*Can you talk about your helmet; did you get a concussion on that hit, do you want to talk about it? *Not too much to talk about. I didn't have a concussion. I want to dispel that rumor. No concussion. I was fine. Yeah. Helmets are designed to prevent concussions, I think.
*Do you believe it helped? *Yeah.
You played so well in the last month of the season, so well throughout the playoffs here, how much better can you play in this game?
I can play a lot better than I did last Sunday, that's for sure. You've got to give credit to Chicago's defense. They had a good plan for us, but I didn't throw the ball as well as I wanted to. This will be a test for us, a 3‑4 team, great personnel, very well-coached. We have two weeks to prepare a game plan for them.
You've got two weeks and you're in a controlled environment. Does that mean for you, are those things better for you, obviously?
I get to wear my favorite shoes. My feet won't hurt, and that's nice.
*What's the deal with those shoes? Do you want to get a plug in? *They're just real comfortable. I'm a Nike guy. I have been my entire career. And these shoes that they ‑‑ I'm sure they make them for everybody, but I've decided to wear them. I've really worn them my entire career. They're just really comfortable. Anytime I can, I like to wear them.
*Only in domes, or is it ‑‑ *Domes or very finely cut grass. And practice all year.
*Did you pay any attention to kind of the way Jay Cutler was treated and have you reached out to him? *I was real disappointed, to be honest with you. I've known Jay for a few years now and know what kind of competitor he is. I thought it was disrespectful, some of the stuff said about him. I admire his teammates. I saw Chris Harris' interview on ESPN. I thought the questioning was ridiculous of him. But I appreciated the way he supported Jay, and Lovie has, and Brian's comments I thought were right on. To attack a guy's toughness, when you're not playing in the game especially, I thought was very inappropriate.
For one week then, the airport incident and someone in the media makes comments about you, and then Jay's incident and players are making comments on Twitter. As much as you worked to be a leader, the face of this franchise, at some point did you realize you're going to take hits when it comes to your public image?
Yeah, I think so. You realize when you get in this league, you can't please everybody. You can't fulfill every request. You just be the person you are. And I think through the whole thing, with the airport incident, I just realized, you know what, I'm myself, and I was raised the right way. You're not going to be able to please everybody, sign every autograph, high-five everybody and make eye contact with everyone. People are going to take shots at you regardless.I just rest in the fact that I know what kind of person I am and the way I was raised.
*What is your take on the team photo being moved to Friday next week? *I'm just glad that we are Wednesday here. Personally I've got all my tickets situated. I'm out of tickets. Got my hotel room situated, the flights, so my scheduling is done. Mike and his staff handled the schedule with that, and I look forward to getting down there.
Have you received any advice from other Super Bowl quarterbacks being your first time going to the Super Bowl?
I reached out to a couple of them. Kurt Warner's been a great friend, really since I was drafted. And so I reached out to him about any advice he can give me this week, and the next week, it's readily appreciated. I'm sure there will be more conversations with him. I talked to a number of buddies who played in the Super Bowl before, and I think it's important to learn from their experiences and try and find ways to stay focused in the midst, I'm sure it's going to be controlled chaos down there.
The Steelers defense has a reputation of sometimes playing up to the edge and sometimes over. Does that stand out on film? Do you approach anything differently?
I don't think you approach it any differently. James has gotten fined this year a number of times. I don't think he's going to play any differently. I don't think he's played any differently this season post‑fine. They're a great defense, very well coached. I think Dick LeBeau is as good a coach as this league has seen. He's been in the league like 50 years, playing and coaching. I think they'll have a great plan for us. We played them down there a couple years ago, I think it was last year, minus Troy Polamalu. But they're a great defense and we know they're going to have a good scheme for us.
Talking about Ben Rothlisberger extending plays, can you talk about your ability to extend plays and some of the plays made down field?
I'm not gifted with the same body that Ben has. A little shorter, maybe a tad bit leaner. He does an incredible job. He's one of ‑‑ I think he's one of the quarterbacks I really have a lot of appreciation for because we play a similar style. He does maybe a little bit more extend the plays. He's able to get out of sacks, make plays when he's got guys hanging all over him. So I have a lot of appreciation for the way he plays. Personally, my game is ‑‑ I go through my progressions. If nothing is there and I feel like I've got a space in the pocket, I'm going to try to extend the play.
Is that a big play, when you get out of the pocket, are you looking for a big play? Are you looking for the first guy? What's going through your head?
Just looking for flashes, see a guy flash in my peripheral. And I think it's always been more advantageous to be a pass-first guy outside the pocket and be able to keep your eyes down the field. I've done a pretty good job at that in my three years playing.
Do you have to hurry your reads with their blitz package? How much quicker do you have to go from one, two, three with this defense?
If you recall, we had some success the last time we played them down there. They were a little more middle pressure, not a ton of exotic stuff. So it will be interesting to see how they play us now. I'm sure they'll look at that game, look at the way we played this season. I haven't had a chance to dive into a number of other games yet, but I know they're going to have a good package for us. It is important when you're playing in a game like this, I guess an attacking-style defense, to make sure that we have places to go with the ball quickly.
Extending the plays, how much of an advantage is it that you have played with Donald and Jordy and Greg and James for so long, and is it just complete ad‑lib out there?
A little bit of both. Each guy, when I get outside the pocket, each guy does some different things as far as getting open. Some guys like to go deep. Some guys like to stay short. Some guys put their hands up. Some guys won't. But I think the fact that the majority of our guys stay here in the offseason, that's stuff we work on the offseason, stuff that we put time on. And you get the game reps. Obviously we made some big plays outside the pocket. Get used to making those plays and kind of reading the body language of your receivers.
When you lost ‑‑ looked like you lost a lot of your playmakers. Who in your mind stepped up to fill that void?
Greg Jennings. I think Greg had a slow start to the season, and then he had ‑‑ it was a six‑ or seven‑game stretch where he had probably close to a thousand yards and took the role back as our main playmaker. I think when you get the big fellow out there, Jermichael, he's a matchup problem for just about any defense playing us. The way the teams played us early in the season, it was really to take away him. So when he went down, we had to find other guys to fill that role. And obviously Jordy had a better season. JJ and Greg had an incredible season now. On the back end of that, I think as I've stated many times this season, unfortunately Ryan Grant has gotten more recognition in being injured than when he was on the field. I think we realize how important he is to our offense. And he's had very quiet seasons, over a thousand yards, running hard in the wintertime in Green Bay when you need him to, and we have really missed him this season.
Charles was in here before, said the team nominated him to do most of the speaking this season. How did that position come to be, and how do you think he's done in that role?
Charles is a very respected player on this team. Every time there has been a vote for captains or player council, he always wins. Anytime he speaks, I think he's starting to realize he has a lot of respect in the locker room and guys listen to him, they appreciate what he has to say. And he's pretty good at it, too.
*What did you think about his speech about the president and going to the White House? *He took the words kind of out of my mouth. I was wanting to say something like that. I was going to say more, hey, we'll still invite you, President Obama. A few of us had the opportunity to meet him in Washington, we played the Redskins the night before. And that was a lot of fun for us. I know he's a big Bear fan, but we'd love to see him there.
*Being a Nike guy. Tiger tweeted last night said he's picking the Steelers because you're a Cal guy.
*The Cal/Stanford rivalry runs deep. I made the comment that neither of us graduated from Cal or Stanford. (Laughter) So we can't really call ourselves alums. But there's a lot of pride in that blue against that red.
*Have you heard from Jeff Tedford? *Coach texted me last night. We talk usually weekly or every other week. I like to say he's a big reason I'm here today and deserves a lot of credit for the success that I've had in this league. He prepared me to be in this position, I think, and really taught me a lot about leadership and honed my fundamentals, gave me an opportunity. So I owe him a lot of credit.
*Is this the culmination of a childhood dream for you? *If we win, it is.
These two teams got here dramatically in different ways. What's been the benefit do you think of doing it the way you have?
I just think the urgency level was up for everybody. Once I came back from my injury, we were 8-6. We knew we had to beat the Giants, beat the Bears. And I think there was a focus, an urgency in the locker room that we didn't want to let this great opportunity pass us by. Last year really felt like we were the hottest team, the best team going to the playoffs, and we made too many mistakes against Arizona and they beat us. We felt like we had a Super Bowl team last year. And I think this season, after the Eagles had a dramatic win against the Giants, we realized that our destiny was right in front of us. We just had to win two games, and I don't think the guys wanted to let that opportunity go. As much as we had to deal with adversity this season and losing guys, we had a number of guys step up who we didn't expect to play big roles. And we still had a ton of playmakers. We just didn't want to let this opportunity slip away.
Was there a point in there in September or October where your schedule changed a little bit in terms of one‑on‑one with Mike McCarthy? And did you need to have an input or just to sound off on some things?
There were meetings behind closed doors. No big like 'State of the Team' meeting or players only. But I just think as a whole, I'm not sure what the defense did, but offensively we wanted to make sure we were on the same page a little bit better. We had played two back‑to‑back games against Washington and Miami. Played poorly offensively and lost in overtime. Personally, I just wanted to make sure that Mike and I were totally on the same page from that point going forward.Now, I don't think there was any major paradigm shift or anything or anything drastic that happened, but we did go 7‑3 in the remaining 10 games and I felt offensively we started to show a little bit of growth.
*How big was Brandon Jackson in last year's game against Pittsburgh, and how good was he in that role, and how important might he be in the Super Bowl? *Brandon's a great player. I think the one thing you have to single out about Brandon is how unselfish he is. He came in his rookie year and was given an opportunity to start. And then from then he's been mostly a third- down back and spot carries. But he's done a great job in that role. He's a guy who makes plays that don't always show up on the stat sheet. We had a chip on a defensive lineman or defensive end or the big play in the game this last week on second-and-13, takes a 1-yard pass and dukes Urlacher and gets a first down. They're plays like that that get overlooked. They keep drives going and show how important he is to our team.
After Starks' debut, you took a little bit of a wait and see attitude, down the road, can you assess what he's brought to the offense?
He's been a big part of our success. I think he's ran the ball well. Maybe the biggest thing is that Mike trusts him with 20-plus carries. And we haven't always got the great production. The Philly game he had over 100 yards. The last couple of games his average has been I think below 4.0. But the fact that we're trying to run the ball has set up the play action game which has been effective the last couple of weeks.
Are you going to embrace kind of the hype and the Super Bowl attention and all that kind of stuff, or would you rather try to ‑‑ I mean, we've got Clay signing an endorsement deal with Suave this week. I wonder how you're going to approach that?
I'm just going to try to approach it as a normal week, but also realize this could be a once‑in‑a‑lifetime thing. I hope it's not. But you've got to savor every opportunity that you have. And this is something that I dreamt about as a kid, obviously, winning it, Lance. But I'm going to enjoy the process. But at the same time anybody that knows me knows I'm not really all about the major star attention or the hype or the Suave, any of that stuff. But I'm going to enjoy all the things that come with the Super Bowl.
Obviously your predecessor was a leader in a certain way on this team. You just played a team where the quarterback was questioned whether the guy was following him, not to say anything negative about Cutler, but how cognizant are you of the fact the image you're giving your teammates in trying to get them to respond to you?
I think it's one of the most important parts of my job, I really do. I think a leader needs to first lead by example. I hope my teammates would say that about me, that I'm a guy who shows up early, is the most prepared guy on the offense, and cares about his teammates deeply. I'm a competitor. I wear my emotions on my sleeve often during the game. And I realize I can be not only the face of the franchise, but also a guy that people look to on the field for energy, enthusiasm, how my attitude is and I'm very aware of all that stuff.