Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier held his annual end-of-season press conference on Tuesday afternoon. Frazier meets with reporters multiple times per week during the regular season, but Tuesday’s press conference represents the last of these regular meetings of the 2012 season. Frazier will, of course, speak with reporters during the offseason, but this is the last extensive question-and-answer session he’ll have until most likely the Scouting Combine in late February.
Here are several notes and quotes from Frazier’s end-of-season press conference…
Proud of his team
The Vikings fell short of their ultimate team goal – winning the Super Bowl. But they accomplished many other goals throughout the 2012 regular season, including collecting enough wins to earn the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2009. For that, and for other unstated reasons, Frazier said he was proud of this year’s team.
“I’m very, very proud of our football team and what they accomplished this season,” Frazier said. “Our guys worked extremely hard going all the way back to April 23 when they came back into the building to really set a foundation for this 2012 season. Because of their hard work, we were able to secure a playoff berth. The foundation has been set for our team, without question.
“Our core identities showed up. The traits that we talked about throughout the year…being a tough, smart, disciplined football team. It was exemplified through this group of young men.”
Developing a young roster
I didn’t pay much attention to this aspect of the team until Frazier referenced it during his press conference, but 22 of the 53 players currently on the Vikings roster are listed as being in their 1st or 2nd season. It’s impressive that this team played so well so late in the season and qualified for the postseason with so many young players and so many young players at important positions.
Frazier credited his coaching staff for the work they did in developing young players and he also expressed gratitude to his veteran players for their leadership roles as well.
Frazier also said he didn’t anticipate changes to his coaching staff, barring any promotions some of them may receive.
Dome-field advantage is back
Frazier has said many times in the past that he understands how difficult an environment Mall of America Field can be for opposing teams. He mentioned it once again during Tuesday’s press conference, expressing appreciation for the support of Vikings fans and for the noise the crowd creates in the Vikings home stadium.
“I think for any team that comes to Mall of America Field, our goal going into the season, we wanted to make it extremely difficult for anybody to think that they could come here and win. Our guys, they got that done. To go 7-1 at home, with the support we got from our fans, that was a big deal for our success during the season.”
Frazier listed DE Jared Allen (shoulder) and P Chris Kluwe (left knee) as players who will likely undergo surgeries for ailments. He also listed LB Tyrone McKenzie (shoulder), RB Adrian Peterson (core muscle), QB Christian Ponder (triceps) and CB Antoine Winfield (hand) as players also dealing with injuries, but he didn’t indicate surgery would be needed for any of those players. Overall, none of the injuries should impact any of those players’ ability to participate minicamps, training camp or the 2013 regular season, according to Frazier.
Ponder is the Vikings starter going forward
Frazier was asked a series of questions about the team’s quarterback situation. He was unequivocal in saying that Ponder would be the team’s starter going into the offseason. He was vaguer about the depth chart after Ponder, saying Joe Webb would compete for the backup job behind Ponder and also mentioning McLeod Bethel-Thompson as someone who was involved in the team’s plans. Beyond that, Frazier wisely pointed out that it’s hard to prognosticate what will happen at that position – or any position – at this point in the offseason.
Futures for Kevin Williams, Antoine Winfield
Kevin Williams and Antoine Winfield have been productive players for the Vikings for many seasons, and both were vital components to the defensive effort in 2012. But both guys are also quite long in the tooth, with Williams having completed his 10th season and Winfield having completed his 14th. As it stands right now, though, it sounds like Frazier would love to have both guys return for the 2013 season.
“The intangible in this is a big deal when you’re trying to get the locker room the way you want it,” Frazier explained. “And both Antoine and Kevin are guys who have achieved a lot in our League, a lot of success. So to have star players with the demeanor and leadership qualities that they both possess, helped our football team in 2012, there’s no question about it.
“Would love to have those guys on our team going forward. That’s something we’re going to talk about when we have our personnel meetings with (General Manager) Rick (Spielman) and our personnel department. Just talk about their fit going forward. But from my vantage point, very appreciative of the leadership they provided this season, what they’ve meant in my time here in Minnesota, and I want them to remain Minnesota Vikings. They are great, great players and great people as well.”
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Chris Kluwe, Christian Ponder, Jared Allen, Joe Webb, Kevin Williams, Leslie Frazier, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Rick Spielman, Tyrone McKenzie
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 182 Comments »
A huge takeaway from the Vikings 2012 season will be that the team made a 7-win improvement from the 2011 season. That 7-win improvement represents the largest single-season turnaround in franchise history.
That’s good news. But don’t for a minute think players in the locker room will identify satisfaction in that improvement as the dominant emotion as they depart for the offseason. This is a Vikings locker room that is encouraged by its improvement, but is now hungry for more.
“It was a big improvement from last year, but we’re not satisfied with just making the playoffs,” DT Kevin Williams said. “We wanted to stay in a little longer and try to make it to New Orleans (site of this year’s Super Bowl). It’s a step. We’ve got to keep improving.”
One of Williams’ teammates along the defensive line, a pretty important teammate at that, echoed that sentiment.
“We’re not in the business of just making the playoffs,” DE Jared Allen said. “It’s a feel-good story, it’s a great turnaround from 3-13 to 10-6 and being in the playoffs. But that’s not what we’re here for.
“Typical offseason now…you’ve got to let your body rest up and use this as motivation to get back, and next year win it.”
Although Vikings players departed Winter Park for the 2013 offseason following a disappointing playoff loss to Green Bay and having not accomplished their ultimate goal of winning the Super Bowl, you could sense an aura of momentum and positivity. The key now is for those positive sentiments to yield ambition and hunger rather than satisfaction and complacency.
Judging by the above-comments from some of the team’s leaders, that won’t be a problem.
Tags: Jared Allen, Kevin Williams
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 55 Comments »
Move-out day in the Vikings locker room at Winter Park is a bitter-sweet experience. It typically follows a disappointing conclusion to the season because only one team each year in the NFL finishes the season having accomplished their ultimate goal. Unfortunately, this year the Vikings will not be that team.
But move-out day also represents a time for players to get away, spend time with family and loved ones, and recharge their batteries for the offseason program and for the upcoming season.
On their way out the door, several Vikings players took a few moments to chat with reporters about what transpired this season and what the future might hold for this team in 2013 and beyond. Here are a few highlights from a few of the guys…
On what Adrian Peterson meant to the Vikings: “What Adrian did this year, I mean it’s inspiring. Not even just on a football level, just on a level of commitment. I think he’s a true example of never letting someone put limitations on you. So many people said he couldn’t do it, and he proved them wrong. It’s just like that in life. You can’t let people put limitations on what you want to do and what you want to achieve. And for him to be a walking testament to that is awesome. For that, it was an inspiring season from him.”
A Rookie Kicker?: “Blair had an unbelievable season. I’ll be the first one to say, you get a rookie kicker and you’re like ‘Ah crap, here we go. We let one of the best in the League go in Longwell, and how’s this guy gonna fit? Is he going to choke the very first opportunity he has to make a pressure kick?’ You know what, he was incredible.”
No wow factor: “No, I didn’t at all. I didn’t wow myself. This is what I expected. I know that sounds nonchalant, like ‘Oh, I’m sure you did.’ But I did. That’s why I’m able to take things as it is. But I feel like there’s room for me to get better, and I look forward to doing that.”
Standout moment of 2012: “Just getting back to practicing with the guys. That was the best feeling. To be kind of bummed out once I actually got back to training camp and found out they put me on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list, I was kind of bummed out. But once I got back on the field with the guys and was able to participate, that felt good. There was nothing like it. And just coming back in September for that first game in the dome against the Jaguars, that was a defining moment for me. That felt good.”
Who should be named NFL Coach of the Year?: “Leslie Frazier, without a doubt. He’s a great guy, he’s helped me on and off the field. He’s demeanor, spiritual faith, just the man that he is. He radiates positive energy…you can’t help but feed off of him. He has really been a big part of my development, not only as a football player but as a human being. He’s very inspirational.”
What did you learn in 2012?: “That I can do the things to help this team be in a position to be successful. And not just me, but this whole team can handle the pressure of what it takes to get to a playoff berth. We knew that if we lost (vs. Green Bay in Week 17) we wouldn’t make it. So just to handle that pressure as a whole team, especially with how young we are, I think that showed a lot. I need to play at that level consistently for sixteen games. I’ll learn from that, and use what I did in those games to work on next year.”
Anticipating improvement: “We were able to get into the playoffs, but next year I expect to, I made a pretty good leap from first year to second year, I expect an even greater leap from the second year to the third year.”
Success begins at the top: “Our GM (Rick Spielman) has done a great job. Rick’s done a great job with his vision. Building a young roster, guys who are hungry and want to work hard. And having good veteran leadership. I think we’re definitely a team on the upswing. Obviously we’re still disappointed, the loss (to Green Bay) is pretty fresh. We didn’t accomplish our ultimate goals, but we made huge strides, and as long as we go about our business the right way this offseason, rest up right now while it’s time to do that, get healthy and come back ready to work once the offseason program starts, we’re definitely a team on the upswing.”
What did you like about being in the NFL?: “I just like the chemistry of the team. Every guy on the team is a guy that you want to play with, and guys that you have fun playing with and can count on. It seems like with the guys we have here, the leadership we have with the coaches, the front office, things are going in the right direction.”
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Christian Ponder, Harrison Smith, Jared Allen, John Sullivan
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 55 Comments »