Vikings Running Back Dalvin Cook
Q: How did you feel on Monday after your first game back?
A: I felt great. I actually wasn't that sore, but I just got to keep getting in banging shape. Another hostile environment this week that we're going into, so got to get mentally ready for that. But I felt great coming out of the game.
Q: Are you looking forward to playing at Lambeau Field for the first time? What have you heard about the venue?
A: I heard it's going to be a great environment. The fans are going to make it fun. Green Bay is a great team, and this rivalry has been going on since before I was even born, so I'm just happy to be a part of it and I'm looking forward to going to Lambeau Field and making plays. This is my first week in it, I missed last year, so I'm here this year. I'm looking forward to it.
Q: At this point with your knee, is there anything different that you do or is it normal weekly prep?
A: No, I just do my thing. I do my maintenance. I won't say it now what I do, but I do my own thing on my knee. I got to take care of it, got to keep strengthening it. You got to stick to the same regiment that got you here, so I still do my same thing that got me here. Lift, go see the trainers, cold tub, all that stuff. It's the same thing for me.
Q: Do you think your knee is 100 percent healed?
A: The knee thing is over with. It's football now. I'm trying to focus in on that. Got a game plan this week, and that's Green Bay. The knee thing is out of the way, and everything that I focus on each week is the team that we got at hand. If anything changed from now, we'll have to change our plans up.
Q: How do you evaluate your performance after looking at the film from Week 1?
A: We can sit here and say I left a lot on the field, I can sit here and be hard on myself, but we went out there and we got us a win. There's a lot of things everybody has got to clean up, but I'm my worst critic. There's a lot of things that I got to do better this week to take that jump, so I'm going back to the drawing board, just coming out here and trying to be as technically sound as I can be for this weekend, because it's an important game. I got to be at my best for this team and for this offense to help us win games. I got to clean up a lot of things that I did in the past week, and I'm looking forward to doing that.
Q: How important was it to get your feet wet and get that first regular season game out of the way?
A: It's a sign of security. Ball is back again, I'm back out there having fun. Now that that's out of the way, we can play some football now. Like I've said, it's a lot like that first hit. You got that first game out of the way and you know, "I'm back. I'm back out here ready to go." It was definitely something to get out of the way.
Q: How did the college road games prepare you for the NFL?
A: College is a little different. These fans in the NFL, they love this stuff. This is what people wake up and think about. Sunday night football, Sunday football, Thursday night football, all that type of stuff. You get your Saturdays and you get your fans that love football, but in the NFL it's a different type of passion for the game. It compares on that level, but when you got a game like this, at Green Bay in Lambeau Field with this type of rivalry, it's a different type of environment. I know it's going to be a different type of environment. It's different, the passion for it that the fans have is different. I don't compare the two that often.
Q: When did it become clear to you that you have to be a good pass catcher to play running back in the NFL?
A: That's what today is coming to. The quarterback doesn't see what he needs to see, he's looking for the running back. You got to be able to catch those balls to be in the game. If you can't catch those balls in the game, you're not going to be out there. That clicked in my head early, as soon as I got in the NFL. I knew I had to catch balls to be as versatile to get the ball, because I think I'm the type of player that once I get the ball in my hands, I can make the play. I just knew I had to be a good pass catcher coming out of college. Even when I was in college I loved catching the football.
Q: What stands out to you the most about Green Bay's defense?
A: They do a lot of things to eye violate you. They try to move people around, they try to get Clay [Matthews] off the edge, and they try to move guys around a lot. They got a good front, so they're going to come in with a chip on their shoulder. They're coming off a big win, so they do a lot of things just to get us eye violated, and I just think if we stick to what we do, we're going to do what we do.
Q: Did observing and attending meetings last year help sharpen your football IQ?
A: Yeah, it definite does. Just knowing where guys are going to be at, knowing where I was going to fit at, and knowing where the run is going to hit at. Just knowing defenses, basically. I'm not going to sit up here and say I know all the defenses, but I know enough to get plays going and to make explosive plays. That time off did help me a lot to get familiar with how defenses feel us out as an offense. It did help me a lot.
Vikings Quarterback Kirk Cousins
Q: Is this the first time you've actually played in a game at Lambeau Field?
A: We went in Week 2 in 2013 and I didn't play but I was there. It's a great, great stadium, a lot of history. Looking forward to an opportunity to play there.
Q: Does going to Lambeau and being a part of the rivalry feel a little bit of an initiation of be a Minnesota Viking?
A: Yes, first game in the NFC North. I grew up watching the NFC North in both Chicago and the west side of Michigan. It's a great opportunity to join this rivalry and hopefully put my best foot forward and get off to a great start.
Q: Where was the hardest place to play in the NFC East?
A: They were all tough. I think all four teams again in that division have great history and great venues. I can go down the list. I had good and bad games in New York, Philadelphia and Dallas. It was kind of all three and I'm sure in the NFC North there is history with all of our teams as well and tough places to play.
Q: League wide, where is the toughest place to play?
A: I think there are places that are a little bit louder, maybe a little bit quieter. All-in-all, on the road, if you're not on the details and communicating at a high level and locked in from the first snap to the last, you tend to get beat. No matter who you're playing on the road, it takes a great deal of focus and a great week of preparation. That is where our focus is on a Wednesday.
Q: Is it evident on the field that it is a rivalry game for the fans?
A: I think that we feel it throughout the year as a player for the Minnesota Vikings. In the offseason, you feel it. You run into people and you are going to hear a lot more about the rivalry of the Vikings and Packers or you are going to hear about your opponents in the NFC North more than you are going to hear about some team in the AFC that you may play once only every four years. I think that is when you start to feel it and it starts to build. You realize how important it is for this organization, for our fans. Just the math of needing to win your division to get a home playoff game. I think the math would say we want to win our divisional games.
Q: How do you feel about not being on Xavier Rhodes' top players in the NFC North because he said you still have to prove yourself?
A: I think that is fair. I have a lot of games ahead of me, hopefully. I'll be able to put a sample size out there and then we can continue the conversation. But honestly, whether I'm in the top 7 or top 70 or top 700, I'd rather just win football games. I don't' really care where I rank and that kind of stuff as much as I'd like to win and get playoff wins and someday hopefully win a championship.
Q: How do you think you've grown since the playoff game against the Packers?
A: I've grown probably in every area as a player and as a person. I've been through two-plus seasons since that playoff game and obviously have taken a lot of steps as a player and my confidence. I think that is true of all of us in the League. The longer we play, the more we're out there, the more we are able to be in the fire and playing through mistakes and learning, it helps us be that much better the next time we go out.
Q: What goes through your mind when you see a rookie cornerback?
A: You think of a rookie corner last year like [Marshon] Lattimore from New Orleans. While I guess he was a rookie, he played like a veteran and was a very good corner. Many times if you have great movement skills, great ball skills, you have a confidence about you. Whether you're young or old, you are going to be tough to go against. Sometimes you get a veteran corner who you can fool because his eyes are in the wrong place or he's playing with a technique that you can take advantage of. You just try to study their techniques, study their approach, what they like to do and then go out there and trust your eyes and follow your rules and try to throw the ball with accuracy.
Q: Is there a light bulb that goes off when you know you are going to face a guy that is that young?
A: Football, like I was just answering the last question, "How have I grown as a player since the playoff game at the end of the 2015 season?" When I think back to how far I've come in this league in those two-and-a-half years, I think the same would be said of any player in this League, not just quarterback. When you are a four, five, six year veteran, you certainly factor that in to your understanding of them as an opponent, than as a guy who is a first or second year player. Again, it comes down to scheme. If a guy is a really, really good corner, then you tell him, "Hey, go cover that guy." If he's great covering that guy, he doesn't need to know a whole lot else. I think if you're good, you're good.
Q: Have you ever reached out to Le'veon Bell about being franchised twice?
A: I haven't reached out to him in a while. I bump into him usually once an offseason. He's had a great career. He's one of the best players in the NFL. I think however it works out for him, I think he will be okay.
Q: Do you ever consider Le'veon Bell's approach?
A: No, I think when I signed my tag pretty quickly because I wanted to be at OTAs, I wanted to get the work. Quarterback is probably a little different than a guy like him at running back. I signed and I was there right away and that was the way we decided to handle it.
Q: Do you spot a guy's technique that you can take advantage of in film study?
A: I think every week you are trying to watch film to not only see maybe what you can do well, but also understand what you may not be able to do. Sometimes, you've been having success with a certain play, a certain look, a certain throw and then you realize they are going to take that away this week. The last thing we want to do is assuming we can do it again and we can't. You are just trying to gather information, good and bad, every single week as you watch film and study the personnel and the scheme. When it's only Week 2 with a new coordinator, it's a smaller sample size. You do the best you can and then you have to go play and trust your eyes.
Q: Is there a common theme that you can pull from some of your best fourth quarter performances?
A: I think anytime I play well as a quarterback, it really boils down to making good decisions and managing the game well with situational awareness. I can pretty much summarize the good fourth quarter performances probably held some level of good decision making and good game management to handle whatever was coming at us as the game wound to a close. That is something I'm always working at is being a good decision maker and a great manager of game situations. If I do that well, we will win a lot of games and the rest will fall in place. That is really what it boils down to. That obviously is an umbrella topic. That is what it comes down to.
Q: How well do you know Aaron Rodgers?
A: Just saying hi to him at games. I don't think I've ever really bumped into him outside of that. He came into the League much earlier than me. I think he flies at a little bit of a different altitude than I do. He has done a lot in his career. Certainly something a guy like myself is chasing to achieve a lot of what he has already done. I tell him when I see guys like him or himself, I just say, "I study you. I study you and watch your film and try to learn from you because you are a guy that I want to study and want to learn from."
Q: What did you think of Aaron Rodgers' comeback win?
A: Very impressive. All the way around. The throws, the way he extends plays, the toughness he showed. No surprise. I found myself sitting on my couch as I watched, saying to my family and friends that I was watching with, "He is probably going to bring them back." Watching him for years now, knowing what he is capable of doing. Sure enough, he did. You're really not surprised because you know what he is capable of.
Q: Are there other difficulties besides crowd noise or things logistically at road games that make it harder?
A: I think noise certainly comes to mind. I think we try to ignore any of those other changes that could potentially throw you off rather than focus in on them and trying to make a big deal of them, we try to downplay them and just go play a football game and understand it's still the same size field. Certainly when you're playing in a great environment like Lambeau Field, with all the history and a lot of crowd noise, you have to factor that in you have to be ready and just be ready to handle it.
Q: What is it for a quarterback to have a running back like Dalvin Cook?
A: I think in this League, when your running back can catch the football, that is a huge benefit. I think some of the best running backs in this League are guys that get involved in the passing game. When you look at the guys end-of-season awards, it's because they got involved in the pass game and not just running the football. Hopefully we can have Dalvin involved all year long in both phases, the run and the pass. Once the football is in his hand, good things happen.
Q: What type of impact does moving around Kyle Rudolph as much as you did make?
A: There will be all kinds of different formations and motions and shifts and try to not be too easy to prepare for and have to be ready for whatever the defense will throw at us. Anytime we can change their eye control and give them something to think about. Hopefully we can unsettle them a little bit. At the end of the day you have to line up and play and find the open guy and protect. Whether you change formations, motions, shifts or not you line up and play. Once the ball is snapped, you have to be able to do all the things we coach and work on.
Q: What are the biggest difference between a Mike Pettine defense than the last time you played Green Bay's defense?
A: I think it is a small enough sample size right now that I can't answer that question effectively because we don't have years of tape that you might have had on a Coach [Dom] Capers and what they have done. Personnel changes from year-to-year, too. Even if the scheme is pretty similar, there may be an emphasis with certain personnel changes where they want to put certain players in positions to do what they do best. It's week-to-week, too. They may have a totally different plan for us they won't carry with them for the rest of the season. You just have to prepare but be ready to react to whatever they throw at you.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer
Q: With Harrison Smith earning NFC Defensive Player of the Week, what can you say about his versatility?
A: I thought he had a good game. He had a sack, interception, he made a tackle for loss, but you know he gets a lot of help from a lot of other guys. When we get an award around here we try to think of it as a team award.
Q: What does he do that maybe other safeties throughout your career can't do?
A: He's really smart. He's got great vision. I think that's a big part of it; he sees things he anticipates. He's a tough guy. He's versatile. He can do a lot of things.
Q: What have you seen Mike Pettine bring to the Packers defense this year?
A: It's a lot more varied I guess is the best way to say it; a lot of different coverages, different looks, mixes the front up a lot. You got some bear fronts, some under, some over, some over with a hang, a lot of different things that way and a lot of different coverage aspects. They'll rush three guys and play two man with a robber and a lot of different combinations.
Q: What'd you think of Aaron Rodgers playing immobile? Was that a different look for him?
A: Well, yeah. He didn't move quite as well, but he did move and make some throws. He didn't really get outside the pocket after that. The guy's incredible. He makes every throw, gets the ball out quick, sees pressure. We'll just have to see going into the game.
Q: When he has to get the ball out quicker how does that change how you prepare for him?
A: It's all hypothetical to this point and I'm not going to give away what we're trying to do. But our biggest thing is that you have to prepare for every scenario; if he doesn't move well try to do these things and if he looks like he's moving pretty well then we have to adjust to some other parts of the game plan.
Q: When you were evaluating Kirk Cousins in free agency how much did his fourth quarter drives standout?
A: With Kirk it was really a body of work kind of thing. It really didn't have any to do with whether or not he made fourth quarter comebacks or he won playoff games or things like that. For us it was just about his body of work that he had done in Washington and the talent level that he had and what we thought he could bring to our organization.
Q: Are those type or things a habit or acquired type skill?
A: I mean some quarterbacks have a reputation of doing them. Some quarterbacks make it so that they don't really have to do it in the fourth quarter, too. A lot of times it's opportunities. A lot of times it's the team around you. There's so many variables and I know everybody makes a big deal about all of those and it's great reading, but at the end of the day it's trying to win football games.
Q: What do you think Bryan Witzmann can do for your team and how quickly do you think he can get up to speed?
A: I don't know. We'll have to see. I haven't seen him do any work yet. He started for Kansas City, so we're hopeful he can come in and help us.
Q: Do you think Mike Hughes is still more comfortable on the outside than the inside?
A: Well, the outside other than the job description that you have it's an easier job. The inside you have more help but there's a lot more going on.
Q: Is he more comfortable outside?
A: I would said he's probably more comfortable on the outside just because it's easier. It's harder but it's easier if that makes sense.
Q: How different is this offense to defend than when they had Jordy Nelson and a different tight end?
A: Really very similar. Devante Adams is really good. These young receivers look fast and big. They've added [Jimmy] Graham. When [Ty] Montgomery is in there they've got a lot of open up no backfield sets because they can use some of his skillset as a receiver. And [Randall] Cobb is still kind of Cobb he does what he's always done.
Q: At what point in the five years you've had with Xavier Rhodes did you feel comfortable putting him on an island with guys?
A: I guess it was about a year and a half ago maybe we started doing it. I guess that was kind of the time. I don't know what led to that. I just think at that time we felt comfortable with him understanding all the different concepts that we try to do. Quite honestly, just because he's on a guy doesn't mean he's by himself on a guy. We try to use a lot of different cover variations where we're giving him help or not giving him help or giving another guy help. At some point in the football games typically I'll tell the corners, "Hey, you guys are on own now. You got to go play." I mean all corners are kind of like that in our defense. At some point you got to cover your dude. That's the way life is and I'll tell them that on the sideline.
Q: What does Xavier say when you tell him "that's your guy this week"?
A: He's fine. He's fine. He doesn't really say anything one way or another.
Q: Did you like what you saw from Jayron Kearse as a big nickel and maybe use it more than you had planned to at first?
A: Yeah, I mean we've been practicing for a while. I think there's a chance for [George] Iloka to get in there some and do it and Jayron. We're really just trying to use the pieces that we have and try to figure out ways on how we can use them best to use help us and defend the team we're playing.
Q: With Pat Elflein back in practice last week were you able to see what you want to see out of him as far as progress?
A: He's come a long way. He had a good week, feels good about things.
Q: Is he close to coming back?
A: Well, I'll have to see how practice goes this week.
Q: What have you seen from the Packers secondary this season with the addition of some of the younger guys?
A: It's really hard to say with one game. Like I said before they do a lot of different variations in the secondary. Obviously, they've got some good young talent. They've been drafting corners there for a while now. We'll just have to see as the year goes on.
Q: Do you like going to Lambeau Field in September or would you rather it be in December?
A: The grass is going to be really good there this week. Whereas in the past when we played them there at the end of the week the field has not been very good. I'm hopeful that's a positive thing for us. I'd rather play them here but the schedule say goes there.
Q: Does a sloppy field have an advantage for offense or defense?
A: it depends on all the conditions really. Typically a sloppy field is probably better for the defense, I would guess.
Vikings Safety Harrison Smith
Q: What does winning NFC Defensive Player of the Week mean to you?
A: It's cool. Still a lot of things to correct, so just focusing on what the coaches are getting corrected and what they want us to execute.
Q: In your career, where has been the toughest place to play?
A: I don't really know. Honestly, as a defensive player, it's normally quieter on the road for us. We love the energy and the noise at home, because it normally helps us get the offense to miscommunicate, but it's harder for us to communicate too. But we love it, so really road games are quieter for defensive guys.
Q: Coach Zimmer mentioned that it takes a team effort to for players to get an individual honors. Do you think the same?
A: He's spot on. You can't go out and just play as an individual. We play well as a team. If I make a play, it's normally because a lot of other guys did their job and vice versa. That's how we approach things, and individual honors like you said are great, but they're more the result of the collective unit.
Q: How big of a challenge is Aaron Rodgers' mobility?
A: He's a guy that can do it all, and he's got great pocket presence and awareness and awareness once he gets outside of the pocket finding guys. They seem to be on the same page as far as where he wants guys to go once he starts scrambling around. It's definitely hard to cover, and plays can seem to last a long time, but you just have to stick around your guy.
Q: You're one of the few players that has intercepted Aaron Rodgers when he's playing at home. Why is he so difficult for defensive backs to play against, and why were you able to do it?
A: It's difficult whether he's home or away, because he's so good and can really put the ball wherever he wants, from any position on the field whether he's moving right, moving left or staying in the pocket, buying time for his guys, he can make any throw that you can imagine. That's what makes him so difficult. When he's moving around, he's not always moving around to run, he's moving around and freeing up guys down the field.
Q: How much different does their team look without Jordy Nelson and with the addition of Jimmy Graham?
A: It's definitely different not seeing Jordy on their film, but [Devante] Adams, [Randall] Cobb, they've been there and they've been successful for a long time. Geronimo Allison can make a lot of plays, and obviously we know who Jimmy Graham is. He's had a lot of success in this league, and will continue to do so.
Q: What did Kyle Shanahan do to cause some confusion in the secondary on certain plays?
A: I don't know, I think playing in the NFL, they're going to draw up some good stuff for you. They're pretty good too, we just have to learn from plays. Whether we win or lose, you're never going to play a perfect game. There's always going to be plays that you have to go back and correct, and that's going to happen no matter what.
Q: How does it change things for you if Rodgers can't play?
A: We're not really worried about that. All we can do is prepare with the information that we have, and we're preparing for anybody they can put out there.
Q: When you have to prepare for a mobile Aaron Rodgers versus an immobile Aaron Rodgers, or even somebody else, does that add layers of difficulty to what you're getting ready for?
A: It's difficult to play against the guy no matter what, so that's what we're preparing for, whether he's going to stay in the pocket or move around, he's tremendously successful doing both. That's what we're preparing for.