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Transcript: Zimmer, Smith and Thielen Addressed the Media Monday

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer

Q: What made you decide to release Kai Forbath at this point?

A: Well, we just figured it was getting close to the last couple preseason games. Kai did a great job while he was here, he's a good kid. We just decided to go with Daniel. 

Q: What has impressed you the most about Daniel Carlson?

A: Probably his leg strength, he's got a really strong leg. Kickoffs are really good, been pretty accurate on the field goals. 

Q: Is there anything that stood out to you after watching the film on Saturday's game that didn't stand out on Saturday?

A: Pretty much like what I said after the game. We ran the ball pretty effectively offensively, I thought. For the most part, the protection was pretty good. We just weren't probably as accurate with the ball. We didn't get any chunk plays and, obviously, we didn't get any third downs. 

Q: What did you think of Aviante Collins start at right tackle?

A: He was good, he played right, left and guard too. Good to have a versatile guy in there.  

Q: Historically the starters get more action in the third preseason game.

A: Well, historically it doesn't really matter to me what anybody else does, we just go out and do like we've did the first two games. 

Q: Will the starters get more action on Friday?

A: Well, we haven't decided that yet. 

Q: Does getting more action in that third game help continuity?

A: Well, we need to get continuity on every phase but more importantly we probably need to get a little more conditioning. 

Q: What did you think of the push the starting line got in the running game?

A: I thought we had some good runs in there. One of Latavius' [Murray] fumbles was a pretty good run. Yeah, I thought we moved the ball well that way. [Mike] Boone got a couple, that was with the second group. Yeah, I think they're coming off the ball well. We need to continue to get better, pass protection, work on some of those things. They blitzed us a good amount so we need to shore up some of the blitz stuff a little bit.

Q: How does the conditioning this year compare to previous years?

A: Not really, it's not really any different. The third week last year I did the same thing, we're going to go a little bit longer in practice with some of the things, some of the play times.

Q: What do you see from Carlson in terms of personality makeup for pressure situations?

A: He's been pretty calm all along. Time will tell on that. It was nice to see him in Denver go out and kick those. It'll be a little bit different when we're playing San Francisco, I'm sure. So, we'll just see how it goes. You make your decision and you live with it. 

Q: How challenging is it to teach your guys not to tackle as Antwione Williams did on the play he got a penalty for his sack?

A: That's really not difficult at all. He had his head to the side, everything was good, and then he kind of puffed him up a little bit at the end. So, if he would have just done the same thing and rolled to his left, he would have been fine. That won't be a big deal. Now, the helmet thing that might be a big deal.  

Q: After watching some of these games, do you have better sense of what is a penalty and what could be a penalty?

A: No, quite honestly, no. The one that they [Jacksonville] had called on them, and [CJ] Ham, the guy is tackling him around his legs and he had his head to the side for the most part. I actually sent that in, to ask them, 'Why was this called?' Then you see other places, because I go through the tape with the other coaches, I said, 'I wonder if this is a penalty, I wonder if this is a penalty.' So, I think it's very hard to tackle a guy, you know, Bob is running down here and I try to tackle him around his thigh or his waist, my head is probably going to go down. I'm going to get it to the side but it's probably going to make contact with something. We had a cut block the other day and the guy goes and cuts, is that a penalty? There's a lot of things, a lineman runs out on a screen, I brought this up when they were talking about this whole thing. A lineman runs out on a screen and he goes and cuts the linebacker or the safety, is that a penalty? Because I don't know how you can dive like that.

Q: Do you think they will scale back the calls in the regular season? This could change some games.

A: Yeah, it's going to cost some people some jobs. Playoffs, jobs, the whole bit, I'm guessing. We haven't had any called on us so far. It's just hard to figure out. No one has ever said to me, 'hey don't worry we're going to call less or we're going to straighten out in the regular season or we're going to come up with a revised rule.' No one has ever said that.

Q: In the past with new rules, do you see referees start to relax the calls?

A: Sometimes, with the illegal contact a few years ago, in the preseason there were hundreds of flags and then they backed off of it a little bit. I don't know if that's what they'll do or not.

Q: Would you like for that to be reviewable?

A: They're saying that they're going to overturn less reviews this year too. If that's the case, if he goes low, his head is probably going to be down, so I don't know what good reviewing it will be.

Q: Do you think this will lead to more missed tackles as guys are going to the side too much?

A: I think there's a possibility of that, yeah.

Q: Could guys slow down and be less aggressive and potentially hurt themselves as a result?

A: I don't think being hurt that way, I think they're afraid to get a penalty maybe, it's possible. Slowing down at contact. We had one the other day in the game that kind of looked like that. 

Q: Was that Harrison Smith?

A: I don't remember. 

Q: Danielle Hunter had some success on the right side with Everson Griffen out, could he see more action on that side this year?

A: Any time Everson hasn't been here, he's been on that side. So, it really didn't have anything to do with a matchup. He's rushed good from over there. I'm sure he'll get some rushes on that side this year.   

Q: Is Ifeadi Odenigbo's ability to move outside or inside the same benefit that you were talking about with Jaleel Johnson earlier in camp?

A: Yeah, it's important. For a guy on gameday to be able to play three or four positions, that's important. A lot of things happen like in the other day. We have to be prepared for all of those scenarios.

Q: What had you seen from Ade Aruna prior to his injury?

A: He's a very, very talented kid. It'll set him back some but on the same token, we're going to keep him here for all of the meetings, rehab and do that. I think that part will be good for him because the change to the NFL game was probably his biggest adjustment to make. He's really talented in everything he can do that way. It'll be exciting to get him back next year.

Q: Do you know who will be your swing tackle this year or do you need to see more?

A: Well, we're trying to get five out there right now, five guys. We're working on it. I mean, that's why we got guys playing a lot of different spots. 

Q: How did Ben Gedeon and Eric Wilson look?

A: Pretty good, both of them. Both of them played really well in the ball game. Gedeon, like he always is, nobody really notices him and he has five tackles and half a sack this week. Eric Wilson ran around, he stripped the ball one time on kind of a busted coverage. He got the sack on the one rush. Those two young linebackers are good players.

Q: If you were able to get Pat Elflein back before the end of the season what kind of impact will that have on the offensive line?

A: Well, I think the quickness that he has in there will be really important for some of the plays that we're trying to run. He can reach a guy that's shaded to the side that he's trying to get to with his quickness. Obviously he has very, very few mental errors.

Q: With the special team returns you've had against you is that a matter of having backups in or schemes?

A: Well, they've all been to our right side. They're all basically been with young guys but we need to get that fixed. We had a guy start in the right place and then comes back when he thinks the guy is going the other way, so we're going to have to fix that.

Q: Trying to do too much?

A: No, there trying to get to the ball and then they're over aggressive jumping to the inside and that's not their responsibility. It's just more of a timing thing they get down there and they see the guy inside and so they're going to try and work back to the inside and not to the level of where they need to be. They can't go inside until they get to where they got contain on the football.

Q: Do you anticipate Mackensie Alexander being out for short term?

A:  I think so, but I don't really know. Everybody is different so I really don't know.

Q: How does Terence Newman look?

A: Good. Good. We've been taking care of him with a lot of things but he'll probably get a little bit more work at the nickel this week.

Q: How has mental anticipation progressed over the years?

A: It's good. This last game when he was in that wasn't his best game that he's played, so I feel like he's a little bit rusty because we've been taking care of him. His mental capacity with football has really helped him maintain being able to play. I watch him very close every day and I still see a lot of really, really good qualities with him – with his acceleration, his techniques and things like that. He'll get a few more plays this week, I think. 

Q: There can't be much that he hasn't seen…

A: No, he's probably seen just about as much as I have. Pretty much.

Vikings Wide Receiver Adam Thielen

Q: What is the top priority for your offense in practice this week?

A: I think just getting back to the basics. I can only speak for the receivers, but making sure that we're doing the little things right with our techniques, making sure that we're getting separation and making it easier on the quarterbacks. Everything else will kind of just fall into place. As long as you're doing your job in this league and everybody has that mindset, things start to fall into place when you do that.

Q: Is there an element of the offense that really stands out to you after two preseason games?

A: After going back and looking at the tape, I think us as a whole feel a lot better than we did maybe right after the game. In this league a lot of times it's just about momentum, it's about making that one play to get things going. I think there was a few times in that game that if you make a play, you catch a ball, you run a better route and you get a first down, then things start to flow and things start to go. Like I said before, it's about going back to the basics and making sure that we're getting more separation and making sure that we're getting that first play to get us going, and once that happens this offense can do big things.

Q: In your experience, how much can what happens in the preseason be a precursor for what actually happens in the regular season?

A: It's tough. It's tough to take too much and sometimes to take too little from the preseason. I think you have to take advantage of the reps, you have to take advantage of the different looks you're going to get, the different style of defenses you're going to play and things like that. It's tough because you don't have a full game plan in, but neither do they. It's just kind of a weird thing, you just have to try to control what you can control and try to win with the route that's call and try to make those plays. That stuff will carry over to the regular season when you are game planning and you're trying to put yourself in better situations, things like that, but like I said you can't really make an excuse because they're in the same boat and they're not game planning for you either. You just got to go make sure that you're back to the basics and you're getting more separation to make it easy on the quarterbacks.

Q: Do you think the third preseason game is a key one, because that's when the starters usually see the most time?

A: I think it is for one reason; you have the opportunity to get in that flow. I think sometimes in those early games you have one or two series, or you're trying to force things to happen because you only have two series, and now you kind of have the whole first half to get in a flow, figure out what they're doing defensively, how they're going to play you in the slot, how they're going to play you on the outside, and then go back to the sideline and say, "Hey, this is what I'm seeing, and this is how we can beat them." It's just an opportunity to get into an actual game flow.

Q: Toward the end of last season when you and Stefon Diggs had made names for yourselves, did you see defenses playing you guys any differently than when you were up and coming?

A: I guess the only difference is that they started to match maybe me or Diggs in different weeks. I think that may be the only thing. Other than that they're playing their defense, they're not trying to let anybody catch the ball. They don't care what your name is and what you've done in the past, they're trying to play defense and win the game. I'd say the only thing different would be a couple games they matched maybe Diggs one game and me the other game.

Q: Were the joint practices against Jacksonville any different for you then the joint practices in Cincinnati, where you were getting called out by some guys?

A: I don't know, I really don't. I think the only thing is that maybe this year they wanted to go against me to try and say, "Oh, he's not that good," or try to shut me down because of what I've done in the past. But like I said before, they're defensive players, they don't really care who you are, they want to stop you, but they probably feel a little bit better if a guy has had success in the league.

Q: What is your impression so far of Daniel Carlson?

A: Obviously I don't just sit there and watch the kickers, but I think he's a really good guy, a great locker room guy. I think he's done a really good job in the preseason games making some field goals and kicking the ball off. Obviously as a rookie I'm sure there's some things that he would say he could work on, but that's part of the progression of this league. Your rookie year is not going to be your best year in the NFL. I think now he should have the confidence to go out there and perform well, knowing that he is the guy.

Q: While the helmet rule can be called on both sides of the ball, it's mostly called on defenses. How does that changes things for a wide receiver? Do you feel safer or that you can use it to your advantage?

A: I don't know what to think about the rule. Honestly in my opinion I'm not a huge fan of it, but it is what it is. That's just this league, you do what you're told and you adjust. As a defensive player you figure out ways to try to go around it, and as an offensive player you just play the game of football and let it all just fall into place. But like I said, it's not my favorite rule in the rulebook, especially when you're on the sideline and you're watching your defense and every time it feels like, "Shoot, I hope they don't call the flag." Every tackle kind of gives you a weird feeling, which is not great, it's not my favorite thing.

Q: Is there a fear among players that this could cost teams games?

A: I think the biggest thing about it that worries me is in critical game situations. Your defense makes a big stop and all of a sudden boom, there's a flag thrown for something that shouldn't be a flag. That's the stuff that really worries me. You're hoping that it's just because it's the preseason that there are all these flags thrown and that they're trying to make a point, and in the regular season they'll try to not throw as many, but you just don't really know. But like I said, that's not my thing to worry about, I just got to go out there and play football.

Q: Where have you seen the most progress in Mackensie Alexander's game after facing him throughout training camp?

A: He just plays with a lot of confidence. He's always been a really physical corner, he's got all the talent as far as the way he runs and moves. I think the biggest thing from last year to this year is his confidence. He thinks that he can stop me on every play, and that's what you want to see out of a player. I would assume that he just keeps progressing with that.

Q: When you do play in the slot, what makes the best slot cornerbacks difficult to play against?

A: I think a smart guy in the slot is helpful. I think understanding route trees and route combinations, because in the slot you're getting more combination routes than just one-on-one matchups. So I think just a smart guy, a physical guy, and a guy that is really quick twitch. There's a lot of guys in this league that play the slot position that are really quick and physical and big, so you just kind of have to have a good balance of being really quick and physical.

*Vikings Safety Harrison Smith *

Q: What stood out with the first team defense after watching film?

A: We did some good things. Also, a lot of corrections to be made. Just fitting up screens, just getting to the ball and nipping those in the bud.

Q: When you were coming in for the blitz, was there any slowing down in fear of a penalty?

A: No, just trying to figure out to get my hands up or not. I could have done that better, definitely. As far as the rule goes, we want to adjust to things. We want to adapt and do it the right way but you can't let it slow you down, as well, because you still have to go make your plays. If you are doing everything in your power to play within those rules, even though they are very muddy right now, you still have to play full speed.

Q: Do you have a better idea of what is a penalty and what is not after watching some of the things that were called this weekend?

A: I think when they are the egregious, the head down, the linear posture, those, yes, I get it with those. There are other ones that I think from a rational standpoint, they don't make sense. I think those needs to continue to be worked on. Otherwise, it is going to be almost every play.

Q: The first penalty Jacksonville had against C.J. Ham, could their defensive back have done anything differently?

A: I don't really think so. I want to drive home the point that, especially as defensive players and as ball carriers, we want to make the game as safe as you can make it. No matter what, it is football and we are out there hitting. It's not always going to be possible. We're not resistant to these changes, they just need to be physically possible, I guess.

Q: Is this year one of the more challenging to get a hold and adapt to the new rule changes?

A: Yes. I'd have to say yes. There are always points of emphasis coming off the previous year. Like I said, you want to adapt to those things, play within those rules to the best of our abilities. That is how our coaches coach. That is how our players play. But at the same time, think this year, league wide, it seems to be a consensus that it is a little over the top right now.

Q: If teaching tackling in a different way at the youth level nationwide, can that fix things or be that much safer full speed?

A: I don't have a great answer for that. I think we are trying to make it as safe as possible. It's just not always going to be because it's the nature of the game. As far as teaching the head-up tackling, maybe more of the rugby style type tackling, that is the idea. The angles are different. The speed is different. The game is different. The passing concepts and the run game and blocking and things like that. So it is different. At the end of the day, your head is always going to be on your shoulders. You can't take it out of everything. There is going to be some scenarios that are tough. But like I said, we have to try to play within those rules.

Q: Do you lead with the shoulder first instead of the head and hope for the best within that motion?

A: I hate to say, "Hope for the best" because you want to try to prepare for those things and practice them. Even if you are striking with your shoulder, your head is going to be out in front of your shoulders. You can't pull it back. You want to try to place that shoulder on them but you're not always going to be able to with the speed of the game. You will maybe have to try to do that. Get some more leg bend and wrap up, keep your head up.

Q: When you met with NFL officials and they were showing you this new rule, what was the conversation life?

A: They showed us examples of what would be called a penalty. There was a good amount of them where it was the head down, the linear posture and were like, "Ok, yes definitely." We don't want that to be part of the game. Second guy in coming in with the head, stuff like that. But then there were a couple tackles. There was one on the sideline and in my opinion it was great form tackle. Head was to the side, wrap up. They said that would be a penalty. It was almost like they put every type of tackle on there to cover all the basis. I think that is where it's at right now to be honest.

Q: Do you fear that this may change the outcome of games?

A: I don't fear it. It is going to happen. Without a doubt that is going to happen. If you get a big sack, that changes field position, that changes maybe getting a guy out of field goal range, get them on third and long or something like that, or get off the field at third down. Then it's a whole new set of downs. It is going to change games.