Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo
Hey, it is great to see everybody. I hope everybody had a nice summer. It is great to be back, obviously a tragic deal not having one of our brothers out here with us today. It has been a somber time since we've come back. Coach Zimmer and Rick have done a fantastic job of leading the staff and helping everyone out. I have had the opportunity to work with Tony on two separate occasions in Oakland and here. He emulated everything you want in a person and as a coach. First off, he was a great husband, a great family man, a great grandfather, and as a coach he just took pride in his job and took pride in his relationship with his players, and was really a joy to be around every day. I was very lucky to call him a friend. My thoughts go out to his wife Jeanette, who is very close with our family and his kids. We are going to miss our friend very much.
Q: What did you take from your time in Oakland with Tony?
A: Tony was always really steady. That year in Oakland where he took over as head coach, I am not sure if a lot of people remember, but it was Derek Carr's rookie year. We started the year off 0-10 and Tony was the same guy every day and it taught me a lot that in the length of the NFL season how tough it is week-in and week-out to just be yourself. Tony was himself everyday never changed. As you saw we won three of our last six games, and I think a lot of that was because of Tony.
Q: What do you see and hear from rookies you are watching?
A: It's great to have everybody back. It's good to get the rookies back because obviously it is their first NFL training camp. It's such a whirlwind to many of these players coming from the combine to the draft to visits and all of those things where finally they have an opportunity to play football here. I am not sure how much they were actually able to retain. What I was more proud of was when we went out yesterday and had very few mental errors, so that tells you that our rookies did a good job and were able to stay up with the information this summer and making sure they take pride in their job.
Q: How does Dalvin Cook look as he is coming off an injury?
A: He looks really good. Looking forward to him getting the pads on and seeing where Dalvin is at. We expect him to be full go.
Q: What is like having Kirk Cousins here for this portion of training camp?
A: I think it is great. I think it is great for Kirk and great for all of the quarterbacks to be here. It allows us when the whole group is not here to have a lot more time to get into why we are doing things. We are so time-limited in the spring when installing a new offense, and now it was just rush-rush-rush. We are so time limited with the players, and now we can get into the nuts and bolts of what you are trying to do. It has been really good for us to have all those guys back, just not Kirk.
Q: I know last year you were not here obviously but Sam Bradford was not here during the first day. Was it voluntary that Kirk Cousins wanted to come Tuesday and not Friday? How did that process go?
A: I will be quite honest with you, I am not sure what the rules are. All I know is the quarterbacks are allowed to come back with the rookies and injured guys. I am not the right guy to be asked that. We are glad he is here.
Q: How enthusiastic has he been just coming and starting the three days earlier?
A: It's been great. We have had the opportunity to look back at the tape from the spring. We can look at some of the good things we did and some of the things we need to work on. Anytime you have an extended period of time, when it is not rushed and before all the bullets start flying, I think it is a good thing for not only Kirk, but everybody on our offense.
Q: Players have said that there was no drop off since Clancy Barone came in and began to work with the offensive line. How important was that seamless transition?
A: Our whole staff have been pros since this happened. It's a credit to Coach Zimmer number one, with the people that he hired. He hired not only great coaches, but great character people. Clancy [Barone] is obviously on our staff and has done a great job of stepping up, as Todd Downing did with the tight ends. I think it starts with the character of this coaching staff and it's carried down from Coach Zimmer's leadership.
Q: How important have the veterans on the offensive line been in maintaining that consistency?
A: I'm very fortunate, this is my 12th year in the NFL, and the one room that usually stays the same is the offensive line, because they're always really tight, they're usually really smart guys and guys with good character. When you have those three qualities, when something tragic as this happens, they have a tendency of kind of banding together as brothers. They call themselves brothers when trying to help each other get through such a tragic situation.
Q: What have you liked in Brian O'Neill?
A: Brian I think has gotten stronger over the summer. I think I saw him anchor down yesterday, which is better. When I say anchor, I mean he was able to stymy the defensive end at the line of scrimmage. I saw better combination blocks out of him and [Colby] Gossett on the right side yesterday. I think it's just the combination of getting those reps in the spring has really done him well, carrying over from the spring.
Q: When you have an unexpected situation as you did this week, how does having a guy like Todd Downing on your staff help to fill these types of holes?
A: For sure. You never want to go through something like this, but obviously it happened and it provides you with another guy that has coached a position in the NFL, that's called plays in the NFL. Obviously our tight ends these last few days have been not only in good hands, but in great hands with Todd. I think any time you have more great coaches on the staff you have, I think obviously that's a good thing.
Q: There is a video that has circulated the last few days of Tony Sparano's game ball speech from 2014 with the Raiders. You can be seen in the background as he delivers the speech. What do you remember about what that win meant to you?
A: Tony and I kind of gravitated towards each other from the start. We're both East Coast Italians, we know a lot of the same people, and we grew up the same way. We both take the game very, very seriously. I think when you have those qualities, you have a tendency to gravitate towards those people. I just remember being so happy for Coach [Sparano] that night, because not only was it a nationally televised game against Kansas City, a Thursday night game, but Coach had inherited a really tough situation and handled it as well as probably anybody out there in the National Football League could handle it. I just remember being so happy for not only our football team, but for him because like I said earlier he had stayed so consistent to what he believes in that it finally paid off.
*Q: What has impressed you when looking at Dalvin Cook's skill set? *
A: I think you obviously see the explosiveness. We're not giving him a ton of reps. He's taking individual [drills] and he's getting reps here and there. He got in to the blitz period yesterday and he was assignment perfect. I think that when you see a young player that understands protections the way he does at an early age, I think that's really unique. Obviously he has the pass catching ability that we've all seen, but a lot of times when you play that running back position I think pass protection sometimes gets overlooked.
Q: After getting to look at Dalvin's film from last year, did you come in looking to develop the offense around him?
A: I'm not sure you develop an offense around anybody, because it takes 11 guys to play the game. Obviously you want to get your best players in mismatches, where you feel there are mismatches against your opponent. But I would be hard pressed to say, that would be doing a disservice to the other guys that are really, really good players on our football team to say that we're going to build our offense around one person.
Q: What do you like about Jake Wieneke?
A: Jake is just a really smart guy. He's assignment perfect. Very rarely does he have a mental bust, he's running good routes, for a guy that's a big guy like that you have to be assignment perfect and route perfect to use your body and be able to get open and lean on people, be able to will yourself to get open a little bit more when you're not a burner. Those are the things that I really like from Jake, and obviously the hands. He has fantastic hands.
Q: How intense will that competition be for the final couple of wide receiver spots?
A: We're looking forward to competition at all spots. Obviously some spots are going to be highlighted a little bit more than others, there's no doubt. I'd be lying to you if it's not. But at the same time, we want to build and get as many good players on this team as we can and create competition everywhere.
Q: What are some of the challenges and opportunities of coming in to a new team at the same time as a new quarterback?
A: It's a challenge. I'm glad we had the offseason. Kirk is a very, very confident guy, but I can see his confidence in what we're doing. Usually that confidence is gained by your knowledge and feeling comfortable in what you're doing. I go out there and I'm out playing golf and I try to pitch and run an eight iron, which I'm not used to doing that and I need some practice at that. It's just like going into a new offense. I think he's feeling more comfortable with what we're doing, and I think he's feeling more comfortable in his environment that he's working in, the people that he's working with, myself, Kevin Stefanski and all the other coaches that he's working with.
Q: How has Stacy Coley looked since returning from injury this week?
A: It was good to see Stacy back out there yesterday. He had a couple really nice second level releases yesterday, and we're looking forward to him having a big camp. He needs to continue what he was doing before he had the injury in the spring, because he was doing some really nice things for us.
Q: Kirk Cousins has said that being the main guy upon arriving, and receiving that respect has been important thus far. How important is that to you?
A: It's huge. When you know you're the guy, I've said something for a long time. This is something that I truly believe in. If there's a quarterback competition, you don't have one. I've been at spots before where there is quarterback competition, and you're worried because neither guy is really stepping in front of the other one and separating himself from the other guy. To be quite honest with you, if there's quarterback competition usually you don't have one. We don't have that here, and I think we exude that confidence in Kirk. I think he exudes that confidence in us, and we're really looking forward to him playing well this year and leading our football team, and getting us first downs and third down conversions, scoring in the red zone and playing situation smart, all the things that we preached to our quarterbacks. I think it's a combination of a lot of those things I just mentioned on why Kirk feels that way, and why we feel that way about him.
Q: What has your impression been thus far from Brandon Zylstra? How does his experience being in the CFL give him a leg up?
A: I'm really looking forward to seeing that next step from Brandon in terms of putting the pads on. Obviously we have no pads on in the spring, we have no pads on here right now, so guys like Brandon that don't have a lot of experience in the NFL along with our rookies and some of our other young players, I'm looking forward to them when we're getting press coverage, when we're moving around a little bit. You've watched our practice yesterday, it's pretty stationary. We're not moving around a lot like we did in the spring. When the installation starts to get heavier, not only Brandon but all of our players, when they're going up against our defense in pads, they've got to step up.
Q: In order for Zylstra to make the team, what is going to have to carry him there?
A: Just doing his job. I think that's the key to winning any spot, do your job and do it at a high level. When there's a play to be made, you make it. When there's a play to be made in a tight contested area, you make that play. Those are the things with Brandon that I'm really excited to see him do, because I think he can do those things, I do. I really think he can do those things. I'm really excited to see him do those.
Q: The Canadian Football League is so different, especially for wide receivers. How do you scout or find a CFL player that you want to work out?
A: I'm going to be quite honest with you, I couldn't tell you really much about the CFL at all. I respect the CFL a ton. Those guys up there do a great job, but I'm not really one to ask about the CFL.
Vikings Quarterback Kirk Cousins
Before we open it up for questions, I just want to send my condolences to the Sparano family. Obviously, I didn't know Coach Sparano for a great length of time but when I came here to Minnesota, he was one of the coaches who I knew of before coming here. He had a name, he had a brand in this league. He was a recognizable coach. As I got here and got to know everybody I would often ask people, "What do you think of this coach or that coach?", because at the end of the day the players know who can coach and who can't. There was always a resounding statement of support for Coach Sparano. The players loved him. They played hard for him. They enjoyed the meetings. They enjoyed his demeanor. We felt like he, at the end of the day, understood what it was like to play in this league and could empathize with us with some of the challenges we go through. For that, the players loved him. So it was very tough to hear the news a few days ago of his passing. Obviously we want to approach this season and camp with a work ethic and attention to detail that would honor him and hopefully put a great product on the field that would reflect well on him and his family. With that, I'll open it up for questions.
Q: How was your offseason and what did you work on?
A: If you are asking how the summer went overall, it was a great five or six weeks. As we talked about standing right here about a month and a half ago about getting rest but also staying sharp, I felt like I did everything I wanted to do. I am in a good place now and ready to go. It is good to see everyone again and get the vets here tomorrow will be fun. Just ready to get to work.
Q: How do you inject yourself in the offense to be on the same page?
A: Obviously, we have to know the system inside and out. I have to do my due diligence and studying and asking questions. Once I feel I have a good understanding is just to take ownership. Just tell the center specifically what I am looking for on every play, what I need from him and what I want to control myself. Communicate well with the offensive line coach, whoever that is. Just be on the same page and that takes time. I think we are in a good place. I think there is good communication. There is not a lot of egos. Egos can get in the way of being able to get on the same page and have progress. When there is humility and people are willing to listen and defer to one another, I think that can really help.
Q: What are you more confident in now than when you got here in March?
A: I do think I have a greater comfort level with the system. I'm not thinking as much as I'm able to just react and play. The terminology is starting to become my first language as opposed to my second language. I don't find myself reverting back to how we used to call things in the past at other places I was at. I've gotten to know teammates so much better. I know who they are as people, their personalities, what they do well as players. Again, with so much left to go that will only improve. I do think I've come a long way in those areas.
Q: Did you report early for camp in Washington?
A: We always showed up Tuesday night every year wherever that was in July and Wednesday we started. That is what I am used to and this is no different. Get here Tuesday evening and hit the field Wednesday and get going. That has always been my rhythm and it didn't feel any different this year to do that.
Q: Could you have shown up Friday?
A: I don't know what is optional and what is not optional. I have to be ready to go come Week 1. Being that it is a new system, I can't afford to miss out on opportunities. This is my job and I am going to treat it as such and take advantage of every opportunity I can get to be ready to go.
Q: Does not having a quarterback battle help move forward to build those relationships?
A: I think internal competition is healthy. Certainly it can bring out the best in you. But to an extent at some point you have to be given a license to lead. We have to be given permission to take charge. When you're still having internal competition, it's hard to do that. I've been in those situations in the past going back to college where I didn't know if I would start. It was hard to really assert my personality in the locker room because I didn't want to step on the toes of the other people. It is something that I think when you know your role and it's been defined, you can then lead from a place of greater comfort. From that platform, I think that helps the overall dynamic.
Q: Are there certain ways now you can notice when that is taking place?
A: It can be something as simple as when practice is up, getting the call, talking to the guys, sharing a thought. When you're the starting quarterback, there is not a question in peoples' mind that if you should be doing that. When you are the backup people may look at you and they understand locker room dynamics like, "Why is he talking?" There are little things like that to all the way to in a meeting saying, "I don't like the way that route is drawn, I want it changed." If you're the backup, usually you just sit back and let the route be drawn the way it should be drawn. If you are the starter, you can speak your mind. You have to have permission and I think that is what Coach DeFilippo was getting at.
Q: Where does revisiting things in the offseason show up in terms of having a better understanding of the offense on a more detailed level at this point?
A: I think just when we break the huddle in these walk throughs and I am at the line of scrimmage, with making the calls with the center, it's now instinctive. It's not thinking, "Am I making the right call, do I know where the line is going?". I feel like I'm able to just go play. We have a new center out here the last couple of days, JP [Quinn], and he's got his head spinning with all the calls. I said, "How does it feel to drink through a fire hose, man? I was there a few months ago." We all have to go through that at different times in our football career, and you understand it now this far along in my journey. It's a process and by no means, do I feel like I'm there and it's done but I'm certainly farther along than I was in April.
Q: Was spring so effective that you're ahead at this point than you thought you might be?
A: That's a good question. I think some of it comes down to how much carry over is there to what I've done in the past. We are still in the process of finding our identity for 2018. What do I do well? What does Coach DeFilippo do well? What do the receivers do well? That's what camp is all about. I don't like to have final answers or to say, "Here's where we are," because that's not really what camp is for. Camp is for developing that and then obviously come game time that's where we get measured and have to get ready to go.
Q: How much time do you spend reading the playbook during break?
A: I don't know how to put a number on it, but you're spending time. It's not just the mental side but it's the physical side. Keeping your arm in shape, throwing all the time, working on your body and making sure that you're going to be ready for a long 16-game season and hopefully more than that. There was a lot of time spent on a daily basis getting your whole self ready to go and from every facet.
Q: How long did it take you before you felt that you could assert yourself with teammates and coaches?
A: I think, that was my question coming in, is how long do I sit back and watch and listen and learn before I start to act like a starting quarterback. What I was trying to communicate in the spring was that I was surprised by how much my teammates gave me that license to lead quickly. I thought they were going to want to have me prove myself a little bit longer than maybe I had to. They were very supportive. They said, "No man, it's your show, let's go." So, when I say I was welcomed by the team, I was accepted, I was given permission to lead. That's where it didn't take as long as maybe I thought it would have. So, that's been a pleasant surprise
Q: Does it help with a big contract it leaves no doubt you are the starter?
A: It certainly gives an indication, but the amount of money you make doesn't give people a desire to suddenly follow you. I've played on a team where I've made league minimum and was a starting quarterback, too. You better believe that I have to command and have a presence about me that guys want to follow regardless of what my contract says. So, if you're a fake your contract is not going to help you. You have to be the real deal no matter what
Q: What stands out about Dalvin Cook and what he can bring to the offense?
A: I think because he's still coming back I haven't been able to see the Dalvin Cook that everyone who has been here knows. That's what I'm excited to see as we get going. He is ready to go and full bore. But obviously we are still easing into it. I've been told by the guys who have been here that he has some elite movement skills and that he can really make a difference. When you're talking about a starting running back, running the ball, catching the ball out of the back field, protecting. It makes a big difference.
Q: Do you have any impressions of Jake Wieneke?
A: I heard that he, in college, had like 50 or 60 touchdowns at SDSU. That alone says he has to be a red zone threat. He's got some ability. I think the strength for him is going to be using his body, having a good feel for how to play the receiver position and catching everything that is thrown his way. Obviously things like special teams play a big role into making a team and being able to have staying power. Those are all things that I don't pay as much attention to. But I think he has a lot of ability and I love the way he carries himself. He's a great teammate, great person. I think a really good example of our scouting staff bringing in talented players who could be great locker room guys and have a big impact in camp.
Q: How important is that chemistry you've been able to build and friendships with teammates off the field?
A: I think it was Stefon [Diggs] or Adam [Thielen] that had posted on social media how they couldn't wait to get back and see everybody. I think that was genuine. They aren't doing that to be self-promotional. They really do enjoy working. Adam texted me as I was coming into town on Tuesday and said, "Hey can you get in early so we can throw?" I said "My arrival time isn't going to give me any time to do that.'' But he wants to work. On off days, he's trying to find ways to get out here. I said, "I don't even know what the rules are about you coming here and catching before Friday," and he said, 'I think we can, I'll find a way.'' Those guys are just easy to work with. I said it again in May and June. They're easy to lead because they are so excited about football and they love playing this game. There are people in this league who love what football brings them but they don't really love football. We have a lot of guys on this team who love football regardless of what it brings them and that's obviously fun to work with and play with.
I'll just add that I'm excited for training camp here at the new facility. Obviously it's outstanding, world- class. Good to see the stands out here and excited on Saturday to get the crowds here. I wish I could go over to the stadium and go through all the activities that they have for the kids. Looks like a great set up for training camp.
Vikings Running Back Dalvin Cook
Q: So, your brace is off?
A: I really got comfortable with it during the offseason when we went on break. I told myself I know the work I put in so I'm going to test it out. I'm going to test it out before I get back to camp. So I tested it out and I felt comfortable with it, so I just went forward. I let [Eric] Sug[arman] and the training staff know that I wasn't going to be wearing it. They're comfortable with it as long as I'm comfortable with it.
Q: Were you nervous at all about taking the brace off?
A: Yes, you're going to be nervous. That's just going through the process because you're coming off a very serious injury and it's your knee you're talking about. You need that thing to operate your body, so I was nervous but as I gradually got through it I got comfortable with it.
Q: How long did it take you to trust your knee completely?
A: I definitely trust it again. I'm ready to go. Ready to have to have fun. Ready for the vets to come back. Ready for us to get out there. It just took for me to get back on the green grass and put my cleats on and just to tell myself it's football again. It's something I love to do and it's something though that I always want to do. It just took me to get back on the grass again.
Q: Is that first full-padded practice going to be another test for you?
A: It's going to be another milestone for me. With this process it's all about milestones – just stacking up the days and just putting it all together leading up to Week 1. Once we put pads on that's going to be another milestone for me. I can't wait until we put them on.
Q: Do you still think about it at all?
A: No. No, I don't actually. They did what they had to do with it. They fixed it up. It's a brand new knee. It's my knee. I put the work in, put the time in. I fully trust it. It's full go.
Q: Do you have anything to compare yourself pre-surgery to how you feel now?
A: No. You must be seeing me run, huh? I definitely feel like I've gotten stronger in a lot of places. A lot of credit to Uye [Mark Uyeyama], the training staff, my teammates just for having trust in me and pushing me so much. I got to thank those individuals and my family. I do feel a lot stronger though.
Q: It seemed like you were doing more at mini-camp than you are now. What's the reason behind that?
A: It's about time. It's about time for me to start testing this thing out. The whole coaching staff, the whole training staff they have a plan for me and I know that. Whatever plan they have for me, my goal is to execute it. I'm going to do that 100 percent and I'm going to do that full speed. Whatever plan they have for me I'm just going to execute it.
Q: How much stronger and faster did you get?
A: You are going to find out. I definitely feel like I got stronger, and I definitely feel like I took a big step from last year.
Q: Is there any apprehension with putting on pads?
A: It is going to be football, I can tell you that. That is the number one thing. I always put in my head, football is football. I done come off of injury before. I done come off of shoulder injury. It is all about going out there and putting that in the back of your mind and knowing that you worked hard enough and you put the hours in to go out there and compete at a high level just like everybody else. I am ready to put the pads on. I am ready to go.
Q: How much did you take away from your rookie season?
A: It is all about going out there and knowing you can compete with everybody else, and I knew that from day one. I have been playing football since I was four years old. I am just picking up from where I left off and just get even better from there. I am going to pick up where I left off because this is football, I love to do this. I grew up doing this. This is all I know. To go out there and get a chance at the game again, it is just God, and I thank him for that, and I am going to give it all I got.
Q: Do you think you surprised people with how quickly you took the league by storm in that short amount of time?
A: No, I hope I didn't. This organization drafted me for a reason. I just come in and make plays and help them win football games. That was my number one goal coming into this thing. I am going to help this team win football games, I am going to do whatever I can. That is my same mindset, and I just hope nobody is surprised anymore. Hope I am in the game plan.
Q: What is your impression of the offense, with Coach Flip?
A: I love Coach Flip. I love the energy. Coach Flip, he is a high level guy. He wants things done the way he wants things done, and that is with any coach that wants perfection. They want things done a certain way. His play call is his play call. The scheme he got, I love it. He just wants the best guy with the ball in his hands, and we got a lot of guys that can take it to the house.
Q: How do you think your role will change?
A: Whatever my role is I am going to play at 100 percent. I don't know yet, everybody is still trying to identify themselves in the offense. That is why we are here for camp. We are going to have our bumps and bruises, but whatever my role is, I will give it my all. I just hope it is enough to win football games.
Q: How is coming off of the injury going to make you better this season?
A: Going through the whole process, it is mind testing. It is going to test you a lot. It is going to make you question football. Once you get back in the groove of things and get back in the going of things, you get stronger as you go, and I can say that. I got stronger as I went and it's transferring over to the football field. I just think it got me stronger and ready for what is about to come this season.
Vikings Cornerback Mike Hughes
Q: How did you spend your five weeks away?
A: I was down in LA, where I did combine training, I continued to train at the same facility I was at. That's pretty much what I've been doing, training, chilling with family and just relaxing.
Q: How much more confident do you feel in the system?
A: I feel a lot more comfortable. We're starting from the basics. Things we went over during rookie minicamp, just to hear it again it makes me feel a lot more comfortable. I actually feel a lot more comfortable out there doing it. I feel pretty comfortable.
Q: How much work have you been getting at the nickel spot?
A: I usually start out at corner when we go base and then whenever we get to nickel packages, I just move inside. Yeah, it's been pretty even so far.
Q: What are the biggest differences with the nickel position?
A: Nickel is just a glorified WILL linebacker. You have run-fits and you come on certain blitzes. Just having run-fits and knowing when to run with motions and not run with motions has been the biggest difference with that position.
Q: Where do you want to make an impact on this team first?
A: Wherever I can fit in is where I want to make an impact. I plan to do that pretty soon, I've just been busting my tail, just competing.
Q: How great did it feel to be able to buy your mother a house?
A: It was a dream come true. She cried, it hit me. It just felt good, it was something that I wanted to do for a long time, since I've been playing. Just to actually fulfill it was, like I said, a dream come true. I still think about it to this day, today was the first day she got her keys to the house. It's been a great feeling.
Q: So did you sign your contract on Thursday and close on the house on Friday?
A: It happened on Friday, yes.
Q: Did you pick out the house?
A: I actually let her pick out the house. Like I said, I've been working so hard to fulfill that dream so it was only right that I let her choose which house it was.
Q: Is the house in New Bern, North Carolina?
A: Yes, in New Bern.
Q: How much did she mean to you through this process?
A: She's my motivation. I mean, I've had some ups and downs and she's been there every step. So, for me to do that for her, that was big for me.
Q: Will you have your own room in the new house?
A: Of course, of course.
Q: Are you eager to put some pads on soon?
A: I think everybody is eager. We've been in shorts for however many weeks. I think everybody is eager to start competing a little bit more once we get pads on. I'm very eager and I think everybody else is as well.
Q: What has been the hardest transition for you?
A: Just the playbook. College they kind of simplify it for you. When you get here, I wouldn't say you're on your own, but you have to expand your knowledge a little bit more. You have to know what's going on before the snap, knowing how to read certain keys. Just the playbook.
Q: Has the playbook become second nature to you?
A: I wish, I wish. I still have a lot of work to go, so not yet.