Tom Pelissero, 1500 ESPN
Hey everybody, before we get to Coach Frazier, we have a quick presentation from the Twin Cities chapter of the Pro Football Writers Association of America. The Korey Stringer Good Guy Award has been given out since 2001 to the Vikings player who is most cooperative and has the best attitude with the media. This year’s award is a little bit personal for some of us in the media because we hear a lot of clichés and a lot of nonsense, some of them intentional, some of them unintentional from players. For one of our players here in Minnesota to get pilloried for actually giving an honest, interesting quote after a game, I think, to me, made this an obvious choice for this award winner. This year’s winner is Chad Greenway, the only NFL player I know who catalogs what reporters are wearing throughout training camp, occasionally it costs them from on the practice field to yell things across, but more importantly understands the job we do, understands why we need to do it and his role in it, which is why win or lose, I think you can always go to Chad for a super-duper quote. With that, this year’s award-winner, Chad Greenway.
Thank you Tom, I appreciate it very much. First one, finally got it. All joking aside, it’s something as a player obviously in the NFL, it’s part of our job, we understand the media’s role in our success, not only our team’s, I think personal success. You look back, I think there are numerous guys that have done either personal stories about guys on the team, and we appreciate those shout-outs to us as well. Things we do off the field, there’s always at least two or three of you guys there to kind of steer us in the right direction as far as how people look at us and charitable work off the field, it’s not just about what may or may not be happening on the field, positives and negatives of our play. I’ll say a little bit about the guy the award is named for, Korey Stringer, I didn’t know him personally. Obviously, I didn’t play with him. Just had a chance to talk to Fred Pagac who recruited him to Ohio State, said, ‘A great guy, not a good guy,’ specifically, naming that, just saying he was the type of guy that people wanted to be like, wanted to be around. Talked to Jimmy Kleinsasser about him in the past, one of those guys, he was polarizing, kind of brought everyone to him. Obviously, to win an award in honor of his name is pretty exciting for me and, obviously, we see his locker every day in the locker room. It means a lot to this organization, obviously Korey Stringer does, and it means a lot to me and my family to win this award. I also want to take the time now, obviously my family, with my father’s situation, we went through some tough things this year and I thought, really, all you guys in the media, the local media here in Minneapolis-St. Paul did a great job of sort of letting it take its course with me personally and not rushing me into saying something or jumping all over me with text messages or phone calls and I appreciate that, my family appreciates that as well. From our family to you guys, we thank you for that as well and I guess, after that, I’ll take a few questions, but thank you guys very much.
Q: We didn’t know you were from Iowa, otherwise you wouldn’t have gotten the award.
A: Grew up in South Dakota. Obviously, I’m a Hawkeye and Sid loves to play on that a little bit, but Sid you’re always good for some good ones there.
Q: What’s it like to be back in this type of game this week?
A: I think we’re excited, obviously, around here to be back in a game of this magnitude. It’s been since, what, 2009, really I guess the opener in 2010 was kind of a big stage, big moment for us too and I think the young guys who haven’t experienced a game like this, they’re going to see it firsthand and get to play some big time football. We’re obviously excited, the guys who have been there and now we’re getting back to it. They have a lot to play for, we have a lot to play for and it’s going to be a big game. I think the most exciting part for us is we get to be at home. I think we all know we play a lot better football in the loud dome. It’s an afternoon game, so they should be really loud and it should be a fun time for us.
Q: Any advice to help get them loud?
A: Yeah, just show up on time and you know what, be there and be loud and like I said, don’t sell any tickets to the guys wearing green. Let’s keep it purple.
Well deserved award by Chad [Greenway]. He’s a super guy, does a terrific job with the media and well deserved. Great honor to receive that award in honor of Korey [Stringer] who was a terrific player and a terrific person as well. We had a good walk through this morning, our meetings went well. I think we’re headed in the right direction in our preparation. Practice wise, we won’t have Jared [Allen] out here today, he’s feeling a little bit under the weather so we’re going to hold him out. Antoine [Winfield] won’t do very much. We’re going to hold Adrian [Peterson] as well. Everybody else will be working. We’re going to see what
Q: In the game at Lambeau Field, aside from the interceptions, what else did you see offensively that can be improved this week?
A: There are a number of things we would like to be able to do better. We ran the ball so well when you look at the numbers, but we think we can do some things even in the run game that we can improve on and definitely for sure in the passing game. There are a number of things we can improve on whether it be our protection, our route running, completing some balls; but we definitely want to do a better job from a throwing standpoint. We’re working on some concepts that we hope will help us to be a little bit better in the passing game.
Q: Have you seen those improvements the past three games after that loss?
A: We think we have. We’re making some progress and a great indicator of it is what happened this past weekend against Houston. It was good the way we were able to execute in the passing game, it helps our team, helps our offense and we’re going to need that. This team we’re playing, they’re a pretty good defense.
Q: Is there anything that other teams can take from what Houston did in defending you differently against the run, or was that a unique situation with Houston?
A: No, I can see teams looking at what Houston did and trying to do some of those same things. Like I said on Monday, a lot of it in our business is personnel. Antonio Smith and J.J. [Watt] are very good players and they did a great job but Green Bay, they have good personnel as well. They’ve played good defense all season long, we’re going to have a tremendous challenge on our hands. I’m sure they’re going to put a lot of people in the box and do everything they can to not let what happened in that first game happen again. It will be a big challenge for our run game.
Q: 3-4 seems to give you trouble?
A: Yeah, they’ve done some good things to teams that run 3-4 but it’s not so much the scheme. We’ve done some good things against some 3-4 teams as well, but personnel matters, it really makes a difference. They’ve got a good defense and we’ll have to play extremely well to be effective against their defense.
Q: With how
A: I think a lot of it has to do with Christian just growing as a quarterback. He’s gone through some challenges over the course of this season and he responded extremely well over the last few weeks. It was a tough day in a lot of ways in our first game against Green Bay. He bounced back from that with a very efficient game against Chicago and he’s continued that progression right on through. We’ve worked on some things from that Green Bay game that we wanted to improve on and we’ve seen some improvement in his play. It’s just a combination of what our coaches are doing with him and what he’s doing, but also the guys around him. It’s a collective effort. We’ve got a lot of other guys; our receivers are doing a better job in some of the things they’re doing, Christian obviously is doing a better job, our pass pro is a little bit better and what we’re doing schematically has helped us as well. We’ve kind of altered some things that we hope will help us even in this next game.
Q: Did it take Christian a while to learn how to play without
A: Well, it was an adjustment for all of us. For Bill [Musgrave] calling plays, for everybody involved because Percy was so integral to our success as an offense. As a whole, we made those adjustments and we made the necessary adjustments and we’re getting better. That’s what you want to see but Percy was definitely a big part of our success.
Q: What’s at stake in this particular game for Christian to shape his standing and future?
A: The best thing he can do is lead us to a win. That would be huge for our football team. Just do a great job at the quarterback position like he’s done over the last few weeks and for the most part through the season. Lead us to victory, that would be terrific. Now that being said, we have to have a lot of guys playing well on Sunday against a very good football team. 12 straight wins in our division, 11 wins this season, they’re a good team. We need not only Christian playing well but a lot of other people playing well also.
Q: How do you account for the urgency on the opening drives the last three weeks getting touchdowns on all of them and never trailing after that?
A: It’s been impressive. It’s exactly what we’ve needed. We talked all along about being able to start fast on offense and defense and we’ve gotten that done as of late. We’re going to need it again against a high powered offense and a very good defense. We’ve always put the time in trying to come up with what we think would be a good way to start games, it just so happens we’ve been clicking of late. We’re going to need it again this Sunday.
Q: Have these past three games gone according to script?
A: I’d say so. As well as we’ve done on offense and what we’ve done on defense and opening drive situations, whether it be a field goal our defense would hold a good team to, or our offense going down and getting a score. That’s how you would draw it up if you were doing it, so it’s been good.
Q: How do you explain everything kind of coming together on defense?
A: I think for us, continuing to hit on the things that are necessary to play good defense and Alan [Williams] and the defensive staff have done a great job of that. And letting the players know that even though you may come into a meeting and say ‘We need to change this’, no, no, no. We need to play better; we need to tackle, we need to run to the ball, we need to create turnovers. We don’t need to come in with a new defense, we don’t need to come in with a new coverage. We need to play better. Our guys understood that, they bought in to it and we’re doing a lot of the same things that we’ve done before, we’re doing them better. That’s kind of the way it needs to happen this time of the year. It’s hard to reinvent yourself this late in the year, but you have to keep working to improve. To our coaches and players credit, we’re making necessary improvements at the right time of the year.
Q: Did you sense reasons other than the basics that you weren’t getting the job done?
A: I just wanted us to reiterate how we win here in Minnesota from a defensive standpoint, from an offensive standpoint and from a special teams standpoint. We’ve made that very clear to our players, this is how we’re going to win in this month of December. We talked through what those things were and playing good defense was one of them. We talked about what good defense looked like and our players listened to that and they’re playing some good defense.
Q: Your message to the team has stayed consistent, how important is that over the course of the season win or lose?
A: I think it’s a big deal. Just going back to my playing days and just being around coaches who sometimes, they could be so up and down, you just didn’t know when you walked in the building what you were going to get from day to day and that’s hard. That’s hard on a team over the course of a long season. There are so many ebbs and flows during a season and as a player, if you’re not certain what your leader’s message will be or how he’s going to react in certain situations, you can be walking around on pins and needles and be more concerned about how he’s going to deal with certain situations as opposed to focusing on the task at hand which is your next opponent. I think it’s a big deal. They need to know what to expect from me in just about every situation, then they can concentrate on what’s important and that’s trying to get a win.
Q: Has your message changed at all from last year to this year?
A: I don’t think it’s changed very much. I think the same things I thought were necessary to win a year ago are the same things I believe are necessary to win now. Most of them will tell you that it hasn’t changed very much. Our guys are doing a lot of good things, our coaches have done a terrific job of teaching and explaining what we need to happen here in Minnesota to win.
Q: What have you seen from the coaches and coordinators in terms of maturity and getting in tune and in-sync with the players?
A: For us, I was talking to Mike Priefer about this, when I look back at our experience at the Senior Bowl as a staff, that was a big deal for us as far as camaraderie and coming together. We didn’t have that rookie camp a year before where we could come together as a staff and kind of work through some things. We had to hit the ground running. That experience at the Senior Bowl was good for our coaching staff. Not only what we were able to find out personnel wise about college players, but that time together that we had, and we kind of built on that over the offseason. When you have first and second year coordinators, that time of building camaraderie on the staff, it’s a big deal. We’ve had that this offseason and so by the time our players got in the building, we were pretty concrete on what we needed to get done and how we wanted to get certain things taught. Having an offseason where we could spend some quality time together and not trying to figure out, “are we going to be playing football, are we not going to be playing football, when are we going to be playing football;” we could just concentrate on what happened in the past, what we need to fix personnel wise as well as scheme, and come together as a group where you can not only work together but you can trust one another. We’ve had that through an offseason and its paid dividends for us. I think our coordinators have adjusted as the year has gone on, which I think you have to be able to do for different reasons.
Q: Did you reach a point of reflection after the Seattle game and notice what needed to happen in the next game against Detroit to keep the season going and put the players in a good position?
A: Well, we talked about that because that was a critical game. Coming back home, that was one you couldn’t let get away. We looked at where we were at that point and what we had done in that Seattle game and even the game before. That’s something we always talk about, putting our players in the best position to succeed, we do that every week. But that game, there was definitely a sense of urgency. We couldn’t let that one get away. Our players, our coaches all understood that and we got it done.
A: I think the biggest consideration has to be winning this game, finding a way to get a win. If the record comes along with the win, that would be great, but not at the expense of winning the game. We have to approach this with whatever it takes to get a win, and Adrian wants it that way too. He would love to have the record but he’s the ultimate team guy. He wants to get the win. I hope he gets the record, but even more so I want us to win this game.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 26, 2012
Vikings Quarterback Christian Ponder
Hopefully this won’t be our last one of the year. Obviously, It’s an important week for us, a big week for us, a fun week for us. It’s very exciting. I think everyone knows the importance of this game and we do as well. For us, our number one goal is to get in the playoffs. A lot of people talk about a review of the year, six more wins than we had last year, three times as many we had last year. Yeah we’re proud of that fact, but for us, we want to make the playoffs. If we don’t make the playoffs we’ll be extremely disappointed and we’ll feel like this year is a waste, especially with the opportunities that we’ve had in our hand all year. I think we have a good mix of guys who have been in the playoffs and a good mix of guys that really want to get to the playoffs. It’s a good team, a good group and I think everyone is going to embrace this challenge. These are the games that you live for, these are the games you dream of as a little kid and I think everyone is excited. Everyone’s going to have a great week of practice and that’s what we need and everyone to be focused. So far in the short time I’ve been here today everyone seems really focused and into it.
Q: Personally, how have you processed the stage that’s going to be there for you on Sunday at three o’clock?
A: I haven’t thought too much about it. For me, I’m not going to try to put extra pressure on myself. It’s the most important game of the year because it is the next one. I think, obviously, because the bearings that it has on this season and what can happen afterwards, but it’s the next one. We’re not treating it any bigger; we’re not putting any pressure on ourselves. I think we play the best relaxed and we go and have fun with it and that’s what we’re going to try to do this week.
Q: Will you acknowledge that you will probably be judged a lot by what happens on Sunday?
A: Yeah I think everyone judges me a lot every Sunday. We’ll see what happens on this Sunday, but obviously this is a big game for this organization and for my career.
Q: Is there any extra spice on it because it is the Packers?
A: I don’t know. Obviously, rivalry games are always important and what lies at stake makes it extra special, but if we were playing anybody, if we were playing the Florida State Seminoles, it still has the bearings of what can happen in we win this game and go into the playoffs.
Q: You made very clear that you put the first game against the Packers on yourself. What was that trip back to Minnesota like and the 48 hours before you could get back on the practice field?
A: It wasn’t fun. It was tough. As a team we were playing really well in that game and we’re up going into the second half and everything. It was tough, but kind of like we have to do this week, I put it behind myself. I watched the film on Monday and moved on and treat it just like this past week where we watched the film against Houston and moved on. It’s behind us and obviously I learned some things from that game. The flight home was not a fun one.
Q: Aside from the turnovers in that game, what else did you see short circuit in the passing game?
A: I don’t know. The turnovers were big. Other than that, our running game was going so well that we weren’t trying to get a whole lot of passing yards in the air. I think seeing some things on film that we see we can take advantage of this game and learn from those things. The biggest thing you can learn from is the first game you watch film of them playing their opponents and you can try to learn as much as possible, but when you see film of how they played against us, you can really learn from that. Just see that stuff I think is really going to help us this game.
Q: In Green Bay we saw Leslie Frazier and Adrian Peterson come talk to you. Did they say anything meaningful or was it just the fact that they came up to talk to you?
A: They just said that they had my back and we’re going to move on and learn from it, but the biggest thing was they were very supportive.
Q: What did it mean to have the number of guys come up to after that Green Bay loss just to make sure you knew they backed you?
A: It was big. I have great teammates and a great support staff with Coach Frazier and the rest of the coaches. I think it’s very important knowing that those guys have your back and that they’re not separating you from the team.
Q: With a big game coming up I doubt you’re in self reflection mode, but as you look at the body of work in your first full season as a starter, what do you think?
A: I haven’t thought too much about it. Like you said, the biggest focus is this week. I guess after the season we’ll be able to sit down and look back, hopefully with a Super Bowl ring on our fingers, and think about the season. I haven’t really thought too much about it.
Q: When you look at this whole last month, did that prepare for this game having to play with a sense of urgency for the past month now?
A: Yeah, I think so. The past three games we’ve treated like playoff games. We knew that if we lost one of those our chances at making the playoffs were pretty slim and that’s the same with this one. We’re going to treat it like we have to win this one to get into the playoffs and that’s pretty much the case. We’re going to try to handle our business and handle that pressure and we’ll see what happens.
Q: How do you account for having success on the opening drive the last three weeks?
A: I think we’re coming out with a sense of urgency that we know we want to start fast, especially in those road games, and we have to treat it the same way this week. It is important for us to start fast and set the tone for the rest of the game. When you start with a three-and-out or only so many plays and you don’t put any points on the board, it’s tough to start that way. As an offense, we want to score on every possession beginning with the first one.
Q: What has made your offense click?
A: I think the biggest thing that makes it click is how Adrian is running the ball. We’re doing so well setting up our run blocks, the offensive line is creating holes and we’re getting a lot of yards in the run game. The passing game is what we rely on maybe on third downs and some first and second down shots and short throws. Just how the running game is going is how this offense has developed and it’s working that way.
Q: How much different is Green Bay’s defense when they have Clay Matthews?
A: A lot different. Obviously, Clay is a heck of a player and a player that we consider a game-wrecker. He can change the game. Obviously, he is great at rushing the pass and doing some different things getting in the backfield so he’s a guy we definitely have to account for and he’s a great player and will make a difference on the field.
Q: Are there any positives you took from your effort at Lambeau Field in Week 13?
A: I think there are always positives to find. Besides the turnovers, we were in the game and it was a close game, but I think there’s a lot more things to learn from the other side of it.
Q: How much would you guys like to get Adrian Peterson the record?
A: I don’t think our focus is on getting Adrian the record. I think that it’s kind of a by-product that would be awesome to get. If he rushes for 208 yards or more, that’s a good sign that the offense is clicking so we’d love that, but if you ask Adrian the same question he would say he would rather make it to the playoffs than get that record.
Q: What sort of evolution have you seen from the coaching staff during year two because a lot of these guys got here the same time you did?
A: I think it’s a lot different this year. The biggest thing this year is the communication level between myself and Coach Musgrave, but the rest of the team talking about what they like or dislike, or making adjustments on the sideline or halftime. I think guys have a better understanding and a better feel for what they’re successful at and what they’re good at and I think everyone is a lot more comfortable in what they’re doing.
Q: Whose idea was it to bring Craig Johnson down to the sideline?
A: I don’t know. I think it was probably Coach Musgrave or Coach Frazier. I’m not sure.
Q: What does it mean to have a coach like Leslie Frazier and his consistent approach win or lose?
A: It’s big. He’s a guy, as players, we love to play for. He’s a guy that has obviously been on the side of playing in the NFL and kind of understands. He shows some emotion every now and again but he’s a guy that’s very consistent in how he talks and his emotions and everything. He sets an example for the rest of us and we love him. We love playing for him.
Q: Is there anything about the scrutiny that you’ve received that surprised you?
A: No, I got some of that at Florida State. I knew it was going to be a level up coming into the NFL and something that comes with the territory. I’m in charge of how people scrutinize me. Obviously, if I play well, it’s a good thing and if I play bad, it’s bad thing so I can control all that with how I play on the field.
Q: How would you describe Adrian Peterson’s running style in one word?
A: One word, I don’t know. I guess, powerful. But it’s a combination of power and agility. Watching him, he’s able to run over guys, he’s a big body and at the same time, once he gets to that second level, he can take off, he can make guys miss. Just watching some of the cuts he makes on film is unbelievable. He can make a 180 degree cut in a blink of an eye. He’s unbelievable. It’s hard to describe in one word how he plays, but he’s unbelievable.