Vikings Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski
Okay, good afternoon. Just finished our second day of preparation here for the Saints. I think our guys are really excited to go down there and contribute to a win and getting on the road and playing in a loud environment. It's going to be a great opportunity for us and I think the guys are preparing. Had a nice day here today on Thursday. Need to have another good day tomorrow and then get on the plane.
Q: What's unique about this loud environment?
A: It's very loud. Coach Zim (Mike Zimmer) does a nice job. He cranks the noise up in here and it's very loud in here. I think the guys, part of it is just accepting the challenge of being very aware of it, so they know that it's coming. We know that it has to be a hyper-focus for all the guys in the huddle and then on the sideline and then knowing that that's going to be a 60-minute affair of crowd noise. I think it's first and foremost being out here and working through it and getting comfortable with those reps.
Q: How has Garrett Bradbury performed at center with the ups and downs?
A: We're working together. Every day we have a center-quarterback exchange period, even this late in the season. It's something that you continue to work on. You never take for granted and I think Garrett (Bradbury) and Kirk (Cousins) just continue to bank reps together, I think can only help.
Q: How do you reflect on Adam Thielen's two games coming off the injury?
A: I think we're excited to have him as a part of this attack. I think the production will come as always anytime you're coming off an injury like he was, I think he's raring to go now. I do believe he looks great out here today, so we'll see how the game unfolds. If it calls for a big day from him, I think he'll be ready.
Q: Did you make a concerted effort to ease him back in?
A: I think naturally, we work with the trainer and work with Coach Zim and kind of understand the plan as any player comes off an injury. Certainly, you don't want to throw them completely out there and do something silly. There's been a plan in place, I will say that.
Q: What have you learned about yourself as a coach this year?
A: I don't know. I think I can probably answer that better after the season when you reflect on things like that. I just know here we are in the middle of such an important moment for our players and we're kind of in the grind of it, in the thick of it. At this point, my focus is really on this team that we're getting ready to face.
Q: How do you handle that when your name is being linked to jobs potentially?
A: My focus is squarely on the Saints just like we ask our players. Regardless of what is going on in your life or the outside world, when you walk in this building, you're focused on the task at hand.
Q: Is it even more important when you're facing Drew Brees to extend drives?
A: It's important every week, regardless of who's across the field. They have a great offense and everybody knows that. Our goal is to go concern ourselves with our offense and being productive and being explosive in the run and the pass game. That doesn't change week to week. Certainly, this week I think our guys are raring to go and get down there and be a productive part of this team.
Q: Have you talked to Kirk Cousins at all about staying the moment versus looking at the bigger picture with what this game could mean for his contract?
A: I don't think it just pertains to Kirk (Cousins) in that regard. I think when you play in playoff games and these are big games and this is why you do this, I think everybody needs to have an awareness of the moment. Kirk is no different than any other player. We need to remember what got us here. When we go down there, we have to go play our brand of football and really not worry about the periphery.
Q: How does getting Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison back help the offense?
A: It's exciting when we can have our full complement of players. Naturally in this league, that's not often. Usually Week 1 and then just the nature of the beast occurs. We're excited to get our guys back and see who's available to us. You mentioned those two guys, Dalvin (Cook) and Alexander (Mattison), I think so highly of how those guys prepare and I think they had a really good day today. I think they'll have another really good day tomorrow and then be ready to go.
Q: Garrett Bradbury, Alexander Mattison, Bisi Johnson and Irv Smith Jr., all of played in the preseason at New Orleans. How far have they come and your understanding of what they can do?
A: That was Irv's (Smith Jr.) birthday, I think. Did he turn 21? I remember Irv's outfit from the game, pregame, was kind of wild. We have some really conscientious young players. They're smart and they're tough which I think fits the mold of what this team is all about. That does seem like ages ago, but each one of those guys has come so far and it's a credit to them and it's a credit to their position coaches.
Q: What was Irv Smith Jr. wearing?
A: I was sitting on the bus and he came out, had a poncho on and there were like things hanging off the coat. It was interesting. I don't know if we're going to get that one again.
Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards
Just finishing up practice for today in preparation for a Wild Card game in New Orleans this weekend. Offensively, they're playing really good right now, especially situational football. They've got two really good running backs, the quarterback is very proficient at throwing the football and not turning the ball over, so we'll have our work cut out for us going into this Sunday.
Q: What has stood out to you about Drew Brees since he returned from the thumb injury? It seems like there's been no drop off.
A: Yeah, I mean he's very consistent. He gets the ball out of his hands, he's very good with his reads, he knows exactly where he wants to go, and it's tough to trick him defensively because he's seen so many things and adjusts well to them. So we'll have our work cut out for us playing situational football with him and understanding the different concepts that they are trying to do against us.
Q: How do you give Michael Thomas the appropriate amount of attention considering all the other weapons that they have on offense?
A: Yeah, I mean he's catching everything around him. You see people doubling him, you see people tripling him, and he still finds a way to get the football. His catch radius has been very strong and consistent throughout the course of the year, but we've got to do some things matchup wise to work different combinations of different things that they'll try to do situationally, and our guys will go out and compete and we'll look forward to the opportunity.
Q: How is New Orleans able to find ways to get Michael Thomas the ball through all the attention?
A: Yeah, I think it's a combination of a lot of things. They move him around a lot by formation. He can be inside as the W, he can be outside as the X. He can be over to the Z, I mean he can be in the backfield. They'll motion him out, so they've found unique ways to try to get him the ball. We'll have to be on our P's and Q's with what they're doing and trying to get attempted in the situations throughout the course of the game.
Q: After an up and down season defensively, what do you need to do in the playoffs to get back to playing that traditional Vikings brand of defense?
A: I think the big thing with our guys, and they did a good job of it today, is focusing in on what we're trying to get accomplished, the techniques and fundamentals at the positions, the things that we're doing schematically to try and take away that they're doing, and then we got to go out and execute on Sunday.
Q: What has been the biggest difference on third down? Your defense led the league in the previous two seasons, but have not been as successful this season.
A: I think it's a combination of things. I think some of it has been us not finishing plays, us not maybe getting to the quarterback as much. I think it's a combination of things. I think we're getting good rush. I think our guys are in tune to it, we just got to do better at the situation that we're in when it gets to third down.
Q: Has Alvin Kamara looked more explosive the last couple of weeks?
A: Yeah, I mean he's always looked explosive to me from what we've seen throughout the course of the year. He gets the ball in his hands and he can get north and south. His ability in the open field, for us to make sure that we got good leverage on him, and his yards after the catch, we got to do a good job of tackling him. If he get catches the ball, get him tackled because he makes a lot of people miss in the open field.
Q: How did Eric Kendricks look in practice today?
A: We're working him in, so we will hopefully continue to work him throughout the course of the week, and we'll see where he is at when we get to Sunday.
Q: How important is it to have Kendricks in your defense?
A: Well any time you've got a linebacker like Kendricks who is number one, good at coverage, and then number two, has had a lot of reps within our scheme and had a heck of a year for us, any time you can get a player like that back will be a benefit to you.
Q: What did you like about Eddie Yarbrough that made you guys decide to bring him on board?
A: I think he brings another outside presence, being able to understand what we're trying to get accomplished. He's a heavy-handed guy, and he can push off the ball very good, so we're just looking as we keep working through the course of the week at trying to take his skill set and implement it as best as possible.
Q: What do you have to be aware of when Taysom Hill is on the field?
A: So many things. I mean, Taysom Hill plays quarterback for them. He plays receiver for them. He plays tight end for them. He'll play running back for them. So it just depends on the different packages, what they're asking him to do, where he lines up and what they're trying to get accomplished with him.
Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Marwan Maalouf
Hey everybody. We're excited about the opportunity that's ahead of us. Our group is doing a good job preparing right now for a very good Saints' special teams unit. They're very well coached. They have a Pro Bowl returner, Pro Bowl kicker, former Pro Bowl punter. They're loaded as far as talent goes. We're excited about the opportunity to play this Sunday and look forward to it.
Q: Having a kicker who's been through the playoff rigor like Dan Bailey has, how much does that put you at ease knowing you have a veteran with that experience?
A: I think it puts you to ease at a certain level. We still have to go out and block. The Saints are extremely aggressive when it comes to their rush units. You can see that on film. There's that element you always have to prepare for. Yeah, it's good to have a good veteran kicker who's had a good season on your side. That's a definite plus.
Q: What's stood out to you about the way Kevin Stefanski handles his staff?
A: When people ask me about him, he's a selfless guy the way that he approaches everything, just the way Gary's (Kubiak) contributed and he's had Gary here and all those guys, Rico (Rick Dennison). He's a special guy. He's impressive. Nothing but high grades from me, for what it's worth. He's been extremely good to work with as well, bouncing ideas off of him and just communicating the guys we made need offensively this week for special teams. He's been more than accommodating in those regards.
Q: Have you been around a group of coaches on that side of the ball that it's been such a collective effort?
A: They're definitely in my top two. I've been fortunate to be around some really good offensive staffs in the past, specifically in Baltimore, but you're right. This is the group of guys that they're all on the same page. I think that's what really makes it so special and so unique to watch it from my perspective. The way they prepare and just the positive attitude that they have with the players and keeping them on the same path, I think, is important. You see it and it's there.
Q: What's enabled Deonte Harris to do so well?
A: He's electric now. He's everything you want in a return specialist. He's not tall, which makes him harder to find and he's elusive. He's excellent at cuts and he's got really good vision. He's got that running back style and they block. They're fundamentally very well coached, very sound. I've known the coordinator there for a long time, and he's done nothing but a good job there and everywhere he's really been. Having a very good returner like that just helps them.
Q: How has Austin Cutting performed relative to your expectations as a rookie in that role?
A: Looing back just on the regular season, he's been exceptional. I'd rather have him than anybody, period, based on what I've seen on film from other teams and what's out there, he's been exceptional. The task now is seeing how he does in the playoffs. A little bit more pressure and I think he'll rise to the occasion just like he always does. He's got that mentality that's so even keeled and that's what you want in a rookie, whether it's the long snapper or any specialist.
Q: How much has it helped having veterans like Britton Colquitt and Dan Bailey to form that chemistry?
A: That's huge. You've got guys have done it before and that puts him at ease. It's always difficult to have multiple rookies as specialists. That's when you really have to have an established veteran. We have two established veterans that are helping him. He's done a really good job though, paying attention and really being honed in on the situational part of football because he's the one that starts everything. He learned from guys that were here in the past, and he's done a good job so far.