EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –"Voice of the Vikings" Paul Allen had quite the lineup of guests on his 9 to Noon show on KFAN Tuesday.
Allen set up camp on the patio of the Wilf office Winter Park for an on-site broadcast of Tuesday's show overlooking day eight of the Vikings organized team activity practice. The Vikings-centric show featured Head Coach Mike Zimmer, General Manager Rick Spielman, Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren, safety Harrison Smith and actor Josh Duhamel, who spent the day at the Vikings facilities.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer on Laquon Treadwell, Harrison Smith
In talking with Allen, Zimmer emphasized the importance of OTAs and the role the voluntary practices hold in refining both the offense and the defense before re-examining progress at training camp. With a 90-man roster that will eventually be slimmed to 53, Zimmer said that OTAs give coaches an earlier opportunity to move players around, work on techniques and evaluate roster depth.
"Refining how the receivers run routes, refining [the] new techniques that we're teaching the offensive line," Zimmer said. "And you're always looking at different tweaks – when you get a different team together, how you can incorporate other guys."
Zimmer highlighted a number of players, including rookie Laquon Treadwell.
"Even though we're not blocking [during OTAs], I can tell that he's intent when he goes in there," Zimmer said. "He goes in there with a purpose – he looks like he has an attitude when he does it.
"He is extremely fast off the line of scrimmage," Zimmer added. "And he's smooth, which makes it really good. He has a really good catch radius, he's running routes much better, alignments and all those different things they have to do. You can see the acceleration, you can see he's catching the ball really well right now."
Zimmer wrapped up his segment with a few words on Smith, who signed a contract extension with the Vikings Monday morning.
"As much as everyone likes money, I don't think Harrison Smith plays football for the money," Zimmer said. "I think he plays it because he loves the game, he loves to compete, he loves to play. He's kind of an old-school guy – he's not about the flash and the glitter and all that."
*To hear Zimmer's thoughts on Adam Thielen's progression, tune in to the 9:10 mark on the above video. *
Josh Duhamel on Teddy Bridgewater and 2016 Vikings
A native of North Dakota, former quarterback at Minot State and lifelong Vikings fan, Duhamel spent the morning taking in the Vikings OTA practice before joining Allen.
"What I really loved is watching these guys throw the ball downfield," Duhamel said. "Teddy [Bridgewater]'s chucking it deep and hitting [his targets], and it's good to see.
"I think this team is on the verge anyway," Duhamel said. "Whether we throw the ball downfield or not, I think they're going to be really good. Coach Zimmer has these guys marching in step. From what I hear, it's a great locker room – these guys are a really high-character group, which is great."
Duhamel said he's excited to see the progression of the Vikings offense in 2016 while continuing to be an "old-school" fan of defense winning football games. He's expecting the two sides of the ball to come together well this season.
"I like a team that's rooted in defense," Duhamel said. "I think that's what I really love about Zimmer, is that this team is defense-first. And on top of that, we have a great offense, a lot of offensive weapons. I think Teddy is steady. I think he's a really talented kid that is going to be a lot better than anybody expects."
*To hear Duhamel's thoughts on the Vikings Wild Card game and what's in store for the 2016 season, tune in to the 9:25 mark on the above video. *
Vikings COO Kevin Warren on U.S. Bank Stadium
The process of seeing the Vikings ready to open U.S. Bank Stadium has been a long one, and Vikings Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren told Allen he's excited to see it all come to fruition.
"I'm just proud to be able to have a little piece in this process," Warren said. "People can they've seen something built, but really, I saw this developed on paper. To be in the negotiations associated with the authority and the political leaders to actually bring this to fruition to help with the design, the construction, all on paper […] Then when you look in there and see the turf, the purple seats and the way that it's coming together, it is an absolutely beautiful stadium."
Warren emphasized the priority placed on the fan experience when designing and building U.S. Bank Stadium.
"I'll be so excited the first day, just to see the fans enjoying what it feels like to be able to watch a football game there," Warren said.
*To hear Warren's thoughts on the proposed Eagan training facility and hosting the Super Bowl in 2018, tune in to the 17:21 mark on the above video. *
Vikings GM Rick Spielman on the Vikings offense in 2016
Spielman spoke to Allen about a number of Vikings topics Tuesday, including a look at the offensive side of the ball heading into 2016. One area of interest is the offensive line, which Spielman and Zimmer focused on improving during the offseason. Spielman said he appreciates the depth currently at the line and the competition it fuels for the position group.
"I believe all those guys are pushing each other," Spielman said. "I know [new offensive line coach] Tony Sparano has brought in the type of attitude that Coach Zimmer wants to see from [the offensive linemen].
"It'll be very exciting when we get down to training camp, once we get in pads, to see which guys end up rising to the top," Spielman added. "But they're all competing very hard. They fit the profile that we're looking for in offensive linemen."
Spielman said he's seen positive things from several players during OTAs, including rookie tight end David Morgan, running back Jerick McKinnon and Bridgewater.
"He's had an outstanding offseason, and you can see him asserting himself as the leader of this football team," Spielman said.
Spielman said the Vikings are "looking for big things" from Bridgewater heading into his third NFL season and said the quarterback is headed in the right direction.
*To hear Spielman's thoughts on second-year LB Edmond Robinson and Treadwell's progress, tune in to the 12:40 and 14:57 marks, respectively, on the above video. *
Harrison Smith on staying with the Vikings
Just over 24 hours after signing his contract extension, Smith joined Allen for a segment on 9 to Noon.
When asked about the length of his deal, Smith said he keeps the mindset of always working to get better and viewing each season as a contract year.
"One thing you kind of learn is that you have to prove yourself every single season, no matter what type of deal you're on," Smith said. "One thing [Vikings defensive backs coach] Jerry Gray always tells us is that it doesn't matter what's going on – you're on a one-year deal. So you have to prove yourself today."
Smith said if players continue to have that perspective on the field, the "rest will take care of itself."
Interestingly, Smith used the same pen to sign his extension that he used in signing his initial rookie contract in 2012.
"I kept the pen and kept the hat I got when I got drafted," Smith said. "I was kind of looking at [the pen] the other day and thought it'd be cool if I signed with that.
"I think it kind of means something to me that Rick traded back into the first round to get me," Smith added. "At the time, some people might have thought that maybe he reached for me or he took me too high, but I always wanted to prove that I was the right choice."
*To hear Smith's takes on Stefon Diggs and the 2016 team, tune in to the 5:14 mark on the above video. *