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Zimmer and Bridgewater Address The Media

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer

We're just starting the preparations for Miami. They're a good football team, they've a very good defensive front. They've got two really good corners. The defensive coordinator is a former assistant coach with me, so they do a lot of similar things. Offensively, they've got some great weapons, Mike Wallace, he used to play in Pittsburgh, a big speed guy. Lamar Miller is really a good back. (Charles) Clay, the tight end, is really an athletic tight end and (Ryan) Tannehill is doing a lot of good things. I'm sure that they'll continue to play hard and I expect us to do the same.

Q: To prepare for the cold you opened the doors, to prepare for Miami do you pump up the heat?

A: We are. Yeah, it will be 80 degrees, not sunny, but it will be 80 degrees.

Q: With the defensive coordinator familiar with your system do you try to out-scheme each other or is it about execution?

A: He knows what we do, a lot of stuff. I know what they do, a lot of stuff. I'm sure he's communicating with their offense and I'm sure I've communicated with our offense, but really at the end of the day it comes down to blocking and tackling. You might sneak one play in here or there, you'd think they'd do this to or do that to. I've played against guys that have been with me before, and then they'll run a play and you will say, "Ah, I told them about that," or something. It's one play here or there.

Q: Will you adjust player's reps to account for the heat?

A: Planning on rotating a little more, probably with the defensive line, especially. We will see how it goes. We always plan on rotating, like last week we had a bunch of 3-and-outs, we rotated, but we probably didn't need to at that point in time. We've thought about that, yeah.

Q: What advantage do you get from both of your defensive ends being able to play the defensive tackle position in certain situations?

A: Well, we try to only put them in there when it's pass. They don't really like being in there in the run too much. You're just trying to get more speed on the field. You're trying to get your best pass rushers there, and however you can do it, sometimes it's with odd looks, sometimes it's moving guys around like we have been.

Q: Have you noticed it being harder to adjust from playing in a warm climate and traveling to play a game in cold conditions or playing in cold climate and traveling to play in the heat?

A: That's a good question because I did go from Dallas to some of the cold places and Cincinnati to some of the warm places. I don't know, it seems like an old guy like me, the cold affects me a lot more, I don't know about the players.

Q: Aside from the 68-yard field goal, how do you evaluate Blair Walsh and his accuracy?

A: I think Blair is really good. I know he missed the 53-yarder and he missed one the week before and the one at the end of the game, he didn't kick good. A 53-yarder is still a 53-yarder. The opportunities that we've given him to kick this year, the 50 -yarders, he's been pretty darn good. I think their misses stand out a little bit more. The guys come out there all the time and they get beat on the take-off or they run the wrong route or whatever, because there are so many more opportunities for them to do those things, it just shows up more. I honestly do not have a problem with Blair at all. I will continue to, if I feel good about the kick, we will kick it, and the other thing is, we were playing good defense throughout the day. The first one I thought about punting a little bit, because it was a pretty long one, but each situation is a little bit different.* *

Q: Have you seen a change in the difficulty of 50-yard field goals in your time coaching in the NFL?

A: Now it's a little bit more, I wouldn't say automatic, and that's why with him this year, that I've been more, not aggressive, but less reluctant to punt the ball and those things because I think we can get some points.

Q: How do you feel about Teddy Bridgewater going back to Miami and does any part of you have to worry about him trying too hard in his hometown?

A: I don't think Teddy will do that. We've talked about making sure he gets all of his tickets and all of that stuff done early this week. Teddy's really not that kind of guy that, "I'm going to go showoff." He's not really a showoff kind of guy.

Q: Are you pleased with the progress of how the defense has improved in the last 10 months?

A: I'll tell you more about it in two weeks. How's that? There's still a lot of football to be played. I had a defense in Dallas one time that was really good, I think we were 5th in the league at one time and the last four games we didn't play worth a lick, and we ended up 13th in the league, so I'd just as soon wait until we finish up and we'll see where it goes.

Q: What's the message for the final road game of the season?

A: I've been talking to the team a little bit this week about my message, even when I first came in here is, being a tough, physical, smart football team. Part of that is some of the things we did last week, the yards after contact, I think that shows physicality and toughness, but I also think that sign right up there – "Tough teams win in the 4th quarter" and I don't think that we've done that enough, yet. That's kind of my message is that part of the toughness mentality that I'm trying to bring is about the 4th quarter, as well.

Q: Is there anything you can do in practice to emphasize the 4th quarter toughness?

A: It's mostly about talking about it and mindsets and things like that. We talk about the 2nd half a lot in practice and things like that. We've been through, whatever it is, 17 games with the preseason or something like that, they've had some opportunities for that.

Q: How do you keep your defense sharp in tackling with limited opportunity for contact late in the season?

A: A lot of tackling is about positioning and being in the right position and the good teams usually have more than one guy there, so if they do miss, it doesn't show up like normal. That was one of the things we worked on hard last week. We will continue to do the same this week. When you take the pads off, the first thing I look at, a couple of weeks now we haven't had the pads on, but I try to look at not only in practice, but like in the game Sunday, where is our pad-level? Are we coming off the ball with low pads? Are we continuing to drive our feet and things like that? That was pretty good last week, I thought. When you take your pads off you tend to start getting high and start looking instead of coming off the ball, on both sides of the ball, really. That's really an emphasis for us.

Q: What have you liked about Ahmad Dixon up to this point?

A: I think he's a talented guy, he's been bouncing around on some different practice squads and teams for a little bit, but he's a guy to look at for possibility of the future. Played pretty good on special teams, we knew him coming out in the draft and then when he was with Dallas in the preseason, the couple of games I watched, he looked pretty good.* *

Q: With all of the overtime games what have you learned about your own time-management as a head coach?

A: I've learned quite a bit throughout the course of the year. It's a little bit tougher for me, just because I'm doing the defense and then I'm thinking about the plays to call for them, thinking about adjustments we need to make defensively. Then all of the sudden it's a two-minute drill and I've got to figure out how many timeouts are left. I've got guys in the box that are helping me with a lot of things. I assume, and don't take this wrong because obviously I've made some mistakes this year, I would never say that I never have, I don't feel like I've made a lot of glaring mistakes, in that aspect. I assume that the more that I do this I will get better at it and correct those mistakes that I've made.

Vikings Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater

Glad to be back to work this week. We know how important these next two games are. This season we haven't hit all of our goals but it will be important to win these next two games to get back to .500, even though that's not where we set our goals at. We know how important these next two games are and we're looking forward to going down to Miami this weekend and facing the Dolphins, a very physical team on defense. A group of guys, I think they're the number seven defense in the NFL, number four in pass defense, so we know that it's going to be a challenge. They have a group of Pro Bowlers on that team, especially on that defense, so that's one of those challenges that we're looking forward to.

Q: Are you excited to go back to Miami?

A: Yeah, but at the same time it's just another game. I'm pretty sure I'll have a bunch of family and friends but we're going down there for one reason and that's to win a football game.

Q: Did you have a lot of ticket requests?

A: Actually I didn't. My mom handles all of the ticket requests and everything and she just lets me focus on playing football.

Q: Do you know how many will be handed out or how many supporters you'll have there?

A: I'm pretty loved back home in Miami and a lot of people tell me that I'm a role model in my community, so it'll be amazing to see how many turn out there and get to see me play in person for the first time for some people. But I can't give you a number; I don't know how many people will be there.

Q: Have you ever played a game at Sun Life Stadium? Can you talk about your experiences there?

A: That's a pretty unique stadium there, hosted a ton of events in South Florida but growing up, like you said, I attended a couple of Dolphins games, a couple of the University of Miami games whenever they had games during my recruiting process, so just being in that stadium, getting a feel for the atmosphere, was pretty amazing.

Q: How often did you get back to Miami during your time at the University of Louisville?

A: Throughout a year in college I would probably go home twice – probably Spring break and we would get a break probably before training camp. I didn't really spend much time home when I was in college, just focused on trying to accomplish everything I had set out at the University of Louisville.

Q: Do you feel like experiences like the one at the end of the Detroit game are ones you need to be a part of more to be more comfortable in those situations?

A: That was just a situation where, like I said in the postgame conference, I missed the throw to Jarius [Wright]. That hurt us. We had chances to win that football game and we just let it slip away.

Q: Have you been pretty pleased with how well your accuracy has translated over to the pros?

A: I have been pleased but at the same time I'm not going to sit here and say I'm satisfied with it because the expectation level for me and this team is pretty high right now and we know that we could be playing a lot better. We know that we could have played a lot better in the season but I'm proud of the guys. We continue to just show that we're a tough team, we continue to show that we have heart and we just continue to get better each week.  

Q: What keeps you motived to go out there and keep playing as hard as you can?

A: Well for one knowing that only 32 guys get to play this position every Sunday and I'm one of those 32. Knowing that I have a chance to do something that special and also the feeling of going out there with my teammates each week, seeing how hard they work throughout the week in practice and seeing the smiles on their faces or the high-fives that we're giving each other in the locker room after a win. Those are the moments I look forward to.

Q: Do you sense that mentality is consistent in the locker room?

A: Yes, the spirit of the locker room is pretty high right now. Our guys know that we still have a lot to play for, we have a chance to get to .500, finish the season .500. Like I said, it's not where we started our goals but it'll be pretty impressive with everything that happened this season. Like I said, these next two games are pretty important.  

Q: What happened when you decommitted from the University of Miami and committed to the University of Louisville?

A: It was just the recruiting process where everything happens. You go with your heart. At the time I was committed to the University of Miami and they had fired their head coach and everything so I just opened things back up, just wanted to take a look at different places. I was still considering the University of Miami but the University of Louisville came in and they just won my heart.

Q: Do you think there are any Miami fans that think, "Darn he decommitted"?

A: There may be some still but who knows. Like I said, for the support that we'll have for the Minnesota Vikings, that's what's more important whether it's the guys on the team, family members or just the fans traveling with us, that's what we look forward to.  

Q: Did you ever think you'd be playing in that stadium when you were growing up?

A: I did. As a child I had high dreams and aspirations and making it to the National Football League and to be able to play there my first year in the NFL, it's pretty amazing.  

Q: Did you grow up idolizing a quarterback or one that you wanted to play like?

A: Brett Favre, he's my favorite quarterback of all time. He's a guy who's very tough. He wasn't going to miss a game for nothing. He was a winner, he was a competitor and just played with a lot of energy and a lot of passion. Growing up I was a huge fan of Brett Favre and I still am to this day.  

Q: Favre with the Vikings or Favre with the Packers?

A: Both. He had a pretty good career, especially in Green Bay, but he even finished strong here.  

Q: Growing up were you a fan of the Dolphins?

A: I was a fan of all of the Miami teams. Just being from Miami, I cheered and rooted for all of the hometown teams.  

Q: Going back to Sunday and you're in your 10th game starting and you don't get the play call in, what's going through your head?

A: I'm just trying to get a completion to get us closer to get a shot down the field or get us in position for Blair [Walsh] to kick a field goal.  

Q: In the future is there a possibility you'll have a play ready to call instead of being forced to take a delay of game penalty?

A: Yes, that's definitely a situation where next time we'll be well prepared. We'll have a play call for whether the crowd noise is too loud or the headsets go out, we'll definitely just have a go-to play call.  

Q: Is there anything that's a reoccurring theme with your misses that are high?

A: Throughout the course of the season some of the balls I've been throwing have been sailing so I have two games left to continue to get better but this offseason and Coach Turner, both Norv and Scott, have been talking to me about just being able to finish throws and things like that. Like I said, we have two games left. I know that I can play better, this team, we know that we can play better so just want to continue to just execute at a high level.  

Q: Is there anything mechanically that you're seeing?

A: It's just all about finishing throws whether it's following through or stepping into throws.  

Q: Can you talk again about what it means for you going back home to play in Miami?

A: Like I said, I'm considered a role model in my community so being able to go back and play in front of whether it's fans, family or friends, just the little kids in the neighborhood, it just means a lot but what's more important is going down there and being able to win the football game.

Q: Can you talk about the challenges of this Miami defense?

A: Like I said, they're the number seven defense in the NFL, have a ton of Pro Bowlers on that team with Grimes, Wake and the list goes on. Those guys are the number four pass defense in the NFL also, I believe they have 13 interceptions, two returned for touchdowns. Just seeing that they're physical up front and then their corners are very aggressive so we just know that it's going to be a challenge.

Q: What is it that makes you a role model in your community?

A: I think it's more of just me and my character. I was a great child growing up I would say, very athletic, but also I was very smart. I was one of the first in my family, actually I was the first in my family to attend college and graduate. Just the little things like that serve as a role model in my community.

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