Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier
Good afternoon guys. We had a good-spirited practice today with our guys moving around and I think they were glad to get back to work after having a chance to celebrate the Christmas holidays, at least Christmas Day, with their families. I think they were raring to get back and start preparation for a big football game against the Chicago Bears.
A: Yeah, Christian made it back today and finished practice well and hopefully it’ll just continue throughout this week but the plan is for him to start on Sunday.
Q: Is Herrera’s injury just the back?
A: Yeah, lower back, a little soreness. He should be ready to practice tomorrow.
Q: You said you wanted a more detailed look at what
A: Barring injury, as we speak, Christian is our starting quarterback but there are some things we have tried to do over the course of the year with Joe in creating some packages for him. We just have to, and we’ve been talking about this, just ways to expand on those packages and ways to utilize some of the gifts that he has and that’s what we want to continue to do and it’ll be a project for us, not only this week but in the offseason as well.
Q: After what Christian has been through the past three weeks, how much would it mean to finish the season on a high note?
A: I thought he did some good things in that Washington game prior to being injured. He really seemed to be settled down and playing with the confidence we expect and seemed to be having fun in the time that he was out there. I’m optimistic that he’s going to play well in our ball game on Sunday and that’s good for his confidence, good for our team, and it’s a big deal just to continue to try to improve but all of these looks that he is getting now as a rookie should help him in the future. It is important that he plays well on Sunday but for one reason, that he gives us the best chance to win.
Q: It looked like Washington was trying to hit Christian as much as they could. On the play where he suffered the concussion, did you tell him to just go down?
A: Exactly right. We talked a number of times because he’s a guy who will move out of the pocket so he’s at risk at times and being able to slide and understanding where people are coming from and then getting down to protect himself, he’s learning that and he’ll get better at it.
Q: He said he was uptight against New Orleans and had more fun against Washington. What is the switch there?
A: I think some of it is just being in those situations and getting to the point where you understand how to handle them a little bit better and for him being a rookie, this is just a part of it and every quarterback and every player is a little bit different, how they handle certain situation. For him, I think it’s the matter of going through various experiences that he has to go through and there are some things he’ll learn from the Detroit game, things that he’ll learn from the New Orleans game going forward that will help not having some of those moments that he has had in the past.
Q: What are your thoughts on
A: We were teasing him today that everything we’re doing this week is a last for him, last team meeting, last practice and the guys were telling him, ‘You should take every rep in practice today just because it is your last Wednesday practice.’ He’s meant so much to our organization and he’s meant a great deal to me. He’s one of those guys you count on. He’s one of our leaders on our team and just a loyal, hard-working guy, tough as nails and someone you can always count on. You know he is going to come to work prepared, ready to do his job, a tremendous example for any young player coming into the League, just his work ethic and the way he approaches things. Just a team player and it would be great for us to send him out on a winning note on Sunday and I told our guys, if you want to thank him for the teammate that he is, let’s find a way to get this ‘W’ in his final game as a Viking. Tremendous person, tremendous player and he has been great for our organization.
Q: In a perfect world, would you like to get him a pass or a carry on Sunday as a thank you for everything he has done?
A: No doubt about it. I’m not letting out any secrets there. If we get down to the one, Chicago, you better stop number 40. We’re going to find a way to try to get him in the end zone if we can.
Q: You have a lot of premier guys who get the headlines, but Jim has always been working hard in the background. Is that his personality?
A: Jim is one of those guys who is not driven by stats. He comes and he does everything you would ask him to do and not looking for the headlines. But his importance to our football team and our offense is equal in a lot of ways to some of the star players that we have. A lot of the things we do in the run game and even the pass game, we wouldn’t be able to do without some of things that he does whether it be blocking on the edge, sometimes the top defensive ends in our League or leading up in the hole and taking on some of the top linebackers in our League. He’s a slash fullback, tight end, offensive linemen and he does all of that in an unheralded way but he has been vital to any of the accomplishments that we’ve had running the football and a lot of times when we’re passing the football as well. One of the guys who doesn’t gripe about, ‘Hey, why am I not getting more throws?’ or ‘Why am I not more at the point of attack?’ He’s not one of those guys. He’s a team player in every sense of the word, which is why I say he is a tremendous example for young players coming into the League.
Q: Could you sense that he struggled at all with the decision or did he seek out your input on when it’s time?
A: I know the last couple of years, he has vacillated on when was the right time, even when we talked in our exit meeting at the end of this last season. He wasn’t quite sure if he was going to come back for this 2011 season so it’s been something he has been thinking about for the last couple of years and finally came to the conclusion that this is the right time.
Q: What does the future look like for Steve Hutchinson?
A: I’m hoping that things will get better for him soon with the concussions for sure and that’s something I’m sure he and his family will discuss, what his future is and how much longer he wants to play professional football. He is still a guy who can play and be a positive addition to your football team but he’ll have some decisions he’ll have to make after this season is over.
Q: Do you expect Anthony Herrera to be back? Are you inclined at all to give
A: Yeah, we’re expecting him back. We’re looking forward to having him at practice tomorrow. Just thought it was wise today to take some of the pressure off of his back but we’re expecting him back tomorrow.
Q: Ouside of the personal foul, Brandon Fusco seemed to do some good things.
A: He did and the reps that he had and the times that he has played this season he has done a good job for us. He gives you some hope for the future with some of the things that he has done.
Q: Do you get the sense that Hutchinson is considering retiring with these concussions?
A: I’m not sure. We didn’t really get into detailed discussions about what happens after this season. We talked more about this week and playing this last game. I’m sure it’s something we’ll sit down and talk about. When you get to the stage that he is in his career, every year you think about the future. I’m sure we’ll talk about it.
Q: How much significance do you attach to the division record?
A: The significance is being able to get something you can build on. The fact that this is our final chance to get a win in our division puts importance on that fact and that is what I talked to our players about. We’re playing at home, this team really took it to us on the road when we were there. It’s a chance for us to have something that we can build on and look back at and say, ‘Okay, we ended up winning a game in our division at home against a team that has been a pretty good football team.’
Q: At the beginning of the season you might have thought there would be a lot riding on this game. Does that speak about the disappointments here and in Chicago?
A: The biggest thing from our vantage point is just focusing on the now and just the fact that it’s a chance for us to win at home at Mall of America Field in front of our fans against an NFC North opponent and the circumstances that got us to where we are, they’re relevant but they’re not as relevant. The most important thing is us taking care of business against the Bears on Sunday on our home field, our last game of the season against an NFC North opponent.
Q: Where has Christian Ponder made the biggest strides since he took over the starting role?
A: I think being able to see him bounce back last week and play better was a good sign. We had talked to him during the week about just settling down and not feeling as if you have to carry this entire football team on your shoulders and trust your teammates to do their jobs as well and it really seemed like that was resonating when he was playing in that Washington game. He was doing some things that were more customary from what we saw earlier when he became a starter and we’ll try to build on that this week. He seems to have moved on from some of the things that were problematic in the New Orleans game and some of the other games. The fact that he settled down in that Washington game, that was encouraging.
Q: You’ve talked about giving Joe Webb a hard look for the quarterback position but is there a thought that you have to commit to a first-round pick as far as entering next season?
A: We’ll talk about a lot of things when the season is over but I think you always want to do whatever is best for your team, whatever gives your team the best chance to win and right now, Christian being our starting quarterback, that’s our belief. You always want to try to figure out what gives your team the best chance to win period, and not let some other circumstances or events dictate who is in the starting lineup. It really has to be who gives you the best chance to win.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2011
Vikings Quarterback Christian Ponder
So, I thought I was here to accept the Man of the Year Award, but apparently they already gave that out. Congratulations to those guys, obviously they deserve it. Coming off my concussion, I feel good today. I had a slight headache Saturday night, but Sunday and Monday I was feeling fine and saw the neurologist yesterday and he cleared everything and I passed all my baseline tests. I actually scored higher on my baseline test, so maybe I got some sense knocked into me. I felt good at practice and felt fine exercising, so that’s a good sign I will be ready to go by Sunday.
Q: Was this just considered a really mild case then?
A: I guess yeah. I don’t know, I guess they don’t grade them anymore, they say a concussion is a concussion. If they were to grade it I would say it wasn’t too bad. I wasn’t knocked out or anything.
Q: Is it important to you to get into that final game and finish out the season?
A: Definitely. Especially for me personally, I want to finish strong and have some momentum going into the offseason. Obviously, looking back on the games I have played in, I have a lot of film to show me that I have a lot of things to work on and get better at. It would be great to finish on a positive note and especially for this team to go with two wins into the offseason, I don’t think people understand how big of a springboard that is. When you are winning it makes football a lot more fun.
Q: What can you prove to yourself this week?
A: A lot. Chicago, especially what they did to us in that first game on Sunday night; I think we can prove to this whole team that we have gotten a lot better from that game and that we aren’t giving in and we aren’t giving up. I think we have full confidence in ourselves and we have a lot to prove. We still don’t have a win in the NFC North and we need one and that would be great to get.
Q: Do you feel like the Redskins were committed to beating you up in that game?
A: I don’t know, apparently. They got me a couple times obviously, but that’s what happens when you play football.
Q: Did you lose some skin there too (on his nose)?
A: I did. Now my modeling career is out the window. I got busted up, I was bleeding everywhere. I was bleeding here and bit my lip in three different places, my nose was bleeding, fun times.
Q: What were your thoughts on the hit you took sliding, it almost seemed like there was a little bit of targeting going on?
A: Yeah, I don’t know if there was or not, I can’t blame him, he probably just got caught up in the heat of the moment in the game. Football is a very physical game and when those defenders see a quarterback running they go all out to try to get a piece
Q: Was that the one where you got the cut on the lip?
Q: You are a guy who is athletic and can make plays with your feet, but on a play like the one where London Fletcher hit you, is that one where you just need to go down?
A: Yeah, I just need to cut my losses. The hardest part about that though is that there was a guy behind me holding me up which was making it harder to go down. Somehow I just have to get down.
Q: This is Jimmy Kleinsasser’s last week, I know you have only been around a year, but have you gained any appreciation for what he has meant to this team?
A: I have, obviously he has been here a while and he is the grandfather of the team and I have really enjoyed my time with him. This is his 13th year and he is still playing really well. He is a tough S.O.B and I have really enjoyed it and I wish him well and it’s going to be good for us to hopefully finish his career on a strong note with a win.
Q: Try to get him in the end zone on Sunday?
A: We will see, hopefully, that would be cool. We will see what Bill [Musgrave] comes up with.
Q: Did you feel looser on Sunday?
A: I did, I just made sure going into it that I was going to relax and go have fun with it. I was putting too much pressure on myself those three previous games, I didn’t let myself just cut loose and perform. I felt a lot better and a lot more relaxed and I will do it again this game and just put all that behind me. There are kind of stages that you go through as a quarterback, when you first go in, you don’t really have expectations and no one has expectations of yourself, and you are just going out to wing it, and then you get into more of a thinking stage and I think that was what I was going through, I was thinking about stuff and things were speeding up as I was trying to think too much, and now I realized that and put it behind me. I have gone through the same thing in every level I have played from high school to college, you go through those things and you learn from it and when you start relaxing the game slows down and you start getting better.
Q: How tough was it to have to go out in that game, knowing like you said that you had maybe pressed for a couple weeks and had started to relax?
A: I had a lot of conversations with coach Frazier and Bill [Musgrave], just go out and have fun and that’s the most important thing to do on Sundays, or in this case, Saturday. I made sure that I was going to enjoy it and I did. It’s easy especially when you have teammates like we have, we go out and have fun everyday and I just got away from that.
Q: As you see what Joe [Webb] has been able to do in a couple relief appearances, does it put a little more pressure on you to perform to try to keep that starting job?
A: I think there is always pressure to perform. This is the NFL and you always have to perform, otherwise your job is going to be taken away. It’s a positive thing; whenever there is competition you are always going to get better. Joe is a heck of a player and has done a great job and that is going to motivate me even more to make my job secure and try to play better.
Q: How tough has it been for you to keep that confidence level up?
A: It hasn’t been too bad. I knew coming into this thing that there were going to be some struggles and as a quarterback if your confidence goes you are not going to perform well. I know that I have been blessed with great abilities and I have played really well throughout all levels and so I know that I can play well. So no, I still have full confidence in myself.
Q: What has struck you most about all the stages you have gone through in 10 weeks as a starter?
A: Well it has been crazy, it has flown by really. We were talking about how we started with Chicago and ended with Chicago and I think this will be a great opportunity to show the progressions that I have made. The most surprising thing is that the speed of the game is just a whole different level and I am still adjusting to it. When you start thinking too much that speed keeps picking up because you are already one step behind. So although you need to know what you are doing on the field, you can’t really think about it, you just need to react.
Q: What part of your game do you think has improved the most?
A: I think in the past two weeks I have made better decision. In the previous two weeks I think I was a little too cautious and then this past week I made decision without being too cautious. In that way I think there was the most improvement, but obviously I still have a lot of room to grow.
Q: Have you started thinking about how you are going to approach this offseason?
A: Not really, we are still focused on finishing out the season. I will be here full time, which obviously I wasn’t last year. I will be spending a lot of time at the facility with coach Musgrave and Coach Johnson, watching a lot of film and trying to get better at a lot of things on the field and try some different stuff off the field. Maybe get into some yoga and some other things, so I will be a lot more flexible the next time you see me.
Q: Brett Favre took a wild guess at the number of concussions he suffered in his career and it was a pretty high number, now that have you have officially been diagnosed as having one, as you look back at your football in college and high school, has it happened before?
A: This is the second one I have ever had. Both were pretty mild, I have been pretty fortunate. It comes with the territory, especially when you play at this level, guys hit hard. The NFL has been doing a great job of limiting those things, but things are going to happen at some point. You are going to get put into an awkward position and at some point you are going to get hit in the head and your bell is going to be rung and hopefully it’s not a concussion, but the majority of guys would probably say they have suffered one.
Q: Did you try to lobby to play?
A: Yeah, but I think they knew it. I told them that I was dizzy right after the hit and right when I said ‘dizzy’ they took my helmet away and there was no opportunity of getting back on that field.
Q: What was going through your mind, obviously that was a play after Adrian went down and it was a quick bang-bang situation?
A: Yeah, obviously I wanted to be out there, but with what Joe [Webb] can do I thought we were in good hands and obviously you have seen what Toby has done all year. We feel for Adrian and we want him to heal up and get ready by game one next year, but full confidence in Toby that he was able to perform and he did. We came out and, I didn’t see it, but I guess the first run he had was a 70 yarder or whatever it was, so I knew that we would hang in there and perform.
Q: What is the hardest part of the concussion test that makes you aware of your capabilities to return to the game?
A: Well the concussion test is all kinds of things; you have to remember words, sequences of numbers and all kinds of things. Even right after I had my concussion I went in and still passed the test and they were just being on the cautious side. I don’t know how exactly they measure everything. I took the test right after I had my concussion and then I took the baseline test on Monday and I don’t know how exactly you have to score to be able to play again, but it’s a pretty long test and is pretty intense.
Q: Do you have any other injuries?
A: No, I don’t just a couple cuts and bruises.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2011
Vikings Executive Director of Community Relations Brad Madson:
Ever since Chad Greenway came to Minnesota, back in 2006, he’s immersed himself in the community and has been a joy to work with. He’s been the spokesperson for our Memorial Blood Center blood drives. He’s been a leader for our Breast Cancer Awareness campaign. He also promotes “Fuel Up for Play 60,”a fitness and diet program that wants young people to be active 60 minutes a day. In addition, he formed his own foundation, called “The Lead the Way Foundation,” that helps support families and individuals in need, financially and medically. One of the most fun events I get to help out with is Chad and Jenni Greenway’s “Gridiron Gallop” 5k on Father’s Day each year. It’s always a beautiful time of year and the energy of all the participants is inspiring and the event just continues to grow. We’re looking forward to that for the 5th time in June. With that said, I’d like to bring up Chad Greenway, our “Man of the Year.”
Vikings Linebacker Chad Greenway:
Obviously, this is an honor. When you’re in a locker room like we have, there are so many guys that want to give back in different ways. Obviously, we as players, use this platform to give back to our community while we are in the NFL, while we have that platform. We can get a lot of people to get behind us to bring their funds, bring people that they know, and help raise some money for families who are in need. In 2006 when we started our foundation, we had no idea where it was going to take us. You don’t know if you’re going to be in a city for a long term or not, but we’ve been blessed to be able to be here for six years going on now. We’re really looking forward to immersing ourselves even further in the community and helping as many families as we can. We’ve been very blessed and we want to give that to as many families that we can. It’s a great award, especially because there are so many great people in our locker room. So, thank you.
Q: In a long year like this does it help to have things on the side like this to do, to put things into perspective?
A: I think the biggest thing people say a lot when they have kids, I have two little girls at home, it’s hard in a season like this, even in a winning season, the season is long and daunting. I think with your children, it puts things into perspective. When you think about this stuff, the community events we do, whether it be every Tuesday visiting hospitals, or during Thanksgiving giving away turkeys like
Q: Do you have one favorite memory in all of the community work you’ve done?
A: I think the favorite thing that I’ve had was this past offseason we did our Tender Heart Luncheon in downtown Minneapolis at the Hilton. We were able to get about 80 women, all moms who have had kids who have gone through terrible things, whether it’s illness or tragedy or loss. We got them all together and it started as just a brunch or a luncheon type of thing, where they could talk amongst each other and exchange numbers. Then, I opened up the mic to these women and they just spilled out their guts with what they had gone through. It was to each other, it wasn’t for cameras or anything like that; it was just for each other. To see them interact with each other, knowing that they’re talking amongst a room of women that knew exactly what they were talking about and they didn’t have to speak around subjects or not tell exactly how it was. They spoke of the trials and tribulations of their families through the process; money loss, job loss. There’s just so many things that effect families in the metro area and all across the country, so just that, and to hear them openly speak about it was impressive. There’s something crazy about the strength of a mom who has a kid going through something like that and you could see it that day. So that, to me, was the best.
Q: What does it mean to have a foundation you started years ago to grow so much?
A: It’s been great and we want to, like I said, be in one area. I’m hoping to be here for my whole career. That’s the goal. It’s always been my goal. If you can do that, you can really supplant yourself into a community; not only Minneapolis but also St. Paul and all of the surrounding areas. I do a football camp out in Hutchinson; I try to get a little bit of a rural flare in there too. You try to do as many things as you can while you’re here. Eventually, I’ll be moved out and someone will be moved in and hopefully, take my spot.
Q: Jim Kleinsasser is going through his last week here, thoughts on him and the career that he’s had?
A: For me, growing up watching the Vikings, coming from the Dakotas, you could imagine what Jimmy meant to me. Growing up and watching him on TV, to me, it was like, “if this guy can make it from Carrington…” I’m looking up Carrington, how big it is and comparing it to Mount Vernon, where I came from. It makes you realize, he didn’t take the easy path. He went to UND and then came that way. He ended up being a 2nd round pick, but that doesn’t happen very often from UND. So, he’s always been one of my hero’s. To get to see him end on his terms and play for one organization, which has also been a goal of mine because of the way he’s gone about it. He’s an unbelievable teammate, a great father and husband and it’s been an absolute joy to be able to play with him. I’m certainly happy that he’s going to be sticking around. We’ll get to see him quite a bit, hopefully; he drinks a lot of coffee back in the equipment room after the Red Bulls he drinks on the way in. So, we’re going to miss him for sure, but he’s a great one.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2011
Vikings Wide Receiver
Tom Pelissero, ESPN 1500:
Korey Stringer was a larger than life personality within the Minnesota Vikings organization and also somebody who was known for cooperating with the media, win or lose, even under difficult circumstances. So every year, since Korey passed away tragically during training camp during 2001, the Twin Cities media have selected one Vikings player who epitomizes Korey’s spirit and his understanding of the media as an extension of the fans. To receive the Korey Stringer Good Guy Award, this year’s winner is somebody who has grown tremendously as a professional, both on and off the field over the past year and I think that has been evident to everyone. He has stepped forward as a leader. He has been available and accountable and understood that even thirty seconds or a minute of his time could make a difference in somebody’s story that they are working on. So, it’s with great pleasure that I present the 2011 Korey Stringer Good Guy Award to Percy Harvin.
First off, I would just like to say thank you for the award. As far as I know about Korey, I didn’t personally get to meet him, but from all I have heard talking to Jimmy Kleinsasser, he was a real standup guy. Always brought smiles to guy’s faces, just kind of that guy you look to when you are having a bad day; always would lift the team up, so I am very humble to be able to accept his award.
Q: Is this kind of a natural progression for you as an athlete, maturing and becoming more of a vocal person in the locker room?
A: Definitely, the biggest thing is just talking to a lot of the successful guys. I’m not just talking to you guys, I’m reaching out to the media and the fans and I think in this game, as far as entertainment, fans are one of the biggest things you can have, especially with us having a rough season this year. Our fans have been tremendous to us, and just to be able to reach out to them and let them know what is going on, I think, is a big plus.
Q: How much of your expanded role in the media has to do with you being in your third year and assuming more a leadership role on the team?
A: It’s been huge. Just trying to mature going into each year. Last year, it was kind of Brett’s (Favre) team and we had different things going on. This year, I kind of wanted to settle in and teach a lot of things I was taught by those guys, Sidney (Rice) and a lot of guys that departed here and one of the things they said is be a man. When you stand up, people can appreciate that more so win or lose, I try to always be there to let people know what was going on.
Q: This is Jim Kleinsasser’s last week. Any thoughts about him as a teammate and what you got to know of him as a man for the last few years?
A: Oh man, I love Jimmy. I think anybody on this team, with his role on this team, he plays this game only for one reason and that’s his teammates and the love of the game. This week is probably going to be emotional for him so we want to send him out the right way. Coach had a big speech this morning at our team meeting, just to send him out right with a win. 2-0 the last two games of the season is not much but just to send him out right, Coach really wanted that.
Q: Why is this team so competitive when Joe Webb takes over at quarterback?
A: I don’t think it’s only with him but I think with him, he’s another explosive guy that is looking to make a big play and I think when we have a quarterback who can beat you with his arm and his feet as (Michael) Vick and a lot of other scrambling quarterbacks, he creates plays down the field.