**Head Coach Tom Coughlin
Q: How did Eli look?**A: He looked good. He came back and he actually texted us last night and said he felt better. When he got to work today he had a nice breakfast and seemed to do fine. I am sure he is not quite himself but almost.
Q: How much do the defensive linemen push each other?A: It is natural, you ought to hear the room.
Q: What do they do?A: I can't reveal that. It is all competitive stuff. They acknowledge one another and they also acknowledge what could be better. They encourage each other to improve and be the best they can be.
Q: How will Eli's day yesterday affect his preparation?A: He had done all the work prior to and came out here and actually threw and warmed up. He then started feeling it but he already had done his classroom work. What he missed was the after practice work and then he was able to come in this morning and do some of that.
Q: To what do you credit your calm demeanor?A: I have never had that said about me before and if that is a complement, I am excited. You have to work on that because it has not always been like that for me. I have had a lot years where whatever happens comes a spontaneous response. Over the years, you learn to control that just to the point where you pick a spot where you need to interject what you want the player to understand. It is just experience probably.
Q: How has your experience with Chris Canty been over the years?A: I would say very good, you would have to ask him.
Q: He has had a healthy stretch this year?A: Yes, he has. He has put together a nice stretch of games of late here as well. He is more confident and he knows a lot about the system and what he is being asked to do. He has performed here very well down the stretch.
Q: How difficult has it been to defend the tight end over the years?A: We have been able and fortunate to have one of those guys most of the time here so we had people they had to worry to defend. No question, it creates another problem for you and if you are talking about Vernon Davis, he is certainly a guy that has an awful a lot of attention spent on how you are going to defend him.
Q: Has he gotten better as a route runner?A: He has.
Q: How important is a guy like Jacquian Williams against the tight end?A: It is important to have a guy that can be in position to be stride for stride with him. Also, you have to try to do something about the release.
Q: How does it affect playing a team who has good field position?A: It affects the way you set up the plan but more than that, it affects the thought process that everyone has in their mind in terms of priorities and keys you have to have a chance to win. That being the case, the players are constantly aware of it because they are hearing it. They are hearing it from me, they are hearing it from the assistant coaches, and at the end of the week when we summarize the entire week, they hear it again.
Q: What do you hope they take from it?A: Whatever the keys are, they understand what they are. They are very much aware of it. If you just talk about it from a special teams emphasis or standpoint, you do realize that therein lays a big chunk of this field position business so the players, the punter and kicker all know how important it is against a very good return team.
Q: Is it easier to coach a guy like Canty who has played under Parcells?A: I don't know about that. He is a very smart guy. He is a very, very competitive guy. He wants to be a very good football player and a part of our team and that is what makes it easy. When someone is motivated to be the very best they can be, that would be the word that would lead me to say that would make it better in terms of the coach-player relationship.
Q: Is Justin Smith as good as it gets?A: He is very good.
Q: How much easier does it make it for a guy on the outside?A: Look at the number of sacks that the young rookie's got. Not to take anything away from him but to play next to him and the things Smith institutes, the young end can take full advantage of it. That is pretty impressive.
Q: Are you amazed how quickly opinions can change about you? A few weeks ago there was speculation about your job security and now people are talking about the Hall of Fame.A: You just said it. That is actually how it comes across. If you are coaching in this job, you are either one or the other.
Q: How do you live with that?A: I just keep the blinders on and go straight ahead. I don't have anything to do with what is being said on the outside. The priority and what I think about it, I don't let it affect me in any way. I do believe in the John Wooden statement: We like praise, we don't like criticism but if you let either one affect your preparation, you have a problem.
Q: In the last four or five games, the longest pass play against you is something like 34 yards. Is the lack of the big passing plays because of the pass rush or coverage?A: A combination. Our coverage has gotten better and we are tighter. There is not as much daylight. … One feeds of the other and always has.
Q: What does it do for confidence?A: It has done a lot for the confidence of our defensive team from believing and trusting in each other and you see it grow on a weekly basis. It is based on success. We didn't win the big play battle the last time we played the 49ers. They had more than we did, so we have a challenge there.
Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride
Q: How does Eli Manning's arm strength allow you to call plays down the field?A: Obviously, if you don't have that arm strength, you can't do certain things. Fortunately he has enough arm strength that he can make all of the throws. A lot of it is mechanically he does a good job using his body and involving his legs and all of the biomechanical things that you have to do. It would be very boring if I went through them for you here, but he does do those things well. He's very efficient in his body movement and that enables him to throw the ball as well as he does
Q: Did you have to limit him today?A: He took great offense when I said he still looked pale to me. He said, 'It's the winter. It's the winter, coach, of course I look pale.' No, we did everything with him. We maybe slowed down a couple of the drills in between our work sessions where the defense is up and normally we're doing a lot of drills. We did a couple. We didn't do quite as many, but for the most part he participated in everything. He did everything that we normally do.
Q: What's the most comforting thing about having Eli as your quarterback?A: That's a great question. The most comforting thing is the fact that I think he's been through it with us, he knows what we're looking for, he understands based on coverage where we would like the ball to go. He's not going to be overwhelmed by what's going on. He's been through it enough times. We've had enough success with it that he plays very confidently. I don't think the situation overwhelms him and I think he has a very profound understanding of what we're trying to do offensively.
Q: How has he conducted himself this week?A: It's funny, you get asked all these things about have you seen this, that and the other thing. To be honest with you, he's essentially the same. If there's one defining characteristic since I've known him and this is our eighth year together is that he's always going to be prepared, he's always going to work hard. He never seems like the moment is too big for him whether it went well or it didn't go well. I don't see anything different in his preparation or in the way he acts or conducts himself on the practice field or the way he is when we point something out. He's just kind of calm, very poised and very confident that things are going to turn out well. I think it's based on the fact that we've been through a lot and the fact that he knows he's done the preparation that's necessary to give himself the best chance.
Q: Is the Baltimore game his rookie year the only time you've seen Eli upset?A: No. I've seen him upset many times. I think he does a great job of masking and camouflaging and not allowing people to see that he's disappointed in something – either something that we've done or something he has done himself. That game there is no question they frustrated him. He was very early on in his development and they were very good defensively. They got to a point where they were actually toying with him, trying to make him a bike decoration and they're moving around and yelling out numbers and doing all of the things that a veteran defense can do to a young quarterback. They put him through the paces on that one. That's part of the growth process. It's painful while you're going through it. It was painful for all of us. Then you saw Kurt Warner went in and went right down the field and we scored a couple of times. It's all part of the growth that has taken place. He's been through so much now and we've seen so much that it would take a lot to unnerve him now. That doesn't mean that people are going to do something that surprises us – people always do things that are a little different than you prepared for. But he has a great grasp of what our concepts are. That's what I always talk about with our players. Don't just memorize the play, understand what the underlying concept is so when [the defense] makes an adjustment that we haven't seen we can easily adapt to it and we know immediately what we want to do. He has that command. That's the thing that you enjoy, but I think he has mentioned that a few times. We've been through so much that we can do things that weren't in our game plan. 'Hey, we're going to do this' and he has an immediate command and the receivers have been through enough – even though they're young, they've heard it so many times – that they respond usually very quickly.
Q: Why do you think Jacobs gets labeled as 'soft'?A: I think it's just because you see this big, powerful man and if he's not running over somebody every snap then people are almost disappointed. Unfortunately, the people that he's going against are big, strong men, powerful men as well. I think once he gets going, as you've seen, I'm not sure there's many people that like to get in his way. It takes him, as it does any back, an opportunity to get his feet underneath him and get through the hole. But once he gets going he's really, and I mean this in a positive way, a freak of nature. To be that big and powerful and to run as fast as he does, there are not many people that have that combination. So when he is in the open space you see people shying out of the way. Until you get by the line of scrimmage – those guys are 300-plus pounds, they're bigger than he is, too. Plus he hasn't had a chance to build up much momentum. But once he gets going he's a powerful guy.
Q: What has been the consistency with so much change on the offensive line?A: That is a great question because there has been a lot of flux. I'd say Pat Flaherty, our offensive line coach, is the thing I count on and depend on because he's done a terrific job of melting together all of the different components through the starting point where we had two different starters playing different positions and then through injuries – the William Beatty and what have you – I think he's done a great job of getting a couple of guys ready to play that maybe people didn't think were going to be good enough. And he's done a terrific job with that. Plus I think there's a residual work ethic or character about that group in and of themselves – the Chris Snees. They're just blue collar, hardnosed, let's go to work and they're never looking to be quoted or standing up here at the podium, but they're just going to work and rolling up their sleeves every day. That rubs off on everybody and I think that becomes characteristic of the group that's in there. If not, you kind of get weeded out. You see a guy like Kevin Boothe that's playing tremendous football for us. I'm not sure how many people thought that he could be a starter, much less a very, very good starter, which he's become for us. I think there's a work ethic that defines them. I think it's rubbed off on a lot of the guys. I think if there's one quality that I would say has been the catalyst to those guys – with all of the changing parts – it's probably that one.
Q: During preseason, what were your realistic expectations of Victor Cruz?A: As we've talked about before, I always thought that he had the chance to be an effective slot. I thought that there was enough quickness, there was enough strength. I thought he, obviously, ran the ball after the catch pretty well. So you were hopeful. You were hopeful. What was realistic? I was hoping that he would be good enough that we could continue to perform as an offense. That position for us has been an integral part, an indispensable part. When Steve Smith went down last year we went from a five or six game stretch where we were as good as we've ever been to all of a sudden we were floundering and struggling a little bit. So I thought [Victor Cruz] could come in and give us a viable contributor at that spot. Did I think he could become a dominant player one year out? There are so many things that happen in that slot as opposed to being an outside receiver – no. Anybody that says they projected that is lying to you. No one knew that was going to happen. But he's played above and beyond what we thought he could do – not that physically he couldn't, but could he mentally absorb that quickly? But he's in there all of the time. Sean Ryan did a tremendous job. People don't realize that before the lockout happened last year [Victor] made up every day, every day he was in there an hour, hour-and-a-half with Sean Ryan – working with him, trying to make up for the fact that he was on injured reserve and didn't get any of that preparation a year before. Really he was a rookie. I think his hard work, the quality of the job done by Sean and the continued work that we've done as coaches that the guy has progressed and now you get a chance to showcase his physical ability, which we knew he could run and catch the ball and do some things for us. Of course he's made some great plays.
Q: How often is Tom Coughlin in the meetings with you guys?A: He's more of a listener. He's there to make sure I don't veer too far off of the reservation and throw the ball 65 times in a game or something like that. He's there to listen. He'll sit in on all of our meetings as we're presenting stuff. He's not there on first and second-down, but when I come in on third-down and we organize what we're going to do on that he'll come in and sit-in on that. He's a great listener and he's a good football coach. So if there is something that is totally out of bounds he'll voice a concern and we'll look at it and see if it is a concern that needs to be adjusted or addressed. If we think it's going to work, we go with it.
Q: Do you think this is the best job you've ever done as an offensive coordinator?A: I'd rather let you answer that than me. Let me just say that I'm very proud of the guys that I work with. There's no question. We started with five new guys and then we had all of the injuries and the youth and the guys who haven't played and some of the things that we ask them to do. You don't just – in our offense – go out and run a 12-yard curl or a 10-yard in-cut. We ask them to read a lot of things. We put a lot of pressure on receivers to see things as a quarterback would. It's very difficult as a coach to get those things coordinated. So to see them grow like that – obviously what are you? You're a teacher. When you're a teacher and you can see your pupils getting better and feel like you contributed you're very proud of their growth and development, so you feel, 'Maybe I helped them a little bit.' So yeah, I'm very proud of the job our coaching staff has done.
Q: Given how good the 49ers are against the run, what do you tell your guys?A: I think our guys recognize that they're a terrific group, especially, I would be minimizing the quality of the secondary, which I think is excellent too, but they are an unbelievable front. They do a great job. I think our guys are looking forward to the challenge. We just say, 'Hey, if we're as good as we think we are, then we're going to have an opportunity to prove and we're going to prove it against an unbelievable defensive unit.' I think, to be quite candid, our guys are looking forward to it.
Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell
Q: How much does it impact the rest of your defense when you get pressure with the front four?A: That's where our energy comes from, that's where our confidence comes from, that's where our swagger comes from. Those guys, unlike most teams that you associate with, they set the tone for us, they are the catalysts for what we do and how we do it. So, it sets the whole mindset for our defensive football team.
Q: Do you keep an eye out for what the weather will be like?A: Not for this game. It doesn't matter.
Q: Why does it not matter?A: Because it's the championship game. It doesn't matter. You fight all year to get here. It can snow, it can hail, it can rain, it can do whatever it wants to do. We're going to be there and we're going to be ready to play.
Q: Won't the 49ers try to change their offensive game plan in bad weather?A: Doesn't matter.
Q: Do they run out of the same formations with Frank Gore as with Kendall Hunter?A: I think their offense is geared around Frank. I think what they do and how they do it is geared around Frank. I think he was dinged up last time we played them. I don't expect a whole lot of change, because they do what they do and they're good at what they do.
Q: How unusual is it for a defense to feed off of the front four?A: On our team, on the New York Giants, we have about three or four defensive ends, and then the two tackles that really set the tone in the middle for you. But you have three or four defensive ends who can change the complexion of the ballgame on any given play. A lot of teams I've been associated with in the past, you have one, possibly two. If you had two, you felt like you were great up front. If you have three or four, at any point in time, one of those guys can make a game-changing play like Osi did last week. That's why it's very unusual.
Q: Do the defensive linemen compete with each other?A: In everything. You don't want to be in that meeting room. They compete in every single thing.
Q: What have you been able to do defensively to limit production out of the tight end position?A: I think it's a function of our front, I think it's a function of the guys in the back row, as well as the linebackers doing a great job communicating, anticipating and knowing where those guys are because they are so good, as far as tight ends. And some of it is luck. Vernon is a handful. He's as fast as a wide receiver. We have faced really elite tight ends, I think, this season. You go through the New England guys, you go Jermichael, all the way through, Gonzalez. We are battle-tested as far as that's concerned. We just have to be on top of our game on Sunday in order to defend another guy like that.
Q: How much has the tight end position evolved over the years?A: When I first came in, there were only maybe less than a half dozen that could impact a game like that. You play against a Shannon Sharpe or someone like that. But now, it's every week. What they've done is there is one, sometimes two, to defend. I think they have two tight ends who are really good. They've opened up a new era as far the offense is concerned because they can spread the field and do a lot of things that receivers do, plus they're good blockers.
Q: How valuable is a guy like Jacquian Williams in defending tight ends?A: Very valuable in the sense that you feel like you can match up and keep a linebacker on the field instead of putting another defensive back on the field and that helps.
Q: How important is it to be physical at the line of scrimmage with athletic tight ends?A: That's the key. Can we smack them in the mouth and be physical with them and they'll be physical with us. When it's all said and done, who wins the physical battle?
Q: A lot of people are saying that towards the end of the season you're now able to call the plays you want to. What is different?A: We had a lot of interchangeable parts and I think I spoke throughout the season that we were not able to play together as a front, as a secondary, and as a linebacking corps. So over the last four or five weeks we've been able to play together. I think I answered the question during the course of the season that our coverage is based on feel and knowing where people are and trust. We've been able to feel and trust each other now because we've played together as a unit. Defensive line, linebackers, and secondary. The parts have all come together and now I don't have to substitute a guy in and substitute guy in and change the coverage and say this guy has a weakness so I have to do something different. We've come together and we've been able to play together, so everyone is a lot more comfortable in their roles.
Q: Was there ever a concern that players would stop buying in?A: No, we never stopped communicating with each other. We knew we could get it together and we would get it together. It was just a matter of when. Obviously there was frustration. This is the era of instant gratification, so we wanted it to happen right now. But we just kept talking to each other, we kept communicating with each other, we kept believing in each other. I never saw any doubt.
Q: Did you actually see a benefit between your first and second year despite all the change on defense?A: I'm seeing the benefit now. I didn't think I was seeing it early because of the lockout and injuries and trying to put new players into the system and them learning the system. But I see it now, bringing a Chase Blackburn back, who understood our system, who had knowledge of our system, and can go in and within in a matter of weeks get caught up to speed. So, yes, now I do see the benefits.
Q: Has the fact that the defense came together so late hurt your chances at a head coaching position?A: I'm just trying to keep the job I have. I'm happy not to see my name in print sometimes, so I don't know. I've been focusing on the job at hand and that hasn't been a concern for me.
Q: Do you feel like you are able to listen to suggestions from players?A: Because we are able to communicate and we talk to each other, yes. I think because I know the players a lot better, definitely. I think that as a coordinator, and as a leader, you're most effective when you're listening, not talking.
**QB Eli Manning
Q: Can you remember ever getting so much attention over an illness?**A: No. I wasn't watching much TV yesterday so I didn't see the attention it was getting, but obviously when you get into big games like this, any little thing that pops up, people are going to make a big deal about. I'm glad we can put it behind us now and just focus on the game.
Q: Are you 100 percent healthy?A: Yeah, I'm 100 percent. I had a full practice today, I did everything, took every rep. I feel good. Yesterday I at least got to be here and getting into all the meetings and go through the walkthrough. I didn't take any live reps, but I know the game plan, I know what's going on. The arm felt good today, it felt fresh, and it was coming out good.
Q: What happened yesterday?A: I just woke up not feeling well and just tried to tough it out through meetings and everything and did fine. Once we got out to practice, it just wasn't going well, so I just kind of tried to be smart and just say hopefully this will be a 24-hour bug. I came back in and got some fluids and just tried to make sure I didn't make it worse. I'm just fortunate this happened on a Wednesday and not later in the week.
Q: Were you aware of the Rob Lowe tweet about your brother's false retirement?A: I haven't heard anything about it.
Q: Did you hear what Jerry Rice said about Brandon Jacobs?A: I thought Brandon gave a good answer that he didn't think Jerry Rice would want to tackle him. I agree with that statement and I don't think it's anything we're going to make a big deal about.
Q: Talk about the impact Kevin Gilbride has had on your career.A: Coach Gilbride and I have a very close relationship. When I first got here, he was the quarterbacks coach, so I sat in all the meetings with him. A lot of the plays we were running then, even though he wasn't the offensive coordinator, were his plays and stuff he knew very well. So I got to kind of learn from him, and hearing him directly and watching old film of the Oilers and different things when they were running it. It's the only offense I've been in, it's what I know. We think the same way on a lot of things and certain looks. A lot of times he doesn't even need to finish his sentence, because I'm already on the same page. I feel very comfortable with him and telling him my thoughts and listening to him. It's a great relationship and we work well together.
Q: What's the best thing you like about his play calls?A: I think with Coach Gilbride, he wants to throw the ball, I think. He has a quarterback mentality. He also knows, he's going to be smart and if we're running it, we're going to continue to run it. It's kind of whatever is working. On Sundays if we're not running it really well and we're throwing it well, I'll just go up to him and say, 'Hey, they can't stop us throwing it, let's just keep throwing it.' And he kind of gets a smile, I think that's what he likes to hear. He wants to throw it and he wants to be consistent and find completions, but he likes to get the ball downfield and hit some big plays.
Q: How comfortable are you throwing the ball in the rain?A: I think I'm fine throwing it in the rain. It's not something I worry about. I've had success throwing it in rain games. I don't know what my numbers are, I'm sure you'll look it up. If it comes to it and it's going to be a wet game, I always felt the offense has an advantage throwing the ball, especially. The receivers have an advantage when the ground is wet because they know where they're going and what they're doing. They should be able to come out of their breaks a little bit better. We shouldn't be the ones slipping, it's usually the defensive side that slips.
Q: What is your mindset one game away from the Super Bowl?A: I think the mindset is we have to go out and play a great game. We've been playing smart football, we've been playing great as a team, as one unit, as everybody doing their part to help out each other. We have to continue doing that. It's whatever it takes. If it's a game we have to run it, great. If we have to throw it, I think ideally we're going to have a good mix. We can just be consistent and have some long drives. Last time we played them, we started the game with two great drives, we just had to settle for field goals. It's a team where you have to get touchdowns, you're going to need touchdowns when you get opportunities.
Q: How do you put your running backs in a good position against a team that is ranked number one against the rush?A: I think it's going to be dependant on what they're doing. Last time we played them, they were keeping two safeties back and playing a little bit more two-high. If that's the case, we're going to have to run it. It's a team where, if you're not getting 10-yard runs, but let's at least get three or four-yard runs a pop and that way it at least sets up better third-down conditions. Their front four on third down in passing situations is very good. They get a good rush on the quarterback, they're powerful and big inside. So you don't want to be stuck in third-and-10, third-and-11 all day, you want to try to get manageable situations. We're just going to try to be consistent. Let's not have the negative runs. Last time we played them we were pretty good about that. Not losing yards on runs and just getting our three or four yards a pop and it at least keeps you in good management and a good rhythm.
Q: Did what happened to Peyton this year with his injury remind you how quickly things can change in the NFL?A: Yeah, I think we're reminded every year how fortunate we are to play this game and how quickly it can slip away. Whether it's an injury, whether it's one of your teammates who you've had here who gets let go. You never know when your last play might be. You [don't take any] play for granted, any season. In this case, in our season, you never know if you're going to get back to this point, playing for an NFC Championship game. You try to enjoy this opportunity, enjoy this experience, have fun with it, yet go and make sure you're giving your all in your preparation. It's fun when you're in these situations and we're looking forward to the opportunity.
Q: Why do you think people are saying you're a dangerous team?A: I think it's just the team coming around and playing together. All season we have kind of had the defense play great one game and the offense would play good the next game. It was never a combination, it seemed like. We weren't complementing off each other. Now it's that way. The defense is playing with great confidence. Offensively, we're not making mistakes and putting our defense in a bind. We're making teams try to drive the whole field if they are going to score. That's the case, both sides are healthy, everybody is back and playing at a high level. We have to continue to do that.
Q: Are you surprised at how well your receivers have played?A: I guess from the first part of the season, just the way it has worked out. We had Hixon, Brandon Stokley, a lot of guys we brought in that we thought were going to play the slot position. The guy who is here, Victor Cruz, kind of stepping up into that role. He has played outstanding. We knew Hakeem would do well. Mario Manningham, we knew he would do well. It's been good to have all three of those guys in the mix. We've had some games where one of them might be out, or this guy is out, or some are banged up and not able to practice all week. Now everybody has been healthy for the last few weeks and all three are playing at a high level, so it makes my job a lot easier. I'm not having to try to force it into certain situations, I'm just going through my reads and trusting those guys to get open.
Q: Is this the best group of receivers you've ever had?A: Maybe, just from having three strong receivers all in there who are playing well. It's a good group.
**Special Teams Coordinator Tom Quinn
How eager is everyone to get to the Super Bowl? **A: I think we are all eager. It is hard to get there and it is hard to get to this point. We want to take full advantage of the opportunity so we are all out to get it.
Q: Have you said anything as far as getting over the hump and making it there?A: No, I think every man wants to get there regardless of if it is once or twice or however many times. It is hard to get there and everyone wants to.
Q: What do you think about the San Francisco 49ers special teams?A: They are very, very solid. They have an exceptional punter, exceptional kickers and a great returner. They are very well rounded and very well coached.
Q: How does Ginn being hurt affect them?A: They have another guy. Williams will probably be the guy. He has good returns on tape with punt returns and kickoffs. We are preparing for both.
Q: Do you think that is a big loss for them?A: He is a great player but they have other good players so I am sure they will step right in. They are so well rounded and block well so the returners have good speed and good running skills. They are very solid.
Q: What do you see from their kicker?A: He is doing well and he has some good hang time. In Philly, it was more directional but this is more driving it but he is driving it with hang time. It is tough to return so you have to be smart in terms of field position and when you bring it out.
Q: Is there anything Weatherford has done differently from last year?A: I don't think so, I thought he had a good year last year. His direction is something that we like when we brought him in. I think that is strong and either you are a big ball hitter or a directional guy, he has become a directional guy.
**Left Tacke David Diehl
Q: Does it seem to you that the offensive line is improving but still not perfect? **A: No, I think that it's something you consistently do, strive for perfection, strive to continue to get better and I think across the board nobody's complacent with where we're at right now. Anybody who's at this point in the game is studying every single detail of it. You're focusing on the little things. If there's any tips, if there's anything you can do to take advantage of anything, that's what you're working on. And for this game, there's nothing little, there's nothing small. Each point of the game is huge. You're focusing on every single detail of every block, of every protection, of every run play. I think that's the way we've made the progress that we have is that even when things are well, when things are good, you're constantly trying to pick up the things you can make improvements on. I think you're seeing that across the board on this team. We need to play that way, we need to play as mistake-free football as we can against this team because they're a very good team, they're at home, and if you give them things, especially on the road, it's, for us, ways for them to gain momentum. When you go there, you want to start fast, and start on the right foot and make sure you give yourself the best opportunity to go out there and play your best football.
Q: How did Eli look today?A: Oh, look, obviously you're going to get millions of questions about that, but he looked great. He was ready to go. It's kinda one of those things that's been going around, guys sick and stuff, you're just glad he's back out here ready to go. We're not surprised, we're sure he was breaking down film as he was laying there resting, getting ready for today. We know that he's gonna do everything he can to be prepared for this one and he's gonna be ready to go.
Q: Do you look forward to the challenge of running the ball against the top-ranked rush defense?A: Definitely, that's gonna be a crucial game. Especially when they're talking about now the elements and maybe a muddy field and all that stuff. Running the football is gonna be a huge point in this game for both football teams. You hate to continue to talk about it but it's, those are the types of things that are the difference-changers in this game. The team that can control the line of scrimmage, the team that can run the ball, keep the other offense off the field, you know, running the ball also does things to keep yourself in 3rd and manageable downs. For us, that's gonna be very important. You don't want to be on the road and being 3rd and 10, 3rd and 11-plus where you let these guys attack and be able to get after Eli. That's gonna be very important for us. We definitely have to be able to run the ball. This is a tough group to do it against. They've got great personnel, they've got great up-front 7, it's not that they're trying to trick you, they're not doing different things. What they do is they play sound, fundamental football, they play with great technique and this is why we play the game, to challenge yourself in what is the biggest game of the season. No mistake, no question this is the biggest one. We all understand how important this game is and we all understand that we're one win away from the Super Bowl. Guys are approaching this game that way. Everybody has their family and all the different things, but I know guys are focusing on this game. Down the road you can worry about all those things but the one thing you do when you have games like this and this opportunity, you never want to have any regrets. You never want to look back and say, 'Hey, maybe I could have watched a little more film, maybe I could have worked on this technique a little bit more.' You're doing everything you can so that when you go into this game, number-one, you play relaxed, you play free, and that you know that, 'Hey, I laid everything out on the field' and hopefully you come out on top.
Q: Speaking of the running game, earlier in the week, Brandon Jacobs was called 'soft' by Jerry Rice. I'm sure you see a lot of Brandon Jacobs. Your thoughts?A: I think he's proven he's not a soft player. We've seen the way he's able to run the ball, how tough he is as a competitor, you see guys not wanting to take him on, and I think if Brandon had the opportunity to run in the open field he'd get the best of Jerry Rice, that's my opinion, but that's fine, let people say what they wanna say, this game is gonna be won and lost out on the football field. That is gonna be a very big point in this game, who's the most physical team, who's the team that wants it more, who's the team that wants to lay it all on the line is the team that's gonna win this game. I know we're preparing as hard as we can. We still have that businesslike attitude that we've had that, you know, each and every day is constant improvement and focus. You're seeing that in the meeting rooms, you're seeing that out here on the practice field. Guys are flying around, guys are crisp, guys aren't making mental errors, guys are in tune to what they have to do to get themselves ready for this one and I know that we are going to be ready.
Q: How much did the struggles of the offensive line earlier in the year eat at the offensive line?A: Oh, it was definitely, it's something you're disappointed in as an offensive lineman and as a group you understand how important it is as an offense to be able to run the ball. I think the one thing we've done throughout all of it is continue to work to make that a strength. Continue to fight and do whatever it takes to get the job done. Whether there's eight guys in the box, it doesn't matter, you gotta go out there. It takes all 11 guys to get it done in the run game. We always say that, number-one, you gotta finish your blocks, but number-two, there's no backside for a team who swarms from the backside, chases things down to the ball, each and every block is crucial to running the ball. It's going to be very important in this game.
Q: What does having Bradshaw around and healthy add to the offense?A: I think that having both him and Brandon bring that physical presence. The energy and the way that he's been running the ball, the way Brandon's been running the ball, and the confidence we have in those guys, we know that if we open up holes for him, if we block a little extra longer, they're gonna do whatever they can to get yards and do it in a physical way and in a way that in the third and fourth quarter, it pays dividends because those two, three yard gains start breaking open like they have. That's gonna be very important in this one.
**DE Osi Umenyiora
Q: What is your feeling about this week's game?**A: I have the same feeling. I think we have had pretty good practices and I feel good about it. Obviously, they are a very good football team but I still feel pretty good.
Q: What do you see from them on offense?A: It is smash mouth football is what they do. They have a very good defense so they don't take very many chances. The quarterback is good and they have a good offensive line. They are a good football team.
Q: What does the chance of bad weather do for you and the team?A: Any weather, it doesn't really matter whether it is cold, rainy, snow or sunshine, it is going to be a good game regardless.
Q: What did you see from their offense the last four minutes of the Saints game?A: At the end of the day, Alex was the number one overall pick so you know he has talent at the quarterback position. I know that there were a lot of busts at that position but anytime you take a guy that high, he has the ability to make those throws and he did that. He showed people what he was worth.
Q: How do you feel when your teammates said last week that your play inspires them?A: I guess it is disappointing because that is the way I want to play every game and if I am not inspiring them every game, I am not doing my job.
Q: Because they run a lot do you think you will get a lot of playing time?A: Whatever they want me to do I will do. If they don't want me to play run downs or whatever they ask me to do, I will do. I have no problem with it and it is whatever at this point.
Q: Do you still feel like every game could be your last game as a Giant?A: I can't really discuss that right now. Whatever happens at the end of this year happens. Right now I am just focused on playing football. It is a pleasure and you don't want to mix business with pleasure. It is fun for me and I am enjoying it. The business part of it I will take care of later.
Q: How does a team go from 7-7 to one game away from the Super Bowl?A: We always knew we are a good football team. The way we were getting beat before, I don't think we were getting annihilated, we were making mistakes. We knew once we fixed those mistakes, we would have a good chance of being a good football team. For some reason, we were able to correct them at the right time and everything is coming together right now.
Q: How exciting is this week for you?A: It is great. It is a fun time and it has been a while since we have been in this situation and you can't ask for much more. We are just happy with where we are right now.
**RB Brandon Jacobs
Q: Did you get your quarterback back today? **A: My quarterback is back today. He came out and made some great throws in practice. It's going to be a good and exciting Friday tomorrow and a great, exciting trip to San Fran and a great, exciting game.
Q: How did Eli look?A: He looked good. It's nothing to say about Eli. He's as good as they come. It's an honor to be on this team and I enjoy every minute of it.
Q: Can you speak to the balance you've had offensively between the run and passing game?A: I think the key is staying with it. I know we haven't been running the ball as great as we have in the past but I think the best thing we're doing is staying with it. Keeping guys honest and they can't switch up things on us and realize we're not running the ball as well. They still come out pressuring the same way, which helps the wide receivers get off. Lately we have been moving the ball pretty well on the ground and we expect to keep doing that.
Q: Seems like the run has come on better late in games. Have you had to learn to be patient for the run to pay off?A: You know, we knew at this time of the year people are throwing their best at you. You just have to be patient and stay with it. Coach Gilbride has been staying with it and keeps calling the runs. We keep going out and doing our best to execute it the best we can. That's the key, that we're not just going to come out here and run for 200 yards at this time of year on teams. It's not going to happen. So you've got to stay with it. You've got to stay with it. You've got to stay and be faithful, be patient, and sooner or later something will pop for you.
Q: How do you feel about the possibility of playing in bad weather?A: It's fine. We never really change our approach according to the weather anyway. I don't think it's going to stop us from doing what we want to do. The weather is the weather. It's going to be out there for them too. It's not like their side is going to be sunny and dry. We all, we'll both be playing in it. The men who want it the most will come out with it.
Q: Last game, the 49ers knocked out Pierre Thomas pretty early. Does it look like they really try to get some big hits on guys? They say they like to set a tone that way.A: To get knocked out, that means they hit you on the head. I wish like hell one of them would try to hit me in my head. That means they're staying up, not trying to hit in the legs.
Q: They did that with a helmet-to-helmet hit, though…A: That was a helmet-to-helmet hit.
Q: But it's legal.A: I want one of those [laughs]. That means they're staying high, they're not digging in the ground trying to make tackles at the shoestring.
Q: Do you notice if they try to do that more? Guys either stay high or set a real tone by hitting guys downfield?A: It's not really a thing they do on purpose. Guys are out there playing off instincts. It just so happens it went that way. And everyone tries to set a tone for their team - offense, defense, it doesn't matter. It's a bunch of guys playing for the right to go to the Super Bowl. They went out there and played lights out. I'm looking forward to that challenge this week.
Q: Do you think you can set a tone?A: Oh, no question. Every week I think I can come out and set a tone if the chance is given. We know they're a great football team. They have a great defense, the best in the league, just got to go out and do the best we can.
Q: What is it about Eli that makes you honored to play with him?A: Do you not see what he's doing on the football field?
*Q: Have you felt that way the last four years, or more so now? *A: I've felt that way ever since I've been in the league because all I've ever heard was about Eli Manning, growing up, playing in high school, all the way through college. So for me being from Louisiana, and playing, while he dominated in high school, it was an honor for me to be on the football team with him and have watched him grow from his rookie year to now.
Q: San Francisco is one of the best at stopping the run. What can you do to get the rush going?A: Stay with it. You know, like I said, they come out, their guys are disciplined, they hold their gaps, guys don't just vacate areas. You've got to come out and stay with it and just trust your line and do the best you can.
Q: They're a big, physical defense and it could be bad weather. Is this what you're built for, that kind of big, physical game and challenge?A: I don't care what the weather's like, and I really don't care how physical they are. It's going to be a football game. They're a physical bunch, we're a physical bunch, we're going to be out there playing ball and that's just about where I leave it. I'm not afraid of them, I'm not afraid of anybody on their team, I'm not afraid of anybody in their organization. I'm ready to play football.
Q: What do you think about Jerry Rice and what he said about you?A: I've grown up a San Francisco 49er fan. I've loved Jerry Rice, I still love Jerry Rice, I give him a lot of credit for the game being the way it is today. I have nothing negative to say about Jerry. If he feels that way, he feels that way. I bet you he won't tackle me [laughter].
**CB Corey Webster
Q: How has the team gotten this far?**A: I think it is the effort of everybody every week, going back to the drawing board and trying to get better and better. It doesn't matter if it is a win or a loss, we review the tape, and we study and learn from it and try to get better from it. I think everybody has made a valid effort to do that whether it was a good game or bad game. I think that is what got us into the position that we are in right now and I don't think the guys have stopped; we are doing the same thing this week as well.
Q: What does that say about the team?A: It is just the resiliency of the team. We bend, we don't break and we don't point any fingers. Ultimately that helps us out and it makes everything smoother. When guys are pointing fingers in different directions, things could fall apart but we never did that and I think that shows the character of the team. It is a close group and whatever our mistakes are that we made in the past, we want to correct them. Like everything else, if there is a mistake not learned from, another one could happen. We have done a great job of learning from those mistakes so we can eliminate those mental mistakes that we had that gave up big plays and big yardage and that is why the yardage and stuff is down now.
Q: What do you tell the younger players about playing in a championship game?A: We can name a few players that have played great careers and haven't been in the position that we have been in. I think we have to make the best of these opportunities when we get here and take full advantage of them. Having the guys that have been here a couple of times in those situations telling the younger players what to do, what to look for and what not to do and how to prepare for those games, I think it helps them a lot. It helps them along and it makes their transitions into those games easier and smoother.
Q: What was the feeling like back in 2007 in the championship game?A: Just knowing you have one more game and the job is not done. It is a great feeling to know that there are 32 teams out there and you are one of the two teams left and everyone else is watching but we still have some work to do. The work is not done yet, I think we put ourselves in a good situation to do something special here and everybody is working hard to do that.
Q: What do you think a wet field will do on Sunday?A: We still have to play but we have to be aware of what shoes to wear. I think they are a great running football team so with a wet football field, they will do that more but we still have to stop the run and hopefully we put them in different situations. When they are in those long yardage situations, we have to stop it as well.
Q: What challenges does a running quarterback pose to the secondary?A: We had that last week so we will go back and learn from the mistakes that we made against Aaron Rodgers and him pulling the ball down to get some rushing yards. I think we have to make a good scheme and go back to our techniques defensively to make sure guys are disciplined in staying in their rushing lanes and taking care of their gaps and not allow the quarterback to get out. When we do have everything and he pulls it down to run it, we have everything where it needs to be so we can get a tackle.
LB Mathias Kiwanuka Q: What does it mean to you to play in this game after missing the last NFC Championship game?A: It's huge. This entire season has kind of been up and down, but there's no place I'd rather be than out here right now with these guys.
Q: What do you remember about the Super Bowl run in 2007?A: It was exciting, it was fun. Knowing that you're a part of the team, there is a big part of you that's still involved. I was still around here. We didn't make any trips, but we were definitely down there for the big one. It's emotional because you want to be out there so bad, but there's not a whole lot that you can do or say. It's a tough situation to be in.
Q: Did part of you think you missed your shot to play in an NFC Championship game?A: You always feel that way because when you're on IR or you're hurt, it looks like there's no way that things are going to get better for a long time. That was tough and that was definitely a part of it. What if this chance doesn't come back again? But we're here.
Q: Did you share any of those thoughts with the players who are on IR right now?A: I try to talk to those guys and give them words of encouragement to keep their head up, but I understand exactly what they're going through so I know that a lot of that's going to fall on deaf ears, it's just a matter of working and getting your rehab in. The good thing about being in a situation like this when you're hurt and your team is going forward is it gives you a little extra boost during your rehab. So a lot of those guys will probably come back faster than what you thought they would.
Q: Have you allowed yourself to think about playing in a Super Bowl in your hometown?A: It's been brought up a lot, obviously I can't get around it, but we have to take one game at a time. We don't want any letdowns at all, and I don't want one. So yeah, that would be awesome but for right now let's just focus on getting this game and making sure we accomplish our goal.
Q: Was it more difficult to be on IR during the Super Bowl or when you don't make the playoffs?A: It doesn't matter, it's all the same. I'll tell you the truth. From the time you go down it's tough. I went down probably halfway through the season, so every week after that, you're watching and just wanting to be out there. I don't think it makes a difference in terms of how bad you feel about not being out there on the field. It's just tough.
Q: Do you have to make an adjustment between linebacker and defensive end?A: At this point in my career it's not as difficult as it would seem to be just because I've done it for a long time now. Coming into this year before I re-signed, that was a challenge that was brought to me. This is a role that they saw me in from the beginning of the season. Going back and forth, that was my mindset from early on. It's not as difficult. It's taxing in terms of when you come out here and get the gameplan, you have to look at seven different positions and figure out how you fit into those fronts and just take care of business.
Q: What does your heart tell you that you are?A: I'm a football player. I always say just put me on the field and I'll make plays. Going back to my college days when I was a captain and young guys would come and ask me questions and all I would tell them is you have to make plays. If you make enough plays in practice, they will put you on the field. If you make enough plays on the field, you'll stay on the field.
Q: Describe what it's like for an offensive line to scout your pass rush.A: They have to put in extra time as well. Not only do we have speed, we have guys who have power, we have guys who can move around and drop into coverage and do all those things very effectively. It has to be tough on them, but that's how we like it.
Q: What's your impression of San Francisco's offensive line?A: Obviously they're a strong group of guys. They run the ball very effectively and that always starts up front. They get some good push. They're playing together, they're playing with confidence, and they're in this position for a reason. It's going to be a challenge, but we're confident about our chances.
Q: Do you agree with Chris Canty that this game will be a bloodbath?A: I heard that. That's this kind of football. You get two teams like this who want to run the ball and want to stick to their gameplans as much as possible, which is line up man to man and see who is a tougher guy at the end of the day. These are the kinds of games I live for.