Did you ever play against Michael Vick?
Once. He's one of the top athletes in the league. As a pass-rusher he creates some problems for you. I was actually able to get to him and force a fumble, so that was nice, but I can't count on it every time.
There isn't anyone like him in the league, is there?
At the quarterback position, no. I don't think there has been, ever. With his athleticism and his ability to move around, he's as tough to defend as anybody in the league.
How much more comfortable will you be this week?
Hopefully a lot. I try not to make predictions. Come to work each day and try to get better and make some things for my cheat sheet and try to memorize some more stuff.
I remember talking to you 10 years ago. You weren't so -- how shall I put this? -- impressed with the game. But last week you raved about it. Has your passion for the game increased?
I think you still have to be prepared for life after football. Football is such a short part of your life, but because of that the game is so much more special. You can be a doctor for 40 years. You can't play football for 40 years. So because you have such a short window of opportunity, I think you have to pour more into it to get the most you can out of it, because, as I said the other day, when it's over it's over. I'm sure every coach who played this game, even some of you reporters who played in high school or college, would love to strap it up one more time. But the last time you strap it up is the last time you strap it up. There's no old man games at the park; there's no Senior Football League like there is in golf, so you've got to get it while you can.
Did you think you'd be playing this long when you were here the first time?
No, I just wanted to finish my first contract, four years, and from there.
The last time you played against the Steelers, you were on fire. Were you particularly motivated for that game?
Yeah. I had hurt my foot the year before and I think that's when you realize, wow, this game can be taken away from you at any point. So obviously, playing the Steelers with their tradition of linebackers there, I wanted to be the best linebacker on the field that day. Anytime you play someplace where you played before you kind of want to show up a little more. My parents were in the stands, so I thought this would be a good game for me to turn it all the way up and see what I've got left, and I had a lot of fun that day. I had a pretty good game and we won, which always makes it easier.
Tell me a little bit about New England. Why are they so successful?
Excellent coaching and players who truly, truly prepare every week, every day. They're not always the most athletic team on the field, but those guys are prepared for all situations and all scenarios. It comes down from the head coach. Belichick's sense of preparation and his ability to break the game down into situations is amazing, and it prepares you as a player. Instead of forcing you to memorize a hundred different plays that the offense does, [it's] short-yardage – this is what they run; two-minute situation – this is what they run. So you've only got to remember a few different things, so it allows you as a player to be prepared for each situation that occurs in a football game. They run a really good program there.
Yet, no ring. Is that a big part of the reason you came back to Pittsburgh? And are you starving for one?
That's the reason you play the game. You boil football down and it's a job. It's just a job to support your family. But as a football player, what is the peak of your profession? It's not being the highest-paid, it's being a Super Bowl champion. Having won championships in Pop Warner football and in high school football and at the University of Colorado, it's the one ring I'm missing, so of course I would love to get that. As far as whether the Super Bowl was the reason I came back here, would I be clamoring to go to Green Bay right now? No. I wouldn't call my agent up for that one. But the Steelers opportunity is kind of a great: You kind of come back home, kind of come back to where I started, finish the circle kind of thing. Obviously they have a great chance to make it to the Super Bowl, so that made the decision that much easier.
Have you sensed the revival of hope here after last Sunday?
That's always funny. They hate you one week and they love you the next.
Could you sense that in your short stay so far?
I sensed in the locker room that there was a sense of calm and confidence, no sense of panic. But not being around this team, I really didn't know what to expect on Sunday. The guys came to play. If we continue to do that, and everybody does their jobs, I don't see why we won't continue that type of success. But you've got to stay even keel. It's your guys' jobs in the media and the public to hate us or love us on alternating weeks. Our job is to keep even and keep working.
As the crowd was cheering your sack, did you think right then that your career had come full circle?
Well, in a sense, yes, but I saw it more as a welcome back than a full circle, because a full circle implies the end, and I have no idea how long I'll be here. Those guys who are injured will come back and be healthy, so I just want to keep working and hopefully keep making plays. It's not time for me to rest on my laurels, on my one sack. I didn't come here just for one sack. It felt great, but like I said it was a welcome back, not an end-of-journey kind of thing.
Apparently Joey will be out for a period, and this appears to be a good two-headed replacement they're plugging in. You're the pass-rusher and Arnold Harrison is the run-stopper. How do you like the set-up?
I don't think it's as easy as you say it. Arnold's been here for a year and a half now, so he's a lot more comfortable with the base defense. There are a lot more checks and situations that we have to go through to line up the defense on first and second down. It's not like they don't trust him as a pass-rusher and they don't want me to play the run. I just think it was easier on us for the coaches to say, ‘you focus on this and you focus on that.' How it all plays out down the road, who knows. I'm sure I'll probably end up playing some first and second down and I'm sure he'll end up rushing the quarterback.
What was your reaction to watching last Super Bowl?
Jerome and I have the same agent, so I was obviously very happy for Jerome. I know the Steelers organization, Coach Cowher, they've been so close so many times, and to see them get it was awesome. People were asking me if it was hard to watch it. No, not really. Why be bitter? Why not be happy for these people who've worked so hard to achieve this? As far as the Seahawks, I asked to be released there. That was my decision. And, you know, if you spend all your time looking back you're going to walk into something right in front of you. I made a choice to go to New England. I actually had a choice to stay in Seattle and I had a chance to come here, but I made that choice. Why beat myself up? It sure would've been nice to be here, but I learned a lot about myself last year in New England. I learned a lot about how I viewed the game, why I play the game, so I think that experience was truly important for me. I plan on coaching high-school football, and having been a player who's achieved a lot of success on the field and been with some successful teams along the way, I hadn't really seen the other side. Last year in New England was the first time I was ever deactivated for a game. So now when I'm coaching high-school football I can explain to that kid who doesn't play that I've been there and I've felt what you're feeling. It was not the experience I signed up for, but I think it was maybe the experience I needed.
Insightful as always, Chad. Thanks.