Q: How much of a relief in this locker room would it be if the regular officials went back to work this Sunday? It looks like it's nearly close to completion.
A: All we can worry about is getting ready for playing Philadelphia. We have to worry about our game plan, going out there, doing our jobs, and if you have the officials back, that's great. If not... In our games, I don't think we've had any problems, and we just have to go out there and play football.
Q: You talk about playing in Philly. You've done it enough times, so you know that it's not your normal football venue. What's it like as an opponent down there?
A: It's a great atmosphere. It really is. It's tough and it's loud. The fans are unique, but it can be a fun place to play, and we have to go in there and have great communication between our offensive line. Those guys have to be loud. If we're making checks, making different calls, everybody's got to be on the same page. It makes the experience of playing Philadelphia very interesting.
Q: How has the schedule been for you guys? Back and forth with the ten days, to four days, to ten days? It's been strange for you guys.
A: It's a little different. Two of the first three weekends, we've had off. That's a little different. I think everybody's glad that we're finally back to our normal routine for the next few weeks. We have a normal schedule. I've enjoyed the time off, we've had good work, and I'm excited to be back at practice, and getting ready to play Philadelphia.
Q: Some of the defensive names have changed, but are they still using the same kind of defensive philosophes that we've seen over the last few years?
A: Well, I think... Even last year, they changed a little bit in their defense. They're probably not bringing as much pressure as they have in the past with some of the previous defensive coordinators. They're still talented, they have great confidence in their front four; they can get sacks, they can get pressure without blitzing. I think they have good corners, they have aggressive safeties. So, I think their philosophies have changed a little bit, but it's still all about getting to the quarterback, getting pressure on the quarterback, and that's something they do very well.
Q: You mentioned their (defensive line) rotation. They've got nine guys who seem to be going 200 miles an hour all the time, because they keep them fresh and rotated. How much of a problem is that?
A: Yeah. They bring in a number of different guys, and it's all about getting to the quarterback. Up the field, they rely on their linebackers and their safeties to make tackles in the running game. They're fast, aggressive and they do a good job of causing some trouble for the quarterback in the passing game.
Q: Given that you're 0-1 in the division, how vital is this game now?
A: It's obviously a big game, and they're all big. There's not one that's more important than the other. So, any time you play Philadelphia, it's always important. It always seems like it's a tight game. We have to come in, and have a great game plan, and go in and play our best football.
Q: What is it about you in the fourth quarter? Your quarterback rating, obviously, in the last year and even this year, is outstanding.
A: I don't feel any difference. I guess it's maybe, you have three quarters to decipher what the defense is doing. You can finally get your hands on top of it, and make some adjustments. I think it's just we've been in situations where we've been down in the fourth quarter. We've had to come back, fire back, and score a lot of points to get back in the game, and our offensive guys have risen to that challenge, and done a good job.
Q: Is there a certain feeling? Do you like that feeling? Knowing that the ball, the game is in your hands?
A: You don't like being down in the fourth quarter all of the time, that's not what you're looking for. I think we feel comfortable in that situation, if you feel, ‘Hey, we have to score on this drive,' that we can go and do it. We like having that confidence, but you don't always want to be in that situation.
Q: Given the way that the Eagles have defended the pass this year, I think they're third in the league defending the pass. How much more important does the running game become for you guys, this week?
A: Hopefully, we can have a great combination. We can run the ball well, getting good down and distance. Third and long is such a tough situation to be in against Philadelphia with their great pass rushers. Hopefully, I can open up some play-action, and get our whole offense in a good rhythm. So, we have to do a good job of running the ball, setting the tempo, and slowing down that pass rush. When we do throw, our offensive linemen have a great challenge, the receivers having to get open against good corners. So, we have our hands full. We have some good plays, and some good opportunities to run our offense well.
Q: How nice is it to have Ahmad back, and with the way that (Andre) Brown is running?
A: Yeah. Having both of those guys, and Ahmad back. The way he runs, and how important he is to our offense. Andre has been running hard, and doing a good job. So, having both of those guys come in and play well for us would be helpful.
Q: One year ago was Victor Cruz's coming out party down in Philly. Are you surprised at how far he's come, and how it all seemed to come out of nowhere?
A: Yeah. I mean, he's done a great job. He's worked hard; he's grown a lot, and learned a lot. He had a good game, a couple of big plays that game. As the season went around, he learned and learned, and got more comfortable. He's continued to work hard, he does a great job of just understanding concepts and how to get open versus different techniques.
Q: Did he prove something to you that day with the one big play in particular when he battled (Eagles cornerback) Nnamdi (Asomugha)?
A: Yeah. I just saw the playmaking ability and going up to get balls, breaking tackles. Just having the ability to say, ‘Hey, we have to give this guy the opportunity to get the ball in his hands - he can make guys miss, and make some big plays for us.'
Q: It has to make you more confident. If not confident, but more willing to go to him, next time. You have to feel better about it when you see him do that.
A: Yeah. That's what you always tell receivers. I'm going to give you a shot to throw it to you in certain circumstances. You can't have the ball intercepted. Battle for it, draw pass interference, I don't care. Going up there and catching it, you like to see that from your receivers.
Q: Someone of his size, maybe he couldn't do that part? Or physicality-wise, do you think he'd be able to battle for it?
A: I don't think about it that much.
Q: When a receiver has a day like he had against them last year, do you think their corners will remember that the next time they play him?
A: I don't think so. I think you go into each game with a new mindset, and you try to execute your technique and your job, then you go out there and play hard.
Q: When you play a team that does a lot of bump-and-run coverage, it's a little different from the Panthers. When you play a team like that, how does that affect the passing game?
A: Yeah. Obviously, it's man to man. You have to beat the corner. So, we have different plays that we like, different things that we can do, to try to win. Obviously, if you can beat the corner, you have a great opportunity to get the ball, and make some big plays.
Q: How important is trust in the system and the guys who, no matter who it is, like in Carolina. Obviously you had two key first-time starters, and you didn't shy away from them at all.
A: Right. We got guys who've been here a number of years and know what their assignments are, know what to do. You have faith in the guys that are out there with you. If you have doubts, if you're scared about going to a certain guy, scared about, worrying about someone's job, then you're not doing your job to your fullest. All I can do is go through my reads, my progression, know what I'm supposed to do, and trust that the guys are going to be doing their jobs.
Q: Without choosing sides are you eager to see that the ref thing is resolved?
A: Yeah. You always want all of the issues resolved. I'm not going to be staying up at night waiting to see what happens. I think in our games, the refs have done a great job. It's gone smoothly, and you hope if they're still here on Sunday night, that continues to be the case.
Q: This is usually a pretty intense atmosphere on game day when you play the Eagles. You feel like they'll have control of it?
A: I hope so.
Q: Can you imagine how (Packers quarterback) Aaron Rodgers, why he was more outspoken about how he must have felt?
A: Yeah. I understand the circumstances, and it's unfortunate that that happens. You never know what would have happened with the normal refs, what would've occurred. That's just the way it goes, sometimes.
Q: You may have been asked this, but can you talk about Victor Cruz's progression over this last year? Just about how much he has improved as a receiver?
A: He's gotten a lot better as a receiver. Just in his decision making, his route running, understanding different concepts of the defense, and how to get open. So, we put a lot on his plate to do different things to get open, he's done a good job of making plays, getting open, and catching the ball, making guys miss, and making some big plays.