Frazier, Freeman on Monday Night's Game vs. New York

Posted Oct 17, 2013

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier

Good morning. We had a really good walk through this morning, really feel good about our guys’ approach and where we are, I really do. Excited to get back on the practice field this afternoon and keep working to improve and prepare for Monday night against what I’m sure will be a tough environment up in New York, but I liked the way our guys were focused this morning. Injury wise we probably won’t have A.J. Jefferson this afternoon. His ankle is still bothering him so we’re going to end up holding him out of practice. Harrison Smith, that turf toe it’s probably a little more serious than we would like. He’s definitely going to be out for this ballgame and we’ll determine a little bit more as we get some more opinions about where he is and what we need to do. Probably know a little bit more in the next couple of days how we want to approach where he is and what’s going on with him. Other than that, everybody else should be practicing. It seems like everybody’s focused on improving as a group, so it should be good.

Q: Is surgery maybe an option for Harrison Smith?

A: We are discussing that possibility but we are also looking at the possibility of not having him do the surgery so we’re still going through some of that. We’ll determine it here pretty soon.   

Q: Would you designate him to come back if you had to put him on Injured Reserve?

A: Potentially. That’s definitely part of the conversation as well. We’re talking through that as well.  

Q: Who takes over in Harrison’s spot?

A: We’re going to insert Andrew Sendejo in the starting lineup for this ballgame.  

Q: How did Sendejo move ahead of the other guys?

A: A combination of what he did in training camp and what he has done when he’s gotten in the ballgame. He played quite a bit against Pittsburgh and did some good things at safety where he and Mistral (Raymond) rotated at the position, and he did enough to make us feel like he could do a good job in a starting role.

Q: What happened with Mistral Raymond?  

A: He’s done some good things but the injury bug has gotten him a few times. He’s back now, he’s healthy but part of why he didn’t play early on was the injuries coming out of training camp. He’s healthy, he did a good job when we got him the game against Pittsburgh when they rotated and we have confidence that if he has to play in this ballgame on Monday night that he’d do a good job as well. But the injuries have kind of set him back every time he’s taken a step forward.

Q: Has Harrison had the turf toe or was it something that just came up on Sunday?

A: Sunday was the first time.  

Q:How do you replace the energy that Harrison brings to the field?

A: Harrison is an outstanding young safety and he’s done a great job for us, in my mind one of the best safeties in our league. Andrew, Mistral, Robert Blanton, those guys will do a good job when they’re in there; Jamarca is going to be out there. They’re all going to do a good job, they worked hard in practice and prepared well and they’ll play well. But Harrison, he’s a big play guy for us so we’re going to miss him.

Q: When you say that you’re going to wait and see with Harrison does that mean you’re going to run more tests or just waiting to see how heals over the next few days?

A: We’re getting information from different doctors on how we should approach it and we’re going to talk about it some more today and probably come to a conclusion here in the next day or two.

Q: Can you take us through the preparation process of getting Josh Freeman ready?

A: It’s definitely an accelerated learning curve but part of it is what we do as coaches in assisting him with the learning. What you said about time, he’s spending a ton of time here in the building just making sure he’s clear on what our checks are, how we do certain things, just from A to Z with our offense, which requires time. We think we have excellent teachers in Craig Johnson along with Bill Musgrave and Kevin Stefanski that are working with him. But the process means from sun up to sun down spending time with the coaches, watching film, going through the game plan and it will be a game plan that is kind of tailored to where he is along with where our team is so he doesn’t have to learn everything that’s in our playbook, so that’s going to help him. But the amount of time that he’s spending over here definitely assists in his being able to catch up and go out and perform well on Monday.

Q: What would you say to Vikings fans who think Josh Freeman is going to be the savior and come in and save the season?

A: I don’t know if one guy can save your season. This is the ultimate team game. It’s a cliché but in my mind it’s the truth. You need your offense, your defense, your special teams and you need the chemistry on your team to have a chance to be a good football team. One guy will not turn our season around, it’s going to take a collective effort and just a good job by all of our guys, not just the quarterback. We need everybody to play well.

Q: What are your thoughts so far on Xavier Rhodes?

A: For where he is in his career, I think he’s done a pretty good job. Definitely some plays that he could do better on but for where he is as a rookie and what we’re asking him to do, there are going to be some moments that aren’t going to be great but I also see a guy who is really coming and is going to be a very, very good corner for us. He’s gaining some valuable experience that in the long term will help our football team. But there are going to be some moments that are going to be a little tough at times.

Q: Where you at all nervous about the secondary when the season started? 

A: I knew where we were and I also know the NFL like we all do and people are going to throw the ball and they’re going to throw it and they’re going to throw it and you’ve got to be able to defend it different ways. When you have a young secondary there are going to be some things that you have to go through but we’re going to get better, we’ll keep working and we’re going to get better. Those young guys that are playing, they will improve.

Q: How much does the start to this season feel like 2011? 

A: No, we’ll be alright.

Q: Is that year burned in your brain? 

A: No, I moved on from 2011 a long time ago. No way.

Q: What is the progress with Greg Childs?  

A: He’s making progress and to the point where we think pretty soon here we’re going to be able to get him on the field and practice with our guys. He’s making positive progress and we’re excited to get him out on the field to integrate with our players. That’ll probably be the update with him.

Q: You guys have three weeks to make a decision with him, right? 

A: Yes. We’ll have an option about week 10, week 11 where we’ll have to make a decision here pretty soon.

Q: Did you see anything on Freeman’s tape from late last season and early this season that you think you can make adjustments to in order to help him be a better player?

A:  We did some things that we thought that we could work with. Nothing against what they are doing in Tampa Bay, but we thought some of his skill set could fit some things we want to try to do from an offensive standpoint and so far what we thought has been true. There are some things that we are doing with him technically and also with our offense that it seems like he’s flourishing in. Now the true test will be what happens in a game situation but he’s adapted so well to some of the changes here versus what he’s done in the past we’ll see.

Q: How hard is it for a player to switch safety positions?

A: We try to have dual safeties where they practice both roles. We try and integrate them that way from day one just because the game has changed so much. You just can’t be a tight end-side safety anymore or an open-side safety because people move around so much and they get three wide receivers on the field, four. So it’s a different deal in that way. We ask our safeties to be able to play both strong safety and free safety.

Q: Where is Robert Blanton in his development?

A: We do have high hopes for him and he’s come along and he’s doing a very good job for us on special teams right now. Really excited about what he’s doing there and his time will eventually come as a safety. He’s making a lot of progress. As you recall, it was a transition for him that first year going from a corner in college to a safety but he’s grown so much as a safety so we have confidence when his time comes that he’ll play well.

Q: Do you plan on rotating Mistral and Robert in there?

A: I don’t know if we’ll do that. We’ll continue to look at things in practice but I know we’re not planning on doing that as we speak.

Q: You promoted Rodney Smith to the active roster?

A: Promoted Rodney to the active roster which is a good thing for him. Rodney has done a good job, worked extremely hard from the day we got him as a free agent. He’s done a terrific job, well deserved for him.

Q: What led to that decision to go with a wide receiver?

A: When I talked with Rick and the personnel guys and they looked around the league at different players and just seeing what the options were there, we looked at our own roster and said what guy would benefit and would we benefit by bringing one of our own players up and Rodney was that guy compared to what was out there that could potentially help us. I think long term it’s going to be a good move for us.

Q: When you look at the pass rush, are they getting to the quarterback just not taking him down?

A: They’re still getting some pressure on the quarterback. Sometimes sacks are like turnovers, they come in bunches but they still have a very good pass rush and some good players that can really get after the quarterback. They just haven’t had some of those leads sometimes that you need to get sacks but they’re still getting after the quarterback. We’re going to have to do a good job in blocking their front. It’s probably still the strength of their defense.

Q: Were any teams calling to maybe move Rodney Smith from the Vikings practice squad to their active roster?

A: It didn’t at this point but that does happen. That didn’t happen in this case.

Q: What does it mean when defensive players say they need to execute better. Does that mean more film? What do you do to improve the execution?

A: When you are in position to make plays, that’s our game. Whether it be catching an interception, making a tackle, when you have a quarterback in your grasp, put him on the ground. That’s execution. It’s not an assignment issue for us, it’s about me being able to finish my job and we have to begin to get that done. Our guys understand it and looking forward to us getting it done on Monday night.

Q: With Desmond Bishop moving to Injured Reserve, is it Marvin Mitchell’s job?

A: Marvin will be the starting outside linebacker now for us with Desmond out of the lineup. But Gerald has come along. He’s a guy who as we continue we’re hoping to get him on the field. He got in a couple games, maybe one game now, Pittsburgh on special teams. He did a good job when he got in and he’ll keep coming as an outside linebacker.

Q: What’s the biggest hindrance with the three first round picks?

A: Sharrif is playing quite a bit and with his snaps he’s getting better. I don’t know if there’s a hindrance with him other than Kevin (Williams) has done a solid job as our starter. With Sharrif’s snaps, he’s done a fine job when he’s in there. We’ll keep bringing him along and give him more snaps as the season goes on. With Cordarrelle, just a matter of our getting him out there but part of it is Jerome Simpson has been having an outstanding first half of the season and those guys play identical positions so it makes it a little but tougher. But we are doing some things that we think may help us in that regard. Cordarrelle is a big-play guy, we have a lot of high hopes for him and we want to keep trying to find different ways to get him the football and get him on the field as well. But he has not done anything to disappoint. With Xavier, as I mentioned earlier, we’ve just got to keep bringing him along, just keep letting him see things and let him develop. That’s the only way that you get to be a good player in our league as a corner, you’ve just got to keep playing and some of the things that he’s not so good at today, he’ll get better at as we get further into the season.

Q: How has Sharrif progressed in just getting used to the NFL?

A: He’s gotten better. That first game, I’m sure he would admit this, it was tough for him, just the speed of the game and then he had been injured in training camp. He missed some time so that affected him but he’s gotten better. The game has slowed down for him, he’s beginning to get more penetration for us and getting closer to being exactly what we all hoped for. He’s done a very good job of separating from blocks, he’s doing a lot of things better than he did two to three weeks ago and that’s encouraging because that just means he’ll keep getting better in November, December he’s going to be even better, but he’s making progress.

Q: What do you see wrong with Eli Manning?

A: I’m sure those turnovers are driving him crazy like it does everybody when you turn the ball over. He’s still a very good quarterback. You watch that Chicago game, he’s driving them to win the game and just an errant pass and that’s kind of been the case but he’s more than capable of getting it done. He’s had some big moments, he just hasn’t had the consistency and the turnovers have killed some drives but it’s not like his skill set has deteriorated. He’s more than capable of putting a team on his back for sure.

Q: During training camp you mentioned limiting the snaps Kevin Williams plays but it seems like he has played more than that. Is he playing at a level where he can carry that workload?

A: Last week he probably played his most snaps, he got to 51. Generally he’s been in that, I think, maybe 40 area. Can he do it in an entire season? I don’t know if we want him to do it in an entire season. We’ve just got to keep bringing Sharrif along and getting Sharrif some of those snaps. For us, it probably wouldn’t be the best if he has to play 50-plus snaps. We’ll keep bringing Sharrif along.

Q: Is Adrian Peterson back today?

A: Adrian is back. He’ll be at practice this afternoon.

I do want to say this. Kevin is having a very good season for us, a very solid season, which helps us a lot.

Vikings Quarterback Josh Freeman


Q: Is your head just swimming with information as you try to get ready for your start?

A: I don’t know if swimming is the word I would use. It’s more just embracing the process and embracing the grind. One of the great things Coach (Bill) Musgrave and coach (Craig) Johnson do, and even Kevin (Stefanski), when they lay it out, it’s all clean-cut. They’re not throwing everything at you saying,  ‘You piece it together,’ they have a very distinct plan as far as today we’re working this, today we’re working this and we’re going to get ready for this tomorrow,  but we want your main focus to be on the three-step game, or drop-back game, or play action, whatever it may be. Every day the constant underlying theme is protections and I’m blessed and fortunate that early on in my career, up until earlier this season, protection has always been a big point of emphasis in any offense I’ve played in and it’s no different here just a couple of them are called a little differently. As we’ve worked at progressed I’ve gotten more and more comfortable each day. I didn’t know if the progress and day-to-day progression was going to continue at the rate that it did initially, but every day, and it’s different people stepping up, ­it’s the guys on the O line, Sully (John Sullivan), the wide receivers, talking with Greg (Jennings), talking with Jerome (Simpson). Those guys have a lot of input and insight. Talking to Adrian (Peterson) about different run themes, and you know, talking just with my teammates getting a feel for how they like to do things around here, how different scenarios, guys’ strengths, weaknesses because, to be honest, with only one week of practice with guys, it’s hard to really develop the kind of chemistry you’d like to have midway through a season. To compensate for that, guys have kind of taken it on themselves to really spend time with me. Kyle Rudolph, a guy that’s an unbelievable tight end, talking with him about his route likes and dislikes and finding ways to get him the ball. Last but not least is the quarterback room. Matt (Cassel) and Christian (Ponder) are constantly giving me advice, telling me about nuances within the offense that could pay dividends in the long stretch, but really it’s all-in-all a team effort and just studying. Studying and watching tape and finding time to get the appropriate amount of film study on the Giants. 

Q: How is it in the quarterback room?

A: There’s always going to be personally some level of, you can say what you want, but there’s not a quarterback in this league that doesn’t believe he shouldn’t be the starter in some capacity. I was on the other end of this just a few weeks ago. One of the awesome things about these guys, and you always wonder how the guys in the room are going to be, and I’ve been very fortunate throughout my career to have some quality rooms and this one’s no different, both those guys. Decisions made, we’re working, the level of preparation, the attitude, everything continues to stay at a high level. Like I said, I’m blessed and fortunate and that speaks volumes on those two guys and their character.

Q: What do you say to Vikings fans that have very high expectations and think you’re going to be the guy to come in and save the season?

A: We’re looking at this game. We’re looking at one game at a time. I think that you’re obviously going to have goals down the long stretch of the season, but in the present, that’s the only place you can be. If you want to have a chance in this league you have to focus on the next opponent. You can’t be looking down the road, you can’t look anywhere further than this game and what I’m doing right now is I’m not trying to learn every single play that’s ever been installed in the offense, I’m trying to focus on this week’s game plan, maximizing the potential for this week and then come back next week and do it all over again with next week’s game plan. The main focus throughout the entire team is finding a way to go out on Monday night at get a win.

Q: How would you describe your personality?

A: I don’t know. I’m me. I’d say that I like to maintain kind of a cool, calm, collect on the field and that’s kind of reflective me off the field, just relaxed, but at the same time, you play the game to win. There’s also that serious side of trying to figure out, you have to take things seriously when your livelihood is on the line, when your passion is on the line, when things you really care about and the people really care about pushing forward. But I would generally describe myself as pretty calm, pretty relaxed and that kind of translates into my on-field play. It’s being able to, say there’s a negative or a positive play, being able to remove yourself from that previous play and getting back in your zone and focus on the next play.

Q: Is this start sooner than you expected, or hoped for when you signed on with the team?

A: I didn’t really set a goal because I didn’t really know what I was walking into. I didn’t really know anything about the situation and didn’t know anything about the exact offense I’d be running. What I did know, talking to Rick Spielman, is that there wouldn’t be an immediate pressure to, ‘You have to get in, you have to save the season,’ and that’s not how I feel at all. Talking with the Coach Frazier there would be open lines of communication, letting him know where I feel I am in the offense, understanding concepts, verbalizing the plays, we talked a lot about that and I’m telling you between him and me, there’s going to be no way I’d be going out on the field if I didn’t feel I was ready and he didn’t feel I was ready. Obviously, he spends a lot of time talking with the other offensive coaches. I didn’t really set any parameters, didn’t really say, ‘I got to be doing this by this,’ I just came in and said, ‘I’m going to work as hard as I can, focus on me every day and try to learn this team, learn this offense.’ With conversations with Coach (Frazier), when I feel like I can give us a chance to win from my knowledge of the offense and just being a football player, that’s what I think we came to consensus.

Q: How exciting is it to have this chance on Monday Night Football?

A: It’s going to be a blast, but like I said, the main focus has to be on finding a way to win and that starts today and going over the stuff we’re going over today. Like I said, on such a short preparation with this offense, you just have to focus on the concepts now, stuff going into the game plan now and try to take advantage of every minute.

Q: In terms of timing with your receivers, does that come pretty quickly or is that process gradual?

A: With different receiving corps it’s different, it really is. The great thing about this receiving corps is you have a lot of talented guys. Anytime there’s maybe a little off on some timing, it’s made up for by the talent level in that receiver’s room. As I was coming out, it was kind of a shocker, and Greg was like, ‘Yeah, that got me too,’ in walk-through guys are flying around and I’m used to, ‘Alright, go through the progression check it down,’ and you have guys 50 yards down field, I’m like, ‘OK, I got to get ready for this,’ but it’s coming along. Are things going to perfect this soon? Are they ever going to be perfect? No, they’re not, but just find ways on routes you’re maybe off on in practice, maybe you didn’t quite understand how or why he’s coming out of the break that way, talking those instances out and coming out and throwing them in practice and after practice. I stayed after with Jerome (Simpson) and worked a couple routes yesterday. We have a bunch of willing young guys. Joe Webb’s been tremendous. He’s seen it from the quarterback’s standpoint and seen it from the receiver’s standpoint and I’ve spent a lot of time talking with him just talking about offensive principles. He’s got great insight on guys’ strengths and weaknesses, ‘Alright, if you got this and all looks are even, Jerome is great at this,’ or ‘Greg is going to win on this every time.’ Stuff like that you wouldn’t get from just being thrown out there and getting limited reps.

Q: Are you aware there’s not a great history of quarterbacks becoming starters when they were acquired in the middle of the season? What makes you think you could be one of the rare guys who has success?

A: I wasn’t really aware of any of that, but at the same time none of those situations were this situation. None of those quarterbacks were me and none of those teams were this team. I’m living, like I said, in the now and the present and maximizing everything that I can right now. It’s been good. It really has been. This offense is similar to the offense I was running with different terminology, but then it’s very similar in terminology and concepts to what I ran all during college so I’m fired up about the opportunity and I think that this could be something really great.

Q: What’s most difficult thing for a quarterback to learn on the fly like you are?

A: It’s just some of the verbage. Some of these plays get somewhat lengthy and there’s stuff within the play and you understand exactly where everyone is going whether it’s a motion, whether it’s a route tagged in there, whether it’s a concept, you understand what everybody is doing, but being able to spit that out when you’re on the clock, when it’s loud, when stuff is going on, when you’re out of breath, whatever is going on, being able to spit that out and knowing exactly what you’re saying, who you’re saying it to and saying it with confidence in the huddle so you break the huddle in rhythm, we get up to line with a little momentum. But really it’s just verbalization. I said it before, in football you only have 11 guys and there’s only so much you can do, but just being able to go into the huddle with confidence and call the play, look over the line of scrimmage with confidence, know what I’m keying off of, understanding the fronts, protections, just kind of bringing it all in for one play. That’s something that I’m lucky I’ve been in situations where I got a new coordinator my rookie year and it was kind of like, ‘Alright, now we’re learning new stuff. We want you to go out and play.’ I think that this coaching staff obviously had a plan, a plan as far as, ‘Alright, this is what we’re going to do. We want you to just forget all the other stuff and focus on this exact thing,’ and it’s been really, really good.

Q: How many plays do you think you’ll have in this game plan?

A: Really the game plan is going to be about what it’s been length-wise, from my understanding. Seeing the stuff we’ve put in so far it’s going to be similar size of last week’s, so I don’t think they’re scaling down in that regard. Like I said, I’ve had experience with all these pass concepts and it’s just a matter of, like I said, verbalizing it, knowing what you’re keying off of, different nuances in the protection game, knowing when you’re protected, when you’re hot, when you need to side adjust, things like that. Just seeing the defense, that’s where it all starts, approaching the line, looking at the defense, seeing what they’re in and moving forward.