Hello, media darlin'.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer participated in media rounds on Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine.
In addition to a podium session in which he discussed his deliberations on hiring a kicking specialist, and an "almost romantic" scene in the offensive meeting rooms, Zimmer participated in an extended interview with KFAN's Paul Allen, Paul Charchian and Ben Leber during an episode of 9 to Noon and an extended session with Twin Cities media members.
There were plenty of pearls passed out by Zimmer, who is under contract through 2020 via the team picking up an option year.
"First of all, I mean, I love this football team," Zimmer said before quipping. "I've given them almost two eyes, now.
"The organization, the owners, you know – working with this group – the fans have been outstanding. I never wanted to go anywhere," he continued. "I'll be here for 10 more years, I don't care. I love this situation that we're in. I never wanted to go anywhere; it was just one of those things. But I love it here, and I hope I can stay here for eight more years. Whatever. Until they kick me out, I guess."
View photos from the media sessions at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
Here are nine other topics that Zimmer addressed Thursday:
1. What will the Vikings approach be with Anthony Barr and Sheldon Richardson eligible for free agency?
Barr was the first player selected by the Vikings in 2014, the first one with Zimmer as the head coach. The Vikings were able to exercise a fifth-year option on Barr's rookie deal because he was a first-round pick. Now, he could choose to re-sign or test the market.
Richardson is coming off his first year in Purple and sixth in the NFL. He could choose to re-sign or test the market again.
Technically, the Vikings could place the franchise tag on either player, but that's been an uncommon methodology under General Manager Rick Spielman.
"Anthony was my No. 1 pick as a head coach, right? I love him as far as the things he does for our organization and the football team," Zimmer said. "It's really going to depend on where the numbers are. And really the same thing with Sheldon … I thought Sheldon came in and had a good year. But the way it is with the cap, we have to budget where we're going. If Barr gets paid $18 million, we probably ain't going to have him. But if it's a reasonable deal? I think Anthony would love to be here, too."
2. Is there a decision to be made on Everson Griffen?
Griffen needed to step away from football for several weeks of the 2018 season to focus on personal matters. He returned to the lineup and is under contract.
"I don't think so. I let Rick [Spielman] and Rob [Brzezinski] handle all that stuff. We just talk about and rank our players where they are. And we've talked about those circumstances but I don't think that will be a situation."
Zimmer said he thinks it took a little bit of time for Griffen to find a groove after missing five weeks.
"You can still see the explosiveness and the power and playing the technique, but maybe it took him a little while. He played good. There's Everson when he's playing the best ever, and just a little bit less. They're all like that. I think Barr played really good after he came back [from a hamstring injury]. It just kind of depends on the guy."
3. Do you have an idea of when Mike Hughes will be fully ready to go?
The Vikings tabbed Hughes with the 30th overall pick of 2018, and the cornerback recorded a pick-six in the regular-season opener. Hughes was off to an impressive start before tearing his ACL in Week 6 (Oct. 14).
"Yeah, I'm not sure. I mean, I have an idea. Most ACLs, you know, it may be a little longer. I don't know. But he's doing great; he really is. So we'll just have to [see]. It's really hard to tell until you see him run and all that, how much longer they've got to go."
4. On Dalvin Cook's season
The injury to Hughes marked the second year in a row in which the Vikings top pick suffered a torn ACL. Cook was a second-round selection in 2017 (the Vikings didn't have a first-round selection). He bounced back from the ACL injury in time to start the regular season but suffered a hamstring injury at Green Bay in Week 2, causing him to miss a significant chunk of time.
"I think he was frustrated because of the hamstring. One of the things, I just had to sit in a meeting the other day, the second-most time lost for any injury is hamstrings. For some reason, that injury takes five or six weeks. Obviously, the ACL is number one. That's the next-longest missed time. When a runner, especially these track guys, which Dalvin basically is, these guys, for them to get right, it just takes a long time, typically, so I think he had a better [performance] in the second half of the year, obviously. He struggled some early."
As a follow-up question, Zimmer was asked about the number of hamstring injuries suffered by Vikings players last season. He said, "We had 14 hamstrings this year, and the average in the NFL is 14.5. We're going to have to look at those things. Is it shoes? Is it field conditions? Is it not warmed up? Not hydrated enough? There's so many things. The NFL is doing a study on it now."
5. On QB depth behind Kirk Cousins
Cousins is entering the second year of a three-year contract. Trevor Siemian is scheduled to become a free agent, and Kyle Sloter is under contract.
"We're going to look for another quarterback. Again, a lot of it is going to come down to salary cap issues and who we can afford. We know who we kind of want back and want. We have to monitor the market and see where all of this goes.
"If we can find the right veteran, that position is so unique in the fact that you have to, you're also there to help the guys, not just the best player, and it has to be in your system. I do think we'll be looking for a rookie, as well, so we'll just have to see how this goes."
6. On Terence Newman not coming back for a second year as an assistant
Newman spent the offseason program and training camp as a player and shifted to an assistant role when the Vikings made their final roster reductions. Zimmer commented on Newman's decision for the first time.
"He told me he really enjoyed it but said it was a grind, going from playing right into coaching. He just felt like he needed a break.
Combine/This Draft Class
7. On the 1-on-1 interviews with prospects at the combine
Teams are allowed to set up dozens of 15-minute formal interviews to drill deeper on some of the more than 330 prospects at the combine.
"We've had two nights of them. Tonight is going to be a big night. We have a ton of them tonight and a ton of them tomorrow. It's good, you get a chance to meet them, get a little bit of the personality, ask them some questions. You can kind of semi-tell how intelligent he is. With some of the guys, it's easier, obviously. It's part of the process and a good part, as well."
8. On if he sees a lot of gritty guys in this class of offensive linemen
The Vikings are looking at all positions, but Zimmer admitted that he's reviewed the offensive linemen in depth. He was asked about what the Vikings want to see in the prospects and said everybody wants "tough, gritty guys."
"It's the finish that they're all looking for, not necessarily stick their chest out and punch a guy. This is a good class. I've watched way too many offensive linemen so far this offseason. There's been a lot of good ones, guys that are smart, tough, athletic. There's some different flavors in there. Some are road-grater types, gap schemes is what we call them, and some are more zone schemes. You just find the one that you feel like fits you."
9. On the depth at defensive line
If a deal can't be reached with Richardson, the Vikings might turn elsewhere in free agency, the draft or both to bolster the defensive line, particularly at the 3-technique. It was a point of emphasis last offseason to add the dynamic threat of Richardson to the pass-rush mix.
"This is a good group, a good group of defensive linemen, as well. There's going to be a lot of them taken in the first round, probably, but it is a deep group. Hopefully we can find some of those guys, too."