Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner
One of the things and I mean this in the right way, you guys, a lot of you have written stuff and my name gets in the headline in terms of the offense and the system we’re using and I have been involved in this offense for quite a while but to me, and I really mean it sincerely, to me it’s the Minnesota Vikings offense. We’ve worked hard since we got here, I’ve spent a lot of time with Coach Zimmer in terms of what style we wanted to have, what we want to bring in terms of giving our players a chance to have success. This is really a good offensive staff. Jeff Davidson, he’s obviously experienced. He’s been a coordinator, he’s coached at a high level. Kirby Wilson was considered for coordinator jobs this last year and has had great success throughout his career. George Stewart has coached as many good players as I have and has had great success. We’ve got great veteran coaches and then we got young coaches, really good young coaches on this staff. We started when I got here in January along with preparing for the draft but we put together a playbook that we like a lot and we think it can help our guys get in space, help our guys have success. We have a lot of good young players that I think will become guys that are household names in the future because they are talented guys and I think they have a great work ethic. I think they had a great work ethic when we got here and I think Coach Zimmer is stressing doing the right things, working hard, being a team. The best team is going to have the best opportunity to win and our guys are buying into that.
Q: How would you describe this style of offense?
A: Well the biggest thing in this league, and you see so many different varieties of defense, we want to have a complete offense and we want to be able to attack the defense’s weaknesses. If that means being a power-run team one week, being a spread team another week, being a team that’s capable of throwing the ball if they are overplaying the run or running the ball if they give you opportunities to run it and when they give you opportunities to run it. The biggest thing to me, and if you ask our players I think this is the thing I talk most about is we have to be a team that plays our best in the 4th quarter in the most critical times. If you can run the ball when people are trying to stop the run that’s the ultimate. We’re just trying to become the most complete offense we can be. If you’re going to be a complete offense you have to play great in the situations- 3rd downs, red zone, two-minute are the ones that are the most critical to me.
Q: How much do you tweak the system that you’ve had before based on the film and based on what you saw before you got on the field with the players?
A: There is a big part of this offense that’s been the same and is sound and is always going to be the same. There are guys that played in this offense 30, 20, 10 years ago that would recognize it. What we’ve done and I’ll use a term and I think it’s what we’ve tried to do with our offensive staff is we’ve tried to do some things that we looked at people that are having success offensively and modernize this offense a little bit, update it a little bit and all the coaches we said early that we’re going to get ourselves out of our comfort zone and look at some things that will give us a chance to have more success and obviously a big part of that is finding ways for Adrian [Peterson] to not have to run in such crowded areas all the time. He’s going to have to do that, that’s part of his job, he’s the best in the league at it but if we can get him more space we can take advantage of his great abilities.
Q: How has he handled being asked to run more routes out of the backfield?
A: He’s got good hands, I think he’s comfortable with the routes that we would ask him to run. I think he’s intrigued by it, you would have to ask him. I think he’s doing really well with it. It’s certainly not the lead part of what we’re doing. We threw a screen to him yesterday that was as nicely set up as you could ask for and the linemen got out in front. If we can get him in space like that throughout a game, throughout the season it will help all of us.
Q: What personality aspect really stood out about him when you actually got to work with him?
A: He’s an ultimate pro to me. He’s come in here and he understands that there’s a change. I think he’s taking the approach that we as coaches took. You do have to get out of your comfort zone a little bit. It’s new, you have to put time in, he’s done all of those things. Yesterday he was outstanding and I think that’s what happens. You put it in, we had the first veteran minicamp and then we’ve had the 10 days of OTAs and all of the Phase I, Phase II, whatever you want to call it and I think it showed up yesterday in our minicamp. All of the guys had a comfort level that was much better. Adrian, when he knows exactly what to do, which he’s getting more comfortable with what we’re doing, I mean he’s as an explosive player as I’ve been around, as fast of a player. You guys have all seen it, witnessed it firsthand on a regular basis. Sometimes with a player like Adrian you can start to take it for granted but I certainly never would because I’ve been around some really, really good ones and he’s right up there with the best.
Q: Have you met any resistance with any of the changes you’re implementing?
A: I think once you get over that shock factor of it is completely different, it’s a totally different system from what they’ve done and not so much some of the plays but the terminology and the way we call things. The guys have jumped all over it and I think the thing is why they do it is they’ve talked to people who have been in this system, they look at the guys who have been in this system and the success different players have had and they realize that it gives them opportunity to have great production.
Q: What’s going to be the biggest difference for a guy like
A: The first thing is the communication and I think that’s what got everyone. It’s a new language and I always tell them if you go to a foreign country you figure out you better learn this language real fast or you can’t go buy dinner. They’ve done a great job of learning this and as we’ve put the system in, we’ve started in over the last couple of weeks using some of our code words and that makes it much easier but to me you have to learn the system before you can learn the code words. I think it’s harder for a guy like Greg than it is Cordarrelle because Greg has been in the same system and it’s engrained in his mind where some of the younger guys they weren’t in it that long.
Q: Does Jennings then get used differently in this system?
A: There’s so much of this league people take ideas from each other and they see something that works and they use it. There are some similarities but I do believe the way we teach it tends to be a little different, the things we emphasize are different and again when I say that it’s not necessarily that I say it’s better, it’s what we believe in and what I’ve been taught and what I’ve grown up with through my coaching career. It’s what you believe in and what you teach and the guys that have really bought in to it and learned it and played in the system, as I’ve said, have had great success.
Q: How has
A: It’s always fun with a younger player that it’s all new to them, they’ve got the big eyes. Teddy is so great to be around that it’s easy. As Coach Zimmer has said, he knows how to work. He’s very instinctive. He’s a very natural player. One of the things that has been the most impressive to me is I knew he’d be very accurate, I knew he’d make great decisions, quick decisions, but he’s been outstanding throwing the ball deep, which some people thought that was going to be an issue. I think in the six or eight weeks we’ve had him on the field, I think he’s been put in a position where he’s had to make most of the throws he would have to make and I think he can make all the throws he needs to make.
Q: Is there anything you can assist Coach Zimmer with on in making the transition from coordinator to head coach as you’ve done that in the past?
A: We’ve talked a lot and we’ve got great communication because I think there are a lot of things similar in our backgrounds and the way we approach things, the way we’ve been brought up we are kind of old-school guys. I worked for John Robinson and Jimmy Johnson and Mike with [Bill] Parcells and the guys he has worked with so that’s our kind of background. A lot of it, this part of it is the football and obviously you guys and everyone else is going to be more concerned with what happens on Sundays, so I think that’s the biggest thing from being a coordinator and then going to be a head coach is managing all of the things you have to manage. You learn to rely on the people around you and we’ve talked a lot about that.
Q: What’s been an example of you stepping out of your comfort zone as a coach?
A: I think the biggest thing is when you’ve been doing this and you’ve had success with certain things, and I think it happens with players and I think it happens with coaches, is you tend to cling to those things. If you’re paying attention obviously football in the NFL is evolving. I’m not saying it’s changing because you better be able to block and you better be able to tackle and you better be able to throw and catch and you better be fundamentally sound, but there are some things, as I said, that we looked hard at that we can get more people involved with the offense and we can spread the field better and we can take advantage of some of our guys with some things we’ve added that we’ve watched other people do. There are some things that to be honest with you were a little foreign to me and when we started talking about them and looking at them and talking to people and doing our research, I think you get a handle on what the specifics are in terms of trying to run certain things. It’s been fun, it’s really been fun. I think that’s where our offensive staff that we’ve had a lot of guys that have looked at a lot of different things and have had input and that’s the fun part of coaching this part of year.
Q: Do you typically allow young quarterbacks to do some of the small things like calling audibles?
A: First of all, he’s really benefitted from having Matt [Cassel] here and Christian [Ponder] here because those two guys know how to play, they know how to manage a huddle, they know how to manage the line of scrimmage and one of the things we’re doing is giving them multiple plays at the line of scrimmage. We are going to do some no-huddle at times, we’re at least practicing it right now. Based on things you’re getting, based on looks you’re getting, we’re trying to get to a better play or the right play or a good play and then obviously stay out of a bad play. That’s part of the thing that I think has been a challenge for all three quarterbacks but I think they’ve handled it real well. We’re going to do a period today of no-huddle with three drives of eight plays each so we’ll see how much we’ve progressed since the last time we did it.
Q: What have you seen from Cordarrelle in the time that you’ve had him?
A: The most obvious thing, and you see it when he returns kicks, is he’s a natural runner. He’s got great instincts when he gets the ball in his hand and he makes great run decisions. He’s got great vision. I think from day one to now he’s improved as a route runner. He’s been very serious about working as a route runner. I think George Stewart has done a great job with him, the details of running routes. He’s so explosive when he comes off the ball the way he’s capable of coming off the ball. He creates problems for defensive backs. I think he’s made great strides. We have a lot of work to do when we come back and start again in July. The defense has changed, you see a lot more press, bump-and-run coverages when you get into training camp when you have pads on. I think he’s a good example of where our guys are. I love his talent. I think every on our offense – coaches, players – we have a lot of work to do. We have a really demanding schedule, we play a lot of good defenses. We have a lot of work to do to where we want to be to be the type of offense we would like to have.
Q: How do you envision
A: It’s fun to have that big speed guy on the outside and when we’ve had it that guy has usually averaged 18-20 yards a catch. We do tend to get more single coverage, particularly with Adrian back there. He’s had a very good offseason and hopefully he can be that guy they have to respect and if they don’t hopefully he can make big plays.
Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards
We have got two days of practice left and we are excited about those two days to get that evaluation. The guys have been working hard so we are just anxious to get out there these last two days, got a couple of evaluations, see these guys work, continue to work on the fundamentals and techniques that we are doing and then head to training camp, hopefully with some recall of the things that we have installed this offseason and get going.
A: Our assistant coaches have done a good job since we have had them in here for the rookie minicamp, they have been able to travel out and work with them some at their respective schools, we have been using Skype, those kind of things, to kind of keep them caught up as far as the install of what we have been able. Now, they have missed the work here as far as the reps and things, but mentally they have come back in, they’ve got a good grasp of what we’re doing, what we’ve introduced to them, when they were here. We have just got to keep working on the fundamentals and technique of what we’re trying to get accomplished and keep getting them comfortable within the system. We’re really looking for those two men as we progress down the road.
Q: What’s the dynamic been like between you and
A: It’s been good. I’ve worked with Zim, Mike, way back from back in Dallas, so we have known each other a long time. A good working relationship, a lot of respect for what he has done in this league, defensively. Systematically with this system as its grown over the years and seeing where it’s at, so it’s been a great working relationship.
Q: What sort of role do you envision for Anthony Barr?
A: Right now we’re kind of just working at different skill sets, different positions and keep on fitting in where his skill sets go. So, systematically we are flexible enough that we can take his skill set and put him in positions where hopefully it helps us, most advantageous, whether rushing the passer, whether its dropping in coverage. All of those things that he is able to bring to the table. We’re just moving him around right now, working his different skill sets and just seeing where he fits.
Q: In the safety competition is there anyone that stands out alongside
A: Yeah, I’ll tell you that all of those guys have been back there competing their butts off all offseason. Right now that’s what we try to generate at the position, I think we have done a good job of that, between the draft and the young kids that we have got in here, it’s a joy to go out there and watch them every day with that competition at that position, every day they know they have got to come to work, they’ve got to study, they’ve got to be on top of the things that we are trying to work, so we are excited about where we are right now and look forward to keep progressing the competition as we get into training camp.
Q: What have you seen from
A: He’s done a good job coming in, adjusting to what we’re asking him to adjust to. He played a lot of nickel inside, in the slot, those kind of things in Carolina the last couple of years, which kind of caught our eye. He’s come in, he’s picked up on the system, the last couple of days he has really had a couple of good practices for us. Coming out of last week, the OTAs, coming into this minicamp, where he seems to have a good grasp of what we’re trying to get accomplished. We’ve just got to keep working the fundamentals and what we’re asking him to do, understanding the concepts of what we’re getting from our offense and what we’re going to get down the road. We’re pleased with where he is right now. We have just got to keep working. We feel like he will be a good addition to us inside in the slot.
Q: What does Captain Munnerlyn bring as a veteran presence to your defense and is he able to implement it in his first year in Minnesota?
A: Yeah, there’s no doubt. From system to system, from team to team, there’s only so many different things that you do. We have a different way of handling situations, which he’s been able to adjust and adapt to since he has been here. What offenses are trying to do to us schematically, just being able to communicate with the guys inside as far as the linebackers, the safeties and the corners outside. He brings that sort of veteran experience to that position, which helps us out a lot. From that aspect of it, him being on the field, being able to communicate different things, whether its splits of receivers, whether its anticipation of down and distance, getting the run or pass, all of those types of things that come with the experience he brings to that position.
Q: What adjustments does Anthony Barr have to do only playing two years in a 3-4 defense?
A: Well again, like you said, he’s only played defense for two years there in college. But out of those two years he wore a lot of hats from them. He’s doing a lot of the similar things that we are asking him to do, whether its rush the passer, whether its drop back in coverage, playing off the ball a little bit more than he probably has in the past, but from that aspect of it, right now we’re just trying to get him in those positions, look at his skill set, evaluate him and try to get the most out of his ability.
Q: Do you see Barr’s role evolving as he gets more game experience?
A: Sure, I mean, we mean it for all of our players. As we come in and the more comfortable they become systematically, they start to wear more different hats. Right now we just try them at different positions, working them in different techniques and fundamentals within the scheme, that’s pretty much it. We will put the pieces together as we get to training camp and just kind of not to pigeon hole somebody to they’re this or they’re that. We try to take the skill set and what we’re asking them to do. We’ve moved a lot of guys around since we have been here this offseason. We’ve worked a lot of different guys at different positions, that’s what we’ve been trying to evaluate here this whole offseason as we progress down the road.
Q: Speaking of moving guys around, what are your impressions of
A: Well we knew Chad has been a productive linebacker since he has been here, so from that aspect of it, we know what he brings to the room, but again, playing him from outside linebacker to middle linebacker depending on which package we are in, as far as route progressions, as far as runs, as far as his reads and those kinds of things. We knew there were a lot of similarities in what it is we are going to ask him to do, so from that aspect of it, he’s transitioned well in and out, from what we’ve asked him to do from the different packages and what we’ve asked him to do. We’re pleased with where he is right now, we’ve got to keep progressing, keep getting familiar with all of the calls and terminology and the reads and those kind of things, but he’s a heck of a pro. I mean the guy comes to work every day, he’s prepared every day, what you see is what you get out of him, that’s why he’s a good player.
Q: Everybody talks about Anthony Barr’s intelligence, do you have an example?
A: Just take for example, he’s been out in California here for this whole period, he came in yesterday, we kind of had a big install in yesterday. His first day back for this mandatory minicamp, he seemed to understand the concepts of what it is we’re trying to teach right off the bat, so from that aspect of it, he can transition from the meeting room to the field and that’s always a pleasure to coach when you have got a guy that can transition. He can see it in your meeting room, you walk out on the field, you walk through it and then all of the sudden you get taking live reps at it, he can adjust and adapt to it and be in good shape as far as his responsibility about a call.
Q: In the base defense how do you see the middle linebacker position competition shaping up?
A: Right now it’s the same thing. Right now we’re working a lot of guys in and out of that position, we’ve transitioned guys in and out so it’s a competition that we feel good about the guys that we got in there competing every day and those guys have been working their butts off so from that aspect of it, we’re excited where we are. Just know that we still have a lot of work to do at the position as we keep transitioning down the road. Those guys will keep competing they’re going to give you everything they’ve got both mentally and physically. So from that aspect of it, when we get to training camp, get the pads on, start competing. That says a lot, especially out of that position because of the physical traits that it takes to play the position.
Q: You’ve been mixing and matching a lot in the secondary, what are you looking for in guys back there?
A: Again, like Coach Zimmer has said numerous times, we’re trying to get the best group of guys back there assembled. Take position out of it. We have asked guys to do things outside of their comfort zone, schematically from what they’re used to doing in the past. We’re trying to keep that open competition going. We’ve moved guys around just to see that their talents and their skill sets and what we’re asking them to do by call and try and just keep the evaluation as we move down the road. Because when you start getting down to a limited number of players, things happen during the course of the year, between injuries, between guys missing games or whatever. That skillset, the more that you can do, we can transition in and out of those situations as best as possible.
Q: What’s been your impression of
A: Xavier, to me, has really been confident. These last couple of practices, especially you can see it. It seems like he’s not thinking as much as he was before, so his confidence level is going up in what we’re asking him to do. You can see him, he’s making a lot of plays out there on the ball, locating the ball, just with the technique and fundamental things that we’re asking our corners to do. Although we’re not able to press as much now, we know that ought to be down the road he ought to be good at. So from that aspect of it, we’re really pleased with where he is at now and you can tell that with the confidence, the way he’s in the building, he’s transitioning from the meeting room out to the practice field and how he’s competing every day at practice.
Q: What are you seeing from
A: I know his history. He’s been a corner before, he’s been a safety, from that aspect of it, it’s been a good transition for him. He’s done a good job communicating calls for a rookie coming in and everything that we’ve thrown at him we think he’s done a very good job of concentrating; focusing on what it is we’re asking him to do. He’s still a work in progress as far as what we’re trying get accomplished with him, but we like his attitude, his attention to detail, he comes in and he works every day.
Q: The defensive line lost some veterans, how is the chemistry?
A: I think it’s been good. Those guys have been competing every day, working together. That group, I think, is a good group. There was a lot of holes there when we first came in here, we’ve added some new players to that position. One thing you always like to see is guys working together and trying to help each other and you see that group right now coaching each other when we’re not around, helping each other, trying to talk about pointers, trying to talk about the message that we’re trying to get accomplished, what we’re trying to do schematically, defensively the fundamentals and techniques of it. It’s always good to see those guys working together and knowing what it is we’re trying to get done. That’s what it takes, it takes all 11 players being on the same page per call and just firing off the ball and being able to get accomplished what it is we’re trying to get done.
A: Anytime you have got an injury, you like to have guys out there getting evalutated, but that’s something you can’t control, so the aspect of it is they’re here in the meetings, starting to work in certain things in practice, but from that aspect of it, we’ll just keep progressing. When we get them back we’ll keep working, see where they’re at and just keep the evaluation going as they get back.
Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer
Glad to be back talking to you guys, it’s been awhile, excited about where this team is headed, really excited about the coaching staff we have from the head coach on down. His focus is being a team, which obviously has been a part of my philosophy my whole career. Got a great bunch of teachers, including my assistant Ryan Ficken, who does a phenomenal job for me, it’s his second year working with me and he’s become very integrated into the special teams, become a very good football coach. I’m excited about where we are headed and I’m excited about our new players, our veteran guys that came back and we’re ready to roll.
Q: What can
A: Jerick, he’s a unique athlete. He’s not a real big guy, but he has great speed and quickness as you guys have seen in practice here the last four weeks or so. He can be a backup returner, I don’t think he’s quite ready to take over that role yet, but he can be a backup returner, he can help on the punt team, probably as a wing. I have him working as a wing and as a personal protector, what we call a fullback, probably on kickoff and punt return as well, because he’s got great feet and uses his hands well. On kickoff, you don’t know if he can tackle, he’s been asked to play a lot of quarterback (in college), but he’s a tough kid and I look forward to working with him.
Q: Do you want a second guy back there to help
A: Yeah, we’ve talked about that. Because he will be more involved in the offense, I’m hoping to do what we did a couple of years ago with Percy (Harvin), 2011 we didn’t use Percy a lot, 2012 we changed our philosophy where we said, “That’s our first down play”, kickoff return, if it’s a touchback which many of them are, take a knee, he’s out there on offense. If he get a big return, okay, then he takes a play off and comes back out. We’re hoping to use Cordarrelle in the same manner.
Q: How do you see playing at the Gopher’s stadium effecting the punting and kicking?
A: Oh, it will definitely effect it, late in the year, especially. The great thing is that we have had our specialists go down there three times this spring. Jeff (Locke) and Blair (Walsh) went down there back during the first minicamp and it was real windy, cold, blustery day and they got a really good idea of what the winds are going to do. Jeff’s got this elaborate drawing of what the winds are going to do that he and Blair put together, I mean these are smart guys, a lot smarter than me. The last two weeks we have sent Cullen (Loeffler) down with them, so the three specialists have gone down and have gotten a lot of work down in TCF and to feel more comfortable down there. It’s never going to be easy, especially late in the year when it’s really windy. If you know where the winds are going, you have your sight lines, we’re going to use that as a home-field advantage.
Q: How much will the winds change from what they see now to what they may see in November or December?
A: I haven’t been down there but I can imagine, coaching in Green Bay, against Green Bay, coaching in Chicago during bad weather, it’s going to probably be very similar, but if we have an idea of the wind patterns and how they come off of the big scoreboard on the one end, and they got the closed end on the other side so we will have a good idea going into every pregame of how strong the winds are, what the crosswinds are going to be like, tailwind, headwind and what we need to do to be successful and it should be an advantage over our opponent.
Q: Is the University of Minnesota Stadium a little more open than even some of the other NFL stadiums?
A: I think so, I think so. I know Seattle has those two open ends right there. But in terms it has that big huge scoreboard in that one end that will affect the winds some; it will go around that scoreboard, whip off one side and come across on the other side. It will definitely be a factor, but again one that we are hoping to get used to.
Q: Does the fact that the stadium is kind of on an East/West alignment instead of a North/South throw a curve ball at you?
A: Yeah, you know it is what it is, but it’s one of those things that if we are used to it and work with it, that’s why the three times we have gotten out there this spring are huge. Now they get an idea, now we are getting ready to play Oakland in that first preseason game, who knows what the winds will be that night, it should be warm, hopefully. After this year, who knows? It’s one of those things that I think we will be well prepared for.
Q: What have you seen in Jeff Locke and his second year in the League?
A: Stronger, more confident, really punted well the last eight games of the year. As we know he struggled a little bit early, but he came back that last second half of the season and he is every bit the punter we think he is and hopefully more, because he is very conscientious, he’s gotten stronger, he’s still young, he’s still working, we are still tweaking his technique. We want him to be more of a directional punter now because we are going to use the crosswinds now in these outdoors stadiums we are playing in, of course at home. I’m looking forward to seeing his development as we go.
Q: What have you seen from Marcus Sherels over the years and what are your expectations?
A: Marcus (Sherels), I’m sure everybody in the room that knows him, loves him. He’s a fine young man, he works hard, doesn’t say much, very humble. Broke our record last year for punt return average, had a phenomenal year for us, does a great job in the coverage phases, did a nice job for us on defense, does everything he is asked to do, does everything he is coached to do. We have talked to him a little bit about taking more chances next year in terms of instead of fair catching a few, let’s go ahead and take a chance there and believe that you are going to make that first man miss type of mentality, make him a little bit more aggressive as we go. That’s kind of our expectation for this year and continues with his development. I’m glad he’s with us, I wouldn’t want to face him.
Q: What has your approach been to this whole investigation?
A: Yeah, it’s been one of those things. I come to work every morning, I’m excited about the direction of this football team, I really like our coaching staff, I’m excited about our new players, I’m excited about the guys we retained, that came back, so my focus has been totally on football.