Coach Leslie Frazier:
Good morning everyone. We had a good walk through this morning, our team meeting went well last night, and Matt Birk spoke to our football team over the last couple of years we’ve had a Vikings alumni come in and help us to kick off training camp. The first year we had Jim Marshall to do it, last year we had Matt Blair to come in and he did a terrific job and this year Matt came in and if you get a chance to talk to some of our players they’ll tell you that some of the things he had to say really made a lot of sense to them. The fact he’s a part of the most recent Super Bowl winning team and his long history here in Minnesota really resonated with our players and he gave them a very good message regarding seizing this moment that we have and taking advantage of the great opportunity that we have to play for the Minnesota Vikings and coach for the Vikings. He did a terrific job and we’re very fortunate that he would take time away from his family to come in and share with our players. I think all of our guys are enthusiastic and really looking forward to this afternoon, our first practice after our walk-through and looking forward to kicking off this 2013 season and getting it going. We have two guys that are going to be on the PUP [Physically Unable to Perform] list just like we mentioned yesterday, Greg Childs will be one of those guys and after talking with Nate Williams we just felt like that ankle he had surgery on back in the spring that he really wasn’t quite ready yet so we’re going to give him a little more time before we put him on the field. So we are going to start him on the PUP list as well, and other than that, everybody should be ready to go this afternoon and looking forward to it.
Q: What was the player’s biggest take away from Matt’s message last night?
A: I’m hoping that they’ll just think about that fact, that how important this moment is, that you can’t be looking towards next year, you can’t be looking back at the past but being able to seize this moment. The work that’s involved with them coming together as a football team, you really stress that point with some of the ups and downs they had a year ago in Baltimore, but yet their team stuck together, especially late in the season when they made the coaching change on offense. That part of it being able to stay together as a team through some of the highs and lows of an NFL season and then seizing this moment
Q: Did it surprise you at all that Michael Mauti was not on the PUP list?
A: I don’t know if it’s a complete surprise, we weren’t sure he’d be quite ready when we left from mandatory minicamp, but we were all hoping that he would be ready to practice and after spending some time with him our coaches working him out this morning making sure we were doing the right thing with him. He moved around well enough to where our trainers felt like we needed to get him on the field and let him do football stuff with the coaches. Pleased about it for sure because we want to be able to take a look at him and evaluate him, and now we get a chance to do that. I know he’s anxious to get out there. He’s a guy that loves football, and it’ll be good for him and good for us.
Q: What’s the difference between Adrian Peterson today than from one year ago?
A: I was thinking about that when we were going through our walk through and there he is participating, when a year ago he wasn’t involved in those things, we had him working off to the side with our trainers. It’s far different in so many ways. I was teasing him I said “I don’t think you’re as in good of shape as you were a year ago.” He looked at me and goes “We’ll see.” It’s good for our team that he’s here, and able to participate and be involved from the very beginning, we didn’t have that a season ago this is far better, much better for our team and much better for him.
Q: John Sullivan said he was going to be out there practicing today. How comforting is it knowing he will be out there practicing?
A: It’s a good thing, good sign for us. John is one of our leaders and a good player for our football team. The fact that he can participate and not just stand on the sidelines and watch, it’s good for our young players and our entire offensive line, so we can continue that continuity that we need, that cohesiveness that’s necessary to have a good offensive line. We are going to have to limit some of his work, we can’t just throw everything at him early on, we’re going to bring him along, but the fact that he’s able to participate is good for our team.
Q: How important is it this year for Chris Cook?
A: It’s a big year for him, he knows it, and we talked a little bit yesterday when we greeted one another, and he said “Coach this is going to be the year for me.” With the injuries and some of the other stuff that has happened to keep him from completing a season, he knows the importance of this year, it’s a contract year for him so he has a lot going on. We need his play, he’s been a very good player for us when he’s stayed healthy and been able to stay on the field. We’re counting on him in a big way, and we’re hoping that he has a complete season. We know he has the talent, now it’s just a matter of going out there and getting it done.
Q: What’s your overall comfort level with Cook on one side, Josh Robinson in the slot and you have a rookie playing on the other outside?
A: There are a lot of question marks. We are having to replace a very good player that was here for a long time and had a lot of success. We like the guys we have, and we think Josh is going to do a great job for us, we’re hoping that Chris can stay healthy and on the field and continue to grow and mature, we’d like to see Xavier (Rhodes) come along for us, we think that AJ’s (Jefferson) going to do a good job for us. We have some pieces in place, but there are some unknowns, and that’s the question I can’t answer today. We have to get some reps under our belt, through practice and through preseason games, so we can fully evaluate them and bring that group together. They did a lot of good things a year ago, but there’s a hole there that we have to fill. We think we have the players on the roster to get that done, but now we have to go out on the field and actually do it.
Q: What do you take away from the defense and how they came on strong late in the season, it seems that they bought in later on than what they could have earlier in the season?
A: I think that early on there was a point where some of our vets were just kind of waiting to see what was going to happen with Alan (Williams) in that role and that comfort level with him, and as he gained that comfort level with them our defense really began to gel at the right time, and late down the stretch on defense it really had a lot to do with how our season ended. Going 4-0 in the month of December, a lot of that was in large part because how our defense played. So it’s good to see, it’s something that we can build on. It’s probably the one thing that I attributed it to just the comfort level the players had with the coaches, and that the coaches had with the players, and our being able to understand what we’re trying to do with some of the wrinkles we changed with our defense. We’re excited by the way we finished.
Q: Do you see the window being opened just a crack for players like Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Chad Greenway? Is this their last run?
A: You don’t like to think about that but we do have some guys who are approaching their final year of their contract. I think for all of our players, all of our coaches, the most important thing we could do is be in this moment and play as hard as we can together for now and take care of what we can control and that’s playing as hard as we can now. We’ll see what happens down the road.
Q: Are you tempted to replicate what you did last summer with Adrian?
A: We’ll definitely look at what we did a summer ago, but the circumstances were so different as you know but we don’t have to have a lot of work for Adrian Peterson in games, it’s not like we are not sure how he’s going to respond. So we have to be smart with our approach in the pre-season in how we want to handle him and practices as well. But it’s a different approach just because the circumstances were different.
Q: Do you think you might sit him preseason?
A: He’ll get work in the preseason. It won’t be like last year where he didn’t get any work; we’re going to get him some work and some ball games.
Q: Do you think Jared Allen will be more effective this year after his shoulder surgery?
A: I think he will. When I was talking with him yesterday he feels as healthy as he’s felt in a long time, so there’s no question in my mind that he should be a better player based on the fact that he’s playing without that shoulder nagging him throughout the year like it did a season ago and the work we did on his knee as well. But the one thing about that is it doesn’t necessarily equate to more sacks in the fact that he’ll be healthier, all it means is people are still going to block him the same way but he’ll be a more effective football player but it won’t necessarily equate to numbers. It should be able to help him be a better player for our football team.
Q: When you sit down with Adrian do you say do what you did last season, or do you say here’s what you need to work on?
A: Well, we do with our running backs coach James Saxon and along with Bill (Musgrave) talk him what our goals are for over the course of the season, but we don’t sit down and say we want you to get this many yards, or we want you to run this way, we don’t do that. We have some parameters that we want him to work within but we still want Adrian to be Adrian and he’s the greatest running back in our game so we’re not going to pigeon hole him on how we want to use him, but there are some things that we’re going to do, but they won’t be a whole lot different than things we’ve done in the past.
Q: Do you have big expectations this year for Christian Ponder?
A: Yeah, we have big expectations for Christian. We want to see him to continue to improve as a player and as I’ve said before there is so much pressure put on a quarterback to perform and we need our quarterback to perform well, it will help the rest of our team, but we also need the guys around him to perform well also.
Q: Most likely scenario for Greg Childs once the season approaches?
A: I think we’ll just have to wait and see. We’ll just have to wait and see how he progresses over the next days and weeks. It’s a little too early now to pin point what the final outcome is going to be or when we might take him off of PUP, but we just have to kind of check back periodically with him.
Q: What’s your take on the linebacker group as a whole right now?
A: It’s a little bit in flux with what we’re trying to find out with Erin [Henderson] at the Mike linebacker and trying to identify who’s going to be our starting Will linebacker. Chad is the one constant. He’s been a cornerstone for us at the outside linebacker spot. We have to go through some things in this preseason, in this training camp and try to identify what that group is going to look like. We think we have the talent, we think we have the depth to be better than we have been, but we still have to go through some things to determine that prior to our first game of the season.
Q: Is there a possibility that Desmond Bishop could take over that position?
A: It’s hard to project that at this point. We’re hoping that Erin is going to do a great job for us at the Mike linebacker position and that Desmond will do a good job as an outside linebacker for us and we’ll go through this process and see how it all plays out.
Q: What are the biggest challenges for Bishop coming in having not been around the whole offseason program and being around all new faces?
A: Those things that you’ve mentioned, that’s part of it. He’s going to have to get acclimated to the way we do things, his new teammates, this environment, a new system and just finding his way. There are a lot of challenges for him with the fact that he missed the entire offseason and then you combine that with the fact that he didn’t play at all last season. He’s still recovering from an injury; he’s still gaining his confidence physically so there are a lot of factors that will go into how fast he comes along. But he seems to be a very bright guy, a very mature guy, so I think those things will come, but there’s a process that he has to go through.
Q: Is he starting at that outside spot or is that spot rotating with Gerald Hodges and whoever else?
A: Yeah, he’ll be in a rotation with Marvin Mitchell, Hodges, along with Desmond. They’ll all rotate in there at the outside linebacker spot.
Q: Bishop is rooming with Greg Jennings, was that your idea?
A: No, just probably a good thing to do with their history, their background. They want to be roommates together, they know each other, they had a good relationship when they were together in Green Bay, but it wasn’t anything other than the fact that they know each other and they have a history together.