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Zimmer, Cassel Address The Media on Wednesday

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer

Probably go inside today, we're in a dome anyway this week. It looks like we're going to get some wet weather. We will go in there. I know you all want to know who's the starting Mike linebacker, it's Jasper Brinkley so I don't get this question asked anymore, strong safety is Robert Blanton, okay, we good?

Q: How has Sam Bradford's injury changed your game plan?

A: The offense is still pretty much the same. Obviously, the quarterback is a little bit different. We anticipate some different things, so we will be working on those. As far as the running game and the things that they do, I don't think that is going to change much.

Q: What has Matt Cassel been like to you, is he an anointed leader because he's the quarterback?

A: It's hard to anoint people to be leaders. Matt is pretty outgoing, pretty talkative anyway. He's usually the one that kind of takes charge in there. He has good leadership qualities, anyway. I think he's tried to take on that role.

Q: What did you see in Robert Blanton to give him the starting spot

A: He probably made less mistakes than anybody. He's got some cover skills. All of those safeties, we probably didn't see them enough because of the injuries or whatever. Robert is a good kid, a smart kid. We'll see how he does, hopefully he'll do well.

Q: What about from Jasper Brinkley?

A: Jasper's a little bit more of a thumper in the running game. I think this week, they've got a good running game. I think their offensive line does a nice job in run blocking, I think it will be a good match for him.

Q: Is Audie Cole a guy you can use at linebacker in different situations?

A: Oh yeah, definitely. Just because these guys aren't starting, doesn't mean they won't be playing some packages that we have in the game. We just have to put 11 out there to start with. Audie (Cole) has made a lot of plays, he's doing a lot of different jobs. Sometimes special teams come into play on these decisions, too.

Q: Would you consider using Audie Cole against more pass oriented teams?

A: It's a one week deal at a time, one week at a time. They play good, they keep playing. I think the defensive team feels comfortable with Jasper making the calls, he's been lining up with the first group from the first day. In a game like this, it's nice to be settling. Everything nice and smooth and hear the same voice and things like that.

Q: Where is Cordarrelle Patterson compared to when you first got here?

A: When I first came here he was good. I had heard things about last year, but he's been the same guy since I've been here. He works hard, catches the ball, wants to be good, same personality. Nothing's different for me from when I've been here.

Q: Do you think he's a tough matchup for any defence?

A: The size and speed make it a tough match-up. He's a great run-after-catch guy, as well. Last year, I know they used him on a lot of screens, hitches and things like that. His running ability kind of sets him apart a little bit more. When he catches the ball down field and has a chance to run, he's a strong, powerful runner.

Q: Tavon Austin has a deferent build, but similar skill set, how do you defend guys like that?

A: There's a lot of different ways. Sometimes you cheat the zone to him, sometimes you double cover him, sometimes you play somebody over the top of them and be physical at the line of scrimmage. I'm not going to tell you how we are going to defend him.

Q: Has Greg Jennings had a good camp and he is a weapon for you?

A: I don't know about last year. I just know that Greg has been great since he has been here, he works real hard. He's a true veteran leader in the fact that he helps these younger receivers out quite a bit, getting them lined up. I think he's done a good job in all of the preseason games and he's a guy that you have to account for.

Q: Have you seen any correlation between preseason success and the regular season from your previous teams?

A: I know a long, long time ago when I was in Dallas, we wanted to win the first half all of the time and usually we did and we were pretty good. I don't know if it makes a lot of correlation, to me, again, it's more about how we've performed. Are the guys trying to use the technique that we play, are the guys using the fundamentals, are we in the right place, are we creating penalties, are we turning the ball over. If we're a sloppy football team, I have not seen that in the preseason. The only thing that I have to judge, I know the score is up there, but in the preseason it's more about are we doing things right, are we playing real hard, are we playing smart and I think to this point we've done that. Every week is different in the NFL, every one of the 16 weeks just hopefully you continue to do those things. If you do those things you always have a chance to win.  

Q: What have you seen from Adrian Peterson as a leader, do you consider him a team leader?

A: I consider him one of the leaders. He's a guy that has been great with me from the first day that I met him. We came in, sat down and talked in my office about a lot of different things. He's got a good personality, he's not afraid to say what he thinks and I think the veteran leadership, and obviously, he's a great player. When guys are great players they automatically have a little bit of a leadership role just because of their stature. He's done a very, very nice job of everything that I've asked him to do since I've walked in the door.

Q: You said in the offseason that the best players weren't always leaders, can you expand on those comments?

A: I hadn't really been here very long, so I didn't know Adrian very well. I was just making a general comment, it wasn't specifically about Adrian.

Q: Have you decided on captains?

A: We will have weekly captains.

Q: How different does it feel going into Week One as the head coach versus a coordinator?

A: Not much, really. Football is football. The administrative stuff is obviously different. Thinking about the 46-man gameday roster, the communication with the referees, those things are all different. The football part I've been doing a long time.

Q: Is it difficult to answer for everything that goes on with your team?

A: I've always been very media friendly, I think. I've always tried to be approachable to everything. Being in Dallas, especially, the media is there all of the time, in Cincinnati, I think had a good relationship with all of those people. I would rather be doing football things than talking to you all, but it's just part of the deal.

Q: You mentioned it's a one week deal with starters, is that different with the quarterback position?

A: That's a good question and that's something you have to consider. With every position, the middle linebacker, the safety, as you say, you don't want to make a knee-jerk decision just because you don't play well one day or you don't do the things that you think they're capable of, I think you still have to go on what you've seen every day in practice and what you've seen in the preseason. I do want to hold everybody accountable every single time that they go out on the field and I think that's important for us going forward in the future. I don't want to have a quick hook, but I want to do what's the right thing for the football team and at that point in time, Norv (Turner) and I will sit down and discuss those things, if it gets to that point and then figure out what's best. I don't foresee that being an early decision. We've gone seven, almost eight weeks now and we feel like this is the way we want to go. We throw an interception the first play of the game, I'm not going to yank him. I have to go on the OTAs and everything that we've seen from there. I know the fans are excited about Teddy (Bridgewater), I'm excited about Teddy, but we have to do what's best for the football team at this point in time and what's best for the future. I'm always trying to think about, and as you know, coach's futures aren't necessarily very long. I'm always trying to think between the now and the future and what's best for this organization as we go down the road.

Q: Will Marcus Sherels be  the punt returner?

A: Yes.

Q: What about the Rams coverage units?

A: They've got a heck of a punter and they've got a lot of team speed in special teams, actually, team speed all over the place. They've got great team speed. Those kinds of things make it difficult. We've done a great job in the preseason as far as those things, I know they love to run a lot of fakes and gimmicks and gadgets. We'll be on our toes. The good thing about, somebody asked me earlier about the first preseason game and if it's harder. It is because of the unknown of what's going on in the first regular season game. I believe that we've taught our players fundamentals and techniques and usually those things will carry over if we're using the right things and were not trying to defend certain plays all of the time. Our fundamentals, our techniques take over and that goes on special teams, defense and offense.

Q: What stands out to you about the Rams defense?

A: Gregg Williams does a great job, number one. They play with great effort, they run around, they've got great speed. Obviously, their defensive line has four first round picks on it. They can really rush the quarterback, linebackers have good speed and they fly around a lot. The corners have had some success. The speed of what they play is pretty impressive

Q: Does that pass rush on the road make you leave extra help to protect the quarterback?

A: Being on turf and being on the road, the crowd noise, that always becomes a factor. Again, we'll have some ways that we take care of it.

Q: Matt Cassel has been a starter before, how much more ready is he to be a starter now?

A: He's gone to two playoffs with two different teams, been to the Pro Bowl, I don't know if he's more ready to be a starter now. I just know that he's had some great years in the NFL for a guy that took over for (Tom) Brady and then when he went to Kansas City. He's been in this situation before. Starting the season, starting the ball game all of those things were factors, too. I have a lot of confidence in Matt and he's going to do the right things. I think we've done a great job of coaching him to do the right things.

Vikings Quarterback Matt Cassel

I'm excited. I think everybody in this building is excited to get started. The regular season is finally here, we've put in a lot of effort up until this point, we go back to April in our first minicamp, so to think the season is finally here, I know that there's a lot of excitement in that building and we're ready to get this season started.

Q: Is there something new that comes with the regular season games that you have to be in that battle together for everyone to come together?

A: There's no doubt. I think that you lay a foundation throughout that entire offseason and then once you get to the season I think each and every week there's different elements in the game plan that go in and there's a whole other level of studying that goes in to your opponent, understanding their scheme, understanding what you're going up against and then also the new plays that go in each and every week.

Q: How is your week-to-week preparation different as you prepare for a team that is known for rushing the quarterback?

A: I think that you bring up a good point because St. Louis has a tremendous rush. I think they were third in the league in sacks and obviously, they have four 1st-round defensive linemen starting with [Robert] Quinn with 19.0 sacks last year. I think they do a tremendous job up front creating pressure, making you get the ball out quick, make quick decisions at the quarterback position, I think it's going to be a big task for us this week to take care of that front and be able to let me get the ball out and I think that these guys will be up for the challenge.

Q: What was it that allowed you and Greg Jennings to click last season? Would you consider it a "bromance"?

A: A bromance, huh? I don't know if he'd want me to say that. I would have to say, I think the big thing about Greg is he's such a professional and I think you have a great rapport with a guy like that because he understands where he's supposed to be, he comes back, communicates on the sideline, "Hey I'm seeing this. What do you think of this." That open communication on the sideline, especially when you trust somebody like that, it's big for a quarterback because so much of what we do is trusting that that guy is going to be in the right spot and Greg consistently being in the right spot along with his physical abilities, that makes for a great combination.

Q: Besides preforming at a high level what do you do from a quarterback's standpoint to try and win over the locker room?

A: That's a great question. I think that you have to show these guys that you're going to put in the work, you're going to put in the time, you're going to be dedicated to your craft and be a professional. These guys see if you're just taking half-heartedly, so to speak. I think for me it starts with coming in and working and showing these guys that I'm in it with them and then from there it's about making sure that you're prepared each and every day because you can't go out there on the practice field and make mistakes and be the guy that's yelling at somebody when they make a mistake if you're making those mistakes as well. I think that's a big aspect of being a leader is making sure that you're prepared each and every day when you come out on that practice field and then along with the games.

Q: Do you feel going in that you're not looking over shoulder? Do you feel pretty good about the confidence Coach Zimmer has shown in you?

A: I do. I think that I've had a tremendous offseason, I've worked as hard as I've ever worked and I'm not going to look over my shoulder. You can't play that way, you can't worry about, "If I make a mistake well what's going to happen next?" You have to go out and play the game to the best of your ability and I think Teddy [Bridgewater] does have a tremendous future but hopefully as long as I'm here he's not playing.

Q: What has it been like working with Norv Turner?

A: It's been tremendous. He brings fire each and every day. At first when I heard that he was coming in I thought that he was a very reserved guy. I didn't know much about him but as soon as you get on the practice field, as you guys have probably seen, he brings a constant energy and enthusiasm and I like that because it creates a sense of urgency for the entire team, especially the offensive unit, to come out and practice hard and be dependable. One of the main reasons that I came back is because of Coach Turner. I think looking at the group of guys and the talent that we have here, he's done, throughout his career with his resume and everything, he's done a tremendous job of getting the best out of his players and also the quarterback position and that was something that I was really excited about to be working with Coach Turner.

Q: How do you approach this season differently than last year with you being the starter Week One?

A: Well I just feel very confident about where we are at as a team. I think, like I said, we had a tremendous preseason, which obviously, preseason doesn't mean much. Once these games are finally starting it doesn't mean anything that you went 4-0 in the preseason but at the same time it does get you going in the right direction and I think it gives guys a lot of confidence and I think if we build on the things that we did well, we can continue to grow as a team, as an offensive unit, and get better and be a good football team.

Q: How do you balance the role of teacher and starter?

A: I think first and foremost I've got to be focused on the game plan and getting ready to play. I'm obviously the starter and it would not be fair to the guys in that locker room if all I'm doing is trying to bring Teddy along. Part of that also is being in that room and helping Teddy and any questions that he has, obviously, I'm not one of those guys that is going to be like, "Don't talk to me right now, I'm trying to concentrate." At the same time, I love to help Teddy as much as I can but again my number one focus is winning ball games for this team and I'm the starter and that's the main purpose for me right now is to get ready for the Rams.

Q: How much higher is your excitement level this year than it was last year?

A: I'm excited, I really am. I can't tell you how excited I am. Again, I've been through the ups and downs of this thing and to work as hard as I did this offseason and I go through the competition and also being named the starter, it gave me a level of confidence and I'm excited about the opportunity.

Q: Do you view Shaun Hill and yourself similarly in that you were a 7th-round draft pick and he went undrafted yet you guys are both starting Week One?

A: I've got a lot respect for Shaun obviously. I think this is his 13th year. He's had a tremendous career and a 7th-round pick just like myself you've got a bond right there, staying in the league for a while. Again, I wish him nothing but success, except for when he plays us. 

Q: Do you gear the playbook towards that pass rush in St. Louis and maybe have a few more quick throws to get the ball out of there?

A: I think that there's got to be a balance and again you try to keep a team off balance in a number of different ways – through the run game, through play-action passes and everything like that, through quick throws, as you said. But at the same time, you have to play your scheme and the coaches are putting together a game plan to the best of their ability that they think is going to go out and we're going to have success with.

Q: Does that pass rush make it a little more difficult to get some of those explosive plays?

A: I think it does, but at the same time you block it up and you have opportunities. Again, those guys are talented up front, there's no doubt about it but we've got a lot of talent in our front offensive line as well and they get paid to do a job and they'll do a tremendous job on Sunday, as well.

Q: How does Adrian Peterson handle not being able to get as physical as maybe he'd like during the preseason and in training camp?

A: I mean I'm not worried about whether or not he'll be ready.

Q: He likes to run people over and have that contact but for his own good he can't do that. How does he handle that?

A: It's probably difficult for him because he welcomes contact even when he's running and doing those things you can see that he's doesn't shy away from it and it's almost the defender's responsibility to get out of the way. I think that that's how he's got to practice and that's how he plays no matter what the situation and that's good because once he gets to the season I think that's why he's ready to go.

Q: Now that the preseason is over, how excited are you to maybe open up the playbook a little bit and show some things you might not have during the preseason?

A: This will be our first game so I think we're just now getting in to our installation and everything like that for this first week and I think that there's some carry over obviously. Like I said, there are foundational plays that you have each and every week and then there are some game plan plays. This will be our first game plan in which we really prepare for an opponent.

Q: Does anybody have any idea how you will be using Adrian Peterson with this new coaching staff and he hasn't played yet?

A: Well if I'm Coach [Jeff] Fisher and Coach [Gregg] Williams, I just say that Adrian is probably not going to play, I'm sure he'll be rusty, I'm sure he won't do much. I just would plan on him not playing.

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