(Can you describe Charles Woodson's injury?)**
Charles Woodson's fine. This is a normal practice week for Charles. Thursday is the day he goes through the jog through. He practiced yesterday. He'll practice tomorrow, so he'll be ready to go Sunday.
(Did you go outside today, Mike?)**
We did not go outside today. We went outside yesterday. We practiced with the doors open. We were able to get the temperature down to 29 degrees, so it was quality work, very crisp practice there. I was very pleased with the work.
(Can you talk about Clay Matthews, how he's stepped up and elevated his second year and this defense? Just that group backers working together?)**
Well, Clay Matthews in his second year, he just jumped out the gate, starting in Week 1 out there in Philadelphia. Just had a tremendous start. He was pushing through the leg injury, and he missed a bunch of practice time there in the middle of the season, and of late has been able to get the practice reps that he needs and has really picked his game back up here down the stretch.
He's having a tremendous, tremendous season. He's an impact player for our defense, really sets the tempo and the tone for the outside linebacker position. Kevin Greene does an excellent job coaching those outside backers, and we've had so much change with the other guys from, Brad Jones, to Frank, and Erik Walden now has come in and played well with his opportunity as defensive player of the week there at the end of the year. That's a primary position on our defense. We've had a lot of guys play it. The linebacker body type is something that we value here, and we're getting a lot of production out of it, so very pleased with their production.
(Raji in the backfield, is that something that you've been keeping in your back pocket all year? What was the thinking in adding that?)**
Frankly, that just came up last week. Some of the things that we were doing with our inside run game, and our goal-line package, we wanted to improve it, wanted to add a wrinkle to it and just going off of game-planning, you know, how Atlanta plays their goal-line defense. We just felt that particular formation and match‑up and so forth was to our benefit, and B.J. did a great job. He didn't block anybody, but he did a great job at the hole, and we were able to score the touchdown, so it was a good wrinkle for us.
(In the time that you've opened up the doors at the Hutson center, what benefit have the players or you gotten out of that?)**
Handling the football. It was 29 degrees in there, so it's very similar to what we're going to play in in Chicago on Sunday, and it's supposed to be 18, 19, 20 degrees down there. Practiced outside yesterday, and we just have limited space outside, so some of our team drills are not exactly what you're looking for to go outside. But they open up the doors and it really helps particularly the skill positions handle the football.
(If the weather forecast holds, it's supposed to be 22, but very little wind and no precipitation. Is that basically the ideal condition for a game being played in Chicago in January?)**
I would think anybody would be happy when you play in Chicago and there is no wind. I think that would be ideal. I mean, wind is to me the biggest factor that changes the way you call a football game, field position, special teams and everything involved. It's a challenge, when you play the Chicago Bears especially with their special teams. So I'm all for no wind.
(Having said that, when you do your preparations and start looking at putting your game plan together, do you almost have to have one for no wind and then maybe a plan B ready to go if you get out there and it's very gusty?)**
Well, we do weather updates a couple of times a day, so it's usually pretty close. You have a pretty good idea what you're walking into come Sunday. But I don't have to turn the page on my call sheet to be ready to play with the wind game. But you do have to adjust the numbers. Particularly, do you take the football over, the decisions you make starting with the coin toss, field position, things like that.
(Does it impact your roster decisions at all?)**
It could. Based on the opponent, it may factor into that, but you look at all the factors.
(What are the distractions that go with this game, and the challenges of dealing with them, and have you talked to the players at all about that?)
We've talked about it. We have the business section of our team meeting on Wednesday. We have one section called media notes, and it was longer this week than normal. So there's more of the media core here this week, so other than that, just really keeping things normal. I mean, I want to keep these guys on a good schedule. They've done a very good job. Frankly, playing Saturday night helped us. We had an extra day to do the administrative things that we needed to do. We were able to accomplish that Monday. I'm sure a lot of people were trying to get tickets and help their family members out. So with the extra day, I think that really helped us. But really since Wednesday morning, we've been on a normal week.
(I know you value Tom Clements as a teacher and coach on your staff. How did you balance that with the need to keep your staff intact or not prevent a coach from advancing when the Bears attempted to interview him 12 months ago?)**
I don't know why I have to answer something like that right now. We're preparing to play for the NFC Championship Game. I am pro‑career advancement with my staff. When a request is made of anybody on our staff, there's conversations that take place. So Tom and I, in his particular situation, we talked about it, and a decision was made and we moved forward. I think Tom's very happy in Green Bay.
(How important is it for your defensive guys to play physical against the Bears wide receivers?)**
Very important. Number one, that is the way we play. It's important any time you play an offense that is based on rhythm in the passing game to knock their receivers off and out of their rhythm. So you want to be physical with them, get your hands on them. I mean, that's the way you want to play every week and the way we plan on playing this week.
(The last game of the regular season, they played their starters the entire game when they had nothing to gain in terms of seeding. What was your determination of the motives? Were they trying to keep you out of the playoffs or for other reasons and how did that play out with your team?)**
We didn't talk about it, sorry. We planned on winning the game. We focused on the Bears, the schemes that we felt that they were going to play against us that day whether they were going to play or not. Because, you know, if they didn't play their starters, they really would have been playing the same coverages, the same defenses and things like that. So we really didn't get caught up in are they going to play, aren't they going to play? I addressed it with the team during the week, that the worst thing you could do is focus on what they're going to do. It's always about us and always will be about us. That is really a decision that Lovie made, and I think he feels good about the decision with that going into the off week. But, really didn't give much thought past that.
(When you put together your defensive coaching staff, how did you balance thinking of a veteran guy like Trgovac, and basically a rookie coach like Kevin Greene and a young coach like Joe Whitt? Is that ideal to have a mixture of ages and experiences, or did you just pick the best guy? How did you come to address that?)
Well, when you're putting together a staff, you're obviously looking for the best coaches that you possibly can. But something I pay very close attention to is fit. Joe Whitt was here, had an opportunity and watched Joe work as a quality control coach his first year here. So when I made the change, he was someone that I had planned on moving up, because I felt he was definitely ready. Obviously, Winston Moss was also here, coaching the linebackers. Mike Trgovac is someone I've known for a long time. We were actually on the same staff here in 1999. He was going through a situation there in Carolina, so there was a spot for Mike if it worked out. Darren Perry, we've had a relationship. Darren was a player and I was a coach in 2000 in New Orleans, so when Darren was available coming from Oakland, I knew he was what I was looking for there. So it's more about fitting together.
Then Dom Capers was hired, and obviously Darren had played for him and Joe was someone and Winston is someone that he had to get used to and build a relationship with. Then he actually recommended Kevin. We interviewed Kevin and a couple of other coaches, and we felt Kevin was the best fit. Mike Trgovac's situation came clean and he became available, so we added Mike to the mix. Like any good coordinator, you've got to put it all together. They're fine men, they're fine coaches. But the fit, to me, is what makes a good staff. And the coordinators are responsible to make that fit come together, and Dom Capers has done a tremendous job with that staff.
(I know Atlanta challenged Sam a little bit on Saturday night. But him playing at the level he's been playing at this year, what's that allowed you to do defensively? Having a rookie play at that level has had to help you guys have some more options.)
When you have the flexibility to put your corners out there and play man‑to‑man, it really gives you all the options because you're not trying to cover up anybody. So I think everybody that's watched us play on defense, we don't really hold anything back schematically. We have three‑deep coverages, we have three‑deep pressures, we have two‑deep coverages, and two‑deep pressures. So I think that tells you how we feel about our secondary and the flexibility they give us in the back end and the coverage. So it gives us the ability to be more aggressive for our pressure packages.