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Frazier Addresses Expectations For 2013, Ponder's Progress and More

Posted Jul 25, 2013

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier

Well how about it? Bob [Hagan] was telling me this is the 48th year that the Vikings have held training camp in Mankato, to be here at Minnesota State again for me it’s exciting just like it is for all of our players, coming off of a playoff season we’re looking forward to training camp, we know the importance of it.  Fortunate for me when I was driving down I got a text from Rick Spielman telling me that all our draft picks were signed, I really got excited about that, that’s a big deal as you’re trying to open up camp and set the tone for the 2013 season.  So that was really encouraging for me and the rest of our staff that we’re going to have all of our guys at our team meeting tonight and not have to wonder if someone is going to get signed.  A lot of excitement, looking forward to shaping this team, training camp is a big part of what you’re trying to get done over a course of a season.  And for us you heard me say this in our OTA’s and at the mandatory mini camp as well, we really believe that you can win ball games in the offseason, and this is a part of that, an extension of OTA’s and of the mandatory minicamp. Training camp is a big part of that.  The good news is we get to put pads on in a few days, then you really begin to find out what you have and the players that you do have on your roster.  We’re looking forward to that aspect of it along with developing the camaraderie you’re trying to develop in training camp when you are kind of sequestered in an environment that is far different than they’ll be in when we’re in Winter Park.  There are a lot of things that we’re looking forward to getting accomplished.  We have a lot of work to do in order for us to be a good football team, to be a team that can become a playoff team, we know we’re in a very tough division, we have a lot of work ahead of us we plan on getting that work done.    

Q: Coaches really pushed for that rookie pool so hold outs are a thing of the past, it’s got to be pretty big for coaches, right?

A: Well the players association along with the owners they collectively bargained for this rookie pool, and you see hold outs are becoming a thing of the past.  It’s really working out for both parties, it seems, we don’t have guys having hold outs anymore, I think that’s a good thing for every team.

Q: In the past guys would miss an entire camp, did it really affect them the entire year, or were the guys able to catch up whenever they would miss a camp?

A:  Oh no question about it. You’re more susceptible to injury, as well along with trying to get up to speed with the scheme and the speed of the game it affects everyone differently but it definitely had a negative affect, you come to camp, say your number one pick ends up missing most of training camp and most of the preseason, it’s kind of a bummer for the entire team.  As much as you try to eliminate distractions in our business that becomes a distraction when your key players are not in camp.

Q: Are there going to be any players that are limited tomorrow for the start of practice?

A: I would think the only guy that will be limited will be Greg Childs at this point.  I mean we have to go through physicals today, and you know you hope there are no surprises, but right now we think Greg Childs will be the only one that is possibly limited and we think we’re probably looking at him starting on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) as to opposed to trying to get him on the field.

Q: Pretty much every story in preseason on the Vikings says that this team will go as far as Christian Ponder will take them.  Is that fair, unfair?

A: It’s a team game and we need a lot of guys to step up, we definitely need Christian just to continue to improve, but we need the rest of our offense, our defense, our special teams, to improve as well.  And if we all improve across the board we’ll be a better football team and we’ll have a chance of reaching our goals as a team.  It’s not fair to say we’ll only go as far as Christian will take us, we have a lot of people that have to play well also.

Q:  When you look back at the success of last season what happened specifically in Mankato to set the stage for that?

A:  I think one of the things we try to get done in training camp is to develop that buy-in. We talk about this with our team all the time, in each phase of the offseason program there’s certain things we’re trying to get accomplished where once we get to training camp it becomes more of a buy-in towards our way of doing things, and we try to lay the foundation for our schemes, our fundamentals when we’re back at Winter Park and we’re in shorts and t-shirts.  When we get here now we’re in pads and how we do things and how we work, you need guys to buy in even though they come from different situations, and if you can get that, especially this time of the year and you’re not still trying to get that done during the season you’re just that much farther ahead of the curve. But I think with the fast start we had a year ago it tells you that our players really bought into what we were trying to get accomplished and how we wanted to get things done.

Q: Can you tell us about that importance of that first evening’s message, what’s the theme this year?  Last year was blocking out outside expectations

A:  Probably for us is just being able to see the vision and working towards accomplishing our goals as a team as much as anything.  We are going to paint a picture tonight about where we want to be over the course of this season, and then we have to put the work in to get that accomplished but that’s what we’ll do we’ll talk about our vision for this season. 

Q:  How impressive was the way this group has kept their nose to their business this offseason? With such great attendance at the OTA’s, no offseason story lines for this group, how impressed are you that the guys carried the message of last year and continued to build on it?

A: I tell you I don’t take that part of it lightly, I’m definitely going to mention that tonight, I thought about it through this offseason as I’ve seen the different headlines across our league with some of the things that have occurred.  The fact that our players have really done a good job of staying out of the newspapers for negative things, I don’t think you take that for granted, I don’t.  I’m going to talk with them about that and what we have to get done going forward, but I think it’s important. I think that’s a major part of having a chance to be successful in this league as you are changing the culture of a football team, and an organization to go through this offseason. I was teasing Les Pico, our player development director, when I saw him yesterday I said not one time did I see your name flash up on my phone when I picked up this summer and I said that’s a good thing. It hasn’t always been the case so I’m encouraged by that.

Q: Any concerns about John Sullivan or is he pretty much ready to go forward with everything?

A:  We think that he’s going to be ready to go. We don’t foresee any changes from what we talked about a few days ago so now we will have to monitor his reps, we won’t just throw him in there and take every rep we’re going to kind of bring him along until he gets that confidence he wants that he has to have in that knee but we don’t see any reason why we won’t be playing him in the preseason.

Q: What does Desmond Bishop do to resovle your linebacker situation? Does he create more intrigue?

A: I think what he gives us is more competition at the position and having a veteran who has had success in our league, and hopefully he’ll shore up our linebacker depth as well so the competition he creates, the leadership that he brings, the success he’s had in our league and his talent, hopefully he’ll round out our linebacker corps. 

Q:  What’s your vision for Bishop initially?  Obviously he didn’t have the offseason to take a look at him, what are your initial thoughts?

A:  We talked about starting him off maybe at outside linebacker knowing that we can move him back inside, we’re going to finalize that as we talk today.  We feel like that would be the place we want to start him at, and let him continue to grow from there.  As part of what we do at this time of the year, because he’s coming in so late and what we’re trying to get accomplished, is get him up to speed on how we do things from a defensive standpoint, because we line up a bit different than what he’s done in the past, so we got to kind of indoctrinate him with things from a defensive standpoint and we think the best way of getting that done is starting him off at outside. 

Q:  How do you think Erin Henderson is going to respond to that challenge?

A:  Well I mean in our league, you know, you are a professional football player, you put your nose to the grindstone, and I talk to our players all the time it’s about you.  I mean you can never be looking to your left or your right and worried about other people. You have to make sure you’re getting your stuff together, that’s the only way you can help our football team,  competition. Your competition is yourself, and we talk to them about that all of the time.  He should be encouraged as we try to add more good players to our roster, as all of our players should be encouraged.

Q:   Would you estimate his best position is outside, or would you accept him coming in so late that with him coming in so late you had to put him there?

A:  No, we think that for us it’s going to be the best position for him, and you’re trying to get your best 11 on the field.  Based on what we’ve seen on tape we think that that’s the best place for him, we could modify that as we get into it a little bit, but that’s where we want to start him at. 

Q: What would you have to see to slide him inside?

A:  There are some things we would have to take a look at schematically if it’s not a good scheme fit for him outside, or we had trouble inside, but we felt like we needed to make that move to get him back inside. So there would be some different factors that would make that happen. 

Q:  What is it about his game that makes him a good fit to play outside in a 4-3 defense?

A:  I think that one of the things I liked was the fact that he was a very good blitzer, he has some good athletic ability and that’s what we try to find in our outside backer guys and the ability to win one-on-one against halfbacks and fullbacks, but yet they’re good in coverage as well and they can take on lead blockers and he’s shown that he can do that. 

Q:  Do you have any plans to or is there any reason to limit some of Adrian’s reps in training camp, and his preseason playing time? 

A:  We probably won’t see Adrian getting a whole lot of carries in the preseason, we will have plenty of time to get him carries but he’ll get some opportunities in the preseason, his work load will be when we kick off the season, but not in the preseason. 

Q:  Childs’ the only guy that’s a candidate for PUP?

A:  Yeah, barring something unforeseen as we go through these physicals today he would be the one guy for sure. 

Q: What day are you going to put the pads on and which players are you most looking forward to seeing in pads?

A: You know with these new rules, we have got to start off these first couple of days without pads, but once we get to Monday, because Sunday is a day off for us, we will have the pads on, and the plan is to keep them on from there. That would be the day, we will go from there. You know with your o-line and d-line you really want to see those guys work in pads, because what we did up to this point in the offseason program, you can develop some bad habits and bad techniques. We need to see them in pads to really get a fair evaluation. But you also want to see the rookies run around and move around in pads and see how they contact or handle contact as well, so all of the positions, but in particular the o-line and d-line.

Q: What is the last thing you think about right before you head to bed the night before the first practice?

A: I just want to be able to see our guys come out with a lot of energy, a lot of passion for what we are trying to get done and have a good clean, crisp practice. You don’t always get that on the first day, but that is the goal. Just trying to introduce them to how we do things on the first day, just a clean, crisp, energetic practice.

Q: How is training camp different for you as a coach than it was as a player?

A: Well the training camps of today are just so, so different from when I played. I mean, no two-a-days, a whole lot less contact, so it’s a different training camp. But training camp in itself is very similar. It’s the beginning of a new season in a lot of ways, so as a player and looking back at it now, just driving up to training camp, the thoughts that go through your mind as you’re preparing for another season, all of those things are still relevant, but the actual stuff that you do on the field, that is the part of it that has really changed. The meeting times, that hasn’t changed, but the preparation that is still the same. There are a lot similarities but there are also a lot of dissimilarities.

Q: Have you thought of the fact that it is the last season in the dome for you guys?

A: I have thought about it, I have thought about it and you know you really want to finish strong at home in 2013 for that reason. The last year at Mall of America Field, we want to make it a special year. We know that we have got to take it one game at a time, it’s significant to me, I’m sure it’s significant to a lot of our fans. It has been a great venue to play in. I mean I love going down there and when our fans get into it, it’s a tough place for the opposing team to play. I’ve enjoyed coaching there and I’m hoping we can have a great season at home so our fans can enjoy it and get loud again and make it tough for our opponents.

Q: How important is it to have these first round picks signed before the first practice?

A: It’s very important, as I mentioned earlier it becomes a distraction when you don’t have any of your picks, but in particular your first round picks who you are counting on to hopefully step in, in our case and help you in their first year so the fact that they are all signed and will be ready to line up tomorrow that is a big deal for our football team because we are going to need every one of our draft picks like a season ago to contribute. That’s one of the reasons we were able to have such a big turnaround because our draft picks contributed in a big way, we are going to need it again this season.

Q: What is going to be the biggest challenge for Christian Ponder with this new group of receivers?

A: That is going to be a big deal and an emphasis of ours through training camp. We were able to get some things done in the offseason program from a timing standpoint, but now putting the pads on we can do some bump and run coverages, which Cordarrelle (Patterson) is going to see a lot of once we get into the season. So the timing and the chemistry between our receivers and our quarterback will be a big part of the emphasis here during training camp and it will probably determine how balanced we become as an offense. We have got to develop that passing game so we are more balanced than we were a year ago.

Q: Does that timing change once the pads go on?

A: Without question, you mean you’re not running against air like you were in OTAs and mini-camp. It’s going to be a lot tougher than it was in these previous workouts for our young guys, so this will become more like real football for our players, which is what we need.

Q: Does Greg Jennings walk in here as a team leader or is that something that he has to earn?

A: I think Greg will have the respect of the guys because of what he has accomplished in this league, but to say team leader, without being around the guys for a few months, that will come as time goes on after they see his work ethic, they get a chance to visit with him in the locker room, and get to know him as a person, but he will have the respect of the players because of what he has accomplished in the league, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say team leader yet.

Q: Out of those second and third year players who do you need to step into a leadership role that might not of had to in the past?

A: Well one guy that I have noticed over this last year and in the offseason that has really stepped up in that area has been Jamarca Sanford. I kind of like what I’m seeing from him. He has become a verbal leader for us and we kind of need that on defense, we need it on offense as well. It’s great to have guys that lead by example, but sometimes you need a guy who can get after people a little bit too and then be able to back it up with his play and Jamarca to me has really begun to step up in that area and we will need a few other guys to do it as well. Kevin (Williams) is a staple for us, Jared (Allen) is a staple for us. We have some guys on offense that will do that. But I would love to see Kyle Rudolph take it up another notch from a leadership standpoint. Obviously the quarterback position, he has to be a leader, it just happens by position. He has to continue to step up as well. I’m sure that Greg (Jennings) will become that for us as the guys get a chance to get know him a little better, and watch his work ethic and he will be a plus for us. Charlie Johnson, seeing him step up, John Sullivan, who has all of the sudden became more of a leader, Phil Loadholt has come a long way for us and we need Phil to step up in that area. We have got some guys that are no longer, I was telling Brian Robison the same point you just made, there was a time when he came to training camp that he was like following, he is no longer a guy that we need to follow, we need people following him. His role has changed on our football team now and he thought about that and he said, “You know, you’re right coach, my role has changed.” So we are going to need him to step up as well. You need great internal leadership in order to get to where you want to be ultimately, not just be an average team or a good team. To be a great team you need great leadership.

Q: As you put together the leadership council again this year, do you have the names of some of the guys you mentioned are guys that can take those spots?

A: I’ve thought about it going back through OTAs and just watching our guys and just seeing who will be some of those guys on that committee this season because the dynamics will change because we have had some changes on our roster. So you kind of have to observe and see how guys handle themselves in certain situations and see who is going to step-up and actually be the type of leader that you are looking for, but we will need some other guys to step up and be a part of the ones who can talk to me about our team and what we are trying to get accomplished this season and see if we are all on the same page.

Q: What kind of moments tell you that somebody can do that?

A: You look at how the teammates respond to certain guys, you know if some guys talking to another teammate and the teammate is walking away, not respecting him, that guy might not have the leadership qualities you’re looking for. But if people will listen, if you have the ability to influence, and that’s what leaders are, that’s probably a guy you want on that committee, somebody who can influence his teammates.

Q: How many guys do you want on there?

A: I think we have been up to 12, maybe 13 guys, so it depends on if we have those type of guys. I try and put somebody from almost every position represented so we will see what happens.

Q: What is your big picture for this team.

A: Man, I hope we can stay healthy, I hope all of the guys can go out and have the best year of their careers and like every team that is starting off today, I hope in February you guys are still working and covering the Minnesota Vikings, that is what I hope. I will be a happy guy, that is my vision.

Q: Do you mention that vision to the team?

A: Believe me, they will hear it loud and clear tonight. It will not be missed.

Q:  Last year you don’t listen to them (outsiders) because you’re not a playoff team and this year don’t listen to them (outsiders) because you are a playoff team?

A: Wait a minute, do you have my notes? That’s pretty good, that is a part of the speech though. Because I’m sure over this offseason they have had a lot of people telling them, “Hey you guys are on your way, you’re moving in the right direction.” And all of that is good, but you can’t forget how in our league, as Tom West was sharing this with me, it changes from year to year, you can’t ever look back at a season ago and based on that, we are going to be a playoff team, or we are going to win a championship based on what happened a season ago. When you have, I think since 2010, four teams that have made the playoffs in that span, on a consistent basis, you know 2010, 2011, 2012, four teams were in the playoffs. I think it was New England, Baltimore, Green Bay and one other team, Atlanta, so you are talking about different teams every year, I have to get that point across to our team. We have to work our tails off while we are here at training camp to get ready for this season. Even though people have probably told them some positive things over this offseason, it really doesn’t mean a whole lot if you don’t do certain things to put yourself in a position to be successful.