(How did Jenkins and that group of injured guys come out of practice?)
Cullen Jenkins practiced today. We'll take the week to see how he feels. He went through the team periods. Really how he responds from the practice will be the biggest key, but he's making progress. Who else would you like to know about?
(That trial group of guys like Hall?)
Korey Hall did not practice, or he just went through limited reps in the jog-through. Frank Zombo worked out with the rehab group today.
(Bigby was on that list too?)
Correct. Yeah, Atari didn't participate today.
(With the new playoff overtime rules, how much do you think that might factor into your decision as a play-caller?)
It's another situation of the game that you prepare for, and now that they have changed the rules there are other variables that you look at. Mike Eayrs is our director of research and development. We have had conversations after the rule change came out. Mike and I met on it again, I want to say it was Monday night or Tuesday, and it's something that really you watch how the game goes. There will be factors during the game, how the game is being played at that particular time will obviously affect the way you decide to approach overtime now with the rule change. We have all of the variables in place and it will be part of our game-management discussion on Friday, how we anticipate going into the game. We'll see how the game goes and make the call.
(Do you like the rule?)
Yeah, I'm fine with the rule. Rules are rules. As long as they are the same for everybody I'm fine with it.
(But it does make it more challenging as a coach, doesn't it, since you have different rules for regular season and the playoffs?)
I don't think so. It's just another component. It's another component of a football game. I clearly understand why the rule was changed, the fairness to give both teams the opportunity to have the ball. I don't think it's a huge deal. There are variables involved in decision-making, and that's the way we'll approach it.
(Did you remind the players about it?)
Yes, I did.
(You mentioned Sunday that you thought Bulaga would learn from his experience against the Bears. Have you sensed that?)
We had an opportunity to correct the film with the offensive players and Bryan obviously saw the film, the corrections. He is a young player. It's playoff time. He fully understands the level of play increases this time of year. He has made progress throughout the season and I'm fully confident that he'll make progress this week.
(I know you haven't announced the Bishop extension, but can you talk about him seizing his opportunity?)
Desmond has had an outstanding year with his opportunity at linebacker. He was always one of our best performers on special teams. He has earned this contract. I'm very, very proud of him personally, and you just can't have enough good players. It's always a positive when the organization and a player can come to an agreement on a contract. I'm very, very happy for Desmond personally
(The defense has played at a high level for a number of games in a row. How has Dom been able to keep things together with all of the injuries?)
Really you've got to give a ton of credit to Dom Capers and the staff. Just to go through all of the personnel changes, the extra meetings at night, to see the players commit to the extra time on Tuesdays, their day off. It's not uncommon to go through the individual meeting area and see coaches in there throughout your staff meeting with younger players or newly acquired players. It's just a testament to their work ethic, both the coaches and the players and Dom has just really stuck to his principles. We have still been aggressive schematically. We stayed true to our belief in fundamentals in our practice structure, and it has carried over to the field.
(As an offensive coach and a play-caller, what is difficult about going up against Dom?)
Dom, the versatility of the 3-4 is the starting point. He does a very good job using our featured players and staying away from tendencies and so forth. He is just very organized, very detailed, has a complete understanding of his system and he has done a very good job of keeping offenses off balance and really playing an up-tempo game. He creates a big challenge for you schematically.
(Does it make it easier for young players to step in because of the scheme? The Eagles have had younger players exposed more and it doesn't seem like it has happened here?)
The development of younger players, if there was one formula that makes it happen over a short period of time, I'm sure everybody would have it figured out by now. We have been fortunate. I think a big part of our success, I know a big part of our success is our offseason program. To have the players here starting in March and to spend the individual time, we always talk about March, April, May as the opportunity for individual improvement. To see young players from Year 1 to Year 2 make a big jump, to me that is a very important factor in developing a young football team, and we have been doing it now going on five years. That component that is in place, that has helped us overcome the challenges that we have had in the injury department.
(But what does it say about a guy like Erik Walden who didn't have that advantage of being here in the offseason?)
It's a credit to Erik. He is the Defensive Player of the Week. That is outstanding. It's a credit to Dom, understanding and utilizing his talents, and it's a credit to Kevin Greene. Kevin has spent a lot of extra time with those young guys.
(How dangerous is Vick?)
Michael Vick is having an MVP-type year. He is an impact player. Anytime an impact player has the ball in his hand every play, I think that in itself says how you have to approach the football game and that's how we view Michael Vick and their offense. Their statistic for explosive plays speaks for itself, No. 3 in the league in scoring. We've got to stay fundamentally sound and we've got to do a very good job of tackling when we get him on the ground.
(How much more complete of a quarterback has he become with throwing accuracy and reading defenses?)
He is playing in a different offense, but he is definitely a different quarterback today than I recall in my time in New Orleans when he was in Atlanta. But the one thing that is constant, he was an impact player back then and he is an impact player now. Very dangerous with the football, very competitive, and he has a very strong will. He is the type of player that will try to put the team on his back and carry them. The man is a warrior. I have a lot of respect for him. He is definitely our focus for our defense
(What are some things you anticipate your players will hear this week and what is your message to them?)
The thing we talked about today as a football team is don't believe the hype. Don't believe the hype about yourself and don't believe the hype about your opponent. Just stay true to our own values, stay true to our brand of football. We have just gone through a 16-game season. We are the 2010 Packers. We have a brand of football that we are very confident in, very comfortable with, and that's what we're taking to Philadelphia. I don't want anybody to act differently, don't want anybody to look differently. I want everybody to be the best that they can be being themselves, and that's for every player, every unit, every phase of our football team. We are very confident in our ability, very confident in our schemes. We have been a good road team and we feel this is an excellent opportunity. We have a ton of respect for Andy Reid and the program that he has there in Philadelphia and it's a tough place to play. But we have established a brand of football and we are going to stay true to it.
(Where does Philadelphia rank in terms of difficult environments?)
Where does it rank? It's definitely one of the top venues to play in on the road. It's just a very aggressive crowd, and they do a great job supporting their football team. It's one of the newer stadiums, so their gameday is an exciting environment. But it's still football, and that's what we've got to stay focused on. It's definitely a tough place to go play, no question about that. More importantly, it's a playoff game, so that atmosphere is going to increase even more.
(Is there one aspect of your defense that gives you more confidence going into the postseason this year compared to last?)
I think there's a couple things that are clearly better from this year. Number one, the communication, the trust, the belief, the total buy-in to the system is there. That wasn't always the case as we went through last year's season, and I think that's a normal progression you go through when you install a system, both offensively, defensively, even some points on special teams. That's clearly different. And you can go into the defense's performance even further. Our scoring defense is much improved, our red-zone defense is much improved. These are things we really focused on. And our adversity defense is much improved. So as a whole, not only the tackling on the defense but really as a football team, on the special teams and defense, we've committed a lot of individual time to tackling drills. We do them every Wednesday, Thursday. Our tackling is much improved as a football team. We're clearly a much better defense this year than we were last year.
(What do you need to get out of the running game to be successful on Sunday?)
You'd like to have points, number one. One rushing touchdown, if you look at it statistically how it affects a game, it's very positive. My focus on running the football, yes, you'd always like to be 4 yards a carry. I understand what the standard answers to these questions are. But running the football, the two statistics I always look at are attempts and third-down conversions. When your attempts are where they need to be and your third-down conversions are where they need to be, that's a positive day for the Green Bay Packers the way we play offense. If we're able to convert the third downs, keep our run attempts up, and we're playing balanced for the most part on first and second down, as a whole – I'm not saying that's the way we're going to play this week – but as a whole, that's the way we like to approach the game of football offensively.
(You guys have been slow starters in several games this year. The first quarter is your lowest-scoring quarter. Do you have a handle on that, and how dangerous is it to try and play catch-up in the postseason?)
I'm not usually concerned about the way we start. There's other factors. We've deferred a few times. You could look at that too. I'm curious, I don't know how many times we've had the ball the first time compared to past years. It's not really how you start. We focus more on the productivity within each possession, and that's the first thing we go through every week as an offense when we get back together. We go through the possessions in detail, and the common themes are there. If you're scoring in the first quarter as opposed to the third quarter, it has nothing to do with what the time of the game is. It's really the things you're not doing properly that are holding you back. I don't think we have an issue coming out of the locker room, by no means, so I'm not concerned about it.
(Does winning the turnover battle take on added significance in the postseason, especially when you go on the road?)
It takes on significance every time you take the field, and this is the most important time of year, so it's obviously more significant. Big plays and turnovers would fall into that category. Playoff football really comes down to cashing in on big-play opportunities, and that will definitely be something that we'll focus on this week. They're a big-play offense and we're an up-tempo defense. That will be a very fast-paced part of the game when those two units are on the field.
(People see winning a playoff game is the next step in Aaron's career. What makes a quarterback great in the postseason?)
Aaron Rodgers is just like everybody else in the team meeting today. Aaron Rodgers needs to be himself. He's established a brand of football at the quarterback position that's pretty damn good, and I'm glad he's our quarterback. His numbers have been phenomenal for his first three years, and he needs to go out and play to the standard he has set. Playoff wins are more team goals, and I understand the way everybody wants to put those types of things on the quarterback. Aaron staying true to his standard of play, his brand of football, everything else will take care of itself.
(Holmgren would talk about Favre saying I don't want him to throw rockets balls early in the game and then calm down. Aaron threw a pick on his first pass in the playoffs last year. Do you talk to him about calming down at the start, or was that just a fluky thing?)
Just to compare Aaron's personality to your comment, that's not Aaron Rodgers' personality. Aaron Rodgers is not an individual that I concern myself with being too high or too low to start the game. He's very consistent in his approach. The first interception of the game, there were mechanics involved there that should have never happened. I don't think, … emotion did not play into the result of that interception. So I'm not concerned about that. The man prepares the way you're supposed to prepare as an NFL quarterback and then some, and he'll be prepared for this game. He needs to go out and just play his game.
(What kind of player is DeSean Jackson as far as special teams and as a receiver?)
He's an impact player. I just watched the Giants game, he wins the game there at the end. Just watching him all offseason, preparing for him in the first game. He has tremendous vertical speed and he's very dangerous. Really, they've got a number of guys on offense that are so explosive, and he's just very dangerous with the football. We need to do a very good job of containing him. He's an impact player.
(When you look at the quarterback, running back and receivers, is this as explosive a team as there is in the NFL?)
No doubt about it. I think the numbers speak for themselves. Their explosive plays are off the charts. They're No. 1 in the league with quarterback runs for first down and big-play runs. I know they're in the top three in explosive gains, No. 3 in scoring. Very impressive.
(How satisfied have you been with the kind of pass rush you've gotten when you haven't blitzed a lot and sat back and played coverage? Have you gotten what you hoped?)
Absolutely. Anytime you go from a pressure to a coverage game, there's reason behind it, starting probably with the down and distance. Just where our scoring is at overall, we're pleased with the components of our defense. We're always looking to improve. There's no doubt about it. Having Cullen Jenkins back would definitely enhance that. That's clearly a strength of Cullen's. Hopefully as we go through this week of practice he'll be ready to go Sunday.
(Do the Eagles blitz like they traditionally have blitzed?)
Yeah, they're a pressure team. Their statistics speak for themselves too. I think they're No. 2 in the league, quarterback rating vs. pressure. I would definitely classify them as a pressure defense.
(You mentioned to the players in your post-game speech that you want to keep everything consistent all week. How important is that in the postseason, because of all the hype and everything else?)
It's important for us not to change because there's more going on. There's more people here today, they're going to have to answer more questions, and I've really stayed with the theme of more. Make sure you get more sleep. Make sure you get more nutrition. Make sure you watch more film. They've got to be very in tune with their bodies and their clocks to make sure they're not doing too much. We've established a 16-game routine. We've established a product of how we play football, and we're going to stay true to that.