An Interview With:
COACH MIKE McCARTHY
Q. How was practice this week, coach, and how prepared do you think your team is?
COACH MIKE McCARTHY: I thought the practice was very good. Wednesday it was a lot like a normal Wednesday. We had some corrections that we were able to work through. Thursday’s practice was our padded practice. It was clearly our best practice of the week. And I thought today was very sharp, and we’re ready to go.
Q. Some of the players have talked about you putting footballs in a freezer during practice and having Brett handle them and throw them in that circumstance. Can you discuss where you came up with that idea and what the practical application is for Sunday?
COACH MIKE McCARTHY: Well, the idea really came from what I’ve done in the past with rain games, putting the football in a bucket of water and just use the same theory as far as the cold affecting the football. We froze the balls, really didn’t tell the players about it and just rolled them in there on Wednesday and did it throughout the week. Really I was just trying to get them to focus more on catching the football. We had a couple of quarterback‑center exchange in the shotgun problems there on Wednesday, but I thought they handled it very well.
Q. How familiar are you with Tom Coughlin and the job he’s done this year with the Giants? And could you talk a little bit about what it’s like for a head coach when he’s in a difficult position the way Tom was going into the season and gets his team to respond the way it has?
COACH MIKE McCARTHY: I think Tom has done an excellent job with his football team. I think it’s important to note any time a football team improves and plays its best football at the end of the year, I think that’s a reflection of the structure in the program. That’s something we try to achieve, and we were able to the last two years.
As far as being in his position, it’s ‑‑ I’ve never experienced that, but it’s a credit to him. I think he’s a very good football coach. I had a personal experience with Tom back when I was a coordinator in <st1:city w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">New Orleans</st1:place></st1:city>. I had an opportunity to be around him for a couple days. He came to our training camp. I have a lot of respect for him.
Q. The job he’s done with Eli Manning this year and the progress you’ve seen with Eli Manning, could you talk about that?
COACH MIKE McCARTHY: I think they’re doing a very good job. I think it’s a credit to the offensive staff, just his development. Any time you can win big games on the road, and a big part of that is the play of the quarterback, I think that points to his development, so they’re doing a great job with Eli.
Q. Although Brett obviously has a great reputation and history for playing in cold weather games, this is a completely different team, and for many of your players it will be only their second experience or third experience doing so. Were there guys that failed that test in <st1:city w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Chicago</st1:place></st1:city> for reasons you thought they could control and that that’s become an issue you’ve addressed with certain players?
COACH MIKE McCARTHY: Well, the failed test in <st1:city w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Chicago</st1:place></st1:city> really starts with me. That football team, my football team that day was not as focused as it needed to be. That responsibility starts with myself. It wasn’t a matter of going down the line and saying you weren’t focused, you were focused. That was not the case.
Our focus was not what it needed to be. I think it showed up in our fundamentals. We really didn’t handle the football very well. That was the biggest issue we had throughout the day. <st1:city w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Chicago</st1:place></st1:city> handled the ball very well. Actually that’s been an emphasis this week illustrated by the way we practiced with those footballs. In this type of weather, handling the ball is critical, and we need to do a better job of handling this time.
Q. I know you never really second‑guess game plans or anything, but are you going to spend any time tomorrow just thinking about anything else I could do, anything else we can do, and how will you kind of spend the day before the day?
COACH MIKE McCARTHY: I have a routine that I follow as far as going back and watching film. I watch a lot of film on Saturday and Sunday mornings prior to the game, and I’ll stick with my normal routine.
Q. Has Will Blackmon shown you enough to be active on Sunday? And with Feagles‘ ability to directional kick, will that affect your thoughts at all?
COACH MIKE McCARTHY: Feagles‘ ability in how he kicks does not affect who we’re going to use at punt return. Will has done an excellent job with his opportunities there. I thought he progressed through the week. Wednesday and Thursday and Friday during special teams work I thought he looked great. But the defensive work he improved through the week. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow and it’ll be a game‑time decision.
Q. People are trying to draw parallels maybe to the last title game here in ’96 and certainly with Brett’s experience, but also Edgar Bennett is kind of something these younger guys can draw on. Talk about some of the things he’s said to the younger backs and maybe younger guys on the team maybe as a resource going into this game.
COACH MIKE McCARTHY: Edgar, number one, has an excellent relationship with every one of his players. You can see that in the way they respond to him in a classroom environment and also in the practice environment. So I’m not going to sit here and tell you about all the stories he’s told them. I’ll leave that up to Edgar.
But he does a great job on a personal level and in a professional sense of sharing his experiences of playing here in <st1:city w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Green Bay</st1:place></st1:city>, and we give him a hard time all the time about being Hall of Fame assistant coach. Sometimes I feel like I have to run things by him in a kidding sense. He has a lot of credibility with our football team.
Q. What’s this week been like getting your team ready, preparation, breaking down film, staying late at night? What’s it been like for you?
COACH MIKE McCARTHY: The football part of it has really been the same. The week has really flowed. I’m sure the excitement will build here tonight and tomorrow. But it’s been a normal week with the benefit of the extra day, which has been helpful because you do have the extra responsibility as far as with the media and the administrative things that surround this type of game. But it’s been a pretty normal week for me.
Q. Have you ever been around a football team that has gone through the transformation that this team has seemingly gone through? It almost seems like it’s been two seasons, before Ryan Grant and after Ryan Grant offensively. Have you ever seen anything like that?
COACH MIKE McCARTHY: The closest experience I’ve had to this, and really I’d say two of them, the 2000 year in New Orleans we were a football team that when we arrived we just had a lot of turnover as far as players, a lot of free agents, and the team just started off I think 1 and 3 that year. And then they slowly started to build confidence and took off and had a bunch of injuries at the end of the year that we were able to overcome in our first playoff game. So there’s some similarities there.
And I can recall, I don’t remember if it was the ’95 season or ’97 season in <st1:city w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Kansas City</st1:place></st1:city>, we won four times in overtime that year, so with that the confidence building, things took off and we ended up 13 and 3. Those are two situations that I’ve been a part of that are similar to this year.
Q. Ryan Pickett yesterday talked about how he made the Super Bowl his first year and expected to get that back. Aaron Kampman said that you relayed an experience of being in Kansas City, getting to the AFC title game. There was an expectation to get back and it didn’t happen. These young guys have been successful all the way through their careers and they think they’re going to win every year. Is it hard to explain that part of it, how rare it is to get to a championship game and to have that chance?
COACH MIKE McCARTHY: I don’t think it’s hard to explain. I think we have players on our football team that have experience, we have a number of coaches that have experience, and I used the example in 1993 was my first year in the NFL, and we played in the AFC Championship game and got to coach the Pro Bowl, and I thought this was the way it was going to be every year.
It’s important for players and coaches alike to enjoy the process and enjoy the journey. That’s been pointed out throughout this season. I made a note of it this morning in the team meeting, how fortunate we are to be in this position and to enjoy practice, enjoy the things surrounding the game because ultimately that’s what you’ll remember, too, besides the football game.
Q. This team has proven to be mature beyond its years, but what do you say to them Saturday night when you meet for them for the last time to make sure they don’t get out of what they have done all year long?
COACH MIKE McCARTHY: Saturday night’s talk for me is really a combination of what has gone on throughout the week. It’s not completed yet. We have meetings tomorrow, and there may be something that comes up tomorrow that I’ll use. But that speech Saturday night is something for me that builds throughout the week.
Q. Is Scotty Wells more or less in the clear right now? And from a preparation standpoint, is he the kind of guy that can miss a practice and a half with the stakes being what they are and still not miss a beat?
COACH MIKE McCARTHY: I would say yes, yes, to your two questions. I think he’s going to be fine to play. I have no indication throughout the week that he would not play in the game, and he’s a very detailed, very organized in his preparation, and I think he’ll be ‑‑ he’s fine with the amount of preparation that he’s had.
Q. On the sleeves thing in the cold weather, do you totally leave that up to individuals, and have you ever seen guys who went along with their position group and maybe kind of seemed to regret maybe going without sleeves once the weather did get cold out there?
COACH MIKE McCARTHY: Great question. I’m not a micromanager from those types of things. I think we have in our equipment department, our training staff, we have a number of individuals that have been here a long time that have a lot of experience in these type of games. They have more gadgets and things that I’ve never even heard of and probably will never see, and I think that’s okay, too. But I don’t get involved in that. But also if I do look over and it is an issue during the game, I’ll address it. Sleeves or no sleeves, I don’t check that.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports
An Interview With:
Q. You’re known to be a high energy guy. People that know you know you’re that way. You’re going to play in one of the biggest football games of your life. What are your emotions like 48 hours away?
AL HARRIS: Well, I pretty much just try to stay calm and cool until the game actually starts. But I’m a real just laid‑back guy until the game actually starts. So I’m just relaxing and preparing.
Q. I actually have a follow‑up question to that. It’s a little different topic. Earlier today the Giants had their news conference, and when Eli Manning was at the podium he was asked about the secondary and the corners in particular for you guys, and he said that they’re good and he said some nice things. He said they also take a lot of penalties. That’s something we might look to try and do, not only make the completions but try and get these guys into situations where they go beyond the limits of legality and get caught for it.
AL HARRIS: Thank you, Eli, for giving us the heads‑up. You know, it comes with our style of defense. You know, you may get some penalties. That’s what you give up, you know what I mean, by playing press coverage pretty much every down. You’ll get some penalties.
Q. Having played against Toomer and Burress in the past, what are their strengths?
AL HARRIS: Both of them are good receivers, very good receivers. I have a lot of respect for both of them. I think that the young guy, No. 12, is doing a great job, also. But their strengths are they can go up and get the ball. They’re big bodies, they’re big targets. Eli can pretty much throw the ball in an area, and both of those guys have the ability to make a catch.
Q. Can you explain how this team is able to forget mistakes or bad plays the way some other teams that you played out here had trouble adjusting to, and how hard is that to develop as a skill in this game?
AL HARRIS: Well, I think we went through that last year to forget the bad plays, so we had a whole year to work on that pretty much. To say we’re at a point now, we may have a young team, but the guys are pretty mature, so we know every game is not going to be perfect. So there will be some mistakes, there will be some bad plays. The opponents will make some plays.
You know, we just keep going. If we do something good, we keep playing. Bob always says if we do something bad, we keep playing.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about this season personally, how it’s been for you getting voted to the Pro Bowl and now leading up to the NFC Championship, what it’s been like personally this season?
AL HARRIS: Well, both personal and team goals, we’re doing a good job. We’re here in the NFC Championship game. And as far as the Pro Bowl, that’s one of my personal goals, which I’m pretty sure every player in the league has that as a personal goal. It’s a blessing to get recognized by your peers, but as a team goal, our goal is to make it to Arizona, and we’re one step away.
Q. I know you weren’t happy by any means to see Coach Sherman go two years ago, but now that Mike is here, what has he done to be successful and how would you describe his coaching style?
AL HARRIS: I think Mike is sort of to say ‑‑ you know, when people say guys are player coaches, I guess at one point in time that was something bad, but Mike is a player’s coach, but he’s not a softie at all. Everybody respects him, and he respects everybody. He treats us like men, you know what I mean? He doesn’t look down on you. Not to say that Coach Sherman did that because he didn’t. Coach Sherman treated us like men, too.
But Mike’s strength is ‑‑ there’s rule guys and there’s guideline guys, and Mike handles it like that. Young players, rookies and maybe guys through their third year, you know, you go strictly by the rules. And there’s older players, we’ve got some guys that have been there like 90 years on our team, they’re guideline guys. Mike separates the two and he treats us like men. We know what we have to do, we know our responsibilities, and he’s like, okay, handle it.
Q. Charles the other day talked about perceptions of Green Bay when he was being courted to come here and the perception that Green Bay is not a place for a black man. That’s kind of what he said. He’s kind of changed his tune the longer he’s been here. What about yourself? Have you grown to like Green Bay in the time that you’ve been here? And has this whole experience turned out to be different than you thought when you first came over?
AL HARRIS: No, it’s exactly what I expected, you know what I mean? I went to junior college in a small town similar to Green Bay, Athens, Texas and transferred to Kingsville, Texas, which is a small town. I’ve been playing in small towns a lot, so I knew what to expect.
I’ve spent some time in Philadelphia and spent some time in Tampa. They’re a little larger. But I knew what to expect, and just the whole atmosphere, everything, I’m cool with it.
Q. Having played in the NFC Championship before, how do you think your teammates have handled this week, and do you see any similarities or differences between this team and that 2002 Eagles team?
AL HARRIS: I think we’re doing a great job. As far as, like I said, we’ve got a lot of young guys, but they’re mature. I think we’re doing a great job of just handling the success of the team and the magnitude of this game. No one is getting too high, no one is getting too low. It’s pretty important to stay even keel until game time.
Q. We understand that the offense either this whole week or today in practice has been putting footballs into freezers to simulate game conditions for Sunday, and I’m wondering if you’ve got your hands on one of those and what it felt like if you did and what you thought about the process of doing that?
AL HARRIS: Is that what was going on?
Q. You did get your hands on one?
AL HARRIS: Is that what was going on? That’s pretty smart, whoever came up with that.
You know, it is what it is. It’s going to be cold. Balls are going to be cold. I got my hands on a couple of balls, and it’s still a football. If you’re playing in negative 30 or extreme heat, you know, it’s still football.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports
An Interview With:
Q. How ready are you guys for this? How was the week of practice, and can you gauge your team’s emotion being one game away from the Super Bowl?
AARON KAMPMAN: High. Yeah, we’re in a good position right now. We really feel excited. You know, it’s almost like you want to kind of keep a simmer on it, not to get too excited too fast. But yeah, we’re in a good position.
Q. Is there any concern that the Giants‘ offensive approach would seem to be very suitable to the kind of conditions that are expected on Sunday?
AARON KAMPMAN: Well, they like to run the ball obviously, and so obviously when the elements and weather are involved, you want to be able to run the football.
The positive side is that we run the football pretty good, too. So I think defensively we take that as a challenge. We know that that’s what they want to do. We know right off the bat that it’s going to be a huge factor in the game, who’s going to be able to control the ground game.
Q. How does the weather affect anything about your job at all? Do you change anything?
AARON KAMPMAN: I don’t think you change necessarily anything. It’s just more of a focus standpoint. I think you realize that it’s going to be cold. I think you’re lying to yourself if you don’t realize that it’s going to be cold out there.
Having said that, it’s more just a decision to say, hey, I have to go out and do my job, and I’m going to do it well. I know that might sound cliché, but that’s really what it comes down to. Yeah, you do a little extra planning as far as what you’re going to wear, things like that, to make sure there’s no distractions on game day, should I have this on or that on. You get that all laid out beforehand. But really that’s probably the only difference.
Q. Ryan Pickett yesterday was talking about how so early in his career he got a chance to go to the Super Bowl, assumed it would happen year after year. You’ve never had that chance and you got real close with the Philadelphia game, the 4th and 26 has been talked about forever. Does that still drive you guys at all that you got that close and didn’t finish it?
AARON KAMPMAN: Obviously that’s the last time we got ourselves in a position to be as close as we are now, but I don’t think personally ‑‑ I can speak for myself, I haven’t thought about that game at all this year. I think what I’ve taken to heart, though, is what Mike talked about earlier. This is even before the Seattle game. He says, guys, listen, that was his rookie year in coaching, and he was with the Chiefs then, and they made it to the AFC Championship game, lost the game, but he figured we’ll be back next year. And it’s been however many years he’s been in coaching now to get back to this position.
I think that to me really hit me and helped me to realize that this is a special moment, and so you want to take advantage of it.
Q. Obviously it was a physical game in the trenches last time you guys met. In your experience when you play a team a second time and the game was like that, does that add anything more? Is there a little extra stuff going on when it’s a rematch like that?
AARON KAMPMAN: I don’t think so. You know, it’s the NFC Championship game. There will be plenty of energy and plenty of excitement, plenty of physicality, so to speak. I think really what it does, though, is you have a little bit of familiarity with the team ‑‑ just like a divisional game. Whether we’re playing the Vikings or the Lions or the Bears, you get those guys twice a year so you know their personnel, so having played the Giants earlier in the year, obviously it was very early in the season, but they had a lot of the same personnel. It just kind of gives us a familiarity with this football team.
Q. Dan mentioned what Brian said yesterday. Brian also said that the interior linemen can’t wear sleeves but the ends are allowed to. Why the double standard?
AARON KAMPMAN: I don’t know, you’d have to ask Brian that (smiling).
Q. This time has been particularly loose all year long. Has that changed at all as the stakes have gotten greater?
AARON KAMPMAN: I don’t think so. I think we realize the fact that there’s more at stake. But having said that, you know, we still are the same team. Coach McCarthy has done a great job of keeping us on the same routines, keeping us in the same ‑‑ basically the same structure as week two or three or ten or whatever, and I think that’s really been a benefit for us.
No, we’re still goofing around at times, not in a negative sense, but we enjoy each other’s company. We don’t look at it as coming to work. I think we enjoy each other, and that’s been a real key to our success this year.
Q. With all the talk of what happened in week two obviously between you and them and Nick Barnett and everything, do you have to remind yourself, hey, we can be physical but use your brain, stuff like that, or how do you approach it?
AARON KAMPMAN: In terms of the ‑‑
Q. In terms of the magnitude of this game and the situation and stuff like that.
AARON KAMPMAN: Yeah, I mean, I guess. It’s the NFC Championship game, so I don’t think there’s any need for extra incentive or extra motivation. It’s pretty much out there. If you don’t have it up for this game, you don’t have a heartbeat (laughing). I think that’s really what it comes down to.
Q. What does it tell you about the Giants that they’ve gotten here the hardest possible way, by winning on the road in the playoffs a couple times? They’ve played well on the road all year. What do you think about their confidence level and what does that say about them to you?
AARON KAMPMAN: I think it says a lot about their team. Being a good road team ourselves, I know what that takes, to be able to go out on the road and be successful. So obviously they have a lot of confidence. They’ve gone the hard road.
You know, when you’re on the road you kind of have this mentality of us versus the world. We know it well. Like I said, we’ve had success on the road, as well. That’s kind of what we do, so I’m sure they’re rallying around the same type of idea, and it’s worked for them.
Q. Just two years removed from 4 and 12, talk about the road to get back to this point right now and the ups and downs this team has gone through.
AARON KAMPMAN: Yeah, my first three years here we went to the playoffs every year. I just kind of anticipated it. We were the Green Bay Packers and we were going to win the NFC North and go to the playoffs and then win the Super Bowl. Obviously we came on hard times with that 4 and 12 season and last year kind of rebuilding the new regime with Coach McCarthy. So it’s been exciting to have some ups and downs.
But I think everything that I’ve seen about our team that’s been so positive is even in that 4 and 12 season, the core members of our team I think really showed what they were about, you know, the character involved. And even when we were 4 and 12, that last game we played Seattle in ’05, we came out to win that game. And then continuing that type of a mantra.
So I think what it’s really done for me is it’s been really enjoyable to see ‑‑ now we get to see some of the fruit from that labor and perseverance.
Q. Because the Packers have had such success playing in the wintery conditions there’s a public perception that they enjoy playing in those conditions. Nobody really enjoys that, do they?
AARON KAMPMAN: Again, it’s a decision of the mind. I think we relish it because we’re at home. This is what we play for. We play for home field advantage this late in the year. We look at it as a definite advantage for us being able to be in a familiar setting, being in our home locker room, being in this situation.
Q. Do you, in fact, not like the way the Giants‘ offensive line plays? And that description of them being dirty, does that still apply?
AARON KAMPMAN: Listen, I think anyone that knows me knows that I am not one to talk negative about any other person or club. Yeah, I mean, that’s pretty self‑explanatory. I don’t know how this whole deal ‑‑ I came to work today and everyone said there’s a bunch of stuff out there. I didn’t even know what they were talking about. I didn’t watch the news or anything.
Like I said, there’s nothing there. I think the Giants play the game extremely hard. I actually respect that. Yeah, I don’t know where that all found its source.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports