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Transcripts: Mike Smith, Tony Gonzalez, Asante Samuel Interviews

Posted Jan 10, 2013

Head coach Mike Smith, tight end Tony Gonzalez and cornerback Asante Samuel spoke to the media Thursday as the Falcons continue to prepare for Sunday's game against the Seahawks.

Head coach Mike Smith
On the injury report:

“We had one player that didn’t participate and that was CB Christopher Owens. We had two guys that were limited, DE John Abraham and S William Moore were the two that were limited in their participation today.”

On the read option:

“It’s been more prevalent in the last half of the season. They’ve kind of morphed into running more read-option the second half of the season. They still run a standard offense featuring RB Marshawn Lynch as the primary carrier.”

On the pick your poison offense and how tough it is on defenses:

“It causes definitely issues in terms of how you’re going try and defend our offense simply because I feel like we have a good group of wide receivers, a good tight end, and we’ve got guys that can carry the ball well in the run game as well. It is based on how people are going to try and defend us. If they’re going to try and take something away then we’ve got to make sure we get the ball to the guy that’s going to have the least amount of resources on him.”

On CB Asante Samuel keeping it loose around here:

“This is a fun group of guys. They enjoy practicing. This is the typical banter that goes on every day. Asante is going to make practice fun, and he makes it competitive. You want to have competition when you come out and play.”

On facing a running back like Marshawn Lynch:

“It’s important that we have players and multiple sets of pads to the runner. Marshawn is a big, strong runner that runs behind his pads. He also has very good vision. He’ll take the ball out the back door if you don’t leverage it and build a wall on the backside.”

On the team being loose this week:

“Yes, I do. I think once we get to Wednesday, our preparation and sequencing is no different than what we do in the regular season. Last week, we tried something different in terms of our Bye week. This week it’s business as usual.”

On getting Tony his first playoff win:

“I don’t think it’s an issue. We all want to win. When you’re in this position this is a tournament. It’s the second season and everybody needs their individual thoughts behind them. Put them somewhere else and do whatever we have to as a team to win.”

On Seattle’s read-zone being similar to Carolina or Washington’s:

“I think they’re all a little bit different in terms of what they do formationally. That’s the big thing. The basic concept is the same, but it’s how they present it in the formation, what personnel grouping they want. Is it going to be open side or close side? Those are the things that are different. The main theory behind it is similar. It’s just a matter of how they present it formationally.”

On QB Russell Wilson being unique:

“He’s a guy that is playing extremely well for the Seahawks. He’s running their offense very effectively. The points they’ve put up the second half of the season will verify that. He does a very good job of extending plays in the passing game. That will create a lot of issues for the defenders that are defending the pass that are in the defensive backfield. That’s going to create an issue. It’s going to be very important that we tame the quarterback and not let him extend plays. Plays that are normally the clock in your head that go five seconds that go upward of seven, 10, 12 seconds.”

On facing them this year compared to last year:

“We’re familiar with them from playing them last year out in Seattle. It is a different team in terms of who’s under the center. The quarterback they had last year was mobile, but they’ve revolved around Russell Wilson’s strengths and I think that’s what Coach Carroll and his coaching staff have done. If you’ve watched from game one to game 17, it’s a completely different type of offense. They’re allowing the quarterback to do more things on the offensive side.”

On being surprised about the year TE Tony Gonzalez has had:

“I’m always holding on to that five percent. It’s something that you’ve got to hold onto. Tony has had an outstanding year. I don’t think it’s any different than his Pro Bowl years that he’s had early in his career. He has a great understanding of how to play the tight end position. In my mind, he’s the best that’s ever played. I know that’s up for argument, but I believe that. I’ve had to defend him and now that I’ve had an opportunity to work with him and have him on our football team. There is not a harder worker than Tony Gonzalez.”

On if he’s lost a half a step:

“I can’t speak for him prior to being an Atlanta Falcon. It doesn’t look like he’s lost a step at all. He has a very good knack of using his body and I think that’s his basketball background in terms of trying to go up and get rebounds and box out. He does a very good job even when they’re bracketing, he has an understanding of how people are trying to defend him and he’ll work away from the leverage.”

Tight end Tony Gonzalez
On this is what you work so hard for:

“I told you after the game this is why you put in all the hard work. This is why during the offseason this is what you think about. This is what you work for all season long and like I told you from the beginning, it wasn’t about getting a bunch of wins, but just enough wins to get to the playoffs. Luckily we got a bunch of wins in that process. At this point, it’s about what’s coming up this weekend and we’re going to be ready.”

On how important the crowd is going to be:

“The crowd is huge and I’m glad you asked that question. Everybody watching this video that is an Atlanta Falcons fan that is going to be at the game make sure you are loud. We’re going to need it. Hopefully after this game we come out on top and we’ll need it next week. Let’s get it done this week because it does help when the Rise up Nation is there hootin and hollering and screaming. It’s such an energy to the guys on the field and we appreciate it.”

On doing anything different in preparation during playoff time:

“No. Focus, if it can and it can I guess, it goes up a little more. You want to make sure you don’t leave any stone unturned. You want to dot the I’s and cross the t’s. Intensity has to go up a little bit because it’s one and done at this point. For me, obviously, this could be it for me. There is no tomorrow for me and there is no saying, ‘We’ll get them next year.’ It’s about going out there and finishing on the right note. For me, that means I don’t care what happens in that game. I just want to be up by one point at the end of that game.”

On being more nervous than normal since it could be his last game:

“Maybe a little bit. I’m going to try and get rid of it. When you think about it, it’s just another football game. Maybe on that first play, it might be a little bit more. Once we get going, I’ll get into the swing of things. I’ve been doing this a long time. About 25 years now, so I’ll make sure I’ll go out there and just play ball.”

On personally being fresher this time of year than in years past:

“I do feel pretty good. Coach Scelfo, my tight ends coach, has done a great job of getting me rest during the week and making sure I don’t get overloaded. I always tell him, ‘Do you want it today or do you want it Sunday.’ He says, ‘I want it on Sunday.’ I’ve been rested, but I’ve been lucky not to take any big hits I guess and serious injury.”

On having an appreciation of what advancing in the playoffs would mean to this franchise and city:

“I’ve thought about that, too. When I first got here and looked at the team I was like, we got a shot this year or next year. We had some good teams back then, but maybe you’re right. If I had won a Super Bowl in my first year it wouldn’t be as sweet as my last year because I know what it takes. The dedication from everyone involved, from this whole organization and the fans in the community. I was out walking around on Monday and just seeing the fan support. People were coming up to me and saying it would mean so much to us if we can just go out and get it for Atlanta and to just see how excited they are, the city. It’s going to be great to go out and get one for the whole city. For everybody that is a Falcon fan and part of the organization, it would be great to go get it.”

On not making that pressure a burden:

“It’s all how you process it mentally. When it comes down to it, it’s just football. I don’t mean to simplify it, but that’s really what it is. The way you’re going to win is if you execute and if you beat the man in front of you. Whatever your responsibility is as an individual player, you have to win that matchup. If we can do that more often than not we’re going to win the game. That’s what you have to think. I haven’t even listened to ESPN, NFL Network, or any of those outlets talking about the game because I don’t want to hear it. I want to go out and concentrate and hopefully go out there and come out on top.”

On Seahawks defense:

“It’ll be a huge challenge. I haven’t listened to the media this week, but I’ve listened to them in previous weeks and obviously from what I’ve seen on film they’re a good team. What makes them so good on defense is that they’re always in the right place it seems like. They crowd the box and say, ‘You’re not going to be able to run the ball against us. We’ve got good corners and you’re not going to be able to throw the ball against us either.’ That’s why they’ve been successful and they’ve had success doing that. It’s going to be something that we have to execute. Like I said before, if we can win our individual matchups then I like our outcome. We have to make sure we keep Matt clean in the pocket and let him go out there and do his thing.”

On his individual matchup:

“I anticipate a big day for all of us, honestly. If you look at the receivers and the arsenal of fire power we have on this offense. The PYP (pick your poison) offense, it can be anybody’s game. Our receivers are really, really good. I know their corners are really good, but you better give them credit because these guys are going to come to play. I’m going to play. Whoever has that matchup, Matt is going to find us and we’re going to exploit it and get in that endzone.

On slowing Seattle’s momentum early in the game:

“We are the home team. Obviously, the energy is going to be there for us with our crowd. We’re going to be excited. We’re coming off the Bye week so we’ll have rest. We have to come out and match their intensity. They do have the advantage of playing the week before. They’ve already been through it and gotten over the jitter of a playoff game. I think the first two or three plays we’ll be over that and just go out there and play some ball. I anticipate we’ll be nice and relaxed. That’s what Smitty preaches, stay loose and having fun out there and we’ll be alright.”

On this game being about pride:

“Probably every week you have pride in each game you play. You want to go out there and leave your mark. Obviously, in the playoffs it steps up even more because that’s where your legacy comes in because that’s what the majority of people remember. Like I said, it’s a little bit of pressure and it’s a little bit of anxiety, but that’s good. I like that. I need that. I like having a little bit of anxiety because it keeps me running in the right direction. It keeps me going. It keeps me alert. If you ask me on a scale of one to 10 where I’m going to be at, I’m going to be right at a six and a half or a seven. That’s right where you want to be.”

On CB Asante Samuel bringing swag to the team:

“Asante has helped a lot. He’s been huge for us. Obviously, with his play on the field most importantly, but in the locker room and out there on the field he just keeps everything nice and light and fun. Keeps that defense nice and light and fun and LB Sean Weatherspoon picks up on it. CB Dunta Robinson picks up on it. It’s good. Even as an offense we pick up on it on that swag. I think it’s definitely helped us out a lot. It’s made us a better team.”

On the Bye week being an advantage in the playoffs:

“I’m just talking about the jitters of playing playoff football. Everybody knows intensity goes up, energy goes up, everything goes up because the stakes are so high. As far as that just because they played them, I still like our advantage, too. Getting healthy. Ask a guy like DE John Abraham. A week off really, really helped him and he’s a huge part of our defense. It’s nice to have a lot of guys that were nicked up come back and they’re going to be strong and ready to go in this game.”

On going out on the last play like Ray Lewis did last weekend:

“I don’t think so. You don’t want to see me dance either. That’s not a pretty thing. Trust me.”

On how badly he wants that playoff win:

“It’s huge. I’m not going to lie to you. I really want to win this game. Not just for me, honestly, it’s for the guys on this team how hard we’ve worked. Like I said, this is the best team I’ve ever been a part of just environment. I think as players just talent. I really feel like I said at the beginning of the season, we have a real good shot if we go out there and play our game. We’ll like the outcome, but we have to go out there and execute.”

On the experience of the last two postseasons helping this weekend:

“It can’t hurt. We’ve been here before. We went 13-3 and had a first round bye and we didn’t get it done. There is no nervousness, at least I wouldn’t think as far as this being the unknown. This isn’t unchartered territory for us. We’ve been here before. I’ve talked about it all year, nobody is going to get on our bandwagon. No one is going to commit to our band wagon because we haven’t won a playoff game. We understand that, so we have to go out there and take care of business and hopefully come out on top.”

On day dreaming about walking off the field in New Orleans as a Super Bowl champion:

“A little bit. If you see yourself there it could happen. Obviously, I’m also realistic and I know we have to play this game and can’t just show up. A lot of focus and concentration is going into this week. Why not? It’s day dreaming. That’s what you want to do. All kids out there, make sure you day dream. It’ll take you where you want to go. You’ve got to see it if you’re going to go there.”

On there being a big difference this year physically:

“Not really. I feel fine. Probably a little bit healthier than I’ve been around here the last couple of years. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve been doing this kettle bell workout with Coach Fish, our weight trainer. I’m feeling good about it. I’m getting good rest, eating right, taking care of my body and all that good stuff. I’ve been lucky. Most importantly, I’ve been lucky to just stay away from any serious injury this year.”

On the news about LB Junior Seau having brain damage:

“Fullback, linebacker positions, you’re just running into somebody full speed with your head every time. That’s tough. You’re going to have wear and tear on you head. That’s part of the process of what we signed up for. I’m glad that they’re starting to figure out this stuff and try to make it safer. For me, I just try and keep my head out of it as much as I can and use good technique. I’m on offense, so I’m not hitting with my head like that. I’m tyring to catch balls.”

On there being an assessment at the end of the year when deciding whether to retire:

“I’m going to go back and talk to my family and my inner circle, my son. I’m not going to change it.”

On what the family has said about it:

“They’re 95 percent, too.”

On when he’ll decide:

“It’ll be well into the offseason. I want to make sure that I make the right decision, but more than likely. We’ll see. Like I said, I’m not going to play that game with the media or really I’m not going to play that game with my team. We’ll see.”

On staying poised against a team that likes to talk:

“You have got to stay disciplined. You know they’re going to talk. That’s how it goes. I’ve been around a long time and seen plenty of Shermans. He’s that style of play and you have to ignore it and have some fun with it. If anything, you take it and put a little fire in yourself. There’s no reason to apologize for yourself. Go out there and say you want to talk? This is how we’re going to respond. He’s competitive and he’s a good player.”

On the Redskins going after him:

“When you’re talking you’re trying to get the person out of their game. That’s why you just have to ignore it and go about your business like always.”

On playing with receivers like he is now:

“I have never played with that. I might’ve seen it a couple of times with Jerry Rice and Taylor. They’re up there too and it’s just beginning. Roddy has a lot of football left no matter what he says. He’s got a lot of football left, but these two guys have a chance to do something incredible. Maybe with my butt gone they’ll get even bigger numbers. It’s something special to be playing with guys like this. They make it a lot easier for me especially.”

On being surprised at how good of a year he’s had:

“I did not anticipate this, but every time I go out there I’m just trying to make a play. It’s not about me having a good year. I’m telling you, it’s Matt just playing at that level where he’s finding all of us. We’re all right at 1,000 yards, right at 100 catches because Matt is playing well and the offensive line is protecting him. I can’t take all the credit. I can’t even take half the credit. I’d give a lot of credit to Matt. Just give me the ball in that position where I can go make a play. I feel honestly similarly to what I felt these last three years. As far as ability, it’s Matt and Dirk that’s creating the offense for us to go out there and be successful.”

On not envisioning getting shut out like last year in the playoffs:

“No , I can’t. I’m not envisioning that. I’m envisioning going out and playing well.”

On the difference this year:

“We’re better. T Sam Baker has played better, a guy who is growing up before our eyes and playing some unbelievable football. T Tyson Clabo is doing his thing. WR Julio Jones is way better, obviously. He went to the Pro Bowl this year. Roddy White is doing his same thing and killing it statistically and making big plays for us. We’ve gotten better since last year. Dirk’s done a good job.”

Cornerback Asante Samuel
On leaning on past experience in the playoffs:

“A little experience, a little winsmanship, playmaking ability. It’s show time so everybody has to take their game to the next level, and that’s how you have to approach the game and look at it. It’s playoff time. That’s what everyone does.”

On playing against a hot team:

“We’ll see what we’re all about. We’ll see what they got and we’ll see what we got. We’re going to go out there and play to the best of our ability. We got a good game plan. We have to iron out the wrinkles. We’re excited. Whether they’re hot, cold, or whoever it is, we’re just excited to play football because it’s the game we love.”

On being able to tell if a team has a playoff edge:

“You can just feel the atmosphere. You can feel the camaraderie. How everyone is preparing. You have one goal and you put aside your selfishness and your individual goals. You want to win. You do whatever it takes to win. I think that’s the difference. You find out in teams that win and win in big games is everybody has one common goal and that’s to win.”

On what he expects the atmosphere to be like:

“Super crazy, super crazy. We need everybody in the ATL, Falcons fans to come rise up. We need that 12th man in the building making as much noise as possible, so y’all be there. We’re going to make y’all proud.”

On it being time to step up as a veteran:

“It’s always time for me to step up because I’m here. Whenever I’m here, I’m going to step up.”

On how the 12th man can help the defense on Sunday:

“Just make a lot of noise. It causes confusion. The offense can’t communicate as well as they’re supposed to. That’s the objective of the noise and all that. To get motivation and excitement and you don’t want them to be able to hear as good, so we need you out there. Red and black making a lot of noise, screaming deuce deuce. All that good stuff.”

On cornerbacks being loud and boisterous on the field:

“I don’t know about those guys, but I know about me. I’m just swag 100, big play Zant. That’s what I do. Just go out there and play ball, make plays, and have fun.”


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