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Coordinators Address The Media on Thursday

Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner

Q: How much of a difference has it made on the offensive line with guys shuffling in and out and trying to get some chemistry and consistency?

A: Well, there is no question continuity is critical in all positions but it's crucial on the offensive line. That's why I thought with the changes we had last week in the middle of the game and Joe [Berger] and Michael Harris end up going in and playing 50 snaps, I thought those guys performed at a high level for not getting a lot of reps in practice at those spots.

Q: How much is that affected by that and the troubles that you've had giving up sacks?

A: I don't think you can pin it down on one thing and we played a couple of pretty good fronts and we've put ourselves in positions that I don't think were the best positions but our guys are guys are fighting through it and I think Teddy [Bridgewater] is fighting through it and I think we're going to show improvement as we continue to go through it.

*Q: Is there any thought that Joe Berger and Mike Harris could play themselves into more playing time even if guys are healthy? *

A: Well again, I compliment them on coming in and playing and doing what they did. I'm not standing up here saying they played better than the guys that started the game but as you guys reported it, I don't know that Michael Harris had played a snap at right guard in an awful long time, if ever. I thought he handled that extremely well.  

Q: How would you describe Jerick McKinnon's learning curve especially since he and Matt Asiata have taken over?

A: He obviously flashed from the beginning and has done a good job making big plays, I just think he's learning how to play in this league and he's become more consistent, he's finding the correct lanes, he's understanding defenses better. He improved a lot in protection from the first game he started to the second and that's a big part of playing running back in this league and our system certainly. He's making the normal progress that you'd like to see a rookie running back make.  

Q: Has he gotten to the point in protection where you don't have to make the decision to get him out?

A: I think we know he's improving and I think he's physically capable of being a good pass protector. There are times with the looks that we are getting that you can be a little bit overwhelmed and confused. Matt gives us a very good protector so we need to continue using both in there.

*Q: From this point on how do you decide when to use Jerick McKinnon and when to use Matt Asiata? *

A: I just think it's the way the game goes and, as we've said, Jerick is a young player and he's excited and wants to roll but the games are long and they are physical and I think just continuing on a feel basis to use both of those guys is important.

*Q: Are you guys just going to roll with the hot hand?  *

A: People refer to it as the hot hand but sometimes it's a guy that goes in and plays 10-12 straight plays and has four or five carries. It's good to give him a break and spell him a bit, particularly in a young player.  

Q: Did you see a difference in Teddy Bridgewater after that second interception last Sunday? It looked like he settled down and was looking down the field a little bit more?

A: Games come up so different and plays come up so different. He's had three interceptions in the last two weeks – one a catchable ball and two tipped balls – where he's trying to make something happen. I think we've got to get past the point of having those errors but like I was telling our coaches when we watched New Orleans against Tampa, Brees threw three interceptions – one returned for a touchdown – trying to make things happen and he's in his 14th year. When you are in your second game or your third game or your 14th quarter or your 14th year unfortunately sometimes the defense forces mistakes. I thought he made a couple of nice throws as the game went on, like you said got the ball down the field a little bit. As we've said, he's a lot like our offense – he's a work in progress and there are going to be things we like and there are going to be things where you see him growing and there are going to be things where you shake your head a little bit. The interception on the out route, he just was a little bit late on it. When I was with Troy Aikman his first year he threw the same exact interception against Cris Dishman, we were playing the Oilers, so again I think you learn from those mistakes so we'd like to not throw that ball late and if you're late then you need to put it further out in front but that's not what happened.

*Q: Are there particular spots where you look at a young quarterback and say that he's getting it whether it's on third down or against the blitz?  *

A: I think it's just over a period of time and as I said, there are going to be plays where you say, "Wow." The throw he made to Greg Jennings, the fact that he threw it, Greg was covered, he threw it inside where only Greg could get it. A lot of young guys would never even try to throw that ball. I don't think he would have tried to throw that ball three weeks ago. You see a guy making progress and understanding what you have to do in this league but it's not just going to flash and say, "Oh wow, it's there." I don't think that you've seen that with any of these guys.    

Q: Did you just pull that Dishman interception out of your memory? Or do you have it stored somewhere to call up?

A:  I remember. Unfortunately I remember some of those plays like that. I remember sitting down and talking to Coach [Jimmy] Johnson and he asked me what happened on that one and sometimes a play you're not ready to throw and that was my feeling in the case about 20 years ago and probably the same feeling on Sunday.

Q: Troy went through his own growing pains. Is that something you can point out to Teddy?

A: I think you do it with all of the guys. I talk a lot about being with Drew Brees and really it was his fourth year, before a lot of people questioned whether he could play. It's just, in this day in age, everything is more scrutinized and talked about and re-talked about and re-hashed and you can read about it on your cell phone and a lot of different sites and it's just magnified. It's not something that every guy doesn't go through and I think we talked about it this summer, the better team you're with as a young player, the better you're going to play. When you're struggling like we are, you're going to see ups and downs.

*Q: What are the different challenges against facing a defense like Mike Zimmer's compared to a defense like Leslie Frazier's?    *

A: I don't know how to make that comparison because I compare it about the players and the first thing I do when I look at Tampa is I look at the guys that have in the past, and will continue to, impact games and we've got to control those guys. Obviously [Gerald] McCoy is outstanding, [Michael] Johnson is outstanding, their linebackers are fast, they are very, very active. This team has played outstanding offensive football teams. They've played Atlanta, they played Baltimore [and] they've played New Orleans. They've gone up against really the best in terms of the players that you have to go and defend. You watch that, you look at the matchups, and when we get the matchup in terms of the playcall or the personnel matchup that we like we've got to win because there are some matchups, like with every team, that they create some problems with. This defense is, when you look at it, obviously Leslie's the defensive coordinator, Lovie, [Smith] the Chicago background. They are very multiple, they do give you a lot of different looks and they do a great job and they are one of the top teams in stripping the ball, causing fumbles, so those are the things that you have to concentrate on getting ready to play them.

*Q: How was Cordarrelle Patterson in getting separation on Sunday?   *

A: I think he's doing better. I think he's worked extremely hard in practice working on his route technique, keeping people straightened up, separating away from people and just like we've talked about with Teddy, just like we've talked about some other young guys, it's just we're making progress, it's just slow coming in terms of the production and we want to see it in terms of production on Sundays.

Q: Do you have to emphasize the ball security giving Tampa's propensity to strip?

A: The beauty of it with Kirby Wilson and with Coach Zimmer when we started this thing, it's been a major emphasis from day one. Our backs have done a good job taking care of the football, taking care of the football in the running game. I always worry about after a catch a guy securing the ball and going. They've done a good job taking care of the ball, securing it after a catch. Obviously our problems in terms of turnovers are in the passing game and throwing the ball to the other team and we've just got to keep working on eliminating those.      

*Q: What have you thought about with Teddy and how he handles pressure from the defense?     *

A: Well the one thing is we've got to see him do it. He's had a lot of pressure and I think he's been unbelievable. I get nervous in terms of the hits outside of the pocket, I think those are the ones where you get thrown to the ground and banged around pretty good. He's got good sense in the pocket; he's getting better at getting the ball out. He threw the ball away a couple of times last Sunday when there was nowhere to throw it where against Detroit on those plays he took sacks. We're working on getting the ball out quick, we're working on design to get the ball out quick, we're going to improve on our protection so we don't have to have the conversation about how he handles it. I think he handles it extremely well and you watch a lot of other teams to see how they are doing. Drew Brees got pressured a great deal when New Orleans played Tampa. He was under a lot of pressure so you look and see the different pressures they gave him, how they're going to handle it. I always look at those matchups. We want to eliminate those type of pressures but to play quarterback in this league you have to be able to handle it and we're working hard at that.

Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards

Q: How quickly do you put the final drive of the Bills game behind you and evaluate the entire defensive performance from that game?

A: We definitely went through it together as a unit and looked at the situation. The one thing Coach Zimmer has talked about since we've been here is just learning situational football. That's one of those things, it was a hard lesson, but learning some things in that last drive. We were disappointed in some of the things we did, but from that aspect of it, you've got to turn the page and go on to the next game, because that's not going to affect your preparation for this week. You've got to focus and concentrate on what we've got to get done this week.

Q: What's your impression of Everson Griffen and his ability to rush the quarterback?

A: Like I said before, a couple of weeks ago, people questioned why he wasn't getting more sacks then all of the sudden he goes out and has a big game like that, the numbers increase. The thing that we've always tried to preach, again, is the numbers will come, just concentrate and focus on what it is we're trying to get done. Understand what they're trying to do protection-wise, understand what we're trying to do blitz-wise, understand what we're trying to do from a rush, a four-man rush, a three-man rush, whatever it may be. And just keep working and the numbers will come. Don't get caught up in 'me making sure I get my numbers.' I think that's what he bought into. He's bought into it the whole time we've been here. Like I said, he worked hard all offseason, he's been working hard all through the preseason and now in the season it's just started to pay dividends as we've kept moving down the road, the different teams and what they do protection-wise from week-to-week.

Q: What has been your biggest concern with Captain Munnerlyn's inconsistency?

A: With Captain, we've been playing him inside, we've been playing him outside. I think the biggest thing with Captain, is what we're fighting for is the consistency. The number of looks that he gets outside, the number of looks that he gets inside playing the nickel. From that aspect of it, he's got a lot on his plate, so we just challenge him from day-to-day from week-to-week, what we're trying to do schematically is to understand what it is we're asking him to do and play  the techniques and fundamentals. Be disciplined with his eyes, be good with his footwork, those kind of things. Those are the things we try to narrow it down and focus on and try to get better at each position each week.

Q: He's been in the nickel role before, what's the biggest difference now?

A: I think it's a new scheme. I think it's new for what we're asking him to do. The calls are different. From week-to-week what we're asking him to do as far as the matchups inside. From that aspect of it, he's coming from a system that he's probably played in for four years that he's been very comfortable with. Now all of a sudden he's in a new system and asked to look at things differently and hear things differently. I suspect that if he'll just keep working the techniques, keep working the fundamentals, as hard of worker as he is, he'll continue to just get better. I think he will get more consistent and get better.

Q: How would did you evaluate Xavier Rhodes performance on that final drive?

A: I definitely think it's a learning experience for him. But it's also, there were a lot of other things that went on during that drive, and actually, on those two plays, that we could have done better. Again, we always talk about pass rush and coverage always go together. Saying it's one thing or one person, you look at the realm of the whole play. There's a lot of things we could do better in that situation. From that aspect of it, from his part of it, I think it was a good learning experience that he will take away from it and work to not let that happen again. From that aspect of it, I do think it was a good learning experience for him, but also think it was a good learning experience for us as a whole, as a defense, accountability to what we need to get done to not have one person singled out in that situation, because it does work hand-in-hand.

Q: Harrison Smith mentioned defensive players need to stay bought in, what would be some of the signs that they're no longer buying in?

A: As coaches we're going to go out and we're going to be consistent. I think if they see us being consistent, then they know what we're asking them do is be consistent. We're not changing a lot of things from when we started. What we've done is just really work the fundamentals and the techniques of the different calls and the different coverages and the different pressures that we've been working. I think if you start and show consistency, we show consistency in what we're trying to do and they can see that it does work, I think that's the big selling point. That we stay consistent, we're all in it together. Every job is important, it isn't just one job, one person's job that's more important than the other. That way we will all be successful at the end of it.

Q: Are there any signs guys may give in practice that you would correct to keep them going in the right direction?

A: For us, we try to coach every play in practice just like it's the last play. Because we know you only have so many reps during the course of the week in preparation for a game, so every rep is critical. Whoever's in there, we've got to get the most out of that rep. That kind of puts them in the position to try to teach them that in the game it happens the same way. Every game's going to boil down to a couple of plays that are going to decide it. You just don't know which ones they're going to be. We have to treat the importance of each play that way in practice and in going to the game.

Q: How do you prepare for the possibility of facing either of Tampa Bay's two quarterbacks?

A: The biggest thing for us is on tape. For us, both of them have played so we can see the different style. Offensively, they've pretty much been consistent at what they're doing schematically. I know they've had a change with who's calling the plays and that kind of thing. From our aspect of it, it's just to see the different positions that they're playing different guys in, the different matchup problems that they're trying to create and then schematically what they're trying to do and try to go out and try to take away what it is they're trying to do by down and distance.

Q: How do you go about a game plan with a certain player, especially a quarterback where there is uncertainty?

A: Again, he played the first couple of games of the season. We were able to go through and look at those and see what he brought to the offense and what was different between the two. One scrambles more than the other, the other one stays in the pocket more. From that aspect of it, we were able to see. We tried to look and see schematically what they were doing different. From our approach, we have to go off of what we've seen and what they've shown. Schematically, it really hasn't been that big of a change, it's just the different likes and dislikes of a quarterback as far as the play caller when it comes to the game.

Q: How good is Vincent Jackson?

A: Vincent's been good for a long time. He's a tall receiver, speedy receiver that can go up and get the ball at its highest point. He's made some unbelievable catches where they've had corners on him, but he's been able to go over the top and catch the ball. He's definitely a focal point for what they want to try and get accomplished offensively.

Q: You don't always match Xavier Rhodes up with their biggest receiver, what's the thinking behind that?

A: We have done that in the past. We have matched up certain corners versus certain receivers. We have done that. If you look around, all of their receivers are pretty tall. You look at them, he isn't the only big receiver that they've got. They've got three receivers that are pretty nice sized. You've just got to use different thing to take away certain things that they're trying to do. Hopefully, situationally you can be in the right call to try to help them take away those things that they're trying to accomplish by situational football.  

Q: What goes into the decision to sometimes isolate a corner with a receiver?

A: It boils down to what all we're trying to schematically in the ball game by the situation that we're facing. And then kind of matching what it is that they do, where he's located, how much they're moving him around. There's a lot of things that go into it. They really move this guy around a lot. He isn't just like an X receiver. He will be over to the passing strength as a Z, they'll put him inside, what we call a W. They're moving him around a whole lot within what they're doing schematically.

Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer

Q: Marcus Sherels has had a few fair catches inside the 10-yard line, what's the concern there and what can you do to correct that?

A: The one the other day, it was a windy day, they're kicking with the wind. It wasn't a 50 situation, he was actually aligned up at the 12 yard line. We had them I think at 50 yards because their punter was hitting the ball really well. When he went back to catch it, he didn't realize where he was and you could see it on tape, he kind of hesitated about the eight (yard line), which is his rule and then at the last second it drifted a couple more yards. In hindsight you hope he doesn't fair catch that, that he grabs it and goes because I think he had some room and the second point would be let it go in the endzone because the wind was blowing pretty good. It was probably, you can classify that as a poor decision and hopefully won't make those going forward.

Q: Did you talk with him about that after?

A: Oh, I had a talk with him, oh yeah. I don't know if you saw it but I had a nice, calm conversation with him.

Q: How do you try to emphasize that? There was another one like that in a previous game.

A: I'm trying to think what game, I know you're right there is another one. I'm trying to think what game it was. He's got a rule and I'd rather him not back up on those punts and in a 50 situation, if you don't fair catch it you can block and he's actually had one of those I think against Atlanta where he did a really nice job. No fair catch, bluffed the catch, slowed down the gunner a little bit and gave him a little nudge and knocked him off. The ball hit at the 2 and went in the endzone for a touchback and that was a big play for us. It was obviously 18 or 20 yards of field position. He's got his rule and hopefully he'll continue to abide by that rule, which is an important one obviously for field position.

Q: He's had similar cases over the years, is that just in his nature?

A: I think he's more aggressive now than he's been before. I remember my first year here he had a couple where it was just inexperience. I think Marcus has done a really nice job, or he wouldn't still be here as our punt returner for a fourth-straight year. He's a quality young man, he's going to work hard, he's going to do everything we ask him to do. He can, unlike a lot of returners, he can help in other phases; in punt, in kickoff, and they didn't block him at all Sunday on the punt team, we had him as the gunner, he was free the whole day. He does a lot for us and like any other player he's going to have a hiccup here and there and hopefully we'll eliminate those.

Q: Blair Walsh mentioned he shed a few pounds in the offseason. He's always had a strong leg but how has that benefited him this year?

A: I think he's stronger. He's a stronger kicker than he was a year ago, certainly than he was as a rookie. He takes care of his body. He's kind of done a little different regimen in terms of the strength training and staying in shape this season. Obviously, I'm very pleased at where he's at. He's kicking off well, kicking field goals really well. He's very confident right now and I think when you're confident you look a little bit stronger too because you're striking the ball with more confidence and you're going to hit the ball further on kickoffs and more accurate on field goals.

Q: Has the range with him changed at all?

A: Probably on Sunday, there was one opportunity we had right before the interception that was tipped. We may have sent him out there for about a 60 yarder because he had the wind behind him and he was hitting them in pregame around 60, going that direction. The 55-yarder he hit would have been good from 68 if it was still straight, it was fading a little bit to the left. His leg strength is almost unlimited.

Q: What did you think about Jeff Locke's game on Sunday?

A: I thought he had a great game other than the touchback. I thought he hit the ball really well. He did a great job going into the wind where he had good hang times. Punting with the wind, he wasn't trying to kill the ball like a lot of young punters are going to do. We have talked to him a lot about that. The good thing is we've been practicing outside every day and that helps him crosswind-wise, tailwind-wise, headwind-wise. I thought he punted very well other than that touchback, I'm still irked about that one. That was a tough one.

Q: Was that his first touchback?

A: I think so of the year, yes.

Q: How has the emphasis of flipping the field been as far as field positioning goes?

A: We need to do more. I think we're doing some really good things. I said it last week and I'll say it again, I thought we played very well. We had three plays that I would have liked to have changed on Sunday. That was the opening kickoff, our opening kickoff return, the touchback and then Marcus' (Sherels) fair catch. Other than that, I thought we played really well. We did well in punt coverage, kickoff coverage, kickoff return. If they're going to keep kicking them short we're going to keep getting good field position as far as I'm concerned. There's a lot of good things that are happening, I just think that we set high expectations in this room when we meet. We talk about it on the field and in practice and in walk-throughs and of course on Sundays. Those expectations aren't going to change and I think we need to do more to help this young quarterback in field position for the offense in the return game. The complimentary football part where you do well in the coverage phases to give our defense great field position, they force a 3-and-out or maybe a short drive, and now people are punting from backed up. That's what we're looking for, so we're going to keep emphasizing those things and until we get them, I won't be happy.

Q: What did you think of St. Louis' fake punt?

A: That punt return, yeah Chicago did that a few years ago when Coach Dave Toub was in Chicago they did the same thing with (Devin) Hester was the decoy and I want to say Johnny Knox caught it and returned it for a touchdown. They ended up calling it back on a holding call, it was a questionable holding call. Chicago actually two years ago ran it against us and it's just one of those things, we spread the field and we're looking for it. It's a great play, you're taking a chance obviously. Stedman Bailey is not a punt returner by nature but he made a great catch and it was a pretty cool play. I'm glad it didn't happen to us.

Q: It's not your typical punt return?

A: No, it's completely different. It was a decoy, Tavon Austin did a great job of decoying everybody over there and (Stedman) Bailey kind of went off to the side, he was a corner up on the line of scrimmage and then drifted off and the punter happened to kick it over there. That was probably his tendency, that's why they had it in. It was a good play.

Q: They obviously have to sell it too?

A: Absolutely. I think they had everybody but maybe two of their guys that were kind of were an escort service for the guy down the sideline. They did a great job with that. It was a cool play.

Q: How do you teach your guys on the coverage unit there? Is it natural to go down and follow the other players?

A: It's very natural and in a 50 situation, for us, we're more of a middle team because we kick that Aussie kick. We're going to spread the field and we're going to get down field. The gunners are going to look for the ball. So the gunners look for the ball, everybody else is kind of going off what the returner is doing and what the gunners are doing. If the gunners, hopefully our gunners would do the job and they would find out where the ball actually was and travel to the ball and the rest of the guys would follow. They would have to react to what the gunners are doing.

Q: How many trick plays do you have?

A: Do I personally? I'm a more conservative guy but I think that, you know you've got a fake field goal in every week, you've got a fake punt in every week, you've got a surprise onside in every week, a reverse on punt return maybe. You've got those type of things in every week just to, you know you practice them and hopefully at some point during the season if the opportunity presents itself you go ahead and use them.

Q: Do you practice each one of those each week?

A: Pretty much every week, yes.

Q: And how much do you switch them up depending on your opponent?

A: Depends on the opponent and what their tendencies are and what we think we can get on them.

Q: Do you have the conversations of if you'd have Blair Walsh kick a field goal depending on field position and the game situation during the game or is it planned before?

A: That's a conversation during the game and the head coach makes that final decision. He'll ask, 'can we make this field goal' or 'what's the situation' or 'what's his range here' and based on the pregame routine and based on if there is any changes in the winds throughout the game, Blair and I will always talk about things, just like Jeff (Locke) and I do and just like the returners. We always talk during the game and communicate how the winds have changed. Obviously, Coach Zimmer will ask us the information and we'll let him know and based on that information he'll make his decision; time of game, score, field position, etc.

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