Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer
I thought we had a good practice yesterday. I thought guys got after it pretty good first day in pads. I also think that for the most part we were pretty smart staying up on our feet and practicing the right way. Offensively, I thought we were crisp, and then defensively after I watched the tape with them, I thought we did some good things as well. We're continuing to move in the right direction. We have some of the most passionate fans in the NFL and it's important to me that our football team is as committed to winning as our fans are. We're going to keep busting our rear ends every single day for them and try to continue to be something that they're proud of.
Q: What did you think of the press coverage in the first day in pads yesterday?
A: There was some good and bad. I expected it to be sloppy. We've still got a lot of technique work to do. And the same thing for the receivers too because they haven't seen it either. We're going to work extra on that today. We'll have an extra little period for that today.
Q: Did you take interest in that? You were right there for the most part.
A: Yeah. Finally, you get a chance to work on something a little bit. With Xavier [Rhodes] and Terence [Newman] and Trae [Waynes], especially those guys, I like to continually try to coach. Terence likes to hear the things I say, and Xavier too, not all the time, he doesn't. And then Trae, he just needs to get used to me.
Q: It seems like you and Xavier Rhodes have a neat relationship in that you can say anything you'd like and a bond has evolved?
A: I hope I can say anything I want to any of the players, but I don't know. I just try to be me. One of the players, I said something to him yesterday and he said, "That's what I like about you Coach. You keep this thing real." I think Xavier's had some success at some of the things that we're trying to teach and I think he appreciates that. Guys want to get feedback. If I could coach every position every play – I actually do in the meetings – but on the field I would try to do that because they like to get feedback on every play. They want to know what they're doing right, what they're doing wrong, what they can do better.
Q: Teddy Bridgewater says that he loves the expectations. Can you talk about that?
A: As I've said before, I would hate for a player's expectations not to be as high as mine. Most of our players have extremely high expectations in themselves. That's part of the reason why they're playing at the level that they're playing, because they're elite athletes that have always had to overcome people saying things that they couldn't do and worked to continue to be better. Expectations are what they are. At the end of the day, it's how you play.
Q: Teddy seems to embrace that and everyone else's expectations.
A: Well that's good. I'm glad.
Q: Those are your expectations too I would imagine?
A: That's my expectations for everyone. I have high expectations. I know overall people are saying nice things, but our expectations are higher than anybody else's, and that's how it should be. I don't want my football team to have low expectations. I don't want them thinking that, "we're not going to be any good" or "man, I can't play," or something like that. It wouldn't do us any good.
Q: Was there a little more traffic closer to the quarterback than a typical practice yesterday?
A: Yeah, it was the first day and guys are geared up. We have to learn how to practice in pads continually. There was a couple times that were too close. Sharrif bumped into a guard, and he kind of bumped into Teddy and Teddy went on the ground one time. So we have to be smart about that.
Q: In terms of Sharrif and his progress, what are you looking for as he continues to grow in this league?
A: So far, I'm impressed with where he's gone from the time that I first saw him last year, I guess it was in OTA's. He's improved quite a bit. His quickness, the way he's changed his body, his quickness. And now he's started to be much more confident. I don't know that he was very confident when I first got here. Andre Patterson has done a great job with him teaching things. Sharrif is a guy that – we were talking about it with Xavier – he likes a lot of feedback. He's working very, very hard and he's doing a good job. He's doing a good job.
Q: How has Scott Crichton done so far this camp? He seems like he's doing a few different things out there.
A: Yes, Scott's matured quite a bit over the course of – you know he missed a lot of the OTAs last year because of the rule, and he's matured quite a bit actually. I'm anxious to see a lot of these guys when we get a chance to go up against some other people today. When we do the one-on-one pass rush today, I've instructed the coaches that I want to get guys on other guys that they haven't been going against all the time, so Everson's [Griffen] not going against [Matt] Kalil every time. I want to see [Danielle] Hunter against some of these guys. I want to see [T.J.] Clemmings against someone else. You start to get to know guys a little bit, and I want to see Hunter against both Kalil and [Phil] Loadholt.
Q: How do you feel Antone Exum Jr. has been looking in camp? Do you see him as a guy giving Robert Blanton a hard challenge for the starting strong safety?
A: Yeah, I think Antone has improved a lot. We had a couple of guys last year that came in here as rookies that really didn't know how to act. He was actually one of them. He has grown up a lot. Now it seems important to him. It seems like he's understanding what the coaches want, want we want to do, what Jerry's [Gray] trying to get done with him. He is a good athlete, he is improving every day, he's working real hard. He has proven to me that it's a lot more important to him. Some guys, they come into the league and they think they've made it and they don't understand what you have to do to become a professional football player. I had several talks with him, but finally I think he has figured this stuff out a little bit.
Q: Do you think you have a plan with him?
A: I don't know. We'll see when we get into games. All these things will get determined when we get into the preseason games. Especially for safeties, they have to be able to make checks and movements and things like that and all this. I don't know how he is going to do with that, I really don't. I think he is athletic enough I don't know how what kind of tackler he is going to be, the instincts that he needs. That's going to show up a lot more in the preseason games.
Q: Does DaVaris Daniels seem ready? He practiced yesterday. Are you going to push him more or put on the brakes?
A: Yeah, I am going to push him more today, yes. He is going to get some more reps. He feels good physically other than the conditioning, so we are trying to accelerate his conditioning a little bit.
Q: How has Cullen Loeffler looked to you and what does he have to continue to do to keep his job?A: Cullen has to continue to do the things he's done. Him and McDermott, it's still going to come down to consistency, it's going to come down to some protection things. It looks like it's a pretty good battle so far from what I have seen. Somebody asked me about the two point plays and a different rule. We have to figure out the long snapper situation right now, so we are probably not going to go for any two's in the preseason. That's an important position for us and to figure out if Cullen is the guy. Cullen has done a great job. He is a tremendous leader and a good kids so we'll just have to see.
Q: Exum made that tough switch last year from corner to safety. What was it originally that made you say he is going to be best suited in the backend of the defense?
A: Sometimes you just get a feel for a guy. Sometimes it's a boundary corner that plays on the short side that has some cover skills. Sometimes it's his intelligence. Sometimes it's just a physical corner, it's just kind of a feel. Then you work him out there and you try to test him mentally on a lot of the different things that he has to do and it does take time sometimes. But I do like what he's doing. Shaun Prater he was a boundary corner at Iowa and kind of in a nickel back and moved around a little bit. I kind of like him a little bit. [Andrew] Sendejo has continued to do a good job, so all of this will come out in a wash. Even [Anthony] Harris had an interception yesterday, it was an overthrow.
Q: How did Brian Peters kind of come on your radar?
A: Honestly, I don't know. I'd like to say I did, but we have scouts that evaluate the Canadian league. First they went to George Paton and then George went to Rick [Spielman] and I was just kind of like, "we need linebackers."
Q: When you looked at film, how do you judge the CFL?
A: Actually I didn't look at film on him. I didn't look at film.
Q: What are your thoughts on him now?
A: I like him. He is a converted safety, so he's got athletic ability. He is fast, he can run. He was a little bit more physical yesterday than maybe we anticipated but now with the way the NFL is you kind of need some of these cover linebackers. I think what is going to determine with him is the physicality part of his game, being a former safety. He is a smart kid. Maybe if he played in space in Canada that might help some of those things, but so far we have been happy with him.
Q: How about special teams?
A: Depending how he does on special teams will be a big key as well.
Q: Teddy mentioned there was a weight limit as far as the offseason goes to get bigger. What was the plan to ensure he got bigger and what's the translation you are seeing on the field?
A: It was mostly the weight room, the things we ask him to do in the weight room to get bigger. Really more sturdy, because he was a little bit thin I guess is the best word to say. It was more about that.
Q: Is it important for a quarterback to change his body type?
A: Yeah, a little bit. We're pretty smart. It's not the deal where we are going to bulk him up. He's not going to be doing max sets and things like that. It's more about the repetitions he is doing. Teddy is a kid that whatever you ask him to do, he is going to do it. He is going to work.
Q: When you guys drafted Danielle Hunter, everybody said he was raw coming out of LSU. You guys have seen him for the last couple of months. How raw is he?
A: He is lot less raw then we thought. He has really been impressive honestly. That's why I want to see him against some of the other competition. He is a tremendous athlete with very, very long arms. I asked one of the coaches about him the other day on what he thought and he was very, very positive about him. I won't say exactly what he said.
Q: At what point will you be able to tell if Cordarrelle has turned the corner this offseason.
A: So far he's doing well. So far he's done well. These two days he's been impressive. Today is a new day, we'll see how he does today. I'm hopeful that today is just as good as yesterday and yesterday was as good as the day before. I don't know that he has turned the corner yet, but he is definitely kind of rounding it.
Q: How do you see the timing developing between Teddy Bridgewater and Mike Wallace, especially when it comes to the deep ball?
A: We need to work on that some more. Yesterday we did not hit as many we need to and that will continue to start being an emphasis with what we're doing. Right now we're working on the timing of the other routes more so than the long ball, so that's still a progression in where we're going in the offense.
Vikings Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater
Pretty exciting time yesterday, got to put the pads on for the first time. You talk about the offensive linemen and that's what they live for. Those guys, talk about being able to put the pads on be physical with the defensive line, get to form an attitude to come out and start practice fast, it takes football from fantasy football to reality football. We're glad to be back out here. I heard some people were complaining about the weather yesterday. This weather here is a beautiful day in South Florida. I'm glad to be back out, can't wait to come back out later today.
Q: Former quarterbacks say the first year to the second year is the biggest learning curve, are you more comfortable in your second season?
A: Yeah, you could say that but at the same time I'm still learning. Right now, each week we're being asked to do a lot and that's what comes with playing the position. So I'm glad that the coaches are thinking that highly of us and we're just trying to execute at a high level.
Q: What differences are there for you as a quarterback getting out there in pads?
A: The thing about putting on the pads is you get a feel for those rushers. When you're not in pads they have to pull up sometimes and really stay away from the quarterback, but when you get the pads on you know those guys are fighting in the trenches so you know you have to play fast or get the ball out of your hand much faster and just be back there relaxed.
Q: How much more comfortable do you feel this year?
A: My comfort level is very high right now and our coaching staff, they're contributing to that whether it's calling plays that we're comfortable running or giving us assignments that we're comfortable executing. For me, I'm much more comfortable this year. It's training camp, you're going against your defense, you've been going against those guys since the spring. There's going to be a ton of competition and that's what's going to make the team better.
Q: What's Xavier Rhodes like as a cornerback?
A: Yeah, Xavier he's a great guy, big physical guy, fast, can cover every route that you think of. He and I, we go at it everyday because we trained together back in South Florida. Our lockers are next to each other back in Eden Prairie so you know there's a little competition going there but he makes us better. He makes that wide receiver room better. Our wide receivers make the defensive back room better.
Q: Does this feel like your team this year?
A: Oh totally, and at the same time we have guys like Chad Greenway, Linval Joseph, Everson Griffen, Brian Robison the list goes on and on, guys who have established themselves, not only in the National Football League but for this organization. So they make my job much easier. Yesterday I had a talk with Marshall Faulk and he was like, "You know, it's going to have to be you at some point and you know those moments when you step up into that leadership role are sometimes the defining points of your career." Hearing those words from him, it means a lot. So, I'm not going to do anything differently and I'll lead with conviction, lead from within and just be myself.
Q: How many former quarterbacks or top quarterbacks did you talk to last year?
A: When I was down at the Kentucky Derby there was a ton of guys down there and I was able to pick some of those guy's brains. It's always good to get an insight on what those guys are thinking, whether it's heading to the offseason and how they're training or preparing next season. I think it would be very helpful for me going into this year.
Q: What specific guys?
A: I wouldn't share the names right now, but like I said I talked to some guys down there and they shared some good things with me.
Q: Have there been more defensive guys around you in the pocket than a typical training camp?
A: Yeah, you could say that, but you know those guys are competing. It's our first day in the pads. You know you talk about a long offseason of chatter around the locker room with the offensive line, defensive line saying what they are going to do to each other so you put the pads on and you get that game-like feel. We are just going to continue to learn how to practice with each other, protect each other and we should be good.
Q: There's a lot of talk externally for the offensive line to step up their game since last year. How would you describe the offensive line's attitude right now?
A: Those guys, we were pretty beat up last year. I think we finished the season with one healthy lineman or two healthy linemen. You know, those guys work hard every day. Ever since we arrived back in Eden Prairie for Organized Team Activities, those guys have been just serious about their craft and no, nothing has changed. Those guys are going to continue to get better each and every day.
Q: Where do things stand in terms of timing with Mike Wallace especially when it comes to the deep ball?
A: Everyone talks about the deep ball, yeah, you're going to hit two or three of those or you're either going to miss two or three a game so, it's going to happen. My thing is, I can't think too much about it. Mike [Wallace] and I had some time together down in South Florida. We were working out together, developing a chemistry on and off the field, so it goes beyond the deep ball. I have to continue to be precise and get the ball out of my hands fast enough if he's running an out route because he's a guy who can fly. So, I'm going to continue to try to get better in every aspect, whether we're on a slant route, out route, hitch route or throwing a deep ball. It's going to be very important for us, we know that he brings some excitement to the team, that big play ability, and we're going to make sure we capitalize on it.
Q: Is Mike Wallace the fastest on the team?
A: He may be. Yesterday, he had a moment where I think Shaun Prater was playing off-coverage in one-on-ones and he said, "Listen, come up and press me." And that's just something that you want on this team, that confidence. He's very fast, everyone knows that, so when you do press him, sometimes you just have to live with what you do.
Q: How much weight did you gain in the offseason?
A: There was a set amount, a set weight limit for me coming into training camp, which is 215 [pounds], I was able to put on some weight but most of it was muscle. I'm trying to make sure that I'm building myself up to withstand some hits that I'm going to take throughout the year and withstand the long season that's ahead of us. Our coaching staff, our training staff, strength and conditioning staff have been doing a great job, with not only me putting on weight but the other guys, whether it's a wide receiver, defensive back and we're going to make sure we take advantage of it.
Q: How much of a difference does it make having more weight?
A: It allows me to have more zip on a ball, but also that comes with technique. Sometimes if I drop my elbow too low, a ball may sail on me. Some of it is muscle and strength, the other half is technique. There are a ton of things that play a role in it, whether it's accuracy or throwing motions and things like that.
Q: Does the added muscle mass increase your durability?
A: This is a physical league. You've got to be able to withstand those hits, like I said, because not every play is going to be a perfect play. So, you have to sit back there, deliver a ball while taking a hit and I want to make sure that my body is able to do so.
Q: How do you see yourself taking advantage of the new virtual reality technology that the team is testing out?
A: I'll be able to take advantage of it because I'll be able to steal reps. If a guy like Shaun Hill is in there during 7-on-7, I may be watching his reps in practice, but once I go into the classroom and put the virtual goggles on, I'm actually taking that rep now for myself. It's going to be very helpful from the learning curve, for not only me but for other guys in the room. We have back-ups who won't get the same amount of reps that I will get throughout the course of game week, so for them to be able to go in and steal reps is going to be very helpful.
Q: Do you like the expectations and pressure on you?
A: Yeah, I love it and I don't back down from it. The thing is, the beauty of it is, we're still in July. Everyone can say all the good things, but it's not going to happen right now. You can't win a championship in July, but you can lose one if you're not working hard enough and everything. I know that and like I said, I don't back down from the expectations. We have a coaching staff here that keeps everyone level headed. We have great guys, a supporting cast on this team, talk about a guy like Kyle Rudolph being healthy this year. He's going to be a huge playmaker in this offense. Bringing Mike Wallace in from Miami [Dolphins] and having Adrian [Peterson] back, it's going to be pretty exciting for this offense and I can't wait to be out there with those guys.
Q: Does it affect Cordarrelle Patterson's progression by not getting many reps with you?
A: I don't think so. The good thing about Cordarrelle [Patterson], he's in a situation where we can move him around a lot. He's going to be very helpful for this team and that entire wide receiver unit; those guys are getting better each and every day. There's great leadership in that room and I'm excited for those guys.
Q: How tough is it for you two to work on your timing when you're not taking reps together?
A: You just has to take advantage of those reps when he's in there because everything isn't always timing. Sometimes, we throw to areas and you just have to be in the right place. As long as he's executing what's been asked of him when he's in there, we shouldn't have an issue if he's in there with me or with Shaun [Hill], or Mike [Kafka], or Taylor [Heinicke].