Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner
Q: Why was Troy Aikman at practice today?
A: Troy just was in town on some personal stuff, so he stopped by to see practice. He and Coach Zimmer have had a long standing relationship. It's nice to have him around here.
Q: Do you feel like with a year under their belt the players are grasping your system better?
A: I thought our guys grasped things really well last year. At times it showed up and times it didn't. Obviously, early, when we played Atlanta, we had a good grasp of the things we were doing. I though in the last six weeks of the season, we had an outstanding grasp of what we were doing. If we could play 16 games the way we did the last six games, I'd be excited about the opportunities we have in front of us. The thing you want to do, obviously, you keep doing the same things over and over again, that's the way you get better and there is no secret to that. You look at the teams that have success, the Peyton Manning's, the (Tom) Brady's, you go through it, Troy (Aikman), when he was in Dallas, they get to be in the same system, they get the same people around them, they get to do the same things over and over, not one year or two years but six, seven, eight, nine years in a row and that's what you'd like to create for this young group.
Q: Teddy Bridgewater said he had a better understanding of game planning, how does he rank in guys that you have coached in picking things up?
A: He has no limits in terms of being able to learn and pick things up, it's just a learning curve that all rookies go through and then every year you should get better in those areas and that's no secret why some of these guys that I just mentioned that are in their 30's are continuing to play at such a high level, because they have such a good understanding, so that's something that these practices give me an opportunity to give a guy experience, but obviously the best experiences you can ever have are playing in games that matter.
Q: Do you see Charles Johnson continuing to grow in the system this season?
A: I think he's growing as a player and everything about production, obviously, has to do with who you're playing and how they're defending you. Our goal here, as I've always said, is to make sure all five of your guys that can touch the ball are able to contribute, whether they are running or they're receiving it or whatever they're doing. That's our goal. In terms of production, I just want to get all of these guys to where they're playing at a high level and then to me, the production will take care of itself.
Q: What have you seen that you've liked from Charles Johnson in this offseason program?
A: He's stronger. He was recovering from that knee surgery a year ago and I don't know that he was ever 100%, I think he's 100%. He's got great work ethic, he's out there right now, those guys are out there still catching balls and working on the things they can get better at, and he's a big, strong guy. He's a 218 pound receiver that can run. He's got everything you need to be a productive player in this league.
Q: What have you seen from Cordarrelle Patterson these last couple of weeks?
A: I think Cordarrelle's had a good offseason. As I've said, we've got a good group of receivers, we've got a good group of guys that can contribute, can compete. We added to that group with Mike Wallace. I think we're going to have a lot of guys contribute on offense and I see Cordarrelle as being one of those guys.
Q: What does Cordarrelle Patterson need to do this summer to get back into the mix with the first-team offense?
A: He's in the mix. I mean, in my mind he's in the mix. I told our guys, when we start games, I hope we have 16 starters, you can only put 11 on the field at a time, but if we can get where we're playing multiple people and we're giving defenses different looks and we have a lot of people contributing it makes it much harder to defend you.
Q: How has Jerick McKinnon looked returning from his injury and the battle for carries behind Adrian Peterson?
A: Jerick, like you're talking about CJ (Charles Johnson), some of these other young guys, I think he's building on what he did a year ago, he's healthy, he's 100%. It's unfortunate he got hurt late in the year because he was having a very good rookie year. He looks quick, fast, he's going to be a good change-up guy. He's got very good hands, so I like the fact that he's on our football team.
*Q: What's the challenge for you with so many young players battling for spots along the offensive line? *
A: The challenge is getting the five best playing and then getting them comfortable playing the position. We've used this work to try to get a feel for these guys and the best feel you can get for them is their athleticism and how quickly they learn and how quickly they adjust. The whole thing changes when we go to camp. They put the pads on, it's a totally different deal and we're lucky in that we have real good depth in the defensive line, so we're able to evaluate these (offensive) linemen against very good players and it's going to be very competitive and I think we'll come out of it with a very good starting offensive line and I think we will have a lot better depth than we had a year ago.
Q: Are there any wrinkles to the offense that you held back last year that you can do this year with a full arsenal of talent?
A: We're going to do everything we can on a weekly basis to win the game. There are always new trends, new things that people are doing, but if we're going to be a good offense we have to be really good with our core, with the things we do day-to-day and we have to be able to execute against good people. The change-ups, the gimmicks, the little wrinkles, they happen when you get really good at the basics and you get really good at the fundamentals, then you have something to build on and you can create some different looks.
Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards
Q: What is the biggest difference in the defense from this year to last year?
A: We've added some good pieces to it, the guys are coming in and they've bought in. The guys that are returning have helped that process along a lot faster. I think that's the biggest thing, we've added some guys that we think will be able to help us with their skill sets as we progress through training camp, getting them in pads and how to read and react, I think we will be making some progress that way
Q: Is size a big deal for the defensive line?
A: We always like size, especially up font, in the front seven. You don't have to be down in the box as much with the safety, so from that aspect of it, we do like the size we have up front the length is a big thing especially with the quarterback having to throw over them versus the pass, so from that aspect of it, we like the size we have up front.
Q: What's the biggest difference you see from Scott Crichton so far this offseason?
A: I think that's the biggest thing is now he's comfortable with the calls, not having to think as much. The one thing we really like him coming out, how hard he plays, the effort he played with, has transferred. Now he's playing outside at defensive end inside at tackle now he's not thinking about his assignments he's really lined up and able to play all out, so from that aspect of it, we think he's ahead of schedule and look forward to watching him progress through training camp
Q: You have been working him at defensive tackle some, is that something down the road to mix in here and there?
A: We've been working him all offseason in different packages, different positions just to see his skill set and as we progress in training camp well see how it goes and see how he works through camp.
Q: What are some major things you want Trae Waynes to work on moving forward into July and training camp?
A: We've thrown a lot at Trae this off season, lots of different positions to see his skill sets and see what he can handle and the big thing is him being able to transfer those things once we get to training camp, to be able to be more consistent with the techniques and fundamentals and the calls and communication and all those things we're asking him to do. So, from that aspect of it, we like where he's at right now we know he has a lot of work to do he has a good skill set trying to see the different ways we can use it.
Q: How long does it usually take for a rookie cornerback to get comfortable?
A: I think every guys is different, to what they have been exposed to in college to coming in and what you're asking them to do and we moved them around to a lot of different positions those kind of things. We're trying to put a lot on his plate to see how much he can handle and carry over, so from that aspect of it, he we've exposed to really only playing the outside in college and were putting him a little bit everywhere this off season, so from that aspect of it, he's got a lot on his plate and see kind of what he can digest.
Q: What kind of strides do you see Antone Exum make in year two?
A: Biggest thing is being more comfortable with calls and communication, being more consistent with what we're asking him to do from call to call and he's done good job this off season you can tell he's playing a lot more confident. You can tell he's not having to think so much, really you can see his athleticism more because he doesn't have to think so much about what his assignment is, so from that aspect of it, we like where he's at right now and hopefully that will transfer over to training camp
Q: Do you think his best trait is his athleticism?
A: I think that's one of his traits I mean he's a pretty smart kid, understands what we're trying to do schematically, his athleticism, his speed, I mean here's a guy who's played corner in the past so you can see that now show up in practice
Q: What does Terence Newman bring in as far as experience?
A: Terrance is a true pro, I mean what he adds to the room as far as confidence as far as a calmness, as far as guys being able to reach out to his for information, those type of deals. He's a true pro, the first time he gets something if he doesn't get it then you won't worry about it he won't make the same mistake again, so from that aspect of it, his work ethic and the younger guys seeing that work ethic and seeing how he comes out here and applies things from the classroom to the field is an advantage to us.
Q: You guys had a pretty big jump from the previous year to last year; do you see the same thing happening again this year?
A: We identified areas where we definitely need to improve on coming in from last year and we still have a lot of work to do. We set some goals on some areas that we definitely need to get better at whether it's red zone or run defense you know so we kind of paired it down to our players and set some goals and that's what we're working on now through training camp as we head into the season.
Q: Now that most guys have that base knowledge, are you able to add a few more wrinkles here and there?
A: A few more here and there, yeah. We've got different packages with different guys in just for example, the more guys like we have some guys that have missed this offseason, but as they come back. We've added some things the utilize their skill set as we keep progressing through training camp once we get into the pads it'll be able to tell a little bit more than what we're seeing right now than being out here in shorts and t-shirts.
Q: Why has Eric Kendricks looked so comfortable?
A: Kendicks is very athletic he's very instinctive from that position, I think you take a guy who usually gets to the ball the way he does, he's always been a ball hawk, even in college it's kind of carried over. I mean, he gets his hands on the ball a lot and gets in a good football position and understands how to get good angles. He's been able to transfer what we've been asking him to do and you can see it he's caught on and bought into the system pretty much and caught on pretty fast so were pleased with where he is and just looking forward to seeing him in training camp and see how we do once we get pads on.
Q: What have you seen from Brian Peters?
A: He's done a good job. He's a guy who was in the CFL, he's a guy who was really not an in the box as linebacker, so he's making that transition as we see a lot of athleticism he understands concepts and what we're doing coverage-wise. We're looking for him just to transfer it over to training camp and see how he does in the box as linebacker the biggest thing is he got the skill set to cover underneath and do all the things were asking him to do
Q: Is it a lot because he was a converted safety?
A: I think that's a part of it. I think safety's feel a little more comfortable in there when they are matched up with tight ends and running backs opposed to a receiver. I think he's comfortable with the match ups and like I said, the biggest thing is transferring it to running back getting his things getting his keys getting his reads those kind of things where he's you know taking the right steps and key diagnose and all that stuff.
Q: What about Eric Kendricks ability to react?
A: He's played the position, will (linebacker) for a while, so from that aspect of it, I think that's why it's transferred quicker for him were asking him to do a lot of similar things he done in the past. He just realizes what he's got to do coverage-wise, matchup-wise all those things the technique and fundamentals he's got a lot of reps so it's a lot of carry over for him opposed to a young guy coming in who hasn't had those reps.
Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer
*One of the things that we've been talking about all spring is going along with the identity of our team that Coach Zimmer has established for us, the toughness, the passion for the game and being a smart football player. We talk about on special teams being mentally and physically tough. We talk about having great discipline, which is going along with smart players and doing the right things over and over again. We talk about enthusiasm and passion for the game of football and we talk about playing with great effort, so we are kind of combining, or talking about what Coach Zimmer talks about as our identity, we are also taking on that identity as our special teams unit. We've talked a lot about it, I think our guys are buying into it and we're excited about the end of spring going on into training camp next month. *
Q: Do you see the long snapper competition continuing into the preseason games?
A: I would think so, yeah. Because any good competition you want to see them in pads, you want to see them in the preseason games to see who performs the best and then make the decision from there.
Q: Do you lean to giving Kevin McDermott more snaps in the preseason because you know what you have in Cullen Loeffler?
A: No, because I think one of the challenges I gave to Cullen (Loeffler) when he left back in January was that, I think you need to improve and here's the things I think you need to improve on and he's taken that and he's done a really nice job of improving all spring long. And Kevin (McDermott), we wouldn't have signed if we didn't think he would be a great competition for Cullen and he's done a nice job this spring, as well.
Q: Any specifics on what you wanted to see Cullen Loeffler improve on?
A: Just overall performance, better rotation, better location of the ball, a little bit better velocity. I think he wore down a little bit as the season wore on last year and I think he came back strong. You know, Cullen is a great guy and he's very competitive and he's very passionate about what he does and he's got a great work ethic. And Kevin has come in and the chemistry between all four of these guys has been fantastic, Kevin and Cullen, they're both wonderful young men and they compete hard, but they also help each other out, they're very encouraging with each other, they're great in the locker room, so whatever one we decide to go with, I think we're in good shape. I know we're in good shape.
Q: Did you consider bringing in competition for Jeff Locke or Blair Walsh this offseason?
A: We talked about that back in the offseason, January, after the season. I don't think so. We talked a little bit about it, but that wasn't my recommendation. I think they're both very, very good, Jeff is a very good punter, Blair is a very good kicker. Are there things they need to work on and improve on? Absolutely, but the talent is there, the work ethic is there. They're both young and they both continuing to get better.
Q: Would it be delicate with a guy as young as Jeff Locke to bring in competition?
A: That's a great question. I think with a lot of young guys it would be, not with Jeff. He's a pretty mentally tough kid. I don't think he would have a problem with it, but I just didn't think it was necessary at this time, that was my opinion, my recommendation.
Q: What's one area you want to see improve in the punting game?
A: Well, Jeff's got to be more consistent. We can talk about weather until we are blue in the face. It doesn't matter. The opposing team's kicking in the same weather and we were out punted a few times last year where I felt like we had the better punter. So punting's got to improve, the snapping needs to improve. Some areas of protection we need to improve on. Coverage was really good last year; we just need to be more consistent. We do it all the time, not four out of five reps, but every rep.
Q: Have you been impressed with what you've seen from Stefon Diggs?
A: Stefon really did well as freshman, but the last two years he wasn't quite as effective. I think he's got a great skillset, excited about seeing his progress. He's come in, his attitude has been fantastic, he's very coachable and works hard and he's gotten better. I have been impressed with his skillset and his work ethic.
Q: Did you see anything that stood out as to why he was more productive as a freshman?
A: I think either, I don't know if it was the way they used him on special teams, they used him probably more as a freshman than they did later, he was such a great receiver. Here he's going to able to do both and you're going to have to do both at this level. It wasn't any one thing in particular, I just thought he was more productive as a freshman than he was his last two years.
Q: Are you looking at Cordarrelle Patterson as a punt returner?
A: It's always a thought about putting him back there. Yeah, we've had him back there a couple of times the past couple years, for a reverse or a fake reverse of even putting him as a two-deep type guy with he and Marcus (Sherels) back there, that's always an option for us, I would think.
Q: How comfortable is Cordarrelle Patterson as a punt returner?
A: He would rather not do it, I think at times, but I know he's good enough to do it. He's just got to realize that with practice and reps that he will only get better at it. He's just such a natural catcher. His mechanics aren't perfect, but they don't have to be when you're that good sometimes. We'll keep working with him and we'll see what he got.
Q: How did you evaluate Cordarrelle Patterson's kickoff returns last season?
A: I thought he had a fantastic year. People want to say his average dropped and we didn't score any touchdowns, but because he was such a threat back there, as you know, people wouldn't kick to him. We've talked about this a lot, that our field position was outstanding. We had like 13 or 14 different guys return kicks with their spraying the ball all over the field and the main reason is because of Cordarrelle Patterson. And when he did get his opportunities, we didn't score, which we could have had a couple of opportunities that we probably could have scored if we finished blocks on the backside, but at the end of the day he still had two or three really long returns called back because of penalties, where his average would have been up to 28, 29 yards.
Q: How do you evaluate one a guy who might not be as mechanically sound going into the offseason?
A: We just harp on it. There's little things he can do, how he sets the return. There's things he can do as he hits the returns, what seam we're trying to get him to hit. Understanding the whole scheme itself, understand that he can't put the ball on the ground like he did against the Jets last year, we've harped on that a little bit this year. He's a really good spring. His attitude's been fantastic. He's always been very coachable for me. He's always fun to work with, plus he's a great athlete. A big, strong guy that can run.
Q: Do any of these rookies excite you about how they can contribute to special teams?
A: I think we've got a really good group. I know MyCole Pruitt, big, strong young man that if he's not doing a whole bunch, I know he will play offense because he is so good, but he will be able to do stuff for us on special teams. Trae Waynes can help us in many areas if he's not playing a ton of defense. I think Eric Kendricks, obviously, he's a very talented young man as well. Stefon Diggs, and some of these other rookie free agents, we've got guys that have come in and they've worked hard. Brian Peters has come in as a free agent from Canada, so we've got a good, young group of guys that are bigger, stronger, faster than the guys that we've had here in the past. So I think we've got a good group to work with.
Q: Have there been changes made to Jeff Locke and Blair Walsh's chart of the winds at TCF Bank Stadium?
A: No, I think the winds they got down. It was the cold that they've got to get used to. One is from Arizona, one is from Florida. No, I think we will still send them down there to continue to get more and more experience, so when we do those opportunities on Sunday afternoons, or whenever we play that they are ready to roll.
Q: Will you freeze the footballs or something to get used to it?
A: No. I think, I don't want to touch that one. I'm just kidding. No, they'll be ready for it. They'll get frozen on their own I think.
Q: Do you expect to have a lot of special teams roster turnover from a season ago?
A: Every year, every year we have turnover at the bottom end of the roster. That's the nature of the beast in the NFL, you're going to have young players come in to replace some of the veteran guys. I don't like to lose some of the guys we lost, Larry Dean last year, Jamarca Sanford, two young men that are outstanding guys to work with and good football players and young guys stepped up and played really well in their absence. I would expect the same thing again this year.