Grab a drink...you're gonna be here a while.
New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
"From an injury update today, the following players did not practice, Malcolm Jenkins, hamstring, did not practice. Jeremy Shockey, knee, did not practice. Robert Meachem, ankle, did not practice. And Bobby McCray, back, was full.
"Then just these roster moves. Running back Deuce McAllister was put on reserve retired, and we signed Adrian Arrington from our practice squad, and then signed Marlon Favorite, jersey number 63, defensive tackle to our practice squad, which puts us right at our numbers. Most of the focus with today's practice was first and second down."
Are you optimistic about Meachem being able to play?
"He was feeling better today. He was out there for walk through, and we'll see where he is as the week progresses. But I don't think it's real significant. But then again, it's something that he'll get treatment on and we'll continue to rehab throughout the week."
Obviously every NFL player is under a lot of pressure. But Reggie Bush came into the league clearly under a spotlight. Can you talk about how he's handled that attention and the season he's been having?
"When you're selected high like that and you're a Heisman Trophy winner, a lot of that comes with the territory. He's doing well. He's been a big reason ‑‑ I said this after the game the other day ‑‑ a big reason for our success offensively. He gives you a lot of dimensions in regards to ways to use him.
"We try to week‑by‑week have certain packages that we're able to put in. I thought he ran hard the other day. Obviously, on the punt return game it's significant. He's a big part of what we do offensively, and I was pleased to see him play well."
After the game on Sunday, Brett Favre said that he secretly had told you that he's a Saints fan. Could you just talk about your relationship with him and do you even remember having had that conversation?
"Well, my first year in the NFL was 1997 with the Eagles. My very first project on Monday when I got to work was to cut up all the '06 Brett Favre scrambles. It was a project that Jon Gruden had me do. It was the first time I had a chance to really watch NFL film. So throughout the years certainly I've been able to follow his career.
"Recently, probably not quite a year ago, we shared a bunch of texts just about his decision to play this upcoming season. Periodically throughout the season he might text me or I might text him. From afar, really, I've been a big fan and he's had a great career.
"I knew he was from this region and certainly knew that he had grown up a Saints fan. In fact, I think his brother had come to one of our games early in the year. He got him some tickets and got him taken care of.
"He's been a fantastic player. To see what he's doing right now at this point in his career is really unprecedented in the success he's having and the season he's having. So now is a game where we have to play against him, but he's an amazing talent."
Can you talk about the relationship you may have with Brad Childress and the proximity of where you guys grew up?
"He's from a town not too far from where I'm from in Aurora. Both of us growing in the Chicagoland area and I followed him later on at Eastern Illinois and have really followed his career. He's done a great job coming into the league with Philadelphia and Andy Reid and what they were able to accomplish and now certainly with Minnesota.
"He's been a part of a lot of winning teams. That success is something that he's brought to Minnesota. We probably really didn't know him until the coaching aspect of it. There was an age difference, if you will, from high school to college. But I've known him now for over the years and followed his career. He's done a great job.
Did you think Eastern Illinois would become the cradle of coaches that it has?
"At that time, Mike Shanahan was the guy that I think was coaching and he was the one head coach in the NFL. We were all as student‑athletes aware of his career there as a quarterback, and then on on as a coach. There have been a number of people passed through that school and had success in football, be it playing or coaching.
"It's probably for all of us an important growth period that we went through although it's unusual a little bit to have three coaches from that school.
"Of course, Tony Romo played there, and Mike Heimerdinger is another one that was with Shanahan for some time. So a lot of successful teams there."
How much are you maybe picking the brain of Darren Sharper considering he used to play with Brett and played with Minnesota? And what has he brought in experience?
"We have so much film now at this point. You get enough tape work done on the looks both teams do with regards to the kicking game, offense and defense. So really most of the game plan, all of the game plan is really based on all the evidence on tape and what you've seen from a video standpoint.
"Other than that, I think often times much is made of that and it's really insignificant."
How much do you value Sharper being in this position?
"Acquiring Darren and having someone with experience that's been in these type of games before, he's had a real good season for us. He's come up with a number of big plays to help us win games. Certainly an important part of what we do."
Do you think you'll have to calm Darren down before the game as he goes against his former team?
"I've said before with the way the NFL is now, each week you're going to play an opponent and each chance there's probably a player on your team ‑‑ you've heard me say this ‑‑ there is a player or two or coach or two that was on your team that was on the opposing roster. I think that's the case every week regardless of who you play. It ends up being more about the game. So to answer your question, no."
You made a point of making a difference and setting a goal with the players and your foundation. Can you talk about that?
"Well, it is a unique relationship that this team has with the city. It's very small. I think the players are very visible because of the nature logistically of the layout of this city. When my wife and I came here with our on children it was shortly after Katrina. There was an obvious need or a feeling to help out.
"We created our foundation, Payton's Play It Forward. A number of our players, almost all of our players, are active that way with their foundations. As a team and an organization we do a number of things locally here and regionally.
"This team, for as much SEC football that is played in this region, the Gulf South, this really has become the NFL team in this region. Not just in New Orleans, but throughout this whole Gulf South area. I think that's part of the deal with what we do. It's certainly unique here, but it's something that we're able to do to help out and that's pretty fulfilling."
Is there one thing you kind of aspire to for your foundation?
"We'll spend most of our efforts and energies with children, families in need, community. We've had a number of big events. A year and a half ago we had a ball at the Superdome. We ended up with over 1,500 people sold out. All of that goes right back into this area. We take probably seven to eight charities and look closely at them, evaluate them, and then assign the money."
Reggie Bush said you called him specifically during the bye week talking to him about what you wanted from him in the playoffs. Can you talk a little more about that?
"It was once during the bye, and periodically through the season with the way our season was unfolding, there would be games where he didn't have as many carries or as many receptions.
"The key with all of those guys is you get in a position to play in the postseason and certainly that's a challenge into itself. But being healthy in games like this, he's someone that can make a difference and he did last weekend. That was really the message."
Is there any mentality you want him to run with the next few weeks?
"He's a guy that's played in big games like this before. So he understands the tempo and the intensity of playoff games. His rookie season he was in a handful. So there are a number of players, a lot of players that have been in these type of games. Certainly last week it gives them experience.
"This one, again, will be a game that will be intense and hard‑fought. I think he's prepared for that and he understands how he has to play."
How different is this team to the team you had from 2006?
"From a roster standpoint in four years there's a lot that goes on, so it's a lot different. There are some similarities in regards to some positions, but when you look at the overall roster, it's an entirely different team."
Can you talk about the challenge the offensive line will face with the Vikings front? And on the other side of the ball, the defense in shutting down Sidney Rice?
"I think just from a defensive standpoint this is a team that has an outstanding front. They're physical, they have great speed. They play with confidence.
"When you look really at the game last week and how they played against Dallas, a team that everyone saw how good the Cowboys were playing, and to see them win in that fashion was very impressive.
"Defensively against their offense there are a number of weapons. Sidney Rice is someone who has progressed and is having a great season. Starting with the running back Adrian Peterson and Brett and Percy Harvin. I think there are going to be plays made and you have to eliminate the big plays or try to as best you can. But they do a great job and that is the reason they're playing in a game like this."
Can you talk about having Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter on the field what a difference that made to your defense last week?
"When you can get your starting corners back into the lineup, it's significant. It certainly gives Gregg (Williams) confidence in calling defenses. You always hope at the start of the season the injury bug doesn't hit you too bad. We were able to manage, if you will, and get through the latter part of the season with some injuries.
"But when you can get those guys healthy, the bye week, I think, was important for us and important for Jabari in getting him. He got some work against Carolina the last week of the season, but getting him back to 100% was real important."
I know you had that emphasis on being more physical and tougher and everything else. Do you think this is the time of year when that really that stuff kind of shows up?
"I think the emphasis, really, was being able to run the football more efficiently. So I think that that's helped us get to this game. Our ability to have balance and be able to run the football. So it was a big part of winning 13 regular season games. It was a big part of winning last week.
Lynell Hamilton is a guy that doesn't get a ton of carries, about when he gets the football, he seems to give you a lot of power. Can you talk about players like him, role players?
"He is a guy that gives you versatility. He's very good in the kicking game. He'll play in a number of units. When you can get on offensive players, be it running backs or tight ends, receivers that are involved in your special teams and good at it, certainly that's a plus. He runs with good balance and vision, he's a young player that is playing with conversation."
What are Shockey's chances of getting back to close to 100%?
"I think today was the day we didn't practice him. I think it's good. We'll continue to update you like we normally do with injuries. We really don't get into predicting what guys are going to be like toward the end of the week. So with the nature of the injury, the news is good."
Can you talk about Jared Allen and the task of trying to contain him?
"He's a guy who has great talent. He has a lot of confidence. He gives you power, he gives you speed. He's one of these elite ends. We've seen a few during the course of the season, and those are the type of players that can change games. You have to pay attention to what he can do. So you try to change your launch points. You change protections. You do things to not just be one dimensional, and I think that's a big challenge this week."
How do you prepare defensively to play against a quarterback who has seen it all?
"I think you prepare like you do every week. You go in, you spend time on the tape. You look at the runs you have to stop and the passes you have to stop. Sometimes you're seeing a guy with ‑‑ it's not so much his experience, it's his skill set.
"There have been guys that have played in our league a long time, but he's played very well and is playing as well as he has throughout his career right now. So he's got a quick release. He's decisive. He knows where he wants to go with the football. He's got great arm strength still. So those are the challenges."
What are similarities you see between Reggie Bush and Percy Harvin?
"That's a good question. I think they're built differently. They're different type of players. Yet there would be some in regards to the flexibility to carry the football to return the ball in the kicking game. Obviously they are guys that can be used in the passing game. So from that standpoint, there would be some similarities. But I do think they're different type players."
With the long touchdown runs that you have given up on the first series of games, is there any sort of theme that goes through those?
"No, I don't think so. I guess the similarity being when they happen early in the game. But they've been plays that have been different schemes, different type of runs. When it happened last week, certainly on the first play of the game, it takes a little of the energy out of the stadium. But we were able to come back with the next drive and score. So I think it's just been the start, and I know Gregg and those guys on defense are working their tails off to start games the right way and will continue to do that."
Is facing Allen and their front anywhere similar to facing the Dallas front?
"Well, the fronts are different. It's an even front compared to a three‑four defense. So from a theme standpoint it's different. Yet from a skill set or talent level there would be some similarities."
Can you talk about maximizing all the things you've worked so hard to get with the No. 1 seed at home and playing at home this weekend?
"You start the season really with the goal of getting into the postseason and winning your division, and then securing the best seed possible. Down the stretch Minnesota and ourselves were battling for the one seed. It's important just from a crowd noise standpoint and how that impacts you on third down and how that impacts you with the cadence. Those are some of the things that are specific. Especially when you're playing inside."
Do you gain anything from the fact you were able to keep Adrian Peterson in check last year coming into this game? Or is that totally different?
"That's different. We're a different defense and they're a different offense really when you look at what they're doing. So you have some experience in regards to the talent level of the player. He's explosive and he's got great speed and vision. He can circle the defense if you're not careful and you don't set the right edge. But it's different. The teams are different."
Both as a former quarterback and a guy in his 40's, can you kind of relate to the fascination there seems to be with Favre playing at such a high level at his age?
"Well, what I said earlier, it's really unprecedented with the level he's playing at. I can't really think of someone that's played ‑‑ we can all think of players that have had long careers. But I can't think of someone who has played at the level he's playing at this many years into it. He's in great shape. You see the velocity on his throws, the decision making. He can create. You can go back and look at the throw he made against San Francisco with no time left, that's amazing. So he's a big challenge."
You mentioned a special relationship this team has with this city. What would it mean to this city to get their first Super Bowl appearance?
"Like I said earlier, when we talked about the foundation, there is a strong fan base, strong following. The relationship is unique, so certainly there is an excitement level here in that it is the first time there's ever been a home championship game. In '06 it was the first time we'd ever gone to a championship game. So I think that winning brings a lot of excitement here to this town and to this region."
What does it mean to you personally that you've been able to accomplish those things in your first stint as head coach?
"Well, I think first off we've been able to get in the postseason. I guess there's things that we've been able to accomplish that this team or organization hasn't seen before. Yet the ultimate goal is to win a Super Bowl. I think more than anything what it brings to the people here is the excitement. I think that is different than what you could ever have imagined, maybe.
"And for me this being my first head coaching opportunity, there's things you learn along the way. And someone who has not been from here could never really appreciate the tie that this team has to the city and how that has really grown stronger and become really special and unique."
New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees
Brett Favre said today he still gets nervous before games like this even with all the experience he has. Do you think you'll be nervous Sunday, and do you still get nervous?
"Absolutely. I still get nervous. When you stop getting nervous is probably the time you should get out. Just for a lot of reasons, I think butterflies are a part of the game, and that's what kind of keeps you on edge. So when guys say, I lost my edge, you lost your nervousness. That's part of it. That's how you keep your edge."
When did you fall in love with this city and what's it meant for you the past four years being here and part of the reconstruction of the franchise and the city?
"It's been unbelievable. I said this from the beginning, I felt like it was a calling. An opportunity to come here and not only being a part of the rebuilding of the organization and getting the team back to its winning ways, but to be part of the rebuilding of the city and the region. It's been very special."
What is the most special part about it?
"Well, so many things. Obviously, just like most people in this room ‑‑ well, a lot of the media guys might have been here ‑‑ but a lot of people watching were like me. You watched hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and New Orleans specifically on TV, and you just don't understand the magnitude of what happened here and the devastation until you actually come down and see it with your own eyes.
"So as a free agent, when I came on my visit six months post‑Katrina, it was still very much in shambles. Everybody was just trying to get their lives back together and rebuild their homes, figure out where their kids are going to go to school. Getting back to work and all those things. Many doubts.
"What we were able to do as a team and organization and the fans and the people of the city we were able to kind of really form a bond and come together. That bond is I think what's helped carry us all through and given everybody hope and uplifted the spirits of everyone.
"I think back to the specific moment. The opening of the Dome of "Monday Night Football" September 25, 2006, that was just a symbol that this city was going to come back, not only the way it was before, but better than it was the before. And we've continued to raise the bar since then."
Is part of that calling winning a Super Bowl in your mind?
"Absolutely. Do you play the game for any other reason than to be the best and try to win a championship? That's why I'm here."
You mentioned the reopening of the Dome. Can this game rival that emotion of that night?
"Well, sure. I mean I think we've experienced a lot of firsts since you call it the Sean Payton era here, since Sean came here. With Mickey Loomis and Tom Benson, they started bringing in a core group of guys that have now been here four years and establishing this team.
"Our first NFC Championship appearance back in 2006, first season of over eight consecutive wins. At 8‑0, that was the first this year, and we took that to 13‑0, and now hosting an NFC Championship game, it's never been done here. It seems like every week this year as we won one, and one, the atmosphere got crazier and crazier, and I would expect nothing less on Sunday."
When Reggie Bush is playing well, how much of a difference does that make in the offense?
"He's able to do so many things. He's a very versatile player that can obviously run the ball effectively out of the backfield, you can get it to him on the perimeter, throw the ball to him out of the backfield, split him out, throw the ball to him. What he brings in special teams in regards to the return game. When he's on, and he's hot, it's fun to watch."
You said a couple guys talk about he brings more during the playoffs and he's more limited during the season, getting healthy and really come out during the playoffs. What do you think about that and have you talked to him about being physical?
"Yeah, I think just for any young player - which Reggie's not so much a young player anymore, this is his fourth year - But during those growing years with him, you've got to learn how to be a running back in this league. It's different than running circles around people in college.
"The game is very, very physical. It's a long season. You have to learn how to do things in what we call just being a professional. You learn how to be a professional and take care of your body and sustain the beating you take over the course of 16 games and do the maintenance and all of that. The film study and the preparation ‑‑ it's no longer you're going to school during the day and going to practice in the afternoon. This is your full‑time job now. So just like all of us when we come in the league, you learn how to be a pro."
Going back to when you signed here as a free agent, how did Katrina play into that? And when you were visiting, you were looking at this place, was that a plus or a minus? I would imagine it's kind of unique?
"It's very unique. Just from an outsider's perspective, you would say your two choices are Miami and New Orleans. New Orleans 80% of the city damaged post‑Katrina and you're going there six months post‑Katrina. Or Miami, you know. From an outsider's perspective you say that is an obvious choice.
"For me, it was much different. I tried to look a lot deeper than just on the surface. Coming to a team that had struggled a little bit coming on off a 3‑13 season, on obviously they had been displaced to San Antonio and played home games all over the place. Baton Rouge, San Antonio, you name it. And you're coming back to a facility that had been used by the coast guard and the government as kind of a staging ground for rescue missions and everything.
"You're looking around at a lot of the neighborhoods and there are still boats in living rooms and trucks flipped upside down on top of houses. Some houses just off the foundation and totally gone. You just say, man, what happened here? It looks like a nuclear bomb went off. For me, I looked at that as an opportunity. An opportunity to be part of the rebuilding process. How many people get that opportunity in their life to be a part of something like that?
"Also just from the standpoint of the way I was treated by the organization here, from Mr. Benson, our owner, to Mickey Loomis, our GM, to Sean Payton and the entire coaching staff and everybody here. They had as much confidence in me returning from my shoulder injury that year than ‑‑ they had as much confidence in me as I had in myself. And that meant a lot to me. Everybody else was, I think, counting me out a little bit. Miami had said at one point that I had a 25% chance of coming back to play. Whereas the guys here, they looked me dead in the eye and said you're the guy to lead this team. You're the guy to lead us to a championship. We believe in you as much as you believe in yourself and that meant a lot."
Can you talk about this challenge of your offensive line and your offense will have against the defense?
"These guys have one of the best defensive fronts if not the best in the league. They have some elite pass rushers. They've been able to get after the quarterback. Been very disruptive in the run game as well, just all around. It really starts up front, and the rest of the guys, the linebackers and DB's compliment them very well. They fly around. They make a lot of tackles. They've been able to get a lot of balls out, fumbles, balls on the ground. They just do a good job. You can tell they're well‑coached."
Can you talk about the difference of watching Brett Favre as a high school quarterback and college quarterback and now as a contemporary. Can you talk about the difference growing up watching this had guy now that you're kind of doing the same job as him?
"I think his style and the way he plays the game hasn't changed. I mean he looks like he's just having fun. I mean, that's the way the game should be played. Ever since his early days at Southern Miss all the way until now, that's what we've all admired about watching him. He looks like a kid out there having fun, but obviously has been very, very effective and productive. He's one of the best of all time."
When Dan Marino used to play against the Bills and Bruce Smith, he used to tell his offensive linemen that whatever they did not to piss off Bruce Smith. Do you sort of tell your own guys don't piss off Jared Allen?
"Well, I mean I think that it's football, obviously, so both sides are going to be getting after each other. But yeah, you don't want to give him any more motivation than he already has."
Your offensive line has risen to the challenge all season. Can you talk about their development?
"They've been awesome. I feel like we've got one of the best O‑lines, if not the best O‑line in the league. They've been together for a while now, I guess with the exception of Jermon Bushrod, our left tackle. This was his first year as a starter, but he's continued to develop and get better each year.
I've never been around a more tight-knit group. Not only are they spending time together here at the facility and watching film and doing all those things to prepare for games, but they spend a lot of time with each outside of football and outside of this facility. Doing the O‑line dinner every week, and they do a lot of charitable things together. They have their own charity, the offensive line. How many other teams have that? I think that speaks to their character and their fellowship, and just kind of the way that they ‑‑ the camaraderie between them all. They really take a lot of pride in keeping me clean and doing the job and being physical, being nasty. That's why I love them."
You mentioned Jermon as being one of the players with less experience. He is almost specifically matched up with Jared Allen. How do you see that matchup?
"Sure. That's going to be a huge challenge for him. But I think he's a guy who has gotten better every week, and he seems to have always stepped up to the challenge. So I look forward to that matchup."
New Orleans Saints LB Jonathan Vilma
Can you talk about what Darren Sharper has been able to add to your defense this year?
"Darren Sharper has been the mainstay in our secondary. He started off real hot early in the season. And got hurt a little bit in the middle of the season, and he's right back to where he left off. It's great to have him.
I remember sitting down with him and Gregg Williams and Mickey Loomis. We went to Emeril's to go eat. We were trying to basically recruit him to get him here. It was great. I told him he would be a perfect fit for us. He was the guy we needed to help lead our secondary and get us to this spot right now."
What is it from the leadership standpoint and his knowledge of the game that helps so much?
"It's the veteran experience he has. He's been in the league 12, 13 years. He's made a ton of plays. I think he's the active leader in interceptions. When you have a guy like that, that means he knows what he's doing. He understands the games. He understands the concepts. He knows how to read the quarterback and make a play on the ball. So to have a guy like that, especially with the resurgence he had this year, it definitely wasn't a dropoff. If you compare his stats this year to any time or any point in his career."
Can you talk about how important it's been and what a difference it's made to have Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter and just your whole team's impact being healthy on the field?
"That has made a huge difference for us. You can see points in our season where at times we were playing lights out defense. Other times we're giving up the big play, giving up some points. We come back, we have everyone healthy to play the divisional game, and we're playing lights out defense again.
"That's a testament to the guys when they come back. They come back ready to go. There is no rust. There is no, Oh, my bad here, there. They go out there and play and perform well."
Sean said that having a guy like Sharper might not help coaches prepare that much. But in the locker room, him having played with Minnesota and with Brett in Green Bay, do you see something tangible as a veteran player that he can help?
"Yeah, he's definitely the guy we're going to go to to try to get the tips on their offense. I know that Drew's going to talk about the defense, and get anything that we can, the little edge. At this point we have two very good teams that are going to play each other, and whatever little edge you can get to help you win, that can make the difference in the game."
How important is it having all of your defensive backs healthy? How important will that be in stopping Adrian Peterson?
"It's going to be important when we try to put eight in the box. With an offense like Minnesota's they're very balanced in the running game and passing game. You can't sit back two deep or three deep. You're going to have to mix it up, disguise a few things. They're good enough to be able to disguise and get back into their spots and lock their guys down if we have to have them do that."
There was a play, the second touchdown pass for Rice by Favre where he gives the ball fake to the defensive lineman. The defensive lineman goes for it. Favre ducks under him. Seems like an opportunity where you just say hit the quarterback no matter what. Don't go for the ball fake and they've got a chance to get him on the ground. Is there a rule of thumb that you guys follow like that when going after a quarterback?
"Yeah, that is the rule of thumb. Don't jump when the quarterback is trying to pump you. It's easier said than done. You can say that in practice, say it when you're in the game. And you've got the adrenaline going and you're trying to make the big play. You see him pump and you try to bat the ball down. It's almost a conscious thing where you have to consciously tell yourself not to leave your feet. Stay on the ground. Try to get him on the ground and worry about the ball."
When you're playing against a quarterback like that and he does things that maybe break the rules of quarterback where he throws the ball against his body or whatever, how does that change things for defensive guys?
"The only thing it changes is understanding that the play is never over. He's not going to be a guy to just go down or suffice and take the sack. He's going to try to get rid of it, get to one of his receivers. He's very accurate when he's throwing off balance, when he's throwing on the run and throwing across his body. For a guy like that, the play's never over."
Much has been made of changing the culture on defense here. What was the culture prior to Gregg Williams' arrival? And what did he do to change the culture? What does it mean when he says that?
"Prior to Gregg's arrival, I was here under Gary (Gibbs) for one year. I couldn't really tell you the culture because I was only here for a year. Now we have Gregg. What I say is that we changed some of the personnel, so we've got a new defensive coordinator. The glaring stat would be the turnovers. That is the biggest thing right now and that's what we preach."
But he speaks about an attitude change. What was the attitude under Gary last year? And how has the attitude changed this year?
"I wouldn't say the attitude has changed where now all of a sudden we're just bigger, meaner, tougher guys. That is not the attitude that's changed. I think the way we go about practice, the way we focus on the details, I think that's changed. I think that's more to a man than to Gregg or Gary comparing the two. I think it's more to a man or a player deciding to focus on the details and understanding that the details are what are going to get us past 8‑8 each year. It's going to get us to this level, this point of the season."
You mentioned recruiting Sharper. And Drew was talking earlier about him being recruited here. So many of you guys started out in other places. What is it about this place that makes you want to be here? Is it the organization, the community, little of both?
"It's a little bit of both. It's the organization of course. We have a saying that it starts from the top. You have a guy like Tom Benson who is a great owner. He understands football, and he understands that he's not the football guy. He brings in guys like Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton who are football guys. They understand the game and the type of players that you need to get here and win games. So that's big to have. To have an organization like that where from top to bottom it's topnotch. Top‑notch coaching, top‑notch guys, top‑notch players.
For a guy like myself who was on the outside looking in a couple years ago, I'm looking at guys like Drew Brees. He goes out there and does nothing but make plays out there. It's rare to find quarterbacks like that around the league. For myself, this is the situation I wanted to be in."
What kind of tips can you get from Sharper on Favre that you can't see on film? You say guys are going to go to him. What is an example of what you might ask him?
"Honestly, I don't know if I want to tell you anything (laughing). I'll be honest. It's the game inside the game. That's what you call it. You have the X's and O's, and the play calls and the call that's Gregg is going to call and Sean's going to call. You have the game within the game. When you're on the field, not too many people will notice besides the players."
New Orleans Saints Safety Darren Sharper
Being a veteran who has played for Green Bay, with Brett Favre, and Minnesota, do your teammates come up to you for pointers?
"They don't come to me, I give them the information that I have - any extra tidbits, tendencies, anything that I know. I always want to help any of our guys out on defense, offense and special teams."
You know this scenario from going through it before from Green Bay to Minnesota, don't you?
"Yeah, I've been through this before, as they say. Not in a game this big, but I've been through this before."
Did you think it would be a possibility to play in the NFC Championship Game against the team you left?
"Yeah, I thought we'd have a chance to face them because I knew they had a good team and I knew we had a good team, also. So if we played well and they did - at the beginning of the season you could see they were on a roll winning games - you could sort of say destiny. Things were adding up and we looked like we were on a collision course. When they got the second seed and we were the first seed, you could definitely see this thing materializing and us having to see them in the playoffs."
How much extra motivation do you have?
"The motivation is being the NFC Championship Game. That's all the motivation you need."
"Well, whenever you face your old [teammates], it's just like going in the back yard. You're playing against someone that you know or are familiar with, it is always going to be extra motivation because you want to beat them because you know the guy that is right across from you. That will be the extra motivation right there."
How did Brett Favre go the whole season throwing only seven interceptions?
"They're smarter with the football. I think the cast that he has around him allows him to be more careful with the football. The style of offense that they run, his reads are pretty much defined for him and it really goes back to him not making too many errant throws. And at times, he throws the ball so hard that a lot [defenders] haven't caught the chances they have to make plays on them. He's just playing well right now. All of his statistical categories are the best of his career so it's more of him than anything else for the reason he hasn't turned the ball over."
Do you know that Visanthe Shiancoe is practicing the "Sharper Shake?"
"He's been practicing that for a while, but I don't think his rhythm is good enough to do that dance. You have to have a lot of rhythm. But we're going to try to keep him from the end zone so we don't have to worry about that."
What's most important to keep in mind when playing Brett Favre?
"That he can make any throw from every position on the football field. He's a guy that can still make plays with his feet. He will trust his receivers and put the ball up in areas that a lot of quarterbacks might not. I think that's the main thing, to know that the play is always alive when he has the ball."
Are there any Vikings he looks forward to seeing?
"I'm looking forward to seeing all of them. I had a good time there - a lot of friends that I still talk to and will always talk to once I stop playing. A lot of good relationships there so I am looking forward to seeing a lot of the guys."
What went through your mind when you found out you would be playing the Vikings?
"First, I was excited to be playing in the Championship Game - the game that is the next step in getting to our goal of reaching the Super Bowl. Once I found out it was Minnesota, it adds a little bit extra to it because of the time spent there, the relationships that I spoke of before with the guys and also the fans there. That made it more special for me, but just the fact that it's the Championship Game, the game that gets you into the big show was big enough."
Which dome is louder, the Superdome or the Metrodome?
"It's depends if you're up or if you're losing. I think both domes are tough to play in. It would be tough to say because when I was in Minnesota I was deaf at the end of the game and then here I am still a little hard of hearing at the end of the game."
Where does Adrian Peterson rank among NFL running backs?
"He's the top guy if you ask me. The best running back. He's the best running back in the league because of all the things that he can do. Whatever you want a running back to be, you want a running back to have size, you want him to have speed, elusiveness - tough - he has all of those attributes."
If all the guys in the secondary are asking you about Minnesota's receivers, are the guys up front asking you about Peterson?
"We're asking each other about everyone because all of us will pretty much run into all of those players."
Was there any part of you that wanted to stay in Minnesota?
"When you come to being a free agent, you just want a chance to be able to continue to play, weather is was staying in Minnesota or going on to a different city to continue to play, you just want to continue to play football. That was my attitude weather it was in Minnesota or somewhere else."
Was it assumed that you were going to leave Minnesota at the end of last year?
"I started with Tyrell [Johnson] for half the season and he was drafted as a second-round pick. You can see the business side of it that you had a guy that you paid, Madieu Williams, who before that was coming in to be a starter with me. I was a guy who was a free agent so of course you are going to let the rookie play, who played well when he played with me last year, so it was kind of an easy transition."
Were there any discussions of him re-signing with Minnesota?
"We talked, we talked, but that was an easy transition for them though."
What was the role you have had in changing the culture of this defense?
"I think the main thing when people talk about changing the culture of our defense was just becoming a playmaking defense - something I've done in the past, something I kind of brought here. Our turnover numbers have increased. I think that is something I've carried with me throughout my career with whatever defense I've been a part of. Just having the ability to cause turnovers and make big plays, I think that was the main culture that I added to this defense."
What do you think of your role as the elder statesman on the defense?
"I think that is the main thing, a guy they have watched play for a long time, the younger guys. Having the experience factor, I think I'm a person they can look up to, can learn from, try to pick my brain, watch how I go about my day-in and day-out activities, how I prepare myself and just being a leader in that area. I am not going to be a guy that is going to be too much of a vocal, boisterous type of leader, but I am going to say things when deem necessary. I think that's the main thing that you see of guys that have been in the league for a long time, guys that are younger than them you just look and see how they have been able to last that long in the league."
Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress
Okay, obviously (New Orleans) is a good football team, explosive on the offensive side. You have to be able to match that. They can put up points. Defensively, a little familiarity with Gregg Williams and that defense; most recently, Jacksonville last year and two years ago he was with the Redskins when they came in with Joe Gibbs. And, then the years (with Williams) in the NFC East. But, it's a multiple defense, one that we've got to be ready (for). They are an attacking-type of defense, and you have to be ready for a myriad of different looks. Obviously, a great home field advantage situation. Looking forward to it, though.
Q: A lot of players in the NFL have played with each other. Any advantage Darren Sharper has against Brett Favre, having played with and against him?
A: You probably have to ask Brett that and Sharper that. Sometimes it's a you-know-that-he-knows-that-you-know-that-he-knows-type of deal that goes back and forth, so it will be a chess game, I'm sure, between the two of them.
Q: Brett Favre has played in four of these championship games, has been through the pressure. How much of an advantage is that, especially in dealing with it?
A: You go back to the pressure thing. That (pressure) that you feel and that you apply, and I think he'll fall in the application type of area. He's got a good way about him with our guys, he's able to calm things down, whether it's practice or whether it's any heightened anxiousness, that type of thing. He does a great job with it himself, and it kind of spreads to others.
Q: What does it mean to you that the Wilf ownership extended your contract during the season?
A: Obviously, it's a show of faith. But, I think the Wilf ownership, the best thing they've done, they've empowered all of us to do our jobs. They ask questions, you give answers, they don't get in your way, they hire you to be an expert in your area, and they appreciate that. I appreciate the fact that they're supportive, whether it's with my contract or acquiring players or upgrades to the facility or how we travel or whatever it is. They are, in my mind, some of the better owners in the National Football League.
Q: With what you've accomplished this year, does any of this make you feel validated?
A: You know, you don't want to get into if I had to be validated as a coach by wins and losses. Like I've said, I'd be in the fetal position a lot of the time by my locker. You know what you know. You do the best that you possibly can. We've got good players, good coaches, good ownership, and I'm not worried about getting validated. You have a vision, you sell your vision, and the success thing is never final. It's what have you done for me lately, including this week.
Q: What will be the most challenging aspect of running your offense in an environment like New Orleans has?
A: It's always the communication. You want to be able to communicate seamlessly, whether it's coach to quarterback. I've been in an NFC Championship at the Edward Jones Dome (with Philadelphia), where I had to hand signal the last three plays to Donovan McNabb in a game where I couldn't hear Andy Reid talking in my ear. Donovan couldn't hear me. Communication; that's the significant part of the challenge. None of those 70,000 people will come on the field and have anything to do with the win or the loss. It's like the (Roman) Coliseum. It will be the people in-between the lines.
Q: What have you done to prepare for the noise?
A: We've practiced with noise piped in here. I'm not sure if I, or our players, have to sign a waiver in terms of any future hearing loss based on how we're going to prepare today. You kind of ramp up to it, and do the communicating part today.
Q: Can you comment on the job Karl Dunbar has done with the defensive line, and talk about your front four?
A: Karl is a tremendous teacher. When I turn on his tape from LSU and the Chicago Bears, and you turn on a drill tape, all you want to ever do as a coach is, you look at the drill, you see those guys doing what he's drilling on tape. Whether it's keeping outside arm and leg free, whether it's how they're rushing the passer or twist games, whether it's how they're playing a double team, you really see the application of what he's doing show up on tape. I think that's probably the best thing that you see. He does a good job. Those guys don't need motivation, but he's a good teacher. Particularly in this day and age, where guys don't stay with you forever, you've got to be able to teach and explain and then get it in play on the field. You can be a great teacher, but everybody learns differently. So, I see him being able to message to his guys and see it on tape.
Q: What do you think has made Darren Sharper so effective this year as far as interceptions, versus a couple of years in this scheme where he didn't have quite the numbers?
A: They're utilizing him just a little bit differently. He plays a good bit in the deep hole. He's always had "A" instincts. But, I just see him reading things. He takes some chances, he's a risk-taker at times. He's been able to capitalize, obviously, with his numbers in terms of interceptions. Obviously, there's a time he played quarterback, so he's able to be nifty enough and have people block for him to have a scoring mentality. That's what you see.
Q: Conventional wisdom suggests that you don't want to get in a shootout with that team on their home field. But, with the way your defense played last week, do you think time of possession is going to be that important?
A: You know, it's interesting. I saw some statistics, and our game last week would be another example. A couple of statistics that always end up lying if you go back through this thing are penalties and time of possession. They just don't tell the whole story. So, to hang on those two; would you like to be able to posses the ball? You would, and score at the end. Do you want to get in a shootout? That's never your intention, no.
Q: Can you evaluate Kevin Williams and Pat Williams this year? Have they been as good as they've ever been?
A: Well, they've done a good job of messing up the run, I know that. I think they do a good job of playing off each other in their pass rush games and that type of thing. Really, all those guys, maybe not to the same extent as the offensive line, all those guys have to play together as one. They have to play off of each other. It's not always just straight rush stuff that they're doing, it's ends coming inside, tackles slipping outside, being able to draw blocks and keep them while somebody else is doing the light work while you're doing the heavy work. They're both selfless guys and they're great competitors.
Q: The running game didn't produce a lot of yards against Dallas, but it seemed like it was effective anyway. You were very determined to use it to your benefit. How much will that have to be the mindset again this week?
A: I have to concur with you. I do believe it was effective. I just hope that we can have it effective, if not for whatever the numbers turn out being, but being able to do what we want to do with it. But, I think it's a mistake again to put us in any one box and say, "Well, this is the way you have to win the game." Because I don't know how they're going to deploy and we don't want to put a round peg in a square hole, whether you've got to throw it, run it, by any means necessary.
Q: When you guys drafted Sidney Rice, he was only 21 years old. Can you talk about what his maturity level was like then and now?
A: Yeah. I mean, he should have been in a sociology class in his senior year. He was like a Great Dane, all arms and legs, and all over everywhere. But, I think he's gained some physical strength. I think, mentally, he's fought through a lot of adversity there, and I think he's grown leaps and bounds. What is he, 23 now? Getting old, boy (laughter).
Q: How is your approach to Reggie Bush different this year?
A: Well, I just think that all of us our mindful of where he is and what he's doing. At times, I guess, that can be a good thing. At times he's a decoy. At times they're attempting to get the ball to him, whether it's as a runner, a reverse runner, an inside runner, a receiver with a mismatch. But, you better be mindful of where it is he's at.
Vikings Quarterback Brett Favre
Q: As far as your Championship Game experience goes, will that help you and others - not only in the game, but while preparing?
A: Well, I hope the little experience I have in these games - which is more than most - will help some. But, that's not to say I don't get nervous and stressed and all those things as well. I think, for me, as far as my leadership goes, of course practice and things like that, it's what you always do. But, I try to keep not only myself but the other guys calm and relaxed. It's OK to be excited, but especially in an environment like we're going to face and like Tony (Romo) faced coming here last week, to be able to focus - and I've played them at home, and I've played them away - these games, they're tough anyway, but they're really tough on the road, because of the noise. Not only are you playing the Saints, but you're playing the fans, and all of those things work against you. I'll emphasize that during the week. We'll practice as much like a game as possible with those elements, but there's no substitute for the game itself. So, really, what I will try to do is just keep it relaxed. But, we have to focus. Not that playing at home you should focus less, but you have to hear it the whole play. Little subtle nuances and things that are involved in plays, personnel groupings, just things that maybe you take for granted at home. Or, in a game that, say the first game of the year you played Cleveland and said, "We've got a bunch more to play." So, if we make a mistake, there's always that mentality that, "Well, there's always next week." Well, that's not the case now. You win, you go on. You lose, you're done. Every play has to count, you have to focus extra. That's really, in a nutshell, what I'll address with the guys.
Q: You spent a long time as a teammate of Darren Sharper. How much do you think he might try to bait you, and how much do you use your knowledge of his instincts to your advantage?
A: I played with Darren numerous years, and he's one of those guys that is very instinctive. As far as talent is concerned, he actually looks - I think this is 12th or 13th year, he still has a ways to go to catch me. But, I find myself sometimes watching film, like of this past week's game, just going, "Man, I moved around pretty good." Sometimes I surprise myself. I see Darren and, I mean, he looks as good physically as he's ever looked. His instincts, those are the things you can't coach. He makes a lot of plays. The thought is, from people when you play a guy like Sharp, is that you can trick him and get big plays. In all honesty, you really don't see that this year. Part of it is their rush and things like that, there's not a whole lot of time to throw. There've been a couple opportunities where people have had some shots, but he's playing very sound. That's not to say that we can't make plays, but I think all the factors have to be in line. You have to protect well, you have to have the right play call, formation things, all that stuff has to be (in line), because he can decipher plays pretty quickly. I really feel like, when you look at (Saints LB Jonathan) Vilma, he's the same way. He can kind of break it down pretty quickly. He sees a read out of plays and things like that. So, what I, or we, can do - I think there's opportunities, but I think it's easier said than done. We have to first play our game and be, kind of like the other day, be sound. If big plays come, great - when you have an opportunity. We have to do all the things right to begin with.
Q: The last time you were in the Super Bowl, John Elway was the opposing quarterback. Elway's been retired 11 years now. Was the fact of going out on top or not, was that a big problem that didn't sit well with you as you tried to walk away?
A: I came back for the opportunity and hopes of getting back to the Super Bowl, no doubt about it. People may think that I'm pulling their leg, but I really don't feel like there's anything left to prove. The thing with playing 19 years is, like you're saying, Elway being retired for so long, people actually forget that I actually had success, had been in a Super Bowl. I have to remind them of that sometimes: "Hey, you know I've played in the Super Bowl." And, they say, "Really?" (Laughter) I guess I've played so long that I kind of have to re-justify that I was actually a pretty good player at one time. I've played in a big game before. Actually was fortunate enough to win one. Unfortunately we lost one, but I don't know of too many guys left in this league that were in those games. Last year, I know that I had an injury. As I've said, it's easy to say I didn't play as well because of that injury. I think, to a certain degree, that may be true. But, I just, more than anything, didn't play as well as I could have down the stretch. The injury doesn't help, but I really didn't feel like I had to redeem myself. I know that's not a good way to go out, but after I had the surgery and felt a little bit better, I don't think there was ever a time in my mind where I didn't think about, "Boy, that would be nice to win the Super Bowl." Every guy wants to be a part of the Super Bowl. As you get older, you appreciate it more. Especially since you've been there, you know how difficult it is to get back. I don't care how good you are. I keep using Pittsburgh as an example, and the Giants a couple of years ago. You never know. Seize the moment. I'm just thankful for this opportunity. That was a big part of coming back, but not the most important.
Q: How many times have you faced a Gregg Williams defense, and what makes it so difficult to go against?
A: I'm not sure how many times I've faced Gregg, but I'm assuming a fair amount. I think with his defenses, he gives you a lot of looks. For him, and for those guys in that scheme, it probably is simpler than it may seem to us, whoever it is going against him. For example, "Cover 2" is "Cover 2." How they get to it may be different each week. As he's telling his guys, "It's still Cover 2. This week, Sharp (Darren Sharper), you may be the corner. Next week, you're obviously the safety. How we roll to it." They get pressure on you with, most of the time, five guys and sometimes four. But, it's who comes. So, you go in with a lot of protections, it can be an issue, as it's an issue regardless. But, they try to attack you that way. Overload one way, come back the next time and overload the other. Just when you think you're going to slide into it, now they overload away from the slide. They use those types of blitzes and pressures to help in the run game as well. Slanting lines and things like that. It's one of those when you look at the defense at the line of scrimmage or as you look at it film, you go, "That's (Cover) 2, 43 front," but at the snap, it's totally different. You just can't say, "That's what it is," and then go on. The tendency part of it doesn't always hold up, because this league is big on tendencies. He kind of breaks those. It's kind of a risk-reward type of defense, and you see that it's made a huge difference for those guys.
Vikings Defensive End Jared Allen
Q: Drew Brees is obviously a hard guy to sack. How do you kind of measure success against him with the pass rush when you don't actually get to him and make a sack?
A: You just have to plug away. You know, bat downs are as good as sacks. If you can get him off his spot, forcing incomplete passes, pressure (him). A lot of it's going to be working with our back ends. Our back ends are going to have to do some good things to hold them up as they get him to hold the ball and check down to his second option. He gets that ball out so quick that it's tough to get to him, but you just got to keep plugging away. Obviously if you win the game, you're successful. If you don't, you're not.
Q: Describe the confidence that this team has?
A: I'd say right now our confidence is high, but we know it's a one-game season. I mean, we're confident every game. You go into every game wanting to win. You go into every game expecting to win and so it's one of those things where confidence is only as high as your next good play. You have to keep a certain level of confidence and swagger throughout the whole game in order to win.
Q: How much does it help to have Brett Favre as your quarterback in this game? He's been to four championship games before so he knows how the system works, how things work. How much does that help just as far as that confidence goes?
A: I mean it's great. I mean he's obviously been around a lot of situations so that always helps to have an experienced guy under the center being able to make the plays in the situations where you know he's not going to get rattled and you can see the past of how he's handled those situations. So for that I mean that's awesome, but you know there's going to be a lot of hype and a lot of extras going on, but you really have to narrow your vision and have tunnel vision just on the game. At the end of the day, you're still playing on the same field that we play on all year. You just got to go out there and execute and play by play by play continue to execute, and at the end of the day, let the chips fall where they may.
Q: Could you talk about the job Karl Dunbar's done with the defensive line?
A: This is my second year with him, but he does a great job of letting us work. And he understands that everybody is different, so he doesn't coach everybody the same. We have fundamentals that we have do every single day that we're going to live and die with. After that it's kind of each player has a different skill set, so he just finds ways of highlighting them.
Q: Coach said because he's such a great teacher.
A: Yeah, I mean like I said, it's not so much of what's installed. It's how he allows us to work and we know the basics that we've got to get done every day and then he knows, like I said, our strengths and weaknesses. So we know what to work on, what not to work on. He's never going to ask me to do something I can't do. That's probably the best way to put it. He's never going to ask me to become a Dwight Freeney and spin every down because that's not what I do. So he's going to let me do what I do and we're going to work around our strengths rather than try to create something different.
Q: Did anything about Ray Edwards' performance on Sunday surprise you?
A: No, I mean I've said all year that we're a better team when Ray plays like that. When Ray can take advantage of one-on-one blocks and get to the quarterback like that and we were swarming them all around. It was a great game in total but like I said, when he plays like that, it helps us all across the board because now you've got three, four guys that are capable of making plays at any time and it's tough for an offense to decide who they want to block.
Q: What does humor do for you guys?
A: If we couldn't have fun, we'd be doing something else. No, we just have fun. It's really what we do around here. You know we don't take too much too seriously. Obviously we take the game serious but we don't let our heads get big with "this is the next great team" or "this is this." We come into work and we were all laughing just earlier no matter what situation this is, it still sucks to be here on Wednesday (laughing). On Wednesday your body hurts, but Sunday's the greatest. We laugh and joke and have a good time and that's just what we do around here. So if we couldn't do that, we probably wouldn't be very good.
Q: Sometimes it's kind of hard to measure the success of defensive tackles using stats. What do Kevin and Pat Williams do for your line and you in particular?
A: They're huge. They eat double teams. I mean we watched film today and there's a lot of weight that was coming down on those guys, but I mean they do a great job of holding down the middle and you know we knew going into the Dallas game that we had to get great pressure up the middle because (Cowboys quarterback Tony) Romo likes to step up. It's going to be the same this week. If Brees can hit his back foot and hop up into the pocket and see the whole field, he's dangerous. If we can close that pocket around him and make him throw off his back foot and make him have to throw over us, then it's going to be a different game. So those two in the middle make it extremely important for us. We can come around the edge all we want but if the quarterback's not there, we're just chasing ghosts.
Q: What does defensive end Brian Robison bring in terms of skill?
A: Brian's got great skill. He's a young player. He's continuing to grow and you see it in the games. You see he's got the versatility to go play down in the D tackle position, play at the defensive end position and again, he's a little different than Ray, but I mean he has the experience that we can count on him. He's been in this situation before, so we can count on him to do the job.
Q: Can you talk about your matchup with Saints tackle Jermon Bushrod?
A: Yeah I haven't even really looked at it that much. I'll just start watching film today, doing a lot of the run cut ups right now and just kind of their first-and-10 situations, but I'll get to breaking down film on that at the end of the week, but the biggest thing with any team we face is the same. We have to be able to force them into third-and-long situations, second-and-long situations to where we can get the one-on-one matchups that we want. If it's second-and-short or the game is close and they can max protect, if they're blocking seven against our four, it's going to be tough to get there. If we can get them into where they've got to release people and we can get the matchups we want, we should be successful.
Q: Are you expecting to see a lot of double teams? You normally do, don't you?
A: Yeah, you know we see it all the time, so I don't go into any game expecting much. I just prepare the same way I have to prepare. I break down my players and concentrate on what I have to do and let the game take care of itself.
Q: Does Drew Brees get the ball out as quick as Tony Romo?
A: Absolutely. Romo does it quick. I mean you saw that at the beginning of (last week's) game, a lot of check downs from Romo, a lot of three step, getting it out quick (passes), but we got that turnover. When you get a lead on them, you can force them to get out, but Brees, yeah he gets the ball out probably the fastest, other than Peyton Manning, that I've seen.
Q: Do you laud yourself after thinking about the position you're in after all these years?
A: Oh absolutely. You don't get one game from the big show often, but you know you've got to keep it in perspective. I'm not looking forward into that. I mean you can't treat this as something bigger than what it really is either. It's a huge game but this is fun. This is what we play for, the ability to have a chance to go to the Super Bowl and we're one game away, but the Saints are sitting there saying the same thing. So we're not going to fool ourselves by saying we're almost there. No, you've got to go to work and have the same mindset that you're going into any game, except you know that if you lose this one, you're sitting at home on the couch, watching the final game.
Q: Can the Superdome really make that big of a difference?
A: I don't know; we're used to playing in a dome, but as a defensive player, it's great having all that noise (for) false starts, with stuff like that. I think we have an experience playing down there. We're used to playing in a dome. We're used to playing with loud noises so I think it's kind of a blessing in disguise. It's going to force us to focus in and really be on our P's and Q's and not have a chance to get overconfident. You know, we're playing at home. We haven't lost at home yet. We struggled a little bit late in the year on the road, so it's going to be crucial for us to really lock it in this week and get down to business.
Vikings Running Back Adrian Peterson
Q: How much does it help to have Brett Favre at quarterback for this game since he's been here before and just the calming presences he brings?
A: It's going to be good. I'm pretty sure he plays that way any game. He's been around for so long (and) he's been doing it so long, but it's definitely going to be good to have him here. He understands having played in an NFC Championship game before. So it's going to be good.
Q: Will the fake crowd noise that you guys practice with help you handle the environment in the Superdome come game time?
A: It will help. Playing there (last year) it was definitely the loudest stadium I've played in. So it's going to be very crucial for us to be sound with our protections and communicating out there.
Q: Why do you think the Saints had so much success against you personally a year ago?
A: I look at that game (last year); those guys did a great job. I don't take anything away from those guys, but just studying the film it was really a lot that I did. I really wasn't patient in that game. I missed a couple of big runs. We're playing a different team and we're both trying to get to that championship game. It's going to be critical for me to make sure I take advantage of those opportunities when they present themselves this time, this go-round.
Q: How close do you feel you were to breaking a big run against Dallas? And how crucial do you think it was that you didn't abandon the run?
A: It was important just to establish the run game. It was so close (to breaking one). One block here or taking a better angle here, it could have been out the gate. Those are some of things that we are going to look to correct and make sure we take advantage of those opportunities.
Q: Was that on you or was it on the line? What came close but didn't work?
A: In practice you design every play to score, but when you are out there sometimes the play doesn't go exactly how you practiced it. You might have a guy slip down. It's football. Those guys on the other side get paid too, so you might not win every matchup. So on one play it might be a guy getting beat, or it might be me not being patient and missing the hole. That's what I'm talking about. It's those things that you've got to correct and make sure you take advantage of those opportunities in a big game like this.
Q: It's been a couple of months since you've had a 100-yard game. Is that wearing on your confidence at all?
A: Not at all; I am very confident. As a running back unit we have been contributing to this offense in the run game and the pass game and most importantly we've been winning, putting ourselves in the position to win an NFC Championship and head to the Super Bowl. So whatever I can do to contribute to the offense, that's what I'm doing, putting it all in.
Q: Are you surprised that people get caught up with your stats? Isn't it just about winning the game?
A: Yeah, ultimately that is what it is all about. I have been saying all year, and I said the first two years, I will take 50 yards a game if we are playing for that championship game. That is what matters the most, accomplishing that team goal, holding that trophy up at the end of the season. Everything else with the individual goals you can put that to the side.
Q: How weird is it that you are one game away from the Super Bowl with Brett Favre as your quarterback?
A: I wouldn't say weird at all. Everything is starting to become a reality and it's just something that we envisioned a long time ago. In order to accomplish something you have to envision it. As a team, offensively as a group, that was the ultimate goal and we are one step closer to accomplishing that goal. We know the importance of the game and we're going to push it all in and go get it.
Q: How has Phil Loadholt come along in his rookie season? Do you ever talk to him in the huddle when you know you are going to run behind him?
A: He has come along well. Each week he has improved and continued to learn. If it's a run play or a pass play we maybe give a little eye signal or what not, especially during run plays. I know he is going to handle his job for whatever play is called for me to do or him to do. We just got to make sure we take care of our job.
Q: Does it affect your timing when you have different guys in the backfield with you?
A: It's all about being patient. When you got guys in front of you, inside zone plays, it's all about being patient with the timing and setting up blocks. Those are the things that I have been focusing on all year, being more patient, coming out of my stance, letting things develop, slow through and fast when I get out to that second level or third level. It is something that I am definitely accustomed to now.
Q: How does Brett help keep you relaxed?
A: Just really being himself. He might crack a joke from time-to-time. He's really just being himself. We have a pretty good relationship and when he's out there on the field he's like a kid playing the game. That alone keeps everyone calm and keeps your poise during the game.