When Rick Spielman addresses the media, it's a tour de force in modern art and prose, as he deftly fields questions with a smile. At times, I think there is only one person in the world with a PhD in Bullshitting The Media, aka Rickspeak, and it's one Rick Spielman, Professional Gentleman of The Gridiron.
What is Rickspeak, for those of you that are new to this? It's simple. Rick Spielman talks, sometimes for hours, without ever saying anything substantive. Many years ago, I was recruited by a highly classified linguistic agency* to help understand and decode Rickspeak**, and after months of grueling training, to include hand to hand in Krav Maga***, I am fluid in this mysterious tongue, and will separate what Rick said with what he really meant.****
*I actually bought Rosetta Stone once, but I never listened to it
**I pretty much make everything up except the actual press conference quotes, which are block quoted
***I've never studied Krav Maga. I actually had to Google 'Krav Maga' to make sure I was spelling it right. I wasn't. I originally spelled it 'Krav Magra'.
****Again, this is a ridiculous, over the top parody that has no basis in reality. Because let's face it, if I really could read minds and knew Krav Maga, I'd be a chick magnet, not a blogger.
Yet, unless Spielman trains someone to carry on his legacy after he's gone (which let's face it, if Mark had his way he'd be already history AMIRITE MARK), this art form will die and go away, much like the ancient language of Aramaic, or the Jacksonville Jaguars and a .500 record.
So Spielman, the Zen Master, has been training the student, Mike Zimmer. And after a couple of okay, if not rough around the edges press conferences, it appears that Zimmer has his sea legs under him. Let's look at his presser from earlier today, and see how well the master has instructed the student. As always, we'll have the question asked by the media, the actual, no kidding answer Zimmer gave in the press conference, and then my interpretation of what it probably doesn't mean.
Q: Would you expand on the idea of the playmakers you have on offense and needing to find a way to get them the ball?
What Zimmer Said: One of the great things about Norv (Turner) is he understands who's the guy to get the ball to, number one. When I've played him in the past, he's always figured out who they're trying to take away and then counter that. We want to be explosive down the field, but in saying that it opens up a lot of spaces for other people, for the running backs, for the tight ends as you've seen in a lot of his offenses in the past. He has a lot of different things for the defense to practice against and offensively, we are putting a lot of stuff in, we're giving them a lot of things to kind of figure out, alright what can these guys do good and give them a big, broad picture, then we will narrow it down to what we feel like we do best for our players and for the quarterbacks and for Adrian (Peterson) obviously.
What Zimmer Meant: NORV! Adrian Peterson. Hodor.
Q: How does Jerick McKinnon look?
What Zimmer Said: Jerick is doing a good job. We are using him in a lot of different situations, he catches the ball well, he has excellent acceleration coming out of the backfield, he's learning the run reads better now. We're glad we have him, he's a good change of pace back, I mean not that Adrian is a slow guy, because he is obviously extremely fast, but just a different kind of back.
What Zimmer Meant: He looks rich as hell, man. Rich as hell.
Q: What have you seen from Xavier Rhodes early on this year?
What Zimmer Said: Xavier, I've been impressed with him, he's working very, very hard. He's a good kid. We have been working on his technique quite a bit, I've talked to him several times about things out here in the field, and he wants to be really good. Jerry Gray is doing a hell of a job coaching him, actually, he's doing a great job coaching all of those DBs. It's actually impressive to me, because us being from different places, he's to the point now where he can correct them before I can get to them, so that's a good thing. But going back to Xavier, he has got great acceleration, he's learning the techniques much better, he's staying on point much better. The thing I'm impressed with, the things that we talk about, he needs to improve the next day he's working on it. We'll go in the meeting room here in a minute and we'll talk about the next process to where he is going, but I'm excited about him, he's doing well.
What Zimmer Meant: Xavier Rhodes is going to stick to his guy in 2014 like two pages of an old Playboy magazine.
Q: You seem to be a hands on guy, especially with the defense. How have you seen players react to that--do they think it's intimidating?
What Zimmer Said: You'd have to ask them that, I don't think it's intimidating, I'm coaching. I think they like to be coached. I probably answered the question wrong last time, about what they think. I hope they think that I'm an expert at what I do and what I've done and the techniques that I'm teaching, so I'm hoping and hopeful that they are paying attention to it and trying their very hardest to accomplish the things that we are trying to accomplish. I do think that we have improved quite a bit defensively in these eight practices, I think we have improved quite a bit. We're not anywhere near where we need to be, but I feel like we are playing the coverage tighter, I feel like we have some guys up front that can do a nice job up front rushing the quarterback, we will have to be able to stop the run, which is hard to tell right now not in the pads. We seem to be fitting things pretty well and they're giving great effort. Actually, both sides of the ball I feel like are giving great effort and are really busting their rear-ends.
What Zimmer Meant: DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON'T CAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARE. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATTTTT AAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLL.
Q: What are your impressions of Sharrif Floyd?
What Zimmer Said: Sharrif is doing a great job. He's improved tremendously, he's using his hands well. He's a very dedicated kid. He's done a great job in the weight room as far as changing his body and his strength levels and he shows great quickness. We're very, very excited to have him and I look forward to having him have a good year.
What Zimmer Meant: His arms aren't nearly as tragically short as I was lead to believe.
Q: How do you assess Jerome Simpson right now and how can he contribute?
What Zimmer Said: Jerome (Simpson) has always been a great athlete. He can run like crazy, he's catching the ball well. When he was in Cincinnati the first few years, he was basically in this same type of offense and so he has a little bit better of a grasp than some of the guys, just having a little background in it, but he's a guy that can stretch the field, he's doing a lot of good things.
What Zimmer Meant: Well, it all depends on his Kentucky thing. I'll refer all other questions about Jerome to Deputy US Marshall Raylan Givens or local Kentucky entrepreneur Boyd Crowder.
Q: Was it your idea or the training staff's to change some of the nutrition plan?
What Zimmer Said: It's always a collective decision, but before I forget to say this, in the offseason program this year our team gained 70 pounds of muscle and lost 170 pounds of fat, so part of it is nutrition, our strength coaches are doing a good job, our trainers are doing a good job, Geji (McKinney, team chef) upstairs, she got the award for the national award. It's a collective effort, but it was the strength coaches and the trainers brought it to my attention, so we've changed. Heck, I think Rick (Spielman) even said he's lost some weight. I actually have also lost some weight too, but I think that's from stress. No, I'm eating fish every day for lunch so that's a change for me too.
What Zimmer Meant: Pat Williams WOULD NOT be happy. Just sayin'...
Q: When you see Matt Birk and other alumni players, how important is that for you as a first-year head coach to see those former guys come back and support the team?
What Zimmer Said: One of the things about myself, I've always respected the players and coaches that have made this game so great and what it is and the popularity that it is. I love having those guys back. We're having an alumni barbeque next week, we are inviting a lot of alumni that live in the area to come out here. We've got another guy coming next week, I got a note from Randall McDaniel last week. Those kind of things are important to me, so consequently I make it important to the players because if it wasn't for these guys that we have had in the past that had played in the NFL and done the things that they have then these guys wouldn't have all of the opportunities that they have, so it's great having guys like Matt out there, Coach Burns was out here last week. All of those guys, I loved having them come out here, Benchwarmer Bob (Lurtsema), all of those guys, we love having them out here, (Scott) Studwell, it's important to me.
What Zimmer Meant: One of the things about myself, I've always respected the players and coaches that have made this game so great and what it is and the popularity that it is. I love having those guys back. We're having an alumni barbeque next week, we are inviting a lot of alumni that live in the area to come out here. We've got another guy coming next week, I got a note from Randall McDaniel last week. Those kind of things are important to me, so consequently I make it important to the players because if it wasn't for these guys that we have had in the past that had played in the NFL and done the things that they have then these guys wouldn't have all of the opportunities that they have, so it's great having guys like Matt out there, Coach Burns was out here last week. All of those guys, I loved having them come out here, Benchwarmer Bob (Lurtsema), all of those guys, we love having them out here, (Scott) Studwell, it's important to me.