Q:What are your thoughts on going into the Patriots Hall of Fame?
WM:It is definitely an honor. I mean, when you look at all the players that have already been [inducted] … I'm the 22nd player, the 24th member. It's a definite honor that the writers could put you in, the fans vote you in, your players think as much and all the accomplishments in New England and this organization to be one of the guys that's sought out as a part of that, a building block, it's an honor.
Q: What goes through your mind when you look back on your career? Did it go quick?
WM: It did and while you're playing and you're grinding and you're going through everything – it seemed like it would last forever. I remember at year ten I was like, "Wow, I hit year ten," and then 15 rolls around and I'm like, "Where did everything go?" I watch some of these guys now and I talk to them and I tell them to cherish the moment, cherish the opportunity because when you're done you're going to look back and see how it's a big part of your life but it's a small part of your life as well. It goes so fast.
Q:Can you talk about the transformation of the organization from when you got here to when you left?
WM:None of this was here when I got here. I remember getting taped and it was raining and leaks were falling in the old locker room, but it was home. We didn't know anything different. We didn't really care. We were a blue-collar team and guys just came to work and did what we had to do. Mr. [Robert] Kraft always had a vision for what he wanted to do with this organization. Me being his first draft pick, you always hear him talk about it, we used to have those conversations and the one thing he said was, "I'm going to make this one of the best organizations in all of sports, not just football, but all of sports." You see the construction. It hasn't stopped. I think he's gone above and beyond expectations not only on the football winning side but just making this a destination for all Patriot fans.
Q:Can you talk about what it means to have Bill Belichick praise some of the big plays from your career?
WM: It is definitely an honor. When something comes from Bill Parcells or Belichick it really hits home and means a lot because they don't just hand out things like that to anybody, so it was special for me to hear him say that. I prided myself on being one of those guys, but I think not just me – all my teammates had that same attitude that if the play came to me or I had an opportunity, take advantage of it. I was fortunate enough to play with a bunch of guys like that and we all prided ourselves on pushing each other and competing against each other. It really didn't matter who was across the ball from us. We were always competing against each other. When you had an opportunity, you better not be the guy to let everybody else down because everybody counted on everybody to do their job as you hear all the time. We all were links, a spoke on the wheel so to say.
Q:How did where you grew up and how you were raised lead to commanding respect amongst your peers?
WM:It started with my father in the house. He was my first teacher of how to be a man and how to conduct yourself and what you stand for and what you should take and what you shouldn't take, and I just applied that to a lot of different lessons in life. As far as football, you have to be disciplined out here. You have to be a certain way. You have to have that switch. Sometimes we get criticized for what happens between the hashes, but you've got to be wired a certain way. The way I was raised by some of the coaches I was raised by was the same way I was taught on this level, so it was natural for me to be that way. I respected everybody and I just demanded respect from everybody as well. I just think certain times there's things that happen in the locker room and things that go on and exchanges that you either stand up and be a man, you stand your ground, and that's the position I play. I think all guys in that position, the guys I looked up to anyways, the Lawrence Taylors, the Derrick Thomases, the Andre Tippetts, the guys that I watched growing up, I got a sense that's how they were so I figured I better get in line with that or I wouldn't be the guy I was.
Q: How has the dynamic been of working now for the NFL and being so close to this team still?
WM:I've got a job to do when I'm with the NFL and everybody understands that, but the other thing is I respect the code as a player, too, because I played for 15 years so I know. I have that experience of being on both sides, as a player and as media, and there's certain situations that come up that I have to be impartial regardless of who it is. I've got to be fair and honest, but I can't forget who the guys are that are my friends and my relationships. I can't be biased. I can only speak on what I really know. The situation that's happened recently and you know that our team is under fire for, I wasn't here to experience that so I can't really comment on what's going on until all the information is in and the case is over. Until then I'm going to support my friends and my family the way I've always done, and I think that's one of the biggest things of being a Patriot – it's not just being on a team, it's being on a family. You guys all are in the media so you guys all understand, I don't know if you guys are all in sports, but you have to be a certain way. You have to be diplomatic on certain things and I work for the NFL so it's a little different, too, instead of me just working for ESPN or FOX or somebody else.
Q:Do you sense the Patriots will come out stronger after what has happened this offseason?
WM:Absolutely, no doubt about it. Remember the last time the family was under attack in 2007? They didn't finish all the way but that season everybody felt that vengeance, everybody felt what was going on. Family and people come together in hard times and through adversity, so I'm sure regardless of what's going on out here, Belichick has done a great job of blocking the noise from outside, bringing the players together, not letting anything be a distraction and keeping their eyes and ears focused on what the common goal is, and that's to play football. At the end of the day, it's about the game and going out and playing football, and he does a great job of blocking and putting that shield around his players.
Q:Are you sick of deflategate?
WM:It's a topic and until it's [resolved] you really have to deal with it. I don't really comment on it. I'm not a lawyer. I wasn't reporting about any investigation. I'm just taking in all the information like everybody else is, and when I comment it's because somebody has posed a question to me about the situation. I give my honest opinion and I leave it at that.
Q:Do you feel bad for Tom Brady after all he's been through?
WM:Tom is strong. Tom has his head up high. I always tell everybody Tom is a better person than he is a football player, and that means a lot. We all support Tom, and if Tom looked me in the eye and says he had nothing to do with it then I have to believe him. I know him. He's like a little brother to me, so until I see [differently] or it's proven otherwise, that's what I have to ride with.
Q: What does it mean to be a Patriot?
WM:Family. You're hearing all the words – it's family, it's being a part of something bigger than yourself, being unselfish, buying into a system, buying into other players and depending on each other. This is something that works. It's proven. It's been working since 2001. Even in 1996 we went to a Super Bowl, so Mr. Kraft has provided the resources. He's provided everything a winner needs to win, and the coaches could possibly go down [as] the best in football, in NFL history. It's a lot. Sometimes people get rubbed the wrong way – others who've never played here. When they hear the words 'the Patriot way' they get rubbed the wrong way, but the players who come in who are free agents, they get it. As soon as they walk in the doors and they're around and they feel it, they actually understand it. It's just special. Everybody has their own thing; that's just ours.
Q: What advice would you give to the current Patriots players on how to repeat this year?
WM:Well, they just did it. They were living in the shadows of those other Super Bowls and they just came out of it. [Julian] Edelman told me after the game that he respects everything that the Patriots did in the past, but they won that one themselves. That's what they've been working for. The message has always been clear. You're not going to win Super Bowls based on what happened in 2001, '03 or '04. You've got to go out and earn it yourselves, and they finally did that this year, and I'm proud of them. I was happy for them because they worked hard and they battled until the very last play. That's what Patriot football is all about.
Q:What one or two plays stand out in your career?
WM:Well, there are a lot. You guys always point out the one with Edgerrin James on the goal line and I think the play in the Super Bowl in 2001 where I held Marshal Faulk and they got the penalty, and then I came back later and got the sack, knocked them out of field goal range or something like that. There are plays that stand out, but those are probably the ones we talk about the most.
Q: What does Chandler Jones have to do to take it to the next level? Is it simply a matter of staying healthy with him?
WM: Well, it's staying healthy and he has to get better every year. He has to be consistent. This defense depends on him getting to the quarterback and being tough against the run, and what he also has to understand is that offenses will game plan. They'll slide protections. They'll chip. They'll do whatever. I think he's been playing good ball. I think last year – six, seven sacks – okay, it happens sometimes. Years before that he had double-digit sacks, so what he needs to understand is they know who he is now. He's not a surprise. He's not going to surprise anybody. They're going to prepare and game plan for him.
Q: What made those first championship teams special?
WM: I just think our togetherness, our will to push each other. I think the makeup in that locker room – the guys we had. Guys really cared about winning and losing. Guys really cared about what their teammates thought of them. The work ethic was through the roof. We didn't need coaches to come down and remind us to come down and do all our stuff. We governed ourselves in that locker room. Bill [Belichick] was the general. He gave the orders and we followed them to a T. I think that's special. We kept a nucleus of guys – a small group of guys together for as long as we could. You know how free agency is now. You see it now. Guys want to get paid. They want to go other places, but we were able to keep that foundation together for a long period of time. When you get a special group of guys together, then special things happen.
Q:Did you evolve in different ways with Parcells, Pete Carroll and Belichick?
WM: I did a lot. For Parcells, I played outside linebacker. You know he loved big outside linebackers. I played some defensive end, which I hated early on in my career because I just didn't understand it. I had to learn it, but I did it. Pete Carroll introduced me to the elephant position, which Charles Haley played, who's going into the Hall of Fame. Congratulations to him. I spent some time with Charles. He came down. Also with Lawrence Taylor – Parcells brought him to camp. Then Belichick – he's the master at putting guys in positions to find that mismatch and lining us up. When you get a lot of guys who can do a lot of different things like [Mike] Vrabel, myself, Rosevelt [Colvin], [Tedy] Bruschi – all our linebackers – Roman [Phifer], then it's fun because teams can't game plan for you to be in one spot or one position because there are a lot of different things you can do. The players like Jamie Collins, who you see here, and [Dont'a] Hightower, who can do a lot of different things, those guys will benefit in a system like this.
Q:What advice would you have for a guy like Jamie Collins?
WM:I talk to him every time I see him. Just keep learning. He's got God-gifted ability. He can run with tight ends and backs. He can cover. He can rush. He can do a lot of great things. I just tell him to keep getting better, keep working on your craft and when you know the playbook inside out, when you understand everything that's going on, you don't have to think. You can react and just play. Outwork everybody. That's the other thing that we did. We just tried to outwork everybody and sooner or later players and teams start to wear down week 11, week 12. We were still getting stronger, getting better, still excited about the game, not worrying about how sore we were or whatever. That was our advantage. We were just out being tougher than everybody else mentally and physically.
Q:What do you think will be the key in these first four games?
WM:First four games? Well, here you never go the first four games. It's always about one game, so I think the thing is to get ready for the opener. Everybody is going to get reps. Everybody is going to go out there. There are some new guys playing a lot of new positions. There are a lot of defensive players who are not here. You had a center retire, so that's going to be different. I think [Bryan] Stork is probably going to move over. There are going to be some new guys who get some opportunities, so it's important for these guys to get ready to play more than just coming in the nickel or dime or situational. They'll probably be the starters, so I think that's the big difference – some new faces and some new positions.
Q: What are your thoughts on Rob Ninkovich?
WM:I think Rob is a blue-collar guy who came out of nowhere. He works hard. He wants to be great. Every time I talk to him it's about competing or watching film or did I see this play or whatever, so when you've got guys like that who come to work and bring their lunch pail – he understands what he needs to do in this system and how they're using him – it helps.