Lions pursuing, but Frazier focused on playoffs

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Now that the Detroit Lions have called about defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, the Minnesota Vikings expect interest from other teams with head coaching vacancies.

The intensity of game preparation in the playoffs and the uncertainty of when the season will end, however, makes talking to Frazier a fluid process. January can be an awkward time in the NFL, when the scrambling for new coaches collides with the focus of some candidates who have responsibilities with their clubs in the postseason.

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If the Vikings lose to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, there's no problem. But if they're victorious, they will play the following Saturday against the Carolina Panthers with an abbreviated week of practice and strategizing sessions. If the Lions want to interview Frazier in that case, they'd have to do it in Minnesota -- if he has time.

When would that be convenient?

"About midnight or 6 a.m., 5 a.m.," coach Brad Childress said, wryly.

Don't get Childress wrong. He's not trying to keep Frazier from a promotion. He touted his readiness for such a job this week and expressed no concern about a distraction for his defensive coordinator and assistant head coach.

"Les is a 'here and now' guy," Childress said. "If it happens for him, that's great. If he's with the Minnesota Vikings, he's good with that too. ... Probably a matter of time before he gets his time. He wants to do a good job with the job that he has. You always get a good job when you have a good job and you do a good job with it."

Eagles coach Andy Reid, who had Frazier as his defensive backs coach for four seasons, endorsed him, too.

"He's a great football coach, but probably an even better person," Reid said. "Great individual and a great family man. He has a very strong work ethic. When he was here he was very quiet, but he wanted to know everything. ... This wasn't just because he was a good corner in the National Football League, but you could see that the players respected him for what he was as a person and coach. He deserves a head coaching shot and if he got one, an owner is going to get a very solid, solid person and good football coach."

After Mike Tomlin took the head coaching position with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Frazier inherited a strong unit in 2007 that got stronger this year with the acquisition of defensive end Jared Allen. But the Vikings lost middle linebacker E.J. Henderson, last season's defensive MVP, to a season-ending foot injury four games in. Defensive tackle Pat Williams has missed the last two weeks with a broken shoulder blade.

Yet the pass coverage improved.

With a little bit of the philosophy of Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, the league's blitzing maven, and a lot of Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy's Tampa Two zone system, Frazier has helped develop a successful group with the Vikings. Playing on Buddy Ryan's 46 defenses with the Chicago Bears in the 1980s also was a strong influence.

"I think everybody expected his time to come," linebacker Ben Leber said. "I wish him the best of luck if he does get that job or another job. If that happens, then we'll have to roll with it and see what happens."

Because of the freedom he's given from Childress, Frazier said he feels like he has "the greatest job in the NFL," but has expressed clear interest in eventually getting his own team. He was passed over by the Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons for their vacancies last year, but the feedback he received was positive.

"I'm flattered that Detroit would show interest," Frazier said. "I would hope at some point to talk with them about their position, but not at the risk of our not going deep into the playoffs. I hope that we can win this weekend and just keep going. If something were to happen with a team when the season is over, that would be outstanding, but a lot of things are out of my control. I just want us to do well in the playoffs."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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