NFC Championship Game Conference Call w/ Eagles Coach Andy Reid and QB Donovan McNabb

On judging the Cardinals from their first match up this season:

“I look at the reality of it and the reality is the Cardinals were coming off a very tough game against the New York Giants, had three days to prepare to take a road trip back east and there’s nothing harder in this league than to do that. Then you add in that it was a big holiday and so it wasn’t the same Cardinals we had seen on tape, nor have seen on tape afterwards. You have to make sure you pay attention to the game that they’re playing the last two games and playing as well as they’ve played and as well as anybody in this league has played right now. So you have to make sure you evaluate that.”

On making sure his team doesn’t judge the Cardinals by their first meeting:

“All you have to do is turn on the film. So that’s what our guys are doing today – most of them came in yesterday and looked at film on their own – and it hits you right between the eyes.”

On the crowd noise he expects at University of Phoenix Stadium:

“I expect it to be deafening, and that means that you can’t hear anything. That’s what we anticipate and it’s hard to practice against that, but we’ll do the best we can.”

On the Cardinals running attack:

“Edgerrin (James) is back – back in there and playing very well. He’s having opportunities and that’s what makes it a great challenge for our defense. When you have a great passing attack and a great running attack, you have to make sure you play at your highest level.”

On Larry Fitzgerald:

“First of all he’s passionate – above passionate. He wants to be the best, he’s a great route runner, he knows how to use his size and strength to his advantage, can stop on a dime, change directions and obviously has great hands.”

On whether Fitzgerald reminds him of anyone:

“I think when it’s all said and done, we’ll be trying to compare people to him and not him to other people. He’s his own guy and he’s a complete package.”

On getting pressure on the quarterback:

“You have to do that every week and now you’re talking about a Hall of Fame quarterback and a very good offensive line. The Cardinal offensive line is playing very well right now, so we’ll try to do the best we can to rush the passer and still play the run and all of that stuff. We’ll see how it goes.”

On Brian Westbrook:

“Every week he feels a little bit better. He had the high-ankle sprain and he has a knee that bothers him that he’s had since college and it’s just a matter of managing that. When we go inside to practice – we have artificial turf and so that’s a little tough on his knee, so we make sure to manage that.”

On the controversy with Donovan McNabb earlier in the season:

“I’m not even getting into that it was so long ago. That’s all history stuff.”

On two nine-win teams facing each other in the NFC Championship:

“I think it’s a tribute to the league. When Commissioner Tagliabue was in there, he was striving for parody and that’s where Commissioner Goodell took over and actually was a part of as an assistant, and that’s where the league is now. The neat part about it is it gives every city an opportunity to win football games and that’s what this is all about. It’s two teams that kind of persevered through the season, through some ups and downs and both of them are playing some halfway decent football and have an opportunity to play against each other in the championship game.”

On the perception that the hard part for the Eagles was over after beating the Giants:

“The team knows that that’s not true. That’s the important part. We know exactly what we’re looking at here and exactly how good the Cardinals are. We respect them and I know from my standpoint what kind of coaches they have – a phenomenal coaching staff – and guys that have been there before, so I don’t think that’s a problem with this football team. We know how good the Cardinals are.”

On whether the team is doing anything different for the long road trip:

“We’re going to come out on Friday and have a short workout on Saturday.”

On the weather in Arizona:

“My wife is from there, I get it from the other end from by brother-in-law. They let me know about this all the time.”

On not having to worry about weather being a factor:

“Once you get into the game you don’t even think about all that stuff. It’s a good thing, I guess, you get the best of both teams and that’s what it’s all about.”

On how he’s liking his beard:

“I’d like it more if it wasn’t so gray. Every time I look in the mirror, it reminds me of my age. It’s alright.”

Eagles Quarterback Donovan McNabb

On what he thinks of Andy Reid’s beard:

“Well, you know, you have some guys that really look bad in beards, some guys that just look decent or comfortable. I would put him the first category – looks bad in beards. What you’re seeing is you’re seeing the team jelling together and the coach being involved in it as well of guys just letting their facial hair grow – guys with goatees letting their goatees grow. It is just something that we kind of bound together and just said, ‘hey, we’re going to do this thing and we’re going to get this thing done together. Let’s just grow our beards,’ and Andy and our owner (Jeffrey Lurie) is a part of it. We got coaches a part of it. It’s a special time right now.”

On what coming back to Arizona, his offseason home, is like for him and if it changes the mindset for him of going on the road:

“Well, you know what, every game that we had to play at this particular point was going to be on the road. And we treated the away games like we were at home. It’s no difference going out to Arizona, although that I live out there, we’re going to come in with the mindset like we’re playing at home. I have a lot of friends on that team. I have a lot of friends in the Arizona area, but I’m not going to make that become a distraction. I’m going to be focused on what I have to do, be prepared going in and get ready to have a great time playing this football game.”

On what he sees different in the Arizona defense from what he saw Thanksgiving night:

“They played hard against us Thanksgiving night. The scheme was somewhat similar. They are doing some different things as the weeks continued on, but I am seeing a team – their front four if really playing well and, not to take anything away from the Thanksgiving week when they played, but their front four has really been playing well when they really need it most and that’s now. They have been able to shut down gaps, which lets their linebackers now roam. They are stopping running backs, running backs that people thought would run all over them, stopping them from running and getting big yards. That’s something that I see on film right now.”

On how difficult his benching earlier this season will be to put aside in the future:

“I don’t know. Call me in about three, four, five years and then I’ll let you know then. At this particular point, everything is good and I am just enjoying playing football.”

On how important of a game the previous game against Arizona was for him in the season:

“I think it was an important game for all of us. I don’t think it was personally an important game for me because actually leading up to it, despite the Cincinnati game, the Baltimore game, the Giants game that we lost before the Cincinnati game, I wasn’t playing bad at all. I am not going to sit here and say I was the single reason why we were playing bad in those particular games. We all had to kind of challenge ourselves and question a lot of things that was going on and making sure we understood the mistakes we were making and we needed to correct those. When it actually happened, it wasn’t nothing different in my approach or preparation, it was just for me to come out and be able to lead this team to where we wanted to go and everyone else had this mindset.”

On if the Eagles are getting everything they need out of Brian Westbrook or if he is too banged up to be the real Brian Westbrook:

“Well I only know one Brian Westbrook. He is giving us what he’s got. Every opportunity he’s steps out on the field, you know he’s going to give you everything he’s got. You have to understand, in this league, you get nicked up, you get some bumps and bruises, you get injured. I mean, I would know that, but it’s funny, you know, when you get hurt sometimes people think you don’t have it anymore, you’re done. Then you come out and play well and people are all, ‘I knew he had it.’ We know Brian’s got that battery pack that he’s been charging up for the last couple days. It’ll be fully charged come Sunday. We know he’s going to get out there and he’s going to play well.”

On what he sees from Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie:

“I see a very good athlete. I see a guy with great feet. I see a guy with great instincts, who is going to be a very good corner in this league. I’ve played basketball with Cromartie and, as I’ve said, he’s an excellent athlete. I’ve seen his confidence continue to rise week in and week out and he’s really been playing at a high level right now. Same with Rod (Hood). They are playing with a lot of confidence in that secondary and guys feel like they can make big plays.”

On what he thinks of Kurt Warner and what he has been able to accomplish:

“I think Kurt has done a great job. Kurt, once given the opportunity, he’s definitely flourished in this area. It’s something he’s used to. He has some great receivers around him, he has one of the best running backs to ever play the game behind in Edgerrin James and an offensive line playing with confidence. When you have your offensive line playing well, that makes your job a lot easier being back there in the pocket to deliver to those guys.”

On Eagles passing game and how Jason Avant and DeSean Jackson have really stepped up over the course of the year:

“You try to give guys opportunities to make plays for you and that’s something I told myself early on in this offseason that I was going to do that and show that trust in all those guys. Those two particular guys have really been playing well for us. The same with L.J. Smith and Brent Celek and Kevin Curtis coming off of injury and we’ve been rotating guys. So guys have really stepped in, like Hank Baskett, Greg Lewis and Reggie Brown. They’ve made plays when given the opportunity and that’s all you can ask from guys on the outside. You know, secure the catch, pick up yards after the catch, block well downfield and be great teammates.”

On when playing in a conference championship game if he concentrates solely on that game or if he thinks bigger picture about having only so many cracks at a Super Bowl championship:

“You just focus on the game. Anytime that you begin to lose focus of what’s at hand, then you begin to second-guess things that you’re doing. You just have to go out there and play mistake-free football focusing on the present time. Anytime you go into, ‘well this could be it or I don’t know how much longer’ and all of that, then other things will get in the way on you. So, I have just tried to have a clear mind of just going out, having a great time and playing well.”

On Sports Illustrated being right that both the Eagles and Cardinals are dangerous to get here:

“How about that? They’re really smart over there, huh? That was a regional copy, how about that?”

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