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Zimmer, Bridgewater Address The Media

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer

Hello everybody. Woke up this morning expecting the sun out but it's still a good day. We're getting ready to move on with the Falcons and go from there.

Q: How do you guys move on after putting Brandon Fusco and Matt Cassel on injured reserve? How tough was that?

A: Well it's always tough when you lose guys but this is "next man up" theory. We go on and feel bad for them but we go on about what our business is. They're both good guys and we wish them well in the rehab.

Q: Was it close that one of them could have returned later in the season? Did you consider either one of them for the designated for return option?

A: It was probably not realistic.

Q: Did Brandon Fusco tear his pectoral?

A: Yes, he's going to have a procedure here Thursday I believe, tomorrow. 

Q: If you thought you'd head into Week 4 with no Matt Cassel, Adrian Peterson, Kyle Rudolph, Brandon Fusco and Jerome Simpson would that be about as bad as it could possibly be?

A: I don't know. You're right, I never envisioned that but it's a part of football. Last year in Cincinnati we lost our best defensive tackle, our best corner, one of our best linebackers, a very good defensive end. Things happen in the NFL so this is a survival of the fittest game, it's always a marathon. The toughest teams always go on and I think we have good coaches here. We will continue to coach the guys that are playing as hard as we can and keep moving.

Q: Do you plan on tabbing one guy to replace Fusco? Or will a couple of people move around?

A: We'll start off with one guy and see how that goes.  

Q: Do you have that guy in mind right now?

A: I do.

Q: Would you like to disclose that guy?

A: You'll probably see at practice.

Q: What's the plan with Kyle Rudolph?

A: He had surgery yesterday. We'll see how he's going. We're hopeful that he'll be back soon.

Q: Is he possible for designated to return?

A: It's a possibility but until we get more information but until then probably not. We're anticipating that it's not going to be that long.

Q: What kind of challenges do the Atlanta  receivers present?

A: Well they're obviously number one in the league and they are averaging 455 yards a game and they are running the ball good, Steven Jackson is running the ball good, and we didn't play the run very good last week. As far as the receivers, Roddy White was there when I was there and he's an excellent receiver, Pro Bowl guy. Julio Jones has looked outstanding to me – big, physical, strong runner. They're using [Devin] Hester a lot now. They've got several guys that can create mismatches and problems for you. We're going to have to pick our spots and be smart.

Q: What kind of stress does it put on you playing teams that have a no-huddle offense?

A: Well we practiced it a lot when we got ready to play New England so it's actually good to get them in a row so you can continue to practice those things. You know the tempo of the game is speeding up now anyway usually so it's not, obviously it's always a little bit of stress. 

Q: How difficult is it for Stefon Diggs now taking over without three key weapons on offense – Rudolph, Peterson and Simpson?

A: Well I think you'd have to ask Teddy that but I don't think he's thinking, 'Woe is me'. He's thinking about his opportunity and what he has to do to help this football team.

Q: How did you judge Teddy's readiness for this role before Matt Cassel's injury?

A: He's ready. He's been ready. Honestly I think he's been ready since the day he walked in. I'm good.

*Q: What is the challenge from a defensive coordinator's standpoint when a team has a different starting quarterback? *

A: Well it can be a little bit. Most team's schemes are their schemes and what they do. Obviously they tailor it a little bit to the quarterback that is coming. I'm sure that the Falcons have plenty of tape on Teddy from when they evaluated him in the draft and at Louisivlle and the preseason, he played quite a bit there, and then last week. I don't know you'd have to ask those guys over there I guess.

Q: That third-and-6 in the red zone, is that something he's reading?

A: That was a designed play.  

*Q: How much does that add to what you can do when you have a quarterback that can do that? *

A: Well it does add a lot. You tend to worry about him running so usually it slows the rush down a little bit typically. It keeps some of the coverages that you might normally get because you're nervous about the guy running. You have to be careful when you blitz because if there is one place that you're missing in the blitz and he gets out then it has a chance to be a big, big play with him running too. It adds another dimension, yes.  

Q: Do you anticipate Nick Easton replacing Rudolph and Vladimir Ducasse replacing Fusco?

A: He just asked me about Fusco and I didn't say that.

Q: What about Rudolph?

A: I would assume Rhett Ellison would, yeah.

Q: Chase Ford appears to be more of a pass catching tight end. Is he going to have a decent role or how do you see his skillset fitting in?

A: We try to use all of our guys with their skillset in mind. Chase has been here for a little bit of time with us and then last year. There is some tape on him when he's blocking.  

Q: Are you pleased with the impact that Gerald Hodges has made?

A: A good thing about Gerald is he's athletic and physical and can run. Usually he has a knack for the football. I love having guys that are athletes out on the field. We'll continue to use him and keep bringing him along at the right tempo, I guess, or the right way.

Q: Is Riley Reiff going to practice?

A: Well his wife had a baby yesterday so we congratulate him on that so he probably won't practice today, no.

Q: Do you almost want to dare Atlanta to run because their play-action passing is so dangerous?

A: Well not after the way we stopped the run last week. We have to prepare for everything. They throw the ball well in their play-actions and when they open the set up as well. They are good on third downs. We have to continue to do what we do defensively and then try to combat what they do. I'm not daring anybody to do anything.  

Q: Have you looked at your third downs as well with how well the Saints converted?

A: Yeah, we weren't very good. They had a good plan going into the ballgame. We let them convert on two third-and-longs, which doesn't ever help. In those situations you usually get the guy out. There were obviously a couple where they kept a drive alive by penalties. We always look at the third downs and really everything that we do.

*Q: What was the conversation like between you and Chad Greenway last week on him playing? *

A: Well he's a tough guy and he wants to play. All of my conversations are very short. He was good about it.  

*Q: Was he lobbying to get in? *

A: No, I just asked him. You've got to believe players when they tell you how they feel, you have to believe them. I don't have a crystal ball but I trust our players to have them tell me the truth just like they trust me to tell them the truth. He felt like he could go and he's earned that right and that privilege because of what he's done.  

Q: What does McLeod Bethel-Thompson bring to the practice squad?

A: Well we needed a third quarterback in here anyway. I think I've said before that we probably wouldn't have two anyway. He's got a big arm, I think he's a smart guy and has good quickness getting back, set up, and making quick decisions. Another guy to look at. 

Q: Is there something with a technique issue that you've been looking at with Brian O'Neill?

A: It has been, it has been. I know everybody has gotten on this Kalil kick and I think it's easy to see some of those things on TV or sitting in the press box or on the field. When guys get beat it's easy to see and we've had corners get beat, we've got linebackers that get beat, we've got guards that get beat but everybody is on this Kalil kick. For 93-percent of the game he plays pretty good but unfortunately the three or four bad plays he has show up and then guys get on him. I'm not that discouraged as everybody else is on it. We'll just try and get those four bad plays out of him and just keep going. 

Vikings Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater

Good Afternoon, excited to be back for another week of work, looking forward to preparing for Atlanta.

Q: Does it seem like the starting opportunity came quickly?

A: Yes, it came very fast. Coach Tuner, he's been telling me it could happen within a blink of an eye. For me I always had my antennas up, I was always alert, tried to prepare myself for when that time came.

* *

Q: Where do you think you improved the most since training camp started?

A: I think I've improved in just being quicker in my decision making. Also, just knowing the offense more. I've been able to sit behind Matt (Cassel) and just learn and pick his brain while he was starting. I'm just going to continue to use that advice that Matt has given me and try to be even better.

Q: How much of an extra challenge is your first start with some of your offensive players not being available for the game?

A: It's challenge when you're talking about some great football players. I feel that we have a group of guys in the locker room that are pretty talented also. For me, it's not all about me. I don't have to do it by myself, there are 10 other guys out on the field with me, we're expecting those guys to play well for us and just excited to get back out there Sunday.

Q: Does this week's preparation feel different knowing that you're starting on Sunday?

A: It feels different physically. Now I'm able to take more reps in practice. Prior to being named the starter it was all mental reps. For now, it's all a physical thing, now being able to take care of my body and knowing what it feels like to go through a week of practice.

Q: How well do you know Blake Bortles and have you talked to him at all this week?

A: I know Blake pretty well. I was able to meet him throughout the pre-draft process. I haven't talked to him, yet. Probably going to try and reach out to him. He's pretty busy also; I'm sure, getting ready for his first start. I wish him nothing but the best.* *

Q: What's it like to start in Week 4 opposed to Week 1?

A: I think there's an advantage because I know what to expect, whether it's a week of game planning or a week of practice. Like I said, I've been able to sit back and watch Matt and see how he approaches each game, not only Matt but the other guys in the locker room, also. See how they approach each week of practice and each game. For me, it's somewhat of an advantage because I can know what it takes to prepare for a game and what to expect.

Q: Which play on Sunday were you most happy with?

A: There were a couple of plays throughout the game where we did some things good on offense and there are some areas to still improve on. I was just happy that the guys continued to play hard throughout the game. Each guy played for one another, that just says a lot about this team, that we still have faith in each other, we're still going believe in each other, still going to rely on the next man to get the job done. Unfortunately, we didn't get the win. I feel that it was great to see all of the guys play for each other.

Q: Do you feel that your ability to use your feet and scramble will help you as a rookie?

A: That's a good question and I think so. I think it's an advantage to my skillset being able to keep plays alive, if something isn't there I can tuck the ball and run. Like I said, I won't have to do it by myself. I have other guys out there on the field with me, but it is an advantage to me to be able to just use my legs when something isn't there.

Q: There was a 3rd-and-6 play in the red zone, it looked like the snap caught you off guard, was it snapped a little early?

A: Yeah, it just caught me off guard. I was still probably at the line trying to communicate a call with the offensive line and the ball was snapped. I was just able to react and try to make a play.

Q: You ran that play through the designated hole? It's not really a read, just a take the ball and go?

A: Just go. Just catch it and go.

Q: How many family and friends are coming for Sunday's game?

A: I had a list of six people. My girlfriend is going to be there, my mom, my girlfriend's mother, my agent and advisor. They were already coming prior to me being named the starter for this week. I have a huge support system and they were coming to support me.

Q: How many more are coming now that you're starting?

A: The number hasn't changed. The same six are going to be there Sunday cheering for the Vikings.

Q: Is there any particular play on Sunday that you wish you could have back?

A: Every week you're going to have those plays that you wish you could have back. There were a couple of plays down in the red zone, a couple of the easy throws that I missed to the running backs out of the backfield, but you have to take advantage of the easy completions. The one throw in the red zone which could have eventually ended up as a touchdown. But it's the game of football, you learn from it, try and correct the mistake and not let it happen again.

Q: Have you allowed yourself a moment to appreciate that you're a starter in the NFL now?

A: I've given myself a moment. Actually, I gave myself a moment Monday morning. When I woke up, I just told myself – "Hey, your dream is finally here, it's coming true." It's not the way I wanted it to happen. I'm still just going to have to take advantage of this opportunity, it's one thing to be named the guy, for me, I just want to continue to be the guy for a long time.

Q: Those little touch throws to the running backs, is that one of the tougher things to make when you come into the game cold or what was the problem?

A: It's not tough at all trying to make that throw when you're coming off the bench. For me, it was more of a footwork issue. I kind of bailed out on the throws, I could have sat in the pocket and just put the ball right on the running back and made it easier for the running back to catch the ball and make a play after the catch.

Q: Was that one of the more frustrating things you had to deal with on Sunday?

A: Yes, I would agree with that. Like I said, you have to take those easy throws, take advantage of them. When that opportunity presents itself, just take advantage of it and make the best of it. I didn't do that on those back-to-back throws and it hurt us.

Q: How much freedom are you given to change calls at the line or adjust protections?

A: The game plan in the offense hasn't changed. Coach Tuner, he's still going to throw the load at me. That's what's expected of the quarterback in this offense, to be able to be coachable, take great coaching, understand the game plan in and out and get the offense in and out of the right plays.

Q: How much will you be responsible for adjusting the protections?

A: I'll be responsible for majority of adjusting the protection. We also have a veteran center in Sully (John Sullivan) and he's been doing a great job of helping me if I miss a call, he will whisper back or yell back, "Hey, you want to do something with protection or you want to get us out of that play?" Like I said, it's a team effort and each and every one of those guys in the locker room has been helping me.

Q: How does that compare to your responsibilities at Louisville?

A: At Louisville I had the same responsibilities. I was in charge of protections, signaling hot routes or just the run game, checking in and out of the right plays. It hasn't changed much. The volume is more, but the responsibility hasn't changed much.

Q: Did you get any words of wisdom from Drew Brees after the game?

A: It was just great being able to see Drew again.  I was able to meet him during the Super Bowl events. He just told me, "Hey, you looked good out there. If you need any advice, need someone to talk to" throughout the rest of the season that he is here for me. It's great to have someone like that in your corner and if I have any questions or if I need any help I won't hesitate to reach out to him.

Q: Is there a comfort zone being named the starter?

A: I don't know if there is such a thing, because this is only my first game starting in the National Football League, so I don't know how much of a comfort zone I could get in. There is such a thing as being comfortable in the offense because of the guys and the coaching staff that you have. For me, I'm very comfortable because of the play makers that I have around me, the offensive line that's in front of me and the great coaching staff that we have.

Q: Are you prepared for Atlanta blitzing a lot given it's your first NFL start?

A: I think I'll be pretty prepared for it. We have a great coaching staff here and they do a great job of just coming up with the game plan that fits our skillsets and that's great for our team identity. For me, I won't have to do it all. Like I said, I have 10 other guys on the field that I can lean on and I can count on. For me, it's just going to be about taking advantage of every opportunity that presents itself, hitting the open throws, letting the game come to me.

Q: Do you think your team's identity has had to change now?

A: It's somewhat changed. It's all about taking advantage of what we have. Coach Zimmer, he always says that as long as we can out-work and out-play our opponents, it's not about the talent. For us, the focus is believing in ourselves and trying to out-work and out-play the Atlanta Falcons.

Q: Are the receivers treating you any differently?

A: You're going to get that out of the wide receivers, but this group of guys that we have they're selfless guys. Guys that just care about winning football games. It's going to be important for us to get the win Sunday against Atlanta. Going into this game, it's great to be back home, so those guys have bought into what's going on right now and there's not one guy who is coming up to me and telling me, "Hey, I'm going to be open on this play or that play." Those guys like I said are selfless guys and all about the team.

Q: Considering the last 10 days how much do you feel the pressure to be the new face off the franchise?

A: Like I said, it's no pressure toward me and it's not all about me. It takes a team effort to win football games. We have 11 guys on defense who are going to play their tails off. We have 11 guys on special teams and 10 other guys on the offensive side of the ball that are going to be out there competing for one another. It's no pressure for me to have to fill the needs or anything. We have great playmakers on this offense. We have great guys on the defense. It's just all about the team.

Q: Has Coach Turner got advice from you about what plays you're comfortable with?

A: Not yet. Those meetings take place towards the end of the week. Throughout the week we run plays, that's where you get a feel for what is going to fit my skillset. What's going to help the offense, the plays that we look good running. Those meetings are going to take place later in the week.

Q: How is this offense going to score more touchdowns?

A: For one, we just have to finish the drives in the red zone. We have to get touchdowns instead of field goals. It's going to take a team effort, whether it's in the passing game or in the run game with the wide receivers finishing on blocks or the running backs doing a great job in the passing game also, whether it's being a late check down for the quarterback. For us its just going to be taking advantage of the opportunity when it presents itself or the looks that we get on Sunday and trying to make the best of it.

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