VIKINGS HEAD COACH LESLIE FRAZIER
(on what he likes about how his team is playing)
I like how hard our guys are playing. They’ve really done a good job of preparing for teams. That hard work in practice has carried over to games. They really seem to be focused on trying to play and play well.
(on the keys for the defense so far)
Just guys having a clear understanding of what their roles are on our defense and what their responsibilities are. That has carried over to the field. The clarity that has been communicated by Alan Williams, our defensive coordinator and our players taking ownership for their responsibilities and going out and executing our game plan. It sounds sometimes simple, but that’s the formula—understanding what is required of you and going out and executing your assignment.
(on what has been successful for the pass rush)
Our defensive line has done a good job all season long of making quarterbacks have to move around and making it uncomfortable for them. The last couple of weeks, we found a way to get the quarterback on the ground. Early on, we were making him move, but we couldn’t get him on the ground. We kind of hit a groove here. It’s a combination of different guys, not just Jared Allen at the moment. It’s different guys making plays—Letroy Guion, Everson Griffen, Brian Robison, and then of course, Jared, a combination of guys just finding ways to get to the quarterback.
(on how Jared Allen stays successful in the league)
One of the keys for him is he takes great care of his body. He trains, really, year round. He really doesn’t take very much time off, so he’s always in great shape and he eats right. He does all the right things when it comes to taking care of his body. Then you combine that with the fact that he’s a tremendous athlete, a very smart football player. He’s always working to get better. He’s never satisfied, not satisfied with the sacks he got a year ago when he had 22. He wants to improve so he puts the time in. You have the talent that he has, the passion that he has for the game, and then you’re a smart football player—you’re going to be a pretty special guy, and he is.
(on how helpful it is to have to use only four guys in the pass rush)
No question about it. When we’re rolling like we are up front, it takes a lot of pressure off of our secondary. It’s been evidenced by the way the back end has played. They had a big chore on their hands a week ago against a high-powered offense, and the way our defensive front played, we didn’t have to bring pressure very much. So it was a big plus for our secondary.
(on if he’s happy with the start Christian Ponder has had this season)
He has really improved across the board. I attribute it to this offseason—the fact that he had a chance to spend time with Bill Musgrave, our offensive coordinator, to be around Craig Johnson, our quarterbacks coach, watch tape of last season, and really get a better understanding of our offense and what is expected of him running our offense. He’s improved so much. His confidence is way better than it was, and you would expect that in his second season. It translates to our players. They sense the confidence that he has. I can remember Percy Harvin commenting on it when we were in our offseason practices. He said, ‘Man, coach. Christian seems to be so much more confident, so much more in control.’ That’s what you want to see, because everyone else on offense kind of gravitates to that leader at that position which is the quarterback position.
(on what Christian Ponder has done to avoid throwing a single interception so far this season)
He’s making a conscious effort to make good decisions with the ball. When you consider the rate that he was throwing interceptions a year ago, and then you see how’s he is doing now, it’s just a credit to Christian (Ponder) understanding what turnovers do to a team, and then making good decisions under pressure. There have been times where he’s been trapped in the pocket, where a year ago, he might have just tried to throw it up or take a sack, and he’s gotten rid of the ball or he does a very good job of throwing a check-down. He’s just making better decisions in the pocket with the football.
(on if the Vikings offense is playing it relatively safe with shorter completions)
We’ll take some shots. We tried a few last week against Detroit. With Jerome Simpson back in the lineup now, we had a couple pass interference calls that really gave us some plus yardage and helped us. But we still take some shots, and we think having Jerome on the outside will help us to hopefully hit some of those.
(on how close Adrian Peterson is to being able to cut like he did prior to surgery)
The game he had last week was the closest I’ve seen, and that’s the Adrian (Peterson) we remember. He was vintage Adrian in so many ways in that ballgame on Sunday. His first 100-yard game since his surgery, and he ran with such authority and was so explosive in and out of his cut just like we remembered from the past. I think he’s just about there. He’s just going to get better and better as he gets stronger over time.
(on how Adrian Peterson was able to get healthy so quickly)
I attribute his hard work and what our medical staff did with him as to why he’s back and playing so well. But to say I expected him to be doing this well this early? No, no, no. I’d be lying if I said that. This is an amazing feat, because I know how serious that injury was, and I know all the hard work that is required to come back. But his determination—I think his genetics probably helped as well. But it’s amazing what he’s been able to accomplish so soon. Eight and a half months after surgery, there he is starting a National Football League game, and not only starting, but playing very well against Jacksonville in the opening game of the season. Just an amazing feat and a great example to a lot of other guys who may in the future have the same type of injury.
(on if he ever had an ACL injury when he played)
Yes, I did. I sure did. That’s the injury that ended my career. I was injured in the Super Bowl with an ACL, and I never played again. I know all about that injury. Now this was many, many years ago prior to the way surgery is done now and rehab is done now, but I know how severe that injury can be.
(on if he gave it a shot to try to return to the NFL)
I wanted to play again. I wasn’t able to pass our team physical in Chicago. My former defensive coordinator was the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. He invited me up to see if I could get on the field, and I was able to practice a few times. But I never got my range of motion back, so I never could open up and sprint and play the defensive back position the way I needed to, so I wasn’t able to continue to play.
(on if Keith Millard is still a familiar name up in Minnesota for the numbers he put up as a Viking)
Oh, without question. Keith (Millard) was a great player, we played in the same era. He’s one of the top 50 players in Minnesota Vikings history. So Keith Millard, that name rings a bell here in Minnesota. He was a special, special player and very well respected in our organization.
(on if the decision not to resign
It was a hard, hard decision. That’s part of it. In our business, the economics of it. Steve (Hutchinson) was such a great player here and a great leader for so long. We miss him. He was great in the locker room, great with his teammates. The economics of our game create issues sometimes for a roster.
(on if there were any health concerns regarding Steve Hutchinson at the time)
No, he was healthy when we made the decision. He got a little banged up at the end of the season, but it was nothing that would have obviously kept him from playing because he’s playing. I think he’s doing a good job there in Tennessee.
(on quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson’s relationship with Christian Ponder)
I think that the time that Craig (Johnson) has spent with Christian (Ponder) throughout this offseason and now during the season has had a lot to do with Christian’s development at the quarterback position. Craig is an excellent teacher. You guys know this from being around him there, a very good communicator. His ability to be able to communicate and teach the fundamentals of the position has allowed Christian to concentrate on some of the intricacies of a game plan, knowing that he is going to be coached fundamentally and really taught the techniques for the position. Having Craig on our staff has been a big plus. With a young quarterback, you need a guy that has worked with the Steve McNairs of the world and the Vince Youngs and done some of the things that Craig did when he was coaching quarterbacks in the past.
(on why they’ve been successful in third-and-long situations)
I think it’s guys understanding that ever possession on defense and offense matters, and not getting overwhelmed by a situation and taking advantage of opportunities. We do a lot of work on situations in practice and that’s one of the ones we’ll practice. So it’s not new to them, it’s just a matter of going out and executing when we’re put in those situations when it’s third-and-long or we’re in the red zone, whatever it might be. A combination of being in those situations in practice and believing that we can make it happen, and of course the coaches putting the players in the right position to be successful.
(on rookie Matt Kalil’s play)
I think Matt (Kalil) has been tremendous. For a rookie left tackle to come in the league and play as well as he’s played in this first quarter of the season is all you can hope for. He was the (fourth) pick in the draft, and we had high expectations for him. The day he was drafted, one of the first people to contact him was Christian (Ponder) to say, ‘I’m glad you’re a Minnesota Viking.’ They’ve had a great relationship, and Matt has done a great job of protecting him on his blindside.
It’s hard to predict how much they’ll change philosophically on offense. Matt (Hasselbeck) ran the same offense a year ago when he started. They did a few things a little bit different because of Jake (Locker’s) mobility. We’ll have to look at some of last year’s tape and get a feel once the game starts as to how much they want to change. We have a lot of respect for Matt, he’s been a great player in our league for a long, long time, did a great job in Seattle, extremely accurate, doesn’t take a lot of sacks, gets the ball out of his hands fast. He’s a good leader. We’ll have our hands full trying to contain him.
(on if he thinks the Titans play with a different tempo with Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback)
It remains to be seen. He got in during that Texans game and did some good things. I know the turnovers bothered them a little. Having a veteran quarterback, I’m sure things will be different. There isn’t much Matt (Hasselbeck) hasn’t seen at the quarterback position. Having a vet, that’s really going to make a difference for their offense.
(on his low key coaching approach and when it’s necessary to light a fire under the team)
I learned a long time ago, you have to be who you are. If I try to be some of the coaches I’ve been around and it’s not really who I am, our players are going to see right through that. I’m going to lose credibility with them, so I’ve tried to remain who I am, even when there have been critics that would say the same thing that you’re describing regarding Mike (Munchak). But you have to be who you are. At the end of the day, if that doesn’t work out, you have to be able to look in the mirror and say, ‘You know what? I tried to do it my way and the best way that I could.’ Hopefully that works out.
(on if he’s ever blown up)
There have been moments when you do get heated. There are times the players have to feel your anger. There are moments like that. They have to know that you’re not happy with the way certain things are being done. That’s important, but you pick your spots like you said earlier.
(on if he’s where he wants to be with the organization or if he still has a lot of work to do)
We have a lot of work to do. We’ve only finished the first quarter of the season. I think all of us on this call know that you can’t get overly excited about being 3-1 after the first quarter. There is so much football to be played. There are so many unknowns as the year goes on. I’ve seen teams and you have too, that have started 5-0 and 6-0 and they were nowhere to be found when December rolled around. I think we’ve all been around long enough to know that you can’t be popping champagne bottles at the end of September.
(on the challenges he presents defenses with when moving Percy Harvin around)
Even at the Senior Bowl this offseason, there were so many defensive coordinators coming up to me and telling me how difficult it was for them to defend Percy Harvin. So I came back, and I was talking to our offensive coordinator about continually utilizing Percy in different ways. We made a point to keep him on the field, and use him in a variety of ways. To Percy’s credit, he was excited about that and he’s embraced that role. To move him around the way we do, people just can’t line up and try to bracket him and come up with ways to really make it difficult for us to get him the ball-although Detroit did a pretty good job a week ago. We move him around to try to make it hard on defenses to find where he is. He’s such a playmaker, that if we line him up in one place, you can take him away.
(on if teams have had issues defending Percy Harvin when he lines up in the backfield)That’s created some issues for some teams—not sure how to line up, not sure what coverage to play or what front to play. Being able to put him in the backfield has been a good plus for our offense.