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Zimmer, Waynes, Kendricks and Clemmings Address The Media

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer

It's good to get back out here on the field and finally do a little coaching instead of watching tape on us or watching tape on the draft. It's an exciting time. We feel good about some of the young players. Our guys are working hard in the off-season. They're doing a good job in the weight room. It makes you feel good when you see some guys and their bodies develop and they get bigger and stronger and you're starting to look like the kind of football team you want to look like.

Q: What are you trying to look for during the rookie mini-camp?

A: We keep it pretty simple, schematically. It's being able to coach them, the techniques that we're trying to do, seeing how much they can adjust. Obviously, we're looking at their athletic ability, because you can watch it on tape and you're never really sure. We have a good idea on a lot of the players on their personalities and things like that, but you never really know until you kind of get your hands on them and start working that way. Each position is a little bit different, but you're looking for the physical traits that you thought you saw on tape, the mental aspects, when you interviewed them and you put them through the tests and the quizzes on the board, just seeing if all of that kind of matches up. And then, obviously, sometimes you find out things, you thought a guy was this or that, and he's better than those things, too.

Q: What are you early impressions of Trae Waynes?

A: We just worked together for a little bit today and this is way, way, way early, but I actually told one of the coaches, for a young guy and trying to teach the technique that we're doing, he caught on probably faster than I've ever had a guy in the first day.

Q: How much is the technique different than what he did at Michigan State?

A: He was pretty natural at it today. Usually it's not that smooth is what happens. He's probably a little more familiar with it from college than I'd guessed from watching him on tape.

Q: What did you guys like about Eric Kendricks and where do you see him playing in your defense?

A: (Eric) Kendricks is a very instinctive playmaker. He makes a lot of plays, he's very, very intelligent, you could tell that today in the meetings and when he was out here making the calls and getting things set-up. We're going to start him at Mike linebacker and see where that goes. We believe that eventually, down the road, he will probably be a Will linebacker for us, but you never know. We've had a lot of times over my career, like we drafted a kid one year that was a middle linebacker and we played him at Sam and played maybe two years at Sam, then we moved him to Mike. But we're going to start him out at Mike.

Q: Does Kendricks need to get bigger?

A: I like big guys, but the thing about us defensively is that the way we play with our defensive line, some of the linebackers can be a little bit smaller because part of the job of the defensive line is to keep our linebackers free so that they can run and hit. I'm not concerned about his size.

Q: How hard is it for an undrafted guy to make it on your team?

A: We want to get the best players, we don't care if they're drafted or if they're from Canada, or arena ball, or whatever. It's just a guy comes in and performs, a guy flashes at us and we see the potential there, those are always things we're looking at. It's nice to hit on all of your draft picks, but it's even nicer to get guys that are undrafted free agents that make your football team, because that can make you good in a hurry.

Q: What did you like about Anthony Harris?

A: He's a very instinctive, smart, very, very smart, very communicative safety. I think he plays real hard. I think he has a lot of the traits of the starting safeties in this league.

Q: Can you teach a player to get more interceptions?

A: I don't get too fired up on interception totals and stats and things like that, just because some of them could be overthrows, bad throws by the quarterback. Some of them could be hits on the quarterback, the quarterback gets hit and the ball pops up in the air. I get excited on the great plays that guys make for interceptions. Unfortunately for me, and I've talked about this before, with our defensive backs a lot of times denying your guy the ball, you don't really get to go to the Pro Bowl on that, you go to the Pro Bowl on interceptions and so that's always a hard thing for me, teaching our players because everyone wants to go to the Pro Bowl and there's some ways guys could get more interceptions than what we do. Obviously, we want turnovers, but I think there's a fine line. It's like stripping the football on defense, there's a fine line of doing that and being a poor tackling football team or you're causing fumbles because you're a physical guy. To me, it's more important the types of turnovers that you get with denying the ball and when the balls come you make a great play on the ball.

Q: What did you like about Danielle Hunter?

A: He's got outstanding measurables. He's 6-5 plus, 254 lbs, or something like that, runs a 4.5, very, very smart. He's got very heavy hands. He's very athletic and the fact that, we feel like we can take guys like that and teach them really what we're trying to do to improve them. Andre Patterson does a great job of teaching these guys what we're trying to get accomplished and he always has. And I'm not saying this guy is Everson (Griffen), but you look back on Everson Griffen, you know, is a great athlete that started buying into what we're trying to teach and really took a big jump last year and we're hoping that he (Hunter) will too.

Q: Have you seen the trend of guys with limited football backgrounds in this draft or just with a few of your selections?

A: Rick (Spielman) and I talk about these things all of the time. One of the things, I love athletes, because I have confidence that I can kind of get these guys to play and play better and improve and it doesn't always work. But, if you hit big, you hit a homerun, as opposed to getting a steady-Eddie kind of guy all of the time. Those athletes, big, fast athletes, they really attract me for some reason.

Q: Is T.J. Clemmings alleged foot injury something that would go unnoticed to most?

A: Yes. As a matter of fact, Sug (Eric Sugarman) was kind of giving him a hard time in the training room and he said, "Sug, I didn't even know that I had anything wrong with me until I went to the Combine, they found all of this stuff out." But he's another young, developing offensive lineman that has an awful lot of good skills. I think he would tell you the same thing, that he didn't even know he was hurt and I don't think he is hurt.

Q: Is MyCole Pruitt one of those athlete types that intrigues you?

A: Yeah, and that's kind of the same way, offensively with Norv (Turner). He sees guys that remind him of guys in the past. Norv was pretty adamant throughout the draft about this is a guy that we're really intrigued with. He runs 4.5 (second 40-yard dash), has a chance to be a good tight end and it's really important for the tight ends in our offense, as you know. He had a lot of say on that one.

Q: How much of a concern was Matt Kalil's offseason knee procedures?

A: It's more of a clean-up kind of thing. Matt has told me that this is the best he's felt since his rookie year, I think. We're just going with that, he said he feels great, and we're glad that we got the issues taken care of.

Q: What are your thoughts on former Gopher Isaac Fruechte?

A: Well, we will find out a little bit more this afternoon. This was really just a walk-thru. Guys were really just trying to figure out where to get lined up. It's really hard for the receivers for us, to get line up because of the terminology and the things like that, so we will find out a lot more about him this afternoon.

Q: As a coach is it nice to have all of your draft picks signed and the contract stuff out of the way so they can focus on football?

A: Yeah, it's really great and really it's a credit to Rob Brzezinski, he did a great job negotiating all of these deals in a short period of time and getting them all done. But you're right, it allows all of us to really concentrate on the task at hand, and that's getting each one of these players better and getting this football team better .

Q: Trae Waynes seems to have a different personality on and off the field?

A: I don't know that. You'd have to ask him. Corners don't have to be brash, all they have to do is be able to cover and be tough. I've had a lot of good corners that weren't brash, I guess is the best word, and they're good players. Some of the guys, Leon Hall, is a fantastic kid and never would think anything bad about him. Terence Newman is a great kid. I think everybody's personality is different. 

Q: Why did you decide to give Babatunde Aiyegbusi a contract and are you eager to see him in pads?

A: It's really a no-brainer at the end of the day. You get a guy on the cheap that has a ton of athletic ability, big size. I said, we're looking for them in Canada or the arena league, or Poland.

Vikings Cornerback Trae Waynes

Q: Coach just said you picked up some of the techniques and terminology faster than any player he's worked with on the first day, how do you feel hearing that?

A: That's a huge compliment, but I'm just trying to do my best to pick up what they're saying and learn as quickly as possible.

Q: How different are some of the techniques they're coaching compared to what you did in college?

A: It's a little different. It's not too much different. A lot of the technique is similar in a way. I think that's why I've picked up on it as quickly as I did. I've still got a lot to learn and I look forward to finally understating it to their expectations.

Q: Was it important to you to get the contract signed so you could just concentrate on football?

A: I wasn't even thinking about that. Once I got here, I was thinking, what's the schedule, what do I have to do, when is practice and what not. I wasn't really thinking about the whole contract situation.

Q: Have any veterans reached out to you?

A: Yeah, a couple of them texted me, because some of them, we're with the same agency. I met them while I was training out in California. They've texted me, congratulated me, wished me good luck and let me know it's game time.

Q: Any specifics?

A: No.

Q: How often have you played against Stefon Diggs in college, what do you think about his game?

A: Never. When we played them I think he was out with an injury, so I didn't get the opportunity.

Q: Do you come in looking at starting from day one?

A: I'm coming in to compete. Whatever happens, happens. I'm going to compete and try to get a starting sport and if not, work my way in on special teams and try to contribute to the team as much as I can.

Q: What do you think is going to be the biggest challenge for you in making the jump to the NFL?

A: Just learning a whole new playbook. I'm used to Michigan State's terminology, their plays, their defense, so just transitioning that to a new one, probably.

Q: Are you a different guy on the field than your mild-mannered nature off the field?

A: I'm just playing football.

Q: How difficult is it to learn a new playbook?

A: It's pretty difficult, but if you can relate it to your old playbook and try to find similarities. Ask as many questions as you can to help understand it. It gets easier over time.

Q: Do you know the team's plan to line you up on one side of the field or move you around?

A: No.

Q: Have you had a chance to look back at any of the Vikings' tape from last season?

A: I've been trying to. Basically, I've been putting my head in the playbook, trying to understand that more than anything.

Q: Are you the kind of guy who sets goals?

A: No. My whole mindset is, play as hard as I can as fast as I can. Just try to make an impact. I'm competing against myself and obviously, I'm competing against other players but I have got to push myself at this level and my big thing is just go out and compete.

Q: What stands out to you about this defense?

A: Fast. They run to the ball and they got real good chemistry and understanding of what everybody is doing on the field.

Q: What are your thoughts on the coaching staff?

A: They remind me a lot of my coaches at (Michigan) State. They're real passionate about it, but their whole goal is to make you better as a player. If they're hard on you, you know they're going to be hard on you and they're going to let you know and they're going to push you to your limit.

Q: Are they harder on you here than Michigan State?

A: It's too early to tell. I heard Coach Zim is pretty hard, so I told him I'm ready for it.

Q: Have you talked to Xavier Rhodes or any other cornerbacks?

A: No.

Vikings Linebacker Eric Kendricks

Q: Coach says you're going to start as a middle linebacker, but you might be a weakside linebacker down the road, what are your thoughts on that?

A: My thought right now is just getting my alignments correct and understanding the play calls and communicating with the D-lineman. Everything is coming kind of fast right now, new terminology, so my focus right now is just getting the communication down.

Q: Does Anthony Barr believe you now that you're on the Vikings?

A: I guess you could say that. It's pretty cool, the situation.

Q: What's your experience playing middle linebacker?

A: I played middle throughout college. I started off as a weakside backer, really young, our middle linebacker, Patrick Leamer, got hurt and unfortunately had to retire, so I was forced into the middle and I had to make calls within two weeks of a game. I was kind of forced into it, but it was the best thing that could have happened to me.

Q: Do you think you need to gain weight?

A: 235 lbs, I'm pretty comfortable at it. I could play fast, I could play tough. I just feel comfortable at it. We'll see if I need to gain weight, I've never had a problem gaining weight or losing weight, so we'll see.

Q: You said middle linebacker was the best thing to happen to you, why?

A: I like just knowing what everyone has to do. Commanding the front and everything like that. I was kind of in my own world playing weakside backer and just thinking, focusing on what I had to do. And when I was moved to middle, I had to focus around the whole defense and it just allowed me to understand defenses as a whole.

Q: Was it important to get your contract signed before you started mini-camp?

A: Absolutely. With the Combine and the draft process and me finally getting drafted and now with the contract out of the way, now it's just football and I couldn't ask for more.

Q: What are your initial impressions of being here and finding your way around?

A: Man, I'm just happy to be here right now. I put on a helmet for the first time in a couple of months, like I said, it's just football. I'm like a kind in a candy store.

Q: Is it more challenging knowing that you might have a role where you have to know everybody's role?

A: I'm open to challenges. It may be a little bit more challenging, of course it's the NFL, so it's going to be more challenging. I'm open for it and I'm going to work my butt off and do what I can for this team.

Q: How much have you talked to Anthony Barr about this defense and coaching staff?

A:  I've talked to him a lot. Probably bugged him a little bit too much. Like I said, I'm here to learn. I'm an open book right now, so I'm just trying to take it in from every angle.

Q: Was it difficult to help Anthony Barr and the defense with alignments at UCLA when he transitioned from running back to linebacker?

A: I feel like if you're going to switch from any position, it's running back to linebacker. You see a lot of the same things behind the ball and you get a feel for just football in general. The transition wasn't that hard for him, it was the terminology and learning defenses and things like that. Anthony is an athlete, I had his back and we made calls together and he was able to get it done.

Q: When he was a running back in practice, did you make some big hits on him?

A: Yeah, I would definitely say so. He got some good hits on me too. He's not a small guy.

Q: Any running backs in the NFL you're looking forward to tackling?

A: All of them.  I can't wait. I heard the backs in the NFL are a grade above and I'm accepting any challenge. I'm a competitor true at heart and I'm ready.

Vikings Offensive Lineman T.J. Clemmings

Q: How's the transition been?

A: It's new, it's new. We've gotten a lot of plays thrown at us on our first day installing. It's just trying to get the plays down, trying to learn them, the tempo. It's all new, but it went well for the walk-thru.

Q: Any idea how long you think it will be before you settle into a comfort zone?

A: I'm sure it will take a couple of weeks, just to learn the techniques Coach Davidson wants me to do, also just getting the whole playbook down. I'm sure it will take a couple of weeks, hopefully sooner.

Q: Coach Zimmer said that someone was giving you a hard time about your phantom foot injury?

A: They were joking around a little bit, because I had no idea. Like I said, I'm out here running around, like I have been, did all of my testing, everything was perfectly fine and I feel great. Like I said before, I have no issues or concerns about it.

Q: Do you feel the injury at all?

A: I don't feel anything. People ask me, what foot is it? I'm like; I've got to look down and try to remember. No, I don't feel it at all.

Q: Which alleged foot is it?

A: It's supposed to be my right foot.

Q: Was that frustrating because you're not bothered by it and where you ended up being drafted?

A: You've got to be prepared for anything. Just being a part of the draft was great. I'll always remember that. I believe I'm at the right team, where I'm supposed to be, with the right coaching staff and the right teammates. At this point, it's nothing to be all mad, somebody said something about my foot or anything like that. I'm just happy to be here and happy to get back to football.

Q: Did you pay attention to the draft coverage and what they said about your stock?

A: At first no, but as it got like maybe two days before, started paying a little bit more attention. Glad I don't have to go through that anymore.

Q: Did you have any idea that teams were concerned about your foot heading into the draft?

A: Probably like a week before, or so, my agent said, "Some teams have some concerns." But we didn't know how truly concerned they were. It all worked out.

Q: Did you know that you were going to fall in the draft or when did you find out?

A: After round two, I would say. After round two and then after round three was done.

Q: How did you find out?

A: We were watching, just watching and I guess my agent was talking to a couple different people and he let me know who a team was going with and just kind of watched it and played it by ear.* *

Q: What makes you think the Vikings are the right team for you?

A: They picked me. They picked me and I had a private workout with Coach Davidson, he came to Pitt, it was a smooth meeting and things went well and I felt pretty comfortable to a certain degree with him. I felt if I came to the Vikings that I would be able to really truly learn and grow as a player, that's why I say I feel like I'm at the right place.

Q: Have you heard from Coach Paul Chryst?

A: No, I haven't heard from Coach Chryst yet. We spoke prior to the Draft, but I haven't heard from him since. He's pretty busy these days.

Q: Do you get the sense they're going to keep you at tackle or move you to guard?

A: I'm pretty sure I'll be moved around. I've been playing guard today, guard and tackle. Just getting reps and getting a feel at both positions is my plan, just to be ready to be able to play at guard or tackle, wherever they want me to play or need me to play.

Q: At your workout with Coach Davidson did he mention playing guard or work you out as a tackle?

A: We did mostly tackle stuff. But even then he said, "If you ever came to the Vikings, we'd probably throw you in there at guard and see how it turned out." I'm here and they threw me in at guard.

Q: How aware are you of a possible starting position at guard?

A: I'm aware of it and I'm going to compete for a job. But first, I've got to learn the plays and get through the playbook and really just learn. At this point right now, I'm not worried about what spot is open. You're not going to make it on the field if you don't know what to do. My main concern right now goes to really learning the playbook and learn what coach needs me to know.

Q: Have you ever played guard?

A: Have I ever played guard? No.

Q: Were you used mostly on the right side or the left side today?

A: All right side.

Q: Anything that you take away from Coach Chryst that he's impacted you with?

A: One thing I say about Coach Chryst is he was always for the players. Anything that we needed, any concerns or anything like that, even after he went on to Wisconsin. He reached out to me and told me, "Hey, listen, I'm thinking about you, wishing you luck." And just being genuinely a good guy, who he is. That's a relationship I will always have and definitely cherish that, because he's been good to me.

Q: How close did you come to going the basketball route out of high school?

A: Not very close, I would say. I stopped kind of having that love for basketball my junior year, which is when I started playing football. Those were my dreams to play in the NBA coming up, but it didn't work out too well.

Q: Did you have any scholarship offers to play basketball out of high school?

A: Yeah, I had three. I had three. Rutgers, Seton Hall and Providence, and when I got my first football offer, from Duke, they said I could have played basketball there if I'd wanted to as well.

Q: Did you watch the national championship game thinking that you could have been there hoisting the trophy?

A: Not really. Not really, didn't think about it too much. It was what, maybe five years ago now? Nah.

Q: Would you say the basketball background has given you any skillsets on the football field?

A: Yeah, definitely. The ability to run, run smoothly and change directions and be quick on my feet, light on my feet. I think that basketball has definitely given me those tools. It's helped me on the field, so I plan on continuing to use what basketball has given me.

Q: Have you touched base with any of the veterans on the offensive line?

A: I have not.

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