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Vikings Quotes - Frazier and Ponder - November 21

Posted Nov 21, 2012

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier

Good morning guys. Good walk-through practice for us. Guys really seem to be locking in on the things that we have to get done as we prepare for an NFC North rival in Chicago, going on the road in a very tough environment. It seems like the guys are really looking forward to practice and doing the things that are necessary to prepare to go up and get a real, what would be a big win for our football team. I’m not sure if Percy (Harvin) is going to work today. He’s inside now going through some things with our trainers. We’ll see. Other than that, everybody else should be involved. Michael Jenkins is a little bit questionable but we’ll see. I think he may be able to make it as well. Other than that, we should be fine from a practice standpoint.

Q: Do you have any clarity on if Percy will be ready for Sunday?

A: It’s too early in the week right now.

Q: Do you need a practice out of him?

A: I think after the time we’ve had off, I think it would be good for him to get some work. It would be good for him physically just to have confidence. So yes, I would like to see him get some work before our game on Sunday.

Q: Is Jenkins more comfortable with the foot now that he’s had an MRI and knows it is not something bigger?

A: Yes, that was a big help for him, big help, and when we talked on Monday, he was so relieved when he got that news because the pain was excruciating for awhile. But, with the treatment he’s getting now, he feels much better. I think he may be able to do something today but we’ll see.

Q: What are you going to do at safety with Jamarca Sanford and Mistral Raymond?

A: I think we’re going to rotate them again. We’ll probably start Jamarca and let Mistral continue to work his way back. He’s pretty much 100 percent now but Jamarca has been playing really well for us so we’ll probably split duty again on Sunday.

Q: Did you expect coming in that Jamarca would play well enough to make it a difficult decision?

A: You always hope the guys that step in will play well and there won’t be a big drop-off but we felt like he was the backup for a reason, but he has really played better than we thought he would in a starting role which is a credit to him. He didn’t win a job coming out of training camp but he’s really, really played well for us.

Q: What does Mistral give you that Jamarca doesn’t?

A: His length is obvious. He’s a long guy who helps you down the field and when people are throwing the football down the field like we expect to see this weekend. That’s probably the obvious. The other things, his experience, which there is not a lot of difference between the two of them. Jamarca gives you a little bit more experience, but probably the length of Mistral is probably the biggest difference.

Q: Will there ever be a time where Jamarca and Mistral are on the field and Harrison Smith is off?

A: No, we don’t see a scenario where Harrison will be off, no.

Q: Are you expecting Jay Cutler to play?

A: We’re probably going to prepare as if he is going to play. Until we hear otherwise, we’re going to prepare as if he is going to play and we may not know until game time but we’re thinking he is going to play.

Q: Regardless of who is playing quarterback, you are probably hoping to get some pressure on the quarterback?

A: Oh yeah, every week we play. That’s a big deal for us, to be able to rush the passer. You want to be able to do it every week. It’s something we target. We need to be able to rush the quarterback.

Q: Does Brandon Marshall demand the same attention that Larry Fitzgerald or Calvin Johnson does?

A: Without question. He’s a big-time receiver and you have to pay attention to him at all times. He’s such a focal point in their offense and we’ll do our best to pay attention to him at all times. He’s a good player.

Q: What stands out to you about the chemistry he has with Jay Cutler?

A: They have a long history together, going back to their days in Denver and they had a lot of success there and they’ve kind of brought that to Chicago. They seem to have a connection that is a little bit uncanny and he’s off to great start for their offense and Jay seems very, very comfortable with him and I’m sure that goes back to their time previously in Denver. But, their history together is probably the thing that sticks out.

Q: What have you seen out of A.J. Jefferson and his play with the increased reps he’s gotten?

A: I think he has become so much more comfortable in what we’re trying to do on defense and he’s played well for us. He’s been a bright spot in a lot of ways. His tackling has been a surprise, he’s a much better tackler than we had initially thought when we were looking at him in Arizona and watching tape. He showed splashes of being able to be a guy who would tackle, but he’s been more consistent than we thought he would be. His coverage has been very good for the most part, even when someone has caught a ball, he’s been real close to making a play. He’s been a positive.

Q: You kind of need a guy like that when you’re facing a receiver like Brandon Marshall don’t you?

A: You really do. You need a longer guy from a matchup standpoint. It helps to have one if you can find one that can do it and we think he’ll be able to give us some good quality reps against Brandon.

Q: Are you going to continue with the right guard rotation?

A: Yes, we probably will.

Q: Do you feel you need to settle on one guy here at some point or are you willing to keep rotating?

A: As long as it’s helping the both of them and helping our team, we’ll continue to do it. So far, it’s been good for both and hopefully that will continue but at the times we’ve done it, it’s been a positive.

Q: Will Brandon Fusco continue to start?

A: Fusco will continue to start.

Q: Is there something you’re still waiting to see from Brandon Fusco?

A: We just want him to continue to improve and you improve by getting reps and he’s still getting quality reps and we like to make sure that we’re bringing Geoff along, as well. But, Brandon will continue to get better the more he plays.

Q: It’s hard to say a 7-3 team is desperate. How would you describe the state of the Bears?

A: They’re in a good position. They’re in first place in our Division and that would be my description. We’re going to play a team that’s in first place in our Division, on the road. I imagine they feel pretty good about their position. We’ve got a big task ahead of us on Sunday.

Q: Do you expect to see an angry team after how Monday went for them?

A: I would expect that, watching that tape, we’ll get them stirred up a little bit but I’m sure they’re looking forward to playing us, playing at home, NFC North team, they’ve got to be excited about getting a chance to play against us.

Q: What gives them so much confidence in the turnover game, to steal the ball and be aggressive?

A: It seems like when they have success turning the ball over, it just breeds more confidence. If one guy punches a ball out, then you see other guys raking and stripping and what Tim Jennings has done at corner, some of the interceptions he’s made, it’s just been very, very impressive. It’s kind of contagious. One or two guys get it started and it’s kind of grown throughout their defense. It’s definitely been a turning point for their team. They won some games based on turnovers, which is a big deal in our League.

Q: Why do you think they’ve been so successful with that when they run almost the same scheme as you do and you haven’t forced as many?

A: They do a real good job as individuals of making plays on the football. I think what (Charles) Tillman does is uncanny. I don’t know if there are many guys you can compare to his knack for getting the ball out. He does a very good job and now what Tim is doing on the other side with interceptions, it’s raised those numbers. Throughout the defense, they do a good job of finding ways to pull it out and make plays when they have to. They’ve got some guys doing some good things.

Q: Do you notice that sometimes trying to punch the ball out can result in some big gains for the offense and that it doesn’t always work?

A: You’re right about that, and there are some times they’ve allowed some gains, so we’ve got to take advantage of those moments when they’re trying to strip the ball rather than tackle and get some extra yards. We see that on tape, exactly what you just mentioned. We’ve got to take advantage of it.

Q: What do you tell your guys about that? Would you rather have them do what you’re teaching them and not try to go for the ball?

A: We want to strip the ball, for sure, but you need other people coming to the ball, as well. You don’t want to be stripping the ball and the guy is gaining another five or 10 yards, but it’s worked for the Bears on occasion, a lot of occasions, and we‘d like to get some of those turnovers as well on Sunday.

Q: Does the surface at Soldier Field take some speed away from the defensive linemen when they are rushing the passer?

A: Watching that Sunday night game, I think it was Sunday night versus the Texans, that was one that looked like it had an impact on the game for sure. I know they talked about with the tarp not being down early enough and it seemed like it definitely had an impact on the performance. Both teams will be playing on the same surface. They have a good pass rush as well. If it negates ours, it will negate theirs, so it could be a wash.

Q: What do you expect out of a seventh-round draft pick? Jamarca has went above and beyond in his play?

A: When we were looking at Jamarca coming out of college, we were looking more as a special teams guy who could really enhance our special teams and make us better and potentially be a guy who could develop into a good safety. That was the mindset, because we saw some things that were the reasons why he was a seventh-round pick, but we also saw some things that made you feel like he had potential to be a very good NFL player and to his credit, he has developed into a quality safety in our League and he has been an outstanding special teams player from day one with his speed, his quickness, his toughness. That has always been evident, but now he’s grown as a pass defender and that was the knock on him coming out, being able to play deep pass defense, but he’s improved in that area. He’s worked at it, he’s worked extremely hard.

Q: Do you sense guys gained some confidence in the passing game after the game versus Detroit?

A: I think it definitely helped that so many guys were involved, catching balls and being able to be factors in our pass offense. You have to think that’s a plus for our passing offense. Whenever you get that many people involved like we did against Detroit, it should improve confidence and help the play-caller as well knowing that other guys can step up and make plays.

Q: Do you feel this is a pivotal time for the program you’re trying to build here?

A: I’ll tell you this, it’s a very, very important game for our team and for a lot of reasons. It’s an NFC North opponent, we have a chance to be 7-4 at the end of the day, 2-1 in this third quarter, it sets it up great for us going forward as we are working toward our quest of being NFC North Champs. It has so many ramifications, this game, for our football team and what we want to get accomplished in 2012. That’s what makes it so important. As far as the bigger picture, it’s all about now. It’s all about now. I was talking with some of our veteran players today and even on Monday, you just don’t always get in these situations where you control your own destiny like we do, so you want to seize this moment. We’re 6-4 and in a lot of ways in the catbird seat right where we are and our goals are right there in front of us. Now it’s just a matter of, “Can we execute well enough to make things happen?”

Q: Do you feel the coaching staff and players are equipped to handle that pressure?

A: I don’t know if it’s negative pressure. It’s good pressure. You want to be in these situations. This is what you go to training camp for, where you could put yourself in a position in late November to be playing for some meaningful opportunities come December. You’re setting yourself up for December. It’s a good pressure to have. This is what you work so hard for going back to April 23 and I told our team that. They’ve done a good job of setting things up, now we’ve got to push through.

Q: If Percy is able to play, would you consider limiting his kickoff returns because he is coming off the ankle injury?

A: Depending on what we saw, we’ll get him in practice and take a look at him. With the time he has missed, it would depend on how he looks in practice. Hopefully, if not today, we get him tomorrow and then we can make a decision about kickoff.

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2012

Vikings Quarterback Christian Ponder

Excited for this week. Obviously, it’s good to get back to work and play some football. It’s exciting times towards the end of November going into December. We have four divisional games coming up the next few weeks and a big one against Chicago. It’s the start of this stretch where we’re fighting for a playoff spot. The exciting thing is, we control our own destiny. We know it’s going to be tough. Chicago’s going to be tough. It’s crazy that it’s been 20 games since I played my first snaps in Chicago. A lot has changed since then. We’re excited to have this opportunity to go play.

Q: Do you have good memories about your debut there in Chicago?

A: Yeah. I just remember we were getting beat pretty good and Coach Frazier came up to me and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to put you in.’ I got really excited and I thought I played pretty well. Obviously, ended up getting the start afterwards, but it’ll be good to get back there and have a different outcome.

Q: Do you remember things like your first completion?

A: I remember I had a few good completions. I remember completing a good longer ball, I think it was third and long, to Percy [Harvin], converting a first down. Had another third and long to Greg Camarillo, which was a pretty good throw. I felt like I went out there and played pretty well.

Q: Turnovers have been a hallmark of the Bears defense. What are you going to be doing to counteract that?

A: Obviously, they’re very opportunistic, but I don’t think we’re going to do anything different. We can’t play scared. We need to go out and be aggressive and be smart. Like you said, they thrive on turnovers and they score a lot of points off of it. We just have to be smart with the ball.

Q: What stands out to you when you watch Tim Jennings play?

A: He’s in the right place at the right time and making good plays on the ball. I think he’s leading the League in interceptions. We need to be aware of him. They have great defensive backs, him and [Charles] Tillman. Tillman is another guy who creates a lot of turnovers. He’s known for stripping the ball and creating fumbles.

Q: Do you expect them you come out strong after last game?

A: Yeah, we expect that it’s going to be tough. They’re going to be bouncing back from that game. Obviously, they’re going to be very frustrated. They’re at home and Chicago is a tough place to play anyways. But, they’re going to be a little frustrated and probably want to take some frustration out on us. We expect it to be tough.

Q: Were you able to pick anything out from San Francisco’s success against the Bears?

A: Yeah, certain routes and stuff. Watching guys get beat on certain things, you pick up on those kind of things. San Francisco is a different team than us, but when teams have success like that, you pick up certain weaknesses and so does Chicago. They realize what their weaknesses are and we expect that they’re going to work on those things this week and be better at those.

Q: Were you guys able to pick up confidence from the Detroit game with the way you were able to pass without Percy Harvin?

A: I don’t think we had to gain confidence, I think we were confident going in anyways. I think the biggest thing was getting Jarius [Wright] reps and getting him the experience, but we definitely want Percy back. I don’t know what his status is going to be this week, but we’re hoping that he’s going to come back.

Q: You seemed to look a lot more comfortable in the pocket against Detroit. How much of that was a by-product of the line tightening up or you being more assertive?

A: I think it was both. The line definitely played really well, but for me the past few weeks there was an emphasis on staying in the pocket and moving around in the pocket, rather than trying to escape early. I just tried to stay in there and did so and I think it’s something I’m growing more comfortable with.

Q: With the success against Detroit, is there a sense now that you can do it without Percy Harvin if needed?

A: Yeah, I think we showed that. I think we have a lot of depth at a lot of different positions. Percy is obviously a huge part of this offense and when he was playing we were talking about him being the best player in League, so we would like to have that guy on the field still.

Q: How important was it for your confidence knowing you could flourish with Percy not on the field?

A: I don’t know if it really affected my confidence at all. There are a bunch of good players on this team and obviously we found ways to do it, but I don’t think it really affected my confidence at all.

Q: Does it help knowing that you don’t always have to go to Percy as a security blanket and you can go to other guys?

A: I don’t know. I don’t really think of Percy as a safety blanket. I think he’s just a great player that we want to get the ball to as much as possible. I don’t think I’ve fully depended on him being this offense, but obviously we want to get him the ball as much as possible because you’ve seen what does when the ball is in his hands. But we have a lot of other players that are going to create plays and we saw what Jarius can do and some of the other guys that have stepped up.

Q: Was it more the game plan that Kyle Rudolph had more of a role or because Percy wasn’t there?

A: It was the game plan. We saw some things, especially on our film against Detroit in the earlier game, that we saw some advantages that we could use Kyle on certain routes and mismatches and everything.

Q: Are you more conscious of any players on their defense with their ability to read eyes?

A: Yeah, definitely. Looking at some of their defensive backs, they’re jumping routes. Obviously they’ve been in the system for a long time, a lot of these guys are veteran players. They do route-read and they do understand the offensive game. Like [Brian] Urlacher and Lance Briggs, those guys have been in the League a long time and do watch your eyes. They know where they’re supposed to be, but they’re comfortable enough to guess things and a lot of times they’re right.

Q: How do you guys process going into such a meaningful six-game stretch?

A: For us, it’s a matter of excitement right now. We’re excited at this opportunity, that we’re playing for a playoff spot and that we’re playing for a lead in the division and to win the division. Yeah, it’s tough and we knew that, but no matter how the games are spread out throughout the season, we’re still going to have to play them at some point. It’s just a matter of it being at the end of the season. I guess it’s even better because it is November and December where you see the light at the end of the tunnel and the playoffs are coming up. I think that makes us even more motivated.

Q: Do you see a number of wins it will take for the playoffs?

A: I don’t know. It’s as many as possible. I don’t know what the magic number is going to be. Again, we’re just going to take it one week at a time and try to win the ones that we can and we’ll see.