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Mike Tice Pre-Game Conf. Call - 11/20/2002

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Q: Do you look at the win over Green Bay as hopefully the kind of thing that flips the switch and helps this team come out of the situation it has been in?

MT: I'm afraid to say yes, because we felt that way after the Chicago win when we played pretty well at home and then we go into the next couple of games and not play very well. We're a young team that hasn't played with a lot of confidence, certainly not for an entire football game. I think it's something that we can gain some confidence from. Hopefully we won't play as tight in key situations as we've played at points this season.

Q: Why have you guys had so much difficulty on the road?

MT: Jeez, I know, it's been a while. The last time we won, I had more hair. A lot of it I think is attributed to the bad starts. We've started poorly in a lot of our road games and shot ourselves in the foot. I think a faster start would be a good thing.

Q: When you look at the Patriots, what are the biggest challenges that they present to you?

MT: First of all, it's one of the better-coached football teams in the league. They have a couple of guys that I would term borderline genius, including their head coach. They really know how to scheme you. You have to be ready to expect the unexpected and you have to be able to make great adjustments on game day. A lot of it falls on the coaches on game day. I think that they're a very aggressive defense, they fly around, and I think that's going to pose a challenge. They do so many things on offense, that it keeps you from doing a lot of different things on defense. That's the biggest challenge that I see.

Q: Could you comment on the emergence of Chris Hovan this year?

MT: We love Chris. Chris is a player that was born to play football. He plays at a high level of energy and football means just about everything to him right now. We wish we had more guys like him. I think that some of the things that have helped Chris are the guys that he's playing with. I think Kenny Mixon, was a good pickup for us from Miami. He's a very solid football player. And, I think Fred Robbins could be one of the most improved players on the football team, although not one of the most flashy players, I think he's starting to get it. He's starting to make more plays for us. I think those two guys right there have helped Chris out the most.

Q: How tough was it to bench Daunte Culpepper?

MT: It certainly was not easy. Daunte is a very high-character guy. He cares a lot about winning and he cares a lot about doing well. It was something that I pondered going into the game, that if I felt he was playing a little tentative, then I might do it. I felt that he had lost some faith in himself and so I did it. It really bothered me for quite some time for the rest of the game, but it also bothered me the next morning until I sat down with him and told him, 'Hey, look. You need to just step back and take a breath and take a look and just relax a little bit.' He came back last week and played much better football for us. He's made a lot of plays for us this year, but the turnovers have really hurt us a little bit.

Q: How have things gone with Randy Moss over the last 40 days or so? It seems like sometimes it's been quiet and other times not so quiet.

MT: Well, it has been quiet, except for that one incident, the one driving incident. He's been very, very good. He's been good with the officials, he's been good with his teammates, he's been good with the coaches, he's been great on the sideline, and he's been blocking extremely well. He's had a great year blocking. He's done everything he's been asked to do. He's got his per-catch average down because we're throwing him a lot of shorter balls that used to be Cris Carter-type balls. He hasn't complained about that and has taken a lot of hits. I think he's been excellent, except for that one situation.

Q: In 1998 and 1999, Minnesota was one of the premier teams in the league. It can really go quickly in the NFL now, can't it?

MT: Well, look at what you guys did last year in New England. If you get the right mix of players and the right chemistry, you start believing in yourself and you start making plays, and anything can happen. I think we've had so many changes here and we've had so much adversity over the last couple of years, including, but not just starting with, the death of Korey Stringer. We've just lost it a little bit. I think we'll continue to work on the program and do the right thing to build a program and we've just got to continue to take steps, even if they're baby steps, in the right direction.

Q: How's Bryant McKinnie looking? He held out, but now he comes in and he's a starter.

MT: Well, I can't start me. My days are over. We had to put him in there based on personnel. The guy that was ahead of him, Lewis Kelly, who had a tragedy of his own in losing his wife suddenly, is injured right now. So, you really don't have another choice. He's certainly not in game shape to play a whole game at a great level. He's missed a lot of time as far as mentally knowing what to do quickly. He's doing a little bit of thinking out there. But, he's going to be a great player. He's got great feet for a big man. He is a big man, the biggest man I've seen in the league. I thought Dave Dixon was big. He makes Dave Dixon look small. He's got great hands, tremendous feet, and he's very bright. That's why he's been able to come in and do what he's done and has been able to play so many plays in the first two weeks – he's played 90 plays in two games. That's a tribute to him and to how hard he worked when he was sitting out.

Q: Among all NFL head coaches, you have the most playing experience. Do you feel that it helps you in regards to relating to younger players? Do you think they pay attention more, knowing that you can point back to your career?

MT: I don't know if it does or it doesn't. I would think it would help a little bit as far as when you make some statements about how they feel, a player is probably not thinking in his head, 'Well, how the hell do you know how I feel? You never played.' I think if anything, it gives you a little bit of credibility when you talk about, 'Hey, guys, I know how you feel.' They know you do know how they feel.

Q: In terms of the Randy Moss situation earlier this year, did you learn a lot about yourself as a coach in dealing with that?

MT: Personally, I've had a rough year in terms of dealing with things, starting back in training camp last year with Korey and then with another one of my players who I coached and scouted and drafted in Lewis Kelly, and then the Randy situation. For myself, it's kind of been a rough year as far as major tragedies happening. I learned a lot about the Randy situation basically just in the fact that you have to have a clear vision of really how the person is and not just take one situation into hand and do what everybody says you want to do as far as what his punishment should have been. The people who are on the outside, including you guys, are not here every day to see how hard this young man is working to do the right thing.

Q: A lot of people outside the Vikings organization have said that as good as Randy is, he's not tapping his full potential. Do you see that, or are you happy with what he's getting out of his ability?

MT: Let's see. He's second in the league in catches over 20 yards. He's on a record to catch more balls than he's caught [in his career]. He's had two 40-yard touchdowns called back. I think he's having an excellent year. His blocking is as good as he's ever blocked. I know when he came in the league in '98 as a rookie, he blocked very well and it's been down a little bit since then, but this year, he's blocking extremely well. I think really, he's having an excellent year. I think what happens is, when you lose, nobody gets any accolades. We have some other players that are playing very good football that don't get noticed because you're losing. I think Michael Bennett has been playing well the last couple of weeks, and the only reason he got noticed this week was because we won a football game.

Q: With the road woes, have you ever considered changing things up, going to a place a day early, or…?

MT: We've done all of that. We went to Tampa early. We left at 1:00 to go to New York instead of 2:00. We've tried it all. We've changed hotels. I even changed my underwear one week. It's been a difficult thing. I really think that on the road, with a young football team, you've got to start faster than we've been starting. We go down to Tampa and we fumble the opening kickoff. You can't have those types of key, critical errors when you're on the road. It's hard to win any game and it's tougher to win on the road.

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