Notebook: Players, management support Frazier

Leslie Frazier (Tom Dahlin/Viking Update)

Leslie Frazier has one year left on his contract, but GM Rick Spielman and key players have been giving him a vote of confidence. Plus, what's the meaning of one recent signing, and what does Spielman think about Antoine Winfield?

In the span of a little over a year, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier went from fielding questions about whether he will have a job to when his contract extension is coming. That's life in the "what have you done for me lately" NFL.

On Tuesday, Frazier said he expected to have talks soon with team owners Zygi and Mark Wilf about a contract extension, but said those talks hadn't taken place yet. Count general manager Rick Spielman among those supportive of Frazier.

"Leslie has done an outstanding job. I don't want to talk specifics, but I know our ownership group will discuss that, and when we have an announcement, we'll go from there," said Spielman, who said he has talked with ownership about Frazier's status.

Frazier took over the Vikings on an interim basis 10 games into the 2010 season and led them to a 3-3 finish before signing a three-year contract to be head coach on a full-time basis. The 2013 season is the final year on that contract he signed in January 2011, and NFL coaches rarely make it to their final season without signing an extension before it starts.
Spielman said he wanted to keep all talks between him, ownership and Frazier internal, but Frazier has the support of some of his best players. Linebacker Chad Greenway said two weeks ago that Frazier's steady approach helps to keep players from getting too emotionally high or low during a season.

"His speeches are real consistent if you know what I mean. I think that's good," Greenway said. "It is such a long season and there are so many ups and downs that I think if you have a coach that is kind of going with that, maybe he comes in Monday after a loss and he's really down and, ‘This is going to ruin our season' sort of speech and that's not what Leslie is. Obviously Leslie's the kind of guy: ‘We're still in this thing. We're fighting. We're together. We're all in.' And his approach is perfect, in my mind, for what an NFL coach needs to be. He's really consistent."

Adrian Peterson, one of the leading candidates for the league's MVP and whose big season has helped improve Frazier's status, said he believes Frazier should be coach of the year.

"Without a doubt. He's a great guy. He has helped me on and off the field, too, just about his demeanor and his spiritual faith and just the man that he is," Peterson said. "He has positive energy, and you just can't help but feed off him. He's really been a big part of my development, not only as a football player but as a human being. He's very inspirational."

In 2011, the Vikings were a 3-13 team under Frazier, but with the addition of some key talent, mostly in the draft, the team improved to 10-6 and was a surprise (to outside observers) entrant in the postseason. The Vikings started the season ranked 29th in the Associated Press Pro32 Power Poll and moved up to 10th by the end of the season – the second-largest improvement.

Spielman said he saw improvement in the coaching staff during the season and he has continued to highlight the coaching staff's ability to develop talent. He also credited the leadership in the locker room, something Frazier has been instrumental in developing to convey his message consistently through the veteran players.

"We're building our young guys as they come through our program. The idea is to get those high-character, strong-leader types that are good football players. And I think that gives you the best chance for success," Spielman said. "But as I said during the bye … Leslie was doing an outstanding job. And I thought that even showed more when we did have that dip or that setback – that it didn't keep falling. We were able to come out of that rut and get ourselves in the playoffs, especially with the pressure that were in those last four games to have to win those four to get in."
Greenway admitted that Frazier was happier this year, but he continued to point out how generally even-keeled the coach is. That flat-line approach even comes through in his pregame speeches.

"I wouldn't call him a Knute Rockne speech-giver, but again, the message that he preaches to us from Day One is the same message he preaches (at the end of the season). That's why I say his speeches are consistent," Greenway said. "We know as athletes what we're getting from him and we know what's expected of us. … We know his approach and I think that helps us."

JUST FOR KICKS?

Although Vikings punter Chris Kluwe acknowledged during an interview on KFAN that the signing of punter T.J. Conley to a futures contract could be the Vikings protecting themselves with Kluwe ready to undergo offseason knee surgery, Spielman downplayed the significance of the Conley signing.

"It was one of our signings. We'll probably have a couple more signings that might be coming. We have a few more coming in for workouts," Spielman said. "It's just part of the process of just not one particular position, but every position. A lot of these guys we've already worked out at some point during the season or through the season or over the last couple weeks that we'll sign and then give a chance to come in and compete. It's nothing out of the ordinary that we normally haven't done."

Kluwe had a decent season, but he struggled during a midseason stretch and rubbed some fans, and even coordinator Mike Priefer, the wrong way with his outspoken views on different societal issues. Kluwe's detractors argued that the amount of effort he committed to championing his opinions may have affected his on-field performance.

"I know Chris was very focused when we had to play and really played well down the stretch here for us, too," Spielman said. "He had some really good games and got us out of some deep holes with the way he's punted. Chris is a very, very talented punter."

NOTES

  • In past years, the Vikings have extended the contracts of some of their free-agents-to-be in December before they hit the open market. That wasn't the case last month, but Spielman said it wasn't a change in philosophy.

    "We've talked to some agents. We've talked to some agents before the season and sometimes we'll just say, ‘Let's wait until the season ends.'" He said. "I know as we get through this process, we'll be having a lot of meetings down at the Combine on particular guys that we want to try to extend or either get re-done. It will be a busy Combine."

  • Spielman said 14-year veteran Antoine Winfield is an anomaly to still be playing at such a high level as a 35-year-old.

    "He's defied the odds," Spielman said. "Antoine means so much to this football team, not only by how he plays the game and also what he does in that locker room as a leader and in the community, and there are guys that come through that somehow defy the odds. I have a study there on saying cornerbacks at ‘X' age aren't going to be able to perform to their same level. But he's been an exception to that rule."


    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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