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Spielman, Zimmer and Priefer Address The Media on Sunday

Posted Aug 10, 2014

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman

As everybody here is aware of, Friday night after our preseason game, Linval Joseph was innocently a bystander in a shooting that took place in downtown Minneapolis. He suffered a minor injury to his calf. He was immediately taken to the hospital and then released. Linval came back to training camp yesterday, had our doctors and our trainers look at him and we expect him to make a full recovery and definitely be ready by the regular season. As we communicated yesterday, what is most important that Linval was not seriously hurt. We’re very fortunate that his injury was just minor and we also want to send our thoughts and prayers out to all the victims of this shooting. I know you guys are going to have some questions. A lot of those questions may be deferred to the Minneapolis Police Department, just because of the ongoing investigation.

Q: How is Linval doing emotionally?

A: Linval is a great individual. We’ve been in constant contact with him and also Bill Johnson, his representative. This was just an unfortunate incident and he just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Q: Did the bullet just graze him?

A: I’m not going to get into the details of it but we’re very fortunate that it was just a minor injury and that we expect him to be ready to go by the season opener.

Q: Is that a tough part of the job knowing that you may get a call with bad news like this one during the middle of the night?

A: That’s all part of the job, and I know we constantly harp to our players and Coach Zimmer has done an excellent job on just our players making good decisions off the field, being aware of their surroundings. This happens to be just an unfortunate incident that Linval was at the wrong place at the wrong time and was just an innocent bystander.

Q: Do you reiterate that message just in light of what happened Friday?

A: We always are doing that and Coach Zimmer is always reminding our team just to make good decisions and be aware of your surroundings. There was no wrong done by Linval, and he just happened to be an innocent bystander.

Q: Is there any concern that any of the other players were hurt in the incident?

A: The most important thing is on Linval and that he is okay and that we’re just moving forward.

Q: When do you think Linval will be able to practice and will he play at all in the preseason?

A: We’ll just see how it goes but I know it’s a minor injury and hopefully we’ll expect him out here when he’s ready.

Q: What are your impressions of Friday night’s preseason game?

A: I’m going to leave that all to Coach Zimmer and that gives me a great lead as I’ll introduce our Head Coach Mike Zimmer, who can talk to you about what he felt we did well in the preseason and how we’re going to move forward. Thank you.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer

We came out of the game really, fairly healthy. We had a couple of little things, some of the guys did not play in the game should be back starting practice again this week. Marcus Sherels will be going some today. We had Josh Robinson; he practiced a little bit toward the end last week. We just kept him out for some of those things. Obviously, Linval (Joseph) will not be going in practice. The rest of the guys, for the most part, just minor little knicks. As far as the game, after watching the tape, I got the chance to watch some of the guys closer that you asked me about during the game. I thought that we did some very good things. I was impressed that when I put the tape on, it was a little bit like I envisioned this football team to look like. We didn’t make many mistakes on defense until later on in the ball game. Offensively, we took good care of the ball. Both sides of the ball hustled and ran well. We competed very well; we got up in people’s face on defense; we challenged their defensive backs; we were playing man-to-man. For the most part, we threw the ball in the right places and I think that we are starting to develop a physical mindset with this football team. I like how we practice and I told the team this morning, the way we practice is showing up when the lights come on and we get ready to go play, we need to continue to practice at the same tempo, we need to continue to improve on the mistakes and we still got a long way to go.

Q: Rick Spielman said that the hope is that Linval Joseph will be ready to go for the opener of the regular season. How are you going to precede going with him being gone for a few weeks?

A: The guys have been backing him up, Fred Evens, Shamar Stephen, Chase Baker, all of those guys. We will be fine.

Q: What went through your mind when you heard the news about Linval Joseph?

A: “Oh my god,” and “Thank God he is okay.” He is a terrific young man. He is a good, good kid and we have a lot of good kids on this football team. Rick (Spielman) has done a really good job bringing high quality, high character players in here, which is one of the things that I talk to him all about all of the time. We want to represent the fans, the state of Minnesota and the Twin Cities as people that want to be known as Vikings and good guys. Unfortunately, this was an unfortunate incident that happened.

Q: How are Linval Jospeh’s spirits following the incident?

A: He is pretty good, really, for the most part. He was in the meeting this morning paying attention to what corrections he needs to make when he is playing. He is a fairly quiet guy anyway. I am sure that it shook up him up like it shook all of us up. He is a very high character, high quality young man.

Q: Is he on crutches at this point?

A: No.

Q: He is walking around fine?

A: (Nods in agreement)

Q: Even though this is a random deal, did you have a talk with the players to do things differently?

A: I talked to them a lot about (the fact that) a lot of times when people have the statue that they are, they have to be aware of their surroundings. We have to make sure we understand where we are going, make sure that we understand that there is a chance that people try to make a name for themselves by doing something to somebody, a high celebrity guy. We just have to make sure that we take care of each other. We have to know where we are at and where we are going to go.

Q: Who do you think has been playing positively that you think isn’t receiving a lot of attention?

A: Shamar Stephen, he did very well. Gerald Hodges did some good things in the ball game. I thought that (Austin) Wentworth did a nice job in the game. (Mike) Higgins had a nice catch-and-run afterwards. I am just trying to think of some guys that we do not talk about much, for a first down. Then there are the usual guys. Honestly, I thought that both middle linebackers did some good things. I know that is one of your big things. Jasper (Brinkley) made some nice plays – he had one misfit on a run but busted out of there. We didn’t do a good job on the secondary. I tell our guys all the time that long runs are typically because of the perimeter run force. We did not do a good job when the safety was coming downhill on that play, so we ended up giving him 14 more yards on that run than we should have. I thought that Audie Cole did a nice job in there as well, we have to keep trying to progress with that. We had two three-and-outs on defense. I think that I said this in the press conference, we have to flip the field position better than we were – we were backed up about three times when we could have had them backed up. We did not flip the field position and this is a field position game. Usually, 100 yards should equal seven points. We would have had them on the one-yard line, we stepped the end zone, so we gave them 19 yards there. We did not field the punt one time and we got a 15-yard penalty. There’s a lot of ways to score points and we did not allow ourselves a lot of gain in a lot of situations to score more points.

Q: How would you evaluate your defensive line?

A; Honestly, I think that they did a good job in the run game. We have to rush the passer better. I think that we have to protect the passer better than what we did, that will be a lot of the emphasis this week. I didn’t do any of the practice schedules starting today until after the ballgame because I want to see where we are at, what we need to work on and where we need to go from there in order to get this team better. One of those areas is that we have to rush the passer better. At the end of the ballgame, we did not rush smart, we let the quarterback out of the pocket and they had a chance to throw the ball down there. I think that he scrambled out one time. We have to know where our rush lanes are. Those are all things about being a smart football team. When I talk about being a smart team that is part of being a smart football team.

Q: What did you see from the offensive line when you watched back and looked over, particular the starters? I know that you guys allowed six sacks, but I know that wasn’t all the first team.

A: I thought Matt Kalil improved quite a bit, he made a great play on the one ball that Teddy (Bridgewater) got sacked on. We can’t have turnovers, we can’t have sacks in the red zone and I thought Kalil played well and actually I thought all of them did. Sully (John Sullivan) he probably needs to be a little bit more explosive at the point of attack, the nose guard was playing a little head-up technique, which we obviously, didn’t prepare a lot for this team so that was a little bit that we have to adjust what we do offensively. Phil (Loadholt) did a nice job and Charlie Johnson did a good job. I was pleased especially with the run blocking, we have to clean up the pocket for the quarterback a little bit better, we have to give them more, those quarterbacks love to have that clean pocket. A lot of the things I talk about on defense are exactly what the other defensive coaches are trying to do. It’s important that we keep that pocket clean for the guy.

Q: You mentioned things got a little sloppy late, how much of that was to be expected and how much was it a concern?

A: Well my expectations are pretty high, I expect whoever is in the football game to do what we ask him and to do what we are practicing to do. I was a little bit more animated in the second half because I saw some things that we weren’t doing that they were coached to do.

 Q: Do you expect Teddy Bridgewater to get a start in preseason just to see how he looks and does?

A: I don’t know, we will see how he does after this week, I don’t know.

 Q: Would you say this week coming up will be similar to the other game in terms of how much some guys will play or will Cassel play more?

A: We have talked about it. We will just see how it goes.

Q: Will Monday night’s practice be similar to the last one?
A:  It will be fairly similar just; again these two days this week are about what I felt we need to improve on. I have a list that I wrote down of areas for us to continue on we have to improve so I put a lot of those areas in these two practices where we can try to get better.

Q: Have you gone back and taken a look at Adam Thielen, what did you see from him? He seems like a guy who can contribute in a lot of different spots?
A: Yes, he had great effort. He made a nice catch on third down. He did a nice on punt return and punt cover. He’s a guy that has a lot of toughness, a lot of heart. He wants to make the football team and he’s giving his best effort to do it. Guys like him, you can win a lot of football games with guys like him.

Q: What did you think of Anthony Barr on those couple of blitzes, how do you think he looked rushing the passer?

A: He got the half sack on the one, honestly I told him, he kind of felt his way into through the rush. He should’ve probably ran over the back but we have not done that in practice anywhere these are like sacking the quarterback. A lot of times in these preseason games you see guys going by the quarterback because every day I’m telling them to stay away from the quarterback and now all of a sudden you get one night and they get to go hit the quarterback. Overall, the thing I was impressed with, the things that I have talking to him about in practice he improved in the ball game. He was over-running a couple of plays the last few days in camp and we coached him up to make sure you are taking care of this then shed. He got off of blocks well, he in coverage was in good shape. I think he maybe had a couple blitzes. I should’ve probably rushed him a little earlier in the ball game than I did, but he will get plenty of opportunities. This week, just so you can write this, we’ll start moving him around a little bit more with some of the rush stuff. There is your highlight of the day.

Q: Do you have a rule or a philosophy on going into the locker before or after practices visiting with players?

A: I think the head coach needs to be around. Let them know you’re around. Sometimes it keeps them on their toes a little bit. I try to be around as much as much as I possibly can, I don’t really concern myself with how much the other coaches do it. I try to go in the weight room when they are lifting weights, I try to go in the meetings, I try to walk through the training room. I want them to see me as a football coach. I want them to understand that they are my guys.

Q: Is there any tendency to put players in position that they are a little less used to in order to evaluate areas you think they may need to improve?

A: We try to do that more in practice to find out what they can do opposed to doing it in a game where they may not look as good. All part of practice and the games for us right now in the preseason is to evaluate what we are doing well, what strengths the guy has, what weakness he has, as we start game planning we try to take away their (opponent) strengths and weaknesses, but try and use our guys in the best possible way we can. We will mess around with the pass rush a little bit now and talk about getting guys where they can work together on certain sides and continue to do that, but I try not do that very much in games because I want our guys to play fast, I want them to play physical, I want them to play smart and as a football coach I don’t really want to put them in a position where they aren’t going to be successful.

Q: Why was A.C. Leonard released? Was it a medical thing?

A: You’re going to have to talk to Rick (Spielman) about that. Obviously, we discuss it all, but I think that should go through Rick.

Q: How will Norv Turner and his offense maybe use Jerome Felton?

A: I don’t think he started because of the personnel group we had in the ball game. The first time the fullback went in the game he went in. I think Jerome (Felton), so far I feel like Jerome is having a good camp and he has some thump to him, he’s got a physical presence. The fullback position, again it’s kind of like using the guys, he’s a thumper so when he’s in we are going to use him in some thumping situations. Other fullbacks around the league may not have same type of physicality that he has, so they are not used the same way so I would say, I don’t really know how they used him last year but I know that his blocking ability, catching the ball in the flat, making sure that we can spread guys out with him in there will help us.

Statement from Head Coach Mike Zimmer:

Special teams, we hired Joe Marciano to help with the special teams during the three weeks that Mike Priefer has been suspended. Joe has been a special teams coordinator for 27 years in the NFL, Tampa Bay, Houston and New Orleans. He is a great guy, very, very knowledgeable. We was at the walkthrough today and will be out at practice. We felt like, in our thinking that it would be good to get someone in here to go through these next three weeks of camp, get a feel exactly of how we are doing things where we can continue to speak the same language, but have some veteran experience for these first couple of ball games especially with me being a new head coach and I think the experience factor have been good and Mike (Priefer), Joe (Marciano) and Ryan (Ficken) are going to work very, very closely together, so the continuity of what we do special teams is always the same.

Q: Have you worked with Joe Marciano before?

A: I have not, no.

Q: Has he been here in the last couple weeks or not?

A: No, he came in last night and was at the walk through this morning, he’ll be at the practice today, you will see him. I’m sure you’ve seen him on TV before. Those special team coaches get on TV a lot.

Q: Will he be around just for the start of the season, or is there any chance he would stay on in any capacity?

A: Our plan right now is for three weeks once Mike (Priefer) gets back then he will come back. Joe was kind of retired, he’s got family things he has to take care of and so he was gracious enough to come up here and help us out and I appreciate that a lot.

Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer

We finally got to play a game the other night and overall I was pretty pleased with our effort. You know we’ve come a long way since the spring, obviously, we saw some good things, saw some guys playing hard. They did a great effort trying to use our techniques, our fundamentals, doing what we are asking them to do. Obviously, I saw some good performances by some guys but we still have a long way to go there are a lot of things, a lot of mistakes that we made that hopefully we can learn from that. We started this morning with our meeting with punt and punt returns this morning and our walk through. Still a ways to go, but I’m excited about our start and our continued development.

Q: What did you think about them bringing in Joe Marciano?

A: This was something we had talked about probably a week or so before training camp. I think it’s a great idea. Again, I’ve said that I think Ryan (Ficken) can handle it, there’s no doubt in my mind that he can. I can understand why we would bring in a veteran coach and the fact that Joe is available is a benefit and a plus for us.

Q: Did you have any input in that?

A: It’s not my decision, but they asked me my opinion and I though it was a good idea.

Q: How aware of Joe Marciano were you? Have you ever worked with him in the past?

A: No, I have never worked with him. I’ve coached against him many times and my father has coached against him many times and there’s a great deal of mutual respect.

Q: What are you evaluate Adam Thielen on punt returns?

A: He did a good job, as he saw the tape this morning he is probably disappointed that he didn’t score on the one, but that’s something that a young punt returner, that’s a mistake they are going to make. He saw the seam and he just went for it full speed where he’s got to kind of dip and go to the outside or widen them and go back inside but it was a very, very well blocked play. Our guys did a good job on the outside and on the interior we did a good job finishing blocks, they did what we asked them to do, but Adam had two real nice returns, you saw the punt coverage at the end of the first half, that was fantastic. On kickoff returns he missed a block for Jerick (McKinnon) got tackled at the 22 (yard line), if he kicks the guy out like he should and what we call helmet adjust he’s going to find that seam and we might have a big return there as well, but you know he still made some errors but overall he played extremely well. He ran the punt team very well, he’s a leader, he’s smart, he’s tough, he’s a good football player.

Q: How comfortable are you getting with him in those different roles on special teams?

A: The more I see what I did from the other night, the more comfortable I will become. I expected him to play that well and he did for the most part so I was excited for his performance.

Q: you got all those factors that go into something like that, guys in their other positions that making the team, Marcus Sherels had done the job for several seasons, how do you make that decision of who is going to be your punt returner?

A: A lot of it is Marcus’ health, obviously, he couldn’t go the other night and hopefully he will be fine. Marcus has earned that job, obviously, he will feel a little bit of pressure from Adam or any other young returner. But Marcus is the guy that we have relied on so heavily the last three years that we see him to have continued success, I hope. Right now if you’re asking me who is going to be the returner week one, I would expect it to be Marcus depending on his health and how he preforms the rest of the preseason.

Q: Can you walk us through Adam Thielen’s punt coverage at the end of the first half?

A: They had a six-box look, they were setting up a return against us and you know Adam’s job was protect inside first, then B we talk about our fullback, or our personal protector to be our third gunner, we have two gunners wide, we have a fast guy, smart, tough guy, Andrew Sendejo, Harrison Smith, those type of guys have done that before, Robert Blanton, so he’s our third gunner and did a good job clearing that there wasn’t a rush threat for him and he goes right down over the ball and does a great job. There was a guy coming to block him and he kind of dips puts that guy on his back so he cant block him, unless he blocks him in the back and he’s right over the ball, and makes a nice play. It was a minus-four yard return and ends up being a 51-yard net and a punt like that at the end of the half, we call an end of half punt, because the very next play they took a knee. That’s our goal, obviously, is to either end the half on that punt play or if there is a few seconds left they decide, “Hey, we are in bad field position they take a knee and lets get out of here.” That’s our goal.

Q: What’d you think of Jerick McKinnon?

He did some good things, obviously, on offense. I know he did very well, his kickoff return you know he has a chance he is close on that one, like I said he missed that one block I didn’t get a chance to use him as much as I wanted to he ran around on the first kickoff and he kind of got blocked and into the ground a little bit and he hopped back up. He has a way to go, but I think because he’s running the ball so much now I cant use him a lot in the second half and I’m sure that’ll continue in the preseason. Hopefully I can do bits and pieces in the first half and then, obviously, in practice continue his development.

Q: The Gerald Hodges blocked field goal was that a good individual effort or did someone help clear the way or what happened?

A: It was phenomenal coaching effort, to be quite honest with you. I’m just kidding, no; they had just signed that young man the night before, the day before (Kevin) Goessling, so the operation was a bit slow. To his credit, that’s tough on any young kid but Gerald did a great job, he hopped through his gap and he did what we asked him to do. He got through the gap, got back on both feet on the ground and then went up and a lot of guys would get through the gap and then they don’t jump, you need to jump to get those kicks and he did that. Did a great job.

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