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Transcript: Zimmer, Rudolph, Cook and Rhodes Addressed the Media Tuesday

*Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer  *

I thought today’s practice was one of the better ones that we had. Got back to being more crisp, doing things a little bit quicker and faster. Got a lot of situational work in. We have a golf tournament coming up for the Vikings Foundation tomorrow. I heard a lot of you are playing in it, so hopefully we get some good video of that. Finish up this week and then couple more practices next week and get ready to take a little break and get back ready to go.

Q: When you talk about that crispness, is there a time where you can sense things coming together?

A:  Yes, it’s still a work in progress with the offense I think. Defensively, I thought we moved around better today. I thought we covered things tighter. I told them yesterday that I thought we’d been milling around here a little bit. I realized it wasn’t their fault, it was my fault. They get the old Zim back now.* *

Q: Does having Kyle Rudolph back earlier than when he’d thought reflect on the work that he’s put in to get back?

A:  Yes, he’s worked real hard. It’s good to see him out there this week. He got some reps yesterday as well. [Dalvin] Cook got some reps with the team both these last two days so that’s been good. Our trainers, Eric Sugarman is going a great job along with Mark Uyeyama with the guys in the weight room.

Q: How do you balance to still be cautious and try different things with Dalvin Cook?

A:  It’s more about getting him around a little bit of bodies flying at him a little bit. It’s not so much trying to figure out what he can do right now. It’s more about trying to get him comfortable around 11 or 22 players around him. 

Q: Did the players sing happy birthday to you this year?

A:  I think they did, yes. It was bad singing. No presents. Good practice was a good present.

Q: What are the intangibles does Brian Robison provide your defense?

A:  First of all, Brian is a great team guy. When I came in here, I obviously didn’t know much about him. The thing that he has done really well is he has bought in to what we are trying to preach about team defense and team aspect of things. He’s been a good leader. He’s always not afraid to voice his opinions on the things we are trying to get done. It’s great to have him here.

Q: Is Holton Hill somebody that you could see morphing into a number of different spots in the secondary?

A:  Right now, it’s just really corner. He is still learning that spot. He has the size and speed and athletic ability to probably play more positions. At this point in time, I think it is just going to be corner. 

Q: What is that like for the defense to see a new offensive coordinator and offense in practice?

A:  They’ve got some new other wrinkles in that they’ve been doing. In the spring, it’s always a little bit of cat and mouse game with the offense and defense. They run a couple plays that hurt the defense and the defense will come back and run something that will hurt them. It’s really about trying to get guys better at doing their job and being on the same page and getting off on the snap count. All of those things. Really, what we are trying to do as a team a lot is teach them about situational football. How games play out, how we win games at the end, things like that.

Q: What do you want to see from Danielle Hunter as his next step?

A:  I think the biggest thing from Danielle, and he’s had a great spring, I think the biggest thing with him is just cut it loose. Not think so much. A lot of these young guys they have a tendency to think so much about what they should do or what they might do. His natural reactions are good enough. He’s worked extremely hard this offseason. He’s worked really hard so far this spring. Him and [Riley] Reiff have been getting some good battles in there. So it’s been good.

Q: Was he thinking too much at times last year?

A: Yes, I think so. Danielle [Hunter] wants to be perfect all the time and at that position you can’t always be perfect. Sometimes you just have to be reckless. He’s added a few more things to his rush arsenal and I think that’s helped him some too.

Q: Do you expect Everson Griffen to get any work in this spring before training camp?

A:  I don’t know. We thought he’d get back a little bit this week, but it may be next week and it may not be. We’re really not going to push it.

Q: Is it the foot that is bothering him?

A: No. 

Q: Adam Thielen seems like the guy that is the exact same as he was when he first got here. Is that the case?

A: Pretty much. He’s doing a little bit more talking than he has when he was a college free agent. 

Q: Talking to the group?

A: Yes, just talking trashing a little bit. But that’s fine. I told him I haven’t heard him talk to so much since he’s been here. But he’s a competitive guy and that’s how he likes to be. It’s all good. He works just as hard as he’s always worked. He competes as hard as he’s always competed. He just talks a little more.

Q: Before you signed David Parry your backups on the defensive line were young. How much value does it add by adding a veteran?

A: He’s doing a good job. He played in a lot of games in Indianapolis. Andre [Patterson] does a great job of teaching those guys. Our veteran defensive linemen do a good job. The more that we can add in there, the more depth, the more competition, the more guys who have there are better for us.

*Q: How much did you talk to him about the legal situation? *

A: I didn’t talk to him. Rick did. I didn’t talk to him. 

*Q: Do you kind of like what you’re seeing with the mismatches Coach John DeFilippo is throwing out there for the tight ends? *

A: Yes. Right now they’re trying to run plays. They’re not trying to matchup against certain people or certain players, but he’s moved a lot of guys around. He’s got a lot of different things. Down inside the five yard line they had some different shifts and things like that. It’s really trying to get the players acclimated to some of the different things and then we’ll figure it out.

Q: How much do all the shifts in the offense take time for your defense to get used to?

A: Yes, it always does take some time. It’s trying to get guys out of position and that’s really what it is. It’s good for the defense to see different things and have to react quickly and make different calls.

Q: How is Trevor Siemian looked so far?

A: He’s doing a good job. A lot of this stuff is new for him too. He’s had some days better than other days, obviously. I thought today was a better day for him. He throws the ball well. He’s a smart guy, gets the ball in the right place.

Q: Do you anticipate him getting more snaps in the preseason than if he had been here for a couple years?

A: I don’t know. We haven’t talked that much about the preseason yet. I think we’ll probably keep doing it how we’ve been doing it. I haven’t thought that far ahead. I’m just trying to get better today. 

Q: What was it about Holton Hill that you liked? What do you see from him on the field?

A: Number one, he’s got good size. He’s got good speed. He’s’ tough. He’ll hit. I thought a lot of the things that we look for in corners he has. The stop and start, the breaks, and things like that. Out here he’s done a really good job with the things he’s been doing. Obviously he’s still learning a lot about technique and that. We obviously can’t press right now, so that’ll be another see where he’s at once we get to training camp.

Q: How has he done with physicality down field?

A: It’s kind of hard to be too physical now. But he’s got long arms and good length so that helps on some of the deep balls. He’s done a good job.

Q: How has Mike Remmers adjusted to playing a lot more guard?

A: He’s done good. Mike’s very instinctive player in there. He sees a lot of things. He’s got good quickness, got good power. He’s been able to get the three-technique reach a couple times, been able to sit down on some guys rushing. I think he’s been good. We’re still trying to figure it out with [Pat] Elflein hurt. Trying to figure out where we’re going to go with the rest. It’s good to have a guy that can move around.

*Q: Is there a such thing as being too tall for guard? Does it matter? *

A: I mean yes. You’d like them in the 6’3” or 6’4” range, 6’5” maybe. If you start getting up there too high the bend part of the run game is more important.

*Vikings Cornerback Xavier Rhodes    *

Q: How was practice?

A: Practice went well, one thing about OTAs and these practices is it is all about unity. Coming together as team, bringing the new guys in, teaching them how we work and building a bond to get ready for the season.

Q: Did anybody stand out today?

A: We’re all working together. Some of the rookies, all the rookies basically, are standing out. They’re trying to learn and they’re learning from us, the vets. Guys are just playing their hearts out.  

Q: What have you seen from Mike Hughes?

A: He’s willing to learn, he’s willing to learn. Some rookies have a hard time taking advice from some other players. He’s willing to learn. You can tell he’s just open to anything you tell him.  

Q: What was the hardest transition for you as a rookie cornerback?

A: Just the rules. Playing within the rules for me. When I was at Florida State, I was a real aggressive corner. I used to jam them down the field rather than within the five yards. When you come to the NFL, you have to jam within five yards and let the receiver run his route. You have to work with your technique and your footwork. In college, you can just have your hands on the receiver all the way down the field.  

Q: How do you keep evolving as a player?

A: There’s no perfect football player. There’s always room for improvement. I look at my game, look at film to this day of last season and look at the mistakes I made in certain situations and try to fix those situations and those errors I made in those games. Try to make myself better each and every year and each and every day.

*Q: Do you feel you deserve to be recognized as one of the top corners in the league? *

A: It’s a new year. Everybody is equal at this point. Everybody is still trying to fight to get to the top. I would say I’m known out there, people know of me. I don’t want to say, going into this year, I don’t want to say I’m the best because the year hasn’t started yet. 

Vikings Tight End Kyle Rudolph

Q: How is it looking out there early as things are coming together?

A: It is a ton of fun to be back out there competing, for me especially. The plan was for me not to be doing anything right now so to have the opportunity, thankfully I get to work with the best training staff in our game. They’re the Ed Block Courage Award winners for a reason. They are really good at their job. They got me to a point where I am able to go out there a few weeks early and it’s good. There is nothing worse, and I say this all the time when we talk, is being an athlete and not being able to be out there when the rest of your teammates are working and preparing. This offseason is unique in the fact that we have a new offense, a new system, a new quarterback. I wasn’t getting any better over there by myself so it is good to be back out there.

Q: Do you think you would push it as hard if it wasn’t all new given how long you’ve been with this organization?

A: Naturally, it’s hard to be on the side and watch everyone else compete. I am probably going to push it as hard as I can regardless of the situation. This game is special in the fact that we get ten times here in OTAs, three times in minicamp and that’s it for the entire offseason. It’s not like basketball or baseball where you can go play pickup or go in the batting cages and take some cuts whenever you want. We only have 13 times to go out there and compete against our defense, so it’s good to be out there competing against the best defense in football.

Q: Has anyone compared you to a mattress before?

A: That is a new one for me. I’m ok with it. Try to make sure that he’s always getting a good night sleep, always be there for him. That is kind of my role around here. I’ll have to find out what kind of mattress he likes, what his Sleep Number is. Hopefully it is 82 and we’re good. 

Q: How much further do you have to go in building that strong chemistry with Kirk Cousins?

A: I think it’s something that will continue to build throughout the season. It’s never something that you get to the point where you’re like, “This is where we need to be.” I think if you ever do get to that point where you think you are where you need to be, then you are going to start going backwards. For us, we are going to continue to work with every opportunity we have in the offseason. We only have two more OTAs this week and the three days of minicamp next week and then hopefully take a step forward in training camp and pick up right where we left off.

Q: Are you sensing an increased level of comfort from Kirk Cousins in the red zone as OTAs are going on?

A: I think there is an increased level of comfort from everyone as we get more comfortable in the system. When you put in an entirely new offense, at first you’re thinking more than you’re going out and playing. As we get into OTA six, seven, eight, you’re starting to see guys are letting their playmaking ability to shine through. The thought process of what you have and what you need to do is kind of on the backburner and it allows you to go out and play and play fast.

Q: What have you seen from the way Coach DeFilippo tries to use tight ends to create mismatches?

A: Being just a fan of the game, I’ve seen what he’s done in the past. What he was able to do in 2015 with Gary Barnidge, and then obviously last year [Zach] Ertz had an unbelievable year in this system. It’s not just us. Obviously, he’s had great success with tight ends. What he is able to do with all the playmakers and all of the chess pieces that we have on offense, it’s been a lot of fun to see. Obviously for me early in OTAs, that is exactly what I got to do. I got to be on the side and see it. Now I am having an opportunity to be a part of it and I like that way a lot better.

Q: How different does it feel from what you did under Pat Shurmur last year?

A: There are similarities. Obviously both guys coming from Philadelphia. It’s funny I tell people all the time offenses are like foreign language. We are saying the same thing, just in a different language. The biggest thing when you have a new coordinator and new system is learning that new language. Once you learn the language, we’re doing a lot of the same stuff that we’ve been doing here for years. Having been through the numerous coordinators that I’ve been through. Learning the numerous offenses that I’ve learned, that is one of the things that I’ve been able to take from each and every transition that I’ve gone through, is essentially we’re doing a lot of the same things. Each coordinator has their little nuances that they like, but you can always look at a playbook and be like, “We did this last year. We called it this.” There are similarities. 

Q: How much do you think the pre-snap motion causes pressure on defenses?

A: You can even ask our guys on defense. They hate when we are moving around and shifting in motion. One thing that Coach Zimmer preaches to us all the time is breaking the huddle with a tempo and intensity, getting lined up. From that point on, you’ve put pressure on defense because when you get lined up and you’re under ten seconds on the play clock, they know the ball has to get snapped. They don’t have to worry about anything. But if we get lined up quickly, they don’t know if we are going to motion or shift or both. That is one thing we’ve kind of emphasized over the first eight OTAs is, “Let’s break the huddle quick, let’s get lined up.” It puts a lot of pressure on defenses.

Q: Is there more of the shifts this year than the past couple years?

A: Not really. I think back a few years ago when Norv [Turner] first got here, I felt like we were doing a motion or shift on every play. One of the things that [John] DeFilippo always says is, “We’re not going to motion or shift just to motion and shift.” If it’s a benefit for us and it gives us an advantage, then we’ll do it. We’re not going to just have them to have them.

Q: Is there more anxiety as a veteran about how you will come out of ankle surgery?

A: Not really. I’ve had five surgeries in the last ten years. It’s funny when you sit there. The nurses are getting ready for pre-op, and the doctors are talking to you, I honestly feel like I’m in the dentist office getting my teeth cleaned. It’s so routine at this point I think at times, your family and friends are more worried about it than you are. At least for me, I’m pretty relaxed and thankful that I have the best foot and ankle guy in the world right here across the way to take care of me and make sure everything will be good.

*Vikings Running Back Dalvin Cook *

Q: How’s it going with conditioning and getting back into shape?

A: The more reps you get the more comfortable you get, especially coming off an injury like that. The more reps the more you get your feet back under you and the more you get comfortable just being on the field with the guys.

*Q: With you participating in team drills now, how does your knee feel when cutting? *

A:  I’ve been feeling good but this week was another milestone in rehab and getting back out there with the team a little bit. This was a milestone for me to just get back out there, get some things done and I’ve been feeling great.

Q: When did they tell you that you would get back out in some team drills? What was your reaction?

A: They kind of told me at the beginning of the week, Monday when I came in. I was excited to get back into action, get in there and get some live reps, some live bullets just to see where I’m at myself. Analyze myself. I was excited when [Eric] Sugarman broke the news to me. Like I said, it’s another milestone in the rehab process.

Q: How is it working out on your own and now with the team?

A: It’s definitely different. You go out there and you rehab and you try and get your body back in shape. You think you’re in shape until you go take four reps back to back and you be like this is a different type of shape you have to get in. Just getting back out there and just getting that feeling back out. Just getting your body back out there and take the steps. It’s a long process. I got a long way to go and I got to keep working.

*Q: What did you learn throughout this process? *

A: Just trust it. Put the work in, the time in, and everything I have to do to get my knee at where it needed to be at and even better. You just have to go out there and trust it and I know I put the work in and that’s what I learned about myself. I put all the time in, all the work in that I needed to put in to go out there and trust my knee. It’s where it needed to be at.

Q: Did you have any apprehension getting into full team drills?

A: No. You just got to go out there and play ball. What comes with this game is injuries, ups and downs, wins and losses – everything is going to come with it. You just got to go out there and just live with the results. That’s my mindset. I’m motivated, ready to go, rejuvenated, and whatever happens, happens. I’m going to live with the results.

*Q: What is the next step that you still have to get to in recovery? *

A: I just go week-by-week, day-by-day. Whatever they bring to the table. Whatever Sugarman comes with, I know Sugarman has a great plan for me. Him, Tom [Hunkele], and the whole training staff, they have a whole plan setup for me and I back it 100%. He came and broke the news to me earlier this week that I was going to do team drills. I just went with the flow. I just go with it. Those guys know what they are doing and what to do so I just go with the flow.

*Q: When the coaches and training staff say they are monitoring your reps, how do they relay that to you? How do they go about that from a structure standpoint?  *

A: It’s a certain amount of reps that they give me. Certain plays that they want to see me on. Try to keep me out the mix a little bit. Try not to get banged up a lot. But a certain amount of reps I get. They just want to see me on the field. They want to see how I cut and stuff like that. I guess that’s what they’re going by.

Q: What do you think you would have done last year if you had a whole season?

A: I’m still that same guy. You just have to pick up from where I left off at. I’m just going out there and playing football. I’m still Dalvin Cook. I haven’t left. The motivation is still there. The talent is still here, just a little older – that’s it.

Q: Were there any tough days for you during the process?

A: Yes, you got to stack the good days up but the bad days are going to come. That’s when you have to push through those days and those are going to be the days that are going to make you or break you. Those are going to be the days that get you over the hump and set you apart from others. I just put it like that, in perspective like that. I put those bad days right in front of me and I go attack it everyday

Q: What does it mean to have the relationship that you’ve built with Kennedy Polamalu?

A: When you have a coach that can relate to you at different levels on and off the field, he’s coached so many great backs, you always have your ears open to a lot of stuff. Latavius [Murray], all those guys in the locker room we got that unity, but KP he sees something in a lot of us, man. He gets that itch out of all of us on the field. He knows what drives us. He know how to drive us. KP is a great coach.

*Q: Are you impressed with John DeFilippo’s offense? *

A: It’s an offense that I’ve always wanted to be in. He’s a great coach overall. He brings energy to the table. Him and Kirk [Cousins] they bring energy to practice period. When you have a coach like that who bring energy to the team meeting room, you’re going to come out here and do nothing but compete for him. Coach Flip brings that energy every day. His offense he wants to get the best guys the ball in their hand every time. He’s going to get the matchups he wants and that’s what we all want. We want to get the matchups and we want to make plays for our team to help us win football games. That’s just Coach Flip’s offense.

*Q: What’s it like been building your chemistry? *

A: This has been my first week back out there with the team, but I tried to sit back. Kirk, he has a lot going on in the offense and just commanding the offense, but Kirk is social with all his guys. He talk to everybody on the team. If I want to ask a question I go straight to Kirk. He’s the captain of the ship, so I go straight to him. He answers me with all ears open and we’re just building from here. It’s just a start. OTAs was a start for this offense and we just got to keep building because the ceiling is high.

*Q: What can Kirk Cousins ball fake do for the receivers? *

A: If we run the ball like we’re supposed to it’s going to do a lot for our receivers. Kirk, he got a knack for the game and that play-action is something that he’s blessed with. You can’t take that from him. If we run the ball like we’re supposed to, our receivers they are going to be happy.

Q: What about the offense do you like?

A: Coach DeFilippo just wants to get his guys in space and give them the ball. Let us make plays. He just want us to run free. There’s a lot green grass for everybody on the field for us to run, so we just got to go out there and make plays and make plays for him because he’s going to call the right stuff. We just have to go make the plays for him.

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