Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier from Press Conference July 26 It’s great to be back in Mankato.
It was great for our football team to have an offseason, to be able to put some things in place before we came back. This is my sixth year coming down here and the fans have always been great. We’ve always had great participation and the people here in Mankato have been just tremendous in their support. We had a chance to get to know some of the people here on campus as well and they’ve been so supportive and they do a great job with the fields and I think our players, the ones who have been here before, are looking forward to going through a training camp and having some familiarity with the new CBA and what we are allowed to do and what we aren’t allowed to do. I think there’s a comfort level there now that wasn’t there a season ago and we have a lot of work to do as we all know. We’ve got a lot of new faces that are going to be on our football team and are going to be starting for us and playing for us. So, as a staff, one of the things we’ve talked about and leading up to training camp and some of the things we talked about even back in OTAs was developing the young players on our football team and trying to get those guys ready for that Jacksonville game and help us throughout the season and then just working to improve throughout training camp. That’s the goal, to try to improve every single day in some phase and if we can do that, we’re hoping everything can come together and we can get off to a good start and have a good football season. We have a lot of work to do but we’re excited to be down here to kick off the 2012 season.
Q: How important was it to get Matt Kalil under contract?
A: That was a big deal. To be able to get Matt signed, we were in discussions last night as we talked about what the next move would be. Very, very excited we were able to get that done. He’s a key part of what we’re trying to do in 2012 and I don’t know who is happier, he or Christian Ponder. Ponder was pretty happy as well. We’re excited to have that done.
Q: What are the discussions with Adrian Peterson as you begin camp?
A: I’m going to sit down with Adrian later this evening. We’ll talk about what the plan will be for him. Just want to get a better feel for where he is physically after I talk with our trainers and our doctors after they take a look at him today and then we’ll talk about what the best plan is for him.
Q: What is the schedule today as far as physicals and things like that?
A: Today is a day where we’re allowed to do physicals. You can do conditioning, we can do meetings but you’re not allowed to do any practicing and that’s what we’ll do, we’ll cover a lot of operational items with our players today. We’ll have an operations meeting. We’ll do a lot of administration duties along with getting their physicals done and then we’ll have a team meeting later tonight and then we’ll have our first walkthrough practice tomorrow morning.
Q: Will you have a conditioning test?
A: We won’t be doing a conditioning test. That won’t be a part of what we do.
Q: What went into making practice at 3:00?
A: A lot of it had to do with the experience from a season ago. As you know, it was the first year with the new CBA and so you’re kind of feeling your way, what’s the best thing to do, how to coordinate practices and we alternated practices a year ago. There were times where we had full-padded practices in the morning and sometimes we had full-padded practices in the afternoon and just looking back at a year ago, I just felt like we needed a little bit more consistency. I also like that you can count on the sun being out at 3:00 in the afternoon for the most part and that was a part of it, the conditioning along with the consistency and some of the things we wanted to get achieved in training camp. We felt like having a 3:00 practice would be more conducive to what we wanted to accomplish.
Q: It’s awfully hot and humid out there. You’ll find out who is in shape.
A: Yeah, you will and we have to do a great job of hydrating. That’s going to be important, that will be a point of emphasis tonight when we meet and we have to do a great job of taking care of ourselves in between practices as well.
Q: Is there a chance you would make any changes if it’s too hot in late afternoon?
A: Yeah, that’s a possibility. We’ll always be conscious of the heat and whether we’re going in the morning or the afternoon, we’ll always be conscious of the weather and do what’s smart.
Q: With OTAs, mini-camp, and a long training camp, this must feel like a luxury this offseason.
A: As you know, no comparison. Just the preparation alone back in the spring. We feel much more prepared for what we have to get done with a new football team and so many new faces on our team. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to extend this training camp. In the past, we’ve left maybe after the first preseason game and we’re going to be here a little bit longer this time which I think will help us, especially when we’re trying to develop players and now with the roster expanded to 90, we have a little bit more time to try to get that done here in Mankato before we go back to Winter Park. It is a huge difference for us and we think it’s going to be a tremendous plus that we’ve had an offseason with our OTAs, with our conditioning and now to come down here and spend three weeks we think is going to be a big plus for us.
Q: Do you expect to see a lot of Jared Allen versus Matt Kalil at camp?
A: There will be some of that. There will be some Jared Allen and Kalil moments in individual drills, there will be some seven-on-seven when the defensive line is doing some one-on-ones with the offensive line. They’ll get some one-on-one work and then they’ll go against each other in some team situations. It should be real good for Matt to go against maybe the best defensive end in the National Football League on a daily basis in practice and I think it will be good for Jared as well because Matt is going to challenge him. He may be a rookie but we think he’s going to be a rookie who can play above being a rookie.
Q: Do you have to temper it at all? You’ve got one guy who has nothing to prove and a guy who is a rookie who feels he has everything to prove.
A: You really want it to be game-like and that’s going to help Matt as much as anything and you watch Jared practice over the years, he only practices at one speed so he’s not going to take it easy on Matt. He’s going to help Matt be a better player so it’ll be good for our team.
Q: Besides Adrian Peterson, is there anyone who is danger of not being able to practice right away?
A: No, everyone is cleared. I met with Eric Sugarman, our head trainer, yesterday and there was nobody on that list that shouldn’t be practicing tomorrow unless there’s a surprise coming down here that I don’t know about but right now, everybody should be ready to go tomorrow.
Q: Does that mean Adrian Peterson?
A: I’m going to talk to Adrian and just get a feel for where he is and what we need to do with him and put together a plan after we talk.
Q: So he’ll be on the field at least?
A: He’ll at least be out there doing something, yes.
Q: Have you talked to him after what happened down in Houston?
A: I’ve talked to Adrian and we’ll monitor that process, see where things end up going and we’ll deal with it as it comes up but looking forward to sitting down and chatting with him when he gets here this afternoon.
Q: If he has to fly back for a day, does he have the okay from you guys?
A: Yeah, we’ll see what the circumstance is and then we’ll handle it when it comes up. We’ll deal with whatever happens once we find out what’s required.
Q: How much have you talked with him over the past couple of weeks?
A: We talked a few different times about different things and we’ve had some good conversations.
Q: Did Eric Sugarman have to go down to Houston and visit him over the past month?
A: He’s working out with a group down there. I don’t think he went down in the last three or four weeks.
Q: Have you had a chance to talk with Percy Harvin yet?
A: Yeah, we talked a couple different times. As a matter of fact, we ran into each other yesterday at the barber shop and we talked some more there just by coincidence and it was great to see him. We’ve had good conversations. He’s looking forward to getting down here and having a great training camp. Obviously, we want him to do well. He’s a key part of what we want to get done here in Mankato and into the season but all is good.
Q: Did you get any clarification from him on his issues?
A: Yeah, I feel good with where things are with Percy. We’ve had some good conversations over the summer and excited that he’s here, excited that we’re all going to be here. The fact that every member of our team is going to be here, the guys we are counting on, it seems like in my conversations, I’ve talked to a number of guys after our mandatory mini-camp, everybody seems to be in the right frame of mind including Percy. It’s exciting.
Q: Did you get chairs right next to each other?
A: They weren’t right next to each other but we pulled them closer so we could be close to each other.
Q: Have you found at all that he’s stirred up the hornet’s nest on his own?
A: In our League, as you know, there are so many different situations you have to be able to deal with and we’re trying to develop our football team and as time goes on, Percy has been one of our leaders, we’re going to be counting on him to lead some of the young guys and help some of the young guys. Just looking forward to him having a great camp and helping us to have a successful season. We need Percy, we need a bunch of guys to do well for us.
Q: Talking to guys over the past couple of weeks, guys have talked about this team potentially being a playoff team. Is that a realistic part of the message you’ll lay out tonight?
A: I think all 32 teams, and you know this and everybody here knows this, in the NFL today, I don’t know if you want to count yourself out of any situation. This is a very fluid League in the way things are. The teams that are sometimes favored, don’t always end up being the favorites at the end of the year and teams that are counted out are sometimes the teams that flip the script a little bit or are in places most people don’t expect before the season began. Not to say that’s going to be us. Our goal is to come down here to Mankato and the same thing we talked about in the spring, it’s to try to continue to improve across the board, with every player on offense, defense and special teams and if we make the necessary improvement and we can come together as a team, we feel like our chances are as good as anybody’s.
Q: How do you treat Jerome Simpson’s reps early in camp since he will be suspended the first three games?
A: Early on, we’re going to keep him in and let him take reps but at some point we’ll have to pare it back because we’re not, as you mentioned, going to have him in those first three games so we’ll have to start getting ready the guys that are going to play in those first three games, get those guys ready, but early on we want to make sure he has a good grasp of our offense and what we’re asking him to do. At some point we’ll have to pare his reps down.
Q: Who are you looking at to step in for him?
A: I don’t know if there’s any one guy that we could point to right now. There would be competition even if we knew Jerome was going to be playing in that first game. Devin Aromshodu will have a chance, (Greg) Childs will have a chance, Bryan (Walters), he’ll have a chance. There are a number of guys who will be out there working to fill that spot when we open up against Jacksonville but I can’t say today there’s one guy we’re counting on to get it done.
Q: What’s unique about this camp with how many new faces that are here?
A: That’s probably the most unique part about it. There are going to be some guys who win jobs in this camp. Not like one or two guys, multiple guys who will win jobs at this camp who didn’t maybe play for us a year ago or didn’t have a major role for us a year ago. That’s going to probably be one of the biggest changes and the competition that we’ve created with the changes on our roster I think is going to be good for our football team but the fact that there are going to be a number of different new faces in the starting lineup will probably be the biggest chance and it will come out of what we’ve done in the spring and what we did here in Mankato.
Q: What is the message you want to give to these players so they know what to focus on?
A: The big thing for us is to really work on improving at every phase on our football team and that includes individually, whether that includes the quarterback position, the wide receiver position, our defensive backs. One of the things that I think helped us this offseason as much as a staff as a team was going back to that Senior Bowl and having a chance to coach in that Senior Bowl. It really became like a mini-camp that we didn’t get a year ago. That was a big deal for us and so we came out of it saying there are some incremental things we can do as a team we think to help us be better in 2012 and we worked on some of those in the spring and the primary message was let’s try to improve across the board with every player, coaches improving, and if we can get that done, when we come out of Mankato, we think we’ll have a chance to come together as a football team and be a much better football team.
Q: You mentioned you are still looking to Percy as a leader. What are the challenges to that?
A: I think one of the things you have to be able to do in Percy’s case is be the Percy that we all know. His teammates respect him so much. So does our coaching staff. He’s a guy who has been there and we were able to count on a season ago when we had, as you guys know, a ton of injuries and really a tough situation. He was one of the guys we could count on throughout the year and if he can continue to be that person that his teammates can trust and can count on and do the things he has done for us in the past, I won’t see any problems with Percy because we know that he loves the game. He has a passion for the game. He wants to bring a championship to Minnesota and when that’s the case, we can all work towards the same common goal. All of us working towards bringing a championship to Minnesota and that’s where he is and that tells me that he has a chance to be the type of leader he can be.
Q: Sometimes when there is a lot of competition, it can bring some heated exchanges during camp. Can you see that being a difference at camp too?
A: We talked when we broke up after the mandatory mini-camp. There were some heated exchanges going on between the players. I remember standing up in front of them on that last day and I said, ‘When we get the pads on, we’ll be able to find out who is who.’ So we are all looking forward to getting the pads on and I think day four is when we’re going to put our pads on and we’ll start separating some of those guys who can talk and some of those guys who can back it up. You’re right, the competition is going to create some of that, some tension in some ways, but that can be a good thing if we handle it the right way.
Q: Back when you hired Alan Williams, you talked about how you wanted to be involved heavily in the defense. Is that something you got done in OTAs and mini-camp?
A: I think it’s going to be ongoing. I think this training camp is a key component to getting things the way we want, especially now that we’ll be able to wear shoulder pads and have some one- on-one competition that we couldn’t have back in the spring. It’ll be ongoing but I definitely want to be a little more involved but not to the point where I’m suffocating those guys and not being able to manage the entire team. I have a lot of confidence in Alan. Part of it is because we have worked together before but I know he is going to do a great job. We think alike in a lot of ways and have a lot of confidence. He’s done a great job to this point. What we did this spring and the steps that we’ve made, we are so far ahead because of that.
Q: How important is Matt Kalil for the progression of Christian Ponder?
A: It’s extremely important and one of the reasons I say that is when Matt signed today, when he came in to the office to get his contract done, one of the first people there to congratulate him was Christian because he understands how important that left tackle position is for him. They end up riding down here together conversing. They’ve been spending time together this offseason. That position in our League for our quarterback, that’s the guy who protects your blind side. He’s your personal protector in so many ways. For Christian’s development, having the right person at that position is a key component to Christian’s success and our offense’s success. He’s important and it’s important we got that deal done today.