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Transcript: Spielman and Players Addressed the Media Tuesday

Posted Apr 24, 2018

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman  

Just to start off, very excited to get the offseason started last week here at TCO Performance Center. You had an opportunity to see our players work out today and an opportunity to talk to some of our players as well. The energy, the sense of urgency that you feel in this building is pretty special. I know from the players’ standpoint and the coaches’ standpoint as well. I would like to thank Jamaal Stephenson and his leadership through this whole process as we get prepared for this weekend. The coaches, the entire football operations from our scouts, Eric Sugarman and the medical, our psychologists, our intelligence doctors, A to Z. There is a lot of people involved in this process to help make the best decisions we could possibly make. It is truly a team effort as we get ready to finalize our board, which we did today and to get ready to go this weekend. This is the last chance during the offseason that you have an opportunity to really make a significant change to your roster. We were able to be aggressive in free agency. We got a key extension done so far with Eric Kendricks and now this is truly the last piece of the puzzle where you can make some significant changes to your roster. We are always going to continue the philosophy of building through the draft, supplementing with free agency and anticipate this is the next step into building this 2018 roster.

Q: Have you had a lot of action going on trades or calls going back and forth?

A: The trade thing I know everybody talks about wanting to trade up or trade down. I’ve had four calls over the last two days where we’re picking. You don’t know. I wish I could say ‘Yes, we’d love to trade out’, but I don’t want to trade out if there’s a player that falls to us. An example like a Dalvin Cook last year, then we went and traded up. Our philosophy on the trades last year was we traded up twice and down seven times. It’s not planned. It’s more reactive to how the names are falling off the board and also what the depth is at that particular position. If it is a deep class at a particular position and one of the areas that we want to try to address and we can move down and still get that player, sure why wouldn’t you do that because then you get the benefit of another draft pick or adding another potential player to your roster. Or if it is a significant situation like where we felt last year twice on Friday we went up to get guys because we felt that strongly about it. Not only with Dalvin Cook but I think last year when you see that center/guard area start making a run, we weren’t going to sit back where we were picking in the third round and we were pretty aggressive to go up and get Pat [Elflein], the guy that we coveted in the draft last year.

Q: Does it take the pressure off of the draft at all with how aggressive you were in free agency filling some big needs already before you get to draft day?

A: I don’t think it ever takes the pressure off. I think what it does, especially where we are picking this year, which I would take two spots lower. But I would take this area every year we possibly can get. It is that it gives you a lot of flexibility on what direction you want to go. I know everybody in the mock world and experts out there it’s offensive line, offensive line, offensive line. But when you look at your roster, you have to look at ‘Ok, where are some other holes that you are going to have to fill?’ That is why I am looking at the 2019 roster as well. Guys who are not under contact. What if there is a significant player that is there at 30 that can potentially fill a need. He may have a role this year, but definitely fill a need in the future. You have to weigh in not only what your needs are this year, but I think we’re in a position especially at 30 as everybody thinks we are locked in at offensive line and that is absolutely not the case. I think right now the way our draft board has developed, we have five different positions that we can go in any direction depending on how the board is falling Thursday night.

Q: Do you consider the offensive line a deep class this year?

A: I think in specific areas. I would say the center/guard area is a pretty deep class. I think there are some offensive tackles in this class, but I think it may drop off quicker than a center/guard area. Those are the things we are weighing. If Sid’s [Hartman] prediction come true and we do move out of the first round and you have three or four options in a particular position and you can get that same player in the second round and also have an additional pick, why wouldn’t you do that?

Q: Do you have enough money to resign Anthony Barr, Danielle Hunter and Stefon Diggs?

A: Rob [Brzezisnki] said we do. We’re working on that. We’re looking, it’s a process. Where the money comes in, I know we’ve tried to plan. I don’t know the next potential guy is. We’ll continue to work through that. Usually the trigger point is right before training camp, is when we’ve got a lot of extensions done. So, we’ll monitor it. But, that will not have any indication of what direction we go in the draft. You want to draft good football players, is what you want to draft. That’s what we’re going to do. I think the other thing that you have to be aware of is as we’re going through these meetings, you’re looking at players and there are a lot of good players. He may be a good player in a different scheme. I think the communication that we have with the coaching staff and the personnel staff. We sit there and we’re group studying. In fact, offensive and defensive coaches, I gave them a pod of players to look at that are graded relatively in the same area. But, we may go in a different direction than people anticipate because maybe that player is going to be a really good player but he is going to be a really good player in a different system than we run. So, that’s where you have to be on the same page with the coaching staff on understanding the physical traits. What the player is going to be asked to do, whether from an offensive scheme standpoint or a defensive scheme standpoint.

Q: Have you made a decision where Mike Remmers will play next year and how could that affect your draft choices?

A: Well, Mike Remmers gives us some flexibility to go either direction if we do go offensive line. If you go with an interior player, then Mike Remmers we feel can play right tackle for us and he can play at a winning level. If we go tackle, Mike Remmers can slide inside at guard like he had to during the playoffs and he played winning football at guard. So, when you have guys on your roster that can play multiple positions like that, that’s what gives you the flexibility to go with best player. That’s what we look for a lot in the draft, too, is guys that can play. Pat Elflein, for example, played guard and then he was a center. So, a lot of these guys we looked at, can these tackles play guard? Can these guards play center? Can these centers play guard? Even on the defensive side of the ball, we do the same thing. When you have players like that, it gives you the flexibility to go with best player available on your board.

Q: What do you know now that you didn’t when you started working drafts?

A: I don’t know, I’ll let you know after the draft. That’s what makes the draft, to me, so much fun. It’s because it’s so unpredictable, you can’t predict what trades are going to happen in front of you. You can’t predict what players are going to drop to you. Basically, you do all this prep and this is the time of the year where I’ve hammered so many different scenarios over the last three days. I can’t tell you all weekend, how much film we watched and how many scenarios we have put ourselves in. Not only at 30 but if we trade back, these players are available, are we just as happy getting one of these players and another pick? We went through scenarios through to the bottom of the second and bottom of the third round right now. That’s the exciting part because you don’t know what you’re going to experience because it seems like you experience something new every year.

Q: When you’re able to stock pile 10 picks, is that about having more swings at players or more flexibility?

A: I’ve just always had the philosophy, if you can get to that amount or more, you have a better chance of hitting on players. Sure, you’re going to have your misses. But, the more swings that you get at the plate, the better odds you have of hitting the ball. If you only get to bat twice, you’ve got maybe a 50-50 chance. If you get to bat 10 times, hopefully your 50-50 chance, your odds have increased pretty good. So, I’ve always had the philosophy of getting as many of those picks, but also, not passing up on good football players just to get the picks. There has to be a reason why. There’s a lot of thought that goes into it. You just don’t do it to do it. Last year, for example, when we moved up twice on Friday, I was like, ‘I think we only have two picks left for the rest of the draft.’ Then we ended up with whatever more we did on Saturday. If a good player is there, you just take them. Or, if a good player is falling, you go get him. Or, if you have options to still get a good player and can get additional picks, then you do that. So, it’s not one set philosophy. That’s why you can’t predict what is going to happen on draft day. If we ended up with four players this year but four significant players, I’d be just as happy with that.

Q: How much of a factor has it been having 10 picks in the draft?

A: I think it’s taking as many swings as you can down in those later rounds. I think last year what I wanted to improve on the most was the college free agency and our approach and philosophy in that area. I think it paid off last year and I think it’s even going to be more significant this year. When you have a roster, I think the way ours is built right now, we have two tiers. We have a pretty expensive tier in your starters, but you can’t have that expensive of a tier in your backups. So you have to have guys that can economically fit in the cap as your backups. But the reason you feel so confident about that is because the of the coaching staff that we have and how they’ve developed all these young guys. I think that’s why we’ve been successful. We can identify these guys but our coaches across the board, and that starts with our head coach, have done incredible at developing this young talent.

Q: With the roster you have with big money contracts, is it important to supplement with first contract guys rather than go out and get veteran backups with big contracts?

A: Yes, it’s exactly what the thinking is right now. Every year is a big draft, but the more heavier or front loaded our roster gets with those big contracts the more important the backups or the role players that you’re hoping will develop into starters make a significant difference. If you do get one of your top tier guys that you paid a lot of money to hurt, like I said there isn’t another high expensive player behind him. Now you got these young guys and we have the coaching staff that are going to get these young guys to go out there and preform. 

Q: What’s your early feedback on the new draft board technology?

A: I would say that the IT people in Paul Nelson and Luke Burson and all the people that went into that – I would consider myself not an IT person, but I know how to break things easily, not only IT stuff but other things. But I haven’t been able to break the board. The biggest thing that I was very nervous about, it’s the first time in I think 30 years that I have never gone without magnets. But this board has been incredible. And again, all the credit to the Wilf’s for giving us the resources to have such a unique board. Which I don’t think any team in the NFL or any other sport has this board. It made us so much more efficient, so when we’re sitting there and we’re working in our areas of the board and as you know I work horizontally. I’m going down to this end and pulling this tag for a defensive end and I’m going down this end and pulling a tag for this running back. Well it takes me, with the way I walk, 10 minutes, now I’m just pushing things and within 30 seconds we’ve been so much more efficient. The time we’ve saved by the technology that’s in that room is incredible. It all comes down to making sure you’re making the right decisions, but it’s freed up more time for us to do film, group studies. It’s freed up more time for us to do a lot more conversations. Like right now, last year at this time when you have tags. We had to have everything done and finalized by this afternoon because then we’re running the tags and putting all the tags up on the board. We’re still dosing up the board a little bit, tweaking the board. Because all you’re doing is changing and it automatically changes, you don’t have to run any tags. The efficiency has been incredible. The amount of time we’ve saved has been incredible. Usually we have a big assembly line of people doing tags right now putting them on magnets so they can stick on the board. Now, all we’re doing is focusing on this and we don’t have to waste that time.

Q: Can you get a good offensive tackle in the second round?

A: If one falls there, maybe. 

Q: Those last six quarters of the season, did those effect how you evaluated what you have and what you don’t have?

A: I don’t think you measure anything in that short of a window. I think you have to measure the whole season. I think you measure from the first day you’re at training camp all the way through. I know we didn’t play our best football in those last six quarters. I know the coaches have went back and hashed through that 100 times on why and what we can do to get better. But I don’t think you put a point of emphasis on the last six quarters.

Q: Where are you getting all the money to sign all these guys?

A: I would tell you this, most of the people that work on the football side from the training staff to the cap people to the analytics people, one thing I learned is hire people that are a lot smarter than you and are experts in those areas and then you can orchestrate everything and orchestrate your beliefs and make the final decisions. When you have experts in those areas that I think are the best in the business, I think it gives you the best opportunity to have success.

Q: As you approach the draft what’s the possibility of Terence Newman coming back?

A: Right now we’re focusing on the draft. If there’s anything we’ll let you know.

Vikings Head Athletic Trainer Eric Sugarman

I thought I’d talk about the medical a little bit to take Dalvin Cook off the hook with the medical questions. Obviously he is in the middle of rehab with his ACL right now. Dalvin is six-and-a-half months post-op, right when we consider is the sweet spot for rehab. Really doing all functional activities at this time. He is doing rehab with the players during the offseason program and he has been doing rehab solely with Tom Hunkele, our director of rehab and [Mark] Uyeyama, our strength coach. Dalvin has knocked the rehab out of the park. He’s done great job. He’s been here every day since the injury occurred, post-surgery and really hasn’t missed a beat from transitioning from Winter Park to this new beautiful facility. He’s been here with a smile on his face every day. Really just to give him the credit because he’s put in all the work to get to the point to where he is at. To answer a few of your questions before you ask them, what is the plan for Dalvin moving forward? He will participate in OTAs on a limited basis with what he is able to do with his teammates. Same thing for mini-camp, that is no different. The plan is for him hopefully when he gets to training camp, he will be nine-and-a-half months post-op at that time. Hopefully he will be a participant just like everybody else. For me as the athletic trainer, it has been fun to work with Dalvin and get to know him personally, but to also watch how he has attacked this rehab. It’s tough early on. I’m sure he will tell you. The first few weeks when he came back he probably was wondering if he would ever walk normal again. There were a few days when he was ready to kill me when I had to push on his knee to get his range of motion back because we struggled early on. Remarkable effort by him to date. A lot of work still, the hardest part has yet to come, football functions.

Q: Will he be ready for the first game action?

A: Yes, that is the plan hopefully. I should see no reason why not.

Q: There is a sweet spot to the rehab?

A: It’s boring when you’re lying on the table and working on your range of motion and doing straight leg raises and all the boring things. The sweet spot, the fun part is when you get functional again. Now he is out here. You guys saw him, he is out here running and cutting and doing everything like the other guys just at a little bit lower speed. This is the fun part for him to get back on the field and feel like a football player again.

Vikings Running Back Dalvin Cook

Q: How are you feeling about things?

A: I feel great. To be back out there with the fellas is first off. To go back out there with my teammates is always fun being on the field with them. That time that I had off, I had to take a break from football and just sit back and learn more about the game. But being back here out here with the fellas having fun, that is what I love to do.

Q: Was there a point in this rehab process that you knew you were going to make it all the way back?

A: When I first got hurt, I told [Eric] Sugarman that I was going to attack this thing one hundred percent. With the staff they have around me there was no chance that I wasn’t going to come back and attack this thing how I wanted to attack it. I have a great staff around me and great support system and they have just been encouraging to me every day. 

Q: What is the process of gaining that trust back in your knee?

A: It’s a process. It’s a journey. It is something that you have to trust yourself and know that you did everything in your power to get your knee back the way it is at. I attack this thing every day and I did what I needed to do to get to this point. I had no doubt when I first touched the field is where I wanted to be at.

Vikings Quarterback Kirk Cousins

Q: What are your first impressions from working with the team?

A: I’m thrilled to be here. It’s a dream come true to have this opportunity. I really enjoy the locker room, the coaches, the facility, the city, and the people here. I’m driving home from work every day with a smile on my face, excited to get back to work the next day. I think it was everything we were looking for in free agency, and now it’s just about becoming a better quarterback and better football player and fitting in to this team.

Q: What is the process of becoming a leader like for a player who just arrived on a new team?

A: If it’s forced, it’s not genuine, so it’s just a process. You understand that the very first day you’re more like a rookie, and that’s okay. We’re building towards Week One in early September, and until then it’s just constant development, building and taking steps as a player and as a leader. You just have patience and trust the process and understand that if you keep coming in here every day with the right attitude, the right mindset, and you’re engaged, take it home and spend time with homework getting better, that over time the leader and the personality comes out and you’ll be ready to go when it’s go time.

Q: Now that you’ve been in the building for a week, what have you learned about the organization?

A: It’s the real deal. I wasn’t fooled on the free agency visit; what I saw then has been the truth. There’s no aloof personalities in the locker room, everybody has been very down to earth, there’s a humility there. There’s a formula here for success. I sit in the team meetings and I see the organization, I see the attention to detail, I see the professionalism and it’s no surprise why they were successful last year and it’s no surprise why I wanted to be here. I’m very, very impressed with what I’ve seen but at the same time was expecting all along. 

Q: What is it like to be on a team with such high expectations heading into the season?

A: It is what it is. I don’t want to be on a team with low expectations, do I? I think that it’s a part of playing in this league, there’s pressure on everybody and it would be immature for us to focus on the expectations. I’m just focused on being the best quarterback I can be today. I’m trying to have a great Tuesday, and finish today right and go home and be with my family and then focus and having a great Wednesday tomorrow. That’s where my focus is, the rest will take care of itself. If we do our job each and every day and have the best OTAs we can have, then the results that everyone is looking to see and care about in the fall will take care of themselves.

Vikings Tight End Kyle Rudolph

Q: How is your commute to the new facility?

A: It’s not terrible. The hours that [us players] are on the road, there’s not many other people on the road. It’s a little longer than my drive to Winter Park, but when we’re driving to a building as nice as this, and I speak for most people when I say I’d probably drive an hour to get here, I don’t care. We have this incredible new building with every resource that we need to be successful. Not that Winter Park wasn’t amazing but coming here is pretty cool. 

Q: Does building chemistry with Kirk Cousins begin right now?

A: Absolutely. This time of year is big for team camaraderie across the board. Not just quarterback and skill players, but as an offense we’re working out as a whole, we’re getting out here and are around each other again. Usually by this time early April we’ve all been off on our own working out, and we’re excited to get back together and excited to get to work. Next week the coaches can be out on the field with us. That’s when it starts to be more like football. As players we do everything we can do now. We trust Coach Uyeyama’s plan, he’s done an unbelievable job throughout the first two weeks to get us ready from everyone doing their own thing and being in their own workouts to funneling us together and getting us ready to work with the coaches.

Q: What has it been like being with Kirk throughout the week so far?

A: It’s been good. Obviously he’s a phenomenal football player, but he’s and even better person and he’s a great leader. You can see that kind of naturally he has that aura about him. He’s energetic and he’s excited to come to work every day, and that’s what you expect out of your quarterback.

Q: Have long did it take you to move past the loss in the NFC Championship game?

A: It’s tough. You work so hard to get to that point. You sacrifice a lot. You’ve got to take care of your body, you’re coming in here and staying late, it’s sacrifices. It took a while to let go, but you’ve got to move on from it and learn from it and start back on the ground again. I think that’s what our team did. Now we know the hard work that it takes to get to that point in the season, the dedication, the teamwork, the responsibility, the attitude, the sacrifices that each player has to make each and every year.

Q: Is there a different vibe around the facility compared to offseasons in the past?

A: This is Week One. We’re in a brand new beautiful building. That doesn’t mean we’re going to win no ballgames, but it’s a vibe. I think we know the hard work that we got to put in to get where we want to go. It doesn’t take an individual, it takes the whole team to buy in, the coaching staff, everybody to buy in.

Q: What does this new facility do for the team?

A: I got to say that having a brand-new facility doesn’t mean that we’re going to win any games. You got to come in and put the hard work in. Everybody starts at zero and zero, and we got to do it day in and day out. We got to work hard, we got to go to meetings on time, we got to be responsible, and at practices we got to get better. All of those little things that build a championship team.

Vikings Cornerback Xavier Rhodes

Q: What do you think of the new facility?

A: The facility is great. State of the art, one of the best. But we’re out here not to just love the facility, we’re here to get better. We’re thankful to the Wilfs for building this for us and doing everything else, but we’re just here to get better and get ready for the season.

Q: What has the offseason been like for you?

A: Just a little boxing here and there, that’s the number one thing. You guys know I like boxing. That’s it. Just working out, trying to stay strong and fit.

Q: Do you take any extra motivation from how the last six quarters of last season went?

A: That was the end of that season. We’re on to a new season and we’re looking forward to trying to go further than we did last year. We’re not worried about what happened last year and we’re not focused on last year. We would have been happier if the outcome of last year would have been different, but at the end of the day we’re just trying to move on and have a different attitude. That’s how this thing goes.

Vikings Defensive End Everson Griffen

Q: Have long did it take you to move past the loss in the NFC Championship game?

A: It’s tough. You work so hard to get to that point. You sacrifice a lot. You’ve got to take care of your body, you’re coming in here and staying late, it’s sacrifices. It took a while to let go, but you’ve got to move on from it and learn from it and start back on the ground again. I think that’s what our team did. Now we know the hard work that it takes to get to that point in the season, the dedication, the teamwork, the responsibility, the attitude, the sacrifices that each player has to make each and every year.

Q: Is there a different vibe around the facility compared to offseasons in the past?

A: This is Week One. We’re in a brand new beautiful building. That doesn’t mean we’re going to win no ballgames, but it’s a vibe. I think we know the hard work that we got to put in to get where we want to go. It doesn’t take an individual, it takes the whole team to buy in, the coaching staff, everybody to buy in.

Q: What does this new facility do for the team?

A: I got to say that having a brand-new facility doesn’t mean that we’re going to win any games. You got to come in and put the hard work in. Everybody starts at zero and zero, and we got to do it day in and day out. We got to work hard, we got to go to meetings on time, we got to be responsible, and at practices we got to get better. All of those little things that build a championship team.