TE Dallas Clark
On what last year's playoff game vs. San Diego means for this one:
"Nothing, really. That definitely made for a hard offseason, that's for sure, but a lot of football has been played and we've moved on, obviously. We've had a whole season under our belts. It's not really a big deal. Both teams have changed a lot. It's not going to play a lot of significance in the outcome, but that was a tough one, that's for sure."
On if this year's win at San Diego exorcised any demons from past losses:
"No. I think it just shows that there are two good teams that play well against each other and give each other fits. It just goes back and forth. I think that's really all that says during the regular season. We know that we need to play our best game to beat them, and they probably feel the same way. It's just one of those things that we know we have to play our best if we want a chance."
On playing Wild Card weekend as opposed to having the bye:
"It's nice to have that week off, but I think athletes and the way our season is set up, I think we're just such creatures of habit that it's kind of nice to keep that schedule going and that routine and having that the same. But then, some seasons, you might be banged up and you might be hoping to get an extra week to get some guys back, so then obviously that week is important and you can take advantage of that. I think either one has its advantages and its disadvantages, too."
On having big games late in the season throughout his career:
"I think it's just one of those things that happens. I really can't explain why or pinpoint the reasoning behind it, but it's like Coach (Tony Dungy) always says that every guy has to get ready and everyone has to be prepared. It's just one of those things. You may not have much playing time, but sometime there will be a time in the game in the playoffs or during the season that your number is called and you have to be ready. It's just kind of one of those things that for whatever reason towards the end of the year and the playoffs, tight ends get a lot of looks and a lot of balls thrown to them. But, you never know what's going to happen so you just have to prepare to the way the game is going and what things are opening up. (QB) Peyton (Manning), he's just trying to find the open receiver and just keep the chains moving. There's really no pinpoint reason why that's the case."
On if his confidence is increasing with the way he ended the season:
"I think so. I feel good with where everything is going, but it's just one of those things where I'll never get to the point where we have to start drawing up more plays for me. I'd be foolish to do that with (WR) Marv(in Harrison) and (WR) Reg(gie Wayne) on the outsides of me. It's a privilege to be on this offense with such great players. I've said that from the day I got here and that hasn't changed. I love playing with those guys, and what they have done to help me get better. They don't even probably realize what they've done, along with Peyton. What I've been able to learn and grow as a player has a direct relation to being on the field with them every day."
WR Reggie Wayne
On a reason for the team's success when playing in the Wild Card round:
"I think it's mainly because you don't have that bye week and you just get out of the regular season and just flow right into the playoffs. It's kind of still like a regular-season feel. Personally, I like it. I don't think we respond great after bye weeks for whatever reason. I think you just stay fluid. You stay into it. There's no chance to go home and kick it with your homies or with your family members. You just stay into it and concentrate on football."
On how much last year's playoff loss vs. San Diego comes into play this week:
"Not at all. None. Zilch. Nada. Zero. Last year is last year, can't do anything about it, can't bring it back. There is no revenge factor. This is a whole new season, a whole new theory, a whole new identity and that's how we treat it as a team. We just go into it. It's an opportunity to make history again, and I just want to be part of it."
On if he thought about growing his beard like RB-Dominic Rhodes for the winning streak:
"Not really, no. I can't go for the Wolfman look too long, but if it works, it works. Maybe he's like Sampson, his strength is in his hair. So, if it works for him, I'm all for it. If you feel like that's what's been keeping us afloat, then he can be ZZ Top for all I care."
On eating chicken noodle soup before each game:
"That's not a superstition, it's just something that I've been rolling with. Before every game, chicken noodle soup. I've been doing it for eight years and I haven't had a batch that's too bad. It's like they say, ‘If it's not broke, why fix it?' So I just keep going with it."
On how he feels physically:
"This is the best I've felt since the Pittsburgh game (on Nov. 9), so I feel pretty good. Obviously, there are going to be some nicks and bruises here and there, but that comes with the job. It's week 17 so if there's nothing bothering you then you're not playing hard or you're not playing. So there is going to be something, but nothing to the point where it's going to slow me down or hinder me from doing what I have to do."
On if making the playoffs means more after the 3-4 start:
"I wouldn't say it means more. I would rather start off 13-0, but one thing about the 3-4 start, throughout that process to now we've had a lot of close games so that's kind of given us an idea on what to expect in the playoffs. It gives the young guys an idea of what to expect. I feel like, out of all the games this year, if you look at the Jacksonville game in Jacksonville (on Dec. 18), that's about as close as you can get to a playoff feel. Each game has its own identity, but throughout this whole year it just seems like we had no room for error so every game felt like a playoff feel. That kind of got us into it and got the young guys to understand what the NFL is really about. If you look at the last few years, guys come in and we go 9-0 and they really don't understand what the NFL is all about, but this year from the jump we had to figure out what's going on, had to get it fixed quick and then learn from there."
On what Head Coach Tony Dungy's message was when the team was 3-4:
"Just keep working at it. He's not a big rah-rah guy, but he comes in with a point and you understand it. He comes in and says, ‘We're not going to change anything, we're going to continue to do what we do and we're just going to fix the things that need to be fixed.' It was no secret. We knew what we had to fix, it was just a point of getting it done and getting it done in a timely fashion. Like I said, we had no room for error so we had to figure it out quick and adjust and that's what we did as a team. There was no point in time where I thought we didn't have a chance or the team thought we didn't have a chance. We felt like we still were in it. We knew what we had to do and that was to win, and we got it done."
RB Dominic Rhodes
On how much of a difference he has seen in QB-Peyton Manning over the last nine games compared to the first seven:
"I think he's just back on his game now. It's hard when you've been sitting out all of training camp and a little bit of the mini-camp. For him, I think it's a rhythm thing. He likes to be in there so he gets the rhythm with the receivers and with the backs and just with everybody. He finally started catching up to the speed of the game and it slowed back down to him, and now he's on all cylinders and it's hard to stop him once he's in this type of rhythm."
On what kept the team together after the 3-4 start:
"Veteran leadership, love for one another, the coaches, what it means to us. You don't just go on runs like this if you don't have love for the other person that you're playing with and love for everybody around here. Everybody's here for a common goal, and that's to win championships and to have one another's back. I think that shows the character of us and our coaches and everyone in this organization."
On if anything was said when the team was 3-4:
"Basically, just keep working hard, stay focused on what we do and just play Colts' ball. 3-4 is a tough situation, especially for us because we hadn't been in those types of situations before, but if we just stick together and do what we do and play Colts' ball then we'll get it done. As a result, now we're 12-4 on a nice winning streak and going into the playoffs hot."
On comparing this season to Manning's two MVP seasons:
"The other years everything started off fast. There were records being broken during the year. He's still breaking records this year, but the receivers catching 1,000 yards, three of them, a slot receiver catching more touchdowns than anybody had ever caught, everybody was just playing big and putting up big-time yards. This year, there was a bunch of negative talk and at the end he showed up and he's done what he's always done. He brought us from the depths whenever we needed to be brought from the depths and played his game, stayed calm and stayed patient with it. Right now, he's playing some real good ball, probably the best ball I've ever seen him play."
On if the running game has to improve for the playoffs:
"You always need the running game to come along. The year we won the Super Bowl, it was definitely obvious that the running game was very prevalent in what we were doing. We need the running game to get going, and I think we will. Our linemen take a lot of pride in running the football, and so do our receivers as well as the running backs. We're working hard at it. We know that we've been struggling. It's obvious. Everybody knows, but we've done enough to put up 12 wins. We just have to keep working. It's going to come. I'm one of those people that when I go out there I think I'm going to run for 100. I think Joe (Addai) thinks the same way, and I know that sometimes we might not, but I'm just going to keep digging, keep digging until something comes out of it."
On how he is physically:
"I'm great. It's time to ball, man. It's win or go home, it doesn't matter. Everybody's hurt right now. Everybody has something going on with them. Everybody's banged up. We've been playing for eight months now. None of us are young kids. We're all grown men, and your body takes a pounding. That's what this game is about, but it's who can withstand it and who can keep going. I'm ready."
On not turning the ball over:
"We preach it. It's the difference between a good team and a bad team and a good team and a great team, and we consider ourselves great. We work on the little things that most people don't work on, whether it be making sure in practice when you're running and playing around you don't just pitch the ball to somebody. Our coaches think that if you are playing around with the ball like that, that obviously in the game something might happen. That's how they think, and we kind of take the same mindset to work on those little things, whether it be catching everything no matter where the ball is, we work on those things and it seems to show on the field because we pay attention to detail."
On going from Oakland last season to the Colts this season:
"I don't want to say it's the lowest you can go because I was still in the NFL, I was still competing with the greatest athletes in the world, but it was a shock to the body. Right now, I'd be getting ready to pack it up and go home out in Oakland. Now, I'm back where I couldn't be more happy. I wake up ready to come to work. A week or two ago, the night before I was like, ‘I can't wait to come to work.' I was just excited. It's just the people. I think about (TE) Dallas (Clark), (WR) Reggie (Wayne), (RB) Joe (Addai), P(eyton Manning), I just love to come and compete with them. I'm going to have stories to tell my kids, and for me it's just exciting. I know we have what it takes to go to the Super Bowl, so right now I'm just very happy. Sometimes it's overwhelming to me to know that I come from where I came from. There's always a hurdle here and there, but as you guys know, I keep hurdling, getting back up and growing. It's been great."
On if he tries to have fun instead of looking at this as a job:
"Always. This is definitely not a job to me. I play football because I love to play football, because football brings something to me that not a lot of things have. I've been blessed to play it well, and I love this game, I really do."
On playing San Diego:
"That field right there, going out there to play against those fans and that team, I know they're going to be rowdy, I know they're going to be talking. I'm excited. This is what football's about. This is what you live for. For the young guys who thought that we went down there (on Nov. 23) and we pulled out that victory and that's what it's going to be about, they have no clue because that's not what it's going to be about. This is going to be one of those types of games where everybody's going to be getting hit in the mouth and the last guy that wants to get up and keep playing is going to be the guy that's going to come out and be playing in the next round. San Diego, they bring a lot to the table, a bunch of athletes, a bunch of great players, as do we. This is probably one of the best first-round matchups you can get. This is like an AFC Championship Game right here, or maybe a Super Bowl. It's going to be a great game. I'm excited about it. I can not wait for the game day. We can just skip practice and let's go get it. I'm ready."
WR Anthony Gonzalez
On if he is healthy:
"Doing well, just taking care of a little maintenance, but nothing major. I don't anticipate having any issues on Saturday."
On facing San Diego in the playoffs in consecutive seasons and if anything is different:
"Obviously not getting the bye is a little different. I feel good about where we are. I think we've put together some pretty solid victories over the last nine weeks, and now is when it gets fun. It's what you play all year for and I know I'm looking forward to it."
On entering the playoffs with Peyton Manning at QB:
"For me, it's the same as last year. You know what you're going to get out of him. You're going to get a guy who's as prepared as anybody in the league, who's going to make the right throws, make the right reads, get us into the right plays. And obviously we're lucky to have him. There's tons of MVP talk going around about him, and it seems warranted. It's great if you're a receiver and you get a chance to play in an offense like this."
On Peyton Manning:
"I don't evaluate other guys on the team like that, I just don't. It's nothing I've ever gotten into. I just worry about doing my job better. Like I said, it doesn't seem like he's missed a beat in the last however many weeks. We're thrilled to have him, we're lucky to have him and it's great being in the offense."
On Manning's completion percentage the last month being 80+ percent and completing 23 in a row at one point:
"That's definitely impressive. I remember when we were playing Jacksonville and he threw the deep one to me in the end zone and I pulled up. We got over to the sidelines and he said, ‘Man, that was our first incompletion.' I was like, ‘Really?' That was crazy to me. It didn't even occur to me at that point. I had to apologize for probably doing something wrong. He's really been on a roll lately."
On if he could tell Manning was off the first seven weeks:
"I couldn't tell. I thought the first seven weeks or eight weeks or whatever it was, I thought we were all just a little bit off in different ways. It was just one of those things that, we just weren't consistent. And how do you get consistent? I don't know. But I think what we did a good job of is just focusing on getting better individually, which ultimately results in getting better collectively. And I think that's what we all did. You can see it from the top down."
On if he feels comfortable in his second season with Manning:
"I think more than anything, having a full offseason with him helped a bunch for me because the previous year, my rookie year, I was still trying to finish school and I was commuting back and forth a lot and I was writing term papers and final exams and all kinds of craziness. Having the full offseason where I could work with him, and a lot of times Reggie and Marv would be doing their own business, and so I got a lot of time with him this offseason. I think that helped more than anything in terms of getting on the same page."
K Adam Vinatieri
On where his game-winning kick at San Diego on Nov. 23 ranks on his personal-best list:
"You're always proud of the ones that help your team out for sure. Like you said, the year before wasn't so great. It didn't change any of that, but it definitely helped get the monkey off my back a little bit. I don't really rate my kicks too often. I go out there and try to kick the ball well every time I step on the field and help my team be victorious. I don't know. I'm happy that I hit that one earlier in the year, but I'm pretty sure when we step out on the field here in about five days, the score's going to be 0-0 and what we've done in the past, this last game or last year, isn't going to make any difference."
On if there are conditions to prepare for in San Diego:
"San Diego is usually a pretty nice place to play. The weather's usually pretty decent and not too windy comparatively speaking to what Buffalo saw last weekend. You get out there early and you start checking out the field conditions and the weather conditions and if there's any wind or not, but we know it's not going to be snowing and it's not going to be 12 degrees. It should be a nice evening, hopefully, but we'll prepare for it either way. I don't think the weather's going to be a big enough factor. I think the team that goes out there and executes the best is going to be the team that's going to win the game."
On if he will think about this year's game or last year's game at San Diego leading up to this one:
"I don't think I'm going to think about either of them to be real honest with you. You can always build on past experiences and you can remember past playoff games and you can remember all that stuff, but honestly past successes for either team is not going to make much of a difference. What either team did last week, last month, last year isn't going to make much of a difference. The team that prepares the best this week and goes out and plays the best is going to be the victorious team. I think both teams know that. I think both teams are preparing hard, and the team that executes the best and has the fewest amount of turnovers and penalties and all the stuff that you guys know already are the things that are going to make the difference in the outcome of the game."
On if his preparation has changed now from earlier in his career:
"I don't necessarily think I kick quite as many balls as I did the first year or two in the league, but I do prepare maybe even more than I did back then as far as stretching and getting warmed up. I spend more time getting loosened up and ready to go. Maybe more of the mental side of it and a little bit less of the physical side of it. Every year it may change a little bit, but I'm pretty particular in the way that I prepare myself. I'm usually one of the first guys over there making sure I'm loosened up and stretched out and mentally ready to go. That doesn't change from week to week and, really, that much from year to year either. I just think the young guys kick a little more than the older guys do."
On the key to longevity:
"Keeping yourself healthy. Different guys can do that in different ways. I've tried to talk to some of the guys that have played a long time in the league to see what they do and how they keep their body going in the offseason and no two guys do it exactly the same. Every person is a little bit different, but what works for me is a lot of stuff in the offseason, staying flexible, trying to keep your body in good shape so you never have to climb too high back up that hill again."
On QB-Peyton Manning:
"Nobody does it any better. Peyton has really, really played well down the stretch these last nine games. Obviously, you're team usually lives and dies with the success and the productivity of your quarterback and he's doing it as good as anybody at any time right now. He's playing very well. That's kind of what we've all come to know and expect from him, and he's not letting anybody down, that's for sure. I think that goes back to his preparations and knowing and understanding the game so well that when he steps on the field he knows exactly what he's doing and what everybody else is doing. He's fun to watch."
On playing with Manning and New England QB-Tom Brady:
"I've been blessed to be able to play as long as I have and to play with those two quarterbacks. That means I get to get on the field a lot and kick a lot of extra points. You look across the league and you see that there are 20 teams out there that aren't playing anymore the rest of this year and the transactions that are being done right now and teams that go out there and go 0-16 or 4-12, it's definitely a blessing to be able to play for this team and be a part of 12-win seasons. It's hard to come by, and to be able to be a part of those types of things is great, but we can't get lost in past successes and that kind of stuff. What we're thinking about now is not playoffs in general. We're thinking about one playoff game. If you don't win that game, you go home and the rest of the successes all year long don't mean anything."
On the similarities between Manning, Brady and former New England QB-Drew Bledsoe:
"Obviously, all of them physically have the tools to get it done. That's a given. You don't get to this league at that position if you aren't a good athlete, but I think what sends some of those guys to the upper level of that position is their work ethic, how much time they spend in meetings and watching film and lifting weights. I think above and beyond the physical part is their understanding of what everybody on the field is doing. For them to have that much stuff going on but be able to slow it down enough so they know what the heck is going on is what a few of them do very well and some other ones, at any position, can't quite accomplish because they're so good at doing that."
On if there is another place like San Diego with good and bad experiences:
"I'm sure looking back 13 years there are plenty of kicks that I've missed that I would like to have back and some that I've done well. I suppose the divisional games, you play those twice a year so you have maybe more opportunities to make a lot of good ones and miss a couple that you wouldn't want, but for back-to-back situations like that, that was a pretty unique situation for me."
On if RB-Dominic Rhodes' personality has helped the locker room:
"It really has. He's a fun guy to be around because he comes into work every day ready to work hard. He's a good guy to have on your team because he's a good athlete. He's always out there giving it his all and to have him and Joseph (Addai) as a 1-2 punch, obviously a couple of years back it really helped us a lot. This year it's helping us a lot as well, giving us some extra depth. His personality off the field in the locker room really helps out a lot. It really helps with the younger guys. I can't say enough good stuff about him. He really has been a real big blessing to our team."