Mike McCarthy Press Conf. Transcript - Jan. 12

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(How did Donald look?)
Donald Driver was a full participant today in practice. Looks good. I don't have any concerns about Donald Driver's availability for the game.

(The way James Starks emerged, do you look at that as an aberration, or is that the new expectation in your mind?)
Well, James Starks was given an opportunity three times this year, and he's performed at a high level two of the three. That's his standard of play as we stand here today, no different than any other player. When you establish a standard of performance, it's important to hold yourself to that standard, and that's the way we'll move forward with James. But it's just not all about him, as we know. It's the game of football. It's the combination of all 11 players working together on every particular play. He's having a good week of preparation. You always ask players to do some things slightly different week to week, but keep it is simple as possible, and it's important for us to do that.

(What happened to Bulaga what's your level of concern?)
Bulaga, it's just a little carryover from the game. I have no concern level for Bryan to play in this game. He practiced today, looked fine.

(When you get that kind of balance in the running game and the passing game, does it make you feel like your game is portable and you can win anywhere?)
Well, anybody that's called plays in a football game, clearly it's easier to call a game when you're productive both in the run and pass, because you're playing in favorable down and distances. I view it as playing downhill on the defense. That's your goal week in and week out. But really, the defense has a lot to do with that, just the way we approach the game. If they have too many over here, we'll run over there. If they have too many over there, we'll throw it over there. It's a very common-sense approach, but the goal is to always be productive in the run and pass, because it's all about favorable down and distances.

(With the penalties, what happened since the Chicago game?)
It's coaching, it's all coaching. Players had nothing to do with it. It's just the discipline of the coaching staff, taking care of business. (laughs) Our players, they're a very coachable group. We've taken a different path this year. They've had a lot of adversity, and they've done really a great job of buckling down on the discipline penalties. We spent more time in the areas where we felt the penalties were high, as far as applying more fundamental work in those specific areas, for example in the return game on special teams, and we're seeing the benefits of it.

(What are your thoughts on Eric Weems?)
I tell you, he's a very competitive player. That's the thing that we knew going into the first game, and it was very evident in our first contest down there. So for him going to the Pro Bowl, it's no surprise. He gives it up for the Falcons on the coverage units, and he's definitely a dynamic returner. He's having an excellent year. Very competitive player. That's what stands out the most as far as the way I view him.

(What are the prospects for Zombo this week?)
Well, it's fading a little bit, to be honest with you. I was hoping Frank would be able to go this week. Coming on the short week and having continuity in the special teams and defensively with the outside linebackers, we'll see what happens tomorrow. But if he doesn't practice tomorrow, obviously he won't be available.

(What about Atari?)
Atari's getting better. Atari and Korey Hall both practiced today, so they're both improving. They're both pushing to play in the game. We'll see how the full week goes.

(Can he help you out against a guy like Michael Turner because he's a physical tackler?)
Atari Bigby? Absolutely. Atari Bigby was a starting safety for us for a couple years. Atari is a player that has just gone through an injury phase, and it would be great to have Atari up.

(From the last game in Atlanta, do you harp on the red-zone production, or do guys know they have to take advantage of those opportunities?)
Well, we've seen the film. We saw the film Monday after the game, and they've probably seen the game from five weeks ago probably five or six times throughout the cut-ups and everything. Every situation has been covered. The game tape has been covered. I'm sure it will be watched again by the players between now and then. I'll watch it again myself. So we'll be ready to go, and the things that happened in the first game both positive and not so positive, we need to learn from the experience. But we're focused on today and tomorrow. We can't change what happened yesterday.

(When you look at how the defense played in Atlanta, you didn't give up a lot of points, but you described it as a poor tackling game, Ryan only had four incompletions, you didn't have a turnover. How do you use those elements to challenge your team this week?)
Well, it's just the obvious. You've really answered your own question. They didn't have any turnovers so we want to take the ball away. We need to stop the run, and that was a product of our tackling in that game. I thought Atlanta did a very good job of staying on schedule as far as their play selection and did some things particularly against our run force on the front side or back side of runs. So we need to adjust to that. Michael Turner is an excellent runner, and they did a good job getting the ball in the hands of their key people. Michael Turner, Tony Gonzalez. It's important for us … we need to play quicker, tackle better, play to the schedule that we want to play on this game as opposed to playing to their schedule.

(Apart from the problems he causes with his size, why has Tony Gonzalez had such success, such longevity?)
Tony Gonzalez is a unique athlete. I was with Tony his rookie season and second year there in Kansas City, being a first-round pick. I think he was 20 years old when we drafted him. You could see right away he was very gifted physically, but his work ethic is tremendous. It's really a credit to him. He takes great care of his body. He's a tough guy to defend, especially in the red zone. He understands body position and angles. He's just been a big-time player for a long time in this league. He's a true pro.

(How bad is Jason Spitz and when did he get hurt?)
Jason Spitz was hurt yesterday in practice, so he has a calf strain. He's probably questionable to doubtful for the game.

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