Dec. 20, 2006

Q. This question is for Tom. Tom, can you talk a little bit about your impressions of JaMarcus Russell, what you’ve seen from him on film?

Tom Zbikowski: He’s a big guy. He’s got a very strong arm. He’s got pretty good feet when he starts running. But he’s got a strong arm, got good targets for throwing.

Q. Have you ever seen a quarterback that big?

Tom Zbikowski: Watching TV, Daunte Culpepper, that’s about it.

Q. Brady, how about you? Can you talk about maybe how the post?final exam practices have gone, and do you see the subtle changes that Coach Weis is trying to make and try to have you guys peak later, having practices shorter, those kinds of things? Can you discuss that?

Brady Quinn: They’ve gone really well so far. They’ve been a lot more off?tempo this time of year than they were last year I think because of the way we kind of tapered things down, allowed us to focus more on the mental aspects of the game and not necessarily physically be out on the field for four hours a day. Yeah, I think the players will tell you that we enjoy the schedule more this way than how it was last year.

Q. Brady, one game left in your playing career. Have you taken a chance to reflect upon your career at Notre Dame?

Brady Quinn: Yeah, I have. It’s been fun. It’s been hard, especially when you’re walking out of that last exam and realize this is it, you’re done, you’re never going to have to walk back into that building ever again, and I guess now more than anything else, you kind of take those last steps and try to remember what it feels like, picture everything, what it’s like.

It’s going to be tough. I’m sure it’s going to be pretty emotional. I’m really just looking forward to playing one last game, especially a big game like this on national television with my teammates.

Q. Do you feel there’s anything left for you to prove here in this last game?

Brady Quinn: Yeah, I mean, definitely. We haven’t gotten a Bowl win since I’ve been here, so why not prove everyone else wrong who says we’re not good enough to beat LSU right now.

Q. For the other two guys, can you guys talk about Brady and how he’s grown in a leadership role here over the course of these four seasons?

Travis Thomas: He’s become more vocal every year and really just taking charge when things seem to go down picking the guys up around him, so that’s one of the things I notice most.

Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, pretty much the same. He’s gotten a lot better at 3rd down conversions so it’s kept us off the field and kept us relaxed.

Q. Brady, just following up on some of those questions, how much do you think about the fact that this is your last game, that no matter what your next game will be in the NFL?

Brady Quinn: I mean, I’ve thought about it a lot, especially during exams and while you’re studying. When you take those study breaks, your mind a lot of times wanders to football, and that’s the one thing that’s kind of missing during that week off where we really just kind of lifted and ran a little bit. I’ve had a lot of time to think about it, and it’s tough. It’s weird to think about how much you’ve put into one place and into a team and everything, and now how you’re going to be moving onto something else. No one likes change, and I’m not saying that I’m not going to look forward to whatever happens in the future, but I’m definitely going to miss Notre Dame.

Q. Is that something that you and the rest of the seniors have talked about a lot as a group?

Brady Quinn: I don’t think we’ve talked about it a whole lot as a group. It’s something that I’m sure a lot of people don’t necessarily want to put out in the open. I mean, it’s a touchy subject. It’s something that brings out a lot of emotion in people. Dan Santucci in particular, he’s a pretty emotional guy. We try not to talk about it a whole lot. But I’m sure when we get down there with a week to go at the Bowl and everything, I’m sure some guys will be reflecting and making sure that everyone realizes that this is it, this is our last time.

Q. Looking at LSU now, LaRon Landry, what really stands out about him when you see him?

Brady Quinn: He’s an extremely physical player, and he’s come up, he makes big hits all the time. And he’s a threat, as well, in pass coverage which is a rare combination you see in a safety.

Again, I think him and Daniels both have a great ability to come up and make hits, you can even throw Stoltz in that for that matter. But both have the ability to come up and make a big play and make hits, but they’re pretty solid in pass coverage, as well.

Q. Tommy, this is for you. Have you made a decision yet?

Tom Zbikowski: No, I’m still getting ready for the Bowl game. I haven’t put much thought into it. I’m really getting ready for the Bowl game, just getting ready for the game.

Q. Brady, as far as getting back to LSU, Charlie talked a little bit about how they’re somewhat similar to Tennessee last year in terms of their style and approach. What do they do so well and what kind of style of defense do you see when you watch them on tape? Do they remind you of anybody?

Brady Quinn: I mean, you hit it on the nose. It reminds me of Tennessee last year, just because of the way they’re able to get so much pressure on the quarterback just with their front four. They don’t have to bring a whole lot of pressure. They do at times, and again, even when they’re bringing pressure, they’re obviously making big plays and forcing turnovers.

Their secondary allows them to match up with a lot of different wide receivers and put pressure on the quarterback, and they’re not really losing anything. A lot of teams are afraid to match up with our guys outside because of what our wide receivers are able to do if they catch it and what they’re able to do downfield. I don’t think LSU is afraid of that based on the athleticism that they show in their secondary, how they’ve done so far this year.

Q. Do you see them as a group that doesn’t try to trick you a whole lot, they just try to do what they do well and go with it?

Brady Quinn: I think that’s a pretty accurate statement.

Q. Tom, as far as next year goes, talking to Anthony last year, he kind of laid it out, what would lead him to come back, what would lead him to maybe explore other options. What are the stipulations that would make you go one way or the other?

Tom Zbikowski: Good question. I wish I knew. I wish I knew what I was doing. I really don’t know. I haven’t really put much thought into it. It’s probably not a good idea since that’s my future. But I want to get ready for this game. I want this BCS win more than anything. I’ll decide what I’m going to do later, but I haven’t really thought about what would swing me either way.

Q. How much advice do you get from friends, family about it? Do you try to insulate yourself from it?

Tom Zbikowski: Too much advice. Everyone has got their own opinion. You know, you try to listen to both sides to see what your best option is. But in the end I’ll do what I feel is best for me and what I feel comfortable with.

Q. Travis, I guess the linebacker experiment is no longer an experiment anymore, and I have a whole regular season under your belt. You’re preparing for this game as an experienced linebacker. Is it everything you expected it to be? Was it harder than you thought? What has it been like?

Travis Thomas: It’s been a little easier than I expected. I’ve got ten veterans around me helping me out and a great coaching staff to help me get through the transition period. Now I’m at the point where I really feel comfortable. I’m able to make calls with Crum and everything like that and help the guys around me, so I feel like I’ve moved into the position well.

Q. Is it a one?year experiment? Have they talked to you about that? Do you even know what was ??

Travis Thomas: No, we’ll talk about that after the Bowl game and during the spring, but right now I’m a linebacker and just focusing on the game plan for LSU.

Q. Brady, I don’t think we’ve talked to you since the Heisman vote. Any thoughts on it whatsoever?

Brady Quinn: It’s something you can’t control, and obviously you can’t worry about it. I mean, I went there, again, not really looking for anything or expecting anything, just looking to have a good time, enjoy the city and enjoy the moment, an opportunity to be there with so many other Heisman winners and tremendous athletes.

So again, it was a great experience. I was just happy to be there. And I think the biggest thing with me was just being able to get back here and get ready for this Bowl game.

Q. You were pretty candid last year about being disappointed not to be there and seeing it on TV. Was it what you expected it to be? Was it fun?

Brady Quinn: It was. It was a great time. I didn’t have the opportunity to be there on Friday because I was down in Baltimore for the Johnny Unitas award, so I missed out there. But again, Saturday we got a chance just to hang out, go to the ESPN Club, we got a chance go to the theater a little bit early and get to know some of the other past Heisman Trophy winners. Then again after, we were able to kind of go around town and see a little bit of New York City.

Q. Had you been to New York City?

Brady Quinn: I had before actually in the summer, so I saw a little different part of it then and then I saw a little different part of New York City this past time.

Q. Are you glad the awards circuit is over and now you can concentrate on a football game?

Brady Quinn: Yeah, it was tiring, it was a lot more enduring than I thought it would end up being. You’re always kind of being hustled around. There’s always an agenda kind of set for you, so you never really have a chance to stop and catch your breath.

Q. Not asking the two fifth?year candidates on their decision, but would it be accurate to say that you have kept your options open and have applied for a fifth year, the possibility of that?

Travis Thomas: I mean, I haven’t done anything towards the fifth year. Like I said before, all I’m focusing on is LSU right now, and as far as applying or whatever, for a fifth year, we’ll deal with that after the game.

Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, I wasn’t sure about applying, but I’ve kept both my options open. Once again, I’m just not sure which way yet.

Q. Coach Weis said that he has spoken to all the candidates. I mean, did both of you guys sit down with him and go over those options? What can you say about that?

Travis Thomas: I mean, he basically just went over the options we have as far as coming back or leaving, and he leaves it to us to make a decision after the game, which is I’m sure what everybody will do. We’re all pretty much focused on LSU right now, and nothing else really matters.

Q. I’d like each of you to answer this question, and I would ask you to be ?? don’t be politically correct and say what you believe and answer from a football player’s perspective, if you would. A playoff system, are you satisfied with the way the setup is now, the regular season, a Bowl game, or as a football player would you like to have a playoff system in which you would participate in games in December and having to deal with exams, et cetera?

Tom Zbikowski: Just from like a personal experience, going through high school when you have a playoff atmosphere, there’s something different about a playoff. It’s a unique experience. I mean, every game ?? you say that about your games in the regular season, but there’s something different about you lose this game, you know you’re done for the rest of the year.

And I think that’s how you see who’s the best team in the country, by on the field, not votes. It’s tough to say which way would be better, which way would not, but you’re still going to have to be the top teams in the playoff system?

Q. Would you be able to juggle preparing for final exams and taking final exams while preparing for a playoff game?

Tom Zbikowski: I think I would be able to handle it. I don’t know about the other people. I had a 3.0 this semester.

Brady Quinn: Well, here’s the thing. People a lot of times forget that ?? Notre Dame is a tough academic school. We take exams and midterms and stuff all year long, so there’s times during the regular season halfway through where we’ve got midterms to study for and the things we’re preparing for, so it’s not like we’re not accustomed to when you’re working out having practice and then trying to find some time to study for these exams. I would not be obliged to a playoff system at all. Again, I think you’re going to have some discrepancy as far as who are the top eight teams, four teams, however you want to do it. There’s always going to someone on the tail end who’s going to be arguing about it and wondering why they’re not in. But again, I think with our high school experience, I mean, it’s fun. There is something about being one of the only teams practicing this late in the season and preparing for a game and trying to play for a National Championship that gives you a little bit of sense of pride in what you’re doing, and I think it makes it more fun, too.

Travis Thomas: I think both the guys hit it right on the nail. I mean, let the best team win and show it on the field. I’m all for the system being changed like that, and as far as preparation for exams and thing like that, I mean, Brady said it best. We do it all year long, so it wouldn’t be anything different except a little bit more pressure with final exams. But I think leave it on the field.

Q. I’m just wondering if each of you could kind of address some of the players behind you; Tom, with Ray and David; and Brady, the three young quarterbacks; and Travis, Maurice to an extent and Toryan came along this year, and maybe what they need to work on?

Tom Zbikowski: You know, Ray got some playing time that one game I missed and did a phenomenal job, filled in nicely. He’s going to be a good player. David Bruton has done a great job on special teams. You see his athleticism pretty much every game. He’s making plays all the time so he’s got that knack for big plays. And McCarthy is another kid that’s going to be a good player. They’re all going to be good players, they just need to get on that field and see what they can do once they’re on the field.

I think a lot of it, what they need to work on is just everyone has got to work on the fundamentals, and whether you’re a starter or not, you’re going to have to work on the little things and I think they just need to get their playing experience.

Brady Quinn: As far as the quarterbacks go, it’s tough for you guys to see, but I’ve seen a lot of improvement in practice and what they’ve been able to do, and it’s been more of a mental improvement, I think, reassuring himself of the offense and getting a better understanding of how to conduct the offense, kind of manage the game and everything out there on the field, especially during scrimmages and practices.

And I think the other two have done a great job of fundamentally improving their form, whether it’s throwing, throwing on the run, just everything. I think there’s a lot of little things that they needed to tune up, and Coach Vaas and Coach Weis have done a great job of really touching those things up for them.

Travis Thomas: As far as Maurice, I mean, I think he’s done a great job of moving from outside to inside linebacker and being in the box. One of the things I learned about him this year is that he’s really a student of the game. He watches a lot of film, and he’s really on the same page as Coach Minter every week. I mean, he makes all the calls for us. I think that helps him out a lot. He’s a real fundamentally sound guy, so I think fundamentals and techniques is something he focuses on and is going to continue to focus working on in the future.

As far as Toryan, only time will tell. He has a lot of potential, and the times he’s on been on the field he’s made plays, so I think the more experience he gets, the more playing time, the better he’s going to get.

Q. Going back to LSU, they’ve got some quick guys, some physical guys, but in your minds what does Notre Dame say about them going into the match?up?

Tom Zbikowski: I know they talk about the tough schedule in the SEC, but I think just the schedule we played, obviously the offense that we’ve had is going to be able to put up points. We’ll make plays on defense. It’s hard to pinpoint one thing that we have. I just think it’s from first quarter to fourth quarter how hard we play. We’ve played in these big games before, so I think it’s just an experience that we’ve had and the senior leadership that we have.

Brady Quinn: I’d say the one thing that we’ve talked about all year and really haven’t done is just really put together a complete game. This Bowl game is the opportunity to finally do that. LSU is a great team, and we see a lot of problems that we may face, but at the same point in time there hasn’t been a game yet this season where we felt we’ve had all three facets of the game and on full mode, so hopefully this game will be that game for us. I think with this time that we’ve allowed ourselves, we’re able to prepare and make sure we have all our adjustments down and everything for the game. So it won’t necessarily be so mental; it’ll be more of a game where we’re going out and reacting and really playing at our highest level.

Q. Brady, two years in Charlie Weis’ system, how has that helped you to prepare to play at the next level?

Brady Quinn: You know, it’s a complex offense that, again, is going to ?? whether it’s terminology or whatever you want to call it, the reads and everything, I think it’s going to help you with whatever offense you’re throwing into. Obviously there’s a couple different variations of his offense in the NFL right now.

But I’m looking forward to the challenge, really just kind of getting in there, seeing how familiar I will be with it, whether it’s some of the same, exactly the same or maybe not that far from it. We’ll have to wait and see, but more than anything else, I think it’s helped me understand the progressions, reads, and what all falls on the shoulders of a quarterback in the NFL.

Q. I know there’s one more game to play, but when you said you catch yourself, you’re wandering with your mind when you’re studying, do you kind of glance at the NFL standings and kind of see that draft order, how that’s shaping up?

Brady Quinn: No, I haven’t had an opportunity to watch too many NFL games lately, with exams and then when I was traveling the week before and everything. I mean, I’ll have to wait and see. Those standings, I’ll have to wait and see how everything finishes out at the end of the year.

Q. I’ve got a question for all three of you guys in any order. I kind of thought of it when Tim was talking about the playoff. ESPN and so forth are putting up these mock playoffs, if there were one. Notre Dame is off the board in all of them, and you hear about LSU’s speed and how good they are. Do you guys get sick of hearing about how good they are and how you guys don’t have a chance?

Brady Quinn: I get tired of hearing how bad we are. I mean, that’s all people seem to be saying sometimes. Again, Notre Dame is one of those universities where it’s kind of like either you love it or you hate it. It’s tough because you’ve got to deal with the criticism all the time. So we win a big game against a great team like that, you can’t really say a whole lot back.

So this presents a great opportunity for us to really kind of put all those comments and everything to sleep.

Tom Zbikowski: There’s nothing really to be said. I mean, the only time as a player that you can really prove it is on the field, so we’ll have to show up for that game.

Travis Thomas: I get a little tired of hearing about the lack of speed we have, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, so I’m just really looking forward to getting another opportunity to get out there and play in a big game and prove all the naysayers wrong.

Q. Brady, this is for you. Charlie was talking about avoiding big plays on defense, but how important is it to maybe get a big play or two on offense just from a momentum standpoint and an excitement standpoint?

Brady Quinn: I think the key to that actually is getting a big play on offense early. If you look at the two games we’ve lost this season, we’ve really fallen behind quickly because ?? there’s even been turnovers that have ended up in scores for the other team or we just haven’t been productive right away. And I think if you go back to USC, we were kind of knocking on the door there a few times but weren’t as productive as we should have been. Really our biggest key for us is kind of getting off to a fast start.

Q. And lastly, for all three of you guys, your last game you guys were not sure yet, but the one thing you guys are missing in your careers is a Bowl win and a big kind of marquee win. Would you just talk about how that would kind of complete your careers?

Travis Thomas: It would definitely be something to cap off the careers, ending the season on a positive not, considering we lost our last regular season game. That’s all we’re working for is to win, otherwise there’s no point in going down there if there’s any doubt in your mind you’re not going to be able to win. It would definitely be the icing on the cake.

Brady Quinn: I mean, I’ve had a great time here at Notre Dame, and things obviously never go as well as you’d like them to. But I’m hoping with a win in this Bowl game I think you could put kind of somewhat of a happy ending to the end of my career here at least, or in my mind it would be.

Tom Zbikowski: I don’t think in four years we’ve finished with a win in the last game. It always makes the off?season a little easier and you’ve always got that momentum when you finish with a win, especially in a BCS game.

Q. Brady, saying you guys are tired of hearing how bad Notre Dame is, why are you guys better than what people are saying?

Brady Quinn: Again, I think looking at the two losses, a lot of people who understand football understand a couple of those games really weren’t that out of hand. The score looks worse than it was.

I mean, again, we got beat, there’s no doubt about it. But when you’re attempting to come back and win in some of those games, you’ve got to take some risks, you’ve got to try and make some plays, and in doing that it’s going to hurt you and it’s going to put you in some bad positions sometimes if you’re not converting on 4th downs defensively, or again, at least a possibility of a big play for the other team.

So really, we just have to get off to a fast start. That’s the biggest key for us. I think if we play the way we’re capable of in all three facets of the game, people are going to really see how good this team can be.

Q. Could you also talk about John Carlton and the possibility of him being 100 percent back?

Brady Quinn: Obviously he adds just another one of our dimensions to our team. Offensively he’s a great weapon, stretching the field, making big plays for us really on a lot of the 3rd down conversions, so we’re looking forward to having him back.

Q. Brady, going back a couple weeks, you had an opportunity to go up to Lambeau Field to see the Packers play. Have you ever been up there before and what was the experience like?

Brady Quinn: It was my first time up there, and it was an interesting experience. You see the love that that place really has for a quarterback like Brett Favre. I mean, again, when you have time off like that, your mind kind of wanders and you always wish you could be in a situation like that, have a successful career like him and end up in a city like that where you can be adored no matter what you do. It was a fun experience. It was great getting to see kind of what the pro game is like.

Q. A lot of people that go up there for the first time say that the culture and the game day experience surrounding the Packers is unlike anything that any other football team has, it’s very comparable to a college experience. Was that your impression?

Brady Quinn: Yeah, their team colors are obviously yellow and green, but you see a lot of the orange and the different camouflage hunting gear kind of painted around the stands, so it’s a little different atmosphere. It’s a fun group, and it was a great crowd to kind of sit in and listen to some of the different comments being made or the different cheers that they do.

Q. Your brother?in?law have any invites for LSU?

Brady Quinn: Not so much yet. I’ll see him during the holiday season, so we’ll have to see then.

Q. I think on the 60 Minutes piece you were asked about Coach Weis, and you referred to him ?? you said something to the effect that he can be a bit of a jerk sometimes. Did you mean that in a good way and were there any repercussions from that?

Brady Quinn: Well, first off, let me just say that that was taken a little bit out of context. There was actually an answer before that and then the question was repeated. So it was my fault for not being more experienced in interviews like that.

But Coach Weis is someone that’s going to push you to your limits, and he’s going to push you past where you think you can go to make you better and to get you to reach that next level. In doing that, I think sometimes obviously he’s not going to approach you in a way that you feel is maybe nice or a friendly way, which I think anyone on this team is more than welcome to come into contact with him if they’re going to get better.

I’d say that’s more or less really what I was trying to get out of that answer. But yeah, there were some repercussions, but we’re not going to talk about that.

Q. Has his role in your improvement been as much psychological as it’s been mechanical?

Brady Quinn: Yeah, I’d say it’s almost been more psychological than mechanical. When we first got here we were working on some mechanical things and technique, but pretty much from the first season on, it’s been a lot about, you know, defensive schemes and our offense and how you break down different teams and just different situational thinking. It’s been a lot of mental things that you kind of ?? he’s played a big part in as far as my development.

Q. For Brady, with what happened last year in the Rose Bowl, Vince Young basically moved himself up dramatically in the draft because of that game. Do you think you have to have a great game to stay as probable a No. 1 quarterback pick in this Bowl?

Brady Quinn: I don’t know. That’s a question for I think those NFL teams and scouts and whatnot. That’s not something for me to sit here and decide. I mean, come on, I want the best game possible for my team and to get a win, so that’s my goal. That’s going to be the only way I’m going to think.

Q. When you went up to Green Bay, in terms of (inaudible)?

Brady Quinn: One of the things I was trying to watch, they played the Jets, which obviously Coach Mangini came from the Patriots, so their offense looked somewhat similar to some of the things we’re doing. So I was trying to watch them, seeing how they try to break down the Packers defense, which that particular day they did a pretty good job.

I just was watching that to see the transition and thinking about the speed of the game. Obviously you’re playing in the cold weather in a climate like that, but still, it’s so fast. Things don’t slow down, everything is so precise, especially from the quarterback position.

So I was just really watching. It was fun to sit back as a fan and see what it’s like for once before you kind of enter into that arena.

Q. Did it look like it could be overwhelming at first?

Brady Quinn: Not really. All those guys look like they’ve taken themselves ?? they all handle themselves in a professional manner. It’s not like they’re out there, a bunch of kids running around having a good time playing football. They’re all going about it with a business approach, and that’s kind of how they handled themselves and conducted themselves.

Q. One more question for all you guys. When you think about New Orleans and the city, what are the images that come to your mind because I guess you guys are going to be doing some things down there to get involved with the city. What are the things that go through your mind? Have any of you been there?

Travis Thomas: No, I’ve never been there. First off, you obviously think of the disaster that occurred and how they’re rebuilding and everything like that and how the New Orleans Saints and all those players are involved in rebuilding the city and what we’ll take part in. Also you think of Bourbon Street and Mardi Gras and fun times that occur down there. So I’m looking forward to the whole experience.

Tom Zbikowski: I was going to say Bourbon Street, too. Watching the news, you see what’s really going on there, but I don’t think you really get a feel for what’s happened until you actually get to see it. So I’m interested to be able to see what’s going on.

I think it’s just going to be a little better perception of what those people have to go through and that we’re lucky we get a chance to play football, play in a BCS game, let alone football, and see what these people have to go through.

Brady Quinn: Exactly. People think Hurricane Katrina was so long ago and things should be up and running by now. Things are better now, but from everything I hear, things still aren’t the same as they were before, and there’s still a ton of improvement that can be made.

It will be nice to kind of get down there and do it firsthand and see exactly what Thomas said, what those people are going through and what they’re enduring right now. So I’m looking forward to just being able to get down there and help and do whatever we can and also obviously have a good time. I haven’t been there before.