Lurtsema's Reaction: Defensive Adjustments

The Vikings made adjustments in their defensive personnel via the draft and free agency, and they may need to adjust more if certain players don't show up ready for training camp. Find out why former Viking Bob Lurtsema thinks the team made the changes they did and what he thinks of the absences of certain players during spring camps.

VU: Pat Williams could make a huge difference defensively, but did you feel that the Vikings got run on inside too much last year that they had to pick a guy like Williams at nose tackle?

The reason they got run on so much last year is that when you put so much pressure on Kevin Williams, when they're double-teaming him quite a bit, the thing you had is inconsistency at tackle. You've got to be predictable as a defensive lineman in the National Football League. Predictability comes from your effort and your awareness, how well you read, whether you are a veteran or a young ballplayer. All these things come into effect. I always joke with people that I was killed on every play, but I was in the right spot. I was predictable, so when you get a lineman who is predictable, you can work around his weaknesses or his strengths. But when a player comes out and does not give 100 percent every play, that's the most frustrating part for a coach to deal with – where is he going to be on this particular play, how is Pat Williams going to react, how will (Steve) Martin react on this particular play, where was (Chris) Hovan? It's frustrating. Yes, they ran on them last year because of unpredictability. The players were inconsistent with their effort.

VU: How tough is it going to be for Ted Cottrell to mix all these new parts? Do you feel it will take them a quarter of the way into the season to hit their stride or is it going to take a lot longer than that to get everybody playing together?

The thing that helps him is when he's had a player that he's worked with before like Sam Cowart. I went through enough coaches to know that some coaches can coach a player better than others because they know what you're thinking before you know what you're thinking. They're in your brain. You make a mistake and they know why you made the mistake; you don't have to tell them. They're a step ahead of you. That's going to help Cottrell a lot. Can he find that with all 11 players on the field? That's the part that has to come in when you're working hand-in-hand with the linebackers and defensive line. That's where you have to delegate the authority. The other position coaches have to have a feel with their players at their position. That's something that good coaches have – knowing what all three linebackers are thinking, along with what all four defensive linemen are thinking. Jack Patera (Lurtsema's coach in Minnesota and Seattle), he knew exactly what I was doing and exactly what I was thinking – that's why I was with Jack nine of my 12 years.

VU: With Brian Williams and Corey Chavous not at any of the developmental camps, first do you think they'll be at training camp? Secondly, if they are not, does Cottrell have to make any sort of adjustments for having a Willie Offord or a Ralph Brown in place of those guys?

For those players not to be there, I have no idea what they're thinking, especially when that's been the thorn in our fanny for a long time – defensive backs. Brian Williams, he supposedly gets upset because they put someone ahead of him. Hey, that's what the National Football League is all about. It's about competition. When I was with the Minnesota Vikings, they drafted defensive linemen first and second. What was I going to do, quit? Hang it up? Well, they ended up cutting the second draft choice and then Mark Mullaney, the No. 1 choice, played behind me. So they bring them in, so what? You're going to sulk about it? I don't know what the deal is there, but that's what they're saying is happening. Come on, let's get a little real. Competition is what it's all about.

Corey and I have gotten along with no problems. The only thing we ever argue about is outperforming your contract, and I'm not a big person on outperforming your contract. I think your coaches, your position coach or your defensive coordinator and the head coach, they take your strengths and they get the most out of you. They work to make you the best that you can be. You don't outperform your contract. You had a group that worked with you. Corey seems to think that you can outperform your contract and renegotiate. I've never heard of it. Outperforming your contract is the dumbest statement I've ever heard. All you're doing is giving your best shot and you're in an organization that fits your strengths. You should be tickled pink to have that gratification.

VU: Even with all that said, the basic concept is that he outperformed his contract. Did he really outperform it? Did he really have that good of a year last year?

To be bold and say something negative about a ballplayer when you don't really know both sides … Sure, his numbers were down, etc., but was he playing within the framework of the defense? That's the part you have to know. Was he trying to cover for somebody else when he made a mistake? When he made the mistakes, why did he make the mistakes, and I don't know all that so I can't go out and openly criticize. If I know both sides of it, watching the linemen and I know the call, then I have no problem talking to the player eye to eye. But in that situation, you'd have to really know the intricacies of the defensive coverage.

VU: Now, if those guys aren't there at training camp, preseason, or say they hold out into the regular season, does Cottrell have to change what he does on defense because they're not there?

Yes, definitely. If Cottrell doesn't make a few changes and play into the strengths of the players that he has … You can't take a system and plug in 11 guys and continually stay with the same system. You've got guys where some are quick reads, some are slow reads. There are too many variables with each individual to be gun-ho and locked into what you're doing. Good coaches make good changes.

Viking Update Top Stories