Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier
Good morning guys. Had a good walkthrough this morning. Big game for us, you like to have big games in the month of December and this is a huge one for us on the road playing a St. Louis team that has really caught fire of late. They’re playing well. I’m sure that place will be rocking on Sunday when we line up. Practice-wise, we should be in pretty good shape. A.J. (Jefferson) will not practice, he’s still going through the protocol for concussions. Hopefully we’ll get him back before the week is out. Other than that, Antoine (Winfield) might be the only guy that we’ll hold back today and everybody else should be working. We have a lot of work to get done. Big preparation day for us on our base installation on offense, defense and special teams, but I like the focus of our guys. They’re really focused today in our meetings and the walkthrough as well so hopefully that will carry over to what we have to get done at practice.
Q: Is Winfield being held out just for rest?
A: More for rest. His knee was bothering him a little bit so we just want to give him a little bit of rest and get back at it tomorrow and Friday.
Q: Has A.J. Jefferson passed any level of those post-concussion tests?
A: He has. He’s getting closer, so we should know something tomorrow. We’ll have a little bit more conclusive idea whether he’s going to make it or not, but he’s getting closer.
Q: If he’s not able to go, do you feel more comfortable now with Josh Robinson playing 70 snaps?
A: Yeah, he’s playing a lot of snaps now in the nickel because today, that third corner is almost a starter the way the League has gone. Yeah, we feel very comfortable.
Q: What would be the situation at kickoff returner if Jefferson wasn’t able to go?
A: We’d go back to Marcus (Sherels) being the lead guy.
Q: Even if A.J. is healthy, would you feel more comfortable with Marcus Sherels returning after A.J. had that fumble on Sunday?
A: Coming off of a concussion, we probably would. It would probably end up being Marcus, but we’ll talk about it. It will probably be Marcus.
Q: How have you felt about the production you’ve gotten from the rookie class?
A: It’s been great. It’s what a coach would hope for when you’re playing a lot of young guys, to get the type of production we’ve gotten out of Matt (Kalil), who was the fourth pick in the draft and he’s been everything we all hoped he would at the left tackle position. He’s really solidified that spot for us, which is a very demanding position in our League and we really feel like we have a guy based on what he’s done this season who is going to solidify that position for a long time. With Harrison (Smith), Josh (Robinson) and now Jarius (Wright) and Rhett (Ellison), you could go on and on. Our young guys have made a major contribution towards our team this season and we knew that would be the case going back through the offseason that we were going to need production from each and every one of them and for the most part, we’ve gotten that. They’ve really helped our team.
Q: Have you had to do anything such as simplify schemes due to the amount of youth you have in your starting lineup?
A: Early on we tempered some things a little bit, but having an offseason helped us a lot. The fact that we could really introduce them to the way we wanted to do things and get a better feel as a coaching staff for what they could or couldn’t do has helped us. We’ve kind of grown as the season has gone on but we didn’t pare it back a whole lot. They are pretty sharp guys and the offseason helped us a lot.
Q: Do you have your finger on anything that could shake up your situation with playing on the road and get a win?
A: If I knew what that was, we’d do whatever that is. But, we know they are some things that we can do better when we play on the road and we’re going to work on getting that done. We’ve talked about some things that we have to do to play better on the road and hopefully we can get that done.
Q: How would you characterize the challenge of their pass rush when you’re playing them on the road in a dome?
A: It will be a big challenge. They’re second in the League in sacks and I know that place will be loud on Sunday so we’ll have to really work hard here at practice on trying to simulate that noise, similar to what people experience when they come to our place. It’ll be a big challenge for our offensive line, there’s no question about it, and for our offense in general trying to function in that environment. But, we’ve been in some tough environments in the past and this is one where we’ll have to rise to the challenge.
Q: What went into promoting Troy Kropog to the active roster on Friday?
A: He’s done a good job in practice and that position, when you talk about the offensive line, it’s very tough to find guys sometimes and the fact that he’s played so well and done so well in practice, we didn’t want to lose him. So, it was a chance for us to elevate him, but he’s earned it through the way he’s worked. That’s a hard position sometimes to fill when you’re trying to get linemen.
Q: Was another team trying to sign him?
A: He’s a Minnesota Viking.
Q: What stands out to you about Chris Long and did you pick Brendan Daly’s mind this week?
A: Oh yeah, we’ve talked to him extensively about some of their personnel that’s still there from his days there but both Robert Quinn and Long, they’re two outstanding pass rushers, they give them great edge rush on both edges so those are guys we’re going to have to contend with. We’ll have to do some different things to kind of offset what they’re capable of doing, but our tackles, they’ve got a big challenge ahead of them. They have good defensive tackles as well so it’s a good front. They’ve got a good front.
Q: When you look at the totality of a quarterback and at Christian Ponder, how much of that is him reading the defense pre-snap, checking out of plays, etc.?
A: That’s part of what we ask him to do. You can see sometimes where he is throwing some of those quick slants against eight-man fronts and part of that is him checking out of a run to a pass so we do have some of that on his plate. He’s been able to get that executed for the most part but that’s part of being an all-around quarterback functioning at the position. He’s shown that he’s capable of getting that done, so we have confidence that he can make the changes at the line of scrimmage that are necessary.
Q: How much do you want him to temper some of those smoke routes?
A: Some of it we can control, sometimes from the sideline, but it still comes back to what he sees. We tell him what the look is and when he can throw a narrow route or a smoke route. At the end of the day, he’s the guy that has to make that decision. Am I handing it off or am I throwing it outside?
Q: You’ve made it known you are going to hand it to Adrian still. How can you still develop Christian if you’re marginalizing what he needs to do?
A: I don’t think we’re marginalizing it, we’re playing to our strengths. That doesn’t mean that we can’t open it up and throw the football, but when you have the best running back in the National Football League in your backfield, I just don’t know if you want to revolve around a passing game. Our offense is going to revolve around number 28 and there is no secret to that. Christian is developing. We’re going to have opportunities to throw the football during the course of this game. We’ll have to have some completions. He did a good job, as I mentioned earlier in the week, about that fourth quarter. Those third down completions that he had to help us clock-wise were big in that ball game on Sunday. We’re going to need some of that again this Sunday if we play the way I think we’re capable of playing, where he’s going to have to make some key third down decisions, some key red zone decisions. That’s a part of the development as well. Having to drop back and throw it 30 times doesn’t necessarily have to be a part of your development. There are a lot of things that go into development in that quarterback position. It just so happens that he’s in a situation where he’s playing with the best in the business at a position. One day Adrian [Peterson] is going to retire, 10 years from now and maybe Christian won’t have that same luxury and more will be on his shoulders. But for the time being, it’s going to revolve around 28.
Q: How much will these final three games factor into your decision at the quarterback position long-term?
A: We anticipate him just continually getting better and playing better over this ball game and the remaining two ball games after St. Louis. We’re not looking to next season or trying to figure out who’s going to be our starter next season. We expect him to play well against St. Louis and then we’ll get ready for the next ball game. But we need him to play well against St. Louis, period.
Q: Has he made a steady progression?
A: He’s made some improvements, there’s no question about it. When you look at early in the season with some of the things he accomplished, he hit a bump in the road along the way, and now it’s a matter of getting through some of those moments that most quarterbacks who are young go through. He’s got to continue to improve. You’re in a situation now that is sometimes unique for a second year quarterback, you’re in the middle of a playoff race in December so this will be, in a lot of ways, a defining moment for where he is in his development as a quarterback. I think he’s made progress, there’s still more progress to be made.
Q: What is your reaction when you have a struggling passing attack and go to open it up Sunday with a play action to Devin Aromashodu and can’t connect on a play that’s there?
A: That would have been a huge play for us on offense, would have really changed the complexion of the game in a lot of ways. We didn’t connect. We believe there are going to be some opportunities in this ball game against St. Louis similar because I’m sure they are going to play us the same way, safeties close to the line of scrimmage, pressing our corners and pressing our wide receivers. We’re going to need to hit some of those shots. We need to complete, make a catch down the field to get people loosened up. The challenge will be there again this week and we have to find a way to get it done. Otherwise, it makes it very, very tough for our team to get what we want. Opportunities will be there, now we have to connect.
Q: Are you still monitoring Adrian Peterson’s number of carries?
A: We’re still paying attention but it’s not to the point where we say, ‘when we get to this point, we’re going to shut him down’. We’re not at the point now but we are conscious each quarter, ‘how many carries does he have?’ We have a number that we want to try to get him to at the end of each game, which we think will help us to be successful. It’s not to the point where you say, ‘when you get to this number, we’re going to make sure Toby [Gerhart] is in the game’.
Q: You can never have too many carries with Adrian Peterson?
A: Probably not, but he’s done a great job. We put a lot on his plate. He was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week and for good reason. He’s been tremendous.
Q: Lot of talk about Adrian Peterson or Peyton Manning as Comeback Player of the Year, how do you evaluate that?
A: What Peyton has done is incredible, what Adrian has done is pretty incredible as well. I can see why it would go right down to the wire, but they both are, in my mind, deserving. What Adrian has done, what Peyton has done, just tremendous coming off of the type of injuries they both had.
Q: Last March you re-signed Sage Rosenfels, how have you felt with having three young guys at quarterback?
A: Well, a lot of thought went into that decision. You’re right, when we made that decision back in March, we had an intent. But at the end of training camp, we made a decision that we thought was best for our team, not only in the immediate but in the long-term. Looking back, I don’t think we made the wrong decision, I think we made the right decision. There was a lot of conversation, a lot of thought that went into it. I think we made the right decision.
Q: Are you keeping any tabs on the playoff picture as a whole when you look at standings right now?
A: I’m aware of where we are for sure, made our team aware as well. But the most important thing for us is concentrating on St. Louis. We have to win this game. If we don’t win this game, it just puts us in peril. I’ve tried to bring the focus to that without ignoring the fact that we’re in a playoff race. Every game for us at this point of the season is like a playoff game. No game is bigger than this St. Louis game.
Q: What difference does Chad Greenway make with the linebackers? Had he been like a coach on the field for the inexperienced guys?
A: He really has. Chad, he’s having a very good season but the thing I’ve been impressed most with is his growth as a leader. You’re right, we have two guys who, in Jasper’s [Brinkley] case, he’s never started this many games. Erin [Henderson] is in his second year as a starter so he’s still very young, he’s still seeing some things for the very first time. What Chad has done is provide us some leadership in the classroom, talking to those guys about how to watch tape, what needs to happen in practice, where the eyes should be. We’ve needed that and he’s helped us. They both are improving, both Jasper and Erin, and a lot of it has to do with what Chad has done. Beyond the linebacker room, he’s provided great leadership on our defense and on our team. He’s really grown in that area. A year ago, even two years ago, he was very reluctant to get out in front but you don’t see that anymore. He’s not afraid to speak up or set an example by both verbally as well as his action, which is good.
Q: You’ve been patient with Christian Ponder, but is there a point where you have to be tough and more demanding?
A: Well, we do talk to him about what has to be done and how things have to be done. You guys aren’t privy at some of those meetings in what we get done, but we make it clear what has to happen at the quarterback position for us to be successful as a team. He’s well aware. We think we’re demanding the most and the best out of him, like we are with all of our players. It’s just that it’s not as overt sometimes maybe but he knows what’s expected of him at that position. It’s not a whole lot different than our other players. We want everyone to play well in order for us to be successful. It just so happens that his position gets a lot of attention.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 12, 2012
Vikings Quarterback Christian Ponder
It’s an exciting week. We’re treating these last three weeks as our own mini playoff in a way because we know what’s at stake and how important each game is. This is another stepping stone trying to achieve all of our goals to make the playoffs and obviously achieving the ultimate goal of getting to the Super Bowl and competing there. We’re proud of what we did last week, but we’ve moved on and if we don’t do what we have to do in this week’s game, last week’s not going to mean that much for us. I think everyone is focused and I think everyone in the walkthrough this morning was really focused and guys were excited. We’re positioned in a good place right now. We just have to handle our business.
Q: Do you monitor the standings and the crowded Wild Card and Division race?
A: It’s hard you try not to monitor it. Anything can happen over the next three weeks and different things will shake out. We’re not going to know anything until the final week so we just have to handle our business and winning as many of these games as we can so we can position ourselves in a good way and hopefully be able to make the Wild Card or the chance for the Division. I don’t know how it’s going to shake out.
Q: Do you look at the standings in the week?
A: The only time I’ve seen them was when I was watching the Sunday night game and they flashed it up there. That’s the only way I’m aware of where we’re at.
Q: Basically your thinking is to just win all the games?
A: Exactly. Then we’ll see what happens. Hopefully it works out.
Q: Coach Frazier said these last three games are a defining moment for you. Is that the way you approach it?
A: I think so. For us and myself, our goal is to make the playoffs and my goal is to play better and play at a high level and a consistent level. What a great way to do it, in meaningful games that are closing out December and closing out the season to make the playoffs. I think it’s a great opportunity for me.
Q: What would you change on your interception last Sunday?
A: I would throw the ball farther is what I would do. The guy was open, I just didn’t get enough on the ball. Jarius [Wright] is a fast guy and I kind of threw off my back foot. It wasn’t a mistake to throw the ball. The decision was fine, I just have to throw the ball farther and let him run out and get it. That was unfortunate because it could have been a touchdown.
Q: How much of that do you sense was because you threw off your back foot?
A: A little bit. You learn with guys like Percy [Harvin] and Jarius, you can try to out throw them and it’s going to be hard to do. I guess you just have to trust that fact and let the ball go.
Q: How difficult is it for a young quarterback to get used to the idea of staying in the pocket when it’s there?
A: That’s big. It’s an adjustment, especially going from college when you can run around a lot. In the NFL when you’re running around, you’re not going to get as many yards or create as many plays as you did in college. Learning to be more patient in the pocket is big. That’s something I have to continue to work on and not so much when I do move in the pocket, not to move out, but to find ways to find a different lane in the pocket to throw through and different things like that, but staying in the cylinder rather than getting out of the pocket.
Q: Why does Kyle Rudolph seem to get lost in the shuffle sometimes?
A: Obviously, we want to get him the ball and I think defenses know the caliber of player he is so they’re going to want to take him away. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out that we get him the ball and obviously we want to. This past game we didn’t throw the ball that much in the first place, we were running the ball so well. We didn’t have to try to force the ball to Kyle, but he’s always a part of the game plan. We always want to get him the ball. It is unfortunate that we don’t and he doesn’t get a chance to catch it, but we have this week to get him 20 catches.
Q: He seemed a little frustrated after the game. Did you sense that from him?
A: No, I didn’t. We talked a little bit and obviously he wants the ball in his hands and everything, but I didn’t sense any frustration from him. Everyone was excited with the win.
Q: Is it tougher to develop as a quarterback when you have a running back like Adrian Peterson who gets the ball a lot and you don’t have the ball in your hands as much?
A: No, I don’t think it’s tougher to develop. Obviously, we’re very successful in the run game and everything and that’s awesome. We’re going to keep leaning on that and the passing game will develop. I don’t think it’s hindering my development as a quarterback. We’re throwing the ball enough. We threw the ball 17 times this past week. That’s a decent amount of throws and I don’t think, in terms of development, that’s hindering anything.
Q: You seemed to enjoy that third down strike to Michael Jenkins with two guys barreling down on you.
A: Yeah, that was huge. Obviously, in the fourth quarter, we’re trying to run as much time off the clock as possible. We were hot, had two guys coming off the edge and I threw the ball a little high and Jenkins went up and got it. It was a great play by him and it converted on third down. One of the biggest reasons for our success this past week was our conversions on third down and we did it when we had to.
Q: You seem to throw a good ball on those slants where you set your feet. How do you go about translating that to other throws?
A: I don’t know. On slants, the ball is coming out of my hand quick and I’m getting my feet set and letting it go. That goes back to the footwork thing. When I do slide around the pocket, not throwing the ball on the run, but finding ways to move around and be able to set my feet and create those throws just like that. That’s obviously something I need to keep working on.
Q: What’s the number one thing you want to see out of yourself for improvement these next three games?
A: I think continuing to improve in the decision-making factor. When you look at this whole season, I think we’ve had six games where we’ve had one turnover or less, I think that’s what it is. We keep the ball in our hands and win the turnover battle and do well on third down. That’s huge. I think decision making is the thing I need to keep improving on.
Q: Is it hard for a quarterback to accept the ‘game manager’ label?
A: No, I think every quarterback who ever played is a manager of the game. Obviously, there are those guys who create more plays than others, but to an extent, the quarterback is always going to be managing the game and that’s fine. I don’t care. If we’re winning games and making a run for the playoffs and playing meaningful football in December, I’ll manage the game all I want. I don’t care.