Early in the second half, John Abraham sacked you and kind of mocked the whole title belt thing. Did you see that? *It's not the first time someone has done that. The whole title belt thing is never meant to be towards anybody. It started at practice, and it's not meant to be shown up there. But some people, the Cardinals last year, there were different players, John Abraham decided to do it against me. So be it, not a big deal. *
*What was the genesis of it?
*The genesis? That's a good word. Just started in practice, the scout team, trying to get those guys to take it seriously and enjoy it, have fun with it. A lot of times on the scout team you've got guys who wish they were starters or older guys who aren't playing or important backups who might not want to put as much effort into the scout team as you do as a quarterback trying to make that your whole game. So I just tried to make it fun. So the celebrating kind of grew and the guys enjoyed it.
*So the experience a couple years ago inspired you into doing it?
*Yeah, I told him to make that up (laughter).
After the concussion did you have any idea when you thought you would come back and took your game differently at all or anything like that to deliver these numbers you've put up since? *No, I wanted to come back that week. Obviously it turned out that it wasn't in my best interest, I guess, is the decision we all came to. But I think two days it really were tough for me were Wednesday and Thursday because I came in and they sent me home. I've never been sent home from work before. I've been sent home from school before and that's a lot of fun, but you get sent home from work it's tough because you can't be with the guys, you miss the meetings, you miss the locker room jokes, you miss being on the field with them. So I think I just had a renewed energy when I came back the next week just to enjoy it that much more and realizing that a lot of times the practice kind of goes by my energy and my enthusiasm. I just wanted to make sure that I brought everything to the table and didn't take for granted. It was tough to miss a game. When you go from being a backup for three years to the starter, you just relish those opportunities. And when it gets kind of taken away from you, it's just really tough to not be able to get back in the game.I was very proud of Matt. I thought he played great. I felt like a big brother watching him, but when I got back I just wanted to make sure I enjoyed it but prepared myself to play as well as I had to because I knew we had to win our last two to get in.*
They're known as a cover-two team. Do they mix some man with that or are they one of the more confusing teams?
*Well, they do a great job running their scheme. I think it's almost a misnomer now. A lot of the Tampa Two teams are running more single safety stuff, so if you just go by the computers they're more of a single safety team but Tampa Two is a defense they like to use in long yard situations and also when they're ahead in the game. They've run that for a number of years. Obviously Lovie is kind of basing that from Tony Dungy who brought it over from Tampa Bay. But that's something they do well. But like I said, not as much as you might think.*
Can you describe the tone towards this team? Is it a little more respectful? *I think there's a lot of respect in this rivalry. Jay and I are buddies, but we're not going to text this week. Charles and I are not going to probably talk this week. But there's a respect level I think when you're on the field. They have a number of guys who played in the league for a long time, and I think you can't help but when you're playing guys like that have respect for them and what they've done in their careers. But it's about getting through this week, so there's not going to be a whole lot of friendship out there until after the game.*
Would you describe your relationship with Jay, and how did you come to that decision that there would be no texting this week? *Well, I think it's kind of a mutual thing. He's had the opportunity to text me and he hasn't texted me. But Jay and I have known each other for a few years. The big thing that helped our friendship out was my little brother is a student and athlete at Vanderbilt University. Obviously Jay went there, and Jay kind of played my role in helping him kind of be like a big brother to him at Vanderbilt, kind of helping him around time and getting his feet wet out there, also helping him with that decision and why that would be a good decision.So definitely as a big brother you thank Jay for that and appreciate his role in helping my little brother feel comfortable out there.*
It looks like you and Urlacher playing chess out there before the snap. Does he make it more difficult for you to do your thing or make decisions? *Brian is probably my favorite player to play against just because I enjoy the seconds between snaps. He's a very funny guy on the field. I know a lot of his calls probably don't mean a lot and he probably knows the same thing about some of my calls, so we have some fun with each other back and forth not only between plays, TV timeouts, at the line of scrimmage, a lot of respect, definitely on my side. I don't know how he feels about me. He said he voted for me for the Pro Bowl. I don't know if he's lying or not. A lot of respect on this side for the way that he plays, the way he's played this season. But somebody I really enjoy playing against.*
I think on a touchdown pass to James Jones the other night you said that you moved him and Donald Driver around in the formation. How often do you do that and what does that say about Donald's unselfishness and maybe how much he wants to keep winning here?
*Yeah, we all want to keep winning, but that's definitely a position where Donald would have been the guy, but it was kind of something that James brought to me, said hey, I think I might be able to get him if I get him started to move. So when I got in the huddle I was trying to figure out who was where because of the different personnel we were in, and Donald said, hey, just take my position or whatever, we'll make it work. So a situation like that with under two minutes in the half, to be able to drive down and then for Donald to make that unselfish decision there, and then for James to make a hell of a catch, that put us up seven and obviously Tramon's pick was a big play there.*
Does this scheme go beyond the rivalry because the next game the winner goes on to the Super Bowl or does it take this rivalry to the next level, the next step? *I think it takes the rivalry to the next level. I think there's only been one other we've met 181 times, I believe, this is the 182nd. One other time in the playoffs, I believe, in the '30s or early '40s, '41, so it's great that there's so much history, the longest running rivalry in the National Football League. To have one of us the winner of this game go to the Super Bowl is pretty special.*
During the game last Saturday Troy Aikman said if he was picking out a quarterback to start a franchise, it would be you, and your name is being mentioned with Manning and Brady and those guys. What does that mean to you? *Well, that's quite an honor, it really is, anytime I'm mentioned in the same sentence with those guys. I have a lot of respect for Troy and what he did with his career. He's probably being a little bit too generous. I think to be mentioned in the same category as those guys, we have to put some more hardware around here. But I appreciate the kind words from Troy. Like I said, I want to win championships, and I think you start comparing yourself to different guys maybe when your career is winding down or it's over.*
About how you're playing right now, is this the level you always knew you could attain? *I mean, I say similar things every week, but I mean, the way I prepare, the time I put in, I expect to play well, and that doesn't always happen obviously. Sometimes I make poor decisions, throw the ball not as well as I want to, defense out schemes us or makes plays out there. You know, but the last couple weeks I've played the kind of football I think you need to play to win playoffs. Other than my poor turnover there against Philly, I've taken care of the football and have been pretty efficient throwing the football.*
What's your team think about profootballtalk.com and some of the judgment and things said about you earlier in the week? *I think the final judgment is he maybe jumped to conclusions a little bit too quickly. But I'm just glad that we're able to put that behind us and move forward.*
Obviously you're not going to be a very effective quarterback in Green Bay unless you can play in cold conditions. You've been phenomenal in all your playoff starts, particularly indoors, but when you go outdoors in a game like this, how does it affect the passing game and what things do you have to be more mindful of? *I've only played three playoff games, two indoors and one outdoors. I think anytime you're playing Chicago, the weather is an issue. The field could be an issue potentially. You just have to understand how to be effective in those conditions. As the ball gets colder, it gets a little bit slicker. You just have to understand how to throw and how to you know, Mike, I kind of like practicing indoors in the winter. Mike created that outdoor area where we can practice outdoors, and as much as I like to fight it sometimes, it really probably does help us to be able to practice in that weather in December and now in January, as well.*
How big has an asset has the running game been?
*Well, I saw Mike's press conference, and I'll echo something that he likes to say. It's not always about the yards per carry, it's about the number of carries. It really is true as much as I like to tease Mike at times. It's important for us to at least be patient with the running game. And James did a great job against Philadelphia making big time runs. I think only 66 yards against Atlanta last week, but 25 carries. So at least we're able to give the look as if we're trying to take the run game, which really helps out the play action game. We had some success in the play action against Atlanta, had some success against Philadelphia, as well. It needs to be something that you're playing Chicago. They're a tough defense. They play the run very well. They have to at least think we're going to run it for us to be successful in our play action game.*
This is the biggest game that you've played in. Do you get a sense of the magnitude of this game obviously with the throng of media here? *Yeah, obviously there's a lot more attention to it. There's two teams left in the NFC so obviously there's going to be a lot of focus on us. But it's something you dream about as a kid, look forward it. I've kind of been around it in '07 when we went to the NFC Championship. I obviously wasn't doing this, but I think I paid attention to what our leaders went through and the kind of commitments they had. I think the key is to be able to focus on your preparation still. You can't let the other distractions and the magnitude of the game take you away from the most important thing and that's getting ready to play.*
Inaudible question about Bears defense… *They play well together. They've got good players. There's a familiarity with our two teams. They play pretty well together. *
Mike talk about the five wides you had capable of playing all five different spots against a defense that doesn't really trump up a lot of coverages. How advantageous is that? *Well, I think it's important when you're trying to get the ball to different guys so you can move everybody around, knowing that each person can play in different spots. Some plays we draw up for Greg, some plays for Donald, some plays for James, Jordy, et cetera. You have to be able to move those guys around, move Greg inside, give them a different look. If they do want to play some man coverage, which they do at certain times, we want to be able to give Greg a different defender, at different times give Donald a different guy to match up against and hope that you can find the best match up within those big five sets.*
Brett Favre said earlier this week that he picked the Packers to win the Super Bowl and you are the best quarterback left. Does that mean anything to you? *Again, just like the Troy Aikman comment, any time I'm getting a comment like that from somebody who's had a ton of success in the NFL, it's quite an honor.*