DEFENSIVE BACK DURON HARMON
Q: Did you ever dream of playing in the Super Bowl as kid?
DH: Yeah, I mean that's what you dream about, getting to the NFL. It's not just getting to the NFL, it's playing in those big games, the huge games and the ultimate game which is the Super Bowl. You dream about making big plays in it and you dream about celebrating with your team and getting the win. Fortunately, I've been able to be a part of two of those but none of that matters right now. I'm trying to make it three so I've got to put a lot of work in these next two weeks, got to break down this team, do all our research, do all our preparation and go out there and play a good football game two Sunday's from now.
Q: Who did you root for growing up?
DH: I was a Miami Dolphins fan so I didn't get too - how can I - never got to the big game. Never got close. Mom bought me a Dan Marino jersey when I was younger so I got that jersey and never took it off and I was a Dolphins fan until New England called.
Q: Were you picturing yourself as Dan Marino the quarterback?
DH: No, I liked playing running back and safety all throughout my youth and growing up through high school. Never the quarterback thing for me. Arm wasn't near as good enough or accurate enough. [I] was better running with the ball.
Q: What is this week like for you? Is the last two days more about taking care of tickets, logistics and that type of stuff? Is today just getting to work and film and a normal Monday?
DH: Exactly. Like you said, you try to use the days you have off to try to gather all the information you need for your families to make sure everything is situated. Then when you come in today, I mean it's all business. It's all getting prepared for the Eagles. This is the best team we're going to play all year. I know we say it each and every week but these the only two teams left standing. It's the best of the best so we're going to have to put everything we have into it. Can't be worrying about the extra extravaganza stuff with the Super Bowl, but you've got to kind of leave that to your families, leave that to your wives. Let them take care of that, you just focus on the only thing that matters and that's winning the football game.
Q: When you have a team that is going through a quarterback change relatively late in the season, how do you balance that level of study? Obviously, you want to take a look at some of the skill position players as well as what the quarterback can bring to the field.
DH: I would say, like you said, you take part in two parts of it. The first is you still look at the skill because the skill is going to be the skill and Philadelphia has unbelievable skill players at every position. They're probably as deep as anybody in the league when it comes to talking about their skill. Then you look at, like you said, the quarterback play. Carson Wentz isn't Nick Foles and Nick Foles isn't Carson Wentz so you have to, as an offense, you have to adjust your play calling, the type of offense you want to run based off your quarterback's skill set. While they're different, Philadelphia still does some of the same things because Nick Foles is a good quarterback. He won games in the league, was a Pro Bowler. So he is more than capable of leading this team to wins and victories and winning the Super Bowl. We know we have to study him as much as we've studied any quarterback and we've got to study the skill because they're going to provide challenges for us that we probably haven't faced all year.
Q: There have been examples in recent memory of teams, for lack of a better term, kind of panicking in those late-game situations. What prevents you guys from freaking out in those moments?
DH: Practice. We have some type of situational plays each and every day in practice. We go over every type of situation that you can think of and if it's something that we haven't gone over and we see it through the week of games or something that has came up in one of our games, we start practicing. We're just really prepared for each and every situation because in games like this it's usually one or two plays that dictate the game. You can play a perfect game for 59 minutes and make one mistake in the last minute of the game and cost your team the win. We just do a great job of just preparing for situations. Making sure that whatever situation comes up that we're comfortable enough to get through it and play through it.
Q: The Philadelphia running backs don't catch the ball out of the backfield all that much. How much are you going to be prepared for the surprise that they may use them more in the passing game than they have to this point?
DH: You always got to do some self-scout, especially when you have two weeks. See how teams have attacked you, where they've gotten some success from. Looking at last week, like you said Corey Grant had some success catching the ball. I mean with [Doug] Pederson, how good of a coach he is, a great offensive mind, great game plan coach, I'm pretty sure he's going to have something cooked up for that. We just have to go out there and know where we were vulnerable, show that we made the right proper adjustments and when it comes up, literally just take it away so they can go away from it from the jump.
Q: You guys always say 'new year, new team' and you've been at it now for all these months and 18-plus games. What characterizes this group?
DH: I say it all the time - just a group of fighters. I mean you just look at the way the year progressed - started the year not the way we wanted to, came out and lost the opener, got 2-2, but nobody in here really listened to the noise. We ignored it. We did everything we can to get better and try to progress throughout the year and that's the reason why we're here right now, just because we continued to fight, never got down on ourselves, never pointed or blamed anybody. Just kind of worked together as a team and just kept getting better.
Q: You guys obviously spend a lot of time in your position groups, but it seems having been around this team that defensive backs have relationships with guys at other positions. Has that been the case since day one for you and how would you describe how the Patriots are able to foster that where it's one team despite whatever unit you play on?
DH: I'd say Coach [Bill] Belichick just did a great job of just getting good people here. He does a good job of getting great football players, of course, but just great people where you can literally just mix them into our locker room and there's never no problems, no fighting. I know you might get in a little scuffle at practice but when you come back into the locker room it's all good because we really, really look at each other and treat each other as family, as brothers, because what we do with each other, how much time we sacrifice away from our families and how much time we literally spend with each other, it's really a family. So everybody is close. Everybody wants everybody [to do] well and everybody just puts the team first and when you have that type of mindset and that type of characteristic throughout the whole team, it makes it a lot easier for you to win games.
Q: You've talked about making this Super Bowl trip now for the third time. Can you take us back to the first time? Was there something that surprised you that you didn't expect but you're happy you went through and can prepare for now?
DH: I would just say getting everything done as much as possible, as fast as possible I should say. Going through it the first time I didn't realize how fast everything comes up on you with tickets, hotel rooms, trying to get your families and your friends there and trying to make sure everybody is okay. So I would say just getting everything done, getting the hotel rooms situated before I even go out there so that when I get out there I can focus strictly on the Philadelphia Eagles.
Q: Since that Kansas City game, do you guys feel that you haven't played your best football defensively?
DH: I think with, especially with being around here, the pursuit for excellence is so high and so [drilled] in us that we'll never play our best game, just because you can always get better. You're never going to play a perfect game. When you look at the game film like that it just makes it easier for you to always want to improve because you can always get better at something, whether it's a little thing or a big thing. I just think that's just the mindset of this team. We're just never satisfied. We're not satisfied with winning one game, two games. We want to win it all each and every year because we put a lot into it. We grind, we work hard and we try to play this game the right way. We're always going to continue to try to get better, whether it's this game, a regular game in the season, but every year we're going to just continue to try to get better and try to be better than we were the game before.
Q: You talked about spending time away from your families and you're someone who is raising a young family. Is your oldest child of an age now where there's a recognition of what you're doing and what you're playing for in two weeks? Does that make a different for you?
DH: My oldest, Chris, he's six now and it's so crazy because he has [recognition] of Super Bowl XLIX when he was three. He kind of always knew what was going on but I think like right now, actually understanding, knowing the players, coming home talking to him about football, talking to him about Carson Wentz, [LeGarrette] Blount and Alshon Jeffery, it's cool. It's cool to see that what I'm doing brings joy to his life as well and I'm able to provide for him that way. It's amazing just to be able to go through this with him because it's going to be something that neither of us will forget.
Q: Is playing for the Patriots for everyone?
DH: If you love winning it's not hard. I mean this is what this place is about - winning. Everything we do, everything we sacrifice for is for to win. Coming here as a young guy five years ago, I just see how competitive this place was and I just wanted to be a part of it so I did everything in my power to continue to get better and try to make sure that at the end of training camp I'm always on this roster because I just love the idea of winning and being a part of something so special here.
Q: When you guys leave here early next week, where do you want to be mentally as far as the game plan and what's your attitude as you head towards Minnesota?
DH: [We] want to be in a comfortable spot because when we get out there we're not going to have as much time to meet and go over the game plan. So we want to be at a point where we're comfortable with the game plan, knowing what we want to do and when we get out there just kind of just repeating it, making it a repetition and making sure that we're ready to go.
SAFETY DEVIN MCCOURTY
Q: How do you feel about the opportunity to face two ex-teammates in Chris Long and LeGarrette Blount?
DM: I think it's a credit to those guys as much as it is to us, the work they put in. Obviously, LeGarrette being here for a couple of years and Chris just one year, but hard working guys and obviously they took that same attitude to Philadelphia. Me and Chris had talked weeks ago about how cool it would be for both of these teams to be in this situation. It's a great opportunity. I look forward to a little trash talking out there with those guys, but obviously they were great teammates and good friends of mine. The same thing I said about Logan [Ryan] though - I'm not here to be friendly and hope it ends in a tie.
Q: At what point in the buildup are you able to forget about all the stuff that comes with being in a Super Bowl and just zone in on the game?
DM: I'm already at that point. My family is pretty easygoing in making it easy on me. That was yesterday. We took one day. We kind of figured all that out. Now it's a game. It's all about going and playing that game. I think Bill [Belichick] said it the best today. When we look back at this game we won't be looking to see if we got double beds in the hotel room. We'll be thinking about how we played in the game. Did we win? That's going to be my focus going forward. It's just going out there and trying to put myself and my teammates in the best situation to win.
Q: You guys have been able to limit the number of penalties you've been called for. Is that due to just better execution by your defense and how much does Coach Belichick preach that during the week?
DM: A lot because earlier in the season, as a team, we weren't doing well in penalties. He always talks about mental toughness, about executing but executing when we're tired, executing in situational football. I think the repetition and I think the focus of not having penalties at practice - obviously, we don't have refs so there's not a flag going every time you commit a penalty, but with the coaches being on it about our technique and our fundamentals and not messing that up, and that allows you to play penalty-free but still play aggressively. It's something we've talked about since the beginning of the season when we were struggling with penalties. It obviously pays off when you can play good football and execute and not get penalties and win that field position battle against your opponent. That will definitely help you.
Q: Is there a point where you will explain to those who haven't been to a Super Bowl about what it feels like lose one and how you don't want to have that experience ever again?
DM: Yeah, I think a couple of us have already talked about that and the coaches have talked about that, of how important it is obviously to make it. To win that AFC Championship is huge. You have fun, celebrate that, but you can't forget that winning that game allows you the opportunity to play in the biggest game of the year and how you want to be prepared. You don't want that confetti falling as you're walking off the field and the other team is winning. It's a terrible feeling. There's no words you can say. You can tell somebody until you're blue in the face but I think the biggest thing is by example, being prepared, coming in here ready to work each day. Guys feed off of that and I think that starts at the top. Our coaches are going to be on it. I think our older guys, our leaders need to be on it and let it trickle down through the team.
Q: Do you feel like you've played your best game as a group so far this season?
DM: Hopefully not, because we're going to need it. We're going to need it in a week. This is a very tough offense we're playing against. [They're] very balanced in everything they do. They have a certain amount of plays that go outside and they have a certain amount that go inside. If it's a crossing route or a short throw that they hit, they have the same look and can go deep off of it. There's talented players all across the board, a stable of tight ends, a bunch of running backs, different receivers that do a bunch of different things well. I think you saw last week where [Nick] Foles was able to be accurate enough to hit guys in traffic and then take advantage when they get behind the defense of throwing the deep ball. Defensively, we're going to have to do our job. No player is going to be able to be out there and do two things at once because they have too many plays that hurt different sections of your defense, so each guy is going to have to do their job and do it well for us to have a chance to win next Sunday.
Q: During training camp and joint practices in particular, one thing stands out - when a guy commits a penalty or there's an errant snap, he runs a lap. You don't always see that from the other team you might be practicing against. When you got to the NFL and the Patriots and you saw that, what were your thoughts at the time?
DM: To me, it's Bill mad at like small fundamental things, whether it's the center-quarterback exchange, being offsides, penalties that he feels are a cause of us just not being on it. You hate it as a player but I think overall you see the focus it makes you have on some of those small fundamental things that hurt you when you don't have them. I don't think you think about it - you don't think about a guy getting off on a snap count but not being offsides until he's offsides and then it's huge if it's third-and-1 or fourth-and-1. It hurts your team. I think because of us having to do those tedious things and always being on it, we kind of stay out of some of those situations that rarely come up, but when they come up they really can hurt you and derail your team. As tedious as they are and as annoying as they are, I think in the long run when you get to be in situations like this you appreciate it more.
Q: Do you find yourself reminding guys of certain things on the field that may get repeated at practice - whether it's tackle in bounds or protect the field goal, those kinds of things - even though you guys have played as often as you have together?
DM: Yeah, I mean I think we're all always doing that. We get in certain situations and we know if we tackle a guy at the end of the half of it'll be hard, if they don't have any timeouts, to run the field goal team on or there's situations we get where it's second or third down in the red area, depending on how much time is left they've got to go to the end zone and then kick a field goal. If that comes up between KV [Kyle Van Noy] or E-Rob [Elandon Roberts], whoever has the helmet, and Matty P [Matt Patricia] yelling to them or whichever of us remembers something. Between myself, [Patrick] Chung, Duron [Harmon], Malcolm [Butler], like guys that have been out there a long time and been here for a while to hear all these situations talked about. We're always trying to remind each other. So it's not just me. I think it's collectively us as a group trying to stay on that together.
Q: Do you ever feel yourself sounding like Bill Belichick or Matt Patricia?
DM: I don't know. I hope so. Who wouldn't want to sound like Bill? Don't you guys interview him? You could go home and tell your wife like different football things and sound smart.
Q: You need sort of a different octave than he uses.
DM: Yeah, but I mean it's all about if you're saying the right thing, you can impress your wife. Try it today.
Q: What does it tell you about the Eagles that they've been able to keep it rolling once Nick Foles took over?
DM: A good football team. Phil [Perry] knows. We were at Comcast yesterday and [Jerod] Mayo talked about that. As much as everyone talked about Tom [Brady's] hand and how big of a deal that was, he talked about the team being an overall good team. I think that's the same thing with the Eagles. You know, [Carson] Wentz, [Darren] Sproles, [Jason] Peters, you have all these guys that go down that usually hurts a lot of teams, but when you have a good overall team I think that believes in each other and each guy in that locker room, you saw it, they just kept rolling. I think a lot of people doubted them thinking they were done because obviously Wentz is a really good football player, but it just shows football is a team game. You need to have an overall good football team, especially to be playing in this last game. You rarely hear a team that has just one star player or just good on one side of the ball or just good on offense and defense and the worst special teams. That just doesn't happen to get to this point. You'll see good overall football teams battle next Sunday.
Q: It's well known that you guys have not scored a point in the first quarter of any of your Super Bowls....
DM: Is that well known?
Q: I thought it was among this room. Has that fact put any stress on the locker room this week? Do you give the offense grief about that?
DM: I had no idea of that stat. No, I wouldn't say that's too popular in the locker room right now.
Q: How well coached does this Eagles team appear to be on film?
DM: They look very well coached. They're top in the league defensively in two-minute, top of the league offensively in two-minute. Their situational football is great on third down, red area, so to me you can tell they're going over a lot of those small things. Coaches are hitting them, the players understand them and you can see they outscored their opponents offensively in really all four quarters. They don't really lack in anything. We can't afford bad fundamental plays or a guy not doing his job here or there and give up a play because it's not going to come back around. Like we're not going to be able to rely on them messing it up and allowing us the opportunity to take it. It's just not going to happen often. We're going to have to play our best football because we know they're probably going to play their best football.
Q: Can you describe the challenge of keying on a look they give you and potentially being correct, but then perhaps seeing that same look later in the game and dealing with the fact they could run something differently out of that look?
DM: That's why I said it's not just one or two guys. It's every guy doing their job. If your keys take you here and my key is supposed to bring me right behind you and the first time the play goes outside so it's like, 'Alright, that's the outside play,' and I don't move behind you and this time it comes inside but I'm not doing my job, so now what happens is it trickles down. The next time you get your same key you're a little more hesitant because the guy next to you didn't do his job. That's why it's always key, because as hard as it is when you get your same key with a different play, but if you're all on string we like to say it allows you to play free knowing that whether it's the three linebackers or the four guys or five guys in the secondary and we're all moving together with the guys up front, then you know if my key tells me something that's a little off because they do a new play, I've still got my guy coming to my right or left that's going to fill that gap and we'll still be OK to be sound against that play. Then it'll come down to tackling and making a play in different one-on-one situations.
Q: What are some challenges of defending an offense that likes to utilize some run-pass options?
DM: I would say probably some of the one-on-one situations they'll put you in. When you have that run-pass option, pass players that sometimes turn into run players because a guy is blocking him, a receiver or a tight end. You can't free up and just go to the ball because you still have to cover your guy because he's not blocking. He's running a route. So for you, it's a pass play. For the six or seven guys in the box it might be a total run look, so you might not gain any help underneath because they're playing the run. Individually, matchup-wise if we're in man-to-man or it's a zone and a guy is in our zone we've got to be sound and be able to play what we're getting. It's a run-pass option so it could be a run, but if you're getting a pass play in coverage then you need to play the pass. When the pass comes up you're ready to play and the guys up front that play the run have to play the run.
Q: When you played football as a kid who did you root for and did you ever dream about being the guy making the big play in the biggest game?
DM: I was a Cowboys fan growing up, but yeah, I think everyone dreams about making a big play in a Super Bowl. I think you get there and it's like, 'I just want to play good and win.' I don't care if I make the play or somebody else makes the play. I'm fortunate enough to be in my fourth, so I don't care who makes any big plays. As long as we come out the winner, I'm for it.
Wide Receiver Danny Amendola
(On the Philadelphia Eagles)
"They're a good football team. They fly around, well coached, great athletes and good organization."
(On whether he remembers watching Super Bowl XXXIX)
"I do remember that. I was in college. I was a freshman in college. I think I was at my boy Phillip's house watching Deion Branch ball out. I think T.O. [Terrell Owens] was coming off of an ankle surgery and it was a great game."
(On what it's like playing against former teammates)
"They're good football players. LeGarrette [Blount] is a good friend of mine and Chris [Long] is one of my best friends so it's going to be fun to line up against them and get going."
(On whether he'll put those friendships aside for a while)
"Yeah, what is the game - 60 minutes long or more? Yeah. We're going to be trying to rip each other's heads off I'm sure. Pretty natural in the NFL."
(On Nate Solder and what he has gone through)
"Nate's one of the best teammates I've ever been around and a guy who's been through a lot on the field and off the field. He's a guy that we all look up to and we all love to play with and have in our locker room."
Defensive End Trey Flowers
(On if the experience of playing in the Super Bowl last year helps)
"It's a brand new team, so I wouldn't say last years' experience will have anything to do with the outcome of this game. It's a brand new team. This team has a lot of different guys from a year ago, so it's something you've to do all over again as far as experience goes."
(On avoiding penalties)
"It's one of those things where you have to play smart, use your technique and fundamentals. Don't allow yourself to get caught in a bad position where you have to have a penalty. It's just about playing smart.
(On dreaming of playing in the Super Bowl as a kid)
"As a kid I really didn't have a team or anything but as far as being in this game, definitely a dream of a young guy trying to pursue a career in the sport that he loves. It's definitely special just to dream about it as a kid and work hard for it, prepare for it and be in a great position."
Wide Receiver Chris Hogan
(On Tom Brady's demeanor when the offense needs to put together a drive)
"Calm. Cool. Collected. You know? He expects a lot out of us and we expect a lot of ourselves. He'll look to us and ask us, we need to make some plays and we know that in those situations because those are big time situations, whether it's two minute at the end of the half, two minute at the end of the game, we need a score, whatever we need. We put in a lot of work during practice and we know that we're able - there's situational football where we trust ourselves in those situations."
(On what today was about)
"The Patriots does an incredible job of getting us all the information that we need and obviously guys have to handle their own business and take care of all the logistics. Hopefully you can do that as quickly as possible so that you can move on to what is the most important thing for this team. We have a job to do and that's to get ready to play the Eagles and go out there and win a football game."
(On the Eagles being able to have success after Carson Wentz went down)
"They're a good football team and they have a lot of good players. Obviously, Nick has come in and done a very good job for them and they obviously have a lot of trust in him and they trust in themselves. We're just going to focus on preparing for them and doing as much preparation as we can for this game knowing that this is the last one of the season. You never want to look back on this game and think, 'If I watched a little bit more film here or there.' You never want to have that feeling. Putting as much preparation as we can over the next couple weeks is going to be the number one thing for us."
Linebacker Elandon Roberts
(On Nick Foles)
"I feel like he's been doing a good job with the injury that happened to their quarterback, coming in and stepping in and doing a great job for them."
(On containing emotions)
"I mean obviously it's all the marbles right here but it's everything you work for. So you've got to think back to what got you here - doing your job, not getting overwhelmed and what not. As long as we do that that takes away most of it."
Linebacker Kyle Van Noy
(On if he stays in touch with either of his former Patriots teammates)
"I do with Chris [Long]. Chris is a great role model for giving back as much as he does. It's really impressive what he does, but we'll be friends after the game."
(On the biggest advantage of having played in the Super Bowl last year)
"We know what to expect, but at the end of the day, you've got to perform. So there's really no upper hand. You've got to just play the game and get ready for it and play at a high level."
(On how Philadelphia has been able to be productive despite losing its starting QB)
"They've got good players. Everyone wants to hate on Nick Foles, but he's done a great job. He's still a high-caliber quarterback, like Carson Wentz. Nick Foles is a great quarterback who's done a great job. They distribute the ball really well and their run game is at a high level."