Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier
Good afternoon. This is one of the, in my mind, best press conferences we’ll have this year. This is an exciting time for our football team, for our fans, for our organization. The fact that we’re in the playoffs, one of 12 teams in the playoffs and getting ready to go to Lambeau to represent our state and our fans across the country in a game that is going to take a lot to top what happened yesterday. That was a terrific game for our football team in front of our fans who did a great job of cheering on our players on throughout the day. Our guys really fed off the energy of our fans at Mall of America Field, it really helped us throughout the ball game. To have so many guys step up and contribute the way they did at different times in the game. Whether it was Christian [Ponder] making great throws and really running our offense, our defensive line and our defensive players really stepping up with big sacks and hits on the quarterback, our special teams at times coming up with timely plays, then Adrian [Peterson]. He’s just in a class by himself. In my mind as I mentioned last night, he’s the MVP of our League, he’s the best running back without question in the National Football League. Really exemplifies all the characteristics we try to embody as a team, a guy who is tough, he’s smart, he’s disciplined, he’s selfless in so many ways. As much as he wanted that record, as much as we wanted that record for him, it was more important for him that we won the football game. As I’ve said time and time again, there aren’t very many superstars that are willing to put the team first, and that’s Adrian. To come up nine yards short, but yet to walk away from it and say, ‘You know what, we’re going to the playoffs. We have a chance to do something special here in Minnesota’. That’s what you need out of your superstar, one of the leaders on your team. An exciting time for our franchise, an exciting time for our fans and everybody that supports our team and we’re looking forward to the challenge. Injury wise, we don’t know what’s going to happen with Antoine [Winfield], we’ll see how he does throughout the week. He was in quite a bit of pain yesterday, so we’ll have to see how he does during the week and make a decision maybe later on. Brian Robison finished the game, I think he’ll be available for sure for this next ball game, so it’s encouraging to get him back. We had a few other guys that were nicked up a little bit but we’ll learn more about them as the week goes on. Adrian came out of it fine, he actually said today that he feels better than he felt a week ago on Monday after the Texans game so that’s encouraging. We’ll monitor his work load throughout the week and the fact that we’re on a short week, we’ll have to do that with all our players. We’ll probably change how we structure practice and how we structure our meetings as well, just because of the fact that we’re on a short week. But an exciting time for us.
Q: How do you wrap your brain around that you can have 2nd-and-27 and you can hand the ball off to your running back.
A: We have a unique situation here with Adrian (Peterson) for sure. I mean there are not a lot of teams that would even think you’re going to get back to the line of scrimmage in that situation and here we are looking at 1st-and-10. We are very fortunate to have a guy like him running the football and we take full advantage for sure.
Q: It seems like a lot of times in the NFL the hot team goes on to win, do you think this team has the capability to do that seeing how well you’ve played the last month?
A: Well we have played some games in this last month where we have had our backs against the wall and have needed to get a win each week, particularly these last four weeks and our guys have risen to the challenge and they have played extremely well and have got us those wins. Now we are into a whole new season, we hope that we can maintain that and improve, because we are going to need to improve to go play on the road, so it’s a big challenge for us. It is a big challenge for us and we need to keep improving.
Q: Does it surprise you at all about how well they have handled the challenge of finishing the season when your record was 6-6?
A: I think when you have good leadership on your team like we do, it gives you a chance. We have some high character guys on our team who stand for the right things and when Jared (Allen), Adrian (Peterson), Antoine (Winfield), Chad (Greenway) a bunch of guys in the locker room are telling the young guys that we need to keep pushing and we can win these remaining games, this is what it’s going to take to win. As a young player, and as you guys know we have a lot of first and second year guys playing for us and having major roles on our team, those are your models because you don’t know anything else. So when you have leaders that are really pointing the way and they have hope, you’re going to have hope. If they are negative and saying I’ve been down this road before, we are not going to be able to get out of this you’re probably not going to have a chance. Because of our leadership and the character of our players I think that has a lot to do with why are we are standing here now getting ready for a playoff game.
Q: Is your leadership structure any different from last year’s?
A: We really didn’t change a lot of what we do structure wise, the people changed, but when we usually meet, some of the topics we talk about, they are similar but the people are different.
Q: How important is it to have an elite cornerback in this league?
A: To have an elite corner, oh man. I mean that is every coaches dream in our league, the way the league is structured now with the passing game to find that one guy who can shut down a team’s best receiver it helps your defense so much when you can find that guy. It is hard to do. When people have a guy with that kind of capability they usually don’t let him get on the market, and he doesn’t change teams very often. It’s good to have if you can find one.
Q: Is it different from when you were playing?
A: When I was playing you stayed with your team, there was no free agency, you were going to be with your team. That was going to be your team for a long period of time, so it’s a little bit different now.
Q: When Antoine Winfield goes out what goes into going with Marcus Sherels playing inside instead of Josh Robinson?
A: A lot of different factors but Marcus has been primarily our inside corner. We have used Josh more on the outside. We’ve worked Josh very limited reps inside but there are some things that we will have to look at for this ball game that we might do a little bit different but it goes back to who is an inside corner and who is an outside corner.
Q: Does that make you weaker when you’ve identified Josh Robinson as one of your top three guys?
A: Not necessarily, it depends on how you view their skill set. Where is a guy best at for what we do. We deemed Josh as a guy that we thought would be better on the outside versus inside, so we trained Marcus, Antoine and a couple of the other guys to play inside and we have a role for Josh and he has filled that role very well for us, but from our stand point, no we don’t think so.
Q: Was it the pain with Antoine Winfield that limited his reps?
A: It was the pain, and we will have to see how he does going forward. It was a tough one, but it was pain.
Q: Can you find some things to do that the Packers might not be expecting seeing as how this is your third game against them this season?
A: We will look at it as hard as we can to see if there is anything we can do differently to help us and improve across the board as a team. We are so familiar with one another, like you said three times in the last six weeks, there are not a whole lot of new things you can do, but you can improve on the things that you have been doing.
Q: Will you work them outside at all this week?
A: I’m not sure, we will talk it through and figure out what we think is best to get quality work whether it be outside or in here, we will talk that through some.
Q: With six of the top eight rushing teams making the playoffs does that kind of show that maybe it isn’t as much of a quarterback driven league as everyone thinks it is?
A: I don’t know if it speaks to that, I know for us and where we are, this is the best thing for us and our football team. It gives us the best chance to win. It’s a formula we believe in and our players believe in. It’s working and as you mentioned when you have the best running back in the National Football League, why wouldn’t you focus and build your offense around him. It has proven to be a successful plan for us and we will go forward in doing that.
Q: Did you notice anything different with what the Packers did to stop (Adrian) Peterson from the previous game?
A: Yeah, they did a few different things with their safeties and even with their line moving them a little bit, and I’m sure they will come up with another wrinkle when we play them again on Saturday night. To our offensive line’s credit, to our coaches, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our coaches. They came up with a great game plan in all three areas. That is a very, very good football team that we beat yesterday. Our offensive staff, led by Bill Musgrave, in game planning the second time around for some of the things they did on defense. We did a good job of adjusting on the sidelines to some of the things that they were doing as well. I’m sure that they will have some wrinkles when we go up to Lambeau and we will have to adjust again, but they did have a few things different from when we played them earlier.
Q: With the way they are operating their defensive front right now how important is it for your tight ends to handle their outside linebackers?
A: It is very important, I mean Clay Matthews, their outside linebackers are physical guys and they can cover a lot of ground, so when Kyle (Rudolph) had a chance to get some blocks for us along with John (Carlson) and Rhett (Ellison) they did a terrific job throughout the day. That was a big part of our run game’s success. It wasn’t just our offensive line or Adrian (Peterson) having great runs, although he did and our offensive line did a good job, but our tight ends and receivers blocking down the field was just as important. Being able to see Devin Aromashodu make great blocks down the field, Michael Jenkins the same thing, what our tight ends did and what our wide receivers did was a major part of our success running the ball yesterday.
Q: Was it a miscommunication on Greg Jennings’ touchdown reception?
A: Not so much a miscommunication, we just didn’t get him covered. We knew what we were supposed to get done, we just didn’t get it done. For whatever reason we turned a guy loose in coverage and you don’t really want to see that happen. It is something we will have to get corrected. It wasn’t so much the communication, we just didn’t execute as well.
Q: Was Erin Henderson supposed to stick with him in coverage?
A: We would like for Erin (Henderson) to stick with him in that situation. That is something we will have to work on when we come back.
Q: Do you think the philosophy of running the ball becomes even more important now that you are in the playoffs?
A: I would think so, I don’t know what the conditions are going to be at Lambeau yet. Still going back to what I think is best for us. It is a formula that I believe can work no matter the conditions, whether it’s a warm day or in this case a potentially cold day, a real cold day, it can work. When your players have an identity and they know what that identity is, they tend to think a little bit less about what some of the other implications or ramifications can be with the weather. They know mentally that this is what we are going to focus on no matter the condition, I think it has to be an advantage for you.
Q: Was Christian walking a fine line with some of the balls that he was throwing away?
A: He did a good job yesterday, we had one sack, and even that one was one that they had to go back and review because he was trying to get it out. He is doing what he is instructed to do, were trying not to take sacks, we are trying to get the ball out. He did a good job yesterday, there were some times that they had him corralled it seemed, he got rid of the football. He made good decisions, it worked out well for us.
Q: Were you expecting them to spy Clay Matthews as much as they did?
A: They had their strategies, they had their reasons for doing what they did and we had to adjust to what they were doing. I’m sure this week it will be a little bit different or more of. We will have to see, but they had their reasons for their strategy.
Q: How much do you have to prepare for Aaron Rogers looking to pick up the pace of their offense, using a no-huddle offense?
A: Well, he will definitely want to do that. When we were there in our previous meeting at Lambeau that is what they did, they came out in no-huddle, tried to get the tempo to their liking, so it is something we will have to be ready for and adjust to. They did a good job with the hard-counts up there so we have to be ready to handle that as well. We expect them to try and get the tempo where they want it at their home field. It will be something we will have to work on.
Q: With Adrian Peterson coming up eight yards short of the single-season rushing record, how much do you see that motivating him to reach that next year?
A: As you know it doesn’t take much to get him going when he sets a goal. I wouldn’t put it past Adrian Peterson to shoot for that record next year and even obtain it, he is one of those guys you never bet against. If that is in his sights, it is possible, anything is possible with Adrian.
Q: With as close as he was will you and your staff go back and look for any extra yards?
A: Yeah if we could find those hidden yards, we would do it. They have different people who will be doing it, but we will be doing our own homework as well, but if we can find nine yards we will do it.
Q: How much confidence does it give you knowing that you beat the Packers when Aaron Rogers at his best?
A: Well, I mean they are a good team. When you have been 12-0 in our division and having the success that they have had to win that game at home it’s a big deal for our confidence, no question about it. Going on the road is a different mindset all together. We will have to go up there not resting on our laurels. We will have to really be prepared to go and play well and play even better than we played at home. We have to. It does help your confidence to know that you can beat that team and now we have to get it done on the road.
Q: With all of the ups and downs what impressed you most about yesterday’s game?
A: I was talking with our coaches about that early this morning. We have talked to our players about the resiliency that is necessary on the road and at home as well. There were so many moments yesterday with all of the ebbs and flows of the game, where you could have easily said, “They got the momentum, now how are we going to get it back or is it over with?” But our guys just kept focused on the task and no matter what happened they continued to go back out and play and fight and believe that one series wouldn’t define that game. That is a testament to the character of the players. Not looking over there and saying why is so-and-so not doing their job, or why didn’t that happen, instead just focusing on the next play or the next series and going out there and making a play and that is what we had yesterday. That is what we need to do in our league, these are some good teams we are playing, they are going to make some plays. You can’t get down on yourself if you make a mistake, you can’t get down on your teammate if he makes a mistake. You have to rally that teammate, you have to help him and support him and go out and make some plays and that is what our guys do.
Q: Will you have any of the guys left on the team that played in the playoff game against Green Bay eight years ago talk to the team about that game?
A: I don’t know, I will have to think about that a little bit. Some of our guys were in high school or junior high when it happened, so I will have to give it some thought.
Q: Have you invested any time on looking at your 2013 opponents that were just released today?
A: Not even a second, not even a minute second. No not at all. We better be focused on these Green Bay Packers.
Q: Do you have to move this team from being happy to be in the playoffs to moving on and winning the playoff game?
A: I think we do, we have to be conscious of the fact that we have got a very young group of guys in there who have never experienced what they are about to experience. You can’t take for granted that they are going to understand what’s at stake. Even though we talked about what these last four weeks were going to be like and what needed to happen in the previous four weeks. Now you go into the second season, where the stakes actually increase. I think we do have to address it and make them aware of what’s about to happen and the implications involved. Don’t take anything for granted in believing that they understand that.
Q: With a quick turnaround back to practice will any of the players miss practice?
A: Harrison (Smith) won’t miss practice, but we will temper what we do with him, but none of the other guys should miss. There are still some other guys that are coming in today to see Eric Sugarman, our trainer, but at this point I’m not sure who would miss.