Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer
Sorry I was late. I ran into one of my former coaches in high school, so that was kind of fun. I sat over there and I kind of got corralled so I want to apologize to you. Tonight, we are excited to get underneath the lights again and get out here under the big crowd. It is good for our football team to get out on the field and do some situations where there are fans in the stand. We have a lot of different situations tonight. I am looking for a better performance tonight than we had yesterday in practice. I told them that we have an expectation level around here that we expect to meet and I expect them to get better today.
Q: What situations do you plan on working on?
A: We have a no-huddle situation, we've got a two-minute, we've got a red zone, we've got a short yardage, I think we have a couple of move-the-ball situations, like regular game-like things, so quite a few.
Q: Are you going live contact tonight?
A: No, I do not think that we are going to go live. This was my thinking going into it: when you scrimmage against yourself, you have 22 of your players out there, so the odds are twice as good that somebody has a chance of getting hurt. I think that with the preseason games, we will have enough time. Our guys are going to play some in the preseason and I am going to make sure that we are prepared for the first ball game, that we come out not only healthy but that we have enough reps in preseason to get our offensive and defensive systems where we feel comfortable with them.
Q: Have you settled on a workload for your first team next week?
A: I have an idea. It could change depending on how we practice the next few days, but I have an idea but it is not going to be one, two, three and out. I do not know yet, we will see.
Q: What's the latest on Robert Blanton and Josh Robinson?
A: Robert Blanton still has a hamstring [injury]. I don't know how long that is going to be, to be honest with you. Josh Robinson is really close. He probably could go tonight but we are probably going to hold him out because we have a day off tomorrow and then he should be good to go next week. All of the cornerbacks – I am pretty hard on the corners, so they have to make sure that they are out there and going and getting better all of the time.
Q: Do you guys have an update on AC Leonard?
A: He is still taking some tests. He has, I think, one more test to do, so we will see where that is. But so far, he has been okay.
Q: When you coached the Bengals' defense, they were in the top ten. How close do you think this team's defense is to reaching that?
A: It is hard to tell right now to be honest with you. We are doing some really, really good things. We are doing really good things, and they are paying attention, they're learning, studying. My meetings are a little bit different than most meetings in places in the NFL, I would assume. When things happen in a game that they are not necessarily prepared for, or that they may have not seen in practice that week, those are the kind of things. To be a top-ten defensive football team, you have to be good in pass defense, you have to be able to rush the quarterback, you have to be good on third downs and you have to be able to stop the run and try to make the quarterback one dimensional. So I am not happy, but probably satisfied with the progress of where we are. I am never happy.
Q: People have been saying that Everson Griffin is developing into more of a leader. What have you observed from him, in terms of his leadership role?
A: He is good. He is a very eager guy. He wants to learn, he wants to please, he wants to be really, really good. He is communicating quite a bit. He wants to answer every question that I ask in a meeting. It does not matter what position it is, he wants to answer it. I appreciate the way he goes about his work, and really, how good he wants to be. I think that he has a great heart and now he gets his opportunity on the field to show what kind of player he can be.
Q: What have you seen from Anthony Barr that has him rise up with the other guys and play with the ones?
A: Anthony has so many good things going for him. He is extremely smart, he hardly makes the same mistake twice, he takes unbelievable notes and he is a great athlete. He has great size, great speed and great acceleration. Now, there are still a lot of things that he has to work on, but when he does things right, it could be special. We still have to develop him a little more in the pass-rush. In college, he was able to run around guys. You can't do that here in this league. He should be a very, very good player in this league.
Q: Anthony Barr seems pretty calm. Do you see any nerves in him?
A: No, not really. He is fairly quiet, but it is just a little bit of his personality, I think. When I ask him questions in the meeting room and ask him questions on the field, like I got after him a little bit yesterday on the field, he came over and kind of explained what he was thinking. But he does not get shaken up, and he does not go in his shell. I got after him pretty good yesterday.
Q: Are there any areas that you think that you should be further along on or that you are further along on than you thought that you would be?
A: Offensively, I anticipated us aligning not as well as we have been. I think that we have been doing a really good job there in some of those areas. I think that we are blocking the run pretty good, but we have to get better in our pass-protection right now. Defensively, it kind of is the opposite. I thought that we would line up a little bit better than what we are doing. They are getting a lot of movement and things, but I thought that we would be a lot more precise in our alignments than where we are. We are probably more ahead in the blitz package than I thought where we were.
Q: With defensive backs, are there some things about Harrison Smith that you appreciate and how has he adjusted into his new role?
A: Harrison is a smart guy. He needs to be a little bit more vocal, which I think that'll come when he feels a little more comfortable in the system. Another thing I appreciate about him, he's going to go hard as he can. He gets good breaks on the ball. He wants to be really good. When we first got here, we worked a lot on his technique, his back pedal, his breaks, his turns. He told me he'd never really play one-on-one coverage in practice on wide receivers before and I make our safeties do that. He said he feels a lot better so he likes to work on things that he has to get better at and that's always an impressive trait.
Q: What have you seen out of Gerald Hodges this camp?
A: The last two days he's had much better practices the last two day. The thing I keep thinking, and I talked to our coaches about this last night, Gerald is still a young guy, a young developing player that has a lot of athletic ability. He's got good punch. He can run. Like the other guys I was talking about being misaligned a little bit, once they get more comfortable in really what we're doing in the system that allows them to free flow and play a lot faster and it's just taking him, and not just him, the other linebackers too, we're just a little bit off in our alignment so it causes us to be a little bit slow to where we're getting to. And, obviously, the coverages that we're playing I think are probably different than what they've played in the past. So there's some things they got to adjust to. That will come. My dilemma all the time is I look at the defense at Cincinnati when I left and I have to remember the defense at Cincinnati right when I first got there. But my expectations are so high all the time, I don't really want to think back, I want to think where we're at and where we got to get to, to be where I want us to be
Q: Are there still decisions you need to make about the second group of linebackers?
A: Well, we haven't decided even with the first group yet totally. But the second group, we talked about that and next week we'll pair that down just a little bit where we feel like, "Alright, these guys are kind of who we need to really look at to keep evaluating at this point." The biggest thing we want to do is make sure we get the right 53 guys on the roster and not be so quick to evaluate a guy. Like I said with Gerald Hodges, he's a little bit not quite in the right place and so he's making mistakes. But we see the ability and his athletic ability and the potential that he has. And the question is, "Okay, how soon can we get those guys in the right place where now we can use their athletic ability and their upside."
Q: Do you plan on mixing David Yankey into the first team at all?
A: Probably not for a while.
Q: Is he still trying to catch up or where do you feel he is right now?
A: He missed so much time with coming from Stanford. He missed all the OTAs so his technique has a long way to go still. But that doesn't mean he won't get there because he's a smart kid. But he's working real hard on his techniques and his sets. He's not making many mental errors as far as who to block and things like that. He's got to do a better job in the technical part of the game of what we're teaching. That may take a little time.
Q: Is the continuity of having that first line on the offensive line field important?
A: I think it's extremely important that those guys work together all the time. It's almost like the defensive backs, you've got to play together and know where everybody is going to be and know the calls are all being made so everybody's on the same page. And if they're not on the same page, that's when you let Adrian get hit when he doesn't need to and you let the quarterback. I think those guys being all back is helping. Again, they're learning different system, different calls. It's the same coach with the offensive line but the system is different so they're all learning the same thing too.
Q: What are you doing as coaches to get ready for the first pre-season game?
A: I won't do it until tomorrow, but some of the coaches have started looking at the Raiders a little bit as far as where we're going. Actually today, what I started doing was game management situations. Rick put together a table, we sit down, we talk about game-like situations, challenges, when to use time outs, go for field goals, things like that. That's kind of what my focus is right now on where I have to go. The coaches will start looking at the Raiders but honestly, and I told our players a little bit last night, we've got a game in six days now. To me, this is about us and us getting better and evaluating our guys against other guys. I don't want to go out there and trick the Raiders. I want to go out and play solid, fundamental football where guys aren't thinking and their athletic ability doesn't show up. I'm sure we could probably run some blitzes that they're not ready for if we need to but that's really not what I want to do. I want to find out if we can cover and we can line up and play the run and if we can block people in the running game and if we can get open on offense and throw the ball in the right places.
Q: How do you do with Rick Spielman's quiz on game management? Do you feel like you've got a good grasp on that?
A: Yeah, well we've got like four more days to go. We hit probably 15 scenarios today and probably got four more days to go. We'll sit down for an hour each day. Rick's never wrong. (laughs)
Q: How much influence do you have on the offensive game plan from week to week?
A: Well, they'll be certain things. Honestly, I trust Norv's judgement and what it is and I'll come in and I'll talk to him about how are we going to get this guy blocked this week, what do you think the best runs are, how we'll get them in play. I talked to him about a couple things last night. The biggest input for me will be, "Alright, it's this situation Norv, we need to run the ball here, okay? We've been running it down their throats. Let's not throw it three times, let's get another run in there. Give the ball to Adrian." Whatever it is or things that I see on tape, "their having a hard time adjusting, back field formations" Things like that.