Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer
Okay back to work. We think the guys are in a good frame of mind. They seem to be focused again on what we have to do. We've got a good opportunity again to go out and perform like we need to and finish hopefully this week.
Q: Is this game a must win?
A: I hate getting into the "must win" things but it's important for our football team that we win. It's probably more important the process of playing well, doing things right, eliminating penalties, the things we did last week that didn't allow us to win the football game.
Q: Do you have a better understanding of if John Sullivan or Vladimir Ducasse will be available Sunday?
A: I think they should both be fine but we didn't practice yet today so we'll see.
Q: Is Sullivan still going through the concussion protocol?
A: Yeah and he's passed his first whatever, protocol test or whatever, so I'd assume that he'll be fine.
Q: Is it fair to say you are preaching more of the process of things than wins and losses?
A: Well the wins and losses are way more important than the process but I do think that teams, I think you can get a false sense of security even if you're winning if you're not doing things correctly and so it's important for me that I keep stressing the things that are important to be a good football team, to win games, and winning is definitely the most important but I think for our guys to understand what causes us to win, what causes us to lose, those things are I guess not equally as important but secondarily important.
Q: How difficult is it to watch last Sunday's tape knowing what happens at the end? Is it hard to relive it again? Or do you just go into learn mode?
A: Well, usually you're not in a great frame of mind because your emotions are still there and you're trying to figure out, because you can't see everything standing on the sidelines, so you are trying to figure out exactly what happened, how we could have done better, the whole situation. I guess it's more about correcting mistakes and figuring out how to keep it from happening again the next time.
Q: How much are the issues with pass protection have to do with defensive lines running stunts and communication issues versus getting beat physically?
A: Some of it is we are getting beat physically. It's not so much the stunts and the games, I don't believe. It's sometimes the protection breaks down because of other factors, if that makes sense. I mean sometimes guys get beat, that happens all of the time. Sometimes the protection might be turned the way and a guy turned too far, wasn't necessarily that he got beat but he went further than he was supposed to go. I can go through a ton of them. One time a guy a stepped on another guy's foot and it caused him, so there are a multitude of things that happen and to try to pin it on one thing is not, I don't believe, the right way.
*Q: How much of that has to do with the new offensive linemen, a rookie running back helping in pass protection, a rookie quarterback, just all of the new players? *
A: I think it's a combination of all of the things honestly. Sometimes it's because of moving parts, sometimes it's because of guys are covered, holding onto the ball too long, checkdown and the back stayed in because he was trying to help in the protection, the primary target didn't get open so you have to move to the second or third option. I don't want those to sound like excuses, we've got to do better.
Q: How does Teddy Bridgewater's even-keeled nature help him?
A: Well I think it bodes well for him because Teddy is basically Teddy, he's not really a rah-rah guy and he's not similar to me in that I'll get down in the dumps, too. I think it helps at that position to maintain your composure, maintain where you are at but he's got, I don't want anybody to think that he doesn't have a lot of competitiveness in him or a lot of fight because he has a ton of that. It probably just doesn't show as much outwardly like someone like me I guess.
*Q: He mentioned Christian Ponder has been giving advice to him. How much can a guy like Christian help since he also started as a rookie? *
A: Well, I think part of it is sometimes kind of like when I'm on the sidelines I see certain things but a guy standing and looking at other areas might be able to see it so I think that's kind of what he's talking about.
Q: Could Teddy's behavior maybe a product of him just being a rookie?
A: Well I don't know. I want him to be himself. Guys don't really change their personalities a whole lot. Younger guys tend to have an opportunity to change more than veteran guys. He may change his personality some as it gets going but I like him just how he is.
Q: You brought back Everson Griffen in free agency knowing he could play like this. Where have you seen his development take that next step?
A: Well, Everson, is a high, high energy guy that wants to be very, very good. I believe that he's bought into everything that Coach [Andre] Patterson and Coach [Robb] Akey are trying to teach them as far as not only the pass rush things but buying into playing the run, too. I think that allows him to have success but the one thing that I always want to make sure that everybody understands, and I didn't even know how many sacks he had until I asked somebody the other day, but we with the Vikings are more about the sack numbers as opposed to individual sack numbers. The other guys, when Everson gets a sack a lot of times it's because Sharrif Floyd did something right or Brian Robison did something right or Tom Johnson or Linval or the linebackers or the coverage, so it's nice for an individual to have statistics but it's more important to me that the team allows guys to have things and just like if we continue to keep working on the things that we're doing, it'll allow other guys to get some. Who knows, he may not get another sack for the rest of the year, it's not the easiest thing to do. Hopefully other guys will and that makes our team successful. I guess it was two years ago we broke the franchise record in Cincinnati and I mean we had a couple of guys with big numbers but we had a lot of guys with a lot of numbers and to me that's way more important than that. I don't know if I answered that too long.
*Q: How good of a pass-rusher was Michael Johnson with you Cincinnati? He also grew over time. *
A: Well, the first thing about Mike, he's a guy that I really have a lot of respect for. We drafted him I believe in the 3rd round. I actually went and watched him work out at Georgia Tech and he was one of those guys that he didn't play much his first year, we moved around him trying to get him in - I think we played him at Sam linebacker one spring a little bit - but he kept doing what we were asking him to do, he kept buying into the team concept, he's a very, very smart guy, he's obviously a great athlete with great length and range. I shouldn't say he was never worried about numbers because I did have him in my office a couple of times and I told him if he'll just keep hanging in there and do what you need to do and he'd start out early and he wouldn't have a sack or something. I'd just say, "Hey keep doing what you're doing and things will work out," and they eventually did for him. My respect for Mike is more about the approach that he takes to the game, the way he approaches practice, the way that he studies and he buys into the team concept. I'm not exactly sure what they're asking him to do and that's not my place but I do know that he'll do whatever they ask him to do.
*Q: You've talked about being able to play both running backs. Does Jerick make that difficult for you guys to do when he performs like he did? *
A: Jerick played well last week and that really has no bearing on what Matt has done. I still like Matt a lot. I probably shouldn't pigeonhole myself by saying this number of reps or carries or something like that. Jerick has played well. I thought he did better in pass protection last week, I thought he ran the ball physically last week and he has a chance to make explosive plays and that has nothing to do with Matt. I still think Matt is a very, very good back. I think when you talk about change-of-pace sometimes a change-of-pace is different than what you think about. I still think that he gives us a lot of things.
Q: Did it take some projection with Everson in free agency to see if he'd be able to fit in that role?
A: I don't want to get in the free agency part and anything that happened there but Everson, since the day that we walked in, he's kind of been excited about this regime defensively a little bit, about how he can go from just being an athlete to being a football player. That's how I always got the impression with him. He's been very, very diligent about buying into what we're preaching and it's not just about running up the field and sacking the quarterbacks. It's about doing your job so other people can have success doing theirs.
*Q: Is that how you evaluate guys like Brian Robison? Because he has a lot of pressures but not really any true numbers. *
A: Very much so. Guys like him, you know the hardest thing for guys that aren't getting numbers is, like I was talking about with Michael a minute ago, they start to panic a little bit and say, "Oh I'm not getting this and I'm not getting that," but really guys will just stick with it and understand that it's a long season. Sacks are not hard to get in the first place but if they'll keep sticking with it and keep understanding and keep doing the things we're asking them to do then he'll have a lot of success. I believe that. Honestly I didn't know who had sacks, I never know. I don't know who has interceptions, anything like that. I just asked somebody the other day about who has sacks on the team and they said, "Well Tom Johnson has four," and that's a product of other guys doing their job as well. I've always felt like what's good for everybody becomes good for each one of us.
Q: What do you and your coaches do to get Matt Kalil's confidence back to that Pro Bowl level?
A: I don't think it's any different than any other position in sports. You have to continually talk to him about see how you do things right, correct them when you do things wrong, you keep talking to him about how you see when you do things right how you stay focused. It's a little bit like a hitter in baseball – you get in there and you lose a little bit of confidence and then all of a sudden something clicks and you get back hitting .350 again. We do it with every position to be honest with you, trying to get them to see what helps them get better and the things that are not helping him.
Q: How do you assess Tom Johnson and his ability to disrupt things?
A: Tom is a quick-twitch athlete that plays with good pad level, when he plays with the proper leverage he has good strength. I really think our coaches do a great job of teaching these guys what we're trying to learn and what allows them to be successful. I'm not trying to compare players but we had a kid in Cincinnati, I keep calling them kids because I'm old I guess, but we had a player in Cincinnati named Wallace Gilberry, who he reminds me a lot of Wallace, who is a hard-playing guy, he bought into the system, I think last year he had six or seven sacks or something like that. We kind of found him, he was one of those guys who wasn't fitting in the right systems for whatever reason and Tom kind of reminds me of him a little bit. I'm thankful that he's had success because I think it's important, and that's why I keep saying it's important, I could care less if we have one guy that sacks a guy 15 times, I don't care about that whatsoever. All I care about is we have team success with team pass rush, we run the ball together as a team, whatever it is because when those kinds of things happen it's good for everybody.
Q: How are you feeling?
A: Yesterday was not pleasant at all but Eric Sugarman was talking to the team today and I said to get the video of the procedure that I had done and that we'd show the team. I think there would have been some throwing up or something.
Vikings Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater
A tough road game ahead, both teams are eager for a win. We're excited to get back out this Sunday, get back to work this week. We're going to come back strong.
Q: How much more difficult is it for a rookie quarterback to go on the road?
A: It's very difficult. For me, it was my first time playing on the road at this level in the regular season. It was difficult dealing with the crowd noise, but at some point you have to settle down and just play football. We have a great group of guys here who were able to assist me in every area that I needed help in on Sunday. I'm pretty sure we're going to do much better this week.
Q: What adjustments do you make with it being your second road start in dealing with the crowd noise?
A: For one, you just have to just take the crowd out of the game. Last week we came out, we received the football first. That's a situation where we want to just go down the field and score right away to take the crowd out of the game early. Our defense played great. As long as you're playing great defense and executing on offense I'm pretty sure you can take the crowd out of the game.
Q: How does staying even-keeled help you?
A: I know that throughout the course of a season you're going to have ups and downs. For me, I'm a young guy, so I don't get caught up in emotions because at the end of the day nothing matters but the wins and losses. We have a great group of guys here who have been helping me maintain my emotions. The coaching staff has been doing a great job of just helping this team also.* *
Q: Who are some of the players that have been helping you out?
A: The veterans like Chad Greenway, Greg Jennings, Matt Cassel. Those guys always pull me to the side and just tell me, "Hey, it's going to come, just wait on it."
Q: Is Matt Cassel still been involved?
A: Yes, he has. He's been a guy who's been helping me throughout the course of the week, whether it's watching film with him, getting to know my opponent much better. He's a guy who has some experience in this league. His word means a lot to me. I've been able to sit with him and get an edge on some opponents.
Q: How about Christian Ponder?
A: Christian has been there also for me, he and Matt (Cassel). We have a great group of guys in the quarterback room. Those guys are all for the team. When things aren't going so good they always find ways to get things going better and they always know the right thing to say. For me, I just take the advice that they're giving me and use it to my advantage.
Q: What kind of things does Christian Ponder give you advice on?
A: He just tells me that everything isn't going to be perfect. You're going to have some throws that get away from you. You're going to have some days where you're off. It's all about having a short-term memory. Forgetting the previous game, forgetting the previous play and move on to the next.
Q: How much are you scheming against defenses versus developing your offense?
A: We're working in both fields. We're doing things that we're already good at doing, we're also doing things to put us in the best situation to win. Our coaching staff has been doing a great job all season long of coming up with the game plans and putting us in the right positions to win games. We've been making improvements, but fortunately, we want to get the win on Sundays.
Q: You talked Sunday about over thinking; did that show up in some of the down-field passes?
A: I can't even tell you right now, because I'm so looking forward to playing Tampa right now. There were some plays where I may have just held the ball too long, could have got the ball out faster, thinking too much at the line of scrimmage instead of just playing the play as it plays out. Like I said, we're looking forward to playing Tampa this week though and just eliminating some of those mistakes that we made last week.
Q: How hard is it to not over think things at this level opposed to the collegiate level?
A: Sometimes it's hard because I'm a young guy and I try to be perfect in every aspect, but I have to realize that I don't have to do it by myself. There are 10 other guys on the field with me, there are 11 guys on the defensive side of the ball, there are 11 guys in the kicking game. It's a team effort, and I just have to continue to just remind myself that I don't have to do it by myself. We have a great group of guys on this team, guys who have been given opportunities to step up and make plays for this team. A bunch of young guys, Jerick (McKinnon), myself, Jarius Wright, then you talk about veteran guys like Joe Berger and Mike (Harris), they were able to step up for us on Sunday. Talk about Mike, a guy who hasn't played offensive guard, probably since Pop Warner football, and he stepped up for us in that game Sunday and just played huge for us.* *
Q: What has impressed you the most about Jerick McKinnon in the last four games?
A: He's just a guy who is very shifty. Whenever the ball is in his hand, he's going to make a play. The first guy doesn't usually bring him down in the open field. He's a guy, he's very exciting to watch, very exciting to be in the backfield with. He's going to do some great things for this team.
Q: What's McKinnon like in the huddle?
A: He's a guy who is sound. He understands his role on this team. He understands his job and what he's supposed to each and every play. He's a guy who you can count on in the run game and in the passing game.
Q: Have you talked to any defensive players about Leslie Frazier's scheme or does the film tell you what you need to know?
A: The films tell you, but I can also just get more advice from some of the guys that played on that defense last year. We know that, also, Coach Lovie Smith is a guy that's known for having a great defense. If you look at those guys, those guys have caused 10 forced fumbles so far this year. They're a pretty sound defense and they're pretty rested right now coming off of a bye week. We know that we're going to be up for a challenge.
Q: Would you talk about your footwork and what you can improve with that?
A: I can just be much quicker. Whenever I'm dropping back in the pocket, getting ready to pull the trigger, throw a pass on the out-cutting route I can be much quicker, shorten up my hitch whenever I get to the top of my drop.
Q: In the Bills game where did you see progress offensively?
A: We were able to take shots down the field, stretch the field. Greg Jennings made a big play for us on a third down, Jarius Wright, also. We were able to just eliminate some of those mistakes that we made the previous week in the Detroit game. We were able to play faster and score a touchdown and score more points.
Q: Will you have extra fans in the stands on Sunday returning to your home state?
A: I'm pretty sure that there will be a large number of people there for me. It's going to be pretty exciting getting to play back in your home state. None of that is important unless we come out with a win.
Q: Is there anything you've done in the past to help pull yourself out of a rough stretch?
A: For one, I just went back to what I know. We have a great coaching staff here who's been helping us deal with this tough stretch that we've been on. For me, I just use my resources. We have a great coaching staff who are able to mentor me and continue to develop me and my progress to try to become a great quarterback. I just rely on our coaches, rely on some of the guys in the locker room and just go from there.* *
Q: What happened on the long pass to Cordarrelle Patterson?
A: The ball was just over thrown. That's going to happen throughout the course of the game. The wind factors, there are other factors that play out throughout the game. On that play, I believe it was just a ball that was over thrown.
Q: How do you think you've been with deep ball accuracy through four games?
A: I think I've been doing a good job of getting the ball down the field. I know that I can do much better, but at the same time, we're not going to continue to try to test protection or anything. We call plays designed for me to get the ball out of my hands quickly and allow our guys to make plays on the outside. That's what those guys are here for, to make plays for this team and that's what we expect from those guys.
Q: Can you talk about the red zone offense and being able to score touchdowns and put up more points against a Tampa Bay team?
A: We just have to finish drives on the field. Whether it's a touchdown or a field goal we just want points. We know that touchdowns win games. For us, we're going to come up with a plan whenever that time comes for us to just prepare for Tampa in the red zone. I'm pretty sure it's going to be a great plan.* *
Q: What are some of the differences between the last two defenses you have played and the Buccaneer's defense?
A: Tampa, they're a very physical defense. They're a team that gets to the football. Like I said, they've caused 10 forced fumbles this year, so they're working hard in that area. We know that's going to be a challenge, we have to protect the ball, not only in the run game but in the passing game, also. Just play Viking football.