Leslie Frazier wanted to put an end to what he perceived as a distraction to his players: his job status.
The Minnesota Vikings head coach said his "gut" told him the Vikings' players were distracted last week by the uncertainty surrounding his job status for the future so he felt the need to address them in a team meeting Tuesday morning.
"It's like the elephant in the room. I just felt like we needed to get that addressed. Looking back at it, probably should have dealt with it a week ago," Frazier said on Tuesday. "Don't want those guys to be distracted. I want them focused on the opponent. I felt like we got a little distracted last week and I want to make sure that we're all focused on one thing and that's winning this game against Detroit."
The Vikings face the Detroit Lions on Sunday in the regular season finale after posting a 4-10-1 record to this point. It is also the final game at the Metrodome before it begins to be dismantled in January in preparation for construction of a new stadium on the same site.
Frazier's contract expires after the 2014 season, but after two losing seasons in three years as the full-time head coach, there is plenty of speculation about his job status for next year.
His message to the team?
"Just concentrate on this game plan and this opponent. Just take care of what we can take care of and keep our focus there," he said.
Frazier said on Monday he and his agent haven't discussed his future with ownership or general manager Rick Spielman.
Players said they didn't feel the need for Frazier to address the team. LB Chad Greenway said the only distraction was answering questions about Frazier's status.
"Obviously the guys, the veterans, we've been around situations like that and it's just a matter of us continuing to play and worry about the Detroit Lions at this point," Greenway said. "One game left and that's our focus."
Players voiced their support of Frazier after Sunday's loss to the Bengals and that continued into this week of preparation for the Detroit Lions.
"It's been awesome playing for him," LB Erin Henderson said. "He's been like a father figure to us, one of those guys that you don't want to let down. He's not really going to come out there and yell and scream at you or anything else, but he'll kind of give you that look, that look of disappointment that might be worse than getting yelled at or cussed at. He's a steady guy. He's always going to be the same way, no matter what, no matter what the situation is or who the situation involves. He's always going to be who he is and that's something you've got to respect. I appreciate all the opportunities that he's afforded to me."
PETERSON, GERHART SIT
Running backs Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart didn't practice on Tuesday, with foot and groin injuries for Peterson and a strained hamstring for Gerhart.
Both suffered those injuries in previous games but tried to play through them Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. Gerhart left after he pulled a hamstring at the end of the Vikings' first series and Peterson didn't play in the fourth quarter when it was apparent the Vikings had no chance to win.
"We're hoping to get one of those guys back on Thursday. We'll learn a little bit about some of the other guys as we move forward," Frazier said.
Frazier sounded more optimistic that Peterson would be available for Sunday's finale than Gerhart.
"We'll see what happens on Thursday when we come back, but the fact that (Gerhart) aggravated it in that ballgame probably makes it a little bit tougher," Frazier said.
Those two were joined by several more starters and contributors not practicing as the Vikings returned to practice a day earlier than normal to get Christmas off on Wednesday.
S Harrison Smith (turf toe), CB Shaun Prater (ankle), LB Larry Dean (knee), LB Audie Cole (ankle), DT Fred Evans and DT Letroy Guoin (quad). Evans was on the injury list earlier in the month with a knee injury but he hasn't appeared on it in the last two weeks.
CB Xavier Rhodes (ankle) returned to practice on Tuesday afternoon after missing the previous two weeks with a sprained ankle.
"We think so. We're planning on him practicing. He went through the walkthrough and everything went fine so we're expecting him to be practicing today," Frazier said.
The Vikings won't issue an injury report until Wednesday afternoon, with an estimated status of player participation if they would have practiced then. The Lions took Tuesday off and are practicing on Wednesday afternoon.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Frazier to players: focus on game, not my job
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