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Transcript: Zimmer and Cousins Addressed the Media on Wednesday

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer

Okay, good morning. We’ve got a little lighter practice today and then walk-thru tomorrow and then we will head to New Orleans for the game. It should be a good contest for us. They are a very good football team, excellent on defense. Obviously, we know some of the guys on their offense so it will be fun to play them. Should be a fun atmosphere.

Q: A lot of the guys on defense said they responded to your call last week about showing more grit and they joked around saying you were smiling; did you see them flip the switch a little bit this week on that?

A: I’ve been with those guys now for basically six years, so they kind of know when I need to push the needle a little bit. They have an idea of what I am looking for. Like one of the players said, “The coach is usually right, so we better pick it up a little bit.” They have done good this week. It’s been much better, much more edge to them and that’s how we have to play.

Q: Is that normal in preseason to stoke the fire a little for the guys?

A: Sometimes in training camp because it gets loggy a little bit. They have been beating each other up for a while now and going in pads every day, so it’s just a reminder that if we are not getting better, we are getting worse.

Q: With the new offense going in, do you want first team guys to have the most playing time in preseason than usual?

A: We have kind of set the playing time. It won’t be a whole lot, but what I want them to do is be efficient. Just go out there and do the things we have been doing and practicing. They may get some different looks defensively. That’s just how it goes. It’s all about executing the techniques that we have been working on and then being able to adjust during the course of the game because that’s what regular season games are. 

Q: How important are the preseason games going to be for Kevin Stefanski’s dynamic with Gary Kubiak being up in the booth and trying to figure out how that will work during game days this season?

A: I really don’t think it’s going to be a big issue. They have been working at it for a while now anyway, but it will be a process as we start going forward. I think the communications on the head sets is a little different than it is out here, so that will be one part.

Q: Do you see any difference from your four guys from the AAF trying to make the transition to the NFL?

A: I think they just become a part of this team and not so much “We came from this area or this league or whatever”. They are all trying to figure out what we try to do and do it to the best of their ability and show what they can do. Games like this will be good for them.

Q: What are you trying to get out of Alexander Mattison during the preseason game?

A: Hopefully he can play and then if he can, then we will give him a good dose.

Q: Is Alexander Mattison hurt?

A: We will have to see if he can play or not.

Q: Are you going to hold anybody out?

A: Possibly, one or two. Not very many.

Q: In year’s past you’ve talked about special teams being really important for those three-five receiver spots, what are you focusing on that going into this preseason game and beyond that too?

A: That is part of it. I feel good about our linebacker depth. I think those guys could be a big factor in special teams. If a guy, if a running back, (Alexander) Mattison or (Mike) Boone, the receivers, if they can help on special teams, that is a big plus. Obviously, we are looking at them first as receivers but if they can separate themselves by playing special teams, that would be a big plus for them. 

Q: Is there a good sense of stability among the first unit?

A: Yeah, for the most part I think there is. I think the biggest thing is every one of them are trying to get better. Collectively, they have a lot of pride in what they are trying to do as a group, and so I think that is the part where the complacency doesn’t set in because I have to get better today. We have to get better today and go from there.

Q: How important is it for players and coaches to get on the road during preseason?

A: Yeah, it is a learning process. For most of our guys, it is pretty much normal now. We are going to have to play well on the road throughout the course of the season. We have three primetime games on the road, which we are going to have to play well in. So I think all of these times we are playing night games in the preseason are going to be important for us.

Q: Do you handle anything differently in the preseason games now compared to when you first became head coach?

A: I am sure there are a few things. Our schedule is a little bit different this time than it was last year at this time. I am trying to think of what else. As far as the playing time and things like that, it hasn’t been that much different. Today, we are going out in shells and shorts, which typically is a Friday practice for us on a normal game week. That is a little bit different. As far as the game part, it is pretty much the same, yeah. 

Q: If they ever took away the two preseason games, how would that impact on being able to evaluate the back ups?

A: That is above my pay grade. I have said this before, I have seen guys that were on the bubble in the fourth preseason game, they’ve made clubs because of either how they have done on special teams or how they played in that game. So I think it would limit the opportunities for some of these young free agent guys to make teams or even young drafted players to make teams because sometimes it takes a little bit longer to catch on. When you are out there at practice and the coach is telling you what to do and when he is standing behind you and telling you the call, it is completely different than when you are out there by yourself and you have to make all the checks and adjustments and audibles and things like that.

Q: I know we talked about it before and in other years, but Teddy Bridgewater is such a different guy, and for the situation and relationship that you two had, to see him still going now with the Saints, it must be good to see him and you must be proud of him.

A: Yeah, I am proud of him. For him to be able to come back from the type of injury that he had and still be playing in the NFL. Our statistics, you know when the injury happened, it was a pretty bleak outlook for him but that’s the kind of kid he is. I actually talked to Sean Payton today. Sean said he’s the same guy, no restrictions, doing well and Teddy is a competitor. He’ll try and stick it to us just like we’re going stick it to him.

Q: For preseason games, do opposing coaches talk to each other about the things you want to see from each other?

A: No, not really. I mean in the past I have asked him for a couple formations that we haven’t been seeing and go ahead and run whatever you want out of it but, you know, “Hey, could you give us this formation?” But we didn’t really talk about it this time. We’ve never fixed a game or anything like that.

Q: How often are you able to do that? Where you can have a discussion with a coach ahead of time? Is that limited to coaches you have a personal relationship with?

A: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, you know Sean (Payton) and I worked together. My kids babysat his kids. We actually talked a lot about our kids and our families. I asked him about Latavius (Murray) and Teddy (Bridgewater) and Nick Easton, Marcus (Sherels). You know, we’ve talked different things. Sean likes to talk anyways so we talked about what they’ve been doing in training camp, what I’ve been doing in training camp. He probably likes the media more than me or doing the media. Not that I don’t like you guys, I just don’t like doing it. It’s part of my shtick.

Vikings Quarterback Kirk Cousins

Just to start, obviously getting on a plane tomorrow and heading to New Orleans, we’re really looking forward to going against someone new, the challenge of a game. A game really makes it feel like it’s the start of a new year, because to this point, it’s still not real football. With live bullets and the chance to get hit, the red jersey coming off really changes the game and changes the quarterback position. I think that’s something to be excited about, and it’s great to see what kind of team we have. I don’t really know what kind of team we have, and every game we play you learn a little bit more, so this will be a great opportunity. I’m sure we’ll have a limited number of snaps with the starting group, so it’s very important for us to start fast. You have games during the season where you start slow and you pick it up in the second half. In the preseason games if you start slow, you feel awful, so it’s very important to get out to a great start, convert that first third-down and preferably score a touchdown on the first drive, if not a field goal, and just have a productive first drive. So that’s where our focus will be, and hopefully come out healthy and feeling good about our performance as an offense. Any time you strap it up you want to win. We talk about how it’s an exhibition game and we’re not going to do too much, but every time I’ve lost a preseason game, the coaches aren’t happy and the players aren’t happy. You’re still trying to win the game, and I know that will be important to us as it draws to the end.

Q: In terms of putting in the entire offense, how far along are you and how comfortable is the team?

A: When it comes to putting in the offense, we have nine installs, and all of those installs are in. Now we have to go back and fine tune, and we have to figure out which of those plays within the installs we’re really going to focus on and make our identity. That comes down to your personnel and what we’re comfortable doing and what we do really well, and I think that’s always a work in progress. You go into a game like New Orleans with a pared down playbook or game plan, but one that is thorough enough to have plenty to run and win. When we come back from that game we go back, because we’re no longer installing, to trying to make corrections from that game and build towards the next game plan. But the offense is in, to answer your question. Now it’s about really fine tuning it so that we’re on top of all those little details.

Q: Because it’s a new offense, how curious are you to see what it looks like in a game?

A: I’m very curious. It’s funny, because I did play in this system for two years, and yet I still feel like you’re dealing with something brand new, for whatever reason. Maybe just because for five years I did something a little different. I’m interested to see how my instincts are reacting, because with football you really do have to react instinctually. If you drop back and you’re thinking and have to pause a second, you’re getting hit or you’re missing the open guy. You have to have it become instinctual, and nothing exposes you more than a game. I’m excited to get those live bullets thrown at us. Just going against the same players every day you start to get very comfortable with what this corner likes to do, or how we match up on this coverage and how this route looks against this linebacker. So getting against different people and a different scheme really does make it more uncomfortable, and that’s good. We need that.

Q: Having a different center obviously adds a different element as well. What do you hope to get out of this game with Garrett Bradbury?

A: Well I’m going to take it back to how much he sweats again. He promises that it’s not a problem in game, and it remains to be seen, because his shorts today were soaked. He says it’s not a problem on game day, so the moment of truth is Friday night. But apparently when they keep those domes air conditioned and you get a break on the bench and you sit with those cooling fans, I’m hoping that really helps. That’s a big thing I’m going to take away from Friday night, is how tough was it to grip the ball after he snaps it to me. If it is tough, we might be in pistol and shotgun all year, which Coach [Gary] Kubiak and Kevin [Stefanski] wouldn’t like very much. But other than that, just the operation. Nothing specific, just the ability to get in and out of the huddle, deal with the play clock, deal with crowd noise, deal with multiple snap counts, silent counts, verbal counts, and then just the different line calls with all the different protections in the run game. He [Garrett Bradbury] too having to identify new defenses as you mentioned is a new challenge for him that could be a little unsettling. But I just keep going back to the fact that he’s a professional, and he’s the kind of person that seems to roll with it and handle it really well. I have high expectations for him as a result.

Q: Is posterior sweating the kind of thing that needs to be scouted ahead of time?

A: You know what, I haven’t talked to our scouting department about that, but I want to look at them and say that that’s one thing that we probably didn’t get a measurement on during the predraft process. But it’s really not posterior, it’s really just the whole thing. I mean I look at his shins, and it’s just pouring. You go through my window after a rain storm, and I look at my shins, and it’s just genetic I guess. I don’t know, but he claims it’s not a problem in games, and last time I checked, that’s all we get measured on. So we’ll go off that.

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