Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier
Good morning, guys. Matt Kalil will not be at practice today. He’s under the weather a little bit so we’re going to hold him out along with Brian Robison, we’re going to hold him out as well and we may or may not have Adrian [Peterson] do anything today. We’re going to talk with him more about that when I leave here. Other than that, everyone else should be able to participate. Guys are really focused in on what is a really tough opponent, the Houston Texans. They’re 6-1 at home and playing very, very good football in every phase so it’s a tremendous challenge for our team. We’re looking forward to it. We know we have a lot of work to get done this week in order to go and get a win. I like the way our guys are engaged in the meetings and the way they went about their business here in the walk through. We need to put together some good practices and go down and try to get this thing done.
Q: What’s the likelihood of Brian Robison being ready for Sunday?
A: He will be day-to-day. We’re hoping that he’ll make it, but he’ll be day-to-day. We probably won’t know anything until probably Friday, just to see whether or not he’s making continued progress throughout the week.
Q: Is it strictly an AC sprain?
A: It is. It’s a grade three, so it’s a little bit tougher than a grade 1. We’ll have to see how he does has the week goes on.
Q: What’s your best case scenario for Chris Cook this week?
A: I’m hoping that as the week goes on he’s feeling more comfortable and confident about where he is physically and feeling up to the challenge of getting out there and playing in a game. But, we’ll have to wait and see how he does during the course of the week.
Q: Is he at the point where best case he starts and can play the whole game? Or is he a couple weeks away from being able to do that?
A: It would be hard to determine that today. We need to watch him move around and get engaged in the game plan and see how he does. We’ll have a better indication by Friday, but that would be good if it happened.
Q: How does Houston compare to San Francisco or Green Bay?
A: They’re a very good football team. At 12-2 and having the success that they’ve had, they’re one of the top teams in our League. That being said, their record kind of speaks to who they are as a football team. What they’ve done with the turnover differential, I was talking to our team about that, plus-15 is pretty impressive. The fewest turnovers in the League as an offense and getting done what they’ve been able to get done on defense. They’re a good team. They compare favorably to any of the good teams in our League.
Q: As you prepare for J.J. Watt, what stands out about him and the way they use him?
A: His domination. He really dominates. As a player, that stands out. He’s hard to block one-on-one, he has outstanding quickness, he plays hard all the time and, not only is he good against the run, but he’s an excellent pass rusher with the sacks that he’s gotten and the way he bats down balls. He’s just a very, very good player who can take over a game. You don’t often see those guys and he’s one of them. He’s very impressive.
Q: How have you seen Everson Griffen develop from a maturity standpoint since he’s come here?
A: He’s come so far. I’ve talked to him about it often. Just seeing the maturation, even through this last offseason, being able to manage his free time, understanding what it means to be a pro and act like a pro, both at practice and in games as well, and off the field. He’s one of those guys, as we speak, that has really bought in to the right way of doing things. There are other guys you can talk to about, ‘Hey, this is how it has to be.’ And they’re going to do it their way, but he’s one of those guys who’s paid attention, he’s listened and, we always knew he was a good athlete, but just being able to manage some of the other things that were happening in his life. He’s got a hold of maturing and it’s great to see. He’s a great example for a lot of young players that come into our League. He’s really grown up. The tragedy he faced this season, losing his mother, that was hard. But the way he responded, even in the midst of that tragedy, you have to take your hat off to him at how courageous he is. I told him I know his mother would be extremely proud of him and they way he’s handled himself. He’s come a long ways.
Q: With a guy who’s as emotional as Everson is, were you worried after the tragedy his emotions would go the other way rather than staying where he was?
A: Any time you face a situation like that when it’s so sudden and you’re such a young person, you have no idea how they’re going to react and what impact it will have. The way he’s responded has been a great example for all of us. He’s been a pillar of strength in a lot of ways so just very, very proud of him.
Q: What has he done to get through that, have there been guys he’s sought out who have been through similar things or certain guys he’s talked to?
A: I’m sure he talked with a bunch of his teammates. The coaches have tried to encourage him and during this time he has friends that he’ll talk to as well. We’ve tried to provide a support system here, that’s one of the good things about the Wilf family. They have reached out in so many ways to Everson and some of our other guys who faced difficult times. That’s unique in this world of sports. But just to let him know that he had support beyond himself, it’s been good to watch how he’s grown.
Q: How does Andre Johnson compare to Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson?
A: Larry Fitzgerald, now who does he play for (laughs)? Larry is a great receiver, Andre is a great receiver, so many great receivers. It feels like we’ve faced a few of them this season. Andre is right up there, he’s one of the best in our League. He’ll be a guy that we’re definitely going to have to contend with. He’s third in the League with receptions, he’s close to setting a record for yards. He’s just a great receiver and they find ways to get him the football which you would expect, and we have to find ways to defend him. He compares favorably to any of the great receivers in our League.
Q: How important is it for you to have a guy like Chris Cook who can handle the taller receivers?
A: It’s a big deal. That’s one of the reasons we drafted him, to be able to line up against some of the top receivers, the big receivers in our League. Unfortunately you know he’s been banged up, but we do get him back this week and hopefully he can provide some help for us. That was one of the reasons we targeted him when we did.
Q: What stood out to you as you watched Chad Greenway on Sunday?
A: Chad, he’s had a great season all the way through but his activity on Sunday, the sack that he got, the hits on the backs, he just was all over the place. I still go back to how much he’s grown as a leader. I felt like he would get better as a player over time, but what he’s brought to our defense and to our team from a leadership standpoint has really helped us to grow up over the course of the season. That has been big for me and the rest of the staff and our players. The football part, we thought he was going to be a good football player, that’s one of the reasons we franchised him a few years ago. But what he’s provided in the locker room as well as on the sidelines has really helped our team.
Q: What specifically do you see in him leadership-wise?
A: Well the fact that he’s much more vocal now than in the past, in the past he kind of let other people take the lead when it came to encouraging a guy or really chastising a guy for whatever it may be. He’s not afraid to do that anymore, or reluctant to do it is probably a better word. That has helped our football team.
Q: Do you feel like your football team is on schedule or ahead of schedule?
A: Well, our goal was to win the NFC North, we’ve fallen a little bit short of that but we’re in the process of hopefully making it to the playoffs. That was one of our goals so it would be great to achieve that goal. We need to get this win to stay on track and if we can get that accomplished, you’d like to say that we’re on schedule. That was one of our goals going into the season.
Q: How has Chris Cook looked in practice since the injury healed?
A: He did a lot of good things in the time that he had, but the first week was very limited because we had to make sure that wrist was fine. Last week we gave him a little bit more, this week we’ll give him even more. In the time that he’s been out there, he’s done a good job. The biggest thing, if you have a concern, is where is he from a conditioning standpoint. We’ll try to tax him a little bit with some things over the next few days and see how he responds. But the injury is healed, just a matter of where is he from a physical standpoint.
Q: Does have A.J. Jefferson give you a luxury of not rushing Chris Cook back?
A: The fact that they have released Chris and said that he’s fine to practice, we’re not looking at it like we have to hold back, it just depends on what he can or can’t take. But it’s great having A.J. for sure. He’s helped us a lot this season. His length, his ability to run with guys, he’s been a real plus for us.
Q: In his first game back, how confident are you to throw Chris Cook back out there against Andre Johnson?
A: It will probably depend on how his does this week. How he moves around and what his comfort level is. I want to see how he moves around a little bit and see where is confidence is and then make a decision.
Q: Would he have to play with a soft cast?
A: He may. I know they’re going to definitely have it wrapped. He won’t be out there without anything on.
Q: You’ve talked about J.J. Watt, how important of a game is this for Brandon Fusco?
A: It’s always a big game for him. He’s going against one of the best for sure but every week it’s a big game for Brandon and the rest of our offensive line and the rest of our team. So that won’t be any different, just going against an exceptional player. He’s had to face some very good players throughout this season, but he’ll be up for the challenge.
Q: Have you seen a guy like J.J. Watt dominate inside?
A: You know, we feel like having the chance to watch Kevin Williams over the course of his career, he’s been a pretty dominant player as well. J.J. is a guy you, as I said earlier, you really have to contend with and he can take a game over and we’ve seen him do it. He’s a special athlete who has made a big difference for their defense.
Q: You haven’t had penalties on blocks by your receivers to wipe out long runs?
A: Oh yeah and you’re exactly right and you see it all the time. A running back breaks a long run and he’s brought back because of receivers down the field holding. Credit to George Stewart and our wide receivers, we place a lot of emphasis on our wide receivers blocking down the field because we believe with the back we have with Adrian, there’s a chance on every play that he might break it so your block down the field is not inconsequencental, it’s important. Our guys have bought into that. They understand that part of their role and credit to George along with our receivers in understanding how critical it is to be clean down the field on those blocks.
Q: Overall your penalties are down, is it better athletes, smarter players, what would you attribute to being better?
A: If you look back we have not, in the time I’ve been here, been very good when it comes to penalties. For us to be in the top five this season, credit to our players. We really emphasized it in the offseason but that’s not unlike any other year that we’ve emphasized it. But once again, our ownership really buying into some things that I’ve talked to them about this offseason. One of the things I did, because I was really concerned about penalties, always have penalties and been near the bottom of the League in that area. I was talking with some other coaches around the League just to get a feel for trying to get some ideas in how we can improve this. One of the coaches I talked with mentioned that they had tried to use officials in practice and he saw a dramatic decrease in their penalties. I said, ‘Man, that’s not a bad idea. Maybe that might help us’. I talked to our ownership about it because those guys aren’t going to volunteer their time, and they were willing to support it. I think having those officials there has helped us, along with our players just being more conscious, but probably being more conscious because those officials are there and they will call penalties in practice. I think that’s helped us.
Q: Is Bernie Kukar a big part of that as well?
A: Yeah, Bernie is a part of it as well. He’s helped tremendously. Meeting with our coaches, giving little mini clinics in training camp with our team and our coaches. It’s helped a lot. If our ownership had balked at that, it may not have increased and became as good as it has. But, I think where we are penalty-wise is a direct reflection of the commitment that was made from the top, then our players understanding the importance of it.
Q: Your patience with Christian Ponder and sticking with him through some real rough times, has it been rewarded? And did you get an invite to the wedding?
A: It’s a long season and there are going to be some up and downs in the season. Christian played a very good game for us on Sunday and we’re going to need him to play a good game again this Sunday, along with the rest of our team. That’s part of being a quarterback in the National Football League. We’re trying to develop some consistency with him and now we want to put together another good game. That would be a big a big step for our team towards getting a win on Sunday. I know he’s more than capable of it and we expect that to happen. And happy for him, happy that he’s no longer single.
Q: Does the timing of that bother you at all?
A: No, I mean he’s a young man who I’m sure put a lot of thought into it and consulted with the right people. Happy for him.
Q: Did he tell you it was coming or was it a surprise to you too?
A: I knew it was on the radar, didn’t know when. He got it done.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2012
Vikings Quarterback Christian Ponder
Obviously, a big game this week. Watching the film Monday, the game against St. Louis, saw a lot of good things, I think a lot of things that we can continue to build on and move forward from. We understand that this game, obviously, we don’t win this one, last week doesn’t mean a whole lot. I think everyone is focused. You can feel it in the locker room. It’s almost like a playoff atmosphere for us and it’s going to be a hostile environment, obviously, it’s a team with a great record, tough place to play. They’re playing for a lot. They’re playing for a bye and home-field advantage so they have a lot on their plate and we know they’re going to be focused and it’s going to be a fun one. It means a lot for this whole team and it means a lot for me. It’s probably the biggest game of my career and we’re excited for it.
Q: What stands out to you schematically about the Texans defense?
A: They’re different. It’s a 3-4 that we’re going to try to treat differently than a 3-4. Lot of man coverage, some quarters and some other stuff they’ll mix in, but they don’t do a whole lot. They’re not a whole lot different schematically but they’re really good at what they do, obviously, and they create turnovers and we’re going to have to have a great week of preparation and put in a lot of extra work to get ready for this.
Q: Are you going to have to win some of those one-on-one battles on the outside to keep them honest?
A: Yeah, definitely. We expect them to play man coverage and the defensive backs are good at it and we’re going to have to win outside. Obviously, I think their number one goal is going to be to stop Adrian (Peterson), obviously. So, we’re going to have to take advantage of that in the passing game and we’ll see what they end up doing.
Q: How unique is what they do with J.J. Watt and how they move him around?
A: He’s one of the best players in the NFL, especially at his position. They’re going to put him in different spots to create plays and whether he is inside at the tackle position or outside on the end and standing up or he’s down, he’s creating a lot of plays, obviously. He’s getting pressure but he’s also knocking balls down and he’s a guy that we definitely have to account for.
Q: On your touchdown run Sunday, if that play goes as designed, what is supposed to happen?
A: The coverage we got, they ended up doubling Kyle (Rudolph), so we’re probably going to end up going to (Michael) Jenkins on the outside. Hopefully, he looked like he was going to end up winning, but it broke down and I got smacked right in the face and somehow I got out of there and scored.
Q: Was it a facemask or the side of your helmet that got hit?
A: I thought it was a facemask, I don’t know, but I just got smacked. He hit me pretty good. I guess my dive, a lot of people made fun of my dive. I don’t know why. Worked out, I guess.
Q: What was the value of finishing off that drive? The fourth-and-1 was a big conversion?
A: It was big. Fourth down, obviously we love Coach going for it as players, we love that. He took the risk and we converted, which was big and then for us to get to third-and-five, third-and-goal from around the four or the five, whatever it was, it was important for us to convert because it allowed us to convert on that fourth down. We knew that winning on the road is hard and for us to do it, we have to start fast and it was crucial to finish that first drive. The defense did what they had to do on their offense’s first drive and it was important for us to do the same and luckily, we were able to punch it in and start from a good spot.
Q: How important was it for guys like John Carlson and Stephen Burton to step up?
A: Big, big. Those are guys that we are obviously trying to implement in this game plan and for John, obviously, we keep trying to get him the ball and he had a couple great catches and he’s going to be a big part of this offense. We’re going to keep utilizing him and Stephen Burton, that third-and-14 on that first drive, for him to catch the ball and he had to back shoulder because the linebacker was running out to the slant and he caught it and gained a couple more yards and that was crucial. Those guys are stepping up and making plays and we have a lot of depth at every position and we’re going to keep needing guys like that to keep stepping up.
Q: You also came back to Stephen Burton on the third-and-long play where the corner was squatting on it?
A: Yeah, he did, he did. We saw a lot on film that they kept getting beat on isolated slants backside and the safety kind of lined up towards the hash and then he ran over the top so that allowed the corner to jump in and I tried to get it out quick, I have to see the corner first before letting that ball go. Fortunately for us, he dropped it.
Q: That’s the risk in running those routes, that the defenders will squat on some of them later?
A: Yeah, and especially when they have safety help over the top, that allows them to do it and so that’s something I have to see.
Q: Nice luxury to have a kicker who can hit anywhere inside of 60 yards?
A: Yeah, it’s unbelievable. For us, as an offense, for us to just cross a certain threshold on the field and know that there’s a good chance of the ball getting put in the uprights and getting some points on the board is big for us and it takes a lot of pressure off of us. The guy has done an unbelievable job, not playing like a rookie at all and handling pressure ever since game one against Jacksonville to tie it up at the end of the game. He’s doing unbelievable and we’re excited to have him. We’re lucky that we scooped him up on this team and no one else did.
Q: Is your decision to get married before this game not a distraction?
A: No, not at all. It hasn’t deterred anything from what I did, my routine every Monday and Tuesday. I was in here and got my film work in. It’s a big deal but it wasn’t a distraction at all.
Q: How does it compare with getting drafted number one?
A: That’s a tough question. I liked being drafted number one. We’ll see how this marriage thing goes (laughs).
Q: Did you go with Christian Steele?
A: That’s what people asked me. That would have been good, right? I could have been like a pro wrestler or something. No, I did not.
Q: Was this Monday?
A: It was, yeah.
Q: Did you take any witnesses with you?
A: No, from the courthouse. We tried to keep the attention away from us and just went over to Wisconsin and had it done. It was quick, but it was good.
Q: Lot of Minnesota fans wonder why you had to go to Wisconsin?
A: We tried to limit the attention on us and I know that the state of Minnesota isn’t happy about it but, you know, whatever. We’re going to have a big ceremony sometime in the offseason and be able to enjoy it and hopefully, some people from Minnesota will be able to be down there.
Q: Are you trying to soften up J.J. Watt?
A: That might be a good plan. I’ll have to talk to him before the game. Might have to send him an invite or something.
Q: Were your parents or her parents there?
A: No, it was just us.
Q: You had to know it was going to get out though right?
A: We were hoping not. That wasn’t the plan.
Q: Registered at Nike?
A: Yeah, for sure. Get some good gifts.
Q: Do you have a honeymoon planned?
A: Not yet. That will be down the road. Obviously, like you said, it’s such a big game this week. It was a good thing it happened but it’s not going to be a distraction. I’m still putting in the time that I did Monday and Tuesday and for the rest of the week and I understand, no one outside of myself understands how big of a game this is for myself and this team. It’s important for me.
Q: What was behind the timing of it?
A: It was important for us to get it done before the holidays and a lot of personal reasons that went into it.