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Zimmer, Priefer Address The Media On Monday

Posted Aug 4, 2014

Viking Head Coach Mike Zimmer

I thought that we had a very good practice Friday night. The crowd was great, the enthusiasm in the stadium was fantastic and now it is back to work. Obviously, we had a little walk-through today. The offense and defense met and watched more of the tape, caught up on that and then the special teams came out and did a little walk-through. It’s back to work and back to the grind.

Q: What has been holding Brandon Watts back?

A: He has a strained hamstring. He should be going today, I would guess. 

Q: Teddy Bridgewater mentioned Norv is wanting to him to speed up a little bit, what is meant by that?

A: Some of the periods, he is going to have to get the ball out a little bit quicker. That has kind of been, with all of the quarterbacks, right from the get-go, that is one of the big things that Norv [Turner] does. We have got to get the ball out, you have got to get back quicker, you have to get set up, you have to get the ball out. In some of the blitz periods, we have guys running by him, which is not going to happen in the game, I do not think. It is just all part of the process, really.

Q: Is it pretty natural for a rookie to make some tweaks here and there?

A: Oh yeah, that part is just concentrating and understanding when you are feeling extra pressure, you have to get the ball out. The quarterback comes up and he sees a three-man line and he probably says, “Hey, I have a little bit more time,” so it is just all part of the process.

Q: You have Andrew Sendejo back. Do you need to give him a day to get him back into the rhythm of things?

A: We are going to watch him as he goes and be careful with him. I need to see him.

Q: Is it getting to that point where you needed to see him sooner than later?

A: Yeah, I need to see him.

Q: Will you have Andrew Sendejo in team or individual drills?

A: We will see how it goes. If he does fine on individual drills, we will get him in some team stuff, yes.

Q: What do you think is the most difficult part in your defense to learn for a guy in Andrew Sendejo’s position, coming in late?

A: I don’t think it is complicated, but there are some things to be precise in your alignments. We ask them to be pretty disciplined in their movements, when they’re going places, where the checks are, especially when you get a lot of movement from the offense, it makes it a little bit more difficult. Some of the pressure packages, you have to be pretty good at.

Q: You like to carry defensive backs, do you want flexibility in this roster?

A: We do, but honestly, we’ve kept 11 defensive backs, we’ve kept 10, I think one year we kept nine and some on the practice squad. Honestly, it’s also about the other positions on the football team. Do you keep 10 defensive linemen or do you keep seven linebackers? It’s all a combination of what works out best.

Q: Does it make sense to keep more safeties because of their flexibility?

A: I like to keep more corners, honestly. It seems like those guys are always getting nicked a little bit, as you’ve been seeing here in this camp, so we try to keep quite a few of them if we can.

Q: Does it make it easier when you have a couple of safeties that have experience at cornerback, like Robert Blanton and Antone Exum?

A: It helps a little bit. They’re probably playing safety because they can’t play corner.

Q: Will you talk about Saturday night’s practice compared to other practices?

A: It was much better. I thought our energy was very, very good. I thought that we came out with a purpose and a focus. Obviously, we had a lot of situational drills, like the red zone, the two-minute, no huddle, teamwork and blitz. Our guys busted their rear ends out there at practice, and we did not make a ton of mistakes. I thought that it was one of the better practices that we have had this year.

Q: What did you think of Xavier Rhodes’ interception and his athleticism?

A: It was a great interception. It was poor, poor position on the receiver, but he made a great play. We have to get him to be in the right position and then make the play easy and then he does not have to make great plays.

Q: What do you think of Anthony Barr?

A: He’s doing well. He’s doing well. He’s a good kid. He miss aligned a couple times again. The thing, kind of like what I was talking about with Xavier, he makes the play and it’s a great play but he doesn’t have to make it a great play, he can make it an easy play. So that’s kind of where we’re at with him right now. We’ve got to be more precise in our alignments and where we’re at to make things easier on us. The reason why offenses move in motion and do all that is to get the defense misaligned and obviously to try to disguise the play that they’re going to run.

Q: During the preseason, how much time daily do you and Rick Spielman have to evaluate rosters of other teams and compare them to your own roster?

A: We’ve got guys assigned to all of those guys, our scouts assigned to all of those games, they’ll watch and they’ll come up with a list of guys, potential cuts that may be made, or potential trades or whatever, And then we’ll sit down and start watching it more.

Q: Has any decision been made on Mike Priefer’s replacement during his suspension? Do you want to make that decision by Friday’s game?

A: No, not yet. It will probably be after the game. I think we’ll probably let you know.

Q: What is the thinking as to why the decision is taking so long?

A: We just felt like this was the best time to do it. We could have done it earlier. The plan the whole time was to probably wait until after this ball game.

Q: How does Captian Munnerlyn make up for what he lacks in size?

A: Well, he’s smart number one, he’s tough, he’s a competitive kid. So those qualities help him to overcome some of the size factors. He’s a little pit bull.

Q: Do you find it easier to give more exclusive roles to the cornerbacks?

A: It all depends on the player, really. We’ve got Jabari Price playing inside. We’ve got Captain Munnerlyn playing inside. Shaun Prater is playing inside. It really, a little bit depends on the player. Playing the inside in the nickel is a little bit different than playing outside. I’ve had safeties do it. Darren Woodsen, when we first started in Dallas, he did it all the time. He was excellent at it. Leon Hall who we had last year in Cincinnati, until he got hurt is one of the better ones and he was obviously a corner and he is actually a great nickel-back. It just depends on the guy.

Q: You mentioned how you and Rick Spielman go over game day situations; do you do the same thing with Norv Turner as far as exposing each other’s tendencies?

A: We’ve talked already about some of those things, some of the things I had on him and some of the things he had on me. We’ve talked about that a long time ago. Rick and I went through some more scenarios today. We’ll finish up tomorrow with it.

Q: How have those talks with Norv Turner helped develop your game plan now with the players that you have?

A: In some ways it has but also in the same token, the teams that I had that I was playing him with and vice versa the teams that he had when he was playing me, are different teams than these guys here. We still have to do what these guys can do. Take advantage of our strengths and then still be able to help in those areas.

Q: Where do you see Derek Cox progressing in the preseason?

A: He’s doing a good job. He’s still got a lot of technique to work on but he’s a smart guy and a tough guy. All of these preseason games will be big for him and really for all of these corners.

Q: Do you think the techniques here are a lot different than what he’s been taught previously?

A: I don’t know. You’d have to ask him. We do what we do.

Q: Is all of your play calling going to be done on the field?

A: No, Norv (Turner) is going to be in the box.

Q: With Anthony Barr relying on his physical abilities for most of his football career, how do you get him to kind of tone back on being an athlete and think more about what he’s doing?

A: Well, actually we try to do the opposite. We try not to be less of an athlete and we try to not get him to think more. With all of our players, we try to give them keys and reads and then let it flow. In your fundamentals, if your keys take care of what you’re supposed to do then you can play fast. I don’t want players out there thinking about what step I have to take or I’m complaining a lot right now about alignments but I don’t want them to have to worry about that stuff during the ball game. That’s why we coach everything so hard out here on the practice field, is that we want the game to be easier when they go out there and play than having to listen to me or George (Edwards) or Norv (Turner) getting after these guys. That’s kind of been our whole approach right from the start. One of the players told one of our coaches, “Man, that head coach is hard to please.” And he’s right. I want to be hard to please. I want my expectation level higher than everybody else. If we’re not doing things perfectly then I’m not going to be pleased. But when we go out to the game I want them to be able to free flow, have fun, play fast, and play physical.

Q: Is there any chance Robert Blanton will be ready for Friday?

A: I doubt it.

Q: A.C. Leonard, what’s going on with him?

A: He’s got a test today and another test tomorrow. We’ll kind of see where it’s at. We’ll see. We have to put him through all these tests. He seems fine, but, you know.

Q: It sounds like a concussion?

A: He’s going through some of the tests, but from what I understand, it wasn’t. I don’t know. He’s had headaches. It was basically just the one day

Q: Is there a possibility of Everson Griffen switching to the linebacker position just in certain occasions to keep that flexibility?

A: We’re not to that point yet. Actually, we’ll keep all of the options open. We’re going to do that with some of the guys but I don’t know if it’ll be Everson yet. We’re not that far in our installs yet to where we’re getting to that. I think we’re going to start a little bit of it today, today or tomorrow, I can’t remember, where we’re starting to do a little bit of that stuff, but not yet

Q: What do you think of Jerick McKinnon and how he has adjusted with not coming from a non-BCS school?

A: He’s doing very well. He’s very intuitive. He’s very shifty, got great acceleration. We’re obviously working very hard on him in pass protection because in some of the situations they’re going to try to get big guys on him. He’s going to have to muscle up and be good in protection. But he catches the ball very well, he’s explosive. We’re going to look at him some in the return game and we’ll see. The more things you can do, the better opportunities you have.

Q: How is Linval Joseph coming along for you?

A: Good, Linval is doing well. We’re still working on his pad level. He’s a big man so sometimes he gets a little bit up in his pads. I’ve talked to him quite a bit about when he comes off the ball, coming off with a little bit more power and a few other techniques. But I’m very pleased with how smart he is, how he wants to fit in, how important football is to him. He’s been a good addition for us.

Viking Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer

Obviously, a lot of fun at the practice the other night, great atmosphere, great weather. There wasn’t much wind and the guys were very happy about that. Had a good performance by our (special) teamers. I think we had a pretty good night, a lot of things still to work on. Looking forward to seeing our guys get after it a little bit on Friday night, finally get to hit someone else besides our own. I know that’s a lot of coach speak but it’s true because our guys are looking across from each other and one of the things we do, when we do our punt return period we put the beanies on the show teams all the time and our punt returner Marcus (Sherels) is back there and there’s 20 bodies running at him and he cant decipher who is who because it hard to see the beanies. So today, if it works out, we are going to try to put yellow jerseys on everybody. It took me about 13 years coaching in the NFL to figure that one out.

Q: Mike Zimmer said they’re going to wait until after this preseason game to decide what to do while you’re out for the first couple games, do you know why they’re waiting?

A: No, to be honest with you, I haven’t been a part of that. I’m just doing what I do. I’m actually, obviously game planning and did a lot of pre-stuff as I always do in the preseason and the offseason, game planning for the first four opponents, but really hunkering down and studying a lot of tape on St. Louis and New England right now and when I leave the building those game plans will be as close to being finished as they possibly can be. Obviously, we will have some tweaks and changes from there, when I’m not in the building. The third game, if I’m still out, then hopefully we will have some stuff ready for that too before I leave.

Q: Will you or Ryan Ficken run special teams on Friday night? Is this an audition for Coach Ficken to see if he can handle the games?

A: Yeah it could be, and I think Ryan could handle the game but he and I make decisions a lot and what I’ll probably do more of during the preseason, is go ahead and say, “Okay what are you thinking here Ryan?” plenty of time in advance. Maybe during a TV timeout, where something is going on and it’s not a rushed situation so he has a couple of seconds to think about it and say, “Hey what would you do in this situation?” He is pretty on top of it. He’s a smart guy. He works hard, as you know special teams is a lot of situational football and that is the biggest challenge for any special teams, especially in the preseason, with so many bodies going in and out. The bottom line is understanding the situation, staying ahead of the game a little bit, what’s coming up? What team is coming up? Are they going to rush the punt or you think they’re going to hold up double vice? End of the half do you need to use a hurry up field goal in this situation? How many time outs do we have left? All the game management stuff that I’m going to have to get use to with Coach Zimmer because it’s a new staff, a new head coach, Ryan will be part of that as well.

Q: Where is he typically on game day? Is he typically next to you?

A: Yes, he is on the field with me and I love having him there because I’m staying in the game, I have to stay close to the sideline watching the game and any coaching that has to be done or substitution that has to be done on the side whether its going to be looking at pictures or if there is a substitution, obviously he will get that done for me. I trust him that he does that so I can stay in the game and make the calls. So we will do that together in the preseason to prepare him.

Q: In the trips you have taken to TCF, what are the biggest takeaways from those trips?

A: I honestly have only been there a few times while my son was going to camps there, my oldest son. The specialists down there, what they’ve taken from it, the big open end with the big scoreboard, the winds come off differently. If they’re swirling around this way to the left of the scoreboard as you’re looking at the scoreboard they bounce off stadium one way if the winds are going the other way behind the scoreboard they bounce off the stadium the other way. Again, they’re a heck of a lot smarter than me, they have it figured out. As I told you guys before there’s charts and diagrams, I wish I could show you but I don’t want that to get out for obvious reasons, but they’re very comfortable with what they’ve seen so far and obviously we are going to have days much worse than what we saw in the spring throughout the year but we got a good head start.

Q: What are some of the questions you still have on how the wind is going to affect things?

A: It is mainly directional kicking, in terms of kickoffs, using the wind to our advantage, directional punting. Using the wind to our advantage, obviously, we don’t ever want to kick into the wind if we don’t have to, unless we are changing something up. Obviously, into a headwind can we go a little bit left to right, using our tail wind, obviously, kicking the ball into the end zone if it is a kickoff. Those are the types of questions that I will have, and hopefully in the next couple games we will figure that out.

Q: How long does it take to make all those charts?

A: Those guys, about three hours. I don’t know, it would take me three days. They use computers, it’s all computerized, but if I did it with a pencil I might do it a little bit quicker.

Q: Do you have the returners you want pegged down for Friday?

A: I would like to see Adam Thielen take some kickoffs and punts, Jerick McKinnon, Kain Colter, probably those three to start, then we will see where we are at. Marcus (Sherels) might take a punt just to get him into the swing of things, but that is pretty much it for right now, and we will go from there. 

Q: Are you excited to see those other guys?

A: I can’t wait to see those other guys. The fun part about my job is, I have told you guys this before, coaching all these young players and seeing how they are developing, and you see the improvements in practice. I don’t think they quite get it yet, the speed of the game, because they were in college and that was fast, preseason is pretty fast, obviously regular season is even faster, then of course the playoffs they just ramp it up. It is amazing how that happens, but I think the speed of the game is what I am looking for, seeing if they can respond to what we are coaching and teaching them to do, fundamentally, techniques, little bit of scheme that we have in, when it is so fast, against another team who is trying to do the same thing to us. That will be the fun part and challenge for us.

Q: Are you going to use Cordarrelle Patterson on kickoff return on Friday or are you going to give those reps to other guys?

A: I want to see some other guys, you have an idea of what Cordarrelle can do. I haven’t talked to Coach Zimmer about this yet, but I would maybe like to get him one or two later in the preseason, to get him for the season, but I think Week 1, unless he tells me different, then I would like to see the other guys.

Q: Is the preseason about as difficult as it gets for a Special Teams Coordinator?

A: I typically have a pretty bad headache after normal games, regular season games, but it’s unbelievable. I don’t have migraines. I am very fortunate to be healthy, but I have a nasty headache after the preseason games. I’m glad when they are over, it’s fun while it’s going on, but I am pretty glad when they are over, it is a big relief and then you get to watch the tape the next day and make corrections from there. 

Q: How do you organize the other second and third teams on the sidelines during preseason games?

A: It depends, if they are still playing offense or defense they are usually hiding from me, but no I am just kidding. Yeah, they are pretty good, we have a pretty good system that we have used the last three years, right now we have our first kickoff and our second kickoff. We have a first punt and a second punt. When we get into the preseason there is only one punt team, there is only one kickoff team, then we make substitutions from there. We don’t make mass substitutions; it is one guy here, one guy there. Let’s say, I want to see Andrew Sendejo cover two kickoffs, then his backup cover the next two, or Marcus Sherels may only cover one kickoff, and his backup covers the next three, etcetera. Those are the type of things that we plan out beforehand, kind of let the guys know what is going on, and just tell them to stay in the game so they are ready to go.

Q: With Andrew Sendejo’s history in your special teams, do you expect much of a delay with him getting back to play?

A: No, as long as he is physically ready, mentally, not at all. Very intelligent young man, I mean he is like a coach in our meetings. He asks great questions, brings up great points and like I have told you guys before, I’ve learned every single day from our players, and just little ideas and things because they are the ones doing it, they are the ones out on the field, and I always tell them open door policy, bring it on. I want to learn from them too, and it can help us get better, I am going to use it. He is one of those guys, that’s the point I am making there.

Q: Can you talk about Jerick McKinnon?

A: I like Jerick a lot, he is a football player. He has that football mentality, that defensive mentality that we talk about on special teams, all of our running backs do. Obviously, I have told you about Adrian (Peterson) wanting to play special teams, but the other three guys, Matt (Asiata), Jerick (McKinnon) and Joe Banyard have done a great job. Joe and Matt have done it for me in the past in games. Jerick has the same mentality they do. They come to work every day, they are trying to get better, and I look forward to seeing him in the coverage phases as well as a returner.