Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer
Great to see everybody. It's great to be back in Mankato. It's a great university. They do a phenomenal job and the operations department does a great job. Great facilities, really good people, they welcome us with open arms. Obviously it's my sixth training camp here, so I spend a lot of time up here but I do enjoy coming here and getting a lot of football done and it's an exciting time of year for us.
Q: You guys brought a couple of punters in mini-camp but not to camp, what was the motivation behind that?
A: The two young men that we brought into the rookie mini-camp did a really nice job in camp and were obviously on the top of our list. We went through the spring hoping Jeff would have a good spring and he really did, so we decided we were going to go with one right now. Jeff obviously got us through two difficult years outdoors at TCF Stadium. That's a tough place to punt especially in November, December and January. I thought he did a lot better job than the numbers say he did, and a lot of people got on him about his numbers but if you go back and look at it nobody wants to punt at TCF with the weather and the winds we get there. There was not one punter I talked to that wanted to punt at TCF. I thought Jeff really helped us out and did a great job as a holder for us. He's got to have a good camp here or we'll end up bringing in competition. But for right now it's Jeff.
Q: Talking about TCF you guys did a lot of homework are you still doing the same thing with U.S. Bank Stadium?
A: We did. We sent the specialists down there twice during the spring. They both, kicker, punter, and snapper had two workouts during our mini-camp we had back in June. On those days all those huge windows were open and I didn't think it had much of an affect. We'll tell our opponents that we just press a button and that the wind will blow right in their faces when they kick a long field goal. But it's a beautiful venue. I got a chance to go this summer with a couple of my children. It's an incredible building and the Wilf's did a great job and city of Minneapolis and the state of Minnesota did a great job. It's going to be an exciting time for us. We went in there and did our homework. I think anytime that you go down there, and I'll send them down there during the season as well just to get used to the sight lines, and the field itself and the turf itself, and make it a home field advantage for us.
Q: With Cordarrelle Patterson out right now, who are you looking to at kick returner?
A: Marcus Sherels will get some looks at kickoff returner, Jerick McKinnon possibly. Troy Stoudermire came in and he's done a nice job this spring and so far in camp. Adam Thielen can be a kickoff-returner if we need him to be. Marken Michel is working there, another young free agent, and Terrell Sinkfield is also working back there.
Q: How have you felt about Blair and his confidence level coming into camp?
A: Yes, but I'll be honest with you he moved beyond back in May or April when came in for workouts. Not that it's not important to him, and he'll be the first one to tell you that. Blair is a confident guy but he's also very prideful and a sensitive guy in the sense that anytime he goes out there the play involves points and he's got to be productive for us. I think going forward his confidence right now is good. He had a great spring. I think he hit 92 or 93 percent of his 250 kicks that he took in the spring. He's the best kickoff guy in the NFL. He's going to keep being productive, and he's tweaked a couple of things this offseason that he's working on and that we've worked on together, so hopefully he'll have a great year for us.
Q: Has Blair Walsh always been the guy that's displayed the high level of confidence?
A: Blair is a guy that believes in his abilities and he's humble enough to know that he has to work on those abilities and that's why he's such a great kid. He's a coachable guy and that's what makes him one of the top kickers in the league in my opinion. His talent and his work ethic are second to none and he's going to keep working to get better and be successful for us.
Q: How will moving indoors impact kick returns?
A: The distance will be impacted obviously, they're not kicking into the wind anymore and they're not kicking with the wind anymore. We're going to have to do a really good job studying guys and knowing how they're going to kick indoors. If they don't have any indoor tape we have to do the best we can setting up guys in the right spots like Marcus Sherels. Whoever our punt returner is, making sure they're at the right spots so they're not going to far back or forward. Kickoff returners, we're still going to be very aggressive even with the new kickoff push back rule. We have to be smart when we do that. The new rules, I'm glad that they're still tweaking it. It's not as a dangerous play as a lot of people think but we're going to continue making it safer and it's a great exciting play in our league and have to hope we keep it and continue to make it safer for our guys. The new rule makes you a little more of a strategist. Coach Zimmer and I are talking before every kickoff and kickoff return, to make sure we are making the right decisions to help our football team field position wise.
Q: What goes into that deciding if its eight yards deep we'll bring it out this other time we won't?
A: Beginning the game, eight yards deep, really good hang time, we don't want to start out at the 12. If we don't get a good return, we'll take a knee at about the 25. But if we're down by 10 with minutes to go in the game, we might say let's go because he has the ability to score a 109-yard touchdown. Pick and choose our spots and be smart about it field position-wise. Whatever helps our football team, we're going to go from there.
Q: How about on the other end when you're kicking off?
A: If it's a great returner, we're going against Ameer Abdullah, an outstanding returner for Detroit, and it's early in the game, you might want to put it back in the end zone, either at Detroit or our place. But if it's a situation where we got to get the ball back and we want to pin them deep, we use our timeouts, they kicked it, they get bad field position, we would get a good return. Go down, kick it again, with a field goal, we might put it high and shorter. There's going to be a lot of different strategy that's involved. It's going to be fun.
Q: Will you get the opportunity to try some things in the preseason?
A: I've always looked at preseason games for special teams, we're moving guys in and out, but I treat them like game-like situations. You're practicing coaching and getting ready for the regular season. Coach Zimmer and I will be talking about those situations as the game goes on. We're making those decisions based on as if it's a normal game.
Q: How much time do you need to see players like Adam Thielen and Marcus Sherels in preseason games when you've seen their experience?
A: What I think we're going to do is limit their reps. We know what they can do. We're going to try and keep them healthy and they're going to get reps on the offense and defense. I do want to take a look at a lot of the young guys because I told them right when they got here, I've got a couple of jobs. Number one, I've got to develop these young players to see who can make our football team, number two, I've got to do whatever I can to help our team win games and make those type of decisions. A lot of those decisions are personnel decisions and the recommendations I give to Rick Spielman and Coach Zimmer, I won't be able to give good answers to their questions if I don't see them on tape. We're going to use a lot of guys, I think last year in the first preseason game we use 60 different guys in the of special teams. We're going to take a look at a lot of guys.
Q: Blair obviously has the strong leg for kickoffs, how is he on the shorter high kickoffs?
A: He's pretty good, we worked a lot in the spring. Sometimes our ceilings are a little bit low in Winter Park and sometimes he's hit the ceilings on those higher shorter ones. It's something he takes a lot of pride in. He knows he's not just a field goal kicker, he's a very good kicker specialist as well. We called it the bag of tricks the different types of kicks he's got to be good at and that's going to continue.
Q: Jeff Locke, what are some things he still needs to do after last season?
A: He needs to be a much more consistent performer. Yesterday he had a couple of good punts and a couple of punts that weren't very good. He needs to be the most consistent guy in the league that we can rely on, especially when we're going indoors. When we punted indoors for three games last year, I think he had six or seven punts but we had outstanding games and he really helped us with field position. So if he can translate that and continue to get stronger and better when we go to U.S. Bank and when we go to Detroit for indoor games, we've got something. He's got to continue to improve as he goes outside. For him, it's all about consistency.
Q: What's the stat you look at the most for Locke?
A: If we can net over 40 yards, I'll be happy. I think with the way our guys come and we were fifth in the league punt coverage, we had a really good cover team and Jeff was a part of that. He's not going to kick it 60 yards, with a 4.2 hang time because that's going to hurt our coverage and they have the opportunity for a big play. So we're going to kick them a little bit higher and a little bit shorter with a lot of teams and let's go cover.
*Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards *
It's good to be back in Mankato, great weather, facilities have been great. Yesterday was the first day of pads; it was great to finally see the guys get a chance to put on the pads and get a chance to evaluate them some in pads on the first day. First day of press coverage, getting able to see some of the corners get up there and press. It's an exciting time right now and we're excited about being here and being able to work in this atmosphere. I know we had a big crowd yesterday and it's a very exciting atmosphere for us.
Q: What have you seen from Trae Waynes so far?
A: I think yesterday you could tell he had a lot of recall from what he's done in the offseason and from what he had from last year. We've been playing off this whole offseason and the first couple days we're not allowed to press and then yesterday he kind of got up there a few times and you could see, he's very good in and out of the breaks and those kind of things. There's still a lot of things we've got to clean up and work on.
Q: What are you working on with him [Trae Waynes]?
A: Just that, just the little windows that we're talking about as far as the coverage - the press technique, playing off, getting in and out of the break - all those things. We're just continuing to grow, continuing to work, continuing to evaluate. We're excited with where he is at right now and look forward to his progression throughout the rest of camp.
Q: If you had to assess all three units, how much confidence do you have in them?
A: I think our guys feel a lot more comfortable now that we've been here going into our third season. Now they're not having to think quite as much, they're able to line up and execute the fundamentals and techniques that we've been working. It's still a work in progress, it's not like just getting on a bike and riding it every day. There's something we can always improve on, something we can always work towards. We're excited where they are right now, I think they're excited where they are. Just got to keep working at it, keep grinding at it to get it to come together. Do the best we can and be excellent every day.
Q: What have you seen from Everson, is he continuing to grow as a pass rusher?
A: There's no doubt about it, he's really worked hard this offseason to improve his tool box as far as his pass rushes and things that people are trying to do to him. I think he's got a good feel for where that is right now. He's added some more moves in there to his pass rush, realizing what he needs to do at certain times. I tell ya, he's one of the hardest workers, he's going to come out here every day to improve. He did it all offseason and he's got off to a good start so far in camp.
Q: What have you seen from Eric Kendricks in his second training camp?
A: Last year was his first year, first time in the system. After going through the season now he's calm because he's confident in what it is that he's doing, that's been a blessing. His communication has been a lot better, he hasn't had to think quite as much. He's been able to use the athleticism that he has. He's been making plays in coverage, he's been doing a good job in the run game. We're just looking forward to him continuing to improve and work on those things at the position.
Q: What are the expectations for Danielle Hunter?
A: Well we're just continuing to look for him to improve. Continue to add to his tool box as far as his rush, continue to work on his run game. He's a very diligent worker. He's one of those guys that's he's going to come to work every single day. That's what he's done, he really did a tremendous job this offseason. You can see, he works out phenomenally. He works out all the time. Now just getting him back into football. Making sure he's working the fundamentals and the techniques, staying low in his rushes. Coming out and knowing when to long-arm and those types of deals. We're still just working to continuing to improve with him but we're excited where he's at right now.
Q: What was it like working for Tony Sparano?
A: Coach Sparano is sort of a person - what you see is what you get. He's going to tell you the truth whether you like it or you don't like it. Good man, good person, really enjoyed my time working with him. Glad he's here on our staff now, looking forward to the opportunity to work with him throughout the season
Q: What is it about your system that has allowed Tom Johnson to be so successful?
A: I think Tom came in and bought into what it is we were trying to teach. Paid attention to the detail, understood what we're asking from him from a position standpoint. Knowing what his abilities were and he comes out here every day to get the most out of his abilities. He's got in there at three-technique, probably not as big as some of the other three-techniques that we have. But with this technique and with his fundamentals, understanding what people are trying to do to him, he's got a good chance to go out there and be successful from snap-to-snap.
Q: How do you fuel the fire to improve the team's two minute defense?
A: Well Coach Zimmer does an excellent job. We work situational offense, defense and special teams every day. He covers something from that every single day. From that aspect of it the two minute is a part of it and it's a part that we know we need to improve on. We will have those session of two minute throughout our training camp. I think we are starting in the next day or so and we'll also have it as we go through the preseason. But it's something that we realized last year will help benefit us not to give up points and field position in those situations, which are critical times of the game that can really swing the momentum one side or the other. That is an emphasis for us, our guys realize it and we realize those are things that we've got to do a better job as far as communicating, executing and challenging throws down the field.
Q: How is Stephen Weatherly's transition from a standing linebacker back to defensive end going?
A: He was a standing 3-4 linebacker, but he possess the tools that we look for in a defensive end within our scheme of things. He's come in and he's bought in, but some things he's still having a time grasping back to. He really hasn't played true defensive end since his freshman year of college. His freshman year of college he was a true defensive end. If you go back and look at him there, you can see some of the things that we were looking at him when he came out. But he's come in and bought into what we are trying to do and guys can see the potential. He's got a chance to help us and he's working diligently to pick up on the techniques and fundamentals. He's thinking a little bit right now, but I think with more reps and the more time we put into it he'll continue to get better down the road.
Q: What are the advantages of Brian Robsion standing up versus a three point stance?
A: Well B-Rob (Brian Robison) provides a lot of versatility. Now all of a sudden we're using him in the pass rush and some on the guards. He's grabbed it by the horns and has done a tremendous job with it. He understands what people are doing protection wise and gets us in the right stunts. When you can get your best pass rushers out there and we've got different things that we're asking them to do, we feel as we keep going down the road we think he can help us out in there and build that package quite a bit.
Q: What's the look of him standing up and rushing that way?
A: I think it really puts immediate pressure right now on those guards especially when we're mugging up there with the linebackers. Right now we're just looking at the different things that he brings to the table to be able to help us and we're just going to keep working on it as we keep moving down the road.
Q: In that position, can he change his rush based on what he sees?
A: We can change a lot of things. We can do a lot of different things. It isn't just about him standing up. It's more about executing what we're trying to do and we're getting protection wise from week to week.
Q: Eric Kendricks seemed like he was doing too much last year, how has he adjusted to knowing where to stay and be?
A: Well I think it goes back to the same thing. I think he's a lot more comfortable with what he needs to do and doing his job with the fundamentals and techniques that we're asking him to do. Where his vision needs to be, not to try to make every play, but to make sure that you handle you job before you go try to do anything else. He's done an excellent job this offseason as far as being where he needs to be, understanding schematically what we are expecting out of him as far as the position. Communication-wise he's a lot better, so we're excited to keep seeing him grow.
Q: How's Mackenzie Alexander looking so far?
A: Mackenzie is doing good. He got hurt a little bit in the offseason, but he's come in and thus far has been good. Yesterday was his first day in press with the techniques and things there that we are asking him to do. So we've got some work to do there and just systematically it's his first time through it, his first time in pads yesterday, so he's thinking a little bit. I think the more reps he gets, he will continue to get better and understand what we are expecting out of him.
Q: Are you wanting Alexander to work on both outside and in the nickel?
A: Yes, we do that with all our corners. I mean every one of our corners we are going to work outside, inside because when numbers get down, you have to have the ability to do that if we get an injury during the course of the week.
Q: What did you want to see out of Trae Waynes this offseason?
A: Just continuing to see him grow, understand what we are trying to ask of him out of the position, understand systematically what people are trying to do to us and just continue to work on the fundamentals and techniques that he is working on. And he's done a good job. For the first day of press yesterday, I thought all of our defensive backs got up there and competed pretty good for the first day of press.
Q: Sounds like mostly mental?
A: I think it is, mental and body position as far as what we are asking him to do in different coverages and those type of things.
Q: Chad Greenway has a lot on his plate right now, what does it mean to have him back in the defense for another year?
A: Again, Chad is a true professional, he brings a lot to our room. Defensively, he brings a lot to the linebacker group. A guy that's been through the battles and he's going to do it right. He's very professional as far in as classroom, as far as when we get on the field and we are elated to have him out here at camp.
Vikings Safety Harrison Smith
Q: What kind of impressions have Teddy Bridgewater and the offense made on you these first couple days? How'd they look?
A: They're playing well. Teddy's throwing the ball short, intermediate, long. He's throwing some great footballs. Outside the numbers, he's making it tough on us, which is good. That helps everybody.
Q: Have you ever seen a safety with the size that Jayron Kearse has?
A: No, definitely not the height. He's a specimen, and he moves well and runs well. He's a good kid. I think we're all excited for what he can bring to the table.
Q: To have that kind of size at safety, what kind of impact does that have on an offense?
A: I think you see it across the board. Emmanuel Lamur is another guy, just a big-bodied, long guy; Barr. Those type of guys, they just take up so much space, close windows down. It's harder for quarterbacks to see, things like that. It's never a bad thing to have that length.
Q: You guys are returning almost every defensive snap from a year ago. That kind of continuity is kind of rare in the NFL. How do you think that can help this team?
A: The continuity is the thing that is not necessarily going to make plays for us, but it's going to help us kind of gel easier. We generally understand the defense. We still have a lot of work to do, but just the familiarity with one another can help us. We have to take advantage of it. Like I said, there's a lot of work to be done.
Q: Does that help you guys teach the younger players the system, too?
A: I think so. I think a lot of the young guys have a lot of trust in guys that have been here, just because they see how we follow Zim's lead, we go to work, we try to do things the way he wants us to do them. They kind of know that we at least have an idea of what we're doing.
Q: Is there more added to kind of what you can do on the field, now that you're in your third year in the system?
A: We'll see. I think I have a decent grasp of the things Zim expects out of us and wants from us, and there's still a lot to learn from him. I'm just kind of hanging around him, listening to him and trying to get things done the right way.
Q: Mike Zimmer says that perhaps the right safety next to you could help you get more out of your game. What do you think he means by that?
A: I'm not really sure, because – I've said this before – Zim's safeties get to have a lot of fun. We get to be all over the place. So, I don't know what more he could have us do. I'm sure there's more, because he's always creating new stuff. Whatever he dials up, we're all in.
Q: You talked about the continuity. Overall, as a secondary, how high is your confidence?
A: I think you have to have high confidence, especially as a guy in the secondary. Especially those corners outside playing by themselves, and then as the safeties, we want to help them. We want them to know that we're there for them. You just need a unity in the group, that you've kind of got each other's backs. There's a confidence, not only in yourself, but in the whole group.
Q: Speaking of corners, what have you seen from Trae Waynes and his progress since his rookie year to this offseason and training camp?
A: I don't want to get into a habit of commenting on other players, but Trae has always been a super-talented guy. He's a smart guy, and he's just getting better and better.
Q: You talked about Zim's creativity. In his third year, have you seen him throw in some new wrinkles, or is he more about perfecting the playbook that he instilled from the beginning?
A: He's definitely about perfecting it first. Before you go into doing more things, he wants to make sure that we're perfect in what we do, and I think that's why you've seen us become more successful as he has been here. We have to get more successful on top of that. There's really no point where just everything's great. You're going against Pro Bowlers every day, so you've got to bring your 'A' game.
Q: What does it take to achieve perfection under Mike Zimmer, being the coach that he is?
A: I don't think you're ever going to achieve it. I think you try to achieve it, and then you can get as close as you can get; but there's always going to be something you can do better, which is a good thing. You're always striving for something.
Q: Is there a lot of emphasis on creating more turnovers this year?
A: Yeah. Absolutely. If you win the turnover battle then you have a good chance at winning the ball game so it is something we've harped on. But not doing crazy things to create turnovers like jumping routes. We'll play within the scheme of the defense and try to get the ball.
Q: There was a lot of talk about improving in the two-minute defense. What do you think you need to do to improve?
A: It starts with the mindset. Even if you are up at half in a game, don't get complacent with that. Challenge the routes. Play hard. Team tackle. Get off the field on third down. Sometimes if you are up a few scores you can get complacent and not care as much because you know you are going to win but that isn't the point. It's about getting off the field. So it starts with a mindset.
Q: How about when you're down? What's the difference there?
A: When you are down. That is when you don't have to think about that. You are scrapping and you are fighting and challenging everything. That mindset should already be there.