Mike Zimmer met the media Tuesday following Vikings OTA practice. The following questions and answers are unedited, but some are rearranged for relevance purposes and others are omitted due to short answers. To read the presser in its entirety, follow this link.
Q: You have a lot of young receivers mixing in and out. What has that group shown you?
A: Yeah, I think it’s a good group. I don’t know that anyone has really kind of separated themselves. They’re all pretty decent. Bisi [Johnson] looks good at times, Dillon [Mitchell] looks good at times. Those guys kind of show out a little bit. They’re all making little rookie mistakes right now, but as we go forward I think someone will separate themselves here.
Q: How has Garrett Bradbury looked so far in OTA’s? Is he taking charge of that starting center spot?
A: Garrett has done a nice job. He’s a very athletic guy that really, really can bend. He’s got good power, he’s very competitive. He’s still out there working, I can see him right now. He’s done a good job. We’re giving him a lot of different looks defensively, so I think that’s good for him. There’s times when we can get him confused a little bit, but he’s very, very bright and is doing a good job.
Q: What kind of impact do you think Rick Dennison will have on the offensive line?
A: He’s a really good teacher, number one. I think a lot of it will be with the schematic part of things but as you get going in that and marrying the run game to the pass game and as far as the teaching part of it, you can tell he’s like a professor out there. All the little intricacies of offensive line play, I think he’s been outstanding.
Q: There’s been a lot of talk about the changes offensively, but are you doing much different defensively?
A: Yeah, we’re looking at a lot of different things. I think that’s part of what you do in the spring is you look at things and you kind of say, “Hey, we can do this.” Or you look at the skill set of different players, and most of our guys have been together for four or five years now, and I think part of that is keeping them engaged in everything that we’re doing.
Q: Do you enjoy going home in the winter and coming up with new concepts? How does that work?
A: Yeah, I really like doing that. I really love the spring. The coaches don’t particularly like it when I go away and I start watching tape by myself. The other day I was coming back, after Memorial Day I guess it was, and I called a defensive meeting at 6:30 in the morning when I was on the plane because I didn’t like how something was looking. But some of the things we’re doing because I just feel like the way the offenses are moving now in this league and the things they’re trying to do, they’re trying to scheme you, so I think part of that is that we always try to stay one step ahead of things. Now’s the time to look at things, get practice at it, whether it’s a different technique or a different personnel group or a different alignment, different blitzes, pressures, things like that.
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Q: So you get to come up with something, and this is where you see if it’ll work?
A: Yeah. You come out here and you put it together and see how it looks, and you study other defenses too. You study a lot of other teams and see what they’re doing, what looks good, and then you go back and you correlate it to the types of plays that you’ve been getting all year long. We got a ton of a certain number of plays that people thought that they could get on us, so maybe we give them some different looks.
Q: What was Stephen Weatherly able to show you last year by being able to step in as a starter?
A: The thing that Stephen did when he played last year was that he made a lot of plays, he’s improved in a lot of areas. I anticipate that he’ll have a much larger role for us this year as we continue to go forward. He continues to get better every day, you can just see he’s much more confident in everything that he’s doing.
Q: What do you see from Danielle Hunter in terms of maturing and becoming a leader?
A: Danielle is a guy that, like some of the other players I’ve had in the past, he never wants to make a mistake but what’s allowed him to really flourish in the things that he’s doing is he’s not worried about making mistakes really anymore. Now there’s things that until he gets comfortable with it that we’re doing with him that he’ll be a little apprehensive. In the past, he would always, ‘Okay, I got to make sure I do this.’ Now, if he makes a mistake, he’s going to make it full speed, correct it and move forward with it. You obviously see the athletic ability and the bend that he has long arms and the strength and the way that he can slither through openings in the pass game and the run game. It seems much more free to me the way he plays.
Q: What’s impressed him about Hercules Mata’afa?
A: He’s just a worker. His body lean is extremely low. He’s got great post stuff. He’s still got a long ways to go. Let’s not put him in Canton yet, but he’s doing a nice job with the things we’re asking him to do. He’s got a great attitude. Andre [Patterson] is an unbelievable teacher. I was out here watching today and talking about those things and I said to Linval [Joseph] that Andre’s good. He said he wouldn’t be where he was if it wasn’t for him so a lot of guys feel that way and the more that he can absorb the teaching that Andre giving, the better for him.
Q: Do you expect Mike Hughes to get any work this spring?
A: He won’t get any this spring.
Q: Will the break cause them to take half a step back after the progress?
A: I think we’ve really had a good spring so far as trying to implement the things that we’re trying to do. Obviously the break kind of settles them back down but it allows everybody to get refreshed again because obviously the season’s a grind and we’ll get through it again. We’ve kind of approached it like here’s the goals for Phase One, Phase Two, OTA’s and then we’ll start again with training camp in the season and try to keep them focused. One good thing, we spend a lot of time in the classroom right now about situational football, things that are important to me. I think it’s important that when we get out here in these situations and we get there, the entire team understands what I’m thinking at that time as opposed to, ‘He caught me of guard on that.’