Vikings Coach Mike Zimmer Speaks at Training Camp

Mike Zimmer

We placed Casey Matthews on reserved injured, placed Josh Robinson on active PUP and placed Shamar Stephen and DaVaris Daniels on the active non-football injury. It was good to get out here and had a good little walk-thru. Guys were crisp. They seemed to have some recall. It looks a lot different than it did a year ago at this time. Guys are pretty focused and into it. I like this team.

Q: When did Casey Matthews’ injury come to the surface?

A: He said it happened during going over hurdles or something in the offseason program.

Q: Looking at the wide receiving corp, there are lots of battle. Is that one position that goes to the top of the list?

A: I feel good about the guys that we have there. We have some talent, some young guys that look like they have a chance to contribute. Stefon Diggs, I think he’s got a chance to be a real NFL guy. Adding [Mike] Wallace and the guys we had before in CJ [Charles Johnson] Cordaralle [Patterson] and Jarius Wright. Then Adam [Thielen], he has always done such a great job especially when he gets in, he does a great job. I don’t know if I really look at as a positional battle. I just look as we got some pretty good guys in there. We’re going to try and keep as many guys as we can as long as they continue to prove that they’re worthy.

Q: We saw Anthony Barr out there on the field moving pretty well. Is he good to go?

A: Yeah, he feels much better. He has had a really good last two weeks. He is not in the best physical condition right now so he is going to go through the walk-thru, he is going to go through individual, and then we’re going to go condition him and rehab him during practice. Then he is going to come back and watch. So we’ve got that with a couple guys that we’re rehabbing that weren’t prepared to take the conditioning test yesterday.

Q: Any surprises with the conditioning test?

A: No, actually we had one guy that didn’t make it but other than that they were great.

Q: What have you seen from Mike Harris at that right guard spot?

A: He went in there last year and played some and did a good job against Buffalo. He has played it in the past. We just felt like we weren’t ready to stick a rookie in there right away and say, “Hey you’re the guy.” So we are going to let these guys battle it out see where it goes.

Q: How many players do you have competing for that right guard spot?

A: Actually, quite a few. We just have to see who ends up going there and where they go. We decided we are probably going to keep T.J. Clemmings at tackle. I think that is his best position after going through all of OTA’s and minicamp. Tyrus Thompson is in there. We’ll probably give [Joe] Berger some reps in there at some point. There is still [David] Yankey and we felt like Carter Bykowski who we had in there for a while will probably be best at tackle.

Q: What would you say is Harrison Smith’s best quality as a football player?

A: He is a great competitor. He plays real hard, practices real hard, he is instinctive. Somebody texted me about him the other day and I said to them, one of the things about him that I probably admire the most about him is that he works really hard on any deficiences that he has. So he has improved in a lot of areas from last year during spring ball to OTA’s to where we are at now. A lot of it is because of his determination to work on his deficiencies.

Q: What specifically do you want Harrison Smith to work on?

A: I don’t really want to talk about his deficiencies in the media, but we talk about some of these things. I think he has improved quite a bit. I am just trying to get him to be an all-around really good player, like some of the great safeties that I’ve had before. He has a lot of those attributes but the biggest attribute he has is inside. I think that’s what I admire the most about him.

Q: What’s the best advice you can give to guys like Trae Waynes?

A: Make plays. That’s the easiest way to do it. Play with great technique. I think a lot of young guys they come in and they’re confident but they’re not sure that they’re confident. A lot of times, it’s important that they continue to develop that and don’t lose their confidence. They’re going against great receivers every week now and in practice, they’re going to be beat at times, but they’re just going to have to understand. That’s part of that position anyway, playing the corner position, you have to eliminate those negative plays that you had and focus on the positive ones and have a short memory, basically.

Q: What’s Shamar Stephen’s injury and how long will he be out?

A: We think it’s probably going to be a maximum of three days. He got a massage on his knee because it was a little tender and then he got on an airplane and swelled up. It’s nothing.

Q: What’s going on with Josh Robinson?

A: He’s on PUP [physically unable to perform].

Q: Do you have an idea for how long?

A: I do

Q: Are you not disclosing that?

A: No

Q: How much confidence do you have in Adam Thielen?

A: I think Adam does a lot of great things and he’s a guy that cares an awful lot. It’s important to him. He’s a smart guy and I think he’s continued to improve from, at least from the time I saw him, to where he is now. It’s really a tribute to his hard work, his dedication and his determination.

Q: What are you looking for from Audie Cole at the middle linebacker spot?

A: It’s a spot that’s up for grabs and I just want the best guy to come in there and do what he needs to do. Audie made a lot of tackles against that last game against Chicago. His communication has improved tremendously from a year ago at this time, so that’s part of it. I think he understands the defense much better now than he did a year ago and really the things that we’re asking him to do. He just needs to continue to really carry on from where he finished – making plays, being physical, understanding the pass concepts and the pass games because that’s such a big thing now for linebackers. It’s not just playing the run anymore or the play actions. They need to understand where they need to be in the passing game.

Q: What do you see from the guys you have in the nickel situation with Captain Munnerlyn and Trae Waynes?

A: We’ll see. I don’t know, we’ll keep throwing guys in there and keep looking at them and see where it goes. But I kind of have a little plan but we’ll see if my plan works out or not.

Q: Is there something you learned last year in your first training camp as head coach that you’re applying coming in this year?

A: I took notes last year on a lot of different scenarios and I wrote them in a book. I kind of tried to continue to do that. Honestly, I feel so much more comfortable with the team, especially the offensive guys and the special teams guys. I’m around the defense quite a bit. Being able to go talk to them and coach them and tell them things that defenses are trying to do with them like players. Just the communication level between Teddy [Bridgewater] and myself, even Adrian [Peterson]. Just all of the different things. Honestly, the other thing that really helps is that basically we have the same coaching staff back for another year, so the meetings that we have as coaches are a little bit shorter just because we already know the practice schedule is going to be like this, we might change something here and there, but we don’t have to sit there and discuss a lot of different things. We’re able to get it going and go from there. I feel more confident about the way we’re doing things.

Q: Do you think it matters staying at home versus going away from training camp?

A: With the facilities here and us having 90 players at Winter Park, it would be tough, so I do think that the situation we’re in right now is the best for us to get ready as a football team. I think Mankato does a great job of helping us feel welcome and the university here as well, so at this particular time, I believe that this is the best way to go for us.

Q: With all of the pectoral injuries that you have, did you look into see what’s happening there?

A: We did. I’ve had our strength coach research; I’ve had our trainer research. We sat that and talked about all of the different things, what causes pectoral injuries, what we can do to prevent them and what we can do to help. We’ve monitored a lot of things, and a lot of people have told us that it’s just freak luck, but sometimes when we’re bench pressing and if a guy bounces off the chest, that’s where he gets the tears. We’re going to work on strengthening the rotator cuffs much more than we have. We’re going to warm up better than we’ve had. We’ve addressed that and always when we get more than one type of injuries, and especially pectoral that is, it’s more of an unusual injury, you have to figure out. Sometimes when you’re benching and you get a pec, you have a strong surface, but when you’re out on the field, you don’t have anything behind you to hold you back. I’ve actually talked to these guys that had the injuries and asked them if they were fatigued at the time, I’ve asked them what set it was, if they were benching at that particular time. Most of them have happened on the field. I asked Phil Loadholdt, I said, “How about during the week at practice, did you bench more that week? Did you do more push exercises? How did you feel?” And he said, “Coach, I felt great that whole week.” We’ve researched it and we’re hopefully on top of it.

Q: Did you guys do all that research before Josh Robinson hurt his pec?

A: No, that was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back right there. That was kind of a freak one too – he fell on it. Sometimes, these injuries happen. I don’t know if they’re preventable but it’s my job and our responsibility to look into every possible way that we cannot have those.

Q: Do you think some of it might be from machines to free weights?

A: No I don’t believe so. I know one thing, that we’re stronger. The way we’re doing things, we’re more physical in our mentality. I changed the weight program because I want our football team to have a certain type of mentality. I want them to have a certain type of aggressiveness. I believe that’s a lot about mindset as well. When you’re down there and you hear those weights banging and guys working and sweating their rear ends off together, I think it’s important that we do it that way. Maybe I’m just old school, but I believe that.

Q: How much has changed the way you go about lifting because of the pecs?

A: We’re not changing how we’re lifting. We’re changing the preparation of how we’re lifting and some of the areas that we’re trying to strengthen more. If your rotator cuff, from the information that I gathered, if you’re strong in that area and strong in the other areas around the pec, that helps to keep those things from happening. But again, like I’ve said, with [Brandon] Fusco, [Phil] Loadholdt, Josh Robinson – they were all on the field. Brian was actually in the weight room and I asked him what set he was on and he said “second set,” and I asked if there was a lot of weight on there and he said, “No.” The other thing is the way we spot. We’ve added another strength coach here for these couple of weeks to help with some of the spotting, to make sure and also educating our football team that when you’re spotting a guy, it’s part of your job to keep him healthy. You can’t be over sitting over talking or sitting and listening to music. You’re paying attention to what’s going on here.

Q: Now that Linval Joseph is healthy, how good can he be compared to last year?

A: I have two thoughts on that. The first one is, almost always the guy that comes in as a free agent into a new system, his second year is almost always much better than the first year. And him with missing all of the time with all that he missed last year because of the injury. Honestly, he’s looked very, very good in OTAs so I anticipate he’s going to have a very, very good year. I’m tempered a little bit just because of the fact that we haven’t been in pads yet and we won’t get out there for a couple of days, but if he does the things that he’s done in the OTAs and continues that way, I anticipate because he’s a big, strong man, his body is in good shape. He came in at about 316 pounds, I believe, and he’s a very, very good athlete.

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