Q: What does it mean to be selected as an honorary captain for Sunday's game?
TB: I think it means that I'm getting older. 1996 was a long time ago but it's great for me to be able to go back. This is a team that I only played for one team my entire career and I'm very proud to say that. It was the New England Patriots so being named honorary captain in their biggest game of the season, I'm flattered.
Q: Any words of advice or inspiration you can offer the players on the team who have never played in an AFC Championship?
TB: Experience doesn't matter. I was a rookie in '96 and we had a good crop of rookies on that team with myself, Lawyer Milloy, Terry Glenn. We had some prominent roles on that team and we contributed in ways where the experience didn't matter and we helped getting the '96 team to the Super Bowl. It's the same thing with them. It could be an advantage that they just don't know better right now. That can help out and up to this point, I think them getting the monkey off their back of not winning a playoff game in recent years and being bounced on their home field, I think that was like a relief for them. Now I think they're really playing free and I think they'll show that on Sunday.
Q: What are your impressions of Jerod Mayo? Has he progressed the way you thought he would?
TB: There are a couple of players I look across the linebacker corps in terms of their progression but Jerod came in and you knew he had the ability. What has impressed me most about him is his flexibility and how many things he does so well. At such an early point in his career to play a 3-4 linebacker and a 4-3 linebacker on a down-to-down basis, it's a very difficult thing to do. A lot of his responsibility is getting everyone lined up and communicated and then after that he has to worry about his progression of things to look at, the key, and then make plays from there so it can be tiresome. But he's handled it very well. Rob Ninkovich, I think is also one of those players that aren't talked about. He needs to be mentioned as one of the stars of the defensive unit. [He] just continues to make big plays and you think he's going to make a big play and fade away but he doesn't. He's just there every single week doing something significant and also with [Brandon] Spikes coming back and having that Bryan Cox type of [player], Ted Johnson run stuffer that when going straight ahead he is going to hit somebody. I think that the trio of players at the linebacker unit has really done well for that defensive unit.
Q: You are one of four honorary captains joining Troy Brown and Ty Law. Who rounds out this group? Who's the fourth guy in your mind and if you had a vote who would it be for?
TB: That's a difficult question because there are two teams being celebrated, the 1996 team and the 2001 team. I think the list is small of players that were on both. I believe it might have been 10 but there can't be a wrong selection because to be a member of both those teams you had to lose a Super Bowl and then you had to come back and break through and win the first. Mentally, that is tough to do, just in general, to deliver a franchise their first ever Super Bowl Championship. I'm here right now in Bristol, Conn, at ESPN in between shows and I've got my ring on from the 2001 team because it's probably the team I'm most proud of – the one that broke through to start a tradition that this team here, this recent team is upholding, the tradition of winning football games. I'm very proud. I can't choose; it's too difficult. You're asking me too difficult of questions. I have such strong relationships from Ted Johnson that I mentioned to Lawyer Milloy who was on both teams; Drew Bledsoe was on both teams. There are so many great choices that can be made.
Q: Are you going to have to fight back the urge to make the call on the coin flip? I know you use to make that call a lot.
TB: I might, I might. I'm so excited to do it. The last time I was there and I saw a game there was the Jets game and it was 45-3. Hopefully I can bring a little bit of luck along with me. My older son will join me and he's excited to see the game also, he's become a big Patriots fan. The Bruschi family is very honored.
Q: Would you defer the coin flip?
TB: I'd defer. I would.
Q: Thinking back to 2001 team does it seem like the opposite now when you look at this Patriots team? The offense is almost reminiscent of the St. Louis Rams in 2001. How poised do you think Tom Brady and his weapons are to go win it all?
TB: From the 2001 team to now, you have seen the offense evolve. You've seen that team evolve to where early on the defense and special teams were carrying a quarterback who was developing. Now, it's the other way around. The quarterback is fully developed and he is who he has become – one of the best that many have ever seen. Offensively, I think that every player in that huddle looks to Tom and the words that come out of his mouth, they believe it will work, no matter what he says, no matter what play he calls. I think they all know if you get open, you'll get the ball. If you're not open, I'm going somewhere else and that gives them an incredible amount of accountability to say that if well, you're not open so you're not going to get the ball. I know that so I'm going to be a target for him and be dependable.
Q: What have been your impressions of the way this organization has completely turned itself around since the early 1990s?
TB: There is no word to use except for impressive about making the right decision at all levels – Mr. Kraft and his decision to build up the area, the new stadium and Patriot Place and bring in Coach [Bill] Belichick. Of course, I was there for Coach [Bill] Parcells and Coach [Pete] Carroll and Coach Belichick coming in. Then the decisions that Coach Belichick has made to which players come in, which players stay for a long time, which players you cut ties with and when to cut ties with them. He's made the toughest of decisions and I admire him for that because a lot of head coaches or general managers, they won't make those tough decisions that he makes, all the way down to quarterbacks and kickers, making decisions on what they do and how they play. It's really been a pleasure to be a part of and not even looking at it from analytical point of view, it's just nice to see them continuing the way it's been.
Q: The 'Tuck Rule' game was 10 years ago today. What are some of you memories from that game?
TB: It's amazing what you can take with how a game goes and turn it into something special and not just one championship but a run that still hasn't ended. That game was the beginning. I remember after that play waiting in the snow for Walt Coleman to come out and give us his ruling, talking to Tim Brown on the field because when replays are being discussed, players will talk to the other players on the other side of the ball and watch the replay and argue about this and that – it was a fumble, it wasn't a fumble. I was talking to Tim Brown and I said, 'Tim, I think that's the Tuck Rule.' And we had a little discussion about that and I brought up the moment, I think it was earlier in the season, I think it was with Kurt Warner – we might have lost a strip sack fumble or something like that, but little stories like that during the game. Working with Jerry Rice here now, I remember hitting him in the back and putting his face mask into the snow during that game. That's one of the games that will never be forgotten and every time an anniversary like this comes around you'll talk about it. The one overwhelming thought I had during those kicks also I think people forget about, is that we had [Quarterbacks Coach] Dick Rehbein pass away early in that season. I thought about him a bunch that game that maybe someone upstairs was looking out for us.
Q: Do you feel that same way towards this team with Patriots owner Robert Kraft's wife Myra Kraft passing away in July?
TB: That's a good point. Yes, definitely I do, I do. There's a story for you. I was watching the Giants game with my wife and sons at home and the Giants are winning the game and you know what the potential is there. I looked at my wife and said, 'Honey, I don't know if I can deal with this for two weeks.' Reliving '07 having to talk about it here at ESPN. But the more I thought about it I said, 'Babe, that's the way I think it should be.' I said that because I think that's the way Myra would have wanted it. I got choked up a little bit talking to her about it because sometimes you sit back and think about how ironic things can work out sometimes. I thought about Mrs. Kraft a bunch this year. She was so special to me and that's my prediction this week that it will be a Patriots-New York Giants rematch in the Super Bowl.
Q: That 1996 team was special because it was the first time the Patriots won an AFC Championship in front of their home fans. What was the significance of winning a championship in front of the home fans?
TB: That old Foxboro Stadium, such a nostalgic feeling of that stadium you always got and even I think it was playing in the game before that, the 'Fog Bowl' against the Steelers, I think when Terry Glenn went deep the first play. Sorry if I'm incorrect but that's what I remember. Playing in front of them and winning that way, you knew what they were doing in that stadium. They had to deal with those bathrooms. All the players knew and all the players' wives had to be up there too. They had to deal with the bleachers; they had to deal with the bathrooms. You knew what kind of facility it was but you looked around and they were there. They were always there; they were close, they were on top of you and they could voice their opinions and you could hear every word. It felt good knowing that they cared so much and how badly they treated us sometimes when we lost, I liked that because it showed how much passion they had. To be able to give them some signature victories like that against the Jaguars and of course finishing off Foxboro Stadium they way we did versus the Raiders, you wanted to do that for them because you just always felt that they were there with you in that place.
Q: Talk about how Tom Brady is carrying on your legacy and is there an anecdote for how badly he burns to continue winning championships here? A: I think the best story about how competitive Tom Brady is and how it's never enough for him. I think a lot of us were that way early on, myself, Troy Brown, Tom Brady, a lot of guys that people didn't expect much from that felt you always had something to prove. Even when you had a lot of success achieved, it still wasn't enough. I remember my only Pro Bowl that I played in was after the Super Bowl against the Eagles and we were waiting in the locker room, all the Pro Bowl participants from the Patriots so I think it was me, [Adam] Vinatieri, [Larry] Izzo, Brady. Guys seriously, we still had confetti in our pockets from the parade. The celebration and euphoric feeling we had from the Super Bowl still was there. Before we went out to be introduced as the representatives of the Super Bowl Champions, the last introduction of the Pro Bowl, because that's what they did, they let the winners of the Super Bowl be introduced last – where they're alone in the locker room. Tom Brady looks to all of us and goes, 'No one's ever won three in a row guys.' And there was sort of just a hanging thought to all of us, like, 'This is what I want and this is a goal.' We all looked at him and said, 'Come on Tom!' It was like take a break. Take a little bit of a break and enjoy it. I was sort of in disbelief that he was already there. He was already thinking about what was next and that's just a little story about his competitive drive and how it was and how he ended up taking it to the next level and he still has it there right now.