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Transcript: Zimmer & Cousins Addressed the Media on Thursday

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer

It’s nice to have the high school football players out here today. It’s a great opportunity for them to come out and watch practice and then get a chance to play some games in TCO Stadium. We appreciate them being here and I look forward to them all having good seasons.

Q: What do you like most about how Kirk Cousins is handling the preseason?

A: I think the biggest thing that I’ve liked is that, his stats have been real good and all that, but he’s moved the team down. He’s tried to execute the offense the way that we’re trying to get it done. Obviously, not taking any sacks has been big. We hope to continue to move forward with what we’ve been doing.

Q: How have you seen Jayron Kearse grow from when he was drafted to now?

A: He’s a guy that I would say, as he’s gotten older, he’s matured more. He sees things a lot quicker now. I think that allows him to play a lot faster. I remember when he was a rookie, I believe he was in against Chicago, we played up there and he’s thinking but a lot of the safeties are like that. He’s much better now, like today, I had him do a couple things that he hadn’t practiced just to see if he could do it, and he did well. 

Q: Have you spoken to Kliff Kingsbury at all in terms of him being a young coach?

A: No. He hasn’t spoken to me either.

Q: How have you seen Kevin Stefanski’s even-keeled demeanor play into his coaching?

A: He’s very even-keeled. He’s more, I would say more analytical and when he talks to players, he talks to them more about what they need to do. He really doesn’t get after them much. Everybody has to be their own personality. The biggest thing if you try to be somebody else, then that’s when you get in trouble. I appreciate the way he does it.

Q: What benefit have the situational drills been for Stefanski as a young play caller to see what it’s like?

A: Like today, I walked up to him after we had that two-minute drill and I just said these situations are great. He said, ‘They’re great for me because I don’t have anybody in my ear right now trying to help me so I have to think of all this on my own.’ I think all those things help. On game day, obviously he gets help from other people, but it gives them an opportunity to practice being put in all these different situations. We had two plays under six seconds there that we had to make calls on and try to get the ball in the end zone. I think all those things, not only help him, but they help our team. Like I told them yesterday, I’m trying to put them in these situations so if they come up during a game, it’s not the first time they’ve ever done it and we don’t know what to do.

Q: How much is just a matter of getting reps for a young play caller?

A: Yeah, I think you get better with experience all the time. I remember when I first was doing it. It’s the same thing. You get better at what you practice. I’m sure he goes up and goes through the tape before the games, ‘Okay, this came up in the game so here’s what I would do here, here’s what I would do here.’ It’s a little easer offensively. They have it scripted. The defense doesn’t have it scripted. They come out and trick you.

Q: How does playing with a faster rhythm on offense benefit Kirk Cousins?

A: Less thinking, more get up and go and more reacting. It’s like basketball. You can’t sit there and think on everything play, you just have to go. If something happens, you have to react to it and go from there. I think it helps the offensive line. I think it helps everybody when you can do that.

Vikings Quarterback Kirk Cousins

*Good week of practice, tried to simulate getting ready for Week 1 and what that would feel like with a little more time to prepare and game plan, so it will be a great challenge for us on Saturday against a team and a coach and a defense that I have a lot of respect for. Just be really important for us to come out and build on what we’ve been doing in practice and these preseason games, and put together a good showing on offense and be well rounded and efficient and on top of our details. That’s where our focus is, and I think it’s been a real positive offseason and preseason. I’d like to finish it the right way before we get to the real thing. *

Q: When opposing defenses uses hybrid linebackers and safeties, putting them up in the box, what challenges does that create for an offense?

A: Anytime you have a player who can do more than one thing, and that includes the offensive players as well, you can disguise what your intentions are. If you have a one-trick pony, and he comes on to the field, you know exactly what your opponent is trying to do. So the more versatile your players can be, whether that’s a fullback, a tight end, a linebacker, a hybrid guy who can cover multiple people, it disguises what your intentions are and it forces the defense to have to defend far more things. For the offense and as a quarterback I have to keep more things in my mind as to what they could be doing. I think you’re always looking to find versatile players and develop versatile players as a result, and it seems like that’s where the game is going more and more, to find guys that can do multiple things.

Q: How much do you like the third preseason game, where starters generally play longer and get the chance to get in a rhythm?

A: I think the challenge with the first two games is if you don’t start fast, don’t play well early, you feel like you had a horrible game, and in reality if you play four quarters maybe you don’t, it just took you longer to get going. So the nice thing with the third game is you have a little bit larger sample size in case you don’t start fast, but certainly we hope to and expect to start fast. We want to put together a good showing against their starters with a longer amount of time on the field. It’ll be great to be at home and get familiar with that since Week 1 will be at home as well. Just similar to the others, it’s a dress rehearsal, but we’re going to treat it as a game and do all we can to be ready so then come Week 1, we’ve worked through as many possible scenarios as we can.

Q: What are the advantages for you personally when the offense plays with a faster pace?

A: I think the advantages of tempo are fatigue on the opponent. Obviously you’re fatigued as well as an offense, but to fatigue your opponent should slow down the pass rush, it should get your opponent into more vanilla coverages and blitzes and they can’t do as many variations of their defense. Anytime you can simplify the game or slow the game down, that’s an advantage, and I think that’s where teams find success. It’s a great changeup and a great thing to have in your offense.

Q: Kyle Sloter told me about the fines in the quarterback room. Apparently it’s a $20 infraction?

A: He told you that he gets fined if you write an article about him? See, he’s going to get fined for telling you that, first of all. He knows you and I have been talking quite a bit, and I wasn’t telling you anything. But Kyle told you, so the cat is out of the back.

Q: What’s the fine scale for quarterbacks talking to the media?

A: Well again, I’m sworn to secrecy, because I don’t want to get fined, so I’m not going to tell you what the fine system is. But let’s just say I highly encourage you to write an article about Kyle Sloter.

Q: Are you being fined for giving this press conference?

A: I’m obligated by NFL rules to give this press conference, so no. If ever I try to talk to you, yeah, I’m probably going to get fined.

Q: How important was high school football for you?

A: I’ve had a joy playing professional football and living a dream. College football was outstanding, but there is nothing better than high school football, playing Friday night under the lights in front of your people, your classmates and friends and your parents, your family, for your community. It’s special, and those are my best memories on the football field. Every time I talk to a high school football player I encourage them to cherish the moment, because even if you get to play beyond that, there’s nothing like those times with your buddies playing high school football. I actually find myself, when they play here, I drive over on Friday evening and park and walk up to our cafeteria and watch from the third floor window, just because I gravitate towards high school football and I love it so much. I love the bands and the whole deal. Whenever I get the chance, I got a bye week, if I get home, I make a point to get to my high school to watch their Friday night game, because it means something to me. When I’m done playing, I’d probably like to go be a high school quarterback coach at a local school somewhere and help out, because I just love it. So glad the Vikings are willing to have them here and have some fun games here.

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