Notebook: Leslie Frazier hopes Pat Williams will 'retire as a Viking'
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BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. -- Pat Williams has softened his stance on the possibility of returning to the Minnesota Vikings, and coach Leslie Frazier said on Friday he's glad the veteran nose tackle seems to have changed his mind.
"I have great respect for Pat. I love Pat," Frazier said. "He's been great for my career as a defensive coordinator, and you guys know what he's like in the locker room. He's a tremendous guy in that regard, a great leader for us."
In March, Williams -- a 14-year NFL veteran who can become an unrestricted free agent whenever the NFL lockout ends -- told a reporter he planned to continue his career elsewhere, citing a lack of trust with some members of the organization.
The 38-year-old backtracked last month, saying he had spoken multiple times with Frazier and now considers it a "50-50" shot he'll re-sign.
"He said, 'Just calm down, we're going to get everything straight,'" Williams said before teammate Ray Edwards' boxing match on May 20. "I said, 'OK, Coach.'"
Though Williams mentioned retirement after the 2009 season, he more recently has said he wants to play two more seasons. He underwent surgery to repair a torn triceps in January and has been cleared recently to resume lifting weights.
One issue could be money. The Vikings already have a significant sum invested in the defensive line, and it's unlikely they'd consider matching the $4.6 million Williams made in salary and bonuses last season, considering he played only 53.9% of the snaps.
"I hope if he does decide that he definitely wants to play again, that it ends up being in Minnesota, if everything works out," Frazier said. "I'd love to see him retire as a Viking."
What about Ray?
Edwards' situation remains in even more doubt, since it won't be known until the labor situation is resolved whether the five-year veteran will be eligible for unrestricted free agency.
If restricted, Edwards has said repeatedly he'll pursue his professional boxing career rather than playing under the first-round restricted tender, which would be worth $2.836 million for one season under the rules of the last collective-bargaining agreement.
"That's something that, once we find out what the rules are, we'll discuss that with Ray and his agent," Frazier said. "But right now, nobody knows what's what, so there's nothing we can say."
The Vikings aren't expected to compete financially to keep Edwards, 26, if he ends up unrestricted. For now, he's focused on boxing with his second match scheduled for June 24 at Grand Casino Hinckley against Larry Butler of Hayward, Wis.
Asked if he saw highlights from Edwards' debut win, Frazier said, "I saw clips, yeah, and hey, kudos to Ray. He's doing something he enjoys doing. He talked to me about it a number of times during the season and last offseason as well. That was something he was preparing to do. Happy for Ray."
Quarterback still uncertain
The Vikings haven't revealed a deadline for giving rookie Christian Ponder a chance to start, but this much is clear: each passing day lowers the chances the No. 12 overall pick will be ready on Sept. 11 at San Diego, or whenever the season begins.
Frazier told 1500 ESPN last month he would prefer to start Ponder immediately, citing players such as Baltimore's Joe Flacco, Atlanta's Matt Ryan and the New York Jets' Mark Sanchez who have had success as rookies in recent years. But Frazier acknowledged on Friday the lockout has left the Vikings "at a point where it's hard to compare their rookie year to Christian's rookie year. We're, what, June the 3rd? We haven't had any contact other than draft day with him."
The loss of offseason practices means the Vikings almost surely will be working with a pared-down version of new coordinator Bill Musgrave's offense. Ponder received a portion of the playbook during the 11 hours the lockout was lifted in late April, but the value of work he can do without coaches' guidance is debatable.
If the lockout extends into August, the question probably will change from whether the Vikings will sign a veteran to who that veteran will be. The only clue Frazier has provided is the veteran would have to understand he's merely a placeholder for the team's top draft pick.
"It would have to be the right veteran," Frazier said. "This goes beyond just knowing the system and playing in the National Football League, because you're trying to build the right locker room also. There are more dynamics involved than just the fact that he's a veteran quarterback."
• Frazier spoke with reporters during a break in the Vikings' annual playground project, which this year took the entire coaching staff and many other team employees to Northport Elementary School. Unlike in prior years, no players participated. Though they would have been permitted to show up on their own, team officials were told they couldn't formally invite them.
• Without having practices to run, Vikings coaches have spent substantial time getting ahead on their 2011 opponents. According to Frazier, they also have embarked on a self-scouting project, reviewing the 2010 season to look at our red zone, our third down, our offensive efficiency and so on," Frazier said. "We've done some things that we make sure that we have a great handle on our current team, but also getting a feel for some of the opponents we're going to end up playing."