Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier
I hope you guys feel the same way I do, excited about this opportunity to face the Chicago Bears at Mall of America Field. For our football team, obviously it’s a huge football game and we’ve played pretty well at home this season so for that reason alone, I think our players are excited about playing in front of our fans against an NFC North rival, a team that is ahead of us right now in the standings, a game that has tremendous significance if we have any chance of extending our football season. We know what’s at stake. We’re all excited about the opportunity. We know we have to have a good work day today and throughout this week in order for us to have success. We learned a lot from that first ball game. We understand that the turnovers are critical, being able to control that and not turn the football over. We’ve seen that time and time again for us this season, when we’ve fallen short, it’s usually because of the fact that we finished minus in the turnovers. The other part of it is, we know we have to be better on third downs so we’re going to work on that, both on offense and on defense, doing the things we have to do there to improve, but there are a number of things we need to do better than we did the first time we played them and we’re going to work on that throughout this week and hopefully, we’ll get the results we want. Injury-wise, Jared (Allen) is going to try to do a little bit today. He’ll probably be limited. Probably won’t have Percy (Harvin) out here today, can’t go into a whole lot of detail about his injury. I know there are a lot of reports out there about the extent of it but he’s done pretty much everything the trainers have asked him to do, but he won’t be practicing today. Everybody else should be available and the next step for us is just working as hard as we can to improve.
Q: You preached to the guys about proving something this game. There are a lot of people writing you off right now?
A: I don’t know if the word ‘proven,’ I didn’t use that when I talked to them. I just talked to them about the fact that we’re playing at home in front of our fans and the importance of winning games at home and now, of course, the fact that this is an NFC North opponent, that brings extra significance in that regard, but that was the message; playing at home, NFC North opponent, have to find a way to get a win.
Q: Are there any other issues with Percy besides the injury?
A: I know that he wants to win like we do and I’m sure he’s going to do everything he can to do what he has to do to help our football team and we’ll see where it goes.
Q: Is there any fear that his season is finished at this point?
A: Hard to say, it’s hard to say.
Q: Do you think
A: I do. His injury is not to the extent that it would keep him out of the ball game. We just have to be smart in how we utilize him in practice this week, but he should be fine for Sunday.
Q: Would you expect any retribution from the Bears on Jared Allen due to his hit on Lance Louis?
A: We have a lot of respect for Lovie and his staff and their football team. He’s a class guy. No, we don’t expect anything of that sort.
Q: You’re basically saying Percy won’t be playing this week?
A: It’s hard to say today, but I’ll probably give you a better answer tomorrow when we talk.
Q: Has anything changed since last week?
A: Not a whole lot.
Q: The same situation where you’re just trying to get him back out there?
A: Pretty much. There are some things, just have to see what’s going to happen with him.
Q: Brandon Marshall had a number of catches when he was covered well in the last game. What is the value to an offense and deflation to a defense when that happens?
A: Oh, it can be frustrating when you have guys draped over him like we did but we just couldn’t figure out a way to get the ball out knowing they were going to force it into his hands, but you have to keep playing. You have to keep fighting and believe that, at some point, you’re going to knock one of those balls down and that will be the case this week. We’re going to try to get guys around him. We’ve got to find a way to knock the ball out of his hands or create an incompletion. It’s part of what we do. You have to bounce back, go on to the next play.
Q: What kind of discussions have you had with
A: Just tried to encourage him, just remind him of some of the things he did very well when we were having success across the board as an offense and letting him know that we have confidence that he can get back to getting that done, and no greater time than right now. The way to get that done is to have great practices this week, go out and play well on Sunday like we know he can, and we all expect him to.
Q: Do you have him ever watch that 49ers tape?
A: No, I haven’t told him that. He’s done some good things besides the 49ers game, and he’ll be ready to go on Sunday. He’ll be ready.
Q: He had a very successful opening series against Detroit. Are you going to design anything to make sure he gets off to a good start again this week?
A: We’ve got some great fans, so I’m hoping, well I know, they will be there to cheer us on. But, we’re always trying to come up with a way to get off to a fast start as a team and as an offense, and it won’t be any different this week. We’re going to try to do some things to help Christian along with our offense to get off to a good start. Part of energizing our building is our football team getting off to a good start in general, and that keeps the fans involved throughout. So it’s a goal of ours to get off to a good start, whether we start off with our defense or our offense. We want to get off to a good start.
Q: Are there any unique challenges in facing this team for the second time in three weeks?
A: In some ways there are. You’re looking at some things that you did well and you didn’t do. There’s such a short window between the two games. You wonder how much either team can change, although you know there are going to be some different wrinkles here and there. Probably the biggest difference is where you are health-wise. I don’t think schematically things would change a whole lot. Just a matter of improving on what you did from the first ball game, but probably where you are injury-wise.
Q: If they don’t have Urlacher, how much does that change their defense?
A: Well, he’s an excellent player and has been a leader for their defense for a while. We’ll see what kind of effect it has. You would think it would have an effect for sure because of the impact he’s had as a player. Unfortunate for him, you never like to see a player get injured. We’ll see how it will impact their defense. They have a lot of other good players on that defense and I’m sure their back-ups are quality guys as well.
Q: To hypothetically make a switch at quarterback, can you make that decision or does the organization?
A: At the end of the day, we’re in the heat of the moment, it comes back to me making that decision. It’s something that, as an organization, you’re always talking about every player on your roster. Me and Rick [Spielman] do it every week. We talk about our players, where they are, what they’re doing, how they’re performing. But when we’re out there in the ball game, I can’t call up Rick or Zygi [Wilf] or Mark [Wilf] and say, ‘Hey what do you think, should this guy stay in or come out’. Coach Frazier has to make that decision so that’s on me.
Q: Do you have the flexibility to make an in-game quarterback change if needed?
A: That was one of the good things about when they hired me to be the head coach. They allowed me to make changes. Similar to what I had to do a year ago in Detroit. I can make those changes during the course of a game without having to get that red phone and get a call to New York.
Q: How many starts or years will it take until you know what you have in Christian Ponder, when will he establish what he’s going to be long-term?
A: At that position, it varies from guy to guy. There are some guys who will come in as rookie NFL quarterbacks and light it up and say two or three years later they’re not the same guy. There are some guys who start off slow and get a little bit better as they get more familiar with the NFL and the game slows down for them. I think each guy is a little bit different. There are some who will start off well and just continue to get better along the way. In regards to Christian, we’re still in that process where we see some things where he’s definitely gotten better from a season ago. We saw it throughout the offseason, we’ve seen it during the season. There are still some areas where we know he has to improve, he knows he has to improve. The clock is still ticking on his improvement and development and that’s part of evaluating the quarterback position. But we are not at a point where we want to throw in the towel on Christian Ponder. He’s going to get better and he’s going to play better this Sunday, I really believe that. In turn, the rest of our team has to compliment our quarterback. There are some areas where we need to improve as a team, along with seeing an improvement with the quarterback position. As much as the spotlight is sometimes on Christian, I understand when I look at our team in totality, we have to keep improving as a team and helping him, putting some things around him as well. But there is no question that the quarterback position is one you’re always evaluating and trying to see when will the light bulb come on to the point where you’re moving in the direction you want to move in.
Q: Has his struggle been physical or mental?
A: Anytime you have ups and downs, and I don’t pretend to be a guy who can be a psychologist by any means, but I do know this; he’s doing everything he can to prepare from a mental standpoint. Emotionally, I think he’s engaged in what he has to do to go out and perform well on Sundays. I think he’s doing the right things to prepare to have success. Now, it’s the matter of when the game starts, going out and executing the things you do in practice and them doing them well.
Q: Where have you seen an improvement in his game?
A: I think he does a better job, at times, with his decision making, much better than his rookie season. He does a better job on movement passes then he did his rookie season. The thing that Christian has to continue to work on is the consistency, being consistently good. When you can see him throw a dagger route, right on time to
Q: What are
A: Joe is a guy we have a lot of confidence in. He’s done a good job for us. Christian beat him out in training camp, did a good job in the OTA’s. Things he did in training camp let us know that he was the guy that needed to be the starting quarterback. Nothing against what Joe’s done. Joe has worked hard, he’s done a good job. We have confidence if something were to happen to Christian, Joe would go in and do a good job. I don’t know if there is any one thing, other than the fact that Christian performed better in our OTA’s and our minicamp. To us, it was clear cut that he was our starting quarterback. We still believe that Christian will continue to get better. This is a big game, crucial game for our football team. You’d like see how he’s going to handle this, you’d like to see how our team handles it as well at home. This is part of the process.
Q: How much of a notice is on the D-line this weekend?
A: Our d-line, along with our defense, will have to play well. They’re doing some things better on offense, they gave up the one sack a week ago to Seattle, one sack against us. They’ve changed their philosophy offensively to cut down on the sacks. They realized what their problems were and they made a smart move. We have to offset that with some of the things we’re going to try to do. It’s not just our d-line, we have to do some things to get him to hold the football a little bit. We’re going to try to counter that strategy. We may not get the sacks, because of what they’re doing now with the short passing game, but we have to hit that quarterback. We have to find a way to hit him and make him aware that our defense is on the field. Might not get the sack numbers, but we have to find a way to hit him.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2012
Vikings Quarterback Christian Ponder
It’s an important day back to work today. We’re sitting at 6-6 and obviously have a challenge ahead of us with Chicago coming. We’re 5-1 at home and we’re excited to be back home and play in front of our home crowd, which is obviously an advantage for us. We’re doing some things to improve this week. Obviously, we know the importance of this game and how it plays into the rest of our season and it’s the most important one of this season because it is the next one. It’s going to be tough and we’re excited about it. We’re still 6-6 and we’re still looking forward and we have to handle our business this week.
Q: What did you learn looking at the film from the last Chicago game?
A: That although they’re a good defense, we left a lot of plays on the field. What they did against us, they didn’t do a whole lot. They played their base coverages and didn’t mix a whole lot of things in and they were successful, so I’m sure that we’ll see something very similar to what they did against us. We just have to take advantage of the opportunities in the passing game that we need to. We did leave a lot of plays out there.
Q: Coach Frazier made it sound like
A: Yeah, obviously we want him back out on the field, but we have good players that are getting out there. We’ll see what happens. I don’t know what or when he’ll be back. We’re just focused on who’s going to be out there and who’s going to be practicing today and we’ll see what happens.
Q: Sounds like you took a critical look at yourself after Sunday’s game. Is there anything that made you get so critical?
A: Looking at that loss. We’re in that game and some of the mistakes I made were very frustrating. I’m always critical of myself, but with such an important game and such costly mistakes, because of me, it was very frustrating. It was kind of a wakeup call that obviously I need to be doing some stuff differently and change my game and elevate my play so that, especially where we are in the season, with the goals that are in our hands, I have to make sure that I give our team a chance to be successful and achieve those goals.
Q: After the Seattle game and going into the Detroit game, you were under scrutiny then, as well, and you played well. What can you draw from that and try to replicate?
A: Obviously, we want to start fast. I think, even as a whole offense, but especially the quarterback position, getting a few completions under your belt and having a good first series, a good second series and establish that rhythm. I think that will be important early on in the game. Also, I think we need to get Adrian [Peterson] involved. He’s running the heck out of the ball. We just have to convert on third downs. Those early third downs are the most important in the game so we can establish that rhythm. And, of course, for those third downs, we have to take care of first and second down. We know how our offense runs and what we can do to make sure we can get into that rhythm.
Q: How do you go about balancing not turning it over and playing loose and winging the ball around?
A: It’s not that hard. Looking back, the mistakes I made were pretty obvious and pretty dumb. It’s not hard to eliminate those dumb mistakes. We still want to be aggressive, we just have to be so much smarter and try not to force things. I think both the turnovers came on either first or second down. We want to be smart and not have to make the perfect throw on first and second down and being patient and taking those check downs. It just goes back to being a lot more patient and not trying to make the perfect throw because it’s not on me. We have so many good players, especially with the way Adrian is running the ball, it’s not on me to make the perfect throw.
Q: How hard is it to maintain confidence?
A: It’s not hard. I still have my confidence. I think, with me, after a bad game I’m even more excited to come back to work the next week and the next day just so I can put it behind me. I keep my confidence up. Talking with Bill [Musgrave] and Coach Frazier, we have full confidence in the game plan and everything we’re doing and the preparation so my confidence level doesn’t change. Obviously, I want to play better and I know that I need to play better, but my confidence is still there.
Q: How have you learned to balance being constructively critically of your play and not beating yourself up too much?
A: I think, through the years I’ve found ways to learn that. Early on, especially through high school and my early years at Florida State, I was probably way too over critical of myself. I would put myself in a negative position to approach practice that next week after a bad loss. Now I’m learning to refocus and that’s what makes me excited for the next couple days of work after a loss like that. I don’t get too frustrated with myself. I go back through the film and look critically at what things I need to improve upon and what those mistakes were and get excited to work on those things the rest of the week.
Q: Who do you confide in the most to blow off steam?
A: I think both Coach Frazier and Coach Musgrave and quarterbacks coach Coach [Craig] Johnson, I’m very comfortable in talking to all of them and blowing off steam. Obviously, I’m close to Kyle [Rudolph] and Sully [
Q: Was letting the news of your engagement get out a way to help get you some better coverage?
A: No, I’m not worried about coverage. Obviously, the rumors are true, but we’re focused on the Bears and this week. Obviously, we’re excited about that.
Q: Did you ask her parents for her hand in marriage?
A: We’re not going into the details of that. We’re excited. It was a fun experience this week, but we’ve moved on.
Q: Was this a biblically-chased courtship?
A: No, it was not. We’re not going into details of my relationship.
Q: Did the big question come this week?
A: It did.
Q: Can you go through the though process on your second interception?
A: I kind of saw Kyle [Rudolph] late. Originally the MIKE [linebacker] took him away, or it might have been the WILL [linebacker], and I was kind of stepping up and I saw him breaking a little later in the route and I probably waited a little too long. I should have just gone back to the X on the backside and thrown it to him. I knew it was man coverage and I knew he was going to eventually come open, I just waited too long and, obviously, threw a bad ball and the guy was able to undercut it.
Q: How many starts or years will it take before you establish what you’re going to be as an NFL quarterback long term?
A: I don’t know. I hope not that long. Hopefully, it’s as soon as possible. I don’t really know. It’s hard to establish a timeline like that. Every player is different. Obviously, I want to get to that consistent level as soon as possible.
Q: Not knowing when that is, is it frustrating watching guys that are younger have more success?
A: No, it’s not frustrating. I get frustrated without comparing myself to other people. I know I could be playing better and I want that level of success. So what if other players are playing well or not? I have my own expectations of myself regardless of what others are doing.
Q: Have you spoke to any other veteran quarterbacks who struggled early in their careers?
A: No, not really.
Q: What did it mean for Coach Frazier to come up to you after the game and tell you you’re the guy that’s going to lead this team against Chicago and also have your teammates back you?
A: It was big. It was great to hear those words. Between Adrian and Coach Frazier, they had some very good things to say to keep me up. I was really appreciative of that and it shows that they have my back no matter what and that’s huge.
Q: Is that something you need to hear after a game like that?
A: No, I don’t think so. Obviously, I know that I have to play better and I don’t necessarily think that I needed to hear it, but it’s definitely good to hear. It’s always good to hear from a guy like
Q: It’s becoming almost routine to see Adrian have big games. Do you guys have a sense that you are witnessing greatness?
A: I don’t know, it’s kind of getting to be a regular thing that we expect him to have these 60-, 80-yard runs for touchdowns. We’re almost taking it for granted, but I think 10 years down the road we’ll look back and really think about what he did, or after the season think about what he did. It is really tremendous and amazing what he’s doing. He is a one of a kind player.
Q: Why have things not really worked about between you and
A: I’m not sure. It’s hard to pinpoint things and we’re still looking for Jerome to have that breakout game and it’s going to happen. We’re going to be excited when it does. He’s still learning, just like everyone else is. He’s got all the tools. He’s very gifted and it’s going to come one day.
Q: How much do you think the injury plays into that?
A: I think it definitely slowed him down a little bit, the whole ankle deal. I think he’s getting over it. He’s feeling better and you can tell the way he’s moving out on the field. He looks better.