Dungy: Every Year Is Tough

Tony Dungy talked to the media before the team practiced on Tuesday. See what the coach had to say about the way the playoffs are seeded, the tough division battles in the NFL this season, the prospect of having to travel to meet the AFC West champion, injury updates, and more!

"It's a nice feeling being in the playoffs and getting ready to play. We want to definitely keep that momentum going. I think it says a lot for our division that there are only three (AFC) teams that have clinched spots and we have two of them. Tennessee has done an outstanding job, and they won the division title. We were hoping this game would mean a lot more for us, but it doesn't. That's the way it goes, but I think you have to give them a lot of credit. Watching their tape these last two days, they've played outstanding football and they deserve to be where they are. With that being said, we're going to try to see if we can keep momentum going. We are going to rest some guys that need rest. We're going to play to win, as I'm sure they are, but we are going to rest some people. We want to do everything we can, but you also have to take into account that you may play these guys in a couple of weeks so you may not necessarily want to shoot all of your bullets in this game. But, we certainly do want to play well. We don't ever want to lose home games, so that's the approach that we're going to take."

On what he would say to fans who point to 2005 and 2007 as examples not to rest players on the last week of the regular season:

"The only thing that will make them feel like it's the right way to go is if we win the Super Bowl. We know that going in. Whatever you do, if you win it's the right thing and you were smart, and if you don't win you did the wrong thing and you are not very smart. We are going to do what we think is best. We thought it was best then, we still think it's best now and hopefully we win and we look smart at the end."

On if he thinks giving players rest impacted those losses:

"No, I really don't. We've had different times coming off byes, we've had times when we rested everybody coming into the first regular season game and we won it. It's always great to say momentum, but really what happens the previous week doesn't determine anything in the game to come. I just don't buy into that theory. As I've said several times, when I was playing that was when I got to play. We rested up some guys who were good players and they carried us to a Super Bowl win. There's no perfect way to do it, but having your guys rested and ready to go usually helps you."

On if playing time Sunday will be dictated by the score:

"It won't necessarily be dictated by how the game goes. You still only have 45 guys, so you take a few guys out and you rest them you just don't have that many. Some guys are going to have to play all the time and some guys will be able to alternate. We definitely want to look at (QB) Jim Sorgi, but it'll be played by ear very much."

On how aware he is of approaching milestones for players:

"I'm aware much more than anybody else now. I think I cost (WR) Reggie (Wayne) more money than I have a couple of years ago, and I felt bad about that. So, there are some things that you're aware of and personal goals but I think for all of our guys the team goals come first. I'm sure they'd like to hit those milestones and we're aware of them, but it's not the primary thing you think about."

On how much say the players will have in how long they play:

"Very little. That's what people don't understand. For the most part, people want to play. That's what you do. Unless you're really hurting or banged up, most guys want to play. But, we have to do the prudent thing. You have to think about what's best for the franchise, and it's not an easy call. You're trying to balance it and walk that fine line and still win games. We are trying to win it. I think there are a lot of guys in our locker room knowing that we could win 12 for the sixth year in a row and nobody's ever done that. That's something that would be important to all of us, so we do want to win it, but you have to balance those things out with your primary goal which is still to be the best team that you can be in the playoffs."

On if he can believe he is answering questions about resting players after the team started 3-4:

"I can. I've seen it done before, and it's not new to me. We came back from a bunch of 3-4s in Tampa. It's what we've always said, it's November and December that determine how you do. Fortunately for us, we're playing a lot better in November and December than we did in September and October. We were watching our last game against (Tennessee), and we're a different team and I think playing better and that's good. It is kind of fun to be answering these questions again."

On if any players need to get work in a game in order to get ready for the playoffs:

"Not really, but we do have some young guys that you want to get in those situations. We had (RB) Chad Simpson in the game against Detroit at the end of the game when we were trying to run the clock out to win. (RB) Dominic (Rhodes) was ready to go and could have done it, but we thought it was important to get Chad some carries in a pressurized situation like that. We have some young receivers, Roy Hall and Pierre Garcon, that need to play in that situation a little bit. We do have some guys that we would like to see, but it's not wholesale."

On who will not play Sunday:

"I don't know that for sure, other than (LB) Gary Brackett. He's probably the only one that we would be really ready to rule out (Tuesday)."

On if any other teams do as much with their TEs as the Colts do with TE-Dallas Clark:

"There are some. Antonio Gates, (San Diego) does a lot with him and moves him around, line him up as a wide receiver and play him in a lot of different spots. (Kansas City TE-Tony) Gonzalez, you have a hard time dealing with him. Philadelphia does a lot with their tight ends. We haven't played them in a couple of years, but L.J. Smith is a guy that lined up a lot of places and caught a lot of balls. People that have those kinds of guys know how to get the ball to them."

On if moving the TE is to take advantage of mismatches:

"There is part of that. When you're dealing with Gates how do you treat him? Is he going to be at the point of attack? Is he going to be flexed out? You get linebackers matched up on him when he's out wide, you get safeties matched up on him when he's out wide. If you substitute and go nickel and put a corner on him, they bring him in the core and run. So those guys that can do a lot of things do create some problems."

On if Clark having big games the last two weeks is because of how the opposing defenses are playing:

"Yes, it really has been a function of the defense. That's the way our offense is. There are some times that people play certain coverages that certain spots get the ball. We've had Reggie (Wayne) have some huge days just because of the way things set up. Dallas has been the beneficiary of it the last couple of weeks."

On how difficult it is to play after not being in all season:

"It's hard. The backup quarterback position is the toughest spot because you have to prepare every week as if you're going to be in there. You have to go through it mentally and do the whole process and then you don't get to play and you do get a little rusty, where at most other positions at least you're going to get into the game on special teams or in some way hone your craft up a little bit, but that backup quarterback can go a long time without playing. When you are in there it's usually a critical time. That's why it's going to be important for us, and we've always taken that opportunity to get Jim (Sorgi) some meaningful time when we can."

On if RB-Dominic Rhodes could be held out of Sunday's game:

"That's one we'll look at. If he's not feeling 100 percent, we're going to keep him out. He made it through the game (at Jacksonville) and made some big plays at the end of the game, but he did get hit and he's sore a little bit so we'll see how he is. (RB) Joseph (Addai) is pretty good. We were able to keep him out of the game. He was ready to go if we needed him, so I think he'll be ready this week. We're going to do that as guys practice. If there's anything where they are sub-100 percent, we're going to keep them out."

On WR-Marvin Harrison:

"Marvin's doing fine. He actually came to me (Monday), on an off day, he was in and said he felt good and was ready to play so I'm assuming he'll be ready to go."

On winning a division in the NFL:

"Every year is tough. We've had a stretch, I think New England had a stretch, where you're winning it, but that doesn't mean it's not tough. A game here and a game there can be the difference. I think we have a great division. You look at what Tennessee has done. Houston is a team that despite losing last week I don't think anybody wants to play them right now. We had two very tough games with them and they beat Tennessee. Jacksonville beat us once and took us to the wire and they're not going to make the playoffs. We have a tough division, and any one of those four teams I think next year could win it. They have that kind of talent. I think that's the NFL in this salary-cap era."

On reseeding the playoffs to give the team with the better record home-field advantage regardless of division:

"I'm not big on that. I think winning the division should mean something, and if you win your division you should get a home game. We had our opportunity. If we hadn't lost to Jacksonville (on Sept. 21) we'd be playing this game for home-field advantage. We had our chance and we didn't get it, so I don't think we can cry now and say we should look for different seedings. That's the NFL, and I do think division championships, if we're going to have divisions, they ought to mean something. If we want just the top teams, we should just have one AFC and go."

On the potential of a 12-4 team traveling to an 8-8 division winner in the first round:

"We did it to ourselves."

On the common opponent tiebreaker being used before overall conference record to determine a division winner:

"I was on the (competition) committee when that came up. When we went to this four-division system and everybody's basically playing the same teams except for two games, it just seemed like with the common games you could have a better sense of what you did because you would have enough common games, and I can see the logic behind it. Again, that's the way the rules are. I think it's a pretty good rule."

On if he was surprised the competition committee voted 7-1 in favor of reseeding the playoffs:

"Yes, that does surprise me a little bit because the committee is usually the traditionalists, the old school. I think if we're going to have divisions, they ought to mean something. If we have enough of these types of years where people are really incensed about it, we ought to just go to, ‘We have an AFC and the top-six teams get in and you just go by record.'"

On if he will watch Denver at San Diego Sunday night:

"I'll be watching and doing a little scouting and see what happens. I think it's great for TV. We had a great weekend last week with a lot of games that were meaningful and to have the last game of the year that's going to determine who goes to the playoffs and who stays home, and you have Chicago and Minnesota and the AFC East. I think it's great."

On the team's rivalry with Tennessee:

"It's kind of rare that you have that. I know when I got here, that was the hurdle that we had to get over. Tennessee was the reigning champions. They beat us my first year, beat us twice. Then we got where we were in front in the division, but they always played us well and it was back and forth. Now, they've beaten us three of the last four, and they've won the division this year. And, the fact that the cities are so close, I think it's a lot of fun. Both teams play a similar style defense and play very sound football. Both teams have won a lot of games in the last eight or nine years, so it has been a great rivalry and one we enjoy."

On how much it helps when a team's first-round playoff opponent has to go all out to win in week 17:

"I guess you always like that situation, but again, it's how the game turns out the next week. If they beat us, it'll be, ‘That's because they stayed hot and they had to win.' If we win it'll be because we were rested and we didn't have to show everything. I don't think there's any advantage really, it's just how the game turns out."

On if there is anything different about this particular eight-game stretch by QB-Peyton Manning:

"I think probably the fact that we've done it without really running the ball as well as we normally have. There's been a lot that has fallen on the passing game, and those guys have executed, they've stayed away from turnovers in spite of the fact that we aren't running it as well as we would like. That's probably been the biggest difference. We talked earlier about the fact that he is spreading it to a lot of people. Different guys have had the hot games. It's really been him following his reads and throwing accurately to whoever the defense dictates, and he's been exceptional."

On if short passes are taking the place of a running game:

"It probably looks that way, but we've just run our pass offense and we end up throwing a lot of short passes because of what defenses are doing. They're taking away the deep route and taking away our outside receivers, so no, we aren't looking at it that way. We'd like to get our running game going more and hit more of those 70-yard passes."


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