Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier
It’s great to be back in Mankato. It was great for our football team to have an offseason, to be able to put some things in place before we came back. This is my sixth year coming down here and the fans have always been great. We’ve always had great participation and the people here in Mankato have been just tremendous in their support. We had a chance to get to know some of the people here on campus as well and they’ve been so supportive and they do a great job with the fields and I think our players, the ones who have been here before, are looking forward to going through a training camp and having some familiarity with the new CBA and what we are allowed to do and what we aren’t allowed to do. I think there’s a comfort level there now that wasn’t there a season ago and we have a lot of work to do as we all know. We’ve got a lot of new faces that are going to be on our football team and are going to be starting for us and playing for us. So, as a staff, one of the things we’ve talked about and leading up to training camp and some of the things we talked about even back in OTAs was developing the young players on our football team and trying to get those guys ready for that Jacksonville game and help us throughout the season and then just working to improve throughout training camp. That’s the goal, to try to improve every single day in some phase and if we can do that, we’re hoping everything can come together and we can get off to a good start and have a good football season. We have a lot of work to do but we’re excited to be down here to kick off the 2012 season.
Q: How important was it to get
A: That was a big deal. To be able to get Matt signed, we were in discussions last night as we talked about what the next move would be. Very, very excited we were able to get that done. He’s a key part of what we’re trying to do in 2012 and I don’t know who is happier, he or
Q: What are the discussions with
A: I’m going to sit down with Adrian later this evening. We’ll talk about what the plan will be for him. Just want to get a better feel for where he is physically after I talk with our trainers and our doctors after they take a look at him today and then we’ll talk about what the best plan is for him.
Q: What is the schedule today as far as physicals and things like that?
A: Today is a day where we’re allowed to do physicals. You can do conditioning, we can do meetings but you’re not allowed to do any practicing and that’s what we’ll do, we’ll cover a lot of operational items with our players today. We’ll have an operations meeting. We’ll do a lot of administration duties along with getting their physicals done and then we’ll have a team meeting later tonight and then we’ll have our first walkthrough practice tomorrow morning.
Q: Will you have a conditioning test?
A: We won’t be doing a conditioning test. That won’t be a part of what we do.
Q: What went into making practice at 3:00?
A: A lot of it had to do with the experience from a season ago. As you know, it was the first year with the new CBA and so you’re kind of feeling your way, what’s the best thing to do, how to coordinate practices and we alternated practices a year ago. There were times where we had full-padded practices in the morning and sometimes we had full-padded practices in the afternoon and just looking back at a year ago, I just felt like we needed a little bit more consistency. I also like that you can count on the sun being out at 3:00 in the afternoon for the most part and that was a part of it, the conditioning along with the consistency and some of the things we wanted to get achieved in training camp. We felt like having a 3:00 practice would be more conducive to what we wanted to accomplish.
Q: It’s awfully hot and humid out there. You’ll find out who is in shape.
A: Yeah, you will and we have to do a great job of hydrating. That’s going to be important, that will be a point of emphasis tonight when we meet and we have to do a great job of taking care of ourselves in between practices as well.
Q: Is there a chance you would make any changes if it’s too hot in late afternoon?
A: Yeah, that’s a possibility. We’ll always be conscious of the heat and whether we’re going in the morning or the afternoon, we’ll always be conscious of the weather and do what’s smart.
Q: With OTAs, mini-camp, and a long training camp, this must feel like a luxury this offseason.
A: As you know, no comparison. Just the preparation alone back in the spring. We feel much more prepared for what we have to get done with a new football team and so many new faces on our team. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to extend this training camp. In the past, we’ve left maybe after the first preseason game and we’re going to be here a little bit longer this time which I think will help us, especially when we’re trying to develop players and now with the roster expanded to 90, we have a little bit more time to try to get that done here in Mankato before we go back to Winter Park. It is a huge difference for us and we think it’s going to be a tremendous plus that we’ve had an offseason with our OTAs, with our conditioning and now to come down here and spend three weeks we think is going to be a big plus for us.
Q: Do you expect to see a lot of
A: There will be some of that. There will be some Jared Allen and Kalil moments in individual drills, there will be some seven-on-seven when the defensive line is doing some one-on-ones with the offensive line. They’ll get some one-on-one work and then they’ll go against each other in some team situations. It should be real good for Matt to go against maybe the best defensive end in the National Football League on a daily basis in practice and I think it will be good for Jared as well because Matt is going to challenge him. He may be a rookie but we think he’s going to be a rookie who can play above being a rookie.
Q: Do you have to temper it at all? You’ve got one guy who has nothing to prove and a guy who is a rookie who feels he has everything to prove.
A: You really want it to be game-like and that’s going to help Matt as much as anything and you watch Jared practice over the years, he only practices at one speed so he’s not going to take it easy on Matt. He’s going to help Matt be a better player so it’ll be good for our team.
Q: Besides Adrian Peterson, is there anyone who is danger of not being able to practice right away?
A: No, everyone is cleared. I met with Eric Sugarman, our head trainer, yesterday and there was nobody on that list that shouldn’t be practicing tomorrow unless there’s a surprise coming down here that I don’t know about but right now, everybody should be ready to go tomorrow.
Q: Does that mean Adrian Peterson?
A: I’m going to talk to Adrian and just get a feel for where he is and what we need to do with him and put together a plan after we talk.
Q: So he’ll be on the field at least?
A: He’ll at least be out there doing something, yes.
Q: Have you talked to him after what happened down in Houston?
A: I’ve talked to Adrian and we’ll monitor that process, see where things end up going and we’ll deal with it as it comes up but looking forward to sitting down and chatting with him when he gets here this afternoon.
Q: If he has to fly back for a day, does he have the okay from you guys?
A: Yeah, we’ll see what the circumstance is and then we’ll handle it when it comes up. We’ll deal with whatever happens once we find out what’s required.
Q: How much have you talked with him over the past couple of weeks?
A: We talked a few different times about different things and we’ve had some good conversations.
Q: Did Eric Sugarman have to go down to Houston and visit him over the past month?
A: He’s working out with a group down there. I don’t think he went down in the last three or four weeks.
Q: Have you had a chance to talk with
A: Yeah, we talked a couple different times. As a matter of fact, we ran into each other yesterday at the barber shop and we talked some more there just by coincidence and it was great to see him. We’ve had good conversations. He’s looking forward to getting down here and having a great training camp. Obviously, we want him to do well. He’s a key part of what we want to get done here in Mankato and into the season but all is good.
Q: Did you get any clarification from him on his issues?
A: Yeah, I feel good with where things are with Percy. We’ve had some good conversations over the summer and excited that he’s here, excited that we’re all going to be here. The fact that every member of our team is going to be here, the guys we are counting on, it seems like in my conversations, I’ve talked to a number of guys after our mandatory mini-camp, everybody seems to be in the right frame of mind including Percy. It’s exciting.
Q: Did you get chairs right next to each other?
A: They weren’t right next to each other but we pulled them closer so we could be close to each other.
Q: Have you found at all that he’s stirred up the hornet’s nest on his own?
A: In our League, as you know, there are so many different situations you have to be able to deal with and we’re trying to develop our football team and as time goes on, Percy has been one of our leaders, we’re going to be counting on him to lead some of the young guys and help some of the young guys. Just looking forward to him having a great camp and helping us to have a successful season. We need Percy, we need a bunch of guys to do well for us.
Q: Talking to guys over the past couple of weeks, guys have talked about this team potentially being a playoff team. Is that a realistic part of the message you’ll lay out tonight?
A: I think all 32 teams, and you know this and everybody here knows this, in the NFL today, I don’t know if you want to count yourself out of any situation. This is a very fluid League in the way things are. The teams that are sometimes favored, don’t always end up being the favorites at the end of the year and teams that are counted out are sometimes the teams that flip the script a little bit or are in places most people don’t expect before the season began. Not to say that’s going to be us. Our goal is to come down here to Mankato and the same thing we talked about in the spring, it’s to try to continue to improve across the board, with every player on offense, defense and special teams and if we make the necessary improvement and we can come together as a team, we feel like our chances are as good as anybody’s.
Q: How do you treat
A: Early on, we’re going to keep him in and let him take reps but at some point we’ll have to pare it back because we’re not, as you mentioned, going to have him in those first three games so we’ll have to start getting ready the guys that are going to play in those first three games, get those guys ready, but early on we want to make sure he has a good grasp of our offense and what we’re asking him to do. At some point we’ll have to pare his reps down.
Q: Who are you looking at to step in for him?
A: I don’t know if there’s any one guy that we could point to right now. There would be competition even if we knew Jerome was going to be playing in that first game. Devin Aromshodu will have a chance, (Greg) Childs will have a chance, Bryan (Walters), he’ll have a chance. There are a number of guys who will be out there working to fill that spot when we open up against Jacksonville but I can’t say today there’s one guy we’re counting on to get it done.
Q: What’s unique about this camp with how many new faces that are here?
A: That’s probably the most unique part about it. There are going to be some guys who win jobs in this camp. Not like one or two guys, multiple guys who will win jobs at this camp who didn’t maybe play for us a year ago or didn’t have a major role for us a year ago. That’s going to probably be one of the biggest changes and the competition that we’ve created with the changes on our roster I think is going to be good for our football team but the fact that there are going to be a number of different new faces in the starting lineup will probably be the biggest chance and it will come out of what we’ve done in the spring and what we did here in Mankato.
Q: What is the message you want to give to these players so they know what to focus on?
A: The big thing for us is to really work on improving at every phase on our football team and that includes individually, whether that includes the quarterback position, the wide receiver position, our defensive backs. One of the things that I think helped us this offseason as much as a staff as a team was going back to that Senior Bowl and having a chance to coach in that Senior Bowl. It really became like a mini-camp that we didn’t get a year ago. That was a big deal for us and so we came out of it saying there are some incremental things we can do as a team we think to help us be better in 2012 and we worked on some of those in the spring and the primary message was let’s try to improve across the board with every player, coaches improving, and if we can get that done, when we come out of Mankato, we think we’ll have a chance to come together as a football team and be a much better football team.
Q: You mentioned you are still looking to Percy as a leader. What are the challenges to that?
A: I think one of the things you have to be able to do in Percy’s case is be the Percy that we all know. His teammates respect him so much. So does our coaching staff. He’s a guy who has been there and we were able to count on a season ago when we had, as you guys know, a ton of injuries and really a tough situation. He was one of the guys we could count on throughout the year and if he can continue to be that person that his teammates can trust and can count on and do the things he has done for us in the past, I won’t see any problems with Percy because we know that he loves the game. He has a passion for the game. He wants to bring a championship to Minnesota and when that’s the case, we can all work towards the same common goal. All of us working towards bringing a championship to Minnesota and that’s where he is and that tells me that he has a chance to be the type of leader he can be.
Q: Sometimes when there is a lot of competition, it can bring some heated exchanges during camp. Can you see that being a difference at camp too?
A: We talked when we broke up after the mandatory mini-camp. There were some heated exchanges going on between the players. I remember standing up in front of them on that last day and I said, ‘When we get the pads on, we’ll be able to find out who is who.’ So we are all looking forward to getting the pads on and I think day four is when we’re going to put our pads on and we’ll start separating some of those guys who can talk and some of those guys who can back it up. You’re right, the competition is going to create some of that, some tension in some ways, but that can be a good thing if we handle it the right way.
Q: Back when you hired Alan Williams, you talked about how you wanted to be involved heavily in the defense. Is that something you got done in OTAs and mini-camp?
A: I think it’s going to be ongoing. I think this training camp is a key component to getting things the way we want, especially now that we’ll be able to wear shoulder pads and have some one- on-one competition that we couldn’t have back in the spring. It’ll be ongoing but I definitely want to be a little more involved but not to the point where I’m suffocating those guys and not being able to manage the entire team. I have a lot of confidence in Alan. Part of it is because we have worked together before but I know he is going to do a great job. We think alike in a lot of ways and have a lot of confidence. He’s done a great job to this point. What we did this spring and the steps that we’ve made, we are so far ahead because of that.
Q: How important is Matt Kalil for the progression of Christian Ponder?
A: It’s extremely important and one of the reasons I say that is when Matt signed today, when he came in to the office to get his contract done, one of the first people there to congratulate him was Christian because he understands how important that left tackle position is for him. They end up riding down here together conversing. They’ve been spending time together this offseason. That position in our League for our quarterback, that’s the guy who protects your blind side. He’s your personal protector in so many ways. For Christian’s development, having the right person at that position is a key component to Christian’s success and our offense’s success. He’s important and it’s important we got that deal done today.
Vikings Running Back Adrian Peterson
Q: Coach said he would sit down tonight and talk to you about your practice routine, what are you going to lobby to them?
A: I’m going to lobby to get out there and be involved some. To what extent I don’t know, we will discuss that later. I feel like I can participate a little bit.
Q: If they decide to start you on the PUP list, are you okay with that?
A: It’s going to be their call. We will discuss that tonight. My main focus is to get myself ready. To be honest with you I’m going to try and fight against it so I can get out there and be involved, but ultimately I know that these guys will do what’s best for the team.
Q: How does the knee feel?
A: Knee feels great, I have been working hard for this moment to get back out here and get the ball rolling. I’m excited about where I’m at now and the leg is feeling great.
Q: Last time we talked to you, you were still working on your cutting and lateral movement, has that continued to progress as you have been working out back in Houston?
A: It has. To be honest, I’m full go. I’m pretty much doing everything, cutting, running, jumping, it’s kind of different when you have pads on and you have guys diving at your legs and you’re making sudden cuts based off of your instincts of the game. So that aspect I haven’t really had a lot to practice with, and that’s really what I want, to get out there and get involved with that.
Q: Has the knee absorbed any sort of contact through simulation or drills?
A: I have had a couple incidents where I have slipped, but no type of contact as far as guys hitting me in the legs, maybe a couple of bags swinging at the legs, but no full contact.
Q: How tough would it be if you were to start to practice tomorrow to go slow or pull back the reins? Do you see them placing you on the PUP to protect yourself from yourself?
A: Yeah a little bit, but ultimately whether I’m on the PUP or not, if I’m out there with the guys and able to participate or not I will be working hard and if I’m on my own with Eric Sugarman I will be working hard regardless, so either way I will be getting some good work in.
Q: How are excited are you for the training camp to start?
A: I’m excited, I don’t think I really felt it until I came up this hill right here and had Christian and some of the other guys behind me. It was like, man we are back here to start the season again. This offseason has been a journey for me, a roller coaster; I have had my ups and downs, but now that training camp came back around and the season is about to kick-off it’s time to get back out there and show my teammates what I’m able to do after this injury and come back and be more productive then I have been in past years.
Q: Is there any player that has gone through similar situations that has helped you along this path.
A: A little bit. My teammate
Q: At this point it looks like you might have to fly back to Houston for a day unless your court case gets dismissed?
A: It’s a possibility. That is something that I will let my attorney handle and I will know when that time comes around, but hopefully it gets dismissed.
Q: Do you have a benchmark or a certain goal for here at training camp that you will know that you are back to yourself?
A: I think that is all part of being involved and getting out there and going through football situations. It is easy to go out and do sprints or cutting drills but it’s not like putting the pads on and really going through the motion. I feel like that is the only thing I’m missing right now, to not know that I can do it, but to get out there and do it. I think that will help me a lot with where I’m at and my mindset and just feeling more comfortable.
Q: What has it been like going through the legal situations back home?
A: It’s been pretty laid back to be honest. The situation is what it is and I haven’t lost any sleep over it. I know in due time things will get handled and justice will be served. It’s an unfortunate situation but I feel like everything works itself out.
Q: What’s your level of confidence that you will be acquitted or the charges will be dropped?
A: Repeated, 200%. I’m confident. Wrong is wrong and right is right. I did nothing wrong in this situation and ultimately that will be shown.
Q: Were you ever worried about your knee during that incident?
A: No. My knee was the last thing I was worried about. I was worried about my face.
Q: Can you talk about the importance of getting Matt Kalil at the beginning of camp and how that will help you out?
A: It is important, not only for me, but more so for Christian. That is a guy that we are really depending on this year to come through and step-up and take charge and leadership of this team. He is going to feel comfortable with that big guy on the left side protecting him and giving him time to do his thing. For me it’s just an added bonus to have him out there and I’m excited about him. I’m excited to see him out here in pads and see how dirty he can get.
Q: How have some of the injuries you have gone through before helped you come back from this?
A: I guess you could say the challenge of getting through it. You go through so many different emotions, you’re up and you’re down, you’re doubting yourself then you’re back to positive, then you get the point where you have ultimately accomplished what you have worked for and that is getting back healthy and 100% and even better. So I can say in that sense, some of the previous injuries have given me a better outlook on attacking this. That is what I have done, I have stayed focused. There were times where I said, “man this sucks.” And I doubted but ultimately I know who to come back to, who to turn to and who to believe in. You see on my earphone it says, “Faith Walker” so I walk by faith. I have faith that I will be able to play the first week of the regular season and I feel like that is how it’s going to be.
Q: Will this camp be more of a relief for you seeing as how you have been rehabbing for the last eight months and now you will be able to get out on the field with your teammates?
A: I have kind of been anticipating getting here, but like I said, I didn’t really feel it until I got up here, but when you have an injury like this, the ACL, especially at my position you have so many people saying this, so many people saying that, the challenges that you have with yourself is something you think about. I’m going to come back better than people were saying, better than ever. So coming here it feels good to be around the guys and be around everyone that has been supporting me through this process and even more importantly, it’s going to feel good to get out there and participate and do some things with these guys. I’m excited to be here and I’m excited to get things going.
Vikings Quarterback Christian Ponder
We’re excited to be back down in Mankato. It’s crazy how a year has flown by since we’ve been down here last. We’re excited. We had a great summer off. Spent a lot of time together off the field and did a lot of fun things, enjoyed Minnesota. Now we’re ready to get down to work. We’re excited to be in Mankato. We have great facilities down here and we’re saddened that this is our last year in Gage Hall, a tough loss for us. We’re excited to get started and I just want to start by saying I should take full credit for the Matt Kalil signing because I picked him up from the airport and drove him straight to the facility and got it done. I think if Tom Condon takes three percent of his contract, I should take at least half of a percent.
Q: How long were you willing to wait for Kalil before getting in the car?
A: I don’t know. He texted me last night and said everything sounded like it was going to be good to go. It was good news to hear and he just asked for a ride so we drove down together.
Q: You must be relieved to have him signed?
A: Definitely. He didn’t want to miss a single day of training camp so I know he’s excited and I’m excited that he got it done and obviously he’s a very important piece to this offense and for him to get in as much work as possible is going to be good.
Q: You made an effort to do a lot with other guys this offseason. Was he one of those guys?
A: We got him up on the wake board for about two seconds which was pretty funny. Big boy like that, it’s tough to wakeboard. He’s athletic but that’s a lot of weight on one board. We did some other things. We hung out on the boat a lot, we played some golf and went out to dinner and all of those things. He’s a great guy. He’s a fun guy to be around and hopefully we’ll be together in a Vikings uniform for a long time. That’s what’s exciting about this team. We’re so young and a lot of us can be together for a long time and that's exciting for us.
Q: How much horsepower is in that motor you took out?
A: It’s Kyle’s (Rudolph). Kyle just bought a nice boat so you’ll have to ask Kyle about it.
Q: You spent time with a lot of different guys over the summer. Why was that important to you?
A: Because as a quarterback, I pretty much deal with most people on the team and it’s hard to have a relationship with a guy when you’re just at work. I think it’s important for us to build those relationships off the field and get to know each other on a personal level and it makes things so much easier when something is going wrong or something is going right, to talk about differentthings that are going on the field and everything. I think we have grown a lot closer as a team in doing those things.
Q: In OTAs and mini-camp, what is Matt Kalil’s demeanor on the field?
A: He’s a very competitive guy. I know he was really excited about going against Jared Allen in mini-camp so he’s pretty fiery. He’s definitely got an attitude on the field but off the field he’s like a big teddy bear. He’s fun to be around and he loves techno music. He’s one of those California boys, you know?
Q: Do you feel like your learning curve was steeper than most after everything that happened last year?
A: Last year was definitely different and the lockout didn’t help things but it was a great experience for me and a lot of things to learn from and going through that is only going to help me out this year and make this year a lot more fun.
Q: Do all of the new faces make training camp more significant this year?
A: It’s big. There’s a lot for us to work on in 21 days and in the 4 preseason game. The whole preseason is very important for us and a lot of young guys that have to get a lot better at things and get comfortable in the offense and defense. It’s good. It is a grind. It is a long time down here but it’s necessary and we’re going to be better for it.
Q: How much more confident are you this year coming into camp as opposed to last year?
A: A lot more confident. Going through those OTAs and having time to meet with the coaches and being more comfortable with my teammates, knowing my teammates, being comfortable with my surroundings down here at training camp. I know what to expect. I just feel a lot more comfortable, a lot more confident and it’s just going to make it more fun.
Q: What’s your go-to dinner in Mankato?
A: Neighbors man, Italian Spot. Last year when we were here, they were like playing Christmas music and they played a joke on me last year where I had to buy, it was the quarterbacks and the offensive linemen, it was all on me and they gave me a fake bill. They put on some expensive bottles of adult drinks. It was like $14,000. I got the bill and they said I looked like I just turned pale white. I didn’t say anything. I was going to pay the bill. That was all Steve Hutchinson.
Q: How crucial is it to have Adrian Peterson back?
A: I don’t know about his cargo shorts but we’re excited for him to be back. Obviously we’re excited to have him back. He’s worked extremely hard and I think he sets such a great example for all of us. Obviously, he’s one of the best players in the NFL but he’s probably the hardest working one as well. Whenever he does make it back, I know he thinks in his head he’ll be back for the first game, we’ll see. Eric Sugarman, we have a great trainer and he’s going to be the one who makes that call but we do want him back and we’re excited for him.
Offensive Lineman Matt Kalil
Q: Were you nervous when yesterday came and you still didn’t have a deal done?
A: Not really, I knew the deal was going to get done. Obviously me picking Tom Condon to represent me, he’s one of the best in the business so I had nothing but confidence that he would get the deal that we wanted and get my contract done prior for me to report to camp.
Q: How key was it for you to get here on time for practice tomorrow?
A: It was really important, especially being a rookie you want to play next to the guys you’re going to play next to. You want to get in sync with the offensive players and learn everything you can. Any day missed could have hurt me, you always need an extra practice to work. I was really trying to focus on getting here on time and starting off ahead of the curve.
Q: Was your head spinning on why the deal took so long?
A: No, it was just about getting a good contract and getting me here ready on time. We got that done so not really nervous but more anxious to get going now that I have all this behind me. It was kind of all summer long having this contract leaning over my head but it’s finally done, I’m in camp on time.
Q: How anxious are you to learn from Jared Allen?
A: Really excited. He’s the guy who was half a sack away from breaking the all-time sack record, so obviously I have a lot to learn from him and I think he’ll help me in any way he can. He is a good team player and wants to help the team get some wins. That’s the whole goal we want, take one game at a time, one win at a time and build this team up.
Q: Is the back and forth good-natured at this point?
A: He is a great guy. The first day he was here I met him and he gave me some advice here and there. I’m just looking to get in pads and going against the best defensive end in the NFL.
Q: Could you see it getting heated?
A: You know maybe, it’s what happens. It’s football, sometimes things get heated. It’s a bunch of grown men running around hitting each other so some nerves will fly eventually but that’s all part of the game.
Q: With the problems the offensive line encountered last year, do you take that on as more pressure or a challenge?
A: I learned a long time ago, especially in college, it’s not about worrying about everyone else but first off doing your job and doing what you need to do to accomplish your assignment and what you have that play. I think eventually that all comes together and working as a team, it definitely makes it easier that the best running back in the league is running behind me. I don’t think I feel that much pressure.
Q: Christian Ponder picked you up. What was the excitement there after signing?
A: I called him and he picked me up from the airport. We were all excited, we hadn’t seen each other since the whole break because I went back to California. We were pretty excited, glad to get this contract out of the way and report to camp on time.
Q: Is it an added dimension that you guys are a young team and get to start together?
A: Starting off as a young team and over the years growing together into a strong unit, I think we definitely can do something special here. I’m excited to get in pads; I haven’t been in pads
since November of last year so I’m anxious to get out there on the field again.
Q: How excited are you that your brother is going to be a Super Bowl champion?
A: I watched that for about two days on NFL Network. He’s the leader of that team so he knows the best interests of them. They have a very talented team over there so I’m excited to see what they can do this year.
Q: How has the bond grown with Christian Ponder since you got drafted?
A: Since day one, he introduced himself to me when I first got there and we’ve been hanging out every day since. It was an immediate connection, hanging out all the time, going out on the lake having a good time, just building that chemistry. He has been a real good friend of mine.
Q: Is your weight around the same as combine after the draft?
A: Yeah, my weight is where I need it to be, I’m not worried about that. I’ve been working out this whole off-season, working on getting stronger and faster and working on my technique.
Vikings Wide Receiver Jerome Simpson
Q: What are the challenges of going through camp knowing you have to miss the first three games?
A: Yeah, it sucks but I think it’s kind of in my advantage because I’m going to get to go back and I’ll see some games and know what I need to work on and just I’ll be fresh coming back after those first three games. Some of the guys, they’ll be banged up and have injuries so I can use that to my advantage.
Q: Do you expect more playing time in the preseason?
A: Yeah. The coaches are probably going to want to see what I’m capable of. It’s just getting in the rhythm knowing that I’m going to miss three weeks and getting into rhythm with Christian and in tip-top shape.
Q: Is it exciting to come to camp with a fresh start with a new team?
A: Yeah, it is. It’s just great to have a new start and be able to keep playing football and just be around teammates.
Q: How are you feeling going into camp?
A: As a rookie I’m a little anxious to get started but really just trying to stay in good shape and come in ready to go.
Q: Does it bring back memories of your freshman year at Notre Dame?
A: A little bit, but having some of the guys from Notre Dame who are already here kind of tell me how things are going to go makes it a little easier.
Q: How important is this next month in what you can accomplish?
A: It’s huge. Just getting off on the right foot, starting as fast as possible and growing every day.
Q: How do you feel about the changing dynamics in the offensive line this year and with
Matt Kalil signing today, what is that like for you as you approach camp?
A: It’s exciting, obviously last year didn’t go very well but bringing Matt in and having some experience coming back, it will be good and we look forward to getting better.
Q: For you guys getting continuity and the timing in the mini camps that you didn’t have last year and the OTA’s, how important were those times?
A: It was very important for all the rookies to come in and get some playbook without feeling rushed with having to prepare for a game in two weeks. That was important but now is the time where that continuity will really come together.
Q: What are your thoughts on getting Matt signed before camp has even started?
A: That’s a big deal, especially with a guy that we’re going to be counting on from day one. It’s important for him to get in here and start working.
Q: Does it feel like the first day of school?
A: A little bit. The excitement of the new season.. that is always fun to get out on the field, start running around a little bit and really get to see what some of the new guys can bring.
Q: Excited to see some of the new pieces that will be added to the team?
A: Definitely. The front office identified guys they wanted to bring in that they felt could help this team. If they feel good about it then we should feel good about it.
Q: What kind of techniques does Jared Allen bring to the team?
A: Whatever works. He is a guy that has been around and he knows all the tricks to the trade. He will get a feeling process and do what he thinks is best.
Q: What is it like being at camp?
A: Always special. Every year I play I look at it as a blessing. This is my seventh training camp I’ve been a part of and I just look at it as that I am just really blessed to have this as my job.
Q: How does the line look this year?
A: Young. It’s looking good. You can’t really get a tell from the mini camp since no pads go on. It will be interesting going forward once we get in the pads and banging and do the things we need to do to be where we are.
Q: What is Kalil’s demeanor off the field and does it change once he gets on the field?
A: He is a real laid back guy. Typical California guy, laid back just go with the flow. That picks up when he goes on the field and from what I can tell he is a guy that is going to work hard and show why he was drafted that high
Q: Once the pads come on, what will you guys be able to figure out quickly?
A: I think the level of competition the guys have. Once the bullets start flying you can tell a lot from guys, how hard they want to compete and how hard they can transfer what they learned in the meetings onto the field.
Vikings Linebacker Chad Greenway
Q: Is this as different a transition, from one season to the next, that you’ve had?
A: Yeah, it’s been a pretty unbelievable offseason as far as personnel and you know, a lot of new faces, a huge youth movement, you’ll see it in camp here. Especially adding ten more spots, you just get a lot more young guys out here that are playing for a spot. It’s going to be fun to see, fun to watch, and fun to be a part of. And obviously for me it’s to go out there and grind and try to get better; there’s a lot of things I can improve on from last year.
Q: Best thing about camp and worst thing about camp?
A: The best thing is I tend to sleep in until like 7:15, 7:30. Usually I’m a 6am-er, but camp you get too tired. Worst thing this year is probably the length. You know with kids, it’s a long time away from my kids and my family, that’s going to be tough. We only had one other three weeker. It’s going to be a grind but these young punks don’t have any kids, they’re probably loving it.
Q: What are the expectations coming into this year?
A: We’re not going to have too many people barking up our tree for playoff births or division titles. We’re just going to have to grind for every win and we’re young, and it’s going to be the best scenario for us to kinda lie in the weeds and be the underdogs so to speak. In most peoples eyes we’re just not talented enough, not as good, not as experienced. Young teams have been proven to win in this league, with the quarterback trends that are sort of leading other positions. We have a long ways to go though and we just had an offseason together, great for Ponder to have a whole offseason. A lot of young faces but, you know, it’s going to be exciting because I think we’re going to be a lot better than what people think we are, and I think that we have a chance. You lose that many games by a small margin of points, you just turn those small losses around and you got yourself a decent season. So we gotta do that and then some.
Q: As a veteran, what do you do for the newer guys to get them accustomed and to work them a little bit?
A: There’s nothing that I’m going to say that will prepare those guys for what they’re about to go through. You just gotta do it. It’s not like Ben Leber told me magical words back in 2006 about how to get through training camp and go into a season. It’s just about going out there and doing it. For us it’s about leading by example and showing the right way to practice, the right way to do things. When something needs to be said, you say it, but for the most part it’s just about showing up here. It’s going to be so competitive, it’s going to be either you’re going to sit here and you’re going to compete, or you’re not going to be around very long. That’s the reality of this league. Some people find it out earlier than others.
Q: Can you guys even talk about being in contention at this point or do you have to take incremental roles for the young team, coming off a couple seasons like you are?
A: Yeah, I mean you know it’s kind of the pulse of this thing. You can’t ever start thinking that way. I think last year we got ourselves in the head a little bit, where while the foundation is here to have another successful team and make a run for it, with a veteran quarterback, with Donovan last year, and I think you sort of give yourself too much credit and obviously everybody across the league can beat you at any meet, and if they’re doing the things necessary to win and you’re not then obviously you know how that ends. We just gotta go back to being humble and knowing where our bread is buttered. That’s by winning and to have this winning end of the ball game, two minute situations, making kicks, defense getting off the field on third downs, it’s just basic things that we can do. We’re there, we have the talent, there’s no question about that, but we play in a tough division and we have to be consistent.
Q: How are things back home right now?
A: Good. My dad’s actually feeling really well. He’s stable, he’s felt the best he has now than the last three months. That’s excellent for me cause once you sort of kick this day off then you don’t have another opportunity to go home for any amount of time. I’m really glad he’s doing well and hope that that obviously continues.
Q: What sort of differences do you see from what Allen Williams has tried to install than what we had last year?
A: Yeah, you know, it’s so hard to tell at the rate at which we were moving in that minicamp. I think the biggest difference is that we were focused so much on fundamentals of our defense and really learning the new style so everybody knows and everybody’s on the same page and everybody’s hearing the same thing from our coaches. And not that it was necessarily complete disarray, we lost that fundamental last year, we lost that ability for everybody to be on the same page, and knowing like, ‘Ok, I’ve got this gap all the way across the board’. Now we’re sort of pulling everything back and reaching that fundamental level of, ‘Ok, if we can do this, we have a chance to be good.’ Just like we were when we had good defenses in ’08, ’09, ’10. We gave ourselves a chance by just being in the right spot at the right time. We’re going to get back to doing that and staying healthy in the back end, that’s going to be huge.
Q: Is it more about executing versus thinking too much?
A: I think it’s executing. We didn’t execute last year and you could see when we gave things up, when we weren’t playing our best football was not just because we weren’t doing things that we were taught. It’s not things we didn’t know, or didn’t go over, it’s just that we weren’t focused enough on the small things that made us better.
Q: When you look at the film from last year, do you see that it hurt you guys because you didn’t have that big nose tackle?
A: We need a guy to step up and be that guy this year. We obviously know that we have some young guys that, well not young even, now Letroy (Guion) and Fred (Evans), they’re veterans. I’m guessing they’re going to have the first two opportunities, and role with that. They are very capable physically, we’re just going to let them rip, hopefully they’ll be able to stay well.
Q: What do you think about training camp with the Vikings?
A: We just got here so I’m not sure how the experience is yet but I’m just excited and ready to go to work.
Q: They are talking about two rookies starting at safety for the Vikings, do you see that as a possibility?
A: That’s my goal. Just to come in work hard and earn the respect of the teammates and earn a spot on the team.
Q: You come in here, a lot of other fellow Irishmen, it’s nice to at least have that little camaraderie coming into camp when you really don’t know what to expect, right?
A: Yes ma’am, it’s nice, a lot of ND guys here. It’s a friendly team, everybody likes each other and everybody’s willing to get to know one another, so it’s just fun.
Q: Coach says with a camp like this, a lot of guys coming in, there’s going to be competition, but sometimes it gets a little heated, are you looking forward to that?
A: That’s why we play the game, to compete with one another and determine who the best can be and it’s always fun to get out there and compete with guys.
Q: Did you pick the brains of any other guys on what to expect?
A: I picked some brains of some guys I knew back at home.
Q: What did they say?
A: Just come in, work hard, and have fun.
Q: What do you think you have to do the most to improve your game?
A: Make sure I learn the defense, work on my technique every day, and be confident myself.
Q: What was it like on the bus ride down?
A: We were taking naps. Some people were listening to music, watching some TV.
Q: You ready to go?
A: Yes sir.
Q: What do you hope to get out of the next three weeks?
A: Master my position and work to be the best.
Q: Have you heard any horror stories about training camp?
A: They say it’s hot here. But right now it’s like the winter back in North Carolina.
Q: What is your level of nervousness considering your place on the team?
A: I can’t really think of it that way. I have to think of it as having fun out there and doing what I know how to do, what I’ve been doing since I was a freshman in high school. I have to go out there and perform and show them what I can do.
Q: It comes with the position, are people boring a hole at you, looking at you?
A: It’s not that big of a deal. You’re an NFL player and if people want to look and see how you’re doing that is fine with me, I expect that and it’s part of the job description. I’m looking forward to it.
Q: What is the transition like?
A: Getting continuity with the new guys and developing that chemistry that you had in college with your snapper and holder for four years. I was fortunate to have the same guys the whole time in college and now you’re here with a new group, a new line, and a new coach. I just have to get used to it and perform your best.
Q: How does the pressure change?
A: It moves up each level I think. High school to college is a very significant jump and obviously college and the pros are a little bit closer in skill level but still a big jump because this is people’s careers at this point, you’re no longer a student. This is professionals playing football for a living and you have to go out there and be dependable.
Q: What is this like for you coming to camp with your hometown team?
A: It’s a combination of emotions; I’m really excited to get out on the field again after missing last season with a shoulder injury. I’m reminiscing about the days that I used to come down and watch training camp as a kid. After walking through the dorm it feels like I’m going to basketball camp as St. Could State. A lot of emotions going on right now, but ultimately we are here to prepare for a better season than last year and I’m excited to get to work doing that.
Q: Have a lot of people back home been talking to you over this summer about coming down and having your first camp here?
A: Yes, I have a lot of friends and family that plan on coming down. I look forward to them coming down and watching me practice, watching me sweat.
Q: As a child where was your spot? Where did you watch training camp from?
A: We would set-up along the fence and watch.
Q: Who was your favorite player?
A: John Randle, by far.
Q: Is it surreal that it’s here?
A: It is, the end of the summer kind of sneaks up on you. Ultimately the work that we put in, running, lifting, catching footballs, OTA’s, mini-camps its all for the season and training camp is part of that. It did sneak up a little bit but I’m excited that it’s here and ready to get going.
Q: Are all of the new guys expecting you to know all of the restaurants and stuff thinking that everyone from Minnesota knows everything about Minnesota?
A: I hope not, because I don’t. So hopefully they are not.
Q: At some point are you going to go back to that spot in the fence and view it from a high vantage point?
A: I think I will try and do that. I have a nine-year old nephew that will be down so I might try and take him over there and get a few pictures.
Vikings Running Back
Third training camp now, time’s going by fast. I don’t have to look up directions anymore. I can just cruise on down here. It’s exciting; we have a young team. Excited to get going and start a new season and put last season behind us.
Q: Is it a little bit different this year, knowing early in the season you might be getting more carries?
A: Yeah, it’s a little bit different. Every year you try and prepare to be the guy. This year it’s a little more prevalent with Adrian coming off of an injury. I’m ready to get out here and be a leader and have fun.
Q: Does the third year make you a leader?
A: I don’t know if that makes you a leader. I think what you do on and off of the field makes you a leader. The way you relate with the team. The confidence you instill in them. You know, just showing guys how to do it the right way.
Q: Have you bulked up a little bit in the offseason?
A: Not really, I’m about the same weight that I’ve always been, maybe a little tanner. Getting some sunshine, it’s been hot out here. Just been working hard though, getting ready. It’s a tough grind once the season starts so I’ve just been trying to prepare as much as possible beforehand.
Q: What are you looking for the most in camp?
A: Make the most of my opportunity. Be a guy the team can count on, first and foremost. Wins are all that matter. We like to run the ball. My number is going to be called, hopefully early and often.
Q: What’s the best and worst part about camp?
A: The best thing is being in the dorms with everybody and the people that come out. It’s awesome to come out to the field and having everybody harassing you for autographs. Cheering after good plays like a nice catch or a broken tackle. It makes it fun coming out and playing in front of the fans and having a personal interaction with them. The worst thing is wearing full pads almost every day and we’re hitting and running. It’s hot out here and humid. It’s been real hot out here the last couple weeks. It’s good for us to get in shape. There’s nothing terrible about camp.