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Transcript: Zimmer and Thielen Addressed the Media Thursday

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer

Q: Has there been any more progress from Pat Elflein?

A: He's progressing every day.

Q: Are you waiting for him to be fully 100%?

A: As soon as he's cleared. I'm not obligated to talk about injuries. I'm only obligated to give an injury report on Wednesday of week one. I got that from [Eric] Sugarman.

Q: We're talking about progress, not about injuries. It's a more holistic question.

A: I'm sure he's getting a lot of treatment.

Q: What are your impressions of the offensive line group that you have coming back?

A: They're working really hard. It's been a little bit. We're looking at a guy here, we're looking at a guy there. We're still moving guys around a little bit, and will continue to do that because there's a possibility that one guy may have to play guard, may have to play tackle, may have to play center, something like that. We're trying to figure out how we can get the best five in there and how they work best together. It's always going to be a work in progress, but these guys work their butts off. They come out here and they grind and work and study up in the room. They're good guys.

Q: Do you feel like you have a bunch of guys who have the versatility to play multiple positions on the offensive line?

A: We have some. Some of them are less likely to go to another spot than others, but when you're talking about [Nick] Easton, Elflein, [Mike] Remmers playing right and left, Rashod [Hill], we haven't moved [Brian] O'Neill to the other side yet, but we will at some point. [Danny] Isidora has played right and left guard, so when you're only dressing seven on game day you have to have to be prepared for anything.

Q: It seems like around the league teams are getting better at pressuring the quarterback and getting sacks without having to blitz. Is there a particular change that has led to that?

A: Not necessarily. I think a lot of it is based on your guys up front, really. The offensive line, when they get drafted they typically take a little bit longer to get ready, but I haven't seen any kind of certain thing.

Q: As rookie offensive linemen take longer to transition out of the spread offenses they played in in college, has the early balance of power shifted to the pass rushers?

A: Yeah, I think for the guys who have just come out of college it takes a year sometimes for those guys to come in [and start] pass setting guys one-on-one. They're used to slide protections in college. A lot of this stuff that we do is a lot different.

Q: Why is the slot cornerback position such a difficult transition to make from college to the pros?

A: It's not nearly as complicated [in college], number one. Number two, all the different concepts that they have to go against, man within a zone, zones. If it's just man-to-man, it's not that much different, but if it's some of the zones they might have to carry the vertical and then see another guy coming into the zone and pull off the vertical. He might have to carry number two on the vertical or pass a guy off, there's a lot to it and there is a lot more room in there as well. The guy on the outside, he's really only covering maybe half of a field. The guy in the slot, he's got to cover everywhere.

Q: Where have you seen growth from Jaleel Johnson since he arrived here last year?

A: He's improved a lot. I think one of the biggest things, he was a wrestler, so he wanted to get in wrestling matches with guys as opposed to locking them out and then playing the gap that he's supposed to be in. When a guy would come to block him, he would knock him back and then jump inside, and then his gap would be open. He's been a lot more disciplined that way, and like I've said he's not getting in wrestling matches.

Q: You've paired Jaleel up with Ifeadi Odenigbo inside a little bit. What do you like about Ifeadi moving inside on the defensive line?

A: I feel like that's the best position for him. His quickness shows up. He's a tough, heavy handed kid, and he probably didn't have the juice that we need at that spot [defensive end]. I think inside is a better spot for him.

Q: What have you seen from Tashawn Bower that you've liked over the past year?

A: Well the first thing is that he's a really hard worker, he's got great size and length, good speed, and he's becoming better and better with the techniques. He's another great kid, and I'm trying to figure out how to say this the best way – he's more of a power rushing end than a speed rushing end. There's a lot of guys like that, but his skill set is different that Danielle Hunter.

Q: Does versatility and the ability to play inside or outside come into play when you're analyzing cornerbacks?

A: Yes, it's really important. At some point the defensive backs get hurt as well and so you may have to take a guy and move him back to safety or you may have to move him outside the corner or you may have to move him inside. Being able to do that gives a lot of flexibility to the defense. I've been in some games before where nickelbacks got hurt for instance or two nickelbacks have gotten hurt, and so you're really limited in what you can call, so you have to finish out the game with certain calls because you stuck a guy in there and he really only knows one or two things.

Q: What changes have you seen in Adam Thielen from his first training camp to this training camp?

A: Shoot, I don't know if I remember his first training camp to be honest with you. Adam's always been a great competitor, trying to get on the field anyway he possibly could. But now he's the guy, so the way he runs his routes, he's always talking about how he had the defender on this hip or that hip, or leaning this way or leaning that way. He's always caught the ball pretty well, so I think his confidence is way higher than it was the first camp too.

Q: What are some things that Sheldon Richardson adds to the defensive line?

A: Well he's got great quickness. So far Sheldon's played the run very, very well. We're working on some things pass rush wise because he's always been a guy that's been disruptive, he can get around the quarterback, but he hasn't finished. So we've been working on a lot of things with him. I saw it happen two or three times the other day in practice where he got to the spot and he's working on things that we're teaching him where he's got an opportunity to finish on the quarterback. That part has been great. He's got excellent quickness, strong, he's been good in the locker room and good on the field.

Q: What is Harrison Smith doing for this defense that he wasn't able to do the first couple of years?

A: Harrison Smith's pretty much always been able to do pretty much anything, but now I can come up and talk to him and say, "Hey try this today" and he'll do it. Sometimes I've had safeties in the past that you talk to them about something and it might take them three days working on it to do it. As soon as you tell Harrison, he can get it. He's a really, really smart guy. He sees things really well. He very rarely makes the same mistake twice. He can pretty much do most anything. The thing I like about him is that he works on his deficiencies, so if he doesn't feel like he's doing this good he's going to get out there and work at it.

Vikings Wide Receiver Adam Thielen

Q: What are your thoughts on Stefon Diggs signing his extension?

A: Honestly, couldn't be happier for him. Couldn't be happier for him, his family. Couldn't be happier for us as Vikings players because we're glad he's on our team. A guy that works as hard as he does. I've never seen anybody grind the way he does in the offseason, during the season. So, if there's anybody that deserves getting a contract like that, it's him.

Q: What can continuing to build continuity do for a team that is trying to make a championship push?

A: It's huge. I think it's huge not only for the receivers but all the playmakers. Obviously, offensive line as well. The best offenses I've ever seen are the teams that you can't just go to one guy. You have a good running game, which pretty much starts there. When teams have good running games it opens up a lot in the pass. Also, when you have a really good receiver like Diggs, it also opens up for other guys to get the ball as well. Again, that's why you want those guys on your team. You want guys that are big time playmakers on your team because it can only help your offense as a whole.

Q: How have you and Diggs been able to drive each other?

A: It's crazy, I think it goes from not only when we're here in the building, I think it starts in the offseason and how we work off the field. I see him doing stuff on Instagram and things like that. It makes me think, man I better get my butt out there and be doing the same things. When we're in the building in meeting rooms, we hold each other accountable. Diggs is the first one to tell me I ran a terrible route. That's how you want it to be. That's exactly how you want it to be. You want a guy that's going to push you and, like I said, hold you accountable. 

Q: What has it been like to work with the new veteran wide receivers in the building Kendall Wright and Tavarres King?

A: It's always great to have veterans in the room, guys that have been other places like you said. You can learn so much from guys like that. They've seen a lot of football, they've seen a lot of different coverages. They've seen pretty much every look that the NFL can bring you. I'm learning a lot from those guys and again, those are two guys that come to work every day and grind. I love that. We have a receiver room that's not afraid to work. That's not always the case in that room, it hasn't always been that way. Very blessed and thankful to have those guys in the room and I can learn a lot.  

Q: With a few receivers in the league signing big deals, does it make you reevaluate your value?

A: Honestly, for me, I'm worried about football. I'm worried about coming out here and practicing, grinding every single day. That's why I pay an agent, that's why I have an agent. He takes care of that stuff so I don't have to worry about it. When I signed my contract before last season, that's why I did it. Because I didn't want to have to worry about money. I didn't have to want to worry about my contract. I wanted to just go out and play football. It allowed me to do that. So, I want to keep continuing to do that, just playing football and focus on things that I want to control. Let the other people that that's what their job is to take care of that.

Q: What progress have you seen from Laquon Treadwell?

A: I actually talked to him yesterday. I think the biggest thing is confidence. You see the way that he walks around the building, you see the way that he practices. He just has confidence. He knows he's a good player. He's always known that but he didn't always walk around with that when he was a young player. It's so fun for me to see a guy like that grow from year to year. He's just having fun. Before, I don't know if he was necessarily having fun. He was getting frustrated and things like that. It's, obviously, great to see him having success out here. I know he's going to continue to do that and build.

Q: What can confidence do for a receiver?

A: It's everything for a receiver, honestly. There's times in my career that I can look back at and I didn't have the most confidence, you just can't play free. You can't play with the type of energy you want to play with when you're constantly thinking about things you can't control. I think for a receiver, confidence is everything. Confidence in your hands, that you don't have to worry about, 'Hey, I've got to look this in' or I've got to do this or that. You're just going out there and catching the football. You're not thinking about those things. Like I said, confidence is huge and especially at the receiver position. 

Q: Do you miss Mankato a bit?

A: I miss Mankato for a lot of reasons but at the same time, when you have a facility like this, when you have the resources that this building provides, it's really hard to beat. You think about what training camp is for us, it's all about taking care of our bodies. When you have those resources to do that here, that's what you want.

Q: Is it safe to say that this is the most confident you've been entering a season?

A: I think that's why experience is so huge in the NFL. I think each year, each play you make, you have things to look back on. So, when you do have a bad play or drop the ball or something. Well, I've caught a lot of balls in the NFL. So, you kind of have something to reference back to and say, 'Hey, it was a fluke, I'm better than that.' When you're a young player, you don't have that to look back on. So, yeah, I think it's all about experience that provides that confidence.

Q: Did your success last year surprise you at all?

A: It didn't surprise me, I think for me, I'm so in the moment oriented that I don't really think about how many catches I've had. I don't think about that because I've had so many catches or yards that that means a successful year or game. For me, I'm so worried about yesterday. How did I practice yesterday? How am I going to practice today? Focusing on that rather than what I did last year or what I'm going to do this year. Try to continue to have that mentality and did a lot of reflecting this offseason and thinking of how I can really get better this year. I kind of just sat down and said, 'Why change anything? Why not have the same mindset going into this year that I've had every year.'

Q: Can you sense that defenders are more cognizant of you when you're on the field?

A: I would hope that they were last year at the end of the year too. Your play kind of speaks for itself. You put film out there and you try to prove that you can play at a high level. If someone doesn't want to see that, that's fine. If they do, it is what it is. For me, like I said, I just want to make sure that I'm continuing to get better because, like you said, people are probably starting to realize that I'm a little better than they probably thought I was.  

Q: What have you seen from Jake Wieneke?

A: Well, I love his mindset. He's a great kid, he loves the game of football, loves the game of football. He's made a lot of plays out here which is fun to see. He's a guy that had a lot of success in college. I think if he can do the little things right he could have a lot of success at this level.

Q: Have you talked to him a lot and if so what have those conversations been like?

A: It's really not just him, it's all those young guys. I kind of just keep it open for them to ask me whatever. I'm kind of up front with that with all the players. If they have any questions, don't be afraid to ask. Whether that be stuff on the field or off the field, I'm going to try to help in any way I possibly can. He's taken advantage of that as other guys have.

Q: What is the most frequently asked question from those guys?

A: I would say the most frequent is how did I make it from being undrafted. How did I get the opportunities I got, and I don't really have a good answer for that I don't know. I guess my biggest response would probably be, a lot of the things I talk to you guys about, taking it one day at a time. Not worrying about am I going to make the team, am I not going to make the team. Just controlling the things that you can control. I look back in my career, and I am more nervous about me being rookie than I was actually being a rookie. Because I was so in the moment that I wasn't worried about making the team or not making the team.

Q: What plays a big role in being among the leaders in contested catch rate last year?

A: Probably the biggest thing would just be body control. I think that is something that Diggs is extremely good at, and something that I have learned a lot from him is the way that he uses his body to defend from the defenders, and using his arms, using his hands. When guys catch with their body, you can't really catch those contested balls because the DBs hands are going to get there before yours. I think the biggest thing is using our hands, and catching the ball with our hands, because you can get a little bit more leverage that way.

Q: What do you look forward to the most for the Saturday night practice?

A: I think the intensity again. I think that is the coolest thing about those practices. It is almost more intense than a game, because the fans are right there, it is your first game like situation. Your nerves are rolling again, things like that. I think it is just almost having that game like feeling again, which is obviously as an athlete, as a competitor, that is what you want.

Q: How is the terminology different with John DeFilippo now calling the shots?

A: Completely opposite. It is a completely different system. As an athlete, that is what keeps things fresh. You love that. You love learning new playbook. You love learning new routes, new concepts, and trying to master them. It is just another opportunity to kind of grow as a player and learn a different system, and try to master it.

Q: Can you talk about your work with Dr. Kamphoff?

A: Dr. Kamphoff, I have been working with her since college. We had team meetings with her once a week. That was my first really introduction to the mental side of the game. I have never really thought about it and she kind of opened my horizon to that. I try to stay frequent on that now and have those reminders of how to stay locked in and how to get to that perfect zone that you want to get into. I really appreciate all she has done for me, and I think a lot of guys are starting to use her because it can really help your game.

Q: How quickly has everyone been able to acclimate to the terminology?

A: Well we know it now. That is the great things about OTAs and mini camp, and then obviously training camp now. When you take advantage of it you can get a lot done and you can get a lot accomplished. I think that is one thing this team does really well, is they take advantage of the time. When we do have the time to be out here, we are out here, and we know that it is not just touch football out there and have fun and play backyard football. That is serious because that can help you win games when the season come around.

Q: What is it like to see Randy Moss go to the Hall of Fame as a Vikings fan?

A: It is amazing. Not only just a Vikings fan but a Randy Moss fan. He was guy the guy who made me want to play football, number one, and play receiver. So it is really cool. It is kind of like a special feeling for me to see him going into the Hall and so much deserved.