Transcript: Spielman, Zimmer, Barr, and Stephen Addressed the Media on Thursday

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman

Thanks everybody for coming out today. It’s been an exciting last couple of days for our football team. Number one priority for us is we’re always trying to keep our own and Anthony Barr was the next one in line. Who we drafted and came in here, has done a phenomenal job for us. The development that these coaches do with these players and our philosophy is always going to be “try to get our players we draft into their second contracts”. Not only is Anthony a great football player on the field, but he’s an even better person off the field and how he represents our organization and all the things and charitable work he does off the field does not go unnoticed. Then to sign Shamar [Stephen] back and get him back into the fold on our defense, another young player that we developed. He went on vacation for a year, but we were able to get him back and he was another critical piece that we wanted to really hone in and focus in on once we kicked off this free agency. One thing I do want to mention is our ownership, the Wilf family, without the resources that they provide us we’re not able to keep these type of players or to bring these type of players back. We can’t do our job and it just goes to show you how special this ownership group is when we do ask to get the resources necessary to keep this football team together. They have never said no. I would also like to thank not only Coach Zimmer and the coaching staff for all the work that we started in this free agency period, but also Rob Brzezinski and George Paton, Ryan Monnens and our entire pro scouting department for all the work and effort they’ve put in this to put this all together. This is only the start of free agency. They’re plenty of things to come between, potentially, now and the draft and also after the draft. So you’re never stopped building your roster and we’ll continue to monitor and look things as we progress down the road here, but this is just the start of putting together the 2019 Minnesota Vikings.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer

Hello everybody, and happy early 99th birthday to you, Sid [Hartman]. Day’s like today are really important to me and the coaching staff. Without the ownership and the way they help us to be able to keep guys like Anthony and Shamar, it’s really, really important and dear to us. One of the great things about being able to be a coach is you get to teach guys and develop them and learn about their personalities, learn about how to try to get them better every day. For us to be able to have a guy like Anthony Barr come in here, and really Shamar, they both came in the same draft class. Rick obviously did a great job picking, that year especially. For guys like them to come in here and be able to be with us for maybe their entire career is something that we really look forward to. With Anthony, I can walk up to him and we speak the same language. I can say, “Hey, when they’re in this formation, or this personnel group,” and half the time he’ll answer me before I even get it out. That’s just the way he is. He’s a great football player, outstanding ability, and great leader in the locker room, really, everything about him. The way he practices, the way he prepares, the way he goes about his business each and every day, so I’m just really excited to have him. Shamar is a guy, really we used to call him “Big Fundamental” when he was here, because he did everything right, he worked hard, he helped in the running game, and he worked every single day on his craft of trying to rush the passer. They’re both great people, and that’s kind of the type of players that we’re trying to get here. Great people, good players who want to learn and get better, be great people in the locker room and help each other get better. It’s really a great day for me to get these two guys back, they’ll always be Vikings and they’ll always be “Zim guys”.

Q: What made Shamar Stephen a critical piece to bring back?

A: Well one of the things I felt like all along this year that if going into next season we have maybe a little bit more size in the middle, that would help the linebackers and some of the secondary guys. Help solidify some of the running game, we’re talking about doing some different things defensively this year, and being able to have a guy with Shamar’s versatility along with Linval [Joseph] inside, I think it will help us change some of the packages that we run.

Q: How involved were you in the recruiting of Anthony when the decisions were being made?

A: A little bit. I talk to Anthony and give him a text here and there, but it’s a great credit to him. He had opportunities to go all kinds of places, and I think it makes you feel good that he wants to come back to an organization like we have. The coaches, George Edwards and Adam [Zimmer], the things that they do, and be around the guys that are in our locker room. Eric Kendricks, Danielle [Hunter] and all those guys. The more that we can keep this group together and get guys back like Shamar, I think it’s a good thing for us, for this franchise, for this organization, for this defense.

Q: Did Shamar’s abilities in the run game play a factor in the decision to bring him back?

A: It did. The way he is, that’s the way he goes about his job. He’s quiet, he works real hard. You don’t really notice him, he just plays really, really good every time he goes out there. But yeah, it was really important, and again, some of the things that we’re thinking about doing and implementing this spring, I think it’s going to be really critical to have a guy like Shamar.

Q: Would you like to use Anthony more as a pass rusher?

A: Yeah, you know I know a lot of layman don’t understand this, but Anthony is a guy that every team that we play game plans for. There’s not one team – there might have been one team last year that didn’t, and we got 10 sacks. They all game plan for him. A lot of that is him sacrificing himself for being able to have other guys be able to be free on rushes and blitzes and things like that. That’s why he’s such an unselfish guy. We understand that no team that we play is ever going to say, “We’re not going to worry about Anthony Barr.” That’s part of it, and sometimes we do it anyway. That’s just part of it. We’re always going to try and scheme the best way to win on that particular Sunday.

Vikings Linebacker Anthony Barr

Good afternoon. Good to be back. Crazy couple days for me. Crazy year, really. Big thanks to the ownership, Rick Spielman, Rob Brzezinski, Coach [Mike] Zimmer, George Paton, the entire coaching staff, Vikings organization for making this happen. For me, it was a long time coming. This is where I want to be. This is my home, embedded in the community, do a lot of off-the-field work here. And I love my teammates, I love this locker room. The culture we have developed over the last five years, it’s been awesome. The bond I’ve made with my friends, my teammates and my coaches are unbreakable. It just felt right. This is where my heart was, this is where it’s always been, this is where it always will be. We have a beautiful home stadium, beautiful training facility. It’s hard to beat coming to work here every day with such a great group of guys. Looking forward to getting back to work and win a Super Bowl.

Q: Can you take us through what happened early this week?

A: Monday, I thought Monday was going to be a fun day. Monday was one of the worst days of my life, really. Trying to figure everything out. On the phone all day with my agent, my mom. Just going back and forth calling friends, teammates. It was a crazy day. I just followed my heart. I did what I wanted to do at the end of the day and I am happy with it. I feel so much better than I did 48 or 72 hours ago.

Q: Did that feel like the college recruiting process for you?

A: No, it was way worse. It was way worse. I’m serious, it was terrible. It was terrible. It’s over so I am happy.

Q: Why do you call it one of the worst days of your life?

A: I felt like it was a lot of, I don’t like talking on the phone, I feel like it was a lot of drama. I’m not really into all that. I had to make a life choice. This was my life. It was a big decision. That is why, mostly.

Q: Did you get a gut feeling when you gave a verbal agreement to the Jets?

A: I gave a verbal to my agent. We were going through the whole process. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to make it back here. I didn’t know if things were going to work out. I knew I had an opportunity to go elsewhere. It was right in front of my face. I feel like I jumped and then “Oh man, what did I just do?” Instantly I just didn’t feel right about it. It’s my life, I have to live it. Nobody else has to. I should be able to make the choice whatever I wanted. I could change my mind ten times if I want to. I don’t care what anybody has to say about that.

Q: How much did you sleep Monday night?

A: Monday I slept from 1:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. and then I was up for all morning just looking at my ceiling just looking for a sign. Talking to everybody, trying to figure something out and I did so it’s all good.

Q: How long was it before you called your agent back?

A: It was like instant. I think I called my mom first and I’m like, “I think I made a mistake.” And she was like, “Well you have to fix it.” I’m like, “Alright.” So I called my agent and he has to fix it. He has to deal with all the messy stuff. I just sit behind the scenes which is cool for me. It was like instant. I was trying to convince myself of something that I knew in my heart didn’t feel right. I think you follow your heart, I could live with the results.

Q: What were your emotions when you realized the Vikings are back in it?

A: I was super excited but I didn’t know if it was still a possibility. There was some confusion on my part. I don’t know, I was crying, laughing, sweating. The whole day was just crazy, full of emotions. Like I said, it came down to where I wanted to be and who I wanted to be with. These are my guys.

Q: How much of a role did Mike Zimmer play in your decision to come back and what communication did you have with him in this process?

A: A huge role. Coach Zim, that is my guy. I’d go to war for him any day. You all see him as a football coach but he is so much more than that. He treats us like his children. He demands a lot and I wouldn’t want it any other way so I owe him a lot and a big reason why I returned is because of Coach.

Q: Is it correct you gave the verbal commitment to your agent and you never communicated with anyone from the Jets?

A: Right. It was like that and honestly, when I called him back like, “Hey, I don’t know if I want to do this,” and it was already out everywhere. This is going to be a nightmare. I don’t care. I have to be happy.

Q: What did it feel like when the news started to break?

A: I didn’t even look at it. Honestly, he told me. I was on the phone and he was like, “It just leaked.” I was like, “Oh shoot.” I am not going to open my phone. I was already on it so I couldn’t really look at it. I didn’t want to deal with all that. Social media, it could be a brutal place, as I’m sure most of you know. I’ve had my fair share of social media instances so I try to keep my distance.

Q: Does this just confirm to you to always follow your gut then?

A: Yes. I feel so good. I am elated, top of the world. Money is cool but it comes and goes. It is not going to make me happy. I have money and I am happy with that. I was happy without money. The people you surround yourself with, the environment that you are in, it plays a big part. I am a big family guy. I love my family. And these are my extended family so I want to keep going with these guys.

Q: Was your initial decision based on New York giving you more money?

A: I think kind of but I also feel like I could fit, I could maybe help change what they have going on there. All the respect to the Jets organization and their coaching staff. It’s just not what I really wanted. I think initially I just jumped the gun. Even thought it was a full day with the conversation, I think I was trying to convince myself of something all day. I didn’t have to convince my heart because it already knew what I wanted.

Q: What was it like to call your mom back and let her know your decision to stay in Minnesota?

A: I know she was happy. I was calling her every time I got off the phone with my agent. I’d call her and, “Ok, this is what is happening, this is what is going on. They are at this number. We are going to this and that.” I could hear it in her voice, too, what she wanted. I didn’t make a decision for her, to make that clear. It’s for me but it’s always good to know that she is happy, too.

Q: Is there something to be said about chasing the next big deal and the grass isn’t always greener?

A: Yes, I mean I want to win and not to say that other teams and other organizations aren’t going to be successful. We’ve had our fair share of ups and downs here, too. But I want to continue to build on what we have and I feel like we do have a real chance to win. We have a really good team. Money is great but you can’t be miserable coming into to work every day. It’s miserable when you’re not winning. We’ve been through that situation where we lost like what, six in a row, in 2016 or something like that. I was afraid to come to work because it was not going to be fun. I am not saying that is the environment elsewhere, but I don’t know what it is like. I know what it is like here and I know even those times it would suck, we were going to grind through it and make it better. I knew I could trust the people in there.

Q: You’ve said repeatedly that you think you’re better going forwards then going backwards. Do you anticipate that becoming more of a role that you play here in the next five years?

A: I’m not sure. I think the coaches have always done a great job playing to my strengths, and I think they’ll continue to do that. Whatever I’m asked to do, I’ll try to do to the best of my ability. I’ll try to make the players around me better. I think I’ve been able to do that to a certain extent since I’ve been here. I think that’s how you measure the leaders. Can you make everybody else better and can you get everybody on the same page doing the same thing. To do that with 11 guys on defense for 70 plays a game is not easy, but it’s a role I’ve accepted and it’s a role I enjoy and a role I’m looking forward to continuing.

Q: Do you feel like your career been like dog years, with everything you’ve experienced on and off the field?

A: Yeah, I’ve definitely aged a little bit over the last couple of days, 26 going on 37, you know. But it’s all good. Physically I feel great. Mentally, I’m clear now, and I can just go out and play and be successful.

Q: When you were considering where to go, did the potential of having a new role in a different scheme play a factor in your decision making?

A: Yeah, I mean you always want to know how you’re going to be used, and kind of what the plan is for you. But it’s hard to get into those details in such a short amount of time, and I knew what my role is here and I expect it to get even bigger now. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Q: So it wasn’t super clear what your role may have been with other teams?

A: They’re always going to tell you what you want to here, is what I think. If I’m recruiting somebody, I’m going to tell them what they want to hear so I get them, then I can do whatever I want once I got them. Not saying that’s what they are going to do, but that’s kind of how I thought about it. Everything that anyone said to me, I took it for what it was worth, but I always kept in mind that they’re going to be looking out for themselves as well. That’s really what it came down to, I got to look out for myself and I got to do what I believe is best for myself.

Q: To clarify, did you take a free agent visit to the Jets?

A: Nope.

Q: Is it fair to say that you are a fan of the two-day negotiating period, where you’re not able to officially sign?

A: Yeah I guess that worked into my favor. It worked out, it worked out.

Vikings Defensive Tackle Shamar Stephen

Hi everybody it’s good to be back.

Q: Still a talkative guy?

A: No. Not at all.

Q: What did you miss the most about the Vikings?

A: Really the culture, being around the guys, the coaches. Getting back under Coach Dre [Andre Patterson] and doing my fundamentals, technique, stuff like that and being developed here because I was brought up here. It’s the first team I came to and they brought me through the NFL and made me the player that I am today.

Q: How did Seattle use you compared to how the Vikings used you? How are they talking about using you this year?

A: Seattle I was playing more nose, played a little bit at three, but mostly nose. Here, I’m up to whatever the coaches want me to play, three, nose – no matter it is I’m here to work and be able to help them in run, pass – whatever they want me to do.

Q: Now they do have that void in three-technique, how comfortable are you going back to that role that you played previously in 2016?

A: It’s not even an issue. I’m comfortable at three and nose. I’ve been playing it my whole life so I feel comfortable there. I’ve got great coaches that can help me. Dre [Andre Patterson] is probably one of the best fundamental, technique wise and to teach me what I need to do, so I’m not worried about it at all.

Q: What stands out about Andre Patterson and how much you’ve been able to learn from him?

A: Really it’s just his passion to make everyone better players each and every year. You have elite players every year and you see them grow even more and more. For instance, Danielle [Hunter] he’s become a great player. Before then he was what a fourth round draft pick and he’s become an elite player, top pass rusher. He has guys that are producing every year and I mean he gets the best out of you every day. For me, that’s perfect for me and I feel comfortable around a guy like Coach Patterson.

Q: How crazy was the free agency process? Did you have to make a quick decision?

A: I would say I made a pretty quick decision, but it was the best decision for me coming back to a place where I’m comfortable at. The culture here is amazing from the top down from the ownership to the coaches and to the players around me. It’s a very, very great group and the chemistry here is what I missed.

Q: Did any teammates help in you decision?

A: I mean I always keep in contact with the guys that are here. I talked to the d-line guys all the time, pretty much every week. I talk to them, stay in touch with them, it’s pretty much like a brotherhood with those guys

Q: Do you envision playing more three-technique?

A: I mean it’s whatever the coaches want. I’m comfortable playing three-technique, I’m comfortable playing nose. Whatever they want me to do I’m willing to do it.

*Q: They say when you go somewhere else and come back you appreciate it more. Is that the case coming back to Minnesota? *

A: Yeah, I can kind of see that because you have stuff that you do every day, guys that you’re with every day and stuff that you miss about being here that you didn’t have in another place and I had a great time in Seattle. It was a great experience, but it feels great to be back here with guys that I’m comfortable what and stuff that I missed from playing with my previous team.

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