Q: The Eagles are going to be without Chad Lewis. How do you think that will affect their game plan, and what do you know about his replacement L.J. Smith?
TB: I don't think it should impact [how they will approach the game]. We have been a team that has had to deal with a lot of injuries also. It really hasn't affected the way we have approached games either. So, I don't think that they will change things too much. It is the Super Bowl now, and I don't think they would change things too drastically and sort of keep doing what they are doing.
Q: What do you know about L.J. Smith?
TB: He is a very capable tight end that is probably maybe a little more athletic. He has been stepping up this year in terms of the big plays that he has been making.
Q: Your team is going to the Super Bowl for the third time in four years, but there is always roster turnover. Can you explain how the team just keeps going when the parts keep changing?
TB: I think there are two main constants. The one constant is the coaches. Our coaches have remained consistent. The other constant is our core group of players who have been there through thick and thin. There is a group of us now that has been to a total of four Super Bowls. I think there are six of us that have been here since 1996 when we went to the Super Bowl and lost to Green Bay. I think with us sort of leading the way about how things are supposed to be done around here and how the Patriot attitude is supposed to be, I think we have been able to welcome guys in and show them how things are supposed to be done here.
Q: The coaching staff is going to have some changes next year. Is that something your team can handle as long as Bill Belichick is still around?
TB: That I don't know. I don't know. When it comes to it next year, I think there are going to be some decisions Bill is going to have to make. Some of our assistants are going to have to step up. How that is going to affect us, I don't know. Ask me next year during training camp or the regular season. But, right now we have our core group of coaches around. When the time comes and if the model changes, I'm sure I'll notice it. Right now I don't really concern myself with that.
Q: In your opinion, what are the NFL dynasties from the past that you think of?
TB: I think of San Francisco. I think they won the most, in terms of five Super Bowls. They lead the way in terms of the organization that they have been. Of course, [I also think of] the Steelers with [Terry] Bradshaw, when they won four Super Bowls. Those are two teams and organizations that pop into my mind right away, and also the Cowboys for what they did.
Q: What was the constant element of those teams when you look at what they achieved?
TB: I guess just consistency—consistency in terms of the way they approach the game. I can't speak of the Steelers of the 1970s. That was before my time. But, in terms of seeing things, I did watch a lot of the Cowboys games and I grew up in San Francisco, California. So, seeing their core group of players keeping their attitude consistent in terms of just trying to win football games, even through a coaching change here or there, they were able to still keep their core group of guys together and maintain that level of excellence.
Q: That sounds a lot like your team.
TB: Well, here I am. I am a member of the Patriots and I am talking about those teams. That is because it is in the past. I won't talk about that when it comes to my team. I'll let some maybe some team in the next decade talk about us, but I won't talk about that.
Q: How do you take it when people say you are the face of the Patriots franchise—a guy who is self-made, works hard, plays hard and has a positive off-the-field life?
TB: I look at it as a tremendous compliment, first and foremost. It is just sort of who I am. [It is] that attitude I have been able to portray. It is not like I got here and that is the way I learned to be. I believe I was raised this way—to just focus on things in front of you, to conduct yourself with class, dignity and integrity and when the [going gets tough] to just sort of grit your teeth and fix things. Fix things and not just run away from your problems, but fix the problems you are presented with. That is just the way I am. That is the way my mother raised me and who I am, and to have someone say that is an extreme compliment to me. To tell you the truth, it is not just the Patriots players. That is the New England state of mind, really—the blue-collar worker that just wants to go out, provide for his family, be a good father and cheer for his favorite sports team.
Q: How do you approach the Eagles with a guy like Terrell Owens who may or may not play? Do you just approach it like he will play the game and, if so, how difficult is he to stop?
TB: Well, he is the best receiver in the game. [He is] the best single, pure, true wide receiver in the game, if you ask me, with the size he has, the strength he has and his physical ability. Now, to the extent of the injury, I watch [television]. I read the newspapers. People say it is bad. People say it is bad and he might not play. But, T.O. wants to play, so [you could] possibly anticipate that he is going to play. He is the best in the business and I am sure us anticipating that he is maybe going to play will even step up our preparation even more.
Q: The AFC dominated the NFC in the regular season this year and in the past several regular seasons and they have dominated in the Super Bowl with only a couple of exceptions. Why do you think that is and do you see that going on for a while?
TB: I mean, there are a lot of good teams in the AFC, but I think we are playing the best in the NFC, to tell you the truth. I can't really tell you why. It goes in cycles or whatever, but to tell you the truth, we have the class of the NFC in front of us right now, so we are not really looking to see how the AFC East did against the NFC East or anything like that. To us, it is the best in the AFC versus the very best in the NFC. So, we have to look at it like that. We are not looking at conference domination or anything like that because this is a team, the Eagles, that has dominated their conference and there is a reason why they are the NFC champions. It is [because] they are the best.
Q: You grew up in northern California watching [Joe] Montana. Is it fair to compare [Tom] Brady to a budding Montana?
TB: Sure. Why not? Why not? The guy already has two Super Bowl MVPs behind him and he has another big stage to play on on Sunday and he is a guy who has portrayed the very best of football quarterbacking the past couple years. So, Joe Montana was the best in his day and I think we have the best quarterback today.
Q: Back to the Terrell Owens thing, are you approaching the game like he is going to be out there?
TB: I was trying to say [earlier in the call] that there are various reports on whether T.O. is going to play or not. He wants to play and I think that with us knowing that he is the best receiver in the game, why not prepare like he is going to play and it will step up our preparation even more because he is the best true receiver, I think, there is.
Q: How do you think the Patriots would do competing against the great teams of the decades, the Packers in the 60s and Steelers in the 70s, 49ers in the 80s?
TB: That is a question that only that video game Madden can solve, when you can get the Patriots of one year against the Steelers of another year. That is a video game question, man, because that is the only realistic situation that it will happen [in]. I think we are a good team, yes, and we have to play the Eagles. We have to play the Eagles and that is what we have got to worry about. To worry how we would play against those other teams is just something that we don't really want to concern ourselves with. We'll save that for the video game.
Q: You were talking before about how the team succeeds with all sorts of different roster moves and changes. Is there anyone, other than yourself, that is indispensable on this team, including coaches? How do you see that? Can you guys weather the loss of anybody on the team?
TB: I think the two strengths of our team this year, two of the main strengths that have been overlooked are our offensive and defensive lines. You see no one picking out a particular defensive lineman or an offensive lineman and I think that is an extreme compliment because they all play so well together, those five across the front line, you know, Brandon Gorin, Joe Andruzzi, Dan Koppen, Matt Light, Stephen Neal, all those guys. All those guys play great together and you really don't notice it because they are out there playing as one, and I think they have been the strength of our offense this year, to give Tom protection, to make those holes open for Corey [Dillon], and then for us to succeed as linebackers and safeties and in this defense, we have to focus. We have to have time and freedom in terms of our defensive line play. So, those guys in front of us, [Keith] Traylor, [Vince] Wilfork, Jarvis Green and Ty Warren, guys that have also been overlooked that have really given us great football this year.
Q: How has this worked in the past in terms of when you get the game plan? When you show up tomorrow morning, are the binders going to be set and you'll have your game plan, or is it just sort of just a couple of practices and then when you get down there you get the plan?
TB: In terms of before, we are going to get a little bit of it tomorrow. You don't want to get yourself all psyched up and geeked up too early, you know, because we still have to fly down to Jacksonville and we still have a whole week of preparation in front of us there. We want to get our feet wet. We want to get deep in the film study, but still we want to save the bulk of it for when we are down there in Jacksonville, but still get our feet wet tomorrow and make sure before we go down to Jacksonville we have an idea of what we are going to do.
Q: In Jacksonville you guys are staying in the middle of nowhere. Is that a good thing for your team or does that even matter?
TB: It really depends on what type of individual you are. Do you want to be in the big city where you go out and have a lot of parties to go to or not, and I think the majority of our players really don't care where we stay. We realize what we have to go down there to do and as long as there are film projectors in our hotel room, there are treatment facilities there and areas where we can get our physical conditioning and weight training done, that is all we want.
Q: When you look at Donovan McNabb, do you see a lot of comparisons between him and Tom Brady, not necessarily the physical skills but the intangibles, mental toughness, leadership, things like that?
TB: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Donovan is a guy that has been able to play with a lot of pressure. That pressure he had in the NFC Championship Game, people telling him he had to win that or the city of Philadelphia might go into shambles or something like that. They wanted that game so bad, the city of Philadelphia, and Donovan has sort of embraced all of that and accepted and acknowledged it all and still go out there and perform the way he did really speaks volumes of the quarterback and the mental stability of the strength that he has as a player.
Q: Do you like the Super Bowl week? Do you enjoy it?
TB: Oh I enjoy it very much. I enjoy it very much. It is a big celebration of America's most popular sport and just to see all the hustle and bustle down there and all of the Super Bowl logos everywhere you go and the police escorts, it is really a celebration of the year that the two conference champions had and it does get a little [overwhelming] at times, but it is because it is the biggest spectacle in sports. We are down there to play a football game but I'm glad the whole country can enjoy one big event for a couple weeks.
Q: Is it old hat for you? Ho-hum, another Super Bowl?
TB: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. I hope I can talk to these younger guys and these younger guys can see how I'm approaching this and how special I feel this is, because we have some second year players on this team who have been to two Super Bowls, both their years. I hope I can make them realize that, hey, this doesn't happen every year. This is my fourth Super Bowl and I still realize that every single one is special. Every single one. You have to cherish it under its own individual entity because it is a celebration of all your hard work and efforts during the year and you don't get to get here every year. Even though our second year players have been there two out of two times, I hope they understand that this is still very, very special.
Q: The core players that have been there all along, who would those be?
TB: There are six of us that, I believe, have been here since 1996. On defense, it is myself, it is Ty Law, it is Ted Johnson, it is Willie McGinest. On offense, defense, special teams, Troy Brown and Adam Vinatieri, I believe. That is the group of six that sort of call ourselves the four-timers because we sort of have a special fraternity amongst ourselves in knowing that we have been here through various coaching staffs and we have been able to go to a Super Bowl and succeed and then reach rock bottom and then dig ourselves out.
Q: What do you remember about the 2003 game against Philly? You were coming off that terrible loss in the opener and you really righted the ship there in Week Two and had Donovan on the ropes most of that game.
TB: That was a very emotional week for the entire organization, especially me. There were a lot of off-field activities that had happened the week before. They had released Lawyer [Milloy] the week before and emotionally when we went into Buffalo, we felt like we were sort of missing a piece in Lawyer Milloy. We tried our best to go out there and win the football game, but really they really handed it to us and we lost 31-0, I believe. So, that was really a week that us as players really looked at ourselves in the mirror and told ourselves, 'What are you going to do about it? What are you going to do? Are you just going to sit there and let things go ho-hum for the rest of the year, or you can go out there and play some good football and just realize that we have 15 games left. We are only 0-1. Let's come out of Philly 1-1. That is what it is all about.' So, we all looked at ourselves in the mirror that week and we went out and put a good performance out on the field and we were able to get a victory in Philadelphia.
Q: Can you take anything out of your defensive performance there and apply it to this or is Philly a totally different team now?
TB: I think they are a totally different team now. You can look at it and you can study it. I have watched a little bit of it already, but you really want to focus on what they have done this year and how they have changed, how they are the same and we haven't gotten into game plan things right now, but we could be totally different from what we do.
Q: What makes you the player you are? What drives you?
TB: I just believe it is the motivation, right now in terms of my career and where I am, it is the motivation to make my family proud. Really, I started out early in my career, in college and even in high school, with different motivations and now I have a wife, I have three young sons. I know they watch the games and I know they are watching their daddy play and I want to go out there and make them proud and win football games for them and let my sons know that daddy is doing everything he can to make them proud of me.