Week 14: Minnesota Vikings Conference Calls

Head Coach Leslie Frazier

On the team's pass defense and facing QB Joe Flacco: "Our pass defense has kind of been up and down. We've had some injuries in our secondary that have affected us this season, and we're playing some new guys as well. Trying to stop Joe Flacco and their receiving corps, that's going to be quite a challenge. Torrey Smith and Dallas [Clark], and if they get [Dennis] Pitta back, they've got a good group. If Brandon Stokley is able to play, it's a good group of receivers. And Joe is an outstanding young quarterback, so it will be quite a challenge to try to stop them."

On TE Dennis Pitta: "He's one of those move tight ends who can be a matchup nightmare for a defense trying to cover him with a linebacker or even some safeties. He presents some matchup problems for you sometimes. He's a very good route runner, and he's got good hands as well. It seems like Joe [Flacco] really likes to get the football to him, so he presents some problems."

On the different approaches teams have taken to stop RB Adrian Peterson: "It's hard to be that creative on defense when you are putting everybody at the line of scrimmage. That's what we get most of the time. We get a lot of people at the line of scrimmage, and it doesn't vary a whole lot from week to week. I don't know about a lot of creativity. It's eight- [and] nine-man fronts week-in and week-out."

On the quarterback situation: "With the concussion to Christian [Ponder], we're waiting today to see if he gets clearance, and then we'll make a decision."

On the improved accuracy of kickers, like from K Blair Walsh and K Justin Tucker: "I'm not certain, other than what has happened at the collegiate level to prepare the guys to be so efficient. Looking at those numbers, the placekickers in our league are getting so much better, even from distance. There are a lot more that are able to consistently hit the ball from 45 to 50 [yards] than there were a few years ago, and even from that 50 to 55 [range]. So, maybe what they are doing in college [is helpful]. And also, [there are] more teams that have designated special teams coaches with an assistant to work with kickers, whether it be punters or the placekicker. Having an assistant to work primarily with the kickers, that may have helped as well."

On similarities between K Blair Walsh and K Justin Tucker: "Justin [Tucker] is having an outstanding year, and it seems like he's getting better. His consistency is so good. I'm sure that makes coach [John] Harbaugh and their team happy. Probably the similarities are the consistency. You pretty much know what you're going to get each time you put them out there. They're so consistently good at what they do."

On if he views the two young kickers as part of the next wave of elite kickers: "The way they are performing right now, you'd have to say they would be right up there as far as young kickers. To be this young and to have accomplished what they have accomplished is pretty impressive. You would expect that they are just going to get better and better. So, any of the guys that follow them will kind of be following a couple guys who are on an upward trend."

On what he attributes to the team's struggles in time of possession and on third downs: "Probably the influx at quarterback more than anything. Just not being consistent at that position has a lot to do with the third-down inefficiency and the time of possession. If you're not converting third downs at a good rate, you are not going to be on the field very often."

On who would start at quarterback if QB Christian Ponder could not play: "If Christian [Ponder] is not able to go, it probably would be Matt [Cassel]."

On what QB Matt Cassel's positive traits are: "His veteran experience shows up. It showed up in the second half of the Chicago game, when Christian [Ponder] went down. To come in and really not get overwhelmed with the situation, be a calming influence in the huddle, and to be able to make the tough throws that are required in the NFL's tight coverages, [it] is experience and the calming effect he provides as a backup."

On MLB Erin Henderson's status for the game:"He's coming along; he's dealing with a few things. We expect him to play this week. We'll determine his role as we talk today. He's a very good football player, he's had a good year for us, and we expect him to get back on the field."

On the notion that RB Adrian Peterson is their only key player:"He's a great player – there's no question about it. We've got some other good players, too. When you are sitting where we are record-wise, I'm sure that would be the perception. We've got some other good players, and we hope to have a good game Sunday against the Ravens."

DE Jared Allen

On QB Joe Flacco's improved pocket presence and mobility: "I think he's just continued to grow over the course of his career. He's always been – in my opinion – a top-level quarterback, with his pocket presence, his timing to get the ball out, and the ability to throw the deep ball. I wouldn't so much say he's a runner. I wouldn't put him up there with Aaron Rodgers, as far as he's going to get outside the pocket. I think his pocket presence is that of almost a [Drew] Brees or something like that where he moves himself within the pocket or will escape to get himself the ability to make a big play down the field. That's what makes him successful; you see him do it time and time again. As far as a huge difference from a few years ago, I can't remember that far back. He's obviously continued to grow to put himself in that elite quarterback category."* *

On the Ravens' combo of T Michael Oher and T Eugene Monroe:"I don't play against Oher, so I haven't watched tape on him. Played against him his rookie year – athletic kid. [Eugene] Monroe, I played him last year when he was with Jacksonville. He's got decent feet. From the film I've seen on him this year, he's playing alright. It's hard to watch Jacksonville's film and then get a read on it versus Baltimore film, just because the quarterback play is so much different. The total offensive play is so much different. From what I can remember playing him last year, he's an athletic guy, pretty decent feet, and has the ability to recover. It's going to be a tough test for us. Anytime you go to play the Super Bowl Champions on the road, it's not going to be an easy game – that's for sure."* *

On the mindset of the team being 3-8-1 but not yet eliminated from the playoffs: "I didn't even realize we weren't eliminated yet. (laughter) For me personally – I can't speak for everybody in the locker room – it's what we get paid to do. This is our job – we're professionals. My motivation is to try to be the best at what I do and to win football games. For me, it's always a week-to-week-type deal. At this time of year, when the season hasn't gone our way … If your motivation is only getting to the playoffs or to win your division, when that's gone, what do you have left to play for? Those types of guys are going to be shutting down. We don't have those types of guys here. For me, it's that constant grind to continue to put back-to-back weeks together. Get tape on, get tape on, get tape on, and that's what really motivates you and drives you. You never want to go out there and look like a bum."* *

On if RB Ray Rice has regressed or if he's had less room to run: "Just like in everything – I try to tell the young guys – you can't have the good without the bad. Sometimes we go through adverse situations so we can enjoy our triumphs that much more. He's definitely not a different running back. I was watching that Bears game, and he still has the ability to take it 50 yards like that. He's a powerful back. He's tough to tackle. He's got built-in leverage with his height. He's a strong, good runner. Sometimes you have those years that are great, and sometimes you have those years where you feel like you're struggling to get there. I always expect people to be at their best. If we prepare for anything less, we're going to kid ourselves and he'd have a field day. We've got to make sure we tackle, tackle, tackle. He's one of those running backs that you can't let them get going. We've got to get him in the backfield; we've got to get him before he gets started, because he's dangerous. I remember back to that game we played here a few years back, we had him bottled up and then – bang – he went for 50 yards. Then I think he had a screen pass for 50 yards. That guy can hurt you in so many different ways; he's one of those guys you have to contend for."

On how underrated and athletic Vikings DE Brian Robison is:"He's very athletic. Brian has great potential, and I don't think he's had that big splash year to put him on everybody's radar yet, but he's definitely capable. Me and him were laughing about it just yesterday – after the game I should say – but just after the game it was like, 'Man, if we wouldn't have missed,' – I think both of us have about six [quarterbacks] in our arms this year that we've missed, sacks-wise – 'we'd be up there near tops in the league.' And I just explained to him kind of the same thing. I was like, 'Sometimes you have those [tough] years, and sometimes you have those years where it seems like you have that extra half-step to the quarterback and he always has the ball when you hit him on the ground.' Then there are years like this year, where it seems like you're about to take him to the ground … And 'B-Rob' has had about three of those where the guy is throwing the ball out of his hand. So, he definitely … I told him just keep working, because it's one thing if you're not getting to the quarterback. His hits on quarterback are up, so he's definitely getting there. He's just one splash year away, he's one 10-sack year away from getting on people's radars. But he's tremendously athletic; he could play in a 3-4 or a 4-3. Smart kid, talented, and relatively young in his starting career, seeing how I think for the first years he was here, he was backing up. So, yeah, huge upside, good talent."

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