John Kuhn is 32. The first-team All-Pro fullback will be a free agent at season’s end.
A.J. Hawk just turned 31. With a diminished role and a hefty price tag, he might not be asked back for next season.
Tramon Williams will turn 32 in March. He’s still playing at a high level but general manager Ted Thompson generally doesn’t open the checkbook for free agents on the north side of 30.
These four veterans are keenly aware of what’s at stake in these playoffs, which begin on Sunday against Dallas. For them, this might be their last chance to be in hot pursuit of a Super Bowl championship. Here’s what they had to say:
Peppers: “I’m not really at a point of reflection right now. It’s about the game. Anything else is not really important. That’s not being dismissing about the situation. None of that stuff matters. The game matters and how we play. That’s really what I’m trying to concentrate on.”
Kuhn: “I think every time you get to this spot, it gets a little more important, it gets a little more emotional. We’ve been here, we’ve won things. We’ve also been here and have fallen out and taken some tough losses. All we can do is draw from this experience that we have in the past. Every time we get here, you get a little bit more of a sense of urgency because you know how hard and how much work you really put into getting here.”
Hawk: “We all know (what’s at stake), especially (after) these last couple years. Every team in the playoffs right now has high hopes. ‘Yeah, we’re going to go and continue to play. We have three more weeks to our season and let’s keep this thing rolling.’ When you do lose in the playoffs, it hits you hard and it hits you fast. I’m sure even you guys have a sense of that. You feel it and it’s not a fun place to be when you know you have all this time before you get back on the field. We don’t want that. That’s fresh in our minds, even from last year. We definitely don’t want that again. This game is huge but you can’t make it more than it is.”
Williams: “It means the same as every other playoff (appearance). You want to get in all the playoffs and win but the chances of doing that are slim, obviously. We feel good with where we’re at right now. We feel that we can make it all the way to the Super Bowl and win. The road’s not going to be easy, starting off with Dallas. They’re a tough team but we have faith. It’s going to be tough but we feel that we’re capable of doing it. We always feel strong about every year because here in this locker room, with the caliber of players that we have, when things don’t go as you plan them to go, it’s like, ‘Where did we go wrong?’ Now, we’re jelling a little bit more than we have in the past. You can feel that chemistry, you can feel those things and it’s unexplainable. You can feel it in the team and the players and the coaches. Hopefully we can ride that out.”
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