General Manager Rick Spielman
We are very excited about the weekend. We feel we have a lot of very good, young football players coming into our organization, into the program. I feel by what we were able to get accomplished on Friday, and what we got accomplished today, it’s going to create a lot of great competition and really stay true to our board. We had the one trade and got the seventh round (pick) back so small victory, but we’re very excited about the players that are coming in. I’ll kind of go through the list and kind of give you a couple of lines on each guy and then I’ll take your questions afterwards. I’m sure you guys have some. Gerald Hodges, the linebacker from Penn State, we thought he was a very unique athlete. He was a former safety that moved down and got a chance to meet with him at the Combine with a few other spots and he has the position flexibility to play a lot of different linebacker spots; either the sam, the will, we’ll look at him some as mike, coaches will figure that all out as he comes in. But the thing he really has is the athletic skill set. Not only how he played in space in Penn State this year, he was usually lined up outside, they put him over the slot at times, they stacked him a few times, but you can see the athletic skill set and the position flexibility he can bring. They even tried him at a punt returner, but I don’t think that worked out very well. The next choice in the 5th round was Jeff Locke. We had him as the top punter. When you’re looking at the draft board and kind of where the kickers, punters started to go last year, we felt that at that time, if we were going to make a move on a punter to bring in some competition that that was the proper time to do that. As you see once we did that, punters and kickers started to come off the board right after that. Our 6th round pick, Jeff Baca is a kid from UCLA who has played up and down the line; tackle, guard, center. He’s one of the Viking fit type, I know what Jeff Davidson looks for, very tough, competitive kid that has some position flexibility and very excited that he got in the mix and that’s when we moved down in the 6th to be able to pick him up. Michael Mauti, the linebacker from Penn State, the middle linebacker, was having a very good year before he went through his ACL, blew it out I think. I know that was the third time he blew out his ACL and we were very strict on him at the Combine, I’ve asked [Eric] Sugarman 8,000 times, because he’s a heck of a football player and has a great attitude and great leadership. Is this guy healthy? What he’ll do is he’ll come in and we feel we’ll start rehabbing him but he should be ready to go by training camp. He was just too good of a football player, too good of character to pass up and I think you guys talked to him, but he’s very intense and he’ll be a great competition at that mike linebacker position. The next pick in the 7th round was Travis Bond. He was the big guard from North Carolina. It was funny, I went to the North Carolina-Louisville game in September and I didn’t have any 2012 tape at the time, so I watched 2011 tape and I saw this big guard that was about 370 pounds or whatever he was and saw that he didn’t move very well. But then they came running out of the tunnel and I’m looking and looking to see this guy saying, I got to see how big he is, but I couldn’t find him. Then I saw they pulled half a man out of him and I was like, is this the same guy, the same number and I went over and talked to the offensive line coach and he had lost a tremendous amount of weight and then I’m sitting there watching him play live and he’s moving night and day from what I saw when he was too heavy. He has position flexibility, played on the right side between that right guard and I think that when Williams got injured he moved out to right tackle. Jeff Davidson went down and spent a lot of time with him down at North Carolina at the pro day and spent some time with him on the phone and got to know him so he fits the type of lineman we’re trying to bring in here. Guys that can move at the point especially with the running game we try to establish. And then the last kid, Everett Dawkins was the under tackle from Florida State. He was a little bit undersized, but a very quick up field one-gap penetrator. He was the highest rated guy on our board at the time, and felt he was just too good of a player not to draft and to pass up. So we’ll bring him in and feel that now, with what we added some at linebacker, what we’re able to accomplish here and college free agency, that list will be coming out here relatively shortly by tomorrow, once we get everything done. We’re going to have a very competitive training camp and by creating that competition, it’s going to really make players better. So I’ll take your questions now.
Q: What does the Jeff Locke pick mean for
A: It has nothing to do with anything Chris Kluwe is off the field. When we’re making decisions, we’re purely making them, trying to bring in the best competition possible regardless of position. When we brought in the first three, we’re trying to create competition and see if they can upgrade us. This was just another normal personnel move. It had nothing to do with Chris Kluwe’s off-field concerns, I have no issues if Chris Kluwe wants to express his opinion, that’s his right, that’s his freedom of speech. This is just a football decision to bring in a guy to come in to compete.
Q: You took
A: I’m not going to comment on anything right now. Right now we just finished the draft and finished signing college free agents so we’ll sit down with the coaches and analyze where we’re at with everything. But right now going forward, we expect that to be a competition.
Q: What has set him apart from the other punters you looked at?
A: One, the character. Two, he’s a left footed punter, which helps. Three, he’s a great directional kicker. Four, he’s excellent at getting the ball inside the 20. Very good holder, good athlete. So those were all the things, once we got into our draft meetings and then like last year we sent Coach Priefer out and did numerous private workouts and came back. When he came back and we were in our special teams meetings he gave his input into it and then once we gathered all that information, that’s why we made the decision.
Q: Jeff Locke can hold as well?
Q: Did him being left footed help as well since that is unusual?
A: Well a left footed punter has a different spin on the ball. I know when we play teams that have left footed punters, we always bring in a left footed punter for a workout that week just so our guys can get accustomed to that different spin. If he was a left footed punted and wasn’t very talented, then we wouldn’t have drafted him. We’re drafting him because of his talent.
Q: With Michael Mauti, what were two of the 8,000 questions you asked Eric Sugarman to put your mind at ease with his ACLs?
A: Did we pass this guy? 2,000 times. They felt the repairs were excellent. I know our medial staff with Eric Sugarman and how we’ve had success rehabing guys coming off ACLs have been very high. I would match our medical staff and our rehab program against anyone in the NFL, I think we are the best at it. The results speak for itself from
Q: Where is he in his rehab?
A: He is, if I’m not mistaken, about six months out, six-seven months out (from surgery). He’ll come in, we’ll get a full assessment of him. We saw him at the Combine, we saw him then at the re-check. We’ll see him this weekend and kind of get a better assessment of how far he’s out.
Q: Where do you think he starts in the mix of what you’re looking for?
A: We’re going to, like I said, sit and assess what we have. Everybody was a little bit tired so I wasn’t going to sit there and have a personnel meeting with the coaches tonight. We’ll get to that on Monday and kind of see where we’re at. We signed a couple linebackers and another linebacker in free agency, college free agency, so we’ll see where we’re at and then go from there.
Q: When Mauti has two ACL injuries in the same leg, does that increase the chances of an injury in that leg happening again?
A: You know Chad Greenway I think had two. I can go off what are medical staff says and I have one hundred percent confidence in what they are telling me.
Q: Have you ever heard of a guy with three?
A: I would have to go down the line and look, but I know that every repair has been excellent, and it just has been kind of a freak thing. Our medical staff feels one hundred percent fine with Mauti.
Q: You drafted three sets of college teammates again. Are you going to tell us that that is still just a coincidence?
A: Still just a coincidence. There’s a lot of good players at those schools apparently.
Q: You get a lot of production out of those guys you draft from the same schools don’t you?
A: Yeah, so I am kind of excited to see what we get out of this class here coming up.
Q: Did you ever talk to Travis Bond about his experience getting hit by a truck?
A: Well I know a truck hit him and I know he had the wrist fracture and I’m sure that the truck took just as much damage. I know he is a very tough kid, and I don’t think it affected him that much. That kid, when you watch him play, matches the criteria that we are looking for, and what Jeff Davidson is looking for on that offensive line. He definitely fit that.
Q: How do you make sure you keep him at an acceptable weight?
A: We will talk to him about that, and what is expected of him. Tom Kanavy does a great job with our guys. Very rarely do we have a problem with weight with the guys here.
Q: Do you view him more as a guard or with his size as a tackle?
A: That’s the unique thing because he is 6 foot 5 and his arms hang down to the floor. That is a huge advantage for an offensive lineman. He is another guy that has position flexibility and that is what we are looking for when we draft guys; they have to be able to play multiple positions. We can look at him at right guard and also at right tackle.
Q: Is Jeff Baca primarily an inside player?
A: Baca is more than likely an inside center/guard type.
Q: As the dust settles, do you feel like you were able to hit all of the needs you had?
A: Yeah I feel very strong about that and very strong about the competition that we have created. Our personnel never ends. We are looking forward to this rookie mini-camp coming up next week. We will continue to monitor where we see these guys. But our process of bringing in players never ends.
Q: Any comment on Lawrence Jackson?
A: I don’t know if his contract came in yet so once it’s officially announced I’ll comment on him.
Q: Where you surprised how late the quarterback run took place?
A: I didn’t pay much attention to it to be honest with you. We weren’t in the market for a quarterback and we don’t know how other teams felt about those players
Q: Did you set a pick next year for the trade with Tampa Bay?
A: No, it is just the pick this year.
Q: Hodges is a former safety, is he a deep coverage kind of guy?
A: He is very good in coverage. You see him, when you watch the tape; playing out in space and playing over slots. He has the unique background of being a defensive back and the unique skill set of once he got added on that weight and became a linebacker but he still moves around like a safety, yet he is physical enough to play as a linebacker
Q: Is he maxed out size wise?
A: We’ll see. I think all of those college kids when they come in are still maturing and growing. I know Tom Kanavy and our strength staff do an amazing job. They will do all of their body weights and get an idea of what their optimal weight is. We really do a nice job of getting to those optimal weights and body fats.
Q: Where will Hodges and Mauti play?
A: We will look at that one Monday.
Q: Will Locke kick off?
A: We feel pretty confident about Blair [Walsh] kicking off. That didn’t play a big factor into it. We do know if something ever happened we have a good fall back.
Q: What about Kluwe makes you pause in giving the job to Locke?
A: Chris has been a very good punter here. It was just a thing where we wanted to bring in competition, which we have done at every position. I know you guys are putting emphasis on the punter, but every position there is going to be competition and that is the only way you get better. When guys are in competition you see who’s the best and who is the best 53 that will make the team next fall.
Q: It has got to be hard to imagine not keeping a punter taken in the 5th round?
A: Sure it is. We felt he is the best punter, and there will be competition.
Q: Do you see Everett as an attacking one-gap type?
A: We worked with him at the Senior Bowl, and you can see some of the quickness and penetration that he does have. We feel he has a chance to be a pretty good inside rusher because of his quickness and rushing skills.