This is a very exciting time for us. We have just finished our first practice of the three that we will have here before we travel out to Indianapolis. We have been off for a few days, I wouldn’t say the practice was sharp but I believe it was okay. There are a number of guys that were not able to participate today and I think you know who they are but hopefully we will get some of them tomorrow and then as we move along, we will get them all back in preparation to play an exceptional New England Patriot football team who has a 10-game winning streak since the time that we visited there. They have two home playoff wins and outstanding play on both sides of the ball with an outstanding kicking game as well.
Q: Is there a difference in planning to play Bill Belichick versus any other coach?
A: Each team and each coach has their individual characteristics that we look for but by in large, you break it down and you have to be very detailed. Bill is an outstanding football coach who has his finger on everything that goes on there and does an exceptional job of planning in his own right. Therefore, it presents outstanding problems and for that and just as important is that they are a very, very good team.
Q: When you coached with him did you know he would be this good of a coach?
A: I didn’t have any doubts that he would. He started very young and advanced with a lot of responsibility at a young age. He was constantly preparing for the opportunity that would come to him. He did an outstanding job as a defensive coordinator and secondary coach the three years that I was here. I was not here for the 86 team and run but I was fortunate enough to come in 88 and be here for the 90-91 team. I didn’t have any question about the meticulous detailed work that Bill always did and the process that he went through to prepare his defensive team.
Q: Did going against him in practice build your relationship with him?
A: We worked very well together and I think that is the thing that is very, very important when you evaluate that time in our lives. We cooperated well and or players cooperated well. We did a lot together and I can remember Parcells saying, ‘Again?’ when we said we wanted to do some red zone or one-on-ones together. He would say, ‘Again?’ We did work well together and our players worked well, we prepared one another and we acted as each others’ scout team in the individual practices that we had. We would discuss things back and forth to a certain extent and what the offensive strategy would be and the defensive approach. It was a good time. It was fun and the whole staff was an outstanding staff.
Q: When you describe him, is that you? Do you say that is a coach like me?
A: I hope so, I think in many ways the characteristics are the same but in many ways different. I think Bill probably had more to do with their offense in the past few years with Tom Brady being there but he came up through the ranks and special teams and defense. Although I did start in college as a secondary coach, I then went to offense.
Q: Do you talk to your players about the importance of this moment?
A: We talk about it a lot. It is historical, which is very, very important to me that the players understand the historical significance. The opportunity that is there for our team and we have been building on this theme for quite some time now, this is not something new that has just been presented to our guys. With each step on the way, it has been pretty much that and we will continue to use that strategy in preparing our guys so they understand the significance of it, why and the sacrifices made to put yourself in the best position to win and preparation being the key to success and right now we have the opportunity to prepare ourselves in our home ground. Although we don’t have a game staring us in the face today, we do have to project and understand the importance of how critical it is. When we leave here we pretty much have the knowledge of how we will defend, attack etc.
Q: How do you play against Gronkowski?
A: This is a very gifted tight end, as you know, but we played against them and had some people that were tall that our guys had to work against. Certainly, this is a very gifted guy that has had an outstanding career and re-written some record books along the way. He has done a very good job of making the big catch as well. He is a person that Brady looks to go to in certain areas of the field and in the red zone. There are things that we have to do to slow that whole aspect down a little bit and that would be the way that we have to start out approaching it anyway.
Q: Do you plan on treating Hernandez like a wide receiver?
A: Nothing has really changed except for the fact that he is running now too.
Q: What does the Super Bowl mean to you personally?
A: Just the fact that we are in this game, a game of this magnitude in Super Bowl XLVI and that the opportunity for these young guys do not come along very often in their careers and how important it is to grasp that. We have some players on our team that have lost the Super Bowl game and we will draw from those experiences. We have guys who are playing in it for the first time and we have guys that have won it just a few short years ago and have suffered a little bit in between but know the importance and excitement that goes into the playoffs and this tournament. When we presented it this morning we said, ‘And now, there are two.’ Last week it was four and now it is two and those are the things that I am talking about. It is an opportunity to be in the biggest game of them all again and that is exciting. That is what you work for. That whole year is about planning and preparing for this opportunity and for us, this team was pretty much written off at one point in time, so that makes it even more significant for all of us.
Q: Is your schedule leading up to the game the same as 07?
A: With changes based on the location you are forced to do because of your practice facility being 20 minutes away, we may do most of our teaching right in the hotel rather than move over to a complex and teach, those are the kinds of things that we had to adjust. Basically, the format will be the same in terms of how we operate here and what the days off are, when we travel, and what we will do when we start up again.
Q: Are you concerned about the rookies?
A: We are talking a lot about that. When we did our first organizational meeting the other day, I started the meeting off just making sure that they understood the significance of the three practices that we will have here and the idea to have about 90% of your game plan in. I left and I heard at the end of the meeting that Eli spoke to the team about the businesslike approach that is necessary and some of the dos and don’ts. That was a very good start and it was responded to very well by our players. What I have chosen to do is talk about two or three things a day as we get closer on the things that I want them to keep in mind going forward.
Q: Giants won in 86 and 90. Your team won in 07 and now four years later. Is there a common theme to teams getting back to the Super Bowl?
A: I am not sure that there is. If you look back in history, 87 was the strike year and the year after they won it for the first time here. For us, we came back with a real strong team in 08 but had some unfortunate things that happened when we were about 11-1 and derailed us a little bit and lost out on a great opportunity there. I think those things lead to a real strong feeling to wanting to get back, trying to get back and the desire to get back. Tying things together, teams are different and things change from one year to the next. Changes and no two teams are exactly the same. I am aware of some of the parallels and analogies that are taking place and want to have taken place but I try to stay as much as I can with this team.
Q: In other Super Bowls, the Giants have tried to control the ball and have the time of possession advantage against good quarterbacks. Do you still plan to run the ball against this team even though you have proven you can go toe to toe with high scoring offenses?
A: Balance has always been a key factor for us. Sometimes we are not able to keep that kind of balance and we have to adjust on the fly. I like to think, in terms of the planning of it, the balance is there and we would be able to do that. It is certainly a part of our plan.
Q: Why were there so many players out of practice today? Because you have the extra time?
A: We are trying to be smart and not aggravate something that is there that will be able to be managed in a short amount of time and make sure that there is not anything else that happens.
Q: Was Ross returning punts late in the 49ers game because of Blackmon’s injury?