EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. Off of last week's disappointing loss at Chicago, Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier polled his team whether any motivational speeches need to be delivered prior to Sunday's game at Green Bay.
Minnesota still has playoff hopes, and possibilities, but time is running short for the Vikings to make their run. Frazier's players didn't need any speeches. They say they know the importance of Sunday's game against the Packers.
"At this level, if you can't get excited about this opportunity, whew, you're in the wrong business," Frazier said. "I asked them this exact question, 'Do I have to give a motivational speech to get us ready to play this game?' And I asked them to give me some feedback and, to a man, no. We'll be ready to play. It's a matter of are we good enough to get it done on the road? I just don't sense that they'll be lackadaisical about their approach this week."
Speeches have worked earlier this season, such as in Week 3 when veteran cornerback spoke before the entire team following the first loss of the season, a road loss in Week 2 at Indianapolis. And aside from one two-game skid, Minnesota has responded well to losses. After the loss to the Colts and Winfield's speech, the Vikings beat the San Francisco 49ers 24-13. A loss to the Washington Redskins was followed with a 21-14 win against the Arizona Cardinals. And, wanting to avoid a possible slip into the bye after back-to-back losses, Minnesota followed with a 34-24 win against the Detroit Lions, scoring their highest point total of the season.
The Vikings know an opportunity was missed in last week's loss to the Bears, but they say they are focused on Green Bay this weekend.
"No, not at all," Winfield said about any need for speeches. "We all understand the importance of this game. Playing against the Green Bay Packers, on the road, they're in our division, we're 6-5, they're 7-4, so we get this one we go ahead of them in the division. So, we understand the importance. It's all about us. The players need to go out there, execute and perform."
Minnesota's situation -- still in playoff contention with five games remaining -- only seems precarious because of last week's loss. The feeling outside the organization is one of panic, which is why Frazier approached the team in the manner he did and tried to make sure he didn't need to attempt motivational ploys.
"This game that we're playing this week, it puts us really up two games on Green Bay if we come off that field like we should, with a win, and you just can't lose sight of the big picture," Frazier said. "And you're right, the people around you can sometimes drain the energy and make you feel like things are worse than they are. We have a lot of young guys on our team who have never been in this environment, don't really understand the NFL and how it works.
"I'd be surprised if this doesn't go down until the last weekend of the season. We just have to keep playing and not lose sight of one game at a time and no game is bigger than this game."
Simpson admits he's down on himself: Following a three-drop, one-catch game on Sunday, receiver Jerome Simpson admitted he's upset with his play.
"I'm obviously down because I'm used to making those plays, but you've just got to be resilient in this game," Simpson said. "You've just got to be able to bounce back and refocus."
Simpson tweeted a definition of resilient later on Wednesday, and clearly wants to get back on track and try to help the Vikings. Minnesota signed the embattled receiver to a one-year, make-good contract in the offseason after Simpson had dealt with off-the-field, drug issues last year. With only 12 catches for 138 yards, Simpson is missing a chance to earn a big contract this upcoming offseason.
Simpson said he's 100 percent healthy after dealing with backleg issues earlier this season and watching film from Sunday's game was especially tough.
"It's tough to watch it, but it's just motivation for me to come back even harder," Simpson said, adding earlier: "We've still got a lot of football left. I've just got to keep proving myself."
Frazier said he's sat down and spoke with Simpson lately.
"We talked a little bit, just encouraged him," Frazier said. "We have to move on. We know he's more than capable of making plays for us and we need him to do that this week. We don't need anybody sulking or looking back or being down. We need everybody energized and ready to have their best game of the season."
Simpson said the dropped passes are related to his technique.
"I let the ball get too close to my body," Simpson said. "I always used to be a hands catcher. So I just let the balls get too close to me. I've just got to go out and reach and grab the ball, because I'm a hands catcher. I let the ball get too close to my body. It bounced off my pads, and I'm not used to just catching it. I've just got to trust in myself."
Rotations will stick: Frazier said, for now, he will continue the rotations at right guard and safety.
At safety, alongside Harrison Smith, Jamarca Sanford will continue to start with Mistral Raymond working in occasionally. Second-year player Brandon Fusco will remain the starter at right guard and occasionally be spelled by Geoff Schwartz.
"That's worked out pretty good for us," Frazier said. "I think it's helping Brandon as he's developing as a young player in our league and also giving us a chance to get Geoff some reps considering the time he's missed over the course of the last two years. So far, it has been pretty good for us."
Frazier wishes Todman the best: Frazier said he was disappointed to lose practice squad running back Jordan Todman, who was signed to the Jacksonville Jaguars' active roster on Tuesday. But Frazier understood Todman's desire to get a chance on an active roster and knew the uphill battle that Todman faced in Minnesota.
"We would have liked for things to work out here but we have a couple of good backs and he saw that as well," Frazier said. "He and I talked and it's not like we're going to sit down No. 28 (Adrian Peterson) or 32 (Toby Gerhart), so he did what's best for him. Wish him nothing but the best. He's a good player."
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