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Mike Zimmer Press Conference Transcript

Zimmer’s comments on new players and the off-season so far

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Zimmer gave a press conference today in which he provided some details on new players and off-season developments. Here’s a transcript of what he said.

Intro:

Okay, before I forget, I’d just like to congratulate Dick Stockton on retiring after 55 years of broadcasting. He’s always been very professional with us, and does a great job, and I’ve always enjoyed the times that, to be interviewed by him, especially in the pre- pre-game meetings, so it’s been good there.

But I think it’s been a really good offseason. You know we’ve had some coaching staff changes, and that’s been going really well, and then scheme-wise we’ve been going through everything with a fine-tooth comb, trying to evaluate every little thing that we’re doing, things that we can improve, things we’re doing terminology-wise, all the different areas, but it’s been good and we’ve been working hard obviously on free agency, and obviously now on the draft.

On Dalvin Tomlinson:

One of the great things about Dalvin is that he’s extremely bright, but he’s also very, very physical. Really good athlete, he had scholarships to Ivy League schools, so that tells you about his intelligence. Everything that we heard out of New York was that he was not only a great teammate, plays really well, but he’s also a captain, leader in the room, and on their defense. So, we’re really excited to have him.

On rebuilding the defense during the off-season:

Initially, when we got done with the season, we evaluated everything, we knew we had quite a few areas we needed to fulfill, and honestly Rob and Rick have done a great job in doing that, but we’ve been really fortunate that we’ve had a lot of guys that’ve played here in the past that’ve wanted to come back, they understand the way that we do things, and the type of program that we run, and so it continues going and will continue going to try to improve through the draft as well.

On replacing Riley Reiff:

At this point we’ve got Rashod Hill back, we’ve got Udoh back, we got O’Neill, we got Cleveland, so we’ll be able to take care of those situations. All those guys are good players, and so we’ll continue to figure it out and go from there.

On Patrick Peterson:

I knew about him as a player, obviously I watched him on tape from this past year, but it was kinda nice- he was trying to decide where he wanted to go and had his agent to call me here, and then I called him to see what he’s looking for, and some of those things, and so it was able to work out. And like Rick said we were able to get it done in about five hours. He was in the Bahamas with his family and so it was honestly a really lucky break that we’re able to do that, but he kind of initiated wanting to come here and so I thought that was really important as well, and I anticipate him playing corner, that’s what he is- he’s always been a great corner. I think he wants to continue to get better, and continue to play longer, and we’re hopeful that we can help him to do that.

On how having a defense not up to your standards is driving him now:

Well, I’ll tell you, I’m not used to that level of performance from one of our groups, so we’ve had some of the best- you know it’s crazy because all the coaches are here in the building now- we’ve had some of the best meetings we’ve had in eight years probably, dissecting everything that we do, going through it, like I said before, with a fine tooth comb. I’ve been really impressed with the coaches that are in there, but also the offenses have changed so much in the last four or five years, it’s time that we need to do some things differently, and change, and adapt, and so I’ve been really, I’m actually really excited to get back on the field with the players and get going.

On whether the priorities on defense outweighed other things and how does he balance things given the offensive holes needed to fill:

You know our offense has been pretty darned good, we were sixth in the league last year and we have some holes that we’ll fill, but we still got time to do that, there’s still a lot of players out there right now, and they’ll be some in the draft. But yeah, we looked at the defense after the season and it was pretty barren in there, and so we had to address that, and honestly at the end of the season I was kinda down in the dumps when I kept looking at the depth chart, and knowing what kind of salary cap space we had, and so like I said Rob’s done, and Rick, done a incredible job doing that, and they’ve got me rejuvenated with the guys that they’ve brought in, and the players that are there to help, and then you’ve got guys like Anthony Barr who decides to restructure his contract because he wants to be here, you got guys like Stephen Weatherly, MacKensie, and a lot of these other guys that they really wanna be here, Patrick Peterson, and so those kind of things get me excited.

On the nature of the changes on defense:

The number one thing we wanna be doing on defense is we wanna play fast, we wanna play physical, and we don’t wanna be thinking. The offenses have been getting us to think lately- an adjust here, an adjust there, do this and do that, and you know some of these things we’ve talked about, and it’s just too hard to implement during the season. Some of it is big change, some of it is minor tweaks, but the thing that I’ve been impressed with- and I told coaches this today is - these meetings that we’ve had, if we were in twelve different cities and doing this on a zoom meeting, we couldn’t get this done. We’re sitting in the room, we’re watching tape together, we’re going over everything, doing it on the blackboard - or whiteboard now - and talk about if they do this, what if they line up and do this, all the different scenarios that are going through our minds, that we don’t have to try to get done in three days for a game.

On pairing Dalvin Tomlinson with Michael Pierce:

Well, I think Barr and Kendricks will like it even more, because they’ve got two big guys, two big space eaters that have athletic ability, that can win on one-on-ones, hold the double-teams for those two guys, and you know Kendricks is another guy that we missed the last five ballgames too, so you know we’ve added Hunter, Pierce, Barr - who missed the whole year - Tomlinson, Peterson, I mean it’s gonna look completely different when we get out there, and I’m excited about the whole crew. But those two guys specifically, they’re both great guys, they’re both really, really good run players who can push the pocket, and I think that’s going to help. Not only Hunter and Barr, Wonnum and Weatherly, but some of these other guys we have.

On Xavier Woods:

I talked to him before he signed obviously, and I told him this is gonna be a good situation for him here. The things that we do, are things that he’s done before, areas we can use him in addition to Harrison, but not only using him in those areas, but I’ve watched all the tapes on him, and I think he’s got another level to go to, and I think he’s also got a chip on his shoulder as well. And so I like that about guys, I like bringing in guys when someone says they’re probably not good enough somewhere else.

On having Xavier Woods play more free safety, and playing Gladney someplace else:

First of all talking about Woods, Karl Scott had him in college, so he knows him very, very well, so that’s a positive. He wasn’t always in the box, he played deep, he played some robber, he played a lotta different places for him, so he has the versatility to do all those things number one, and like today we were sitting in the meeting room and like my dad used to do- he used to draw an E and an X and an X and an X or a V for the defensive linemen, and Xs, so right now these guys are just Xs, and we’re trying to figure out where we can use each of these guys. What can Gladney do, different, we’ve talked about things with him, what can MacKensie do, we’ve talked about things with him, what if we decide to play more DBs, you know there’s so many options that we have, but right now they’re just puzzle pieces and we’re trying to fit them in the best we can, and there might be a lot of different packages.

On Ezra Cleveland’s position:

Right now he’s right guard, but all those things can change, depending on what happens the rest of the way in free agency, and what else happens in the draft. We don’t know what’s gonna happen in those places, and obviously there’s other positions that we can draft, I’m sure at some point we’re gonna try to address all those things but, I think what we’ve done so far in free agency has allowed us to take the best player available wherever he is.

On addressing backup quarterback:

All those are options [Mannion, Browning, Stanley, Draft], we really like Browning and Stanley. Stanley is a big, strong-armed kid, Browning has been great the two years that he’s been here, Sean’s been outstanding in the room, so again, without saying hey we’re gonna do this or that, there’s a lot of options there I believe.

On Klint Kubiak and his readiness:

Oh yeah, he’s ready for it. Somebody was asking me about that today. Klint is a lot like Kevin was when he was here. He’s very detailed, he brings up the subject that they wanna discuss, he’ll have his opinions, he’ll listen to the other guys opinions in the room, and then kinda go from there so, he’s done a good job. You know everyone’s gonna wonder what it’s like when you’re a first-time play-caller, but at the end of the day, every one of us was a first-time play-caller at one point (laughs).

On Danielle Hunter:

Well, I know he’s talked to Andre, I’ve not talked to him. He’s been sending back videos of his workouts and they’re very, very impressive so excited to get him back on the field. He’s a great team guy, he’s a terrific player, and he’s one of the best people I’ve been around in professional football.

On the 17th Game:

As far as I guess the coaches are going to get paid more too - I guess that’s out - but you know I haven’t really thought about it to be honest with you. I know we’re going to LA I guess it is now, so it’s another west coast game. I don’t know if they’ll put it at the end of the year or the beginning of the year or the middle, or whatever so it’s just something they tell us to do and we do it like good soldiers.

On the new guys’ character and what they bring beyond Xs and Os:

I do think every guy’s different, but Harrison Smith he’s gonna help the players, but he’s gonna do his own thing, he’s not gonna be you know, so I don’t want these guys to be something they’re not. So if they wanna help those guys or lead by example, that’s great too. I think it’ll be great for Watts, he’s been in here working out, Wonnum’s been in here working out, some of these younger defensive linemen have been in here and they’re doing, so I think it’ll be big for those guys to have other good players around them, and it will help us with depth and rotations and everything else.

On Deion Sanders as a coach:

I’ve talked to him a lot. He’s been doing great. I don’t know if he played this last weekend, but I’ve talked to him a lot. I actually watched his YouTube videos, you know when he about the things, but he’s - I love him - he’s doing a great job, I know he’s got a lotta guys that he’s recruited, that can’t play this year but they’ll play next year, so I know he’s looking forward to finishing up this year strong and get going next year. I guess surprise wouldn’t be the right word - you know he does a great job - I knew he would. He told me for a few years that he was going to coach college football and I knew he’d be an unbelievable recruiter because he’s very quick witted, and very smart, and you know obviously his reputation is pretty good.

On expectations for the off-season program- virtual or in-person:

Yeah, I really don’t know. We finally got an email today about the off-season. I’m hopeful that we’re able to get out on the field. I think it’s really important - not just for the young players, but for the new players, for the coaches, you know it just helps with the process of trying to build a football team, in my opinion. But I really don’t know and again, we’ll just do what they tell us to do. Thank you.


A couple of the topics Zimmer addressed will likely result in some more detailed articles in the future, so stay tuned. Below is a video of the press conference (minus the first few seconds) as well.