Vikings interim coach Leslie Frazier knows that teams are going to pick on his young cornerbacks. He doesn't want that to happen in his own locker room, too.
Frustrated by the play of Asher Allen and Chris Cook in a 31-3 loss to Green Bay, the Vikings' emotions bubbled over on the sideline and in the locker room Sunday. Defensive end Ray Edwards got into a heated exchange with Cook in the third quarter, and several players criticized the two young corners in postgame interviews.
That likely didn't sit well with Frazier, who indicated several times in his first week as the replacement for the fired Brad Childress that the defense will take steps to help Allen and Cook.
"They're going to be very good in this league, but like all corners that are young, particularly when you're a rookie, it's tough sometimes to stand up against certain guys," said Frazier, a former NFL cornerback. "I have to be more conscious of that. We've got to do some things a little bit different, and we will."
Frazier didn't mention specifics, of course, but the team can't afford a repeat of what happened Sunday, when Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers went at Allen and Cook repeatedly, often resulting in big plays.
In the second quarter alone, Cook gave up a 47-yard completion, a 39-yard completion and a 3-yard touchdown catch by James Jones before the rookie was replaced by veteran Frank Walker in the second half.
Allen, a third-round draft pick in 2009, got beat on two TD catches (46 and 22 yards) by Greg Jennings in the second half.
"It's growing pains," Walker said. "Everybody goes through them. It's their first year or first couple of years in the league, and it's a different speed than college. It's a major adjustment that you have to make, and the only way you're going to learn is by playing."
They got their opportunity after Cedric Griffin suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee against the New York Jets in Week 4. With veteran Antoine Winfield on the other side or in the slot in the nickel package, opponents often attack the Vikings' inexperienced corners.
"I definitely know as a rookie corner in the NFL that everybody is going to try and test you," Cook said. "It's, in my opinion, the hardest position on the defense because you're out there on an island by yourself every time. I looked forward to the test."
Cook blamed his struggles Sunday on "some little things" related to his technique and positioning. He arguably was the team's second-best corner in training camp, and his combination of size (6-2, 212 pounds) and aggressiveness created a buzz. But he already has had two minor knee surgeries and twice has been benched during games.
"As a corner, you've got to have a short memory," said the second-round pick from Virginia. "Guys are going to make plays. They pay those receivers to make plays. You can't stop every play as a corner. And you definitely can't lose your confidence because you will go in the tank. You can't be scared to give up plays. You've got to want to make plays."
Safety Husain Abdullah said he deserves some of the blame for what happened Sunday.
"One of [the passes] I was supposed to be over the top of Chris so it might look like it was just him, but that's solely on me," Abdullah said. "I had an interception that I should have had. It's the NFL. Nobody is going to be just dominant every play. We all get hit every now and then. We just have to pick each other up. We don't point fingers, we don't put each other down. If anything we pull each other closer."
That was a common refrain inside the locker room this week. The Vikings say they need to support their young cornerbacks, not rip them.
"We've just got to keep playing together," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "It doesn't matter what position it is or who it is or what happens during the game, we just have to keep rallying together. If they make mistakes, they're not the only ones that make mistakes. Everybody had a hand in it. It's never on one position, one side of the ball. That's going to be the difference moving forward. We're going to stick together as a group, and that's the focus."