How important is the defense’s performance as well as special teams and offense on Sunday?
“It’s equally important. We’re going to need all three phases to play well, defense, offense and special teams. If we want to win this game all those things are going to have to play well. We can’t overlook any one phase. Everything is equally important. Everybody is equally important. Even if you’re not active this game, you're job during practice this week is to get us well-prepared for what we’re going to be facing this Sunday.”
Do you feel more pressure to play well this game not only because of what you did last week but because some national media have hinted that you don’t’ always have good games back to back?
“No, I don’t feel any pressure at all. When my number’s called I do what I can. I try to make the most of my opportunities and make plays when I can. I think guys that see me play and guys I play with know what kind of player I am. We have a big game. It’s not about me. It’s about this team and the 53 guys that are going to play this game. That’s what it’s about.”
You talked about playing physical in the last game. How important is it to carry that over?
“It’s extremely important because we have to protect our home. We have to protect our field. This could be our last game and we could go home. If we don’t protect this with 110 percent effort, with everything we’ve got, then we’ll find ourselves going home and being upset at home.
Have you tried to be more physical in your running style?
“I’ve always felt it’s important for the running backs as a group to set the tone, not only in the NFL, but going back to high school. I’ve always felt it’s a running back’s job to set the tone for the game. We’re going to try to do that and we’ll see where we go from there.
Do you feel a special fraternity between people like yourself and Percy Harvin based on what the two of you do?
“Yes, I admire guys like Percy Harvin. He’s a playmaker. He’s a great player. I watched him when he was at Florida. He was doing the same things in college that he’s doing now. You have to watch him and be aware of where he is at all times on the field. We’ll be doing what we can to stop him.”
Is it a different mindset when you are back there all alone returning punts or kickoffs as opposed to playing a position?
“Yes. It’s a little different in the sense that you have a little bit more room to work with. You kind of a have a little bit more freedom back there when you return punts as opposed to on offense you have a specific play called and the defense is only five or six yards from you. It is a different feel back there, but it is a great feel at the same time to be able to just go out there and make something happen.”
Does your performance last week change the dynamic whereby teams have to think about you a little bit more?
“I’m not sure. I think it’s a question for those guys. I know me, like I said earlier whenever I get that chance to make a play I do that. I try to be a difference maker, especially in games like these. These are big games. These are games where your stars need to show up and make plays and be a difference maker in these games. That’s what I try to do.”
What is the difference with you going into this NFC Championship as opposed to the one three years ago?
“I have a lot more experience behind me now. I think that’s key. I think that’ s a huge difference. I think it’s going to help me and guys that have been in this system and been here for a few years now. It’s going to go a long way. Hopefully it will help with this game. We’ll see what happens.”
Sean Payton talked about the bond between the team and the city. What would it mean if the team won Sunday to the city?
“It would mean a lot. This is a city that has been through a lot the past few years. This is a city that still to this day needs a lot more work to be done. It’s going to take a while, but we as a team and as an organization the New Orleans Saints have done everything we can to help. We’ll continue to be there. Honestly with the way we’ve been playing lately and the last few years, we’ve been able to uplift the spirits of the people in New Orleans and just kind of be a light in the shining star with him.
“It might not exist anymore if we go to the Super Bowl. They might tear it down. Hopefully we can do all those things, but it’s going to take a 110 percent effort by the guys.”
Do you see similarities between yourself and Percy Harvin?
“I definitely do. The way they use him, he’s a guy that can make plays anytime he has the ball in his hands on a punt return or a kick return. Whatever you ask him to do he’s a playmaker and threat anytime he has the ball in his hands. You have to be aware of where he’s at all times.”
Do you have to know where certain Vikings are on the field at all times?
“They have ten Pro Bowlers on the team. I think that says enough about what kind of team we’ll be facing. They have a great group of defensive linemen starting with Pat Williams on out. They have a great defense as a whole. They’ve done a great job to get this far and I think you saw that against the Dallas Cowboys.”
Was your approach different at all last week as opposed to a game in the past?
“No. Not really. I go into games with the same approach every week. Everytime I get the ball in my hands I try to be a playmaker, make a difference, give my team a chance at keeping a drive alive.”
How have you handled the spotlight through ups and downs?
“First of all, I don’t think about pressure, because I don’t think it’s pressure to play in a football game. I think pressure is when you have to fly to Afghanistan and defend your country and deal with live bullets. That’s pressure. This is fun. That’s what I try to remember, just to have fun and try not to think about pressure. Working on my assignments, doing what I have to do, being a difference maker and doing whatever I can.”
Has there been any point in the last four years where things have not been as fun?
“Obviously when you’re losing and not in the playoffs. When you go 8-8, that’s not fun, because you set goals every year. Before the year, you set goals and it’s obviously to reach the Super Bowl and to get to the NFC Championship and to win your division. When you fall short of those goals, and you feel like you haven’t done your job. Obviously it’s not fun when you feel like you’re not doing your job or giving your city your money’s worth.”
How often have you replayed in your head the scene of Brian Urlacher with the NFC Championship Trophy from three years ago?
“Seeing it that year was pretty tough. I remember at that game, I stayed on the field a little bit just to watch and kind of collect everything in. That was a tough feeling. That wasn’t the way you want to lose, nevertheless it happened. It wasn't our time. Other than that, that was the last time I looked at it. I didn’t pay any more attention to it after that. Every year’s a different year and you can’t use what happened three years ago for this year. You can think about it and maybe thing about some situations, but obviously this a new year and a new team.
Can you talk about what some of your community projects with Holy Rosary School and the field at Tad Gormley Stadium have meant to you?
“When I first was drafted here, they took me on a tour of the city. This was obviously right after Katrina had happened and the first thing I saw was just a lot of devastation, a lot of support that was needed for a city that was destroyed recently. I tried to do my part, whatever I could, my sponsors. We just kind of hand-picked the organizations we wanted to help. One of them obviously I felt was easy was Tad Gormley field, a stadium that was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. That was a neutral site for a lot of high schools to play football on. Obviously me having played high school football, I felt that was an easy one for me. I wanted to be able to give those schools a chance in football season. With the special needs school, Holy Rosary, that was another thing and I learned that this school was being shut down and it was really one of the only special needs schools in New Orleans.”
How cool is it to have your name on a football field?
“It’s really cool to know that you made a difference, not necessarily to have your name on the field, but know you made a difference in kids lives to give them a chance to get to college. You never know how far they can go. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
What is the real story about your recent perceived change in running style?
“There’s nothing new about it. I’ve always tried to be me, play my game. Last week, coach gave me an opportunity to make plays and I made the most of them. I got to try to be a difference maker. There’s nothing new about my running style, about who I am, because if you look at the last few games, I was making similar runs. In the Buffalo Bills game, I was making similar runs. There’s nothing new about my running style or what I was doing.
Do you want to still be playing football when you’re 40 like Brett Favre?
“I don’t think I’ll be in the league still. At 40 years old, hopefully I’ll be retired somewhere where I’m well off enough to own a few things and hopefully I’ll be in a good position to where I won’t have to work a nine to five job.”
Do you have a Brett Favre memory from when you were in high school?
“I would say my favorite moment was when we played him at Green Bay my rookie year. It was my first time getting a chance to meet him. I went up to him, told him how much I admired him and got a jersey signed from him. That was my favorite moment.
How much are you guys focusing on running and pass protection to take pressure off of Drew Brees from Minnesota’s defensive line?
“I believe they lead the league in sacks. We’re well aware of that. We’re well aware of what we’re up against. We’re going to have to do a good job, just being fundamentally sound, protecting Drew. That has to be important, first and foremost on our list.