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Zimmer, Priefer and Rudolph Address The Media on Monday

Posted Jul 28, 2014

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer

Well, yesterday we had our first day in pads and we had a few more false start penalties than we have had in the past. It actually started raining a little bit early, then it got sunny, then it rained pretty hard. I think the players were kind of wondering if we were going to go in, there was probably no way in that happening. For the most part, I thought the offensive line did a nice job blocking, I thought we handled the elements well as far as the throwing and catching the ball in the rain. I think I saw one dropped ball, but we did a good job. It is always good to get some of those experiences in with playing outside, and some of these conditions that we are going to play in this fall. I like that, I hope we get some more bad weather coming in here. 

Q: With Kyle’s contract what does that not only say about where you guys think he is now but the player you think he is ultimately going to be?

A: One of the things that I really, really like about Kyle, he is that he is a pleaser number one, he is a heck of a football player, but he is a pleaser. He wants to buy into everything that we are doing, I think that he really likes the direction of where things are going and I like having those kind of guys on the team. I am anticipating that he will continue to flourish, especially with Norv (Turner) and Kevin Stefanski pushing him over there, and getting him better. He came in here much lighter this year than he has in the past, and he worked extremely hard in the offseason. He was one of the leaders in the weight room, all of the things we have done there. We are happy to have him, I am happy for him. He is a good guy and I like it when good guys get rewarded.

Q: What is the priority tonight?

A: Just more of the same, basically. We have a goal line live session, we will get nine plays, just want to introduce them to some full-go stuff, but try to be smart about it. Typically, you don’t get guys too beat up in that, because it is such a condensed area. Then the rest of the time, is really practice-wise, we did a lot of run stuff yesterday, tonight will be red zone situation, we have another situation we are going to work on that doesn’t happen very often, matter of fact maybe every 10 years, but if it does come up hopefully we will be ready for it. It will be more red zone and then goal line live.

Q: What is your view on why the tight end is so prominent in today’s game compared to 10 or 20 years ago?

A: Part of it is the offenses, the way they move them around, then the put them outside and try to get matchups. The other thing is the size of these guys and the athletic ability. When you get these 6’5’’ tight ends, they get out there, and even if the get on a 5’11” corner they have an advantage in some of the red zone area especially and quarterbacks are smart enough. The other thing is the way that the rules are called in the NFL now, the quarterbacks can put the ball in the middle of the field. Back in the old days there were some big collisions, now guys have to be careful where we hit people.

Q: What have you seen from Jerick McKinnon so far, and how is Adrian Peterson helping him along?

A: First of all, with Adrian, he has been good in everything. I told somebody yesterday, this guy is not 30 years old, there is no way, because he made some great cuts and some outstanding runs that impressed me. I have watched him on tape for many, many years, they impressed me even more. The thing that Adrian is also doing is, at least what I can tell, he likes the direction where things are going. He likes the attitude that Norv brings, the attitude of the football team, I think the discipline that everything is going this way, so he is helping a lot of players that way. Jerick, he is very explosive, he catches the ball well, and he is learning the running game better. Yesterday we had a pass rush, where the linebackers were on the backs, we are going to have another one again tonight, but that scenario that he has to keep improving on is pass protection.

Q: It is an annual tug of war with (Peterson), how many carries he gets out here and in the preseason, what are your thoughts on that?

A: He won’t get many in the preseason, and he won’t get any in the goal line tonight. I don’t need to see him.

Q: Captain Munnerlyn, what is your feeling on when we will see him on the field again?

A: I think it will be, we have a day off tomorrow, I think it will be real close to when we get back, maybe. I don’t know, they are going to work him out again tomorrow, but I think he is real close, it won’t be long.

Q: Any update on Cordarrelle, are we going to see him tonight?

A: He is going to do some individual stuff tonight, he won’t do any team stuff, but he will do individual stuff tonight.

Q: What are you looking to get out of night practices?

A: Little bit is to change up camp a little bit, I think it is good to get on a schedule and then change it a little bit. If you’re traveling on the road one time, and something happens that you have to adjust to it. I also think it is good for the fans, that they get a chance to come out, they don’t have to miss work, they can come out and watch us practice. Typically when you go to a night practice the tempo picks up a little bit, although I feel really good about the tempo of our practices, I have had several, several comments from people from some of the training camps in the past, many, many of them, even players have commented on the tempo when we go here. It is good to go in, get work done, go fast, and then get out. We don’t make it shorter but we make it seem like it is shorter, hopefully.

Q: What have you seen from Xavier Rhodes, and trusting his instincts in his second year?

A: He is still learning a lot about the techniques. He has a lot of advantages, he is extremely, extremely fast, he has extremely long arms and we are still trying to refine his techniques just like all the corners. Xavier has a chance to be a very good corner. I probably need to do a better job of coaching him in certain ways, so I am trying to learn about all these guys, what is their hot button, where they can improve quicker. That is one of the things I have to work on with him, is making sure that I am doing the right things with him. 

Q: In what ways?

A: Just talking to him, coaching him, what is his hot button, what motivates him more. I am not saying he is unmotivated, I am just saying, part of coaching is trying to figure out how you can take this player and make him better. Some players, you get after them, they don’t take it personally, they don’t listen to the tone, they listen to what you’re saying. I have had many players over the years, when I was correcting them I had to put my arm around them and talk to them nice, because they might go in the tank. So that is part of my learning too, with these players. Who to push, in which way and who maybe be more communicative with.

Q: Considering that Mike Priefer is talking next, is there any update on who will be filling his role?

A: Not yet, I talked to Rick (Spielman) about it last night. I think it is pretty close, but we will wait for a few days until we announce it.

Q: What do you see in the competition in the safety spot opposite Harrison Smith?

A: Well right now, I would say (Robert) Blanton is a little bit ahead of the rest of the guys, but that will be a lot more determined when we get into the camp and preseason games, tackling, and how things go. He has been doing a lot good things as far as lining up, covering people, being in the right place, but with the safeties until you find out how they tackle, what kind of angles they take, what kind of instincts they have in the course of ball games, I really don’t know. 

Q: What was it about George Edwards that made you want to hire him?

A: Well I was with George in Dallas for quite a while, George is a Dukie [Duke Blue Devil] so he is very, very smart and he has been with a lot of my system for a long, long time, then when he went down to Miami, the defensive coordinator there who was named Kevin Coyle. He was my defensive back coach in Cincinnati who basically ran the same thing, so I thought a lot of it. Not only is George a very smart guy, he is a good guy and you’ve heard me say these things many, many times but he was in the system again recently. I felt like it was important that on defense I have a guy that knows how I am, kind of like with Andre Patterson, I was with him a very long time. They kind of know when to temper me down a bit and when to- I don’t know what the word is- tell me when I am wrong, I guess, which I can be.

Q: Does he basically teach your defense to the letter, or does he add things to it or suggest things?

A: Well, he suggests things all the time and it’s pretty much what I’ve done in the past, as far as where we are going. I mean, George and I talk all the time I sit in the defense meetings, I run a lot of the defense meetings and it’s important for me to be involved defensively with the thing. He is very knowledgeable, not afraid to make any suggestions, talk to me about different things and then I basically decide.    

Q: Do you know who will make calls during the season?

A: I have an idea but we’re going to work through the preseason for a bit then we will go from there. 

Q: With a lot of those coaches you’ve had experience with them, except for Jerry Gray, what do you see in him?

A: With Jerry, obviously, he was a great player, he was a really good defensive coordinator in Buffalo, Tennessee and a lot of places he was at. He was an excellent defensive back coach and you know one of the things I’ve been very, very impressed with Jerry, as you’ve probably seen I’m pretty involved with the defensive backs so I step in there quite a bit and I tell him exactly what I want because that’s kind of my baby and by about the third day Jerry was saying things to the players before I could say it and the exact same thing I was saying, so that made me feel really good. Watching Jerry, I’m getting ready to go over there and I’m getting ready to say this to them and he is over there saying the same thing I was going to say, so that’s been really good.

Q: Is there any significance in the fact that the one guy that you didn’t have experience was the defensive back coach?

A: Yeah, probably a lot of defensive coaches didn’t want to come with me. I don’t know. No, I don’t know, Adam (Zimmer) has been around the defensive backs with me in Cincinnati too. It’s very, very important that we are all on. Part of the thing is that if you get splintered and this coach, we meet together on defense all the time, the whole defense meets in there because I want to coach the left defensive end, I want to coach the Will linebacker, I want to coach the safety and the corner so on and so forth. A lot of times you get splintered and the defensive line coach is telling them one thing and the linebacker doesn’t know what the defensive backs coach is doing. To me the most important thing that I’ve ever done in Cincinnati was we met together all the time and I think it’s very, very important, not only that, but that the three technique knows that, hey that mike linebacker is counting on you to do your job so you need to do it so we all can all have accountability in the room.

Q: You talked a little bit about Xavier and his speed and length what does Captain Munnerlyn bring on the other side that makes up for not being the tall guy on the on the opposite side?

A: Captain is a quicker, not smarter, but a very instinctive guy over there, he understands the game more as a veteran than Xavier does right now. But his big plus is going to be in the slot, to be honest with you.

Q: Getting a top 10 pick coming in expectations are very high, some are unrealistic, what are your realistic expectations for your first pick Anthony Barr and what have you seen from him these first few days?

A: My expectations of him are probably higher than they are for anybody else, I have seen great things out of him, he doesn’t make mistakes, there was a play yesterday that he got a lead block on and knocked the living dog out of the guy that came to block him. He got off and made the play, he’s got tremendous, tremendous physical abilities and you know but my expectations of all the players are very high, hopefully not higher than theirs, but high.

Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer

Finally in pads, obviously, that’s what we have been waiting for, much easier for me to evaluate players obviously with special teams. I can evaluate them more efficiently when we go to pads because obviously special teams is a very, very physical part of the game. We still don’t do a whole lot of that in training camp because we have to keep our guys healthy but much easier to keep guys healthy when we are in pads. Excited about the direction we are going the first few days and tonight’s practice will be fun under the lights here, such a great place to have camp. You know, I think there is a lot of competition at every position, what our personnel people and our head coach has done with our groups, our position groups has been phenomenal. I mean we have competition at linebacker, we have completion at safety, corner, defensive end, tight end, running back, fullback, everywhere across the board more so than I have seen in my four years here, so I am really excited about where we are going and the direction that Blair (Walsh) and Jeff (Locke) have taken. They have gotten stronger, they are still young, they are still learning, still growing, they spend a lot of time together this summer training together, excited about the leadership of Cullen Loeffler. He has taken on that role more and more since I have been here and has done a nice job with that so far.

Q: What are some things you are maybe doing differently this camp compared to last year just to prepare for more outdoor games this season?

A: That is a great question; we actually started back in the spring. We started with using the crosswind more when he had windy days in the spring and there were a few of them. Obviously, yesterday was tough on the cross wind, it was more of a head and tailwind, so we used the tailwind and we went off to the side to use some the crosswinds for Jeff when he did all of his punting and the plus-50 punting and the Ausie punts that he does. So we started in the spring and we are going to continue to do so this summer.

Q: When are you going to unleash Blair (Walsh)?

A: Tonight, he will hit about six to eight field goals tonight and do some kickoffs tonight. See we kind of planned it out that way knowing that we have a day off tomorrow and we will start back up on Wednesday with Jeff (Locke) punting again.

Q: You have been working with Kain Colter a lot with punt returns, what is your impression on him so far?

A: Up until yesterday when we went to the team I was very impressed. He struggled a little bit with the left footed punter, which I knew it was coming. Obviously the Jugs you can only simulate a decent right footed punt, we can do a left footed punt as well with the jugs, but when he was out there with the wind and Jeff punting and he had quite a few bombs yesterday, it was a little bit of a struggle for him. Kain has worked very, very hard and I have seen a tremendous amount of progress from him. 

Q: How is Marcus looking in the return game, what are your hopes for him?

A: My hopes are that he keeps on progressing every year. He has gotten better every year.  Every year we have taken a little bit, I don’t want to say more chances, but we have been a little bit more aggressive with him every year and we are going to continue to do so this year.

Q: With Cordarrelle (Patterson) out, who has sort of impressed you in the kick return game?

A: You know, I am excited about Marcus (Sherels) like we have been, Jerick McKinnon, Adam Thielen has had a really nice camp this spring and a nice camp so far. Jarius Wright could always fill in there. Adrian Peterson always wants to return kicks too, but I don’t think we are going to use him this year. There have been several guys that have stepped up so far and I look forward to that first game to get those young guys in there.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about Adam Thielen, just how you utilize him on special teams?

A: Yeah, Adam is right now back-up fullback, which is our personal protector on the punt team. He is smart, he is tough, he can play on the kickoff team, he can be a kickoff returner, he can be a punt returner and if he is not a returner we can put him on the front line on kickoff. We can put him somewhere interior, blocking thee wing, one of the wings of the personal protector, in our punt return phase. So I think Adam has had a really nice spring, he has had a nice camp so far, and am looking forward to his continued development.

Q: Jeff Locke got off to kind of a rough start last year, considering all of the eggs you put in his basket  right away, were you concerned after that first month at all?

A: No, because I expected that to be honest with you. I didn’t know for sure because Blair (Walsh) came out of the gates rolling as a rookie. I knew Jeff, because punting is a little more difficult task, a little more difficult trade to master. I figured he would struggle a little bit and the thing is that we kind of came to a happy medium, maybe about eight games into the season and said you know, he is such a smart young man that he was doing the paralysis by analysis. He was thinking too much, he was slowing down, he wasn’t just going out there and kicking so we worked very, very hard and he has worked very, very hard with his techniques and his fundamentals and trying to get the ball off a little bit quicker, be more consistent with his approach steps and I think the sky is the limit for him. I am really looking forward to seeing his development.

Q: Are you going to integrate Ryan (Ficken) a lot more this preseason more than you would not in past preseasons?

A: Yeah, Ryan has been integrated in from day one. You know, I am going to probably let him probably make more decisions in the preseason games. I still don’t know what we are going to do, that is up to Coach Zimmer and Rick Spielman. Whatever the team decides to do, obviously, I’m all in, it’s still kind of my baby, it’s my show and I take a lot of pride in that and whoever takes over for me can hopefully just continue that for a few weeks and then when I’m back, I’m back.

Q: Have they asked you on any other possible you know suggestions on guys that could help Ryan (Ficken) or even take over?

A: Yeah, we talked about it before camp started.

Q: Will you have Cordarelle Patterson fulltime again or could that change as he becomes more of a receiver?

A: That is a good question and one I have thought about a lot. I have talked to Coach Turner and Coach Zimmer about it and I think we are all going to be on the same page. Depending on his health and how much he is involved in the offense. To me that is the first play of the offensive series is the kickoff return. If we get a nice big return off of it which we had a lot of last year from Cordarelle, obviously, he can come out for a play, we are in great field position and he comes out on second down. If it is a touchback he takes a knee and he is out there on first down so that would be the most beneficial for special teams and I think for our football team but, obviously, that is up to Coach Zimmer.

Q: It seems like a pretty decent case to make.

A: Well, that is a case we made a few, couple years back with Percy (Harvin). It was the same type of thing. Although, I think Percy was in great shape, I think with Cordarrelle being a young player he wants to be out there. I mean you talk to him out it he wants to be out there every single time they kickoff. I think we will find a system that works.

Q: Do you see Scott Crichton as someone who could replace Everson Griffen on special teams?

A: No, you know Everson is a very difficult person to replace. I know where you are going with that, but he is such a great athlete that I think Scott has the size but he is not quite the athlete that Everson is, but he is a bigger guy. We will be able to utilize him in lot of different phases. I am excited about working with him and again Everson is a very tough person to replace athletically, but I think Scott will be doing some of the things that Everson did when he was playing special teams.

Q: With Marcus Sherels in that punt return spot, is that a competition for that spot?

A: As far as I am concerned, everyday is a competition and I think that is what has made Marcus such a great player and that is what makes all players great players. When they feel that heat, they feel that competition and you make them accountable for their job day in and day out and that is the way Marcus has approached it. That is why a guy who is supposedly undersized, supposedly was not supposed to be in the NFL this long has done such a great job and that is why I am so proud of him. He just keeps working every day. It is a competition, but it’s obviously his to lose.

Q: Who do you see replacing Everson Griffen?

A: Just different guys, when I got here, I never had worked with a guy like Everson with a guy with his size, speed and athleticism. We were always using bigger linebackers or a tight end or a running back fullback type guy. We just got to kind of have to replace him by committee. You know different places put different guys in that work out the best for what we are doing with our scheme and what we are doing with our fundamentals.

Q: What are you seeing out of Jabari Price and how do you think he could help on special teams?

A: I think Jabari Price is a young man that has come in, he’s got a great attitude, he is really intelligent, he is taking notes in all of the meetings, asks a lot of good questions. He has done a good job so far, but again he is one of those guys where it’s so important to him, sometimes he will slow down because he is thinking too much. In the next few weeks before we start playing games for real we have to get him to the point where he is flying around and playing full speed and taking what the fundamentals, techniques we give him, use his talents and have them work together.

Q: What have you seen from the linebacking corps, and what have you been impressed with?

A: Well, I think the most impressed I have been is the depth across the board. I think we have a lot of guys that are competing for a very few spots, they are all very good on special teams and it is going to be interesting to see how well the develope defense and special teams that are going to be the guys that make our team to help make us win games.

Q: How much can you use Anthony Barr and is he kind of maybe one of those guys like an Everson Griffen type of role?

A: He probably could if they let me use him that way. I would use him on everything. I would use him on field goal protection if I could and run fakes with him, but obviously, he is kind of a freak of nature. He is a great, great athlete. Right now I am mainly focusing him on with the punt team and go from there.

Vikings Tight End Kyle Rudolph

Q: What was it like when things were finalized for you and finally over?

A: Dream come true. To walk off the practice field and have Rick [Spielman] give you one of these (waved over). And you know, go over to him and get a big from hug from him and a, “Congratulations, you’ve earned it. We’re extremely happy to have you here for the next six years.” Right there I couldn’t thank him enough and publicly I can’t thank him, the Wilf family and everybody involved in this, enough to keep me here for the next six years. Being the organization that took a chance on me out of the draft, being hurt at the time and still drafting me when they did and now giving me this extension, it shows the faith that they have in me. Certain people have the opportunity to change your life and I can’t thank Rick and Rob [Brzezinski] enough for that opportunity.

Q: What was it like waiting to be signed?

A: Going through the process, whether it was my side and Athletes First, and Brian Murphy, Dave Dunn, Camron Hahn, or the Vikings side with Rick and Rob, they made it extremely easy for me to just go out and play. Whether that was the last three days at training camp during practice, I never had to worry about anything. A lot of guys during this time it might be stressful trying to figure out, I had nothing to do with it. I had an opportunity to go out and be out there with the guys every day and I knew they’d figure it out and we’d have a fair deal for both sides.

Q: When did things start to heat up or did this just happen suddenly?

A: I believe that my agents came in town the Tuesday after the All-Star game and it just kind of got started from there. Like I said, I didn’t have to worry about anything, both sides handled it very well and we got it done.

Q: Is it a relief having it done before the season starts up?

A: Definitely. I can say that I don’t worry about it right now because we’re just going out and practicing and I don’t know if I’d be able to say the same thing during the year. But, like I said, both sides wanted to get it done, so it made it extremely easy for me to just go out and worry about practice. Right now we have so much going on football-wise, trying to get as far into this new offense as possible and as comfortable as I can before we go out and play our first preseason game. I have plenty to worry about with that stuff, I don’t have to worry about everything else.

Q: For you to play out to the contract and give the Vikings good value, what does that look like to you?

A: Like I said before, it’s an honor to know that they have the faith in me and the trust in me to instill that value in me. And I’m going to do everything I can to go out on the field and perform at that level. I say it all the time, “ the only reason I’m out there every day, is to be the best I can be personally.” I said it when I first got here, “I want to be the best tight end on this team and then I want to be the best tight end in the NFL.” That’s why I go out every day to work the way that I do.

Q: How do you look at the future playing under Norv Turner?

A: It’s an honor to have him here. I can’t think of a better person to play for. You look at what he’s been able to do over the last 20 years, starting in Dallas, in Washington, you can go down the line with the tight ends that he’s had. And I’ve said this quite a few times, it’s not just the tight end position, you can look at the receivers, the running backs, the quarterbacks, he has such a unique feel and does such a great job on Sundays with his play calling. He gives everybody the opportunity to go out there and make plays.

Q: Are you going to treat yourself to anything nice?

A: I am pretty happy with where I am at right now. I love it being here in Minnesota. I am going to stay in the same house that I am in and drive the same car that I drive but I do owe my high school. I did promise my high school strength coach, who I always trained with, that when I get my next deal, we will redo the weight room there, so the first thing that I will be doing is making sure that we redo the weight room back in my high school.

Q: What kind of car do you drive?

A: I drive a truck. It is pretty simple. 

Q: Are there other tight ends since you have come into the NFL that you have look up to?

A: There are. There are guys, like I can start with Jason Witten I have watched, especially now a ton of Antonio Gates tape, before I have watched, just because he has played at such a high level for a long time. Tony Gonzalez, those are the guys since I was 18 years old in college that I studied. When you can pick pieces from guys’ games who go out year after year and are successful, that is really hard to do, so I try and see what they are doing and how they are playing at such a high level. Now, having Norv here, I am able to watch Antonio’s tape and understand why he is doing what he is doing.

Q: You said earlier in the offseason that you could understand why the Vikings have avoided talks, given that you were injured and the new coaching staff coming in. Is there any element of surprise that it happened before the season, where you really had a chance to show what you can do on the field?

A: Definitely. I think that it shows the faith that they have in me and how they feel about me, because essentially, if you look at this from a business side, I am here for the next three years with the last year of my deal and then the opportunity to be franchised twice, so they felt like it was important to keep me here for a long time. It instills a lot of responsibility in me to become one of the veteran leaders in the locker room. We have a lot of young guys on this team and it is weird for me to say that now, four years later, I am one of the veterans in the locker room who has to bring those guys along so we can win football games.

Q: One of your peers in your position, Jimmy Graham, just went through the same situation a little bit more publicly. Is that something that you and your agent monitored and waited to see how it unfolded? Did it give you some leverage in contract talks?

A: I think the biggest thing for us was that both sides wanted to get this done. We did not want it to be anything that got out in the public and was knowledge to the media, as much as we love you guys. It was just something that both sides wanted to get done. We knew it was going to get done, and we did not want it to be a distraction, so I think that the timing just worked out perfectly, with “Let’s get through the offseason, we will have some down time in July, and let’s together and get this done.”

Q: Who was that that came out here?

A: Brian Murphy and Camron Hahn.

Q: And they were here Tuesday?

A: Correct.

Q: How long were they out here?

A: They were only here for two days. I could not get them out of here quick enough [joking]. It was great to have them out here.

Q: Your contract is now until 2019. That seems like an eternity. How does it feel to have that stability and to know that you will be here for a really long time?

A: It is awesome to know that I will be here for the next six years. I have said this quite a few times this spring. The direction that this organization is headed with the changes that has happened so far with the new coaching staff and the young players, the new stadium and the Super Bowl here in 2018. There are so many positive things going on right now around here, and that is why I cannot thank the Wilf family enough, and Rick [Spielman] and Rob [Brzezinski] for thinking so highly of me to allow me to have this extension.

Q: You mentioned the leadership in the locker room. Did that change overnight for you, especially with some of the veterans from part of this team last year?

A: Definitely. I think that coming in as a rookie, you want to do everything that you can the right way –  keep your mouth shut, work hard, do whatever the veterans ask, and each year after that, I have always just tried to lead by example. I am not a huge vocal guy. I always want to make sure that I do the right thing, on and off the field, and as the time goes on and as the years pass, now you are developing into a role where if something is said, guys kind of respond to that because you do not say a whole lot and you always go about your business.

Q: How important was it to you to sign a contract with the coaching staff that you believe in and a head coach you believe in?

A: It is extremely exciting. As I said, I want to be here for a while because I love it here. I love the organization and I love the direction that that everything is headed, and then when you add pieces like that along with a lot of the young guys we have in this locker room, I feel like the next six years are going to be very exciting, and again, I cannot thank them enough for having the faith in me to want to keep me here.

Q: Does it motivate you at all when outsiders say that this contract is something that you can become but not something you have been yet?

A: Definitely. No one is going to motivate me more than I motivate myself. No one is going to have higher expectations than I have of myself, and that is to be the best. I am going to continue to go out there every day and work the way that I do to become the best tight end in this league.

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