Complete Frazier interview, Part 3: Adrian, Percy, the daunting schedule

  • Updated: November 18, 2012 - 10:01 AM
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Vikings coach Leslie Frazier talked with Adrian Peterson during the second quarter against Detroit.

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

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We’re all running out of ways to characterize what Adrian is doing. You used the words “mind boggling.” It’s amazing to see where he’s at through 10 games after ACL surgery. You mentioned this past week being struck by his humility more than anything else. What stands out to you about that?
 
Frazier: His maturity over the years has just been amazing to me. Just seeing how he’s responded this season to his success, this is not about him. He’s not around pumping his chest and saying, ‘Look what I did.’ He’s all about winning. We’re playing Seattle. And that last series where Seattle had the ball and were trying to run the clock out. They had a fourth-and-1 and they did a quarterback sneak and they were up 10 and there’s only 2 or 3 minutes left. It was going to be tough. Even if we get the ball back, it’s still going to be tough. But who’s in my ear on fourth-and-1 on a quarterback sneak with a little more than 2 minutes left? It’s Adrian. ‘Challenge it! Challenge it! What do you think? Can’t we challenge that?’ I said, ‘Adrian, the guys upstairs don’t think we can challenge it.’ And he’s adamant, ‘Coach we’ve got to get that ball back! You have to! Challenge it!’ I asked again upstairs, did they think the quarterback got it? They said, ‘Coach, it’s a first down. Where they spotted it, it’s absolutely a first down.’ Adrian just sighs. Oh, man. But that kind of competitiveness? From your superstar? All he wants to do is win. He isn’t worried about any records. Nothing else but winning. There aren’t a lot of guys who are like that who are as talented as he is. And I’ve been around a lot of talented guys. For most of them, it’s a whole lot more about their stats. Even when you lose the game, they’re griping. ‘I didn’t get enough throws. I didn’t get enough carries.’ Whatever it is. Not Adrian. If we don’t win, the first person he looks at his himself. I’ve never heard him say, ‘This guy should have done that. That guy should have done this.’ He’s saying, ‘Man, what could I have done better to help us win?’ That is rare. For a guy as talented as he is and as good as he is. Most people are going to tell him, Adrian, there’s not much more you could have done. But that’s not how he looks at it. He’ll tell me, ‘If I just would have made this cut here or that cut there, maybe that would have changed the outcome of the game.’ You get 53 guys thinking like that? You’ve got a special team. So to me, his humility and that team-first attitude, your best player thinking like that, it just permeates the rest of your team and you always have a chance to win because of that.
 
What struck me throughout the rehab process as he stated his goals, you could always ask him, ‘Now what if you’re not back for Sept. 9 and the opener.’ And he looked at you like you had five heads, because he was going to be back Sept. 9. And he wasn’t going to let even a half-ounce of negativity or doubt get into his mind. And he really looked at everybody like they were crazy who dared to ask, ‘What if you’re not back?’
 
Frazier: Hey, imagine being in my shoes. We report to training camp and I sit him down to say we’re not going to let you start with the rest of the team. We’re going to put you on PUP {Physically Unable to Perform list]. Ohhh. He was livid. ‘You’re holding me back! Why are you doing this to me?’ I’m like, ‘Oh, man.’ But in his mind it was ‘I’m ready right now. I’m ready to go.’ This is six, seven months after surgery, whatever it was. But that’s his attitude. It’s different than most. And the fact that he’s been able to achieve what he’s achieved is a testament to his belief system and his hard work. His whole life he’s had the success he’s had because of that mindset. And credit Eric Sugarman and the medical staff and all the guys who helped him with his rehab. But his mindset and his work ethic are just off the charts. Incredible.
 
 
What’s impressed you the most this season with the evolution of Percy as a player?
 
Frazier: I think his maturity as a player stands out. He’s always been talented. We always noticed that from the time he was in college and of course in the NFL. But he’s maturing as a player and growing to the point where he understands the whole concept of winning and the sacrifice you have to make as a teammate. That’s a hard thing to do sometimes. We talk about Adrian’s maturity as a player. And I see the same things happening with Percy where he’s stepping back and seeing a bigger picture where it’s not just about me anymore, it’s about winning in this league. Because when you win, all those accolades and dreams and goals you have will come. But when you’re on a losing team even with big numbers, it’s never any fun. So he’s gotten to that point now where being a good teammate and winning has become more important than the personal goals. You want that out of your best players.
 
Obviously that episode in Seattle where he was animated on the sideline and barking in your ear was well-publicized. And you guys have characterized that as his drive to win. But I’m sure behind the scenes, you discussed with him the manner in which that was handled, right? As we all know, when there are cameras around, even if it’s only a 10-second incident, that creates a reputation that he now has to carry with him.
 
Frazier: No question. He and I did talk about it. Percy’s a competitive guy like so many of our guys. And he’s not the only guy who wants to vent and speak out about a situation. But other guys find the right forum. So that’s what we talked about. There’s a forum to discuss whatever we need to discuss. And he understands that. Which is another sign of his growing up. He said, ‘Ya know what. You’re right. I need to handle that differently going forward.’ It’s all about growing up.
 
How, as a coach, when you’ve got a guy under the bright lights yelling in your ear, do you maintain such an even keel?
 
Frazier: When you’ve been through this as a player and a coach, I’ve been blessed to be around some very competitive people. And you know it’s well intentioned. I know it’s not going to look good publicly. I know people will look at it and judge it. But what’s most important is I know the person, I know his heart, I know what he stands for. That’s all that really matters to me. And whatever way people judge it, we have to deal with it. But you have to be bigger than the situation.
 
The win over Detroit, heading into the bye, gives you as a team two weeks of peace of mind. And there were guys in the locker room who said there’s no way to underestimate the value of going into the bye with a win instead of a three-game losing streak that causes everybody to worry about the spiral. What is the value of not having to fret over a skid during the bye?
 
Frazier: Anytime you go into the bye with a win, it’s so big for your football team no matter where you are in the season. For us to go into the bye with a win lifts the spirits when you do come back. We’re going to be a little bit more energized and focused on the game ahead as opposed to looking back at the game or games you just lost. It just cleans things up where you can divest yourself of the past and look forward. And that’s what we really need to do. Because Chicago, the team we’re going to be playing, we better make sure we’re totally devoted attention-wise to the Bears. So the best thing is you clean the slate and can move forward and concentrate on that next game whole-heartedly. And for us, beating Detroit put is in a position where, who knows, we could be playing for first place. Who knows?  So that win before the bye set us up to keep our goals in place.
 
 
This is a daunting six-game finish. Bears and Packers twice each, at Houston. Some people look at that as intimidating and potentially humbling. What is your message Monday when guys come back and enter the stretch run?
 
Frazier: Just to remind them of what they’ve been doing all along this season. Just concentrate on the next game and that’s it. Not looking ahead and not looking beyond this game. Put all your energy and focus on preparing properly to go get a win on the road. That’s what I’ll talk all about throughout the week, the importance to prepare the right way and to have blinders with our preparation on so as not to get caught up in looking beyond this one game. If we can concentrate on that and on ourselves, we’ll have a better chance to win a game on the road in a tough, tough environment.
 
You talk a lot about seeing the big picture of a season but then also being able to have that micro-focus on that next three-hour game. Those are two very different concepts at times. How do you retain that balance where the big picture and the small picture can fight each other?
 
Frazier: That’s where I come into play as the head coach. To bring everything back into focus. Even though I’ll talk to the guys on Monday about where we are at this juncture of the season, in the third quarter of our season, I’ll have to bring it back to the focus on the Chicago Bears. And get our guys to concentrate on that and that alone. That’s a part of sitting in this seat where you have to be able to bring that big picture focus back to that moment. That’s exactly what we had to do going into our game against Detroit. Same thing here.
 
You’ve talked for two years about the type of team you want to build, character-wise, attitude-wise, mentality-wise. Are you getting what you want?
 
Frazier: Yeah. As they went away for the bye, I said it again. We want our team characteristics to be where people look at us and say, ‘Man, that’s a tough football team. That’s a smart football team. That’s a disciplined football team.’ I really felt like last Sunday they embodied those characteristics. We were tough-minded through some tough times. We played smart and did some smart things in that ball game as a team. And I thought we were disciplined when there were moments we could have lost our disciplined as far as doing our assignments. We want other teams to see that on tape, to have those characteristics embodied. And we’re seeing it more and more. And we have to keep working towards that. Because I think those are key ingredients to success in our league. You can’t do things to shoot yourself in the foot with turnovers and so on. That’s not smart football. And when we have not been a smart team or a disciplined team or a tough team, we haven’t won games. But when we embody those characteristics, we’re successful.

 

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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2013 preseason     
Aug 9 - vs. Houston 7 pmX27-13
Aug 16 - at Buffalo 6 pmX20-16
Aug 25 - at San Francisco 7 pmX34-14
Aug 29 - vs. Tennessee 7 pmX24-23
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Sep 8 - at Detroit NoonX34-24
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Sep 29 - vs. Pittsburgh (in London) NoonX34-27
Oct 6 - Bye
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