Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier
Good morning guys. I think we had a good walkthrough this morning. Guys really seemed to be focused on the task at hand, preparing for the Washington Redskins. We think they’re a good football team and they’ve got a lot of talented the players on their team and we’re going to have to play a real good football game on the road to be successful, which is hard to do in our League. It’s hard to win on the road. We understand what it takes to win on the road so our preparation really has to be on point because we understand that every team in the League wants to win at home for a lot of reasons. From a practice standpoint, we’re going hold Adrian (Peterson) from practice today. His ankle is still a little bit sore so we’re going to hold him. Jerome (Simpson), we found a little bit more regarding his leg. It’s more attributed to something that’s going on with his back so we’re going to hold him this afternoon. We don’t think it’s anything long-term, we just want him to continue to go through some of the exercises that (Head Athletic Trainer) Eric Sugarman and his staff will take him through today and we may get him back at practice tomorrow and hopefully, for sure, on Friday but he may be back tomorrow. The good news is there is no surgery required or anything like that. He should be fine over time. Kevin Williams had a stomach virus so you won’t see him at practice either. We’re going to hold him out and he should be, hopefully, fine by tomorrow. We think it’s just a 24-hour virus but we’ll see. Other than that, everybody else should be out working and preparing for this ball game.
Q: Do you think Jerome Simpson will be able to play Sunday?
A: Yeah, all indications are it’s a very good chance, but we’ll know more how he responds to some of the treatment they give him today. Hopeful we’ll get him back out at practice tomorrow but we don’t think it’s anything long-term at all.
Q: You mentioned numbness. Is that maybe a pinched nerve in the back?
A: Everything they told me, it’s something that attributed to something going on in his back so they’re taking him through some different exercises but he’s improved, that’s the good news. He’s much better than he was on Sunday. He went through the walkthrough fine but this is more cautionary just to give him another day of rest and recuperation and then we’ll get him back out here hopefully tomorrow.
Q: Who has the greatest influence on you as a head coach?
A: You know, I’ve been around a lot of good head coaches. My college coach, who I have a ton of respect for, Marino Casem down at Alcorn, had a big influence on me. My head coach, Mike Ditka, it’s funny you say that, I was thinking about him on Saturday night before our game and how much he’s influenced me in what I do now and I said, ‘I got to call Coach Ditka, I haven’t talked to him in awhile,’ but he had a tremendous influence on me. Buddy Ryan, my defensive coordinator, Neill Armstrong, who was the former coordinator here in Minnesota who became my first head coach in the NFL, Andy Reid, there have been a number of coaches, Tony Dungy, that I try to draw from and try to utilize some of the things I learned from each one of them and try to incorporate some of the things I do without losing my personality and who I am. I’ve been around a lot of great coaches. Talked with another coach I respect a lot and draw upon at times, Coach (Bill) Parcells last week, just talked with him a little about some things. A lot of coaches I try to draw from and who had an influence on me.
Q: What kind of impact has Jerome Simpson had on your offense and how do defenses approach you with him in?
A: You saw in that Detroit game the impact he had when he got single-coverage. He’s a tough guy to defend and even when you have pretty good coverage like that last play when he caught the 27-yarder, his athletic ability sometimes overrides good coverage. You need a guy like that who can make that difficult catch, even though he may seem to be covered which creates some doubt in the defensive coordinator’s mind about whether or not to be eight man-front or to stay two-high with their safeties and, of late, being a lot of single-high safety so one of the reasons Percy (Harvin) was able to get down the sideline in that game on Sunday was they chose to play single-high. He was able to behind the guy and make a great play for us. But, Jerome will hopefully help us to be able to get more two-high safeties than what we’re currently getting so we looking forward to having him back full speed.
Q: How important was it to have Percy run that route once when you run all the bubble screens?
A: It’s a big deal because now, all of a sudden, people can’t just sit down and say, ‘Okay, he’s not going to do anything deep or they’re not going to throw it to him deep.’ We’ve had other routes where we send him deep but usually there are so many people around him, you can’t get what you want but it really will hopefully help us going forward as we are trying to do more things down the field.
Q: With Jerome, do you feel there isn’t a big risk of further damage if he plays Sunday?
A: Probably, I’ll have to see how he does tomorrow and what the doctors tell me. We’re expecting he’ll be able to get some work tomorrow so I have to wait and hear what they have to say about any further occurrences but everything I’ve heard to this point, he’s much improved, shouldn’t be any long-term effects, so I don’t think we make a decision based on whether or not there are any future problems. It sounds like he is headed in the right direction so we can clearly say that’s behind him.
Q: Was this something that happened in a game? Or did he just wake up with it Sunday?
A: That’s exactly what happened. He woke up on Sunday, it was nothing the night before or two days before. The day of the game, he just called our trainer and came over to the stadium and that’s when it was discovered.
Q: How did he fare in the snaps he played?
A: He did okay but it was bothering him from a mental standpoint. He couldn’t really do some things he wanted to do and it really affected him from that standpoint but physically, he was able to give us some plays but not the type of plays that he would be proud of or be happy with. In the limited time, the good thing is we’ve got some time between now and Sunday where he’ll have a chance to continue to improve.
Q: You’re outrushing your opponents and stopping the run. Is that your signature?
A: That’s exactly what we want to be able to do. When we talked to our team prior to the season beginning and even back in the offseason about what we wanted our identity to be and we wanted to clear on how we wanted to win and what we thought was necessary for us to win here in Minnesota and we talked about being able to run the football, being able to stop the run, being able to hit some explosive plays in the passing game when people give us those eight or nine-man fronts, having a quarterback who can execute in those situations and not giving up plays over the top of your defense from a secondary standpoint along with our pass rush and then playing sound special teams, where we are being a smart, disciplined, tough football team. So those were things that we talked about. It’s great to see our guys executing and doing the things they’re doing and then our coaches carrying the message along with our leadership carrying the message and so far, so good.
Q: Did you sense any hesitation from Christian Ponder after the two interceptions? He seemed to bounce back after, what does that show you?
A: I think it’s a great sign for us of his maturity. In the past, those two interceptions, I just think back to a year ago where I would have had to come over, ‘Hey, come on Christian, let’s go. Get your head up. You have to go back out there.’ It wasn’t necessary. He handled it the way you need the quarterback of your team, one of the leaders of your team, to handle it. He went over to the bench, took a look at the pictures, talked it through with the coaches, came right back out, had no ill effects from it. I think he ended up going 12 for 13 the rest of the way so that’s a great sign for our players because they look to him, he body language, his approach in the huddle afterwards. It was so good, so good for us going forward.
Q: Does going back to Washington hold any extra significance to you?
A: Not really. It’s another game on our schedule. It has no significance other than the fact that it’s the next game on our schedule.
Q: Robert Griffin III is a different type of quarterback than you’ve seen so far, how are you preparing for that?
A: You’re right, it’s a different dynamic. They introduce option. We haven’t had to prepare for option football at all this season and all of the sudden we’re watching tape Monday and Tuesday of a quarterback that presents not only a threat throwing the football, but getting on the perimeter of your defense and being able to pitch the ball or keep it for big plays. I think he has over 200 yards rushing already, over 30-some attempts. It creates some other issues we haven’t faced over the course of this season and it forces you as a defense to be very disciplined about what you’re doing, and you have to tackle well. It’s a little bit different for if some reason he didn’t start and one of the other two guys did, [Kirk] Cousins or Rex Grossman, that’s part of the equation you don’t have to deal with. He’s a multi-threat quarterback, RGIII, that creates a lot of problems for defenses because they do some things that you don’t ordinarily see at our level.
Q: It’s early in the week, but are you preparing as if he will start?
A: Yes, that’s what we talked to our team about today. We expect him to start and that’s who we want them to watch tape on and prepare for him to start. That’s what we’re expecting.
Q: Are they a typical NFC East team besides RGIII?
A: Yeah and they’re running the ball very well. They’re scoring a lot of points, I think they’re seventh in the League on offense and they’re playing pretty good run defense, very good run defense. The passing yards, that’s a little bit different for them but they are, in a lot of ways, like most of the NFC East teams and they’re doing a good job in a lot of good areas. We know that we’re going to have to play extremely well to have a chance to win on Sunday.
Q: You guys have had success with the short passing game, how have you seen that impact defenses?
A: People are beginning to try to sit on some routes and bringing people closer to the line of scrimmage, which allows us to sometimes get some things completed at the second level. We saw Devin Aromashodu and Michael [Jenkins] come up with some big plays behind the linebackers in our game on Sunday. That’s what opens up the long play we got with Percy [Harvin] down the sideline. It opens up some opportunities when that happens and then it’s the matter of our being able to execute the plays when it occurs. We understand what people are doing, now it’s a matter of our being able to counter some of things they’re doing.
Q: If Jerome Simpson can’t play Sunday, who do you plug into that role?
A: Well, you kind of go back to what we did prior to him being available for us in those first three ball games. You count on Devin [Aromashodu], you count on Michael [Jenkins] to be able to make some plays. You hope that Stephen [Burton] will be able to make some plays for us. Eventually we’ll get Jarius [Wright] up as well but right now, the guys that would play if something were to happen where Jerome was not able to play would be the same guys that played in those first three games. They’d be the ones that would have to make plays. But we have some playmakers on offense between Kyle [Rudolph], John [Carlson] and Adrian [Peterson], of course Percy [Harvin]. We have some playmakers, and Toby [Gerhart] can make plays.
Q: With Jarius, in his continuing being inactive, how much is that just him needing to develop rather than his ankle injury?
A: Yeah he’s healthy, it’s just a decision we made. Eventually his turn will come, nothing to do with his health. He’s doing a good job in practice, just has to continue to work and his time will eventually come.
Q: How much did you sit down with RGIII in the pre-draft process?
A: I never sat down with him, I don’t know if our scouts did. I can’t even remember if we sent anyone down. We had our scouts at his workout but I think it was pretty much concluded before the draft where he was going. Our scouts did their work but I think we canceled the trip with the coaches as far as going down there, just our scouts handled it.
Q: As you look at the body of work for your offensive line after these five games, what stands out?
A: I like how they’re working together collectively. That is what you need as a unit to be effective on an offensive line and those guys are helping one another. I can see Matt [Kalil] working with Charlie [Johnson] and Charlie helping him. Then I see what John [Sullivan] is doing with Brandon [Fusco],who’s a young guy who is early in his career and helping him and then Phil [Loadholt] is much more consistent so each guy playing a little bit better and what it has created is a solid offensive line. They are doing a very good job of communicating. I see them at practice, in between, talking to one another about how we have to combo block, what we have to do from a technique standpoint. It’s a good chemistry on our offensive line right now and it’s showing up on the field.
Q: How does that help with Phil being more consistent at right tackle?
A: I think what it’s done is create more confidence along the line with other players, knowing that he’s going to be consistently good as opposed to being good for two plays and not where you want him to be another couple plays. Then that raises everybody else’s confidence along the line that, ‘Hey, you know what, Phil is on top of it.’
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2012
Vikings Quarterback Christian Ponder
Another important week for us, as it is every week, against a good team that has lost eight straight at home, so they’re hungry to get there first home win. They’re tough against the run. I think they’re ranked top-10 against the run, allowing 80-something yards per game, so that’s going to be a big challenge for our front to get after it and open up the run. Obviously, that’s very important for our offense. They’re a good, stout, veteran team, different scheme, 3-4, than we saw last week and it’s going to be important for us to keep handling success and how we do that. It’s going to be a good week for us against a good opponent, good challenge, and we’re looking forward to it.
Q: The more you have success with the short passing game, do you see defenses inch their way up to try to defend that?
A: No, not really. Not yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if they do. Again, we’ll make adjustments as they do. The good thing is, in our offense there’s always different options on every pass play, whether you go deep or medium or short. We’ll make adjustments as they make adjustments.
Q: Is throwing the quick bubbles screen to Percy Harvin something you enjoy?
A: Yeah, definitely. It makes my job easy when you can throw a short pass and it still counts as a 10-yard touchdown pass. That’s good for me.
Q: How important is Jerome Simpson and his ability to stretch defenses?
A: He is important. He’s an important part of this offense and obviously he has the speed to get down field. We’re going to keep using him and keep getting downfield. Also, the thing is, he’s just like Percy, where you can throw him a short pass and he can break tackles and make guys miss like we saw in the preseason. We’re going to keep giving him shots.
Q: Did Simpson look right to you on Sunday, or could you tell something was wrong?
A: He looked like he was fine. When he first got out there he was kind of hesitant making cuts, but as he went through that warm up he looked fine. I don’t know what his deal is going to be. I’m assuming he’s going to be playing.
Q: Do you think last year you would have responded to throwing two interceptions like you did on Sunday?
A: I don’t know. It’s hard to say. My confidence is probably a lot higher than it was last year, but I don’t know. It’s hard to say.
Q: Do high-percentage passes help you come back from throwing two straight interceptions?
A: Yeah, I think so. Especially at the quarterback position, it’s important to establish a rhythm and as you establish a rhythm, that establishes confidences. To connect on shorter passes and build that confidence again, that definitely helps.
Q: Were either one of your interceptions a bad decision?
A: The first one was just a horrible throw. The guy’s wide open and I missed him. The second one, if I would have waited a half-second more, I would have let him clear that linebacker and it would have been a catch, so I wouldn’t really say they were bad decisions, more bad throws and waited a half-second longer on that second one.
Q: When you have a guy like Kyle Rudolph, does he allow you to make a throw that you normally wouldn’t have if another guy is in his spot?
A: Yeah, definitely. His height is definitely an advantage and his ability to jump and he’s got long arms. He’s basically going to catch anything that’s close to him. I trust him in that fact and if we have a mismatch on somebody, I’m putting it up and letting him get it.
Q: Is he one of those guys that even when he’s covered, he might not exactly be covered?
A: Yeah, exactly. That’s exactly how I feel and I trust him that even if it is a bad ball or the defender is going to make a play, he’s so big that he’s going to knock it down and not let them catch the ball. We’ve seen it last year and in the preseason and this year that he creates mismatches no matter how covered he is and who’s covering him. We’re going to keep utilizing him and keep giving him the ball.
Q: Do you feel like, being in the second year, you have a better feel on how to protect your body?
A: Yeah, I think so. This game is a lot different than college and the hits hurt a lot worse. Obviously, I have to keep doing a better job of protecting myself. I think I’m getting smarter about it and learning the proper way to do it.
Q: They picked up that flag on you.
A: I know. Looking back on film, it probably didn’t deserve a flag.
Q: How’s your knee?
A: Good. It’s fine. A little stiff but it’ll be fine.
Q: Are you still doing treatment daily on it?
A: Yeah, just precautionary and to keep the swelling out. It’s not really bothering me at all.
Q: Without disparaging the guys who were here last year, how much more comfortable are you with the protection this year?
A: The offensive line is playing tremendously well. You can tell the chemistry they have and the amount of communication they have on the line. They’re doing such a great job and they’re really gelling together, not even just the pass protection, they’re opening up holes in the run game. They couldn’t be playing any better.
Q: Do you allow yourself to look to the future with how young the offense is?
A: No. We don’t have the time to do that. The NFL is obviously – we have to focus on our opponent every week. We’re sitting at a good spot right now at 4-1 and the offense is playing well, but it goes back to Wednesday practice and we have to focus fully on Washington and not really look to the future. The good thing is, we do have a young team and we’re going to continue to get better and we’re going progress each week and that’s what we want to do.
Q: Are you relieved that Simpson’s injury isn’t going to be a long term deal?
A: Yeah, definitely. We want him back and we want him on the field. Obviously, he’s a heck of a player. We’ll see what he does this week but I’m not really sure what the plan is yet.
Q: I’m sure he’ll work in eventually, but are you surprised you are 4-1 without getting much from Simpson?
A: No, we have a lot of depth at the receiver position. Having the veteran guys like Michael Jenkins and Devin Aromashodu, and Stephen Burton has really stepped in. Those guys are consistent in what they do and they catch the ball when they need to. They’re doing a great job and, obviously, Jerome is going to be even better when we put him on field, but we’re winning without him and we’ve shown we have all the right pieces, but we want Jerome out there.
Q: With the way the offensive line has been playing, does that give you confidence to sit in the pocket?
A: A lot of confidence. There’s still that internal clock in your head that goes off, but I have the confidence to get to those third and fourth reads. Watching film, especially this last game, the pocket is huge a lot of the time. They’re doing such a tremendous job.