EAGAN, Minn. — A contrite and candid Xavier Rhodes addressed the media Wednesday morning in the Vikings locker room.
The Vikings cornerback touched upon a variety of topics, but he began by apologizing for his actions on the sideline late in the third quarter in Monday night's loss in Seattle.
Rhodes was emotional after the defense gave up a 60-yard touchdown on third down. He shouldered the blame for allowing the lengthy play to happen.
"Just want to start off by saying that I apologize to the organization, my team, my family for how I reacted on that field Monday night," Rhodes said. "That's not the way I should carry myself, especially as a leader on this team. I apologize to [Vikings Head] Coach [Mike Zimmer] … I should not react that way toward him or toward my team, period. I know my role and I need to play it better.
"One play particularly, it was my fault on the touchdown. That's how I'm going to leave it. It was 100-percent my fault and no one else," Rhodes added. "I was supposed to be at a certain spot at a certain time, and I wasn't there. I'm a leader of this team, I've been a leader for a while, and I need to do better and play my role a lot better."
Rhodes also took it upon himself to recognize he needs to bounce back in the final four games from an up-and-down 2019 campaign.
"I need to play better out there on that field and eliminate the penalties," Rhodes said. "There's a lot of football going on. We still have a great chance of making it to the playoffs and still have a chance to win our division.
"Right now, I'm looking forward to doing that, helping my team day-to-day, minimalizing the penalties I have and going each and every week and bettering myself. That's going to have to take a day-to-day basis for me to do," Rhodes added. "Like I said, I'm in a place right now where I feel like I can do better and help my team out much more. We can be in better situations and make the game a lot easier on my team, rather than me hurting us in the middle of the game."
Rhodes has been called for 10 penalties in 2019, with eight being accepted, one being declined and another offsetting. The eight penalties accepted have gone for a league-high 139 yards.
Zimmer reiterated that he and the former first-round pick have a solid relationship, one that is built on trust and respect.
"Xavier's a good kid. We've always had our little moments, I guess you'd call it, but at the end of the day, he knows I'm always trying to do what's best for him," Zimmer said. "He's always trying to do what's best for me. I have a ton of respect for him, not just him, every player.
"He's done what we've asked him to do. He tries to do it. He's a good kid," Zimmer added. "He's got a smile on his face all the time, comes out to practice and works hard. Yeah, I have a ton of respect for him."
Rhodes was frank and honest with reporters when asked to assess his play in 2019. The former Florida State standout admitted that his uneven play has weighed on him at times, but he also added that he has plenty of faith that things will turn around in the final month.
"Just what's been going on this year … I've been battling some things, but that's no excuse, you know? When I'm out there on that field, everything I'm battling has to go away. I have to go out there and play for the guy beside me," Rhodes said. "I know that if I mess up like I messed up on that one play, that's what it's going to lead to. I've been in this league for a while … seven years … and I should know that. I know what I need to work on and work through.
"It's [been] a hard season. You all ask me, 'Hey, Xavier, how do you think you played today?' You all know. It's just me being the guy that I am and working each and every day on my craft and not getting the results I want, of course you're going to be down on yourself," Rhodes added. "You can ask any player that puts so much work and time into their craft, and that's how they're going to feel. I tell my guys each and every day — I'm never going to give up, and I'm always a fighter."
Rhodes does not have an interception in 2019. His last recorded a pick in the 2018 season opener against San Francisco. Rhodes, who has 10 career interceptions in six-plus seasons, has one interception in his past 32 games.
"It's going to happen when it happens. That's always been my motto," Rhodes said. "That's been how it was in college … that's something you can't force or rush. You just have to put yourself in great position and great situations to get those plays."
Instead of focusing on takeaways, Rhodes said Wednesday that he's been working on fundamentals and techniques in recent weeks.
"Just getting back to the details, getting back to the basics and realizing what's going on in games and how teams are attacking you and what they're trying to do," Rhodes said. "Just controlling who you are."
Zimmer said Tuesday on a conference call that he thought Rhodes and the rest of Minnesota's secondary showed improvement Monday night in Seattle. (The 226 passing yards allowed by the Vikings against the Seahawks was the lowest in a recent four-game stretch).
Zimmer then expanded on that subject Wednesday afternoon, and spoke about the role a coach plays when a player is struggling on the field. Zimmer spoke in general terms and not just directly about Rhodes.
"What we're trying to do is, in every one of the guys that have had a bad game or they're struggling, is try to get back to the basics, try to get them to focus on whether [the problem] is their footwork or their hand placement or their route depth or whatever it is," Zimmer said. "[We look at], 'Am I losing at the top of the route, if I'm a receiver or DB, am I losing at the top of the route, am I losing at the bottom of the route, at the beginning of the route, where's my body position?'
"I think all of those things become a factor. You just try to analyze it. We did a lot of that last week, especially in the pass defense. Quite honestly, there was a lot of really good things in the pass defense," Zimmer added. "Now obviously, not the busted coverage that we had, but a lot of the other things I saw improvement. We've got to get back and do that little bit more with the front guys and we've got to continue to stay harping on the back-end guys of the technique that we want them to play and get back to being us.
"I've gone through this thing 100 times, looking at where we were before the six-week period and where we are the last six weeks and trying to get back to doing the things we can do," Zimmer continued. "If we do that, we got a good football team in every phase, not just defense, but the offense and special teams."
Through their first six games, the Vikings didn't allow a 300-yard passer and gave up an average of 218.8 passing yards per game. Minnesota has allowed an average of 267 passing yards per game over its past six contests that have featured quarterbacks such as Matthew Stafford, Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson.
The Vikings are expected to see the quarterback quartet of David Blough, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rogers and Mitchell Trubisky in the final quarter of the season.
Minnesota sits at 8-4 and controls its own destiny in the playoff field, as the Vikings would be a Wild Card team at worst if they win out.
Rhodes said he's going to do all he can in December to assure that the Vikings are playing in January.
"I just feel like it's a switch. I've been working my tail off — I've always worked my tail off — and everyone knows that on this team, family and friends, the fans," Rhodes said. "I work each and every day on my craft. I'm there in coverage, I'm just not getting the ball.
"But, I'm a fighter. At the end of the day, that switch is going to flip," Rhodes added. "Right now, I'm going to continue to play my ball and work on the mental errors and the penalties. Hopefully, the flip switches."