*Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer *
Good morning. We're starting the preparations here for Green Bay. I think our team will be excited to go play. Hopefully our fans come in and I know the game is sold out, but we need to make sure all of those seats have purple in them. I know they travel well, but it's important that it's nice and loud. They've got the no-huddle offense going, so they can help us out a lot. Questions?
Q: Where have you seen the biggest strides in Danielle Hunter's development?
A: Understanding rush angles, using his hands. Right now we've been working on speed coming off the line of scrimmage.
Q: How important is it to try and keep the players grounded and making sure they're sticking to the task in this five-game winning streak?
A: I don't really think that they have been not grounded as we've continued to win. They seem to be focused every week. It's just kind of business as usual. We just keep going, doing what we do and I remind them of things we have to get better at each day, remind them – like I told the team – we're just trying to go one day, one week, one game. How can we get better today and how can we get better this week and hopefully we're better than whoever we're playing on Sunday, it doesn't matter. We don't have to be the best team in the NFL, we just have to be the best team on Sunday.
Q: What are some typical benefits and drawbacks that come out of rivalry or big games?
A: Sometimes guys that try to do too much, they get caught up in all the hype. But usually guys that are focused and understanding the fundamentals of things, the things that got you to this spot are really what carries you through.
Q: Are you surprised that Green Bay has dropped their last three games and seem vulnerable?
A: I don't really worry too much about them as far as what's happened to them or anything else. I just watch the tape and see the type of team they are – the explosiveness, the quarterback, the receivers that they have, their offensive line; defensively, [Julius] Peppers and [Clay] Matthews, they don't change. They've got great coaches. [Defensive Coordinator] Dom Capers is a heck of a coach, I have the most respect in the world for Mike McCarthy. Their organization is one of the top organizations in sports and honestly we're just trying to get in the mix with these guys. They're the top level and we're just trying to get into the mix.
Q: Is there a significance to beating them and showing them that you are ready to hang with them?
A: I think – and I kind of got asked that question earlier on the radio – but there's still a lot of football left. There's still seven games left and maybe the last game of the year- that might be pretty important – but we're looking at this as another division game. Obviously we understand they're an excellent football team and excellent organization, but it still comes down to how we play. I've said that for I don't know how many weeks, it's how we play each Sunday and that's the important thing.
Q: How has Captain Munnerlyn improved this season compared to last season?
A: He's improved tremendously. He's doing the things we ask him to do. I think he's much more focused on his job and how he can do better with it. I think he's been more involved in the running game, more involved in some of the quick passes and screens that we've got. Probably in every phase, he's improved.
Q: Have you seen offenses treat Xavier Rhodes differently after the year he had last year?
A: No, not really.
Q: What did you see on that touchdown play that he gave up on Sunday?
A: It was poor technique. He got too deep in the end zone, he just got beat.
Q: Where do you want to see him improve?
Q: Teddy Bridgewater's record as a starter is solid, what other statistics are you using to measure him or should winning trump all?
A: Well, it trumps most, but the thing that I guess one of the best statistics is that he doesn't hurt his team ever. Very rarely does he hurt his team. Most of the time, he's helping his team in a lot of ways that don't show up in number of yards. We always said we wanted to be a team that runs the football well, plays good defense, plays good special teams; we kind of do that a little bit. But I think when games get on the line – and this may be a game; I don't know, he may have to do some things.
Q: Teddy Bridgewater said that you're not a fan of the game manager label, why is that?
A: Because I don't think that's what he is. I don't know what a game manager is really, but I think Teddy has got an extremely bright future, I think he's a heck of a quarterback and I'm glad he's mine.
Q: Have you seen anything different from Aaron Rodgers these past three games?
A: Same guy to me – great movement in the pocket, great vision, throws the ball anywhere at any time, gets the guys in the right protections. I have the upmost respect for him.
*Q: Can you describe your defensive sytem and how would you label it your system or Marvin Lewis'? *
A: I don't know. We just try to play good team defense, that's all. We try to do things that – like I've said before – fundamental, sound football that allow other people to do their job and have success doing it. Marvin is a great friend of mine. I don't know, systems are systems. We've worked together for a long time. He's a good friend.
Q: When you study your opponents, do you focus more on their deficiencies or strengths?
A: Well, you try to do both, but the first thing you look at is their strengths and how they can hurt you and then you try to figure out how you can hurt them.
Q: With the same five guys starting on the offensive line, how has the continuity helped the progression in the running game?
A: It has helped. We obviously miss Phil [Loadholt] and Sully [John Sullivan]. But we obviously miss those guys and wish they were playing for us, but these guys have done a nice job. Jeff Davidson has done a good job, we're getting better at being in the right place, being on the same page, doing things like good teams do.
Q: What about Danielle Hunter has earned your trust despite being the youngest player in the NFL?
A: We don't really look at age very much, we just look at players and he's a guy that has a lot of ability, a lot of upside, he's got long arms, he's a great kid, he's smart, he's fast. In saying that, if we didn't think he could play, we wouldn't play him, But I think he's done a really nice job of taking to coaching, things that we're asking him to do.
*Q: Have you been happy with the home crowd and how they've been able to impact games so far this year? *
A: Yeah, I think they've been great. I love the fans. With home, it's nice to have them behind our back and yelling. It's a little later game, so hopefully they can tailgate a little bit beforehand and get really loud, but I know that Green Bay travels well, so I think it would be important that we keep all of our tickets.
Q: There were many times where they were cheering maybe too much on offense and chanting Teddy Bridgewater's name, do you see that happening as much this year?
A: I think it's quieted down, but I like our fans a lot. They're good people and they mean well for the Vikings. If once in a while, they want to yell "Teddy," then go ahead.
Q: What does it say about Adam Thielen who got his shoulder wrapped and then went full extension to try and block a punt later in the game?
A: Adam is a tough guy. He's had a couple nicks throughout this season. I ask him how whatever it is is and he says, "good." And I say, "Well, that's the right answer." He's a guy that's not going to miss, he's going to keep fighting, going to keep playing. He's dependable.
Q: When you watch the film, have you seen opponents recently try to contain Aaron Rodgers in the pocket and is it more of a focus than previously?
A: I think most every team understands when he gets out of the pocket, a lot of bad things happen. That's not just the last three games, it's the last 10 years probably. You have to be smart in how you rush him. Somebody asked me about out sacks today and I told him, "To me, it's not about the number of sacks." Like last week we felt like we had to rush the quarterback and make him feel the pocket as opposed to giving him space to throw the football. So our guys are executing the rush plans that we're asking them to do, have been throughout most of the year, and to me that's way more important than getting sacks. It's executing the rush plans that we have for that week.
Q: With an undrafted free agent guy like Adam Thielen, how much of it is just being available to play through nicks and pains?
A: Yeah, a lot of it is and really, Adam is a perfect example of the more you can do because he does an awful lot of stuff and most all of the stuff that he does, he does it well.
Q: Does this rivalry have that different feel compared to other places you've been in your career?
A: This week it does. Dallas and the Redskins were a pretty good rivalry. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh was a pretty good rivalry. I think each week, it seems more that particular week.
Q: Do you try to downplay that to the players?
A: No, I don't have to say much to them this week. They're pretty smart. I say we have a smart team, I've said that for a long time. We have a smart team. They understand who we're playing, we understand how good they are, we understand that they're the defending champs for a long, long time. We understand that they were 5-3 last year and still went on to win. Nothing that's happened before for them or before for us really matters to me. All that matters is this week and actually the only thing that matters to me is today and how we can get better today. But our guys understand this could be a big game. I still think there are seven games left, there's a lot of stuff that can happen. If this was the last game of the year, it might be heightened even more.
Q: If you win, would you see this as your most signature win in your time here?
A: I don't know. It's too early to be talking about signature wins. I think if we hang one of the banners up there it'll be a signature win.
Q: Was Eric Kendricks close to playing against the Raiders and where is he at in his recovery?
A: I think he should be ready to go. He was kind of close.
Vikings Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater
It's great to be back home this week, facing a tough Green Bay team, they're a group that has been playing some great football. They are where we want to be, the four-time defending NFC North champions. We know that it's a big game, but we just have to continue to approach it with the proper mindset and just go out there and understand that it's going to a four-quarter game.
Q: What has allowed you guys to be the least penalized offense in the league?
A: Coach Zimmer, he's tough in that area. We talk about trying to be the best offensively in every category and to be one of the least penalized teams, it just means that we're playing some clean football. The guys are understanding what we're asking of them.
Q: How does the multiple tight end sets change the dynamic of your offense, particularly when you hand the ball to Adrian Peterson?
A: We get some matchups where we get tight ends on linebackers and our tight ends do a great job in the run game. [TE Coach Kevin] Stefanski has been doing a great job with those guys and those guys understand that they're a key part of our run offense.
Q: What are your thoughts on Aaron Rodgers' composure in the pocket?
A: It's off the charts. He's one of the best quarterbacks in this league and I'm a huge fan of him. He's been playing some great football over the years and you watch, like you said, how he's managing the games - he's keeping plays alive, he knows when to take off and run the ball and when to get down and slide. You see those things, that's what every young guy wants to be, what Aaron Rodgers is right now, he's last year's MVP. He's doing a great job of leading that team.
Q: You've talked about taking traits from different quarterbacks, is his ability to extend plays one of those things you take from his game?
A: Definitely. Like you say, being able to keep plays alive, keep his eyes down the field. He's always trying to make the big play, but he's also smart at the same time, knowing that if it's not there throwing the ball away to live to see another down. He's playing some high-level football right now, he's been playing some high-level football for years now and I've been glad to watch him.
Q: How do you develop that sense of when to leave the pocket and scramble?
A: It's just a timer that goes off in your head. It's either telling you to throw the ball away or to take off down the field and try to make a play. Having a sense of urgency, knowing that the rush is coming.
Q: How does the team stay mentally balanced now that you're receiving more national media attention as a threat?
A: We just have to continue to just stay humble. We have a great group of guys here who seem to believe everything that Coach Zimmer is saying. Coach Zimmer talked about division within, that's something that he mentioned in the team meeting on Monday. We have a group of guys who knows how to handle success, we have a great group of leaders, you talk about Adrian [Peterson], Chad [Greenway], Brian Robison, those guys do a great job of just spreading coach's message throughout the locker room and keeping the young guys level-headed.
Q: Have you heard a lot this week already about your record against the Packers?
A: No, actually I haven't. I'm pretty sure it will be another stat that comes up. We know that this is a tough football team that we're getting ready to face.
Q: How do you balance being aggressive and minimizing mistakes, do you feel like you have an opportunity to do some more?
A: Yeah, we definitely have a lot that we can do. Like you said, it's about having the understanding, for instance, if you're on the redzone fringe, 35-yard line, we know that Blair [Walsh] is capable of hitting 50 yard field goals. For me, I know that try to avoid a sack to make the field goal easier for him. Coach Zimmer is big on field position, whether it's avoiding a sack, throwing the ball away so we can punt the ball to pin our opponents down, keep their back against their endzone. Just things like that, having an understanding of field position, having an understanding of what Blair is capable of doing and Jeff [Locke].
Q: It sounds like you're a game manager, is that a bad thing?
A: Coach Zimmer doesn't like the word game manager. He says I'm a play maker. Hearing that from him, that just speaks volumes.
Q: How much does the game situation dictate deep shots?
A: We have a system here. My job is to play at a high level and try to protect the football. I think we've been doing a good job so far this year of not putting our defense in bad situations. The bright side is we're 7-2, we're winning football games and that's all that matters.
Q: Do you ever gets antsy to hit some of the big plays?
A: We have the big play capability in our offense, we call those shots and they're there throughout the course of the game, sometimes it may not come up the way that we draw it up. Sometimes you might have to check the ball down and things like that.
Q: What has been working with your hard count?
A: We've just played some aggressive teams the past two weeks, we wanted to take advantage of it and try to get some free yardage, some cheap yards. I think we've been doing a good job of that.
Q: Is the hard count a skill you've been working on?
A: It's just about knowing your opponent. If you have an aggressive unit you go into that game trying to get them to jump or like I said, get those free yards.
Q: Can you go through the run at the end of the Chicago game, what was it about that play that made you run?
A: They played a coverage that just took away all of our options on that passing play. It was a coverage where no one was accountable for the quarterback. We talk about it all of the time around here, if we see certain coverages that allow for no containment on the quarterback to take off, that was one of those situations.
Q: Did you know before the snap that you were probably going to run there?
A: On that play, we have a choice of different guys who we can throw the ball to. Like I said, they took away the primary option and I just knew that it was a coverage that we talked about, so by the time I hit my third step, the ball wasn't out of my hand I just knew that I had to make a play.
Q: Do you feel like teams underestimate your ability to run?
A: Maybe, maybe. I know that I don't want to be running, that's why we have Adrian [Peterson], he can rush for 200 yards and things like that. I know that it's a weapon that I have in my game and it's something that we try to take advantage of.
Q: It seems like you've been using pump fakes more this year too, what is the thought behind that?
A: It's just one of those reactions. You react to what you see. Sometimes defenders see the ball in the air, their eyes get big, just tried to make a play.