THE MODERATOR: Questions for A.J.? Q. What did you learn from the 2007 NFC title game last time you were in this position?
A.J. HAWK: I definitely learned it was a tough game to lose. That was for sure. I don’t know. It’s hard to play with a loss like that. Season comes to an abrupt end so quick. But I think just any kind of playoff experience helps. Especially just a big‑game atmosphere, big type ‑‑ great electricity in the air. It’s going to be a little different. Obviously we’re not at home this time. But same type of atmosphere surrounding the game, I’m sure.
With the whole Packers/Bears rivalry, it gives you a little more game experience in big type of situations like that.
Q. On the road, how do you approach that?
A.J. HAWK: We feel comfortable on the road. We feel comfortable wherever we are. We love playing at Lambeau. But we knew getting into the playoffs that wasn’t going to happen. We knew that last home game against Chicago was the last one of the year here.
But we feel really confident going on the road. We feel like you always talk about, if you want to have the guys with you on the sideline, but what’s great about Packers fans, they travel everywhere. We had a ton of them in Atlanta. I’m sure a lot of them will be trying to get to Chicago.
We’re confident out on the road. We know that you have to ‑‑ you’ve got to control the momentum of the game. You have to try to take the crowd out of it. And that will be a huge factor out of this coming Sunday.
Q. In terms of guys that you see that are dangerous in space, what do you think Devin Hester, whether as a returner, wide receiver, where do you think he ranks?
A.J. HAWK: He’s right at the top of the list, I would say. For sure. He can do everything. Once he gets the ball in his hands, he’s tough to stop. Tough to get down. He does a great job of especially returning punts.
When he gets the ball, he might make a few moves, make the first guy miss. He gets vertical quick. When a guy does that ‑‑ as you’ve seen against us, he got one earlier this year on us. They can crease you pretty quick and he can get in the end zone fast.
Q. What do you think it will be like playing a team for the third time in one season?
A.J. HAWK: It will be good. That’s why I think it’s going to be a great matchup just because there’s no secrets. They’re not going to do anything new. We’re probably not going to do anything new. It’s going to be football. It’s going to be up to the guys on the field, I think.
I think coaches can sit back and sometimes try to complicate things and come up with new schemes and crazy situations, but when it comes down to it, it’s the guys on the field that are playing the game. And for us we know each other so well that it’s fun.
It’s football. This is how it should be. In Chicago, cold‑weather game. Big rivalry. It’s going to be a good one.
Q. Why do you think the Bears defense gets more press than you guys?
A.J. HAWK: Do they?
A.J. HAWK: I don’t know. That’s a good question. They deserve it. They’ve been doing it for a long time, I think. They’ve been a really solid defense for many years.
And I think they’ve had some guys there for a while that have really been producing, playing well. So if they’re getting more national attention, whatever, that’s fine. That’s okay with us. They can have it. We’ll be fine with the guys we have here.
But I give them a lot of credit. Their whole team, I love how they play. I respect how they play. That’s why I think ‑‑ I’m sure the networks aren’t too upset that it’s Packers/Bears in the NFC championship game.
Q. How does the Bears/Packers rivalry compare to Ohio State/Michigan?
A.J. HAWK: It’s pretty similar. When I first got here, I noticed that the feeling throughout the week of each time we played the Bears was really how it was when we were playing Michigan, even growing up in Ohio, being around the game before I was even in college, middle school, high school, just the feel you kind of have for around time, it’s the same thing.
This one is obviously amped up a little bit more being a championship game.
Q. I know he plays a different position, but how do you think Tramon Williams has improved, undrafted, free agent, and he replaces Adam Harris, some people think Pro Bowl level, what have you seen from him either practice‑wise, film, work ethic, anything like that?
A.J. HAWK: It’s everything with Tramon. I think everything he’s done, every good thing that’s happened to Tramon on the field, all the plays he’s making he deserves. I’ve never been around probably a better teammate than a guy like Tramon. He’s awesome. I love how he prepares. He does everything right.
There’s a reason he’s making huge plays, because he lives the right way. He prepares right. He is just doing everything the way you should be, I think, and he’s a great ‑‑ has crazy amounts of talent. But he’s doing the work to get the best out of it, I think.
Q. Not playing the opener at Philadelphia, after that your name was coming up in trade moves or whatever. Did you ever stop and consider you might not be finishing the season here?
A. No, I never did, just because if that happened for some reason, if they wanted to get me out of here, they would. I couldn’t change it. All I can do is when I go out on the field try to make things happen.
I never really ‑‑ I don’t like to sit back and think about what could happen. They can decide in two minutes that they don’t want me here anymore and I’m out. So I can’t sit back and worry about things like that. But I’m having a good time right now, though.
Q. Is this the most multiple use of tight ends in different groupings with the three of them that you’ve seen? And why has that been effective for them, do you think?
A.J. HAWK: I don’t think they have a fullback on the roster right now. That’s the reason they’re using multiple tight ends, I think they like to use them as fullbacks, but it’s the Bears. They want the run the ball, and they want to be physical, and they are.
That’s a way to do that is to put more big guys on the field. That’s what they’re doing. So I would think, yes, they use their tight ends really well. They’re not only good blockers, but they also can catch touchdowns, as you saw yesterday, Greg Olsen had a big day.
Q. A.J., Jay Cutler has played well despite many downers out there. What have you seen from him now? Always had a perception of him, played him so many times. What do you see from him now?
A.J. HAWK: I mean, I think he’s the type of guy that his teammates, I can tell, I think they love having a guy like Jay Cutler, because he brings a lot of energy and big play capability to the field.
And I think he’s done a really good job all year of kind of capitalizing on the defense’s mistakes that are made against him and what he can do. He seems like he just has great command of the offense, great command of the game. That’s what you want out of a quarterback.
And he obviously ‑‑ everyone knows he has a huge arm and can make all the throws, but I think he’s really ‑‑ whoever he’s working with over there, I think they’re doing a great job. And he’s just growing into being a great quarterback.
Q. NFC championship trophy named after former Bears Coach George Halas. Would it be any sweeter to win that trophy against his old team?
A.J. HAWK: Doesn’t matter whose name is on it. We’d like to have it. But when it comes down to it that’s not really our goal. We want to win the game. But the NFC championship trophy is not the end for us. That’s not our only, not the only thing we’re looking at.
Q. You said both teams know each other and can’t really fool each other. But did Capers come up with some things each time, like in the second Bears game versus the first Bears game that were different that you guys did, or did you just do things better?
A.J. HAWK: It’s a combination of everything. Every game is separate from the other ones, I think. But as a defensive guy, Coach Capers right now is sitting up there drawing up different schemes of what to do and how to attack their offense. But when you come down to it, you’re never ‑‑ teams aren’t going to change as a whole. Our core, what we do as a core offense, defense, special teams is not changing. We’re going to stick to who they are, they’re going to stick to who they are, and there’s obviously little things thrown here and there but for the most part we’re going to stay the course.
Q. There’s a lot of talk going into that last Bears game about whether they play their starters, this or that. Was there any feeling from you that they played a vanilla or was it just a typical Bears offense and everything you guys figured it would be?
A.J. HAWK: At least from our standpoint it looked pretty much the same. I don’t know what they would say about it. But we felt like they had their normal game plan in. Obviously I think going in both teams had different motivations. They already knew, I think they had the first round bye and everything and we needed to win to get in. Their mindset might have been a little different than ours going into that game, but it led us to here.
I’m sure they probably had an idea, if we got in it, we’d probably be facing them again for the NFC championship; they thought there was a decent chance of that happening.
Q. How much does the challenge of the field present in terms of play?
A.J. HAWK: The field, you never know what you’re going to get. It kind of depends. The weather will obviously have a little bit of an impact on it. But it’s something we’ve been there a number of times, I think most of the guys on this team, that we’ll figure out that both teams are playing on the same field. It’s not like anyone is going to have an advantage.
Q. You are a three‑point favor in this game. Do you prefer that you’re an underdog like you were in the last two games you played?
A.J. HAWK: It doesn’t really matter to us, honestly. I didn’t know that we were underdogs the last two. I didn’t realize we were the favorite for this one. Whoever is making up those lines or doing whatever, the good thing it doesn’t really have an impact on our team, what we’re going to do. But that’s good. We’ll take it either way. We’re going to go out there and do our job.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.