TB: Doing very well, thank you. [It] was good to be out there with the guys and had a good day of practice, so, [got] back on track.
Q: Why did you miss practice yesterday and what’s changed?
TB: There’s an injury report, didn’t that come out? It was on the injury report.
Q: What was the illness?
TB: It was nothing, I feel great. Nothing at all.
Q: Knowing how much you value practice, how much does that affect the preparation for you leading into the biggest game of the year?
TB: Well, we’ve been at it for a while now. There’s days where I’ve missed days of practice and you just deal with them. I’ve played a lot of football over the whole season and I got back out there today and it felt good. It was good to be out there. We were moving around good and team’s practicing good so that’s the biggest positive for us. We need to practice good. We need to go out and play good, that’s going to be the most important thing. They’re going to challenge us in a lot of ways. They challenged us last time we played them here. Going on the road to a great environment like this where the crowd is really going to be into it, it’s going to be an exciting challenge for us. I’m excited.
TB: Everything is important at this point. You have six and-a-half days to prepare and you’re on the clock. It’s really a matter of us focusing on all the details, attention to the meetings and the walkthroughs. Certainly when you get onto the field, the execution has to be really good. The guys are focused and Coach [Bill] Belichick certainly challenges us every week. When you play against one of the best teams in the league, you realize there’s very little margin of error. You can’t go out there and turn it over and not be good on third down, not be good in the red area and think you’re going to go in and beat one of the best football teams on the road. There’s a reason that they’re at this point; there’s a reason why we’re at this point. We have to be ready to go out and play our very best to hopefully advance.
Q: Josh McDaniels is going back to Denver. What is his motivation from what you can see?
TB: He’s always been very focused. We haven’t talked ever too long about his situation there. I know it’s something he dealt with and that’s in the past for him. He’s always got great focus this week. There’s no really motivation for our team other than trying to go and win a game and certainly win the biggest game of the year that we’ve played to this point. That’s all the motivation that we’re going to need. He’s always focused like he is every week. He’s one of the best coaches that I’ve ever been around and why I love being coached by him because he brings it every day. He has great enthusiasm. He has a great understanding of what they’re trying to defensively, he has a great understanding of our skill set offensively, what we’re trying to build toward. He’s a great motivator. He’s fired up, as we all are.
Q: Given everything that’s transpired this season and injuries and the number of rookies you have on the postseason roster, what is that a testament to, to overcome that and play in the AFC Championship Game?
TB: I’m sure every team is probably at this point overcome a lot. I know Denver has done a lot of those things too. They’ve overcome a lot of things and injuries and so forth. It’s just part of the NFL football season. To get out there and play 16 weeks and really see where you stand at the end of those 16 weeks – getting to the playoffs, play the best teams and see if you can advance. It’s certainly not easy to do. It’s very challenging. I think it’s the mental toughness of the team and the willingness to do whatever it takes to win. We’re challenged here on a daily basis by Coach Belichick to show up, do the right thing, always put the team first and I think that’s what this team has always been about. I think guys that I’ve learned from over the years and guys that I’ve played with that are no longer on this team, that’s kind of a leadership you can provide to some of the players that haven’t been here. I was able to learn from some great guys, some really great mentors for me. Hopefully I can be that for some of those other guys that haven’t been here as long but still have to understand what it takes to win on a consistent basis.
Q: How much do you draw upon the different levels of success you had in the first half and second half of the first matchup as you prepare for this week?
TB: I think it’s important to see what we did – well, I know what we did. We turned it over three times in the first quarter and we couldn’t do anything offensively. We were just pretty terrible and they played good. They did some things that challenged us. However the game ebbs and flows, I think we have to be prepared to just play for 60 minutes. You’re not going to play 30 minutes against this team and then think you have it all figured out. They’re going to change, we’re going to change. I think that’s the thing they’re able to do on offense and defense to be able to adjust things. So, if it’s not going well, they have enough players, really smart players, on both sides of the ball to be able to adjust and get to things that might work a little bit better. It’s kind of what we do too. We’re a game plan team. We go in, we think they’re going to play a certain way. If they don’t, we have to make adjustments and try to move forward. You can’t really play 30 minutes in the first 30 minutes and then go, at the end of the first [half] and go, ‘Well, the game’s over, we’ve got it wrapped up.’ You’re going to have to play all the way through this game, however long it takes – 60 minutes or beyond – to see if we can ultimately score more points than they do.
Q: Can you appreciate the historical context in which this game is played between two future Hall of Famers going at it again?
TB: I’m pretty much focused on this week. I don’t really think about those things truthfully. It’s just not where my mind is. He’s a great player, they’ve got a great team and one of the best offenses in history. I think what that means for us is we better be ready to score some points because that’s what they do best. They out-score you and they can score quickly, they can run the ball like they did against us last time. They have a bunch of guys who have caught a bunch of touchdowns. What that means for our offense is we have to be able to match it. We have to be able to eliminate the ability for them to possess the football, whether that’s controlling the ball through third downs, whether that’s not turning the ball over, whether that’s getting the ball in the red area. There’s not one phase of our game that we can’t be at our very best. They have a great football team. They’ve been playing great since the opening day of the season. We’ve kind of had to find our way a little bit. But none of it really matters, it’s just all about this game.
Q: You’ve described your football team has hardnosed and resilient. How can those qualities in a game of this magnitude on the road with teammates who have never been on this stage?
TB: They’ll certainly play a factor. They’re really played a factor for us over the course of the stretch of the season. I think you really become what you are over a long time frame. I think we’re definitely a hardnosed team. I think that shows in our ability to run the football, our ability to play special teams. Different guys have filled in on defense but we’re doing a great job against the run. That’s really where you establish your style of play. We’ve talked about that for a long time, how we’ve become a team that’s more resilient and mentally tough and I think we’ve proven over the course of the season that we are that. We’ve won a bunch of different ways. We’ve won coming from behind, we’ve won with leads, we’ve won in pretty crappy weather conditions. You just fight through whatever it takes. It’s all about winning a football game. That’s why we’re here playing. That’s why everyone shows up and watches and tunes in on television because they want to see who is going to win, not just who shows up and runs around and breaks a sweat.
Q: Two years ago you missed Wednesday’s practice before the AFC Championship but the team won although you didn’t play your best game. Is there any reason the fans should worry you might not be able to physically able to bring your A game?
TB: Which game was that?
Q: It was the Baltimore game. You won 23-20, but your passer rating was 57.
TB: That’s bad. It needs to be better than 57 this week.
Q: Is there any reason the fans should worry you can’t bring your A game?
TB: I hope not. I hope they shouldn’t be worried. But this team is going to test us. I’m going to go out there and do my best. All the preparation that we’ve had to this point is a part and going forward we have three more days to really get after it. Hopefully I’ll go out there and play my very best.
Q: A polling agency did their annual NFL poll and found you to be the least liked NFL quarterback? Why do you think you’re the least liked?
TB: There are probably a lot of reasons. I don’t know, that’s a great question.
Q: Some suggested jealously not only of football success but the kind of life you have off the field?
TB: What kind of life do I have off the field that everyone knows so –
Q: You’re married to a supermodel.
TB: Oh, that. That’s the reason.
Q: You have a pretty good life. Some people could be jealous. Do you think that plays into it along with your NFL success?
TB: I live a great life. I’m not sure. You’d probably have to ask all those people that you polled. But you’re right. There’s nothing I’d rather do than play football for the New England Patriots and yes, I have a great family.
Q: You mentioned mentors who helped you understand postseason football. Who were some of those guys?
TB: Well, not necessarily postseason football, just about winning football. I think guys like Tedy Bruschi and Troy Brown and Willie McGinest and Drew Bledsoe and guys I really learned how to become a professional football player. Wes Welker, guys like that that I played with that you watch and you see what it takes on a day-in, day-out basis to prepare yourself so you can be your best for the team. That translates in the postseason, that translates in the regular season, that translates in the offseason. Ultimately you’re trying to be the most consistent player you can be for the team and show up so the team can count on you and they trust you to do your job. If you’re playing next to a guy and he doesn’t believe that you can do your job, you’re going to affect his mental preparation because he’s worried, ‘Oh my God, is this guy going to get that. Is this guy going to get this block or this signal? Is he going to make that tackle?’ Then you start questioning that and you’re not able to play at your best. Doing your job is a big statement around here and we use it quite a bit but it’s what team football is all about. There are 53 guys in the locker room that have really committed to that this year. I think that’s a big part of why we’re in this position. Everyone that plays a role has really been focused on what their role is and they’re going to go out there and try to do it the best they can.
Q: Have you taken on more of mentorship role than you have in years past?
TB: I think I’ve always tried to do just whatever I thought we needed to do to try to fill the spots that the coaches can’t always do. There are a lot of different rules with the offseason program now. I think there are things we can do as players to try to get ahead. I think there are things that we can do as players to try to get ahead, maybe that other teams don’t have the ability to do. I’ve been around here long enough so I have an understanding of what our coaches ask of us. I’ve been coached really hard over the years and I try to convey a lot of those messages to the players as well. We’re not necessarily in a meeting room – we’re in the locker room, we’re on the airplane or something like that. I’m constantly kind of a pain in their butt. Maybe they’re some of the guys you polled – some of my receivers that dislike me, I could definitely see that. I just try to convey whatever message I need to in the hopes of us just all being on the same page so that we can go out and execute our best.
Q: What’s your comfort level with
TB: Danny’s had a great season. He’s showed me really what he’s all about. He’s fought through a lot of adversity earlier in the year and is really playing his best football. He’s done a great job. He’s been in and out of different roles in the whole offense and different positions, different formations. He’s had to learn a lot of different spots. He’s willing to do whatever it takes. He’s doing great and I love being out there with him.
Q: Is there any balance when you’re doing something really well, like how well you’ve run the ball recently, and looking at your opponent and trying to attack what you believe are their weaknesses?
TB: Yeah, I think that’s definitely – you try to figure out what you do well and you try to figure out what they don’t do well. You try to find a balance but sometimes you watch a team’s defense and you go, ‘Well, we’d love to try these types of things but that’s not really what we do really well.’ So you don’t do them. I think you have to figure out what you do well and then go out there and try to do it the best you can. This is the game where it matters most. This isn’t a big trial-and-error game. This is, let’s see what we do well, let’s see how consistent we can be at it and let’s challenge them. Let’s see what they do well. It’s not like they’re going to install a whole new defense this week. They’ve got what they’ve done. We’ve got  games to really see how it sorted itself out and you try to make an educated guess on how you think they’re going to play against us. That’s what you’re going to game plan and you go from there and you be prepared to make adjustments if you need to.
Q: Knowing what the running game is doing right now and knowing what
TB: Yeah, the way he’s running, the way we’ve blocked offensively, it’s never a problem for me to check to a run because they’re executing it so well. Look, we’re going to try to take what they give us. There are times when there are good looks to run it and that’s what you have to try to do. You’re always trying to figure out at quarterback where the soft spot in the defense is. The more you can find it, the more you can identify it and get to that spot, the less challenged you’ll be. Every defense has a strength and weakness to it and you just try to go from there. Sometimes you, based on the situation, you just may end up having to run it to the teeth, to the strength of the defense. But some of those have been our best runs all year also. We’re getting plenty of looks the past three weeks where it hasn’t been great to run it and we’ve run it anyway and we’ve gained a lot of yards. We’ve become a pretty good run team. Hopefully we can be a pretty good pass team this weekend too. We need to be able to do both.
Q: The first time you played against Peyton Manning was your first start ever. What do you remember from that game and is there anything you’ll use this weekend?
TB: Probably nothing I can use for this weekend. That was a different team and I was much younger then. That was a long time ago.
Q: Is there anything that sticks with you from that day?
TB: We won. That was the most important thing. That would be a great thing to duplicate this weekend to go out and win the game. We’re all in it for one thing and that’s to try to go out there and win the game. That’s what our team is really focused on. That’s what I was focused on 13 years ago and that’s what I’m focused on today.
TB: He told me about it. It was good for him. I’m happy he did. He deserves it. He’s worked really hard over a long period of time. You never know when you’re going to get your opportunity. I think there was an AFC Championship Game that I didn’t get to finish in 2001 and Drew [Bledsoe] came in in the second half and threw a touchdown pass, led us to that win in order to get us to the Super Bowl. Everyone has to be prepared. You never know when your number is going to be called. Whenever it is the guy who has to step in and do the job has to do it. We have a locker room full of guys who are able to do those things. I certainly believe if Ryan gets his opportunity he can do that too.
Q: You’ve thrown for less than 200 yards the last three games. Does that bother you? Or is it just that you won?
TB: I think it’s just about winning. I’m glad we won and that’s what we need to do. If we need to throw for 500 yards, hopefully we can do that. If we need to throw for 50 yards, I’ll throw for 50 yards as long as we win and whatever it takes for us to score more points than the other team, that’s what we have to do.