EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –With three regular-season games on the books, Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur has been impressed with Riley Reiff thus far.
After signing with the Vikings as a free agent this spring, the veteran tackle missed most of training camp with an injury. Since returning to the field, however, Reiff has played well and been an important piece of Minnesota's offensive line.
In his podium session with Twin Cities media on Thursday, Shurmur said the thing he really appreciates about Reiff is that he "is a pro."
"He's very critical of his play and trying to make sure he does things the right way," Shurmur said. "He's really, really good at what he does, and because he's good at what he does, his ability to lead and to help bind that group together is kind of an added value there."
Reiff spent the first five seasons of his professional career in Detroit and will face his former team this Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
"[He] speaks about his teammates that he used to play with at the Lions with great respect. He talks about how good this player is and how good that player is, and I certainly admire that because there should be a respect for the game," said Shurmur, adding that he believes Reiff is a leader of the offensive line.
"It doesn't take anything extraordinary to lead," Shurmur said. "You have to be good at what you do, and you have to be willing to show courage and be tough. And he does all those things. I think the words, the speaking part of leadership, is over-talked about."
When asked if the Vikings will use intel from Reiff in prepping for the upcoming division matchup, Shurmur said he doesn't put too much stock into that.
Shurmur, who has spent time with four different NFL teams, said everyone in the league has "insight on every place we've been" but that it's important to remember how much and how quickly teams and personnel can change.
"I think what's important is we, as coaches and players, have got to attack and really game-plan for what we see on film," Shurmur said. "Obviously you can get some insight on personalities and whatnot, but I personally don't think too much on that. If there's a code word, maybe, but they're going to maybe change it because they know [Reiff's] here. So I don't look into that too much."
Here are other topics covered by Shurmur, Defensive Coordinator George Edwards and Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer:
Shurmur on Diggs' 59-yd TD against Bucs
Against the Buccaneers in Week 3, Shurmur called for a quick snap that resulted in a 59-yard touchdown pass from Case Keenum to Stefon Diggs.
Shurmur said it was "just a feel" that conditions were ripe for that particular play.
"We were in the right part of the field, the right down-and-distance for that play that we practiced in the past," Shurmur said. "Tempo [offense] is part of my DNA, and our players have embraced it; our coaches have embraced it. It was kind of a, it ended up being good on both ends. Had we not completed it, we got them with 13 guys on the field.
"It's part of what the NFL's all about now," Shurmur added. "The NFL is a substitution league and a matchup league. Sometimes when you get to a certain down-and-distance, people just substitute, and it's like anything – we just hit it right."
Shurmur on Vikings offensive line
Besides the addition of Reiff, Shurmur is pleased with what he's seen from Minnesota's offensive line this season.
What he most appreciates is the unit's effort on every play.
"I think they've battled throughout. Sometimes a bad play in there gets magnified in some ways or another, but you're talking about a scenario now in the NFL where the defensive fronts that we face are all good. Our guys battle in there," Shurmur said. "Every once in a while they get beat, and then it's up to the skill players that are around them to do something with their feet or get rid of the ball quicker, or whatever.
"But I think as a unit, they're fighting hard," Shurmur added. "And as you go through the season, then, because they're able to work together week after week after week, they'll continue to get better, in my opinion."
Edwards on Matthew Stafford's progression
Edwards has coached against Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford a number of times over his career, including six times as the Vikings defensive coordinator.
He said that Stafford's athletic ability is nothing new, but added that the quarterback has mentally progressed in the game.
"The thing that he has really done the last couple years, he has always had a strong arm and always been able to make all the throws, but … you can just see how comfortable he is in the offense," Edwards said.
Edwards added that Stafford has increased his mobility, which Minnesota's defense will need to be on its toes for.
"The other thing he's done is moving around in the pocket a lot. He's scrambling to run and scrambling to throw," Edwards said. "The control and the feel he has for the offense and execution, he's doing an excellent job for them offensively."
Edwards on third-down defense
Over the first three weeks of the regular season, opponents have converted just eight of 30 (26.7 percent) third-down attempts against Minnesota.
Edwards said he preaches to the Vikings defense that "good pass rush and coverage always go hand-in-hand" and said the team has been able to have both.
"To be honest with you, I think it is the detail that the guys put in the work going into the game of knowing the different matchups and what people are trying to do against us from week to week – and then going out and executing on Sunday," Edwards said. "I mean, that is the one thing they've been able to do is go out and execute the plan on Sunday. We've been able to get off the field on third down."
He emphasized that the Vikings will have a tough challenge on third downs against Detroit.
"This is a good team on third down," Edwards said. "I think they're 41 percent, and I think [Golden] Tate is the leading receiver right now in the NFL on third downs, so we'll have our work cut out for us with the matchups they have this week, and the quarterback getting the ball out. We are looking forward to the contest this weekend."
Priefer on facing familiar punter
The Vikings on Sunday will play against a former teammate, Lions punter Jeff Locke.
After four seasons in Minnesota, Locke spent the offseason and preseason with the Colts before being waived and then signed by Detroit.
Priefer said he has a lot of respect for Locke and added that there could be some advantage in the Vikings special teams unit having familiarity with him.
"I think it helps our guys because they know Jeff," Priefer said, who added that the Lions are asking him to do "a couple different things than we asked him to do" in Minnesota.
Locke is responsible both for punts and kickoffs in Detroit, something he only did a couple of times as a rookie when former Vikings kicker Blair Walsh had a hip injury.
"He could do both [at UCLA]," Priefer said. "I mean he has a good enough leg, he'll try and kick touchbacks against us, try and kick them high and deep, keep us off balance. He's done a good job of it so far."
Priefer on Prater's longevity
Priefer also will reunite with Lions kicker Matt Prater, who started his career in Denver when Priefer coached with the Broncos.
"He was a younger kicker back then, trying to figure things out. Always knew he had a phenomenal leg," Priefer said. "He's so consistent because he does the exact same thing, his approach, his jab step is the same, his approach is the same. He's done a very nice job, and he's carved out a really nice career for himself.
"Unfortunately he's made some big ones against us that I hope he doesn't make this weekend," Priefer added. "But being that I worked with him, and I worked with him for a couple years, I'm kind of proud of him in a way, but I just hope he has a bad weekend this weekend – and I'll tell him that before the game.