Head coach Mike SmithOpening statement:
"Again we had to practice inside today because of the weather, and we got some really good work in, in terms of working on our situations in preparation for the 49er's."
On the importance of playing physically on Sunday:
"Well San Francisco has a reputation of being physical, and they live up to that reputation on both sides of the football. I think they actually do a good job of that on special teams as well. It's going to be very important for us to match the intensity and try and be the team that wins the line of scrimmage. I think that's going to be very important. I think the team that wins the line of scrimmage is really going to enhance their chances of winning."
On how much he expects to see NT Ricky Jean-Francois in San Francisco's defensive rotation:
"A little bit. They don't do a whole lot of rotation, and Ricky is probably the guy that comes out and gets the most snaps in their rotation. They're going to play with all of their regular guys and they'll switch their nose tackle out for the nickel back in terms of their substitution package. They're not like a lot of teams that have a whole lot of guys running in and out. Those guys line up and play, they're tough guys. They're going to give you 60 minutes."
On playing against a 3-4 defense:
"I think our defense has a lot of multiplicity to it. Working through the offseason, training camps, OTAS, mini camps, there is a tinge of some 3-4 principles so we have a pretty good idea of what types of runs are going to be successful against 3-4 teams."
On the status of DE John Abraham:
"John Abraham was limited in practice today along with DT Jonathan Babineaux and CB Christopher Owens. It was very nice to see Christopher Owens back out participating in practice. He looked well rested and recovered from his hamstring injury. John was a limited participant as well as Jonathan Babineaux."
On preparing for the 49er's multiple offensive sets:
"It's very challenging. They run some very unique formations. I think that Coach [Greg] Roman and Coach [Jim] Harbaugh and the offensive staff have a plan each and every week of what they want to do formationally. They will run a traditional offense that we are used to seeing, but they will also run the read play and they will run it out of the pistol formation that Colin [Kaepernick] had run in college. It is a challenge and I think we'll find out early in the ball game what the formations are going to be for the ball game. We're going to have to be prepared to stop them. I think we're going to see things that we haven't seen, in terms of what they're going to do with their formations."
On the role he plays in keeping the team 'loose':
"We try and set the stage each and every week with our messaging as a coaching staff and our guys have been very well prepared all season long. I think this week is no different than any other week in terms of the process that we go through on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. This is a group that likes to have fun. They like to work hard. When you have that combination and you understand the magnitude of the games that you're going to be playing in at the end of the season, it will help you be relaxed. I think it's important to be relaxed. I said yesterday and I'll say it again, our goal each and every week is not to be over worked or under prepared. We want to be just right at three o'clock on Sunday."
On what TE Tony Gonzalez has meant to the team:
"We know what he's capable of doing on the football field on Sunday afternoons, Monday nights, Thursday nights, whenever you're playing. He's, in my estimation, the greatest tight end to ever play the game and that's not to disrespect any of the other tight ends. Tony has been a mentor to many of the guys in that locker room. Tony is not a guy of many words, but he's a guy that when he comes to work, he comes to work. Much like all great players, you tell other players, 'you see that guy? Do you see what he's doing? Just mimic what he's doing and you will help yourself become a better football player.' Tony is out early catching balls, and it rubs off on everybody just not the receivers. We get defensive linemen out there working on the sled and offensive linemen coming out early. Tony is working in between periods, it's just a pleasure to watch and to work with a guy that is as professional as he is."
On how much a team's success factors into an individual player's legacy:
"It's a team sport and I think, ultimately, everybody knows how you're going to be judged in a team sport and it's going to be how you perform in the offseason. There are 32 teams and 31 of them are going to be disappointed at the end of the season; only one is going to be happy. That's what we're all fighting for. I really believe that your legacy is going to be based on what you do in the offseason. That doesn't mean that you're not a great player or you haven't been on great teams, it's just very difficult to win in the National Football League."
On players pulling for Tony Gonzalez to 'go out as a winner':
"We've got great teammates. I'm sure that everybody understands where Tony is. He made an announcement early on in the preseason that I think this is a 95% chance of being his last year. I think everybody would love to see Tony go out the right way."
On the importance of establishing the running game last week:
"We've not run the game as efficiently as we would have liked to throughout the season. We've done it in spurts. There have been games that we've done it well the entire game and there have been games where we haven't run it well for a complete game. We'll have a spurt in a certain quarter or a spurt for 10-15 attempts in the running game but I really believe, and I say this all the time that there is going to be a time in every season where you're going to have to be able to run the football. I think that even when you're a 'passing team' you're still, at some point, going to have to be able to run the football. I think it's evident in almost every year, especially when you get into the playoffs."
On RB Michael Turner and RB Jacquizz Rodgers complimenting each other in the running game:
"They're different types of backs. We have certain things that we feel one is better at but there is never a situation when we feel that we're only going to run Jacquizz on a certain type of play or we're only going to run Michael on that type of play. They're body types are a little bit different. They're running styles are different, although I will say that it was nice to see Jacquizz run like Michael Turner. He did his best imitation last weekend in the ballgame."
On San Francisco RB Frank Gore:
"Frank Gore is an outstanding running back. He is a guy that, when he gets going north and south, there isn't a lot to hit. He's got very good vision and even when there's nothing there he's going to make the most out of what is presented to him. He runs a lot faster than he runs on a clock. You can't look and go off of what they say he runs a 40-yard dash on because there are times that you see that people don't catch him. He is playing like a Pro Bowl running back."
On the importance of the defensive linemen occupying the offensive line:
"I think it's very important. Often times we talk about the defensive tackles and the defensive linemen that it's not always about statistics. Coach Dirk Koetter and Coach Mike Nolan use the analogy that 'sometimes there have to be assist men for the team, or for a play, to be successful.' I think that's a great analogy for a football team to use on both sides of the ball. There are going to be times that every one of you are going to be asked to be the assist man and let the other guy go and make the play."
Tight end Tony GonzalezOn making the first guy always miss:
"Just being around, knowing this game and how to play it for a while. Somebody asked me that question yesterday too, 'Why are you playing so well?' I've been around a long time. I've compared it to when you watch those kung fu movies and you see the guys with the long beard. The toughest fighter is not usually the young guy, it's the old guy that's been around for a long time. I figure I'm like that. You see everything. You see every coverage. You know the angle that a guy is coming to get you. You know the angle that he's going to take. I'm just out there doing my thing. I've been doing this for 25 years now, since Pop Warner. I've learned a couple of things."
On sticking with the five percent:
"It's at 95 percent still. I'm still the same that I've always been since the beginning of the season. If we get to the Super Bowl, if we're lucky enough, it's probably going to even go up higher. That's the goal is to win one and win the championship and get out of here."
On TE Michael Palmer saying it's up to 97 percent:
"Michael has a big mouth, huh. I'm going to get him for that. After last week it probably went up a couple of percentage points. Maybe if we get this win it'll go up to 99 percent. I hate even toying with that. The last thing that I would ever want to do is be a distraction. The only reason I'm at 95 is I don't want to close the window all the way, just in case, but pretty much, I have my mind already made up that this is probably going to be it."
On talking to guys that have retired after winning a Super Bowl:
"I spoke to (Michael) Strahan about it. He said that's the way you want to do it. That's every athletes dream. Any professional athlete out there, it doesn't matter what sport it is, you would love to win a championship and leave. That's where I'm at. I know I could still play this game. There is no doubt about it. I can play this game for another three years if I wanted to at a high level. There comes a point in your career that I've gotten everything that I've ever wanted from this game. The only reason I've been playing the last couple of years, to tell you the truth, is for an opportunity like this. Now that it's presented, I feel some closure coming in. I still have some more closure to take care of though and that's obviously winning this weekend and winning if we get to the Super Bowl."
On what he wants to do out of football:
"Do some television. Talk about football. Stay in the game a little bit like a lot of retired players do. Any network out there, I'm free next year."
On the five percent becomes bigger the closer he gets to a Super Bowl:
"We're right there right now. We are right at the door and the door is open for us, we just have to push it open a little bit more. That's where that five percent is, is if we get really, really close and we get past this and getting to the game and we don't win. Then you're like, 'OK, we're right there. I could come back and maybe get it.' Looking at history, you can't chase the Super Bowl. That's tough. It's so tough to win a Super Bowl in this League. That's why New England and that organization is so great because it seems like they're always getting there. It's not normal to do it year in and year out. You never know what can happen, especially in the NFL because of the injury rate and key player will go down here and there, players coming back for another year. It's not like basketball where you know you're going to have all of your superstars back. Stuff happens. People leave or whatever. That's the last thing I want to do is chase a Super Bowl because we got an opportunity now and hopefully we can get it done now."
On it taking 16 years to win one and possibly getting two in two weeks:
"That would be great. Honestly, looking back, I probably wouldn't have said this back then after a loss, but I would lose all of those to go ahead and go three and zero this year in the playoffs and obviously win the Super Bowl. It would be a dream to be able to retire from this game a Super Bowl champion. Obviously, that's in the future. This game is very important and we have a tough opponent, too."
On how much of players legacy is made on winning championships:
"I don't think it's fair. I've said that before and even now after I got my first playoff victory, I still say the same thing. It's not fair to judge a player by whether he won a Super Bowl or not. It's about how he played week in and week out. I know a lot of people out there are not going to agree with me with that statement. That's just how I feel because there are so many variables that go into winning. I've been on teams where we went 13-3 in Kansas City and we had the number one offense, but we had the ranked dead last defense. We got to the playoffs and lost. That's just how it goes. It takes a total team effort and everybody focusing and everybody staying disciplined. From what I've seen, that's what we have here with this team, but that's what it takes to win. You can't say a player isn't Hall of Fame worthy or anything like that, a Pro Bowler because he's not on a winning team. WR Larry Fitzgerald is still one of the best receivers in the League."
On getting emotional after the game last weekend:
"It's a roller coaster of emotions. Obviously, having a 27-7 lead going into that fourth quarter you're like ok, it's pretty much over with. We got this one in the bag. To see them driving when they scored that last touchdown, in my mind, I'm like 'here it goes again. I can't believe it. It's not fair.' You start feeling kind of sorry and you get down. I remember looking up in the stands at where my family sits and I was just shaking my head. I saw my cousin and they were shaking their heads too like, 'man I guess this is not meant to be.' Then, to go out there and get it done and pull out the victory it's just like a flood gate opened up. That's the reason I was crying. I never thought I was capable of crying after a game because I figured, shoot, 'What are you crying for?' Now, I know how it feels and I'm glad I got to experience that. Hopefully, we can win without going through that again."
On the future of the quarterback position in the League:
"I was telling QB Matt (Ryan) you're going to be a dinosaur here pretty soon. It's just how it goes I guess. There are a lot of athletic quarterbacks that come into the League. A lot of these athletic quarterbacks come into the League. It's confusing right now for defenses because they haven't seen that much of it. Also, it creates a way where not only can he throw but he can beat you with his legs. You cover all the guys on the field he's just going to take off running because everybody is down field. It's a disadvantage for a defense. I think a guy like Matt and you look at the upper echelon quarterbacks, you have Matt, QB Tom (Brady), QB Peyton (Manning). Those guys are very, very good. QB Aaron Rodgers, QB Eli Manning, you can keep going on. There are a lot of really good pocket quarterbacks."
On people respecting him more as a person than his numbers:
"That was taught to me before I even got to the League. That's something my mother taught me. I'll tell you that. My family, my older brother Chris. You always want to make sure you have a good name and the respect of others. You get that by your actions. It's always been important to me to make sure that I'm not a jerk or let my head in the clouds. I've been very fortunate to be around some people like that. My mother and my brother will tell me, 'Look, you're being a jerk. Who do you think you are?' That's what you need in your life. That's what I would recommend to any athlete coming in. Make sure you surround yourself not with yes people. Surround yourself with some no people. That can tell you no, that's not a good idea and that you trust. I've been lucky to have that in my corner."
On this defense against tight ends:
"I think it's a combination. They have some studs on their defense. They have some really, really good All-Pro type players. They don't blitz that much. They get hands on you. I'll probably be going against (S Donte) Whitner, LB Patrick Willis, LB Naorro Bowman. All those guys are really good players. They are all Pro Bowlers. That's why you haven't seen the big numbers from opposing tight ends. For us, the luxury that we have as an offense is it's not just me. It's two big dogs outside of me with WR Julio (Jones) and WR Roddy (White) that are going to make some plays. Like I said, we're always going to try and do that PYP offense, you know the pick your poison. If they take one of us away, the other one is going to go out and kill you."
On having home field advantage for Sunday's game:
"It's huge. The Dome was rocking last week. It was the loudest I had ever heard it and we're going to need it even louder this week. It helps; it's a huge advantage for us. Especially on defense because it just confuses you. I know for me, when we're on the road and go play in a loud place, like New Orleans is real loud, it creates a little bit of confusion and a little bit of panic. I don't care what anybody says, you really have to be totally, totally focused and that's hard to do that play in and play out throughout the whole game. It's a huge advantage for it and I think we take advantage of it. We're a tough team to beat at home."
On how QB Matt Ryan has developed since last year:
"He's more poised and more comfortable. He has a better grasp of the offense. I think Dirk [Koetter] has done a lot for him this year. We really haven't changed the game plans that much, he's just kind of simplified it so Matt's confidence is through the roof right now."
On what Matt is like in the huddle in pressure situations:
"He's kind of like what he's always been, but he's believing it more. He looks at you and says, 'we've got this. We've been here before, let's just go down the field and do what we did last time and things will take care of themselves.' That's what happened."
On staying in his weekly routine and focusing on the game:
"I'm trying to. Obviously, this is a huge game; it's the biggest game of my career. Just look at the media in here so it just comes with the territory. You have to try and block it out and not listen to the noise. I haven't been listening to the media, just like I did last week, as much as I want to. At least for me I think that's what's going to work, going out there and being totally, totally focused because this opportunity doesn't come around too often. It's never coming around for me and this is probably the last time it's going to come around for me so I want to make sure that I'm focused and disciplined."
On staying loose for this game, as CB Asante Samuel has been throughout the week:
"Well, first of all, Asante Samuel is going to have fun. He's going to keep us loose. Thomas Dimitroff had one of the best free agent pickups of the offseason in getting Asante on our team. Not just from his play, he's an awesome player, but from what he brings off the field in just keeping us loose. That's one thing that [Coach Mike] Smith preaches. That's one of our goals every week. Obviously, we want to do all of the physical and mental drills and normal football stuff, but then at the end it's always stay loose, be positive, and have fun. That's what this game is all about. You cannot play tight, you have to go out there and lay it all on the line and be loose and have fun and you'll like the outcome."
On cherishing the position they're in being in the NFC Championship:
"I think it goes without saying, but we do say it. At the beginning of this season we were saying that we were going to go out and try and win the Super Bowl this year, but I think it goes without saying. At least as a veteran you realize that this opportunity doesn't come around that often, so we have to cherish it and make the most of it. We have to make the sacrifices that it takes to make sure that when you step out on that field you will be at your best. I do tell the young guys, like WR Julio [Jones], I said 'you're in your second year and you've won a playoff game and you're in the NFC Championship game. I had to wait 16 years for it.' That's just how it goes. Like I said, you just can't to look at it, and I have looked at it, as being unfair and saying 'man that's not fair.' But that is fair, that's just how it goes in the NFL. Having a player like him helps us go to the NFC Championship."
On whether the team feels more pressure on them this week:
"If I had to pick I would probably say that we did last week, but at the same time our approach hasn't changed. We still have the same approach but definitely that playoff monkey was on our back last week. Maybe now we can relax a little bit more. I like what we did those first three quarters last week and I think we'll have that type of focus this week. The focus won't be a problem, I don't think we'll let any distractions come in. I don't think it's too much more of a distraction this week as it was last week, at least the team hasn't felt that way."
On young defensive players providing an immediate impact the way young offensive players have:
"I have noticed it. For defenses, I think it starts with the coaching and maybe what they're telling them in the meeting rooms. They're probably telling them the same thing our offensive coaches are telling our young guys. The game keeps evolving and it keeps becoming better. When I was younger and first came in it seemed like I saw man-to-man, or cover two zone, or middle field closed and man-to-man. There weren't any of these zone drop defenses and 'p' droppers or all of this different stuff that you're seeing all of these guys walking around like Mike Nolan and you don't know who the mike is or who the sam is. They have safeties down in the box now but you didn't see that too much when I was young, it was more vanilla. That's just how it goes though. The game is evolving, that's why it's the number one sport in the world or at least in America. It's only going to keep getting better. Football is unbelievable TV. Just look at all of the games that are being played. It's a great, great sport because it's so unpredictable and it keeps getting better."
On how he has helped his fellow receivers develop and mature:
"I'd like to think that I've helped them with their routine. I'm a big believer in routine. I hate just talking about 'we're going to be great.' That's one thing that I always ask young players when they come in, 'what are your goals.' They'll say, 'I want to be a Pro Bowl player.' So I ask them, 'okay, how are you going to get there? What is your routine?' You can't just say that you're going to work hard because it's an ambiguous statement; it's very blank. Work hard and go out before practice and go out after practice. Catch 50 balls before practice, 50 balls after practice, and 50 balls during practice. That's 150 balls. That's way more balls than I bet you normally catch where you catch maybe eight to 10 balls at the most during practice, and that's if you're the star receiver on the team. I've tried to tell those guys that they need to catch balls between drills when the defense is on the field, and not just catch them, don't just go through the motions but make them count. Why waste time? You're only out there an hour and a half so make it count. I think they're picking up on it and I like to think they're a lot more consistent. Not just because of me but just because of their routine, because they changed their routine. Just look at WR Roddy [White] from last year to this year. His consistency is so much better this year and he's played so well this year, the best I've seen him play. Julio keeps improving; the sky is the limit with him. He's going to be one of the top two receivers in this League in the next couple of years, if not already."
On when his routine started:
"It started after my second year in the NFL, towards the end of my second year. I figured it out the hard way. I had a pretty good rookie year and then that second year I dropped 17 balls and I figured, 'I have to do something different because this routine isn't working.' I went from being a backup player to being a starter where there's a little bit more pressure and expectations go up. I started reading a lot more books and looking at guys like Michael Jordan, Barry Sander, Jerry Rice, looking at their routine. I sat back and said, 'oh my God, I can't believe how much work goes in to being that good of a player.' So you say to yourself, 'if I want to be that great then I have to do everything they do.' That's where I started coming up with my routine and I've been adding to it and it kind of changes every year. It kind of stays the same too, I guess, but I'm always looking for every advantage and that's what I want these young guys to learn playing the game. That they can't ever be content and they have to keep going out there every week and every year trying to be the best they can be. That's what this game is about, consistency."