INDIANAPOLIS — Kwesi Adofo-Mensah's world looks a lot different than the last time he was at an NFL Scouting Combine.
In 2020, Adofo-Mensah was still with the 49ers when he arrived in Indianapolis. Since then, he spent two seasons with the Browns front office before undergoing his biggest transition yet when he was hired as the Vikings general manager in January.
Adofo-Mensah made note of his career path Tuesday afternoon at his combine podium session and expanded on how much he is enjoying being here in his new role.
"It's almost surreal, being back here at the combine," Adofo-Mensah said. "This is, for a lot of people, the last normal experience we had before the pandemic hit.
"It was, you know, you think about a lot of things that changed in the world and a lot of things that stayed the same," Adofo-Mensah continued. "For me personally, the last time I was here, I was with San Francisco, coming off the Super Bowl, and now I'm here leading this organization in Minnesota.
"One of the things I appreciate about the combine is the relationships. You get in town and get that 'combine bro hug' or a hug from anybody, and that's the thing I think about the most when it comes to the combine," Adofo-Mensah added. "We all compete at the highest level, but at the end of the day, we appreciate each other. We appreciate the opportunity we have in front of us and are excited to be in each other's company."
Adofo-Mensah is spearheading the Vikings front office through a busy week that includes holding prospect interviews and analyzing on-field drills, all while keeping an eye on the start of the New League Year on March 16.
"I didn't do this very much back then," Adofo-Mensah said with a laugh while surrounded by a few dozen reporters. "I used to come into town, plan my vendor meetings, have a couple — honestly kind of get in here, be in and out in two or three days.
"People don't realize this is a very critical part of this NFL schedule, so when you're not up here, I'm in my room working and kind of getting ready for things," Adofo-Mensah added. "But it's great. Everything is a challenge. Everything is new, and that's kind of what I'm interested in and love about this job, so I'm excited to do it."
Adofo-Mensah's podium session lasted roughly 15 minutes and covered a variety of wide-ranging topics.
Here are four more takeaways from Adofo-Mensah's press conference from Indianapolis:
1. Connecting with Cousins, Hunter
A pair of the most high-profile Vikings — quarterback Kirk Cousins and defensive end Danielle Hunter — were key topics of the conversation Tuesday afternoon.
Adofo-Mensah said he reached out to both players upon arriving in Minnesota to connect with them.
Cousins, of course, is entering the final season of his current contract, which is due to count $45 million against the salary cap in 2022. Adofo-Mensah was asked to analyze what he sees from the quarterback's game.
"He's an incredibly consistent passer. I don't think people realize it. Essentially, every play has a result built in based on factors that he can't control," Adofo-Mensah said. "I think what you know about Kirk, is when the odds are shifted in his favor, he gets the most out of it, right? And I think people don't appreciate that skill enough.
"But he is incredibly consistent, an incredibly accurate thrower. Tough. Durable. He plays every game," Adofo-Mensah continued. "He stands there and takes those hits when those throws are a little bit harder to come by. He's an incredible player. Really cerebral. He's one of the first phone calls I made.
"The level of detail of things we talked about was incredible," Adofo-Mensah later added. "I won't share that with you guys, but he's an incredible person. I'm excited to work with him."
Cousins threw for 4,221 yards with 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2021 and played in his second Pro Bowl since arriving in Minnesota.
Adofo-Mensah also talked about Hunter — another two-time Pro Bowler — and said the 27-year-old was one of his early calls as the Vikings GM.
"Really good player. Incredible person. We were talking about traveling," Adofo-Mensah said. "Again, one of those things you love about an NFL relationship. He was traveling somewhere I had been, and we caught up about that.
"He is a really good football player, and to build championship teams you need a lot of really good football players," Adofo-Mensah added. "He is somebody who we want to continue to work with going forward, and we're excited to talk through all of the possibilities with that."
Adofo-Mensah was also asked about Hunter's recovery from a torn pec, which caused him to miss the final 10 games of the 2021 season.
"Not specifically. I know generally, but I don't want to speak too out of term with that," Adofo-Mensah said.
2. The interview process
As mentioned above, perhaps the biggest aspect of the combine for NFL teams is the ability to meet in-person with draft prospects.
It's the first, and sometimes only, chance for teams to have a face-to-face interaction with players.
Adofo-Mensah said that he and the rest of the Vikings front office are looking to get as much as possible out of the allotted time with prospects.
"You want to be intentional about how you use that space in general. Be very detailed and thorough about what you're actually capable of figuring out in an 18-minute setting," Adofo-Mensah said. "It's like any interview process, right? I think Google's done a bunch of research about the interview and it not being the best predictor about what happens afterwards. You want to try to create as many real-life, on-the-job experiences as you can in the environment.
"So, we try to do that. We try to just see what it would be like to work that person 10 hours a day for four years, five years, or however many years it comes to. But, just really learn about what's their sense of purpose in football," Adofo-Mensah added. "How do they view their routines and how that connects with what they are on the field and just influences in their life and how they see themselves."
Quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends were among the first position groups that interviewed with teams Monday night in Indianapolis.
3. Surrounding himself with help
While Adofo-Mensah is new in Minnesota, so too, are plenty of others.
Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell is among them, and Adofo-Mensah on Tuesday praised the decision to hire him earlier this month.
"Every day, you feel so good about the decision you made," Adofo-Mensah said.
Adofo-Mensah told an anecdote about O'Connell's first day in the building and how the two bonded over what attire they would wear around Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.
"When we first met when he got to Minnesota, and they were preparing his day for him, and I was asking everybody, 'Hey, are you going to make him wear a suit all day? I feel like that's not a good idea," Adofo-Mensah said. "So, we meet down at the garage lobby, and he sees me pull up in sweats and is like, 'You wear sweats? Me too.'
"It's like little things, and when you're in that process, you want to make sure you've got the major things covered in terms of how he views teambuilding and philosophy and vision," Adofo-Mensah added. "But then those little things are kind of cool to learn about somebody and figure out as you go along."
Adofo-Mensah also praised a pair of helpers in the front office — one old and one new — in Executive Vice President of Football Operations Rob Brzezinski and Ryan Grigson, who was hired in February.
On Brzezinski, Adofo-Mensah said:
"Rob is incredible. One of the reasons why I wanted this job, obviously not just because they wanted to choose me, but there's so many great people in this building, and Rob is one of them. But when you talk about the cap situation, the NFL, teambuilding is a big puzzle, right? We're trying to figure it out together, how to sustainably put together a championship team, and the salary cap is one of the challenges and obstacles that we face in that puzzle. We're working together night and day to figure out the best way to put our team forward."
Grigson is in a familiar place, as he was the Colts GM from 2012 to 2016 before he and Adofo-Mensah crossed paths with the Browns.
"RG is a special guy. He is somebody that I connected with in Cleveland," Adofo-Mensah said. "When you talk about somebody – perception vs. reality. When they first hired him, I was like anybody else and I'd maybe heard some other things. We have these Thursday meetings where we just talk about life and the process, and he is one of the most introspective people I've ever met.
"So, really, hone in on what happened to him and ways to help me in the future," Adofo-Mensah added. "When he connected with me, that was in my beginning journey toward a leadership position, and everything he told me came true, right? So, I helped build my processes to help be able to do this job. Some of the transition hasn't been as bad because he prepared me for that."
4. In favor of the Wonderlic?
One of the most debated off-field components of the combine in recent decades has been the Wonderlic Test, which is an aptitude exam that players of all positions were required to take.
But the league changed its rules for 2022, as the Wonderlic is no longer mandatory for players.
Adofo-Mensah was asked about how that metric played into his past evaluations and how he and his staff will adapt going forward.
"I'm a data guy, so I don't want you to remove data from our datasets," Adofo-Mensah said with a smile. "That's just how I go. I want to add; never take away. But the Wonderlic Test is interesting.
"They actually gave it to us when we went to San Francisco and applied for jobs. It's a reasoning test. I don't know that it's necessarily correlated precisely to what happens on the field. It's more pattern recognition and things like that. I do think that some of the new tests that have come out are pretty good, but the Wonderlic is not a bad test," Adofo-Mensah added. "Also, it probably just shows some level of preparation and care, no different from anything else. Ultimately, whatever challenges or whatever tests we are allowed to use or aren't allowed to use, we'll figure out the best way forward to give ourselves an advantage."