Q: Is this the most important football game you have ever been a part of?
CASSEL: “I think every football game is important. For this team right now I think this is definitely the most important game. We are excited about the opportunity and we know that we have a great challenge ahead of us. They are a team that has obviously been division champs the last three or four years and we are chasing what they have so this will be a good test for us early.”
Q: In terms of attendance and the fans, how important is it for you guys to get a win on Monday night?
CASSEL: “It is a great question but to be completely honest, as players, I think we are more concentrated on what is going on in the locker room, what is going on in the play book. I know that there are a lot of outside circumstances going on like you said, you mentioned a bunch of different things going on around the NFL in the community and everything else. Our main focus is to win ball games and to get ready for this game. We have a great team with the San Diego Chargers coming to town and we have to be prepared for them when the lights come on Monday night.”
Q: On the field or off the field, what have you improved in most under OC Charlie Weis?
CASSEL: “I think I have made a tremendous amount of progress in a lot of different areas. For me personally, I think working with Charlie and Coach (Todd) Haley throughout the last eight months has definitely helped me. I touched on it last week about my footwork getting better, my leadership in the locker room and also my on the field presence and knowing where to go with the ball and my comfort level inside this offense has definitely excelled and gotten better.”
Q: How do you feel when you hear that the fans aren’t buying your playing ability?
CASSEL: “I don’t really listen to it to be completely honest. I don’t listen to the radio or read any print or anything like that. I have a job to do and right now my job is to be the quarterback of this team. I am going to go out and work hard and do everything I need to do to be productive on the field.”
Q: What do you think you have to do personally to get the fans on your side?
CASSEL: “I think winning. Winning solves all problems. I don’t think that is just for me, that’s for this whole organization, it is for everybody. When you win, it makes everything a little bit easier.”
Q: Is it easy to block that criticism out?
CASSEL: “It is for me. I just try to block it out and that is something that goes along with this job. You are always going to be tested and there is always going to be scrutiny and there is always going to be somebody saying, ‘hey, he is not good enough. He can’t do this, he can’t do that.’ Once you start winning ball games and you start playing well and the team starts playing well, that takes care of itself.”
Q: How important is it for you to grow this year and get over the hump?
CASSEL: “I think you touched on it again. As a quarterback every year is important, every game is important and specifically for this team where we are in our stage of growth or whatever you want to call it, rebuilding, that is what I have heard a lot of people say. It is important for us to get off to a terrific start and it is important for us to try and have some success. I think it always starts with the quarterback and going out there and being sharp when it comes to knowing the playbook and executing my job.”
Q: How do you compare what you have learned over the past eight months with what you have learned since starting in New England and coming here?
CASSEL: “I think you learn a lot every time you go out on the field and every game you get out there and every chance you get to see a new defense and every chance you get to throw another ball and there is nothing like game experience, I have said that before. I think the more I am out there, the more comfortable you become and you get better as a player.”
Q: Do you feel like you’ve learned more under Charlie this off-season or is it about the same?
CASSEL: “It is about the same. You are always working on different things with the coaches in terms of trying to get better in different areas. And you are also trying to get better as an offensive unit and you have different points of emphasis that Coach Haley and Coach Weis want to emphasize throughout the week so you are constantly trying to get better as a player and as a person too.”
Q: How much of a measuring stick will Monday night be in terms of this team’s improvement?
CASSEL: “It will be a good test for us and a good measuring stick to see where we are at. Again, they are the division champs and they have a great defense. It is going to be a great challenge for us offensively because they create a lot of pressure with their front seven and they have a good secondary. For us, it will be a good test like I said but at the same time, it is week one of 16 games. I don’t think this is our Super Bowl, this is week one so hopefully we can go out there and put out a good performance and come out of there with a win and go from there.”
Q: Last year’s Chargers game you had a rough game statistically. How much does that sit in your mind?
CASSEL: “As a quarterback you have a short memory. You go onto the next game and like I said, there are 16 of them. You have to let the bad ones go and move on and try to make the corrections and move forward.”
Q: Are you the type of guy who likes to prove critics wrong?
CASSEL: “It is always nice to have that happen but at the same time, I don’t play this game for the people that are against me and think that I can’t do it. I play the game for the people that have always believed in me. I play that game for my family, for my wife, for my mother so it really comes down to that. There are going to be people, no matter where you go or what you do, in this position, there are going to be people who look at you and say, ‘you can’t do it.’ Until you start winning ball games, you start being successful on a consistent basis then that will change.”