Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Frazier defends his importance in shaping the Vikings' future

Posted by: Mark Craig under Vikings, NFC, Brad Childress, Adrian Peterson, Brad Childress, Chad Greenway, Jared Allen, John Sullivan, Kevin Williams, Percy Harvin, Ryan Longwell Updated: May 30, 2012 - 5:43 PM

A humble man by nature, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier spoke up for his importance in shaping the future of the franchise when asked whether he feels the youth movement being orchestrated by new General Manager Rick Spielman puts the head coach in danger of not being able to win enough games to keep his job beyond 2012.

"The thing you have to understand when we're building a team, it's `we.' It's not `Rick,'" Frazier said today following the team's second day of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) practices. "Rick could not build this team without the head coach being in concert with him in doing that. That wouldn't be good for he or I."

Frazier is entering the second of a three-year deal. It's also the final year that the team has to pay former coach Brad Childress.

Frazier has a 6-16 record, resides in the NFL's toughest division (NFC North) and is leading a team that's universally considered at least a year away from contending. He'll have a second-year quarterback, three new starters on the offensive line, possibly two rookie starters at safety, new faces at nose tackle and middle linebacker, and a rookie kicker who missed 14 of 35 kicks at Georgia last year. Oh yeah, his best player (Adrian Peterson) had his left knee rebuilt in late December.

Still, Frazier said he participated fully with Spielman in the decisions to let go of several veterans, including reliable kicker Ryan Longwell.

"There isn't a decision that's made that the two of us don't talk about and agree upon," Frazier said. "It would just not be good. So the decisions that have been made are decisions that were discussed and we were in agreement that this is the right thing to do. It's hard build a team if the general manager and the head coach aren't on the same page. And we are, thank goodness."

Harvin, Peterson put on hill-climbing exhibition: It's tough to say who worked harder at Winter Park today: The players in uniform or the two injured guys racing repeatedly to the top of the steep hill near the practice fields.

The two injured guys -- running back Adrian Peterson and receiver Percy Harvin -- didn't look quite so injured based on how well -- and how many times -- they ran up the hill. Peterson continues to be ahead of schedule following late December surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Harvin had minor shoulder surgery recently. He's got full strength back, but is being held out of the early OTAs as a precaution.

"The good thing is those guys are competing; they push one another," Frazier said. "That's good for us. Two great athletes like that pushing one another in their rehab, That's a good thing."

Peterson has been in town rehabbing his knee. Harvin arrived Monday night, earning a pile of credit from teammates and coaches impressed that he decided to show up for the voluntary workouts.

"I gave him a big hug," Frazier said. "He texted me Monday night, Memorial Day. I wasn't sure what his flight schedule was going to be. He said, `I'm in town, what doctors do I need to see tomorrow morning?' I texted him back and asked, `Is this the Percy Harvin? He's just great for our meetings, great for our coaches ... Just to have him on the side and in the meetings. He's a guy who is so well-respected by our team and is such a playmaker, and now he's become one of the leaders on our team. It is great that he would be here in a voluntary decision."

Harvin said he never had a doubt about showing up.

"If I remember correct, I told you guys [media] last year at the end of the season that I was going to make it a point to make sure most of the team was here," Harvin said. "I think we got 98 percent here."

Jared Allen, Greenway only veteran no-shows: Defensive end Jared Allen and linebacker Chad Greenway were the only veteran no-shows. As noted earlier, cornerback Asher Allen told Frazier last Thursday that he has decided to retire.

Frazier said Greenway had a "family matter" to tend to. He also said he "hopes" to see Allen show up for OTAs next week. OTAs are voluntary, so Frazier chose to focus on the fact that all but two veterans were attending.

"The fact that we have the guys we have here is something to get excited about, and that's what I'm excited about," Frazier said. "Participation is a big deal. A big deal when you're trying to install the things that we're installing and trying to build a championship team."

Center John Sullivan is here, but didn't practice. He left the facility limping with a sleeve covering his left leg. The injury isn't believed to be serious.

Erin Henderson ready for `prove-it' year: Linebacker Erin Henderson was asked if he was ready for a "prove-it" year after signing a one-year deal this offseason.

"Of course," he said. "You got to improve. The moment you get complacent, the moment somebody's going to run you out the door. You got to come to work everyday and grind. It's tough work, but you have to find a way to get it done."

Ponder looking for better percentage on first downs: It's rare when a player gives specifics when asked for specific things he's looking to improve on. Normally, they spout cliches or give some kind of general mumbo jumbo. Quarterback Christian Ponder gave us that rare answer today when asked for the thing he wants to improve on most.

"For me and the offense, No. 1 is doing a lot better job on first down," Ponder said. "We want to be completing 75 percent of our passes on first down. I think we were low 60s, around 63 percent, last year.

"That's going to help us be so much better on third down and eventually points scored per game. I think it's important for me. I have to do a better job moving around in the pocket and not taking off so early. Get a better feel for the pocket and make better decisions. ...Just smarter decisions. not trying to force the ball down the field. I think if we have `go' routes called and it's not open, to check it down. I think it comes down to patience and knowing your reads and finding the open guy. Football is not that hard of a game. You have to find the open guy and get the ball to him."

Brinkley still holding back following hip surgery: The good news is it's May 30 and players aren't supposed to be ready for opening day on May 30. But Frazier said he's still looking for middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley to prove he can come back from the major hip surgery that wiped out his entire 2011 season. Brinkley is working with the first unit and the starting job is his to lose.

"He's getting there mentally, but there are still some things that he's holding back on," Frazier said. "He's got to get to the point where he's got to let it go a little bit. It's still early. We've only had two practices and we'll see how he progresses. But we'll need him to let it go at some point."

QUICK HITS:

  • Ponder threw two interceptions today. One was a nice pick by cornerback Chris Cook, who stretched out to make the catch deep downfield. The other was a woefully poor pass that cornerback Bobby Felder, a rookie free agent from Nicholls State, grabbed. Ponder pointed out the Felder pick during the opening statement in his press conference. "You all probably saw the boneheaded mistake at the end," he said. "I tried to throw the ball away and didn't. But, overall, I think I progressed a lot the past two days. I think the whole offense has done a lot better. We're getting a lot of good work."
  • Cook has changed his number from 31 to 20.
  • With Sullivan out, Joe Berger worked with the first team at center. Brandon Fusco was at right guard.
  • Versatile second-year defensive lineman Christian Ballard worked with the first team at Kevin Williams' spot at defensive tackle. Williams is here, but, as you can imagine, a 31-year-old 10-year vet doesn't exactly need the reps in May.
  • There are eight more OTA practices.
  • Frazier said there is no plan to bring in another kicker to help rookie Blair Walsh handle the training camp workload.
  • Rookie receiver Greg Childs didn't practice because of an undisclosed injury.
  • Because of the NFL lockout, Frazier was denied a normal offseason before his first full season as a head coach. Asked how it felt to have one this year, Frazier said, "Words cannot express how good this feels. To go through an offseason. To plan things and see them come to fruition. Time will tell how beneficial it is to our team and our staff. But in my mind, it's tremendously beneficial. We hope to show the fans that when the fall rolls around."

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