Our injury report, we're relatively healthy. Really don't have anything to report. Anticipate mostly everybody going on Wednesday. There may be some limited practice once the players see the doctor on Wednesday. Frank Zombo has a chance. We're going to test Frank tomorrow, so I'll have more information on his status for Wednesday. But relatively about as healthy as we've been.**
(Greg Jennings talked about the turf today, and obviously that's nothing new. Is there anything you can do in practice to deal with that?)
We're not going to concern ourselves with the turf. It's something you go with every week, every game you play in particularly on the road. You go out early, you make sure you've got the right, proper shoes on. We'll practice outside Thursday like we normally do for our team period, so we'll have an opportunity to get out on the grass, and our field's in great shape. And we'll just try to get as close as we can to the environment that we're going to play in on Sunday. We'll have the doors open Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, just to get the temperature down in the Hutson Center and make sure we're handling the football in cold weather. We'll follow our deliberate practice emphasis and get ready to go.
(Something like field conditions, is that just something that you're not going to concern yourself with, because there's nothing you can do about it? It isn't good, right? I mean, your experience with it?)**
I'm just going off what I read in the papers. I know some of the Bears players commented on the field condition a few weeks back, reading that in the clips. I know Seattle felt it wasn't in great shape either. So both teams play on it. I really don't think it's a big deal, frankly. Both teams are going to play on the field, and I'm sure they'll get it in the best shape they possibly can, and we're going to go out there and play football.
(For those players and coaches who were here when you guys lost the NFC Championship Game to the Giants, will you be talking about that this week, about the pain and something that I'm sure you remember clearly and sticks with you and probably with those others as well?)**
I really see no benefit to go back and talk about the pain of '07. '07 is a different year. It's a different team, there's different coaches, playing a different opponent, and we're playing in a different location. So I'm sure everybody that went through the experience in '07 has a personal memory of what they thought maybe they could do differently or how they can learn from that experience. I'll be a better coach this time, the second time around, and the players that went through that game I fully anticipate them to be better players. It's like anything in life, when you have the opportunity to learn from experiences, a lot of times in our lives you learn from the negative experiences that you've encountered. But to sit there and compare this game with '07, I don't think it helps us.
(What have you learned from that experience?)**
Well, the first thing, big picture, I've learned is how hard it is to get there. It's hard to get to the championship game. And that's why it's even more important to reinforce what we've been reinforcing to our team, is to stick to who you are. We like our brand of football. We're not going to change the way we approach games, the way we perform in those games. So it just really draws you back to your core, your core beliefs, and that's something that will be very apparent when we take the field Sunday.
(I realize that when you're watching film, you're probably not studying and ranking other team's cornerbacks. Are there many guys better than the way Tramon is playing right now?)**
I say Tramon Williams ‑‑ I've said it time and time again during the season -- he's is having a Pro Bowl season. When these playoffs and the Super Bowl are completed, everybody in the country is going to know who Tramon Williams is. That's the type of level that he's playing at. So he's been very consistent. He's making the big plays when the opportunity presents itself. Tramon's playing great.
(Opponents have thrown away from Woodson over the years. Did you notice this year, has that balanced out, has that changed with Tramon's ability?)
We play so much sub, so I think people are thrown more towards Sam than Tramon. I think that's apparent. But Tramon, he's been getting opportunities, and I'm sure of late that people will take a closer look at it, because he's been making big plays.
(You get in the playoffs, you're the sixth seed, so you know your road is going to be on the road. How did you approach that with the team? What mindset did you say, okay, this is our path, how did you approach that?)
I think it's very important to always set the course, make sure that there's no doubt in our approach. And we knew from obviously the time we walked off the field against Chicago here at Lambeau that we were going on the road. So we've embraced it. We do a very good job in our preparation as far as the way we travel. We keep things very consistent. I think it helps us. I think it really helps us over the course of these last three or four years for how young we've been, that we're able to learn from that, to get into a routine, and I think it carries over to the playing field. Offensively we start day one in training camp, managing crowd noise, and so playing on the road is not that big of a deal to us. I think our guys have done an outstanding job with the communication. It's going to be a big part of playing in Soldier Field on Sunday. That's going to be a hostile crowd. We had the one penalty on offense against Atlanta, and that dome was as loud as I've ever heard it particularly early in the game. It was significantly louder than when we played down there in November, so that's a very good experience that we can draw from. But the road doesn't scare us. We feel we're a very good road team. We're 3-5 this year which is down probably for us over prior years. But playing on the road doesn't bother us at all.
(In the two games during the regular season the Bears held you guys well below season averages in points and yards. What did they do that was so effective?)**
They're a good defense, number one. I think the statistics speaks for themselves. It's a system that's been in place there for quite some time, I know since before I even arrived here. So they have better players, they have a very good understanding of their scheme. Just what was very noticeable from the first time we played them to the second time we played them, that they haven't had any injuries, so they're very much in sync. They're good football players across the board defensively. They all tackle very well, they're very fundamentally sound. They did a great job of recognizing your concepts. So they're a challenge, and it will be a big challenge Sunday.
(Going back to the routine thing on the road. What aspects of that do you think are important, or what do you like? I remember Sherman used to have a bunch of meetings when you guys got to the hotel. You don't do that, right? You just have a team meeting?)**
I'm a big believer in environment. The first day, talking to the team, I told them there would be three environments you'll operate in. There's a classroom environment, there's a practice environment, and there's obviously the game day environment. I stay true to that and everything I do from a scheduling standpoint. So our classroom environment, any instruction that we do as a football team is in our facility here. We have a tremendous facility with all the resources, bells and whistles, to do a great job of teaching, instructing. I was never a fan of going to a hotel ballroom that now can vary what your classroom environment's going to look like.
The time frames are all the same. I've operated on the same schedule that probably Mike Sherman used and learned it off Marty Schottenheimer and Bill Walsh and the whole origin of it. So I'm sure the time frames are very similar. But we do all our classroom work here in the facility, so that when we travel we have a team meeting and maybe a walk‑through just to review some things. So I think it really helps our players. There's always a starting and an ending point in everything they do.
It's no different when we go out and practice. I don't really like walk‑throughs done at the practice. We do a jog‑through and it's more up-tempo. Because when you're walking on the practice field, that's something that you're taught since the day you played Pee Wee football, you don't walk on the practice field or the game field. We stay true to that and it works for us. Our players are in a routine, and I think it helps with the learning, and when you walk in a certain environment, you know how to act. I just think that's all part of having regularity and continuity for your football team.
(How much have you stressed Packers/Bears history in the past, and how much will you do this week? Obviously you guys are making history, for first time in 70 years playing each other in the postseason.)**
We always make a big deal for the first game. It's important for our rookies, our first‑year players, to clearly understand the importance and the significance of the Packer/Bear rivalry, so by the second game I think everybody gets it. It's special. It's really a privilege and honor now to be part of this great history with the playoff game against the Bears. I know it's only the second time it's happened, the 182nd meeting of both teams. Personally I'm honored to be a part of this and to be going down to Soldier Field to play for the Halas trophy and for the opportunity to play for the Lombardi trophy. It speaks volumes. It's great for both organizations, great for our fans. It's going to be a fun game to play in.
(Did you recognize the intensity of the rivalry before you came here? Sometimes I get the impression people in the region have always known, around the rest of the country they know they play against each other, but don't recognize the intensity. Did you before you came here?)**
With what happens to every coach, there's a rivalry in your division that you probably think is the biggest rivalry and it is one because it's the job you're in at the time. But I think everybody's that's grown up understood the importance of the Bears and Packers. I've heard about the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers even as a kid. When I grew up in Pittsburgh it was the Steelers and the Browns and that was the big rivalry. And coaching for the Kansas City Chiefs, the Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders was such a big rivalry. But this is different. To say you're the longest rivalry in the history of the National Football League, and just the great players and the coaches and the teams that have been part of this rivalry, once again, it's an honor and privilege to play in this game.
(Is it different in this sphere, though? Like I got the impression that the old‑time Packers/Bears rivalry, coaches hated each other, and the players hated each other. I don't get the impression that in 2010 Aaron Rodgers hates Brian Urlacher.)**
What's your definition of hate? For me to say I hate, that's ugly. I understand it's personal and those types of words that might be thrown around. We don't like their team and they don't like their team. I get all that. But I respect the way they play. They play the right way. We play the right way. But this is about winning championships, and we're going down there to play for the NFC Championship Game, and you have to beat teams like the Chicago Bears that achieve that goal. That's really what it comes down to. But there will be plenty of energy on that field. Do they like each other and so forth? I really don't referee that kind of stuff. I think Lovie Smith is an outstanding coach. I think he's a fine gentleman. I don't know him very well on a personal level. But I really enjoy competing against him and his football team.
(How much are you doing in the days from yesterday, today and tomorrow? Do you have the players doing anything physically?)**
Yesterday was a day off. Today we came in. We were in the weight room this morning so everybody went through strength and conditioning. We had a team meeting at noon, went offense and defense for a little over an hour and special teams for 45 minutes. Tuesday is the regular day off for the players. But history repeats itself like it does on a weekly basis. There will probably be 40 or so players come through here at some point tomorrow, and then Wednesday we'll just go on a normal week. I really wanted to get back to a normal week. We played some intense football here the last four weeks. I just felt it was important for them to have three days off. And I did want to get them in the weight room today.
(Any advantage to playing the Bears twice already?)**
I think there's definitely an advantage. You know what you're walking into. You know how they're going to play, they know how we're going to play, and I think that's the way you like to play. Roll the ball out there and let's go get it. I think it's going to be a heck of a game to watch.
(How do you evaluate A.J. Hawk's play this season?)
I think A.J.'s played very well. A.J. has done an excellent job of commanding the defense. I mean, you talk about communication, but when you see someone exercise it at the level that he has, it's made a difference for our defense. We get in and out of play selection calls very easily, get in and out of the personnel groups very easily, and on top of that he's been a very productive player. I think A.J.'s probably had his best year as a Packer.
(What did you think about the way Sam played in the game? They did seem to pick on Sam a little bit.)
Sam's put together a good season. I mean, my goodness, to come here as a free agent and earn his spot, it's exciting because you just see Sam getting better with all the different opportunities. He had the big‑time play he had in Philadelphia. I know he had the one challenge to play over there on their boundary against Atlanta. But Sam's playing well. We obviously play one‑on‑one man‑free coverage with him. I think it speaks volumes.
(Is there any question that you're better at it since last year? I think back to the Arizona game where they threw the ball up and down the field. With Sam out there, they don't seem to really have anyone where they can really go after somebody?)
We're a different team obviously than we were last year.
(But that position, you were pretty …)
We were so much more healthier there. I think we have more talent there. I think our secondary is much improved from last year.
(The way you handled Hester in the regular-season finale, what did you guys do so well?)
I thought the ball placement was very good. I thought we covered the ball well. Our special teams played extremely well in that football game, and that will be a big part of going into Soldier Field and being successful. They do a great job with their ball placement. Their specialists are obviously very talented. The returners are very talented, so they factor in the field position in the game. There's going to be some type of wind, there always is down there. Projected only about nine to 10 miles an hour but we'll see what happens on Sunday. Special teams is clearly one of the strengths of their football team.
(How long have you been thinking about using B.J. Raji on offense, and what made you pull the trigger this week?)
It was a game-plan decision. It was something we were looking for, just an added dimension as a lead blocker, and with Korey Hall down, that factored into the decision. We'll have John Kuhn back there with two blockers in front of him. I wouldn't want to have B.J. Raji blocking me. So it was a good matchup for us.
(Has he lobbied for the ball?)
No, not that far. I mean, that would be nice to do against Chicago to have some historical relevance, I'm sure.
(After looking at the tape, what happened on the kickoff return?)
Frankly, the kickoff return was a combination of ball placement and coverage, and that's the reason why you practice those things and you have different types of calls. And so that's something I'm sure Chicago will be taking a close look at. We've been playing very well on special teams but can't let it happen this week.
(Will you be putting footballs in the freezer at all this week?)
Frankly, just opened up the doors at the Hutson Center. We've been able to get the temperature down in the 20s, so that really helps us, and just handling the football in that type of weather.
(You've known how good of an athlete Tramon's been since he got here. How has he changed? He took us through his film review and how he does it during the week. Have you seen his football IQ really go up, because he talked about the interception, the second one with the touchdown, was based on he knew what route was going to be run from the alignment he saw. Have you seen him really take that to another level?)
There's no surprise that Tramon is turning into one of your best players, because in my experience in this league the smartest players are always your best players. Tramon's the guy that's always in the front row with his book taking the notes. He's been doing that since he arrived here. He has a total understanding of the defensive system. The film study, now the understanding of how the offenses are trying to attack him as far as the leverage he's playing on a particular route. What's exciting about Tramon, he still has a lot of football growth in his game ahead of him. He's still relatively young.
(Both Tramon and Aaron are playing so well. Neither made the Pro Bowl. I'm not suggesting that's lit a fire under them, but something has. Can that sort of thing motivate players, in your opinion?)
I think it's good conversation. They would probably have to answer that question. But they're playing for something a lot bigger than the Pro Bowl, and that's what we're all focused on.
(How did you such a good job on Gonzalez, shutting him down? And is that something you think you've improved on as time goes on, covering tight ends?)
I think we've done a very good job with our matchups on tight ends. If you look at the history of this defense the last two years, they have the ability to have Charles down there in the subgroups. I think Desmond Bishop's a lot better cover player than the opposing offenses probably give him credit going into the game. I think that shows up week in and week out. Desmond is a very instinctive football player. And Dom's done a great job mixing the schemes up.