Skip to main content

News | Minnesota Vikings –

Transcript: Zimmer, Rhodes and Thielen Addressed the Media Saturday

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer

Nice to get the rest of the players out here today. They did a nice job in the walk through as far as paying attention and staying on point. I pulled the team up today and told them after a lot of thought and talking to people and a lot of different things, I've decided to make Clancy Barone and Andrew Janocko co-offensive line coaches. Clancy coached the Denver Broncos offensive line when they won the Super Bowl. Andrew is a great young coach and he was Tony [Sparano]'s right-hand man, knows everything that Tony did. Todd Downing, who was the offensive coordinator with the Raiders, is going to coach the tight ends. I feel really good about it, these guys are experienced in the things that they're doing. I think it was the best way to go.

Q: Were you evaluating the way Clancy Barone and Andrew Janocko were working together those first few days of camp?

A: Not necessarily, everything happened so fast that I kind of had to move things around a bit. I knew Clancy had coached the offensive line before. He was coaching the tight ends so it's a pretty close proximity there. I'm always evaluating but that wasn't really the case.

Q: How much does this help continuity along the line?

A: Well, it's important. For the last two years, we've worked really hard on the footwork and the techniques, the schemes that we're running. So, I felt like it was important that we continue to do that, regardless of whatever we decided to do. I didn't want to change the players' terminology or footwork or any of that stuff.  

Q: Will Clancy continue to work with the tight ends at all?

A: No, Todd Downing.

Q: What will be the benefits of having camp here in Eagan?

A: I think it's going to work out great. We're supposed to have a full house out here today for the fans so I think it'll be great for them. We're able to bring some of these youth groups in here like this. For the players, it's a two-minute drive to the hotel. We're in the same place, we've got the same training room, which is outstanding. We can get everything that we need to do, rehab-wise. We've got the weight room. I think in the long run, it's going to work out great.

Q: Is there anything that the team will be missing out on with camp no longer in Mankato?

A: I don't think so. The drive, maybe. Mankato was great, they were outstanding hosts. But you go down there two and half weeks, back in the days that you went down there for five or six weeks, it was probably a bit different. As far as creating a team atmosphere, we get that pretty much here in this locker room. These guys have been around each other a long time now.  

Q: What is your sense of how the offensive line is handling this adversity?

A: Obviously, they all feel bad for Tony, they all loved him. They understand that we have to move forward, we have to go on. Really, these guys are professionals, they understand that things happen. This isn't the first thing that something has happened to us here. We're used to overcoming adversity and that's what we're going to do continue to do.

Q: How much did continuity of the staff play into handling things the way you did?

A: Some, there was a lot of factors. That was part of it as well. I know these guys have been around these guys, for the most part, for awhile. That was part of it but if I felt like there was a better option that was outside, then I would have done it.

Q: Do you have to address having some players playing on contracts more for the minimum?

A: Not so much me, Rob Brzezinski is the one that handles all that stuff and Rick [Spielman]. They tell me at some point we might have to worry about it. Right now we are just trying to get the best 53 guys that we can. We'll worry about the contracts and all that other stuff later. I think it's important we don't go into this thinking, "Ok we have a big contract here, we have to keep a young guy". Let's keep the best 53 and let them figure it all out.

Q: What do you think has allowed Terence Newman to still be here trying to make the team?

A: He's an extremely smart guy. He obviously has great genes. I think that Terence understands and probably the other thing that helps a little bit is since the CBA has changed with two-a-days and all of that has probably helped a little bit, too. Not pads every day and tackling and hitting and things like that.

Q: Are you saying the League went soft?

A: I would never say that. Although I was going to talk about the League. No, I can't. I'll get in trouble already.

Q: What are your first impressions with the full squad?

A: I like this team a lot. Today obviously was the first day so they can't make me too mad the first day. They approached things like professionals, like business guys coming out here. They still had fun but they were focused on what they did. If the spring carries over from what they did in the spring, to where we are hoping to continue to go, I think this will be a good football team. We are going to have to play good and eliminate the things that are going to get you beat and all that. I feel good about where we are on Day 1 of no pads. How's that?

Q: Are there any positions you are looking at early that will be tough competition to make the final roster?

A: I don't know. I think we have a lot of depth in a lot of positions. I think you can go down the roster and off the top of my head the defensive line has a lot of talent there. I have to think about that a little bit more. I don't really look at those kinds of things right now. I'm just trying to evaluate them every day. As we get more into more of the camp and more of the grind, then we'll sit down. We always evaluate on the players' day off. Coaches and Rick [Spielman] and the scouts. We all get in and we evaluate what we've seen during that week. Then we'll start maybe doing a little more pecking order. Right now it is just trying to get them to be the best players they can be right now.

Q: How will you rely on the leadership to help keep expectations of the team to a minimum?

A: I don't think it's their job to try and keep the expectations down. I think it's their job to come out here and perform well enough so we exceed expectations. It's probably my job to talk about how bad we are going to be as opposed to them. Having good players and having high expectations is a good thing. It's bad for coaches but it's good for fans and everybody else.

Q: What stood out the most about Todd Downing when you brought him on staff?

A: [John] DeFilippo had a history with him. He was an offensive coordinator, he's coached quarterbacks before. Guys that have been through the war are not afraid to voice their opinions. They'll come in here and give their ideas and they'll go to work. Todd is a great young coach. He's very respectful and he understands where he's at and what he is trying to do and trying to help us win.

Q: Is Adam Thielen never being satisfied what makes him so good?

A: Adam's really not any different than any one of our other football ball players. I think if you went in the locker room now and you asked Anthony Barr you asked Eric Kendricks or Everson Griffen if they need to get better, they are all going to say the same thing. No different than us as coaches and them as players. I think Adam can accomplish anything he wants to do. He's a great competitor and works extremely hard. The better year they have the better year I have.

Q: Any particular moment at the service yesterday that stuck with you?

A: The whole thing. I mean, there were so many things. When Jeanette Sparano was talking I thought she was unbelievable. The strength that she had and the message that she had to the team was outstanding. When my wife passed away I couldn't do it that good. I was not near as good as she was. It was a credit to her. I appreciate our football team going. I didn't tell them they had to go or anything like that. It was all up to them. I appreciate their loyalty to Tony and to the Sparano family. We have a good bunch of guys and it was important that we showed him respect.

Q: How have you seen Kirk Cousins assert himself?

A: Well he's asserting himself a lot more now that he feels more comfortable. I've had some good conversations with him and he's asked me, "What do you want from me?" We talked about a lot of different things. Kirk is a guy that's going to buy in, try and help. I think he just wants to win, so we're trying to help him do that.

Q: Do you anticipate any early challenges with the stricter rules about lowering the helmet when you tackle this year?

A: Yes, I think there is going to be a lot of challenges with it. When I am going through tape right now from past games or plays and thinking to myself, "I think that is going to be a penalty right now or, I wonder if that one is going to be a penalty this year". I think it is going to take a little bit of preseason to clean up a little bit. I think they kind of understand what they are going to call, but talking to officials and things like that. It is going to be tough at first.

Q: Does it change the way you instruct during practice?

A: Yes, we will have to. I think it is going to happen way more in the secondary and things like that or open field situations. That is where I notice it most on tape. We will definitely have to talk about that.

Q: Are you going to incorporate specific drills from the League's training drills suggestions?

A: Right now we are not because we are not really tackling. But we will communicate it on tape, "Hey look here this is what happened if you are tackling more with your chest, keep your head up." Things like that. I do not get any drill suggestions from the League.

Q: Is Everson Griffen fully healthy?

A: I mean I don't know if he is fully healthy or not. If he is out there, he is going to go.

Vikings Cornerback Xavier Rhodes

Q: At this point in your career do you look forward to the first day of camp or do you just want to get it over with?

A: I definitely look forward to camp. Coming off the offseason, training, and getting closer and closer to the season. By this time, I look forward to competing against your teammates and trying to elevate your game and everyone else's game, getting the team back together and building the chemistry all over again and getting ready for the season.

Q: With the way last season ended as the weeks go on do you get more hunger of wanting to get back out there?

A: We got over last season once, the first break, the first part of offseason, we were on to the next run about next season trying to get better, learning about our mistakes, stuff like that and trying to make it to that situation next year to try and go to the SuperBowl.

Q: Are there things that you try to take from last season and build off that or is it a brand new season?

A: It's a brand new season, brand new thing because once you think about it and linger on the last year it becomes worse, as anything in life personally. If the past bothers you, it's going to mess up your future.

Q: What do you think is going to be Mike Hughes' biggest challenge?

A: It's a transition. The rules, playing within the rules, that's every basically every rookie corner's hardest transition is playing within the rules. As time goes on, he's going to learn and we are going to have to adapt, so hopefully he learns faster than I did. If so, he'll be on his way.

Q: Do you guys talk about retaining the NFL's number one defense?

A: No, we just talk about getting the plays, helping the rookies out and just playing ball. Things are going to happen once the game starts.

Q: How well have you gotten to know Sheldon Richardson?

A: We came in the same draft class, so I know him pretty well. We joke around a lot, put it like that. We joke around a lot.

Q: From a physical standpoint, what did you see with Hughes?

A: Today, he was looking awesome coming out of his breaks. Getting low, transitioning his weight, keeping his eyes on his man. I mean he looked awesome today. Like he didn't look like a rookie today.

Q: How much has Hughes and other rookies picked your brain?

A: They ask me questions. When they make mistakes, they ask me what they can and cannot do, how can they fix that. And I tell them what they can and cannot do. Keep their eyes on the receiver not the quarterback, look at the concepts. With the receiver concepts, the routes they are running, they will tell you the route your man might run. Trying to get the feel of the game basically.

Q: How does it feel to have that role?

A: It's new. It's new. I still feel young though.  

Q: How was your approach this offseason different then when you first entered the league?

A: My approach when I first came in the league, is working hard and just making it to the season. Now that I am becoming a vet it is more learning the details and taking my time and not rushing things. When I was younger, I rushed a lot and that was my problem. Now it is like "Just take your time, the season is going to come, things are going to happen. Keep your composure."

Q: Where did the inspiration to take up boxing come from?

A: I don't know, it is just something I love. Boxing actually started with Coach [Jerry] Gray, with the gloves. So I am like you know what, ''Maybe I should take it in, maybe I should try boxing." After that I just grew to love boxing.

Q: Are you going to have to be aware of the lowering the helmet rule?

A: We just have to play within those rules. We can't do nothing about that. It is just tough, you get penalized, you are just going to learn from that and work on that as the season goes.

Q: Has the league sent any guidelines?

A: More than likely, the league is going to send us videos and everything about it, so we are looking forward to that. Once they give us rules, there is always a video behind it.

Q: What have you seen from an undrafted guy like Holton Hill?

A: Holton is good man. Great guy. Chip on his shoulder. He is hungry. Actually, he pulled me to the side last night, asking me a question. That is the type of guy you want on the team, who is willing to learn, can do whatever it takes to be the best. I can see it in hi

Vikings Wide Receiver Adam Thielen

Q: This is the first time in about ten years you haven't been in Mankato for some kind of training camp. What's the difference?

A: It doesn't feel like training camp. Ten years obviously like you said, Mankato was a special place. They were great hosts, guys loved being there, coaches loved being there. I've overheard a couple of coaches say, "Man, I miss Mankato." It's definitely different, but when you have a world-class training facility and you have the resources that we have here to take care of our bodies, there's not a more important time than training camp to be able to take care of your body, and we have every resource.

Q: For you and Kirk Cousins and a new offensive coordinator, how long is this taking to get all three people on the same page?

A: It's crazy, today actually felt pretty good. I think in OTAs we did a really good job of taking advantage of that time, and today it felt like we didn't miss a beat from the last practice until now. Feeling pretty good, obviously a long ways to go. There's a lot of plays that I wish I had back today, but that's why we're out here. That's why we're out here practicing and that's why we don't go straight to a game.

Q: Do you think that having training camp here in Eagan is less taxing for all involved, between the travel and the accommodations?

A: I think the biggest part is just the resources, having the hot tubs, the cold tubs, and the world-class facility. Having the trainers in the big training room where they have all their stuff, they don't have to lug it around, and the equipment staff, things like that, I think that's the biggest difference. Other than that, it's very similar to training camp in Mankato. You're staying in a hotel instead of the dorms, but other than that it's very similar, schedule-wise and things like that. I think the biggest thing is just the resources.

Q: Are you going to find a way to get back down to Mankato?

A: Oh yeah, we'll find a way. Obviously Mankato is a special place for my wife and I. We'll get back down there.

Q: What's it been like for you to transition to the veteran role?

A: It's a really fun thing for me. Obviously that's what I love to do. I love to play this game, I love to be in the classroom with the teammates, and I love to help guys and try to share some knowledge to them. It's a really fun role for me. You have to earn that, you have to earn the trust of the rookies, you have to earn the trust of the other veterans that haven't been here. I'm just trying to go out there and make plays and take care of my business so guys want to follow and want to trust me.

Q: Are you doing more trash-talking now?

A: I think that's just my personality. I like to have fun, I like to compete, so yeah, there's going to be a little trash talk. It's all in good fun, and it's all because I like to compete.

Q: Are you surprised at all by how Dalvin Cook looks out there? He seems to be cutting and doing just about everything.

A: No, if you're around that guy for two days, you can't be surprised, because his work ethic, his mindset, it's remarkable. Even when the injury first happened, just his mindset in the locker room and around the guys. He's just an incredible person, and like I said you just hang around him for two days and you see that come out. Not surprised at all, and just so excited to have him on the field here competing again, because that's what he loves to do.

Q: How much does it benefit the receiving corps to have the defense focusing on a guy like Dalvin Cook in the backfield?

A: Yeah, it's not just him though. Obviously teams are going to key on him because they know what he can do from film last year, but with Latavius [Murray] and the other backs that are competing, we have some guys that can really make plays. Latavius did an unbelievable job last year. We were just watching some film, putting our install in of last year, and just some of those cuts and plays that Latavius made were pretty awesome. That's why we were able to be successful. You have to have a good running game, those guys up front did a great job and our doing a great job this year. That stuff, as a receiver is exciting, because you have no pass game without a run game.

Q: You mentioned at the end of spring drills that despite coming off of a Pro Bowl season, you have a lot to learn. With that in mind, what did you work on between OTAs and training camp?

A: It's funny you say that, because like I said we were doing some install today and watching some film from last year, and there was a few plays were I was like, "Man, that did not look good," just watching myself. So it was kind of exciting to get back here on the practice field, to just go out there and show what I've done this offseason. It just makes me feel good that the hard work is paying off.

Q: What did you not like about those plays you saw on film?

A: Honestly, it was just the little things. Just a little sloppy with my technique during the games. A lot of times it's because you're a little tired, but I think that's why it's important to be out here taking all those reps. In a game it's inevitable that you're going to get tired. Just making sure that you're technique isn't lacking when you do get tired.

Q: What's the biggest change in going from a quarterback like Sam Bradford, to Case Keenum, to Kirk Cousins?

A: Every quarterback has things that they do well. Obviously in this league if you're a starting quarterback in the NFL you can make all the throws and things like that. But every one of them has the ball come out of their hand a little differently, whether it be a deep ball, a short ball, they all throw it a little different. Just trying to figure out what they like guys to do and how they like routes ran in certain situations, and then just getting a good feel for where they're looking and when the ball is going to come out, things like that. It's been great, we obviously had a good jumpstart when we went out to Atlanta and with OTA's, and now coming back to training camp it's been great. You can never be done building chemistry, so each day as a receiver you're trying to build that trust with the quarterback to say, "Hey, I'll make plays for you if you throw it my way."

Q: Are Case and Kirk similar as far as how they like routes run and how they throw the ball?

A: Not really, no. They're a lot different, and they're different in a lot of different ways. I'd say one thing they have that is similar is their personality. They're both likable guys, guys that come to grind every single day, and they love the game of football and they love the locker room too. They're both easy to be around, so that's something that is similar, but the way that they play the game is different.

Q: What sticks out about watching Randy Moss play as he just got inducted into the Hall of Fame?

A: Between Randy, Cris Carter, and Jake Reed those are the guys that made me want to play football and made me want to play receiver. It has obviously been special in the last few years meeting those guys talking to them trying to pick their brains a little bit and obviously super excited that Randy got inducted because he is extremely deserving of it. Obviously, it is fun to look back at his career and watch his old film. I love when that stuff pops up on Instagram and be able to watch some of those old Randy plays that made me want to play this game. 

Q: How do you compare yourself with Randy since you play the same position?

A: I try to emulate him as much as I can. Honestly, when you are watching the film and stuff you are like wow I want to do that but, when you get on to the game field you just want to be you. You take certain things he did. The one time we talked last year there was a few things he kind of told me that I want to use in my game and that I tried to use last year and things that I had already thought about but maybe I did not use. It is obviously great to get a guy that has success and pick his brain. 

Q: Have you talk to Randy Moss much since he got inducted into the Hall of Fame?

A: I have not. I am waiting to see him.

Q: How is the pedigree of the secondary sharpen you over the years?

A: Yes, what a great group it's a great thing for the receivers and I to be able to go against that group every single day. Even the young guys, I mean goes beyond Mike Hughes too you know there is some other guys that are young and phenomenal football players. It will only help us as receivers. I am really excited to come to practice everyday. It is not just Xavier Rhodes, obviously he is great but there is a lot more guys that have debt in that position. It is exciting for us because we can come in and compete everyday.

Q: What stands out about Mike Hughes when you have gone against him?

A: He is a smart guy, a great locker room guy, and plays the game the right away. He is instinctive, quick, and seems like every time I have gone against him he is there to make the play. There is not a lot of separation when you are going against him. Which is really impressive when you are a guy that has just entered the league and has no experience in the NFL. I am excited about his future and how he can help this team. 

Q: You talked about building chemistry with Kirk Cousins, and today you had a big play down the sideline that got the fans excited. Even in a practice setting, how good is it to start to feel that connection?

A: It's great. I think for me, I'm just trying to make sure I'm making those plays to give him some confidence throwing my way. [Stefon] Diggs and talk about that a lot, trying to make those plays so we get more of those opportunities. That's one thing that is really cool about building that connection with the quarterback, is it doesn't just come and it doesn't just happen with time. It happens with making plays, so that gives you another added incentive to go out there and try to grind and try to compete and do your best, so you can get more of those opportunities in games.

Q: The defense has seen a lot of continuity, but the offense has seen a number of offensive coordinators come through. How do you feel about having to reinstall parts of the offense?

A: It's exciting for me, honestly. It keeps football fresh. Obviously I love this game, but it's exciting to learn new plays, and schematically we're doing a lot of different things than I've done in the past. It's exciting, and it's another challenge to try to master those things and try to figure out what Coach Flip DeFilippo likes in a receiver, and trying to do those things. It's a challenge, but as a receiver and as a competitor that's what you want.

Q: Are there any specific concepts that Coach DeFilippo has really been emphasizing?

A: Well we're only in the first install, so it's just the basics right now. I think those are the things you find out as we go. Right now we're just installing the offense. In OTA's it was an installation process that you had to go through, and it's really hard to get a good feel for what he's going to do in games. I'm excited to keep continuing in these practices to take advantage of the situations that Coach does [DeFilippo] through the practices, and then getting to the preseason to try and get a better feel of how he's going to call a game and how Kirk's going to call a game as well. That's another exciting step for us.

Q: While you may want to forget about the result of the NFC Championship game, do you want to take the things that you learned getting that far and build off of them?

A: Yeah, I think you keep those things in the back of your head, but other than that you come out here and you just try to grind and you try to do the things that helped you get to where you got last year. I think there's a lot of things that we know that we did in practices, we did it in training camp, and we did in OTA's, that helped us get to where we got to. I think it's trying to just restart that process and make sure that we know that we're not just getting handed 13 wins. 13 wins in the NFL is extremely difficult, it doesn't matter how good you are. I think it's the little things, it's the fine details, and we're lucky to have a great coaching staff that really emphasizes those things.

Q: After the season you had last year, you guys are going to have a target on your backs. Do you embrace that?

A: Yeah, I mean I think that's part of being a competitor. You love having competition, you love having people wanting to play their best against you. That's what we're going to get, and that's exciting.