Q: What about the Vikings defense stands out to you? CP: "Just about everything. They're a very physical group that doesn't really have a weakness or a weak position. They're all very good. They're young at some spots, they're fast, and they're dominant in some spots. It's just a very, very good defense, and very similar to what we're used to seeing in a Baltimore or Pittsburgh-quality defense. We'll have our hands full offensively, absolutely. It will be an exciting game, it's going to be a great atmosphere. There's a lot on it for us. They're coming off a loss, so there's quite a bit on it for them. It will be an exciting game."
Q: How good is Jared Allen?CP: "Very. He's good at everything. He's not just a pass rusher. He plays the run pretty well. He does a good job seeing through the tackle to where the quarterback is setting up and plays the quarterback's drop very well, but also plays the run very effectively. Just a stout guy. He doesn't look like a stout guy, but he plays very stout. He plays strong and he's got a great first step off the ball. He's got the upper hand playing at home with the crowd noise and trying to jump snap counts. So like I said, we'll have our hands full."
Q: With a win this week, you guys will clinch the AFC North title. What does it mean to be this close to something like that, and what would it mean to win it?CP: "It's one of the many goals we set as a team. I don't know if we're even thinking about that. I didn't really realize it until you just said it right now. I don't know if guys in our locker room realize it. All we're focused on is trying to beat a good team, and going into a good team's stadium and come together as a unit, come together as a team and play in a playoff-like atmosphere with a tough situation ... to have to be backed up in your own red zone and have that noise, and playing against a very good quarterback and a very good offense for our defense. So I think we're really not even focused, or not worried or not consumed with that at all. We're consumed with trying to beat Minnesota and whatever extras come along with the win is great. It's been a while since we've played a team that's this good. We've had some weeks where we were playing against some teams that were struggling. Now we're going into a big-time atmosphere against a big-time team, and it's very exciting for us. We're fired up about this opportunity."
Q: What did you think of Brett Favre when you were growing up?CP: "I was a fan like every other aspiring quarterback. I thought what every other little kid did, that that guy was awesome. When I was growing up, he was really in his prime – winning Super Bowls and going to Super Bowls, winning MVP awards and things like that. He was really playing well back then, too. So just like any other kid on the West Coast who didn't have a home NFL team, I just grew up watching him and a lot of other guys."
Q: Can you talk about keeping this attitude in the locker room about focusing on the task at hand, instead of worrying about what lies ahead down the road? CP: "I think we've done a pretty good job of it. There have definitely been some games, especially recently, where it has been hard not to think about the future, the playoff picture and things like that. But as I said, I think we've done a pretty good job of it. I think it will really test us if we can get past these next two weeks. Then I believe we have Kansas City and New York, and the playoff picture really starts to unfold and people will be talking about it and predicting who we're going to play, and going through that whole thing. So we've had to deal with it early in the season. We've dealt with it in the middle of the season, and now as the end of the season approaches that's something we really need to focus on – taking it one game at a time and not worrying about the big picture, just playing your opponent and not thinking about any other opponent."
Q: You guys have developed an ability to do that: CP: "I think it's been a good experience for us. I think it's something we've dealt with a little bit as the season's progressed, and it will be good for us to be in that situation later in the year, with experience under our belt in being in that situation."
Q: There are a lot of people out there who are still doubting this team. Would a win over the Vikings this weekend prove to everybody you're for real and can play with anybody?CP: "I don't know. I would hope so. When it comes down to it, I really don't care, I don't think anybody in our locker room cares. We feel we can play with anybody and beat anybody. And yeah, we've lost some games, but we haven't lost any confidence. We haven't lost any focus on what we want to get done as a team. If it does silence some doubters, that's great. I don't think anybody in our locker room really is worried with doubters, or pays attention to it or looks to see what outsiders think, because I don't think it matters to our team. I think we have a lot of self-confidence in each other and in our group, and at the end of the day that's all it comes down to and matters."
Q: This offense hasn't been using the no-huddle so much lately. Is that due to the commitment to the run? Is it still a part of what you guys want to do?CP: "It's a big part of what we do in practice and prepare for. We haven't used much of it as much as we had in the past, but it's still a big part of who we are. When the time is right, we'll use it."
Q: You guys are practicing in Mason, Ohio, today – a good 30-45 minute bus ride. Does that throw a wrench into things?CP: "Definitely, definitely. It's a pain. It's a drag. But it is what it is. Just sitting on the freeway for 45 minutes, or an hour. We actually sat on the busses for a couple hours one year because of the snow. It's the situation we're in."
Q: Have you just resigned yourself to the fact that there probably will not be an indoor facility built on site, and that this is the way things are going to be in certain situations?CP: "Yeah, I think everyone in the locker room understands our situation, and you have to find a way to deal with it."
Q: There are a lot of people who are questioning the legitimacy of this offense, but you really seem OK with how things are going and confident that things will work. Why?CP: "First of all, it's never OK. I don't think I or our offense has ever felt satisfied. I don't think it's in a quarterback's mentality, or most of the offensive players' mentality. You expect to score every possession and never come off the field, or never punt. That's the mindset you need to have going into games. But for the most part, there have been drives and mindsets in games where you need to move the ball 20 yards and try to get a first down, but a punt is good. There have been games where we're running the ball play after play after play, and were in our own stadium getting booed for that.
"But that's what gets a win. The last three weeks, we've had almost plus-30 minutes time of possession, which has enabled us to win games by keeping the defense fresh and fast and wearing down the opposing defense by running the ball play after play after play. There's something that can be said, too, for a defense's mentality. When you're getting the ball run on you play after play after play, you know the run is coming and it really kills your confidence and your unity as a defense.
"I've said it over and over again, I'd love to go out and score 50 points a game. I don't think that's impossible for us to do. It's something we can do, but it's something we haven't needed to do. All that's important is winning game and finding ways to win games. If that's winning a game 7-6 or 16-7 or 45-7, a win is a win. At the end of the year, one the regular season is over, all that counts is wins or losses. That's been a formula that's worked well for us. But at the same time, were still striving to work and getting better as a unit."
Q: What can Quan Cosby do for this offense as a fourth wide receiver? CP: "Very smart guy, very smart football player. He's a rookie, but he's 25 or 26 years old, a veteran guy who's played in a lot of big atmospheres and played in big games against big opponents. He doesn't act or play like a rookie. He plays like a guy who has had some experience in big time games. Just a reliable guy. He's where he's supposed to be on every route, blocking the guy he's supposed to block on every run play. He sees the field real well, as far as hots (hot routes) are concerned and breaking hot on certain routes. The main thing he brings is a level of reliability. He's done very well in the opportunities he's gotten, and he looks like he's going to get more opportunities."
Q: Can he be a threat downfield?CP: "Not necessarily. I think he's playing the slot, and we're probably going out keep him in the slot for the time being. But he's really good at working over the middle and doing a really good job on the blocking scheme, and he can run reverses. He's one of those guys that, once you get the ball to him over the middle of the field, he's going to make the first guy miss. He's real shifty, and you've seen that in his punt returns. It's tough to tackle him with an arm-tackle."
Q: Do you talk to T.J. Houshmandzadeh much anymore? Does he ever say anything like, 'I really messed up by leaving Cincinnati?'CP: "In different words. I talk to him quite a bit, and he misses it. He misses some things about Cincinnati. He doesn't miss everything. The grass is always greener on the other side. He's not going to sit around and second-guess himself. He made a decision, and he's going to do everything he can to turn that team around. If there's anybody that can do it, it's him. He's a great leader and a great locker room guy, and obviously a great football player. We've had many conversations about what-ifs and things of that nature."