Notebook: Questions remain about how things will change under Frazier
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A day after the Minnesota Vikings fired Brad Childress, players largely said the news was unsurprising while expressing guarded optimism about starting over on Sunday against Washington with interim coach Leslie Frazier.
Several players gathered at the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital on Tuesday for an early Thanksgiving meal put on by guard Steve Hutchinson and his wife, Landyn, agreed a fresh outlook can't hurt.
"When you look at our situation, we're kind of stagnant right now and things aren't working out," Vikings linebacker Ben Leber said. "I think any change right now, you have to look at as a positive. So, we're going to try to take this situation how some guys view it and other guys view it -- everybody's got to be on the same page, and I think we are, and we're going to turn this into a positive situation. We have to."
Frazier made clear in his introductory media conference on Monday he's sticking with Brett Favre at quarterback, and other drastic roster changes seem unlikely. Plenty of questions remain, though -- including three that will begin to answer themselves when practice resumes on Wednesday at Winter Park.
• How will the offense change in Childress' absence?
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell remains the play caller, but Childress had a strong voice in the game planning process and was known to adhere to a strict interpretation of his West Coast offense. Every veteran quarterback who started for the Vikings under Childress -- including Brett Favre -- complained at one time or another about a lack of input in the plan and responsibility at the line.
Will Bevell open things up, perhaps allowing Favre to take greater ownership over what's at his disposal on Sundays?
"I would expect it to be pretty similar to what it has been," center John Sullivan said. "Obviously, to think that things will be 100 percent the same would be a dangerous assumption. You have to think that there could be some changes coming your way. But I don't think things will change too much."
• How will the defense change with Frazier's promotion?
Linebackers coach Fred Pagac, a 33-year veteran, will take over for Frazier as defensive coordinator. However, it's unclear whether Pagac or Frazier will make the calls on game day.
If it's Pagac, will his approach reflect his fiery demeanor -- a significant change from the relatively low-key Frazier, who prefers the bend-but-don't-break Cover-2?
"We'll see what happens (Wednesday) when we get the game plan and what happens on Sunday," Leber said. "But given Coach 'Pug's personality -- you might see a little bit more blitzes, a little bit more aggression out of his scheme. But again, that's just based off of his own personality and characteristics, so we'll see how that translates into the game plan."
• Will players respond to Frazier's message?
The Vikings are coming off one of the most embarrassing defeats in recent franchise history and are all but out of the playoff picture at 3-7. Their aging roster features 21 players who are unsigned beyond this season, and Childress' final game was marked by in-fighting and shoddy execution.
With no guarantee he'll be around beyond the end of the season either, can Frazier make players buy into much the same message Childress tried to deliver in his final weeks -- that in situations like these, players have to perform for themselves?
"Leslie's brief speech (Monday) was about playing for each other and getting back to fundamental football and doing things the right way on the field," Hutchinson said. "Eliminating mistakes and execution and basic Xs and Os. The brief time he's spoken to us, and what I took out of it was fundamental, going back to basics and just winning."
Said Sullivan, "We'll see how we respond (Wednesday). I would expect things will be great with Leslie taking over and leading us. He's a real standup guy, high character and we all respect him very much."
On the record
After weeks of off-the-record shots from players through various media outlets, receiver Bernard Berrian on Tuesday became the first to say publicly that Childress lost the locker room, telling Sirius Radio the deposed coach was "too overbearing" and "too confrontational."
"I think that was the biggest thing," Berrian said. "Instead of going to players like men and just talking and conversating about it, it was kind of brought to their attention in a confrontational way and just people just didn't really conform to that way of, I guess, him talking and speaking to his team, or players individually."
• It was the fourth consecutive year Hutchinson has put on the Thanksgiving event at the hospital. Six players -- Hutchinson, Leber, Sullivan, Camarillo, WR Greg Camarillo, TE Jimmy Kleinsasser and practiced-squad WR Freddie Brown -- posed for pictures, signed autographs and played video games with young patients. "Being a parent, you just love helping kids out," Hutchinson said.
• Hutchinson said he sent Childress a text on Tuesday morning. "I said I really appreciate the opportunity bringing me to Minnesota and giving me the opportunity to play here and I wish you all the best," Hutchinson said. "He would tell you the same thing - it's going to go on, the show goes on. We have six games left and we've got to play better."
• Asked how the past 48 hours have been, Camarillo said, "It's more like what have these, how many weeks has it been? I've been here for three months so it's more like what have these three months been. It's just a whirlwind. We've had highs. We've had lows. We've had crazy news. We've had regular news. Even when there's no news, there always seems to be something to make the news. It's just the nature of the beast. It's the business.
"Anytime you have a team that had so much success as this team had last year and you have the big names that this team has, there's going to be media attention. It's too bad that media attention hasn't been us being undefeated. Obviously, we're in a bad situation. It's just the nature of the business."