Transcript: Zimmer, Cook and Griffen Addressed the Media Friday

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer

I wanted to meet with you because I was made aware of an erroneous report about Anthony Barr. Anthony is my guy, number one. We are unequivocally not trying to trade Anthony. He’s the first draft pick we ever had with me. He’s helped this defense go from 32*nd or 31st, whatever it is, to being pretty good. There’s no, none whatsoever, truth to that rumor. He had a tweak yesterday and we kept him out of practice for a while. He should be out there today.*

Q: Is the controversy on tackling a concern for you?

A: Yes, it’s a concern because it looks like there’s some not sure of what is what. I did see a couple plays that I thought were legit and a couple plays I thought were questionable. It’s going to be a work in progress all preseason and they’ll end up getting it right at the end.

Q: The way the new rule does not allow you to roll into the hit, similar to Anthony Barr’s last year. Can you teach guys to do it any differently?

A: That’s really been the rule all along. I don’t understand where that’s coming from. I actually told Pete [Morelli] that I want you to watch that again, but you’re never supposed to fall on the quarterback with your entire body weight. Now that he’s out of the pocket maybe it’s changed a little bit this year, but the rule is you’re never supposed drive the quarterback into the ground. You’re always supposed to hit and try and get your body weight off of him. I don’t know why they would come out and say that now anyway. Doesn’t make any sense to me.

Q: With the new rules, how much harder is it to be a defensive back?

A: Obviously it’s more difficult. The illegal contact they’re trying to clean up. When I was on one of the committees we sat down and talked about illegal contact, pass interference, knocking a guy off the route, all those different things. That rule has been in for a while. It’s just I think they’re going to enforce it a little bit more and they’re going to make it a little less ambiguous is I guess the best way to say it. As far as lowering the helmet, the reason why they put that rule in, I was talking to the team about it last night, is basically they don’t want you to use the helmet as a weapon. When the helmet was first brought into the league was for protection and now some of the crown of the helmet hits it can be dangerous. They’re trying to eliminate that from the game and make the players more safe. I have no problem with that.

Q: What is it about Anthony Barr’s skill set that makes him unique amongst linebackers?

A: Well number one, he’s smart as heck. I can tell him to do all kinds of different things, make all kinds of different checks and adjustments. He’s got great size, length and speed. He dictates the game in a lot of different ways that don’t show up on a stat sheet and to me that’s important. We’re trying to get him signed and hopefully we can but that’s between upstairs and his people. We’d love to have him here, like I said he’s my guy, first guy that I drafted. I want him to get the best deal he can possibly get but in a selfish way I want him to be here too.

Q: Is Anthony Barr expected to practice this afternoon?

A: Yes, I don’t know how much he’s going to do, but he’ll be out there doing stuff.

Q: Do you want to see Dalvin Cook in the preseason?

A: Yes, I’ll probably see him in the preseason. It will depend on the situation and where we’re at and things like that. We’ve banged him pretty good the last few days so he’ll get some reps.

Q: Will Dalvin Cook be ready for the opener in Denver?

A: Yes, he’s ready now.

Q: What are your plans for Dalvin Cook tomorrow?

A: It depends; I haven’t decided yet.

Q: What can fans expect to see from the night practice?

A: Basically, it’s going to be a regular practice. We might play a little game situation and play that out. Basically they’re going to see some red zone and short yardage, things like we do in practice all the time.

Q: Are you going to talk about injuries or are you going to keep that internal?

A: I’m not obligated to talk about injuries. I’m only obligated to put out an injury report on the first Wednesday of the season.

Q: How is Tom Compton doing?

A: Yeah, good. A lot of stuff is new for him. He’s working like crazy to catch on with everything that we’re doing, getting more comfortable to the guy next to him. And Danny [Isidora] has been playing a little bit of right and left guard. He’s done a good job and needs to continue to progress.

Q: What has it meant to Dalvin Cook to have Latavius Murray here as he’s gone through everything that he’s gone through?

A: Those two have a great relationship. I think you’re better off asking him those kind of questions than me because I don’t sit around and talk to those guys about that kind of stuff.

Q: How hard is it to find a replacement for Anthony Barr?

A: We’re all replaceable, I’m replaceable, everybody’s replaceable and you go and you move on. Anthony is a guy that has a unique skill set and the fact that he’s excellent in coverage, he’s an excellent rusher, he’s excellent against the run. He’s a guy that other teams account for all the time. It’s not like they come out there and say, “Okay we’re going to make sure we block Terence Newman”. They’re going to make sure they block Anthony Barr on every play. There’s not one time that they’re going to say, “Alright, forget about Barr”.

Vikings Running Back Dalvin Cook

Q: Are you continuing to be pleased with how you’re progressing and getting back into team drills?

A: Yes, definitely. I’m getting in the swing of things, getting back in my groove. I’ve been out of football without pads for so long so I am just trying to get back in the groove to seeing things and just getting back to my old self and even better.

Q: Are you hoping to get a few snaps tomorrow or is it too soon?

A: I don’t know the plan yet. Whatever plan they got for me, I am just going to go out there and do what I have to do on my behalf. I know they know what is best for me. They know how this thing is supposed to go so whatever they have planned for me, I am just going to go out and do my part.

Q: How is the process of balancing rehab and learning a new offensive scheme?

A: Rehab is a mandatory thing. You know that. Learning the plays is mandatory. You have to put it half-and-half. At night, I pick the playbook up and hit that hard a lot. During the day, let’s focus in on getting my body right. You have to put your priorities where you need to put them at. I have my schedule down and routine going. I just stick to it with how I go about on a daily basis.

Q: Do you know if you will play in the preseason game yet?

A: No, I don’t know yet. Like I said, whatever plan they have for me, I am going to just go out there and do my part. I don’t know what they have planned for me yet, but we’ll see coming up.

Q: Are you ready if they have you play in the preseason?

A: We are ready to go. We are ready to go. That is with anybody. You’ve been out of football for so long, you want to get out there. You are going to be hard-headed to go out there and just do your thing. You still have to take it day-by-day. It’s still a process I’m still going through it. I still have a long ways to go.

Q: Are you surprised that ten months ago you were coming off the field with a horrible injury and now you’re cutting and playing 11-on-11?

A: I’m not surprised. I know the work and long hours I put in. I know the work I put in. The support staff I have here and how the guys pushed me through my rehab process, I’m not surprised with where I am at. I am happy with where I am at. I just have to keep working from here and keep building the days.

Q: What are your impressions of the offensive line so far?

A: They have been moving the line of scrimmage, I can tell you that. There has been holes open and we’ve been hitting them. We can only get better from here. Our offensive line knows how to get the job done. Last year it showed that. We added a couple of guys. We can only get better from here. We just have to keep working. Whatever we want to accomplish, it’s right in front of us. If we keep putting the work in, we will be alright.

Q: How long does it take you to feel comfortable behind a certain group?

A: You never know what will occur. You try to get a good feel for every group, whatever group. The first group we had out there, it takes a couple of days, a couple of weeks. You never know how the timing works out. You will feel it when you know you have it down pat. There’s always a feeling inside you and the offensive linemen, they know. When things are hitting and when things are getting going, it’s a feeling. Once you get that feeling, let’s go.

Q: With the mixing of personnel, is that first feeling speed or field vision?

A: Once you get a rhythm of a play, you have it down. You always keep that rhythm of the play. Everybody knows where the play is supposed to hit at and where everything is supposed to go. It’s all about having that rhythm, rhythm about everything. Once you have that rhythm down, you got it now. Everything else you take over with your ability.

Q: Do you think you’ll be nervous with your first handoff?

A: I am going to be hyped, I know that. I’ll tell you that. You are always going to be nervous before a game. If anybody tells you different, it’s a lie. You are going to be nervous, little jitters. Once you get it out of the way, it’s time to go play some football. That is going to be the thing with me. Once I get that out of the way it’s time to play football. A little nervousness is going to be there.

Q: How has your relationship with Latavius Murray grown since you got here?

A: Latavius is like a big brother to the whole room. It’s crazy because we were with MJD [Maurice Jones-Drew] the other day and Latavius was under him. Latavius was the little brother. Now Latavius is the big brother. We are looking up to him. We learned a lot from Latavius how he carried himself in the building, the way he approached meetings, the way he studied. Just the way he knows things, it’s like, “That is a veteran move”, everything he does. Our relationship has grown and it is going to keep growing over the season. We look forward to a big season and something special from the whole group.

Q: How much does it mean to you to see how Latavius Murray carries himself?

A: He is the ultimate pro. Off the field, Latavius just carries himself like he’s about business. The school part is big on his behalf. To get his degree and to go back and do that, that takes a lot. Football keeps you busy. For him to do that, I respect him for that. That is why he is the big brother in the room.

Vikings Defensive End Everson Griffen

Q: Is the first red zone for you and your defense against the offense a fun time?

A: I think the red zone is a very important situation that we go through. We have to stop them from scoring a touchdown and we have to get better at that. I think we did a good job last year but, there is always room for improvement. I think it will be up to us to have that mindset as they get closer to the goal line that we have to beef up and get ready to stop them.

*Q: How do you think things have been going so far with Sheldon Richardson and that chemistry between you two? *

A: It is going good, he is looking good. He’s learning as he goes, the technique that our coach teaches us is a lot different from what he has done in the previous years. I feel like he is doing a good job locking in on that and getting better at pass rush. He’s doing his job and we are going to need him to keep getting better every single day and one percent better every single day. 

*Q: What are your thoughts on the new rules? *

A: The rules are the rules. The rules are going to be the rules, I am not going to really comment too much on it. We have to follow the rules, and the rules are going to be the rules. There is nothing I can say or do to change them. The rules are going to be the rules.

Q: How have you noticed young pass rushers when they come into the NFL? How are they evolving from the college game?

A: I think the hardest thing for them is everyone is good now in the NFL. You are going against a guy that is very good and that is studying you and knows you. The biggest thing they are going to have to do is learn technique. Whoever is going to be the better technician that day is going to be able to win that play and I think that is what they have to adapt to. I believe that is what they have to adapt to. Everyone is good in this league. In college you can be the best player at that position going against not so good of a player. When you get to the NFL you have to be able to adapt and master your craft.

Q: How important is it to have a signature pass rushing move?

A: I think you have to know yourself. I think that is the biggest thing. I think you have to know what you are good at. Are you fast? Are you quick? Do you have long arms? Do you have good feet? When you find out who you are as a pass rusher then you know what moves work for you and you use those moves and master those moves and then you always a secondary move off that.

Q: How long did it take you to find that move when you were developing?

A: I think am still developing. You still can always improve. There is always more room for improvement. You can never gain too much mastery or too much craft. I am always trying to improve on my craft and my mastery. 

Q: What is your impression on the way Dalvin has looked during camp?

A: He is coming off of an ACL. Very fortunate, I have never had that surgery, and I don’t know what he has been through and that situation, but he is looking good, looking explosive, cuts are looking crisp. He is down hill running, getting the ball. All of the backs are looking good. Latavius [Murray] is looking good, looking quicker, looking faster. I feel like we just have to keep on doing what we are doing each and every day. Like Coach Zimmer always says, “Iron sharpens iron,” and we have to go out there and compete and get better, just hold each other accountable, I think that is the biggest thing. Once you start holding each other accountable, that is where the success happens.

Q: What is it like to see the continuity on offense?

A: It is awesome. You know you have guys that are playmakers, and you have to keep the playmakers around. I call them the pretty boys, the ones that like scoring touchdowns and being on camera. They are doing a good job. [Adam] Thielen, [Stefon] Diggs, [Laquon] Treadwell, Kirk Cousins. [Kirk] is a leader, he is a motivator. I think his communication is key. He is a big communicator. You see the great quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, all of those guys, they communicate. They make sure guys are in the right spots, doing the things on the right plays. I think that is what Kirk Cousins brings to the game. He is a great leader, great communicator, and he is one hell of a competitor too.

Q: Who is doing most of the communicating on defense?

A: [Eric] Kendricks gets us lined up, [Anthony] Barr makes the close call. I think we’re all communicating with one another. I think communication is key, especially with all the checks and balances we have, like down left and down right. I think communicating across the board is key because if you don’t know where you are on the field. That’s the number one thing, communication.

Q: What’s your favorite part of Saturday night practice?

A: I love this game. It’s a privilege to play this game, I feel like the best thing that you can do is compete. If you’re not competing, then you shouldn’t be in the NFL trying. It’s about competing, and any day that I get to go out there and compete on the field, that’s what it is about. Competing, master my craft, and getting better each and every day. I’m trying to get the young guys better. The faster you get the young guys better, the better team you’re going to have, because it’s all about the youth to be honest. I feel like it’s all about competing. Each day you get to step on the field, you compete. That’s I know, that’s what I learned, that’s what I love to do. You got to love this game of people.

Q: Have any of the young defensive ends stood out to you?

A: Yeah, they’re doing a good job. Our technique that we have is hard. You have to go out there with the mindset of mastering it each and every day. They’re doing a great job at that. I think every young guy has to listen more and take more notes, but they’re doing a great job for us.

Q: From your perspective, does it feel like there is a heated competition amongst younger players to be part of the defensive line rotation?

A: Yeah, I think it is. Rotation is key, but the coach has got to trust the people who are rotating. Without the trust, they aren’t going to be in the rotation. With the trust there is going to be a rotation. I feel like the biggest thing for them is to go out there each and every day and get better. That’s all they can do. They can’t worry about what the media says, what the guy next to them says. You got to go in and hone in on your talents and hone in on your abilities to be able to be on the field.

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