Q: How long does it take your body to recover following a game at your age and at this stage late in your career?
TB: It probably depends on the game.
Q: How about this week?
TB: I'm feeling pretty good today. Honestly, I mean, I know you guys think I'm crazy when I say it, but probably when I was younger it was a lot harder for me. Now, I actually feel better faster just based on the things that I do. Today I feel good. I feel good.
Q: Is part of that related to learning over the years how to take the punishment?
TB: Yeah, I definitely think so. I think decision making is important for all players. I tell the receivers all of the time, 'You catch the ball in traffic. You're a 190-pound receiver. You've got 240-pound linebackers. To run and take that amount of force for one extra yard and then you miss three games - I don't think that helps us much.' It's the same as a quarterback. You stand in the pocket. You do have to learn how to find the way down in a way that you'll be able to get up and try to play the next play, especially with your right shoulder. I think for me more than anything I try to land more on my left shoulder than my right shoulder because you've only got one right shoulder and I need this for a lot of throws, and the more hits you take on it then the harder it is to take. I just do the best I can do. There's some luck involved, but let's go again, baby. Let's line them up and play.
Q: What kind of a challenge does this Panthers defense present for you guys this week?
TB: Big. I mean, they're the first ranked defense in the league, I think, in points or yards. I mean, everything. I feel like I say that every week. We're playing some good defenses and these guys are incredible; the linebacking corps, the [defensive] line. They've got a lot of veterans, so they're tough. They're tough to move the ball on. They barely gave up any points the first couple of weeks. The Saints play them a bunch. I guess they've figured out a way to score some points, but it's a tough matchup because I think they're very talented. I mean, there's no easy yards. They attack the football. The linebackers probably have more interceptions than any team in the league in the last five years or something like that. They just make it tough and they've got a lot of guys in pursuit or around the ball. It's just a very good defense.
Q: What do you remember about your interaction with the referees following the conclusion of your game down in Carolina four years ago that ended with a controversial no-call in the end zone?
TB: I wasn't very positive. I don't think I said very nice things to him, so I'd like to apologize to him. But yeah, that was a little unfortunate. I wish we had gotten that call. That would've been a good call. That would have been a fun next play; I'll tell you that. With one play left in the game, but oh well.
Q: Luke Kuechly said today on the conference call that he might have gotten away with pass interference back in that 2013 game on the last play.
TB: Oh man, let's replay that one, too, and see what happens. I wish we could do that. Yeah, that was a tough game. I think that speaks a lot to their team, that particular game. It was a hard-nosed, hard-fought game. We had to earn every yard and it came down to the end. It comes down to a couple of plays just like last week. It's football season. You never know which play it's going to be. That last one we played against them came right down to the end, a lot of situational plays that they made, we didn't make. You've got to expect those types of games every week. I mean, we're playing against a really good team. I mean, Cam [Newton]'s one of the great players in the league and they've got a great defense. They run the ball. They've got some good receivers. It's a tough matchup.
Q: Bill Belichick mentioned the fact that Chris Hogan's 47-yard touchdown reception last Sunday was not a play that was designed going into the game and was instead drawn up by Josh McDaniels during the game. How often does something like that happen and how difficult is it to pull that off?
TB: Yeah, I mean I think that's the advantage of having great coaching and guys that can evaluate those things so quickly. We kind of saw how they were making adjustments. I think the ability to do that on offense, you know, the experience and the confidence that the coaches have and the players - it's everyone working together. It was just a great play. It was a big play in the game. You need those types of adjustments, especially early in the year. It's hard to figure out exactly how they're going to play things. We've had a long offseason to evaluate what they do, how they're going to play us. Then you get out there early in the game and you see how it goes, and if you need to make adjustments you've got to be able to do it. I've said before, you'd hate to wait until Monday morning to say, 'Man, when we play them the next time these are the things we want to do.' You'd rather do that in the middle of the second quarter saying, 'Alright, this is how they're going to play it, boom, we know exactly what to go to.' That's important. It ended up being a big play in the game. We made a lot of adjustments over the course of the game. The coaches have pointed out that players have to be able to adjust and maybe without practicing the play, still be able to go out there and execute at a high level. That's NFL football for you.
Q: What does it say about Chris Hogan that he seems to get lost in the secondary often enough to where he is virtually uncovered out there and is able to capitalize on that with big plays?
TB: I think he's dependable and consistent. He's been out there every week working hard to improve. I'm just impressed with his knowledge of what we're doing and the offensive role that he plays and it has grown since he got here. I mean, he was a lacrosse player in college that decided to play football and he's done such a great job. We're all learning each other and the more we get him the ball, especially on big plays like that - the two touchdowns he had were big plays. Savvy plays that he needs to really - there are little intricacies to both of those routes and he ends up being wide open on both. Those were great plays by him.
Q: What does Devin McCourty mean to this team, not only on the field but also as a presence in the locker room?
TB: Yeah, he's been such a consistent, dependable player since he got here. He got here as a corner, made the Pro Bowl in his first year, eventually moved him to safety. He's been out there every week. He's so consistent in his ability to stay on the field and make plays. I think he has the respect of everybody - players, coaches, everybody, from young guys, old guys, different backgrounds and so forth. I think he's just a great person. Everyone has a lot of respect for him and really trusts his input on things. He just has the respect from the entire team. That says a lot about him.
Q: Do you have an open-locker policy where guys can come to you if there are issues or things that they need to bring up?
TB: Yeah, I think it's just ongoing. I think the dialogue is always open. I think that's important for any team. Hard and fast rules, maybe, in this day and age is a little bit tougher than they used to be, but I just think it's overall trust that everyone is here to do the same thing. I think everyone has a great deal of respect for each other in the locker room. We try to work hard every day and always put the team first. We also understand that there are extenuating circumstances at times and you have to respect the people that you play with. Like I said after the game, just the love that you have for the players and for things that are important to individuals. I think we have a great locker room. I think we have some good leadership. I think we're still evolving and hopefully, you know, it's early in the season. There's a lot of room to make improvement, certainly on the field and that's what we're trying to do.
Q: How has that leadership in the locker room evolved over the course of your career?
TB: I've been with a lot of great leaders. Everyone has a little different flavor to it. There were so many guys that I've looked up to. Some guys do it by their voice. Some guys do it by their play. Some guys do it in lesser ways, just doing their role and encouraging. But everybody finds a role. I think naturally the guys with the experience, and really it comes down to dependability, too; dependability of how that person's playing and the consistency of their attitude. When they say something that you go, 'Wow, I listened and it worked.' That, I think, makes for a good leader. I've been very blessed between coaches and we have great leadership with our coach, [Bill Belichick], and he provides it to us every day. It funnels down to the older players, and the experienced players, and captains and down all the way to guys who are here for their first year.
Q: Have you guys talked about how you'll handle the national anthem going forward and how do you choose something that is not divisive?
TB: Yeah, I don't think anybody wants that. Like I said, we really want to focus on our jobs and showing up here. That's what we're here for. That's where the focus needs to be. I'm sure there will be conversations as we continue to go forward. We'll see how it goes.