Transcript: Day 1 of Rookie Minicamp

*Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer    *

It’s nice to get back out here with these young guys. We’ve been out here on the practice fields really all week with the veteran players. It’s good to get these guys out. Last year we had seven undrafted free agents make the team. We had three rookies that started and we had three undrafted players that made the team last year. This is a big weekend for us. It’s good to get them out here. This morning was more of a walk through and then this afternoon we’ll get after it a little more.

Q: What are your early impressions of Mike Hughes?

A: He’s good, he’s fine.  He’s trying to learn, trying to do everything you ask. He’s good.

Q: How many rookies are here today?

A: 62, I think. I think there’s 62, the guys we drafted, some college free agents that we signed that will be here and then some guys we’re trying out.

Q: What do these guys have to do to make a good impression and stand out?

A: I told them last night in the meeting what we’re looking for is football players, the character we want. We want guys that are tough, smart, passionate about the game of football. Good teammates, guys that are good people off the field. So, I mean, that’s the start. Then you obviously have to look at their athletic ability and the way they learn.

Q: Will you try to create pressure for Daniel Carlson even though you can’t really give him a game situation?

A: There’s plenty of time for that. We’re just trying to create competition. Kai’s [Fortbath] done really good this spring. So, we’re just going to let them go out there and kick. We’re always going to try and create the best atmospheres that we can.

Q: How much do you teach this week?

A: Kind of the fun part about it, I went around to every group today with all the coaches. They’re all great teachers, very technique oriented, trying to be disciplined. Really, in a group like this, when you have never had these players before, there’s a lot more mistakes. You get a chance to do a lot of correcting and trying to explain to them and understand that they’ve never done it before. You can’t really get mad at them, you just have to try to teach them.

Q: Do you enjoy the teaching aspect?

A: That’s what coaches are, they’re teachers. We love to teach. I love being in front of the team and being able to be in a classroom setting, basically, and talk to them about the things we’re trying to do and the way we’re going. Then we come out here and we try to teach the best technique that we possibly can to make each and every player better and put them in the best position we can.

Q: What did you like about Jalyn Holmes?

A: He was a little bit of a pet cat all along. We watched him early at Ohio State, he’s played a bunch of different position there. He’s got great size, great length, athletic ability. We still think he’s got a lot of raw, untapped potential. This is a guy that Andre [Patterson] not only a lot of work on him but guys like him are guys that he’s really made succeed in this league.

Q: Is he one of those guys that fits your athletic profile that you talk about?

A: Yeah, he fits. He’s big, got great length, good speed, good first step quickness. There’s obviously a lot of things he’s got to work on but the mold is there that we can kind of try to get him to play like we want him to play.

Q: What is your evaluation of Holton Hill?

A: We’ve spent a lot of time with him. He was here on a Top 30, we met him in Indianapolis. He’s a good football player, big, fast, tough, good tackler. We’ve had a lot of conversations with him. We’re excited, he’s got a chance. If he comes in here and do what we ask him to do, he’s got a chance.

*Q: Are there any concerns about his off the field issues? *

A: No, not really. We’ve done our due diligence. We’ve talked with every one of his coaches he has ever had in his entire life, I think. We’ve talked to a lot of people at the University of Texas and we feel comfortable with the situation. But, it’s about the opportunity and what he does with that opportunity is up to him.

Q: With a guy like Ade Aruna who is still new to the position, what is the key to helping him improve?

A: One thing with him was a year ago he played like a 4-3 defensive end and this past year he played like a 3-4 defensive end. So, it’s a completely different technique and alignment. Quite honestly, he played better a year ago. But, he also fits, talking about Holmes and him, that’s how those two guys are supposed to look, tall, long arms, athletic, fast. It’s going to be a process with him because he’s a young, raw guy. Probably everything is going to be new. Getting into the right stance, taking the right footwork, putting your hands in the right place, understanding contact point on pass rush. Really, probably everything. So, it may take a while but that’s why we’ve got a lot of other players here.

Q: What intrigued you about Jake Wieneke?

A: He was here on our Top 30 as well. He’s a great kid, he did a nice job in college. He has great size, catches well. He’ll be good. He had other opportunities and he really wanted to come here. We always like those guys.  

Q: When you get players that are raw and take awhile to develop, how can you tell that there athleticism will transfer over to quality play?

A: Well, yeah, really all these guys. One of the things we’re always looking for is athletes. Because we can make guys better players but we typically can’t make them faster or more talented than what they are that way. We talked about these two defensive lineman. Really, [Brian] O’Neill is another young guy that has outstanding athletic traits. [Colby] Gossett looked pretty good out here to me today. We were just kind of going three-quarter speed. Coach Parcells always told me, ‘Don’t be an instant evaluator.’ He used to call it ‘IE’. So, he’d get mad at me if I said too many good things about them.* *

Q: What do you want to see out of Mike Hughes the next few days?

A: Always what you want to see with a guy that you drafted, especially where you drafted him, you want to see the things that you saw on tape. You come in here this afternoon and when we do the drills, I want to see the acceleration that I saw on tape. I want to see the quickness that I saw, the long speed. You won’t see the competitive nature so much. But, that part, and then the learning process of trying to understand when we correct him, does he continue to make that mistake or does he fix it right away? So, those are kind of things we’re looking for.

Q: What do you think Hercules Mata’afa biggest adjustment will be switching to linebacker?

A: It will be an adjustment. Those Washington State guys, those Cougars, they’re pretty tough. Hey, I was there for five years or something. I know those guys. That will be the biggest adjustment, standing up. He led the NCAA in negative plays the last two years. It is a little different. He was slanting and moving quite a bit. Size wise, he projects more into that. There has been several guys that have gone from defensive line to linebacker. [Teddy] Bruschi is a great example. I am not saying he is Bruschi, but there are guys that have done that in the past. It is going to take time but that will be the biggest adjustment, learning. He’s looking at running backs now and receivers where before, he was looking at guards.

Q: What impressed you about Brandon Zylstra?

A: So far, he has done an unbelievable job out here in our Phase II stuff. Running routes, catching the ball. He looks quick. Smart guy, tough. He is out here today. I asked him, “Are you going to play special teams or are you just going to try to be a receiver?” He said “No, he is going to play.” I said “Ok, we’ll see.” That will be a big thing for him, too, is to learn how to play special teams. He has been impressive so far.

Q: What intrigues you about Jake Wieneke?

A: He is a kid that caught the ball well. He has great size. We had him here in the Top 30. He is a local guy that wanted to come here.

Vikings Cornerback Mike Hughes

I just want to say it was a great day finally getting into some football.

Q: Was it a typical practice for you, did it feel different?

A: It was a little different, I got to learn some inside corner. It felt pretty good. Getting adjusted to some new techniques, learning from different coaches. So, it was a pretty good day.

Q: How much have you played inside?

A: I haven’t played much inside but today I felt pretty good with what we’ve been learning, what we’ve been installing. It’s all about getting comfortable and getting comfortable with the guys and just trusting the coaches.

Q: In your experience, what is the most difficult part of playing inside?

A: Like I said, it’s just learning new techniques and just knowing where your help is and where you have help and also fitting in the run. That’s really the main difference than playing outside. For me, it’s not really too hard, I feel like I’m adjusting well. 

Q: Will you be living here in the offseason?

A: I haven’t decided that yet. Hopefully I can spend more time over here, as much as I can, but right now I haven’t decided. 

Q: What advice did you get from the coaches to get acclimated as quickly as possible?

A: Just to be myself, learn as much as I can, be dialed in. This is a business trip for me. I’ve just been dialed in, trying to learn as much as I can. That way, when I get back with the vets I can kind of be a step ahead or on their same level. Just all about me getting comfortable.

Q: What is your impression of defensive backs coach Jerry Gray?

A: I love Coach Gray. I love all the coaches on this staff. They’ve welcomed me with open arms. Obviously, they trust what I can do and what I can bring to this organization because they drafted me first round. I love him. So far, he’s been very helpful. He’s the one who wants me to play some inside. So, I feel like he’ll be my best friend because I’ll be learning so much, outside corner, inside. Right now, he’s been pretty good to me.

Q: What do you think you can learn from Trae Waynes?

A: Obviously, it’s hard to play 16 seasons in the NFL. When he gets here, I’ll definitely try to get him to take me under his wing and learn as much as I can. Hopefully he’ll do that.  

Q: How much more focus is required in that inside spot?

A: Every position is mental. You have to be locked in, knowing what to do every play. Just trust in what the coaches are installing and different techniques they’re teaching. Everything just has to be dialed in.

Q: How far have you gone into the playbook?

A: I haven’t really gone that far into it but like I said, coming into this league every position you have to be dialed in. It’s a lot different than college. I found that out today, but I also have fun doing what the coaches installed and just trying to get more comfortable with this system.

Q: What were your first impressions of Coach Jerry Gray and Coach Mike Zimmer?

A: I love them. They’re very helpful. They’re not yelling just to yell at you. They want to help you in every way that they can. I’m just trying to soak everything in and be the best player I can.

Q: You’re not signed yet, but have you thought about what you will buy with that first in season paycheck?

A: My dream is to get my mom her house and that’s what I’ll probably end up doing.

Q: Did anything surprise you today that you were expecting?

A: Nothing that I can think, just playing inside is the main thing. But other than that nothing really.

Q: Is playing man-to-man in the pros different than playing it in college?

A: It’s the same. Man-to-man is just man-to-man you just have to locked in on your guy, trust your technique, and just compete.

Q: How’d the punt returns go today?

A: Actually, during warm-ups, dropped my first one, kind of got the jitters out. But after that I felt more comfortable and started looking the ball in and just being myself and playing football.

*Q: How hard is it to do in this type of wind? *

A: I played ball in Kansas so it’s no different than that. Just all about trusting your technique, knowing where the ball is going to land, and just have fun.

*Q: What’s it like having all the focus on you being the first-round draft pick? *

A: It’s all about staying grounded. I came here for a reason to play ball and compete. That’s all I have to worry about. Just trying to get on the field, trying to get in where I fit in, try and show the coaches the type of player I am to get on the field.

Q: Are you going to make any significant purchases with your contract?

A: Other than getting my mom a new house I plan to save money. 

*Q: Will that be back in New Bern, North Carolina? *

A: Yes, wherever she wants.

*Q: Do you have a budget for it? *

A: No, not yet.

Q: What’s holding up things with your contract?

A: Just letting my agent do what he does. Trusting that he’ll put me in the best position to have the most money I can. Just letting him handle that.  

Vikings Tackle Brian O’Neill

It’s awesome to be here. Thanks for everyone for coming out. I am looking forward to an exciting weekend and ready to get to work.

Q: Did you want to get your deal done before you took the field?

A: Yes, that was something coming in as a goal to do with my team in place. I am happy I got that done but now it is all about ball.

Q: What are your first impressions from being on the field?

A: There is a lot of excitement. Anytime, it is the first day of anything, there is going to be a lot of excitement. Coach [Tony] Sparano brings a lot of energy and we have a really good group out there. A lot of energy and excitement. At this point, just trying to get a feel for everything and learn as fast as I can.

Q: What were the first 48 hours like after you were drafted?

A: I think there is so much anticipation that when it finally comes, you’re just happy you know where it is. Within the first 48 hours, being able to talk to Coach [Sparano], really understanding the details of what is going to be asked of me and the next few weeks of the schedule. You really start to plan and get ready to go.

Q: What does Coach Sparano tell you what to expect the first few weeks?

A: You really just come in and work. There are going to be a lot of things flying at you, whether it is the playbook, different guys, different lineups or whatever it is, come in ready to work and be focused in everything that you’re doing. We installed a bunch of stuff this morning, and being able to learn it and apply it in practice later today is going to be the most important thing because there is going to be a lot of stuff flying around.

Q: Have you familiarized yourself with their depth chart and look for places where you might be able to step in and play?

A: I am familiar with the guys on the line. That is not my job to really decide where I am going to go. At this point, I am just trying to learn with Coach [Sparano]. Whatever he is going to ask me to do, I am going to try to do it the best I can. So right now, I really don’t know. Just doing what Coach asks me to do. Hopefully that yields positive results in a couple months.

Q: What are your thoughts on the assumption that it will take you a year to adjust?

A: Everybody has their own opinion. Everybody is entitled to that opinion. I think really the only couple opinions that matter now in my world are Coach Sparano, Coach DeFilippo and Coach Zimmer’s. They are the ones who make that call. Whatever they ask me to do, I am going to try to do it the best I can. Whatever they perceive as my weaknesses and they tell me I need to fix, I am going to fix. At this point I am only focused on their three opinions. Everybody else, is it is what it is. 

Q: What was that transition like when you moved from tight end to tackle?

A: Yes, it came pretty quick because I switched about a month and a half before the season. Then it was time to go. I switched because we had a need at the time, it was kind of like this when you’re jumping two feet in and don’t really know what to expect, but you give a 100% of what you got and surround yourself with good people, and you’re put in a good place to succeed. And around here I think we have good people.

Q: Was there a time you said ‘I don’t know what I got myself into’?

A:  Yes, the first couple of days of that camp were a little rough, but that’s to be expected. Then the first couple of games things were flying fast and you can only prepare for so many different looks. Once you kind of get an eye for everything conceptually in terms of play structure and why we do things it comes quicker.  

Q: Last week we were told you need to get stronger. What’s that going to look like for you work out wise?

A: I’m not really sure other than kind of just general strength and conditioning. If I had to guess I’d probably put on a few more pounds, so probably be anywhere from 300 to 305, if I had to guess. That’s not going to be an issue, whatever they tell me to be weight wise I’m going to be and we’re going to get as strong and as quick as possible in the next couple of months as we can. 

*Vikings Tight End Tyler Conklin *

*I just want to start with expressing my gratitude toward this great organization. Giving me this opportunity. Drafting me in the fifth round. To come out here and learn from an already great tight end group and tight end coach. I feel extremely blessed to be in this situation. I am excited to get started and finish out Rookie Minicamp and get to OTAs and keep learning from the great tight end group we already have. *

*Q: What do all of your tattoos mean? *

A: They all have a lot of different meanings. Family, school, siblings. A lot of stuff.

Q: What was it like for your first day?

A: It’s great to be back. A lot was happening. Definitely haven’t been in organized football in a little while. With the training and the whole draft process, it feels great to be out here playing football again. Learning the offense. Being around the guys, being in the locker room. It’s been great to be back. I am excited for the rest of the weekend.

Q: What do you feel is the best part of your game?

A: I think the fact that I can move around all over the field. With the way the tight end position has changed now-a-days, I feel like I can line up inline. I feel like I can line up in the slot. I can line up out wide. I feel like I can do everything a tight end needs to do. There are definitely things I need to get better at. In the blocking game, I think I need to touch up my fundamentals. Obviously, probably get a little stronger for this level. I can be a mismatch, a chess piece. I feel I am reliable, smart and catch the ball. I am excited to get after it and get used to this offense, learn from Coach and see how I can improve.

Q: How was it catching a lot of balls today for your first day?

A: I felt good. Just trying to learn the playbook. Trying not to think and play fast. I felt good though. I haven’t done one-on-ones or team stuff in so long. Getting back to running routes on people and reading defenses and doing things like that, it was good to get back and get used to it again. I felt good though.

Q: What do you think it will be like learning from Pro Bowl tight end Kyle Rudolph?

A: I am extremely excited. I have been watching him since I was younger. I watched him at Notre Dame. Just to be able to come in here and learn from a tight end that is as established as him, two-time Pro Bowler as you said, I am extremely excited to just pick his brain and just watch him, and see the things he does and adapt them to my game.

Q: What is your early impressions to the way Coach DeFilippo likes to use his tight ends?

A: I love it so far. The moving around. To have me being inline, being in the slot, being out wide. That is what I did in college. I was in a pro style, spread, no-huddle so I moved all over the field. So coming here the first day and moving around like that makes me extremely excited.

*Q: Do you have any early impressions on what you’ve seen from Mike Hughes on the other side of the ball? *

A: Honestly, I’ve been so focused on the playbook and trying to learn. I haven’t seen that much but I heard he’s a great player, obviously. I watched him play. Great returner also, so I am excited to see what he can come in and immediately do. Obviously, he’s a great player.

Q: What is the biggest challenge of blocking from college to what you will have to do here?

A: I think it starts with just the fundamentals and technique. Every coach teaches blocking differently. Coming in here and learning the techniques I need to use to put myself in the best situation. Being 100 percent sound on the playbook and know what I am doing so I am not thinking. Just staying in the weight room so I am strong enough to block. Defensive ends in the NFL are 6”-6’, 275 pounds. I have to do all three of those things to be able to block inline and even at the second level.

Q: Do they want you to gain any weight?

A: I feel good where I am at. I think they are happy with where I am at, right at 250-255 pounds. I feel good here. A lot of it is being sound on the playbook and the fundamentals. Keeping my hands tight, my footwork, feet on the ground, little things like that.

*Q: Does your experience at tight end help you in space hitting linebackers, getting out to safeties? *

A: I think so. And I think anytime you’ve been exposed to something like that it’ll play dividends. No matter if you move from tackle to guard or tight end to tackle being able to play out in space at one point and then kind of move down will help you no matter what. No matter what the switch is.

Q: How do you define what you do athletically?

A: I try to get to the point where I’m supposed to fast. Whether that’s kicking out to a blitzing linebacker or blitzing d-back I try to get there fast. I think once I know where I’m supposed to go I’m able to get there quickly. I think now it becomes once I get there, how do I do it more efficiently.   

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