Sunday Can't Come Soon Enough

Lake Forest - As the Bears approach their first game of the playoffs, there's a noticeable energy shift in the locker room. Whether from nervous tension or simple excitement, the players seem to be somewhat on edge and ready to go.

"It's been the longest week of my life. The hours are crawling by," said kicker Robbie Gould, when asked how he was feeling going into the playoffs.

Gould has always preferred action to inaction so he's spending most of the time between now and Sunday going over his routine.

"I guess in that sense, it's a normal week for me, but not really" Gould said. "I've always been a person who practices a lot. I find that I'm constantly going over my kicking motion. You'd think that it would be routine for me by now, and that's probably the case, but it's relaxing to do those things over and over again."

Usually relaxing has never been much of a problem for Gould, who seems to concentrate more on the joy of being in the NFL rather than on the pressures of playing a pivotal position. But should the game come down to one last field goal, would Gould finally succumb to pressure?

"Not a chance. It's exciting but I feel no pressure at all," Gould said. "I played plenty of college games that were tight. And really, if you look at the whole picture, oftentimes the game will come down to a field goal that was made or missed during the day.

"If I'd anticipate every kick as a make or break moment, then I'd never be successful. Thinking too much about things like that is counterproductive. I just take every one as it comes and try to make the entire experience as routine as possible."

Gould continues to communicate with Patriots veteran Adam Vinatierri, who has served as Gould's informal mentor since the rookie was picked up by New England last April.

"Adam certainly has plenty on his mind right now as he's going into a playoff game this weekend, too, but he does take the time to give me a few pointers," Gould said. "Mainly he's telling me to concentrate on my job and not to get too carried away with the media hype. That makes sense to me."

While Thomas Jones is the focal point of the offense, Adrian Peterson should get a number of carries against the Panthers as the Bears emphasize the running game. In the first meeting, Peterson picked up 37 yards on 4 carries against the Panthers, including a 19-yard gain in the second half.

Although Peterson's relaxed posture suggested that the four-year veteran wasn't particularly nervous, once he began talking, Peterson sounded more than ready for the game to start.

"You know there's a lot going on here," Peterson said. "I see all the media people wandering around. There are more cameras following us around. It's an entirely different atmosphere than what we've been accustomed to since the beginning of the season. It's difficult not to get too caught up in things."

So far this year, Peterson has 391 yards in 76 attempts for a team-high 5.1 average. Although he doesn't get as many carries as Jones, Peterson plays a crucial role for the team.

"I want to go in there whenever I am called upon and get the yards" Peterson said. "That's the way a professional approaches things. If Thomas is out there getting things done, then that's fine with me. But I do feel that there are a number of situations where I can come in and get the first downs."

Jumping out to an early lead will give the Bears an opportunity to pound the ball with their depth at running back.

"Its always more comfortable if you have something on the board during the first quarter' Peterson said. "Then there isn't the pressure to go to riskier plays just to get the score.

"The Panthers looks strong. I watched them last weekend while they took the Giants apart. But we're not the Giants. I feel this team is stronger and smarter than that. Personally, I can't wait to get out on the field and make my contribution."

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