New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on January 18, 2008.
Q:What are the benefits of having been here before, and what do you have to protect yourself against since it's so familiar?
TB: I think the benefits of us being here before--this is I think my sixth. This is my sixth AFC Championship, and I think you learn how to prepare for these games. You realize it's a big game, it's the game that gets you to the game that you want to be in. You realize that it's big, it's huge, it's probably one of the biggest games that a lot of people in our locker room have ever been associated with. But you learn how to prepare from your experience. You really try to break down the biggest games you've had in your career to the simplest forms, how do I prepare better to help us do a better job on offense or defense.
Q:You've seen Tom Brady operate under pressure in Super Bowls, but what are guys saying to each other when they see him on film during the week or just see him in practice and see him in the Jaguars game and saying to each other, what is going on here with this guy?
TB: I think early on this season when we saw a lot of the early stages of Brady [throwing] to his new crop of receivers this year, we would look to each other on the sideline and sort of raise our eyebrows and say, "well, this can really be something special," and a deep ball to [Randy] Moss or to [Wes] Welker or [Donte'] Stallworth and you look to your defensive teammate and say, "Wow, these guys are pretty good," and they do it in the game and you see those deep balls and the triple passes or whatever they do. I don't want to say you get used to it towards the end, but every time you see it you get excited and it really pumps some life into the defense.
Q:Has Rosevelt Colvin's absence hurt the performance of the defense? You look back at the last couple of games and you didn't play up to par especially in the long drives last week. How much is that he being out and you guys having to play a little bit more?
TB: I guess I can really answer that question as a linebacker group as a whole, we are five guys in there rotating and everybody doing different things and everybody had their roles. And when you lose a cog, you have to adjust. And of course Rosey was making big plays for us, the sacks, the interceptions, the forced fumbles, and you minus that from an equation, of course other guys are going to have to do different things and we have to adjust defensively especially as linebackers. One thing you miss [is] his production out on the field and his presence in the locker room because he's one of the favorite guys we love to joke around with and makes the backerhood a lot of fun.
Q:How physically fresh do you feel and how fresh do you feel the defense is, because it seems like at the end of the season, you started to get things going defensively and in the first half, the offense seemed to be doing work forcing the other teams to catch up; how do you feel this time?
TB: Well, it's Friday. It's Friday, so we've had a few extra days to rest and recuperate. I think I'd be the first to tell you as I get older along in your career, 34, 35, 18 years like Junior [Seau] has been in the league, it takes a little bit longer to recuperate. But physically, I think we are feeling well. This week was a good week of preparation, and we had full pads one day of very physical practice, and yesterday and today were also good preparation days. So physically, come Friday, Saturday, you start to feel good again and get ready to do it on Sunday.
Q:In other years were you more worn out?
TB: I guess when you're a rookie or second year player, towards the end of the year you sort of still feel like a young man. But I think you get to -- towards the end of every year now, especially I think as every player gets into double-digits years, it gets tougher and tougher towards the end of the year, yes.
Q:As a leader on this team, what lengths have you gone to press upon younger players to let them know the season will be a waste if you don't win Sunday?
TB: I haven't. I haven't, because that's not something we're going to emphasize. Because it would sort of encapsulate our entire season up to this week of preparation or practice or anything like that. We can't really worry about what's going on in the past. If you're thinking about what's going on in the past, all right, you think about the regular season, we're 17-0 and yes and all that, and oh, man, if we lose this game. We don't think that way. We are right in the middle of this right now so all we think is how we prepare the next practice or day or meeting to help us win this game. You don't want to have that type of finality attitude right now in terms of preparation. You just want to look at the AFC Championship as a football game against the Chargers.
Q:Are you feeling any extra pressure as you get closer and closer?
TB: No, I think our experience will also help us in the fact that we have been on win streaks before. There are a lot of people in this locker room who have won 21 games in a row who have won world championships before, and so we've gone on streaks before, do we think about, "oh, man, if we lose, the streak will be over?" We don't think about that. We just think about the next game and that helps us dealing with pressure, if there is any.
Q:You mentioned it gets tougher the number of years that have passed, but looking at the games you've played in at this level, does it also become more precious?
TB: Absolutely. I would be the first to tell, I'm not in the beginning of my career anymore. I'm in my 12th season now and how many can you possibly play? I've had great examples in my career, Willie McGinest and Junior played 18 and they have taught me a lot of things on how to take care of yourself and really have longevity in this league. One thing you learn as you get older and experience season after season after season is that the bigger the games get, the better feeling when you win them because you don't know if you'll be back. I was in the Super Bowl in 1996 losing to the Green Bay Packers and you come away from that game feeling like, "we're a great organization, I'm part of a great team, we're going to go far." All of a sudden we're looking for a new head coach and we go down on a downward spiral until we turn it around again.
Q:If Tomlinson is limited on Sunday you'll obviously see more of [Michael] Turner and [Darren] Sproles. Do you see that as an advantage or disadvantage?
TB: Well, each one of those running backs brings different challenges. We really respect Turner as a returner. We think he's a very strong runner that breaks a lot of tackles and between the tackles, he may be the best of the three for his because of his yard per carry average and the way he's able to run through the tackles and break those tackles. Sproles is his own little individual player. He's a guy that sort of can scatter around and you never know where he's going to be on screen passes, kickoff returns, punt returns. He's a guy that poses a totally different threat. So each one of those running backs brings a formidable threat that we have to stop.
Q:During the last two playoff runs, Rodney Harrison has not been available for you guys. What does it mean to you guys to have him in the lineup and available this year?
TB: Well, to me, to me Rodney is our tone setter. He really sets the tone for us. Probably the most physical and violent teammate I've ever been a part of, and his aggression he uses to his advantage. He'll be the first to tell you that sometimes he's a little too aggressive. For us to have him is a big plus. He can do so much. He can be a linebacker, he can be a safety, a defensive back and cover one of the best tight ends in the league. I think he can do everything that this coaching staff has ever asked and that's a big plus for us to have him.
Q:What's made this team so good at coping with distractions?
TB: You know, I hate to say it, but we are sort of used to dealing with them. I think this year has been a year of distractions since opening day, hasn't it? To tell you the truth, week after week there's something different we have to deal with. The way we do that is we sort of feed off of it. If we feed off the distractions and we come closer for it, we just bond together. Whoever is being scrutinized, whoever is the target for any type of criticism, we rally around that person whether it is our head coach or our all-star wide receiver or whoever it may be, some types of problems that sometimes you don't know about, we will rally around our teammates in the face of criticism and become stronger for it.