Running Back LaDainian Tomlinson
Has it sunk in yet with you on passing Jim Brown on Sunday with him there looking down?
“It really hasn’t yet because I haven’t much time to really think about it. But the more I talk about it, the more it’s on my mind. It was a great day being able to pass a guy that I’ve always looked up to and it was pretty special having him there at the game.”
What is it about this team that you guys have been perfect in December over the past few seasons?
“We seem to finish strong. We’ve talked about it and really made it one of our mottos. I think that has a lot to do with our mindsets in December. We want to play our best football in December going into January. This team is a real focused team and we have a knack for really taking it one game at a time and taking that idea to heart. We’ve done that.”
On the win streak:
“It comes with our confidence. We believe that when the clock shows all zeros, that we will have had made enough plays to win the game. At the same time, going into the game, we identify who can beat us, how can we lose this game, and then we focus on that and the game plan and execute. The past seven weeks, we’ve been able to do that.”
On how close the game was Sunday:
“Cleveland is really a young team who is up and coming and has a new coach there and they are never going to quit because they are professionals. They made some plays towards the end of the game and made it close.”
What do you remember about your last game in Dallas?
“I remember it pretty vividly. Obviously losing my earrings was one thing that sticks in my mind. I’ll never forget that. I remember us winning and talking to Emmitt Smith before the game. I remember being emotional before the game, having my family there and running out in Texas Stadium where I had visited a couple of times before and also watched many Dallas Cowboys games on television growing up. So it was a pretty emotional day for me.”
How is it going to be for you going into the game on Sunday?
“It’s going to be a pretty emotional day for me because you look at your career and the last time I was there, I was a rookie. Now I’m in my ninth year and the schedule says that I might not play there ever again so it will be special for me.”
How many tickets do you have requested for the game so far?
“I’m not sure yet. I’m trying to get tickets. I know there’s going to be a lot of requests.”
How did you lose your earrings at Texas Stadium?
“It was during a play and I had looked up and they were gone.”
Were you even able to look for them at all?
“Here and there when I got tackled I sort of looked around (Laughs) but I didn’t have the chance to really get out there and really search. I never heard of anyone finding them (Laughs). The grounds crew, I guarantee found them. Merry Christmas. But I had them insured.”
Are you going to soak in the new stadium out there in Dallas?
“Oh yes, absolutely I will. I’ve heard so much about the stadium. I have friends who have season tickets and they say it’s great. This stadium is as big as it gets so I’m going to look around and hopefully get a tour. I’d like to see where Jerry Jones sits and check it all out.”
Quarterback Philip Rivers
On Antonio Gates’ performance vs. Cleveland:
“He was at his best yesterday, that’s for sure, as he is week-in and week-out. All the guys really played well. I’m fortunate to have such talent around me. Some of the plays that Gates made yesterday were really unbelievable.”
You’ve had a few win streaks throughout your career so far and are on one now. What is the danger of having a win streak and what is the positive of having one?
“There’s no doubt that it’s contagious. Just like when you lose and you keep losing, it keeps getting harder and harder to win. When you win, it doesn’t get easier to win, but your confidence and your level of play seems to rise each week. I don’t really think there is a danger in it other than when people get caught up in it and start talking about the postseason and where we stand. As long as we don’t let that talk get in our way, I think we’ll be fine. There’s no denying that the talk is out there but if we can keep the boring one game at a time approach that we’ve had, we can keep this streak going.”
What is it about you as a starting quarterback that you haven’t lost in the month of December in your career?
I think it says a lot about our team for one. We’ve had the focus and the attitude that you need down the stretch that it takes to make a run at it. The last few years we’ve been hot in November and December and this year we have a tough one. Now we are going to Dallas, another tough team in that NFC East division, so hopefully we can keep it going.”
Are you excited to play in that new stadium?
“It’s a new stadium and I’m sure it will be something to see. Anytime you are going on the road and playing against a championship caliber team and a storied franchise like the Cowboys it’s exciting. It’s going to be fun. I’m expecting a playoff type atmosphere. It’s why you play the game.”
Is there any advantage of going up against a Wade Phillips defense that is very similar to the Chargers defense here?
“The schemes are very similar in many ways, Wade was here for a handful of years. At the same time, there’s a similarity from the offensive side. Dallas runs a similar scheme offensively that we run so both teams will have a pretty good feel for one another. It’s all about going out there and executing and playing at a high level. This game is important to both teams and it will be a big one.”
About the fun that L.T. is having this year even though his numbers are down compared to past years:
“I think it’s about winning and it always has been. Everyone in the locker room wants to win a championship. I think we’ve bought into taking it one game at a time and staying focused on getting better week to week. That’s what we’re all trying to accomplish and each person in the locker room contributes in some form or fashion and I think everybody understands that. Once everybody steps up and has contributed and we get on a win streak like we have, we all have to continue to do so in order to keep it up.”
Chargers Head Coach Norv Turner
“I’ll give you a quick update from an injury standpoint. I think it’s fairly positive in terms of guys who played in the game. Marcus McNeill had a slight sprain of his ankle but felt good today. I’m optimistic that he’ll be able to practice during the week and be ready to play. Alfonso Boone had a bruised knee. I’m not as optimistic in terms of him being able to practice. We’ll see where he is as the week progresses. From the standpoint of the guys who did not play, Luis Castillo and Shawne Merriman, I’m optimistic about them but I understand that we could play without both of them. I’m hopeful but we have to get through a week and see where they’re at. Eric Weddle has a chance to play but I think he’s a little further of a long shot than Shawne Merriman or Luis Castillo.”
“From the standpoint of the football game, I thought our guys did a good job preparing for the game considering defensively the players that we knew we would not have and the whole environment in terms of going on the road, playing Cleveland. We worked hard to make sure they understood what Cleveland was capable of doing. I think they realized it going into it. Cleveland did some good things against us. They’ve got some talented young players and some of those guys got an opportunity to play – and it’s happened with us – some young guys get an opportunity to play and you find out what they’re capable of doing. I thought Cleveland did that, but our guys responded well throughout the entire game. We’re a 4th-and-1 from putting it away and it wouldn’t have been as close as it was. I thought we got good contributions from the entire team. We have a lot of young players playing. I think that’s going to help us over the next months. Hopefully we get some of the guys I mentioned – Shawne Merriman and Luis – back so we’re not playing as many as we are right now.”
(On having a close game after “a couple easy wins”)
“I’ve never been involved in an easy win. They’re easy maybe in the fourth quarter. The games we have are extremely physical. It may look easy on the scoreboard, but you walk through the training room on Monday and watch the guys getting treatment, there wasn’t anything easy about it. Every game you have to appreciate the different situations you’re in. The score is 27-7 in the fourth quarter and we have a 4th-and-1. It was just a little bit too far to kick the field goal. If we make that fourth down, I think we probably go down and score. That would appear easier than it was. They did some good things from a two-minute standpoint. They had an excellent concept from an onside kick. Those things are things we can address and help us get better.”
(On the defense without Merriman, Castillo and Weddle)
Coach Norv Turner
“Like I say, there are certain guys, the reason they have the respect and the regard that they do is because they’re guys who go in and make game-changing plays. You saw Shaun Phillips do it early in the game with the sack-fumble. You saw Gates do it a number of times in the game. We take a lot of pride in preparing our guys in what we do coaching, but we know once the game starts, the guys with those abilities to make game-changing plays, you have to have them. Obviously Shawne Merriman has been one of the elite guys in that area. Luis is awfully good in terms of a playmaker inside and Eric Weddle is the same type of player.”
(On there being a drop off when those three aren’t in the game)
“I don’t see a drop off in terms of effort or what we’re trying to get done. We’ve got some young guys playing in there. Those outside linebackers other than Shaun are young guys. I think Larry is really improved every week and is going to be outstanding. Cleveland has good tackles and it’s hard to make those kinds of plays.”
(On Brady Quinn)
“I thought they had a very specific plan. I thought they did some things that I’m glad they did them because we’ll have to handle them. I’ve seen Brady a lot, coming out of college. You see him on film and he’s very, very capable. He had an outstanding game and he showed what he’s capable of doing.”
(On the similarities between San Diego’s defense and what Wade Phillips runs in Dallas)
“I think things evolve. They’ve evolved and we’ve evolved. I think the core of it is very similar from a standpoint that they have a number of guys who are big time playmakers. Obviously they can rush from the edge as well as anyone in the National Football League. They’re a very good defensive front. They’re an outstanding offensive line. They’ve had some guys emerge offensively as playmakers. I think they threw for 400 yards or close to it last night against the Giants. They’re an outstanding football team.”
(On the chess match involved with playing a coach that is so familiar with his team)
“There’s some of that there’s no question. I think you face more of that in your division. In your division you play the same teams twice a year. You play them three or four years in a row and really, that’s why you see some of those games get real close in the division. We haven’t played (Dallas). We played Dallas in the preseason last year. It’s still a game about personnel and getting your guys in position to make plays. Those are the guys that are going to determine the game.”
(On the effectiveness of opposing tight ends against the Chargers and the challenge of facing Jason Witten)
“Up until last night I thought we’ve done a better job against tight ends. We’ve done some things to adjust what we’re doing from a coverage standpoint. As I said, they did a nice job against our blitz scheme, number one protecting, coming up with a scheme to protect it and then getting the tight end down the seam two or three times. I think the absence of Weddle has something to do with that, but we may be in that same situation. Every week you go in and you identify the guys that they want to feature, whether it be their defense, special teams or offense. Obviously they feature both their tight ends. They do a good job schematically using those guys. It’s something we’re going to have to spend a lot of time on.”
(On Tony Romo)
“We’re just getting into it. As I’ve prepared for our division opponents that have played Dallas, not studying him, I’ve seen him against Denver’s defense, against Kansas City’s defense. He obviously can make all the throws. He’s having an outstanding year. The thing that jumps out to you is that he’s such a good athlete, he creates plays with this athletic ability. You have to do a great job of containing him. He’s going to break contain because he does every game. Once he does, you have to do a great job of picking up the receivers and covering because he makes big plays with his athletic ability.”
(On the thought that LaDainian Tomlinson is having more fun this year than in the past)
“I don’t know because two years ago he led the league in rushing and people kind of forget that. Last year he missed a substantial amount of time and had 1,200 yards and people act like that was a down year. I think he’s enjoying the fact that things are spread around. We aren’t wearing him out. Really what we’re doing, in the first half of our games he’s playing - first half to the maybe to the middle of the third quarter – he’s playing the game like it’s a normal game. That’s why his numbers are down. If he’s playing and getting 25 carries, I’m not sure that his numbers would be a lot different. When you don’t get the number of opportunities, you don’t get the number of opportunities to make the big play, the big run. Sproles is getting some of those opportunities, which is helping us. I think LT knows that we have a good football team and that we’re getting better and we have a chance to continue to have success over the next couple months.”
(On one of LT’s milestones being extra special to Turner)
“That’s hard for me because you get so focused in on what you’re trying to get done as a football team. I try to make special note about the things he’s doing to our football team so that they appreciate it and understand this hasn’t happened over the last two years. It’s happened over the last 10 years and that to me is special. You’ve got a lot of young guys who want to have careers in the National Football League and a career is about doing something five, six, eight, ten years. You see Gates doing it now in his seventh year. I think he’s probably had a great role model in LT. That carries on to everyone else.”
(On the thought of limiting LT’s carries so he’s healthy late in the season)
“It’s fit what we’re doing. He’s handed it great. He knows he’s missed the postseason basically the last two years. He played in the Tennessee game two years ago so I think the fact that he feels real good, physically he feels fresh and strong. Mentally he’s in a good place, so I think that’s good for our team.”
(On Marion Barber and Felix Jones)
“They’ve got three really good backs. I was looking at their stats after the game (Sunday). Every game comes up differently. We’ve been in that situation. Those three guys didn’t get a lot of carries. I saw where Barber had a fumble, so I’m sure that will be an emphasis for them to get those guys going. There’s no question the combination of all three of them…they’ve got a power runner, they’ve got explosive players and they’re good receivers.”
(On going to a new stadium for the first time)
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a stadium that I’ve never been to. The first thing you do obviously is figure out where the locker room is. Once you get that done, you want to try to figure out the things that are going to affect the game. We’ve talked to people, we’re going to continue to talk to people who have been there. I know that talking to people that have been there, it’s extremely loud. It will be loud and we’re going to have to handle that. Then you see if there are any other things that would affect how you manage the game. I’m anxious to see it. I’ve heard nothing but great things about it and I’m looking forward to it.”
(On his expectation of how loud Dallas will be)
“I would imagine it’s in that dome-type category. Again, we’re going to continue to talk to people that we know who have coached there and see what their feeling are on it. When I look at the tape and the teams who have played there, they seem to have handled it. Everyone has gotten so good with the silent count and handling crowd noise, it’s not as big a deal but it’s still part of the game. It’s part of not getting your players speeded up and handling it. We start working on that Wednesday in practice.”
(On having a walkthrough at the stadium before Sunday)
“We do and that’s important to me. This time of year, some of the times going on the road guys want to see if they can get a walkthrough in the hotel ball room or something like that, but we go to the stadium. We went to Cleveland’s stadium on Saturday. We will go to the stadium (in Dallas). There is a little bit of a conflict but we will rearrange our schedule to make sure we get to go to it, particularly a new stadium, particularly a stadium like this. I don’t want our guys to spend the first hour Sunday morning at 10:00 looking around to see what the stadium is like. I want them to be thinking about the game.”
(On Marcus McNeill)
“I wish we were talking about Marcus and he was fine. I think he’ll be alright, but the ankle concerns me. The thing about Marcus, every year you can improve in different areas. Marcus’ maturity level has really risen from the standpoint of the focus on week-to-week and not being concerned, saying, ‘I’ve got a good player this week. I’ve got to play great. This guy is not as good, I don’t have to play great.’ He’s approached each week I think in a very professional manner. He and Kris Dielman set high standards for each other. I love the way they work together and the way they push each other. Marcus has been outstanding in practice and it’s shown up in the way he’s playing in games.”
(On Jon Runyan’s performance in Cleveland)
“He did fine. I’m excited that we got Jon and I think he’s going to help us as we go through the next month. He’s a talented guy in terms of he’s got awfully long arms, he’s physically talented and he knows how to use them. His experience is outstanding.”
(On Runyan’s number of snaps)
“I don’t have that number, but it was right around 10. Something like that.”
(On the possibility of Turner spending time with Jerry Jones this weekend)
“That’s not the type of trip we’re making. I think I have a good relationship with Jerry. That was a great time for all of us, being down there with Jimmy (Johnson) and all the great players we had. Obviously it starts with the ownership. When you do something like we were able to do down there during that period of time, I think that makes for strong relationships.”
(On the possibility of Sunday becoming “a throwing contest” if Weddle and Merriman can’t play)
“I’m concerned. There’s no question. You go into every game knowing that you have to stop the run, but we need to be able to pressure the quarterback. They’ve got explosive players at the backs and the receiver position. We’re going to do everything we can to get those guys as healthy and as ready as we can.”
(On Nick Hardwick’s status)
“I would think that would be a long shot. He had a little bit of a setback. Not major. He’s gotten good reports. He saw the doctor this weekend and I think he’s got a chance over the next two or three weeks.”
(On Dallas possibly taking strong measures to defend Gates)
“They’re going to look at us like we look at them. Teams have done a great job saying Vincent Jackson is not going to beat them with big plays. We’ve called more plays to Vincent probably the last two or three weeks than we did before that. We keep getting coverages where the ball ends up going to Sproles or Gates or Malcom. I think Antonio is benefitting from not only his ability to play and the plays he’s making but he’s getting looks that maybe he hasn’t gotten in a couple years. In my experience that swings over a 16-game period, particularly after you have a game like Antonio did yesterday. Some of the things help you in the running game, how they decide to play. Some of the things help you get the ball to other receivers.”