Q: What are your impressions of Andrew Luck? I know you’re more focused on the defense, but as a fan of the game, what have you seen from him?
TB: He’s a great player. PHe’s in his third year, and he’s had a lot of success. Their offense is doing a great job this year. They score a lot of points, especially at home, and he’s kind of the ring leader. He does a lot of things I wish I could do. He’s big, fast, shrugs off blockers. He makes a lot of extended plays. He’s a great passer. I think they’ve thrown for more yards at this point in the year than any other team in history, so I guess that speaks to what they’re doing offensively. It’s a big challenge for our defense. We’re going to have to score a lot. When you play another great offense, you’re going to have to put up a lot of points, similar to our last game. We realize we have a big job, too. You’re right, my focus is on other side of the ball, but you also know you’re not going to be able to score 13 points and win the game.
Q: Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett – two of your former backups – are squaring off as starters this weekend. What are your thoughts on that matchup?
TB: It’s pretty cool. It speaks to their work ethic and I think what they’ve been able to accomplish. They’ve both overcome quite a bit in their career, so it will be fun to see. We play at eight o’clock, so I’m sure a lot of guys from our team will be paying attention.
Q: A couple weeks ago, you talked about being more mobile. What was the catalyst for that?
TB: I think I’ve always tried to work hard on those things. I think I just have a little better understanding of how to accomplish that than I’ve had in the past. I’ve tried to work hard on it this year, and hopefully it will keep paying off. You always want to try to do things better, no matter what they are. I always want to be the best I can mechanically. I want to be the best I can health-wise. I want to be the best I can with my energy and my leadership. It’s just a constant pursuit of trying to be better at every little aspect of the game. You just can’t stand back there all day and expect everything in pass protection to work out and throw the ball on time. There are a lot of times where you’re going to have to be able to really ad-lib and make some plays. Our guys have adjusted to that and made some great plays out of the pocket, so we’ll probably need to do that again this week.
Q: Do you think the extra time you’ve spent working on that has helped the other guys on the team?
TB: Yeah, you have – and a lot of guys who are really mobile do a great job of it – you have the play that’s called in the huddle and then you have the play when it breaks down, so really the defense has to cover two plays on every play instead of one. Guys that are able to move really well, they’re able to – like Andrew Luck, he makes a ton of those plays. He’s fast enough that he can out-run guys, but he’s also strong enough to kind of shrug off blockers and throw with guys when they’re wrapped around his legs and stuff like that. He’s pretty phenomenal at that. I’ve watched a lot of players over the years, and it’s always been a part of the NFL – guys who can really be athletic and mobile. I think if I can make a couple plays in the game, I think it really helps our team, and I think it has.
Q: Considering the injury he suffered, how impressed are you with the way Rob Gronkowski has come back? Also, having had a similar injury, how much work has he put in behind the scenes to come back from that injury?
TB: He works extremely hard. If there is anything you know about Gronk, he really loves to practice. It’s really a great place for all of us to learn – on the practice field – so the more you’re out there the better you get, and the more consistently you’re out there you’ll get better faster. I think he really pushed himself to get to the point where he’s at because it is a tough injury. The one thing about my experience with a knee injury is you just have to keep pushing yourself because you don’t really ever get to a level of comfort because whenever it feels better you just push it harder. It takes a lot of mental toughness to do that, which in the end is probably good training to overcome some of those things mentally, and then physically you have to be able to go out there and do it and perform at a high level. I’ve been really impressed with a lot of guys who have come back from injury or are dealing with injuries, but certainly what Gronk has been able to do has been great for our team. He’s been a great catalyst for our offense, and he’s a big factor in every game we play. Whether he catches the ball or not, he’s a big factor, and I think that speaks to his value to our team.
Q: What are the defining characteristics of Stephen Gostkowski and Adam Vinatieri that have made them so successful, and how do reliable kickers like that impact a quarterback’s thinking?
TB: I’ve been very fortunate to play with both those guys. Adam is one of the greatest kickers of all time, and Steve is one of the greatest kickers in the league. He’s had a phenomenal career. I think they’re both very confident players. I think that speaks to what a kicker is all about. They are always able just to move on. One bad kick – not that either of them have had many bad kicks; Adam hasn’t missed all year – but one bad kick doesn’t lead to a second bad kick. And there is really never a loss of confidence, almost like a closer in baseball. You’re called in to do a job, you have a lot of confidence you’re going to do it, [and] if you miss, you have just the same amount of confidence going out there the next time. Steve has done such a great job for us, made some huge kicks in the last game, made some huge kicks this season – really tough kicks. We don’t really play in very easy conditions, I’d say, for kickers. The weather is always a big part of the game, especially in the kicking game here. To develop that mental toughness, because we practice outside all the time, it’s even that much more exceptional what Steve’s been able to accomplish.
Q: What does it take to be a good road quarterback and a good road team?
TB: That’s stuff we’re trying to get pretty good at. Communication is a little bit more of an issue on the road, and I think that’s the most important thing when you’re playing on the road is to make sure everyone is really on the same page because if you’re just a little bit late anticipating things, then the defense has such a significant advantage. Ultimately, it comes down to execution and how well you play, and then the communication plays into the execution, and because the execution is a little more difficult, you’ve got to work harder and concentrate more on exactly what we’re doing so that we’re really all on the same page. It’ll be tested this week. This is a great environment. It’ll be rocking Sunday night. It’ll be a great environment for football. We’ve played quite a few games there in my career, even though it’s still a relatively new stadium, but it’s got great energy, and we’re going to hopefully try to use that energy for us, also, not just for them.
Q: Your record outdoors in bad weather is pretty well documented and well known. Is there any part of you that wants to get indoors every once in a while and not have to deal with those issues?
TB: Yeah, I think today we’re in the bubble, so to have weeks like that where the weather is not a factor and we’re not talking about what the conditions may be because it seems like all season Coach has had meetings about what the weather is going to be and how the wind is going to affect the game and if it rains how the rain is going to affect the game. It is a little bit of a breather where you’re playing in a dome where everything is controlled. Like I said, ultimately it’s going to come down to how well you play and execute, but yeah, it’s nice to be indoors today.
Q: I know you enjoy a challenge, so is it still a challenge for you to play in perfect conditions?
TB: We’ve used our weather as a great home field advantage so it’s nice to play in the elements because I think we deal with them probably better than most teams because we practice in them every day and I think we work hard to gain our mental edge in tough conditions. When we’re going on the road, we don’t have many of these games on our schedule – maybe one a year where we play in a dome or we play in a controlled environment – so we just have to go out there and play well. That’s ultimately what it’s going to come down. I hope we play well. More so than the weather, I hope we just go out there and kick some butt !