Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier
Good afternoon guys. We have a few guys that won’t participate in our walk through this afternoon. Matt Asiata, as you guys know, attending the funeral of his dad today. Rhett Ellison, Fred Evans, Letroy Guion, Charlie Johnson, Phil Loadholt with the concussion, Kyle Rudolph and Jamarca Sanford as well, those guys we’re going to hold them out as well and see if we can get a little bit more medical clarification on what direction we’ll go with them. Hopefully some of them will be able to get some work in tomorrow prior to the game on Thursday.
Looking back on that tape, like I said yesterday, very difficult loss for a lot of reasons. Liked the way our guys battled on the road in a tough environment, fighting and giving us a chance to win right to the end. Just to see our defense bounce back and play much better yesterday than they had the prior week, in particular on 3rd down, really improved that percentage, came up with the big turnover late in the ballgame. It was very encouraging, finding our rush, being able to get that back and the way our offense didn’t fold after that turnover coming out of the half that really could have been a back-breaker. But we fought back, ended up taking the lead late in the ballgame, so those things are encouraging and that’s one of the reasons as we get ready for this Washington Redskins ballgame. From my vantage point as well as our coaches and players, we’re excited about this opportunity on Thursday night against the Washington Redskins.
As difficult as it may seem when you’re staring at our record at the midway point, there were some positives that came out of that ballgame yesterday that I think we can build on and help our football team to get better and give us a chance to get our season turned around going into the 2nd half of this season. Encouraing the way Christian fought back after the interception. To see Adrian [Peterson] have a very good Adrian Peterson-type day, our offensive line blocking better. When you lose a ballgame like that in the last few seconds – and we’ve had a couple before this that have been like that – those are difficult ballgames for sure to get over. But I trust our players and coaches being able to learn from it, put it behind us, get ready for this next ballgame.
That sequence that you guys asked me about yesterday after the turnover that A.J. [Jefferson] had gotten with the interception, which was a big interception, and we chose to take a shot down the field knowing that they were going to be in an 8-man front, thought we’d have a chance to get a big play, didn’t work out, we came back, they ended up stuffing our run play. We had a chance on 3rd down and didn’t convert. We pinned them back and wanted them to go the length of the field and they were successful in doing it. Not so much from a strategic standpoint where we changed anything, there were things we can do better and I feel just like I did after the Green Bay game. I felt like from the defensive standpoint there were things that we could get turned around and get fixed to help us to be better going into the Dallas game and I thought we did. Looking at that 2-minute situation and the 4-minute situation on offense, there are enough things there that at this point in our season I’m convinced that we’ll be able to move on from that if we’re ever in a 2-minute situation or 4-minute situation, we’ll perform better. I’m convinced of it. I think we’re at a point now where we have learned enough about our team that those situations won’t repeat themselves again to where it’ll be a negative. I feel very, very positive about that. But we’ve got a big ballgame against Washington on Thursday night and we’ve got to find a way to get our fans engaged and get them excited about watching us get a win at home on Thursday night.
Q: Did you have what you wanted there on the 1st down play with Greg Jennings?
A: It was there. You see Greg, he has a step and there’s a chance for a big play. The guy grabs him initially on the back of his jersey, rides him, and then gets in front. We’re just a hair off on that play. It would have been a huge play, really would have put a dagger in it for us and got us where we needed to be. Didn’t work out for us on that occasion.
Q: Do you see any changes of responsibilities or assignments with the staff?
A: Don’t foresee any changes. Guys are going to work as hard as they can at their respective responsibilities to help turn our season around. As difficult as the ballgame was for all of us yesterday, those guys will bounce back. We have to be able to do that in our profession, whether you win or lose. We’ll learn from yesterday’s ballgame and hopefully that’ll help us to be better when we line up against Washington.
Q: Do you think that you need to talk to the veterans to make sure that everybody is on the same page?
A: I probably do need to do that. I appreciate the communication. I understand the frustration, we were all frustrated at the end of that ballgame yesterday, but there were so many positive things that occurred prior to that 2-minute drive. But yes, we’ll definitely talk through that situation as a team later this afternoon and just where we are and what we have to do to move forward.
Q: Does it bother you that players publicly voiced their opinions like that?
A: Like I said, I respect their opinions and I know how competitive they are and how much they want to win. I’d like for them to talk to their coaches, myself about whatever concerns they may have and try and get those worked out. But I do understand their frustrations and I respect their opinions.
Q: How much of a risk is it that you might lose some element of the team as losses pile up?
A: The solution is what you mentioned – wins. And we need to get some wins under our belt. The frustration grows with each loss for everyone involved. That’s human nature. We need to put some wins together starting this Thursday night.
Q: What do you need to do to assure that you don’t lose the locker room?
A: We’ll talk through some of that this afternoon and it’s a natural thing for guys to maybe do when you have tough losses like we’ve had, in particular like the one yesterday, the one that’s freshest in your mind. If you’re not careful, you’ll start believing that this is going to be a trend so we’ll have to talk through that to make sure that doesn’t become a mechanism that we’ll fall back on if something negative happens in the ballgame. Just got to keep believing that things are going to get turned around and I know they will the way the guys are fighting and battling and the way they are practicing and preparing to win. It just gives you hope that things can get turned so just got to remind them of some of the things they did well yesterday.
Q: Does Christian’s play in 4-minute situations this season influence your decisions to pass on 1st down rather than try and run the clock out?
A: Good memory there. It matters. You think back to some of the other situations and that determines sometimes how you call it. You don’t want to do that. You want to stay aggressive. We had a mindset going into that ballgame that we were going to be aggressive in plus-territory and we understand how we wanted to play the 4-minute situation and one of the reasons we went for it on the 4th-and-1 is we had talked about when we got in the red zone, we weren’t going to kick field goals, we were going to score touchdowns when it was reasonable. In that situation, we knew exactly what they were going to be in on defense. We had the perfect call, we had the perfect formation to identify what they were doing and then it’s just a matter of being able to execute our assignments but we have confidence that Christian can make those plays, we have confidence that our offensive line can get guys blocked up and that our receivers can get open. In order for us to one day become a championship team, you have to be able to execute in those situations and we weren’t able to get it done yesterday.
Q: Is Christian going to be the starter on Thursday?
Q: In those situations are you talking about the way coaches call things or players executing?
A: Just being able to point out some of the things when we get together this afternoon why it has to be reciprocal. Not only what Bill [Musgrave] or Alan [Williams] calls but also our execution and making sure that we’re in sync with how to get that done. I think some of the things we’ll go through this afternoon will help us if we’re in those situations again to be much better.
Q: Would you do anything differently on that final defensive drive?
A: That was one play, the big play to Dez Bryant. That one maybe could have done something a little bit different. We called a pressure, they blocked the pressure. They had some tells from an offensive standpoint that could have helped us there. That’s the one play that could have done something different.
Q: Did you see that this might have been the best game so far for Sharrif Floyd and Xavier Rhodes?
A: Yeah, Sharrif was much better as far as harassing the quarterback. Did a much better job in run defense as well. Our run defense as a whole was much better yesterday but Sharrif was a lot better than he has been in the past. The pressure he put on the quarterback was really good now the next step is to put him on the ground. He was so close a couple of different times and when he gets that sack, hopefully he’ll take off from there. The same with Xavier. Xavier was better. He got a little banged up through the course of the game but he was better, much better.
Q: Did you see that Sharrif changed anything that allowed him to click? Or was it finally just breaking through?
A: I think it had a lot to do with the way he practiced during the week. I think he’s having a better understanding now of how to prepare from film study and then take that to practice and then take it to the game. I just think it’s a matter of him growing in that area, being able to bring some of the things I pick up mentally and then transfer that to a game. Hopefully he’ll just keep growing in that way.
Q: What is the future outlook for Xavier Rhodes and Kyle Rudolph?
A: Xavier should be able to go tomorrow. With Kyle, doesn’t look quite as good. He has a fractured foot so that’s pretty serious, so we’ll get the timetable here pretty soon. It could be close to a month though.
Q: Can you elaborate more on that? That’s obviously very significant.
A: That was on the touchdown play. It just got twisted there. I think the guy fell on his foot when he was tackling him and you’re right, it’s a very significant injury for him, for our team. That gives some other guys a chance to step up, Chase Ford who played in the ball game and did a good job for us, he’ll play. John Carlson will get more reps now, hopefully we can get Rhett back, so those guys can get more reps.
Q: Do you have a number in mind of how many bodies you’ll need to get through a season? Guys you’re trying out that you might be bringing in, what’s the number?
A: Our scouts are bringing guys in every week to work out and have a ready-list of potential candidates. You never know from season-to-season how you’re going to get hit with injuries. Last year we were pretty fortunate we didn’t get hit as much as we have this season, but there’s always a ready-list plus your practice squad that you rely on, so your 53 plus your practice squad and whatever list you have, you hope you don’t have to get to that list that the scouts, the personnel guys have in place because now you’re starting to bring guys in who really don’t have the familiarity of with your offense or your defense and what you do on special teams and you have to get them up to speed depending how severe the other injuries are.
Q: How many guys are on your ready-list? How deep do you go at each position?
A: They are probably at least six to 10 guys deep at each position. We’re bringing guys in all the time working them out,Wednesday mornings, Thursday mornings, just to make sure they could possibly fit.
Q: Where’s the 10th guy on that list? Is he working a job and just staying in shape?
A: Some work a job, some don’t work a job. It’s a variety of guys that are out there. The scouts pay attention to it and give us a chance to eyeball it from time to time.
Q: What are your plans this week with game plan? When will you give it to the guys?
A: We’re going to give them a portion of it today and then we’ll give them another portion tomorrow.
Q: You’ve been pretty luck the past few years with injuries. Is that kind of cyclical thing now that it’s sort of coming back around?
A: I think so. I think so. It happens to some teams some years and some years you don’t get it. It’s a part of our game. It happens.
Q: What is it that you saw in Christian Ponder that you liked yesterday?
A: I thought he was more confident in some of the things he was doing, more control. I like the decisions that he made when he had to escape the pocket, getting out of trouble and avoiding sacks. There are some things that he can do better obviously, the pick, there are some things he can do a little bit different there, but I like the way he moved and the way he handled our no huddle situation as well. He really seemed comfortable there. We thought he would with the way he practiced and he did a good job of directing our team.
Q: Rick Spielman said he’s 100 percent behind you. What are your thoughts on that and has he communicated that directly to you?
A: I haven’t talked to him directly to him about my job status. I’ve been more concerned about what we have to get done to get a win. It’s great to hear that, but I have not talked to him directly about my job status.
Q: Do you expect and of those injured guys to be able to play Thursday?
A: We’re hoping so. We’ll know more tomorrow, but some will and some won’t probably.
Q: Chris Cook is back tonight?
A: He is going to try to practice tomorrow.
Q: Coach John Fox and Coach Gary Kubiak both had health issues over the weekend. Can you talk about the grind of this job? Do you have concerns or is that something you’re mindful of going forward?
A: Well you probably know that Klint Kubiak is on our staff and he just flew down this morning to be with his dad, Gary. It’s a challenging situation for their family. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them along with John Fox and his family as well. It’s a challenging job, without question. My former head coach Mike Ditka, I saw him experience a similar fate dealing with a health issue when he was coaching. But you try to take care of your body and try to create some balance even during the season and you have to be able to do that. It can be all-consuming if you allow it. You just have to be able to try to create some balance.