(How is Driver doing?)
Donald Driver practiced in a limited fashion today. He took plays in the jog-through and then he went into the Hutson Center and worked with the rehab group. I'll have more information on Donald in the morning.
(Was he not as far along once you got to see him?)
The response has been very positive as far as Donald Driver coming off of the bye week. He feels much better than he did going into the New York Jets game, so that is encouraging.
(The Vikings have had a lot of issues this year. Do you kind of knock on wood since you have been able to avoid the distractions?)
Every season is a challenge. Every season has different types of challenges, and the most important thing is just to stay focused on your own football team. You can learn from other situations that go on around the league. It's all part of continuing education. Those are some things we have done in the past, particularly with a young team, but we mostly just focus on our own house.
(But is that a testament to your players?)
If you want to compliment us, thank you. Thank you.
(When you are facing a team that has had some distractions, how important is it to get off to a quick start and take control of the game and maybe break their spirit a little bit?)
I think it is an excellent point, but in reality you always want to get off to a quick start, and that's important. Our focus is really what they have shown on film. They are a very talented team. There is so much common film. You just watch in the last four years of them playing in the dome last night, myself I am talking about. It's a different game over there, so we're really focused on that. The noise is different, so the offense, we have to make sure that we have a lot of extra work with crowd noise this week. They play a little differently as far as how they come at you in the dome. That's really what we are focused on. As far as their press clippings and things like that, it's really a waste of time, it's a waste of energy, it's a waste of focus. We know we are going into a tough, hard-nosed football game. That's always the case when these two teams get together. That's what we'll focus on.
(Did this team find its identity in the last few games?)
I think it's clearly evident, just from a statistical standpoint, that our identity is where it needs to be and is definitely headed in the right direction. You just take the turnover ratio. It is something that we invest a lot of time into. We invest a lot of time into our practice structure, in our meetings, and we feel we have the athletes that are trained, particularly in their ball skills, and it's something that we try to heighten time and time again. Just our turnover ratio now being plus-6, our football team needs to be double-digits plus, 10 and above. That is a goal that I personally have set and we have been able to do that the last two years. When it is all said and done, I think that is where we need to be and we're headed in that direction.
(The offense was very good on third down against Dallas. After having some time to look at, what did you see on film?)
We didn't really do anything magical schematically. We just executed better. Our pass protection was good against a very good front. I think we were 7-8 in the first half, and I thought Aaron did a very good job of going through his progressions. He extended some plays. Just a much better job executing and it's a credit to our players.
(The TV guys made it sound like you have been cutting down the volume of plays?)
I have been cutting throughout the year. I think that we probably got a little too heavy in the beginning of the year, and just the fact that we were coming out of training camp. The norm is to go real low in the beginning of the year, but with the number of weapons that we had to start the season, we probably went a little higher in certain situations. It's not really a big deal. We're talking about a handful of plays. It really comes down to concentrating on the concepts that we can hang our hat on. Frankly we went into the Dallas game, we just acknowledged that these are the three or four things we feel we do very well and that's the way we played the game. It's going to take a little different approach playing against a common opponent. Playing Minnesota twice a year, it's a division game, there is a lot of offseason work that goes into each team studying each other. So there is a little bit more of a chess match the second time around you play your division opponents.
(Back in 2009, were you in the draft room when the Matthews trade was consummated?)
Yes, I assume I was.
(Do you remember that scene at all?)
It was something that didn't just happen in the draft room. There was a lot of conversation that went on prior to the draft. Clay Matthews was someone that we were very high on, and Ted and I actually talked about that scenario a couple of days before that.
(So you weren't surprised?)
Oh, no, no. We wanted to get Clay Matthews. That was something that…there are always players in the draft that you target and you hope they are there at a certain point in the round that you are picking, but you also have to calculate the risk of going up and getting certain players. That was something that was premeditated, discussed, and we were able to get that done. It has obviously been a huge benefit to our football team. Clay has made a big impact.
(The trend in the NFL has been to hire younger head coaches. I know you don't want to lose him, but do you think Dom Capers has done the kind of job that merits him getting another shot?)
Absolutely. If I was an owner in the National Football League, I would hire Dom Capers. Anybody that has ever worked with him, anybody that has ever competed against him, and then now having an opportunity to work with him and see the type of person he is on a personal level and his professionalism, his work ethic, definitely. I think Dom is an outstanding football coach.
(Can you talk about some of the challenges of stopping a guy like Peterson?)
He's such a powerful runner. He can turn a 2- and 3-yard run into the 8- and 9-yard run consistently. So you have to do an excellent job of low tackling him and make sure you wrap him up and rally to the football. And then on top of that, he has the breakaway speed and the tenacity in his running style to finish runs. Anytime you play against Adrian, your run defense has to bring its A game.
(You've had a lot of success in the second half of seasons. Is there a secret to it?)
No, I'd say there's no secret. Every season is so different. This is no different. We focus on winning games and improving. You probably get tired of hearing me say it, but I say it to the football team as many times during the week. Because I just believe as a team you must grow, and improvement has to start in Week 1 and continue. If you're going to talk about November and December being the most important time of year and you're going to be playing your best football in November and December, everything you do from a schedule standpoint, training standpoint, … coaching, a big part of it is emphasizing the things that you want your team to look like week in and week out. That's something that we've always stressed here.
(You know the noise factor is going to play a part in the Metrodome. When you practice, do you change things to try to figure it out, or is there really nothing you can do other than the noise you pipe in during practice? Has anybody told you secrets you've tried over the years?)
It's loud. I think you definitely adjust the way you may play. Some teams do, some teams don't. Really, it's like playing in front of a bad stereo system. You just take a couple extra Advil and go play. It's clearly probably the noisiest place outside the Superdome … I've been in New Orleans where there were a couple games I recall down there being extremely loud. But it's something that when it's your first time, you definitely take a step back. Bryan Bulaga is someone we've talked about this week, making sure he's ready to go. We'll blare the stereo real loud tomorrow and Friday in practice. I know Aaron is a lot more comfortable. The guys that have played in it now are a lot more comfortable with it and they know what to expect.
(I think you're 9-3 in domes. What do you attribute your offensive success in domes to?)
Well, 9-3 on the road, that in itself is impressive. You have to credit the players and the practice structure and the focus. Because it takes extra focus to play in the noisy environment. I think that's obvious to everybody. Our guys have been disciplined and focused when we're on the road in the domes, so it's really a credit to the players.
(How has Brandon Jackson progressed since Grant went down?)
Brandon, he's just done a very good job with his opportunities. I think everybody questioned the fact that he could be a three-down back, and that was really never the case because he just was never really given the opportunity to play as much on first and second down. I think anytime you have a particular running back that can play on third down, you know he's ready to play on first and second down, as far as handling the amount of carries in his specific case. He's just really gotten better with opportunities. Edgar does a good job of staying on the fundamentals, and it's really part of the plan of our whole coaching staff continuing to coach and stress the fundamentals throughout the year. Very coachable, hard working. He has an extra gear that I think sometimes surprises people. He's a very powerful man, just the way he's built with his leg drive and so forth. He's not an easy guy to tackle. He's doing a better job week in and week out, and it really comes with getting more opportunities.
(After A.J. Hawk didn't play in the opener, did you have to say anything to him to keep him going, and how has he played since then because he's had to take on so much more?)
Well, A.J. Hawk is a professional. He's a blue-collar, bring-your-lunchpail type of person every single day. You appreciate that with A.J. and you can just never say enough about players and individuals like A.J. Hawk, because that's what team football is all about. And how he's playing, I think he's done an outstanding job. He has total command of the defense. Things have been running very smoothly with him in front of the defense. He's played at a high level and been productive, both in the pressure schemes and in the run defense and in coverage. Very pleased, particularly over the last four or five weeks with the way A.J. has played.
(Is there any part of you that's surprised at the amount of production you've gotten out of Sam Shields?)
Well, I don't think anybody can stand here and say Sam Shields was going to be your starting corner in Week 10, especially the way he arrived here as a free agent. But you never questioned the ability. You could see that from Day 1. He's a young man that's been very thorough, very coachable, very detailed in everything he's doing. He has a tremendous upside, and we're excited about the progress he's made.
(How does that happen? You've got two guys, Tramon slips through the cracks and struggles to find an NFL home. You guys pick him up and now he's a Pro Bowl level guy. Shields doesn't get drafted and has played pretty well. Is that proof of how inexact a science this is?)
I think it is. Sometimes during the evaluation period, certain tangibles, factors get weighed more than they probably should or shouldn't. In both their cases, it definitely holds true. But you have to give credit to the players and to the coaches. I swear by our offseason program, the way we approach it. Tramon, he's definitely a testament of a young player coming in here, bringing his notebook and pen and maximizing every opportunity he was given, and now he's blossomed into an excellent player. And we look for Sam to follow the path that Tramon has blazed for him.
(Peterson had 131 yards against you the first time. You won the game, but does that number need to come down?)
Absolutely. When you have a chance to talk to Dom Capers, that's the first thing he'll talk about with the run defense. It's the first thing we talk about as a defense every week. The fact that they had the success running the football here in the first game, … we had the injury to Cullen Jenkins there before kickoff too. We're going to be healthier than we were in that game, but our run defense has to be much better this week.
(It would help to have Pickett. Are you mildly optimistic that you'll have him?)
I'm optimistic that Ryan will practice tomorrow, and from that we'll see where we are.
(As well as you know Brett, what do you expect out of him, given the Vikings' situation?)
I think anytime Brett Favre takes the field, he gives your football team a chance to win. I expect to see him play the way he's always played. He's a true competitor. What he's established in this league speaks for itself.