Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier
Good afternoon, guys. It’s a little different venue than where we normally are. Bob [Hagan] reminded me, I guess, for a number of years this is where the after the game press conferences were held. We’re looking forward to getting back down to our familiar spot. We’ll have some new turf when our guys come back. I know they’ll be excited about that. It’ll be good for them as we begin these final six weeks of our regular season. A lot of good things when watching that tape yesterday. A lot of positives across the board on special teams, our offense, our defense, so many players contributing to our success. None greater than what we saw from our quarterback, Christian [Ponder], along with what Adrian [Peterson] did. So impressed with what Antoine [Winfield] continues to do for us on defense. Our defensive line, our offensive line, our specialists and our special teams in general, just a complete team win in a much-needed win for our football team playing a divisional rival. Now that we’re 2-0 in our division, which is a huge deal for us, to be 6-4 going into the bye. A lot of positives that came out of yesterday’s game, then the fact that we came out of it relatively injury free. There are no guys on the injury report that should not be able to go next week, including Percy [Harvin]. We’re optimistic, but we’ll still have to wait and see. He’s getting better, but we’ll know more, probably, a week from today what it looks like as far as him practicing that following Wednesday. But he’s making progress, Letroy Guion is really much improved and everybody else should be ready when we start back.
Q: Do you think you sent a message this first part of the season that you guys are real playoff contenders?
A: You know, we haven’t really approached it as far as sending a message. We really wanted to internally do some things as a group to improve as a football team over the course of the season. We had some goals and we’re still in position to achieve those goals and that was the whole point, getting to this bye in a position to where we could still control our own destiny. For our team, that’s exactly the way it is. That’s what I talked to them about a little while ago. We’ve set this up just how we wanted it and now we have to go ahead and finish the deal these final weeks that we have remaining in the regular season.
Q: Do you think you’re a playoff contender?
A: The one thing we try to do is, early on, articulate what are goals were as a football team and we did that back in training camp. These are what our goals are and we talked about that. We haven’t deviated from that. That being said, in our league, it’s always about one game at a time and the most important game for us coming up is our game about a week from now against Chicago. That’s the most important game, but our goals haven’t changed coming out of training camp.
Q: Is it going to be tough to take a couple of days off knowing you have a critical stretch coming up?
A: For us, it’s going to be important that we do a good job with these days that have as a staff and evaluate and self-scout ourselves and get a good feel for what areas we’ve been pretty good at and what areas we need to improve on and then being able to put that together so when we come back and line up against Chicago, we are a better team than we were when we lined up against Detroit. That’s probably the thing that will be on my mind more than anything, can we utilize this time, during the bye week, to get better as a staff so that when we come back and talk to our players about what we need to improve, we can implement a plan that will actually help us improve. That’s what will be on my mind.
Q: Are there any players that need treatment and will be sticking around?
A: Yeah, those are probably the two guys, Letroy and Percy. The other guys, nothing serious enough where that have to stay here any lingering time.
Q: Was Percy Harvin at the game?
A: No, he was not at the game.
Q: Did Jarius Wright prove himself to you yesterday?
A: Yeah, we always felt like he had a chance to help us, for obvious reasons, the fact that we drafted him. To see him play as well as he did, it’s great for our team, great for his confidence and I’m really encouraged just watching him continue to develop. And I was encouraged by the way Fred Evans played, as well, who stepped in for Letroy. He did a great job, also. We’ve had other guys who’ve had to step up over the course of the year and have done good jobs for us. Robert Blanton, another guy who has done a good job when he’s had to step in and play. It’s good to see our coaches developing the young guys and helping them to be ready when their numbers are called.
Q: Did Jarius earn the right to stay active once Percy is back?
A: There will always be week-to-week with some guys and it probably won’t be any different with Jarius. We’ll take a look at him every week and determine if this is the week he’s going to be up, but he definitely did some things to warrant us considering him every week going forward.
Q: Will it be difficult to get Jarius and Percy on the field at the same time?
A: If you believe a guy can really help you get it done, you’ll figure out a way to make that work numbers-wise. It does mean that you’ll have to put someone else down if you dress five wide receivers, but there are ways we can get that done if we want both of them on the field.
Q: Did you change the script for Christian Ponder on Sunday to help him?
A: We talked about a lot of things. We saw some things on tape that we wanted to improve with Christian, along with our entire offense. There were some things schematically we wanted to a little bit different in our approach against Detroit. We felt like people were doing some things defensively to kind of offset some things that were strengths of ours in the past so we had to go back and make a few adjustments and we did. Part of those adjustments was having Christian stay in the pocket a little bit longer, go through his progressions and guys getting open and getting into positions that they needed to be. We had that happen and we had success throwing the ball down the field.
Q: You mentioned Fred Evans, would there be any consideration to keep him as the starter?
A: Fred did a good job for us, but Letroy is our starter. We’ve had some good games with Letroy in there and he’s played well for us throughout the season. He got a little banged up, but once he’s healthy, he’ll be our starter.
Q: How did you feel about the safety rotation? Do you want to continue that going forward or settle on one guy?
A: I’m not sure we want to continue to do that, but we definitely want to bring Mistral [Raymond] along and the fact that he was able to get some time yesterday where he can get a little bit more confident about where he is with his foot and his ankle and also for us to see him on tape. That was a good sign. Now he’ll have almost a full two weeks to really rest and heal and reflect back on what he did yesterday. He’ll be in line for more playing time, it’s just a matter of if we decide to put him back in the starting rotation.
Q: Seeing Adrian Peterson get better every game and his comeback, does that somehow trickle down to the rest of the team?
A: I think Adrian is an inspiration for our entire squad, our entire organization. What he has accomplished, in a lot of ways, is mind boggling. To come back from major knee surgery when most guys, when they do come back, they’re a shadow of themselves if they do come back and usually the second year it kicks in and they’re closer than where they were before. For Adrian to be leading the League in rushing right now and doing it in such dominant fashion, it is an inspiration to our entire team. It does lift up, not only our offense, but our entire team. It’s great to see. No one deserves it more than he. He’s worked extremely hard, put in a lot of time to get back to where he is and credit to a lot of hard work by Adrian. He’s an inspiration to all of us.
Q: After going through the operation yourself, how off the charts is this comeback, not only to come back, but to be dominant?
A: To be as dominant as he is at this point in the season, the 10 week point, to rush back-to-back weeks close to 200 yards, that’s pretty impressive. We’re all familiar with stories of guys who’ve had this injury, some make it back and some don’t make it back, and if they do come back, it’s not very many that were as good as they were before. There are some things that he’s doing that makes you scratch your head and say, ‘Maybe he will be better than he was before the injury.’ I’m looking at some things that he’s doing and he has improved. His hands are better, some of his cuts, his burst, he’s staying more true to his reads, these are some things he hadn’t done before the injury. He’d always look to hit the home run and sometimes that would create negative plays. Now he’s truer to his reads and it’s helping our offensive line to be better at what they do. He’s a joy to watch. I think all of us should cherish having the chance to watch him live.
Q: When he said after the surgery that he was going to redo this whole thing, what’s going through you head?
A: I wanted to temper the emotion. I know how focused he can be and how great he has been at being able to name it and claim it, but I also know that there are a lot of guys who, including myself, had not come back from that injury and some who had come back weren’t quite as good as they were before. I wanted him to approach it the right way, just how he wanted to approach it, but also let him know that there was a lot of hard work ahead. Not that he couldn’t achieve his goal, but there was a lot of hard work ahead and he understood that and he hasn’t blinked and look at where he is now.
Q: With Christian Ponder yesterday, was maybe the biggest thing his pocket awareness?
A: That was big, but just seeing him move around in the pocket and deliver the ball with so much conviction and go through his reads. Not, once a guy is taken away, his first read, feel like ‘I have to take off’. Some of the throws he made, this is what you want to see out of your quarterback. It just raises everybody else’s confidence level. He took control of our offense, moved the ball around, got everybody involved and did a great job of leading us throughout the day. His pocket presence and the decisions that he made with the football, he did a great job all day decision-making wise. No turnovers. Just did a great job of leading us.
Q: Did you see Christian Ponder was more willing to look around and see some things with Percy Harvin being out?
A: You know it was a real point of emphasis on our part even if Percy had been there. We had emphasized moving the ball around. In this offense, that’s important for us to have success. We felt like we had become a little stagnant and predictable in some ways and we needed Christian to understand the importance of moving around to different people because of what defenses are doing. Not so much because of Percy’s absence, it was something we were emphasizing all throughout and we’re going to continue to emphasize it the rest of the season. The fact that he was able to execute the game plan as well as he did, it had a lot to do with our success as a team and as an offense yesterday.
Q: How impressed have you been with Matt Kalil and his run blocking, and how far do you think he’s come?
A: He’s grown leaps and bounds. That’s been one of the most impressive parts about him. We all knew that he was going to be an excellent pass protector based on what we saw in college and we felt like he would develop into a great run blocker as well. He has improved every week in that area and he continues to get better. Some of the things he did down the field yesterday were as impressive as what he did on the line of scrimmage. That’s a pretty good front that they have, some pretty good defensive ends. He held his own in our first game against them and he did a very good job yesterday as well. You’d expect him to just continue to get better and better as he gains more confidence. He’s been very, very impressive.
Q: Did you think it helped having Craig Johnson on the sideline yesterday?
A: I thought so. When we were thinking about what we could do to help Christian, that was one of the ideas we thought of. I felt like it did make a difference yesterday. Craig is the guy that talks with him throughout the week. He’s always meeting with him, he’s always giving him instructions in practice, he’s always taking him through just about everything along with Bill’s [Musgrave] input. He’s spent so much time with Craig, we just said, ‘why not have his position coach on the field doing some of the same things he does during the week on the sidelines.’ There’s an argument to have that coach upstairs for another pair of eyes for the coordinator but for where we were and where we are, we just wanted to take a look at this and I thought it did help us yesterday.
Q: Is that something Christian Ponder and Craig Johnson were both wanting to do?
A: I think they were surprised when they were approached by this being the way we wanted to go. But they were very pleased we wanted to go in this direction.
Q: Is there any part of you that wishes you could play next week and carry that momentum right away?
A: I think if we handle this bye week the right way with our players getting rest and coming back rejuvenated, and then our being able to take a real critical look at where we are as a staff with our team, there are so many benefits with the bye week being where it is in our schedule. We just have to make the most of this time. Both with our players having some time off to rest and get their bodies back to where they need to be, and then our being able to handle things critically from a staff standpoint to help us improve. No regrets about where the bye is. Glad we’re having it where we’re having it and the fact that we’re relatively healthy, that’s a good thing for us. We just have to make sure we find out the things we have do to do to improve.
Q: With Adrian’s 60-70 yard breakouts, could defenses stacking the line of scrimmage be an advantage?
A: That’s the risk-reward of playing all these eight man fronts. If one guy gets out of his gap or somebody misses a tackle, well you see what happened yesterday and you’ve seen what’s happened these last couple of weeks. People have committed to doing that to stop our run game and it can be feast to famine. It’s good for us when our guys hold a block because we know there’s a chance for a homerun every single play with the way people have been playing us now. The other side of that is, we get to exploit some things in the passing game because it’s pretty declared for our quarterback and our offense when it comes to throwing the football. There should be some opportunities in both areas as we continue to run the ball as well as we’re running it.
Q: Does this feel like an MVP season for Adrian Peterson?
A: We do have a lot of football to be played, but if you ask me today, and I haven’t seen all the guys around the League, but it’s hard for me to imagine a guy doing more for his football team than what Adrian has done for our team and the fact that he has been so dominant over the course of the season. He’s pulling away with his domination as a runner. His impact has been huge for us. It’s just hard to imagine another guy having a greater impact on their team, considering where we are and what we have to do every single week to win.
Q: What are your impressions from the Houston at Chicago game?
A: Two good football teams. We play Chicago here in a couple of weeks and we’ll have to play great football to win against them in Chicago.
Q: What’s your assessment of Harrison Smith and his tackling abilities?
A: He was much better yesterday. He had a couple of games there where he missed some tackles, but much better yesterday. We need him to continue that, continue to grow in that area. He’s going to find himself in a lot of situations where he has to make open field tackles for us and he’s done it very well on occasion. There were a couple games where he kind of slipped a little bit. Yesterday he was very good.