WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2013
Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier
I think we had a good walk through this morning in preparation for our game up in Baltimore. Good football team, we have a lot of work to get done this afternoon and throughout this week to go up and play a very good opponent. Our quarterback situation with Christian [Ponder], he still has not passed any of the tests that we need to be able to get him on the field this afternoon. More than likely Matt Cassel is going to end up being our starter for this ballgame and we’ll proceed accordingly with Josh [Freeman] as his backup understanding where Christian is and trying to pass those tests. With the rest of our team, we’ll see where guys end up this afternoon. Some are still seeing Eric Sugarman as we speak getting treatment, so we’ll have a better read on who will be available for this afternoon’s practice and even tomorrow as the day goes on.
Q: Is there anything that would change with Christian’s status?
A: It’ll be day-to-day as he goes through what he has to go through but he still has symptoms today. We’ll see what happenstomorrow.
Q: Has he passed any of the tests yet?
A: Yesterday he was able to get past a part of it but not today.
Q: So pretty much the quarterback position, even if he gets cleared the next day there is not enough time for him to get ready?
A: It may. It’d probably be tough. If he were able to practice tomorrow maybe, but not planning on that.
Q: Does he have to go back and pass the first one again?
A: No, there are still some things that at this stage he has to get done that he wasn’t able to get done today.
Q: What made you lean towards Matt over Josh?
A: Part of it is what he did in the second half of that ballgame on Sunday and also seeing his comfort level with where we are and having a comfort level with him as well. But his work on Sunday has a lot to do with it. He did an outstanding job in the second half of that ballgame against Chicago.
Q: Would you feel comfortable with Josh if something were to happen to Matt in the game on Sunday?
A: For sure. I think he’d be a quality guy in that situation. He’d be able to handle it if something were to happen to Matt.
Q: Were any of the off-field issues you had with the players related to racial profiling?
A: Oh boy. I have no idea. I have not even thought about that part of it. I’m thinking more about our players and what we can do to help them and help them avoid situations like they were in, the ones that were involved in those situations. It’s kind of where my focus has been. We’ll do whatever we can to help our players.
Q: Has Xavier Rhodes turned a corner in his development over the past 3 weeks?
A: I think he has to a degree. He’s starting to make more plays now and playing with more confidence, so you’re seeing some things that you’d like to see long term. Early on had his struggles like you’d expect with a lot of rookie players but it seems like he’s beginning to hit his stride now, which is great for us and that coincides with our defense starting to play a little better as well. That corner position and the nickel position, they are critical in our game and it’ll show up this week because this team that we’re playing, they’re throwing the ball all over the field so we’ll need Xavier to play at a high level. To answer your question, I think he is beginning to come around.
Q: What do you want to see from him over the next few weeks to feel comfortable that he can be a long-term starter, maybe going into next year?
A: Probably more of what we’ve seen over the past few weeks. He’s getting his hands on a lot of balls now, being in real good position to make plays, playing – as I mentioned – with more confidence. He’s tackling better. Just continue to see that, that consistency in his play that he’s not going to be a guy this week he plays fairly well and next week down. And the next step is some of those balls he’s knocking down that they get turned into interceptions. When I was watching one of the balls he got his hands on on Sunday I said, “Man, a year from now that’s going to be an interception.” He’ll have enough confidence not to go with one hand but to go up with two and he’ll catch that ball, but this is where he is in his development. Hopefully he’ll just keep growing.
Q: How frustrating has it been not getting those interceptions out of that cornerback position?
A: Well, we’ve been in position. We just haven’t come up with those turnovers from that position. It’s not because we haven’t been in position. We’ve just got to get the confidence and the wherewithal to make a play on the ball. That’ll come. We’ve had some drops, too. We need those turnovers.
Q: Have you had any resolution with the middle linebacker spot heading into this week?
A: Audie [Cole] is going to be the starter. We’re going to start Erin [Henderson] at the Will linebacker position, the outside linebacker position, and that’s how we’ll proceed for this ballgame.
Q: What was Erin’s reaction to that move?
A: We talked about some things and explained to him why and he accepted that. He’s a pro. He’s going to be on the field. It gives him an opportunity to make some plays for us. He’s played the position in the past. He handled it as well as could be expected.
Q: What were the reasons you gave to him
A: I liked the way Audie’s playing. He’s done a good job for us in that role. At this point, I want to take a look and see if this will help our team. I think it does going with this configuration and we’ll re-evaluate it when we come back on Monday, but I think it makes our defense better.
Q: Erin was getting tackles there in the middle. Is part of the reason of going with Audie the splash plays or more significant appearances on film?
A: Audie’s been pretty steady in that role. He’s also gotten his hands on some balls. That play he had on that first 3rd down could have easily been a pick-6. I wish he would have caught that ball, but just his awareness, being able to see the quarterback’s eyes, getting in position to make that play is a big step. And he has made some splash plays, but he’s done enough for where we are to watch him and see if he continues to grow because he’s doing some good things.
Q: Who will be the backup there? Erin or Michael Mauti?
A: If something were to happen to Audie we’d probably shift back to Erin.
Q: You said that in the offseason Erin would be the starter and it’d take something big from someone else to unseat him. Did Audie come close to doing that during the summer or is this growth just been over the past few weeks?
A: He’s always been pretty steady. He’s always worked hard and prepared but he got an opportunity and he made enough plays to where you’ve got to pay attention. He’s done a good job.
Q: You said a couple of weeks ago that Matt wasn’t under consideration to be the starting quarterback and some people might think that he didn’t get his fair shake to be the starting quarterback. What would you say about that?
A: Well, he’s going to get a chance to start this weekend. We’re all pulling for him to do a great job and this will be a golden opportunity for him to lead our team to victory. Obviously we have to play well around him but he’s going to get his opportunity this weekend.
Q: Will he have a chance to keep that starting job?
A: We’ll you’re always graded on performance so if he performs well, we’ll sit down and talk about it Monday after the ballgame and make a determination from there.
Q: Since the NFL changed the overtime rules a couple of years ago you’ve been in some overtime games. How much did that alter your mindset for overtime and how much are you still feeling it out?
A: Well the only mindset change is when it was sudden death it was completely different. Now you’re thinking if you’re on defense you can’t let them get a touchdown. A field goal is not going to kill you, but you can’t let them get a touchdown. That is probably the primary difference from my standpoint, but that’s the one that sticks out. There are some other little things that you think about but more so what can happen now with that first possession versus what could have happened in the past.
Q: Do you change things defensively knowing that an intermediate gain isn’t going to put them into field goal range?
A: It does and it doesn’t. You don’t want to give up that field goal but you know that it’s not going to hurt you the way it would have in the past. You can coach a little less aggressively based on where you are on the field than you would have in the past. You had to not give up a score in the past, so it does change your thinking a little bit. We were – as you know – in the [NFC] Championship game in overtime, so your mindset is a lot different when it’s sudden death versus the way it is now.
Q: In sudden death you a penalty or something pushing you back in field goal range do you think the closer you get that you’ll kick it on 1st or 2nd down?
A: Similarly to what we had happen this past weekend? When we were in that situation I wanted to get closer for our kicker. I wanted to get as much as I could out of the situation but also give us the chance if something bad happened that we’d have an extra down. Lo and behold something bad did happen for us and we needed that extra down. Unfortunately we lost some yards on the play that we called. But that was the mindset, that was the thinking. If something bad happens, at least we’ll have the chance to get an extra down.
Q: What did you see out of Marvin Mitchell’s play and why he couldn’t retain the starting spot?
A: Marvin did some good things for us in that role. But Erin has done some good things in the past. I feel like he’ll give us some of things that we’re looking for from that position. He did it a year ago. He was moved to the Mike linebacker position, not necessarily because that’s what we wanted to do. That was the plight that we were in. He didn’t come in a year ago as our middle linebacker. There were some things that happened over the offseason that resulted in his being our middle linebacker. He’s a very good outside backer and expect him to play well on Sunday.
Q: Have you had a chance to talk with Chris Cook? And if so, how did that go?
A: I have talked with Chris. We had a good conversation. He knows he’s going to get hit pretty heavy in the pocket and just needs to be able to keep his composure going forward and handle things the right way. There are going to be negative things that happen on the field and he has to handle it the right way.
Q: What does this mean for the rest of the season? Is he on watch?
A: He just has to go out and play. Just play and make plays for us and help our team win.
Q: On the sideline during the course of the game have you ever found yourself either on the field or too close?
A: Yeah, there was a situation when we were up in Green Bay. I was thinking about calling a timeout because the play clock was going down and I was getting close to the official and we got it off. I got a little too close but it wasn’t on purpose. I was just trying to make sure I got close enough where he could hear me because he couldn’t see me – he had his back to me – and I could tell him timeout. I caught myself after and he turned and looked at me and goes, “what are you doing?” I said, “I was thinking about calling a timeout. That’s what I was so close.” He said, “OK, OK. I understand.” You’re trying to be cautious of the situation but it could happen. You don’t want it to happen but it could happen.
Q: You’ve never been tempted to run out and tackle someone?
A: No, no.
Vikings Quarterback Matt Cassel
It’s nice being up here, I’ve never been up here before. It’s a pretty nice setup here. Probably going to need to borrow a snow shovel from somebody it looks like outside. I don’t have one of those either. I’m excited about getting the start this week coming off last week’s emotional victory. We got a much-needed two days rest and we’re ready to come back to work. We have a great test ahead of us with the Baltimore Ravens. They’re an experienced group, a veteran group, they play stout defense, and they’re good against the run so we’ll have our work cut out for us. We’re going to get prepared and be ready to go come Sunday.
Q: How would you describe this season for you?
A: It’s been a season of ups and downs and obviously as a team, as a whole, we’re not where we really anticipated being, obviously, from a win/loss record. At the same time, I’m also, as I’ve said many times before, I’m proud of how this team’s responded and continued to work hard. I’ve been around locker rooms where things have gone south and not everybody buys in, but guys have continued to work each and every day. You wouldn’t be able to tell a difference from Week One to now, which is impressive. It speaks a lot to the leadership in the locker room right now.
Q: How beneficial is it to get the majority of reps throughout the week now?
A: It will be great just because you start to build that rapport with those receivers and get some more task on hand with those guys. Anytime you can get more reps it will prepare you for the game plan.
Q: Moving forward, how much of a potential opportunity is this week with the quarterback position unsettled for this season and into next season?
A: It’s a one week season for me. That’s how you always have to approach it. If you start looking ahead, looking towards the future, the what-ifs and putting added pressure on yourself it’s as difficult as it possibly could be every Sunday because there are always good opponents. My focus is always on this opponent and this game and we’ll worry about the future later.
Q: What do you think your best asset for this offense is?
A: My biggest thing, as any quarterback, you have to be a leader on the field, you have to get lined up and also you have to be able to execute in crucial times in the game. Most of these games come down to one or two plays and it’s about executing and knowing where to go with the ball when maybe things don’t go exactly as planned.
Q: Does this sort of give testament to staying with the program and staying patient and your opportunities will come back sooner rather than later?
A: Just how you put it. I think you get as frustrated as you let yourself get frustrated. Each and every day I try to work hard, I try to stay in the right mind frame because I think anything other than that that takes away from you doing your job and being able to go out there and perform when your number is called. Again, I’m excited about the opportunity to play with these guys again come Sunday and hopefully we’ll go out and have a great game.
Q: Circumstances are different, but how would you compare some of your frustrations to similar situations in Kansas City and New England?
A: Well I think every year brings its own frustrations, some of its own adversities. There are ebbs and flows to every year and I think as a player you learn over time if you get so caught up in whether or not you’re not playing right now or this, that and the other, or if you have a bad game, it’s all about rebounding, coming back, being able to refocus on the next game and move forward from there.
Q: Is there a perception that you’re more of a backup quarterback type rather than a starter?
A: Well everybody is going to have their opinions about you as a player. You can’t change perceptions other than how you go out and continue to perform so you have to go out each and every week and put your best foot forward and perform and perceptions can be changed from one week to the next in this league.
Q: A couple weeks ago when Coach Frazier said you weren’t in consideration for the starting quarterback position, did you have a conversation about that or just go about your daily business?
A: I just went about my daily business. We didn’t have a conversation or anything like that, but all I’ve known throughout my career is to put my head down and work. That’s the only way you’re going to get better and that’s the only way you’re going to put yourself in a position to be successful on Sundays.
Q: November has come and gone and you played well on Sunday, is the facial hair a superstitious thing?
A: I told my wife that you can never shave after a win and she told me she was going to get me in the middle of the night so we’ll see what happens over the next week.
Q: On the 4th down, when did you see the free blitzer coming in relation to when Jerome Simpson was coming open?
A: We knew that was where my read was taking me based off coverage and he was coming right up the middle, but again, that type of situation you have to do your best to try to stand in there and deliver the ball and that was my main intent, was to just stand in there no matter what and try to at least make a throw and give ourselves an opportunity to make play on that ball.
Q: Did you take a shot on that one?
A: You know what, he laid off of me, thankfully. He was coming through and just gave me a little bump. He didn’t take it all out on me.
Q: Is part of the job staying in the pocket knowing you’re going to get hit waiting for a guy to get open?
A: That’s a big part of this job, you have to play tough. Standing inside the pocket knowing you’re going to get hit is one of those things that, in this job, is expected. You also have to know when you take that hit and sometimes when not to take that hit and 4th-and-11 or whatever it was in a crucial part of the game, you have to stand in there and take it in order to try to deliver that ball.
Q: With Cordarrelle Patterson a big part of this offense now, how much different can this offense be?
A: I think Cordarrelle continues to get better each and every week and he’s still growing. He’ll be the first one to tell you that he has a lot of work to do and continue to refine routes and route running and understand conceptually what’s going on defensively, but he continues to make plays each and every week. I think that he’s been a great addition to us and as long as he continues to work he’ll continue to be a good player in this league.
Q: How has the trust factor with him knowing that he’s going to be in the right place or run the right route evolved as the year has gone on?
A: I think, without a doubt, your trust factor continues to increase as the year goes and you get more repetitions, he gets more repetitions, you get more comfortable with one another and then that trust factor comes into play.