Frazier, Ponder Look Ahead To Green Bay

Posted Nov 20, 2013

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier 

Good morning. Injury-wise, probably the only guy I can give you an update on before practice is John Sullivan. He has not passed the NFL protocol for the concussion test so he won’t practice today. We’ll see if he passes tomorrow and is able to get some work at that point, but he still hasn’t made it yet. The other guys we’ll see as the day goes on who might be available and who might not be available and you’ll get that information later today. The quarterback position, Christian Ponder is going to be our starting quarterback against Green Bay. Looking forward to watching him perform and lead our team to a win on Sunday. I’m sure some of the fallout questions will be why and I believe, like in every decision we make, you’re trying to make a decision based on who gives you the best chance to succeed and in our case we think that’s Christian at this point. He’s had some success against Green Bay’s defense, he’s familiar with their team and their personnel and he’s had some success and he’s played at Lambeau before. It should be a good opportunity for him, good opportunity for our team. Josh (Freeman) and Matt (Cassel) they’ve done a good job for us in practice and they will continue to do a good job and continue to work as hard as possible to help our football team win, but at this point Christian is going to be our starter and, as I mentioned before, I’m looking forward to him leading our team to victory and other guys around him stepping up and playing well on offense, on defense and on special teams as well. It should be a good contest.

Q: Is Josh Freeman just not where you’d thought he’d be? Why don’t you give him a look here?

A: That still goes back to what I said a moment ago. I just believe at this point Christian gives us the best chance to be successful on Sunday. There may come a time where it’s Josh’s turn, but for this ball game that’s the reason with Christian.

Q: Given that you pulled Ponder last game, was this more thought you had to put into this week than last week?

A: Yeah that fourth quarter isn’t what he’d like, what any of us would like, but this is where we are with the decision and looking forward to him playing well.

Q: How much do you factor in their previous games against Green Bay, both Josh and Christian?

A: As I mentioned before, I referenced Christian’s play against Green Bay in the past. That was a factor in the decision along with the venue as well. Some of that did factor in.

Q: Is he going to be on a shorter leash than before or are you telling him to not look over his shoulder?

A: He knows we want him to succeed, we’re not going into thinking he’s going to fail or he’s going to get off to a slow start. We’re not going into it thinking that way. We’re looking forward to him having a good ball game.

Q: Are you worried about how this might go over in the locker room? Are you worried how players may view this?

A: Yes and no. Those guys are supportive of every decision we make. They understand what their roles are and that’s to take care of their responsibility. That’s the most important thing they can do to help our team win, do their jobs. And I know they’ll do that. They’ve been battling and trying to help us to get a win so they’ll get on board. It helps if we can have success as a team.

Q: What’s happened to Christian this year? It seemed like early last year his strength was not turning the ball over. What’s the difference from last year?

A: There are probably so many factors involved, but he has another opportunity this Sunday to improve. He did some good things, as we all know, in that Washington game after that one pick early and just got to regain that. He got off to a good start against Seattle and struggled a little bit in that fourth, but it’s a new ball game, it’s another day, new opportunity for him to have a great practice this week, get the rest of our team to play well along with him and it should be a good day for our football team.

Q: Last week you said you were considering having all three quarterbacks active. Is that a consideration this Sunday?

A: Some of it will depend on where we are injury-wise whether or not we dress that third quarterback or not and that will probably be the determining factor, where are we health-wise and who’s available, who’s not available.

Q: Do you need to get Freeman in another game if he’s ever going to start? Do you need to see a little more or down the road would you start him without seeing him in another game other than the Giants?

A: Those will be questions that will be answered when we get to that point, but for now really need to focus on helping Christian to have the best of his career against a good football team and a good defense and the rest of our team playing well also. But some of those other questions, we’ll get to when that time comes.

Q: Will Matt Cassel be your backup on Sunday?

A: Probably. He probably will be.

Q: A few weeks ago you said the starting spot is between Josh and Christian. Is that still the case or is Matt also a possibility?

A: That best answer I can give you is we’re focusing on getting our first team quarterback to play well for us on Sunday and the guy that backs him up, if he has to get in the game, we need him to play well because of injury, performance, whatever it is, but the focus really has to be on getting our number one the repetitions he needs to play well on Sunday. Whatever happens when it comes to other decisions in the future, we’ll deal with those when that time comes.

Q: What’s it been like for you as a coach, you’ve have to make the decision as to who is the starter five, six, seven times? How’s that been?

A: It’s not a lot of fun. You’d like to say this is your quarterback for 16 weeks, but we haven’t been in that situation. You have to do the things you think you need to do to help your team be successful, but you’d like to be able to put that guy, pencil him in the lineup and say ‘That’s the guy.’ But the good thing about our players, they’ve come to work every day, they’re working as hard as they can to prepare and they’ll do the same thing this week. We’re hoping that our entire team plays well enough for us to get a win on Sunday and I believe we will. That’s the most important thing and Christian will play well.

Q: Is there a difference in Josh from those practices that got you excited and what you’ve seen in practice since?

A: You know he’s still working hard, he’s still doing a lot of good things in practice and, as I mentioned, there may come a time when he’s out there, but for this week it’s going to be Christian. But Josh, he’s still preparing well, doing what he needs to do in the meetings, doing what he has to do at practice and we’ll see what happens down the line.

Q: Does putting Josh in to play in a home game first factor in at all?

A: Like I was saying to Brian (Hall), it’s probably better to figure out what will help us to be successful in this ball game and that’s how the decision was made regarding the starting quarterback and then when it comes to Josh or Matt for future ball games, you deal with it probably on Monday when we come back after this Green Bay game, you make a determination for the future. But for now, we really have to focus on getting this win against a NFC North opponent and getting the guy who’s starting in the best frame of mind to go out and play well.

Q: Has Josh met your expectation for when you first signed him?

A: He has. He’s in some ways, based on information we’ve received, exceeded those. He’s all-in, he’s professional in everything we’ve asked him to do, I like the way he handles himself in the pocket, in the meetings, in the locker room much better than some of the things we had heard.

Q: Do you still feel like it was the right decision to bring him in?

A: I do, because when you look at where we were at the time and what we were trying to get accomplished and what we were facing, to not take advantage of that opportunity to bring him in and get a chance to be around him, take a look at him, see if he can help our club, I think we’d be kicking ourselves just wondering. And we still have other games to play, there still may be opportunities for him so there are no regrets about bringing him in especially with where we were at the time and where we are now, so no regrets in that regard.

Q: Where is he with his understanding of the offense? Does he have a complete grasp or still learning?

A: It’s hard to have a complete grasp when you haven’t been around the team throughout the offseason or training camp, so complete would not be the word to use, but good enough to where if he had to play, he could play. He proved that in the New York ball game.

Q: With all the quarterback issues throughout the league this year, do you ever wonder if there are enough elite quarterbacks to go around in the league?

A: Well, there are only a handful of elite guys, as we all know. All 32 teams, I don’t know if we all would say he have an elite guy. Those are a minute number.

Q: Any updates on Adrian’s injury?

A: Yeah, we’re going to see if he’s able to do anything today. As I mentioned on Monday, the groin has been bothering him, but we’ll see what we need to do this week. Is he able to practice today or tomorrow, or do we hold him back until Friday? We’ll make that determination this afternoon when we sit down and talk a little bit with our trainers.

Q: Will Greg Childs return to practice today?

A: Greg Childs will be back for his first action in practice, so we’ll kind of ease him into it a little bit. We won’t give him a full practice, but just give him a taste of it and find out where he is tomorrow.

Q: Do you expect Greg Jennings to be out there today?

A: I’m not sure if he’ll make it today. We’re hoping to get him out there tomorrow, but he had some soreness this morning so he’s getting some treatment now so we’ll see if he’s able to go this afternoon. But we may just hold him and give him a full day tomorrow.

Q: Are you optimistic about Adrian playing Sunday?

A: I am, but cautiously optimistic I should say.

Vikings Quarterback Christian Ponder

Well it’s a great week for us, great week for me to move forward from last game. Green Bay week is always a fun week for all of us and we understand the urgency, the importance of this game for everybody. I expect guys to be fully focused on what’s going on and we’ve moved forward from last week. Monday, it was tough to watch the film, especially that 4th quarter film. Now it’s time to forget it and move forward and we’ve done that. I’m excited just to be out here again. I’m ready to go and healthy and I’m excited about this week.

Q: Are you surprised that you’re the starter this week?

A: No, not at all. I was operating under the assumption that I would be unless I was told otherwise, but I appreciate Coach Frazier having the confidence in me to be able to go out this week and play.

Q: What did he say to you?

A: He didn’t say anything.

Q: So you he didn’t sit down with you and say that you were going to be the starter?

A: No. 

Q: How much does it help that you know this early in the week given the uncertainty in some of the past weeks?

A: Well, I think everyone except you guys knew who the starter was before that too. It was kind of strategic that way, but just knowing that I’m the starter for the 5th, 6th week, to go out there and have that consistency is good for me.

Q: How much do you think your last game against Green Bay – a turnover free game - weighed into his decision to stick with you?

A: I don’t know, I’m not sure. In that game we ultimately lost anyways. Hopefully it made some sort of impact, I’m not sure, but it’s going to be a different game this week though. They’ve got everyone back, they’ve got Clay [Matthews] back, so it’ll be a different defense. But hopefully we can have better success than we did a couple of weeks ago.

Q: What did you see on film that was the issue with the interceptions at Seattle?

A: Just bad decisions. Just trying to make plays towards the end. We were down and trying to have that 4th quarter comeback and just forced some things that weren’t there.

Q: Last season you started off the season with a streak of no turnovers. What’s been the difference this season?

A: Well if you look at the first few games last year, there were chances for guys to make turnovers that were dropped, but I don’t know what the difference is this year. Just a couple of bad decisions, some bad bounces too. Obviously it’s something that needs to change. It’s costing us football games. It’s one of the most important stats in the NFL game. 

Q: Can you prepare yourself ahead of time to not make bad decisions?

A: Through the preparation and film study throughout the week helps, but ultimately it’s getting out there and being patient with the football and not trying to force things that aren’t there.   

Q: In years past their defense has created a lot of turnovers but this year they haven’t. What do you think is the cause behind that dropoff?

A: Guys haven’t been healthy. They’ve been missing Clay and their [linebacker Brad] Jones and they’re both back so they’re going to be a different team. We’ve got to be smart with the football, especially on  the road. You can’t turn the ball over, as we saw last week, you can’t turn the ball over on the road. Last week, Detroit, it costs you games.

Q: How do you feel about Greg Childs return to practice?

A: Excited for him. He’s been working his butt off for a year now, over a year. I know he’s excited to get out there. We’ll see what he does but even just watching him run around, he looks good, he looks fast. He’s in shape. I couldn’t imagine being in the weight room for 14 months straight and just working out and not playing football, so I’m excited for him.

Q: Can you tell on the field that Adrian Peterson is just not his usual self?

A: No, not really. He’s still out there, he’s still grinding, he’s still trying to make plays and we’ve just got to keep getting him in a better position to run the ball. I don’t know why we’re not running the ball as effectively. We’ve just got to keep getting it going and keep opening those holes for him.  

Q: If John Sullivan is out this week with a concussion, does that change anything for you in terms of calling things out at the line of scrimmage?

A: No. Joe Berger’s been around for a while and he’s great about it. The thing me and Sully share is the increased amount of communication and we’re very comfortable with each other but Joe has done a great job of stepping up in practice when Sully hasn’t played. Going back to last year when he got in there a little bit, he’s done a great job of filling those shoes and we expect him to do the same. He’s a veteran player and has good leadership skills and he’s a smart player.

Q: A few weeks ago Rick Spielman said that if things don’t work out this year that he’ll look for a franchise quarterback next year in the draft. Does any part of you feel that you are on the clock and that you’ve got to show something in the next 6 games?

A: Honestly I’m not focused on it. There’s enough pressure going on at this position and if you start worrying about those things then it’s only going to make it worse. Again, my future in my eyes it doesn’t go past Sunday. I’m going to take care of what we have Sunday and move forward from there.  

Q: Do you think that you thrive without pressure?

A: I don’t know. I don’t think so. I think pressure separates good players from bad players and I think pressure is also something that a lot of times you put on yourself. It’s a whole psychological thing and I think I do a good job of taking that noise out. If you look at Jacksonville last year and some other games, when the pressure was on I’ve stepped up and other times I haven’t and I need to be more consistent.