Q: What do you love about playoff football?
DA: You know, I’m just fortunate to be – I don’t know what it’s like not to be in playoff football. That’s a pretty crazy thing when you think about it. You know, I’ve got buddies around the league who’ve played multiple years and playing in one playoff game or things like that. So, it’s a great opportunity and comes with a lot of hard work. Every game matters and everything is just amped up that much more, but at the end of the day, it’s still a football game.
Q: How did the offensive line come together this year in terms of continuity? It seems like everyone has been able to hold onto their role and move forward?
DA: Yeah, you know, we’ve been fortunate to kind of have a solid crew really in there now for the last three or four years. We added Trent [Brown] this year, and he’s done a great job. He came in, worked hard with us all spring or whenever he got here and all summer and all throughout the year. It’s a great group of guys and I’m fortunate to be a part of that group. Scar [Dante Scarnecchia] does a great job of holding us all accountable, and then I think not only that, but each of us hold each other accountable. There might be days where you’re not feeling it, you’re a little sore. Well, you’ve got to give that much more because the guy next to you is doing it and he’s holding you accountable. So, it’s a great group of guys and everyone works in practice, and fortunately, if somebody does go down – that next man up mentality – there’s not a big transition. We all operate on the same page.
Q: How would you depict this team different from a year ago when you were the defending champs going into the playoffs?
DA: Every team is different every year. I don’t think you can compare teams. We’ve had our own story this year. We’ve had our ups and downs that have been different from every other year. That’s just part of the NFL and part of the game. Where we are, the rest is up to us to determine how it goes.
Q: How impressive is Joe Thuney’s snap count and what has his dependability meant over the course of the year?
DA: Yeah, we’ve been very fortunate within the inside guys. I think we’ve missed, between all three of us, like four or five games the last three years, so it’s been pretty impressive. Joe’s done a great job ever since he got here. He’s tough, he’s dependable and you know he’s going to show up. It’s been impressive to see what he’s done. I think his rookie year, he might have been an iron man too, but we took him out for some trick play or something in Denver or something like that. He’s done a great job and he’s worked his butt off to stay healthy, stay out there.
Q: Is there any conversation out there between you guys about snap count?
DA: I mean, you might miss a snap because of whatever. We’ve been pretty fortunate for the most part to be healthy in there. But, we’re not really focused on that. So, we know we’ve got a great group of guys and know if you’re going to be out there, it’s because you can. And unfortunately if you can’t, it’s not for any other reason than you can’t.
Q: You mentioned that you don’t know what it’s like to not make the playoffs. What’s it like when guys come into this locker room, like Jason McCourty or Trent Brown, without as much recent playoff success and join a culture that’s used to playing postseason football?
DA: I think it’s just a sense of excitement. You get to play in the NFL playoffs. But, you might want to ask them that. They probably have a better answer.
Q: Can you tell that there’s a sense of excitement when you get to this point of the season for those guys? Is it like an outlier as opposed to the guys who are more used to it?
DA: I mean, I think everyone’s excited just to get the chance to compete. If you can’t get excited for the NFL playoffs, you probably shouldn’t be here. So, I think everyone’s excited, but why don’t you ask them? They’d probably give you a good answer to that.
Q: James White has run the ball a little bit more this year. How would you describe him as a runner?
DA: James does great. He’s got a pretty good knack for the goal line, it seems like, when we’re in the red zone. Sometimes he’s broken a couple of those 25, 30-yard runs to find the end zone. He’s a great runner. He’s just got great vision. You can see it in the pass game, too. It’s kind of the same thing once you get into the running game. He’s got great vision, he’s got great feet, great cuts. If we just give him just a little bit of room, he’s going to find it and make a play.
Q: Does anything changed for you guys on the line when he’s in at running back?
DA: No, you’ve got so much going on through your head and all that. I’m more worried about what are they matching us with personnel wise. You can kind of get a feel for that maybe on who’s in the game, but I wouldn’t say there’s any different techniques when there’s Sony [Michel], Rex [Burkhead], whoever’s carrying the football, really. It doesn’t matter.
Q: What will you do on the bye weekend? Will you be locked in on all four games or do you try to get away from it?
DA: I think it’s really important – I like to just take a deep breath. I don’t really like to go anywhere, just kind of relax, stay at home. I’ll definitely watch most of the games, if not all of them – definitely the AFC games. Texans-Colts is Saturday, right? So, that kind of really determines what’s going to happen for us, but you never really leave the game. But, it’s nice just to take a deep breath and really kind of lock in for these – you’ve got a one-week season here, so give it all you got.
Q: You guys are undefeated this year against the playoff field, and all the teams you lost to didn’t make the playoffs. Is that sort of like a level of competition thing that you guys have faced this year?
DA: No, I mean, it’s just not playing good football, and that’s really what matters. Going forward, it doesn’t matter home field, experience, any of that stuff. It just really doesn’t matter because you’re going to see something different every year. A no-name team is going to win or a no-name quarterback – like, there’s just always going to be different things. Experience, all that, home field just really doesn’t matter. It’s just who executes the best, and that happens every year.
Q: As an offensive line, where has short-yardage fallen on your checklist this week of areas where you need to improve?
DA: You want to talk about being a good situational football team, and that’s not just two-minute and things like that. That’s short yardage, that’s goal line – there’s all these different types of situations within a football game, and that’s a big one right there. It’s a really tough down. You don’t really want to line up and throw it. You can run it. You’ve got all different things you can do. It’s definitely a focus of ours – you know, such a key point in the game momentum wise, whatever you want to say, and always to keep in possession of the football. So, it’s definitely been a focus of ours, like it is every week.
Q: Did you watch the Sugar Bowl?
DA: I fell asleep, I think when we fumbled it. D’Andre Swift had a fumble and I kind of tucked it in. We got punked early by the longhorn or whatever. Uga took a loss there, and we ended up taking a loss.
Q: Did the early issues on special teams serve as a reminder that even if you are the favored team, certain plays can trip you up, especially early in the game?
DA: Yeah, I mean, that’s the thing. It’s just who’s going to win the game is who executes the best. If you asked everybody who was a favorite in the Georgia game, I’m sure everyone would have said Georgia, but we didn’t execute, and that’s what football’s about and especially that’s what these NFL playoffs are about is who executes the best, especially in these situations and things like that.