“Miscommunication” is the word of the day at Winter Park today.
Xavier Rhodes said it eight times when given an opportunity to clarify the comments he made after Saturday’s loss to the Packers, when he said he and his fellow defensive backs decided to disregard Mike Zimmer’s game plan that called for Rhodes to shadow top Packers wideout Jordy Nelson.
Terence Newman, unable to match that pace, only said it six times.
After getting a couple of days to huddle up after Rhodes’ postgame comments made national headlines, the Vikings have decided to explain away what happened as an on-field mix-up that quickly got corrected.
“It was just a little miscommunication for a series. We handled it after the first series. That was about it,” Rhodes said today at his locker stall.
Rhodes said a version of the story a few more times before grumbling about how reporters got the story at least partially wrong after the game, when we all quoted Rhodes himself when he said, “We felt as a team, as players, we came together and we felt like we’d never done that when we played against the Packers. Us as DBs felt like we could handle him.”
Zimmer was asked at his press conference today why Rhodes said that.
“When I talked to him, I don’t think he really felt like that’s what he meant to say,” Zimmer said. “Xavier’s a great kid. Sometimes he gets nervous about things and says it, but I don’t think that’s the case.”
While Zimmer said that he spoke yesterday with Rhodes and Newman about what happened Saturday, Newman said today when asked that they did not meet with Zimmer at any point after the game.
Asked if Rhodes might have simply said the wrong thing while trying to avoid placing blame on one of his teammates, Zimmer said “possibly.”
It was also Rhodes who said after Nelson’s monster first half Saturday that an adjustment was made by the coaches at halftime.
“It was one series. I talked to him on the sideline and that was that,” Zimmer said when asked about that. “So I don’t know why he said that.”
The game tape appears to back that up, though there was one play in the second quarter where Newman was covering Nelson on the outside.
“Everything was a miscommunication. We fixed it after the first series,” said Rhodes, who said it “obviously was the game plan” to have Rhodes trail Nelson as long as the Packers wideout didn’t line up in the slot.
Newman was a little more specific about the “miscommunication,” saying it was between the cornerbacks and the coaching staff. He said there was “a little gray area” in the game plan on how Nelson should be handled and that it was straightened out by the coaching staff after one series.
“We changed a couple calls later in the week,” Zimmer said. “I probably wasn’t specific enough in the things I was asking them to do.”
NFL Network reported this morning that Newman encouraged Rhodes to play on their respective sides instead of following the game plan. But Zimmer said that to his knowledge there was no conscious decision made by any player to intentionally go against their game plan.
“Xavier, Terence, these guys are as good of people as there is in the world,” Zimmer said. “They’re going to do their best every single time.”
Zimmer said after the loss that at one point during the first half Newman “came over and said something to me like, ‘I can cover this guy, let me have him.’” Asked about that, Newman said he used the word “we.”
“I said, ‘We can cover this guy.’ I didn’t say, ‘Hey, let me cover him the whole game.’ I didn’t say anything like that,” Newman said. “I just said, ‘We can cover them,’ especially after the first series when they punted.”
So if this was no big deal, why did Zimmer after Saturday’s loss make a point to mention that “somebody decided they wouldn’t do that” when asked why Rhodes wasn’t covering Nelson at times early on?
“Typically when we lose and we don’t play good on the back end I get upset. So there’s a lot of different things I was upset about,” he said. “I probably shouldn’t be as honest after games as I typically am. And I learned my lesson.”
Perhaps this really was just a misunderstanding, one that became a big story when Rhodes tried not to throw a teammate under the bus and instead accidently set that bus ablaze by implying that there was a minor mutiny. Or maybe the Vikings are just doing damage control now.
One way or another, there is definitely “miscommunication” for sure.