Vikings Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski
Good afternoon. First of all, congratulations to Steve Jordan, the newest member of the Ring of Honor. Had a great message for the players this morning in our team meeting, and now he’s over there visiting with our tight end group, which I think is pretty cool. And he’s an Ivy [League] guy, which isn’t a bad thing either. Second day of mini camp here, good work out here. Looking forward to tomorrow, it’s going to be another good day of work before taking a break and getting ready for training camp. But the work is not done, and we’re looking forward to tomorrow.
Q: Where has been the most progress been within the offense since the start of OTAs?
A: I’m pretty appreciative of the players from the moment they got here until now really taking coaching. We’ve been in teaching and learning phase for so long, and we’re staying right there for one more day. They’ve just been really attentive in the meeting room in taking what we’re coaching them in there, taking that from the meeting room to the field.
Q: As you’re implementing and teaching this new system, are you cognizant of that a lot of players are seeing their fourth system in five years?
A: Honestly, it’s kind of a part of the NFL, and it happens almost everywhere, every year. That’s why it’s so important when we add the players that we add to this team that we add guys that are pretty smart. Luckily we have a really good group. It is challenging, and I’m glad that it’s challenged them. I’m glad that the guys that have been here walked into the building back then in April, and even now, have to work at it. It’s definitely not something that’s going to come easy. They have to spend some time at their craft, certainly.
Q: How much actually has changed as far as the verbiage and concepts?
A: Well I’d say the terminology has changed completely. We talked last time about terminology, and it’s just the language. Everybody is running the same plays, it’s just how you call it. Really the big thing for me is what you emphasize and what your coaching points are, because that’s where you’ll see the differences between offenses. But in terms of terminology, it’s completely different then it’s been, but there’s some similarities when you go back to previous versions of the west coast system. I think the terminology sometimes is overrated in terms of what you call it. It’s what we’re trying to emphasize in that meeting room and then out here on the field.
Q: What differences do you see from Kirk Cousins this year after getting a year under his belt?
A: I think he’s doing a nice job. I think again, having one year under his belt around his teammates is a big deal. There’s so much that goes in to understanding the nuances of each one of your receivers and your tight ends, and knowing how they come out of routes. That was something that we definitely tried to speed up in the process last year. There’s so much you can do with that. I think it’s really helpful that he walks out on the practice field and has an inventory of knowledge of each one of his past receivers in particular.
Q: What’s the difference between Chad Beebe this year and Chad Beebe last year?
A: Well he’s one year older, I’d say. Chad’s doing a nice job. Last year he showed up at rookie mini camp and he really didn’t have a name for himself, right? He was Don Beebe’s son. But I think he’s proven [himself], he’s played in some games, and you see him out here making a few plays. I think he’s making a name for himself, and I think he’s done a nice job. Just got to keep continuing with one more day from him, and put it all together. But I will give the kid credit, he comes out here and he works.
Q: How would you summarize how Garrett Bradbury has looked this spring, and how he’s taken charge of the center position?
A: Yeah, it’s interesting. With Garrett being a rookie, he carries himself like a pro. I don’t think that’s a mistake, that’s just who he is and that’s how he’s always been. Certainly when you’re playing that center position and you’re directing traffic, it helps to have a personality like Garrett, that even though he’s a rookie has no problem making calls. I think that meeting room is different than most meeting rooms, and I think he fits in really well.
Q: In the past couple of years as a coach you’ve had to focus on one position, whereas now you have to take a holistic approach. How is that different for you?
A: It’s certainly different. You have to take a peek at it from 20,000 feet as opposed to on the ground, but what I’m appreciate of is that we have some really good position coaches here, and they’re great teachers. I love to walk around this practice field and just listen to them teach, because I pick something up every time that I’m out here. I bounce around to each one of these position groups as they’re working in individual, and I can tell you we have an outstanding staff here that’s really honing in with these players on the techniques that we’re asking them to do.
Q: Does it change your practice plans when you have a number of tight ends that are being held out of practice?
A: It does. That prepares us for the game, because every once in a while a tight end needs a shoelace and he’s out for a series. That’s where it’s so important to have versatile, smart players, particularly when you talk about going from ‘tiger’ – 12 personnel when you have a tight end that’s down, and now you go to ‘base”, 21 personnel. Then you have a fullback like C.J. Ham or Khari Blasinghame, and they have to go in there and play that position. That’s the beauty of having smart, versatile football players.
Q: How do you think the play action game is looking so far?
A: I would say that it’s definitely a work in progress. At times it’s good, at times it’s bad, and really the best thing you can do is watch our defense. If they believe it and the sell is legit, you’ll get a reaction from linebackers in our front seven. So I’m thinking it’s been okay, certainly a ton of room for improvement. It’s going to be a constant point of emphasis for our entire offense, because when you talk play action, it’s very simple to just say it’s the quarterback and the running back. But it’s the offensive line, it’s the tight end, it’s the wide receivers. It’s everybody working in conjunction so that the pass looks like a run.
Q: Rick Spielman has mentioned wanting to get Kirk Cousins to the next level of his game, and one thing he mentioned was utilizing play action. Would you agree with that?
A: I think play action is definitely an element of our system. Having said that, there’s so many aspects of how we’re going to attack the defense, I can’t say that we would pigeonhole ourselves into just being a play action team. But certainly, Coach Zimmer has spoken about it before, when you’re good at play action, it’s difficult on the defense. You kind of circle back to the question previously about the reaction from the defense. If we can get a legitimate reaction from the defense, we’re doing a good job of play action. It’s a point of emphasis for us, but we’re really working hard in a few other areas as well.
Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards
Just finished up our second mini camp practice. We continued to install some things to look at, and guys have done a good job paying attention to the details while we’re trying to get certain defenses looked at, different guys in different positions. Just looking to finish strong tomorrow.
Q: The offense has put a lot of emphasis on play action during this offseason. How has that helped the defense develop?
A: It’s been tremendous, because it forces you to really work on your technique and your fundamentals of the different things that we got called. Guys have really had to do that to transition into a pass rush or transition on the coverage. That’s been really good work for us this offseason.
Q: Does it look like the offensive unit has made strides with that?
A: No doubt. They’ve done a good job throughout the offseason, I know they’re installing a new system. But they’ve really done a nice job of coming together and executing certain things that they’re trying to get accomplished.
Q: When you’re moving a player who played defensive end in college or recently in the NFL to defensive tackle, what are some of the things that you’re looking for?
A: It’s a lot involved as far as the techniques and fundamentals of playing inside. Of course now you got a chance to get a lot more double teams and things like that. But your block awareness, things happen a lot quicker inside then they probably do outside. Just getting in there and working on the techniques and the fundamentals takes a lot of concentration and focus for those guys who have had to move around.
Q: What have you noticed about Jalyn Holmes?
A: I think Jalyn has done a great job this offseason. Last year I think he was learning a lot about what we were trying to do schematically and what we were asking him to do was a little bit different than what he had done in the past. But he’s really come out and done a good job from Phase Two stuff and now transitioning into the OTAs and finishing up here with the mini camp, you can just see how he’s grown. His block awareness, his steps, his hands, transitioning in the pass rush. He’s done a lot of good work this offseason and we look for him to continue to improve.
Q: Marcus Epps seems like he’s had a good offseason. What have you noticed about him?
A: He’s really come in and paid attention to the details of the things we’ve asked him to do. We’ve played him inside at nickel, we’ve played him back at safety. For a rookie to come in and be able to pay attention to the details of those things, we just look for him to continue to progress as we keep working through the different schematic schemes that we use, looking at his skill set and seeing how we can implement him.
Q: How much better prepared are the newcomers going into training camp after having this off season program?
A: I think a lot. I think when you’re transitioning in to us, whether it’s offense, defense or special teams, there’s a lot of new concepts that you have to learn. A lot of things technique and fundamentally that you got to learn. I think guys have come in and done a great job of paying attention to the details of those things and know that we still got to continue to work to get better at those things.
Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Marwan Maalouf
Another beautiful day in Minnesota, so excited to be here. Fire away.
Q: How is having Nate Kaeding around to help?
A: It’s always good to have another guy just who’s done it for as long as he did at a high level. He brings another perspective, a kicker’s perspective which is important. He’s even helping us with all phases as far as the punter goes. He’s added an element of kind of checks and balances. So if Ryan [Ficken] or myself are coaching the other core players, he’s kind of there to always stay with the specialists and kind of keep them on task which has been great.
Q: What have you seen out of the different guys that you’re giving looks at those spots?
A: Mostly just different styles. We’ve got a good group of guys who have been getting a lot of reps in practice which is important because I’m still familiarizing myself with this roster and kind of fitting the pieces to the puzzle. And you know, there's a few guys that haven't been able to do it that are injured who have had a history of doing it. So, it'll be exciting once those guys get back to speed and just kind of seeing how it all shakes out. But the good thing is there's quite a few guys that are doing it. Today, we were doing a little bit of kickoff return and just kind of getting everybody familiarized with the system, where we want to go with the ball and all those little things that we’ll try to carry over to training camp.
Q: What have you seen from Holton Hill on returns?
A: He does a good job of tracking the ball. He’s got the right mentality for it. It’s something that looks natural to him so I think those are important factors. Not all guys can catch punts and the good thing about where we’re practicing now is this weather with the wind. That’s stuff that we can’t’ mimic anywhere else. We take that and when we’re at home, we’re indoors. It’s a different deal but when we’re playing on the road, this is a good test for everybody.
Q: How’s Holton Hill doing returning punts?
A: He’s doing well. He’s getting reps. That’s probably the biggest thing for him is just getting a ton of reps. When I was in Miami, we had a guy who never did it in college. He had the ability to do it but there was just a guy who was older with him, older than he was I should say, and they kind of stuck with him. We just gave him a ton of reps and all of a sudden, more confidence, more reps, he feels a lot comfortable out there. It’s going to be the same for Holton. He’s just got to get a ton of reps, situational-wise where we’re at on the field, going in if he’s backed up, all those little things.
Q: Who’s that guy at Miami?
A: Jakeem Grant. I thought he was pretty good.
Q: What gave you the idea of having him return some of the kickoffs?
A: Yeah, he was the off returner. He was one of the three guys that are back there. He’s an athletic guy so it’s always good to have as many athletic guys in the backfield as possible that could block, catch kickoffs, so he’s an option. That’s the best thing about it. C.J. Ham was back there too. So it just depends on who's back there and we try to rep as many guys out. Next time we do kickoff return, there might be three different guys, you know what I mean? So as long as they keep getting acclimated to the system, communication back there is key you know, so he's an older guy who I trust, not really older but he's had some experience. We trust him and he’s been doing well.
Q: What have you learned about Dan Bailey?
A: Dan’s a good pro. Dan’s a good pro, professional, takes his craft seriously which is important. I think it’s always good to have a good vet back there. He’s had a really good OTA’s. He’s done really well in OTA’s, this mini camp so far. I’ve been very pleased with him.
Q: What are the qualities you look for in punt returners?
A: The beauty about special teams is we take all shapes and sizes. It doesn't matter if you're 6’4 or 5’11 or 5’6. Each guy can do something well in his own right. They both could have a role back there it just depends on what the situation might be. I’ve had Jarvis Landry and Jakeem Grant back there in Miami and those guys did different situationals. If it was long field, sometimes Jakeem, different field positions it was Landry. You know this league, there’s injuries all the time so you can’t have enough punter returners, you can’t have enough gunners. You’ve got to be in a mindset that as many guys as you can have that can help you at one spot and that’s a good plan to have, a good problem to have.
Q: How’s Matt Wile looked as a punter and holder this spring?
A: You guys were around yesterday which had a little bit of wind just like we always do. He’s improving. That’s the positive thing about him. He’s improved as a punter. The familiarity he’s had with holding for Dan is good. When he came to us last year, I wasn’t here, but he didn’t have the preseason. He didn’t have OTA’s. He didn’t have all those reps so those reps are going to help out. That’ll be a big positive for him.
Q: What have you learned about the kickoff return rule changes over the last year?
A: Our alignments are so key now because we have to have eight guys in that zone. Timing and spacing, really just because the rules have changed, the fundamentals of kickoff return haven’t. Timing and spacing on kickoff return are what’s key. If we have the right guys working together, if they all understand the distance of the kick, all those little nuances, we’ll be fine. It’s just a matter of getting all those reps and working the situations and making sure that the returners understand what happens if the ball bounces in the end zone. That’s the end of the play so just those things are key. Everybody adapts. We’ll adapt as well.
Q: What are you looking at in the long snapping competition?
A: All those things matter. All those things matter and the blocking aspect as well. They’re here to snap the ball. That’s first and foremost and both those guys can which is great. We’ve got to take it a step further and now pretty much put them in situations where they have to set, they have to block and we’ve done that in OTA’s and this mini camp so far. We’ve thrown a ton of different looks at them and when the so-called bullets are flying, it’s really when the guys can react and you can figure out which one of these guys is going to separate themselves. It’s a really good competition right now and I’m happy to have both of those guys.
Q: Who’s got the velocity?
A: Both of them. It just depends. Sometimes it’s Austin [Cutting], sometimes it Kevin [McDermott]. They’re both good pros. I think we might have two NFL snappers. That’s a good problem to have. I’ve had that at other times where we’ve had two NFL kickers or two punters so I think that will end up solving itself in the long run.
Vikings Quarterback Kirk Cousins
Good afternoon. I’ll just start by saying I’m thrilled at the fact that Kyle Rudolph is back for another few years. Anytime that you can keep a player with his talent, experience, it’s a huge asset. His track record speaks for itself. When some of your best players or most accomplished players are also some of your best leaders or locker room people, it helps drive the culture of your team in the right direction. To have someone like him as a core piece of our locker room for the next several years makes a big difference. Rookies come in, and they’re going to look to the players that are accomplished and say, ‘How does that guy conduct himself? Because that’s where I want to go with my career.’ If they’re looking at Kyle Rudolph, that’s a really good thing for our team, for how to show rookies what it looks like to conduct yourself as a pro. I don’t know if you saw it, but he caught a pass I think right in front of you guys crossing the field today, that’s just not an easy catch. It was low, and he just reaches out and extends his hands and snags it, and that’s one of his elite traits and something that he just does really naturally. Hopefully we get a lot of that from him this year. We’re kind of winding down now to the end of mini camp, it’s been a great eight and a half, almost nine weeks, and I think we’ve come together as a team. Offensively, really gotten a good feel for what we can look like and what we can do well. I think we’ve taken big strides in improving the details of our offense. Obviously defensively there are high expectations here, and I think that is for good reason. It’s a really good defense. Looking forward to finishing up tomorrow and then getting off for the summer break, catching our breath a little bit and recharging the batteries and then coming back ready to go at the end of July.
Q: Now that you’ve gone through the entire spring, how do you compare your comfort level now, after having a year here under your belt, to how you felt at this point last year?
A: I think it’s helped to understand my teammates. It does feel like I’m starting over a little bit every year, because you have new teammates, a new system in this case. In some ways it does feel a little new, but more outside of football, things have settled down which is a really good thing. Consistency really helps. I just got to comment on that sweatshirt every time I see it. That’s outstanding. I mean the 2000 Olympics, that’s beautiful.
Q: I actually bought this in 1996 – this sweatshirt is older than some players on the Vikings.
A: I believe that. Did you go to the Sydney Olympics? [Yes.] Okay, if you had said that you didn’t it would be even more unique, but I’m glad you went.
Q: What has it been like to work with Gary Kubiak, and how much have you been able to bounce different ideas off of him?
A: He stands right behind the quarterbacks or right next to the quarterbacks right behind the huddle every play, so you can hear his voice right after a play or as you’re dropping back, what he’s thinking. Our coaches do a good job, they’ll coach us sometimes through asking a question. They’ll say, ‘Hey, what’s your footwork there?’ Rather than just telling you the answer, they’ll make you process it, and I think that’s a great style of coaching. I’m excited about our leadership in the offensive room. When you look at the names, starting with Kevin [Stefanski], he’s just a sharp mind, classy person, knows football really well, works at it. Just has a composure about him that I love to play with and for. And then you add Gary Kubiak, Klint Kubiak, Rick Dennison, Brian Pariani, [Andrew] Janocko, Drew Petzing, KP [Kennedy Polamalu], it’s just a really good group. We just got to do what they tell us and get as many reps as we can, because if we do that I think we’ll have a lot of success.
Q: Has it been any easier or more natural for you in year two to be a vocal leader?
A: I don’t know that I am stepping it up at all. If anything I may be down and back a little bit. I think last year I wanted to assert myself as best I could so that there wasn’t a slow transition, but I do think it’s just been business as usual. I don’t think that I’ve been any different. I don’t think anybody would say I’ve suddenly turned the dial up at all. If anything just more methodical and just more trying to go about my business and do my part and make sure I’m coaching other, helping others so that we’re all on the same page.
Q: Rick Spielman was saying that the key this year is getting you to the next level. What do you got to do to get to that next level? One of the things he cited was the play action game.
A: Yeah, I think when you look at any numbers or analytics, I’ve been effective when play action plays are being called, traditionally. But then you look across the league, and I think that’s the case. Our analytics department sent me a really good summary a couple of weeks ago over Memorial Day weekend that just showed that play action is just effective, period, and you got to call it more. I don’t know that it’s me, I think any quarterback should be getting a lot of play action opportunities just because of the nature of what it does for slowing down the pass rush and creating explosive plays, giving you outlets in the flats that are good, easy throws for productive gains. I think the next level really is all about winning. I’m pretty much a .500 quarterback in my career so far, and I don’t think that’s where you want to be. That’s not why you’re brought in or people are excited about you. If I don’t play well, if I don’t have gaudy statistics but we win multiple playoff games this year, the narrative will be I went to the next level. I may not walk off the field every day feeling like I did, but if we win, that’s the life of the quarterback, is you are then at the next level. If I have my best year yet in 2019 but we’re eight and eight, I didn’t go to the next level. That’s the reality of it, and I’m going to do all that I can, control what I can control. I think one thing that I can do beyond just playing the best I can is to start really coaching and leading other people so that I can never walk off the field saying, ‘Hey, I did my part but so and so didn’t.’ That’s can’t happen as an NFL quarterback, you have to be bringing others along so that isn’t a point you’re making at the end of a practice or a game. That’s really what it’s all about.
Q: How often do you get those analytical reports?
A: Well I just this offseason reached out to Scott [Kuhn] and just said, ‘Hey, can you get me things that jump out at you. Right or wrong, good or bad, and if you see a narrative that’s come along that you think is untrue or you see one that you think is true, can you give me the numbers that back that up?’ I think information is power, knowledge is power, so the more you can have the better off you are. I’ve kind of given them an open door to say, ‘Hey, here’s my number, you reach out to me if you got anything or if anything jumps out at you.’ I’ll occasionally ask, like I asked them, ‘Hey, the fumbles last year, what was the story there?’ And so they had some good thoughts for me there. Just little things like that I’m always trying to look for.
Q: What’s not true about some of the feedback you’ve gotten?
A: The fumbles come to mind. I just think that what came out they said that you had fumbles lost. They said your actual fumbles were pretty on par. Which again, you want to be in the lower half of the league right so to be on par, still isn’t good enough. But they said the problem is that yours were lost and the other team recovers them whereas some guys they’ll fumble and they’ll fall on it or lineman will fall on it or whatever so the key is if you fumble, you can’t lose it. So those are good statistics to have and you go back and you look with your coaches what are the fundamentals that I can change to prevent what the numbers are saying.
Q: How is the offense picking up the terminology?
A: It’s hard to compare. I think it’s hard to compare what we’re doing compared to another year on how fast it is. I think it’s pretty on par plus with so many reps with the twos and the threes and guys who are down the line so a lot of your time is spent getting players who were playing on a college team last year and they’re going to be struggling to pick it up regardless of what it is. We’ll just keep using these reps, using these practices and using training camp to make sure we’re air tight on what we’re doing.
Q: What did you do differently terminology-wise?
A: Terminology is different. We’re saying different words but at times calling the same thing. It’s been an evolution and so it’s a moving target a little bit. You can’t take a snapshot of the 2012 Redskins offense and say it’s so similar because even plays that are meant to be similar have evolved as defenses have evolved and offenses have found ways to do things better. Then I got in that system if you want to call it that with Sean McVay in Washington but then he’s evolved that quite a bit when I watch through the TV with what he’s doing with the Rams. So technically, is it the same system, yes. Is it the same thing, is the philosophy still the same thing? I don’t know. It still looks kind of different to me. There’s changes, there’s similarities. I’ll put it this way, I couldn’t just go out to practice without looking at the play book without looking at notes. I wouldn’t have been able to do much. It’s new enough that I’ve got to go over things and make sure that I understand it in terms of the route depths, the snap counts and the concepts because it is different.
Vikings Ring of Honor Inductee Steve Jordan
I’d like to start out by thanking the Wilfs and the Vikings organization for inducting me into the Ring of Honor. This is quite an honor. I’m still floored by this. I’m not one to be short on words but it actually got me this morning. I had the pleasure of doing some things with the Vikings this week. We had the Taste last night, which was a phenomenal event, and then this morning I came in and talked to the team. My good friend and homeboy, if you will, Kevin Warren, grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, South Phoenix, thank you, and introduced me to the team and at the end he said, ‘This is the first time you’ve all heard this, but Steve is going to be our new inductee to the Vikings Ring of Honor.’ That was a little disconcerting after, trying to get up and talk to the team after and it’s like, ‘Wow, this is happening. This is crazy. This is awesome.’ So, I’m really appreciative of it and just thankful for it. As a lot of you may know, I’ve got a lot of love and affection for the Vikings and the Viking family. For me to come out of Phoenix, Arizona, through Brown and to end up here in Minnesota to start my family here, my kids were all born here, three kids, Geoffrey, Cameron and Stephanie and my wife Anita who without her, none of that could have happened and so, it’s just been great. To be able to be involved in the community here was a great thing for me as well. So again, great thanks to the Wilfs and the Vikings and above all, thank God for the opportunities he’s provided for me and his family.
Q: What is your fondest memory?
A: My fondest memory with the team, that would be difficult to say because there have been so many good ones. Whenever we beat the Packers, that was a great memory. That was a great memory and we did it a couple times when we had to win that game to win the division. Like I said, there was so many. Like I said, it just goes on and on, but anytime we beat the Packers, life was really good.
Q: What is your thought on the evolution of the franchise?
A: Well the evolution of the franchise and the game, if you will, just meaning the Vikings organization has been phenomenal. When you look at it, the NFL obviously is a juggernaut. It’s a machine and it’s impressive to see how times have changed and it’s not just about bigger is better because there is some of that, right. Stadiums all have to be bigger than the next one or better than the next one and there’s some reality to that but also from the facilities standpoint, I look at what we had when I was at Winter Park and Eden Prairie and I thought that was amazing. This place [TCO Performance Center] is truly amazing and to see what they’re doing for the players, the nutrition, the workout spaces, the physical therapy and all those things is just phenomenal. So, I’m actually thrilled to see that that part is happening as well. Even for the stadiums, my first year was in 1982 which was the first year of the Metrodome, thank God, because if we were in the old Met I don’t know if they would have kept me around. Catching balls in zero degrees my first year would have been difficult, took me awhile to kind of transition into that. So, when you look at the stadium, which again was state of the art at the time, the field left a lot to be desired, the old astroturf. Then you look at this and, again, these fields are so manicured. I said upstairs I feel like I should have golf club or something. I mean this place is really, really super nice in terms of the grass and that’s good for the players, new turf and things like that and again, the other facilities. Looking at the old Metrodome and the facilities that we had there, compared to what’s there at the new U.S. Bank Stadium is pretty phenomenal. So, love to see this evolutions and you’re seeing it around the league with all these teams doing it. I live in Phoenix. The Cardinals have stepped up their game as well and have some nice facilities but I don’t think there are any in the league right now that are better than this facility.
Q: What do you think of your son following in your footsteps?
A: It’s been awesome needless to say. You always want your kids to follow in your footsteps and I’m blessed with three children and I’m doubly blessed. My oldest son Geoffrey followed me in the construction field and then my youngest son, our baby boy, is Cameron who followed me in the football. I’ve got a daughter and she’s just a rockstar in general, Stephanie. So, that’s been awesome. In fact, Tom hooked up a little Twitter feed or something where they let Cam know that I’m being inducted and so he did a little video with him. So, it was him and my grandson Tank and he did a little spiel and it still makes me misty right now just to see that. He talks about legacy and he’s done some great things. God has blessed me with some kids that actually listen on occasion, not all the time as we all have kids, on occasion and he’s made some really good choices and God blessed him with some good opportunities and he’s taken advantage of it so I’m real thankful for that as well.
Q: What does it mean to be alongside the legendary names at the stadium?
A: Just understanding that in terms of the names, some of the guys I’ve played with. To see some of these guys like Ahmad Rashad last year, who Ahmad and I transitioned over one year. My rookie year was Ahmad’s last year and then spent some time last night with Bud Grant. You have some other guys with Johnny Randle and Randall McDaniel, these are some of the guys that I played with that I, frankly, got a chance to help mentor a little bit into the league and that was particularly rewarding. And then were some guys that I didn’t play with that frankly you kind of idolize that in terms of just these were the guys that played at a high level for a long time. These are the guys that did it right. You look at Jim Marshall who’s just unbelievable to play as long as he did how he did, the spirit that he brought to the game, which is how the game should be played, is just phenomenal. And to understand that history the way that I do and it’s going to become even more impactful to me, is phenomenal for me. When you think about things like this that happen, you kind of get it and I’m taken aback by it. I really am. And then all of a sudden, it soaks in over time and I know it’s going to get even better as time goes on.
Q: Do you expect a good Father’s Day gift after Cam’s extension?
A: I’ve already gotten that just in terms of I am rich and rich in terms of my family, I’m relatively healthy, I’ve got seven grandkids. It’s been a great life and God has blessed me so for a Father’s Day gift I don’t know about the whole thing. The one thing I will say about Cam’s extension, and it’s been important for him and important for me, for him it wasn’t about the money. A lot of people say that but we’ve had some conversations about how much is enough. Now, don’t get me wrong, you want to be paid adequately, you want to be paid equitably, that type of thing. But for him, he really wanted to end his career and this pretty much takes him presumably to the end of his career, and he wanted to be with one team. He loves the Saints and he’s done well with that community. He’s really invested in that community and I really, really appreciate it. So, as a lot of people look at the extension and say, ‘Wow, great money. This is a good thing,’ it is good. But I also think it’s good for him, the team and that community and I love that about it. The fact that I could stay my whole career at the Vikings, for different reasons because we didn’t have true free agency at the time, but it turned out to be a really wonderful thing that you can get invested in the community, get invested in the team, grow up with other teammates, have your kids grow up with your teammates’ kids. Greg Coleman is in the group here today and our kids grew up together. We had these big family outings and all the families would get together. We don’t see that much in today’s world because of the movement and that’s okay, but I feel like I was really blessed to be at a special time and again to be with the Vikings my whole career was outstanding.
Q: How does it feel being a late round pick and having the career you had?
A: Being a late-round pick, I was seventh out of 12 back then, certainly not quite expected to make the team. I really am blessed to say the least. I remember back that my father, who was a teacher and also was a high school coach early in his career, and pretty successful, one of the things he talked to me about was preparing and making sure you leave it all on the field, no regrets kind of attitude. I took that with me into my first training camp. I told the story to the team this morning when I first got into a one-on-one situation in training camp my rookie year, Matt Blair was facing me on pass protection and he was rushing and I got in a three-point stance and my next memory was looking up at the sky. Matt ran over me, ran through me like a revolving door. Welcome to the NFL. I knew I had a lot, needed to make up some time and things like that because I probably wasn’t as prepared as maybe some of the big schools in certain regards but I was probably over-prepared in other regards. I just looked at it as a really good situation for me. Once I did make it, I was astounded, frankly. I remember calling my college roommate Kent Leacock and I said, ‘Hey man, I made the team.’ And he said, ‘that’s outstanding.’ I said, ‘Man, can you believe it? They actually let me make this team,’ because I made it on special teams basically and I didn’t play a lot of special teams in college. I was a receiving tight end and that sort of thing. So, my second year I came back and I learned a lot. I worked on my blocking and really tried to apply myself to the craft. My second year I came back and made the team again and we had the same conversation. I said, ‘Dude, can you believe it? Two years in a row they let me make this team. This is outstanding.’ And then things started to click a little bit and then you start to realize I think I can do this. I think I belong here and again, due to some great coaches, the Les Steckel’s of the world that were one of my position coaches, Johnny Michels on the o-line because back then before the day of specialization, you didn’t have a tight end coach even. It was go with the receivers tight ends, go with the linemen tight ends and you go back and forth. Again, based on some really great coaching, some really good teammates, I was able to make my way through the league.