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Transcript: Zimmer, Priefer Address The Media

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer

Today we'll get [Anthony] Barr doing a little bit more. He's feeling good, we just keep working on his conditioning. He's worked hard the last two days on the side over there after he's done some football stuff, so we will get him going a little bit more so we can get put him in the mix. The first day of practice I thought was fairly sloppy offensively and yesterday was much better. We started getting timing down. Anticipate to be outside, more than likely we will be. If it rains you should bring your raincoats because we will be out there. Other than that, everything has been going pretty smoothly.

Q: You want to stay outdoors regardless how bad it gets?

A: Well the players kind of know already I told them the first thing, I said 'You know if it rains today we're not going in.' And they said 'Coach you don't have to tell us that.'

Q: That's just for lightning?

A: Yeah, lightning we will go in. When I get the word from Suge (Eric Sugarman) that lightning is close enough then we will go in. I said if it's hailing go put your helmets on.

Q: Is there anything that you look for in the first day of contact just to kind of see that tones are being set and that things are going the right way?

A: The first day in pads is never really the most crisp day you're going to get typically. It will be good that were done playing football in shorts for a while. The other things is that we finally get to press for the corners and that's a big thing so we can start working on that. Usually when you don't have pads, your pad levels start going up on the front guys so you have to keep working on getting their pads down. We're not going to try to kill them. We'll have a little inside run drill today but it's just normal football.

Q: People seem to have written off Captain Munnerlyn as the starter, do you still look at him as the starter?

A: I look at him as competing for a job. Whether it's the nickel or outside or wherever. You can never have enough corners so we'll see where it all unfolds.

Q: How has Trae Waynes been doing in the slot?

A: Better, a lot better. He is understanding the principles a lot more. There is a lot more that goes in there, but I still feel like the more things that we can give him to do, kind of what we like to do with a lot of young guys, give them a lot of stuff to do and if we have to pair it down as oppose to saying we'll he can't do that and never knowing if they can. But it would good for his overall development of his game just by understating things that happen inside as well.

Q: Is that kind of by design? It seems like a lot of positions that are up for grabs are leaning towards the veterans. Is that why you're giving more for the rookies to do and giving the veterans more of kind of the starting nod at this point in time in camp?

A: Really I am not really worrying about the starting job so much at this point of time, it is still about evaluation. The veteran guys have been here and they've been going through this stuff so typically we just line them up there first, but that doesn't by the time we get to September 9, it really doesn't mean anything. Barr started last year as a rookie. We have no problem starting rookies.

Q: What would you say is a key ingredient for a backup quarterback?

A: Probably the biggest thing is to be able to go play efficiently with a minimum number of reps. They don't get the number of reps in practice to be able to understand the things going on. It's usually hard for a young, young quarterback to come in as a backup quarterback and gets thrown in a middle of a game and gives you a very good chances to win. I would say to be able to perform efficiently with a low amount or reps.

Q: It seems like you can't force acceptance at someone at that role?

A: A little bit of it. I think everyone wants to be the starter, but there is a certain type of guy that can be more beneficial to the starting quarterback, that is smart, that help see things when they come off the field be able to talk to them. So it does take a little bit of a guy that is secure in his own skin that can deal with those kind of things.

Q: Coach, you get 14 practices down here in Mankato, what do you want your team's identity to look like by the time you head back home?

A: I want us to be a tough football team. I want us to be a smart football team. I want us to be a team that doesn't make a lot of mistakes. I think when you look at, the fans are very knowledgeable. They know what good football is and what bad football is and what them to come in say 'Man these guys are doing things right. They make a couple of plays there, couple of plays there and win football games.' We want to continue to try to build that smart, passionate football player and obviously I like big guys so we're trying to keep getting bigger with our team and faster with our team and I think that is part of it as well.

Q: Did you sit down specifically with the offensive line or have Jeff Davidson convey a bit of a challenge to them to step up or do you think they know that?

A: Jeff's talked to them quite and a bit and they understand a lot of what's riding on this season. And it's not just them. It's everybody. Defensively we have to perform better. Teddy's got to continue to improve, the receivers got to continue too. But I understand your point. And yes, they have got to perform and perform well. I talked to Kyle [Rudolph] today about some things he's got to do better too.

Q: Do you feel like you're committed to having three quarterbacks on the roster or is that going to be more fluid this year?

A: I assume that we'll have three quarterbacks, but that's not set in stone. The roster, when we get down to it in the 53, we're going to try and keep the best 53 guys for this particular football team. That may be a fluid position. 

Q: How has Trae Waynes looked so far?

A: Good. He's doing well. I think once we get going with more of the press stuff he'll even continue to look better. Just like Xavier [Rhodes] will continue to look better, [Terence] Newman will look better once we get in the swing of things with this. But, Trae's done a nice job. I like him. I think he's got a chance to be a good football player.

Q: Is nickel difficult to teach if you haven't played it before?

A: Yeah, it is. There's a lot of things happening and it happens real fast. You got to play the run. You got to play combination routes. You got passoffs. There's a lot more involved being in there. I think it's going to be good for his overall development regardless if he ever plays in there again or not. I think it will be good for him.

Q: Speaking of team defense, you have a lot of young guys. Is it difficult to try and get that across?

A: No, not really. Defensive meetings, if you've ever sat in them, there's not much individuality going on in there.

Q: Will DaVaris Daniels be at practice today?

A: Yes. Today he'll go.

Q: First time in pads now, what do you want to see from Matt Kalil?

A: Part of it is he's got to continue to drop his weight and make sure that he's staying low. He's a little bit bigger this year than he was last year. Continuing on the focus. His sets look much better to me. I'd like for him to continue to finish those kind of plays when he's in good position instead of not finish as well as I'd like him to.

Q: Is that added weight a good thing or a bad thing?

A: As long as you can move, which he's shown that he can move so far, I think that it's a good thing. You're going to get power rushers and different types of rushers. The speed rushers, it's really about redirect and your punch and your sets.

Q: How can Kyle Rudolph become and better run blocker?

A: I didn't say run blocker, did I? I said there's some areas he needs to get better at.

Q: Does he need to get better running routes or in general?

A: I'll keep it between me and him.

Q: Working with Shaun Hill through the summer and early on here, what are your impressions with him and what he's brought?

A: I really like him. He needs an extra can of oil each day to put on his arm. The first couple days in OTA's he didn't look very good, but he got much more solid as the time went in the spring. He's got a great personality. He's very smart. He's been through this system before. He's been with Norv (Turner) before. I think all of those things are really good.

Q: What are Linval Joseph and Sharrif Floyd doing better in tandem this year?

A: I don't know yet as far as in tandem. Sharrif looks quicker to me. He looks more confident in everything that he's doing and I think Linval does too. We'll see more as we get going in pads.

Q: Scott Crichton was with the first team in that nickel defense yesterday. Is it safe to assume that you guys like his pass rushing ability or is there something more to that?

A: It really wasn't. We're kind of monitoring Brian Robison's reps. It's not so much that, but we feel like Scott has improved quite a bit. We'll see today.

Q: Is there some comfort having Terence Newman back on your field?

A: Terence is a good player. He's an older player, but he's a good player. There were several teams that tried to sign him after the season. He is a good football player and he's a great kid who plays with good technique. He's a really good player and he's tough.

Q: He was asked if he sought you out or if you sought him out. He told me to ask you.

A: Terence and I go back a long, long way. We've always had a really good relationship but I think we've respected each other quite a bit. I knew that he was going to be a free agent this year and I think he did too. So let's just leave it at that.

Q: Will Shamar Stephen practice today?

A: No. Not today. Suge (Eric Sugarman) told me not to tell you, but probably soon. He didn't want to give any dates unless he can't get his guys out on time.

Q: What are your impressions of Stefon Diggs? What kind of a role can he have?

A: I think this guy's got a chance to be really good. He runs great routes. He's got excellent speed. He catches the ball as well as anybody I've seen very, very easily. He's been a model citizen. That's important, especially for young guys.

Q: Is he primarily a slot guy because of his size?

A: No, I don't think so. He looks small but he's six feet. He looks smaller compared to some of the other guys. I have the same impression sometimes. He's bigger than you think he is. And he's quick off the line of scrimmage. He can get zero to 40 quickly. I was talking in the meeting this morning and I said, "How many dumb rookies do we have in here?" One raised his hand right away. I'm not going to tell you who it is. But I said "All of the rest of you raise your hands, too."

Q: In terms of being a model citizen and showing discipline what is Diggs like?

A: Everything. Anything you ask him to do, he does. Yes sir, no sir. It wasn't him that raised his hand, by the way.

Q: Do you foresee Jarius Wright's role evolving in the offense this year?

A: The best thing that Jarius did was when he was in the slot. We keep working him outside, but we know he's got big value for us in the slot, as well.

Q: You talk about playing smart versus playing dumb. What constitutes a player playing dumb? Is it a technique thing? Or not remembering the cadence?

A: Part of it. Jumping offside is pretty dumb. We had a little disagreement out on the field yesterday. It kind of escalated and if one of my guys would have punched the other guy, that would have been dumb, but he walked away so he did a smart thing. It's also about the things I'm trying to teach the team right now. We keep going through situations in the team meetings and I'll ask them questions. I'll say we're in a two-minute drill, we're down by two, we need a field goal to win or tie. So I'll ask a guy, "What yard line do you need to get to?" I asked one of the players, not on special teams, but I like to ask different guys different questions because I need to find out what they know and what they don't know. One guy said 50-yard line. And I said, "Are you kidding me? That's a 68-yard field goal. That'd be an NFL record." Getting them to understand these situations, where we're trying to get to. I asked a guy yesterday, we've got one play that we only run on one certain down, right? I asked him, and he gave me the wrong down. I asked him again today in the meeting, just to make sure that he knows that they all need to be paying attention and we all have to be on the same page and we all have to be accountable. We want our fans to be proud of how intelligent we play and how hard we play. I want my football team to share my personality and learn about the game of football.

Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer

This is my fifth camp here. I'm excited about coming back to Mankato. I think the university does a phenomenal job hosting this camp for us. The people around here are great and fun to work with. Our guys, our people, the operations guys do a great job. The other thing I noticed, and again, the fields are normally really good but Grant and his staff, Grant Davisson and his staff, did a phenomenal job with our fields this year, so they are in great shape, you know really how particular the kicker and punter are about that, so it's a good start to the camp and I'm excited to get going here.

Q: How do you organize and evaluate the long snapper competition?

A: We're trying to get the exact amount of reps every day. Whenever we do drill work sometimes Cullen [Loeffler] will go first and the other times Kevin [McDermott] will go first. Like say we are going to punt and kick field goals and I can't remember who is going first; I let them keep track of that, but say Cullen will go first with the first group with punt; he'll do three reps and then Kevin will go and on field goal Kevin will do the first few reps and then Cullen will go. We're trying to make it as even as possible to make it as fair as possible and we will evaluate it from there.

Q: How's Cullen Loeffler doing with having competition at camp?

A: He's doing a great job. These two get along really well and I had a talk with both of them at the beginning of the spring and they're both pros. Kevin has done this before, he's come into a camp and he's beat out a veteran in San Francisco and obviously it's new to Cullen but Cullen, you guys know him, he's a great human being, fine young man and he's handling it like a pro. He knows it's pro football and it's competition and it's only going to make him better if he ends up being our guy.

Q: Does Cullen Loeffler have an edge with his long tenure with the Vikings?

A: Not really. I know who Cullen is, I know what he's done and he's done a great many things for this organization but it's an open competition to be sure.

Q: Is there a competition for punt returner?

A: As I tell Marcus [Sherels] every year at the end of the season and beginning of the spring I tell him that it's a competition for him. It's his job right now and he's still the number one punt returner on our team but there will be competition for him as well.

Q: Is there competition at punt returner every year?

A: Every year, you're right. Every year. Whether it's playing punt corner or it's kickoff team, punt team, punt returner, kickoff returner, whatever the case may be, it's every year he's earned his job. That's why I respect him so much because every year he's shown up and ready to roll and he's earned that spot.

Q: Can you talk about the role Adam Thielen is playing on special teams?

A: Yeah, Adam came out of camp last year and really played well in the preseason, not only as a punt returner but as a core special teams player as well, and obviously you guys saw his development last year. He made a bunch of plays for us. I would say he's one of our top five specials teams performers a year ago and he's only getting better. He's got a lot to learn. We made a lot of corrections this spring. He and I sat down watching game tape from a year ago and he's ever the student of the game. He's writing down notes, things he's got to work on and that's the mentality he's had through the spring and I'm sure will be into training camp.

Q: What are you seeing from Stefon Diggs in the special teams drills?

A: I like Stefon. He is catching punts better than he ever has. In college you don't have as much time to work on that stuff, so he came here with kind of a clean slate in terms of being a punt returner, kickoff returner in terms of catching the ball. He's got all the talent in the world. He's got great explosiveness but he's starting to catch the ball really, really well and in the spring, the beginning part of the spring, he wasn't doing a very good job of that but he's come a long way. He's doing a nice job now.

Q: Can Stefon Diggs start learning how to return the ball now with other players coming at him?

A: Well, that's what preseason is for. You're exactly right and I think he's knows he's not going get hit in practice, but the bodies coming down on him he'll get a feel for it then. But you're absolutely right, those preseason games are going to be huge for him.

Q: With Adrian Peterson, do you see a larger role for Jerick McKinnon on special teams?

A: With Jerick [McKinnon] and with Matt [Asiata], to be honest with you, and Joe Banyard did a great job last year of filling in as the third running back. Matt is a pro, Jerick is a pro, Joe is a pro, they all did a really nice job for me last year and I think that's going to continue.

Q: Was it rewarding for you to see Blair Walsh earn a new contract?

A: Yeah I was real happy for him, I'm happy for the organization. I don't get into the numbers game and it really doesn't matter to me. I know it doesn't matter what he makes. He's going to come out and work hard and he is a pro and he's learned a lot, he still has a lot of work to do and a ways to go in terms of earning that status of being one of the top kickers in the league. Does he have the talent? Yes. Is he on his way? I believe he is with his work ethic and what he brings to the table. I think we have a good shot at him continuing his development as a great kicker in this league.

Q: What is the biggest thing a rookie or returner guy has to do to earn your trust?

A: Ball security. Number one ball security. He's going to miss a read or two. He's going make a mistake and fair catch it when he shouldn't or not fair catch it when he should. Those things I understand that, but it's the number one thing for any returner in our game is ball security.

Q: Seen anything different from Cordarrelle Patterson this season?

A: Yeah I think Cordarrelle [Patterson] is stronger, he's leaner, more explosive. He's got a bunch of reps under his belt now. I think he's got more confidence as a return man. I'm excited about his continued development too because there's some things he can do a lot better than he's done the first two years. Number one is ball security. With that being said, I'm excited about his development as well.

Q: How do you keep Cordarrelle Patterson engaged? Do you get frustrated when they don't kick to him?

A: They [TV cameras] didn't show me on the sideline. I was visibly frustrated too. But you want one of the top returners, if not the top returner in the league, to get as many opportunities as possible. But I don't blame teams for not kicking to him. I'm not sure if I'd kick to him if I was on the other sideline, but I tried to tell him, "hey, if you get that opportunity, you need to be ready for it." Because there were times last year when he was frustrated they did kick to him, he wasn't ready. He didn't hit the seam because he wasn't fully engaged and we got out to the 20-22 yard line. So, every opportunity, every time he's out there, every rep, he needs to think of it as an opportunity for a big play and if he has that mentality, then he'll do a better job with the opportunities he does get.

Q: Do you think that possible Blair Walsh may have overthought wind patterns last year?

A: Maybe. Blair [Walsh] is pretty mentally tough and he doesn't overthink things. He keeps it pretty simple in the game. It's more in pregame, I think, when more of those discussions go on with Jeff [Locke] and myself and Blair of course. I don't think he overthought things to be honest with you. I think he mishit them or didn't get it.

Q: Could he have over-studied with all the extra preparation he put in?

A: He did. That's the double-edged sword. You're exactly right. There's the Law of Diminishing Return, so to speak, in terms of how much you study and how much you prepare with the winds. We're going to continue to send those guys down to TCF Bank [Stadium] and let them work down there towards the end of training camp and on into the season like we did a year ago, just so they make that a home field advantage, like I told you guys before, for Jeff and for Blair.

Q: Is there anything that you've seen consistent with Blair Walsh's misses last year?

A: Well, two were blocked, that's not his fault. Neither one were his fault. I don't know the stats, maybe three were over 50 yards – those are tough to make. I think he's one of the most reliable guys I've been around, so I don't think he'll skip a beat this year.

Q: With the longer extra points, have you been putting in more reps in practice?

A: We would start every PAT field goal session warming up for the team session. We would always start with the PAT, always. That's the very first thing I want because hopefully you're kicking a bunch of PATs. We do the same thing now, just from the 15-yard line, 33-yard field goal, some from the left hash and some from the right hash. I think most kickers would rather have it on a hash, because number one, it's pretty much in the middle of the field anyway in our league, but number two, the holder has a better reference point using the hash mark rather than the middle of the field, so that's what a lot of guys I think will do.

Q: With people kicking away from Cordarrelle Patterson, you've experimented with putting some returners back there rather than some blockers. Is that something you're more committed to this year?

A: Really the last two years, because our formation, we have the five up front, we have the two ends, we have a fullback, two halfbacks and then the deep returner. The two halfbacks are guys that can return the ball and last year, I want to say that we had 12 or 13 different people return kickoffs. The year before was the exact same number – 12 or 13, whatever it was. We're always prepared for that, whether it's Justin Trattou as the fullback, he returned a couple last year, or Marcus Sherels as the left halfback, Matt Asiata had several returns last year, Jerome Felton, when he was with us, he had some returns. So, we're always preparing for that because we know the type of kicks we're probably going to get.

Q: Do the five people up front know that the ball is coming and they're going to have to change the blocking?

A: Right, they react to it and they shorten their drop and try and block in front of the ball as best they can. Usually at that point, if it's a shorter kick, the return called is off and you're just trying to get as many yards as you can. And that really helped us last year. I think we were number two in the league in drive-start after kickoff return, so we're hopefully continuing in that direction.

Q: Are you guys more comfortable and confident in calling TCF Bank Stadium a home field advantage?

A: I think so, with a year under our belt, absolutely. Especially, we talked about Blair [Walsh] and some of his misses, he'll hopefully get better, obviously. I think Jeff [Locke] will be a lot more comfortable with the winds and we've experimented with some different ways of kicking the balls, he has. He's worked hard on it this offseason, kicking the ball into the wind. It's more of a cut ball, he calls it, and it's a very effective ball into the wind and he's starting to master that.

Q: What did you identify as the problem areas to some of Jeff Locke's struggles last year? Was it due to technique or the snaps?

A: Some were snaps, yes, absolutely. Others were he was trying to crush the ball into the wind. He's got to be disciplined enough to keep his approach that's compact – nice and short – so he doesn't try to kill the ball. I think that will solve a lot of his problems. We've worked hard on that this offseason.

Q: How important is this year for Jeff Locke to prove himself?

A: Well, he's already proved himself. I think he's got the Viking record for net punt [yardage], correct? After it was so many punts. I mean he's already proved himself to be a good NFL punter. Do I expect more from him? Absolutely. I think it's an important year for Jeff [Locke] because it's important to us that he performs well so he helps us win games.

Q: With a longer PAT, does that become a more blockable kick?

A: Yeah, you know what, two years ago we blocked three PATs, last year we blocked a PAT. We're pretty aggressive coming against, or going against, teams with their PAT field goal team. I think there may be more opportunities, but a 33-yard field goal is not a huge difference. It is different. You're going to see the percentage go down a little bit, but we're still going to be aggressive because that's who we are. The good thing is that you can score two points off a block now. In the old days, once the PAT failure was evident, the play was over. Now it's not, which is kind of cool.

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