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Ponder, Frazier Look Ahead To Redskins Game

Posted Nov 5, 2013

Vikings Quarterback Christian Ponder

I think it’s positive for us that it’s short week. It gives us all the ability to move on pretty quickly from last week and we’ve got a good Redskins team coming in, they had a great win over San Diego last week. It’ll be good to be at home and everything. We’ve got a long day ahead of us today to cover all three practices in one practice, but it seems like through the walk through everybody was focused and ready to go. We’ve got to get a win to get this thing on the right track. You can feel that guys have that sense of urgency and nobody’s given up, everybody’s staying focused. I think they are more focused than they have been and it’s a positive thing to see. We are frustrated but we want to go out and secure this victory.

Q: What are the problems with preparing and game planning for a  Thursday game?

A: You want as many days to prepare but it’s an equal playing field. We are fortunate that we are at home and we don’t have to travel. There has got to be a lot of focus today, a lot of studying off the field in preparation, more studying tomorrow but there’s going to be a lot that’s covered today, there is going to be a lot of thinking going on. I think guys are prepared for that. The walk through we went basically through our whole install and then went out to walk through and guys are pretty focused, which is good to see.

Q: What are your thoughts on Rick Spielman’s comments that the group of quarterbacks here are on the clock and that if things don’t work out they might look for a franchise quarterback in the draft?

A: I didn’t even know about the comments. My focus is to go out there and specifically on Thursday go out and have a good game.

Q: What are your thoughts on being able to be that long-term franchise quarterback for the Vikings?

A: I know I can. Obviously my play will determine that on the field and I have to play better but again, my future is this game and hopefully once I have a good game Thursday that that will play out itself and I understand that we have eight games left in the regular season to do so.

Q: How do you approach the situation with a guy that they want to evaluate sitting behind you?

A: I don’t focus on it. It’s been great to have Josh in the room. He’s a great guy to be around. He’s another guy that brings in a lot of knowledge of the game and it only helps me out. I understand that it’s a competition and it’s been a competition all year long with Matt [Cassel] being here. So I’m not worried about them. I’m focused on increasing my play. I’m competitive against myself as much as those guys and understanding that I’ve got to keep getting better and I want to make sure that everybody is confident that I’m the guy out there that needs to be playing.  

Q: How do you make that balance of creating plays with your feet and staying in the pocket?

A: I think that’s something that you are always fighting. I think God blessed me with good feet to make plays in that aspect of the game. You’ve got to be patient in the pocket and you’ve got to kind of find that right balance and I think a lot of it has to do with instincts and the more you play the game and everything. You’re recognizing coverages that take away certain routes that aren’t going to be open so then “OK now I’ve got to use my feet.” For me, it’s got to be thinking pass first and if they take that away or if the pocket breaks down then get out and run.

Q: Do you lobby Bill Musgrave to do a little more of the no-huddle offense?

A: I mean it’s something that’s always been a part of our game plan. We did it more last week, obviously. I think it’ll be hopefully something we continue to do. I think a lot of the guys enjoy it. I think Bill understands that and is going to keep using it. It’s a good part of our game.

Q: Is it difficult for you to always think pass first or has that been one of the bigger adjustments for you?

A: I think that’s something I fought as a younger player but I feel like I’ve kind of found the balance and it’s something I can always continue to keep improving on. I do want to throw first and run second, but I think I’m doing a better job of it and it’s something I’m not really fighting anymore. There are times where I have escaped the pocket early and needed to stay in there and be more patient and trust everything that is going on.

Q: What do you think has been the issue with getting a deep passing game established for this offense?

A: I don’t know. I think that first of all we are calling certain plays to get the ball out of our hand quick and we are good at certain routes. There are times where a lot of plays we have options to go deep it’s just being taken away. I remember specific game plans where we thought that they’d play one way and give us an option to throw a deep post route or something and they didn’t cooperate and they took it away. We are calling plays to get it there, they just haven’t been working for us.

Q: Coach Frazier said he sensed that you felt more comfortable going into last week. Did you sense that? And what was different from the week prior?

A: I felt going into the Green Bay game that I was pretty comfortable as well. I don’t know how he got that sense. I felt pretty comfortable since I got the starting job again and felt confident in what I’m doing. I don’t know what the difference was for him or anything. I don’t know.  

Q: How do things change not being able to have Kyle Rudolph for a while?

A: He’s a big part of the offense. He’s a great player and we’re going to miss him but [it’s] John Carlson’s turn. He’s been playing a lot. He’ll be the feature guy. Having Chase Ford come in and get a lot of playing time. They’re both good players and they’ll have to fill in their shoes and I fully expect John to go out there and play well. He’s another athletic guy, not as tall as Kyle but can make plays. But we’re going to miss Kyle and can’t wait until he gets back.

Q: What does John Carlson add to the offense?

A: Well he’s a smart player. He’s an athletic player and when you have a guy like Kyle, that’s the guy you want to feature so sometimes it’s hard to get [John] the ball but now he’s the guy that’s out there and I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for him to establish his role and get out there and make some plays, make some catches and I’m excited for him.

Q: What do you think of when you hear the term “franchise quarterback”?

A: I think it’s a multitude of things. I think it’s a long-term quarterback, big part of the offense, leads teams to wins. I think if you’re not leading teams to wins then you’re not going to be there very long. You’ve got to win a lot of games and be that guy that is there for a long time. When you think of guys like that Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton [Manning], all of those guys.

Q: Why do you think you can be that guy?

A: I fully trust in my ability and everything that’s going on. Made the playoffs last year, obviously this year has been a little tougher but I believe in what I can do and expect that things will work out.

Q: It seems like this Washington defense has really forced you to turn the ball over?

A: They do and they are very instinctive players. You watch DeAngelo Hall, I mean he’s jumping all over routes and they have a lot of experience over there and London Fletcher does the same thing. They are a ball-hawking team. They do a lot of game planning. If you watch each game they kind of play differently schematically for each game so they’re going to do a lot of game planning and they are good at finding the ball. We’ve just got to keep the ball in our hands. I think we had 3 interceptions last year, which cost us the game. We’ve got to make sure we keep the ball in our hands.

Q:What are your thoughts on Coach Frazier’s anti-hazing policy?

A: In this day and age I think that it doesn’t really have a place in this game and I think Coach Frazier has done a great job ever since I got here to limit that. It’s a great environment for us to play and our locker room is great. We’ve got a ton of good guys, so we don’t see that. I think it creates a better environment for everybody to show up and work together.

Q: Was that sack-fumble in the end zone something where the timing was messed up because J’Marcus Webb isn’t used to playing with this line or do you need to step up quicker?

A: Ultimately turnovers like that it’s ultimately on me. I’ve got to step up and just get rid of the ball, understand in the situation that we don’t want to take a sack and ultimately we don’t want to take a fumble and give them the football for a touchdown. Move up in the pocket, throw it away, and live to play a 2nd down.

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier

Walk through went well, on a short week condensing everything down, putting together our game plan together for this ballgame. It is very different when you are playing on Thursday as opposed to preparing for a Sunday afternoon game. A lot to get done today. Very, very important day as we really condense everything that we would do in three or fours days into one day. But our guys seem to be engaged, and the walk through went well, and now we will need to have a good afternoon practice as well.

Q: There are a couple guys injured like Josh Robinson with his chest and Charlie Johnson. What happened with those guys?

A: Josh had something to do with his chest and Charlie had an elbow injury. We expect those guys to participate today so we will see how it goes.

Q: How about all of the guys that are injured?

A: Nothing really changed this morning, so we will see who is able to participate in this afternoon’s practice, but it is pretty much the same as yesterday.

Q: Would you say that Phil Loadholt is out for Thursday’s game?

A: Yeah, Phil is not going to make it.

Q: Chris Cook said he was going to work out his hip this afternoon. Are you optimistic with him at this point?

A: If he can do something that will definitely help. So we will see how he does. But it is hard to say now, because we haven’t seen him work for a while.

Q: How much does the Loadholt injury affect the performance of the offense and offensive line?

A: Phil is a vital part of our offensive line. He is one of our top players. He is a very good right tackle for us. But that is one of the reasons we signed J’Marcus. That gives him an opportunity, and he will go in and he will play well. He is familiar with our system now and it is a great opportunity for him.

Q: Do you have any more information on Kyle’s timetable for his return from his foot injury?

A: Four to six weeks is what they are saying.

Q: What aspects of this job, being a head coach, lead to situations like the ones that happened with John Fox and Gary Kubiak this weekend?

A: I guess the stress of winning; it is hard to say what happened in those cases, unless you speak to their doctors or speak to them directly. But this is part of what we do. But it is hard to say what led to their health issues. But we are all doing what we want to do. I enjoy what I do for a living, and I enjoy being around our players; I enjoy being around the people that work in our organization and that helps to offset some of the other things you have to deal with.

Q: Washington is going to try and establish their running game this week. How different are they than the team you just faced?

A: Completely different. To prepare for option football on a short week, it is completely different. They ran for 209 yards just a few days ago. Not much comparison in the style of offenses.

Q: Are they holding off anything with Robert Griffith III coming off his knee injury?

A: They have been earlier, but you can see that now they have really gone back to what they did a season ago and had success. That in large part has to do with the quarterback seeming to be more confident in what he is doing, and the coaches calling more of the plays they ran a year ago. It seems that they are becoming that offense again.

Q: What do you do for depth at offensive tackle with J’Marcus now in a starting role, do you bring someone in or elevate someone?

A: We have a couple guys on our practice squad that we can look at; Kevin Murphy being one of them. He would be a guy that will have an opportunity based on our circumstance.

Q: Injury wise, how does the secondary look, and whom may you have and who may you not have Thursday?

A: Well depending upon what happens with Chris Cook today, along with Jamarca that will probably determine who is and who isn’t available. We think that Xavier is going to be fine, Josh should be fine, but it is more Chris and Jamarca and where they are at.

Q: Talk about the tight end spot, and who will start there?

A: John Carlson is the next guy up. We have Chase Ford on our roster as well, so we will have a couple of guys working for us in Kyle’s absence. We will see if Rhett is able to do anything this afternoon, and then go from there.

Q: Where is Robert Blanton at in his first real extensive game action this season at safety?

A: He did some good things in the ballgame against Dallas. It was good to get him out there and give him some action in a live game. I think he had another chance a year ago. But with the time that he had, he did a good job. He will get some opportunities again this week.

Q: Is there any thought of starting Robert this week considering the struggles that Mistral had, with a couple of missed tackles against Dallas?

A: Yeah we will see how it goes. Hopefully Mistral will play better. But we are going to get Robert in there for sure.

Q: How much of it is the head coaches job to identify bullying situations and intimidation in the locker room?

A: I can speak from our standpoint here, just having a pulse on our team, and listening to what they guys that are in leadership roles have to say to me about our club, and what is going on in the locker room. But also communicating, and trying to figure out where our team is, what is going on with our team, and the communication part of it, and hearing what is important. Some things I won’t necessarily know about, but I hope that I will get clued in on, when its necessary. But having good leadership to keep me involved in things that might contradict what we want to get done and what we are trying to project as a team.

Q: How do you approach that subject with those leaders, and do you put a “no hazing” rule out?

A: Oh yes, going back to when we came to training camp. You go through things you can and can’t do, and that is on our list of things that we are not going to do. So we come to training camp and talk about do’s and don’ts for our team, and that was one of them: not to do to our rookies.

Q: Do you ever look at that win in Washington any differently from 2011 than any of other win you’ve had when thinking about what it cost you?

A: I don’t know if I look at it any different. I can’t remember.

Q: It is the game that cost you the 2nd overall pick in the draft?

A: Next question please. Anyone else have a question? Hey, we just want to win. 2011, 2010, 2013; we want to win. I am not looking at what is happening with the draft I just want us to win.

Q: As an organization do you look at it?

A: That might be a question for Rick Speilman, Mark Wilf, or Zygi Wilf, but not for Leslie Frazier. Every game we play, I am going to tell you this, we are going to try and win. We are going to try and win.

Q: With a 1-7 start, do you rely on your leadership group even more to go to them with thoughts for the week and how to keep them and your team focused?

A: Most Definitely. We will sit down and talk where our team is, and what is going on around us and try to make sure that we are engaged in the moment, and not getting caught up in what has happened in the previous weeks, or what could happen in the weeks to come. I rely on them heavily to influence our locker room in the right way, and I have no chance if I don’t have their support in what we are trying to get done. So yes, I count on them in a big way.

Q: When did you first get the idea to state hazing won’t happen under your watch?

A: It is something that I implemented when I took over in 2011 full time. Just as a former player, just seeing what guys experienced who were hazed, and then as a coach, witnessing guys that were being hazed and the effect that it had on them; I just didn’t want that to be apart of what we are trying to do once I became the head coach. I just don’t see the benefit of it when it comes to wins and losses. I have no regrets about that. I have had some veterans who tried to talk me out of it, but I don’t think that that helps you to win games from my vantage point. Everybody has their way of doing things. Those guys that you are messing with are guys that we are counting on to help us to win, and you want the right chemistry in the locker room as well. I just didn’t see the pluses to doing it.

Q: Did hazing happen with the Bears team in 1985, or the Colts team you were on?

A: Like I said, every team does it their own way. We had some things that I learned from every place I have been. I just don’t felt comfortable saying, “lets do that to the young guys.”

Q: How important, facing this defense, is taking care of the ball?

A: It is always important, and this week it will be just as important. We don’t want to turn the ball over for touchdowns. We saw the result of it a week ago. You don’t always win those games, and percentages are weighed heavily against you when that happens. So this is one of those weeks once again where we need to protect the ball and definitely not give up a turnover for a touchdown. We need to take it away as well and try to set our offense up or score on defense as well.

Q: What is your response when guys come to you with concerns about schemes or play calling like Kevin Williams and Brian Robison?

A: I like it when they come talk to me. It is important. I want them to share their thoughts and concerns. It is the only way that we can resolve whatever issues there may be.  I encourage it, they know I do, there is a way to handle those moments, and we talked about that yesterday.

Q: What do you think of Speilman’s comments last Friday about the quarterbacks on the roster being on the clock and if one doesn’t succeed the team will draft a franchise quarterback in May, and what are your thoughts about Ponder’s chances of being that guy?

A: We’ve got a game against the Redskins on Thursday night. We are counting on Christian to play well for us. Personally, I am not looking to 2014 or beyond. I am looking at what we have to get done to win this game on Thursday and we are hoping that Christian will lead us to victory. We obviously need some help around him, but that is where my mindset is. I am not into 2014 or quarterback of the future, I am into what do we have to do to win this game on Thursday night.

Q: How do you view the situation at quarterback with Christian as the starter but Josh right there over his shoulder in the bullpen?

A: Christian knows from me that we want him to succeed. He has no reason to look over his shoulder and think that if this happens negatively, like an interception on Sunday against Buffalo your going to be pulled, or a sack fumble your going to be pulled. He doesn’t have to worry about that. He has to worry about playing well. That is all he needs to worry about.

Q: Did you sense any difference in Christian on Sunday as opposed to against Green Bay?

A: He seemed more confident and relaxed. The way he handled our no huddle was great to see. And the way he bounced back after that turnover in the end zone for a touchdown. He helped us get in position to take the lead in the ballgame. He stayed composed, and there were some positive things. The way he got out of trouble in the pocket, and I sensed that during the week of practice. He seems more relaxed and more confident in what he is doing.

Q: What are the keys in getting players to not give up like you did when the team was not playing well in 2011?

A: It is tough as coaches on Monday, after the Dallas game, because that was a tough loss and because as you know, the veteran guys start looking ahead. You really got to challenge everybody, to still remain accountable for what we have been called to do as players and coaches and be as demanding as if we were opening the season against Detroit. That can’t change, and that can’t waver, even though the circumstances aren’t what we thought they would be at the halfway point of the season. You still have to be as demanding as ever of yourself and our players. You still hold them accountable for what we are asking them to do. That never changes, and they know that in the locker room and they know that we are going to come out and play hard on Thursday night, we expect to get a win, and we are going to prepare that way. But that’s just a part of the mindset that we have to have and we will have. We are going to work as hard as we can to get a win wherever we are, at home or on the road.  It is creating a culture and a mindset that that will happen.

Q: Why do you think it has been such a struggle to get a consistent deep passing game going?

A: There are a number of factors. I think we are better throwing the ball now then we were a year ago. We can obviously be even better. We still have a lot of football to play and will continue to work on that. I think that we have gotten better. But part of it is protection, and part of it is getting our receivers and quarterback comfortable with one another, and part of it is continue to run the football as well as we can. We have had some struggles the last couple of weeks for different reasons, but we got back on track against Dallas, and hopefully we can build on that and there will be some shots down the field for us in the future.

Q: Do you go back into Thursday with Matt as the backup?

A: We will talk after this practice. We will go through what we got to go through and we will sit down with those guys and give them an idea of where we are after this practice.

Q: What’s going to be the deciding factor between Matt and Josh?

A: Just where they are, and where we are with our game plan and what the expectations are for that guy that has to step us and play and make a decision based on that.

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