Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier
Good afternoon. It feels good to come in here on a Monday after a big win by our football team. It was fun watching that tape with the staff today and just going through it and reviewing some of the positives of our football team. On an injury front, we had some good news regarding Mistral Raymond. There is no fracture. He does have a significant ankle injury. He suffered a bone bruise around that ankle but the good news is, it doesn’t look like we’ll have to put him on IR but he will miss some time for sure as he’s in recovery. But no high ankle sprain, just good news all the way around. It looked as if it may have been something that would require surgery, that’s not going to be the case. Jared [Allen] is better with his neck spasms, we’ll see how he does throughout the week but nothing significant there after they did the MRI and took a look at it. Erin Henderson, we’re still counting on a wait to see mode just to see where he is, has not passed the concussion test yet so we’re still on a wait and see mode there. I think D’Aundre Reed was the only other guy that was banged up at the end of last week and we’ll learn more about him. I think he had a calf muscle pull or strain, so we’ll learn a little bit more about him as the week goes on. Other than that, we came out pretty good. A few bumps and bruises here or there, but just a great team win by our football team. Great job by our staff getting the guys prepared to go out and play against a very good football team, a physical football team. I liked the way our players really accepted the challenge that was presented to them throughout the week as we are trying to adhere to what we want our identity to be as a football team. We want to be a smart football team, want to be a tough football team, we want to be a disciplined football team and I thought there was evidence of that throughout the game yesterday. There were a lot of areas that kind of speak to the type of team characteristics we want to embody. We have a lot of work ahead of us, there’s no question about it, but we saw some things in that ball game yesterday that gives us some hope that we’re definitely headed in the right direction.
Q: How did you think Jamarca Sanford played and does having him instead of Mistral Raymond limit what you can do defensively?
A: I thought he did a good job when he got in there. He had the one play down the sideline with [Vernon] Davis, who presents a lot of problems for anybody that tries to cover him in a one-on-one situation, but other than that he tackled well, had a big tackle against Gore in open field which was good to see. He was good on his assignments; I thought he did a real good job. As far as limiting us in what we do defensively, it really won’t. He practices the same defenses that Mistral [Raymond] would practice if he were in there. We won’t really alter things a great deal, it just means that he’ll have more opportunities to make plays. We’ll still call the defense the way we’ve been calling it.
Q: It was just a bone bruise on Mistral Raymond?
A: He subluxed the ankle which creates a little pain and tension for him for sure, but nothing other than that.
Q: How do you balance the momentum and confidence you gained off of this win with the reality you could be humbled pretty quickly in this league?
A: Well all you have to do is look around the league and see what happens from week to week. There are so many teams you think are going to be favorites at their home venues or even on the road that come up short. It’s a very humbling league, it’s tough to win in the NFL. I think our guys, even though we have a young team, they’re beginning to realize that. The fact that on every Sunday in the National Football League, if you are not on your game, you have a chance of being on the downside of that win-loss column. That’s the reality of the NFL and our guys are learning that. We have to play at a higher level every time we walk out on the field in order to have a chance to be successful. I think they’re seeing what’s happening around the league to understand that this week, our focus has to be on point as we’re preparing for our next opponent.
Q: What kind of confidence do the players get when they get a game plan Wednesday that they believe in and trust will work?
A: It definitely makes a difference, there’s no question about it, but it still comes back to players making plays. I’ve been in situations where the plan may not have been what I thought it should be from a player standpoint, but I also knew that when I lined up, I had to be able to handle my responsibility and that’s all you can do. You don’t ever want to get into a situation where you’re wondering if our game plan is good enough for us to succeed. I always felt like it was my responsibility to make the game plan work and I want our players to feel the same way. Our coaches are going to always try to get them the best game plan possible. But there are going to be things that happen in the course of the game that aren’t going to be just like you thought they would be in the week that you were in preparation for that team and then you have to adjust as the game goes on. That means sometimes, am I good enough to make that adjustment? Whatever that may be from a one-on-one standpoint. Sure enough, you’d love to have the perfect game plan every week, but sometimes it’s about my being able to line up with the guy across from me.
Q: How do you know when to go for it on fourth down, when the impact of converting outweighs the risk of getting stopped?
A: I think sometimes it’s a feel for the game and where you are in the game and what you think your team is capable of doing. That’s kind of the way I tried to do it. Just looking at the situation, where we are, what I think our team is capable of doing and what impact it could have on our team, either positively or negatively, what kind of impact could it have.
Q: On Sunday did you know you were going to do that if you got into that situation?
A: I thought about it during the course of the series. We put together a pretty good drive there, once we got down, I think it was second and three or four, I was thinking ahead, if we get to fourth-and-one or fourth-and-two, what do we want to do? When we got stuffed on third down, right before third down I told Bill [Musgrave], if we’re in four-down territory we’re going to go for it unless we get backed up. If something happens, they push us back to the five or six, then we probably wouldn’t. I wanted him to be thinking ahead as well. Put together a fourth down play if we’re on the one or two yard line.
Q: Do you always give him a one play heads up?
A: I try to, I try to give him a heads up.
Q: How much of that was mentality and just setting a tone for your guys?
A: It had a lot to do with it. It was important, I thought from my standpoint, to let our players know. And I talked to them all week that we were going to be aggressive, weren’t going to back down. I didn’t want them to think that we didn’t have confidence that we could score from one yard out in that situation in that point of the game. There was another scenario a little bit later in the game where it may have come down to fourth-and-1 but it was third-and-1 and I think Adrian [Peterson] got the first down, but my mindset was a little bit different. We were up 17-13 and I was thinking before we got to that point that if we don’t get this first down on third down, we’re going to kick a field goal and not let them have a chance to go down and score a touchdown to take the lead. They were going to have to tie us. Some of it depends on where we are in the game as well.
Q: How do you process what happened with Toby Gerhart late in the game and make sure he doesn’t sit on that for a week?
A: He’ll look at the tape, we’ll look at it with him and talk him through the situations. We have a lot of confidence in him obviously to continue to give him the football, but we know we’re going to need Toby to make big plays for us throughout this season and we’ve got to keep his confidence up. We know he’s capable of holding onto the football. He usually does a very good job with that. We don’t want him to go in the tank and get down. We need him to keep his head up and keep playing for us. But the balance of just encouraging him and letting him know we believe in him, we’ll make corrections that we have to make.
Q: Were you able to figure out what was happening there?
A: No. One of those fumbles, it was a routine tackle and you’ve just got to keep the ball high and tight and protect the football in that situation. They need the ball. We’ve been through that situation a bunch of different times. With four minutes, we know we have to protect the football, we know they’re trying to take the ball away. We trust Toby to protect the ball in that situation and he usually does. We’ll have to get better at that for sure.
Q: What were the breakdowns on Kyle Williams’ returns?
A: Well, we didn’t stay in our lanes. We had some guys who were not where they should have been. They didn’t take on blocks the way they needed to take on blocks. It cost us and it is something that we have to get fixed. I’m sure when our next opponent looks at the tape, probably their first return of the game is going to be that same return. So we will have to make sure we are where we are supposed to be and that we are separating from blocks. We didn’t do a good job on that on both on those long returns.
Q: Any inclination to switch personnel to cure that?
A: We will talk it about it some more today as the day goes on. We think it’s more… I don’t want to say that. We’ll wait until we talk to some of our players when they get in the building here in a little bit.
Q: Was this the best game by the offensive line so far?
A: I think, collectively, yeah and when you consider the front they were going up against, that’s a very good front. For Charlie [Johnson] to do as well as he did against Justin [Smith] throughout the day, for Matt [Kalil] to do as well as he did against Aldon [Smith]. It was a good performance across the board. I thought John [Sullivan] did a good job, Brandon [Fusco] and Phil [Loadholt]. As a group, to rush for 146 yards on that defensive line or that defense, it’s pretty impressive and a lot of the credit has to go to our offensive line. Our backs did a good job, Adrian [Peterson] had a terrific day, a hard day, but he got some tough yards for us. But our offensive line, they created some holes to allow us to get those tough yards.
Q: How important is it for the tight ends to continue blocking as well as they have?
A: For Kyle [Rudolph], that was one point of emphasis throughout the offseason with him, to improve his blocking. We all know how well of a pass-catcher he is, he runs very good routes and he’s one of those guys that Christian [Ponder] is very trusting of when it comes to catching the football. He has worked his tail off on improving his blocking and that’s been big for us. His teammates see it and it’s starting to really come to him in the run game, which is very, very important for us with the way we want to try to run the ball. Now that John [Carlson] is in the mix, we’re trying to help him improve on his blocking as well but that fact that Kyle has become a good point-of-attack blocker, that’s going to help our run game take off really to the point that we feel much more comfortable running his direction as opposed to having to have all our runs away from him. So it’s good.
Q: How do you keep this aggressiveness going forward?
A: We have to keep emphasizing that’s the style we want to play. I think they bought into that, now we just have to keep emphasizing as a staff, and they have to believe in it, and not feel like we have to play any different way just because someone else has success doing it this way or that way. This is how we are successful. I think this will go a long way in helping our guys believe that this is the way we have to play to be successful.
Q: Was it one of your more aggressive games?
A: I don’t know about that. The mindset has always been there. It’s just the situations coming up and our guys executing in those situations makes you look like you’re doing something right but we’ve had other situations, as we all know, where I’ve gone for it one fourth and one and it didn’t work out and you hear the repercussions of that. It’s just our guys doing a great job of executing in some key situations.
Q: What’s it going to be like this week with Jerome Simpson back?
A: We’ll get him on Wednesday, he’s already been in our meetings, but we’ll get him integrated into what we’re doing. We want to utilize his talents as soon as possible. He’s chomping at the bit to get out there and help us but we want to get him integrated right away.
Q: What is going to be the resulting roster move and when do you make that?
A: There’s a three-day exemption with him. Rick [Spielman] was taking us through this this morning. We don’t have to do anything until Thursday after 3:00 p.m. so we’ll make a decision here in the next couple days about what direction we want to go from a roster standpoint. For the next few days we’ll be able to practice with 54.
Q: What is the biggest challenge of getting Jerome up to speed?
A: That’s going to be a little bit of a challenge for him, the contact part of it, wearing the pads again, the speed of the game. The good thing is he’s a veteran player, he’s been in the league for a while. But it’s still different, when you’ve been away from it now for the period of time that he has. We’ll just kind of have to see how he does in practice and that will probably determine how much we’ll get him involved early in the game, but we have to bring him along. We want to utilize his gifts and we definitely want to be able to take advantage of his talents.
Q: What were the biggest benefits of having him around the past three weeks?
A: I think it’s good for him to have been around his teammates so they could continue to get to know him better. Get a feel for how he studies in meetings; does he pay attention in meetings. Just being a part of the culture I think was a good thing for him, and a good thing for his teammates to be around him as well. Then he’s hearing the wide receivers coach, George Stewart, talk about assignments. He’s listening to Bill Musgrave install the offense and the game plan for that week, so he gets a feel for what the in-season routine is like as opposed to what he experienced in the preseason. All of those things you have to think puts him ahead of the curve, the fact that he was able to be involved as much as he was.
Q: How have you seen Christian Ponder and Kyle Rudolph’s relationship develop?
A: I think it’s big and I think it shows up on the field. Those guys are close friends off the field, they do a lot of things together, a lot of charity work along with hanging out together. It carries over to what happens during games. That’s without question one of Christian’s favorite targets, trying to get the ball to Kyle, and for good reason. Kyle usually comes through for him so it means a lot that they have the type of relationship that they have. For a quarterback sometimes the tight end becomes a security blanket and that’s what Kyle has become for him in so many ways. A lot of that has to do with their relationship off the field as well as what happens on the field.
Q: How do you channel the high expectation adversity and avoid coming out flat?
A: I hope that we all learned a lot from our preparation a couple weeks ago. We’re maturing as a team. Hopefully we’ll get to that point, it seems like we are, but it’s definitely something you have to guard against. There will be a lot of people telling our players a lot of positive things this week and I’m sure they’ve got a lot of phone calls yesterday. But in our league, it can change like that (snaps fingers). Our players have to understand that. They have to remember the hard work they put into last week and the focus that they brought to practice every day and how much they did not want to be embarrassed at home. They have to carry that same attitude on the road this week, which is going to be tough, it’ll be a tough environment. We as a staff have to get them to understand how tough it is to win on the road and how important it will be for us to have the same type of focus, or even better focus, this week in practice.
Q: What does it say about Jamarca Sanford being able to step back in and make key plays after losing his starting spot?
A: That’s a good question because Jamarca really had his heart set on being a starter this season. He worked his tail off throughout the offseason. He was really looking forward to it and there’s no doubt there was disappointment when he wasn’t named one of the starters at safety. I tried to encourage him when we made the decision to let him know how quickly things can change in our league. Keep your head up, keep working hard and to his credit, he’s done that. He’s had a good attitude, he wanted to be on the field, but he understood why we did what we did, why we went in the direction that we did. When he had his opportunity, to see him come in and play as well as he did in the role that he had after being a back up, it’s a great example to the rest of our players. What he did on special teams, what he has done, in absence of being a starter, just a great example for the rest of our team. Those are the kind of guys you want on your club. Everybody wants to start but we talk to them all the time that everybody can’t start. You have to be willing to accept your role in order for our team to have a chance to be successful and he’s an example of that. For guys at third corner or fourth corner, he has to accept that role. If he doesn’t, he’s a malcontent in the locker room, he’s pulling guys in another direction of where we’re going; those guys are a problem even though they’re talented. Jamarca is not like that. He’s accepted his role and boy he played well for us yesterday.
Q: Will Jamarca remain on special teams?
A: We’ll have to discuss his role on special teams now that he’s going to get more snaps. He’s a very good special teams player. We’ll probably have to temper that a little bit on special teams with the snaps he’ll get as a regular starter.
Q: What was different on Sunday with how the defense was handed a short field and overcame adversity?
A: I think our guys are really getting back to that attitude that, there was a point, where our defense could win games for our team or keep us in games and give us a chance at the end of games. We kind of talked about that earlier in the week, Antoine [Winfield] went back and talked about that. Some other guys talked about it during the week, Chad [Greenway], just getting that feel back where our defense controls the situation. They did a great job after that long kickoff coming out of the half that could have been disastrous and really turn the momentum if we didn’t hold them to a field goal there. To come up with that stop, along with the stops after the turnovers late, just huge for our confidence and should help our defense and our team going forward. As much as what we do, as well on offense, I still believe that in order for us to go where we want to go, our defense has to be playing at a high level and yesterday they played at a high level against a very good offense, a very balanced offense.