Q: Coach Sean Payton mentioned that the turnovers you have had lately didn’t come earlier in the season. What do you have to correct that?
A: Some of them have just been kind of part of the game where it is a tipped ball at the line of scrimmage or a deflected ball or a miscommunication. Occasionally, those happen. To have those few that have been poor decisions, those are the ones you do not want to have. I think at times it has just been a matter of being overaggressive or trying to force something in when really I had other opportunities elsewhere. Obviously it is a lesson learned and those are the ones you want to get rid of.
Q: The last few times these teams have met the average difference has only been a few points. What does that say about just how well you know each other and the familiarity between division opponents?
A: I am guessing that is a big part of it and the fact that our division is tough. Every one of our divisional games has had that familiarity that you are talking about. You just know that you are kind of getting each other’s best games in those situations. I definitely feel like it has been that way between us and Tampa especially the last probably four games.
Q: With the running game going the way it has been this year, what has that opened for you as far as a passing game standpoint and how have you noticed a difference?
A: When you are able to have a balanced offense, it just opens up opportunities everywhere. The better we are running the football the more opportunities we have in the pass game and the better we are throwing the football the more that opens up opportunities in the run game. I think it is just complementary football. It’s both of them kind of creating for the other and the better that you are able to do both then inevitably they both kind of create opportunities for the other.
Q: What was your respect level for Darren Sharper before he became a teammate and what kind of impact has he had?
A: He has made a huge impact. He has done great. He is a great locker room guy and a great team guy. He is just one of these veteran guys that, for me having to go up against him in practice every day during the offseason and training camp, has helped make me a better player just because you know you are not facing anybody as instinctive or that has played as much football as him. That has been good for me and good for the team.
Q: Is your relationship with your receivers and Shockey getting to the point where you can just put the ball up there and they make that play?
A: We work at it. Within the framework of the offense and the concept and the play that is called, I think we all just understand that according to different looks that the ball might just be thrown here or thrown there. I think they just understand that. Obviously my confidence level with those guys is to the point where I know there are places I can throw that ball where only they can get it. They have definitely come up with some big plays.
Q: With your success as a downfield thrower, can you ever get too greedy throwing the ball?
A: Yeah you can get too greedy if you are overconfident or if you are feeling like you are kind of untouchable. There is a place where you can always deliver the ball so your guy can go and make the play. At times, you kind of have to reel yourself in depending on the type of game that you are involved in and that kind of thing. There is a time and place to take shots. There is a time and place to take chances and there are other times when it is more beneficial to check the ball down or live to play another day so to speak.
Q: Josh Freeman is making his third career start. What do you remember about your first two NFL starts and is there any substitute for going through a division the first time and playing those teams and starting to get used to them?
A: Obviously, he is new to the division and new to starting so I think there is that process of learning about the teams in your division and also just learning how to play the quarterback position in the NFL. I definitely remember those days. It’s a process and you have your good games and your bad games. Inevitably, you try to just get better every day, worry about the things you can control and just continue to play within yourself and play within the system.
Q: What do you remember about your association with Greg Olson at Purdue and when did you learn from him?
A: Coach Olson is awesome. He is one of my mentors and has been obviously ever since my freshman year at college. I learned so much from him just in regards to the fundamentals of the game and how to play the quarterback position. Not only that, he kind of helped me grow up and mature. You take a high school kid the first year in college who is 18 years old and by the time they leave; you are able to have quite an impact on him. I really owe him a lot. He is a dear friend and obviously a person I have a lot of respect for. He definitely has helped me in this position that I am in today as a football player as well just because of all of our time together in college.
Q: Do you remember getting recruited? He said only Kentucky, Brown and Purdue were interested in you. How remarkable is it that you came this far after being so obscure out of high school?
A: I played in Texas obviously and I am six foot tall. I was six foot and 190 pounds. Actually my junior year I guess I was six foot and 170 pounds. That is when everyone usually starts recruiting you and that is not very attractive to many D-1 schools especially the Texas schools such as Texas, Texas Tech and Texas A&M and the powerhouses so those were really the only opportunities I had. I think everything happens for a reason. I wouldn’t trade it for the world because I got to go to a school to get a great education, play in the big ten, play in the spread offense, have a guy like Greg Olson be my quarterbacks coach and Joe Tiller be my head coach. It just helped mold me into who I am as a person and a player.
Q: What concerns if any do you have about the Buccaneers defense as you look back at the video of what they have done so far?
A: Well they have quite a few new starters from last year to this year. There is definitely a new scheme when you look at I guess the Monte Kiffin years to what they are doing now. What I do see is that they have been able to get a lot of turnovers. They have been doing a good job of taking the ball away. Everybody in their secondary has really good ball skills. They have been able to make some plays especially lately. In the last two weeks, they have come up with some big plays defensively. I see a defense that just continues to get better. I know that with a new coach, a lot of new players and that kind of thing there is a process of kind of finding yourself as a team, but It seems like they are starting to come into their own a little bit. It seems like they are getting better every week so we have to work it out for us. The fact is that it is a divisional game against an opponent that we have had really close games with over the last two years and it is on the road so it is a big challenge for us.
Q: Do you take anything from last week’s game against the Rams and facing a one win team on the road now that you will be doing it again so you can prevent a lapse if that is possible?
A: Well the fact is the games only get harder from here on out no matter what the record of the team is that you are playing. I can definitely say that Tampa is a much better team then their 1-7 record as was the Rams. They all played some good teams. Especially when you win and when you are on a roll like we are on, everybody wants to be the team that is going to knock you off so you are going to get everybody’s best game especially when they are playing in the division and on the road. You have to have all your ammo ready.
Q: Are you concerned that you guys have done so well for so long that a team like that could hit a wall in your schedule where you realize you could go 15-1 or might end up going 11-5?
A: We are not thinking about anything other then just the next game. We are taking it one game at a time. We have been in those situations where we probably overlooked teams or looked too far ahead. Through that experience and through those blessings, we know it is all about one game at a time and it is all about the next opponent. You can’t make this game any bigger. It is a divisional opponent on the road. It’s an important game.
Q: Take us inside your huddle for the pregame warm-up and chants with your players and talk about the intensity before the game and how special that is to you guys?
A: That is our team and that is something just for us. It’s unique because nobody really does something like that. I guess everyone has their own little thing and that’s our thing. It gets us all ready to play. It is something we came up on our own so it is just unique.
Q: Greg Olson said that in the offseason he is going to try and hook you up with Josh Freeman and talk quarterback just like he said you did back in Purdue with Peyton Manning. How receptive will you be to that idea?
A: (Laughing) The fact that he is our division and I get to play against him twice a year. Figure I could give him some advice that could come back and haunt me. No, I'm all for talking to young quarterbacks and I guess helping them along. I was that guy at one point. I'm still that guy in a lot of ways, looking for all kinds of ways to get better. So, yeah, I'm very receptive to that sort of thing."