How are you all doing? The guys are really engaged in what we are trying to get accomplished. We think that will be a great prelude to what we have to get done this afternoon. We had good meetings last night. I think everybody understands what the expectations are and what we need to get accomplished here in Mankato. Our goal is just to continue to improve and try to build on the things we did back in the spring in our OTA’s and our mandatory minicamp and through our strength and conditioning program to keep working and improving to bring this team together. I think all of our guys understand that and try to paint a plan as to how we are going to get to the point to where we can be successful this season. Yesterday, I initially thought everyone was going to be able to practice this afternoon in our first practice at 3 p.m. but we have three guys that when we checked them out in our physicals that are not going to be able to participate this afternoon. Adrian (Peterson), we are going to put him on the active PUP. I think that’s the best thing for right now. We’ll continue evaluating him daily to see how he’s progressing and at some point the doctors and our head trainer Eric Sugarman will come to me and say, ‘Hey, we think he is ready to get involved in some of the team activities.’ But at this point we are going to go through some evaluations and make a determination as to when is the right time to put him out there with his teammates. Mickey Shuler, he is going to be on the active NFL. He has a heel injury that he suffered a couple weeks ago that he is recovering from. We are going to do some activities with him this afternoon off to the side. He is going to be day-to-day as we try to determine when is the right time to put him back out there with his teammates. We don’t think it’s a serious injury but we have to do some things with it with our trainer to determine just how serious that injury is. The x-rays that we took and the MRI are all negative. There were no issues there, but we want to get past the pain so we can get him involved. Stephen Burton, he is going to be on the active NFI. He has a toe injury, he jammed his toe a week or so ago. We are going to do the same thing with him. We are going to make a decision as to when we can get him out there and get him involved with what we’re doing offensively. In both Mickey and Stephen’s case, we don’t think these are going to be long-term absences. We think that they are going to be out here in a short period of time. But we have to go through this period, where we can evaluate them for ourselves and then make a determination. Other than that, everybody else should be practicing.
Q: Adrian said he was going to fight to stay off of the PUP list, what was the conversation like with him?
A: He put up a fight, knowing Adrian like you guys do. He said, ‘Coach, don’t hold me back. Let me get out there.’ He wants to get out there, but we’ve got to be smart and we need to see him do a few things then make a determination. If he had his way, he’d be getting involved today.
Q: Why did you switch to have the longer practice in the afternoon?
A: When I looked at what we did a year ago with the new CBA, I just looked back and thought that it would benefit us more to have our full practice in the afternoon with the conditions that you usually get in the afternoon versus this morning. This was a cool morning and I really wanted us to practice in the warmer temperatures. That’s usually the case in the afternoon. I thought it would give us some consistency from a practice standpoint. A year ago with the new CBA and the new rules, I found out that you couldn’t go back-to-back padded practices. Everyone was kind of figuring out what was the best way to practice under the new format. After looking at it and evaluating the situation, myself and the staff felt that 3 p.m., having our walk through before our practice, would give us the best chance to get the most out of afternoon practice. For example, this morning we were able to walk through some of the concepts that we are going to practice this afternoon. Then we will go back and watch tape of that this evening. We think it will reinforce some of the things we are teaching and give us a head start on the next day as well. It’s a combination of learning as well as what we are trying to get done from a conditioning standpoint.
Q: Are you concerned with Burton’s injuries? It seems to always be something with him.
A: You said it right, he is a young guy. So it’s hard to draw conclusions at this point in his career so we’ll see how he progresses. Hopefully his toe will evolve and get better shortly, but it’s too early to draw conclusions about this being his history.
Q: How do you think Jared will be with a young team?
A: Well Jared is a pro. You got a chance to get to know him over the last few years. He is going to give you great effort every snap at practice and the same way in games. That is not going to change. We are going to need his leadership with the young ball club that we will have, like I mentioned yesterday. We count on his leadership in the midst of what we are trying to get done. He is not the only one that wants a championship. So does Kevin Williams. So does Antoine Winfield. So does everyone on our team. Everyone wants to win a championship. I don’t expect Jared to have a sour attitude in the fact that he has some young teammates. It’s just not in his DNA at all. We are going to expect him to have a great season and to help our football team win.
Q: Talk about Kalil working with the first string and Harrison Smith with the second string.
A: We expect Matt (Kalil) to be our opening day starter. That’s why we have him working with the number ones. We want him to continue to progress and get better. He’ll be in some challenging situations. The situations he can get a feel for being the number one left tackle. In Harrison’s case, there is going to be some competition. We want him to compete and win that job. We’ll see how it plays out over the next few weeks.
Q: How nice is it not to have any distractions?
A: It’s great. As we were going through the negotiations with Matt, that was the one player that we weren’t sure if things were going to work out. I thank Rick (Spielman) and Rob Brzezinski (Vice President of Football Operations), the guys working on his contract. We needed everyone in that room last night to hear the message that we wanted to get across as a team, as opposed to getting it second hand. It’s important to have everybody here and eliminate some of the drama when you don’t have everybody here.
Q: Talk about your relationship with Percy.
A: I can’t point to any one thing. He is very important to our team. He is very important to me. I have a lot of respect for him as a person. After we drafted him, I remember sitting down with his mom and dad and his sister in a room away from everyone else. I tried to tell him how I envision his role in Minnesota and our relationship in the future. He was fresh out of college coming in here for his first press conference. We’ve always has a good relationship and hopefully that will continue. He is an important person in a lot of ways. I respect him as a person and as a player. Obviously we need his talents on our football team.
Q: What was Everson Griffen’s reaction when you told him he would be taking more practice reps?
A: He really got excited about it. Imagine this, to the point where in the spring, we were a little concerned about his weight gain. He had gotten his weight up a little bit. We don’t like for our defensive ends to be too heavy. We have a weight where we think our defensive ends play at and play best at. We also have a speed we think they play best at and fit what we try to do. He had gotten up to around 274, 276, and that’s not the ideal weight for our defensive ends and he can play at that weight. He’s one of those guys who can carry some weight and not let it interfere with his play, but ideally, we’d like for him to be in that 260-265 range and I talked to him about linebacker and where I thought he could really help us at, and why I thought he could help us there. Not that he can’t play defensive end, he’s a very good defensive end but you’re always trying to get your best 11 on the field. He’s one of those guys who has enough athletic ability to be able to do that. He comes back to training camp, reports at, I think it was 258, which is incredible, but he’s so motivated to play the position and play it well that he goes home and he loses close to 18 pounds to come back and be ready to play the linebacker position. That’s just a testament to how motivated he is to do well and play well and really adhere to what the coaches are looking for and what his teammates expect of him. He’s an outstanding athlete, was a great special teams player for us a year ago. Played in multiple positions for us a year ago at linebacker and then at defensive end. With his athletic ability, we want to try to find a way to get him on the field a little bit more.
Q: Was he a guy that you sort of approached, like you talked about in the past with Joe Webb, you want him to concentrate on quarterback, do you want Griffin to concentrate just on linebacker?
A: I do. I want him to show us that he can play that position. We feel like we’ve got two outstanding starters at defensive end, he was our third defensive end. But, we want him to show us that he’s now a linebacker.
Q: You guys got John Carlson this year, what role do you expect him to play, and how do you see him and Kyle Rudolph at the tight ends in general?
A: We feel good about our tight end position. We think that John is going to be a great addition for us. He’s an accomplished guy in our league. We are hoping that he is going to be over the injury bug, we think that’s going to be the case. He’s been very productive. Kyle, of course, we have high hope for. We really think he’s going to be a premier tight end in our league. With that tandem alone we think it gives us a chance to have some options for our young quarterback, including what we’re going to try to do outside. But, we want Christian (Ponder) to be able to have an outlet, and he’s developed a rapport with Kyle and I think he’ll do the same thing with John. But it gives a couple bookend tight ends that can create pressure on defenses, both in the pass game as well as in run blocking.
Q: With two tight ends, what can you do with that in an offense, and what does that mean for opposing defense?
A: Well, when you see the evolution of the position in our league, you don’t have to look any farther than New England and some of the teams that we play in our division and how they use tight ends. That position has dramatically changed. They have become almost another wide receiver with so many teams today. That position has evolved to the point where you have to pay attention to the tight ends and if you get a couple quality guys like we think we have, it creates some mismatches for defenses trying to matchup with linebackers and safeties. All of a sudden, they have to put personnel on the field that doesn’t fit and it creates problems for a defense. We’re trying to get that and we think we have a couple guys who can give us some options at that position, and we like Rhett Ellison and some of the other guys we brought in as well. Mickey Shuler is going to be a good tight end for us. We think Allen Reisner has a chance to compete as well.
Q: How long can you let the right guard competition go on before you establish five guys?
A: Well, you’d like to get it done as soon as possible where you can identify the guy but, part of why we’re going to be here during the period that we are here for the next three weeks is to identify that right guy at that right guard position. But you’d like to know by the time we play San Diego in the third preseason game, I think it’s San Diego, that you’ve identified that guy. That may not be the case but that would be ideal, that we know by the time we line up in San Diego in that third preseason game, ‘this is going to be our starting right guard when we line up against Jacksonville’.
Q: Is it just Brandon Fusco and Geoff Schwartz for that position, or are other guys in the mix as well?
A: Well, we’ll put Chris (DeGeare) here in the mix as well, we’ll give him a chance. We’ll let those guys compete and battle it out and hopefully we’ll be a better team with whichever one ends up winning the job.
Q: Childs missed a lot of time in the offseason with the calf strain from rookie camp. Was he ever fully turned loose in the offseason? Or is he fully turned loose now?
A: We think he’s 100 percent now, so we’re looking forward to watching him practice this afternoon and continue to grow as a player. You know, he missed a lot of time as you mentioned from minicamp on, so we need him to stay healthy on the field cause we’re counting on him to be in the mix for us during the regular season, but he missed a lot of time.
Q: You hold a meeting the night before camp opens to set the tone for expectations on and off the field. Is there anything you emphasized last night being a little bit different from some of the things you said last year?
A: I did get into conduct maybe a little bit more that I might would have say a year ago, maybe. But for a myriad of reasons it’s the right thing to do. We have a lot of guys that are doing so many good things on our team and in this community as well, but when one or two guys step to the left, as opposed to going to the right, it creates some issues for everybody that’s a part of our team. So we wanted to talk through some of that and just remind everybody that you represent your teammates along with your family, and community, our state. But yeah, we talked in-depth about conduct and how we should approach things going forward.
Q: There’s not a lot of expectations from the outside looking in, but what are your expectations for this upcoming season?
A: We talked about expectations last night, and one of the things I told our team ‘you really can’t get caught up in what people are writing, or saying, or blogging’. In our minds what’s most important is what the people in that room that we talked with last night, ‘it’s what you believe, and if you don’t believe we have a chance to compete in our division, or win our division, why are we even showing up in Mankato? Why are we even going through the drills that we have to go through?’ I mean all you have to do is look around the league and say, look at the last five years, how much playoff teams change from season to season. Although there’ll be predictions in the preseason ‘these are the six teams that will make it from the NFC,’ you just go back and look at the last five years and see how much that changes from year to year; teams that are in and teams that are out. In this league and the way things are set up now with the salary cap, there’s no reason for anyone to come to training camp and say ‘we don’t have a chance’, I mean that’s, you know, if you buy into some of the that are written you may believe that, but that’s, we want to eradicate that type of thinking, that should not be a part of our thinking.
Q: How have additions to the roster affected your expectations this year?
A: Well, the thing that has affected my expectations is not so much the additions to the roster, but having an offseason to be able to go through some of the things we went through from April 23rd, to this point has really given me a positive outlook for our team. To be able to spend time with our guys this offseason, put in place some things we think will help us to improve as a football team. That is what has affected my outlook for this 2012 season. Without it, I’d be guessing what our prospects will be. But I feel pretty good about the things we got to accomplish up to this point. Now we got a lot of work to do while we’re here at Mankato to get to where I eventually want us to be when we line up against Jacksonville, but it’s doable because of the foundation that has been laid from April 23rd till now.
Q: Can you touch on the secondary and the last six games of last year compared to now personnel-wise with Chris (Cook) back, Antoine (Winfield) healthy, Josh (Robinson), and Harrison, how much different the secondary is?
A: Well you hit is on the head Eric, some new faces and new names in our secondary, which we needed an influx of talent in the secondary, we were pretty much depleted toward the end of the season, the last couple seasons, last season for sure. With the additions that we made we think we’re going to be a better secondary. With some of the things we are trying to do schematically, we think we’re going to be better because of that. But we are counting on the guys that we drafted, along with some of the guys that are returning, to really step it up and make plays for us. But the changes we’ve made should make us a better secondary, but we’ll need to stay healthy. But our depth is the best that I’ve ever seen here. We’ve got better depth than we’ve ever had if we do get into that injury situation.
Q: How do you prepare (Blair) Walsh? because you want to get him enough kicks down here, but you also don’t want his leg to fall off.
A: Yeah, we’re definitely conscious of that. We don’t want to overwork him, but we gotta get him some work. We are going to try and put him in some situations in practice, but we’re monitoring his reps every day in practice. We are counting how many times we have him kick off, how many times we have him kick field goals and extra points, because we want to get him to a point where he’s confident but not overworked. So, we’ll monitor the number of kicks that he has in training camp.
Q: Will you have some sort of competitive field goal drill for him (Blair Walsh) every day?
A: Not every day but we’re going to have some competitive moments where we really want to get our fans involved and put a little pressure on him as well, and his teammates as well. But we’re going to create some situations to make him have to function under pressure.