(How did Brandon Jackson do in protection last year against Pittsburgh and how important could he be in this game?)
Brandon Jackson performed very well last year in the Pittsburgh game, particularly in protection, and that's a big part of it. They have the 3-4 scheme and the ability to try to create matchups with their linebackers, their playmakers on back. There is going to be a point in this game where our running backs are going to have to close the door on their pressure. Brandon, and really the whole group has excelled. Actually James Starks is off to a very good start for a young player, but Brandon Jackson played very well in that game last year.
(Who worked at outside linebacker with Walden out and Zombo limited?)
Frank Zombo practiced today for the first time. I'm going to hold Erik Walden until Wednesday's practice down in Dallas. I'm just going to give him the full weekend to recover. Just worked the rest of our guys, Francois and Briggs.
(Now that you are back on the field, has it set in more that you are preparing for the Super Bowl?)
It was great to get back to football, no question. It was great to be on the field today. We actually had a very good practice. We finished 13 minutes early, so that tells you something about the tempo. We didn't have any repeated plays in the team period, so that's very good for a Wednesday-type practice. I know it's Friday, but it's Wednesday on our schedule. I was very pleased with the practice today.
(Do you have to tone them down a little since there isn't a game Sunday?)
Just like everybody, you talk to a lot of people. The energy before the game, the build-up to it, you have to be conscious of it. I definitely feel the four days off from being on the field really helped our players. Just very positive in the communication with them to obviously take care of their personal responsibilities but get a chance for their bodies to recover. I really like the way the schedule is laid out, practice in shells today, because anytime you have an extended period off, coming off a bye week, your risks for muscle strains is a little higher. So it was important to be smart with today's practice and we'll build up to a normal practice tomorrow. But I don't see too much energy being an issue.
(I am sure you are not caught up in the history of these teams, but have you thought about what these teams have done and does that add to it?)
I am well aware of the history and have a great appreciation for it, but I'm in the middle of a preparation, a preparation for victory. That's really what my mindset is all about and that's what we talked about as a football team. Everybody understands what is going on around us, but we are preparing to win a football game. It is imperative that we keep our focus on that.
(It doesn't seem like Rodgers takes many hits from his blind side. Can you talk about how you have done a good job protecting him?)
We take a lot of pride, like every offense does, in their protection schemes and the importance of it. Our quarterback is clearly the most important player on our offense. Our offensive philosophy is about making the quarterback successful. It starts with him and it goes from there. As far as how we do it, you start with the run game and then you go to the protection scheme. To be multiple with our personnel groupings, we are also a multiple protection scheme. We spend a lot of time on our protections and our blitz pickups. We have an excellent training ground going through the OTAs and training camp when you work against our defense with Dom Capers' scheme. We're just fortunate that we have a lot of training that goes into it and I think it shows up on Sundays.
(What did you learn specifically from last year's game against the Steelers?)
Well, having a chance to go back and looking at the Steeler game last year, the first thing you always look at is the personnel. There's people that played in that game that are not playing this game. There's also individuals that didn't play last year that will play. It is a different year, they're a different team, we're a different team in some ways too. But you look at what they've done. There's certain things they do a lot better job on, third down. Statistically they're tops in the league, top five in most categories. That in itself will be a challenge for our offense. But it's the whole season, the whole work, how they're playing the last five weeks, and you look for teams that are comparable to yourself. We only have to look across the hall just to prepare for their defense, so that helps us. But it's like every game. Every game is different, every path is different, and this will be a different contest.
(What's the first memory you have as a child watching a Super Bowl?)
First memory … low-scoring game, that's when they beat the Vikings. That's my first memory. It was all about watching the Steeler games. That's a part of the fiber of growing up in Pittsburgh. It's the same thing in Wisconsin. It's very, very similar. It's all about your home team. I just remember the reaction of the town when they won the first Super Bowl. It was incredible. And then having the experience to go through Austin-Straubel Airport after the NFC Championship Game and to experience that personally, it was very special. A lot of positive memories from the '70s.
(Would you watch those in your family's living room, or where would you be?)
Goodness … yeah, I watched them at home, or we watched a lot of them down at my father's bar. Because Sunday was a day we would work and clean the bar. He didn't have the Sunday license, so we were closed on Sundays.
(How many Super Bowls have you been to?)
Zero. First one.
(Pittsburgh stations are going to be talking to your parents today. What do you think they're going to be saying about you?)
I have no idea. I hope they say the good things. I'm just pleased my parents are handling it very well. They're a little overworked. I got a kick out of my father. "Why do I have to answer the same damn questions over and over?" I said trust me, I know exactly how you feel. But they're enjoying it.
(Did you have a chance to go to a Super Bowl as a spectator and just turned it down?)
Yes, never had an interest. I had a chance to go to the Super Bowl in '07 just for a couple of events. I went because I had to go. But my daughter Alex, it was something she always wanted to go to. And I said, hey, we're going to go when we play in it. It's finally here. She's 19.
(At what point in your coaching career did you think to yourself if I get to a Super Bowl, here's how I'm going to do it? Here's the way I'm going to run the week, the two weeks. When did you start thinking about it?)
Well, normal practice in this coaching profession is when you go to the Combine or if you're at the owners' meeting, you know how coaches are when they get together, they talk about football. You talk about scheduling and things like that, and assistant coaches are the same way. You're always trying to find out, hey, how'd you do this, how'd you do that. It's just something that you build over time. It's no different than an assistant coach preparing to be a coordinator. There's things that you learn as an assistant coach that you apply and you say hey, when I have my opportunity, this is what I'm going to do. And it's no different when you're a head coach. It's something that I've built just over time through some of the conversations I've had with other people, other coaches.