Good afternoon. We really feel good about what we were able to get done in our phase 1, phase 2 and then phase 3, and then the mini camp in this offseason program. I think our coaches, our medical staff, our strength and conditioning coaches they’ve done a great job. Our players obviously, with the way they’ve competed, their attendance just kind of gives you hope about the fall. I just really like some things that our players are trying to get accomplished with the way they handle things in meetings, the way they’ve come out here and competed on the field. We’ve thrown a lot at them and we are going to have some young guys that we are going to count on next season to play for us and play well. So we’ve tried to, in this offseason program, to put a lot on their plate to see how they respond and hopefully lay a foundation for a good football season. I think we’ve gotten that accomplished. I think that we can leave this mini camp, along with what we did in OTAs and what we did in our strength and conditioning phase of the offseason program, and feel good about where we are knowing that we have got a lot of work ahead of us. But I feel like we are on pace to really accomplish our goals, so really encouraged by the work that our guys put in and our staff put in as well. I’m really excited about our team and our players.
Q: What was your final message to the team in that last huddle?
A: Just reminding them about the things they’ve got to get done in this time away and remember that they represent us in their hometowns, wherever they travel at, that we all represent one another and take care of their bodies. It’s going to be an important time away, but rest and do the things you want to do but take care of your bodies.
Q: What have you seen from Christian Ponder over these last five weeks?
A: I really like the way that he has matured mentally and just seeing how he has taken the reins from a leadership standpoint. He is more vocal than he has been in the past. His football above the neck has been impressive in the time that we’ve been out here on the field practicing. So he’s got the athletic ability but you want him to make good decisions under the center and some of the things he’s done in these practices kind of leads me to believe, along with our staff, that he’s grown a lot in that area making better decisions with the football, which should in turn help us down the line.
Q: What have you seen from his accuracy?
A: I think he’s much better. He’s worked his tail off trying to improve his accuracy. Our coaches have put him through a bunch of different drills and through his hard work I think he’s improved in that area. Now we’ve got some things we’ve got to get done in training camp, but he’s put in the work to improve and we are seeing it.
Q: How long do you think it will take him to get the timing down with Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson?
A: Well, I think we’ve made a lot of progress in the time we’ve been out here. We run a lot of different drills to work on that timing so I think we made progress and we are about where we need to be going into training camp. Obvious answer to the question is by the time we line up against Detroit we better have that timing down. We have time to get that done and you’d like to have it done at least by the third preseason game. You’d like to feel like you are just about there. We will see where we are but we think we are getting closer to where we need to be.
Q: Have you been able to see an improvement in the communication between Ponder and the offensive line?
A: I think that goes along with what I was saying earlier about just being smarter above the neck. Just seeing some of the ways he has understood the importance of his communicating not just to our offensive line in the instance that you gave but to the receivers, to the running backs and sharing the knowledge that he has because he knows our entire offense. It helps the rest of our players when they see him take charge and say, you know I want you to be at this spot when you are going out for this route, or if you are an offensive tackle, hey you’ve got to make sure you block a three technique, guys kind of appreciate that. They feel like, okay this guy not only knows his responsibilities but he understands what I have to get done as well. That’s a part of the maturation that we are seeing and the next step will be for him to have early success and then of course his teammates will continue to gain more confidence when that happens.
Q: Was there anybody that stood out or made an impression on you?
A: We’ve had a number of guys that have kind of stood out but for me it’s been more collectively seeing how they’ve worked and the way they’ve competed as a group. That has impressed me more than say some of the individuals that have had a good camp and we’ve had a number of guys that have done well, but just seeing how collectively they are working as a team. One of the things you want to do this time of year is begin to develop a team identity and training camp will be a part of that, but I’m seeing it happening now. We do have some individuals that have done a good job, but more the team aspect is what has impressed me the most.
Q: How is John Sullivan progressing with his rehab?
A: Everything I’ve been told he’s doing very well. We don’t expect him to miss any days when we get down to Mankato. He is on target to start when we start so hopefully that will still be the case.
Q: What kind of differences do you see between this time last year and now with Harrison Smith?
A: The confidence, you can see that and that would be the obvious difference from your rookie year to your second year. His ability now to understand our defense, the ins and outs, the whys and why nots of what we do and now having him now to help some of the guys who are in back up roles and trying to almost be an assistant coach in some ways, which you need out of the safety position. I think Jamarca Sanford helps him with that, but there’s a lot of growth from a confidence standpoint.
Q: Can Harrison be a guy who plays a big part of filling that leadership void left by Antoine Winfield?
A: I think so. I think he kind of wants to embrace that, but he’s only going into his second season, but he has that aura about him where other guys look to him because of his playmaking ability where he leads by example. Some of those hits that he made a season ago, the picks for touchdowns, things like that put you in a leadership role because guys respect what you’re doing. He’s in that role.
Q: Are there things you saw on film where teams took advantage of his aggressive style?
A: No, there weren’t many times he was tricked a season ago even though he was a rookie. He was usually where he needed to be and discouraged a lot of potential big plays down the field because he’s such a bright guy with a lot of range. You like his aggressiveness so I don’t think there was an instance where we thought we needed to pull him back. He did a good job.
Q: What are your expectations for Sharrif Floyd early on?
A: We’d like to be able to get him in a rotation system where he’s a part of what we’re doing with our four-down when he’s getting in sometimes with Kevin [Williams] and just rotate. Hopefully it gets to the point where he’s productive enough where he can warrant increased reps as the year goes on. That would be optimum if he’s able to get in the rotation, have success and we can gradually add more reps to his play as the season goes on.
Q: Would you start him mainly as a pass rusher?
A: I think some of that will determine how far he comes along in training camp from a run defense standpoint and how well he adjusts to the way people want to block him here at this level at training camp and it preseason games as well. We’ll see how it goes.
Q: As you work him in, do you think those snaps would come from Kevin Williams playing less or would Sharrif see some time at the nose as well?
A: We’re not thinking that at this time. We’d like for him to get in a rotation system with Kevin and take some of those reps off of Kevin and keep him fresh throughout the season and we’re hoping that would be the case.
Q: If it comes to at the end of the year where the two best defensives tackles on the team are Sharrif and Kevin would you be opposed to playing them together?
A: Well, that wouldn’t be a bad problem to have. We’d go from that and then make a decision based on the fact that they’re playing at a high level.
Q: Are you married to having Sharrif play one position and not the other?
A: I don’t foresee such a dropoff with Letroy [Guion] or Fred [Evans] for that to happen, but for some reason if that were to happen then we’d have to consider it. But I don’t envision those guys not playing up to par.
Q: Is Locke’s consistency throughout camp encourage you as to what he could possibly do as a rookie?
A: Without question. I think, not only him, but all of our rookies and some of the things we’ve asked them to do in the roles that we’re putting them in, we’ve seen a lot of growth in all of them. I’m encouraged by our rookie class from the first round picks to the guys that were drafted late. I’m anxious to see some of those who weren’t able to work like Michael Mauti and a couple others, but I’m really encouraged by our young group as a whole.
We have a special guest that came out to practice today. Most of you are very familiar with him, the winningest coach in NCAA history and a friend of the Minnesota Vikings as well, Coach John Gagliardi from St. Johns University. Thank you coach for coming out here and being a part of today’s practice. We’re all hoping that some of his great fortune will rub off on us. That’s what we’re hoping and we appreciate your support in coming out. There are a lot of people pulling for our football team and wanting our guys to have success and all our players appreciate when they go to the mall or any other sporting event and they see people wearing Vikings jerseys, or Vikings hats, or Vikings paraphernalia, it encourages our players. They’re excited about this 2013 season as evidence by their participation here. We’ll see where things fall when the fall rolls around.
Q: Are Mistral Raymond and Rhett Ellison hurt?
A: Yeah, Mistral had a hamstring and Rhett had a calf, but nothing that will hinder them when we get to Mankato. They should be ready.
Q: Is the schedule going to be pretty much the same practice-wise?
A: Yeah, pretty much the same. We’ll have a walk-through in the morning and practice in the afternoon. Pretty much the same.
Q: Is it good to not have to worry about Adrian’s health going into camp like you did last year?
A: Very much so. Good for him and good for us, one less thing that we have to deal with. Good health for Adrian Peterson makes us all smile.