MIKE McCARTHY: A.J. Hawk has a knee bruise, just being cautious with A.J. today. I fully A.J. to play in the game. Just rest him.
Q. Something he did in practice or is that a residual thing from the game?
MIKE McCARTHY: I think it’s a combination of both. Didn’t feel good yesterday after practice, and I know he was looked at beforehand. Did some testing and just felt it was best to give him a day of rest.
Q. And Walden, talk about his injury.
MIKE McCARTHY: Well, he has a shoulder, and I fully anticipate that he’ll play, too. It’s that time of year.
Q. To take you back a little bit, when you were in the 49ers were you part of the decision with Alex Smith on the drafting of the quarterback, and what I was wondering is going back to when you had to make the decision on Aaron Rodgers, the unexpected decision on Aaron Rodgers, just through practice, evaluation, what did you see in Aaron Rodgers? How did you go about making that leap of faith with him?
MIKE McCARTHY: Well, a big part of the 49ers during the draft, like most offensive coordinators, you have an opportunity to sit through the scouting sessions and write reports and so forth, so that was pretty much my input into that decision.
As far as arriving here in ’06, had an opportunity to work with Aaron the first year. There were some things we adjusted in his mechanics that he’s done a great job with. I think he’s done a tremendous job with his body since then. I think if you look at him now compared to then, he’s a much more conditioned athlete in my opinion.
But the talent was always there. I can recall walking off his workout at Cal Berkeley that day and it was clearly the most impressive workout that I had seen live of a college quarterback throwing the football. So he was able to develop for three years, or excuse me, two years, and then when his opportunity came, he’s been a very consistent player and he’s getting better and better and has a chance to achieve greatness with a Super Bowl victory.
But obviously we’ve got to win the NFC Championship game first, and I’m not getting ahead of myself but I think he’s that caliber quarterback. He has that ability and he has the opportunity to lead his team to that level.
Q. Did they go outside today?
MIKE McCARTHY: They did not go outside but it was 18 degrees in the Hudson Center today, so we accomplished exactly what we wanted to.
Q. Do you sense the sense that the guys are done practicing and ready to play?
MIKE McCARTHY: Definitely ready. Normally on Fridays when the heavy lifting is done there’s a lot of energy in the morning meetings, definitely the energy will carry throughout practice. I was pleased with the practice, the standard and the level of practice, the efficiency and everything of it.
Now it’s 50 hours. The 50‑hour rule is in place at this time for them to get their bodies ready, ready to go, rest and everything, and that’s a part of that, nutrition, and it’s ‑‑ from here to kickoff it’s all mental.
Q. Last year you were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. What kind of peace of mind do you have going into this game that you know your defense is going to hold up?
MIKE McCARTHY: I feel we have a championship caliber defense, and I anticipate us to play at that level. It’s been going on all year, and this is a different year. But I just really like the whole makeup of our football team. I like the way the offense plays, the defense and so forth, and really special teams has played the last segment of the season. We’re a complete football team. We have the ability to play in different types of games. We don’t have to play to one form, and it starts with defense.
Q. Your fans came out really well to Atlanta. How important are they to guys playing well and what do they mean to you?
MIKE McCARTHY: We have the best fans, bar none, just to go on the road in playoff games, in Philadelphia, in Atlanta, and to be in the fourth quarter of the game and hear your fans almost take over the stadium, it’s remarkable. It’s remarkable. It’s a tribute to how well we travel as a fan base, and we anticipate the same in Chicago this week.
Q. I know you’re locked into game preparations so I apologize for the big picture question, but when did you know you were good enough to be an NFL head coach?
MIKE McCARTHY: The date?
Q. Was there a moment, something that made you realize?
MIKE McCARTHY: Well, I would say as an assistant coach, just having the opportunity to be around Marty Schottenheimer and just the way he ran his program, his work ethic. I felt as an assistant coach that that’s when it came to me that I felt that I’d be able to be a head coach in this league someday. I couldn’t tell you an exact date, but it was at some point in my career in Kansas City.
Q. How much luck is there involved with getting where you are today? I imagine there’s many people who are good enough to be NFL coaches. How much is involved with that, just being in the right place at the right time?
MIKE McCARTHY: I wouldn’t classify it as luck. I’m truly blessed to be a head coach in the NFL and even more so to be the head coach of the Green Bay Packers. But a lot goes into that from my perspective as far as developing as an assistant coach and developing as a coordinator. I felt that definitely came into this league the right way, something I share with my staff. I think quality control coaching is the best way to come into the league because it gives you a tremendous foundation because you have the opportunity to learn so much because you have to do so much work, and you really learn the basis of this business.
And timing has a lot to do with it. I’ll be honest with that. We had an opportunity to interview in ’06, and Ted Thompson saw something in myself, and once again, I’m blessed to have this opportunity.
Q. How much do you enjoy going against Lovie Smith because you guys have played each other a bunch of times?
MIKE McCARTHY: I have a lot of respect for Lovie Smith because I think Lovie is a tremendous football coach. I think he’s clearly one of the class acts of our profession. Having an opportunity to compete against Lovie as a coordinator, they had some great teams, great defenses there in St. Louis when I was in New Orleans, and the mark of a good coach is when you see what he believes in shows up on film, and secondly when you watch a football team improve from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. And I think it’s definitely true with his football teams, and particularly this year’s team.
So I think he’s done an outstanding job. I really enjoy competing against him. His brand of football, I feel like he plays the right way. I can’t say enough. We’re really excited about getting down there Sunday at 2:00 and getting this thing going with the Bears.