Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer
It started raining really bad in here a little bit earlier and I wanted to get some things accomplished without messing around with the rain today, but hope to have two more good days of practice. I thought we worked hard today and we had a lot of different situations we wanted to take a look at and two more days here to look at some more stuff, clean some things up, get ready to come to training camp.
Q: What does Kyle Rudolph signing mean for the team?
A: Kyle’s [Rudolph] number one a great teammate, really good person. I've bumped into a few people in the last week or so and that was probably the number one question I got, ‘How’s Kyle?, Kyle going to be here?’ And every one of them when I said, ‘Yeah,’ were all glad. That’s the kind of guy he is in the community and how he represents the Vikings.
Q: Do you see him and Irv Smith Jr. as a great one-two combo at tight end?
A: Yeah, I think they can be and we're going to try to use a lot of different tight end formations but I think the skill set of all those guys, including Tyler Conklin, will help us a lot.
Q: For a young tight end like Irv, how can the large grouping help free him up?
A: Usually when you line up with three tight ends, the defense constricts or gets bigger guys in there and with the guys we have, we can still open up formations and use them as wide receivers per se.
Q: Would that take pressure off a guy like Irv Smith Jr.?
A: Sometimes. He blocked a lot at Alabama. It wasn’t like he lined up outside all the time, but they all have to learn to block. That’s part of the deal too.
Q: Did familiarity or experience with the offense play a role in keeping Kyle around?
A: Maybe a little bit but really it’s about having another good football player here. Kyle is a good football player and I think that’s more important than having the familiarity. We’ll have a bunch of practices so guys can get familiar with each other. I know that helps, but it wasn’t really part of the decision.
Q: What are your impressions of Jaleel Johnson this spring?
A: Jaleel [Johnson] has really done a nice job in this offseason. He's worked extremely hard, he's gotten bigger and stronger. You look at him coming in from the weight room and things like that. He's really improved in a lot of ways that way. I think he's being more receptive to coaching. Sometimes, Jaleel is a little bit like a bull in a china closet, so he just wants to go, go, go. We have to get him to understand where his gap is, how he’s playing it, where his hand should be, and things like that and I think he’s done a much better job this spring.
Q: Is there a point with Kyle Rudolph where you feared that that he might be gone with all the salary cap things?
A: Not really. I mean, there were times when I knew he's under a contract. I figured all along it would get done somehow or he would be here one way or the other. I never really feared it, no.
Q: Were you trying to set the tone of training camp this week?
A: The practices are longer because we can be longer, but they’re more like training camp practices. We’re not going as long in the day as we would in training camp, but the mentality of training camp, I think we’re starting to get to where we’re at there, yeah.
Q: How much are you getting installed as far as installation of offense and defense things?
A: There’s a lot. We’ve done a lot. We’ve just about gone through pretty much everything on both sides of the ball that we want to get done. We were even installing a little bit this week because there's things that I want to look at to see if it's something we can do in the fall, something we can fit, something that fits us.
Q: As you were going over tapes of last year, did you find trends that put linebackers into a bind that you’ve had to adjust to?
A: Yeah, I guess so. The thing is, if something is successful against you, you're going to see it again until you get it stopped. That’s the way football is. I wouldn't say necessarily put a linebacker in a bind. I mean, they're always trying to attack different ways.
Q: How is the linebacker position changing since you’ve got here?
A: Yeah, it's changed quite a bit actually. You know, with the offenses being more spread out, that more athletic, smaller linebackers kind of show up a little bit more because they have to cover in space much more and when they’re in zones they might end up covering receivers, covering backs out of the backfield. I think it may be not as much since I first got here, but over time it’s changed quite a bit.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman
Excited to announce that we did agree to terms late last night on extending Kyle Rudolph. Thanks again to the Wilf family, the ownership, for providing us the resources necessary to continue to do these type of deals. [Thank you to] Rob Brzezinski and Athletes First for all the work they’ve put in behind the scenes on this to keep a guy like Kyle Rudolph, who not only helps us win games on Sundays and is a leader in the locker room, but with how much of an impact he has off the field and with all the charity work he does with him and his wife Jordan, and how many lives that they impact off the field. I know we’re in this business to win football games, but a lot of times it goes beyond that. The type of players we have here, and another prime example is Kyle Rudolph, of doing more through the community then being just a great football player for us. With that I’d like to bring up Kyle and congratulate him.
Vikings Tight End Kyle Rudolph
First of all I’d like to thank the Wilf family as well. Ever since I’ve been here, going on the last nine years, we’re standing in this building because of them. We have arguably the best home field advantage at U.S. Bank Stadium because of them. It’s hard to have a lot of good players and to keep those players here, they’ve provided us with every resource to stay here. I also want to thank Rick [Spielman], Rob Brzezinski, George Paton, and Coach Zimmer. I know Rob [Brzezinski] worked tirelessly with my agents, Brian Murphy and Camron Hahn, it’s not easy with the situation that we have right now as a team to find a way to get this done, but they did it. Throughout this entire process the only thing that matters was at the end of the day I’m here. My family wanted to be here, this organization wanted us here, and we were going to find a way to make that work. With that being said, I’m fired up to have the groundwork laid to keep me here for the foreseeable future.
Q: When did it start to feel like a new deal was close enough to actually happen?
A: Over this weekend, and like he [Rick Spielman] said, last night we agreed to terms.
Q: You and many other players have chosen to stay in Minnesota despite the possibility of leaving to play elsewhere. How much of that is to do with the team’s win-now mentality here in Minnesota?
A: I think it certainly embodies the winning now mentality, but to me it just embodies the mentality of how much they care about winning, period. They [The Wilf family] came to this organization a little over 12 years ago with one goal, and that was to win a championship. All the stuff that they’ve done since is falling in place with that goal. Certainly we want to win now, that’s not going to change, but with their leadership, they’re providing us every resource imaginable to win now but also to win for a long time.
Q: Were there points during this process where you thought you wouldn’t be back in Minnesota this season?
A: No, not at all. Like I said, throughout this whole process rumors are spread, but my wife Jordan and I knew all along that we were going to end up back here. Like I said, Rob [Brzezinski] and my agents worked long hours to make sure that there was a way to get this done, and I’m excited it’s behind me. I mentioned last night that I have unfinished business, and that business is bringing the first championship here to this organization and to the state of Minnesota. That’s my only goal at this point. Being the best leader and best football player that I can be so that this team can win a championship, and we can do something that’s never been done in this organization.
Q: How difficult is it to balance the business side of things, like avoiding a contract that would be bad for you, and being a good teammate and a good employee of this team?
A: It’s difficult if you don’t have people in your corner that you trust. I mentioned it a couple of times, it was easy for me to come out here every day and focus on football because I have two agents that I trusted and I play for an organization that I trust. I knew that Rob had my family and my best interests in mind and I knew my agents had my best interests in mind, so that allowed me to come out here every day and just focus on becoming a better football player and helping this offense get a little better so we can win a championship, and knowing that at some point I’d be standing up here and it’d all be finished.
Q: With that said, it has to be a bit of a relief to get it done now.
A: I think the biggest thing I’m relieved of is that I won’t be all of your guys’ headlines for the rest of the summer. I’m not used to being that guy in the headlines, so I apologize, now you’ll have to have something else to write about for the rest of the summer. I’m certainly excited that this is behind us and now I can just focus on football. I can focus on being a leader of this football team and doing everything I can to make sure that we’re the first. That’s my only goal, I want to be a part of the first team to win a championship here. We got a taste of it two years ago. When we got close, you got a feel for how important that would be to this state, to this community, to this fan base. Certainly to every player and employee of this organization, but Rob and I were talking this morning, that as important it is for all of us to win [a championship] for us, it’s equally important to win it for this community and for this state, because they deserve it.
Q: Besides the football, how much of a factor do you think your leadership and off of the field involvement played in your contract extension?
A: Well I think the community, and I mentioned that this is home now for us, played a big part in it. I certainly could have just played out this year and tested free agency and maybe got more money, but that’s not what it was about. I want to be a part of this organization, and nine years ago a guy by the name of Jim Kleinsasser, who was in his 13th year here in Minnesota, talked to me about how throughout his career he had a couple opportunities to make more money elsewhere, but he stayed here because of this organization and because of the state of Minnesota. Now, nine years in and under contract through my 13th year, I hope I’m the same way. It’s important for us, although maybe we left a little bit of money on the table by not going to free agency, I don’t care about that. It’s about being here in the state of Minnesota, playing for this team, being in the color purple that I love and I’m comfortable in, and having my family here in this community.
Q: There also seems to be unfinished business for you personally, being that you’re under 30 years old and still can play. What was the groundswell for that?
A: Absolutely. I’m under contract for the next five years, and I’m going to do everything that I can to make sure that the next five years are better than my last five. I feel like I have a lot of good football left in me, and I feel like this team is just starting to scratch the surface, especially on the offensive side of the ball. I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve seen over the last 11 practices, and the way that these guys come to work every day, the way that our staff prepares us, the new system, the guys that we have in that locker room. There’s a reason why people come back to this organization. There’s a reason why Anthony Barr left more money on the table. There’s a reason why I had no interest in testing free agency. It’s because of the culture that we’ve established around here. Culture is what ultimately brings championships. In this league the talent level is so even across the 32 teams, and if you don’t have good culture then you don’t have a chance. We have the culture here, and I’m really excited for this upcoming season.
Q: How much do you think about how long you’d like to play, being that players don’t often get their wish in this league?
A: I feel better now from a physical standpoint now at 29 than I did at 21. You just learn how to take care of your body, you know what your body needs throughout the course of an offseason to become a better football player, but to also prepare yourself for that season. You learn week by week in season what your body needs to be ready to play on Sundays. I joked about it in the opening press conference this offseason, something about the golf analogy of not being on the back nine yet. Tony Gonzalez played for 17 years, and he set the pole. I’m going to try and play as long as I can, and like I said, at this point my focus is becoming a better football player now and doing everything I can to help this offense get a little better and bring that first championship to the state of Minnesota.
Q: How do you feel knowing that you signing this extension can help the Vikings from salary cap standpoint?
A: The numbers side obviously speaks for itself. I’ve lowered the cap number, and now we have wiggle room throughout the course of the season, which obviously everyone knows is necessary. I’m glad that worked out as well.
Q: So you didn’t get to watch Game 5 of the NBA Finals while you were working through this?
A: I watched Game 5 as well, and I can’t tell you how sick I was when I saw Kevin Durant get hurt. I knew it right away. That’s the tough part about sports. As athletes, we’ve all done it. You do everything you can, especially in a championship series, to get back out there. The reason why we do this is because of the guys in that locker room, because of the coaches that we go to work with every day. I’ve said it a couple times earlier in my career when I dealt with injuries, there’s nothing worse as an athlete than being hurt, because you put so much work into this and you can’t be out there with your teammates, with guys that you just want to go to battle with. The courage that he showed to go back out there and play hurt, and you see him go down early in the second quarter, and it just makes you sick. On a lighter note, my family is extremely excited to be here. My daughters yesterday when I got home were fired up that we’re still on Viktor’s team, but they’re scared to death of Viktor. I had to promise them that Viktor would not be here today, or else they were not going to come into work later when I signed. I’m looking forward to my family being down here and staying on Viktor’s team.