Hey all … I’ll be talking all things Super Bowl, live from Phoenix tonight on CN8’s “Out of Bounds.” In Boston, it’ll be on Thursday at 11 p.m. It’ll also be available via On Demand as well.
Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune filed this pool report following the Patriots’ practice Thursday:
Quarterback Tom Brady’s ankle injury continued to look like a non-factor in practice Thursday. Brady moved well, threw well and did not appear to limp. His ankle was not taped over his shoe.
Receiver Jabar Gaffney’s participation in practice was limited because of a shoulder injury.
After an inconsistent showing Wednesday, the Patriots had a crisp practice on a sunny day at Sun Devil Stadium Thursday.
The Patriots don’t always wear pads on Thursdays, but they did in preparation for Super Bowl XLII.
Coach Bill Belichick said his team practiced better. “Another day always helps,” he said. “These guys care. They want to practice well. When we make mistakes we’ve got to correct them. They want to get it right the next time.”
Asked where the team was in terms of overall preparation, Belichick said, “We’re pretty close. We’ll review some stuff tomorrow. There won’t be hardly anything new. Just reviewing situations. We’re as ready as we’re going to be. We could spend four weeks preparing for the Giants. But we’ll be ready to go.”
Here’s the latest, just issued by the Patriots:
Limited Participation in Practice:
WR Jabar Gaffney (shoulder)
Full Participation in Practice:
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder)
The Giants have not issued their injury report yet.
Hey everyone … got the chance to bang out a few words in between writing stories and promoting “The Blueprint” on Radio Row to give you some thoughts on the scene here in Phoenix…
•Things on Radio Row are absolutely surreal. I just walked past a table where one of the hosts was interviewing both superagent Drew Rosenhaus and the Burger King mascot in tandem. Every time you turn around, you see a big-time NFL star–I almost got bowled over by Vince Young’s entourage of about 15 guys. (I know–Vince Young has an entourage of 15 guys? Surprised the hell out of me, too.) Jared the Subway Guy wandered up to me wanting to know if I wanted an interview. And Mercury Morris was standing in front of me in line at Starbucks at the media center, but scooted away before I could talk with him. Strange stuff.
•Phoenix is a nice city, probably No. 2 on the list of cities that have hosted Patriots’ Super Bowls. Good people, timely media shuttles, decent weather (for February) and a city that’s pretty easy to navigate. I’m going to check out the stadium tonight as part of a TV obligation with CN8 (airing tonight in Boston at 11 p.m.) I’d put New Orleans an easy No. 1, with Phoenix at No. 2. Houston is probably third, with Jacksonville a distant fourth seed.
•Don’t know how they’re coming across in their interviews, but these Patriots appear remarkably loose and laid-back, given the surroundings. The guy who’s really getting his chance to shine is Donte Stallworth, whose alter ego “Nico” is getting lots of play in the national media. Just talked to some out-of-town radio guys who asked who the best quote was on the team, and I responded with Stallworth. They looked at me like I was nuts, but it’s true.
•Trying to get a sense of how many fans from each team are in town, and right now, it looks like there are a few more Giants fans in Phoenix than Patriots fans. All of the New York fans are supremely confident about the Giants’ chances–would you expect anything less from a New Yorker?
•Here are a few links to stories I’ve done so far for other outlets. Here’s my weekly column for Patriotsdaily.com on the two coaches, Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin, and how they got to Super Bowl XLII. I’ve also done a few other stories that can be seen here at the Metro web site. We’ll have a whole bunch of stories up tomorrow (why do you think I’ve been so delinquent in my blogging duties?) I’ll link to them as soon as they’re posted.
Here’s the official Wednesday injury report, just issued by the NFL:
DID NOT PARTICIPATE IN PRACTICE
Wednesday WR Plaxico Burress (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION IN PRACTICE
Wednesday CB Kevin Dockery (hip flexor), G Rich Seubert (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION IN PRACTICE
Wednesday WR Jabar Gaffney (shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPATION IN PRACTICE
Wednesday QB Tom Brady (right shoulder)
Hey everyone … I’m going to be heading out to Arizona Tuesday afternoon to cover the game for Metro, Patsfans.com and Patriotsdaily.com. (As a result, I’ll be doing a lot more blogging than I did earlier in the week.) In the meantime, here’s a quick link to a story I did for Metro where I spoke with NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger about the Patriots and Super Bowl XLII. Check out the story here.
Here’s the complete transcript of Bill Belichick’s Q&A with the media from earlier this evening in Arizona:
(opening comments) “We just got off the field a little while ago. It’s good to be out in the warm sunshine in Arizona. All of the facilities have been outstanding – the Westin, the people on the Super Bowl Committee that have escorted us around and set up things for us at the hotel, the Arizona State facility and all the places in between have been great. It’s obvious they have put a lot of work into this event and so far it seems to be going really smoothly for us. We appreciate everything everybody has done to accommodate this huge event. It was good to get out on the field and review some of the things we worked on in Foxboro last week and also ingest a couple new things in situations. We still have a lot of time left and a lot of work left to do. The Giants are a very hard team to prepare for and the process is underway. We get a media day event tomorrow and then get back on the field on Wednesday and pick it up from there.”
(on what beating the Giants would mean after his time spent with the organization) “I have a lot of fond memories of my twelve years with the Giants, but right now I am a Patriot. We are going to do everything we can to put our best performance out there Sunday. We know it’s going to take our best job – playing, coaching, everything we’ve got to do. The Giants are a great football team and we’ll have to play our best and that’s what we are preparing for.”
(on any special challenges from playing the Giants a few weeks ago) “It was a very competitive game. We knew when we played the Giants down there they had a very physical football team. We felt they were as good as any team we had played and they have gone on to play even better than that in the playoffs and I clearly feel now they are the best team we have played all year. That’s a huge challenge. There are some familiarities from that game, but at the same time, both teams have made a few changes over the last month. I am sure that we both will be ready to go and it will be a very competitive game on Sunday night.”
(on if he thought in terms of a window opening in 2001 and if he thought it would extend this long) “In 2001 we were just trying to keep building our football team. We didn’t have a very good year in 2000 and brought in a lot of free agents in ’01. We didn’t really have much flexibility in the salary cap. We made the moves we felt were best for our football team at that point in time. I’m sure that’s what every team in the League does. You go into the offseason and look at what your options are, what your opportunities are and try to make the most of them.”
(on the qualities he looks for when hiring coaches) “I think the qualities of coaches and players to some extent depend on what you want them to do. The most important thing is to identify what you are looking for. Once you have a good job description and what you are looking for, then you can look at people and try to figure out if that is what you want or if it isn’t, then you try to find what you are looking for. You can’t always do that. Sometimes you end up not filling the job description exactly and that goes along with the players’ situation as well. I think if you know what you want, you have a better chance of finding it rather than just taking a list of names and picking one out of there.”
(on talking about Tom Brady’s participation in practice Monday) “He was out there along with everybody else.”
(on the passing of Mike Holovak) “I’m obviously sorry to hear that. As an organization, we send out our respects to Mike’s family. I had known Mike for a long time, most recently when he was at Tennessee/Houston. Mike had a strong impact on the game both as a coach and as a general manager and as an executive in the League for a long time. He was well respected and well thought of and one of the guys I looked up to and admired as I was growing up.”
(on if he is familiar with John Wooden’s coaching principles and if he has ever borrowed from them or anyone else’s) “I’ve read basketball books and other sports books and I think there are certainly principles involved in coaching other sports than can be applied to coaching football teams. But most of my background, and I would say, obviously my work has been in coaching football. Although I do think there are some principles that do carry over along with some other motivational things as well, in the end football is its own unique setup so while maybe you can apply some of those things, maybe others are good that don’t apply as directly to our game and our situation. Have I read them? Yes, and I think they are certainly good in the format they are presented, but I don’t know how much they apply directly what we are doing. Some do.”
(on if the number of catches by Randy Moss in the playoffs was the result of how he was played or not capitalizing on opportunities) “What we try to do offensively is to move the football and score points, however we do that. It’s not somebody gets the ball so many times or somebody else touches it so many or that we run so many of these or we pass so many of those. We try to do what we feel is best for the situation and for that game. If we can move the ball and score points and not turn the ball over, then we fell like we have a chance. That’s how we do it.”
(on the importance of Asante Samuel to the pass defense and how important it is to retain him in the future) “Right now we are thinking about the New York Giants and he is a very important member of our football team. He has done a great job for us all year at corner. He has given us a very dependable and consistent level of play and come up with some big plays, both in pass defense and a lot of time when the ball doesn’t even get thrown to his man. Sometimes his good pass coverage enables the pass rush to have a little bit more time to get there when the quarterback has to hold the ball. Asante has had a good year for us, and we are counting on him having another good game on Sunday.”
(on if he would let teams who want to approach any assistants have permission after the game) “I think all those rules are in place League wide on how those situations would be handled and we’ll abide by the League rules.”
(on what Junior Seau has meant on and off the field as an emotional leader) “Junior Seau has been a great addition to our football team. He brings a wealth of experience and energy. He brings outstanding play. He is part of an outstanding group of linebackers and Adalius is another new one to come on to the team along with guys who have been there before like Mike Vrabel, Roosevelt Colvin and Tedy Bruschi. Junior has been great. He has given us a good level of play in both our regular and sub defense. He is a very experienced guy, I’m sure a Hall of Fame player, and it has been an honor to coach him. He is in a very outstanding group along with the rest of our linebacker corps and other members of the team. I think it’s a good situation. He is well respected and well liked on the team and has been a good addition for us.”
(on what went into their pursuit of Wes Welker and if he was surprised he was available) “When the second round tender was on him we were interested in that. In the end we ended up trading with Miami. Wes is an outstanding player. In playing against us, he killed us every time we played them. The only way we could handle him was to double cover him. He also hurt us in the return game. In fact in one game, he even kicked off and kicked field goals against us and killed us there, too when Olindo Mare got hurt in pregame warmups. I think that kind of speaks to Wes’ competitiveness, his versatility and his total skill set. He is a tough player. He is productive on offense catching the ball, running with the ball, and a productive returner and the fact that he went out there and kicked as well as he did in that game says something about him as an athlete and competitor. He has been all that for us. He and Adalius Thomas both won the offseason award at their positions which is very hard to do. There is a lot of competition from the guys on our team for those awards and that just speaks to how hard they work and what kind of achievements they had in the offseason. That led into the regular season and Wes has had an outstanding year for us. All the reasons that we were impressed by him and his competitiveness and what he did against us when he was with the Dolphins, we felt like we saw a lot of that this year when he played for the Patriots.”
(on if 19-0 would make this Super Bowl any different) “Right now we are just thinking about trying to win on Sunday. The Giants are undefeated in the playoffs. We are undefeated in the playoffs and only one team will be left standing on Sunday night and we hope it is us. That’s really all we are thinking about. The rest of it we are not really thinking about. Maybe we’ll think on that at some other point.”
(on the blocking of Wes Welker and the pride the receivers take in their blocking) “I think Wes has done a good job blocking. As a slot receiver, we have asked him to block some of those inside defenders in the running game throughout the season, whether it be the corner that’s lined up on him and sometimes he has to come and crack on the safties and we’ve even had games and plays where he’s come in and cracked on linebackers. He has done a good job on that. I’m not saying he is a road grader, but the most important thing is to effectively come in and block the guys who he is assigned to so that he doesn’t tackle the runner. I think Wes has done a good job of that. Our receivers have done a good job all year of blocking, probably the best that I have had since I have been with the Patriots and that includes Randy Moss, Jabar Gaffney, and Dante Stallworth and Kelley Washington when he has had an opportunity to do it. I think these guys have blocked well all year. It has certainly been an important part of the running game. You can’t have good runs unless the secondary people get blocked or screened off by the receivers or they just come up and make those tackles for four and five yard gains even if your offensive line is doing a good job. It’s been an important part of our running game. It’s been an important part of some of our big runs along with the running of Lawrence Maroney, Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris. We has done a good job on that. He really gets the majority of the blocking assignments when he is lined up in the slot, not that the outside guys don’t do it, but the inside guys probably do a little bit more.”
(on if there is an explanation for the longitivity of Junior Seau given the demands of the linebacker position) “He is a special athlete and a special person. Junior works extremely hard. He is one of those guys who is in the facility at six or six thirty in the morning, watching film, lifting weights. He trains hard. He has been pretty injury free over the course of his career. We have had other players like that such as Vinny Testaverde and Doug Flutie. We have had guys recently who have played a long time and certainly a lot longer than what most players have played at their position. If a guy can do it that long, he obviously has some special physical qualities and durability and certainly the right mentality, attitude and love for the game to keep doing it over an extended period of time. I think there are probably some players that physically may be able to play longer than they actually play, but mentally they are at the end of the road. Then there are other guys who mentally are ready to play longer, but are at the end of the road. Guys like Junior are able to keep it going because they are strong in both areas. He is a great physical specimen, trains hard, loves football and has a lot of energy, as much energy as any player we have on the field.
(on Ty Warren’s emergence as a player) “Ty Warren has improved tremendously as a player during the course of his career here. He came in as a first round draft choice and was a good player as a rookie. Nobody has worked harder than Ty to improve. He has trained hard, he has improved physically and he’s certainly improved his technique. He has worked hard on his pass rush techniques, especially the last couple years. He reads blocks better. He was elected team captain this year, and I think that really speaks to the leadership that he has on the football team and also to the respect that he has. Ty has done nothing but work hard to get better since the day he came to the New England Patriots. He’s an outstanding player to coach. He’s got a lot of talent. He plays the run well. He is a powerful guy and rushes the passer well. He hustles. You can depend on Ty in any situation, sixteen games a year, sixty minutes a game. He continues to improve in every area. I think that’s the thing I appreciate most about Ty – his work ethic, his attitude, and his consistency.”
(on how Antonio Pierce fits into the Giants defensive scheme) “I think he is the quarterback of the defense. Pierce is a very physical player. He’s aggressive and a good tackler. He makes a lot of plays on his instincts and his quickness. He anticipates plays very well. A lot of times he almost looks like he heard the play in the huddle. He is able to get a jump on it and beat the blocking scheme or beat the players that are responsible for him and make the play. He recognizes the routes very quickly. He is around the ball a lot. He is a very productive player, a smart, alert athletic player who you have to know where he is on every play. A lot of times he is one step ahead of the offense on where they are trying to go with the ball.”
Recently, several members of the 1972 Dolphins were part of a conference call with reporters who asked them their thoughts on the 2007 Patriots. Here are some of the unfiltered highlights:
Q. I was hoping to ask this of anyone who is on the conference call, given the parity in the NFL with the salary cap and how maybe the team is a little more equal than when you guys played, just talk about what the Patriots have done up to now and how impressed you guys are.
JIM KIICK: I don’t believe ?? I think there was more parity in our era because all of the teams were decent. Every team had a great quarterback. I think today after the first seven quarterbacks, there’s a big drop off. So I think there was more parity with the teams back then. Right now, it’s New England and it’s possibly Indianapolis, and everybody else is mediocrity.
Q. Does that speak to the parity or does that speak to how good Indianapolis and New England are?
JIM KIICK: No, I think it’s a combination of both. I think they are excellent football teams, yes, but I think the caliber of the other ones, like I said, not only are they mediocre; some are even very poor, like, unfortunately, the Dolphins.
Q. Do you think in the salary cap era that that adds something to what they have accomplished?
DICK ANDERSON: I definitely think it does. It just shows you how important the general manager is and the personnel director, as well as the coaches. The thing I am impressed with with New England is that their coaches are just like Bill Arnsbarger was. Our goal was not to ever make a mental error, and this is the only team in the NFL today, I think, that just doesn’t make errors. They are so very, very well coached.
Q. Dick, from a passing game standpoint, Brady and that receiving corps, how would you rate that passing game compared to the passing games that you faced as a secondary guy?
DICK ANDERSON: You can’t rate it because the rules are different. We could hit a receiver any place on the field as long as the ball was not in the air and they were between the quarterback and the defensive back.
LARRY CSONKA: I saw you hit them clear behind the bench, what are you talking about?
DICK ANDERSON: We made our living taking down receivers and disrupting their routes and today the receivers have a great ability, after five yards. They are free. So it’s a totally different game today than it was when we played defense.
Q. Was going undefeated a week?to?week talk among you guys and among the media back then or did you just kind of, okay, let’s win the next one?
BOB GRIESE: There was never any talk about going undefeated. The only problem ?? the only thing that we ever talked about was winning the next ballgame, and I think that’s what we’ve heard all year from the Patriots. And I think that’s a credit to Belichick that he’s got these guys thinking about the right thing at the right time. And I think that’s where Coach Shula was so good mentally. Each week, there was always something that would come up each week; we’ve never beaten this team on the road, we had never done this, we had never done that, no team had ever gone undefeated.
Injuries, after one injury, it was like, okay, so what, Griese gets hurt, the next man in, and Earl (Morrall) steps in and does a good job.
So I think Belichick has done a real good job and I think that’s one of the keys to Coach Shula back in ’72 that nothing really fazed him. He just accepted it, never talked about going undefeated. Only talked about trying to get back and winning the Super Bowl.
Q. If I could ask one of you, where do you think this places the Patriots in history if they do finish this out and go 19?0? Obviously they have passed your team’s record for an undefeated streak, but where do you think this places them historically?
DICK ANDERSON: If Mercury were here, he would say that we’re compared initially to the 1934 and 1942 Bears because they were the first team to go undefeated during the regular season, but then they lost in the playoff games. From our standpoint, we went undefeated all the games that were thrown against us, we played the Championship Game in Pittsburgh, and we were just fortunate to be the only team in the history of the NFL in 88 years to go undefeated. If New England does it, they will be the second team to go undefeated and I think they have a real good chance to do so.
Q. Usually when you have a season like you guys did, and certainly a great season, it always comes from adversity, and I want to talk you back to that Super Bowl against Dallas, January 15, 1972. How much of what you did came from that game, and I guess to Bob, as well, how sick are you of seeing that highlight of you being chased around the field in New Orleans by Bob Lilly on that play?
BOB GRIESE: I think that we’ll all tell you that that was the seed that was planted by Coach Shula right after we lost to Dallas in that Super Bowl was that was the seed that was planted for our season the following year, and he never let us forget that we lost an opportunity to win the championship and we’d have to come back the next year and then all of these games just to get back and have an opportunity to do what we were trying to do three or four hours before. So Coach Shula was always telling us and motivating us in that way. I couldn’t hear your second question; you were breaking up.
Q. The second part of the question was, how tired are you of looking at that highlight of Bob Lilly chasing you all over that field in New Orleans for the 26?yard loss?
BOB GRIESE: It wasn’t just Bob Lilly. I saw Bob Lilly over the weekend, as a matter of fact. I was talking to him about that and he said, yeah, there were a couple other guys. When I would try to go to the right, the defensive end was there, and when I reversed the other way and tried to go back to the left, there was another defensive end there. So there were three guys there, not one. You sound like Coach Shula, razzing me about this.
Q. Rightly or wrongly, you guys have been portrayed as a bunch of players 35 years in the making desperately trying to hold on to this undefeated record. If the Patriots do go 19?0, would you be upset, maybe don’t care if they join you as the only undefeated team in really the modern era?
MERCURY MORRIS: You mentioned the word desperately trying to hold onto. Let me set you straight. First of all, there’s nothing for us to hold on to because there’s nothing for us that belongs to us. It only belongs to the history of the National Football League. It’s been 35 years. This record is old enough to be president and nobody has done anything except almost make it. These guys are the first guys who have actually come close for real, and I take my hat off to them. So there’s no way that we could have stopped it. It could have happened in ’73, 74, ’75, 76. It’s been 1,290 tries.
Q. I’m curious, the Patriots are the favorite; do you guys remember, were you even favorites against the Redskins?
LARRY CSONKA: As I recall, we were underdogs in the Super Bowl. We were underdogs pretty much the whole season. That’s why we beat the spread so much. I think that comes back to what Griese was talking about.
MERCURY MORRIS: The Washington Redskins, the three teams they lost to that year were the Dallas Cowboys, the Buffalo Bills and the New England Patriots. We ironically beat the New England Patriots.
Q. Did you guys think at the time you were getting the respect you were deserved? The Patriots seem to be getting respect right and left as the greatest this, and greatest that.
MERCURY MORRIS: It had not been done before, so there was no criteria for you to make a judgment as to whether or not a team is going to try to go undefeated. This was new territory. In fact, the term perfect season only showed up on the scoreboard out in Los Angeles when after we won the games, it said, “The Dolphins are perfect, 17?0.”
Q. I’ve been looking into and comparing Super Bowl weeks from what you guys went through to what it’s like today, and there was a couple of themes from back then and if anybody wants to jump in on this is more than welcome to. One of them back then, there was a lot of talk about spying on the part of George Allen and how you guys changed practice fields to prevent that. Another theme was Shula trying to win the big one after losing a couple of times, and I also came across a couple references early in the week to when you guys had no curfew, you took full advantage of that. Anyone want to jump in on any of those?
DICK ANDERSON: I’ll answer the last question first. I was with (Larry) Csonka and Jim Kiick and (Jake) Scott and Jim Mandich the night that we did not have any curfew. I was the designated driver. We just had fun in L.A. and got back in the wee hours of the morning.
Q. I’ve got a totally different perspective, so many people I know are really in support, they feel that there was something magical about the ’72 Dolphins team and they don’t want to see anybody else do it. There’s another perspective here, there’s not just the Dolphins, players and Dolphins fans; there’s a lot of people outside of Miami who would like to see somebody do it. Would any of you like to pick up on that? Did other people realize there was something special about the legacy besides some of the players?
DICK ANDERSON: I think there’s certainly Dolphin fans that would like to see that record sustained. But you know, records are made to be broken and eventually it is going to happen and it has not happened yet, and they have a very good chance to do so. But we can’t do anything about it. All we can do is if they are undefeated through the season, congratulate them and say they are the second team to do it.
Q. Some people have made a lot of the Patriots stealing signals, and somebody thinks even an asterisk should go next to this. How do you guys look at that and do you think it besmirches their season at all?
MERCURY MORRIS: I don’t think it really does anything to them. It was one game, an event and I don’t think their season should be defined out of that mishap. Obviously if you got caught cheating, you got caught cheating. I think the intent was there to steal signals rather than to put themselves in a position where they would have an advantage as far as games are concerned as they soon realized they are so good they didn’t have to have that small advantage they tried to do get and eventually cost them a first round draft pick and it eventually did that.
Q. Is there any resentment when among you guys, the ’72 Dolphins were portrayed as grumpy old men that no other teams could be as great as them; that you have a bottle of champagne waiting when teams lose; is all of that stuff overblown and are you a little tired of hearing that stuff?
JIM KIICK: No. 1, I prefer Jack Daniels, I don’t like champagne, so we don’t sit around waiting with a bottle of champagne waiting for that last team to lose the game, and most importantly, what we are celebrating is our accomplishments, not the loss of the team. We are proud and obviously football is the ultimate team sport and as Dick alluded to, we were more concerned about winning football games than individual statistics.
So that’s what we are celebrating, our accomplishment that has not been done in 35 years and really has not been done prior to that. So we certainly are not celebrating the loss of any team but our accomplishments.
Q. Looking ahead to next Sunday’s game, the Giants and Patriots met four weeks ago, how difficult is it going to be for the Patriots to beat the Giants a second time?
MERCURY MORRIS: If I’m not mistaken, didn’t we play them (Redskins) in the preseason?
DICK ANDERSON: Preseason game, 27?24 loss. (Sonny) Jorgensen was the quarterback.
MERCURY MORRIS I think it’s different in that respect, because when you lose to a team, that gives you a momentum or impetus to play a little better or play with more tenacity because you know that what’s at stake is something that’s already happened once, and you don’t want that to happen again. We actually lost in 1973 to the Oakland Raiders which knocked our streak off at 18 games in a row, but then we came back and beat them in the AFC Championship Game. So I think that part of that is the fact that any given Sunday, any team can beat any other team. So you just never know.
Q. Bob, you had an injury [that year]; did you ever have photographers chasing you down to see if you had a boot on your foot or anything like that?
BOB GRIESE: That’s one of the ways things have changed in the 35 years, the paparazzi are chasing down athletes all over the place. I don’t know who the hot chicks were back then, the move?stars and the movie?actresses were back then we were supposed to be running around with. I had a boot on my leg but no paparazzi came around for me.
Q. You guys have seen a lot of teams come close and fall short of this perfect season so to speak. In this modern era where parity ceases to be kind of the normal with free agency and all that, did you think that a team eventually would do it?
BOB GRIESE: Free agency can run both ways. I think it can run away and spread throughout the teams and make them all equal, but then again, like New England this year, you can go out and get guys like a Stallworth, a Moss, a Wes Welker, or an Adalius Thomas, they were a good team without these guys. Then you can go out and it’s almost like an all?star team if the management, like Dick was saying a little bit earlier, if your general manager and player personnel guy can go out and pick up some free agents, and the right ones and get them for a fourth round pick, get them for a second round pick, and pick up a free agent, you know, it’s not ?? I would say it’s not surprising but you can certainly see why New England has gone undefeated with all of their additions offensively and their defense from the years past.
Q. What are your specific plans for Super Bowl Sunday? I’m sure you’ll all watch the game, but will you be in parts of the country where you won’t be able to watch it together?
DICK ANDERSON: We’ve never watched a game together.
MERCURY MORRIS: Never.
BOB GRIESE: We’ve never watched it together and there’s never any champagne. I don’t think any champagne or any champagne glasses have ever been clicked by any Dolphins. I think that was something that was mentioned in jest and I think the media ??
DICK ANDERSON: You were home when you started it, Bob.
MERCURY MORRIS: If you look back at my [pictures] You had Dick Anderson, Mercury Morris, Larry Little, Jim Kiick, Nick Buoniconti and Don Shula. Nick is spreading the champagne all over the place and Shula is sitting there with a toast and he looks at a picture and goes, “Hey, I said I don’t do that. But unfortunately, it’s there. We just had fun with it.”
DICK ANDERSON: That happened a month later. (Laughter).
Q. Did you ever think you would see the day when a team was one win from doing what your Dolphins did in ’72?
DON SHULA: You know, it’s hard to say because there were some teams that went 13?0 one year, and I guess 11?0, but to see somebody now 18?0, you’ve got to feel that this is a great football team that’s got a chance to do something no other team has done; that’s go 19?0 and have a perfect season. So it’s interesting and it should be a great Super Bowl.
Q. Do you think it’s more difficult these days with the salary cap and free agency to do that?
DON SHULA: You know, you talk about the salary cap and free agency, but you know, when we did it, we had to beat the best that was out there. And the Patriots, if they do it, they have got to beat the best that’s out there. The thing that happened to us, if we would have had free agency, we would have been better off, after the perfect season, Csonka, Kiick and (Paul) Warfield took off and we couldn’t sign anybody to come in and take their place. It’s a situation where you deal with what you’re confronted with, and if you win, you’re the best.
Q. Who on your ’72 team would you compare to Wes Welker on this year’s Patriots?
DON SHULA: You know, Paul Warfield was our deep threat and probably one of the greatest athletes that ever played the game. And we had Howard Twilley, more of a possession type of receiver on the other side, and we had Jim Kiick, Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris for the situation substitutions that we used. The thing people don’t realize is that in ’72, Bob Griese got hurt in the fifth game of the season and our backup quarterback took us to the Championship Game. Then Bob Griese came back in the second half and helped us win the Super Bowl. So we went through that perfect season, the majority of it, with a backup quarterback.
Q. Can you put into words just how incredibly difficult it is to make it through an entire NFL season without losing a game?
DON SHULA: Well, when you think about the 50 years before we did it in ’72, and the 35 years since we’ve done it, that tells you how difficult it is to do because, you know, the league is so highly competitive, and all of the rules in the league are designed for competitive balance. And it’s tougher to stay on top than the struggle to get to the top because the team that finishes last gets the best draft pick, they get the first place on the waivers. Everything is done to keep the team from having a dynasty and staying on top, and that’s why it’s so remarkable when a team does stay on top for a period of time. New England, winning three out of the last six Super Bowls, I think that’s remarkable.
Q. Do you think that this is a dynasty, the Patriots?
DON SHULA: Yeah, I think they are on the verge right now. As I mentioned, three out of the last six Super Bowls, and if they win this one, you have to consider them a team that would be a dynasty like the Yankees were in baseball over a long period of time. You know, we had those two great years, ’72 and ‘73, 17?0 and 15?2; 32?2 in a two?year period; that doesn’t qualify as a dynasty, but that’s a record we are pretty proud of.
Q. When you were in the booth for the Patriots game in Baltimore, were you rooting for the Ravens?
DON SHULA: You know, I spent a lot of years in Baltimore. I spent four years as a player and seven years as a coach in Baltimore. So I would have to say that I was rooting for the Ravens, yes.
Q. Was too much made about your comment of an asterisk and do you stand behind that?
DON SHULA: You know, I’m probably not the guy that should have said it, and I think a lot of people, when I said it, received it as being, you know, just helping yourself. I think that the fact that ?? as I mentioned, I didn’t fine them, I didn’t take away the draft choice, I wasn’t the one that coined the term “Spygate.” All of those things happened and all I did was refer to them. Now, somebody else probably should have done it instead of me, because people thought it was self?serving when I did it.
Q. What do you think about the Super Bowl. Is it going to be close?
DON SHULA: The way I feel about it is the Giants have done a great job. They were 0?2 to start the year and everybody counted them out and everybody wanted to fire the coach. And all of a sudden at the end of the year they get it together, Eli Manning comes on strong and the coach then becomes a genius again. And so this team is really on the rise and you really ?? I mean, you shouldn’t count them out because they keep bouncing back. You know, Dallas beat them twice during the regular season and then they beat Dallas in the playoffs. Eli Manning just keeps getting better. So I think that this is a team that’s capable of giving New England a good game. And what I want to see more than anything else is a good, hard?fought Super Bowl, and then let the best team win. You know, if New England doesn’t lose, you know, you just give them credit for 19?0 and something nobody else has ever done.
Q. Did you guys ever talk about going undefeated or a perfect season during the ’72 season?
DON SHULA: No. When we had the 17?0 record, we got beat the year before in the Super Bowl. Our whole emphasis was not to get to the Super Bowl, but to get to the Super Bowl and win it. And if somewhere along the line we would have lost a game or two games and won the Super Bowl, it would have been a great success. But if we would have gone 16?0 and then lost the Super Bowl, that season would have been a complete failure as far as we were concerned. So I think that’s where New England is right now. They are 18?0, and the thing that’s really going to make their season is if they can win that last game and do something else nobody has done, 19?0.
Q. If you were coaching, how would you go about trying to beat the Patriots?
DON SHULA: Well, what you’ve got to do ?? you mentioned earlier that I was at the game up in Baltimore, the Ravens game, and I thought the Ravens had a great game plan against them where they got the running game going and they made some first downs and had some long drives. That’s what you’ve got to do. Anything that you can do to keep the ball away from (Tom) Brady for any period of time, you’ve got to try to do, because Brady is so dynamic, and the guy is just a great football player. He just finds a way to score no matter what the score is. The Patriots always believe that they can pull it out and win at the end. So anything that you can do when you’re setting up a game plan is try to control the ball and keep it out of Brady’s hand.
Q. You mentioned going into the Super Bowl being underdogs; how do you think it’s different for the Patriots being the favorites with the weight of history kind of looming around them?
DON SHULA: I think the way that Bill Belichick handles things, and how all his players talk the same way; they sound like they are Bill Belichick talking when they say the only thing that’s important is the next game. And I think Bill has done a done a great job of selling that to his team. They don’t care about what’s happened in the past and they don’t care about what’s going to happen two or three weeks down the road. They put all of their energy and emphasis on preparing for the next game, and that’s prepared beautifully for them and they have all bought into what Bill teaches, and I think that’s why they have been so successful.
Q. What similarities do you see between your ’72 Dolphins and this season’s Patriots?
DON SHULA: I think the similarities are we were a team that just didn’t make many mistakes, as I said earlier, and we didn’t beat ourselves. When you look at the Patriots, they are a team that just doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. I don’t think they ever have been accused of beating themselves or not being prepared. They do a great job. I think they are a much more wide?open football team with (Tom) Brady as the quarterback than we were with Griese and (Earl) Morrall. We played more of a ball?control style of offense, and they are wide open. Brady will just let it fly. Against Jacksonville, he was 26 out of 28 with one dropped ball. A lot of them were just short passes, but that’s what Jacksonville was giving him and Brady had the intelligence and the patience to sit back there and just take what they were giving him and methodically move down the field and to not make any mistakes.
Q. You’ve coached against some of the great quarterbacks and coached some of the greatest quarterbacks; how good is Brady in terms of history of the game?
DON SHULA: Well, you look at what he’s done, you know, they have won three out of the last five Super Bowls, and they are on the verge of winning another Super Bowl. And Brady this year, he’s broken all the passing records and he’s just been unbelievable as far as what he’s been able to do. You know, when you think about what the Patriots have done, they went out and got (Donte) Stallworth and Randy Moss and got (Wes) Welker, three new receivers for Brady that they didn’t have the year before; and that’s a real credit to their scouting department and coaching staff for bringing in new receivers and then putting them on the same page with Brady, and then going out and accomplishing what they have accomplished.
Q. How elated will you be if you’re sitting in your living room Super Bowl Sunday and the Giants do pull the upset and the Patriots don’t draw even with you.
DON SHULA: I’m going to be at the game. I’ll be jumping up and down. (Laughter).
Here’s a look at Head Coach Bill Belichick’s Q&A with the media this evening after the Patriots landed in Arizona:
(opening comments) “On behalf of the organization it’s a privilege to be here playing in the Super Bowl and representing the AFC. We certainly have a lot of respect for the Giants. It’s an organization that I have quite a bit of history with and have a lot of respect for those people — John Mara, Jerry (Reese), Tom (Coughlin), the job they have done and the football team they have. I certainly have fond memories from the years that I was there but for this week we will turn the page and it should be a great competition on Sunday. We have obviously seen them in the postseason games and the last regular season game. They are an outstanding team and do a lot of things well. We have a lot to get ready for. We know we are going tave to play our best game Sunday to be competitive with them. We’re looking forward to getting going down here. We had a good week of work in Foxboro. I don’t know whether the weather is that much better, but whatever it is, we’ll deal with it, but we’re happy to be here and it’s a privilege to represent the AFC.”
(on pacing his players this week so they peak at the right time) “That’s a good question. It’s something that you kind of have to get a feel for. You don’t want to leave it on the field during the week, but at the same time, you don’t want to be running around the day before the game having a lot of questions on ‘what are we going to do on this and what are we going to do on that?’ You just try to pace yourself through it both physically and mentally, keep everybody fresh, but at the same time keep new challenges coming at them on a daily basis so that its just not review, review, review. We’re trying to keep a little bit of interest and some newness in what we do on a daily basis. It’s not that easy to do really. We have a lot more time than we normally have during the week to prepare so we have to try to figure out what’s the best way to present that material and pace ourselves through it.”
(on Tom Brady’s physical condition and the practice schedule planned for him this week) “We’ll update our injury report on Wednesday when we are required to do it by the League.”
(on the rally at Gillette Stadium Sunday and the emotions when the plane touched down) “The emotions were that we were surprised that it was raining. It wasn’t in the forecast. It was a great morning. That whole lower bowl halfway around the field was pretty much filled. There was a light snow so it was a little bit of a romantic setting there. It was a snow like we have had in some of our games, a little chill in the air and a great enthusiastic crowd. I got to the stadium several hours before the rally started and people were already starting to arrive. It was a great sendoff and we certainly appreciate their support. They have been awesome all year, every year. We’re proud to have them as our fans and hope that we can represent them well this week.”
(on how much he disdains meeting with the media every day) “Not at all. I think you have a job to do and you are our connection between our football team, our fans, and the people who have an interest in the game. I respect the job that you do and hope that you respect the job I do. I understand that sometimes I can’t give you everything that you are looking for, but I do know that this is the conduit of information from the team to the fans and the fans are what drive the game. I’m all for it. Nobody is more in favor of this game than I am.”
(on if he prefers to have played a team earlier or not in his preparation) “We really don’t give it too much thought. During the course of the year we have both of those situations. Sometimes there are teams we haven’t played and there are other teams we have like in the division or maybe in preseason like the Giants. We played them in preseason and later in the regular season. Every game has its own challenges, its own special circumstances – the players that are available, the situations that the teams are in for the previous games that have been played, and so forth. Even if we played a team before some of the matchups are the same, a lot of times the game goes a lot differently than it did the previous time the teams played. We look at it independently and whatever it is, we deal with it. It’s the same for both teams.”
For the first time since last Sunday’s AFC Championship Game, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady took questions from the media this evening, answering a variety of queries from reporters after New England landed in Arizona. Here’s the full transcript of his Q&A with the media:
(on his ankle) “What did Coach say? It is feeling good. I will be ready to go. It has been a good week. I think the team has practiced hard, although I haven’t practiced. But I have watched them practice hard and I think we are pretty well caught up mentally. We need to have a great week of practice because this team really challenges you. They are good in all aspects of the game and I think defensively they put pressure on you as an offense, which we experienced just a few weeks ago. I think we need three great days of practice, which I hope to be participating in.”
(on if he expects to practice on Wednesday) “Yes, I hope. I don’t know. It is a couple days away. But I am feeling better.”
(on the Patriots offensive line deserving credit as well for his MVP award) “I think part of the experience in winning that award is that you are able to share it with the rest of your teammates. The great part about football and the reason why I have enjoyed it for as long as I have been playing is because it is truly the ultimate team sport. As the quarterback of the team, I rely so heavily on what the offensive line does and how the receivers do to get open and how well the running backs play. And there is no doubt that winning the MVP as the quarterback reflects on what the rest of the team has done. I have been part of an incredible organization for eight years and I think in being part of that organization, I have realized that the ultimate goal for us is what we can accomplish as a team and that is why we are here today. As great as it is to maybe look back one day on awards and individual accomplishments, whether it be records or Pro Bowls or anything of that nature, by far the most important thing is trying to accumulate Super Bowl rings. I got three. I have seven fingers left on these hands and I will be working my tail off everyday to accomplish that.”
(on his thoughts on being chased and pursued in New York) “I love beating New York. This will be our fourth opportunity this year to play a New York team. Yes, it was an interesting week. I am much lighter on my toes than I thought. I was glad to be back in Boston when I got back there; glad to be back in the insulated halls of our locker room and glad that I have my offensive line around to protect me now this week. Don’t any of you be chasing me around. I won’t be nearly as nice as I was last week.”
(on if he was surprised to hear that the Giants said that Matt Light is a dirty player) “Matt’s dirty. He is not very clean, I know that. I am around him quite a bit. Matt plays hard. I think we have a bunch of guys on our team that play hard and he is a big part of that offensive line and what they do. Anytime your left tackle has a Pro Bowl season, you as a quarterback should owe him an awful lot. I don’t think he is really a dirty player. Football is a very tough game. It is about hitting and it is about blocking and it is about tackling. There is a whistle that blows and sometimes that contact may kind of persist a little bit beyond the whistle. But I don’t really think that is the case with Matt. But maybe with Rodney (Harrison), but not Matt.”
(on his reaction when he stepped out of the car in New York wearing the walking boot and surrounded by photographers) “I was just trying to get into the house as fast as I could. So I was trying to just hobble along. You’re right. It kind of caught me off guard. I think that’s just part of the world we are living in these days. Those places I used to go for refuge aren’t necessarily the places you go anymore. I guess it is a good problem to have because we are winning football games. I think if we were 0-16, no one would give a crap. I’ll take it to show up here this week.”
(on when exactly he hurt his ankle) “It was during the game, during the Charger game.”
(on exactly when he sustained the injury) “I think it was in the third quarter.”
(on if it occurred on a sack) “Yes. It didn’t affect that first interception; that wasn’t the problem. I wish I could blame interceptions on that. It was early in the third quarter.”
(on his feelings on being on the brink of making history) “I think we have an incredible opportunity as a team. We have been dealing with a very difficult schedule all season; I think a difficult conference. I remember when we were 15-0 and playing the Giants. We said as a team it was the Christmas holidays and for as great as you hope these seasons go, you never quite expect for them to turn out the way they have this season. Being 18-0 I am incredibly proud of what we have accomplished thus far and I think we have talked as a team that for the rest of our lives we’ll all remember this week, win or lose. We are all going to do our best to hopefully make that one of the weeks that we remember for all of the great reasons and not a week we would like to forget. The Giants are an incredibly tough opponent and we realized that when we played them the first time. We got our work cut out for us. I told everyone that whatever you may think may be important this next week it is really not that important because this week will have an impact on the rest of your life.”
(on the best advice you can give a teammate who is experiencing the Super Bowl for the first time) “I think the thing that I have learned is that a little bit what I alluded to just a second ago. You have so many people that call and are congratulating you or want tickets or trying to find ways to get down here to see you play. It can become a bit distracting. As long as you really focus on what you are here for and what is most important, then you will handle it just fine. But this really is not the year to come down to enjoy the Super Bowl parties and the festivities and the NFL Experience and everything that this city will have to offer, which I am sure will be a helluva lot of fun. It is just not for us. And there will be plenty of time to experience those other things down the road. I think the team (needs) to understand (they have) to try to keep some kind of schedule and to know that you are here for a reason. I think Coach (Bill) Belichick and his experience; he has passed that onto our team in the past and I know that is a big point of emphasis this week as well.”
(on if he has thrown the ball since the AFC Championship Game and if he is concerned with his lack of activity affecting him) “I am not concerned. I am really not. I think it was a good week in terms of the mental preparation and getting ready to play. And it is nice because I feel very energized down here to come into the hotel and to kind of start this process. It is going to be a very fast week. I am not concerned about how it is going to affect my playing and I can’t run anyway so it is not going to have much of an impact.”
(on the production of Randy Moss in the playoffs and how to unleash him this Sunday) “I think I answered that, I talked about that a little bit last week in that he is always a part of the plan and a lot of our offense is based around what the defense is giving us. If they dictate that they are going to try to take one person out of the game, they’ll do that. I thought San Diego played extremely well. I think Jacksonville did a good job. I am sure he was a big point of emphasis. I am sure the Giants will be a big point of emphasis, Randy will be a big point of emphasis for the Giants as well. I never lose track of him. I know that he works extremely hard to get open and I know that he is in the right place and he wants the ball. We have to find ways to get him the ball because he is an important part of this offense. If they choose to, as teams have done throughout the season, to put double coverage on him, then you have to find other places to throw and you have to hand the ball off. If they come out of the game and they feel like they stopped one player but the team won, I hope that, if that happens, great. But the goal is to win the game and they’re doing what they think is best to win and so are we. It is just a fine line. You don’t want to just throw it to somebody if he is covered with two or three guys. You have to find other guys to throw the ball to and we certainly have that luxury.”
(on how important it is to have a veteran team like the Patriots to handle everything this week) “I think the important thing that we have learned is that there is a game to be played at the end of the week. ‘Focus your energy and attention on that and understand the goal is to be as prepared as you can be.’ I am sure the Giants can deal with all of that. They have dealt with that all season. They play in New York. They wouldn’t be here if they weren’t able to deal with any distractions. We think we have been through very much the same thing. The game is going to be decided by who plays the best on Sunday and I am sure being the most prepared team is going to have the advantage. I hope we are the most prepared.”
(on how this ankle injury compares to the one he had after the 2001 AFC Championship Game) “That was a long time ago. I can’t remember that far back to tell you the truth. I remember we had a week to get ready for the game so that week really flew by. This won’t keep me out of this game and that ankle didn’t keep me out of last game (Super Bowl XXXVI). It would have to take a helluva lot more than an ankle.”
(on if it is the same injury) “I don’t even remember what that injury was. I think it was my left ankle.”
(on if he ever gets used to the kind of attention he receives off the field and how he keeps it from becoming a distraction) “I think you prioritize things in your life and you do things that are most important and what you think help you become the most fulfilled person. I think I love my job and there is nothing I would rather do than play quarterback for the New England Patriots. When you win football games, with that comes a lot of other attention and I think over the years it has really been a progression. You find ways to deal with your life and manage it when you leave the stadium. I think sometimes that is challenging for all of us as athletes when you leave places where you feel very protected to go out and still find ways to manage your life and live your life and enjoy it. I certainly do that. Like I said, I think none of that gets in the way of I think what is most important and that is me playing football because at the end of the day I think that is what is extremely important in my life.”
(on how much he has dropped back and thrown a football since the AFC Championship Game) “I have done just a little bit. I have jogged around and I have shuffled and dropped and I have thrown the ball a little bit. Not as much as I would had I been practicing, but enough to know that I realize that I am going to be able to play on Sunday.”