MANKATO, Minn. — After Tuesday morning’s practice at Minnesota Vikings training camp, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave admitted to being less than pleased with his unit’s performance during Monday’s practice.
In perhaps the least effective practice of training camp, there were a few interceptions, dropped passes and uninspired play.
“We always have concerns; we’re always looking to get better,” Musgrave told reporters Tuesday. “Yesterday we took a step back in a couple of periods. We’re looking to make those corrections and get better the next time we’re faced with those periods for sure.”
Musgrave had a few different words when he met with the offense Monday evening.
“The coaches really lit into them last night,” coach Leslie Frazier said. “They responded, which is good to see. You’ve got to push through those moments when things aren’t perfect. You’ve got to find a way to bounce back. It was good to see the guys bounce back today.”
The offense returned Tuesday and had one of its crisper practice sessions, moving the ball well in hurry-up situations, including when quarterback Christian Ponder hit receiver Percy Harvin for a 25-yard touchdown pass. Harvin snared the ball despite pressure and being taken down by rookie safety Harrison Smith.
For an offense that looked out of sync often last training camp, being able to turn things around in one day is a sign of progress.
“It’s huge,” Ponder said. “Yesterday was not a good practice at all, but we had the mindset today that we’d come out with some more enthusiasm and fix it, and we did. I think that proves the leadership on this team. I think a lot of the guys stepped up and spoke up last night and pushed each other today. I thought it was one of our best practices for sure.”
The mild-mannered Musgrave spoke up, too, and tried his own unique style of motivation.
“Yeah, he had a great metaphor of lighting a fire,” Ponder said. “But Bill’s great, man. We love Bill. Obviously he’s a great offensive coordinator and he finds some unique ways to motivate us, but it works.”
Ponder wouldn’t reveal the metaphor in question, but it’s clear Musgrave got his point across to an offense that ranked 18th in yards and 19th in points during the coordinator’s first season with the Vikings. The passing offense, with Ponder starting the final 10 games of his rookie year, ranked 28th.
But the Vikings and Musgrave have hopes for continued growth with Ponder more comfortable his second season and the team adding receiver Jerome Simpson and tight end John Carlson to the mix.
Frazier knows there can be no wasted time as the offense develops and was pleased with the progress Tuesday.
“We were just more efficient and our tempo was better,” Frazier said. “Yesterday we kind of lagged a little bit, and we can’t afford for that to happen. There are going to be some moments where the defense makes plays in a game and you’ve got to push through that. Yesterday, the defense made some plays and we kind of shrunk back on offense. You just can’t do that over the course of four quarters. You’ve got to push through and find a way to make some plays. We bounced back today, so that was good.”
Musgrave is trying to drive his offense to get better, even if he has to break from his usual quiet demeanor.
“He wasn’t too subdued last night,” Frazier said. “He did a good job. He did a good job of letting them know we’ve got to do better.”
Ponder said it wasn’t the first time he’s seen his coordinator fired up.
“He’s usually quiet, but you’ll see, when he gets on the football field, he gets a fire in his butt and he’s not afraid to yell at people,” Ponder said. “He expects a lot out of us. But he does it in his own way. He’s not going to be screaming and yelling like you see some other coaches do, but he’ll kind of do it quietly. But he’ll get after your butt.”
This time, Musgrave’s motivational tactic appeared to work.