*Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer *
I know that we're changing the schedule around, so I won't get to see you as much this week, so Merry Christmas in advance. Hopefully our fans are nice and loud with this no-huddle offense the Giants come in here; need to be loud on Sunday night.
Q: What have you seen from Jason Pierre Paul?
A: Well, obviously some of the pass rush things he doesn't grab as much because he's got that big wrap on. You still see the athletic ability, the quickness, the acceleration, he still dips and bends good. He's a still a big threat you have to deal with.
Q: Do you use the fact you have one Pro Bowler to motivate other players on your team?
A: I didn't really talk to them much about that. We probably had some guys deserving and every year it's kind of like that. I like this football team; I like the guys we have and to me they're all Pro Bowlers, to me. That's really all that I care about.
Q: How does Odell Beckham Jr.'s appeal hearing impact your preparations?
A: We prepare as if he will be playing, if he doesn't then we will adjust and adapt. Really, honestly, it's similar to when you get an injury report and a guy is listed as questionable and then he can't go on Sunday or something happens during the game and a guy goes out. You always a lot of different scenarios that you work. Usually we practice that he's going to play.
Q: What do you like about the fact that Teddy Bridgewater remains so even-keeled no matter what is said about him outside of the building?
A: I think that's part of his nature. I've said this before about Ted, he's more about wins than personal achievements and when the team wins we all want to make sure we play good. He really is conscientious about winning as a team. That's kind of been his M.O. in college, high school and here now.
Q: What have you thought of Joe Berger's play throughout the season?
A: I thought he's done good. He's physical, he can get guys in the right place, he's protected well, done a nice job in the run-game. I think I'll echo what Teddy said.
Q: How do you think Eric Kendricks has fared in pass coverage?
A: Actually, he's done well in pass coverage. His problem is in pass coverage is he get impulsive at times. He will have the guy covered and then he will start trying to do someone else's job – farming somebody else's crops. He's been good and really for a young, rookie to come in and play the middle linebacker and play all three downs and do the things he's doing, he's done very well. Now, there's obviously some things he's got to get better at and that's one of them – make sure you do your job first before you start trying to do somebody else's. I'd much rather have a player be like that than you have to kick him in the rear-end. He's a guy you have to say whoa, not go.
Q: What do you think of Eric Kendricks' balance for being a smaller guy?
A: Yeah, he's a slippery guy. He's got good vision and he sees things well and that helps guys be quick. Unfortunately sometimes it's a little bit of a disadvantage to him because he sees things so fast that he wants to get there fast and then he will get out of where he's supposed to be. Those things still all come with experience and I have no doubt that in the future he will continue to get better with those things. He understands where he's supposed to be, it's not like he doesn't understand it's just – 'Well, I'm going to go get this one.' Well, why don't you get this one first.
Q: Do you think he's been a solid tackler in the run game?
A: Yeah, he's been pretty good, he's been pretty good all year. He's not a big thumper, but he's a tackler and that's what's important.
Q: Do you think getting the ball out of Teddy Bridgewater's hand quicker has helped his efficiency?
A: We've done a combination or things – we've gotten the ball out quicker, we've moved the pocket some and then we've had some longer ones where he's held the ball a little bit longer. You have to have a combination of all of those things because if not, then they know where you're at. I think those things are all important and I think we've done a good job with that.
Q: How much has the coaching staff relied on Teddy Bridgewater's input on the passing game and has that changed from last year to this year?
A: Well, we try to rely on Teddy. Sometimes Teddy is not as vocal as he should be because he's a pleaser and he wants to do whatever, so part of that is – that's some of the things I talk to him about is making sure that you understand that it's okay to say, 'I don't really like that play' sometimes or I really like this combination of things and he's done better with it this year, but he's still not to that point yet. I guess whatever that answer is. He can do a lot better with it, he can be a lot more vocal. I've expressed to him to be more vocal with it. You know how he is, he's pretty nice.
Q: What do you attribute Teddy Bridgewater's increased efficiency in December to?
A: I don't know. I mean he's throwing the ball really well in practice right now. I don't know what the case would be last year, I hope that this year it's because we have a chance to be where we're at and maybe that excites him. I don't know. I think maybe last year was more learning, getting better, getting better and things like that.
Q: Do you still have that optimism about the three injured defenders?
A: I have no idea. I think they'll play, but I have no idea.
Q: Will those three practice today?
A: I assume they'll practice today, yes. Now that we're talking about injuries again.
Q: Is Danielle Hunter ahead of where you'd expect him to be on the development curve?
A: I would probably say so. I think Andre has done a great job with him, Andre Patterson. I think our veteran defensive ends, B-Rob [Brian Robison], that reminds me, I think Brian has played outstanding the last two weeks and that's helped us defensively when we've had some of these guys hurt. But him and Everson [Griffen], I think these guys have all kind of taken them under their wing. He is a very eager learner and he has the ability. He's improved probably toward the end of the year, I mean you see things that say, 'Wow, this guy has a chance to be really good in the future.' It's still about continuing to progress. I would probably say, yeah, maybe so. Really, though, most of the rookies – you talk about [Eric] Kendricks and most of our rookies have kind of gone in that direction I think.
Q: Does the eagerness to learn make it easier to teach?
A: Oh yeah, the guys that are the standoff-ish, they don't typically get better. They have all of the answers. He's really like a sponge, he wants to take everything in and you don't want to give him too much because then they start getting overloaded. Each step you take you keep adding a little bit more. I think that's where he progress has come from.
Q: Will you guys practice on Friday?
A: Yes. Merry Christmas, we're practicing on Friday.
Q: Will you get much of a chance to break away?
A: Well, that's a good question. I don't know, I haven't thought about it. There's really no holidays in the NFL. I mean, I know I've had people ask me where I'm going for Christmas if I'm going back to Dallas and things like that. We have games this week, we have practice on Friday. My present to you is to continue to be honest, how's that?
Q: Do you celebrate the Bye Week as a holiday?
A: Yeah, it's a good holiday, yeah. Bye Weeks are good holidays.
Q: When you compare the end of this season to last season do you see a difference in the player's focus?
A: I don't necessarily think there's been a lot more focus because we played pretty good last year at the end of the year. I think guys understand there's a lot more at stake now. There might be a little bit more intensity now than there was – it's hard for me to remember back. Last year being a new staff and a new organization I think there was a lot of guys trying to prove they needed to stay here at the end of last year. This year, it's not so much about that it's about trying to get to somewhere that we've worked really hard to get to.
Q: Have you seen veterans like Chad Greenway or Brian Robison step up more?
A: Yeah, both of those two guys really have stepped up big a lot of times. Chad is very vocal with the team, he's very vocal with me with a lot of things. People don't understand, I've been in the league 21 years now, I went to the NFC Championship my first year, won the Super Bowl my second year and haven't been back to the Super Bowl in 20 years. That's how hard this thing is – to win 11 games or to win the division, these things, they're hard to do. It's a heck of an accomplishment for a football team if you can get those things done.
Q: Is the prognosis still positive for Adrian Peterson's ankle?
A: Yeah, I think so. Everything I hear, should be good.
Q: How are you a better coach this year?
A: I guess maybe experience. I don't know if I am a better coach now. Maybe experience. I don't know, I hope I continue to get better all of the time. I guess some of the new things that happened last year – schedules and all of the different things that happened you're not used to dealing with – dealing with the officials, dealing with media, [Bob] Hagan in my office every day, twice, three times a day sometimes. It's rough isn't it? [Eric] Sugarman in my office three times a day. I don't know that I am, honestly. I just try to do the best that I can.
Q: Will you be paying attention to Sunday's earlier games results and will it impact how you approach your game?
A: That's a good question. I've talked about it and thought about it, I know that if we did something different other than play our best football, I'm too much of a competitor in each game that I wouldn't want to fight. I do want to be smart and that would be more so with guys that are hurt or something like that, our mindset is to go win both of these two games and play our guys, game plan, prepare, do everything that we do because I do think it's important. We've played good these last two weeks and I think it's important that we continue that we continue to build as we continue to go forward and if we do happen to get in to the playoffs I think it's important that we continue to push to where we want to get to.
Q: Do you have a favorite Christmas memory?
A: Christmas memory? I'm not a huge holiday guy. Not during the season, anyway. I remember a bad one, played on Christmas night one time and got clobbered. I know that's not what you wanted to hear.
Q: What's your favorite holiday?
A: Favorite holiday? Hmm. I don't know. I really don't know. It would be something in the offseason, but I don't know.
Vikings Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater
It's good to be back to work coming off Sunday's performance. We want to keep that momentum rolling and get ready to face a tough New York Giants team, a team that scores a bunch of points. We're ready for that challenge. Congrats to Adrian [Peterson] also on his seventh Pro Bowl, but there are some guys who we felt should have made it also. You talk about Joe Berger, another guy who works extremely hard. But I'm pretty sure Adrian would trade in his Pro Bowl to be doing something else in February, more like playing in the Super Bowl. So that's good for those guys and we have to shift our focus to New York, the team that's coming in here trying to keep things alive with their season and we understand that.
Q: There were 11 teams with a worse record with more Pro Bowlers than the Vikings. Is that a snub or a lack of respect for the Vikings?
A: I don't really know how the Pro Bowl voting works but congrats to Adrian. He's a guy who has worked extremely hard and had an outstanding year, so were happy for him. We just know that we have to continue to just take care of our business right now. We have two games left and that's what's most important to us.
Q: You guys are coming off one of your best games of the year. How do you build on that going forward?
A: We just have to continue to execute with the same intensity and have the same mindset going into this game Sunday. The New York Giants are a team that can score points and we understand that. But our defense has been playing some great football this year. Those guys accepted the challenge from Coach Zimmer and we also as an offensive unit accepted the challenge.
Q: It seems that against Arizona and Chicago you have been getting the ball out a lot quicker. Why is that?
A: We're just trying to find ways to get rhythm and have some success as an offense. We know that we don't want to test protection and we know that teams know that this can be a big payoff that likes to take shots down the field when were there. So we understand that. We just let the game come to us and it's been working for us.
Q: Why have you had so much success in the month of December?
A: You just have to understand the situation. This time of the year teams are playing their best football and I'm glad we're on the upside of that right now with momentum heading into this next game. It's good. It's a good thing going into December especially with the chance to make a playoff run. The guys understand the situation, they've embraced the challenge from Coach Zimmer. We know how important these last two games are.
Q: You're a team guy but have you had a chance to reflect on your performance last week?
A: Yeah I was aware of it, but short-term memory. Right now my focus is on the New York Giants and they're a team that can score points. We know that they're battling some injuries on the defensive side of the ball, also, and we're aware of that. We have to stick to our game plan and that's what we expect whenever we throw the ball. You know the (other side) with it is to score points, and if we're rushing the football, expect those big plays also.* *
Q: Earlier this season, you were facing a bit of criticism. Now, people are ready to put you in the Hall of Fame. Is that just the way it is?
A: I guess it's a stat-driven league, a league that's driven by numbers. Everyone wants to see all the passing yards and things like that but the most important thing is winning football games, and that's what's most important around here.
Q: Your receivers and backs put up a lot of yards after the catch last week. Were you impressed by what they were able to do?
A: Definitely. That's what we expect from those guys. You put the tape on, you see other teams in the league, 31 other teams doing the exact same things and having some success. So it was good to see our guys make plays with the ball in their hand. That's what this league is about, having your playmakers win those one-on-one battles and make plays for you.
Q: Do you think the quick release and the yards after the catch were tied together?
A: Yeah. It's just playing in rhythm, getting the ball out on time, not trying to test protection and things like that. It's something that we've been hitting on for about a couple weeks now. Just playing fast, getting the ball out, helping the guys out up front and it's been working for us.
Q: It seems like you guys had struggled a bit running shotgun with Adrian at the beginning of the year. Are you more comfortable with that now?
A: It's whatever works for us. We've been having success doing both whether it's running from shotgun or from under center. We're totally comfortable and we know that we're capable of doing those things.* *
Q: Do you prefer passing in shotgun, especially on those quick-developing routes?
A: You know it goes hand-in-hand. Sometimes the play action works better for us, but we've been having success getting the ball out quick out of the shotgun and we look to continue to build on that.
Q: How much do Scott and Norv [Turner] consult with you trying to figure out what works best?
A: We talk all the time. I'm a guy who likes to be on the move and I'm all about rhythm, getting going early. You put the tape on, you know were nakeds and things like that getting the ball out quick and it's been helping us.
Q: What has Joe Berger done filling in for John Sullivan this year?
A: Joe has done a remarkable job. Whether it's making calls in the run game or protection, redirecting the line. Joe's been awesome. He's a great person. You talk about a guy who can play any position on the offensive line, that's Joe. We're happy to have a guy like that on our team.
Q: Do you think some guys will use the Pro Bowl snubs as motivation?
A: I'm pretty sure. With the group of guys that we have, we have a group of guys who won't settle for less. Those guys are going to continue to prove that they're worthy. They're going to go out there and earn everything. They understand that nothing was ever given to them. They have to earn everything that they want. That's the approach that they're going to have.
Q: Have you followed the Odell Beckham Jr. story at all?
A: No I haven't been following it. You just play it by ear. I guess I just have to focus on the New York Giants defense and that's something that we're preparing for.
Q: As a player, do you have thoughts on the roughness that spilled into the field of play?
A: I can't even speak on that situation because I'm not even aware of what actually happened out there. I've been solely focusing on the New York Giants defense, so I haven't had time to watch their offense and watch what was going on with Odell and [Josh] Norman. I've been trying to focus on getting ready to face this defense.
Q: How have your two years playing at TCF Bank Stadium been?
A: It's been great. The University of Minnesota has been great. Great hospitality, the fans have been awesome. The support has been fun playing outside and we try to use it to our advantage.
Q: Does anything stand out to you looking at the New York Giants?
A: The injuries. They're battling some injuries, some personnel things. That's something we're aware of.
Q: What have you seen from Jason Pierre-Paul?
A: It looks like he hasn't lost a step. He's continued to just make progress as the year's been going on. He's a guy that you have to be aware of when he's out there on the field