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Frazier on Freeman's Concussion, Ponder Taking Over and More

Posted Oct 23, 2013

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier

Good morning guys. I’ll give you an update on where we are injury wise. Rhett Ellison probably won’t work today. That ankle, we’ll have to continue to bring him along over the course of the week. Matt Asiata, he probably won’t work as well. His shoulder is to the point where we’re going to have to wait on him as well. The one other guy, Josh Freeman, came in yesterday mid-afternoon and wasn’t feeling so well and we ended up going back and doing an evaluation and he has concussion-like symptoms. They’re going to take him through the NFL protocol today and we’ll evaluate him daily. That means Christian (Ponder) will be working with our first unit in practice. We’ll see how it goes as the week goes on, but it’s a short week. I’m not sure what’ll happen with Josh but our guys will be ready to go on Sunday night.

Q: How soon do you want to make a decision on who is going to be your starting guy?

A: Obviously he won’t be able to practice today, so he loses a day. When you consider the amount of time that he’s missed, it probably is going to be different. And also looking at the history of guys who have had concussions on a short week that are able to at least get cleared for Sundays, we’ll have to proceed as if he’s not going to make it.

Q: Do you know when this came up in the course of the game?

A: I talked to him this morning and he thought it was somewhere in the 3rd quarter. He didn’t say anything about it during the game or even in the postgame, but talking to him this morning, he thought it happened somewhere in the 3rd.

Q: Is it difficult to not have that consistency at the position?

A: It’s important. That quarterback position, you want to know who is lining up week in and week out. This is the circumstance where we are and Christian will do a good job for us on Sunday night.

Q: What was it that put Christian back ahead of Matt Cassel on the depth chart?

A: I just felt like for what Christian had done prior to his injury and his body of work and comparing what Matt had done was the reason for doing it and that was it.

Q: How has Christian handled the entire situation since learning that Matt Cassel was going to start?   

A: He’s a competitor. He wants to be out there for sure. But he’s handled it well. Our conversations have been positive. We even talked last week about the possibility of something like this happening, just being ready when you’re in a backup role takes one play for you to be the starter, so you’ve got to make sure your mind is right and you’re doing what you’ve got to prepare to go out and play and play well. He’s been good. It’s tough though, he’s a competitor, he wants to be out there and he will be, or it looks that way.

Q: Does this roller coaster affect the team?

A: Pretty resilient guys, they’re going to work hard to prepare to win this game at home on Sunday night. You like stability at the quarterback position for sure on any team, but this is where we are for now. They have handled things fairly well.

Q: What’s the process for Josh to get cleared and does he have tests today?

A: Yes, he does and that will be ongoing. There are some things he has to do today and tomorrow, so we’ll see what happens. Each day is a little bit different than the next, so if he passes what they have for him today then there are certain things that they’ll ask him to do tomorrow.

Q: If he passes today, will he be able to practice tomorrow?

A: He’ll have some things that he’ll have to do tomorrow.

Q: Would he be able to practice tomorrow if he passes those first?

A: I think he could, if he does pass.

Q: Christian Ponder is most likely the starter for Sunday’s game?

A: Yes, more than likely.

Q: When do you make the final call on who the starting quarterback is?

A: Like I said earlier, the fact that he’s not able to practice today and you lose today on a short week, it makes it tough. We need to get Christian ready to go.

Q: How much does it open the playbook if Christian is the starter?

A: Maybe you’ll be able to do a few more things but once again you’re condensing it down to Green Bay and how you want to attack them as opposed to opening up the playbook in its entirety. It’ll be about Green Bay and the things you want to be able to do to attack their defense. It’ll be somewhat condensed but his familiarity with their defense, playing them twice a year, having success against them, that should help.

Q: Is there anything Josh noticed during the game that he might have just tried to play through? 

A: He didn’t say that he did. He didn’t mention to me or anyone else. He did say after one of the hits in the 3rd, that’s when he felt like something may not have been right. That’s what he told me this morning. There was nothing on the sidelines or during the game that made us ask him, “Are you alright?”

Q: Are you excited about the possibility of Christian’s mobility being able to open the run game up?

A: He’s done a good job with some of our perimeter plays with nakeds and bootlegs. At the quarterback position, his ability to scramble, it has helped us in the past and we’re going to need that again. They do a good job on defense of bottling things up and trying to defend the run, like every team does that plays us, so his ability to escape should be able to help us.

Q: With the amount of quarterbacks being injured, do you think offenses are evolving to where quarterbacks are taking more hits?

A: I haven’t looked around the league as much. I’m not sure. I know there are more mobile quarterbacks it seems, more guys scrambling and trying to get extra yards it seems, so that may have something to do with it.

Q: Does that put more stress on developing a competent back-up plan?

A: The Minnesota Vikings going out and trying to get Matt this offseason, we had that in mind knowing that Christian is a mobile guy, he’s going to be out of the pocket, so you could end up seeing your second quarterback a lot sooner than you’d expect.

Q: What have you seen on film of the Packers’ run defense that shows that they have improved from last season?

A: It seems like they’ve always been aggressive with their fire zones and trying to get extra guys in the box, but they’re tackling better in the secondary and even at that second level with the linebackers of doing a better job of tackling. B.J. Raji, their nose (tackle), he’s still a tough, tough player, very good player. But their secondary as a whole is tackling better and that’s probably helped their run defense.

Q: With their improved running game, is this the most dangerous Packers offense you have seen since you’ve been here?

A: It’s definitely created more balance for their offense. You’re right, in the past you just concentrated on trying to come up with a way to defend the quarterback and the passing game. They’ve made it a little bit tougher for defenses with their commitment to the run game. Lacy is doing a good job for them and now all of a sudden you do have to prepare more so for the run game more so than you ever have, which has created some toughness for defenses.

Q: Good quarterbacks have proven to come in and find the weakness in the defensive secondary and target that over and over. How can you counteract that? Are there ways you can give help?

A: One of the things that helps your pass defense is being able to rattle the quarterback. You have to be able to get to the quarterback and sometimes, in this case because Rodgers is a very good guy against pressure, you have to be able to do it at times with your four-man rush to protect those guys in secondary. Our rush will have to be effective on Sunday night to help our secondary and that’s usually the case. We had a good rush on Monday night and we’re going to need it again on Sunday.

Q: To be clear, did Josh Freeman first report concussions symptoms this morning or was that something that happened yesterday?

A: Yesterday, mid-afternoon.

Q: When you evaluate your run game, where do you see the biggest shortcomings?

A: We have to do a better job of sustaining blocks, staying on blocks. Not just our offensive line but our tight ends as well. They’re a part of our run offense, but we have to do a better job of just knocking people off the ball as a whole and staying clean on our blocks and if we do that – and Adrian has to stay pure to the run as well. If we’re calling it in the four-hole then you have to stay in the four-hole and not make it a two-hole run. There are some things that we can clean up that we think will make us better from a run offense standpoint. We’re working on that. We talked about that this morning and we’re going to work on it again this afternoon.

Q: Do you guys wish you would have tried to establish the run a little more?

A: Maybe, but we thought we could take advantage of some things they were doing in the secondary and weren’t able to. It wasn’t like it wasn’t there, we just couldn’t take advantage. It will be the same way this week. They are going to load the box as well and they’re going to be some opportunities in the passing game. It would help the running game if we were able to hit some of those passes when they’re in single coverage and there are going to be opportunities on Sunday night.

Q: You lost Christian to a rib injury, then Josh to a concussion. Does that give you a pause at all with how well you’ve been protecting the quarterback going through this again with a different quarterback?

A: I think it’s kind of like what Tom (Pelissero) said, this is not exclusive to us. There are risks at the quarterback position and going to take some hits. Those guys are in a vulnerable position a lot of times. It puts a premium on having a good backup because of that. Everybody deals with the same issue at that position.

Q: Can you salvage this season without continuity at quarterback, or will that be essential to salvage this season?

A: I think you need continuity at the quarterback position as much as you can get it. We’re going to need a good game out of our quarterback this weekend, and not only our quarterback but our special teams, the rest of our offense along with our defense, but that position in our league, a key position without question. You need that position to play well.

Q: Do you go week-to-week now if Christian plays well?

A: Obviously we want Christian to have a great game on Sunday night and just focus on the Green Bay game and not look beyond that game and we’ll deal with whatever comes after that, but right now, just focus on having Christian having the best game of his career on Sunday night and the rest of our team having a great game as well. That’s probably the most important thing, not looking beyond this ball game.

Q: How much does it help that Christian didn’t lash out after he lost his starting job and continued with a good attitude? How much is that going to help him with the team?

A: That’s a great point you’re making. Your teammates watch how you handle adversity and I think he’s handled this situation very, very well. That’s a part of being a good leader and I think it bodes well for his stepping back into that role and leading our team on Sunday night.

Q: How did you get into such lopsided pass to run ratio on Monday night and was it necessitated by being behind?

A: It was a pretty close ball game for quite a while. It was 17-7 in the top of the fourth, I think 10-7 at the half, so it wasn’t so much where the game was, we need to do a better job of blocking our runs and creating some opportunities when we do in the passing game, but we have to do a better job of getting positive runs so we can stay with our run game and not feel like we have to get away from it. But that’s on us. That wasn’t so much what the other team was doing, the fact that we weren’t performing as well when it came to running the football so we’ve got to stick to it. There are going to be some moments where its two yards, one yard, maybe zero yards and all of the sudden Adrian will break one, so we have to do a better job of just staying with it. We’re not going to win a lot of games throwing the ball 50 times. We’re not made up that way. We have to try to avoid that situation.

Q: Did the Giants get you in the mindset that you couldn’t run?

A: I think we wanted to take advantage of some opportunities in the passing game that we didn’t. We have to do a better job of staying balanced. We are a team that wants to be a run-first team, but also take advantage of some opportunities in the passing game when they present themselves. We probably got a little bit too sideways in that game. That’s not the ratio we wanted to have.

Q: How much do you lean on Greg Jennings this week and what sort of things do you look for from players facing their former teams?

A: I know our defensive coaches are going to talk to him quite a bit and try to get a feel for Green Bay’s offense from his perspective and try to get as much information as he can provide. We’ll lean on him for leadership as a team which he’s provided throughout this year, but I’m sure our defensive coaches are going to try to pick his brain to see if there’s anything he might be able to help them with.

Q: What is the biggest difference in the running game from last year to this year?

A: It’s been a combination of things. We have to get some consistency in our passing game; I think that will help us. Early on I think the turnovers really set us back and created the lack of continuity that we had, when we think we’re going to get in a rhythm and all of the sudden on a first down or second down we turn the ball over. We had a little bit of that the other night. It was second and two on the plus, I think, 32, maybe even closer than that, and we throw the pick. You think you have something going and all of the sudden you’re regressing, so we kind of had that situation throughout and we have to do a better job of sticking with it and giving our players a chance to get some things corrected on the field. We’re not adjusting as well as we need to to some of the eight-man fronts we’re getting, that we’ve got. We got them last season as well, we just have to do a better job.

Q: Are there any cases where you’re too predictable in the run or if you’re a running team it doesn’t matter that you’re predictable and you just go out and run it?

A: That has been our attitude in the past that you know what we’re going to do, now you have to stop it and it’s not working so well right now. That doesn’t mean that we’re going to deviate from what we do best and what we believe we do best. We just have to do it better than what we’re doing. We have the best running back in the National Football League, we have to block better across the board, he has to stay true to the hole and when we have chances to make people pay in the passing game for being single-high, we have to do it and we’re not doing that effectively enough, but we can’t get away from what the strength of our offense is and that’s running our offense through Adrian. Teams would love for us to drop back and throw it 53 times like Larry (Fitzgerald, Sr.) talked about earlier. That’s not who we want to be.