Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier
Good morning. We’re all looking forward to this afternoon’s practice. The meetings have gone well and this being a Thursday in-season practice for us, trying to get the guys acclimated to what an in-season schedule would be like, so we’re going to cover a few different areas in today’s practice, our goal-line, our short yardage, our third down and also some of our base stuff as well. We’re going to throw a lot at them, much like we would during the season. This is part of the evaluation. I tried to explain it to our young guys how well they can retain the information that they get in the meetings and then carry it over to the football field in practice. This is a part of trying to determine if they can handle what would happen during the course of a season when you’re changing game plans week-to-week. From an injury standpoint, Chris Cook still hasn’t been cleared so we’re waiting to get word on him. Hopefully he’ll be able to do something tomorrow. I don’t think he’ll be able to do anything today. Everson Griffen, he’ll be back at practice. He was probably the only guy yesterday that had an illness yesterday that kept him out. Solomon (Elimimian) is probably not going to make it with his hamstring but DeMarcus Love looked pretty good yesterday when we watched him on tape and talked with him after practice as well. He feels pretty good so it looks like he’s going to have a chance of maybe playing in this ball game which will be good for him and for our team, just to be able to get some work from him in the preseason. Other than that, nothing different with the other guys. I know some of you were wondering about Adrian’s (Peterson) situation. It’s a fact, we’re going to hold him out of these preseason games. It’s just a part of the progression. We think he’s doing a good job. There are no setbacks, that’s not the reason we’re doing it. We just feel like more time with him in practice with some of the things we’re doing and the progression of getting him ready for the season is the right thing to do. That doesn’t guarantee that he’ll be ready for Jacksonville but what it does is, it gives us more time to throw more things at him in practice and get him prepared and hopefully there won’t be any setbacks. There haven’t been up to this point. He’s continued to progress. Everything has gone better than what can be expected up to this point but it’s a decision that we made. We talked with him about it. For the first time in our conversations, he kind of seemed as if he understood. He even used the word patience, and I was like, ‘Wow, finally. It’s clicking.’ He’s on board. Everybody is on board. This is the right thing to do. We’ll just see how it progresses over the next couple of weeks here.
Q: Is his new found patience due to him seeing how fast things are going on the field?
A: I’m not sure if that’s what it is. I know I talked with his dad last night. I know his dad has been talking to him about listening to the coaches and the doctors. That may have had a little bit to do with it. He knows that we’re trying to do what is best for both him and the team and he is on board, which is great.
Q: How did your mindset change from a few weeks ago? You originally wanted him to get some game time.
A: Yeah, just looking at where we are and the time that we have this week and even next week and just trying to determine what’s best for him and what’s best for the team. It just felt like there were more things that we want to give to him in practice than we could by trying to get him ready for a game, say for this instance Friday night. There are a few more things that we’d like to be able to do in a controlled setting rather than a game situation.
Q: Does giving him that extra time allow for him to heal?
A: That wasn’t as big of a factor just because of how he has progressed along the way. He’s been so far ahead in his rehab all along, even the things he is doing in practice. You guys are witnesses as well, there is nothing that makes you feel like you have to pull back just watching him move around but the more things we can give to him in that time we have leading up to the season opener, the better we’ll have, as far as tape is concerned to be able to evaluate, what’s the best thing to do, whether to let him go in that first game or to hold him back a little bit longer.
Q: How is the offensive line looking?
A: We’ve been really pleased with the work that we’ve gotten. I thought they progressed from the first ball game to the second ball game. Part of being able to judge the offensive line is how are they working as a unit and I think that is coming together for us. Matt (Kalil) has done a good job in the time that we’ve had him and the game experience that he’s getting. I like some of the things that Charlie (Johnson) has done at the left guard position. He seems to be getting better. (John) Sullivan is playing very well for us and providing some good leadership as well. Brandon Fusco, we still have to keep giving him more opportunities to be in situations and this weekend will be a good test for him. I think San Diego has a good front so that will be a good test, although it is a 3-4, and Phil (Loadholt) has been a lot more consistent than he has in the past. As a unit, I think that first unit is coming together. We’re going to be a better offensive line than we were in the past because of that but we still have some work to do. There are still some things that we want to get better at. Part of it is getting Brandon a little bit more experience and letting Charlie get a better feel along with Matt, what it’s going to be like playing side-by-side and that will come as they continue to get more reps.
Q: How much time will the starters get on Friday?
A: We talked about making it at least to the half and probably a series coming out of halftime on both sides of the ball with our starters. That’s the way we’re approaching it at this point.
Q: Will you stay true to the ‘no contact’ policy with Adrian Peterson over the next couple of weeks?
A: No, there is going to be a point where we’ll want to bang him up a little bit. I don’t know if we’ll take him to the ground but we definitely have talked about giving him a little shock to see how he responds. We’re going to do some things in practice to see how responds to a hit and then go from there.
Q: What are the things you want to see out of Adrian in order for him to play in the opener?
A: Part of it is going back to what Jeremy just asked, how he responds when some of the guys put a pad on him, how does he handle that? When bodies fall in front of him, how does he handle that? Does he stop and plant like the Adrian of old or does he just come to a standstill and then he’s liable to take a real serious hit. There are some things that we want to see and we’ll put him through some paces the next few days and just see how he responds. We gave him a lot more work yesterday and the results were very good. We really loaded him up and just talking with him today, he had no residual effects, no negatives, so that was encouraging. We’ll just keep giving him a little bit more.
Q: How many snaps is he getting right now?
A: Yesterday, we got him about 18 carries. We gave him a heavy load just to see how he would handle it, try to put him in some pass situations as well and we’ll keep adding different things that we like to see him do and see how he handles it.
Q: Have you talked to him about getting over that mental hurdle and can you accomplish that in practice?
A: We can get some things done in practice but still, until you play in a game, practice is still practice and a game is totally different, the speed of the game. There is no way I can stand here today and tell you we’re going to simulate game speed in practice, no.
Q: Do you have a target date for his first contact?
A: No, we’ll continue to just give him a little bit more and make a determination when that time is but it will definitely be in advance of Jacksonville.
Q: How many snaps do you want Toby Gerhart to have?
A: We’re not going to do a whole lot more with Toby than we’ve done in these first two preseason games, not going to feel like we need to ramp up his carries. I don’t think that’s necessary but we’re going to give him some snaps and let him continue to get a feel for game situations but we’re not going to overload him with carries. We’re going to need him in a big way against Jacksonville and we’ll limit the number of touches he’ll have in this ball game on Friday night.
Q: Do you have a plan for the following week at Houston for how much you will use him?
A: We’re going to see what happens in this ball game and where we are when we come out of that game and then make a decision.
Q: What questions would you like to have answered by your defense?
A: I’d like for them to build on what they did this past Friday night, continue to come up with those turnovers, continue to play good run defense and do well on third down. We want to begin to build that confidence that we can do certain things. There are some individuals we want to see come along. We still have to make some decisions with our secondary. We want our linebacker Jasper Brinkley to make progress. We want to see some of those defensive linemen that we’re taking a look at make some progress as well but as a unit, understanding how we’re built and we need to do a good job against the run. Against San Diego, I think we’ll get tested. They run the ball well. They have a good pass attack with the quarterback that they have and with the receivers they have but we’re going to see if we can play good run defense.
Q: What is it that is not locking up that job for Brandon Fusco?
A: No, we just continue to put him in more situations. Part of what he’s doing with the depth at the position not having Geoff Schwartz to participate. We are working Chris DeGeare, not having DeMarcus Love to find out if he can play guard and tackle. So you don’t want it to be start at default. You want to keep putting him in situations to see how he handles things and then make a determination is this the best thing for the team. He has done a good job so far, but he has a limited amount of experience so we want to keep giving him more and see how he responds.
Q: Do you prefer to keep Brandon Fusco in there to keep continuity?
A: Yeah, that’s how we will approach it. He will start in this ballgame on Friday and he will be with the first unit and we will see how he handles it. Part of what we are trying to do is that you want that unity on that offensive line. That is part of a successful offensive line if they can play together, practice together, and be around each other.
Q: Is it fair to say Kyle Rudolph did not have a concussion because he is already back at practice?
A: Yeah, his was a little bit different. In just talking with our medical staff and even talking with him, he doesn’t think he had a concussion, he thought it was more with his eardrum. We still had to go through concussion protocol and that’s what they took him through.
Q: Did he have a cut? Because that’s what it looked like they were treating him for on the sidelines.
A: I’m not sure about that.
Q: Have you ruled Chris Cook out for this game since he is not back at practice yet?
A: Yeah, I don’t think we will try to put him out there with this short amount of time. I’m hoping that we can get at least a day of practice with him tomorrow. We will see.
Q: Does that mean that Josh Robinson or Chris Carr will play in his place on Friday?
A: Yeah, probably Robinson or Carr will end up getting the majority of those reps. We will see which one we decide to start, but it will definitely mean Josh (Robinson) will get more reps with Chris (Cook) being out.
Q: With the rookies needing to come in this year and really contribute, have you been pleased with how they have come in and really shown something?
A: Yeah, I have. Our rookie class is doing a good job. I think the coaches are doing a good job bringing them along and getting them ready for the season. It’s not one of those years where you come into a team as a rookie and you wait your turn. We are asking Josh (Robinson), Harrison (Smith), Matt (Kalil), even Rhett (Ellison) and others to play and play a lot of snaps for us during the regular season, not just the preseason. There’s a lot on their plate and they understand that. It seems like they are relishing this opportunity and that’s what we need. I’ve been pleased with the way they’ve responded.
Q: Where is Brandon Burton? Is he still in the mix?
A: Brandon has improved, he has made some strides. We always talk to him about being a little more physical and playing with a sense of urgency, and he is doing that more and more. We are going to need him to do a good job on special teams in this game on Friday night, that’s going to be a big part of the evaluation when you are not a starter, yet when he does get in on the corner position, finding ways to make plays. He’s much improved; we are pleased with his progress.
Q: How have these guys handled being back at Winter Park and going through a game week?
A: Yesterday was a little different for them because the way we practiced in Mankato was a lot different than we practiced yesterday here as we got into season mode. So early on it was a little different for them, we had to push them along and get them to get with it, especially with so many new guys who have never been in the NFL and have never experienced a game week type practice. It was a little different but they got the hang of it, and we should be better today.
Q: Are there any 1’s versus 1’s today?
A: It’s card work but we will have some situations like at the end of practice today we will have some two minutes, and we will have some situations where one’s go against one’s. For the most part we are servicing one another where somebody is a scout team.
Q: After missing the first two weeks, where does Robert Blanton fit in?
A: We are trying to determine that. We are hoping that he can play in this ballgame on Friday night so we can get some tape on him and evaluate him in game situations. When he was out there he did a good job in the offseason program that we had then the short time that he was in camp, but we want to get some game tape just to be able to evaluate him a little better. Hopefully he will be able to play this Friday night, if not, for sure the Houston game, so we will see. Yesterday he finished practice and he did well, so we have our fingers crossed hoping that he will play Friday night.
Q: What is his biggest hurdle on making that position?
A: I think he just needs to get practice. When you are making a transition like he is doing, going from corner to safety, you need practice, you need time on task. He has missed a ton of time, so we need to get him some reps. I hope he will be able to finish this week’s practice because the only way he is going to get a feel for the transition, and we will get a feel for how well he is making the transition is if we see him doing it.
Q: What did Mistral Raymond go through last year having to miss so much time?
A: The good thing for Mistral and probably the biggest thing about the transition is you go from being at the corner where you do have the sight line that can sometimes help you with certain situations, to now being out in space and having to make the calls on defense opposed to someone giving you the calls when you are at the corner. It is a lot more mentally, there is a lot more required physically as well as far as ghaving a better understanding about angles and boradness of the field. So it is a little bit different than locking up a receiver and just playing my area when you are playing safety. So there are some things mentally and physically different than playing the corner position and the only way you can get comfortable in doing that is by experiencing it. In Robert’s case he has missed a lot of time, where as Mistral, I think he had a hamstring at some point in camp and as time went on a year ago, he got more and more experience and ended up starting for us at the beginning of the year.`
Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer
Q: You had four guys working with punt return on Friday, any thoughts on the competition?
A: Buffalo punted very well the other night, both of their punters did a very good job. We didn’t quite get the opportunities that we wanted, we didn’t block good enough. All four of those guys did a decent job, hopefully we’ll do the same thing on Friday night and get a few more opportunities to try to solidify who that is going to be because we’re going to run out of time to make that decision. I have my ideas because of practice tape and as I tell these guys, all these young guys especially, practice is just as important as a game. We’re evaluating the show teams, the regular teams and of course all the preseason games.
Q: How close is the competition with those four?
A: The guy I’m most comfortable with back there would be Marcus Sherels because he’s done it before and he is a very sure handed guy. Josh Robinson has some juice to him as you have seen on defense as well. Brian Walters has been there before, he’s done it and Jarius Wright is kind of in the developmental stage right now to be honest with you, but he’s getting better which excites me because he has a lot of talent as well.
Q: What is Jarius’ biggest step to take?
A: Experience. It has to be experience because athletically he can do it and he’s come light years since the spring in terms of catching the ball, tracking it and catching it, all the things we coach every day in specialist period before practice. He is getting better and hopefully he’ll get an opportunity to go again. He had the 15 yard return the other day, I know it was called back because of the penalty, but he did a pretty good job on that one, but there are some things he can do better. The fact that he’s catching the ball in game situations is going to help him, the more he does that.
Q: Whether it’s Jarius or Josh, what is your level of concern with them?
A: Obviously indoors it won’t be as big of a deal but then you have a guy coming in this weekend like Mike Scifres, who I’ve gone against many, many times over the years, and he’s just going to bombs away. We’ll have our guys a little bit deeper, hopefully it’ll be a little bit easier to track, obviously it’s not outdoors, but when we get outside my concern level goes up because of the inexperience with those two young guys.
Q: How hard do you end up lobbying when it comes to cuts?
A: Like any roster spot, obviously returner is extremely important, but like any roster spot at this time of the year I have to pick and choose my battles. It just depends how well they’re playing on offense and defense and how much I can go to bat for them. That’s why I like to watch practice and listen to the other coaches and their evaluations of their position players. It’s going to be real interesting in the next couple of weeks what we end up doing and I think this year compared to last year, we have a lot more competition at a lot of different spots, which is a good problem to have. Last year we were almost at 53 at this point, this year there are so many positions up for grabs and our head coach being a guy who really supports special teams and understands and our general manager who supports special teams, they both understand that at the end of the day, we’re going to have to have some guys step up and play for us on special teams on Sundays. That’s going to go into the decision making process.
Q: You’ve had Josh back for a week, does he seem more comfortable?
A: Yeah, Josh doesn’t get rattled by much. He’s a pretty easy going guy, it’s about a 180 from me, I get a little uptight, especially on game day. His sense of urgency, I’ve learned, is higher than it looks. He’s a easy going guy and likes to joke around and smiles a lot, which is great, but I think his sense of urgency is pretty high and he wants to get better, he wants to learn, and he’s got a lot better since the spring.
Q: How do you weigh explosiveness with young guys to stability with the other guys?
A: At the end of the day, I’ve always told those guys ball security. I’ve preached that since I’ve been here like most special teams coordinators do. Ball security is number one. We have to give the ball back to the offense. If I don’t feel comfortable or the head coach doesn’t feel comfortable with putting a guy out there that I’m not sure if he’s going to catch it or not, even though if he does catch it he might get a big play, I’ll go with the guy who is going to be more secure. At the end of the day, we have to get the ball back at the end of that play.
Q: Would there be a scenario when someone plays indoors and someone plays outdoors?
A: I think I want to find the right guy that is going to be able to do it full time. I guess if it’s going to be a situation where we’re going into Chicago and its November, December and it’s going to be cold and windy, we might make that decision on game day or the night before based on the weather report. In terms of preparing and getting ready for the week, you have to rely on your number one guy and that’s who you want back there, whoever that may be.
Q: Offense and defense follow a tight script, do you have more flexibility to improvise?
A: The great thing with the first two games, I think the first week we had maybe 36 guys playing the core phases, last week we had more opportunities, we had up to 42 different guys play and they deserve that. The guys need that and deserve to have that on tape because we have had a lot of guys practice very, very hard and prepare very, very hard for each one of these games. There probably won’t be as many guys in this game as I’d like to use the first and second group that will help prepare for Jacksonville, get them out there. The guys that will play in the second half of the game or the fourth quarter of this preseason game, those will be the guys on the bubble or maybe they have a chance to make it special teams wise. They’re still going to get opportunities. The fourth game they’re going to get a lot of opportunities, we’re going to play a lot of different guys, the guys that are left over.
Q: Audie Cole made his splash on defense, does he have a home on special teams?
A: We had Audie at the Senior Bowl so he heard a lot of our techniques and our coaching points back in January. He has done a nice job in improving and it’s important to him, I know that. He has a sense of urgency, he is very, very coachable. He’s a little bit of a different athlete, he’s a bigger, longer guy compared to some of the other linebackers like Larry Dean or even Tyrone McKenzie. He has improved immensely since the spring and I am excited about his progress and development.
Q: Was Blair’s one miss a clean hold?
A: It was a very good snap and hold, he just pushed it right which he did a little bit in training camp. We have to keep working on that and understand that his hips need to be aligned with the target and those little things that we work on during our specialty period. The great thing about Blair is that after that miss, he came back and made virtually the same kick, just two yards shorter and drilled it, and then he made a 40-yarder and another. He didn’t miss and I was very excited about that. That is where you kind of figure out mentally if the guy can handle it and he responded very, very well.
Q: Is Cullen Loeffler still knocking off some rust?
A: I think he struggled a little bit. Cullen is such a true pro and it means so much to him. When he threw one back and it wasn’t quite what it needed to be, he pressed a little bit to be honest with you. Like any player, when you start pressing you starting thinking and you don’t react like you normally do. That game is in the past, it’s over and done with, and that’s what I told him this week. Yesterday we had a period in here while the guys were outside and we worked for a half hour and he was great and he’ll do fine today and be back to normal.
Q: It speaks to how good he is, he is still in the catch frame.
A: They’re still in the catch frame but Chris Kluwe did a phenomenal job. Chris put them down, put them on the spot, got the tilt and got the laces on it, all but one. On one the laces were a little bit off. He did a really good job and he’s worked really hard at that. He’s another pro that works hard at it and we have him in here and he doesn’t like that little jugs machine but we’re going to keep working on it because it’s paid dividends already.
Q: Blair can obviously kick it out of the endzone but were you trying to some other things?
A: No we were trying to kick him out of the endzone.
Q: Even on the squib?
A: It was good for our kickoff team to react to that because that’s going to happen at times. I’ve told Blair, we don’t need three out of nine, we need maybe one out of ten that’s like that because he’s going to try to stroke them and hit them hard and get down field and sometimes he’s going to miss hit them a little bit. That was too many miss hits the other day and he knows that. He will be more consistent, obviously he has a big time leg and I’m excited about him in that regard.