Players and Coaches Quotes from Dec. 7
Thursday, December 8, 2005

Interim Head Coach Joe Vitt

(Opening statement)

“It was a good start today. We went in pads today for the first half of practice, and we’re going pads again tomorrow. We worked on first and second down packages today, and overall it was okay.”

(On why the team practiced in shoulder pads instead of practice shells)

“We need to get better. We need to get our pad level down, we need to run better, and the only way we’re going to do it is with pads on.”

(On the practice schedule changing for this week)

“All we did was, now we have the same number of plays we had in practice that we had a week ago. It gives us a little extra time after practice to look at film.”

(On whether pads were worn at practice to help work on tackling)

“Absolutely. It’s how you play the game, with pads.”

(On whether any drills were different today)

“Yeah. I think you saw individual period was nothing but tackling. That was the whole individual period, the whole individual period.”

(On FB Madison Hedgecock’s season)

“He’s getting better every single game. He kind of reminds me, at 270-275 lbs, of [Daryl] “Moose” Johnston. He really does. He does a great job of getting his pad level down. He’s a force when he hits you. Earlier in the year he wasn’t sure who to get. Now he really knows who to get and how to get them. He’s really a bright prospect; he really is.”

(On how S Adam Archuleta practiced after missing two games)

“I thought he had his best work today that he had in the last week and half. I thought he moved around well. He was more alert, more into it, so I think he’s going to be a go. We have to wait and see, [but] he took his full amount of reps today.”

(On whether CB Dwight Anderson has been resigned)

“We had to put CB Terry Fair on IR, and brought Dwight [Anderson] back.”

(On how Fair injured his neck)

“Well, they went and did an MRI yesterday, and he has some problems in there that he can’t play the rest of this year, so we brought Dwight [Anderson] back.”

(On G/T Blaine Saipaia’s absence at practice)

“Yeah, Blaine [Saipaia] has some personal issues today that he took care of. We’ll talk about him a little more tomorrow.”

(On what the doctors have told T Alex Barron)

“This is going to be an ongoing process. It was a little bit sorer than he thought it was going to be. He’s not going to be ready this week, obviously, and we will have to wait and see for Philadelphia.”

(On DT Brian Howard’s injury status)

“Concussion. [We will] hold him out for the next couple days, and he also got hit in the throat. So we’ll see how that goes.”

(On whether Vikings’ Coach Mike Tice presented the Ed Block award to him)

“Yeah. That was 1986. His Dad had died that year, so the team voted him in Seattle. He had the Block Courage Award, and that was the same year I was going through cancer, and he turned around a presented it to me. It was very touching, very nice.”

(On whether he was at the award banquet in Baltimore)

“Yes. Well, I’m from Baltimore, and Ed Block was real good friend of mine. My wife was kind of a keeper for him. And so they invited me back for the banquet, and yeah I received the award at the banquet.”

(On whether he keeps in touch with Coach Tice)

“Oh yeah. We were together for 10 years. Absolutely. Good man. He’s a friend.”

(On what Mike Tice is like as a coach)

“Number one he was really a smart player. He came into the league as a quarterback and then was converted to tight end. He built himself up to be a real good blocker. And then you know he’s 10 years under Chuck Knox, about four or five under Joe Gibbs, [and] then under Dennis Green, so he has a great background. He’s really a bright guy, which I don’t think too many people know. He’s meticulous in his work habits, has a great feel for the game. He has built a staff around him of guys that are real loyal to him. Chuck Knox, Jr. is on that staff. Rusty Tillman, who was his coach, is on that staff. When George O’Leary was on that staff, that was his high school coach. Those are the kind of guys on his staff. And it’s not surprising to me that they have won five games straight. Everyone left him for Lazarus. Man, he’s risen from the dead and done a great job with that team.”

(On how he thinks the Vikings have turned around their season)

“I think their defense is playing better. I think they have done a great job of tying their fronts and coverages in. I think they are creating turnovers on defense. They are not turning the ball over offensively, and they are running the ball better. It’s usually a universal formula.”

(On CB Travis Fisher’s injury status)

“Well, he’s going to get one more opinion, so we’ll wait and see.”

(On whether LB Dexter Coakley has had the surgery to repair his fractured fibula)

“He’s scheduled to have it this afternoon. I talked to him yesterday, and he was unsure whether he was going to get it done here or North Carolina. I talked to him again last night, [and] he was going to have it done here. I think had to check into the hospital this morning, [and] he was going to have it this afternoon.”

(On what the additions of LB Jeremy Loyd and Dwight Anderson can contribute)

“Jeremy Loyd was, as you know, with us the year before, tore up his shoulder, and really came close to making the team this year. It was nip and tuck all the way. What he does is he is an excellent special teams player. The year before I got here I looked at all the film on his special teams play. He can run, he can change direction; he is a good tackler, so he’s going to upgrade our special teams. He’s familiar with the system. Dwight Anderson, quite frankly, it was kind of a disciplinary thing in the training camp. If we would have had a chance to reclaim him off waivers a little earlier and evaluate him and put him into the system, he may have made our team. So I think both are just natural guys to be on our football team. They know the system, they know the locker room, [and] they know what’s required of them, so it’s really good to have both of them back.”

(On the passing of Coach Bud Carson)

“I didn’t find out about that until this afternoon. He’s a guy that every defensive coach in the National Football League has studied. Not too many coordinators have the chance to be around one great defense. He had the chance to be around two great defenses. The “Steel Curtain” arguably is the greatest defense to ever take the field in the National Football League. The innovations he had with Pittsburgh, the Stunt 4-3, playing Cover Two to slot formations are things that people are doing today. Then he turns around and goes to Philadelphia and he coaches that team. I can’t remember the last time a defense finished one against the pass, one against the rush, and first in total defense. Of course they were great players at both places, but sometimes that makes it even harder. Bud Carson was a great football coach. He was really a great person, fundamentally sound, worked hard, players could relate to him. Our league is going to miss him. Good guy.”

(On the status of RB Steven Jackson)

“Just sore, just sore. He’s fine.”

(On whether his missing some reps in practice was just precautionary)

“Yeah. And maybe just take a few reps tomorrow and then hold off until Friday.”

CB Ron Bartell

(On whether the defense has more resolve after playing a bad game)

“Definitely. I think you just have to try and step it up a notch. You never want to give up one 100-yard rusher, but giving up two in the same game is pretty tough. We’re just going to have to bounce back and come out and have a good week of practice.”

(On what takes away from watching the last game on film and what he thinks he needs to change)

“Make tackles. I mean, the guy with the ball, you have to bring him down. That’s the name of the game on defense is making tackles. It’s not about the calls. Guys just have to bring guys down.”

(On having less contact in practice than he was used to in college)

“It’s tough. You can’t get the contact that you usually get especially coming from college when you have a lot of bodies. But coming to the pros, it’s tough. In practice you just have to put yourself in the right position, just getting up on guys, making sure your feet are balanced, and your head stays up.”

(On whether he feels that the team is lacking some confidence)

“I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s confidence or whatever, but guys, its simple to put, you just have to make the tackle. You’re on defense, that’s what you get paid to do is make tackles. Just bring the guy down whatever way you can.”

LB Trev Faulk

(On what he thinks the defense needs to do to tackle better)

“It’s just basic football. It’s just one of the basics of playing defense; you have to be able to tackle. It is something that we have been addressing, something that [Interim Head Coach] Joe [Vitt] has addressed earlier in the meetings, so I’m sure it will be something that will be emphasized more and more as we go along throughout the week. It’s just basic football. You can’t beat anybody or you can’t win any games if you can’t tackle. That was our main issue because we gave up so many yards, so many big plays just off of missing tackles. When they had 5-yard gains, we ended up letting it turn into 20-yard gains. You can’t let that happen if you expect to win.”

QB Ryan Fitzpatrick

(On whether he is able to put last week’s loss behind him and focus on the next game)

“You have to move on. The focus now is obviously on Minnesota. You do kind of hold that inside. I do feel like I let some people down. And I’ll go out there and try and play a better game this week.”

(On whether it is hard to put a loss like that behind him)

“A game like that is tough to shake off. One, because it really was my first start, and for me playing, it’s the first time I’ve lost in a long time. I didn’t lose my senior year in college. So I haven’t felt that feeling in a while, and it’s not a great feeling. I’m ready to get out there and get a win.”

(On what he expects from Minnesota’s defense)

“They’re not going to do anything different than they have done against everybody else. They have been playing really well the last five or six weeks. The biggest thing with their defense is they create turnovers. I think that has sort of been their M.O. all year is they are going to win the turnover battle. They are going to force two or three turnovers a game whether it’s getting interceptions or knocking the ball out. We just need to make sure to protect the ball.”

(On whether he thinks the offense will run more this week than last)

“Well, the things we were doing in the run game weren’t working, and we felt like throwing the ball was going to be the best way to succeed last week. Unfortunately things didn’t go our way. But I think we’re going to try to establish a little bit more of a run game this week and we’ll see what happens. But we’re going to do whatever we can to move the ball downfield whether it be running or passing.”

LB Chris Claiborne

(On whether he has had any suggestions for the Rams in facing his former team)

“Well, you know it’s just important to try get what we need accomplished and not worry about anything else or outside things. That’s the most important thing. But yeah, I’m looking forward to going back and play there. Just seeing the guys play that I played with there, talking to them after the game, and hopefully coming home with that ‘W’ will be even sweeter.”

(On whether he is still close with some of his Minnesota teammates)

“Oh, yes, definitely. We talk a lot in the summer.”

(On whether this game has been circled on his calendar all year)

“Not so much circled it, but you know we have to compete, so I’m looking forward to going.”

(On how much the basics have been stressed already this week for the defense)

“Well, if you don’t tackle, you’re not going to win any games. It doesn’t matter what defense you call or who ever it is. That’s the basics of football, and we have to get back to the basics obviously.”

DE Anthony Hargrove

(On how tough it was to watch the film of the last game)

“If you want to get better, it can’t be that tough. You have to look at the mistakes you made and hopefully come out here today and correct them. Once again, we were seeing the same things over and over, missed tackles, missed assignments and missed reads.”

(On if the players are angry or embarrassed with the missed tackles)

“After a while it becomes embarrassing, because you have to take it upon yourself that you’re not learning much. You’re making the same mistakes you made in week three, and now you’re still making the same mistakes. It’s kind of embarrassing because now it falls on your shoulders. ‘What am I not doing that’s right? Why am I still making the same mistakes?’”

(On how players can improve on tackling at this level)

“Do it over and over again. That’s the only way I know how to get better. Repetitions are the only thing that works.”

(On if the Rams are going to try and redeem themselves against Minnesota)

“Any game right now we’re going to try and redeem ourselves. We’re going to try to redeem ourselves over the next four games. We can’t just come out and do it this one game and then throw it away and say ‘oh, we did it finally once.’ Now, we have to come out and do it consistently and hopefully do it these next games.”

S Mike Furrey

(On how the team fixes the mistakes on defense)

“We’ve been talking about being disciplined and being accountable and staying in your gaps and making the tackles when you’re supposed to make the tackles. When you look at the tape, it’s kind of down to those things. We need to stay in our gaps. We need to make the tackles when we’re supposed to make the tackles, and when the running backs get free, we need to stop them and re-line them up and eliminate the big plays.”

(On his progress on tackling angles)

“Yeah, it’s coming around real good. I’ve been real pleased. I know there was one last week where I ended up behind the running back. I thought there was somebody outside of me, so I ended up chasing him around, but besides that I feel really good squaring them up and coming up and not being as over aggressive running up to them, rather than getting in position where I can just kind of square off with them and get them down on the ground.”

(On the Vikings offense)
“They like to run the ball. They like to get out on the edges. They have some pretty quick backs, and they like to take their shots. They have a bunch of fast receivers that they are going to try and exploit and get in the secondary and let them run. It’s just like every week. It’s another challenge, and we have to go and prepare to stop the run and not let them make big plays in the passing game.”

(On Minnesota QB Brad Johnson)

“He’s one of those veteran guys who understands the game and understands where to go. They always talk about his arm strength going away, but he’s smart enough and played the game long enough where he knows where he can put the ball and where to put the ball and things like that. So, he’s another good quarterback.”

S Adam Archuleta

(On not being confident enough in his health to play on Sunday)

“I just wasn’t myself, and it dawned on me as the week went on that it just wasn’t 100 percent right. Until I feel that it’s 100 percent, then I wasn’t going to go on the field and play and maybe jeopardize the team and jeopardize myself.”

(On that the decision to sit out after a concussion is a tough one)

“It is, because you don’t feel pain. It’s not like ‘well, this hurts.’ It’s not like it’s a tough guy thing where I could play through anything. It’s something where you have to take a step back and make sure that you make the right decision.”

(On if the coaches have stressed tackling this week)

“I don’t think anybody needs to stress anything. It’s just what you have to do. You can stress it all you like, but the bottom line is, whether it’s making a tackle, making a block, making a catch, being in the right position, that’s just something we all have to take accountability for and get it done.”

(On the Vikings’ receivers)

“I just got into them, but they have a deep threat. They like to get the ball down the field, double moves, and it’s probably the strength of their football team offensively right now. So, there are some guys that we have to contend with.”

Minnesota Head Coach Mike Tice

(On his relationship with Interim Head Coach Joe Vitt)

“Played with Joe Vitt? I didn’t play with Joe Vitt. Joe Vitt was in Seattle when I was there on the staff. Joe Vitt, did he tell you he played professional football? He didn’t say that, did he? Joe was on the staff in Seattle when I played there. He came in, I believe Mike Mcormick hired him, then they were together in Baltimore back in the early 80s. He stayed on when Chuck [Knox] was hired, worked his way up the ladder, became a coach and then he moved on with Chuck to L.A., or Anaheim, or whatever they were called back then, the Rams. Now he’s come all the way full circle back to the Rams and he’s done a great job.”

(On if he gave his Ed Block award to Vitt)

“Yeah, Joe was very ill. A couple times in his life, he’s beat cancer. I just made a gesture to Joe, because we were such good friends.”

(On the turnaround that the Vikings have made)

“Well, we’re playing smarter football. We’re not turning the ball over on offense. We’re not as explosive as I’d like to be, or we have been in the past, actually, nor have we been all season. We’re playing efficiently on offense, efficiently enough. Defensively, we’re playing smart. We’ve minimized mental errors. We’re playing together as a unit. We have some guys stepping up and making some plays. We’ve created some turnovers over the course of the last four or five weeks, not so many last week, but the four weeks previous we’ve created some turnovers. We’ve taken those turnovers and used them to our advantage and scored on a high percentage of those. We’ve played solid special teams. The last two weeks, they’ve tapered off a little bit, but nothing too bad. We’ve played solid special teams. So, we’re playing as a team, and we’re playing smarter. That’s really what you have to do in this league.”

(On if he feels like the Vikings can catch the Bears in the NFC North)

“I’m not worried about the Bears. I can’t be worried about that. I have to worry about playing Joe Vitt’s team, St. Louis. I’m sure he’s going to have them fired up to come in here, come out running the ball. I think each one of his backs will have a ball in their hand coming off the bus. I’m not going to concern myself with catching Chicago or whoever else we have on our schedule. I’m just going to worry about St. Louis.”

(On the lift that Minnesota QB Brad Johnson has provided)

“Brad is a very smart, very confident man. He’s very determined to show people that he can still start in this league. He’s a little bit annoyed that he wasn’t paid any attention to in the free agent market. We were very blessed that we were able to out recruit teams and get him here. We were teammates back in the early ‘90s, so I had a relationship with Brad. He’s just settled things down for us. He’s very confident. He knows what he can do. He knows his abilities and his limitations. He’s just a pleasure to have around to be honest with you, and we’re fortunate to have him.”

(On QB Ryan Fitzpatrick)

“I liked him coming out. I loved him coming out, and we talked about him two or three times during the draft. I’m big on Harvard guys. My center is a Harvard guy, or he was. He’s also injured, Matt Burke. I like smart guys. I liked everything I saw on film about him. Matt Burke had high praise for him coming out. They got a good one. I think he’s a very good, young prospect.”

(On how he kept the season from falling apart when the Vikings were 2-5)

“Well, you talk about realities. The one thing that I’ve done over my coaching career, whether it was offensive line, tight ends coach, assistant head coach, head coach is talk about reality and the truth. If you stick to that, they either buy in or they don’t buy in. Fortunately for me, they bought in, and we’re just working hard week to week to take each game one at a time and trying to make enough plays to win the game, and not enough mistakes to give our opponent an opportunity to beat us.”

(On if he feels that Johnson has been a stabilizing force for the Vikings)

“Yeah, absolutely, the stabilization has come from the lack of turnovers.”

(On Minnesota WR Koren Robinson)

“Well, it’s taken a little while for him to work himself in. He didn’t do much for us except when I asked him to return kicks for us, he accepted that role and went out and attacked it with great fervor. He has really run hard as a kick returner. The injury to [WR] Nate Burleson and the slow development of [WR] Troy Williamson really gave him an opportunity to take the crack that was there and jump into it and start to play more at wide receiver. I made a decision three weeks ago to start him, and it’s paid off to this point. He’s a lot bigger and stronger than I thought he was when I spoke to him when he was in rehab. I really admire the man. He’s been down the hard road a little bit. He bounced back. He picked himself up off the ground. He admitted he had to straighten some things out, and I think he’s done a very nice job for us.”

(On if he banned talking about playoffs from his players)

“We’re talking about the Rams, and we’re trying to focus on the Rams. Obviously as a player, a former player, it’s hard to control the conversation of everybody 24 hours a day, but you can encourage them. They’re not stupid. They know what’s at stake, but if we can just focus our energies on St. Louis and not look down the road to the following game or look down the road to ‘oh wow, we have Baltimore in two weeks, Ray Lewis is out,’ and not do that, where we finish with Chicago, then you don’t lose sight of what the task is at hand. The task at hand is to play better football this week against St. Louis then we played last week at Detroit.”

(On if there were any key instances that really started to turn the season around)
“Well, the Giants game, when we won the game without any offensive performance from our guys. We went out and had three returns for touchdowns, a punt return, a kick return and an interception return. I think our team believed right then that we can go out and win the game on the road where we were down in a different fashion than just having this prolific offense. That’s kind of a change here. The games we have won here over time have been because, kind of like St. Louis, we kind of win the games with offense. This year it suddenly has changed. Is it because [WR] Randy [Moss] isn’t here? Is it because Matt Burke is hurt? Is it because Moe Williams is out? There are a lot of different reasons you can say it is, but we’re not the same offensive team we have been over the past number of years. We’ve had to find a different way to win this year, and we’ve settled on this way.”

(On CB Antoine Winfield’s tackling and how he coaches tackling during the season)

“When we got Antoine Winfield, he was a good tackler. I think he’s the best tackler at his position in the league. He accelerates on contact. People talk about speed, and then there’s contact speed. Some guys run fast, but right before they hit, they slow up. This guy accelerates on contact and explodes into the defender. He has great leverage. Obviously he’s not the tallest guy in the world, so he usually wins the leverage battle. He just has great strength in his hands and great technique. He’s been taught very, very well. I’m sure he learned it all at Ohio State and he’s been taught very well.”

(On Minnesota RB Michael Bennett)

“We really haven’t gotten him in the open field a lot, but Mike ran very hard in the game the other day. There were some holes there, he took advantage of the ones we had. He broke some tackles, which was a pleasure to see him break some tackles down in the red zone. Both of his scores he broke tackles on. He’s hung in there real tough. It’s been hard for him with [RB] Mewelde Moore starting, but the couple of times Mewelde has been banged up, Michael has stepped in and performed very well.”

(On the Rams winning the last three meetings by lopsided margins)

“Well, I’m sure we’ve looked at it.”

Minnesota QB Brad Johnson

(On making a basket with a football on SportsCenter)

“How about that? Yesterday, there was a program through the NFL, I took a kid to a school, Fitz Martinson. I took him to school, spoke to his classmates and I was demonstrating how to throw a football. I threw to all the kids and then took a hail mary shot and it went in. So, we had a lot of fun with it.”

(On if that was the only shot he took)

“Well, truthfully we, yeah. Well, I made the first one, and the cameras weren’t on it, so it ended up being the fourth shot. The first and fourth shot I made.”

(On if that was something he practiced)

“Luck.”

(On how things are going for him now that he’s the starter)

“Things are going well. Very seldom does a player ever want to go back to an organization he’s been with, and very seldom does an organization want a player to come back that’s already been with them. I left here on good terms and loved playing for [Head Coach Mike] Tice, playing with him and him as a coach. I really didn’t get what I wanted in the offseason as far as free agency, and it just felt like it was the best fit for me as far as the system. I’m comfortable living here, and it’s worked out nice.”

(On if he had any reservations about going back to Minnesota)

“It’s hard to go back, you can’t really ever go back home. Obviously the biggest thing was coming into a situation where Daunte Culpepper is your quarterback and truly being a backup. I did not like that role, but that was all I had. So, I jumped on Pep’s [Culpepper] bandwagon and tried to help him as much as much as possible. It was going to take an injury for me to get a chance to play, and unfortunately it did for him, and I got a chance to play. That’s part of the NFL. I got hurt in ’98, actually against the St. Louis Rams in St. Louis, broke my ankle and then broke my thumb later in the season. [QB] Randall Cunningham had an MVP year. Things like that happen, and I hated it for Pep, but I never stopped working, never stopped thinking about the game, and I got a chance to play.”

(On the Vikings controversial season)

“You know, all that stuff is really in the past now. Obviously, there were some things that took place, and I think the organization and the players have handled it extremely well. It’s unfortunate that some things happened, but I really think we’ve put that behind us and recovered from that.”

(On writing a book)

“I wrote a kids book, ‘Play With Passion.’ It’s really a book for kids that talks about overcoming obstacles and setting goals and no matter how good you do or how bad you do, you have to prove yourself the next day. It was fun going back and looking at all the stories. I did some stories where I kind of embarrassed myself and told on myself in the book. It’s very easy ready, a lot of pictures, and just short paragraph stories about my life.”

(On if he felt like he had to be a stabilizing force for a collapsing Vikings team)

“No, I think the big thing is just be who you are. You can only fake it so much, so pretty much for me, I just immersed myself in the playbook and tried to build up relationships and trust with coaches and players, and prove yourself on the field.”

(On what enabled the Vikings to turn their season around)

“I think we just started playing better. Defensively, they were having a hard time getting off the field on third down, not creating turnovers, not getting sacks. Offensively, we were turning the ball over, we had a lot of sacks, and we had a lot of penalties. We just were not playing good football at all. We played against some good teams, and just did not get it done. We’ve been very sharp in practice, and the guys are working hard. When you win, guys start to believe in the system and believe in the call that’s being made and believe in each other, and that’s kind of what’s taking place.”

(On if he thinks the Vikings can catch the Bears in the NFC North)

“I don’t know. Obviously they have a two game lead and we play them at the end of the season, but I don’t think we can look at the playoff picture right now. We have to keep things small-goal oriented, and really it’s been one practice at a time, not one game at a time. Fortunately we’ve gotten on a roll here, and we have to win if we want to have a chance to get in this thing this week.”

(On what he thinks of the Rams)

“They are a very, very, good football team, but they’ve lost some tough games. I think they’re loaded with talent, have great schemes and disguise things well, and have had a little bit of bad luck.”

(On how many games it took for the Vikings to get back in a rhythm)

“I thought we were in rhythm the first game against Detroit if you go back and look at the way the game was played. We struggled against the Giants, and the Giants have shut down about everybody the last six weeks of the season. Besides that, I feel like we have been in a pretty good rhythm. We haven’t been turning the ball over, scoring on short fields. We have made a few long drives, had two game-winning field goal drives to beat the Giants and the Packers. We’ve won three road games, which really hasn’t been done here in a while. I just feel like we’re getting better in practice and that’s what I stress. The guys have been working hard in practice and it’s kind of carried over to the games.”

(On playing for Head Coach Mike Tice)

“It’s been enjoyable. We played together for a couple of years, and he was a coach here, he was the offensive line coach for three years, I believe, when I was still here. We had a good friendship then, and now he’s the commander in control, and his 6-foot-8 frame gets kind of stern with me every now and then, but there is a lot of respect and a lot of trust there."
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