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Transcripts: Zimmer and Draft Picks Talk On Day One of Rookie Minicamp

Posted May 17, 2014

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer

We just finished a little jog-through with these guys. We’re excited about having all of the rookies in here right now. We’ve got quite a few guys trying out this weekend. We finished up one of the Phase II with the entire team last weekend, including the rookies, so it’s been going well and we keep trying to teach them our system, keep teaching them our techniques, and I think we are getting better.

Q: Did the draft falling two weeks later change anything or do you have to adjust the calendar at all?

A: No, I think it helped us being a new staff a little bit, give us more time to settle down with the draft being later. We just adjust to however they do it.  

Q: Are the rookies at a disadvantage all?

A: If they would let them come and let them be apart of Phase II it would have been beneficial but we got a week with them last week with all of the guys. There’s plenty of time.

Q: What is the biggest thing you want the rookies to take away from these three days?

A: I think with the guys that we drafted that are on the quarter system, the biggest thing is really the techniques. I want them to learn how we are lifting, how we coach the different techniques, the different coverage part of things. Then with Yankey, more about the techniques with him and play calls, terminology, things like that, things that they can take and go back to their schools and work on. The other guys are going to be here so that’s not difficult.

Q: What is your early take on Teddy Bridgewater?

A: Good. I really like him. He’s a really nice kid and he’s catching on. I like how hard he’s been studying and working and how good he wants to be. A lot of this stuff is different for him now too – the terminology and the play calls – and Scott (Turner) is coaching the heck out of him. It’s been good. He’s throwing the ball good and I think he’s got a good presence, a good command of the way he’s taking things. It was good for him to be out here with the veteran quarterbacks a little last week. We kept all of the rookies out a little longer to do an extra session with them to kind of catch them up. I think all of that stuff is good. We’re trying to make sure that we’re getting all of these young guys caught up.

Q: If he’s not a starter, given his popularity 4th in rookie jersey sales, does that create a distraction at all?

A: No, I really don’t care where his jersey ranks as far as sales or anything like that. No, we’re going to bring Teddy along at the right time and I’ve said this before, I want competition at every spot and watching the quarterbacks that we have, I feel like they’ve improved in the short time since we had the first minicamp to where they are at now. They’ve improved a lot throwing the football, I think they’ve improved a lot with their footwork, so we’ll see where all of that goes.

Q: Did you learn anything about Teddy Bridgwater these last few days?

A: One of things I noticed about him even when we were out there with the rookies after the Phase II, they would call a play and they were just running one route and he would recall the whole play to himself, basically. Just so he gets all of the terminology so he would get the terminology down, the whole thing. I was impressed with that part of what he did, just how bad he wants to learn. It’s not like, “Hey, I’m throwing an out now.” He would say the whole formation, the whole play, what it’s on and just repeat it as he goes. That was impressive, but other than that not really.

Q: What did you think of those defensive guys taken on the third day of the draft?

A: We’ve had a chance to work with those guys too and I’ve been impressed. The two corners, and we signed the two corners already – Kendall James and Jabari Price – and also David Yankey. I do feel good about those DBs, those guys we took, and Brandon Watts has looked good in shorts. You know this stuff is in shorts so we don’t want to be instant evaluators, but some athletic ability there, some things to work with.

Q: Can you talk about your impressions of Jerick McKinnon?

A: Yeah, I like him. I think we are going to find some things for him to do. He’s short in stature but he’s got big legs and a big rear end and he’s got explosiveness, so I think we’ll find some things for him to do.

Q: Is there a common theme with those defensive backs?

A: Speed and acceleration.

Q: What do you look for in those rookie free agent guys?

A: I think it’s just the flash part of things, the athletic ability, and then obviously knowing what to do a little bit. Obviously, they aren’t going to know everything to do. But you see a guy with the right measurables, size-wise, and things like that and then he flashes at you a few times and gets better over the course of the weekend, those are the kinds of guys that we are really looking for.

Q: What point do you say Antone Exum could be a safety at this level and not a cornerback?

A: The safety position in college football really is hard to find guys now at least in my opinion – guys that have the coverage ability that you are looking for. There are times in my career that I always thought, “Let’s play three with corners and one safety and make the other guy a safety because of the throwing that’s been going on in the league.” The bigger corners that may not be quite as fast that are better tacklers, that are more physical, smart – they have to be smart – we always have a little category for those guys to be a possibility of being safeties. And Rick [Spielman], their group upstairs, really they have little niche places for all of these guys so they’ve been doing it for a while. 

Q: In your mind what’s the biggest hurdle these guys have to overcome from college to professional?

A: The number one thing all of the time is terminology, learning the different terminology, and I think the different speeds. In college football – and I’m not trying to knock them – there is one quarterback or two quarterbacks that are really good and here you’re playing against really good ones and same with wide receivers and offensive lineman. Now you are playing a bunch of elites. It’s almost like when they play in the all-star games, every week they would have to be it. I think the big thing is just the competition level rises quite a bit, the speed of the game and then them having to learn the terminology and how fast they can catch on. The other part too is the special teams part. A lot of these guys have not had to do special teams before, not in a while anyway, and now they have to get back doing that.

Q: What’s your philosophy for once OTAs start where the rookies will be on the depth chart?

A: Oh they will start at the bottom. It doesn’t mean they will end there in the bottom. You’ve got to line them up somewhere and so they’ll start down there and we will go from there. You guys are more worried about the depth chart than I am. I’ll worry about it when we get in September.

Q: You said you wanted competition at every position, do you see that being the same on the offensive line or will you use familiarity with that group?

A: I think it’s good for all guys to play together regardless whether it’s the secondary or the offensive line or the backfield or whatever position it is. It is good and we’ll try and get it there as fast as we can. At this stage, where we haven’t even seen them in pads or anything close to a real competitive situation, it’s awful early to worry about that right now.

Q: You mentioned 3 of the 10 draft picks have been signed, do you think anymore will be this weekend?

A: I don’t know, that’s out of my job description. I let them handle that. I don’t get involved with the contracts, I just get involved with coaching.

Q: Is it Anthony Barr, Scott Crichton and David Yankey that are on the quarters system and won’t be here?

A: Yes, yes.

Q: How much does that set a guy like Anthony Barr back?

A: It’s hard for me judge how far it’s going to set him back. He was pretty good out there this morning with the reads and the alignments and all of the different things. We’ll have a plan for when he leaves. That’s one of the things we talked about with these three guys with the coaches. Here’s how we are going to handle this and we’re going to move forward from there since they’re not going to be here for these OTAs. We’ll get them the weight program, we’ll make sure they get with a strength coach that knows what we want done, we’ll get him some tape, we’re going to go out and see these guys. We’re going to go out, we can’t work them on the field, but we can go out and see them and spend a little time with them. Their coaches will go out there and spend some time with them, watch tape with them, talk to them about those things and we’ll give them a list of things after this weekend what we think they need to improve on in order to catch up to these guys.

Q: You’ve defended Norv Turner’s offenses before, how do you see him using Jerick McKinnon?

A: The change of pace backs like LT (Ladainian Tomlinson) and [Darren] Sproles and the little running back at Washington. What’s his name? [Brian] Mitchell. Similar. I think you have to ask Norv this but from our conversations he’s been thinking a lot about ways we can use him.

Q: With David Yankey, where are you starting him, left guard, right guard and what are some of his traits you like?

A: Number one I like his toughness and physicality. You know he’s pulled 100 times with the guards with the powers when he was at Stanford. We’re going to look at him more this weekend. We’re playing him all over the place right now but after this weekend we’ll look at it more. He may have to be a swing guy anyway. It’s too early to make that determination also.

Q: What do you see from Shamar Stephen?

A: Yeah he’s been out here a couple of days and he’s got some good power with him. I think he’s going to be a bigger guy once he gets a little more into the weight program, but he’s got great quickness, great quick hands. He’s got a chance down the road too. 

Q: He’s already at 300, do you see a weight you want him at?

A: Well I think he can develop a little more in his upper body. I haven’t talked to the strength coaches about weights and where we want them to be at and where they can get to at this point. We’ll have that conversation probably in the next two weeks.


Q: You referenced Anthony Barr as a fawn, did you see some indicators that he has only been playing defense for two years, or is it not that noticeable?

A: He’s progressed to a doe today. No, I don’t see that, I don’t see that. I know that’s a big thing with everybody that he’s only played 2 years, but the things he’s done defensively he’s done pretty well. Like today we just lined up and ran some plays and he played behind the line of scrimmage some and we didn’t blitz him any, just learning coverage and learning run responsibilities and where to be. Actually, he did that really, really well because I watched him a lot today. I don’t think it’s going to be an issue whatsoever.


Vikings Linebacker Anthony Barr

Q: What’s it been like here?

A: It’s been pretty fun. Good to be back out on the field this morning, running around a little bit. I’m just trying to get my assignments down and play football again.

Q: Has it been a lot trying to learn?

A: Yeah, trying to slowly get input defenses and schemes, still trying to pick those up. The quicker I learn my assignments the faster I will be able to play.

Q: Coach Mike Zimmer referred to you as a fawn last week in reference to only playing defense for two years, today he said you have progressed to a doe now, how do you feel about this promotion?

A: Oh really? That’s awesome. I guess I’m very happy to be a doe. We will see where that leads me.

Q: Only playing defense for two years, what are some of the things that you still need to pick up.

A: Well, now I’m playing a little more off of the ball, using my eyes a little better. Key guards and key fullbacks and stuff like that. That is stuff I’m still picking up.

Q: What are you expecting to take away from this weekend?

A:  Just to absorb as much information as I can. Hopefully learn my assignments so I can take those back with me and continue to progress.

Q: What do you think the biggest hurdle will be transitioning from college to professional?

A: I’m not too sure yet, still just getting started. I think after the weekend I will have a better idea what will be my biggest hurdle.


Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater

It’s a beautiful day out, just glad to be back playing football, looking forward to getting better each and every day.

Q: How do you think you did on your first day?

A: I think I did pretty good, from a mental and physical standpoint. The guys came out today; the wide receivers did a great job of executing the plays, running great routes and catching the football. The running backs did a great job also contributing in the passing game and also in the run game. The offensive line made it all happen.

Q: What has it been like trying to absorb everything that they are throwing at you, getting to know the playbook and the coaches?

A: It’s pretty cool, actually. You get to further your knowledge about the game of football. The coaches that we have here are some of the best in the league. I look forward to continuing to learn from these guys.

Q: Are they throwing a lot at you right now or is it kind of a gradual process?

A: Not at all, each day, me being a student of the game just wanting to get better each and every day. I’m always eager to learn so each day (I’m) just eager to learn. 

Q: Coach Zimmer mentioned you had some time working after practice working with the veterans, what were some of the things you were able to do?

A: Just trying to catch up, get up to speed. Matt (Cassel) and Christian (Ponder) have been here for awhile now, those guys have taken me under their wing and been teaching me whether it’s from a field standpoint or a film standpoint just trying to catch me up to speed.

Q: You were fourth in Jersey sales, does that surprise you at all?

A: It’s just a dream come true just to be in the National Football League and hey, if you think about it, my mom bought a jersey so she is single handedly contributing to that.

Q: Was there a moment over the last week where it hit you that you’re a professional football player?

A: Not at all, I think it hit me as soon as I arrived here, just being around the group of guys in that locker room and seeing how serious they take their craft. It stands out to you and it sends a message to the whole team.

Q: Have you put a timetable on yourself as to how quickly you want to catch up?

A: Not at all, right now I’m just eager to get better each and every day and just continue to just learn from those guys, learn from the coaching staff and continue to elevate my game.

Q: Is your attitude geared to winning the starting job or paying your dues?

A: My attitude really is just to get better each and every day and try to make the guys in the room that I’m in better players also and just the guys on the team better guys. I’m always willing and eager to get better each and every day.

Q: What’s the challenge to get in sync with a new receiving group?

A: It’s not really a challenge, you just put the time in and you’re in the National Football League now, you have nothing but free time just putting the extra work in with those guys, pulling them aside after a meeting or after lifting weights, going through a simple walk through, timing up those guys, that is what it takes just going the extra mile.

Q: Antonio Richardson said you guys have known each other since playing together in the All-American game in high school. What do you remember about him? What’s it like being out here with him now?

A: It’s a great feeling to play with someone that you played in the Army All-American game with. He’s a special guy, he’s someone who’s always eager to get better also. I remember back in the Army All-American game I used to call him “big man.” That hasn’t changed. He’s still pretty big as you can see. He’s just someone who’s eager to get better and just always willing to learn.

Q: Have you been keeping track of him over the years? Are you surprised he went undrafted?

A: I haven’t really been able to keep track of anyone. I’m just glad to be a teammate with him now and just look forward to getting better.

Q: Were you surprised that your comment about not wanting to play in Cleveland caused some commotion?

A: I was just comfortable with the Minnesota Vikings and comfortable with the relationship I had established Rick [Spielman] and the Turners and ever since I’ve been here it’s lived up to expectations. It’s really gotten even better, it’s even beyond expectations. I’m just eager to get better, that group of guys in that locker room take their job serious. Honestly I’d just like to put the pre-draft stuff behind and just try and be the best Viking I can be.

Q: What do you remember from Shamar Stephen from the times you guys played each other?

A: I just remember him always being the biggest guy on the field. I remember we were playing him on a Friday night this past season, we tried to run a round play and he blew up the entire play. So I just remember that, that stood out.

Q: What kind of value does he add as a 7th-round pick?

A: He’s just someone who is big, physical and tenacious. He has a tenacious attitude. He’s just someone who as time goes on will continue to get better.

Q: Although you are pretty serious about this, have you gotten any time to relax at all?

A: I was able to go to a [Minnesota Wild] hockey game my first night here so that was pretty cool, my first ever hockey game. The Wild actually won that night, so it was a great feeling. Just being able to be out in the city on that first night I was here was just a great feeling. Just being out with a teammate actually, Cordarrelle Patterson, he was out, he showed me a good time and when the night was over we continued to just get better, went back to the hotel, he introduced me to the playbook. He’s a special guy. Not too many guys will take you under their wing when you’re a young guy but he went the extra mile and just told me, “We’re going to make sure you’re ready once Monday comes.” It was a great feeling.

Q: What were some of the things the fans were saying to you when you went to the hockey game?

A: A loud cheer, everybody was happy to see me. I stood up, gave a wave and just continued to smile.

Q: Were you overwhelmed when you saw the playbook?

A: Not at all. Me just being the guy that I am, everything comes easy to me. But at the same time it’s also a challenge to actually just get better each and every day because the guys around you are continually getting better also, so you just have to continue to go the extra mile and just put the extra time in to study so it wasn’t too much.

Q: How many hours a day do you spend at the facility?

A: Every second that I get.

Q: What is your take on Jerick McKinnon and his athleticism?

A: Oh he’s very athletic. He can do some exciting things once the ball is in his hands. He had a great college career playing both sides of the football. He’s pretty athletic coming out of the backfield catching the ball. He has great hands, soft hands, and even running the ball he has great cuts, he stays low, so it’s pretty exciting having him in the backfield.

Q: Is it a little more difficult working with receivers you’ve never worked with before?

A: Not at all because we have nothing but time on our hands right now. We have time to get better and build chemistry. It’s not a challenge at all if you go the extra mile and just continue to put the time in and continue to get better with those guys.

Q: Are you working with Coach Zimmer at all or is it mainly with Norv and Scott Turner on the offensive side?

A: I’m hearing from the entire coaching staff. It’s a family environment here. Every coach is accepting you with open arms and just continuing to walk around, they’ll speak to you. Their doors are always open, so it’s a great feeling knowing that it’s a family environment that you’re in.

Q: What’s the hardest part about a Norv Turner offense for a quarterback?

A: You know it’s not really hard at all if you put the time in. Just learning from Coach Turner, Scott and Norv, it’s a great feeling because Norv, he’s pretty established in the league, and Scott, his son, he’s pretty established also learning from his dad. Just being able to learn this offense, it hasn’t been a challenge or anything at all, as I continue to say, just go and put the time in and go the extra mile because like I said, we’re in the NFL now. It’s your job now. You have nothing to do but learn football, so that’s been my mindset so far and I’m going to continue to learn it.


Vikings Defensive End Scott Crichton

Q: What is the challenge with you having to go back to school?

A:  Just trying to absorb as much as I can from the coaches, from some of the players that I have met over here like Everson (Griffen) and B Rob (Brian Robison) too. So I met them and they are telling me some stuff too. Just trying to soak everything in.

Q: What are some of the challenges with that, knowing that you have to go back?

A: It’s just a lot of stuff all in one day. It’s kind of overwhelming, but no, I have got to do what I’ve got to do. I’m taking notes and I’m watching the film, I’m talking to my coach one-on-one. It’s all good right now, I haven’t got to the real stuff yet, still kind of going over the base plays right now, but it will probably get a little worse. I’ll be ready, I’ll be ready.

Q: What is the most difficult part of the transition from what you have learned defensively and now what you have at the professional level?

A: A lot of the stuff is similar, actually. The most difficult is just learning a new system, new coaches, I have got to adapt to everybody. I have got to adapt to the new competition of the NFL basically. The whole gig is difficult.

Q: Where are you being used the most along the defensive line?

A: I was on the right side most of the time.

Q: Have they been kicking you inside?

A: I have been kicking inside on pass rush downs.

Q: You have been compared to Brian Robison, what do you make of those comparisons?

A: That’s an honor to be compared to B Rob. He’s a great player, great dude. I hope I can be just like him. One of these days hopefully I can do that.

Q: How do you see the skills being the same between the two of you?

A: We are both kind of the same guy player wise. He’s got a good burst, strong, physical, a lot of intensity. Hopefully I can emulate my game after his. 

Q: When you look at the defense, what stood out to you schematically?

A: We only went over a couple of plays. We were running the same play the whole time, mainly. Really not that much right now, but like I said, over the course of the weekend we will probably get more plays in and it will be a little harder.


Vikings Running Back Jerick McKinnon

Q: How do you feel catching the ball, seeing as how you didn’t have to do it much at Georgia Southern?

A: I feel real comfortable, we ran a little bit different offense in college, but as far as catching the ball I’m real comfortable with it

Q: You mentioned idolizing Adrian Peterson, are there other players you emulate your game after or would like to at this point?

A: I like LeSean McCoy, Jamall Charles, I like LaDainian (Tomlinson), Darren Sproles.

Q: Can you be that Sproles type of guy?

A: I think so, if I get the opportunity to return, I think I can help out in that way, other special teams of course. Whenever they need me to come in and come out of the backfield and stuff like that. I definitely think I can contribute in that way.

Q: You mentioned a couple of those running backs when Norv Turner coached in San Diego, did you watch those guys much?

A: I watched LT (LaDainian Tomlinson) the other day in the running back’s room. We were watching some old cut up film that had LT on there. Just watching LT come out of those cuts, set up the linebacker and spin the opposite way was definitely exciting to watch.


Vikings Guard David Yankey

Q: Today were you playing left or right guard or both?

A: Just left.

Q: Have you noticed the offensive line scheme’s complexity?

A: Definitely, in talking with Coach Davidson and going through meetings the first couple of days here it’s been pretty intense and it’s good to learn it.

Q: Is it anything like Stanford’s?

A: Yeah, definitely, there are always similarities. At the end of the day everyone runs somewhat of the same schemes so it’s cool to see a little bit of the carryover.

Q: Would you say it helped knowing Coach Davidson going into this process?

A: I’ve met him a few times, but I have never really sat down and talked to him. It was us two getting to know each other, which is pretty cool

Q: You went up against Anthony Barr three times in the last two years, what have you seen in his progression?

A: Yeah, he is an awesome player. He is obviously a freak athlete. Like you said his first year at defense was both of our junior years and since then he has gotten so much better, you see those instincts and all of that stuff. It’s really cool to see him develop as a player.