those guys. He's a definite Hall of Famer and I love playing with him.

Q: So you're taking some credit for his game?

RS: No, I'm not taking any credit. He can take some credit for mine, because I learned a lot from him.

Q: Thanks, Rod.

RS: Okay, thanks

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