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Transcript: Rookies Report to Training Camp

Head Coach Mike Zimmer

It's good to get back here to Mankato. There's been a long tradition here with the school and the Vikings. Want to make sure we do a good job here and get a lot of work done. It's been a great relationship for the 52 years it's been. I heard someone say the other day that this was one of the longest continuous schools to hold training camp. We've been proud of the relationship that we had and we're here, we're ready to get back to work. It's good to get going again, get these young guys in here early a few days and go from there.

Q: Is it bittersweet to leave Mankato?

A: I don't know about bittersweet, they just tell me where to go and I go.

Q: What are you hoping to get out of having the rookies come to camp early?

A: Well, part of it is, I just felt like it was important – we did this in the spring, we had extra practices with the rookies – I just felt like we wanted to try to get them up to speed as quick as we can. Last year a lot of the rookies didn't play as much as they had in the past. I just figured, let's give these guys every opportunity we possibly can to get them up to speed a little quicker. We want to get them back in here, get them back doing the techniques that we've been working on in the spring. Kind of refresh another three days of practice with the terminology. Then when the vets get here, they've heard it four or five times now as opposed to just two or three.* *

Q: How many players are you expecting and do you expect to have enough to do full offense and full defense?

A: Yeah, I don't know the exact numbers but yes, we will have full on both. That was part of the deal. If we're going to do this I wanted to make sure we have enough offensive lineman, defensive lineman, corners.

Q: How important is it to have the rookies get in and get contributions from them?

A: I think every year is a little bit different. I just felt like this year was important and we brought these guys in early. The other thing we did in the spring, we'd have three OTAs but we'd practice them on the other two days. They probably got another 10 practices basically. With the way the NFL is going now with younger and younger players, I just thought it was important. Hopefully a lot of these guys will be playing.

Q: How has CJ Ham looked throughout his transition to fullback? Is it hard to evaluate without pads?

A: Yeah, It's hard. He's been good in pass protection a year ago when he had the pads on. We never really got a chance to look at him being a true lead blocker. So that'll be the biggest question for him. He's good coming out of the backfield. He's good getting on the right guys, knowing where to be. When he's got to take on these big linebackers, that'll be the big test. 

Q: Are there any other players on the roster that could play that position?

A:* *Well, some of the tight ends we have we're moving around and using in those spots as well. That's part of the deal, do we keep a fullback on the roster or do we add more tight ends? Should all shake out here in this preseason.

Q: How rare is the traditional fullback in today's NFL?

A: There's hardly any in college football anymore, so that makes it a little bit more difficult. The way that people are using the 11 personnel so much more and the spread offenses. There isn't quite near as many opportunities for them. So if a guy is going to play, let's say 10 plays a game, he better be really good on special teams as well in order to make the squad. So, that's always kind of a situation where you have to try to figure it out.

Q: Dalvin Cook said he sees a lot of similarities in the offense Florida State ran compared to the offense here, how much easier does that make his transition?

Q: Well, Dalvin did a lot of different things. He ran from the I-formation, he ran from the gun, he's been very good at all those. I think some of the offensive plays are similar but he's done a good job when he's been in there. I don't know how much it's helped him or how much it's not helped him.

Q: How much work do you expect for Latavius Murray to be able to handle?

A: I don't know yet. We haven't seen him to see [Eric] Sugarman yet. We'll see how it goes.

Q: How nice is it to have both him and Cook?

A: I think him and [Jerick] McKinnon, all those guys will add to some of the depth. Part of it is us figuring out the roles for each of those guys. For the young running backs, pass protection is always the number one thing. They've got to be able to protect the quarterbacks on the pressures. So that'll be a good test for Dalvin. Latavius has done that a lot in the past. I don't anticipate that being an issue. Jerick had a chance to do quite a bit of it last year. I feel good about the running back spot.

Q: What are you looking to see from Dalvin Cook at training camp?

A: More of the same. I thought he had a really good spring. The thing with running backs is the vision and acceleration to the hole are always big. When he has a crease to be able to accelerate through it, I thought he did a really good job with those things. For a guy of shorter stature, in college at least, he was a physical back. He carried his pads out in front of him. So, him taking the hits, delivering the hits and holding on to the football.

Q: Would you consider Dalvin Cook on kick returns?

A: I don't know. I saw the thing that [Mike] Priefer said and I asked him about it. I don't know. We'll see. We're just trying to win games. We don't care how we do it. If that's the best option, then maybe we'll do it. 

Q: Do you anticipate Sharrif Floyd participating in training camp?

A: I don't know. I don't know. He's improved. That's the last I heard, but I don't know where he's at. I haven't seen him yet. 

Q: Do you expect that Teddy Bridgewater will start training camp on the physically unable to perform list?

A: I think so, but again I haven't seen him. 

Q: What kind of culture have you established when it comes to rookies getting veteran advice as they get acclimated?

A: I think on most football teams guys, especially when you get into the NFL, it's kind of an exclusive club, and people understand that all these guys were rookies before. I know I've probably said this too much, but we've got some really good guys on this team. They want to help guys get better because they know it'll help them and help the team. We're fortunate that our veteran guys, like take Danielle Hunter when he was a young guy under their wings and I think our coaches do a good job of that too. We're just trying to get that culture where people come in, they're a part of the family.

Q: What's the progress on your eye recovery?

A: Good. I was able to fly. I've got a contact in now, so my vision is much better. 

Q: Is the eye bubble out?

A: Yes, the bubble is out.  

Vikings Running Back Dalvin Cook

Q: How does it feel to be at your first training camp?

A: It feels great. Weather is good, the fans came out to support, and I am feeling the love. It feels great to be back out here and I am ready to play some football. It feels good.

Q: What are you trying to get out of training camp?

A: I am going to try to get everything out of it. I am going to try to get the wisdom from the vets, try to learn something from the rookies, try to get more of a feel for the game and the systems, and really just try to go out there and establish myself for the fans and for my teammates.

Q: With Latavius Murray being here now, how do you feel about, perhaps, a head-to-head battle with him for the starting job?

A: We are going to push each other, and I think the good thing about this backfield is that we have some workhorses in the backfield. We have guys that are going to push each other to the next level and are going to get the best out of each other, so having those two guys in the meeting room with me is good because they never let you get comfortable with yourself. That is the good thing about us.

Q: What kind of expectations do you have for yourself?

A: Really coming out and establishing myself, and really just showing these guys that I am ready to come and play. I am ready to come help this organization win football games, and that is the main goal of why they drafted me here, so that is why I am willing to show my teammates and everybody else. That is what I am trying to get out of this. Come and play some good football and I hope to have some good results about it.

Q: You have a new team, new surroundings, new state to live in. How comfortable do you feel about getting to know your new home?

A: From OTAs and mini camp, I got comfortable with everything, really. I am feeling everything out. My teammates are making me feel real comfortable and I just think the unique thing about this situation is that we have some good vets that welcome everybody with open arms. They are doing a great job of that and they are making the rookies feel real comfortable, so I am pretty comfortable with my situation. 

Q: Going through the OTAs and minicamp, how do plan to contribute to the offense?

A: We are running the same thing [as FSU]. Zone, Inside zone, outside zone, utilizing me to catch the football. I just think getting the ball in my hand in as many ways as possible is where I can make plays. I did the same thing at Florida State and I think that is why this situation is so unique. I just feel like I am in the same situation, I just have to take advantage of it.

Q: You have been through the offseason program with rookie camp and mini camp, and now it is the big stage. What do you think the biggest difference of what you have been through so far, and what you are about to get into?

A: Like I said, football is football, you are just going to it at another level. Guys decide that people feed their families, so you have got to approach it the same way they approach it. I have not put on pads since the Orange Bowl, so that is what I am most looking forward to. Going out there and putting on pads and just getting the physical contact part of the game back. That is going to be the only thing I look forward to: getting back in pads and establishing myself.

Q: What have you done in the past month leading up to training camp, to make sure you are ready to go?

A: Keeping my body fine-tuned because it's a physical game. Your body is everything in this game, so taking care of my body, training, spending time with family, and just relaxing and staying out of the way, and just enjoying myself.

Q: What has been the motivation for you knowing that this organization has confidence in you knowing that you are replacing Adrian Peterson

A: For them to have confidence in me, it means a lot to me and that is why I pride myself in not letting them down. To have confidence in me, means a lot to me, so I am going to give it my all each and every day. Every game, every snap, every meeting, to prove to these people why they drafted me and why they had so much confidence in me. I am going to prove myself to them and give it my all.

Q: Do you compare yourself to Adrian Peterson?

A: That would not be fair to him. He is a future Hall of Famer. This is my first year in the NFL, I am not as close to him, so I cannot compare myself to him at all because he is going to go down as one of the greatest backs in history probably. So I just have just got to go out there and work and I cannot have that in my head. Adrian Peterson is one of the greats and one of the people I look up to so I cannot compare myself to him.

Vikings Running Back Latavius Murray

Q: How is your health heading into the first practice tomorrow?

A: My health is really good. I'm feeling good and the progress is coming along. As far as practice, I'm not sure yet. I still have to get with coach and the training staff to see what they're going to have me do.

Q: What do you think it can do for these young players and new faces to have a couple of days to get acclimated here before everything really gets going?

A: I think the fact that they'll have a few days before everyone else comes back into the offense and defense will be very helpful. It'll be helpful for me just being here. I'm happy to be able to dive back into the playbook, and again, I want to learn it as much as I can, inside and out, so when I'm back on the field I'm able to play fast. 

Q: How do you feel about being the veteran of the running back group? Have you been able to get to know the other backs and offer help?

A: I definitely think I've been able to help. I'm in every meeting and I go out on the field while they're practicing. Again, for me it takes some getting used to knowing that I'm the veteran now, because I've been under some older guys for most of my career. But any help I can give, I give them. We talk often and we text outside of the building. I'm here to help always. I've always said when you have that type of competition in the room it makes everybody better. At the end of the day, the best player is going to play, whether that's me, Dalvin [Cook], Jet [Jerick McKinnon], or [Terrell] Newby. The best running back is going to play, so everybody has to have that kind of mindset and everybody has to go out there and compete.

Q: Now that you are healthy, how intense do you think the competition to replace Adrian Peterson will be?

A: To be honest, I don't think anybody is looking at it in that way. We obviously know that guy was great in that uniform, but I think for everybody in the running back room right now it's about the individual. For me, I want to be the best player I can be, and I want to be taking the snaps and be the number one back, and I know each other guy wants to do that as well. I think for everyone in there it's about themselves and getting better so they can be the guy.

Q: Seeing the rookies get off the bus, did that take you back to when you were a rookie?

A: I'm not going to lie, thankfully I didn't have to report early when I was a rookie. I think they just added that in here, that they're able to report early. We did it last year out in Oakland. But I did have a lot of nerves, especially when I turned into the campus. For one, I've never done an actual training camp in the dorm room, so I'm getting that whole feel. We were spoiled out there at the Marriott in Oakland. I had a lot of nerves, as again, I'm in a new situation. You never know what to expect, but I think a lot of that too is just excitement that the season is really, really close.

Q: How did you become a successful pass blocker?

A: To be honest, for a while I never thought I was a good pass protector. I actually thought I was really bad at it. So I was very critical on myself, especially if I got bull rushed or if I got juked. I was very critical of myself and I think that really motivated me to use my frame, even if it may not look pretty. Use my frame, use my size, and make sure my guys doesn't touch the quarterback. I think I've been able to improve on that each year.

Q: How difficult has it been for you coming to a new team and not knowing when the first time you'll be able to put the uniform on will be?

A: It's very difficult, because those guys, they have the upper hand. They've been out there practicing. Dalvin, he's been in the system. It's one thing for me to watch from the sideline, but when you're in it, it's much easier to learn when you're able to make the mistakes that I can only see. I would say that they're ahead of the game right now, so when I do come back I have some making up to do. I have to bust my behind to make sure I set myself apart.

Vikings Center Pat Elflein

Q: Have you gotten a sense of what the coaches are focusing on how to improve the line?

A: The pressure is on us and we show up to practice every day like that. We know we have to get better and do our job. There's great players all over the field that if we do our job then that'll allow them to do their job better and it'll complete the team. We know we have to do our job and that's what we're here to do.

Q: What is your first impression of training camp and seeing the fans out here?

A: We have a diehard fan base out here in Minnesota, that's my first impression and I love it. It's what I'm used to. Seeing all these fans out here and all the little kids makes me excited to play ball again.

Q: Is there a sense of anxiousness to get started?

A: Yeah, there always is especially being a rookie and coming to camp for the first time. A little bit of anxiousness but I feel that's normal when you got something big coming up. I'm just excited to get out there and play.

Q: So what are you expecting to be different from rookie minicamp to OTAs to now?

A: Yeah, it's the real deal now. Pads will come on and guys, everybody is fighting for a job and that will definitely be a little different. I'm excited to get up there and compete with everybody.

Q: Do you like that it's just the rookies to start out instead of everybody showing up?

A: Yeah, I mean that'll help get everything working again and getting back in the groove and figuring out where everything is on the campus. I'm about to go hop on my bike and kind of figure out where everything is at. Once it really gets going with the pads every day and the grind then I'll get my barring and know where I'm at and get used to everything so it is nice getting down here a little early.

Q: What would it mean to you to earn a starting role as a rookie?

A: It'd be crazy, a dream come true. That's a little ways down the road, a lot of work ahead. It'd be incredible. It'd be awesome. However, I can help this team I'm here to do that and show that I can. I'm excited to get out there and compete.

Q: What have you from learned since joining the NFL?

A: I've learned a lot like how to play at this level and the speed of this level and we have a really good defense and going against that every day will help me set my game up.

Q: What's the biggest thing to set you apart from other people to earn you a starting spot?

A: Being consistent and doing it every play and not just doing it well two plays and bad one play. You have to do it every play. I think consistency is a major factor on the offensive line play overall. Whoever can do it over and over again and can do it best across the board will get the job.

Q: What are your first few expectations for the first few days of practice before the veterans get here?

A: I'm sure they'll operate similar to the way they did OTAs. We practiced hard during those times and I'm sure it'll be similar to that. I'm sure we'll figure it out real quick what the expectations are. Knowing Coach Zimmer, they're gonna be really high every day. I'm excited to get out there.

Vikings Wide Receiver Rodney Adams

Q: This is obviously the last year in Mankato, there's obviously a lot of veterans who don't mind if the Vikings don't come down her anymore, but a lot of great players have come through here. How do you feel only getting one year here?

A: I mean, at least I got a chance to experience Mankato. That's a good thing but I'm happy that we are building a new facility next year for our training camp and it's going to be a great experience.

Q: How do you see yourself fitting in the wide receivers room?

A: I'm just here to help in any way that I can. I'm here to do whatever I can to help out the Wide Receiver core, to help out the teammates. I'm just here to help.

Q: What is on your list of must haves at camp to bring with you?

A: I just started a YouTube channel. I'm vlogging now so my main thing was my camera.

Q: What can people expect on your YouTube channel?

A: Just the inside of an NFL player's life, inside of my life. YouTube channel is Rodney Adams, no spaces.

Q: What are some of the highlights on your channel so far?

A: I've got two videos up right now, just training the last two days before training camp with Adam Thielen and Mobo [Moritz Böhringer] the German assassin, that's his name.

Q: What are your expectations for the first couple of days before veterans come in and what do you expect to happen there?

A: To pick up where I left of from OTAs, and to keep learning and keep growing and to make sure I'm ready for when the vets get here.

Q: Do you expect normal practices?

A: I'm not sure what to expect because when we asked they said this is the first time they made the rookies come up early so I'm not sure what to expect. 

Q: What has Thielen told you? Have you picked his brain on what to expect here?

A: The only thing Adam told me is to be ready for the rookie talent show. That's the only thing he told me. I'm still searching for that. I got a while to think about what I want to do.

Q: What are your impressions of seeing the fans line up?

A: It's great to see the fans out here. They are dedicated and ready for us to win the Super Bowl. Its great seeing them out here and supporting us, it's pretty cool.

Q: How much have you been looking forward to really hitting the ground running now that the season is finally here?

A: It's different, because once you get to rookie minicamp and then OTAs it's like, "oh you're here", but then when its training camp time it's like, "oh man I have to step it up a little bit more". It's a great feeling. I'm excited for it.

Vikings Wide Receiver RJ Shelton

Q: What is it like coming to camp?

A: First of all, it's a blessing coming to camp, number one. Number two, just want to make sure I give everything I got and show this team I can contribute and do what I can do.

Q: What does it feel like to do something new and there is so much at stake?

A: It's exciting. I know it's a challenge. I'm going to step up to it and make sure I do it the best of my ability.

Q: Do you think your BIG Ten background helps?

A: Of course, Michigan State made the man who I am today. We played a lot of key games and a lot of crucial games, great competition. So, I feel that I'm ready to do what it does. 

Q: What does Trae Waynes tell you?

A: He really hasn't told me a lot; he is a quiet guy, but he's also a great player. I go to him for advice and on anything. He does a really good job for this team and I just want to be able to contribute like him.

Q: How did you prepare for this?

A: Just working out every day and staying in routine. Making sure I am getting my body in tip top shape so I can come out here and compete. It was nothing out of the ordinary for me, so it was just more working hard and doing the right things.

Vikings Wide Receiver Isaac Fruechte

Q: What are your thoughts on coming in early?

A: It's nice to be in Mankato to compete and work hard.  I am excited to here; this is a great time of year.

Q: What do you get out of these next few days?

A:  I think just kind of touching up on things we worked on through minicamp and OTA's. Also, just trying to get better and showcase what you can do help this team win.

Q: What is training camp to a player?

A: For me, it's a time to come out and enjoy what you love doing. My dad's a coach and I am a coach's son, I've always been around football, loved it, and still do. I am excited to be here.

Q: Your body clock just tells you its time go this time of year?

A: I woke up this morning and was like, "it's time to go". I am excited to get to work.

Q: You must be pretty optimistic going into this season?

A: I am not really focused on that. I am just trying to work hard and help this team in any way that I can.

Q: I bet you have learned a lot over these last couple years?

A: Yeah, for sure. It's fun being here and learning. I am just continuing to try and get better. That's my goal. Again, I am just trying to help this team win.

Q: What do special teams mean to you?

A: It's kind of the heart of the soul of the team. Offense and defense work together to try and get something done towards a common goal. You know, you can really affect the game, it's a third of the game and people forget about it. It's really important and I love playing special teams. I hope to be out there a lot.

Q: What do you think the value is for players to have these extra couple days?

A: I think it's huge. It's refreshing the playbook and getting used to the scenery, where you are, and what you have to do. You know, it's great; it's a good thing for us. It should be an exciting time for everybody.

Q: Do you find yourself getting a little nostalgic that this is the last camp in Mankato?

A: I like Mankato and love Mankato. But, I think Eagan is going to be awesome. I can't wait to see what that is like. Mankato has been great though, it's fun.

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