John Crist: You're from Rockford. You're a Notre Dame guy. You were drafted by the Bears. It seemed like all the pieces were in place for you to succeed in Chicago. Why don't you think it worked out that way?
Mike Gandy: We had a team kind of trying to find its identity. We had a lot going on personnel-wise, coaching-wise also. It just takes a lot of continuity and we just really didn't have it for a few seasons, and unfortunately a lot of people got caught in the shuffle. But that's life. Things always usually turn out for the best. That's just how this league is. You've got to learn from adversity, learn how to take advantage of opportunities, and move along.
JC: You had a chance to play for Dick Jauron both with the Bears and the Bills. Was he the same guy in Buffalo that he was in Chicago, or did he amend his style at all from one team to the next?
MG: I feel like he was the same guy. As a head coach, you take a lot of responsibility when things don't go well and don't get enough credit when things go right. Unfortunately, he took a lot of the heat in Chicago, but he's a great coach [and] always a pleasure to play for. I'd play for him any day. He's a great guy.
JC: Every offensive lineman I've ever talked to tells me he'd rather run block than pass block. But during the season, you guys were passing the ball twice as much as you were running it. Now that you've rediscovered the ground game, are you having a little more fun going about your business?
MG: I think it definitely makes our job a lot easier just to kind of diversify what we did. We've definitely been caught in a few games being one-dimensional, and it got ugly quick. We definitely have to be able to spread the field running and passing. It's been great. We've been able to pound the ball more. We've been able to finish games off having the ball, and that's been a lot of fun. Receivers don't like to block that much, and you kind of want to be able to do what you do well, and as a lineman you feel like you always run block better than you pass block.
JC: James Harrison is the league's Defensive Player of the Year. And then Troy Polamalu is arguably the best safety in the NFL. But give me an unheralded defender for this Steelers team that you just have to neutralize Sunday in order to win.
MG: They have a talented defense across the board, from the DBs to the front seven. I think a lot of guys don't get enough credit. Brett Keisel doesn't get enough credit, Casey Hampton doesn't get enough credit, and definitely Aaron Smith doesn't. Those guys really do their jobs, do their jobs well, and allow the other guys to make a lot of plays for them. They're a tough, hard-nosed team, a great defense, and it's going to be a great challenge for us. It's going to be a great challenge to see where we are as a team. It's the hugest game, obviously, and one of the better teams in the league, so it's going to be a big challenge.
JC: Your No. 1 goal is to win the Super Bowl this Sunday, but you also want to enjoy your time in Tampa since you've worked so hard to get here. Is it difficult to balance the business and pleasure of Super Bowl week?
MG: There's always going to be temptations to get caught up in hoopla and stuff, but it would be a huge disappointment if we've worked so hard and battled all this adversity to get to this point and let it slip by just because we got caught up in the fanfare of the game. I think a lot of guys realize that this is a great opportunity for us, and we're really staying focused. I'm proud of the way this team has stayed focused so far, and I think the time to celebrate is after we win the game. Hopefully, we can play well and come out with a win and have a chance to enjoy it."
John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
Super Bowl Chat: OT Mike Gandy
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