Seahawks Talk Panthers

Matt Hasselbeck, Lofa Tatupu, Andre Dyson and Mack Strong discuss the Carolina Panthers, their own mental preparation, and one of the biggest games any of them will ever play.

QUARTERBACK MATT HASSELBECK

(Were you concerned about Shaun Alexander practicing today?) “I really don’t think anyone is overly concerned about it. Obviously the medical staff, they are the ones who are supposed to worry about it and I am sure they are. We as players, we are just going on. Business as usual. We have another game and it is not something we are thinking about.”

(What are the biggest challenges posed by the Carolina defense?) “There is really not a weakness that I see right now. Their secondary is great. Ken Lucas is having a great year. I haven’t watched them much on film all season but he has had a Pro Bowl year. I am actually shocked that he is not in the Pro Bowl this year. Their secondary is obviously very, very good. Their linebackers are fast, they are making plays. Then the defensive line is probably the strength of their team. Julius Peppers might be the best athlete in the game of football. You have a guy like that then the other guys are really good as well. I don’t know that there is a weakness. Their scheme is fundamentally sound. It is going to take our very, very best effort to be successful.”

(On being familiar with Ken Lucas and vice versa…) “I don’t know. We have had to change all of our hand signals this week because of him and whether he remembers them or not, I don’t know. It wasn’t worth the risk so the coaches came in and we have changed all our signals. That is no big deal. They were kind of stale any way. They needed to be changed. We are good. I think he is going to have an advantage because he does know our offense really, really well. Either way, he has played great all year against teams he has known and teams he hasn’t really known. It is unfortunate he is not on our team anymore because of the kind of player he is but that is the hand we have been dealt.”

(Are people around the county starting to give the Seahawks more respect?) “When you start worrying about what people outside this building think, I think that doesn’t help you as a football player. The times that I have been most successful are when I’ve really tried to please one person and that is my position coach. My position coach is on the same page with my offensive coordinator and my head coach. If you have 11 guys just buying in to everything that their position coach asked them to do, you are going to have a successful team I think. That is the approach I have tried to take.”

(On how much different this week is…) “I would say aside from doing the press conference under the tent instead of the rain over there, it is about the same for me. It is a football team against a very, very good team and it is 11 on 11. Hopefully it is a little louder than it was last week. It was awesome last week. Set the bar a little higher, see if we can make it even better. I don’t have much experience playing the championship games. I am just going to go out there and try to play this one like I did last one.”

(On everything being more scrutinized…) “Again, I don’t get too caught up in that. The officials probably have the toughest job of anybody on that field, players included. I can just worry about myself.”

(Have you talked with Joe Jurevicius this week, and other players with championship experience?) “I don’t know if we have talked to those guys as much as we see how they conduct themselves. Joe has just been going about his business like he has all year. He is going out and working hard. He is practicing hard. He is taking care of himself. It seems like he is getting a lot of rest and eating right. He is continuing to work out in the weight room. There are other guys that are in the same boat as him. They are kind of doing the same thing. You just continue to be professional.”

(How much more confident are you because of the offensive line as opposed to two years ago?) “Our offensive line, I can’t say enough about how they played. We all talk about the left side but the middle and the right side has done a great job as well. Those guys on the right side especially, they are true offensive linemen. Under appreciated, over worked, and over looked. They have done a great job all year. All five of those guys.”

(What is your mental state like compared to what it was during the Green Bay playoff game two years ago?) “I would just say that our team and myself included going into that Green Bay, I would say that in our locker room, we felt like we could probably win. Part of me just feels like we were just happy to be there back then. If we won, it would just be like an added bonus. I don’t think that is the case on this team. I think this team talks about it less and in a funny way I think we believe it more. Back then we talked about it more, believed it less. I like it better this way.”

(Have you believed in this team all season?) “I think so. The tough part is getting everybody to believe. There have been times this year where things are rough. When Bobby Engram and Darrell Jackson went out, I know that we had to go to St. Louis that week. I don’t know that everyone really believed. The coaches kind of grabbed everybody and said, ‘hey, you better believe because we are going to do it.’ We got it done that week and haven’t really looked back.”


LINEBACKER LOFA TATUPU

(On stopping Carolina’s run game…) “We have been consistent against the run all year and that’s our main focus. If you don’t stop anybody’s run game it is going to be a long day for you. We’ll pile up against the run and rally to that pass and make sure we know where 89 is at all times.”

(On needing to slow down Steve Smith…) “I think it’s obvious but they are balanced. That run game is very strong and you have to give them the respect they’ve earned over there. We have our hands full.”

(Does the game plan change with DeShaun Foster out?) “No. They are still doing the same game plan, they are calling the same plays and that was evident when they played the Bears. We just have to keep going.”

(On talk about this being the biggest game of the season…) “Well, it is. If you don’t win this you don’t go on. But you can’t get outside yourself and realize it is just another game. We are thankful to be playing at home, in front of our fans and are just excited about the challenge.”

(What would you ask the fans to do on Sunday?) “Just keep bringing that noise. You can see the frustration on the offense’s face when they can’t get the audible they want or they can’t get the right personnel in. It is an advantage. Some of getting off the field on third-down is a tribute to them. I am just thankful for it.”

(On his big game experience in college helping him now…) “I’d like to think so but you just have to treat it like another game. I know that is not the answer you want to hear but it is. It is another game and you can’t get outside yourself. Just play your game.”

(Have you thought about what the team has accomplished up to this point?) “If you sit back and look at what has happened you’re going to be sitting back watching next Sunday or two Sundays from now. We just want to keep playing ball.”


CORNERBACK ANDRE DYSON

(Do you treat this like a normal game?) “Obviously, it is a big game. Everyone knows that. We want to win. We can’t over do it during the week. We have to keep everything normal. Don’t change up everything and do what we have done to get this far. Hopefully it will work for us on Sunday.”

(Will your off-field routine be the same?) “I do the same thing every week. Get a lot of rest, prepare and be ready to compete on Sunday. You can’t get too involved in changing things and get too involved in the game because you won’t play a smart game. You won’t play how you are capable of playing.”

(On comparing Santana Moss and Steve Smith…) “They are similar. They are both dangerous after the catch. They both are Pro Bowlers. Size is the same, height, the numbers. Everything is almost the same. Seeing Santana is a big help for us. For me, I played with Steve in college for two years so I think that should help me out a little bit too.”


FULLBACK MACK STRONG

(On the difference the first-year players have made…) “I think no doubt Lofa Tatupu has made a tremendous impact on the defense and transformed just even the whole attitude around it. Leroy Hill has come in and made plays. You look at our free agent acquisitions and you can’t say enough about Joe Jurevicius coming in and giving us a big spark in times when we really needed it. It’s all worked together and it’s helped us to get where we are right now.”

(On young players in the league…) “I think the thing that makes those things what they have been so far to this team is being surrounded by veterans. They are surrounded by guys that have been there that have worked really hard. The Chuck Darby’s, the Grant Wistrom’s and the D.D. Lewis’, the guys that have been around football and played a lot of football and know what it takes to win and know what it takes to have a good defense. I think those guys have been sort of a calming and grounding affect for those younger guys and it’s helped us to play a lot better on defense.”

(Do you have another 30+-yard run in you?) “At least another 35-yarder. They have just to call the play.”


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