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Zimmer, Henderson Address The Media on Wednesday

Posted Aug 13, 2014

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer

We’re still working. We still have a long way to go. I know everybody is thinking about the countdown of camp, but we are not in that mode at all. We’ve got a long ways to go before we are anywhere near where we want to be. We got Dom DeCicco is having a procedure done on his hip tomorrow and the only other two guys not practicing, I believe, are Robert Blanton, who is getting close and Chase Ford.

Q: What have you seen for progress out of Gerald Hodges since you first started working with him during the offseason?

A: He is doing a lot better. Last week, he’s doing much better. He’s got good athleticism, he’s got physicality when he strikes you, he can run and I’m hopeful for him.

Q: Where do you think Jasper Brinkley is going to fit in with you guys? What does he bring to the table for you guys, what do you like about him?

A: He does a good job of getting the calls right, most all of the time. He’s got some thump to him, in that. He’s got some instinctiveness in the running game. We are going to give guys a lot of reps there this week and see what that looks like.  

Q: What are the usual indications where guys are usually checking off the days and getting ready to move on?

A: I don’t think our guys are but I think that the schedule says we break camp in a couple of days or something like that and I know they need to start packing, but that will not be our mentality here. We are going to go back and be in training camp mode for at least a couple days after the game. We will have our night meetings like we normally do and then we will see how it goes from there.

Q: Do you have an idea as far as schedule, you know get a routine down once you get back to Winter Park?

A: I do, I haven’t told them that but I do. It’s done.

Q:  Obviously the secondary has been one of your areas of expertise for many years..

A: Some people would say opposite of that when they watch us play.

Q: Allegedly...

A: Allegedly, that’s good.

Q: When you looked at the secondary last year, why do you think they had so many problems? What are you doing to correct it and how do you feel about the progress that is going on so far?

A: I am very careful about judging people on prior, the way things happened prior, because I don’t know what they are being told, I don’t know what they are being taught, whether it’s right or wrong, or good or bad. Like I said when I first got here, I like to see with my own eyes and how we do things and how they are catching on with the techniques, how they play together, how they communicate together. So far it’s been good, I think we are contesting some balls, which I talked about when I first got here. We seem to be getting better at bump and run than what we were earlier when we first started, but we’re moving in the right direction. Obviously, we still have a long way to go. I think we are getting our last coverage put in basically tomorrow and then we are done with the coverages for now so we can just start concentrating on techniques.

Q: When you look at the first month of the schedule you got murderers row of quarterbacks…

A: Thanks for reminding me.

 Q: Yeah, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and you have had all the injuries in the secondary, all that together…

A: You forgot Matt Ryan and those two receivers they got.

Q: Putting all those guys together and the injuries you’ve had, is there any concern of getting this unit so early in the season?

A: I’m not concerned about it. We are going to go out there and challenge the receivers and hopefully we are going to play very, very good. My expectation level is always really high. I know as you said that stretch is a tough stretch but it is what it is, they aren’t going to cancel games, neither am I.

Q: How does the pass rush look to you as far as grabbing on to the new techniques you have brought in here during the first game progress wise there?

A: We still have a ways to go there. I believe we will see a difference there this week a little bit. We had some situations that we were able to rush the quarterback. We got close a couple times. We weren’t good enough for what I expect.

Q: You’ve done a lot of technique work at every level of defense. Do you think that is just kind of a natural thing for a new coach coming in with specific things you want to accomplish?

A: I try not worry about any other coach other than what I do. It’s just who I am and what I do. I just, that’s what gets me excited about trying to get players better. I don’t think I will ever get away from it. I like teaching, I like coaching, I like trying to improve players and I like them to have success and the more of those guys that have success more we have success.

Q: Have you started ramping up the game plan for the second preseason game or do you really not worry about it?

A: No this is still about us. I know everyone worries about the third preseason game. I’ve never, ever really game planned for the third preseason game. The only thing we want to do is get them on a routine a little bit of how we are going to do things, but it’s still so early in the progression of this football team and where we’re at on both sides of the ball. It’s still more important about how we play. As I’ve told you all before many, many times, teams that do the right things, they play good together, use good technique, they can win football games and sometimes I think the game planning part is a little bit overrated and especially in the preseason games. Obviously, when we play the real game, I shouldn’t say the real game, when we play the regular season games there will be a lot more of that involved. It’s more about teaching them how to study our opponents tape as opposed to putting in some defense to try and attack them.

Q: How much of what you will do in the regular season will you hide in the preseason?

A: Well it is a fine line. I think everybody kind of has to do what they do, for the most part. We always hold some things that we have practiced and will hold them for the regular season games, but it is still about playing good. Just because you hold something and you don’t do it very well, or one guy makes a mistake at it, you tend to screw those things up. I will tell you a story, when I was in Dallas I think my first year as a defensive coordinator, we would come in after the game on Monday I would watch tape and say, “That dumb guy should have done this, and that dumb guy should have done this, and that dumb guy should have done this.” Then I said, “You’re the dumb guy, you’re trying to have these guys do things they are not ready to do, or they are not capable of doing, or they haven’t had enough time to work on it.” I try not to be a dumb guy anymore.

Q: Any concern of the interceptions Teddy Bridgewater is throwing in practice affecting his confidence?

A: No, it has not affected his confidence at all. Obviously, we do not want to throw interceptions in the redzone, and that is one of our core goals, but you know it happens. I always tell the defensive backs, sometimes you have to get beat in practice to find out how tight you can play a player. If you are never getting beat in practice, you are probably playing too far off of a guy. If we are going to get beat, let’s get beat out here in practice, let’s learn from what we do out here. I think that is for every position. This is where we learn and when we go out to play, we have a better feeling of our talent and the guy we are going against. But his confidence is not shaken, he is fine.

Q: Why does Audie Cole have such a nose for the ball?

A: Hopefully we are coaching him good and he has good technique and he is reading his keys. Sometimes I think a lot of that is instincts too. Instincts could be understanding the play before it happens by the formation, by the down and distance, we are not too concerned about those things right now. Audie is a good kid, all of our guys are good guys, they play hard, they try their very best and he is like all of them. 

Q: You knew bringing Chris Crocker in was going to be valuable, are there times where you have to tell him not to do things because you haven’t gone over that yet?

A: It is important to me. Because I know what routes Kyle Rudolph likes to run when I am covering him, it doesn’t help me as a defender to guess and be on the right thing. When I go against somebody that I don’t know, then I am guessing and cheating or I am playing it differently. I think it is important that we learn how to play football first. I had Terrance Newman when he first came back to Cincinnati and he jumped in front of a route and intercepted the ball. Then I said, “Terrence I don’t want you doing that yet, I want you working on your technique, I want you working on what you need to do to get better, then when you get that part down, then you can use your intelligence about where you are at playing football, then you become a much better player.” He understood and we went from there. To me it is about getting us better, it’s not about not defeating our offense, or defeating our defense, it’s about getting us better, because that is what will stand the test in the long run when we have to go play 16 ball games. A guy can jump a route two times and get an interception then gets beat 10 times, that is not a good day.

Q: How long do you think Dom DeCicco will be out?

A: I don’t know we will have to see after the procedure.

Q: It’s some kind of surgery?

A: They told me to say procedure, but surgery.

Q: Are you ready to say what you are going to do for quarterback rotation?

A: I know how long they are going play, yeah, but I am not going to say. Come to the game Saturday.

Q: Do they know yet?

A: No they don’t know yet, because you would ask them.

Vikings Vice President of Public Affairs and Stadium Development Lester Bagley, Executive Director of Community Relations Brad Madson and Youth Football Manager E.J. Henderson

Lester Bagley:

Very excited at the Vikings today to make an announcement that E.J. Henderson will be moving into the front office to take the roll of Youth Football Manager,  Brad Madson is also up here. Brad runs our community relations, Executive Director of Community Relations. We are very excited about it, we have been working on this for a couple of years, creating a position, creating a role. It is a huge issue for our organization, for our ownership and in the end, the NFL. We put together a position description, laid out a game plan and did an exhaustive search. We had 150 people apply for the position. It was a very competitive position and it came down to this and to bringing E.J. back in the fold. Always been part of the Viking family he’s done a great job in our community as a player, and since he was a player. As you all know he had a nine-year career with the Vikings. He was a very hard-nosed player, always gave his all. Inspirational come back from a tough injury and then ended up in the Pro Bowl that year. Five times voted by his teammates to be captain of the Vikings, so he is a leader and we are very excited to have him in this role. He has connection and the ability to reach kids in the city, in the suburbs, and throughout the state of Minnesota. He brings instant credibility and visibility to this role and this position so it’s my honor this morning to introduce E.J. Henderson as the Vikings Youth Football Manager.

E.J. Henderson:

Thank you, thank you I appreciate it. Thank you, Lester. Thank you for this opportunity, I am super excited. I have been dealing with youth football with the Vikings since I was a player and even after I retired so this is kind of the extension of that and I am excited about it. Some of the things we will focus on, one of the biggest initiatives that we will focus on, is player safety and health. Make sure the coaches; parents, and the players know that the Vikings, the Vikings ownership are serious about that initiative. Another one is we really want to take some of our programming outside of the Twin Cities and hit the greater Minnesota area so we can spread the Vikings message and spread the love about our sport and the love and positive things that can come out of playing football.

Q: How much has safety and player awareness changed since you started playing football?

A: Henderson: It has definitely changed. It has developed the awareness in the past five years has increased 20-fold so I am excited that this is something that we want to focus on. I think it is crucial for the future of our game not only for the players, but for the parents, the moms can feel safe about sending their sons out there to play.

Q: Did you have to take on any training in order to get ready to present that to them?

A: Henderson: Some of the programs that I have worked with in the past with Brad Madson is with the heads up safe tackling, so I am familiar with that whole program, that initiative, and some of the drills and stuff that we will do. I have talked to Lester and every program, initiative, or event we do we will make sure that we implement some type of safe tackling drill, some type of safe tackling station. We plan on getting the moms getting heavily involved in that because like I said they’ll be the ones making a lot of those decisions. A lot of programs and events we have will be based around player safety and health.

Q: What is the involvement level of the league with the Head Up Football initiative?

A: Madson: As a matter of fact just last week we hosted a group from USA Football with the Heads Up league and it’s a message we are trying to spread and I’ll say this about youth football but commissioners they are very determined to get that shift. It takes time but we are spending a lot of resources to get that done and then as Lester mentioned the instant credibility of E.J. is going to help open doors to get the Heads Up programming to the different leagues.

Q: You’ve worked with kids for years, what made you want to do that?

A: Henderson: My dad worked in a youth center for 20 years, he still works there. I basically grew up in a youth center. Always busy, always in some type of sport or event. I feel like that kind of helped me as I matured, staying out of trouble. I love to mentor kids, I love to give them the knowledge that I’ve learned, not only through football and through sport, but just some of the life lessons I’ve learned. That’s probably the biggest thing. Keeps me young, keeps me running around but those are the big three reasons. I’m used to it, I love being with kids and I love to kind of give that mentorship that I’ve learned in my 30-plus years.

Q: Is that what you’re focused on in your post-playing career?

A: Henderson: No question, no question. Both of my organizations right now are focused on youth and I figured do something that you want to do. You could be productive and help the young generation at the same time.

Q: What does it feel like to be back with the Vikings?

A: Henderson:  It’s huge. It’s huge to be back in the fold, to be back part of family. I told Lester this when we were going through the interview process, “It feels like I never left.” I’ll be back at the complex where I went to work for nine-plus years. That’s where I’ll be going to work now so it should be a pretty smooth transition as far as dealing with the family and the building.

Q: Brad and Lester, what made EJ Henderson a good fit for this position?

A: Madson: If any of you’ve had a chance to see E.J. work with kids, which Lester and I have, he can grab their attention right away and that’s what’s important. The charisma that E.J. brings plus the confidence. I think that is really cool to be able to get kids’ attention. So that was one of them, plus the organization, plus I’ve seen him live it as a community relations guy when we’d go visit with the kids and I also know his organizational skills, too and what he’s been doing. So that made E.J., not to mention his career, stand out.

Bagley; One of the things that E.J. got to do, had to do, was come into our ownership group and make a presentation. They saw his passion and his commitment and they know of his experience. He can, as Brad said, reach kids, he can reach adults, moms, parents. He’s got the ability to connect and that’s really important in the job but, again, the credibility he brings, we couldn’t be more excited at the Vikings to have him join the organization. Saw a lot of his own teammates out there today, they’re all excited to have him join the front office, very excited about today.

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