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Transcript: Vikings Address the Media on NFC Championship Wednesday

*Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer   *

Getting ready for a very, very good Philadelphia football team. Going on the road, it'll be a tough environment. So, we'll have our work cut out for us. We'll have to play great in all three areas to win this football game.

Q: Looking at things a little more, what stands out about Philadelphia's offense?

A: Number one, they've got an excellent offensive line. They do a great job in the running game, the schemes. The running backs are very hard to tackle. They have a lot of run-pass options and they have excellent receivers. I think [Nick] Foles has done a good job of understanding where to go with the football and the things that they are trying to do with him.

Q: Has the Eagles' offense changed now with Nick Foles at quarterback?

A: It really hasn't changed too much honestly. Wentz scrambled around a lot more probably, but as far as the scheme, it really hasn't changed too much.

Q: They team got to enjoy the Sunday's win, but have they done a good job of leaving that behind them now and moving forward to focus on the NFC Championship game?

A: Yes, we understand the magnitude of this football game and it's three days ago, so it's time to get on to Philadelphia and understand the things we have to do. I think our players are smart enough to understand what's going on, so I don't see any problem.

Q: Can you prepare for the conditions that are going to be there; the grass, the fans, etc. or is that just experience?

A: I did show the team the tape today of the surroundings, the situation, the field, so we'll try to do the best we can.

Q: When the team talks about Stefon Diggs, they always mention how hard he works. What do you seem from him in that regard and how hard of a worker he is?

A: He works really hard. All of our guys work hard, so it's not unusual, but he works hard, catches the ball, runs good routes, and I think he tries to get better every day. 

Q: Since you've been here, how much has the NFL Draft, helped create the defense you want?

A: Yes, the philosophy with Rick [Spielman] and myself has always been we build through the draft, and then add guys through the free agency. We added a few guy from free agency when I got here, but we've drafted guys: Trae Waynes, Mackensie [Alexander], [Ben] Gedeon, Danielle Hunter, Shamar Stephen, several of those guys, so our scouts have done a good job of identifying the guys and I think the coaches have done a good job in communicating with those guys with the kind of guys that we need, and the kind of people we need probably more importantly.

Q: This is just a guess, but it seems like the kind of player you like is tall and fast. What else do you look for?

A: Smart. Smart, tough, all of those things. Disciplined. We have certain body types we look for, for each position group, but that doesn't mean we don't stay with it all of the time. There are some exceptions. [Eric] Kendricks for instance, is a shorter guy, but he's a really good football player.

Q: What is Andrew Sendejo's report? Will he be out at practice today?

A: I think he is going through individual and stuff, yes.

Q: What stands out about the Eagles' defense and the way they bring pressure?

A: They haven't been a huge pressure team. They pressured us quite a bit last year. #27 [Jenkins Malcolm], he's a heck of a football player, but they try to pressure a lot with those front four guys. Their defense is very, very, active. They run to the ball, their front four guys are very athletic, they get up the field, they do a good job. That's why they're the best in the league in stopping the run. Their linebackers run well, and when they do pressure, they have some good pressures, but they haven't been a huge pressure team this year.

Q: You mentioned that they have more guys toward the line of scrimmage.

A: Their linebackers are tight; they play a fair amount of single high coverage. Their line is aggressive. They've got good players. [Brandon] Graham is a heck of a player, [Fletcher] Cox is a heck of a player, Vinnie Curry. They play a lot of different guys, so they're an excellent defensive front.

Q: What do you want out of your run game on Sunday?

A: It's important that we are efficient in the runs; we stay away from the negative runs. I think the team that runs the ball better, will probably be the team that ends up winning the football game.

Q: Just to clarify, Sendejo is still in protocol? Will he be clear for everything?

A: Yes, there are several tests you have to pass. No, he won't do that for a while, but he'll be fine.

Q: When you play a really good defense like Philadelphia, is there anything you change in your offensive philosophy in terms of when to take chances or go big?

A: Yes, a little bit, for whoever we're playing that week, but it's a combination of their offense, their defense, their special teams and ours, so how can we exploit some of their weaknesses and how can we use our strengths? They're really good defensively. It's going to be a full day affair.

Q: Even though the game didn't go your way last year, was it good last year, was it good to be at that Philadelphia environment and get a feel for the stadium and the field?

A: I don't know, I guess so, yes.

Q: Is your gut instinct telling you that it's going to come down to who can force that one mistake?

A: I think when you get to this point in the playoffs; turnovers always end up being the difference. They're 11 in turnovers this year. They've done a good job as far as getting the ball turned over. They have 19 interceptions I believe. Going into a game, you never really know. There are times where I said it's to be a low scoring game and it's 30-28, so you just have to go out and play the best you can and try to execute the very best you can.

Q: There are obviously a few things different this week as far as the spotlight. Do you want guys to block that out or just embrace it?

A: It doesn't matter. What matters is how we play on Sunday, how we execute today in practice, how we do those things, I feel like I have a pretty smart, level-headed football team. They understand the magnitude of things and they know what's at stake, so let's just go out, let's continue to do what we've been doing all year long, let's play good, let's play together as a team, take care of the football. All of the things you talk about all year long really.

*Vikings Quarterback Case Keenum *

Q: Have you been aware that everyone is making a flow chart to how you and Nick Foles became starters and how you were once together?

A: No I wasn't aware of a flow chart but I know this is what all of you guys predicted back in the day, a Foles vs. Keenum NFC Championship. So good job to all of you guys who predicted that.

Q: Is there a sense of pride that the underdog has made it to the big time?

A: I don't think in terms like that. Are we proud of what we accomplished? Heck yes. Do we have more out in front of us? Heck yes. Just like Coach [Zimmer] said, what matters today is how we work and how we prepare today and getting ready to beat the Eagles.

Q: What stands to you about Nick Foles from the short time of being his teammate?

A: First of all, Nick is a great guy. One of my best friends.  A really, really solid guy. Great faith, great family. He's got a great family. My wife and his wife are great friends. His entire family are good people. Great football player. Prepares well, extremely talented, big arm and he's really, really athletic, too. I know he's got a lot of confidence and I'm looking forward to playing against him.

Q: What has it been like since that throw three days ago?

A: It's been good. It's been a good couple days. I've tried to treat it as much like as a normal Monday and Tuesday as I could. Few more texts, few more phone calls, few more questions, few more talking to you guys. Those are good problems to have. Really, they're not even problems. It's just something that you deal with.

Q: How many people have reached out and have texted you?

A: I've had a bunch. I've had so many people that have been praying for me, that have been supporting me, that have reached out and continue to reach out. It means the world to me. I have so many people from back home, from all over the country. I had somebody text me from South America, one of my friends that is deployed over there. It's cool. I've got them everywhere. 

Q: Any notable former or current football players have reached out to you?

A: Yes, there was a few.

Q: Anyone you would like to name?

A: I'll keep it to myself.

Q: How would you describe the last six months of your football career in a nutshell?

A: I don't know. You're trying to get me put it in perspective and I'm going to wait until the end of the season to do that. We have a lot of really cool things ahead of us and there's a big challenge this week with the Eagles. That is where my head is at right now. 

Q: Have you talked to Nick Foles during the season?

A: Yes, we've talked during the season and have just kept up. We watch the same film and similar defenses that we have played. So you watch their film and what they've done. We've talked some during the season.

Q: Have you talked about how you guys might end up meeting?

A: No, we didn't mention that.

Q: What was your very first impression of Stefon Diggs when you arrived in Minnesota last spring?

A: It's hard to say. Off the field, a character, and one that you love. From the first meeting, somebody that you really like. I've grown to respect and love him a lot. A great player. He's a lot of fun to be around.

Q: Having another quarterback in the room in Sam Bradford, how much can that help you for this week?

A: We have a great quarterback room. Every week it's been a committee in there just talking through defenses. Talking through our offense and how we want to attack opposing defenses. It's been great in there all year and it's continued this week already.

Q: The fact that Sam Bradford had experience with that team, can that still carry over or has it been too long?

A: Yes, there are certain things that carry over. It's like every week we talk through different players that we've known that we played with or played against. There are always players that overlap and carry over, but a full two seasons ago, so it's been a while.

Q: I know you are trying to put Sunday behind you, but is there something to bring with you from Sunday's near elimination experience to remind you that every second is vital?

A: It's another experience. It was my first playoff experience. It's something that I've said all year that I learn from every experience that I am in. I definitely learned a lot from that. I learned a lot from the emotions I felt, to how I handled it, to how I prepared, and something I applied this week. Something I am continuing to apply to this next game.

Q: Was your driveway clean of snow when you got home Sunday night?

A: It was.

Q: When you face a defense like Philadelphia with all that talent, does it change your approach at all in terms of when you decide to take a chance and when to go for it or do you keep your same approach?

A: Yes, they've got a great defense. They really, really do. For us, our approach changes every week based on the game plan. There are certain things that don't, like I've talked about. But for me, making sure I stay within myself and make sure I follow the game plan and go along the lines with what Pat [Shurmur], Kevin [Stefanski] and all the coaches have prepared for us.

Q: What stands out to you about their defense when you look at the way they approach things?

A: Overall, they're solid. All 11 guys they line up and even the guys that they bring in to play are all solid players. Hardly ever out of position, always in position to make plays. Up front, I think a really talented group. They disrupt the run and the pass really well. We have our work cut out for us getting the ball out and running the ball. Other than that, I can sit up here and talk about them all day. You look at their stats, they speak for themselves. They're a good defense.

Q: One former quarterback compared your game to a point guard with assists vs. turnovers. Is that an accurate characterization? Talk about the fine line between being daring and not too daring.

A: Yes, as far as the stats go I don't know how you compare assists and turnovers in basketball to ours. But I try to get the ball out of my hands and into the fast guys. Whether that is handing it off, throwing it, screens. Whatever it is that we have to do, get it to the guys that can do something special with it. Doing it at the right time with the right placement and being smart with it. If that is what a point guard does, then yes, that is what I'll do.

Vikings Wide Receiver Stefon Diggs

Q: Do you think that play means anything next week? Does it give you any kind of momentum?

A: I would say possibly, more so going in the right direction. Winning is always a plus. As far as having a new week, a new opportunity is a more important thing that we get another week to put things together, prepare and go out there and try and get another win. So, moving in the right direction, yes. I guess you get a momentum for that, but you know it's not too much.

Q: What has it been like the last few days and the euphoria and being on all of the shows and everyone talking about you?

A: it's just been a day-to-day thing. I had a conversation with my mom about it and that was the most important conversation. Some of my little brothers and that's all that really mattered to me. I didn't really care about it too much after that. Happy to be in the positon to get a 'W' for my teammates, for the fans that were there supporting, everybody that stuck around, and we get another opportunity. 

Q: What did your mom say about handling everything?

A: Yeah, she was funny. She said she almost had a heart attack, so it was kind of cool. She's okay though.

Q: Did she give you advice to leave it behind or anything?

A: No, my mom doesn't give me advice as far as like football stuff. She's just kind of like a mom. 

Q: Was there a point this year when Case Keenum came in and you knew you were going to be fine?

A: Yeah. As soon as they said he was going to be the quarterback I felt like we were going to fine. It didn't really matter. I didn't have a time period, like Week 6 or Week 7 we'll be fine. No, since day one I had all the belief in him. I felt like he could get the job done. He prepares the right way. He does things the right way, so I had all the confidence in him. I wasn't worried.

Q: Did the confidence grow though as the season went on?

A: No, I've been with him for a while – OTAs, mini-camp, training camp. I've seen him make plenty of throws. I've seen him be a good quarterback. It wasn't a surprise for me, for him to have success. I'm more surprised for everybody else because they never saw him.

Q: How do you think his personality has carried over onto the field?

A: He has his time. He has that quarterback mindset where he's focused day-in-and-day-out, but when it's time to get a little bit excited he'll show that emotion and that definitely will get you going. As far as playing receiver, you like that, so he does a good job of that.

Q: How does this time of year have influence from your dad?

A: He started me in football. He played a huge part in what's going on now. That's the biggest thing. Kind of try and thank him prior to the game, him and God. And try and keep that thing going.

Q: As a major recruit in high school and fifth round draft pick, have you been able to envision this is where you would be now?

A: Yeah, high school was a real, real long time ago. That's a whole different process. But as far as when I was going into the combine and stuff like that, I had a 100 percent confidence in myself. I had a lot support along the way. I had some great coaches, some great teammates that pushed me in the right direction. I'll never take all the credit, especially because I got put in the position by some good people.  

Q: Do you have any favorite social media posts from after the game?

A: No, not really. Take everything with a grain of salt. It's been fun, but I want to get a win this week. It's real important to me and we got another opportunity.

Q: How many messages have you gotten on your phone and did anyone notable reach out to you?

A: No, not really. Not too many.

Q: Have you thought about that when you're old, this video will still be played?

A: No, I haven't. I'm pretty young right now. I'm starting to feel old, but one day it'll all come full circle. Hopefully, I can show it to my grandkids one day.

Q: Was this a reminder that you can win a game up until the very last play?

A: Yeah, it's kind of like one of those things where I would say it's like a storybook ending. Nine times out of 10 it never happens that way. The clock runs out. The defense plays good ball. No mistakes happen, but for us we never gave up. Like I said, it's kind of like a storybook ending, things don't ever happen that way. Kind of like Coach Zim said, 'The good guys won.'

Q: When you look at the way the Eagles tend to have a lot of guys at the line of scrimmage, do you think you'll be able to do things down the field?

A: Well, every week is an opportunity to hit some things. You kind of want to go in with the mindset that good things are going to happen when they're supposed to. You got trust your coaches and trust the guys around you. I always think we have a chance.

Q: What do you remember about the game in Philadelphia last year dealing with the field conditions and the fans?

A: I feel like we didn't execute the best way we could, especially personally. And I felt like we all could of played better, especially myself. So, I'm looking forward to the task at hand. As far as the field conditions it's not really a worry of mine. Our coach told us to check our cleats before the game and you better be ready to go.

Q: Having played there last year helpful?

A: Yes, definitely. Yes because if you've never played in the stadium before maybe it'll be a little bit of a shock. But also, it's going to be the NFC Championship, so it's going to be a little bit louder than it was in the regular season, but it's definitely going to be another challenge for us and I know my guys are looking forward to it.

Vikings Defensive End Everson Griffen

Q: How long did it take to describe what actually happened on Sunday?

A: Yesterday, maybe Monday too. It was a special moment, big play by two big players. It was amazing. We're just happy to be in the NFC Championship game, going to Philly and getting ready to play these boys.

Q: What do you see when he looks at Nick Foles and the challenges he presents?

A: The biggest thing with Nick FOles is you have to get around him, you have to affect him. You have to make him be a little hesitant in the pocket. With no pressure, he has a very good passer rating. With being affected and getting hit, it comes down a lot. So, we've got to affect him in different ways. But, we have to stop the run first and foremost to be able to get to him.

Q: Have you guys talked about this is what you've been working for and the defense coming together?

A: Absolutely, this is what we've bene working for. It started at Training Camp each and every year, this year we put it upon ourselves to say, 'this is our destiny', to make it this far. That's what our d-line coach talks to us about all the time, this is our destiny. We've got to capitalize the moment, go out there and do it together for one another. Hold each other accountable and just play ball. Football is really not that hard. The best team that takes care of the ball, doesn't turn over the ball, field position and time of possession, all the good things.

Q: In this ascending defense you've been in, is there a moment that you've realized you've made it and you're elite?

A: Yeah, I think it takes a little while to gel together, some faster than others. We got better over the years. This year we really held ourselves to a higher standard by doing things together, being accountable, holding each other accountable. I think guys study more in the playbook, getting into the playbook more and really honing in on this defense. Knowing the ins and outs, the tendencies that the offenses like to run. That's what we've been doing the most, listening to our coaches, they put us in the right positions. Just going out there and playing ball. Doing it together and doing it for one goal, that's to be here in this position right now to go to Philly and get a win, that's our goal.

Q: Does this game feel like with two great defenses, who can force that one mistake?

A: It's going to come down to the tale of two defenses. They have a good offense, they've got a good running game. So, we've got to go in and stop the running game, make them one dimensional. We've got to make Nick Foles win the game. We've got to make him win the game but we've got to stop the running game, affect him and give the ball back to our offense as much as possible so that they can score points. It's going to be fun. This is my first time being in this position so I'm going to go out there and give it all I got to help my team win.

Q: What did that near loss on Sunday do to remind you that every second and every play counts?

A: I don't want that feeling. I know each guy on this team is going to take it upon himself not to have that feeling of just knowing for those 10 seconds, this is going to be our last play together. It always comes down to the wire, you don't want that feeling. I remember that feeling and I don't want that feeling. I want to be able to enjoy the moment and enjoy playing the game and enjoy doing it with my boys this Sunday. But, we've got to come out and play better than we did.

Q: What is your strategy with the grass field and their crowd?

A: The crowd, they've got some crazy fans just like our fans. They're going to be loud, they're going to be saying some harsh words. That really doesn't matter. How you quiet down the fans is by scoring points, stopping the run and making it happen. With the cleats situation, you just have to go out there and try the cleats. Might have to wear seven-studs, go out there, try to feel it out, wear seven-studs and see if it can help.

Q: Is there anything unique about their running game?

A: They have three backs that they use a lot. They run, they're a very flat team. We've just got to come out and strike, play in our gaps. Hit that gaps, count on your guys that they're going to be in there gap. Just do it day in and day out and don't stop until the very end. It's going to be fun, it's going to be a battle and we're excited.

Q: How has Eric Kendricks proved himself as a player?

A: He gets us lined up, him and [Anthony] Barr get us lined up and call out protections. He's running downhill, making a lot of plays. He's a smart player, he studies a lot. I think this game is going to come down to what team is going to study more, who knows their opponents the best and who wins the game.

Q: Is there anything you have to do to calm yourself in big games like this?

A: No, just play ball. Just play ball, be myself first and foremost, that's why everybody likes me. Me, be that hyper guy, cause I get everybody going, singing in the locker room, doing what I do. People love that, singing in the shower too, just playing. People love that, they love when I bring my energy. I'm just going to bring my energy all this week and come out and help my team win. It's going to come down to the tale of who stops the run, who puts the points on the board, who holds on to the ball and doesn't turn it over, time of possession and getting the job done.

Q: What is it like trying to pivot from the high of the last couple of days and focusing on the task ahead and putting that behind you to make that shift?

A: No, it's the NFC Championship game, no. This is what our focus is on right now, Philadelphia Eagles. Being professionals, you've got to be able to make that switch, our switch is, you've got to focus on the Philadelphia Eagles and get the job done. That's all, you can't live in that moment no more, this is the next big moment. You never know what could happen. There could be another big play like that in the next game. You've just got to live in the moment, the moment is now, and that's the Philadelphia Eagles.

Q: Could you tell when Coach Zimmer came in as the head coach that something special was going to happen with this defense?

A: He's Zimmer, he's not going to take no stuff. He's going to make you be accountable. He's going to make you become a smart football player. He even brought in all the right coaches to help us with that. I think most of all, we became students of the game. I think that's how I grew so much, becoming a student of the game. I think each player, you learn how to study the tape, you learn the tendencies, you learn the protections, you just learn how to play football better. That's what he did, he brought in the studying part of the game. How to break down film, how to know the tendencies, know the percentages and know where to be.

*Vikings Tight End Kyle Rudolph *

Q: You've waited a long time for this, what has this been like?

A: It's a great opportunity for us. Seven years is not as long as some. I'm grateful for that chance to have this opportunity in my seventh year to get to play in a NFC championship game.   Coach Zimmer was talking to us this morning; he talked about his first year in Dallas they go to the NFC Championship in 1994.  Then, go back in 1995. He hasn't been back since 1995.  I think I was just out of diapers in 1995.  It teaches us that we can portray that message especially to the young guys.  We have such a young team that this doesn't happen all of the time. We have a great opportunity and we should make the most of it. 

Q: What can you say about Stefon Diggs as a teammate and what you've learned from  watching him come up from a fifth round draft pick to where he is now to be able to make a play like that?

A: It has been awesome to watch him work.   All off season, during the season perfecting his craft and since the day he was here his first three games he wasn't even dressed.  He was inactive, a healthy scratch. You watch him come in against the Denver Broncos and then play the Kansas City Chiefs. It just seemed like game after game he was going out there and making plays.  He continually has gotten better over the past three years.  It is awesome to see guys like that work so hard have an opportunity in such a big moment and for them to make the most of it.

Q: What has led to such a solid season from the offensive line?

A: I think you look at the nature of those guys. They are selfless, incredibly hard working, tough and physical guys. There is a reason that they are here.  They are the kind of guys that Zim and Tony (Sparano) want on our offensive line. They've been a huge part, if not the biggest part of our success this year on offense.

Q: What is nearly being eliminated Sunday do for you and the other guys in terms of reminding them just how important every second of the next sixty minutes are?

A: It is nice to be on that end of it. Obviously, some of the guys in this locker room have been on the other end.  If you didn't believe before and didn't have confidence before that anything can happen if you go out there for four quarters and play sixty minutes, that should be invigorated in this team. Having new life if you would. We came back in here Monday morning and obviously Zim addressed the team. It's congratulations, we're moving on.   But, why were we in that situation to begin with?  Turnovers, blocked kicks, giving up touchdowns in the red zone. Those are reasons why we won't reach our ultimate goal. Certainly, we'd like to fix it and not be in that situation again. I think that it was important for us to move on. When you have a night like that and it ends like it did. It was such an emotional high that we have to move on to the Philadelphia Eagles as quickly as possible. Coming in having a normal Monday and looking back at that second half and what put us in that situation to begin with.  I think it allowed us to do that fairly quickly.

Q: You were 5-0 when you went to Philadelphia last year, what do you remember what went wrong that game?

A: I remember we turned over the ball a ton.  I think we started the game inside the five yard line and didn't score.  We didn't just play well. In the first quarter there were four straight turnovers back and forth. That's not our recipe for success on offense. We want to protect the football, run the football and take our chances in the pass game when we get them. That will be important again this week when we go there.  I don't think this team [Philadelphia] has lost a game when they turned over a team over two or more times. We'll have to protect the football.

Q: Does that help that you were there last season and able to sample the field conditions and atmosphere?

A: Yes, that was week six or seven with the bye week.  The atmosphere will be a little different. It will be a little louder. Their fans will be a little more excited and rightfully so. It's a NFC Championship game. The stakes are little higher than they were week seven of last year. This team is completely different than the team that went there last year after the bye week.

Q: How do you walk the line between wanting to be smart and to turning the ball over, but then also being able to take your chances and take advantages of opportunities and not playing conservatively?

A: I think you go back and look at the first half last week.  Not turning the ball over is having  that conscious mindset of protecting the football.    It is not getting conservative. It's not playing the game scared or to not lose. You have to have that conscious mindset of we have to  protect the football.  Whether that is in the pass game, run game or the kicking game. As long as you are aware of it, then it usually takes cares of itself.  It starts out here at practice today.  You work on it Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. So, then on Sunday we go out and just play so we don't have to be conservative.

Q: Between you, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, do you provide you a pretty tough equation for a team that has been thrown on a little bit?

A:  I think it goes even further than the three of us. You look at the amount of play makers we have on offense. I would even add Jerick (McKinnon), Latavius (Murray), Michael (Floyd) and Jarius (Wright). The list goes on of guys that can step up and make plays. I think that is part of the reason why we are able to have success. Who are you going to take away? Who are you going to double? Who are you going to try to eliminate? As long as we have all of those guys playing at the level that they are playing at right now, we like our chances.

Q: Do you feel like the run game is important even if the big yardage isn't there against this team?

A: Absolutely.  If you look back at the course of our season, the success that we've had in the run game has been chip away, chip away, chip away. Then, all of sudden you break a big one in the second half or in the fourth quarter.  It wraps the game up and then you look up and we ran for 125 or 150 yards. Those big runs aren't necessarily going to come right away, but that doesn't mean the run game is not effective.  I think that is part of the reason why we've had so much success in the run game this year is because we keep at it. A little bit here and little bit there, then we break one.  You never know when that run is going to come.  It's having that sense of urgency on every run.

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