Q: How much are you enjoying this?
A: I would be lying if I said I was not enjoying it. But it has been what – 11 years, something like that, since we even made it this far. So I don’t want to say that I got to a point where I had forgotten what that was like, or my goals were not what they used to be, but in some respects it had kind of gotten that way. I didn’t get used to losing, we only had one losing season, but we were far removed, it seems like, from that. So the standpoint that we are back in it, this is my fourth opportunity in a championship game. What I will say is that I appreciate it. I don’t want to say that I savor the moment more, but four tries in 17 years – and to a certain degree that is better than most guys – but I would love to – I obviously want to win this game and get a chance for the Super Bowl. But I am very proud of the fact that we have gotten this far.
Q: What do you take out of the first game against the Giants?
A: Well, I’ll say this, they are much – this is no secret – they are a much improved team in all phases. From the defensive standpoint who we have faced – I really haven’t watched that game to be honest with you. I think their scheme has changed, I don’t want to say a lot, but it has changed. They are more of an attack. They came after New England, they came after Dallas. And if they will go after those teams they will definitely go after us. And they were a little bit, I don’t want to say cautious, in the first game when we played them. I think they just wanted to keep everything in front of them. They knew we couldn’t run the ball so they wanted to take a lot of chances in the pass game. Now they are rolling the dice and I’ll tell you, the front guys are playing outstanding. We were concerned about them in the first game and we had better be concerned about them again. They have been a little banged up in the back end but the guys are playing well, I’ll give them credit, regardless of who is in there. And I know that is what every coach and veteran player will say, “No matter who is in here, we have to play.” And they are doing that. And I’m not trying to sugar coat it. They have beaten some very good teams. It is hard to win on the road. They had every chance to beat New England and I will give them a lot of credit for that. So we are in for a tough one.
Q: What you do recall about your conversation on the field with Eli before the second game this year?
A: If I remember correctly, he was kind of banged up – his shoulder—and we were out there just more or less BSing. I can’t remember the exact words but just that I admire and respect his toughness. I have played a long time and played through a lot of injuries but I think his mental toughness is admirable because of where he plays. It is no secret to you guys, but he has caught a lot of heat, not only from the media but from the public. He just has the same demeanor and approach and I can remember just saying that. “You have handled things well.” I think he is a fine player, I thought he was then. I think he has proven to people now that he is legit. I think in that game we were just BSing; nothing too major.
Q: There is talk around here whether or not he has turned the ‘corner’ as a quarterback the last three games because he has played so well. Does such a ‘corner’ exist? Do quarterbacks have a light that goes on?
A: Well, I think to a certain degree, yes. But these last three games have obviously brought a lot of positive attention, not only to their team but Eli in particular. To be totally honest with you, I thought he had turned the corner if, like you said there is a so called ‘corner,’ I thought he had turned it a long time ago. I watched numerous games this year and in some we were pulling for those guys to win. I felt like, for example, the Chicago game, the way he battled back at the end of that game I thought was outstanding. It is better than I did. I think he has handled adverse situations, not only here in the last few games but I think just in the last few years. I thought he had done that extremely well. To a certain degree, you are only as good as the surrounding cast. And I think he has some fine players around him, but they have been banged up and he has had to play with this guy and that guy and then the next week it is a different guy. And he has handled it well. But I think he turned the corner a long time ago.
Q: How long did it take a Bayou boy to get used to the frozen tundra and how much of an advantage do you think it has for you against teams who are not used to it coming in?
A: First of all, I don’t know if I have ever gotten used to it. It is for three hours during the week. We practice indoors; not a whole lot different than anyone else. Yeah, you live in it. I’m not out making snowmen. But it is a mindset. And everyone is different. It is not different than being in your house. Like for example, my wife, she may be cold and I’m burning up. It is a different mindset and how you approach that. Cold is cold and when we played Chicago a few weeks ago, I was freezing. And it was windy and it was miserable. I give them credit; they handled those conditions better than we did. You don’t ever get used to that. It is supposed to be pretty nasty on Sunday night. It is a mindset. It is not that we practice in it and we are more schooled in those types of conditions. I think we know what to expect; I think the Giants know what to expect. For those three hours, you just have to suck it up and handle it.
Q: Is it an advantage to you?
A: I don’t know. I think the advantage would be, if there is one, when you think of Green Bay late in the year, you think of “Boy, those are bad conditions and it is going to be cold. And none of those warm weather teams are going to like it.” Well, I think when you really break it down there are guys from our team who are from the South, no different than the Giants, or Tampa Bay, or whatever. I think it is just this, “Man, I can’t believe we are going to play Green Bay in December or January.” You can almost talk yourself into or out of anything. And if you look forward to playing in games like this, then it is not an advantage or it is an advantage, depending on who the guy or who the team is that says it. So, I don’t know. It is our home field and in these conditions it can be tough. But it can be tough on us as well.
Q: You have had a lot of experience against the Philly defense. You guys were playing them almost every year for a while. From what you are seeing of the Giants now, are they playing closer along those lines lately than they were?
A: I think their style, yes. I think their style, their approach, seems to have shifted a little more, at least since our first game, it seems to have shifted a little more to what I would compare to Philly’s style. There are some subtle differences, but it is more of a ‘We will start with this base defense and for the most part what you see is what you get. But we are going to change it up and we are going to give you some odd ball looks and we are going to give you some protection issues. And we are going to attack. We are going to allow our guys to play but we are not going to really’ --- and I don’t want to say that it is not that they attack without giving up big plays. They want to kind of keep things in front of them to give you odd ball looks. And that is the Jimmy Johnson mentality; rush four but it may be a corner and a safety from the same side with a nose and a defensive tackle and drop everyone else. And it breaks every rule that you have ever been taught. And I see them doing a lot more of that now. I see them having success with it. I don’t see why we would see much different.
Q: Are you able to put your accomplishments in perspective, with the records and everything else you have been able to do at this point?
A: You know what, and when I say this I’m being totally honest with you, I am aware but I haven’t stopped long enough to think about it – I don’t want to say enjoy or appreciate. I’m very proud of the fact that I have played this long; have achieved a lot of these things and the obvious achievement that I am most proud of – the consecutive starts, the wins, just neither one of those comes without the other. All of the other stuff I’m proud of and I’m aware of how difficult all of the things I have accomplished – good and bad – but I think it is something that when I leave this game, as I look back, I will probably appreciate more with each day that passes. I try to stay focused on who we are playing that particular week and don’t really have time to think about the other stuff.
Q: You talked before about making the playoff run again and what that felt like. Can you remember what it was like when you were making that first extended run, maybe like Eli is now, and the difference between that feeling and trying to get back to somewhere instead of get somewhere?
A: Well, there is no doubt there is a different feeling from the standpoint of being there before and it has taken you a long time to get back. And the only difference to me is the respect level for this game and how difficult it is to get back, how difficult it is to win week in and week out. A lot is expected of this organization and that comes down to individuals doing their job. It is a wonderful reward to be in the playoffs but it is almost equally as disappointing when you get in, you get out right away, or it is a disappointing – the expectation level sometimes exceeds what you actually do. And people tell you, “Hey, you know a lot was expected of this team. Boy, they fizzled out.” And then you think next year we will be right back. And then the next thing you know it is 11 years later. It is a humbling experience, but we are one of four teams left and I think that says a lot not only about this team but the Giants, as well. Because a lot of people had written those guys off. And the way they have battled back – and I’m sure Eli is sitting there going, “Everyone is thinking we have made it to this point, everyone is kind of excited about it, but it is what we do from here.” They are a hot team right now. He is playing well and you would expect them to carry over after this season and just get better and better. And that is kind of what we did. We got in and the next year we got a little further and a little bit further and finally got there. And I don’t see any reason why this team – talking about the Giants—won’t make that type of move year in and year out.
Q: How does this team compare to the three other teams you took to the NFC Championship Game?
A: Well, from an experience standpoint, there is no comparison. This team has no experience in that area. There are only a few of us that have actually gone on to a second playoff game. I said this last year, at the start of last season, that this was probably the most talented team I had played on. Everyone thought I was crazy. Whereas now I think people are seeing that there is a lot of talent. But there was so much more experience and maturity back then – excluding me. I was probably the guy that I see as I look around the locker room now that I worry about. Do they know what is going on? Are they preparing the right way? I was that guy. Around me I had the supporting cast that was experienced, was mature, and knew what it would take. That is the difference in this team is that there is a huge experience difference.
Q: It really wasn’t that long ago when you expressed some public disappointment that the organization didn’t sign Randy Moss and a couple of other players. And you felt like they weren’t trying real hard to reach this objective. How shocked are you that you are here today after what you said a few months ago?
A: Well, I’m not that shocked. If I thought we were that bad, I wouldn’t have come back. But I really felt like this team had --- regardless, I thought we had some wonderful opportunities. My thought was that it would probably take a little bit longer than it has taken up to this point. And would I make it that long. And I just spoke to our media about that. That was the big difference – is that I thought this team had a tremendous amount of potential. But I didn’t know if the time aspect of it would be in my favor, and getting a veteran player like a Randy and some of these other guys that we had discussed. To me, you can look at it a couple of different ways – quick fix, whatever. But looking for some veterans with experience, hey, we all carry a little baggage. That goes without saying. I’m not saying that I was wrong, because I thought our guys had tremendous potential. In fact when I was making those comments, Ryan Grant was not even on our team. So there were a lot of question marks and that is all that I was trying to do.
Q: Now that you have a team that you have gotten to the Championship Game with, and is young enough where you could make a run for a couple of more years, does it change your timetable for how much longer you might consider playing?
A: I have looked at it any differently at this point than I have in previous years. The only difference being is that we are still playing. This time last year I was home. This time two years ago I was home. Well, I know for a fact I was having to think about my future much earlier than I have this year. And the obvious choice would be, “Oh yeah, man, he is coming back, they are playing great. Why wouldn’t he.” But to be totally honest with you, I haven’t thought about it. It has been a blast. It has been a wonderful experience but I’m not even worried about next year, which is great. I’m concerned about us beating the Giants. Where last year we kind of knew ---- and in the previous year --- well in advance of that, we were out of the playoffs. There were decisions that the Packers had to make as well as me, “Do we want to keep going in this direction?” So it is nice to know that we don’t have to think about that at this point.
Q: What is the closest you have ever come to missing a game during this streak?
A: There were numerous times. I would say probably the broken thumb and I tore a knee ligament in my left knee against Washington several years ago. I don’t know, I had a concussion against the Giants here a few years ago. It was kind of iffy the following week. I felt fine but you know how they are now days. I missed all of preseason one year with the tendentious. And really didn’t practice the week of our first game. So there have been a couple of times. That is the thing – I think about all of the games that I have played in. And there have only been a few times that not only have I not been able to finish a game, but there has only been a couple of times that it was even a question if I could play in the following game, which hasn’t happened. But to me, I’m probably as proud of that as anything.
Q: Eli says that you are fun to watch. Is he fun to watch?
A: I think so. I have watched a lot of his games. I have watched a lot of his brother’s games. Not only at the present time but watched them in college. I have always been a fan, not only of Peyton and Eli, but of Archie. And that has been well documented. But yeah, I think so. I really do. We can classify what is fun to watch in a lot of different ways – unpredictable, or predictable or mechanically sound, mechanically unsound; whatever. But, yeah, I would say he is fun to watch.
Q: Can you talk about your relationship with Michael Strahan and clarify whether or not you did or did not lay down on the sack in 200l?
A: I haven’t talked to Michael since we played them in September. It’s not like we talk on the phone all of the time. I think I have said that numerous times that I didn’t lay down. It is not something we discussed previous or after or whatever and said, “Hey, we have a formal pact here.” That is over and done with. What he did that year, what he continues to do, is outstanding. What a hell of a player and difference maker. My respect for him is like it always has been --- it is at the highest level. He is a tremendous player. But he is going to want to get me this week; no different than any other time and I’m going to find a way to get away from him and hopefully not allow him to be a factor. But that is it.