Rick Spielman talked with the media collected in Indianapolis earlier today, and we've finally gotten the hold of the entire transcript for your reading pleasure. He talks about numerous players that are currently a part of the Vikings' roster, including whether or not he's given any thought to the Vikings post-Adrian Peterson era.
And, unless I miss my guess, we're going to get a slightly different translation of this in a little while here. But, for now, here is the unedited transcript of Rick Spielman's press conference at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine. Big thanks to Matt Vensel of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune for putting the transcript together.
"I'd like to start by recapping our season last year a little bit. I can't tell you the job that Coach Zimmer has done since coming in a year ago, turning our football team around and then being able to build on that this year. And just the job that they do developing the young guys, the culture that he has set in the locker room. As we go through this process together, his emphasis to our players is ‘team comes first.' And he's done a great job of having players maybe sacrifice individual statistics to contribute what's best for the football team and what's best for us to win football games. The communication between myself, the scouting department, the coaching department, I think has paid dividends over the past couple of years. There's a clear, distinct trait that we're looking for in football players that fits what we're doing from a scheme standpoint, offensively and defensively. There's specific character trait that we're looking for, trying to build that chemistry and what type of locker room that we want with our players down there. Everybody is buying in. And getting the opportunity to meet with a lot of our players after our season ended, just how anxious they were to get back into the building when they're allowed and to get started next year and hopefully be able to build off of what we've been able to do the past two years.
What did it mean to win the NFC North?
"I think that's a reflection of Coach Zimmer's personality, that true grit mentality. Green Bay is a great team. They have a great organization. And for our guys to respond, to go up there in that atmosphere in a primetime game -- in the past, we haven't been good in those situations -- that was just a reflection of 1) the coaching staff and 2) the type of players that we're bringing in and the most important thing: our players buying into what Coach Zimmer is teaching and preaching."
Where do things stand with Chad Greenway?
"Chad is out of contract. His role reduced a little bit last year. We talked about guys on our football team that still can play the game and contribute to us winning, and Chad showed that last year even though his role was reduced. But that leadership, you can't put enough emphasis on that, especially when you have a young ball club. And we have older vets like Chad Greenway. Terence Newman, who came in and did a great job for us this year in his role and what we're trying to establish in that locker room. Because those guys are true pro's pros. The other guy that I know probably was disappointing from a statistical standpoint, but what Mike Wallace brought into our locker room and his buy-in and his sacrifice from a standpoint of stats and what was best for the team. And I know Coach Zimmer mentioned it in his post-season press conference, but he was a true professional and everything he was asked to do, he did it to his best. And his leadership also was very key to the success that we had on the field."
Is it Green Bay and Minnesota battling for the NFC North in coming years?
"No, because I think Detroit has a very good football team. And Chicago, I have the utmost respect for what John Fox has done everywhere he has been. I think it's going to be a very competitive division next year. And the one thing, even though we had success and built on that this past year and were able to win the division, we still haven't reached all of our goals. And every year is a new year. You can't predict injuries. You can't predict what's going to happen with players. But we have to take the approach that we are starting over. What we did last year doesn't matter. It's what we're going to do going forward and that's the approach we have to take."
How would losing Calvin Johnson change things with the Lions?
"They still have Stafford, right? He's a very good quarterback and we've got great quarterbacks in this division. And I don't know the situation with Calvin and what will transpire, but he is a great player. Just playing against him throughout his career, he's a future Hall-of-Famer and those guys are few and far between when they come through. Not only, just from looking from the outside in, he was a great player, but he was a great player with how he represented that organization off the field."
Has Cordarrelle Patterson settled into a Devin Hester-type role?
"I've talked to Cordarrelle. I've talked to his agents. We've had our meetings. Cordarrelle has to come in, I think his mindset is he knows he has to become a better receiver, a little bit more consistent receiver on just the nuances part of the game. There's no question about what type of athlete that he is. There's no question about the explosive playmaking ability he has with the ball in his hand. It's just a matter of if he is going to be able to take that next step or not. I know just what he's been doing this offseason, he's really focusing and honing in on becoming the player he wants to become and we all think he can become."
Do you have an X receiver on the roster?
"We went through that. I won't tell you what we think or not think about our players. But I think we have some talent at the receiver position but we're always going to look, just like at any position, to try to upgrade any way we can. But not only there, but everywhere on the football team."
Is there more of a learning curve for receivers coming out of spread offenses?
"It depends what system they come out of. I think they have to get used to the style of defenses here, the precision of the routes because of defensive backs and how skilled they are. The timing as far as the quarterback may throw you the ball and you're not going to be as open as you were in college. Also, depending on what offense they came out of, how much knowledge they just have on an overall scheme. Some schemes are watered down but very productive. Other schemes are more complicated. But I think it's just the nuance of learning what it is to play receiver at this level because they probably aren't going to have that experience coming out of college."
What's the benefit to playing a quarterback as a rookie?
"When Teddy played his rookie year, Matt Cassel had gotten hurt and Teddy got kind of thrown in the fire a little bit. But I think it was a great learning experience for him and he is a young quarterback that I think is mature enough to handle that, to get thrown into the fire, because of his work ethic and his mental approach to the game that we felt when we went through the process was further along than some of the other quarterbacks that we interviewed through the process. And I think it's going to pay dividends for us as he continues to move on down the road with his career. We think he's going to be a great quarterback and we're looking forward to him continuing to progress."
Can you still take time to develop quarterbacks?
"I think it's depending on the system, depending on the coaching staff and what their philosophies are. There are plenty of ways to do it. There's no right way or wrong way. I think it's based on that team and that individual that they do draft whether they're ready or not or what approach you're going to take with a young, potentially franchise quarterback."
Why is it so hard to evaluate quarterbacks?
"A lot of it has to do with, you can see the stats and what they're doing and you can see the physical ability, their arm strength, their ability to move in the pocket with their athletic traits. I think that's one position where you really have to try to hone in on the mental part of it, how they perform in stress situations in a game. Third downs. Two-minute. Come-from-behind victories. How do they respond in those situations? There are guys that I've interviewed, and I think this is my 25th combine, that come into our room and you sit there and listen to them speak and it's like listening to an offensive coordinator. They can get up there and draw on the board and everything you want to do and boy is this guy sharp. Now can he translate that and make those same type of decisions and those same type of reads in the two and a half seconds he has to get rid of the ball?"
Why have you traded back into the first round so often?
"One is having enough draft picks to give us the flexibility to do that. Two, when I took over as the general manager I wanted to build this roster through the draft. And those first three years, I think we were able to get seven [first-round] draft picks. And if we're doing our jobs correctly, hopefully those are going to be your building blocks for the future. And that gave us the building blocks of us continuing hopefully on the path that we're going. And now we can just continue to layer on what we've been able to build. I also believe that if you're going to pay players, the ones you know the best are your own. So when their opportunity comes up that they are going to be an unrestricted free agent, we've been very aggressive about trying to hit them a year ahead of time and keep that continuity and keep those players that came up through our system and we developed."
Another question about trading back into the first round:
"Every year it was a little different. Some years opportunities presented itself where we were able to move back. I think when we were pretty aggressive moving up for a couple years, Harrison Smith was one. I think Teddy was one. When those players we feel very strongly about where we think they can be potential unique players for us and building blocks for our future, and maybe having a sense that maybe where you're picking -- and we were higher up in the second -- that they're probably not going to get to you there. So go ahead and be aggressive and go get the player that you covet."
Are you thinking about life after Adrian Peterson or is that too far off?
"Running back, you're one injury away. We'll eventually get down there. I think Adrian is still a very productive running back in this league. I mean, he won the rushing title again this year and it's amazing the stamina and the physical specimen that he still is. But at some point, everybody has to retire and I don't know when that point is [for him]. Adrian may defy the odds and play until he is 50. I don't know. But we're very excited about some of the young guys. Matt Asiata came in and has always done a good job in his role. And we drafted Jerick McKinnon, who when he has an opportunity to get the ball in his hands, he shows that he can be a very explosive playmaker as well. So when you're building a roster, regardless of whether you have an Adrian Peterson or not, you've always got to anticipate the potential disaster of a player going down because of injury and are you still going to be an effective football team even if he is not there."
Do you need to lessen Peterson's workload going forward?
"I think our coaches will do an excellent job of trying to balance that out. I know, since we talked about it earlier, I think our coaches, just finding a balance of what Teddy does well and what Adrian does well. I think the coaches found that balance but those are questions that I will probably defer to the coach on how they plan on using players."
What was your evaluation of Stefon Diggs?
"Young receiver. Very talented athlete. I think the biggest thing on him, and we had a discussion earlier today with some of the beat writers, big receivers versus small receivers. I don't look at it maybe like that. I look at catching radius and length. Sometimes he's not the biggest receiver from a height standpoint but his catching ability and ability to make plays, he makes plays like a big receiver. He didn't get on the field early in the season but when we had some injuries and he got his opportunity, he took advantage of it. And it started in the Denver game. We were pretty lucky or fortunate that we were able to find a guy like that in the fifth round."
What was your evaluation of Brian Robison?
"Brian played we thought very well for us. I think he still has a lot of play in him. How his role increases or decreases, that will be determined as we go through training camp and this offseason. But he still is not only a valuable football player for us, but extremely valuable from a leadership standpoint."