At 4-10-1 and coming off a lackluster 42-14 loss at Cincinnati, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier decided Tuesday was the time to address his job status with his players.
“It’s like the elephant in the room,” Frazier said when asked why he chose to bring it up in a team meeting. “I just felt like I needed to get that addressed. Looking back at it, I probably should have dealt with it a week ago. I don’t want those guys to be distracted. I want them to focus on the opponent. I felt like we got a little distracted last week. I want to make sure that we’re all focused on one thing and that’s winning this game against Detroit.”
Frazier is 20-33-1 heading into Sunday’s game at Mall of America Field. His contract runs through the 2014 season, but NFL coaches typically don’t coach in what would be a lame-duck season. And Frazier obviously isn’t in position to receive a contract extension.
Quarterback Matt Cassel said he didn’t think the team was distracted by Frazier’s contract status.
“I didn’t sense that at all,” he said. “I think the last game came down to pure execution. We didn’t execute, and it showed on third down and throughout the course of the game. We had [four] turnovers. Obviously, myself, I have to do a better job of taking care of the football. We just have to play better football.”
Linebackers Erin Henderson and Chad Greenway also downplayed the effect Frazier’s job status has on the team’s play.
“That was just something he wanted to do, that he felt was necessary,” Henderson said. “We just go out and play football and control what we can control. [Frazier’s job status] is something that’s very far from our hands. We’re just focusing on Detroit.”
Said Greenway: “Maybe it is from the perspective of answering questions and stuff like that for him,” Greenway said. “But for us, we have jobs to fight for, too, so we’re trying to do our job as well we can.”
Frazier said it’s looking doubtful that running back Toby Gerhart (hamstring) will play Sunday in what could be his final game with the Vikings. Neither Gerhart nor Adrian Peterson (foot/groin) practiced Tuesday.
Rookie cornerback Xavier Rhodes (ankle) did some work in practice this week and should be ready to return after missing two games because of a sprained ankle.
Also not practicing were safety Harrison Smith, cornerback Shaun Prater, linebacker Larry Dean, linebacker Audie Cole and nose tackles Fred Evans and Letroy Guion.
Cassel has an option in his two-year contract to void the second year and become a free agent after this season. He said he isn’t sure how long he’ll take to make a decision.
“I’m not thinking about that right now,” Cassel said. “I just think with everything else going on that it would be unfair to the guys in the locker room and the fans, especially with one game left. We’re putting all of our energy into that one game.”
Cassel will make his sixth start of the season Sunday.
“I think every time you step on the field, you’re auditioning,” Cassel said. “Obviously, the game film is seen by every organization in the league. But for me, it’s not really looked at as an audition. You just want to go out and play well.”