(How did the PUP guys look today?)
I'll just go through them individually. I thought Al, I had a chance to watch him, he took some team reps and so forth. I really want to see the film, and the same with Atari. So we worked Al and Atari into the practice, but we're just going to talk about them each evening as a staff and see where they are and see how they feel tomorrow. Starks is in a different category, so we put him through a bunch of individual drills and just really kind of starting from the beginning with him. I thought they did OK today.
(Is that because of Starks' youth or the status of his injury?)
His last game was at the University at Buffalo. I think you have to be in tune with the fact that he did not go through any training camp. You just really have to start from Step 1. We don't want to go backwards and have a setback physically and we're also in an in-season schedule. As far as the practice time with the particular team, there really is only so much you can do.
(Is there any hurry to get Bigby and Harris back with the way Shields and Peprah are playing?)
We'll let the practice time and we'll let the week or weeks answer those questions. We're going to just take our time. It's good to look out there and see a number of bodies at a particular position. It's good to have those guys back in the mix, but we're going to take it day by day.
(Have Shields and Peprah played well enough where you are comfortable with those guys?)
I don't think of it that way. It's two players that have played at a high level here in the past. Until they get over a physical hurdle, then we'll start talking about evaluating them on where they fit into the mix. But it was great to have those guys out there today.
(But is at least a possibility that they will play this Sunday?)
You could ask me 20 different ways, OK? I'm going to give you the same answer
(I'm not asking if they are going to play…?)
Exactly, and I'm not going to answer you either. It's great to have them out there. They are refreshed and they are energized. We're going to work them through and we'll see where we are day by day and by the end of the week. Will it be this week, next week, time will answer that question.
(How is Matthews progressing?)
Clay had a good workout today. Tomorrow, how he feels in the morning will be the true test. But everything went very well in his work today. Hopefully he is past this and we can get him back out on the practice field.
(How much of a factor could he be in a game like this?)
Clay Matthews? Oh, I think he'll be a big factor if he is healthy and hopefully he is. We'll look for him to go out and play to the level that he has established in such a young career. He'll be a big part of the game plan if he is ready to go.
(How is Brandon Chillar coming along?)
Brandon practiced well today. I had a chance to watch him and we'll see how he is tomorrow. But I thought he looked a lot better today than he did last week.
(Did Neal have a setback?)
Mike is just not really progressing. He is out this week. He really has no chance really to get ready for this week. But he is not making the progress that he had hoped at this point.
(Have you or your staff had to change any coaching techniques because of the league's cracking down on helmet-to-helmet hits?)
I wouldn't say we changed any techniques. We work fundamentals every Wednesday and (Thursday) as far as tackling, and YAC and TAC, yards after the catch. We continue to teach the fundamentals, no different than the way the players were taught at a young age. It's what player safety has always been in mind, but we haven't changed anything from that standpoint.
(Does that concern you that you could lose a player just like that because of a hit?)
It's part of our game. You have different rules and emphases that increase year to year, and I think anytime you hold players' safety at the forefront, I think it's smart and it's in the best interest of the players. But we'll just continue to teach fundamentally-sound football. We talk about it every day, discipline, fundamentals and toughness, and that is not going to change our approach to the game.
(Can you talk about how Randy Moss changes the offense?)
I think Randy Moss, for his experience, his production and his talent level, particularly on the vertical ball, I think it speaks for itself. He has done it for such a long time in this league. I can remember back in I want to say it was '98, I was in Kansas City and we played those guys over in the Metrodome and Randy was a rookie. You could just see right away the impact that he could have on an offense and the challenges that he brings to a defense, particularly when he goes deep. I think he is probably one of the best ever tracking and getting underneath the deep ball, his hand-eye coordination and everything. He is definitely a big weapon and he has done it for a long time at a high level in this league.
(Rodgers was sacked 14 times last year in the two games. How much did that limit what you could do offensively?)
Anytime that you have negative plays go against you it holds you back. I think your question really answers itself. Sacks are big plays for a defense. Those two games were particularly the worst that we have ever experienced or probably I have ever experienced in my career. We're a little healthier this year with our offensive line. Our offensive line is playing at a higher level. Also, our quarterback has another year of experience, but we've got to take care of their front four. It's always interesting when you get ready for the Vikings, particularly their front seven, they have played together a long time. There is a lot of continuity there, there is a lot of consistency there. They've got some fine football players, so it will definitely be a challenge Sunday.
(Do you prefer to play a team that is blitzing you or would you prefer that they stay in coverage?)
That's the challenge. I don't think it's that clear. If they play coverage and just give you free access all day that is kind of nice, but there are different coverages that challenge you differently. It depends on what formation you are in and that is all part of the chess match. But we don't mind pressure, I'll say that. I think we actually have done well against pressure, particularly this year, and that is due to the experience of our offense. We're starting to get into a routine where guys have been playing a number of years together, and I think Aaron does a very good job at the line of scrimmage with the adjustments and so forth.
(Are you surprised record-wise where you are at the Vikings are at going into this game?)
I don't think anything ever surprises you in this league. It's amazing how outside the building it swings so much week to week, and I think that's just another reason why you need to focus on your own house and farm your own land and all those types of mindsets. It's important to stay true to your self-scout, be in touch with the positive things that you're doing, that you continue to work on those and build off those, and the things that have not gone as well as you would have liked, to continue to work at them. Football is always going to be football. It's going to come down to the three major fundamentals – blocking, tackling and how you handle the football, and we need to improve in all those areas, and that's really our focus.
(How would you describe your relationship with Brett now and have you had any contact with him over the last year?)
I haven't spoken to Brett in quite some time, but I had a very positive relationship in our time here. I have a lot of respect for what he's done and what he's doing. I wish him the best.
(I'm sure you saw the Sports Illustrated story and what Aaron said about how all the Favre stuff might have impacted you guys. Do you learn anything from last year or is it different dealing with him this year?)
I've talked to Aaron about that. That's something that was really brought up in our exit interviews after the season. I think if players feel that way, then it's true. And if I made them feel that way, I may not necessarily agree with that. I'll say one thing. I was extremely confident going into that game over there in Minnesota, and in hindsight I was probably too confident. I thought we had a great week of practice. I felt that we were really dialed in for that particular football game. I like where we were as a football team. We had a couple injuries that we were dealing with. Chad didn't play and we had the injury at safety and so forth. But I felt we were ready for that game, and expressed it, and make no bones about it. Even today when I talked to them in the team meeting, I tried to talk real slow and soft and say we're not going to flip out or anything. So hopefully we're on the same page this year.
(I don't know if there's ever been anything like that in this league, so there's no real roadmap for it. This time around, because of the issues you're dealing with, is the Favre thing just not … do you have bigger fish to fry right now?)
I think both teams would say they do. It's hard, every year. Every year you have different challenges. Some you don't see coming, and most of them that you can't control. I'm not going to speak for them, but we're really focused on our own state of the franchise right now, and we need to improve some things, and they're a good football team. They've got a lot of fine football players. They're the defending division champs, so there's a lot that they bring to the table. We're excited to be playing them here at home on Sunday Night Football. I hope there's never anything like this again, and I hope I'm not part of it. But it will be exciting.
(Are you doing anything different in practice this week as far as third downs, any more focus on it?)
No. Really our practice structure has really been affected by just our medical report. We've spent a lot of time on it as a staff the last two days. We've gone back and thoroughly gone through every snap of third down, and we shared that with the players today, and it's really the same answer I just gave a couple minutes ago. It really comes down to the fundamentals, and if it was one thing, we would have changed it. I don't think we need to change anything. We just have to make sure we've got the right play called and have a good scheme and give our players a chance to be successful, and we need to execute it. Not to blow it off, but we need to play better, particularly on third down.
(What do you see physically from Favre at this point in his career?)
I've had a chance to watch him a couple times this year. I haven't watched him this week, because of just focusing on their defense. I won't do that until the end of the week. But I had a chance to see him against Miami and Detroit. He's always going to make plays. He has such great command of the offense, and he knows where the ball is supposed to go and he can still get it to any quadrant of the field. He's still fully capable of playing at a high level. He's taken some hits a little more it looks like this year than last year, but he's still a top-notch quarterback.
(What did you think of Jones on the interception and his reaction to it, and are you going to give Jordy a few more opportunities the way things have gone with James lately?)
Well, we have enough three- and four-wide receiver sets that we'll continue to play all those guys. And Donald Driver missed practice today, and everybody knows Donald doesn't miss practice. So I'm a little concerned about Donald this week. But James, it's a ball you'd like to see him come back and compete on the ball. It was a poorly thrown ball. I think you have to recognize that. But you get caught in a go route, whether you're going to throw the back-shoulder or throw it over the top, it's just part of the fundamentals that you want to do a better job, and when we're not right, we have to make sure they don't come down with the ball.
(Are both of these teams sputtering on offense this year? Last year both of these games were high-scoring affairs. Could this be more of a defensive, special teams contest?)
I really don't have a crystal ball. I know we're practicing, we're working, we feel we have a great plan to score a lot of points. But also, I think I can give that answer every Wednesday going into a game. They're playing very well on defense. Defensively, for us, it will be good to get some of our players back to compete. But Adrian Peterson is a fine running back, and Percy Harvin I think has really come on strong here definitely in his second year, and there's a comfort level you can see between him and the quarterback. And they've added Randy Moss. They've got plenty of weapons on offense. I think they're playing very well on special teams too. I've been very impressed with the consistency of their special teams. Really playing with the same players they've been playing over there with that linebacker group the last two or three years. They're playing very consistent on special teams and defense.
(With Hawk and Collins, are you just being smart with them?)
Well, that's just where they are medically. They're not able to go at practice today, we'll evaluate them again tomorrow and we'll see if we can get them on the field.