(Why did the team meeting go long?)
Schedules. We were just making an adjustment to our schedule today. Yesterday we did all of our meetings and walk-throughs here at the hotel and then we went over to SMU to dress and then went on to Highland Park High School. We just eliminated the step of going to SMU for dress. We're going to do everything here like we did yesterday with the meetings and walk-throughs, and then we are going to dress here, tape. There are some adjustments that needed to be and then we'll go from here to Highland Park.
(Did you see the focus in that first practice?)
Absolutely. I thought yesterday was a very good practice, a lot of energy. It wasn't as long as prior Wednesday practices. Compliments to Highland Park High School; the surface was excellent. An excellent facility, it was exactly what we needed.
(Given the youth of this team, do you feel like this team is built to compete for a long time?)
Frankly those are questions for after the game. I think definitely on paper it lays up for that, but we're focused on beating the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is obviously an important game. We're putting all of our energy into this football game, all of our focus. After the Super Bowl we can have those conversations.
(You said on Monday that the advantage the Steelers have is Monday-Saturday. I am sure you think your guys are handling this well, but what leads you to think that your team is handling all of the distractions?)
Just based on what you see and how they interact in the meetings. It's very important to draw lines in your preparation. It's no different than when you go through a week of preparation in your hometown or when you leave your home city and go on the road. There are times to dial in, make sure you are doing the things you are supposed to do in the classroom environment, in the film study, on the practice field, and then the ability to transfer into your personal mindset, and I have seen that. Everybody was excited to get back on to football yesterday. I know we were only away for two days, but it seemed a lot longer than that. They are excited, there is a lot of energy, practice was very good. It was a padded practice. We pushed the envelope probably a little bit too much in the earlier drills, but I feel very good about what we have accomplished so far.
(What was the one biggest hurdle that Aaron had to get over to be a top quarterback and was there a specific time that you saw he was over that?)
Really I just look at Aaron Rodgers as a quarterback that is really developing and delivering on time. I don't look at one big hurdle that he had to overcome. He stayed true to his craft, very true to his fundamentals. He is an expert of the offense. He has the ability to run the whole offense at the line of scrimmage if needed. We were always confident that the productivity would come. If there was one big hurdle, it would be leadership. Leadership was something that we needed to have more of as a football team. It's something that I have given a lot of thought to over the last couple of years and just creating those opportunities, in particular to Aaron Rodgers, Charles Woodson, A.J. Hawk, and the elected captains for the playoffs. Giving those men an opportunity to be in front of the team more, our leadership is definitely picked up, especially down the run. I don't know if I would say hurdle, but I would say that has been the biggest improvement in Aaron Rodgers.
(Can you give us any insight into what your message is going to be to the team on Sunday?)
No. I'm not trying to be rude. I'll save it for them. It's going to be consistent with the week, how everything leads up to it. The message isn't done today. When I get into messaging, especially right before the game, all of the things that happen during the course of the week are tied into that message. I have the theme and the topic in mind, something that I have been working on for quite some time. But it's important to let the week's work play into that.
(The emergence of James Starks hasn't seemed to change your rushing numbers that much except for the number of times you are running the ball. What is it about him that has afforded you the opportunity to do things differently?)
It's really the combination of James as a runner. I think his running style is what you are looking for as far as his ability to fall forward. He is a long-levered athlete. He has earned these opportunities. I have always said it time and time again, run attempts and third-down production are two key statistics to an offense. Because when you want to be a tempo offense and you are operating in the realm of 70-plus plays a game, those are two important statistics that are tied together. Just very pleased with the way he has matured and taken full advantage of his opportunity and he will be a factor in Sunday's game.
(After watching film, what happened in the second half against the Bears that you could improve for Sunday?)
The second half of the Bears, we came out there in the third quarter, had a good drive, and the turnover was a big play, a big momentum swing for the Chicago Bears. That's one of the items of topic in today's team meeting. Momentum swings are very important in big games, just like in the NFC Championship game, and will be Sunday. It will be important to step up and respond to those momentum swings, it's an experience that we can learn from.
(Do you plan to stay here again on Saturday night or moving the team to a different hotel?)
Yes, we're going to stay here Saturday night.
(Also, how do you deal with the time between your last practice on Friday going all the way to gametime on Sunday? That's a big chunk of time.)
We're going to treat the Super Bowl as if it was a night game, from a scheduling standpoint. So our schedule tomorrow is going to be a little different than our Friday schedule, just because of some of the things we have to do in the morning and also the travel over to Highland Park. But Saturday will be the first day that our players will be on the exact same schedule they've been on for the last five years. We'll have our meetings and walk-through in the morning, we'll have a team meeting in the evening, followed by a snack, and then we'll have a team meeting 10:30 Sunday morning, and then we'll get on the buses at 2 o'clock. That's how we've operated for five years. The players are in tune with that schedule. It's a schedule that definitely works for them, and we'll stay true to that.
(You've always shown an appreciation for Packer history. To have some legends like Jerry Kramer in town yesterday, so excited to see you guys back with a chance to win a Super Bowl, what's your thoughts on what it means to be a part of this Packer tradition and what it would mean to get another Lombardi trophy for Green Bay?)
Well, the history and tradition of the Green Bay Packers is a tremendous asset for us as a football team, for us as an organization. It's something that's embraced on a daily basis. The continued support from Bart Starr and Willie Davis to myself personally throughout my tenure in Green Bay has been special. You definitely want to win this game for the Packer nation, represent the tradition and history of the great players, Jerry Kramer all the way down through. We understand where we are. It's the standard of the Green Bay Packers. It's about winning Super Bowl trophies, and it's time for the Lombardi trophy to go back home.
(With Starks, do you have any targets as far as how many carries or yards you'd like to see him produce?)
Really, I focus on attempts. I focus on personnel packages. I focus on what the defense is reacting to that. Every game is its own entity. It takes its own path, and it's important for us to continue to attack from all the different angles that we can as an offense, and that's what I stay focused on.
(You're trying to win the Super Bowl as a sixth seed, the Steelers have already won the Super Bowl as a sixth seed. What does that say about parity in the NFL?)
I think parity has been very evident in the National Football League for quite some time. If I'm correct, I think this is the 10th different NFC team in the Super Bowl in the last 10 years. It's been very evident just the way we're structured, and it's no different this year.
(As a play-caller, the fact that you can have five wide receivers on the field one play, and two fullbacks and a running back the next. Keeping defenses off-balance, how important is that to what you guys do offensively?)
It's part of how we play. But the bottom line is the execution within those personnel groups. I'm sure it's something they'll be prepared for. We played Pittsburgh last year, so it's nothing new to them. A lot of teams do it, but we do it with good reason, and there's information that you're looking for within those substitutions. Matchups are also a factor. But that's just how we play.
(Last year with the onside kick, it's almost like Tomlin did the math on who would get the ball last. Do you see it coming down to that again this year, or have the defenses improved too much on both sides?)
It could be a factor, because you look at both offenses, and you look at the quarterbacks on both offenses. But statistically I don't know how you can get away from the Super Bowl being played with the No. 1 and No. 2 scoring defenses in the National Football League this year. Defense will be a big factor in the game. Special teams in my opinion will be a big factor in this game. I think it's going to be a great game. Big-time players are going to have to step up and play big roles, and it's something I definitely feel there's going to be momentum swings in this game, and we're going to respond to those momentum swings. I think it's going to be a heck of a game.
(The team has never trailed by more than seven points in any game this season. Can you talk about how important that is, what you guys learned from that, and how you keep yourselves in ballgames?)
Well, they don't give you any awards for that, but I think it does tell you that we're a consistent football team. We're a very competitive football team, and it's our ability to stay on course. A big part of playing football in a game is really staying on time, is what I like to talk about. There's targets that you try to hit, particularly early in the game, how you challenge your opponent, staying true to your fundamentals, staying true to your team identity, and for the most part we've done that over a 16-game season. I'm fully aware of what our record is, but the consistency of how we've played has been there throughout, even though we've had the challenges with the number of different players that we've had step up due to injury. So it's a compliment to the coaches and players to maintain that level of consistency, and once again, we're going to have to make sure that shows up on Sunday.