New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on January 8, 2008.
Q: You've played in a lot of playoff games. Is there a legitimate elevation of emotion and intensity?
TB: Yeah, I think it's not only on game day, but the preparation you have during the week, because I think you realize the finality of the playoffs, that if you don't have good preparation and you don't play well on game day, that's it. That's it, so that definitely comes into play, not just on game day but ever since you know you're in the playoffs.
Q: You are playing a team with a terrific tandem of running backs. Can you talk about them and the challenges they bring for your defense?
TB: I think as long as Fred [Taylor]'s been in league, you'd think you'd lose a step a little bit, especially as a running back with all of the pounding that you take. But as you watch him on film, he still has that great breakaway speed and you see him pulling away from linebackers and especially defensive backs and safeties. They just can't catch him, so I think he's playing the best type of football he has in his career. [Maurice] Jones-Drew, a guy that last year we played against him - and we know how [legitimate] he is as a running back - We put some good looks on him last year and he seemed like he was still breaking tackles and falling forward and he can't be underestimated because of his size. He doesn't have tremendous size, he's a little guy, but he's as tough as they come and you can see that by the way he runs and gets in the end zone.
Q: From a linebacker standpoint, when you stand behind Vince Wilfork, what does that enable you to do?
TB: It cleans up a lot of things. Sometimes during a running play specifically, you'll have a lot of scheme-blocks thrown at you, a lot of double teams, a lot of guards coming at you, and if you're not getting good plays from your zero technique it makes it that much more messy, if you know what I'm talking about when I say messy. You know, guys can be coming at you from different angles if the zero-technique isn't holding up stout in there and, of course, Vince, everyone's seen him play this year. When isn't he stout?
Q: How do you mean that? He's 300-some pounds.
TB: Maybe his height helps him, too. He's not one of the tallest guys. I mean, that just helps him with his pad-level automatically. When he gets his hand inside on someone and really gets his arms extended - and he is really strong. That happens a lot of times - I can see which side leverage he has, which side leverage I'm supposed to have and then, like I said, it cleans a lot of things up for me in there.
Q: From that standpoint, he seems like such a nice young man. How does he get all of those fines?
TB: He's different people. He's two different people. You see VW with his kids and the way he is with us in the locker room and [he's a] really nice, fun-loving guy, communicates well. I'm sure you guys love talking to him, the way he is with you guys. But when we get out there on the field, he's one of the fiercest competitors we have. Sometimes too fierce, in terms of being a little bit too aggressive sometimes, and I think he's talked about the fines that he's had and some of the penalties, but that just happens sometimes when you're out there and you're being aggressive. I'm not going to tell him not to be that way.
Q: You've played in so many playoff games since 1996. Do you ever get them mixed up?
TB: Possibly. Yeah, I guess sometimes I'll ask, 'What year was that,' because we've had a lot of success here, but you still remember. I can still point out plays and what the weather was like and where we were and what were the game-changing plays in certain games. I think the games you remember most are the games when you win, you advance and the games that you lost and your season was over.
Q: You talked about your preparation and how it steps up. Has that changed over the years?
TB: No, I've always believed that when you have games that get bigger and bigger in magnitude, you have to break them down to their simplest form, and that goes down to the preparation from day-to-day to that game, what quarter is it in, what situation is it in, what down is this and what are the team's tendencies on that down. What are my responsibilities -- If I just break it down that simply, it sort of helps me forget about the magnitude of if we lose, the season's over. If we win, we're going to the next round or something like that. I just focus on how to win and how to beat the opponent.
Q: The more experience you have, the more years you have under your belt, does the playoff experience mean more?
TB: Yeah, because that's really my motivation right now for playing. I have no other goal but to win championships. That's the way it's always been for me and the playoffs are for when you've gotten to that final goal. You've entered a tournament to where there are a handful of teams that are deserving to be there and each round you progress it means that your final goal is closer and closer.
Q: Does this Jaguars team remind you of your early teams at the start of this run, in that they play hard but didn't get a lot of recognition outside of their community?
TB: Well, our teams early in my career won championships. Right now we're in a divisional round, so I don't want to do any comparisons to any of the previous teams that I was on, because those were special teams that were able to call themselves world champions, so I won't do that.
Q: But do the Jags remind you - Is it the same type of attitude and all of that?
TB: I do see similarities, in terms of maybe how they approach games - How they approach games, being physical, being aggressive, wanting to be the tougher team, the smarter team. That's what we pride ourselves on also. I've said that even last year and it goes again this year, they do sort of remind me of us because of the way they approach the game, how they want to just sort of be the more physical team. I think that's what we pride ourselves on, yes.
Q: In talking to players yesterday, the key word when it comes to a playoff game seems to be pressure. What is the key? How do you relax and just be able to function with that kind of pressure?
TB: I think you dive headfirst that much even more into your preparation, in terms of maybe - Obviously you will step it up this week, knowing the finality of the game. You'll watch more film, you'll pay a little bit more attention, more than you usually do. I think it is in the back of your mind that this is the playoffs and if you don't win the season is over, so you dive into your preparation even more - You take it home with you, you do whatever you can and this is all you focus on every single minute of your day.
Q: Do you ever say -- The theme Bill Belichick said about playing 60 minutes of every game, has that actually almost taken you into playoff-mode right from the very beginning of the season?
TB: Yeah, I think him assessing that early in the year and then us having some of the games that we had. Obviously in some of the games, we didn't have to play 60 minutes. The score was 42-14 or something like that. We had a number of victories where the margin of victory was great, and him reassessing that towards the end of the year I think was very important. [It] got us to focus on playing full games, which helped us win tough games like Baltimore and Philadelphia and then the Giants and things like that. We've had some games in the last month that basically took 60 minutes and that I think have gotten us used to playoff football. I think the game verses the Giants was a game that the atmosphere and the way the they played us, the physical defense that they played against our offense and the way they pounded that ball on us, I think that's us having to get used to that and get improved on stopping those things going into the playoffs.
Q: You said a few minutes ago your only goal is to win championships. Looking back to 1996, what was your goal then? Was it just to make the team, to learn the position, be in a playoff game? What was your goal then?
TB: Yeah, my goal back then was to learn to play linebacker. Coming out of college and being a defensive lineman, never taking a hook-drop in my life, Coach [Al] Groh asked me to drop to the hook and I asked him where that was. I knew I had a long way to go, so I think that was my first and foremost step coming into the league, and then the other goal I had was [to] keep myself on the team as best [as] I could with what I could do, being a third-down pass rusher and playing special teams. Then as I continued to learn to play that linebacker position and I realized that I could do that, I said, OK, let's take it to the next level and the next level and now I'm to the level where I know I can play. Now I just want to keep winning and winning.
Q: Throughout the year there have been a lot of questions about age. How much of a motivation was that going into the season and now that it hasn't been a factor, how much satisfaction do you take out of that?
TB: I didn't use it as motivation because when somebody would say, 'Hey, Tedy, you're getting old,' I'd say, 'Yes, I am.' I'm 34 years old and I'm still playing linebacker in the NFL. I'm a realist, also. I'm not 24 anymore. But I know this one thing, and I've always known this - that I can play football. Football is what I'm meant to do and I know that I'm still good at it.