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Zimmer, Bridgewater, Cassel and Others Talk After The Win

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer

*Well it was good to get a win. The fans did a great job in the first half of the ball game especially with the crowd noise. I think they enjoyed being at the University of Minnesota here and hopefully we continue to give them some good football to watch. Before the game some of the things that I talked about with the players were: I wanted to know who would play fast and smart. I think we did that for the most part. I wanted to be great in execution and right off the bat in the first drive we went down and we got I think two three-and-outs on defense and so we did that and the in- game communication was important for us as a staff to be able to communicate, to handle all the situations and actually that went excellent. And then lastly, I simply need to take care of the football and we did a great job with that offensively tonight, we did a great job there. We did have one turnover on defense, so all in all we still have a lot of work to do with the field position, we didn't get a chance to flip the field position. In the second half our offense did some great things they moved the ball from inside their own 10 yard line I think twice and then we let them back in. We didn't catch two punts so there was a lot of mistakes, a lot of things we can get corrected. I do like how this team works, I like how they concentrate on the sidelines, they were all into it, even when they were out of the game, but we have to develop the fortitude and the killer instinct at the end of the football game to not let it come down to one play, one situation here or there.    *

Q: What did you think of the first experience outside and at TCF Bank Stadium?

A: It was great, it was regular good ol' football. I thought the fans were great, obviously this is a great facility here. I talked about to the team the other night, you know you guys ask me all the time how can we make this a home field advantage, well the easiest way is to win, play harder, play smarter, and be more physical than the team that you're playing. So it doesn't matter where you play. If you don't win, you can't make it a home field advantage. So it's good to get a win under our belt, even though it's just the preseason, but I do like this football team.

Q: In terms of Cassel is that what you wanted to see out of him in the first spot?

A: Yeah I thought he did a great job, you know he hit the seven route, he made a couple big throws I believe on third down. He played like a veteran, he had control in the huddle, the communication between Norv and Scott and him was very, very good. You know we will get Adrian back in there and you know I think that'll help some.

Q: What are your impressions of Teddy?

A: He made a great throw on a bootleg the first play he was in there, we had six men on the line of scrimmage, and there was a couple times in the game when he just didn't act like a veteran. Things happened that he hadn't see before, and so those are all great experiences for him. He made some great throws and there was a couple mishaps he had, but I think Teddy is going to be a great player.

Q: Have you ever seen a situation where the crowd is chanting his name before he even throws a pass?

A: Well usually the backup quarterback is always the favorite guy right? They should be excited about Teddy. They are going to be cheering for him for a long, long time.

Q: With all the adjustments that the stadium made for the Vikings arrival is there anything you were really impressed with or that you felt needed improvement?

A: I don't know that is kind of out of my realm a little bit. It was a great experience for us to get here and you know this is the first time really that we have been here as a football team. It was a great experience to come in here and to get to know the lay of the land. You know I didn't know how to get out to the field when I got here, where the locker room was, where my locker room was, and that's always a little bit unnerving for a team when you don't know exactly where you're going. Most of the stadiums that we have been to in the NFL we have all been there before. So all of these, especially the young guys, the rookies, the young guys like Teddy, it's all completely new experience for him but I was impressed with the crowd, I was impressed with really the way everything was handled.

Q: Mike how much does Adam Thielen's ability to play special teams help his cause to make the team or the practice squad?

A: Adam had a heck of a catch on third down, didn't he one time? Then he returned a nice punt, he went down and covered kicks. You know we got a saying here, "the more you can do."

Q: Were you pleased with the contributions you got from the rookies like Anthony Barr and others?

A: McKinnon obviously showed up the most because he was carrying the ball. But I think Barr did fine. I didn't give him enough chances probably to blitz last night, or tonight. (laughs) I was already thinking about tomorrow. Probably didn't blitz him enough. I said after about the third or fourth series, I said I've got to get him going a little bit more. But for the most part, I thought they all did what we expect.

Q: You sat a few guys that weren't on the inactives list, what was your thinking behind that?

A: They all had little knicks

Q: What's wrong with Marcus Sherels?

A: A little (hamstring).

Q: What about Jamarca Sanford?

A: He had a tight back.

Q: Did he get hurt at practice?

A: No, he just woke up with one.

Q: Kurt Coleman got a lot of playing time, how do you consider him in that spot?A: Well, Kurt has done a good job. He's a veteran guy. He's been a good special teams player in the league. He doesn't make the same mistake twice. He works real hard, studies real hard, asks good questions so he's done a very nice job.

Q: What did you learn from what you saw with the first team defense?

A: Got a lot of work to do. We challenge them. We were alright, but we've got a lot of work to do.

Q: Your first game as a head coach in a preseason game, was there a moment where you thought, "I made it."?

A: No. No. No. No, actually, knock on wood; it went fairly smooth as far as the decisions that I had to make, for the most part. Just trying to do your best. I wish I wouldn't have kicked the field goal. Because we had good field position, we were playing good on defense and I got greedy, maybe. But I thought he could make it.

Q: What are your impressions of Gerald Hodges?

A:  Honestly, I didn't notice. I'm not trying to give you coach speak, really I'm not. Because if I noticed him, I would tell you. I'm so involved in the game that it's hard for me, especially I know what's going on on defense but I'm trying to figure out where we're going next and what plays. I didn't see a lot of guys making mistakes so that's a good thing.

Q: Is there a concern with those guys who are dealing with the injuries? There are four safeties and two cornerbacks so it's hitting the secondary pretty hard.

A: Well, Crocker will play some next week. I think those guys will be getting back fairly soon.

Q: Is that an injury with Chris Crocker?

A: No, just because he came in on Tuesday or whatever day it was. I just didn't want to throw him out there right now.

Q: How do you weigh what you see from the starters based on what you saw out of the 7 to 10 minutes that they played?

A: Well that's a good question because it's important that the guys that go out there first, whoever they end up being, that we kind of set the tempo. It's pretty much goods-on-goods and with us not scrimmaging against each other, it's kind of a good gauge of where we are at. I think the second half we got a little bit sloppy – we got sacked a bunch of times, we didn't rush the quarterback. Those will all be points of emphasis this next week and I haven't done any of those practice schedules, the content of the schedules, because I want to see where we are at as a football team before I just say, "Let's work on this run this week." I wanted to make sure I find out where we are as a football team. We will evaluate it all tomorrow as coaches and sit down and kind of figure out what we need to get this football team where it needs to be and go from there.

Q: Were you impressed with what you saw out of Jerick McKinnon?

A: Yeah, except catching the punt. He probably won't catch punts next week. Other than that, Jerick has got great acceleration, he's got great hands, he's tough, he's thick, he's powerful and it showed.

Q: Can you talk about how the team responded to you mentioning communication as a facet that could be worked on? Did one or two guys step up in that department?

A: Actually there were a lot of guys. This is a good football team that cares. Even at the middle of the game, end of the game, the guys that weren't playing, they were all standing around wanting to know what the offensive call, the defensive call, listening to things I was telling players. I'm proud of them in that fact.

Q: Did Shamar Stephen catch your eye at all?

A: He's kind of like Gerald. I know how many plays he played but I couldn't tell you how he played.

Q: How about Shaun Prater?

A: Well Prater did some good things. There was a third-and-16 he didn't sink much into, the guy almost caught the ball on us. Those are the kind of things I see a lot. But Shaun is a tough kid, he's been with me before in Cincinnati, and he'll go out and compete all day long. I don't think in coverage in the back end we were tight enough on a few of those throws so we've got to work on contesting. Like I said on the first day I was here, we've got to contest catches better than what we did, we've got to rush the quarterback better than what we did.

Q: What's the biggest takeaway from the way Teddy Bridgewater performed?

A: Experience. He was excited to play but there were little bitty things that he needs to smooth out and just get a little bit more composed, but that comes with getting out there on the field. He was pretty pumped up for him. He'll be fine, he'll be even a lot better next week.

Vikings Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater

Like I told y'all a couple of days ago, it would be a dream come true to play that first game, and it finally came. It was great to be out there, great to just be able to play football again.

Q: How did you feel like it went for you?

A: I feel like it went pretty good. There were some missed opportunities, but I'll be able to come back next week and play more aggressive. You know, just watch the film and continue to study and get better from here.

Q: The step up from the speed of the college game to the speed of the professional game, has that been the biggest difference for you?

A: I would say so, the speed. Like I said earlier in the week, open in the National Football League isn't open how it was in college. You know guys aren't going to be wide open in the National Football League because guys are playing pretty tight coverage. Everything is happening faster, so that has been the biggest transition so far. 

Q: What did you think of the reception? They were hanging on every pump fake.

A: Well, you know those guys did a good job, but there is always room for me to improve my game, whether it be buying more time to be able to allow the play to happen.

Q: Did you hear the crowd calling your name and all that part of it?

A: Not at all, but I was so tuned into the game that I couldn't hear anything that was going on. But it was good to be able to see the fans here today. We had a pretty good crowd. We talk about having home field advantage, and in order to have home field advantage the crowd's going to have to be there, and tonight they did a great job of just being behind the team.

Q: What was the difference in the reps between the first time that you came in, with the first team, and then those guys went out, especially the linemen and you worked with second and third team guys out there?

A: Whenever you're going with the first team guys, you're talking about a veteran group of guys. And for the second unit, we're a couple of young guys who are continuing to just learn this offense and learn the system. So you're talking about guys who have a great understanding of the concepts in the offense, and with the younger guys you're talking about the guys who are still learning the offense each and every day. So that's the biggest difference, but tonight every unit played great ball, and we all competed, played hard.  That's what Coach Zimmer always talks about, just out-running, out–hitting, out-playing your opponent.

Q: In your first game like that, is it sort of difficult to stay under control and not want to take off and do things?

A: Not at all. When you play within your character and play within yourself things come easily. And when you have a coaching staff like we have, they make playing come easy, where you're not anxious or anything. So today, you know it was great to just be able to get out there for that first game and to get a feel of what it's like to get a snap in the National Football League. 

Q: What is it like to take a snap in the NFL, was there anything that surprised you out there?

A: The biggest thing was that practice is much harder than the games. When you talk about you're competing against your defense each and every day, and you get a feel for what it's like to game plan against a team. So you know that helps going in to competition. So the feeling taking that first snap, like I said it's a dream come true. You know the guys, we all did a good job today of just competing and playing hard.

Vikings Quarterback Matt Cassel

Q: Pleased with the start tonight?

A: I think it was a good start for us. You know the big thing for us was that our goal was to go out and have consistency and get into a real situation where guys had to convert on third downs. You know guys came out and make big plays, we spread the ball around, and anytime you can go down on your first drive and score that's exactly what we are trying to get accomplished so I think we are all pleased with it, but we also know that there is a lot of work to still get done.

Q: Keys to the first game and seeing guys catching balls over 10 yards?

A: Well I think the offensive scheme and how it was set up tonight it worked well and we've got guys out there that can make plays. Cordarrelle made a few great catches out there, Kyle Rudolph and Matt Asiata had one so you know they're getting it down, and that's kind of what it's about in going through reads and that's what we want to accomplish.

Q: After doing all these drills this is the first time guys are coming after it, it's a little different isn't it?

A: It's always a little bit different and with the first preseason game your ears are on high alert, you're going to get hit for the first time and I don't know if I really was hit tonight, but at the same time it's one of those situations where you have to go in there and react.

Q: You're in a little bit of a new system, but you kind of know how it's going to work, right?

A: We have put in a ton of work this off season, they pushed us hard through all the OTA's,  throughout minicamp and the off season, this is our third or fourth time going through these repetitions so at this point I feel very comfortable with the offensive scheme. Obviously I'm still learning and growing and trying to understand what Coach (Norv) Turner is trying to accomplish with these plays as well.

Q: You were in for a few drives, do you feel you don't need much more than that?

A: Well I would like to play as much as possible, but obviously it is a new system and the more reps that I can get and the more comfortable I can get is the key thing for me.

Q: Where there any reads where you had to go to your second or third reads?

A: Well as you all know, and I've talked about this before, these are all different types of reads and sometimes the reads are based on pre-snap, sometimes it's a progression read, and we had a number of different types of reads tonight. The big thing for me was being able to convert on third down, and I thought we did a tremendous job on third down and eventually finishing the drive off with a touchdown.

Q: Was there complicated defenses that you saw or were they preseason defenses?

A: Well they always do a lot of different stuff with the Raiders, you know if it's doubling, or rolling the safety down late and that kind of stuff, but all in all I think that the guys handled the pressures really well and at the same time I don't think they gave us too many looks that confused us too much.

Q: Do these games mean much or are you going to go back to practice with some positive vibes?

A: You know I think that's what these games are all about is to go out there and see where we are at and make the corrections and also be able to play against good competition and get ready for the season. The ultimate goal for all the preseason games is to get yourself prepared and ready to play in week one.

Q: Did it feel like a home game or a road game?

A: It felt like a home game. I mean these facilities here were outstanding, the fans came out, they were outstanding and they cheered throughout the game so it was a lot of fun and I think we can turn this into an advantage for us.

Q: Do you try to see things for Teddy (Bridgewater) and talk to him on the sideline when he comes off?

A: Absolutely, I mean that's part of this whole deal too is being a team and talking to him and find out what he's seeing and also maybe giving him some advice and talk amongst ourselves and amongst the group. I thought he did a great job tonight going through his reads and making some great plays.

Vikings S Kurt Coleman

Q: How does it feel going through that and knowing you're on the open market and you're going to a team that wants you?

A: That's really all I ask for is just an opportunity. At the end of the day I think I can live with myself if I say I had the opportunity and I didn't make it, but it's tough to say you don't get that opportunity and you felt like you should have, so I'm happy to be a part of this team I felt very welcomed as soon as I got here by my teammates and all of the coaching staff and honestly I just want to help these guys win. I've been saying it since day one I think they have something special going on here and I think we're building a really great defense.

Q: Did you play any free safety tonight it looked like sometimes you were playing a little deep?

A: It's just a part of our defensive calls that I play a little deep sometimes.

Vikings Running Back Jerick McKinnon

Q: What were you thinking you would really like to show off in today's game?

A: I would say quickness, coming from the collegiate level all you hear is the speed of the game. I wanted to show that I could adapt to that pretty quick off the back. In the game, the rest of the running backs gave me some pointers about the speed and tempo of the game, and that definitely helped out.

Q: There were some things that you said you wanted to get better on, is there anything that stood out in your game that you want to improve on?

A: One time on pass protection, a guy got under me pretty good and I had to reset on him. So just work on getting my hands and shooting first before the defender does. There were a couple of times where I could have made a cut to get out; I could have just planted up and got out to get as many yards north, things like that.

Vikings Linebacker Anthony Barr

Q: How did it feel to play your first game with the Vikings, I know it's just preseason?

A: It was a lot of fun, I had a great time out there.

Q: How about the play when you got that sack?

A: I think, the coverage helped me out a little bit, and then I was able to redirect and come back inside and make the play.

Q: From what you were doing in camp, and what the defense was doing, is this kind of what you were expecting?

A: I don't know, I think our goal was to make this as exact as possible and I think we were able to do that for the most part.

Q: Did you feel like this was a watered down version of the defense?

A: Yeah, you know we played our basic stuff, probably for a good reason, but I think we executed it pretty well.

Q: You went after the quarterback, is that something you think they're going to use you for?

A: I don't know, whatever I'm asked to do I'm going to do. That was just one of the plays that I happened to just come off the edge and there was a couple plays like that so, when I do that I can be effective.

Vikings Safety Harrison Smith

Q: It's a learning process for you every year, it's no different than coming to college or coming here is it?

A: Yeah, even if you played in the same system for years there's something to pick up on every year. Going against your opponents learning something about them, knowing their tendencies things like that, so there's always something that you can learn.

Q: Talk about the guy next to you, Captain Munnerlyn, here's another guy that's been added to the mix to bolster that backfield.

A: Oh yeah, I'm excited to play with him this year. Physical guy, play maker and really sets the tone for the guys on the outside, so I'm just excited to be out there with him and just see him make some plays.

Q: What are your impressions of that stadium today just being out here for the first time?

A: I like this place a lot. It does feel like a home ground for us and that's something we've kind of talked about, making this place our home and it felt like it tonight.

Q: How do you make it like a home when everywhere you look it's somebody else's home?

A: It doesn't really feel that way. Same city and you hear about Minnesota a lot. I don't even know if it's ten minutes from our old stadium, Vikings on the field, stuff like that, all new turf, it felt like home tonight.

Vikings Wide Receiver Adam Thielen

Q: Did you come into camp thinking punt return was a possibility for you to help carve out a role?

A: Coach told me coming into training camp that punt return would be an option for me, so I just came in ready to go so we'll see what happens.

Q: It seems really critical that when you're looking for a spot on the team to make that impact on special teams how important is that?

A: If you're not a starter in the NFL you have to be able to play special teams and you have to know your role and do your job. They throw me out there and they expect me to make those plays and, like I said, there's a lot of things I need to improve on to help this team win.

Q: Your success in training camp seems to be translating on the field, at least for night one anyways, what's the difference between this year and last year?

A: That experience I'm bringing in this year from last year and being able to watch those veteran guys in all positions, watching (Marcus) Sherels with punt returns and other receivers at the receiver position I think it's just taking that experience with me this year.

Q: You were able to stick with the team last year on the practice squad and kind of be around everything, did that help build a bond with the guys?

A: Absolutely, we have such a good group of guys here and that makes it easy on guys like me and it makes it fun to go out and play football when you have great teammates.

Vikings Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn

Q: How comfortable are you with this defense?

A: I'm comfortable, it's not that hard, and me coming from Carolina I already knew some the terminology and the schemes because we had the same style of Defense in Carolina. Just to get out on the field with my teammates and to compete with my new teammates, you know I get to show them what I can do and for them to show me what they can do, so we can just trust each other more and get better. 

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