Vikings Quarterback Matt Cassel
Obviously, we've got a good test this week against a good football team. I know that they are 0-2 right now, but at the same time I think that they have been playing good football. They've lost some close games and we know that we're going into a stadium that historically is loud. They bring a lot of energy, we are going to have to weather the storm early, like we have in the past and get back to playing a sound, fundamental football game in order to win.
Q: How difficult does your job get without Adrian Peterson?
A: Adrian's a special player, but at the same time we can't let that overshadow the fact that we have got other players here that can perform. We can't let that be our sole identity, that we have lost Adrian and I don't know for how long. At the same time, we have to still establish the run, that's part of this offense, and move forward.
Q: Does this put more pressure on you to produce?
A: I think that I have to play within myself, play within the system. The coaches do a fabulous job, like we have throughout this entire offseason of being able to utilize other guys. We have got a lot of confidence in Matt Asiata and Jerick (McKinnon) and those guys and they've got to step up. I revert back to my own example of when Tom (Brady) went down in New England, it was a great opportunity for me and we were able to still perform, go out there and we ended up the year 11-5, which nobody thought we could do. At the same time, it's going to give opportunities and we've got to be able to step up.
Q: Are you approaching it is a long-term absence for Adrian Peterson?
A: I don't know the circumstances, to be completely honest with you. At the same time, all I know is we don't have Adrian this week. We'll prepare moving forward.
Q: How much does it fall on you as a quarterback to try and keep the team focused on football and not distractions?
A: I think that it's really important as we move forward. We do have a young, impressionable team. I think that the main thing is trying to block out the noise on the outside because there is a lot of it going on right now. You can't get too caught up in that, you have to stay focused on the task at hand, the job at hand and learn the playbook, learn the new game plan for this week and get ready for a good football team. I know one thing, the Saints aren't going to feel sorry for us when we go down there on Sunday and it's part of being a professional, part of doing this job is overcoming some adversity and we've faced some adversity, obviously, early this year.
Q: How important is it for you to step up and play a solid game?
A: I think that it's always important for me to step up as a quarterback. I've got to get back to what I've done all preaseson and the first game. Take care of the football, first and foremost and at the same time we just have to get back to playing and get into some rhythm and play with some more tempo than we did on Sunday.* *
Q: What did you do in New England after Tom Brady got hurt to assure the team in your abilities?
A: I think part of it is just your preparation, going out there and performing and then guys start to trust and believe. I think that's what we all have to do. Any time you get an opportunity if you can prove to those guys that you're accountable and you're ready to go then I think that takes care of itself and that's where you start to build the trust with your teammates and with the coaching staff.
Q: Is it normal to make situations like this a rallying cry?
A: That's how you have to approach these things. It's all about us in that locker room and those are the only people we can really care about right now. Like I said, it's about supporting everybody and then being a professional, learning the game plan and getting ready to go.
Q: You talk about taking care of the football, what happened last week?
A: I thought that obviously, on one of the plays I could get an in-cut in there and the guy undercut the in-cut and that sometimes happens. Again, it's about just making sure that you're going through your reads and making sure that you don't try to force things when they're not there. It's better to take a sack than throw an interception, obviously.
Q: Are you going to be more careful without Adrian Peterson in the backfield?
A: I don't think so. You still have to go out there and play the game. You can't think about when you're taking a snap, the last thing I'm thinking about is whether or not Adrian is back there. You still have to go through your reads and your progressions, what you're coached to do and make a decision based on that.
Q: What about from a game plan standpoint, does it change how cautious you are?
A: I don't know how that's going to impact our game plan as much. But, at the same time, I know that we're a team that we have to establish the run and we have to do those things in order to be a balanced offense.
Q: What have you seen from Coach Zimmer when he has addressed the team the last few days?
A: Coach Zimmer has done a tremendous job with the team and he speaks to his own adversities with his wife and some other things that, obviously, we all go through adversities in a football season. I think it was a strong point that no matter what we're still going to go out there on Sunday. As I said before, the other teams, our opposition isn't going to feel sorry for us when we get out there. The one thing that we have to do is go out there and play good football.
Q: Are there a lot of things you can do with Cordarrelle Patterson that we haven't even seen yet?
A: I think he does a lot of stuff within our offense. We put him in the backfield, he runs screen passes, he's obviously our starting X-receiver. It's one of those things that you're probably going to have to ask the coaching staff of how much more dynamic you can get in terms of utilizing one player.
Q: What have you seen from Jerick McKinnon behind the scenes and in practice?
A: He's done a tremendous job of just learning the offense and then he's also shown explosiveness throughout the preseason. He can run the ball, he does a great job in pass protection and also getting out in pass routes. He's a guy that is going to have to step up and we're going to have to count on him to be a guy that plays a role as we move forward.
Q: As a rookie what does Jerick McKinnon still has to work on?
A: If you were to ask him, he will probably tell you everything. As a rookie you're still learning each and every day. You're trying to learn how to be a professional, you're trying to watch guys, you're trying to understand. He hasn't got the same amount of reps as some of these other guys, so every day is important for him and the mental reps are just as important.
Q: What have you seen from Matt Asiata?
A: He's a guy that everybody loves in the locker room. You want to see a guy like that be successful because he works so hard. He's accountable. He comes to work with a great attitude each and every day. Like you said, he stepped up last year and had a three-touchdown game against Philadelphia. You saw a little bit of that last week with him being able to get out of the backfield and catch and run with the ball. He's a tremendous back and we're excited to have him back there.
Q: What goes into only completing one pass over 10 yards?
A: I'm not really sure. At times, sometimes they take away some of the deep threats and sometimes we're trying to hit some of those crossing routes underneath and see if guys can catch and run and go from there.
Q: How much of the game plan against the Rams was shorter passes due to their pass rush?
A: We just had to control that rush, there was no doubt. We thought that (Robert) Quinn was one of the best pass rushers that we would play all year and so we wanted to really slow things down there, especially being on the road. So with that, quick passes, especially with the way that they blitzed and everything like that, we wanted to try and get the ball out of our hands quickly and not take big sacks and not take some risks.
Q: Is it harder to make those completions without the threat of Adrian Peterson?
A: Anytime you have man-to-man coverage, it's one-on-one on the outside, those completions are about one guy beating another guy, a lot of times. With or without Adrian, we'll see how they play us on Sunday.
Q: What can you tell us about the noise in the Superdome?
A: I've played there before and it gets loud. That crowd really gets into it.
It will be their first home game. We know that going in, that it's going to be a hostile environment and so we talk about it all of the time as a team, the main thing we can do is try to weather the storm early and then at the same time, we have to play good fundamental football. Like I said, it's taking care of the football, it's playing good defense, playing good special teams and then giving yourself an opportunity to win at the end.
Q: What did the Patriots do to limit the amount of times Cordarrelle Patterson got the ball out of the backfield?
A: Obviously, after the first series they played a solid game. They just did a good job on the outside, for the most part. They did some things that maybe we didn't anticipate in terms of how they play and with their leverage and everything. We just have to find a way in order to make sideline adjustments and do those things. Talk on the sideline with the receivers, myself and the coaching staff and make adjustments.
Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner
*Q: Can you talk about the adjustments that you have to make without Adrian Peterson? *
A: The biggest thing you do in any phase of offensive football is you want to take advantage of the strengths of players you have and put them in position to be successful. Right now it would be Matt [Asiata] and Jerick [McKinnon] and obviously they got a lot of work in the preseason so we've got a pretty good feel for them. It still comes down to we have to do the things that give our offense the best chance of being successful in terms of going in and winning the game. We've played two games and obviously in the first game we protected the ball extremely well and we gave ourselves a chance to win. We didn't do that last week and the result was the complete opposite.
Q: How do you plan on breaking up the carries without Adrian?
A: Well I think, like I said, we got a chance to see both of those guys. The people defending us got to see them and this week in New Orleans, they'll have an idea of what we're doing. We're just going to play both and the guy that gets the hot the hand we're going to use him but they both have different strengths. We want to continue to get production and help our quarterback.
*Q: How does the play calling change? *
A: I think when you have a back who is capable of making big plays and has a history of making plays, 10, 15-yard runs, those plays can supplant some plays you're not getting in another area. I think when you're coaching a player like that you kind of count on that that you're going to get those kind of plays. I think Matt and Jerick both had big runs but I don't think you can say, "Hey in this game we are going to get three or four runs over 15 yards," like you would with Adrian. You just have to adjust your plan.
Q: Does that put more stress on Matt Cassel? If so, how do you handle that?
A: Well we don't want to put more stress, and obviously defenses have something to do with that. Obviously the run wasn't as big of an issue with New England but he concentrated very hard with the coverage and they did a good job on us. We've got to work hard to have balance and like I said protect the football. If we're playing more of a field position game then we have to do that.
Q: How important is it for you to have another leader show the intangibles that Adrian showed?
A: You know there are always those kinds of conversations on what guys do and what guys don't do. The mindset of a coach, I think Coach [Mike] Zimmer said it yesterday, the mindset of a coach and the mindset of a player obviously has to be we've got a game to play. I promise you the Saints aren't feeling sorry for us. They're at home, their first home game, they're 0-2, so we have to have guys step up. We have a guy take over a different role. I'm more concerned about obviously playing on the field than the leadership part of it.
Q: What is the pressure level on Matt Cassel heading in to this game?
A: I think Matt has been brought up in a system, I have been kind of brought up in a system that this is a week-to-week business. It's 16 one-game seasons and you have to put last week behind you and you've got to go play. Everything is not going to go perfect in this game. It's a hostile place to play but we've got to protect the ball. We protect the ball and don't give the team we're playing, this week it's the Saints, a short field and don't give them too many opportunities and hopefully we'll be in the game.
*Q: Do you now have the mentality like other teams do that this is kind of a running back by committee group? *
A: Well every team is different and some of the guys you are talking about are guys, number one who have played or they're pretty darn talented guys and that's what we're hoping is we come out of this over the next period and say these backs are really good and they're really contributing to doing a good job. We need to find out.
*Q: Is it safe to say Jerick McKinnon will play a larger role? *
A: Well he's going to play. We have to play both of those guys. It's a physical position and you just have to have more than one.
*Q: What were the biggest issues with Cassel's interceptions? *
A: I think from a mindset that we had success in the opening game and I think we're trying to do too much, a couple of the play calls and a couple of the decisions. There are always plays you'd like to have back but we were just trying too much, doing things we didn't need to do. As I said, we've got to be smart in terms of our decision making and how we go about attacking teams.
*Q: Is Matt Kalil's play starting to become a concern? *
A: Here's the deal and you just look back and I'll go back to we've played two games. We got ahead in a game, we're ahead in the fourth quarter by over 20 points and we got three or four sacks because they are trying to get back in the game, they are throwing the ball. When you get behind and you get behind a team like New England and they're not going to let you get back in it then the pass rush becomes that much more difficult – pass protection, pass rush. You look at the teams that are year-to-year-year, are great in pass rush and they are usually in a lot of games where they get ahead and they can get themselves in that position. We've got to do a better job of protecting and we know that. We've got to get the ball out, there are a lot of things we have to do to improve that situation.
Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards
Q: What problems does Drew Brees present?
A: He's a mobile quarterback in the pocket. He likes to step up, he buys time with his feet in the pocket. We've got to do a good job of keeping him contained within the pocket this week. He does a good job of getting the ball to his playmakers in his offense. They have some guys that are tough matchups in coverage. He does a good job of reading what you're doing coverage-wise and getting the ball to them. It will be a challenge this week.
Q: What does he do differently than Tom Brady?
A: Brady is probably not as mobile, or move around in the pocket as much as (Drew) Brees does. Brees is a shorter guy. He can get on the edges, he likes to step up into the pocket, into the windows that sometimes can be created with a four-man rush and steps up to deliver the ball. From that aspect of it, it's different. A lot of the similar matchups, both of them have good tight ends, exceptional tight ends and certain areas that they like to go to them in. They're both good with dumping the ball to the back out of the backfield and getting the balls to the receivers down the field. He's got good arm strength and is going to present some problems with some of the matchups that we have, but we're working diligently this week to make sure that we are doing a good job of leveraging what we need to leverage down the field.
Q: Does going up against a six-foot quarterback alter your personnel?
A: Not necessarily. We are emphasizing trying to get our hands up to bat some balls. That is one emphasis. He's had some balls batted. Again, like I said, he does a good job of finding the windows within the pocket and stepping up and being able to the throw the ball.
Q: What corrections have you made with Xavier Rhodes on some of his penalties from a week ago?
A: The biggest thing we are doing is still working the fundamentals and the techniques that we've been preaching all along. We know that that's an emphasis for the referees to be calling this year. We've got to get those things and keep working those things. He had a couple of calls where he was challenging the routes, which we want to challenge every route that is run. It was too far down the field, they felt, so they made the call. We've got to just keep emphasizing what it is that they're looking to call and the fundamentals and technique that we are trying to do coverage-wise.
Q: What did the Browns do defensively against the Saints tight ends?
A: I think what they did, was they changed the leverage up on him, they doubled him some, they did some different things coverage-wise to kind of get him out of the ball game. To try and keep him in those situations, to keep him limited as far as the looks that he's going to get from the quarterback. From that aspect of it, you've got to kind of pick and choose what it is you're going to do and what you're trying to take away. How they're trying to move him around. They move him around a lot in the formations, you'll see him out at #1, flexed out as a receiver. They move him around a lot. The biggest thing is, what you're doing within the coverages to try and take away what he's trying to do coverage-wise.
Q: What do the Saints do to keep Jimmy Graham involved?
A: I think the biggest thing is they started moving him around to areas where they were going to limit your ability to double him or it's going to be such an easy read within the coverage that they could go somewhere else with it.
Q: Will Gerald Hodges be your weakside linebacker if Chad Greenway can't go on Sunday?
A: We're continuing to work linebackers just like we have. Sort of the next man up theory. We're going to use combinations and use their skillsets within our sub-packages to the best of our ability. We've been working Gerald, we've been working a combination of all of these guys, Mike (Mauti) has been working in there. We're working a combination of guys and we will fit them in our packages and get the best matchups that we can.
Q: Do teams alternate cornerback, linebacker and safety to cover Jimmy Graham?
A: Like I said, it boils down to what you're going to do coverage-wise. Whether you have a linebacker on him and you're helping him, whether you have a safety if he needs help on him, whether you got a corner on him and he doesn't need help on him. I think it just continues to change throughout the game depending on what you're doing coverage-wise as far as the matchup.
Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer
*Q: Were you in the building at 12:01 a.m. Monday? *
A: No, I had to be out before then. Oh you're talking about this Monday? No, I was close. I knew I was going to be around the rest of the day so I got in around 5:30, 5:45.
Q: What was it like watching Sunday's game?
A: Difficult, both games were hard to watch. I was with my family and watching it. I think they were watching me to see how I was going to react and it was kind of weird for them, especially my kids. My daughter looked at me and said, "Dad, this is really weird," seeing me watching the Vikings play while I was sitting on the couch. It was hard, it was difficult.
Q: What was your reaction on having nine guys on punt return?
A: I probably can't say it in public. No, I think it was a difficult situation, maybe lack of communication and we'll get that fixed.
Q: What was the situation like for those two weeks?
A: I know the details, we're going to keep those confidential. I will tell you this – it was very positive, it was very professionally done and like anything else in life, if you put a lot into it, you're going to get a lot of it. I told my kids that, I told my players that. I went into it with a great attitude and I got a lot out of it.
*Q: Is there anything you believe you've changed in as a person? *
A: Well I don't know if I've changed but I think I have more awareness of my surroundings and other people around me and I'm a better man because of it.
*Q: What did you during your two weeks away other than watch the Vikings? *
A: You know I went and did the training, spent time with my family and tried to make the best of a difficult situation.
Q: Did you go on vacation?
A: No, it wasn't a vacation. I never left town.
*Q: Did you end up throwing things when you saw big returns giving up? *
A: No, I actually got a big lecture from my wife about not to do that. I followed through with that. I was pretty clam. I think the only time I got excited was when Marcus got hit in the Rams game because I thought we lost him because he got hit pretty hard. That was my big concern there.
Q: How frustrating was it watching these things that you can't do anything about?
A: Yeah, I think like any correction that would have to be made during either a practice, I was allowed to watch practice but wasn't allowed to communicate with anybody so that was frustrating. But you know what, Joe [Marciano] and Ryan [Ficken] did the best they could. It was a very tough situation for our players and coaches and I thought our team reacted the best that they could have and there are some plays you'd like to change and there are some things I'd like to change going forward. We were going to change them anyway. It's always a constant improvement for our football team and that's my job. I'm glad I'm back, I'm excited to be around the team, be around the coaches and the organization again and we're going to move forward.
*Q: When you say you were allowed to watch practice what does that mean? *
A: On the iPad.
*Q: Watch it live? *
A: No, taped.
Q: What was your message when your first got back in the building?
A: When I first walked in Monday I just let them know that I appreciated all of their effort while I was gone. I appreciated all of their effort while I was gone and it's all behind us, it's all over. This situation is a dead issue and it's time to move on. I know it was hard for them, I apologized to them because of what I basically put them through being away for two weeks but now it's time to improve and get better and we've got a lot of work to do. We've got 14 regular season games left and I think we've got a good football team and we have to be a weapon on special teams and that's been my message all along. I just continued on with the message that I had all throughout training camp.
*Q: Jerome Felton said you received a standing ovation. What was it like to have that reception from your vantage point? *
A: It was awesome. We had a staff meeting so normally I'm there about 3 or 4 minutes before the meeting starts. I walked in right as the meeting started because we were just finishing up a staff meeting and it was a really, really cool thing. It wasn't something I'd expect. It was a warm reception and I really respected it.
Q: Was it an emotional time?
A: Absolutely. I'm an emotional guy anyway and I did really appreciate it and really reflecting back on it'll probably be one of the greatest things that's ever happened to me as a football coach.
Q: How about your first game back in the Superdome with it being a tough place?
A: It'll be tough. The Saints are a very good football team regardless of their record. They are outstanding at home. They are a very well-coached team on special teams, and across the board I'm sure but focusing on special teams their coach is outstanding, their players are outstanding, they play hard, they are physical, they are fast and we have our work cut out for us.
Q: Is it common for what the Patriots where they had one guy as a stand-up blocker and a guy run through
A: We have it in. It's not something new. It's not something we didn't practice. We just didn't execute as well as they did. They did a great job, I'll give them a hats off to them. They ran a good scheme against us and they executed better than we did.
Q:Whose guy is that to block?
A: Corey (Wootton) and Matt (Kalil) worked together on that.
*Q: Is there a part of you that is glad there was attention somewhere else rather than on your return? *
A: No, I don't think any bad attention is good for our organization. I appreciate what this organization has done for me as a person and stood by me throughout this whole process so I hate to see what happened happen. Obviously from my situation, from my vantage point, personally I need to move on. I'm excited about the next step for the Minnesota Vikings and for the rest of the season and how I can do my part to help us win games.
Q: How can Cordarrelle Patterson get free on more kickoffs?
A: We've got to not face so many touchbacks. This week is going to be hard again. Thomas Morsted is their punter but he's also their kickoff specialist and he's got a big-time leg. I've talked to Cordarrelle about not being frustrated because we're going to face more touchbacks, especially earlier in the year. As the year goes on we're going to play outdoors, obviously more games, and not facing as many kickers that can put the ball through the endzone. [Patriots kicker Stephen] Gostkowski put them in the stands. Hopefully as the weather gets a little bit colder and we're not getting as many touchbacks that we'll have more opportunities.
*Q: Does he pretty much have the green light to go run it out if he gets the ball inbounds? *
A: Depending on the situation, yes.