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Transcript: Zimmer Addressed the Media Thursday

*Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer *

We're getting ready for the Giants and there are a very, very good football team. They've got a lot of weapons offensively. Obviously, the quarterback's won two Super Bowls. They've added a lot of talent defensively. It'll be a great test for us. We'll need our fans to be really loud to help with their no-huddle offense and get that SKOL Chant going. So, you know anything we can use.

Q: Will you be on the sideline trying to help fans) out with the chant?

A: If I have to, I will.

Q: What's the urgency of getting the run game going this week?

A: We're closer, but we're just not quite getting there yet. This is a tough team to run the ball against. They haven't given up a lot of yards running, but we're going to have to hard-headed and stick with it.

Q: How much does getting Sam Bradford comfortable at the line of scrimmage help with playcalling?

A: I don't know. I think some of it is, but we did some last week too.

Q: Do you think Sam Bradford getting more comfortable will help with opening up the run game?

A: You'd have to ask him. I don't know.   

Q: You said that you were close with the running game, what are you missing?

A: Well we got out the safety a couple of times last week, but he got downhill so fast that it ended up being a three or four yard gain as opposed to a bigger play. I think some of the play actions will help open things up you know if these safeties keep jumping things. Some of that will help. We made a couple of wrong calls, there's a number of things.

Q: You guys had a good amount of success in denying Kelvin Benjamin the ball, will Odell Beckham Jr. present a different challenge or will you be able to employ a similar strategy with him?

A: Each week is different. Everybody is different. These receivers are different. They have three guys that are pretty talented (Sterling) Shepard, (Victor) Cruz, and (Odell) Beckham. They do a good job of spreading the field out and making it difficult for you.  

Q: Did you get any clarity on if you'll have Alex Boone for this upcoming game?

A: I think, but I don't know. We haven't practice yet, so I don't know.

Q: When Harrison Smith closes in quickly to make a play does that come from instinct or film preparation?

A: I think both of those things and vision. You know, reading keys and getting a tip off. Pre-snap tips sometimes from the offensive linemen. Some of it is vision and some of it is instincts. You know, understanding the gameplan and the situation.

Q: How has the way the defense has played allowed you to have a little wiggle room as you work through the losses on the offensive side of the ball?

A: Well we don't have much wiggle room. We're fighting our rear ends off every week in every phase offense, defense and special teams. We're just trying to find ways to win, however we can win games. I keep saying this team is pretty resilient about that and understanding what we try to do each week.

Q: How encouraging has the punting of Jeff Locke been?

A: I think he's been very consistent. Part of that, even though they talk about the defense and all that stuff, is the opposing offenses has had to go a long way a lot of times. Where I think the punt team really helped us. Really the offense too (by) getting to a place where we can punt the ball down inside the 20-yard line. That kind of goes overlooked a little bit, but he's doing a good job in that area.

Q: What were the traits that you saw in Linval Joseph when he was a free agent a couple of years ago?

A: Well, really the same things that he's doing (now). He's a big, strong, athletic guy that's powerful. It's really all the same traits that he had. He's good against the run.  

Q: What has he done to improve as a pass rusher?

A: I think he's taking a liking to it more. He's a guy that wants to try to play the run and power you in there and get his body on bodies. He's been in there a lot due to situations that we've been in. I think the more that he understands the situations in the game and turns it loose because he can rush the passer. He can be a very good pass rusher. It's just sometimes he has to be a little bit more OK and just go. He knows it's a pass, but he still wants to play the run.  

Q: Sam Bradford seemed to be getting the ball out quicker, was that just more of the gameplan or something philosophically that wanted to do with this passing offense?

A: Well we always want to have quicks in the gameplan. We always want to have protection based things and take our shots down the field. So, I wouldn't say it's philosophical. It's just part of the evolution of who we're playing and what we're doing.

Q: Why do you think Sam Bradford and Kyle Rudolph have been able to form such good chemistry on short order?

A: I think it's because they sit together on the team plane. I don't know. I think Kyle has a good catch radius, and he has been doing a good job getting open. And Sam has done a nice job of looking at the reads and knowing where to go. So, I'm sure he'll start drawing more attention.

Q: Last year, there was a lot of talk about having Kyle Rudolph staying in to help protect at times. Have you been able to get him out in patterns a little more often?

A: Yeah, I guess. Like I said, there's always going to be a mixture of things – where he's staying in, where he's getting out. So, it's not really, 'OK, he's going to be out every play, or he's not going to be in every play.' It's always a mixture.

Q: What do you like most about what you've seen out of the defense so far this year?

A: The way they fight. I think the way they fight. They've been in some situations that we've put ourselves in, and we've had to fight out of it. They don't panic, and they continue to fight and continue to try to do their job.

Q: What stands out with the Giants' defense when you look at them?

A: Athletic – the two ends are athletic. The nose tackle is a big, strong, physical guy. I think their corners are much improved. So, I think they're tough to run the football against, but they've got good people on the back end, too. And they've got two, probably, premiere rushers.

Q: You mentioned the receiving threats that they have. Do you feel good about where your cornerback group is right now?

A: I like our group. I think we have four or five guys that can go in there and play. These are going to be tough matchups for us. These guys are really good. We're going to have to fight and compete and do a good job understanding the things that we're getting.

Q: Getting Xavier Rhodes back, how much does that help the group overall?

A: Yeah, it helps. I thought, really for the first time out, he did well last week, but 'Xav' [Xavier Rhodes] is a good player. I think his physicality helps.

Q: Do you have to take it a little easy with him yet, coming back from his knee injury?

A: I think he's feeling pretty good. I don't see us taking it too easy.

Q: We saw four of the corners play quite a bit at Carolina. Is that a product of the heat and Xavier coming back, or is that something you want to do moving forward?

A: Well, part of it was the heat, but I think we'll continue to play guys when they earn opportunities to play.

Q: What kind of stress does it put on your defense to have, as you mentioned, three really good receivers that the Giants have coming at you?

A: A lot of stress, and they've got a guy that can throw the ball pretty good, too. So, if they were running the wishbone, it wouldn't stress us that much, but they're throwing the ball quite a bit; and they do a good job in the run game. But yeah, it puts a lot of stress on you, because you've got to cover the field. It's not like you can cheat very much.

Q: You guys got a chance to see Sterling Shepard down at the Senior Bowl. What have you liked about him, or what makes him tough to cover?

A: He's competitive. He's quick in the slot. I think he catches the ball good, and he's tough over the middle. So, all those things make it difficult. He has got good quickness in and out of the breaks, catches the ball good.

Q: Was Ronnie Hillman not being active last week just a case of him just getting here and still learning things? Do you anticipate you might have him active this week?

A: I don't know. We'll see how the week goes.

Q: How has he been progressing?

A: OK.

Q: When you see a guy like Odell Beckham struggling to keep his emotions in check, does that effect the way you or your players approach him?

A: No, we try to do things a certain way here. We try to play smart football, do things right. Obviously, we try to win the game the best way we can, but we're not into that other stuff. So, we just go about our business and try to win.

Q: The last time you guys faced the Giants, they didn't have Beckham. How big of a difference does having him on the field make?

A: Well, they didn't have [Victor] Cruz or [Sterling] Shepard either, so it's quite a bit different. They've got three guys that [didn't play last year]. I don't even know if you can look at last year's game, because they've got three guys missing as receivers, and they have eight new starters on defense. So, it's a completely different football team, and it's not going to be 10 degrees or whatever it was.

*Vikings Quarterback Sam Bradford *

Q: How much will getting more comfortable with the passing game help the running game?

A: I think it'll help a lot. I said last week that I think when we're balanced we're at our best. When the run game is rolling our play-action is better. It just makes everything kind of go. I think if we can find something to kind of spark the run game and get it going, I think it can only help us. I'm sure as I get more comfortable with the pass game, but not only that, just the run game in general. I'd imagine the coaches might start giving me some more checks, more on my plate to try and help things.

Q: Is the scouting of the Giants familiar to you?

A: Yeah, there are some similarities between the defense last year and this year. I think if you look at their defense, they've got seven or eight new starters so it's almost a completely different defense than we faced last year. Conceptually, some of the things that they're doing has some carry over from last year. But at the same time, it's a little bit different. Obviously players make it different too.

Q: What concerns you most about their defense?

A: Obviously they have two really good pass rushers on the edge. I think we've got to take care of those guys. We've got to make sure that we block them, can't let them disrupt the run game, can't let them get after us in the pass game. Just making sure that those guys are contained.

Q: How much did the changes on the offensive line affect you?

A: It didn't affect me at all. I thought those guys did an outstanding job last week. I thought they both played really well. They both played really hard. That's one of those things that's nice to know as a quarterback. That if something does happen during the course of the game and one of those guys is asked to step in there and play, I've got all the confidence in the world in them given how they played last week. 

Q: Where have you grown the most in the past 10 days compared to the first couple of weeks?

A: I think just with the terminology, with the play calls, it seems to just hit my brain a little bit quicker. It's a little bit easier for me to process. It seems like there's not as much thinking going on. Especially the first week that I was here, I'd get the play calls and in my head it sounded like a foreign language. I really wasn't sure what was going on I was just making sure I called it right. Whereas now I feel good with all that. 

Q: Are you still translating most of it in your head?

A: There's still some translation, kind of like I said, I think it takes some time. I think obviously the longer that I'm in this offense the less it will be. But no, I think there's definitely a little bit of a translation process right now.

Q: Are those checks where you have the most room to grow?

A: Yeah, I think that's one of those things that hopefully the coaches, the more they see me the more comfortable they are with me, the more they'll give me and they'll allow me to do those things at the line of scrimmage.

Q: How much are you involved in setting up the game plan?

A: Yeah, there's not a whole lot. I don't have a lot of input about what's put in. At the end of the week, I try to be pretty vocal about what I'm comfortable with, what I like, maybe what I don't like and why I don't like it. Coach (Norv) Turner has done a great job about listening. There's been some times where I've said I don't like something and he's said, 'Well, think about it this way. We really like it versus this look so if we get it just try to get the ball here or there.' That's been awesome too.

Q: What has made your connection with Kyle Rudolph work well?

A: He's just one of those guys who is kind of easy to develop chemistry with. He's a big target, he's got a big catch radius. From day one, just throwing with him out on the field, he's one of those guys, as a quarterback, that you can just trust. You know that if you put the ball in his area, he's going to go up and he'd going to make a play and he's going to get it. I think just some of the extra route sessions we've had, it just kind of helps develop that trust in him.

Q: How much can control of the line and more checks help the run game?

A: I definitely think he can help. As far as how much, I don't know. We'd have to see. I think getting into the right plays is half the battle and then we have to go execute them.

Q: What is the level of urgency to get the run game going?

A: Pretty high, obviously, we haven't been able to get it going like we expected to. It's one of those things that we really need to get going. Like I said, I feel like when we're balanced as an offense is when we're at our best. I thought we did run the ball pretty well in the second half against Carolina and kept them off balance a little bit. We know it's something that's important and something that we need to get going. 

Q: Are you a quarterback that would prefer to call his own plays?

A: I think I've got enough on my plate right now. I think if I had to worry about calling my own plays it would probably be a little much at this point.

Q: Have you had a chance to check out the Ryder Cup in town?

A: I haven't made it out there yet. Hopefully maybe at the end of the week I can. I'm excited about it. Obviously, it's a big deal. I know that there's a lot of excitement in the city for it. It should be a great event.

Q: Do you know any of the golfers?

A: I know Ricky Fowler just a little bit. He was at Oklahoma State when I was at Oklahoma and had the chance to meet him a few times. He's one of the guys that I like to follow.   

Q: How good of a golfer are you?

A: I'm okay.    

Q: Is there a reason you've been able to have so much success with tight ends throughout your career?

A: I'm not really sure. Obviously me and (Zach) Ertz had pretty good chemistry last year. I think it's just all a matter of the relationship that you have with the tight end, with the receiver, with the running backs. The past two tight ends I've played with have been pretty good and I've really enjoyed throwing them the football

Q: How much does having your locker right next to Stefon Diggs help build that relationship?

A: It helps just because we're next to each other and we can talk about things. But, I think a lot of it is just what we do on the field together. I think just getting extra reps, talking about it on the field. I think that's where it really matters. But, obviously being right next to him, it helps too.

Q: How is your comfort level different going into this Monday night game compared to going into the Sunday night game?

A: Yeah, given the last game was the first time I had played for this team, the first time there had been a regular season football game in that stadium and against the Packers. I think there was a lot of anticipation, a lot of buildup going into that Sunday night game. Obviously, with two games now under my belt, I just feel much better about the process. How we prepare during the week, how we practice and then, obviously, what the operation is on game day.

Q: How much does the defenses performance help relieve the pressure on you and the offense?

A: Obviously, the way those guys are playing right now it helps a lot. They kind of kept us in the game on Sunday until we were able to get some things going in the second half. It's nice to know that you're not going to have to go out there and score 50 points a week to win a football game. At the same time, we want to be the best offense that we can be. We want to be as efficient as we can be. We still put a lot of pressure on ourselves to go out there and execute. We expect to go out there and be a great offense. But, when those guys are playing the way they are, it does take a little bit of pressure off.  

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