Coaches Q&A: Talking Secondary

Assistant secondary coach Kevin Ross feels good about having more veteran experience in the defensive backfield. See what Ross has to say about Darren Sharper, Antoine Winfield and Fred Smoot.

Kevin Ross joined the Vikings coaching staff as the assistant secondary coach two years ago and assists Vikings coverage coordinator Chuck Knox Jr. with the team's defensive backfield. Ross spent the 2002 training camp with Minnesota as part of the NFL's Coaching Fellowship Program.

Ross played college football for Temple from 1980-83, then played 14 seasons in the NFL as a defensive back. He played for the Kansas City Chiefs from 1984-93, the Atlanta Falcons from 1994-95, the San Diego Chargers in 1996 and the Chiefs in 1997.

Following his retirement from the NFL after the 1997 season, Ross spent one season as a scout with the Kansas City Chiefs. He also spent four years coaching in the high school ranks in his hometown of Camden, N.J. Ross coached two seasons each at Camden High and Woodrow Wilson High.

Q: It has to be enjoyable for both you and secondary coach Chuck Knox Jr. now that the Vikings secondary is deeper than it has been in a while, given the free agent additions of safety Darren Sharper and cornerback Fred Smoot.

It's really nice to have people who have played their position pretty much all their life and not having to convert people to play positions they normally didn't play. It gives you depth. We got hit last year early with injuries and now – while we don't wish injuries on anyone — we feel comfortable if somebody does get hurt that someone can step in.

Q: With the additions of Sharper and Smoot and an instantly deeper secondary, how has your job changed this season?

I'll tell you right now. When you have a group like this right here, you don't have to do a whole lot. You let them do your thing. You put them in a position to make plays, You let them play ball. You let them do what they do.

Q: You've now been able to watch safety Darren Sharper every day for a couple of months. How does he look?
If he stays healthy (he is questionable this week), he'll go to the Pro Bowl. He makes too many plays not do. He wants to make plays. He's a true professional on and off the field. They all study well and they practice well. They do things together that you want as a secondary coach.

Q: So what was it like in the offseason when you learned the Vikings agreed to terms with Sharper?

It was like Christmas and a birthday all in one. We've never had that situation in the three years I've been here where we've had a proven guy like him at his position.

Q: What has cornerback Fred Smoot shown you that you didn't expect?

Before he got here I heard about his talking and all that. What I didn't know is he doesn't taunt players. He talks to get his teammates up. And I've seen him on tape before in his younger days where he didn't throw his body around too much. Now he might throw it around too much. He ‘s a guy that talks the talk, but he walks the walk.

Q: And, of course, on the other end you have Antoine Winfield, who is a little less "verbal" than Smoot.

If Antoine can get his hands on balls early this season then Antoine will go to the Pro Bowl. If he can get his hands on the balls early, he will have to be considered for that role. He's a very consistent tackler, too. He studies, knows the game and does not make the same mistake twice. His teammates trust him.

Q: So what is the result of a corner combination like Smoot and Winfield?

I think it's a good thing because teams have to prepare for two different kinds of people. You have to attack Antoine differently than you have to attack Fred.

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