HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
“Yesterday, I hadn’t seen the quarterbacks for various reasons, mostly because we gave them the day off and brought them back in today at noon. So Brock Osweiler will be the starting quarterback for us on Saturday. Like I said yesterday, I thought Brock did some really good things on Sunday with his teammates and almost brought us all the way back. I thought that he did a nice job. We have a lot of confidence in him that he’s going to go out there and play well on Saturday. We’re moving forward and getting ready for the Raiders. The Raiders are a very difficult team. Very physical on offense. Very, very athletic. A team on defense that puts a lot of pressure on the quarterback. Has done a nice job the last three games of stopping the run, held teams under 100 yards. Special teams are excellent so it’s a big challenge for us. We really need to have a good week of practice here to be ready to go.”
Where does QB Tom Savage stand in the concussion protocol and do you know who your backup quarterback will be on Saturday?
“I’m not going to speculate on when he might clear but yes he is in the concussion protocol. If he were to clear, then he would be the backup quarterback. If not, it’ll be Brandon Weeden.”
What did you think QB Brock Osweiler was able to do when he was benched for two games? Did he see things differently and get to learn some things?
“I think it’s probably a great question for him, not to try to tell you how to do your job. But I think that he – when you do become the backup, you’re able to observe a lot more. You’re able to observe in practice, in the games, in the meetings. I think that it helped him. He was able to go out there against Tennessee and I think he played freely. He let it rip. We spread the ball around. Not saying we won the game, I know it wasn’t a great game but it was a pretty good second half as far as moving the football. I’m sure that in some ways – it’s painful to go through that – but in some ways, the backup position may have helped him.”
Can you revisit the Oakland game in Week 11 and how QB Brock Osweiler played despite the laser being shined in his face?
“First of all, he played a good game against them. We just really watched that tape last night. You watch all the games when you’re getting ready for a playoff opponent. But in that game, I thought Brock did a nice job of getting us into the right play. Got into a good rhythm. Guys ran good routes for him. He delivered the ball accurately. Threw it to the tight ends, the receivers, the backs. Everybody was involved in the passing game. Did a good job. As far as the laser, you’d have to ask him. I mean, I would tell you that I’m not sure how he did that. That’s hard to overcome, that being pointed at you. But obviously he did it and I thought he played a good game for us.”
NT Vince Wilfork just told us he might retire after the season. If he does, can you talk about what he has meant to the game?
“Wow. He hasn’t spoken to me about that. Look, you just kind of caught me off guard there. Vince has been a guy that I’ve had tremendous respect for from the time I met him in New England. I think about two things with Vince. I think about his off the field, his family, his wife and kids and all the things that he does for the community in Boston, New England and then obviously here in Houston. Then I think about Vince on the field. To play that position for that many years, if he does decide to go that route, to play nose tackle in this game at such a high level for that many years. To me, it’s incredible. Those positions, there is physical and violent contact on every play. It’s not like playing farther away from the ball. I mean, you’re right over the ball. To be in that position, get double teamed quite a bit, and to have the productive career that he’s had, it’s a testament to him, it’s a testament to his toughness. He’s a good teammate. Been a good leader here. I know this about Vince, he wants to play really well in the playoffs.”
If you’re going against a rookie quarterback on Saturday, how hard is it to prepare for someone with so little tape on him?
“Yeah, it’s difficult. I think that when you don’t have a lot of tape, sometimes you got to go back and maybe watch – just to get a skillset evaluation – maybe go back and refresh your memory with him in the draft as it relates to Connor Cook. Obviously, we’re a little bit more familiar with Matt McGloin, having coached him, but he’s a much different player than when we coached him at Penn State. But as far as Cook goes, you don’t have a lot of tape on him but the one thing you have to remember about the Raiders on offense is they have just an abundance of talent around him. With Amari Cooper and (Michael) Crabtree, Latavius Murray in the backfield along with the other guys they have in the backfield, (Jalen) Richard and (DeAndré) Washington. These guys have a lot of talent. A huge offensive line that’s very physical. Good receiving tight ends in (Clive) Walford and (Mychal) Rivera. It’s going to be a big challenge for our defense.”
What can you take away from last year’s playoff game that you could do better? Or was it a case of things just spiraling out of hand as soon as they returned the opening kickoff?
“On the schedule for this week, one of the reasons for that is so that we as coaches can be better prepared at the beginning of the week for the players. It gave us all day yesterday and all night really. Then half of the morning to really be able to present very good information to these guys instead of kind of always feeling like you’re behind. That’s one reason. The other reason is to try to get these guys some rest. When we go out there today, it’ll be what we would call a ‘jog through’. I think tomorrow will be more of an active practice. We’ve been playing football for a long time now. So as far as last year’s game, I really would rather not talk too much about last year’s game. But you know, the big thing was turnovers. It’s nobody’s fault but if you turn the ball over like that it doesn’t matter if it’s regular season or playoffs. It doesn’t matter, you’re not going to win many games. So I think ball security in the playoffs, along with many other factors, but ball security is one of the most important factors.”
NT Vince Wilfork said he was glad the team had to win a lot of close, gritty games because that will help them in the playoffs. What are your thoughts on that?
“No one would know better than him. No one would know better than him. He’s been in AFC Championship games. He’s been in Super Bowls. He knows what it takes. I think that the one thing I’ve always been proud of with this team and this coaching staff is the resiliency. The fact that they fight tooth and nail for every inch. I think that it isn’t always pretty, like I’ve said. But at the end of the day, we’re in the playoffs and every team in the playoffs starts with a clean slate. So I think that the fact that we have shown resiliency, the fact that we have shown the ability to win close games in the fourth quarter, hopefully that’ll help us down the road here.”
Can you talk about the challenge your offensive line will face this weekend vs. the Raiders’ pass rush especially DE Khalil Mack and OLB Bruce Irvin?
“Very tough assignment. I would tell you that the speed and explosiveness off the edge is difficult to deal with. These guys, they do a very good job of understanding snap counts. Of understanding formations. Of understanding when they’re being chipped, when they’re not being chipped. They move them around some. They’re not always in the same spot. So those guys, (Khalil) Mack and (Bruce) Irvin are excellent players that you have to know where they are on every play.”
Can you talk about how QB Brock Osweiler stayed ready the last couple weeks and how he handled getting benched?
“He’s done a good job. He’s been a pro. He hasn’t really changed his routine at all. He’s been in here studying like he’s a starter. He’s in here this morning getting ready. We’re presenting him the game plan. We always present it a little bit earlier to the quarterbacks. So he hasn’t changed at all. He does a great job of taking care of his body. He works very hard at that. He feels good, I believe, and I think he’s ready to go have a good practice week and go out there on Saturday and do the best you can for the team. That’s his whole attitude.”
QB Brock Osweiler talked to us about how much he likes running the no-huddle offense after the game on Sunday. Is that something you guys are working on with him?
“No-huddle is an interesting deal. It would probably take a day’s worth – really, it would be an interesting conversation in the offseason because you don’t just go no-huddle. You have to figure out the best way to start the drive if you’re even wanting to go no-huddle. You have to figure out, okay, how can we get off to a good start on this drive so that we can play the next play on the line of scrimmage? Are you going to sub during the no-huddle? Are you going to put 11-personnel in for 12-personnel? Are you going to put 10-personnel? 21-personnel? We have every personnel in the book. So how are you approaching it? Are you going to stay in the same personnel all the way down the field? Is it more like a two-minute drive? Is it more like – there’s three types of tempos – you have the ultra-fast tempo, you’ve got the huddle on the ball type tempo. I mean, there’s so much that goes into that. So we all notice. We all know that when we’ve moved the ball, we’ve been in some type of good tempo and good pace. So, look, we’re going to work hard on all the different ways that we’re going to try to move the ball against Oakland. That’s definitely one of them. I mean, people know that we go no-huddle. Our quarterbacks and our receivers like it. Our tight ends like it. We’ll just have to see how the game goes.”
Yesterday, Broncos Head Coach Gary Kubiak retired for health concerns. Is that something you ever think or worry about with yourself and your assistant coaches?
“First of all on Gary, I just will tell you that we all have a tremendous amount of respect for Gary and his career, both as a player and then obviously as a coach. To go to Denver and win a Super Bowl, I think it’s incredibly hard to do. He’ll go down as one of the best coaches in the NFL. I just want to make sure everybody understands how much respect we have for Gary. As far as health, look, I don’t know. I’m not sure that our staff, obviously, is a picture of health. I’m not really the foremost – I can’t really go down the health road with you. I just grabbed a peanut butter and jelly. You’ve seen me do that in the locker room. I grab those peanut butter and jelly (sandwiches) on the way to the next meeting. I think it’s important to try to stay healthy but I think it’s also important to win.”
Does your wife ever say anything to you about your health?
“Oh, no question. Yeah, no question. Where am I hiding the candy? The M&M’s? The ones that kill you are the road trips. When you get on the plane and your seat is loaded with M&M’s and Snickers bars. I blame the flight attendants on the road trips. They’re the reason for my unhealthiness. I’m kidding. I’m kidding. We love the people we travel with.”
So do you not really think about your health very much during the season at your age?
“I do think about it. We get physicals. Right here, with our medical people, the coaches get a very complete physical once a year. I think that’s really important. I think that’s helped a lot of our guys regardless of what age they are. I think we’re always recommending – our guys work out. You see a lot of our coaches are in the weight room for 20 minutes and trying to get something on the treadmill or whatever they’re doing. So I think it’s important to be healthy but I also understand that it’s important to win. In the end, winning helps your family too.”
Do you regret putting QB Tom Savage in a quarterback sneak situation in a game that didn’t effect playoff standings when he ended up getting a concussion on that play?
“It was a play where we felt like that was the best play to get us the first down. It was a play that involved two plays. So it was either that or something else and what they showed us was that and we took it. It’s football. Injuries occur. No, I’m not regretful of that play-call at all. I just feel bad for Tom that it happened, but I think in the end you’re out there to play football, it’s a contact sport, injuries happen. I feel terrible about it but I’m not regretful about it.”
CB A.J. BOUYE
What are the differences playing at NRG Stadium in the afternoon vs. where you played Oakland last time in Mexico City?
“The altitude, it was really high in Mexico so you got tired easier. As far as the fans and everything, I think it’s going to be the same atmosphere this weekend since it’s a playoff game, the only game out there. Everything counts. We are excited for that. The crowd will be behind us this time because it’s in Houston. We expect for the crowd to get loud as usual. The defense is going to do a good job of getting them the ball. We are excited for it.”
How nice has it been to see DE Jadeveon Clowney have the year that he’s had given all the things that he’s gone through and seeing him have fun?
“It’s very nice. A lot of us have been in his ear this past offseason and stuff like that. From the outside looking in, a lot of people don’t know the work that he has put in especially with the injuries he has had to deal with since his rookie year. Everybody talks about, they always want to focus on the negatives with him, but one thing we are glad to see is he never let it get to him. He just kept working. You see how much of a team player he is. We have his back and you see that he has our backs. He’s made a lot of plays this year and I’m glad to see all of the hard work that he has put in so far to get where he’s at. I know that there’s going to be a great future for him.”
DE Jadeveon Clowney said he was giving CB Johnathan Joseph and S Quintin Demps a hard time for almost catching them on that big touchdown pass vs. the Bengals.
“I wasn’t really paying attention to it on the field but then we were talking about it on our group chat – the DBs. I went back and looked at it on film and I was like ‘man.’ You forget that he ran track in high school. He can run. That’s one gifted guy and just to have him out there every game is amazing because you see somethings on film and you’re like ‘wow, imagine if we had so and so with him and stuff,’ but he’s just changing the game on his own. You just have to appreciate something like that. That’s why I said he’s going to have a great future because I think he’s got it now. He knows what he has to do.”
How much do you relish in the opportunity for a tough, physical matchup again like you had in Mexico City?
“We love it a lot, especially when you - my whole thing and I’ve always been brought up like this, with my dad especially, when you are going up against guys that think they are better than you or who has great - for example, great offenses are going to be bring the best out of everybody. When the pressures on, the best comes out of everybody. That’s just human nature in my opinion. I’m looking forward to it. I know my teammates are looking forward to it. We were ready to come in today and get started. It’s going to be a great game. It’s going to be a fight as usual. It’s the NFL. They have weapons just like we have weapons. We just have to take advantages of our opportunities.”
NT Vince Wilfork said the grit of this team will help in the playoffs. What are your thoughts on that?
“Definitely. One thing you can never focus on is the failures as a team. Not everything is going to be perfect. It’s hard to go 16-0 and we understand that. That’s one thing about a long season. You learn from your mistakes and one thing about our team from offense, defense and special teams, we always kept fighting. You might get hit in the mouth, but it only made us stronger. You could see that and we always get better every week. Now, it’s time where we have to bring our best week in and week out because it’s one-and-done.”
It’s been a breakout year for you. What does it mean for you specifically and personally as a player?
“It meant a lot for me personally as a player, but one thing that changed in the offseason was my mindset and just not really being selfish. The main thing was playing for the guys out there, not worrying about what’s going to happen with me or anything like that. The DBs, everybody on defense, we are really close and we are even close with the receivers and everything. Just in the back of my mind knowing that I’m not just doing this for me, I’m doing this for my parents, I’m doing this for my teammates, the fans. They want to see us win. When you have that mentality out there on the field, how can you let your teammates down? That’s how we play.”
What has it meant to the defensive room finishing with the No. 1 defense without DE J.J. Watt?
“It means a lot because, like I said, we don’t worry about the outside looking in, but we know the type of players we have. We’ve seen it even when J.J. hasn’t been here. I’m not surprised that we had the No. 1 defense because now it just shows how good other players are and just how good our defense and coaches are. Just to be swarming around and everybody playing at their highest level and we will be excited when he comes back whenever, but like I said, we are good right now. We just have to keep it going, keep the foot on the gas pedal.”
You mentioned this is a one-and-done scenario. Has that sunk in in this locker room?
“It’s not really emphasized because we already know. It’s the playoffs. There’s no round robin tournament. You aren’t going to lose and go into another bracket and hopefully get back. You just have to, like I said, one loss and you’re out. You have to keep winning. We know it’s going to be tough. At the end of the day, we have a home game and then the plan is to win and then go wherever else and we already know those next teams that are in the bye. We don’t expect anything to be easy starting with this game. They are a great team. They lost their quarterback, but they are still a great team and everybody knows that.”
When you don’t have a lot of tape on a quarterback no matter who is going to play, how does that adjust your preparation when you don’t have film?
“At the end of the day, it comes back to experience, watching film and just watching what you have seen from him. They are always going to have something planned for a defense and we have to ready to be ready for anything, but that’s where instinct comes in, just playing football for so long, just knowing certain sets and certain things and just reacting and just competing. At the end of the day, if you are competing, everything is going to work out for itself.”
T DUANE BROWN
Is this a game where you leave it all on the line since you are eliminated if you lose?
“That’s the message. Play like you’ve never played before. You don’t save anything in the tank. You don’t wait until the next play to be your best. You have to bring you’re A-game. We are facing a very great team especially with their defensive front from an offensive standpoint, so we are going to prepare like that. We are going to practice like that and put a good product on the field Saturday.”
How much do you relish the opportunity to go against a physical front like that again?
“As a competitor in this league, as a veteran player in this league, a guy that’s played against the best, that’s all you want is to compete against the best because it’s going to bring the best out of you. The guys that they have on that defense, very physical front. In Mexico City, we all felt that game the next day. Being able to have another crack at those guys, being able to compete against them for four quarters – I’m really looking forward to it.”
NT Vince Wilfork said this team is a gritty team and that will help in the playoffs. What are your thoughts on that?
“I think everything that we have been through, it just builds a lot of character. It’s really brought us together as a unit, built a lot of resiliency in us. The last three games we won, it came down to a couple of plays. We had to come back, fight our way back into it and win those games. We do have a very tough group, very tough mentality, very tough physically. I think those characteristics will definitely benefit us on Saturday.”
What does it mean to have RB Lamar Miller back?
“It’s going to help tremendously. Lamar (Miller) is a great talent, 1,000-yard rusher, a lot of speed, brings a great dimension to our offense, so to have him in the lineup means a lot to us.”
It’s been a tough couple of weeks with the pass rush. What do you think has been the problem and how can you improve?
“No. 1, just being better in the individual battles, one-on-one battles, being more prepared for blitzes, line stunts that they might run, looking for tendencies, being able to see it and kind of recognize it before it happens, communicating. I think being at home will help us out a lot with that. And just finishing plays, finishing blocks, doing whatever it takes to keep our quarterback playing.”
What did you think about what you saw from QB Brock Osweiler when he came in after he didn’t play for a couple of weeks?
“I thought he did a good job. I thought he played loose. I thought he communicated well, recognizing their front, getting us to the right place, made some good throws, had that touchdown run there. So, I thought he played tough.”
If QB Brock Osweiler is the guy this week, how comfortable are you with him?
“I’m comfortable with him. We have had a lot of time with him, understanding him, a lot of meetings, kind of recognizing the same thing, seeing the same thing through the same set of eyes. We know where he will be in the pocket, things like that. Whoever is under center, we will be fine with it. It doesn’t change our job upfront. We have to protect, to let those guys operate back there.”
What has it been like to see what DE Jadeveon Clowney has been able to do this season to get back out on the field? It looks like he’s having fun.
“It’s been great to see. Just seeing what he has been through in his career, to see him healthy, somewhat healthy out there flying around, being disruptive, doing what everyone knew he could do when he got here. It’s a sight to watch. He’s a very special talent with a lot of ability. He has fun with it. He’s a big kid out there when he’s playing. That’s what it’s all about. It’s good to see it.”
DE JADEVEON CLOWNEY
How does it feel to be in the playoffs?
“It feels great. It feels great. I’m finally going to get to play in a playoff game this year. I’m looking forward to it.”
What were some reasons you had such a good game against the Raiders in Mexico City?
“I was just on my game and the game plan. I was watching them play and noticed some of the plays that were going on. Just trying to make a play.”
What were some of the things they tried to do to slow you down?
“They brought a back to my side to chip, slide protection sometimes. Same old thing I’ve been dealing with all season.”
You’re playing against a quarterback who hasn’t played as much.
“That’s great, I hope we blitz him all game. I don’t know, that’s up to the coaches. We just have to put a lot of pressure on him, make him throw some bad balls, force some turnovers and try to get our offense in good field position.”
What does it mean so much to you to be in the playoffs?
“We got a chance to do something great for this organization and for ourselves. We can go as far as we can go and make history. So we’re going to try to do that, try to play as hard as we can.”
When you guys claimed a playoff spot, you walked into the post-game press conference happy. Have you been able to let your real self out more this year, especially playing in the Pro Bowl and the team being successful?
“I’d say yeah, I’m having fun, having a good time. We’re all just trying to win. As long as you’re winning, you’re always happy. Looking forward to having a big game this week, and trying to push forward in the playoffs.”
What do you do to make sure what happened in the fourth quarter against the Raiders doesn’t happen again?
“We just have to keep playing four quarters. We played three good quarters against them last time. Fourth quarter came around, we gave up two big plays. We got to stop them, the big plays. Just don’t give up no real big plays. Keep them in front. I think we can beat them.”
When you watch your film, what do you see that you personally can do better?
“Probably rush the passer a little better than I did last time. The first time, the field was kind of messed up down there though. This one should be a good one though.”
We can tell by looking at you and how you carry yourself this year that you’re having fun. Can you put into words just how much fun this season has been after everything you’ve been through?
“It’s just been one of those seasons that’s been great for me. My teammates have been happy for me, to see me from where I came from to where I am now. I feel like it’s going to get better and better for me, so I’m just having fun.”
Is this the first you’ve felt like you did in college health-wise?
“Yeah, probably. I don’t know, just ready to play, ready to play.”
A few days ago, Titans Head Coach Mike Mularkey said you’re playing out of this world. What does that mean to you coming from the opposing coaches?
“I don’t know what that means. Just trying to go out there and make plays for my team, and put my team in good positions to win games. Whatever I can do to help, I’m going to try to go out there and do it. Playing hard is all I know.”
That means they’re praising you.
“OK, that’s good. Like I said, playing hard is all I know. I go out there and play as hard as I can for every game and hope for the best outcome for our team.”
After not playing in this past game, how much has that helped you and how much better do you feel?
“I feel great. I’m ready to go. I’m ready to go.”
What was it like for you to watch your team get beat so badly last season in the playoffs?
“I was upset before the game because I was mad I wasn’t going to play. It was real bad, I hate to see that, but this year I feel like is going to be a lot different than it was last year.”
What would you like for the nation’s fans watching this game to learn about you?
“He plays hard and gives a lot of effort on every play. I’m out there trying to do it all, catch guys, run through guys, run around them and everything. Just really to make plays and have fun.”
Do you like being able to move around the defense?
“I love it. It’s good for me. It keeps me out of the one spot, moves me around the front. I have a good time doing it.”
Your first two years in the NFL, did you get a lot of criticism from fans on social media?
“It kind of built me up. It kind of built me. All the criticism kind of built me up. It really helped me off the field with pushing and getting better. Just to come back and prove to them that what they were saying was wrong. It kind of helped me.”
Has that changed this year? When you go out walking in the city, what reception do you get from fans?
“It’s somewhat changed. I think most of it has changed. But I still keep that in the back of my head. In this league, it’s like this right here (up and down). One minute they love you, one minute they hate you. I just do what I can do to go out there and help my teammates and help my team.”
In the game against Cincinnati, you got up to almost 21 MPH chasing Bengals WR Brandon LaFell. Have you felt a difference in your speed this year?
“I didn’t know that. I knew I was moving kind of fast. I looked beside me and saw J-Jo (Johnathan Joseph) and then I saw QD (Quintin Demps). I’m like ‘I’m right here with these guys, these DBs.’ I always thought I was kind of fast anyways. I was one of those fast guys, just big.”
A few people were freaking out on Twitter about how close you got to Bengals WR Brandon LaFell. Did you hear about that?
“I heard about that. I was laughing about it. I was messing with the guys, J-Jo (Johnathan Joseph) and (Quintin) Demps, about us running him down. I was like ‘Demps, you were supposed to catch him. You had a good angle on him.’ He was like, ‘Where did you come from?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I was coming for you.’ We had a good time about it.”
RB LAMAR MILLER
How does it feel to be back?
“It feels good. Missing my first two games, it was kind of tough. It was different for me, but you know I’m happy I’m back and I’m looking forward to helping this team.”
How much do you think the two weeks off did for you as far as your health and how you’re going to feel this week?
“I think it helped me out a lot. I feel fresh right now. I’ve been getting a lot of treatment, doing some conditioning and just trying to stay in shape, so I feel good.”
How tough was it for you to have to sit out and watch your team, but also understand the bigger picture of being in the playoffs?
“Yes, you know, when the coaches told me that I’d be resting it was tough at first. Just not going to battle with your teammates, but they were telling me to look at the bigger picture, just be ready for the playoffs, so I just took that mindset and just tried to be prepared when the playoffs come.”
You had success against the Raiders when you played them the last time. What do you think was the key to being able to do that?
“I think the offensive line, they did a great job with just getting movement up front and I was just trying to be decisive and tried to make plays when my number was called. So I think we just got to do a great job at just doing the same thing. Getting movement and, us as running backs, we got to be decisive, keep the chains moving and try to find a way to score some points.”
In terms of Saturday’s matchup, can you share some thoughts on Raiders DE Khalil Mack and how critical it is for you guys to play well against him?
“Yes. I think those guys do a great job. They do a lot of film study so I think the coaches would do a great job to put them in the best situation to be successful and we just got to make plays - the whole offense in general.”
Why do you think the Texans offense has struggled with consistency this season especially in the red zone?
“I’m not really sure to be honest, but this time of year we just got to put it all together. It’s win or go home, so everybody has just got to find that type of connection, whatever it is. Put in more time in the film room and on the practice field because it’s win or go home and we know what we’re capable of doing, so everybody just got to put it together.”
How are you feeling health-wise considering how much more you have carried the ball this season and how much of the last couple of weeks has been preserving you for the playoff game this weekend?
“Well, right now, I feel good. I feel like it’s Week 1. I’ve been doing a lot of treatment, getting massages, doing the little things to prepare myself for this upcoming week. The workload was new to me, but I think overall I did a great job at just taking care of my body. It was just the little things that got to me, but I feel good right now.”
This will be your first postseason appearance. Have you had a chance to think about being in the playoffs?
“Yes, I was speaking to my parents the other day. This is my first playoff game in five years. They’re more excited than me, but I just feel like it’s a regular game. But this game - it counts. It’s either you win or you go home, so I’m pretty excited. This is my first playoff game, so I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
What was the key to running for 124 yards against the Raiders last time and what do you have to do in this game to make it happen again?
“Well the key was, like I said before, the offensive line. They did a great job. Without those guys, we wouldn’t be able to run the ball. I know from my standpoint, I was just trying to be decisive to get positive yards, keep the down-and-distance short so we could convert on third downs and I think that’s going to be the key this upcoming week. We just got to do a lot of film study to be successful.”
NT VINCE WILFORK
What do you think about where this team is right now?
“I mean, you’re where you want to be at this point. A chance to play for the big one. You can’t set yourself up any better than just to have a chance. We have a chance. We’re in it. Now we have to play well to continue it. It’s definitely a one-game season now. We have to do everything we possibly can to continue to play because you lose now, you go home. There’s no more next week. So, your mind has to be right, ready to rock and roll every day, every week at this point of the season.”
What do you think about the job that DE Jadeveon Clowney has done for you this year?
“I mean, he’s been awesome for us. I think coming out of college, everybody was expecting to see that type of player, and I think he kind of grew up a little bit. He understands how important the game is, not just for himself but for this team, and how we rally around him. We’ve got a couple guys that we can rally around and that are key guys for us that can make plays. He’s definitely one that at any given second, he can explode and give us plays. At this point, that’s what you need. You need guys stepping up, giving you plays, being able to steal plays here and there. I think with the type of player he is, he’s going to always give us that chance. Any time he’s on the field, good things can happen for us.”
How does the attitude change once the playoffs start?
“Well, like I said, you lose, you go home. I don’t think there’s anything else that can be said right there because you don’t have another week to go back and look at film and say, ‘You know, we have to change this up this time around’ and all that, because it’s over. We have to put everything we have in one basket for this game right here against the Oakland Raiders coming to town. If we get past this one, we’ll do the same thing next week. Everything we have, we have to give it on the practice field, in the film room, with each other, and hopefully Saturday we’ll be on the right end of that coin. We understand how important it is right now, playoff football. We should expect people’s best and we should give people our best. Anything other than that, you’ve failed.”
How does their quarterback situation affect your mindset?
“It doesn’t affect us. We have to control what we control, and that’s executing well, game-planning well, preparing well. Whatever they do, they do. We can’t control that. We’ll see on Saturday how they come out and approach us, but we have to get stuff done in this locker room and put our game plan together, what we think is best for us to go out and play well. That’s how we’ll attack it.”
Does it help that you just played the Raiders a few weeks ago?
“It doesn’t matter because playoff football, you expect anything. I don’t think that game has any bearing on this playoff game whatsoever. Other than the fact that we want to win. I’m pretty sure they’re feeling the same way and want to win. Playoffs, it’s kind of simple. It’s kind of simple. You win, you go on. You lose, you go home. It’s going to be up to us what we want to do as a team.”
How much does it help your mentality to have the Wild Card playoff game on your home field?
“I mean anytime you play in front of your crowd, it’s a positive, it’s a bonus. Especially with the crowd that we have. So it’s going to be electrifying for us. It’s going to be exciting for us. That’s one of the things, being in the playoffs, to have a home game, that kind of gives you a little edge, but we have to do a good job to keep our crowd in the game. That means making plays, getting on and off the field defensively, scoring some points, special teams playing well. So we got to make sure that we keep our crowd into this game because they definitely will help us with this.”
Does last year’s playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs at home stick in your head?
“Every year is a different year. I mean, you can go back and look at all playoff games and all Super Bowls and pick out certain plays, but every year is a different year. It’s a different ball club. It’s a different mentality. It’s different play calls. I mean, you’ll never have the same game. Hell, not every year but week-to-week it could be different. So I’m not looking what happened last year, you know, my job is to play well, come out with a ‘W’ and I think this whole team’s mindset is going to be the same way. Whatever we have to do to win, we have to win, especially in front of our crowd. So, we’re going to play. We’re going to play our tails off. Looking forward to it, but like I said at this point in the season we’re at where we want to be. We want to have a chance. We have a chance. We gave ourselves a chance to get in the playoffs. We have a home game and let’s see where it goes from here.”
How much can the fact that you have been in this position before and have won a Super Bowl before help you help the other guys on the team?
“Well I mean, we all play for that. That’s one of the things when you sign up to play NFL football, everybody’s goal is to be a Super Bowl champ. Anybody that tells you anything different – they’re lying to you or they’re in the wrong profession. So every year we all start off at the bottom of the list. You know, there’s 32 teams. We all start the same way. Midpoint you kind of figure out, OK, we’re .500 or we’re at the top tier and towards the end of the season you have teams that understand their season’s over and you have teams that say you know what we’re on the edge, we need to win games or you have teams that already have stuff sewed up. Once that ends, now you’re in the playoffs. In the playoffs, it’s a different game. Like I said, it’s the mindset if you lose, you got to go home. So everybody fighting their tails off to stay alive now because it’s no more tomorrow and that’s the way we’re going to have to approach it. We have to fight for our lives right now to stay alive and give ourselves the chance at what we play for - the Super Bowl.”
Given how well the defense has played this season, are there frustrations with the inconsistencies in the offense?
“Look, we’re a team. Football is one sport that I love because we have to get 11 players at one time fighting towards a goal either to score points or stop them from scoring. And then you have special teams. You never point fingers. I’ve been in this game for a long time because I’ve been bailed out by some offenses and I’ve bailed some offenses out. Special teams can bail both of us out. We’ll never point fingers because it doesn’t do any good. At the end of the day, we’re a team, and that’s how we’re always going to approach it. We lose, we lose together. We win together. It won’t change now, but hopefully we’re winning. Whatever happens, we’ll never point the finger and say, ‘We should have done this or done that.’ We gave it everything we had and we just came out on the losing end - OK that’s what it is. I think we have a chance if we just continue to play together and just stick together as a team. That’s how we will play, that’s how we approach it, it hasn’t changed all year. It’s a good football team we have and we stick together, it’s like brothers. When things go wrong, we get closer. At this point, we have to be that close knit brotherhood and family because we’re all fighting towards one goal. Like I said, you lose now and go home, so we understand that.”
You’ve been playing for Coach Bill O’Brien for two years now. You made the playoffs both years and went 9-7. What do you think of him now as a coach? What does he do well with you guys?
“He makes us play together. Just coming together as a team. He just preaches ‘team’ day in and day out. There’s not much you have to say to this team because there are a bunch of guys on this team that are leaders that understand the brotherhood of football. I think football is one of those sports where it’s not one individual that can make or break a season or a game. It’s not like basketball where you can go shoot for 30 or 40 and that’s the outcome. It’s 11 guys at a time playing together, if it’s offensively being able to run certain plays or defensively being able to execute a certain play. We all have to be on the same page. I think this team is pretty good with that. When it comes down to the nuts and bolts, being able to buckle down and win tough games, being able to play a complete football game for 60 minutes and never give up. We’ve done it all year. We did it last year. You have a gritty team that knows how to play in tough situations. A team like that is actually a scary team because you know how to play 60 minutes or more. You’ve been in it, you know how to fight, you don’t panic, you stay poised. It’s when you get guys that are scoring a bunch of points and being able to blow out everybody, then all of a sudden they’re in a dogfight. Now the true colors come out. I’m kind of happy that we have a gritty team, and we understand we’re a gritty team. We’re not a team that’s over-flashy. We put our hard hats on and we play football. We’re going to knock the hell out of you, we’re going to play physical, and we’re going to see if you’re going to play physical with us - that’s how we play. We’re not going to change for no one, good or bad, it’s what it is. We’re just gritty.”
You’ve played for a pretty long time now. Do you ever reflect on how many more chances you’re going to have to add to your collection of rings?
“I do. At this point in my career, it’s winding down, I’ve been thinking about it. I just think every year once you get to this time in your career, for me, that I always think about what I want to do. This is one of the one’s that I’m really sitting back when the season is over, I’m really going to take a look at what I want to do if I want to continue or not. It’s the first time in my career that I actually have put any thought into it. I’ll make that decision whenever the decision is made. It’s just something I’ve been thinking about it.”
Could you retire after this season?
“It’s a possibility. Yes, it’s a possibility.”
Is there any reason you’ve thought about it more this season as opposed to in the past?
“I don’t know. It’s just I’ve been playing for a while. One thing that I know is that I love this game. That’s one of the hardest pills to swallow when you leave something that you love, and I still love it. My body feels good, but it’s just one of those things for me. Do I want to continue?”
How painful of a decision is this for you?
“It’s tough. It’ll be tough. I’m not walking out banged up or without anything left in the tank. For me, it’s more mental than anything. Do I want to continue to play the game? Like I said, that decision is going to be made after the season for me. But it is something that I’m thinking about. “
You’re playing at a high level and you guys are the No. 1 defense. It’s not how you’re playing, it’s just more of a life decision?
“It’s more life. There’s so many other things that I want to do. A lot of interests that I have outside of football. I’m not getting any younger. It’s just one of those things that – like I’ve said, I’ve been thinking about it. I’m not saying I will do it, I’m not saying I won’t do it, but it’s definitely not off the table.”
What are some of the other interests?
“I love horses, I love to fish, I love to have my own time. I don’t like to be on a schedule. In football, you’re on a schedule. It was a good thing for my career because it teaches you discipline, it teaches you how to value time and stuff like that. I just think, I’ll sit back and give some time after this season, and see if I really want to do it.”
So you buy yourself a pony after this season? Is that what happens if you hang them up?
“I already have ponies, you’re not going to have to worry about that. That is already in the goal. It’s tough, it will be a tough decision leaving guys like this and leaving a locker room, it’s something I’ve been playing ever since I was four, the love for the game. Like I’ve said, no injuries, I’m not hurt, I’m not banged up. It will be a tough decision, but at the same time, it’s going to be a decision that I make because of me, no one else is going to make it. It’s just where my head is at right now. We’ll see what happens.”