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Cassel, Zimmer Address The Media on Friday

Vikings Coach Mike Zimmer

Finished the first walk through this morning. I was actually very pleased with the retention that we've had over the course of the five weeks we were off. I thought that they did a good job with remembering where we were and what we left off with as far as not making very many mistakes and we had a good first night of meetings and we are anxious to get on the field. Obviously, the first two days we have to be in basically OTA mode so we won't be in pads. It will be very similar to what we were doing before. We had a couple roster moves, we signed Andy Cruse is a free agent wide receiver. He spent ten games with the Texans. We signed Ty Walker, he was a free agent. He was with the Green Bay and Seattle on the practice squad and we waived Josh Cooper wide receiver and Mat Hall offensive tackle. We have three players on PUP, Chase Ford, who, obviously you know because he has been tweeting, and we will have a discussion about that this evening. Captain Munnerlyn has got a slight little hamstring and then Andrew Sendejo has got a low back and ankle that he has been dealing with actually since towards the end of last season.

Q: You didn't trip the alarm at 1:30 did you?

A: I told them they have to be aware of every situation that might come up, but no that was not me. Now that I think about it I wish it was. I'll have to use it next year.

Q: What is your impression of Captain Munnerlyn and did you learn anything you didn't know about him when you signed him?

A: Yeah, well I didn't know a lot about him when we signed him. He is a competitive guy and I think he does a very good job in the slot knowing where he is at, the different techniques. He still is learning the techniques we have but I've been happy with him. He's very, very competitive and he likes to talk a lot on the field so we have to keep him reigned in a little bit but that's better than having to go the other way.

Q: Do you envision the injury to hold him back at all?

A: No he will be fine.

Q: Could you just go over the PUP?

A: They can't do anything until they get cleared so I mean they can come out and watch practice but they can't participate in walk throughs, they can't participate in any practice whatsoever. So when they get healthy we will clear them. There is no length of time, we can clear them whenever.

Q: Will you have to make another roster man change when they are cleared?

A: Well they count on a 90.

Q: How long do you think on Munnerlyn and Sendejo?

A: You know it's hard to say. I hate to put timelines on things especially this early. I doubt it will be very long but I don't know.

Q: Are you happy with the condition of the guys coming back after the five weeks off?

A: Yeah very good, they did a nice job in the conditioning test yesterday. So maybe we will make it harder next year.

Q: You did not have to get on anybody?

A: We had one guy not make it.

Q: When you look at the film from this team last year did you see a five win team?

A: I saw a five win team, yeah. I mean I kind of go by what I see and what the record says. You know they lost some close ball games at the end and you know there are so many different factors. Last year is last year. I obviously wasn't here and none of our coaches were, a lot of the other players and the guys we drafted and so we are not really worried about last year. I mean we have talked about things that we need to improve on, statistically that we did last year, but you know we are about going forward and get it going from there.     

Q: Situational football is something that you've said you want to stress early on. When you look at defenses, what's the what's the key to success?

A: With the NFL the way it is right now, you have to be able to cover. You have to be able to contest balls. You have to be in peoples face. You have to understand route concepts and where you need to be and you have to all be on the same page. You can't bust coverages. You can't give up plays like that. If you look at the top four or five defenses in the NFL, every year they are great tacklers. They're going to tackle. They're going to miss tackles but because guys are getting to the ball so hard, they don't miss tackles. Typically the teams that are lower ranked defensively, statistically are poor tackling football teams, they give up big plays, they bust coverages, they don't keep the quarterback contained in the right situation. For us to improve defensively, we've got to cover better. I don't know where we're at right now because we can't play bump and run at all. But talking to Norv over the course of the OTAs, he felt like we've improved quite a bit. We'll see. Maybe we know the receivers now and things like that so we'll go from there.

Q: How challenging is it for you to have only three weeks to evaluate the players?

A: Well, I like to evaluate players. The only difficult thing for me, as the head coach now as opposed to being the defensive coordinator, I was evaluating 45 guys and now I'm evaluating 90. I have to pay a little bit more attention to certain positions, the left guard or the center or the right guard. You see the tackles all the time because the defensive ends you're watching go against. Receivers, I see all the time. It's more volume I guess for me in, trying to get all of that done. I've got a list of things on my board that I want to make sure I do every single day and that's evaluate all the players. Try and figure out how they can help us to win football games, what their role can be and I try to remind myself every day to do that.

Q: What kind of timetable do you have to get Chase Ford active?

A: I don't know. He had a surgery on the foot so I don't know.

Q: Is injured reserve a possibility for Ford?

A: I don't know those possibilities. I don't know where it's going from here. 

Q: What happened to the player that failed the conditioning test? Is he not practicing now?

A: Yeah, he's not practicing now.

Q: Was it Kheeston Randall?

A: No.

Q: Did you have a central message to the team last night for the first meeting?

A: I did. Yeah, I did. I talked to them about situational football. I talked to them about what kind of team I want to be. What kind of guys I want on the football team. Why I think this team can win.

Q: Tell us about Adam Thielen from Mankato?

A: I told him he's a super star out here today.

Q: Can you be on the practice squad two years in a row?

A: Yes. Yeah, you can be on the practice squad two years in a row. Adam is actually doing a terrific job. He might have been the most improved guy in OTAs. He's a great kid first of all. He works his rear end off. He runs routes real hard. He catches the ball good. He's got an opportunity to make this football team.

Q: Did you feel it was necessary to make a statement about Matt Cassel being the number one quarterback yesterday or was it just being thrown out there?

A: No, I figured everybody would ask. I did not feel obliged to make that statement whatsoever. It doesn't mean that when we play the St. Louis Rams he's going to be the starter, but he was going to line up with the first team. I knew you all wanted to hear something like that. That's why I did it. I think I clarified that when I said it yesterday, he's number one quarterback but he's not declared the starter.

Q: Do you have special teams coach in mind for the first 2-3 weeks?

A: We're working through it right now. I think we have a pretty good plan. I know you're going to keep asking me every single day but when I have it finalized, I'll let you know. I promise you, I'll let you know.

Q: When you tell the team why you think they can win, what do you tell them?

A: I will keep that between us. The one thing, and I told you all this before, I want to be as honest as I can be with everybody in this room. I understand that everybody has a job to do and you have to ask these questions – I do respect that. However, there are things that I am going to tell only the football team because I want them to understand that they are my guys. They are the only ones that are going to know. Now, they may tell you, and then I will have to have a talk with them, but it is important to me to keep the sanctity of our football team together, where I can trust them and they can trust me. Then, we can all go forward in a good manner.

Q: When you say that you want a better tackling team, is that a matter of getting better tacklers or just practicing to become better tacklers?

A: Well you have to get good tacklers. You cannot tackle every single day in practice. You can practice tackling, but you are not taking guys to the ground. A lot of it is being in the right position, and when you are doing drills out here, you don't just run by the guy. If you are running by the guy, you cannot touch him. You have to take control, be in a good position, and also know who your help is going to be. I think we do a good job of doing that. You are always going to miss tackles, but if you are missing 13 or 14 tackles a game, you are probably not going to be very good. 

Q: What are your expectations of Linval Joseph?

A: Today was actually the first day that I have really seen him. He came in at tremendous looking physical shape. He weighs 317 pounds and is benching 500 pounds. Watching him out there at the walk-through, which does not mean anything, he looks like how a nose tackle is supposed to look like. I have, I guess to answer your question high, high expectations of him but they are reserved a little bit because all I've seen him do is a walk-through.

Q: How critical is the nose tackle position in your defense?

A: It is critical. In Cincinnati, I was very fortunate to have Domata Peko, who, in my opinion, is one of the best nose tackles in the league. On top of that, he is a great guy and a smart guy. That helps the middle linebacker not get blocked very much. The nose tackles do a lot of dirty work that people do not see, and helps to keep linebackers have an opportunity to stay healthy and make tackles.

Q: Did you have any butterflies in your stomach walking out there as head coach for the first time?

A: Today? No. We have been doing this at OTAs for ten days, so no.

Q: How important is it to get Anthony Barr up to speed considering what he missed of OTA?

A: It is important. We have to push him really hard and try to figure out where we can get him to go, and how fast we can get him to go. We have very high expectations of him. Like all rookies, there will be learning curve, and then they'll hit a plateau, just like losing weight. You hit that plateau then you have to work a little harder to keep it going. He may or may not have the success early that he's going to have, but I think that his ceiling is extremely high. 

Q: Chad Greenway has been here for a long time. How important is he to your defense considering that he has been here for nine years?

A: I have the utmost respect for Chad. I always have when I watched the Vikings defense play. He is the kind of guy that really represents the Vikings – a good guy, a smart guy, and he plays real hard. He studies his rear end off, so those kinds of things are extremely important for guys like Anthony Barr, Brandon Watts, and some of these younger guys to watch how a true professional goes about a game. The reason why a guy can play nine or ten years, or however many years he'll end up playing, is this. I like Chad a lot. He is very, very hard on himself, and sometimes he should just let it go a little bit quicker. But, I would rather have it that way than have him not care. He cares, and I want all of my guys to care.

Q: Do you see the other linebacker spots other than Chad being open?

A: Yes, pretty much. Like the quarterbacks, we are going to have some of the guys go out there today, but that does not mean that they will end up being the starters in Week One. That is what training camp is for – it is to figure out how to become a team and how to find roles for everybody. These three weeks and preseason is to find out the roles for each player, what they do best, and how we can be a team. I have explained to them what my definition of that is. 

Q: What do you want to see from the safety position opposite of Harrison Smith?

A: It is hard for me to evaluate that right now because I have not seen Andrew Sendejo and the walk-through today was the first time I saw Jamarca Sanford. But in the NFL, you have to have a guy that can cover pretty well because of the situations you can get into. Harrison is a pretty smart guy, so you can get by with a guy that is maybe not as intelligent and quickly making the snaps. But for our safeties, we are always looking for the same thing in the guys – guys who can cover, guys who are good tacklers, guys who can blitz well, and guys who are good at making decisions. For each position in the back end, we are looking for players that have great acceleration and can get out of a cut.

Q: Cordarrelle Patterson said that after practice, he has to talk to you. Can you give us a sense of what that is about?

A: I do not know. We talked yesterday a little bit, but I do not know.

Q: You said earlier that you were going to have a chat with Chase Ford for his tweets. Have you conveyed a social media policy with the players?

A: Not really a policy. I didn't tell them they can't tweet, I guess that's what it's called. I didn't tell them they can't tweet I just said, yeah I guess there is a policy now that I think about it. We actually had a meeting last night, and then those things were tweeted either last night or today. He must have not been paying attention at meeting, so I will fix those things.

Q: Whether it is a year or two years, what will make Teddy Bridgewater an effective quarterback?

A: Winning football games. That is what all of the quarterbacks do – they win football games. They understand their football team and understand how they can make guys around them better. Teddy has been a really good get for us, and like you said, I do not know when it will be, but I am ecstatic to have him. I love his personality; I was teasing him this morning about some stuff. He has a good head on his shoulders and is a good kid. The Vikings fans will be proud to have Teddy Bridgewater with us for a long, long time.

Vikings Quarterback Matt Cassel

We are here at camp, it's a beautiful day and were excited to get going. It is my 10th season and I never get tired of the excitement and enthusiasm we have coming out here and the first day jitters of being back out here on the football field. It is exciting for all of us to get started.

Q: How did you sleep last night?

A: I slept well until the fire alarm went off at 2 AM and woke everyone in the building up. I think it was coach who set that one off; I think he wanted to see if everyone was mentally tough.

Q: First impression when you heard Norv Turner would be the Offensive Coordinator?

A: I was excited and thrilled. He is obviously somebody who has won championships. He has had success throughout his career and quarterbacks have been successful in his system. I was excited about it and am excited to be working with him now.

Q: Mike Zimmer came out and said you are the number one QB, were you expecting that?

A: I would be lying if I said I was not. I worked hard this offseason; I think I made a lot of progress. I think we made a lot of progress collectively as a group. My job going into camp is to continue to compete and work every day. Again, I still have to earn this thing. There is no easy way about it, you have to go out and perform and show these guys you know how to run the offence and you are going to be accountable to put these guys in a position to be successful.

Q: In hearing that someone has to beat you out. You are now number one they have to legitimately beat you out?

A: I think that is how it always is. When you get to camp you are always competing and I do not take anything for granted. I know I am going to come out here and work every day and those guys are going to push me and that is just part of this process. I think it makes us all better with competition. We have a great group of guys that all work hard. It will be fun to get out here and compete.

Q: How different is this camp from the standpoint in New England you were definitely the back up and in Kansas City you were definitely the starter, and last year you were pretty much the back up. This is the first time you have really been in a competition in training camp. How different is that for you?

A: Throughout my entire career coming in as a seventh round draft pick your mentality always is you have to compete for your job every year let alone the spot you are going to be in the rotation. For me that mentality has never changed as you come out, compete, and work hard to get better each and every day and go from there.

Q: What is your relationship with Teddy (Bridgewater) like?

A: It has been great. Teddy has come in and works hard. He is quiet for a rookie, which is always a good thing. He actually got me a Gatorade today, which I was really thankful for. He works hard and I have been very impressed with his work ethic and how he picks up the offense. We have had a great relationship and the same goes with myself with Christian (Ponder) as well. Last year we had a great room and I think that is important because we spend a lot of time together.

Q: What are your expectations with Cordarrelle Patterson from year one to year two?

A: He has made great improvement from last season in his route running and his ability to understand coverages. He is still a young player, he only played one year of junior college and one year at Tennessee so he is still learning. We expect big things out of him, but it is up to him to continue to work and not get complacent just like all of us we have to continue to work to get better.

Q: Do you feel like it is an open competition or do you feel like they are leaning toward you? How do you view this competition?

A: I do not look at any of that stuff. I do not worry about the competition. I know that when I go out there and get my reps I have to go out there and do the best I can do with my reps and not worry what is going on with them or anything else. I am trying to learn an offense just like they are.  Each and every day my focus is on that rather than "Oh I have to compete", "If I mess up". You cannot be afraid to make mistakes because we all are going to do it, especially this time of the year and make those corrections.

Q: Your wide receiver group in general and also Adam Thielen from Mankato?

A: I am excited about our wide receiver group. We have veteran experience with Jerome Simpson and Greg Jennings, the young guys in Jarius Wright who has done a tremendous job, you have Cordarrelle Patterson, and then you have guys like Adam Thielen who can play all over as he did a great job all of spring. You can ask any of the coaches about him, he continues to get better each and every day and he continues to be impressive.

Q: What is the best part of training camp?

A: Coming out and practicing, that is what I look forward to. The meetings get long and continuous, but you get out here and you get to play and get better as that is what it is all about.

Q: What is the worst part of training camp?

A: The cold tub after practice, I do not like that very much.

Q: It has only been a couple days here, but you learned Norv Turner's offense before you got here. Is it more exciting coming into camp knowing some of the things he has in it?

A: There is no doubt. I am really excited to be in this offense. We worked hard this offseason to set a foundation and now it is to grow on that. It is a point for us that we are not starting day one of training camp. We have had 30 some odd practices here or whatever we have had with walk-throughs and everything else. We need to build on that and go from there. That is how we are going to become a good offense.* *

Q: How much of the playbook are you guys comfortable with at this point?

A: We better be comfortable with a lot of it. For whatever they have put in, for the majority of us we are very comfortable with a lot of it and we have had a number of reps now at installation one, two, three, and four with the OTA's and minicamp. This should be our third or fourth time going through some of this stuff. It is now much more familiar from what it was in OTA's and minicamp.

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