On wanting to improve his pass defense and if he has met those expectations: "I think I have improved in areas, and when you look back on tape there are some areas where you can see I've made strides in this area, and then there are other areas that I look at that and I'm like, 'Man, I need to improve on that.' There are plays that are left on the field in big spots that I need to improve on. A lot of it comes with repetition and understanding what's going on and really doing what I'm supposed to do on each play. There have been times where I have dropped in a zone and got a little nosey over here and then catch a ball right here. It's simple stuff like that. The more disciplined I can be, the more it will lend itself to being successful. But I think (Defensive coordinator) Coach (Sean) McDermott and (linebackers Coach) Al Holcomb have done a great job working with me and kind of talking me through ways I can kind of understand that help me improve in the passing game area, which I think has been a plus for me."
On the pass breakup on Doug Baldwin and if he would make that play as a rookie: "I don't think I understood route concepts as much my rookie year, and that was a route concept. They had run it during the game previously, and they caught it and they came out in relatively the same set, the same action with the running back and Baldwin kind of ran it in a way I had seen not by him, but other guys have run that route the same way. You can't replicate repetition. I have seen other guys run it. I have seen it in practice. I have seen our guys run it kind of resembling the same way. Once I see him running it that way, then I know he most likely is going to go out based on those guys that have run it previously to him and what I have seen during the game. I think a lot of it comes with repetition early on. I don't think I have picked it up as well as that."
On taking Cortland Finnegan out to dinner when he first got here: "Cortland was a guy we brought in, we knew he was going to be a big piece of what we were doing. I talked with him and asked him if he needed anything to give me a shout, and his locker is right next to mine and I was trying to find out who he was. Instantly he started giving me a little bit of grief for those Uggs that Cam (Newton) gave us. So he was knocking me on that, and I told him that I wear them because they are comfortable. From there I kind of understood that he could take a joke. I think it kind of went back and forth from then on. He's a good dude that works hard and wants to win, so it's been a good match."
On if he always tries to take new guys out to dinner when they join the team: "Yeah, they are going to be on your team ,and you might as well go meet them as soon as they get here, otherwise it gets awkward. They're on the team, you know you're on the team. You see each other all the time, and if you don't introduce yourself right away then it's kind of awkward because you know them, they know you and it's easier if you just go out and talk to them right away. That's kind of my approach."
On who took him to dinner when he joined Carolina: "Cam did. When I first got here, I forgot about that. When I first got here I had my press conference in here and then I got something to eat with Cam, and he just talked to me and that was fun. Obviously Thomas (Davis) and Beas (Jon Beason) and all those guys didn't necessarily take me to eat or anything, but were always right there for me."
On Roman Harper saying that he was the nicest person he's ever met: "I got him fooled. I like to get to meet the new guys that come in. Since I've been here, it's kind of been that way when the new guy gets here and everyone welcomes him. I knew who Roman was when he got here, and I wanted to meet him because I watched him play and he was a fun player to watch. But I think it's just the appropriate thing to do. Not necessarily taking them out to dinner is the right thing, but I always make a conscious effort to go meet a guy and talk to him and see where he is from, that way you understand him. I think if you can know a guy off the field, I think it helps you on the field. Because if you're just talking to a guy on the field and all you're doing is talking football, then maybe you can't get on the same page. But off the field if you get to know him and understand what makes him tick and become friends with him, I think it really allows you to broaden what you can do on the field. It helps on the field, but I think it's also the right thing to do when a new guy gets here is welcome him to the team so he feels comfortable. I think the more comfortable you feel, the better you play."
On what he feels when he looks at the NFC Championship trophy: "That would be great. That's one of the things we set out at the beginning of the season to do is one, win the first game, two, win the division and three, make some moves in the playoffs and ultimately come off on the top of the NFC. It's been our goal. It's one of those things you work extremely hard for. I think you could ask around the whole league. All 16 teams in the NFC have that same goal and for us to be playing for it is a pretty neat deal."
On Kawann Short helping him out on the pick-six vs. Seattle: "That play was all KK. You look at the play if you really break it down it was him. He made a move on the guard, and like that he was on Russell (Wilson). Any time that the rush complements your coverage, it makes your job easier. Really I was just kind of standing there, and he tossed it right to me. So that's why I was trying to give KK all the credit because he deserved it all. He's really grown. But if you look back at his rookie season, he had all the capabilities and all the skills. I think now he's got a couple more that he's learned from (defensive line) Coach (Eric) Washington and (assistant defensive line coach) Sam Mills (III) and those moves and techniques and effort and stuff like that has really allowed him to take the next step forward."
On being one of the guys that this franchise is being built around: "I got here a couple years ago, and this was always the goal and the goal hasn't changed. I think we have just added pieces to help get us to that goal. You look around at the big pieces. Cam has improved and he's playing at a great level. Thomas and Ryan (Kalil) and Greg (Olsen) and all those guys, Charles Johnson, guys that have been around on this team for a long time that have worked extremely hard and not always have reaped the benefits of being in this positon. But that's why you play the game, for guys like that, and Thomas and Ryan and Greg and Charles. I think those are our longest tenured guys on this team that have been here. It's fun for those guys and obviously everybody, for me too, to see where we started a couple years ago to now. We've added pieces and we've become a unit, and a team, and a family, and it's been a lot of fun. Hopefully we can go out there and get a win this weekend and make it that much sweeter."
On his thoughts on the Cardinals: "They're good. They're good on offense. They have weapons everywhere. They've got a guy back there that's throwing the ball, Carson Palmer, that's been around for a while. He's seen everything. He's played at a high level, not only this year, but in the previous years. You look at who he is throwing the ball to. They kind of have everything you want. You've got a guy that has been around, Larry Fitzgerald, that can make any play. He can block. He can line up inside, he can line up outside. And they have speed. Michael Floyd is a big, physical, speed guy. John Brown can run. He can take the top off, and they've got a couple other guys that can stretch the field. They've got everything you need on offense to be dangerous and a running back that's really coming on at the end of the season that's made a lot of plays that can not only run the ball but he can catch the ball out of the backfield. They've got skill guys everywhere that can make plays. We've got to make sure we're doing a good job of playing our responsibility, playing fundamental football and not letting them make too many big plays."
On Michael Floyd being similar to Larry Fitzgerald: "I think size-wise they are very similar. I played against Michael when he was at Notre Dame, and he was always a guy that we had circled. This guy, you can't let this guy beat you. He's big. He's physical. He can run. He makes contested throws. He can block. So in that sense I think he is very similar to Larry. I think if you were to take the jersey numbers off of them and line them up it would be tough to figure out who's different. Larry has been around for a long time, and he makes a lot of plays, and I think Michael is kind of working his way up to that area."
On if he's glad to play against a pocket passer rather than one that can run around: "Those guys are stressful with what Russell can do. He can sit back there and he can throw and he can also run around if stuff breaks down. So those guys are difficult to prepare for, but you can't sleep on Carson. You look at last week, the play at the end of the game in overtime when he threw the ball to Larry. He's got sneaky athleticism in the pocket. You look at what he can do. He's going to step up, he's going to run, he's going to spin, he's going to create enough time to throw the ball. I think people kind of try to put certain guys in buckets, but you can't because he can move to get to a spot where he can throw the ball too. He's not a guy that's just a statue. He can move around and create when he needs to."
On Kawann Short's growth this year: "His pressure on the quarterback I think has been the biggest plus to us. Any time you can get a D-lineman to have over 10 sacks and be as disruptive as he is, it helps our job in the back end. You can talk to me or Thomas or Roman (Harper) or Josh (Norman) or Kurt (Coleman) or any of those guys that are playing back there. When there is pressure on the quarterback, the ball comes out quicker. There is less time that you have to cover your guy. It's just beneficial to everyone. It makes everyone's job up front easier. If they got to double (team) KK it makes Charles and Dwan (Edwards) and Kyle (Love) and Star (Lotulelei) and Jared (Allen) and Mario (Addison) and all those guys' (job) so much easier."
On how the team is doing with staying in the moment: "We've been in some big games before, and I think that helps. Obviously the playoff experience the past few years helps us. We have won some games, we have lost some games, and you can learn a little bit from each one. I think that first one, San Fran in '13, I think guys were not too excited but didn't really appreciate the situation. It's we're here, all right let's go out and win. I don't think we took the right steps in order to do that. I think now, this year, because of that game and the two games last year and the game this year, I think guys understand the process that it takes to be successful. I think we are sticking to that, and guys understand that these games are now faster, more physical (and) each play matters more. Thankfully we've had experience, like I said, in the past that's going to benefit us at this point right now."
On what the value is of having a coach who allows the personalities of his players to show: "Guys are loose. Guys aren't tight. Guys aren't worried about what he's going to say. I think Coach's (Rivera) mindset, and like he is, are very simple: come work hard, show up on time, be respectful and appreciate what you have and where you are. I think other than that if you can follow those couple of rules you are pretty much good. As long as you are nice to everyone, you play hard, you work hard and you respect everyone, he kind of gives you free reign, and he's able to kind of pull guys in when maybe they are getting a little too outrageous. But everyone respects Coach, and Coach respects us, and it's a great relationship. He's really worked extremely hard to put it in place, and I think if you ask anyone in there they are very appreciative of it."
On if it is in his nature to be more mature than his age: "I don't think you've got to look at taking into account I'm 24 (years old), but this is your fourth year. I think in your fourth year you've kind of got to start to make strides in the right direction, and I think I am doing that. You bring younger guys in. It's funny for me to think about looking at Shaq (Thompson) and Funch (Devin Funchess), those guys you ask them when they were born and they're mid-90s. It's kind of weird for me to think about, but Thomas always gives me grief for being a 90s baby and now that these guys are kind of getting closer to 2000, it kind of just makes me laugh because you think you are the young guy and the new younger guys come in and you are not the young guy anymore. It has been a fun process, but I think you've got to really respect where you are and what got you there and keep that."
On getting to the Super Bowl for Thomas Davis and other veterans: "Oh yeah. Him, and Ryan and Charles. Those guys have been through winning divisions. They have been through 2-14. They have seen the highs, they have seen the lows, and for them to have the same mindset and willingness to work and believe in the process and have new coaches come in and have Coach Rivera come in and believe in what he does and still set the standard of this is how we do things in Carolina, it's why we are here now. Those guys have really set the foundation for what we have, and it would be sweet for those guys (and) for everyone obviously. For those guys that have been here the whole time and especially for Thomas, what he's been through, Ryan has been through with an injury, and so has Charles. Those guys know what it takes and know what it's about, and it would be cool for those guys to get a win."
A look at Luke Kuechly's career with the Carolina Panthers in photos.