*Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer *
I thought it was a good spring, the guys worked real hard. A lot of the different things we try to get done, it's about teaching and technique, growing as a football team. I've said this before and I'll continue to say it, I like how they work. I like this football team, how they do things. The way that when we cross the white lines, how they get focused on things. They still joke around and have a good time. I think they've got a good demeanor about themselves. It was great yesterday to have Ahmad Rashad and Randy Moss out here. I was able to see them down at the Taste of the Vikings. That was nice to get two great players like that. Randy Moss killed me on so many occasions. I was glad when he retired. Today we've got the alumni barbeque and I've said before, I was just watching Matt Blair talk to Emmanuel Lamur, it's really important to me that these players that we have understand why they have the things that they do. Some of these guys that have played, give them the opportunity and let the sport grow. I think that's a really good thing for our guys. Like I told them in the meeting this morning, hopefully sometime ten years from now, some of these rookies will be out here watching them when they come out.
Q: How do you feel you've progressed in the spring and do you think you missing time set anything back?
A: No, I don't think so. I don't think it set anything back. It was difficult for me. I think it was maybe difficult for some of the players at times because when the teachers not here, you tend to have a chance to be a little bit different. When I came back everything was good. We were good on the end so I think offensively we've improved. I think the additions we've had this spring has helped. I like the mentality of our guys. I think it was good. I'm sure you're not going to come in and say, there's no coach that's going to say, 'Oh, we had a poor spring.' I think we did a good job. We got a lot accomplished, we got a lot of things looked at that we wanted to. A lot of players looked at. So, we'll go from there.
Q: What are some of the key issues entering training camp?
A: I don't know that there's any issues. I think once we get in the pads, we'll have better evaluations. Especially the lineman, the DBs can press, the receivers have got to get off a press. It's all typical stuff. I don't know that issues would be any kind of word. In football, things are always evolving and changing. So, we're always looking at different ways to do things, better ways to do things. That's kind of what we did this spring.
Q: Will your recovery and travel restrictions affect what you will do over these next few weeks?
A: Well, okay, here we go on the eye. I had an eye doctor appointment yesterday. The retina is perfect. The pressure is great. He said he would be absolutely shocked if anything else happened to this eye the way it is now. I'm just about out of the woods. I probably can't fly for seven-to-14-days. My daughter is getting married a week from Sunday so I'm going to have to drive to Dallas. I guess that would be the biggest thing. As far as football wise, no. I've got things that I want to get accomplished this offseason for me and it shouldn't affect it at all.
Q: Is that a relief for you, mentally?
A: It's nice, I'm not out of the woods totally but it's nice we're progressing the right thing and maybe number nine [surgery] doesn't show up. I read that thing when I was driving to Kentucky, something about cats have nine lives, you don't, so buckle your seat belt, something like that. I'm hoping I don't get to the ninth life.
Q: How is your vision right now?
A: With correction it is 20-100 today but it'll get better. I obviously don't have a lens in my eye right now. I've got a little bubble that's down here that I can see but I just said, it's going to go away in seven-to-10 days. He expects my vision to be good.
Q: Have doctors said whether the other eye is still at risk?
A: Yeah, unfortunately he did yesterday. Maybe they're always a little cautious. The deal is, he actually said, 'I'm more worried about your other eye than this eye.' Now, don't get all headlines on that. Because what he said was, 'Because your eyes are typically shaped the same way, a one-in-five chance that something could happen in your other eye.' But he also said because we're a little bit more diligent about the things we're doing that we would catch it much sooner. But saying that, if it's the season, I'm going, baby. It's time to go. We have to worry about it after the season.
Q: What did you see from the offensive line?
A: I was really impressed with Riley Reiff, again this is without pads. He is a tough guy, physical guy, good with his sets. He doesn't say much but when he says something, he means it. [Mike] Remmers has done a nice job with fighting, not fighting, but competing with [Everson] Griffen every day. These things have all been really good. Same thing with Reiff, those two guys [Griffen] would get into a little talking contest a little bit. I really like [Pat] Elflein, the center. Easton's done a nice job. Danny Isidora had a nice spring for a young guy. Rashod Hill has done some nice things. T.J. [Clemmings] being at guard. The proof in the pudding is all going to come out when we get to training camp. We'll have a lot of competition deals. We're trying to work on that. I like the run game. [Dalvin] Cook looks like he's got a chance to be an exceptional back. Hopefully, Latavius [Murray] when he gets out here does some good things. I guess the biggest thing I feel good is all those guys are on the same page. They communicate well, they talk well. I've sat in most of the offensive line meetings. It's a good group.
Q: What is the mood in that room?
A: They seem pretty focused. They're not a big joke around room, they have their little fun here and there. I think they just want to get it right. Like Reiff said to me, 'I've made money in this game, I just want to win a Super Bowl.' That's kind of his mentality. I think it's good for the football team.
Q: What have you seen from Easton and Elflein battling at center?
A: They're both doing good. Again, it's going to come down into training camp and things like that. We may look at some other scenarios as well.
Q: Is sitting in on offensive line meetings a new thing for you?
A: Yeah, cause I've been mostly in all the defensive meetings. Part of it is, I want them to know I've got their back. So, I'm going to sit in there with them. I'm listening to them and communicating with them. I'm trying to tell them things, defensively. I talk to Sam [Bradford] all the time about things that I think defensively and how other people might think. While I'm sitting in there they might ask me, 'With this rotation, where's the blitz coming from?' Or, 'How's the linebacker going to react to this kind of play and things like this.' I'll tell them the things that I see that's really tough on a defensive end or whatever. I think it's been good and it's not that I'm overlooking any of those guys. I want them to know that they're my guys. The defense guys, they're around me enough to know. They know my personality enough that they know all that stuff.
Q: What are your impressions of Case Keenum?
A: I think him and Taylor [Heinicke] both, they both had some good days and they both had some bad days. What they've got to do when we get into training camp is we've got to clean up some of these mistakes. He threw a ball today down on the five-yard line that almost got intercepted. Things that we can't do if we want to win football games. Fairness to him, coming in a new system and things like that. We'll just see how it goes, I think the competition will be good.
Q: What have your impressions been of Dalvin Cook?
A: I think he has a chance to be special. There was a play yesterday, I don't know if it got through or not but Xavier [Rhodes] is trying to catch him and he's hauling now. I just think that this guy has a chance to be pretty good. He's got some things that he's got to work on, like all young backs. I've been very impressed with him this spring. It was a great pick by Rick, being able to make the trade and do those things. He's been a great kid off the field. He's been a great kid in the meetings. We'll just kind of go from there.
Q: Did you see any issues with his ball security?
A: I don't think he had any [fumbles] this spring. Again, we're not really tackling and we're not really punching the ball and things like that. So, we'll see.
Q: How has the communication been with you and the various new offensive position coaches?
A: Really good, I thought the coaches did a great job this spring. Not only when I was not here, because all I can see is the film, I can't see them coaching and teaching. But I watch them out here work, in individuals, Clancy [Barone] and Darrell [Hazell] and Kennedy [Polamalu]. I watch them how they work with the guys, how they communicate with the guys. How they work together as an offense and then how we work together as a whole team. I told them yesterday in a meeting how I was very proud of them, how impressed I was with the jobs that they're doing.
Q: Do you expect Latavius to be a full-go at training camp?
A: I think he's going to be ready to go, I don't know. It's one of those deals where it just depends on how far his rehab comes at that time. I believe that he will be but it may be a couple days. It's not going to be long-term deal, I don't believe. From what I've been told. I was told I was going to have one eye surgery, too.
Q: How do you envision the running back position playing out?
A: I'll just worry about that [later]. Latavius is going to get a lot of reps, and Jerick [McKinnon] and Dalvin. We'll just go from there. We'll figure it out as we go. This is June 17th, 16th or whatever, we have a lot of time.
Q: How do you feel Michael Floyd did coming in late?
A: I thought he made some really good catches. There's things he needs to work on and things he need to do. It's nice to have a big-body receiver. He caught on pretty quick as far as a lot of the things. But I think there's some things still swimming with him a little bit, when we get to training camp that'll help.
Q: Do you see yourself talking with the offense more this season due to the turnover that happened on the offensive side last year?
A: I don't know if it's specifically that. I think I do a better job as a head coach by spreading myself out a little bit more. I don't know if you've noticed, but at the end of practices the last three days we've had a game like situation where we just go play it out. I think not only for the players, but it's good for me. You know, I got to use a timeout here. Alright, defense I've got to use a timeout here, on offense I've got to use a timeout. We've got to clock the ball. It's not necessarily two-minute drills. It's about winning the football game at the end, however that is. To me that's one of the area that I need to continue to improve, but I think it's also important that I get around. I'm talking to Sam [Bradford] so much more than I ever did a year ago and he ask me so many more questions. When I was down in Kentucky he would text me every night and ask, "What did you see? What can I do to get better?" and things like that. Typically I'm giving him [feedback] from the defensive perspective. "Did you see how deep the safety was here? Did you see the rotations start going?" and things like that. I've said this a million times, maybe not a million, but I've said, "There's so many times you get to be a head coach and you're a defensive coordinator and you come in trying to able to get the defense fixed. Then you get fired in a year or two years." So, you don't learn how to truly be a head coach. You're just trying to put your fingers in different holes as much as you can. It takes a while to learn how to do this job, it really does. I probably shouldn't say this, but there's this guy in New England who's doing pretty damn good now and he might've had a rough start in his deal. That's kind of my mentality, [which] is to continue to grow as a head coach, continue to be involved with the defense, but be a lot more involved in the overall game-type team offense, special teams than I ever had been before. I know I've probably said that before, but this is the first time I've finally felt comfortable I think because we have so many guys back defensively. But, I don't want that side of the ball to slip. So, George [Edwards] and I talk an awful lot. He does an awful lot in the spring. We'll have to see how it goes once we get to camp. But, it helps feeling good about the coaches that I have and I'm not being derogatory about anybody else.
Q: Was there any thoughts to not doing defensive play-calling?
A: Yeah, I've thought about it more this year than I ever had. If I did that, I think I'd be able to interject a lot. You know, George wants to call blah-blah-blah and I say "No, no let's do this." I think I'm a technical football coach to a fault and I have a vision for this football team. When I go out there and I watch the tape, I want this team to look a certain way. The defensive backs do things a certain way, the linebackers, the defensive linemen do things a certain way. Even though, I'm trying to be a little bit more aggressive this spring I don't want to rob Peter to pay Paul.
Q: Has the decision been made yet?
A: No, as of right now I'm still calling it. But, maybe I'll be like, "Hey George, take this preseason game and let's see how this works out." I've always felt that one of my best traits was on Sundays when one of these great quarterbacks got the ball I've got to try to figure out how to stop them.
Q: Did the job George Edwards did against Dallas impress you?
A: Yeah, it did. I thought he did a great job that night. So, I think that was good for him. I was able to sit in on gameplan stuff, obviously, but you still got to make these calls out of your gut a lot of the times. I thought he did good job and I thought the players did a good job.
Q: Where did you think the team improved the furthest? Red-Zone? Two-Minute?
A: Well, we spent an awful lot of time inside the five-yard line, team inside the red-zone, third downs in the red-zone and all of these things were emphasis that we had this spring. I look at the stats and you convert a third down in the red-zone you usually get seven points on either side of the ball, right? Whereas obviously if you don't you get third downs, you kick field goals. There was a lot of points that was given up there. We spent a lot of time on that. Like I said, end of the game situations where it's about learning how to play the game, so people understand at the end of the game this is what we're going to do. We had a good one yesterday. So, today was the end of a first half, you know, things like that. We get out here and we run plays and we just run plays. We're not playing the game and I think it's important that we continue to learn to play the game. So, at the end of the game everything is nice and smooth. We know what's going on. Obviously, things are going to happen that you're not expecting. But, maybe we'll act a little bit different and win some more games.
Q: How important is training camp with so many special teams jobs up for grabs?
A: Yeah, but not only those. We've got a lot of young players, young linebackers, young DBs [defensive backs] who have to evolve to those things. The kickers, the punters have done a great job this spring. We charted everything and it's been a very close deal. I think it's probably, in the end, going to come down to the games and see how they handle the pressure situations.
Vikings Quarterback Sam Bradford
Q: Coach Mike Zimmer was just saying how he has been much more vocal speaking with you, even more so than he was last year. What has it been like to have those conversations and how is it different from last year?
A: Obviously last year, I think, was a little unique to everyone, so I think he was just trying to help give me some space to just allow me to spend time with Norv [Turner] and with Pat [Shurmur], just get used to the offense and try to figure out what we are doing. This we have had a lot more conversations and it has been great. It really started when he was away those couple of weeks with his eye. We would text almost every day after practice and he would just give me some thoughts about what he saw from us on offense, what the defense was trying to do, things that we could take advantage of, things that they were trying to take away. Just having those conversations with someone on the other side of the ball, especially with someone like coach Zimmer who has that much knowledge, and to really be able to talk defense and understand conceptually what it is they are trying to do, I think I have learned a lot the past couple of weeks about coverages, blitzes, really everything that a defense tries to do to stop an offense.
Q: Coach Zimmer said that he wants to be more involved with the team and not centering on the defense quite as much. What does it do for the offense to have the head coach involved, even if he is not an offensive guru, but has that defensive mind?
A: I think it is great. I think the more coach Zim can be involved with the offense, obviously I think we all love playing for him and I think we all have a great deal of respect for him, we'd rim through a wall for him. To have him in our meetings, to have him come up to talk to us on the field, whether it is about football, whether it is about life, whether it is about whatever, I think to have those interactions it is good for us to be around him because he does spend a lot of time with the defense and those guys are with him a lot, but I think this year he has been around the offense more. I think the guys have really enjoyed it.
Q: This is going to be your first training camp with the team. Have you taken any time to reflect on how unique this last year has been for you?
A: Yeah, probably at the end of the year last year, once everything ended and calmed down, I thought about the events that had just happened and the past six or seven months and how I got here, but I would not trade it for the world. I learned a lot about myself last year, I learned a lot about being a quarterback, being a leader, being a teammate, being put in that position, and I am really excited for training camp this year. It will be the first time in my career that we have ever gone away for training camp so that will be a new experience and it will be fun to get down there and get to work.
Q: How do you think Case Keenum has come along and getting settled into a new spot?
A: I think Case has done a good job. Obviously anytime you come into a new building and are given the task of learning a new offense, it takes time, it takes reps. It is like speaking a new language and you have to be able to understand it in the classroom, but then you have to be able to apply it out on the field. I think he has worked really hard doing that, and I think he has gotten better each day and he has played well.
Q: Zimmer was talking about how the offensive linemen just want to get things right this year. Have you seen that already early on in minicamp and OTAs?
A: Yes. I love those guys up front. I think it is a really fun group to be around. When they come to work every day, it is time to go to work. You can just tell by their attitude in the meeting room, when we come out here for walkthrough, before practice, at practice. I think there has been a level of focus, probably a little bit higher than I have seen in the past during this time of year with those guys and so it is nice to know they are taking things serious and they want to get things right.
Q: At minicamp, OTAs, there have been a lot of situations you guys have been working on. Is there an area that kind of stands out where you have taken a step forward?
A: I think the red zone work was great. It is something that we really emphasize throughout OTAs and minicamp and we spend a lot of time down there so obviously, for the offense and the defense, it is a critical part of the game. For us, our mentality is we want to score touchdowns. It is an area that going back and looking at last year we have got to be better. We have to be more efficient. When we get down there we have to score touchdowns. We cannot settle for field goals. I think just trying some new concepts down there, some things that we did well last year, try to find a balance, and maybe a few more new plays. Down there, I think it has been great for us to spend the extra time.
Q: Have you ever had a coach that has been so open about wanting to improve as a head coach? Some coaches are not that transparent, but he seems to be very honest about it.
A: Yes, he is. He is probably one the most upfront, honest coaches I have every played for and I think that is one of the things the guys really respect because we know he is in it with us. We are in it together. If he makes a mistake, he is going to own up to it, just like if he feels like we made a mistake, he is going to call us out and keep us accountable. When you play for a guy like that, you know he is going to treat everyone, including himself, the same. It is really fun to play for someone like that.
Q: And that he doesn't always have all of the answers, right?
A: Yes, exactly.
Q: How much do you think you can benefit by having all the camps and training camp with this team that you did not get last year?
A: A lot, obviously. Just being able to go through OTAs, the offseason with Pat, talk about the offense, what we are trying to do, talk about things we like from last year, concepts we felt were efficient, things we felt like we need to improve, I think that has been really big, but then also the time with everyone on the field and us going through it together, them hearing my voice in the huddle, the line of scrimmage, going through some our audibles at the line of scrimmage, some of the changes, and just getting on the same page with some of the guys out wide. Obviously we did not have an opportunity to really do any of that last year except for after practice, and at the point it is hard to play catch up. This is the time of year you really build the foundation and so going through this offseason, being able to do it with this team, I think it is obviously going to help.
Q: Why do you think the texting was such an effective communication with coach Zimmer?
A: It was just nice to hear his opinion. He was not here. When he is here, we obviously have conversations, but when he was away from the building it was still nice to know that he was watching the offense, making sure we were doing things right, and then to just get his opinion on what he saw from the defense that day and maybe if there were some blitzes that they put in to beat a certain protection, how we could pick it up, coverages that they put in to maybe take away a route, how we could beat that coverage, what to look for, what tips, what keys give away certain things, and those texts were really nice.
Q: What did you think about coach Bob Stoops resigning? Did you reach out to him?
A: I did reach out to him after it happened. I think I was probably a little bit surprised like everyone else, but if coach Stoops felt like it was the right time, then I have always had the belief in coach Stoops. I trust in him, and if he felt like it was the right time and it is the best thing for the program, then I am all in.
Q: Zim talked about how important it is to have alumni out here, how does that help you as a guy that hasn't been here that long?
A: Yeah, obviously Randy said something at the end of practice yesterday, just knowing that the organization takes care of the alumni and that they're welcome back here. That it really is kind of a family atmosphere and once you're a part of the family, you'll always be a part of the family. I think it's nice knowing that you're playing for an organization that encourages things like that.
Q: What do you think David Morgan can bring to the table?
A: David is really versatile. You can put him in there and he can block and I've got all the confidence in the world that if we need him to come in there in a two tight end set and kind of help things going in the run game, blocking in the pass protection he does a great job. But also, his route running. He's got good speed, he's got good hands. It seems like he's got a pretty good feel for some of the things over the ball just finding spaces and zones. I think he had a couple good catches yesterday, just finding soft spots in there. Just knowing that we've got him and Kyle [Rudolph], and can kind of throw some multiple tight end sets at people, that'll help.