Yesterday, we brought fans of the Minnesota Vikings the transcript of General Manager Rick Spielman's press conference at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine. Today, it was head coach Mike Zimmer's turn to take the podium (along with a bunch of other people, but. . .seriously. . .who cares), and we have that transcript for you right here. Thanks to Tim Yotter of Viking Updated and Dave Campbell of the Associated Press for putting together this transcript.
"It's good to be back at the combine and meet some of these players. Unfortunately, I had to follow Ted (Thompson) second so this will be a tough act, but we're excited about our football team. We've got a lot of good guys out. Rick Spielman and the scouts have done a great job of putting it together. We're excited to get into U.S. Bank Stadium and see if we can do a little bit of damage in there. Questions?"
What kind of impact did Chad Greenway have?
"Chad's a terrific, terrific guy. I love him. He's been terrific for us. He probably played more than he anticipated this year and more than I probably did just because his role expanded because of some of the injuries and things. I really wish I would have had a chance to coach him when he came out in the draft because I see the great intangibles that he has now and what maybe I could have helped him try to be if I had him when he was younger."
What do you think of Myles Jack?
"I've been working on the offensive guys right now. I do have a fondness of UCLA linebackers because I have two, but I don't really know enough about him yet. I hear good things, but that's it."
How important is it to protect Teddy in his third season?
"Yeah, well, it's extremely important. He got sacked 45 times last year and I think 44 times (the year before) and hit way too many times. We've got to do a better job in protecting him, and it's not just the offensive line. It's the running backs and the receivers making the right adjustments. It is extremely important. This guy has got a chance to be an extremely good player but we have to do a good job with that."
What do you think about Xavier Rhodes' 2015 season?
"I don't worry too much about the analytic services. I worry about how I look at him and how I grade him. I say early in the year he probably struggled a little bit with some of the penalties and that caused him to be conservative in the way he was playing. Like I told him during the season, he needs to be a power forward, not a point guard. You have to be who you are and his game is about power and strength and physicality. And if you don't play up to your game, you may struggle a little bit. I like Xavier. He actually texted me two days ago, I guess, to say, ‘Hey coach, what's up?' He's a good kid and he's got an awful lot of ability. He's got a good chance to be a good corner in this league."
Is Stefon Diggs ready to be a No. 1 WR?
"I think Stefon has done a lot of good things. He's still got a long way to go. He's got to continue to prove himself. I think he continues to get better. There's still a lot of things he's got to work on. I think this next year, that will really determine how good he ends up being."
The NFC North is tough, huh? Team ascending?
"I think we have a great division. I thought that all along. I think the year I got to Minnesota, Chicago was in the playoffs or right close to being in the playoffs. And then Detroit was in the playoffs a year ago. And obviously Green Bay won the division the last four years. It's a heck of a division. There's a lot of great coaches in there. Mike McCarthy I think does an unbelievable job, and Ted Thompson, who was just up here. They've been at the pinnacle of this division for a long time. John Fox is a friend of mine and he's done a great job and I do see their football team getting a lot better. I think all of us, and Detroit has a ton of athletic ability and so hopefully we'll continue to keep fighting."
Jerick McKinnon, can he carve out a bigger role?
"You're right, Jerick is a good kid. He's been around the facility, just working out. That's the kind of kid he is. He loves to ball and he's a great kid, always has a smile on his face. I do think we can find a lot more things for him to do and can continue to use his athletic ability and get him in some open spaces that allow him to continue to showcase his ability."
"I think when you're messing around in free agency, I think the more you know a player the better chance you have of being correct. So for me, a lot of it has been familiarity. Not only me knowing them, but them knowing me and how I am. I think that's an important part of the process as well. We'll just have to see. I really like my football team right now. I like the way they work, their mentality, the way they do their things. If we can continue to add players that have our vision and where we can see them fitting in, then I think it's great."
(Comment on compiling a strong group of young defenders?)
"First of all, Rick, and not just Rick. We have a great group of scouts. And I've been so fortunate to have moved into a situation with so many guys that have had helped me along the way. The Studwell, Jamaal Stephenson, I mean, George Paton, and Rick and obviously Rick runs that whole deal. Finding these guys and being able to give us talent to work with has been really good. I think we have a good nucleus of guys. We're not anywhere where I want to be yet, but you see the development of these football players. The Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes, Anthony Barr coming in and not playing that position before. I think our coaches have done a great job along with it. It takes a collective effort with the scouts and the coaches in order to, OK, these are the kind of guys that fit with what you do. Maybe they don't fit, but how can you use them to help this football team get better? I think that's what we've done a little bit defensively. I think we have a good collective group of communication between the scouts."
(Where's the other young corner in his development, Trae Waynes?)
"I think he has a chance to be a really good player. Quite honestly, it was a good situation for him to play special teams. To play a little bit this year and be a part-time player. Because of the fact he had a chance to learn, and he had a chance to learn from a great veteran guy in Newman. Newman has helped with Xavier and a lot of these guys. I see him being a very good football player. It's not about athletic ability with him. It's just learning the game of professional football.
(Why are long arms important to you when looking at defensive linemen?)
"A good example would be, if I could reach you right now and tackle you, that would be a pretty good advantage, right? As opposed to trying to reach this far. Number one is reach, as far as getting off a block and getting to a guy. Number two is guys that are 10 feet high in the air with their hands, being able to get in the quarterback's throwing lane, tipped balls and things like that. I think length gives you an advantage that can be important for your defensive football team.
(Do you see Teddy throwing the ball more as he develops? Do you want to throw more?)
"First of all, each game is going to determine how we play. We want to win games. And I don't have a problem winning a game 13-10 and running the ball a bunch of times, and especially finishing the game running the ball. I want to win 24-10. So, I don't know if he'll be throwing the ball more. At the end of the day, if I come back next year, if I"m still here, what I want to say is 'Man, Teddy really took over this offense. He was really in charge of everything he did here. He took charge of the league.' Whatever that means. If it's getting us in the right place, if it's throwing the ball more, if it's throwing the ball less. Just taking charge of this thing. It's going to be his baby eventually."
(Harrison Smith has had a lot of different starters next to him at safety. Does that position need to be addressed this offseason?)
"Well, I think this: If Harrison Smith was paired with a guy that had some other qualities, we could allow Harrison to be more of an impactful player. I don't know if that answers your question or not, but I think Harrison can be more impactful if he had the right kind of guy next to him."
(Is that guy on the roster?)
"I don't know. I don't know."
(Question about Tony Sparano influence on the offensive line, helping shape needs at that position?)
"I think it totally helps the scouts, and I think it totally helps everybody in the organization get on the same page. I want Tony's personality to rub off on those guys. It's going to be a different personality, but that's part of it as well."
(Bengals coodinators become head coaches, why?)
"Well, winning sure helps. The more you win, the more recognition you get, and that's good for everybody. Number one, Mike Brown does a great job in helping coaches grow. He's very loyal to them and he's solid in everything. His upbringing is unbelievable. And then Marvin's done a great job with all of us. He helped me grow tremendously. I can't speak for the other guys, but I know for me he helped me a lot and helped me in different ways. We've done a lot of things that Marvin's done, with some of the things that we do with the football team overall, but I think one of the things about that is it shows that you can be a good guy and be a good coach and still win, too, because Marvin does a lot of that."
(Impressions of Bengals exec Duke Tobin?)
"Duke has always been very knowledgeable. Number one, he's a hard worker. He comes from a pretty good family football background. Duke has always loved talent, and I think that shows on the football team right now. They have a very very talented team. I think that he does a great job of getting all the background information on all the coaches to make sure they can be coached the right way. Putting it all together, I think he's done a fantastic job."