Head Coach Mike Zimmer
It was actually good to get out here in a walk-through and watch guys move around a little bit today. The facilities here are outstanding, and so it'll fun to get going in practice again this afternoon.
Q: How good is it to see your two interior defensive linemen back out there and healthy and ready to go?
A: It's nice. Those two guys are good guys, good players. They've really hard to get back and ready. I think Linval (Joseph) is really excited about getting going with the season, and so it should be fun. It's nice to have all the players.
Q: Along the same lines, with John Sullivan back at center, it must be a good sign?
A: Yes, 'Sully' has done a nice job this spring. He really worked hard in the time he was injured and the offseason. So, we're looking forward to him continuing to progress (from) where he left off.
Q: Is the real test with him just putting on the pads, having contact and seeing how he holds up?
A: Yes, and he's going to be up against the big guy with Linval (Joseph). So, that'll be a big test, but yes, he has done everything up to this point. So, we feel really good about it.
Q: The five guys you had starting on the offensive line today, at least in the walk through, if they do the job, could this be your give, or do you think you're going to still rotate some guys?
A: The five guys we have will probably change, No. 1, and No. 2, I've talked about having competition this whole time, and I'm not going to divvy up five guys after a walk through. So, we've still got a lot of time to figure it out, and until we get in pads, I won't make any decisions on anything.
Q: Is there a timetable, though, where you hope to, on offensive line, choose your five guys so they can get game reps together?
A: Yes, as soon as possible, but it may be this week, it may be next week. I don't know. It's really about when we've made the decision that this is how we want it to go. We still have some combinations we want to look at. That is not the set line up by any chance or imagination, but yes, to your question, it's as soon as possible.
Q: Describe 'Sully' as a communicator on the line, a leader and what you missed not having him because of that?
A: Well, John (Sullivan) is a very, very intelligent person, and that may be his strength as a football player. He communicates very well. He sees things good. He able to make adjustments very, very quickly. So, those things are really what we miss. I'm not saying Joe (Berger) doesn't do a good job with that, but Coach (Tony) Sparano said one day that 'Sullivan's brilliant; just ask him.' But he is brilliant.
Q: You always talk about the defense needing getting better. What are your expectations and what areas do you want to see improved?
A: A lot of areas. We finished fifth in scoring but some of that is offense controlling the clock, we ran the ball, and we were good in special teams. I go on what really I see all the time. We've really got to change the mentality of our pass defense. Our quarterback rating against us is too high, we haven't been good in two minutes, and we don't have enough 2nd & 8, 9, or 10 situations, so we've got to do that and create more turnovers.
Q: Teddy talked about how much John Sullivan did for him setting protections his rookie season, so with John being out last season, do you think Teddy missed that element of John?
A: When Teddy was a rookie it was extremely helpful to have a guy like Sullivan to help him with all those things because he could see it, and Teddy was learning the offense and all of those things. I think Teddy sees those things good. He has control, he can override Sullivan anytime he wants, but it's a good mix. It's not good that Sullivan missed last season, but it was good that Teddy had to take this all upon himself last year.
Q: With all the shuffling parts on offense, offensive line and wide receiver positions, what do you want this group to accomplish these next couple of weeks for you to feel confident where this group is at?
A: I gave them all a list of things that I wanted to work on in this camp. Things we need to get better at, things we need to do. I think we have a decent amount of talent here and I want to be able to use that talent. I don't want to have some guy that can help us standing on the sideline. The more we can get everybody involved and try to figure out different ways of how we can use these players, in other words, if I've got a real good blitzer I'm going to blitz, so if I've got a guy that can do some things, I want to use him the best we possibly can, and that goes throughout, whether that be tight ends, receivers, running backs, (Jerick) McKinnon maybe an extra lineman as a tight end, so I'm going to try and do as much of that as I can. I think it's important that all the guys we have on the team feel like they have an opportunity to compete and go out and play. They bust their rear ends each week and I want to be able to reward them, as long as it helps us win.
Q: With T.J. Clemmings, do you want to see him on the right side competing for that job or do you want to see him as a swing tackle?
A: We're going to move him on both sides. It's really left and right to be honest with you.
Q: With Andrew Smith as an experienced tackle, is there more you can get out of him?
A: I hope so. He started 74 games, he was the 5th pick in the draft or 6th pick or something. He's a very talented guy. Yeah, I think so.
Q: You hear a lot about Teddy wanting to take the next step, if you guys make that kick last year, would there be a different perception of him?
A: I don't know. I don't really worry about the perception too much and what it is. I'm glad he's my guy. Each week we set up a way of how to try to win that particular game, and he executes it to the best of his ability. There's guys out there that throw the ball all over the place and then in the fourth quarter they throw an interception and lose the ball game, and he doesn't do those things. He does the things we're asking him to do to continue to win and I do believe that you're going to continue to see another jump for him. We have to play a certain way in order to win games, and I'm not going to apologize for doing that. Teddy is going to be an extremely good player. He's got too many other things going for him. I hear about the deep balls, and I hear all these things, and we're going to keep working on them, but the most important thing is to move the sticks, convert on third downs, score touchdowns in the red zone and make good decisions. Decision making is as big a thing with the quarterback position that there is.
Q: When you addressed the team yesterday, was there an over-riding message that you tried to leave people with as camp gets underway?
A: Yeah, we've got to get better. There were a lot of things we didn't do good enough. That's what I want to get accomplished in this camp, in order for us to go where I want to go. I probably gave them 12 areas that we need to get better at.
Q: Along those lines a little bit, you aren't the underdog anymore. You're the defending division champions. Teams are gunning for you. How does that change things for you, and what do you tell the players in that regard?
A: We're gunning for them. It's all about perception and expectations, and I've talked to the team about that, too. It doesn't really matter whether they're gunning for us or we're gunning for them. If we play better than they do on Sunday, we're going to win. That's really what it's all about, and I'm not going to apologize for winning the division last year, either. We're just going to go out and we're going to try to get better each week and try to be good.
Q: Mike Harris was a non-participant this morning. Is that a lingering issue from the offseason that kept him out, too?
A: Yeah, he's got a little medical issue that he's working on.
Q: How long do you expect Taylor Heinicke out?
A: I don't know. He'll be out for a while.
Q: Is there any difference between how you handle a veteran guy like Shaun Hill, and someone who's a little bit younger coming into training camp?
A: Yeah, I try to handle everybody differently. I'm typically a little harder on the young guys.
Most of the veteran guys have been through it, and they've heard a lot of things, so a lot of times you can communicate with them a little bit better. What I'm trying to do, is when we bring guys in here, I'm trying to do is get them to understand how the Minnesota Vikings do things, how we prepare, how we work, how we do things in the weight room, how we're on time, how we're good citizens off the field, how we want to represent the fan base. When guys come in here, that's what I want to try to do. Sometimes with young guys, you have to be a little more stern with them so they understand. That's how it goes. We had a meeting last night, an NFL meeting, and I was impressed with our players. Talking about some of the things and talking about how there's a lot of discipline lacking in society now and that's why guys get in trouble and things like that. It was nice to see that our players respect discipline. That's what I try to do.
Q: As a veteran with about 15 years of experience, what does Shaun Hill bring to your roster?
A: He has seen a lot of things. For instance, there's was a two minute drill in the last year in the spring or something like that, and we were talking and we didn't have any timeouts left. He said, 'Do you want an incompletion, or should I take a sack in this situation?' I don't remember exactly what it was. Things like that make me think, too. He has seen so many things. He catches on quick, he understands the offense and he's a good guy.
Q: What was your initial reaction when you heard of Taylor Heinicke's injury?
A: 'Darn it.' Something like that.
Q: Along those lines, Joel Stave, what have you seen that you like about him, and describe the opportunity he has now, getting more reps, obviously?
A: Yeah, he'll get some more reps. He throws the ball good. He's still learning. You got to see when people are around him. You got to see how fast he thinks. Like I was saying with Teddy (Bridgewater), it's all the same thing. But he throws the ball good. He has got a nice arm. He's a good athlete, got good size.
Q: Any desire to bring in another quarterback?
A: I don't know; we'll see. I don't know. At this particular time today, we've talked about these things but no, not today. I don't know if a week from now we change our minds or something, but this time, no.
Q: When did you find out about Taylor Heinicke's injury?
A: The day he did it. He called me.
Q: Has he been put on a PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) or NFI (Non-Football Injury) list or anything?
A: Yeah, NFI.
Q: You've got a short trip down to Mankato here this year. Have and your coaching staff put a little bit more pressure on yourselves to come out of the gate and firing on all cylinders before you head to Cincinnati?
A: Yes, the difference for us this year is that last year we played in the Hall of Fame Game, so we had a little bit more time. You only get a certain amount of time before the first game anyway, but I did talk to the coaches last night, and I really want to stress techniques and fundamentals. We have to develop a good base in the things we are doing. Not so much worrying about plays and schemes and things like that, but if we can develop the fundamentals and techniques, then we can get going. The one good thing about coming down here, it's a short trip, the facilities are fantastic, the people here at Minnesota State do a great job taking care of us.
Q: Do you think with a shorter time span, it's a little bit more difficult to figure out who you want to start in certain positions?
A: Yeah, I guess so. I'm not trying to figure out everything by the time we go to Cincinnati. We obviously want to find it as soon as possible, but we still have four preseason games and go from there. The other thing about your question was what I've noticed about this team, even this past spring in the OTAs, is that they have really good retention. Like today in the walk through, it went pretty quick and pretty smooth. Even some of the more interact calls, they were able to spit out pretty good, and I think that helps us a lot too.
Q: Do you have an ideal scenario for your secondary regarding any certain guy you want to win those jobs?
A: No, not really. I'm pretty open-minded to it, whether who the other safety is, I'm open-minded. I honestly don't have any preconceived idea who that might be, and how much Trae Waynes plays. To me, I'm obviously going to give all these guys as much opportunity as I can, but I have to get ready for the season, and I just want the best guys to go out and play. And I really don't care if its Jayron Kearse or (Antone) Exum (Jr.) or whoever it is, whether it's a rookie or a veteran, Michael Griffin, I don't care. Somebody go out there and take the job.
Q: Other than Taylor Heinicke, any other roster moves of any kind today?
A: Kenrick Ellis is on PUP, Rhett Ellison is on PUP. We turned this out last night, right? And (Taylor) Heinicke. We already talked about the other guys.