Q: Address this first game a little bit. What are your expectations?
TB: I think it's exciting for us to get out there, you know, after this long training camp, and get ready to play for real. I think that it's quite a challenge, the first game out of the box, but we're going to be ready to go, we've had a good two days of work. And the nice thing is, we're kind of familiar with them a little bit, so it's going to be quite a match up.
Q: Besides the obvious, how much change have you had between last year and this year?
TB: Well, I would say not a bit. I would say I've prepared just like I was going to play last year and it's the same way I prepare now. I think there are more things I deal with now on a day-to-day basis, but for the most part I try to be as prepared as I can be. That's one thing I think I try to take a lot of pride in.
Q: Do you feel more responsibility this year?
TB: In what sense?
Q: As far as expecting you to do the whole thing.
TB: I think its all pretty relative. When you talk about responsibility I think every guy in the lockeroom has a role and a responsibility and no matter what situation you're put in, you got to give that responsibility your full attention. This year happens to be starting quarterback, which is probably a lot more responsibility than I had last year. Last year I felt a lot of responsibility too. I think I'm up to that task.
Q: Have you dreamed of this first game?
TB: Yea, we've been looking forward to this. Ever since the schedule came out, you look through the schedule and there's a little added meaning from a lot of the talk that goes on between the locker rooms, none of it obviously means anything until you get out there and buckle up your chin straps, but this is as big as it gets. This is Monday Night Football and throw that into the defending Super Bowl champs versus the team we beat in the AFC Championship game. There was a lot of bad blood there last year, and I'm sure there's bad blood this year, but we'll give it everything we've got.
Q: Have you ever been around a team that's kept it so close to their chest?
TB: Yea, and as we say, we let our play do the talking and what do we need to say? We got Super Bowl rings and you know, I don't think we need to talk a whole lot. Some guys say they don't know what there going to get from us, but they know, they know what they're going to get and we know what we're going to get. We're going to get out there and they're going to get our best shot.
Q: Is it an advantage to play the Steelers because you have an idea of what they're all about?
TB: Yea, I think we know their schemes and we prepared well for them last year and because it's so fresh in our minds there is a lot of carry over from their team especially. They got 10 out of the 11 guys back, and the one linebacker they've replaced, they've replaced with a guy we know. So we know their personnel and we know their scheme, mentally we'll be ready; physically we got to be ready. I know the first play of the game last year we had a false start on offense, and on the second play we got sacked and we didn't come ready to play and to show up on that first series. So it's important to get a good start because they're a type of team that rallies around making big plays on defense.
Q: Do you think you have a little unfinished business considering the way you went out of that game last year?
TB: Not really. I always want to be out there as much as I can. Obviously I wish I could have been out there to kneel on the ball at the end of the game, but it wasn't happening so, I'm excited to be out there for that first snap. I'm excited to see what this team is all about.
Q: Tom, how are the new weapons fitting into the offense?
TB: Everyday we're learning more about each other. With the different guys you add to the mix they're kind of establishing themselves in the offense because a lot of times this is not the easiest offense to learn. So you throw a guy in there and give him our playbook, it's pretty tough. But I think they're coming along, I'm learning them better, they're learning what we do better, and it's coming along pretty nice.
Q: Is there a sense that nothing could ever replicate what you did last year?
TB: Every time we go out there, there's something. Obviously you can't top winning the Super Bowl in week one. That's just not possible!
Q: Did you ever think of that as being the highlight of your career?
TB: No, not a bit. I've never thought of it that way. It's about establishing great play over time. SO I think that's the encore, obviously if you win a Super Bowl you're at the top that year, but right now we're on a level playing field with everyone.
Q: So this year's a new year period?
TB: Yea, I mean you take a lot of things form last year that made us a Super Bowl team and you try to carry those over, and try to improve because every other team catches up. When you're at the top, everyone else raises their game to play you, that's what we did last year. For us, it's about continuing to improve so we can keep that gap. If you let everyone rise to your level than you're just an average team. So we're trying to keep that high standard of play.
Q: Can you talk about the value of Antowain Smith for you personally?
TB: I think Antowain [Smith] is one of the best backs in the league. He runs as hard as anyone in the league, he's tough, he's competitive, he's physical, he's excitable, he can do a lot of things. Antowain's a great player and I'm glad that he's in my backfield I know that.
Q: Will you take time in the next week to think about September 11th?
TB: I'm sure. That was a day we'll never forget for a lot of different reasons and a lot of people were affected differently, and we're all affected differently by that. It's going to be a day of reflection; it's not going to be hard to remember what went on that day.
Q: Will being on the practice field be good mental therapy for you?
TB: Probably, that was on a Tuesday and that was our day off, and we just sat a round and watched it. That day was an incredible tragedy and I think you get on the practice field and you get caught up in the routine of your everyday life. It might take away a little bit, but it still doesn't make you forget it, and obviously with a lot of things that will happen that day, it's hard to forget, nor should we forget it.
Q: Were you with anybody when you found out about the tragedy?
TB: I was with my two roommates. One was Dave Nugent and the other was Chris Eitzmann. We were sitting around and we just couldn't believe it. I remember the planes crashing into the towers and you just can't . . .you could never fathom something like that happening.
Q: You were 3,000 miles away from your family, how difficult was that on that day?
TB: I think that was a day when you wanted to surround yourself with people who you trust and you love, and you can't do that when they're on the other coast. I remember they called me a bunch of times saying, 'Are you alright? What's going on?' realizing that some of the planes originated form Boston. So I think when you see them, you appreciate seeing them, and you appreciate all that goes along with being near them.
Q: Did Antowain Smith give you a comfort level last year, knowing that he was back there?
TB: Yea, definitely. Since the day he's gotten here people have realized that we've got something special. He's out there last year, I remember the Miami game where he damn near won the game by himself in the first half. He's that type of guy, and he likes playing that position. He seems like he's one of those backs who gets better as the game goes along too, so he can wear the other team down. We got to keep giving him the ball because he's big and powerful and there were times last year when he's been the main guy in the lockeroom.
Q: Do you look forward to being thrown into the fire in the first game against the Steelers?
TB: Yea. Whoever we play it's going to be quite a match up. And this happens to be a team that we beat in the AFC Championship, and a team that has a lot of bad blood towards us, and we have a lot of bad blood towards them. You throw that in on a Monday night, on the opener in a new stadium, it's almost like made for TV, it's perfect. Because of that, there's not a guy in this lockeroom who's not going to be ready to play. It's not like you can ever look past a team because you're not going to look past the Steelers.
Q: Is there a danger of putting too much emphasis on this game?
TB: I think it's important to realize it's one game and it's a very important game, and it's a big game. I think it's important because it's the first game of the year and sets the tempo for the entire season but I think we also realize that you're not going to win the AFC East in one week. It's the first week, you'd much rather be 1-0 than 0-1, but no matter what the case, you still have to line up and play 15 weeks after that.
Q: How do you compare this year with last year at this time?
TB: It is different. There's a lot of different things I do on a day-to-day basis not just because it's just part of the starting quarterback position, stuff that I learned late in the year last year. I'm learning, trying to manage my time better so I can be ready to play but still try to manage to other more difficult parts of my life.
Q: But the confidence part comes with experience?
TB: Of course. We were pretty successful last year, and when you come off a year like that it can't help but boost you into the next year with a great amount confidence, and it all goes away if you lose. But we're building on what we have, and we're building with a new group, and we started, that's step one, now we got to see what we got.
Q: Can any good come from trash talking?
Q: Like what?
TB: When you guys walk out of here there's plenty of trash talk. We don't want to give it to you guys.
Q: Do you feel like you have to go out and win games this year as opposed to last year where you were only expected to deliver the mail? Is there more pressure to go out and win football games?
TB: Is that what I did last year? I think there's always pressure to win football games, and obviously you open yourself up to more criticism when people expect everything form you. And that's part of the position, and that's part of being a starting quarterback on one of 32 teams in the NFL. I felt last year that I was expected to go out there and play well enough to win, that's the way I still feel today. Last year I had to play at a level that could win a Championship, this year I feel the same way. You can step up your level of play so that maybe you don't have to. . . if the defense maybe doesn't play as well as they did last year, maybe you can step up and make a few more touchdown passes.
Q: Is it tough to bite your tongue? Is it tough to keep everything in when all the trash talking is being said publicly?
TB: I think that we express that between each other. We hear what they say, and believe me, none of it goes unread or unheard of, and if we shot back. . . we'd rather shoot back in our own lockeroom, we'd rather shoot back on the field rather than let you guys go report it.
Q: Are you one of the guys that talk's on the field?
TB: I'm emotional out there, and when good things happen, I'm not afraid to let the other team know how good they were, so most of the time they don't like it.