Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier
Good afternoon guys. Good to see you guys. I wasn’t expecting to be doing a media event postseason at this point. We were looking forward to continuing our season. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, but very, very proud of our football team and what they accomplished this season. Our guys worked extremely hard going all the way back to, as you heard me say this before, April 23rd when they came back in the building to really set a foundation for this 2012 season and because of their hard work, we were able to secure a playoff berth, something we are extremely pleased with. The foundation has really been set with our team without question. Our core identity showed up, the traits that we talked about throughout the year, being a tough, smart, disciplined football team were exemplified through this group of young men. Really appreciate our coaching staff for developing such a young roster. When you have more than 50 percent of your team in their first and second season, to see our coaches work with them, bring them along and get them to the point where they could go out and function and function well and play at a high level, much credit to those guys for their work and their efforts. So many individual players who had great seasons, looking at what Adrian (Peterson) did, Blair (Walsh), the development of Christian (Ponder), so many players. Seeing our defense come along and improve over the course of the year, Chad Greenway, Jared (Allen), Kevin (Williams), great leadership on our football team. It really helped me a great deal during the course of the season and so for us, I think we have a great foundation for the future. I think we have some things in place that should help us long term and help us to improve as we go forward. We have a lot of work to do this offseason. We understand that. Our players know that. We had a good meeting on Monday talking about what we have to do when we do get back in the building in April. They’re enthused, they’re excited, they weren’t holding their heads down. We had a lot we wanted to get achieved, came up a little bit short. Our goal was to get to the Super Bowl and win the Super Bowl and we got a taste of what it’s like to play in the playoffs and our guys are hungry to get back and finish the mission that’s been put before them. But an exciting time for all of our fans, very appreciative of the support we received from the fans. They were great. Our home games, you’ve heard me say this before, I think for any team that comes to Mall of America Field, our goal going into the season, we wanted to make it extremely difficult for anybody to think that they could come here and win, and our guys, they got that done. To go 7-1 at home with the support we got from our fans, that was a big deal for our success during the season. Very appreciative of our fans and the support that they provided for us throughout the season. Injury-wise, we have a few guys that are going to have to take care of some things. Jared (Allen), he’s going to have surgery after the Pro Bowl on a labrum tear. Chris Kluwe has to get some work done on a meniscus, he’s going to have to have some surgery done, that’s to be determined. Tyrone McKenzie, we missed him late in the year, last couple of games, he’ll be back. He won’t have to have any surgery. He’ll heal on his own. Adrian is going to be evaluated for that core muscle issue that he had after the Pro Bowl. He’ll get evaluated there. Christian had the contusion on his tricep, he’s improving, still getting treatment. Antoine (Winfield), he’s healing, won’t need any surgery. He’s doing fine. Other than that, we have some minor things that different guys are dealing with but nothing that should hinder anyone when we do open up training camp a year from now, at least a few months from now, from participating. Good year, good year for our football team.
Q: Is it the meniscus in Kluwe’s non-kicking leg?
A: Left knee, yes.
Q: Anything to the rumors about Mike Singletary and Mike Priefer interviewing for the Bears head coach position?
A: The Bears have requested some information and I’ll let their organization talk about their candidates and the rumors that you’ve read or the rumors you’ve read and heard, they have been asked to come in and interview for a job there, they have.
Q: Do you expect any changes to your coaching staff?
A: I’m hoping that we’ll keep our guys intact. I think, as I mentioned earlier, our coaches did a great job in getting our players ready to play every week and barring someone getting a promotion, I’m hoping that all of our guys will be back. They did a terrific job throughout the season.
Q: What was your message to the team before they left?
A: Just tried to encourage them on what they had done this season, but also to challenge them to come back with a similar work ethic to the one they had this past offseason and understanding in our League, every year is different. You can’t rest on your laurels in the NFL. For all we accomplished in 2012, 2013 will be much different. Our roster is going to be different, our schedule is going to be different. We’re going to have to find a way to improve, and part of that will be, of course, through the draft and free agency and also the guys that are on our roster paying a price this offseason to improve, but just wanted to leave them with that challenge and come back with a commitment to improve.
Q: What was the importance of that four game winning streak to close out the season in terms of validating all of the things you’re trying to get done?
A: Without that four game win streak, we don’t get a chance to compete in the playoffs, so for our players to stand up like they did and compete and not give up, not just believe that the season was over. We were 6-6, says a lot about the character of our football team, the leadership on our football team and it meant a lot to me, meant a lot to our coaching staff that our players didn’t buckle under the fact that we were a .500 team at 6-6 and kept playing and believing that they were going to win, on the road or at home.
Q: Christian had a lot of ups and downs this season. What is your outlook for him going into 2013?
A: We’re excited about his progress. The way he played down the stretch, he was great. He had a lot to do with us winning those last four games the way we did and it’s unfortunate that he wasn’t able to play in that last ball game up at Lambeau. He wanted to play. He tried everything he could to get on the field and just wouldn’t have been a wise decision to put him out there with the injury that he had. He just didn’t get the flexion back in that tricep, but he did everything in his power to get out there with his rehab, his work ethic was tremendous. We’re pleased with the progress he’s made. We saw glimpses of what he can bring to our football team and the way he led us down the stretch, you feel like you have a chance to win every game when your quarterback plays the way he played. We’re excited about his development and looking forward to him getting better through this offseason.
Q: Will Christian be your starter for 2013?
A: He’s our starter, yeah, he’s our starter.
Q: Where are you at backup quarterback after what happened Saturday?
A: It was a tough day for Joe [Webb], tough day all the way around. He was put in a tough situation having to go start a playoff game in that environment against a good football team. We still have a lot of confidence in Joe, we understand the circumstances that he was placed in. He’ll be a guy competing for that number two spot again next year, barring something that we may end up doing in our personnel meetings. We’re going to discuss Joe’s position and everyone’s position in our personnel meetings, and then we’ll make a decision on what’s best.
Q: Is McLeod Bethel-Thompson going to be your number three quarterback?
A: It’s so hard to say, just two days after our season, what three days now? Our roster is going to change, we know that, all of us in this building that have been around this League as long as we have. It’s hard to say today that Bethel is going to be number three until we see how the roster unfolds.
Q: Would there be a situation where you go and get a number two quarterback and let Joe Webb become number three?
A: Once again, it’s so hard today to determine that. We need to have a lot of discussions personnel-wise, which is what we’re going to be doing throughout this week and next week as well with the staff along with Rick [Spielman] and the scouts as well. Just discussing our personnel and trying to figure out before we start having draft conversations, what about our current roster? We’re going to have some of those discussions.
Q: Do you have any regrets in the Packer game that you guys didn’t approach it offensively to appeal more to Joe Webb’s strengths?
A: Not at all. We really put together a game plan that we felt like played to his strengths. We did some things with bootlegs, we did some things with play action, which he’s very good at. We ran some option football, some zone read, and we also had some drop back in there. We had a mix that we felt very comfortable with that he had executed very well in practice. When he had his opportunities throughout the course of the year he executed well also. So no, no regrets about the game plan or the approach that we took. It was the right approach, their defense really didn’t change. The things that we saw on tape were there for Joe, just like they were for Christian [Ponder]. He’s shown that he can function in our offense. As I mentioned, we had some things in that we felt real good about.
Q: Why hasn’t Percy Harvin been here with the team, is that unusual?
A: Percy, I know he rooted for his teammates throughout this process. There is probably nobody more excited about what we achieved as a team than Percy. He’s going to be coming through for his exit physical so he and I will get a chance to chat and talk a little bit. He’s enthused about what has happened with our football team. We have some other guys who are on injured reserve who weren’t around as much either. There will be guys that are injured this offseason that will do their rehab in other places as well. It’s not unusual in that regard, I know he’s very supportive of his teammates.
Q: When you have a chance to meet with him face-to-face, what are some of the things you want to talk to him about and get on the same page with him about?
A: It will be more to see how he is physically and just to talk to him a little. I know Eric Sugarman and his staff will bring me up to date on him but it will be more reconnecting as opposed to getting on the same page.
Q: What do you think it’s going to take for him to coexist peacefully?
A: I don’t know if there’s anything that needs to be done. He’ll coexist peacefully, he exists peacefully now. Just get back, get healthy and get back on the football field.
Q: What’s the decision with Percy going to be like contract-wise?
A: I’ve made a point to not get in too deep with those contract conversations. I trust Rick Spielman and Rob Brzezinski in that area and they’ll bring me up to speed on where guys are when it comes to their contract. I try to separate the two between being head coach and staying out of contract negotiations. His agent, they’ll have those discussions and they’ll figure out what needs to be done.
Q: Why wasn’t the entire offense more productive on Saturday?
A: I think it comes back to what I mentioned earlier; the environment I’m sure has something to do with it along with the fact that Green Bay did a good job of putting people in the right places and making some things happen. Joe [Webb] and I have talked, execution needs to be a little bit better in some areas. There were some opportunities there for sure in the passing game we weren’t able to connect with, much like there were the week before, and we didn’t connect. So it had nothing to do with the game plan per se but our execution as a whole. We did not execute as well as we needed to and that’s the difference in the ball game for us from an offensive standpoint.
Q: With Joe not having any opportunities during the season, did you see him hit some of those same throws that he missed in the game during practice last week?
A: Oh yeah, otherwise we wouldn’t keep him in the game plan. There were things that he did and did well. We had confidence going into the game, but you have to understand what you just said, the fact that his opportunities are limited when you are the backup quarterback, you’re limited. It was a tall task for him. He fought, tried to give us a chance to win, we just weren’t able to get over the hump.
Q: Have you had a chance to evaluate the job you did this year?
A: I’m so, as I mentioned earlier, very appreciative of what our players accomplished and the commitment they made going all the way back to the spring. For our coaches, when we got together at the Senior Bowl, and some of you guys came down for that and witnessed our coaches coming together, and having that minicamp that we hadn’t the year before because of the lockout. Just to develop that camaraderie on our staff leading up to the season was a big deal. The reflection for me is just seeing how things came together through this offseason so that we could set a foundation for the regular season. That’s something I’m pleased about, the way our players responded and the way our coaches were able to develop our players. It’s a big deal.
Q: Have you had a chance to talk at all with the Wilfs about an extension? How important is that to resolve quickly?
A: I haven’t had a chance to talk with them at this point. These last 48 hours in the building have been meeting with players and talking with them about the future and so on and some other things in their lives, but eventually we will talk. I’m not worried about it. Things will work out just fine. I’m not worried at all.
Q: Have they spoken with your agent about your contract?
A: Not at this point, but we will have those discussions.
Q: How is Percy’s health? Do you have an update on his ankle?
A: When he comes in to do his physical – everything I’ve been told, it’s heading in the right direction – but he has to go through this physical and I’ll learn more after he gets through with his physical.
Q: When you guys evaluate Kevin Williams and Antoine Winfield and how to address them, how much do you weigh their presence? How much does that add to their value compared to production?
A: The intangible in this is a big deal when you’re trying to get the locker room the way you want it. Both Antoine and Kevin are guys who’ve achieved a lot in our league, a lot of success. To have star players with the demeanor and the leadership qualities that they both possess helped our football team in 2012. There’s no question about it. We’d love to have those guys on our team going forward. That’s something that we’re going to talk about when we have our personnel meetings with Rick and the personnel department, just talking about their fit going forward, but from my vantage point, I’m very appreciative of the leadership they provided for us this season and what they meant to me in my time here in Minnesota. I want them to remain Minnesota Vikings. They are great, great players and great people as well.
Q: Have you gotten any indications that the Wilfs are interested in extending your contract?
A: I’ve been told a number of times from Mark and Zygi and Rick they’re pleased with the job we’ve done this season, a number of times, so I’m very appreciative of their support throughout the year. Very appreciative.
Q: Did you get a sense talking to Antoine Winfield yesterday of his desire to come back for another year?
A: I think he wants to do it. All indications are, but there are some things, of course, he wants to think about this offseason, but all indications are he wants to give it another try.
Q: A couple years ago you were close to getting that Buffalo job. Could you imagine how things would have been different had you went there?
A: So happy I’m in Minnesota, my friend. I love the Minnesota Vikings.
Q: You guys went through the year relatively unscathed injury-wise. How much of that contributed to the 10-win season?
A: That’s a great point. I’ve thought about that a number of times. When I looked at our secondary this season, and most of you remember what it’s been like the last couple years in ’11 and ’10 where we were pretty much depleted when we get to December, and this year, with the exception of Antoine, we pretty much were whole in the secondary throughout the year. We were whole most of the year at other positions as well. That’s a big deal in our league. When you can keep your key players on the field late in the season, you have a chance because there is such a thin margin between teams when it comes to winning and losing. The fact that we were able to stay healthy this season definitely made a difference in our being able to finish the season strong. I don’t know if that would have been possible if we had lost a number of guys in that month of December when we needed to get those four wins. You don’t know what 2013 is going to be like, but I’m hoping that we’re going to be healthy again throughout the season, but for sure this year was great in that regard. We lost very few players to injury over the course of the season. I think our numbers as far as guys on injured reserve were probably the lowest it’s been in 2 or 3 years. It definitely made a difference in our success.
Q: How important is it to upgrade the receiver position?
A: We’re going to take the same approach, and I know Rick will talk to you about this later in the week, that we have taken the last year or two. Looking at every position and figuring out how we can make this football team better. That will include the wide receiver position, offensive line position, defensive back position, linebacker position, on and on and on. We’re going to discuss every one of those positions to try to figure out how can we get his team better to the point where we can bring that Lombardi Trophy to Minnesota. It will be a part of the discussion.
Q: What is the schedule the next couple of weeks?
A: We have to go through our personnel here and talk about our guys and then we’ll eventually get with Rick and begin to talk about the free agents across the League and then we’ll move on to the draft eligible college players. We have a lot to do from a personnel standpoint. We’ll be watching tape on a lot of different players trying to figure out if they fit and eventually getting out and interviewing and talking to college players so there is a lot of work to be done to make sure that we keep moving forward in 2013.
Q: Do you get a break at some point?
A: Yes I do. I’m looking forward to it, too. I do want to say this, thank you guys for your support this year, as well. We don’t get a chance to conversate very often, but I appreciate it. I mean, you guys want to see our team win as much as we do. It’s a lot better story when we win so we want to keep this going. Thanks.