Vikings Quotes - Allen, Peterson and Coordinators - January 2

Posted Jan 2, 2013

Vikings Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave

Good morning. Happy New Year.

Q: A lot of carries for Adrian Peterson these last few games, do you have any concern with the physical toll that he’s been taking lately?

A: Most definitely. That is a lot of carries, a ton of carries. He’s doing his part during the week to try to get restored and get himself refreshed for each and every game. A lot of work, a lot of work.

Q: How does he stay fresh?

A: Well he takes care of himself there in the training room. He’s always lifting, but he’s getting good treatment there with our training staff and making sure he rests up so he can be ready to roll each weekend.

Q: With the compressed schedule this week, will you even practice him at all?

A: It remains to be seen. That’s kind of been the program the last three or four weeks, try to get him to game day, and it’s been working out really well.

Q: These last four games, have you had to be more creative to find that run/pass balance?

A: That’s always our aim, to be balanced and to be difficult to defend. We’ve been executing better and putting them in better positions. I guess we’re learning from our past experiences and we’re experiencing more success.

Q: Are there things you see against Green Bay that has allowed Adrian Peterson to be so successful?

A: They have a tough defense, as we talked about last week, they just got done pitching a shutout against Tennessee. They blitzed them a bunch, they tried to blitz us too and were successful at times, we just happened to catch a couple breaks which really helped the way that game went the other night. They have good players over there. We expect to see Charles Woodson this week and that will be another challenge for us.

Q: It’s been four and half weeks since last leaving Green Bay, where have you seen the biggest strides in Christian Ponder as he tries to understand where he fits?

A: He’s making better decisions late in the down. He’s doing a better job of using his legs when the first or second or third guy in his pass progression isn’t there. He’s hurt defenses by running, I know he did that in Houston, and that really helps because it’s tough for defenses to account for a quarterback that’s not only a passer but a runner.

Q: How thin is the line between managing risk and trying not to make turnovers but also not being so cautious that you don’t take a shot or two?

A: That’s why quarterbacking is an art, it really is. The guys that are elite quarterbacks know where that fine line is and it’s always moving, it’s hard to identify. That’s the constant challenge of that position.

Q: Christian is pretty good at throwing on the run, but have you worked with him about setting his feet?

A: Yeah, that’s another trait of a guy that is very athletic. He can move but at times you have to be on balance. Whether you’re in the pocket or you’re running, you want to be on balance during that delivery and that helps the accuracy.

Q: Are Christian and the receivers more in sync here in the last few weeks?

A: It sure seems that way. We’ve been working after practice, before practice, when the defense has their periods. We try to curb side our guys and steal a few extra reps to get the work in so we can be more in sync.

Q: Was there some sort of an adjustment period after losing Percy Harvin that maybe it took some time for the other receivers to step into that roll?

A: I think it was a combination of not having Percy out there, which we really focused on in the passing game, and also Jerome Simpson coming back from his injury that took place during the Tennessee week. He’s continued to work through that and has gotten better each and every week. We know about Mike Jenkins, he’s reliable. We know where he’s going to be, he’ll be at the right depth. Then of course the emergence of Jarius [Wright], we hit him on a big one initially perhaps versus Detroit, but the little quick timing passes have taken a little time for us to get on the same page.

Q: What level of development have you seen in Jarius Wright as a route runner?

A: I think we all get the sense that Christian [Ponder] has a lot of confidence in Jarius. He’s a lot like Mike Jenkins, you know what depth he’s going to be at, he’s going to come out of the break the same way every time. Christian can throw those balls with anticipation so they get there on time.

Q: You had him in the back field as a fullback on that touchdown catch, there are a few other wrinkles we saw on Sunday, but are there any that you’re most happy with the way it worked?

A: There are a number of concepts we’ve been working hard on for weeks and it just so happened that we were in position both within the game and on the field that they could come to fruition. Jarius has got a lot of attributes and we’re trying to feature them as best as we can.

Q: How much progress has the offensive line made in being able to communicate where the blitz is coming from?

A: Well it’s helped that they’ve been able to stay on the field all together. They’re becoming more and more cohesive with each and every game. Our right guard position has become solidified the last 2-3 weeks and that’s helped. In fact, that sack was probably a late in the down sack. I don’t remember where Clay Matthews walked down out there on the perimeter, but those guys work extremely hard too. We’re proud of the fact that we blocked them up. We had some free runners and Christian is doing his part too of ditching it in a safe area when a sack is imminent.

Q: What should he do on the play where the safety blitz comes from deep?

A: There were times, like we talked about with the art of quarterbacking, when you have to eat it. A lot of the times we want to avoid sacks at all times but sometimes you need to eat it. Our protection was designed to account for a free safety blitz and it just didn’t work out in that regard. We’re hoping we don’t make that same mistake twice and turn somebody loose like that.

Q: The delay just throws that out so the back free-releases instead of picking it up?

A: Yeah, at times we have the line account for those guys and at times we have the running backs account for them. Hopefully we have some good answers for that in the future.

Q: First touchdown drive you get the key 3rd down screen to Toby Gerhart, are you just trying to get yardage there and the 1st down is a bonus at that point?

A: These guys are good on 3rd down, especially 3rd-and-long. You can tell if a defense is good when you assess their third downs. When you look at Green Bay, minimal 3rd-and-2 to 5, 6 to 9, but 10 plus, there’s a bunch of them on tape which means they’re very good on 1st and 2nd down. We really worked hard on the plan of 3rd-and-forever and a couple of them actually worked which was great.

Q: What was the key on that specific play to get Toby free?

A: We had three offensive linemen out in front of him and they all did a good job. They didn’t get their defenders down but at least they occupied them and made them jump in the air while Toby covered ground with his strides.

Q: On the 2nd-and-27 where Adrian Peterson got 28 yards, did you have any idea that he could get a 1st down?

A: When we call that play, that’s one of our bread and butter plays. It goes for 82, it goes for 65, and that time it went for 27.

Q: Has Green Bay been able to assimilate a lot of the things that they would do with Charles Woodson or are there things now that they’ll be able to put back in their repertoire with him?

A: That’s the $10,000 question. You would guess that Charles Woodson brings another element to the game, a little bit like a Troy Polamalu. There’s going to be some ad-libbing and some instinctual play from him that you don’t see from other players. That’s what we’d anticipate.

Q: This team has developed its identity running more through Adrian, how has that helped Christian?

A: It helps a bunch. The fact that the offense runs through Adrian allows our whole team to know our identity. We know where our strengths lie and we play to those strengths. Everyone has a role, which doesn’t mean that it’s any less important than Adrian’s, but we’re looking to do our jobs as well to compliment Adrian’s strengths.


Vikings Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams

How’s everybody doing today? Great day to be practicing football, we always say that there is nothing like meaningful football games in December and that is true, but there is nothing better than playing football in January, there is just nothing like it, especially playing our rivals, the Packers, just nearby, playing a good, good football team, well coached, exceptional talent on the football team, and explosive all-around. We look forward to it this Saturday in Wisconsin.

Q: How much of a change-up was it when they put in DuJuan Harris at running back?

A: Not a whole bunch of change in terms of what they do, they still do the same things. It’s just a faster body doing what they do. That’s a little bit of a change-up, but ultimately it’s the same plays, the same passing plays, the same running plays and we still have to execute against that.

Q: How big of a priority is it to not let Rogers draw you offsides with his hard counts like he was able to do last time you saw them at Green Bay?

A: Huge priority, because we shot ourselves in the foot by jumping offsides, you don’t want to do that, especially on third down, when you should be off the football field and you give a team like that another chance, you just can’t do that. You shoot yourself in the foot. To give Aaron Rogers and that crew a second chance to convert and ultimately score, that kills you. That is a big priority all of the time, no post-snap or pre-snap penalties, those are the things that kill you.

Q: How much of the message on the defensive front was to keep hustling, knowing that Aaron Rogers will hold the ball at times?

A: No, all the time. Not times. He stays alive. He makes that offense go. We have to stay alive, we have to keep hustling, plastered down the field, make sure you don’t turn receivers loose. They do a fantastic job of the deep guys working short, the short guys working deep. It seems like if you look at it, it’s choreographed because he always finds an open guy so you have to be on your P’s and Q’s in terms of getting after him first, being disciplined about how you rush and making sure in the back end that you keep the top on the defense, you don’t let guys get behind you.

Q: With Everson Griffen’s skill set how much flexibility does it give you to move him around inside or outside on the defensive line?

A: It gives you a lot of flexibility because Everson (Griffen) is a very talented individual but as a coach and as a coaching staff we have to be careful that we don’t do too many things with him and water down what he does best, and what he does best is he gets off the ball and gets after the quarterback. It gives us some flexibility, but we have to watch how much we do with him.

Q: How can you be successful blitzing Aaron Rogers?

A: You have to be careful, its sometimes high-risk, high-reward, then sometimes you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you. We have to worry about how much we put pressure on with more than four and take a calculated risk when we do want to pressure. Ultimately if a receiver does catch a ball we have to make sure that there are no yards after the catch and I think that is what happened last time, when a guy catches a ball we have to limit the yards he gets after the catch.

Q: Is that a case of some of the guys not breaking down, or over-running those plays?

A: Well, breaking down is what we don’t want to do. We want to make sure that we continue to go fast and we saw a guy in half and we hit a guy on the proper shoulder. That’s important that we take good angles to the football, that when you have a defender outside of you, you force the ball to the defender and the guy who is over the top caps it off. Those are situations where we can be a little bit better.

Q: Will you spend more time getting Josh Robinson ready in the slot?

A: We’re working a lot of different combinations to see how guys practice, how they feel in there. Ultimately its always the next guy up, and the next guy would be (Marcus) Sherrels if he’s up and after that we’re working some combinations, we worked Josh (Robinson) in there, we worked AJ (Jefferson) in there, we worked safeties in there just to kind of see who looks natural, who has a feel for it. We will see at the end of the week, Coach Woods will make a decision who he thinks should be in there if Antoine (Winfield) can’t go. We’ll see when that happens.

Q: What was your confidence going into the last game that Antoine would be able to stay out there?

A: I always wait until they tell me what they can do, so if ultimately he said he could go and he felt good about it. In the middle of the ball game he didn’t feel like he could continue. When I’ve been around the guys long enough and they tell me something, I’d say ‘Hey I’d take it to the bank,’ so I did that and ultimately, again, he couldn’t make it through so the next guy was up. That is one thing we can’t worry about, you can’t worry about things that you can’t control. That’s why we practice multiple lineups, so when one guy goes out, the next guy feels good about going in and playing winning football.

Q: With this being a playoff game, is there any doubt in your mind that Antoine will at least give it a try this week.

A: I don’t have any doubt. When the time comes, when they make a decision and when they say ‘Hey he’s up, full steam ahead, 100%,’ if he can go, he goes and we won’t worry about it. If he can’t at some point, the next guy will go in and we will keep playing.

Q: What are the challenges in defending Randall Cobb in the slot?

A: Wow, he’s fast, he has great suddenness, quick change of direction, he has great ball skills, yards after the catch are always a problem and when they put him in the backfield he runs the ball like a running back. He is a dual threat with how they use him. I don’t know if you’re just going to shut a guy like that down. You just have to limit the big plays that go to him.


Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer

How is everybody doing today? Not as good as I am I bet. I get to coach in the NFL man, this is awesome, most of the time.

Q: How much did losing Tyrone McKenzie affect what happened in coverage?

A: I’m not going to blame what happened to Tyrone on what happened to our coverage team. Losing Tyrone McKenzie is huge. He’s had a great year. He’s done a phenomenal job both on and off the field. He’s been a leader for our younger guys. He has a little bit of experience under his belt. Losing him really hurts. In terms of the coverage, they had a nice scheme, we didn’t fit it right, and I took a look at Jeremy Ross before the game, I’ve never seen him before. He’s a big, strong, good-looking athlete and I was a little concerned right off the bat because he’s a very good football player.

Q: How much did you study him during the week?

A: I expected (Randall) Cobb to play but I expected Jeremy to play as well, whether both punts and kickoffs, I didn’t know but there’s not a lot of tape on him to be quite honest. There’s no returns in the preseason from the last two years, I checked, just a couple of returns he had against Tennessee and then some other special teams that he’s played, to look at him run and hit and that sort of thing. We had a good idea, but I didn’t know he was going to be quite that good.

Q: Do you expect Randall Cobb to be the returner this week?

A: I would expect Cobb to maybe be at the punt returner and Jeremy to be kickoff returner, or Jeremy to do both. We’re preparing for everything.

Q: Is that as big of a tackle as Cullen Loeffler has made in a Vikings uniform?

A: Huge tackle, it saved a touchdown. He did a great job. Chris Kluwe did a good job of slowing him down as best he could. Andrew Sendejo dove at his ankles, slowed him down a little bit but Cullen did a great job, huge play.

Q: It seems like Chris Kluwe has been able to get every snap down this season when holding?

A: He’s done a great job this year, really done a nice job. He’s worked hard at it, to be honest with you. We’ve worked more on it since the spring than we did a year ago and before the year ago, obviously we had the lockout, so there was nothing until training camp. He’s really worked hard and that’s something that I’ve pushed that he’s accepted and that’s been the best thing about it, and he knows with this good, young kicker, he’s going to have to give him the best opportunity every time he holds for him.

Q: From your experience, how much does a game played in the teens for temperature take away from a kicker’s range?

A: If there’s no wind, probably a little bit, and then, of course, into wind, even more of a limit and then, of course, with the tail wind, you’ve got a chance to get a little bit longer kick, but even no wind, if it’s kind of just sitting there and it’s cold and maybe a little bit of humidity because it’s snowing or whatever or a light mist or whatever the case might be, you do have to restrict how far you go back.

Q: By a little bit, do you mean a couple of yards?

A: I will let you know after pre-game, if you’re down on the field. No, it’s really a pre-game thing. It’s a day-to-day thing and it’s something we talk about and think about, but again, you have to understand too that the footing is going to be a lot different, obviously, than even when we played there December 2. Blair (Walsh) will have to get out there and make sure he has the right cleats on. We talk to all of our players about having the right footwear obviously in that venue. Once he goes out there in pre-game, then we’ll have a good idea of what his range is going to be.

Q: With a young kicker, are you ever concerned about giving him too much information and getting into his head about the weather?

A: We don’t talk about it a lot, and basically what we’ve said this week is we’ve watched games on tape in Green Bay, we’ve done that on how other kickers have fared in the colder weather, but it hasn’t really been that cold, except against Detroit when they had that snow at Green Bay. Basically, we’ll talk more on game day. I don’t want to make it, that’s exactly right, we don’t make it a big issue until game day, and even then we don’t make it a big issue. We just have to react to it.

Q: Do you find the wind has been cut down at Lambeau Field with that new addition to close the open end of the stadium?

A: I hadn’t been at Lambeau in a long time so I don’t know the difference. The year before, we played at night, I guess that Monday night I’m trying to forget about to be honest with you, that was a bad day for us, but I don’t remember it being that windy and it certainly wasn’t that windy last time we played there.

Q: Are you kicking outdoors at all this week?

A: We can’t, we can’t because of the snow on the fields. We should be alright.

Q: How much does experience help a kicker?

A: Probably, because he’s been kicking a long time, but I think when you have certain situations, situational awareness, pressure situations, I think that’s where experience really helps and he’s done a nice job as a young kicker this year doing that in the different pressure situations he’s been under. Hopefully that will continue.

Q: Since you can’t work outside, will you spend more time practicing during pre-game?

A: Not this time of year. Maybe if it was earlier in the year. I want to keep his leg as fresh as possible. Again, I think we’ll have a good idea after his normal routine if we need a few extra kicks because of the footing, one side or the other, or the wind or crosswind or whatever the case may be. We’ll spend a couple of extra kicks doing that but I think after a good, solid pre-game, we’ll know.

Q: Was Marcus Sherels more decisive on his returns last week?

A: Yeah, that’s one thing we talked to him about, about hitting the seam a little bit faster, a little bit harder, because he’s more, as a kickoff returner, sometimes you’ll see him act like a punt returner. We ask our kickoff returners to hit it downhill. He did a great job on Sunday.

Q: Any chance you might limit his use because of his defensive snaps?

A: There’s always that chance, yes.

Q: Would Josh Robinson be the guy then?

A: Yes.

Q: Rhett Ellison has been good for you on special teams. Did he short-circuit it there with those two penalties?

A: I think the timing, we were going on quick trying to catch them off guard and the rhythm all week had been a certain rhythm and we’re still supposed to key the ball. The two guards, two tackles and our gunners are all supposed to key the ball and it just got away from him and then on the one, he was just frustrated because the kid was holding onto him and he tried to push off and he grabbed the face mask and held on too long. He learned.

Q: What does it mean for you to be in the playoffs?

A: It means that there’s a lot of hard work, a lot of sacrificing time away. I have a wife and four children and spending time away from them so it’s very rewarding for my wife and my kids and, of course, the coaches that I work with that we spend so much time with and the players too. I love coaching the guys we have and I’m very fortunate, being the special teams coordinator, I get to coach everybody. Even the quarterbacks are backup holders and so it’s fun, and AP (Adrian Peterson) always asks to be on special teams. I keep telling him no, of course that’s not going to happen. I really enjoy my job. The fact that all the hard work and I don’t want to say blood, sweat and tears, but just the hard work that goes into it and to see it come fruition, to put us in the position to continue our season, it’s been a lot of fun.

Q: Adrian doesn’t actually ask to play on special teams does he?

A: Ask him. He always asks. He’s a football player. Gunner, field goal block, returner, the guy is awesome. I always say yes and then I ask the head coach and he says no, I’m just kidding. I know what the answer is going to be, I don’t even have to ask.

Q: Will he shovel your driveway too?

A: No, he won’t do that. I might shovel his if he returned one for me.

Q: Is there any scenario where you could see him back in the returner’s role?

A: The last four weeks, that idea has popped up in my head but that’s as far as it has gone, to be honest with you. I think that if we had to use him at the end of the game for a big return, we always have the cards down there in case we have any subs so we would show him exactly where the return is supposed to hit and we’d let him do his magic. There’s absolutely an opportunity for him to go back there I would think in a crucial situation.


Vikings Running Back Adrian Peterson

Q: What are you memories of the last playoff game you played in New Orleans?

A: That was the last one? Well, it definitely wasn’t good memories. One game away from the Super Bowl and you lose, so I don’t ever want to have to relive that feeling again.

Q: Did you think it would take this long?

A: I didn’t at all. That’s why you really can’t take things for granted because making it to the post-season is extremely hard.

Q: Have you seen the veterans lead differently than other years?

A: I would say it’s a little different. The veteran guys have always been leaders but this year it’s been more vocal. Having a lot of young guys here that can play ball, and the guys that I call veterans, Antoine [Winfield] and Kevin [Williams] and Jared [Allen], those guys are able to see that. In tough times they came up and called the team together and shared their thoughts. I’m sure they know that their time is starting to come to an end, they know how hard it is to get to the post-season so they want to take advantage of that opportunity. So yeah, I’ve seen a lot of guys step up and lead in different ways this year.

Q: How did the support you and Coach Frazier gave Christian Ponder after the first Green Bay game help him and what did you say to him?

A: After that game he just looked defeated. To be real, it was pretty obvious that the two interceptions cost us the game and it definitely showed on his face. I just did what I felt like I needed to do to help him get over that because this is a guy that we’re rolling with and we need him to continue to improve each week. I just walked up to him and told him, ‘Hey, you know it is what it is’. You take those interceptions away and some other plays too, there were things that I could have done better, and we were coming out on the winning end of that game. I told him, ‘The passion that you play with that I’ve seen you play with, I love that’. You can win with someone who’s playing with those characteristics. I felt like he got back on track, he got his mind right and didn’t dwell on it too long. Obviously he was able to refocus, get back on track and start doing his job better.

Q: Do you think you’ve inspired Christian with your run at greatness and helped him elevate his own game?

A: I feel like I inspire him sometimes because I’m always saying things to him. His locker is right next to mine and I’m always saying little things to him that I know will stick. I don’t know how he’s taking it, but I know I did my job. I’ve seen him through the weeks gain more confidence, come out with more passion, and that’s really what it’s all about because he has all the tools, you just have to have that confidence. It’s easily said, ‘Have confidence and play’. Not to toot my own horn, but I have that confidence when I’m out there so I just go out there and play my game. That’s what he’s been doing now. Now he’s able not to be hesitant, now he’s able to finish through with throws and just take off running and make plays when things break down.

Q: Do you feel any different after a career high number of carries and now a constricted week to get back out on the field?

A: No, not sore at all outside of what I’ve been battling for the past six weeks. My body, my knee, my shoulders; everything feels good.

Q: What kind of physical toll is that averaging 30 carries over this streak?

A: I get in the told tub, do contrasts to try to take care of my body throughout the week during the season and it’s been working. I feel good, my body feels great. I can play for 12 more games if I had to, seriously.

Q: You averaged about 205 yards against the Packers in two games, how do you do that a third time?

A: Just go out and stay consistent with the run game. We’re definitely going to establish the run and that starts up front. With the guys out wide contributing as well and just being balanced. I feel like if we continue to be balanced like last week, then you can’t really crowd the box and if you do we’re going to go over your head and vice versa. Just staying balanced, everyone playing the way that we’ve been playing in all phases. We can still continue to be productive as an offense.

Q: Do you have any focus on a playoff single game record?

A: No, once you get in the playoffs nothing else matters but winning. I’m not worried about any records or anything. If they never would have said anything about the record that I had the opportunity to get I probably wouldn’t have worried about it. Just play my game and let what happen happen. You guys know how it goes.

Q: You’ve played in some cold weather games, what can you tell Christian Ponder about that?

A: This might be the coldest one for me too. I experienced a good one about two years ago in Chicago where it was pretty windy, but just mind over matter. Green Bay, they’re going to be cold just like us, so you just mentally have to get through it. I’ve already defeated that, playing in the cold, that’s done. I’m focused on executing my plays and everything like that. Just mentally getting your mind ready for that.

Q: With all the yards you get after being hit, how much do you think that wears on the defense when you may have guys on you but you’re still able to wiggle free?

A: I’m sure that breaks a defense down, but I didn’t really know until I saw it on a tweet, yards after contact or whatever. Any time you’re getting past that second level and you’re breaking tackles and you have guys coming in and they’re bouncing off, I’m sure it wears your body down. I don’t know exactly how they would take it but I don’t know. I’m sure it doesn’t feel good.

Q: Have you heard from Percy Harvin at all?

A: I haven’t had the opportunity to talk to him, just texts every now and then but no type of contact verbally.

Q: How important is it to do rehab around your teammates or just get the rehab where you need to do it?

A: I think it’s important to be around your teammates at times but when you have the mindset that you want to come back or this is what you want to accomplish, you can get it done no matter where you’re at.

Q: Ray Lewis has announced that he is going to retire after the season, can you give us your thoughts on him and his career he’s had?

A: I just heard that too, I don’t know. I hope he gives it another shot but it will definitely be a blow to the League to lose a guy like Ray Lewis. He definitely inspired me, just the passion and how he’s dedicated to his craft to be the best. You don’t see too many guys that play like that. That’s definitely what makes him the best linebacker that’s played the game. You just look at the young linebackers that we have now, Von Miller, Patrick Willis; you see Ray Lewis, he inspired those guys and these are the best in the business now. You lose a guy that like who has just been so inspirational with his words and how he has approached this game. It’s going to be tough. He will never be forgotten, I can tell you that. He’ll be missed always.

Q: Coach Priefer said you’ve been lobbying for him to place you on special teams. If you got your wish and could pick a role what would you pick?

A: Yeah, for the past two years. I’ve been trying to get on field goal block, to come off the edge, it’s going to take one block for them to be like, ‘Okay you know what, we’ll take the chance and let you get it done’. Kickoff return, I wouldn’t mind getting back there. I’m in it to win.

Q: If you were down one touchdown with 30 seconds to go, would you go up to Coach and say ‘Hey, let me take this kick return’?

A: Yeah. I believe in having your best players on the field, especially in critical times. You never know what can happen. That’s what I would do.


Vikings Defensive End Jared Allen

Q: Your last playoff game was the NFC title game in 2009, what are your memories of that?

A: Yeah, my memories, I thought I was going to the Super Bowl, then that got ripped away from us. So, bad memories I guess, because we lost, but still it’s fun, that will always be a game that I cherish. You put things into perspective, how hard it is to get to that situation, you’re one game away from the Super Bowl versus starting the season over, with pre-season and regular season, you’re 20 games away, then playoffs. It helps you realize how important this opportunity is. I think that is what we have been trying to convey to the guys that haven’t been to the playoffs, the young guys on the team, is that this opportunity doesn’t come around often. This is my ninth year in the league and this is I think my fourth playoff appearance, so the odds of getting back aren’t certain and they aren’t always skewed in the positive direction. So guys take advantage of this opportunity. The cool thing about the playoffs is that once you get in anything can happen. You see it happen all of the time, teams make runs and end up winning the Super Bowl.

Q: In what ways did Christian Ponder improve over the last four games?

A: I think the biggest thing that he has done is he has kind of put himself towards the front of our team. Even in the beginning of the year when he was having success, he wasn’t a vocal leader on the team, as far as the last few games he has kind of brought the team up right before we break down, not a whole lot has to be said, but hearing your quarterback’s voice, knowing that when he is pumped up, it gives you confidence that ‘Okay, the head of our offense, he is ready to go’. When I played with Trent Green, you knew that the team was his, you knew that the offense was his. That is what Christian has done these last three, four weeks, he has really put himself more in front of the team in saying, ‘Listen lets go, it’s time to play,’ and letting people hear his voice. That is what you have to do even though he is young and there are older guys in the team that are in leadership positions as well to be a winning organization or team your quarterback has to be that dominating force and has to be that guy that everybody looks to I think that’s really what he is starting to do and really starting to accept that role and being comfortable with it.

Q: Can you give us an example of what he might say?

A: Oh no, you know it gets loud, you can’t really hear what he’s saying but just the fact that he is calling the team up, you know what I mean? It’s just that him physically getting everybody going, ‘Let’s get ready to play’, and breaking it down. Like I said, sometimes you’re in the back and you’re like ‘Ahh!’ But to see him in the center and him being the dominant voice of that whole team huddle sends a message that ‘Okay he’s ready to go, you know what let’s go out and let’s get this done.’ He’s been playing well. I think he has really taken some hard criticism this year, I’m not going to mention any names, because some of you guys are in the media, but I think he’s handled it the best way he can. He’s owned his mistakes and that’s the best thing I have seen over the past few games is that his ball security has been great and his decision making has been good. You watch in that Houston game, him tucking it, two of those runs were huge. It really kept drives going, kept momentum going, and changed field position. Just plays like that you start to see that he’s really starting to get it and really understanding where he needs to be, he has an opportunity to lead this team and that’s what his job is.

Q: Ray Lewis announced that he is retiring after this season, what are your thoughts on that?

A: I’ve got to know him over the years and he is a fierce competitor. I think he has been phenomenal for this sport, just what he has done in that linebacker position, just from a defensive standpoint you love it. This is an offensive league and offensive players get all of the praise the majority of the time and they sell tickets but Ray has been a staple for the NFL. He is always in the MVP hunt, the defensive MVP hunt. You have to admire his competitive nature and what he has brought to this game. He’s played for a long time and his level of play has always been high, so as a fan of the game you hate to see him leave, but it’s cool that he will be first ballot into the Hall and he will get the recognition he deserves. As a competitor you hate to see the League lose a player like that, but he has had a remarkable career and nothing but respect for him.

Q: How tough is it for a young quarterback to be a team leader?

A: It’s tough, I’ve never been in the quarterback position, but being a young starter on a defense when I was in Kansas City at first you have to let your play speak and then you can start vocalizing. He’s talking to guys like Antoine (Winfield), I think it’s 14 years for him, I’m nine, Kevin (Williams) is 10. You got guys like Adrian (Peterson) on the offense so it can be intimidating as a young player. I think he’s done a good job, especially of late, of realizing, ‘Okay, for us to go to the next level as a team he has to carry a lot of the load’. We let him know that we have his back, we have a really tight locker room, so it’s probably knowing that we are with him thick and thin and we’re going to go play. We have played some good defense the last few games, but second half of last game he had to bail us out, the offense really had to bail us out. It can be tough, but like you said, for me personally when I watch that is where he has made leaps and bounds is just in his leadership.

Q: When you were 6-6 what was your thought process as to “can run the table” on the flight home after that first Green Bay game?

A: On the way back I was thinking ‘I want to go to sleep, I’m really, really tired right now’. I try to break things down and keep things in perspective after each game. You’re sitting there at 6-6, you look around the League and you come in on Monday, and say ‘Okay, we’re really not in any worse position’. Some teams that we were fighting for a Wild Card lost. You have to kind of look back, I try to think back on times where I have been in similar situtions, in 2005 we were sitting there at 5-5, the whole division was at 5-5, we had six games left and it came down to whoever wins the most of the six game is going to win. So that is kind of what I related it to, you then start looking around your team and realizing that we have a better team here than we did in 2008. We are deeper, we have more depth, we are injury-free, we have got, especially on the defensive side, some young guys playing at a high level and our back end is playing pretty well. You kind of start getting that confidence, if we can get this next one at home versus Chicago, you kind of keep plugging away and I think the confidence comes in the work ethic. These guys, this whole team has had a work ethic all year and it finally started to pay off when you start believing it. The coaches kind of simplify things and say ‘Let’s just go out and play football and see what happens.’ That is what we have been doing and we have been able to run the table.

Q: Did that belief level go up when you went down to Houston and beat a team of that caliber?

A: I think that games like that will help you go forward, I think this Green Bay game is going to be a big help for us just for the fact that here we are, we have a huge lead, that slips away, you can sometimes say, ‘Here goes Aaron (Rogers), we got no chance’, but dudes fought back and we made a couple of stops when we needed to, offense kept scoring points. I’ve seen it even on teams past where you’re tied up with a couple of minutes left and you end up going into overtime and you might lose the game in overtime, but offense comes out and drives the field with aggressive play calling, I mean that third down pass to Mike (Jenkins) was amazing and we go down there and kick a field goal and the game is over. I think that kind of game is going to help in the playoffs. You’re going to get into these situations and you’re going to pull that from the memory banks, ‘Ah we’ve been here before, we can handle this.’

Q: One phase seems to pick-up the other phase?

A: Oh absolutely, because you’re never going to be dominant in all phases all of the time, that is why it’s a team sport. We’d love to win 50-0, it would be great, backups are even playing, this is great. It’s not like that, everybody is getting paid in this league. You’re going to have those days when sometimes there are chinks in the armor on one side or the other and you’ve got to step it up.

Q: What is the biggest difference in Everson Griffen from his rookie year to now?

A: It’s mental. I mean his physical attributes are all there, we see him every day and every week. In this league everybody has talent, everbody is strong, everybody is fast, everybody knows how to play football, but if you can grow mentally that is what seperates good players from average players and great players from good players, is how do you process the game, how do you process that block and then how are you able to react. That is all from studying film, that is all from understanding situations, that is all from mentally maturing and realizing where you fit, where you can take chances and that’s the biggest thing, he has been doing and as long as he continues to do that he will have a great career.

Q: What’s the addition of Harrison Smith meant to this defense?

A: Good, he’s been solid, all of our safeties. We are running three of them right now. I think him being a first round pick, everyone has high expectations. For me, Jamarca Sanford has been really where I have seen a difference in his preparation, in his attitude and focus of where he wants to go. Last year he was out there for us, he had the potential of making big hits. This year he has been an impact player on our defense. You look at the Detroit game, once the running back breaks free, you’re thinking, ‘Okay this might be a…’ and smacks and cause fumbles, they were beating people. I have told him all year, his maturation from last year to this year has been huge. You couple that with Harrison back there picking balls off, our back end is playing really well. I mean, Josh (Robinson) I think it helps, those two with Antoine (Winfield). They have a great guy with Antoine to learn from and he’s really got those guys going well.

Q: What thought if any have you given to your future?

A: I’m just going to play until I feel like I can’t play anymore. I take it year by year, honestly it’s something I go to in prayer and wherever God wants me to go in my life, is where I will go, if it’s here it’s here, if it’s not we will see. Honestly I don’t give thought to it. Right now I’m just trying to get through the playoffs and worry about that when it comes. It’s something that always crosses your mind though because you’re starting to get long in the tooth, so called, these days 30 is old, right? I feel young. I just really haven’t thought about it. It’ll work itself out.