Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier
Good morning guys. We had a good walk through. We had a guest come through, Travis Browne from the Ultimate Fighting Championship, he’s here for a fight on Friday night and lot of our players are big MMA fans so it was nice to meet him and glad he was able to come out and check us out a little bit. I think our guys are focusing in on a big ball game for our football team against the Titans. Playing at home in front of our fans is always something we look forward to. We think we have a stadium that creates a lot of issues for other teams. When our fans get into it like they often do, it’s difficult for opposing teams and we’re going to need great fan support on Sunday against a team that, despite their record, they played very good teams, they’re a much better team than their record shows and our players know that from watching tape. We’re going to have to play our best game of the season in order to be successful at home on Sunday.
Q: Did you get any update on Erin Henderson passing a test?
A: He’s going to be able to go through some things today so they cleared him to the point where he can go through parts of our practice and then they’ll evaluate it again tomorrow after he’s done with some of the things he’ll do today. With Jared [Allen], he’s a little bit sore today with a groin. We’re going to hold him out of practice today, probably the same thing with Michael Jenkins as well with the rib contusion, just hold him back. [Andrew] Sendejo, he probably won’t do anything either. Those are probably the only guys that won’t participate but we think they’ll all be fine, other than Andrew, we’re not certain about.
Q: What is Erin able to do?
A: We’re going to let him go through parts of practice, he can’t go through the entire practice so we’ll see how he does with the parts we are able to give him.
Q: Do you have an indication of why he’s still out two and a half weeks later?
A: Not certain as to why it’s taken this length of time but as you know, you‘re going to err on the side of caution when it comes to a head injury. That’s what we’re doing, that’s what our doctors are doing.
Q: Is your anticipation that he’ll be far enough along to play on Sunday?
A: That’s my hope. I was hoping the same thing a week ago so hoping that he’ll be able to practice tomorrow, they’re clear him and say, ‘Hey, you can do everything.’ The fact that it’s to the point where he can participate some today, that’s a good sign.
Q: What has a good start done to this team?
A: It definitely creates confidence on a team when you have early success like we’ve had. You believe a lot more in the things that you’re doing. Those are the positives, I think they realize it’s very early in our season but it creates some confidence and a little bit of swagger in some areas on your team and that’s a good thing. You need that in our League, it’s so, so competitive as we all know.
Q: Can you talk about some of the things you did in training camp to establish discipline?
A: Well actually, goes beyond training camp for us as we were established in the foundation for this season. It goes all the way back to April 23rd when they came back in the building. They were allowed to come back in the building under the new CBA rules and were beginning to establish the foundation for this 2012 season. We just continued to build on that throughout the offseason and into training camp, just explaining to our guys what we thought was necessary to have a successful season and what it was going to take for that to happen. Fortunate for us, we had the time to do that by having an offseason. The guys have really bought into it and that was evidenced by their participation in the offseason program which for us, when we talk about the 2012 season, it’s not just training camp, we told them that early on. For us to get the type of participation we had in the offseason, that meant that guys understood in our last meeting when they were going home on their vacations in January and when I explained to them how important it was that we had great participation in the offseason program if we were going to turn it around, they believed that and they showed up. It’s just been building from there.
Q: What were the challenges for Letroy Guion to get to that weight?
A: We gave him a prescribed weight and to his credit, as opposed to fighting it, early on it was a little touchy for him because he had not played at the weight that we were asking him to be at. As time went on he bought into it, he realized it was for the best. This is what we thought we needed at the position and Brendan Daly has done a very good job of explaining to him why we wanted him at a certain weight and what it would do for our team and for him as well. To his credit, he’s worked at it, he’s kept his weight down, it hasn’t been an issue, it’s right where we wanted it to be. The results are in his play. He’s playing very well for us.
Q: What gives you confidence this team will be able to manage success and deal with having a target on its back?
A: Just seeing how they responded after the San Francisco game, leading up to the Detroit game, after the Indy game; just seeing the focus and the attention to detail by this group. I think we have good leadership on our team. I think we have some veteran guys who know how quickly things can change in our League and it doesn’t mean that you’re going to play 10 years or 11 years or 12 years; you have to seize the moment and they’ve done a good job of explaining to our young players we have to seize this opportunity. They see the hour glass, this isn’t an hour glass, drooling away for some of them and they’re doing a good job of bringing the young guys along with them. That helps a lot. I think that will be a part of our, hopefully, continue to mature as a team.
Q: Do you address the season in quarters?
A: We actually do. We actually put up a graphic on Monday, talked with them exactly about that, just showing them where we were at the end of the first quarter and what we have to do in the second quarter in order to continue to be a viable team in our League. One of the things that happens sometimes in that second quarter, it begins to separate. You start seeing teams that are for real and those that are pretenders. We want to be a team that’s for real. So we did, we went through some things with our team in regards to that.
Q: What do you see out of Chris Johnson on tape?
A: He sure looked that way in that Texans game. He looked like the Chris Johnson that we are all familiar with. I think it was 141 yards in 25 carries, I mean that’s a good Texans run defense that he was running against. He had a good day so we know we’re going to have to come ready to play and play some good run defense against their offense.
Q: What do you think they did different with him there versus the first three games where he wasn’t very productive?
A: Well, the obvious is they probably blocked a little bit better and he ran with some authority throughout the game and they continued to give him the football. They were committed to running the ball and they had success running it.
Q: Is he one of the most dangerous running backs you’ll see thus far?
A: That Maurice Jones-Drew, although he was coming off a long hold out, he’s a pretty special back as well so we had to pay attention to him also. Chris [Johnson] is a very good back but Maurice Jones-Drew is pretty good also.
Q: What are some of the things this team has to do in the second quarter?
A: I wanted to remind them of some of the things they’ve done in this first quarter to help us to be where we are right now and how we couldn’t have a regression in certain areas. I tried to point out what we’ve done, how we got to where we are and the things I thought were necessary for us to go forward. Part of it would be our focus in practice and our preparation each and every week, not taking any situation for granted. Just understand what we’ve done to get to this point. Just tried to highlight some of those things we’ve done that I think we’ve done well, some of those things that I think we need to improve on because other teams are watching tape and trying to find areas where that they can exploit. So I tried to point those things out to them.
Q: A lot of people outside Minnesota are surprised you’re 3-1, sounds like you’re not taking anything for granted?
A: Oh no, it’s so early in the season and we’ve all seen teams that have gotten off to good starts and they’re nowhere to be found when December rolls around. We don’t want to be one of those teams. We know we have a lot of work to do, we know we have a lot of improvement to do, but all of us have been around it long enough to know that there are no champaign bottles being popped in September. We have to be smart.
Q: What has Christian Ponder done well that might not be noticed from the outside?
A: I think his ability to make better decisions in the pocket. There were times in comparison to, say a year ago, some of those plays where he’s throwing the ball away would have been sacks. Some of those plays where he’s throwing the ball away would have been interceptions. He’s just making much better decisions and more decisive in some of the things that he’s doing in the pocket and even when we check certain plays at the line of scrimmage, his command and his confidence in what he’s doing. You have to attribute the offseason work that he did with Bill Musgrave, our offensive coordinator, and Craig Johnson. He’s just much more confident and much more in control in making much better decisions for us at the quarterback position.
Q: When you were looking at quarterbacks in the first round, how much did you look at Jake Locker?
A: We looked at Jake extensively like we did with a number of guys that were in that draft class. There were some good quarterbacks in that class and we spent time with Jake, we spent time, of course, with Christian, with Cam (Newton) and different guys. We did a lot of homework on Jake, just like we did, obviously, with Christian.
Q: How do you evaluate the pros and cons of each of those guys as you were trying to make that decision?
A: Things worked out for us. I mean, the pros and cons that we had set up, it didn’t really come into play. We knew what we liked about Christian. Jake was gone maybe four or five picks before we got to our pick so it really didn’t matter what the pros and cons were. We felt real good about Christian and we were fortunate that he was still on the board. We knew there were some other teams that really liked Christian as well and we thought they might try to jump us to get him and it worked out well for us.
Q: Are you surprised at how many teams have winning records a quarter of the way through the season?
A: Not when you understand the current NFL. With the parity that’s in our League and how it’s been proven every week, anybody can beat anybody in today’s NFL. It’s just the nature of today’s game so no, I’m surprised by the parity and where things are. It’s just different, it’s a different NFL and that’s what makes it so exciting for our fans. They know that every Sunday, any team can win. We’ll see how it goes forward.
Q: What’s impressed you the most about Harrison Smith so far this season?
A: How much poise he plays with. I mean, he’s not overwhelmed by any of the situations he’s been put in. He was facing one of the best passing offenses in the League on Sunday and to make some of the plays he made and to play with the awareness that he played with, we hadn’t seen that at the safety position in awhile here. It was good to see a guy play with such poise, play with control, not panic, make plays in the run game, make plays in deep pass defense. It’s been impressive watching some of the things he does and the way he practices, the way he prepares, he’s doing a good job. Very, very fortunate that we have him.
Q: Is there a reason why Kyle Rudolph’s production in the passing game has gone up and down?
A: Some of it’s how people defend him. That has a little bit to do with it but he’s doing a very good job in the run game for us, we find him the red zone. They did some things in the red zone that game on Sunday to try to take him away and we’ve got to try to do some things going forward because we realize people are going to try to target him a little bit in the red area but he’s doing a good job for us. There are times where we want to get the ball to him but we’re not able to it to him for different reasons but it has nothing to do with Kyle. He’s doing everything we’re asking him to do.
Q: You had also mentioned the same with John Carlson. Is it something teams are doing?
A: We’ve tried a few different things to get him the ball on different occasions and I think he got his first catch in the Detroit game but we had a number of plays called for him, it just hasn’t worked out yet but we know he’s going to be a big factor in our pass offense. He’s doing a good job in run blocking. His time will come. The good thing is we are making some plays on offense but John is going to be a big factor for us, we believe that.
Q: John Carlson didn’t get as many snaps as Kyle Rudolph on Sunday. Would you like for it to be more evenly split?
A: Yeah, we’ll do that at times but we also got Rhett (Ellison) in there, we got him some snaps as well so between the three of them, we’re going to rotate those guys based off what the defense is doing, little bit of it is. But we definitely want to get John involved and we’ll continue to work to get him involved.
Vikings Quarterback Christian Ponder
Good win against Detroit, but we’re here on a Wednesday to get back to work. Watching tape on Tennessee, they’re going to be a good team. I don’t think their record portrays how good of a team they are. They are 1-3 right now. They’ve played really good teams. They’ve been in pretty much every game that they’ve played in. We’re looking for a challenge. We’re excited to be back home at Mall of America Field with our home fans. Obviously, last game the atmosphere was unbelievable and hopefully with us winning, more and more people will come. It’s going to be a heck of an atmosphere and we’re excited to be back.
Q: How much was Detroit able to take away Percy Harvin or was it just what you were trying to do?
A: Not a whole lot. There wasn’t much double coverage on him or anything. They weren’t doing anything schematically to take him away.
Q: Did you notice the defense doing anything differently with Jerome Simpson in the lineup?
A: Not really. They were playing man coverage and we just kept trying to take that matchup away. They didn’t play anyone over the top of him or anything.
Q: What was your reaction when they sent in the play on that late pass play to Jerome?
A: It was big. I was excited. Anytime I get to throw the ball I’m excited about it. In that situation, it was a gutsy call and I’m glad Coach [Bill] Musgrave trusts me and Jerome to complete that ball. It was huge for us to flip the field position. You end pinning them back where they had to have an unbelievable drive to tie the game and fortunately it worked out for us.
Q: Are you going to take more shots down the field the more you get Jerome in the offense?
A: We are always calling shots in every game that we’re in. It’s just to the point that if it’s not there, I’m not going to force it downfield. I think that they’ve always had trust in me. They’re calling the plays to get downfield we just haven’t had the options to get down there yet.
Q: Do you notice the defensive ends getting their hands up more looking for those bubble screens?
A: Yeah, definitely. You saw [Cliff] Avril almost pick that ball. They know that we’re trying to get the ball to Percy and they’re going to try to take those gimmicky plays away and that’s fine. We’ll find ways to get him the ball other ways. We ended up calling that play again and went to the other side and threw the screen to Jerome [Simpson] on the left because we knew they were going to try to take it away so we have options and we have answers for everything.
Q: The corner was just staring at Percy on that bubble screen so does that open up a double move?
A: Yeah, definitely. We know Coach [Bill] Musgrave is going to come up with things to take advantage of their focus. Obviously, they’re going to try to scheme up against us and try to take those things away and we’re always scheming against them. We’re brighter on this side of the ball anyways.
Q: Could you sense frustration from Detroit that they knew you were going to run and you were still running it consistently and getting what you needed?
A: That’s a good sign. They were going a lot of single-high, putting a lot of safeties in the box trying to take it away and Adrian [Peterson] kept running the ball really well and the offensive line was opening up holes. I think Jerome Felton is a guy who hasn’t gotten a lot of recognition but watching him on tape, he’s done a heck of a job lead-blocking for Adrian. It’s important. We’re a run-first team for sure and that’s kind of our identity so it’s important for us to establish the run and establish the line of scrimmage and we’re going to keep doing it against every team we play.
Q: When you are able to run the ball like that, how much does that allow you to dictate what you want to do?
A: It’s big. Obviously, everyone knows when you have a good running game it’s going to open up the passing game. You’ve seen a lot of teams abandon the running game and just go straight passing. That’s not what we’re doing. Good thing is, when you’re getting two, three, four yards, you’re always staying ahead of the sticks and that’s important for us.
Q: Coach Frazier talked about seizing the moment. As a second year player, do you feel that urgency?
A: Yeah, definitely, especially after last year being 3-13. It’s not too often we’re going to be 3-1. I don’t know. Hopefully it is going to happen often. Look at Dan Marino, a guy who went to the Super Bowl early on in his career and never went back, and I never know when my career is going to end. I’m always one injury away, and that’s for any player. You always have to take advantage of the moments and we’re 3-1 right now but we haven’t accomplished anything so we want to make sure we do accomplish our goals when we have these opportunities.
Q: How do you guys size up the second quarter of the season?
A: That’s kind of been our approach. We’ve gone week-to-week with games and we’ve also kind of broke it down into quarters and we went 3-1 in the first quarter and right now we are 0-0 in the second quarter. Obviously, we would like to win each quarter and it’s huge advantage for us to have three games at home. I feel like playing at the Metrodome, playing at Mall of America Field is such a disadvantage for the away team. It gets loud in there, especially on the offensive side of the ball for them. We’re excited about that. I think it’s going to be big for us and we just have to focus on putting in that preparation and that work to win the second quarter.
Q: Do you think staying committed to the run is ultimately going to make you successful when the rest of the league is passing so much?
A: Every team is different. Some guys are going to win throwing the ball but right now, running the ball is working well for us so we’re going to stick with it until things change. We have the best running back in the NFL so we’re just going to keep giving him the rock.
Q: How well did you get to know Jake Locker during the draft process?
A: Not a whole lot. I was at a couple events with him. From my memory, he’s an awesome guy. I know a lot of guys respect him. I respect him, he’s a good player, and what he did at Washington. I don’t know if he’s playing. Is he playing this week? I liked him every time I’ve been around him.
Q: When you look back at getting drafted, do you think you fell into the right spot for you?
A: Definitely. I love being here. I feel like I fit really well with Coach Musgrave and with this offense. Obviously, now getting to play early and getting to play early last year, I feel like I’m definitely in the perfect spot.
Q: What are you most proud of about the way you’ve played the first quarter of the season?
A: I think no turnovers probably, no interceptions. That was obviously my biggest fault last year, was turning the ball over way too much. To kind of correct those things and put in a lot of time to correct those things and it’s paying off. I just have to continue at it. It’s only the first quarter of the season so I have three quarters to go and hopefully some extra quarters after that.
Q: Did you feel in competition with Jake Locker going through the whole pre-draft process?
A: No, not really. I had no idea who was going to get picked where. I went into the whole draft process, is I knew my senior season wasn’t that great and I had to do everything possible to make myself better. I wasn’t really competing against other guys. Our film was our film and there wasn’t anything that could change that and you can’t really change how certain teams feel about you so I never really saw it as a competition.
Q: Do you recall meeting with Tennessee?
A: Yeah, they worked me out and I took a visit there. I thought everything went well but it’s so hard with that process because no one is really going to show their cards on how they feel about you.
Q: Can you put your finger on why Kyle Rudolph’s production in the passing game has gone up and down?
A: I don’t know. I don’t know. I think one thing, we were trying to get the ball to Percy a lot and I know we’re going to do things to try to keep getting Kyle the ball and that’s how we opened up the second half. The first pass was to him. He’s a big part of this offense and we’re going to keep trying to get him the ball. I can’t pinpoint something in particular.
Q: Did you see them doing something in the red zone during that game?
A: No, I think we only tried to throw it one time in the red zone and we called a play to give the ball to Kyle and they dropped everyone in coverage and he wasn’t able to get open.
Q: Did you think you were going to be able to sell that shotgun snap from behind right tackle?
A: Yes. We watched film of Matt Ryan doing it last year. I don’t remember who they were playing. He lined up at the right tackle and the SAM linebacker has no idea what’s going on and he’s so confused and he’s staring at Matt. And again, on the offensive side of the ball, we’re a little brighter.