Head Coach Pat Shurmur -- October 2, 2019
Opening Statement: The injury report, I think itís pretty public. So, Saquon (Barkley) and (Alec Ogletree) Tree (didnít practice). We have a bunch of guys here that this time of year, itís just game soreness. Iím not really concerned aboutÖ I guess (Kevin) Zeitlerís on here and Lorenzo Carter. Tae Davis is coming back. He had a good day today, considered a non-contact day in the (concussion protocol), obviously. Wayne Gallman, Nate (Solder). Just game soreness stuff. This time of year, it kind of creeps up. By the end of the week, most, if not all, of these guys will be ready to go. This is a tough team. I was telling our guys, having been up there for two years and coached with (Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer) Zim, I know their mindset. I know how they function. This is an old-school team. They have a progressive mindset, certainly, but theyíre old school. A lot of what they do there, we try to do here in terms of building our team. Itís going to be quite a test for us. Iíll take your questions.
Q: Itís obviously a good sign to see Saquon back out there. Is that fair? Do you look at it the same way?
A: Yeah, heís progressing.
Q: Is that part of his regular timetable, or is he healing faster than you thought?
A: I donít know. Some peopleís doctors had him (out for) eight weeks. Not my doctors.
Q: What did your doctors say?
A: It doesnít matter. Weíll just see. Itís one of those things, weíll see how fast he comes back.
Q: Did you expect him to be running and cutting at this point?
A: I didnít know what to expect. Each guy comes back from injuries at a different rate. Weíll just see. Weíll just see where heís at.
Q: You could say that this week is too early for him to return?
A: I donít know yet.
Q: You wonít rule him out for this week? You still think thatís a possibility?
A: Weíre just going to see where heís at. Heís out there moving around. Iíve seen him moving around. I guess this is the first opportunity for you guys to, so thatís probably why itís a point of interest.
Q: How did he say he felt? Did you talk to him after practice today? How did he feel afterwards?
A: He said he felt good.
Q: You mentioned the familiarity with Zimmer. Obviously, he knows you, I would imagine, inside and out, and you know what he wants to do inside and out. I know you guys have had these storylines the last couple weeks of whoís familiar with who. Is that the case with you and Zimmerís defense?
A: No. Listen, a lot is made of that. Unfortunately in this business, if youíve been in this business a long time, youíve worked at a lot of places with a lot of guys. It comes down to the players executing. We know how each guy sort of functions and how each guy thinks, but that doesnít mean we know how itís going to play out. I have great respect for his teams. Working there helped shape my mindset moving forward. Iíve been very fortunate to work for a lot of really good defensive coaches as an offensive guy, which kind of impressed upon me the importance of running the football, being able to play defense, protecting the passer and all of those things. Those are the things you learn. But thereís always the gamesmanship that goes into it. I donít know what they call their plays on offense. We just need to attack what we see on defense and vice versa. There are more guys there that know more about what we do on offense, because there are some coaches there that were there (in 2017). You try to maybe say something that to them sounds like a pass and is a run, and vice versa. Thatís just the little gamesmanship you play. But for the most part, at least in my experience, in games where you say, ĎWell, you know we know this crewÖí That kind of stuff usually backfires on you. Itís a new team playing against a new team, and it comes down to the players executing.
Q: What particular challenges does this Vikings defense pose for Daniel (Jones)?
A: They have outstanding players everywhere. When you start saying, ĎOkay, well, this is their best player. No, this guy is their best player.í All of the guys up frontÖ they have two edge rushers. They have interior guys that can get push. They have linebackers that are Pro Bowlers. They have corners and they have safeties that have all been to Pro Bowls. Theyíre well-coordinated and they put pressure on the passer, and they do a good job of stopping the run. Thatís what you want from a defense.
Q: In the past, youíve spoken about the team needing to learn how to win. With two wins in a row now, do you feel that theyíve finally grasped how to win and can build on it?
A: Well, in the last two weekends, we did. When you find a way to win games, and we did it two different ways. The first win, that was never in doubt, right? We found a way to win. We had to come back. Last week, I asked the fellas to start the game like they started the second half of the previous game. They did a good job, and we found a way to get a lead. Thatís a different way of winning. When the score is in your favor, you run the ball a little more than you might otherwise, you play defense like we did, try to eliminate the turnovers, which we didnít. Those types of things. Thereís learning that comes with winning. Typically, just like when you lose, you lose certain ways. When you win, you do the same thing.
Q: Youíve seen Kirk Cousins play, you know their receivers pretty well. Are you surprised they are 31st in the league in passing?
A: I donít look at those deals. I know this, when they get grooving running the ball, and I was with Dalvin Cook, an outstanding runner, and theyíve got a list of runners behind him that are very good. Theyíve improved their offensive line. I knew (Kyle) Rudolph, Irv Smith, those guysó when they get going and then their play actions, their boots and their nakeds are all tied to that, they are very dynamic. I was with all of those receivers, mainly (Stefon) Diggs and (Adam) Thielen. Those guys can win one on one matchups when they are choosing to throw the ball. I donít know about all of that stat stuff, I just know that they are very dangerous.
Q: How similar do you view your offense now to what it was like when you were there with Case (Keenum) in Minnesota?
A: I donít know. I think weíre learning. We try to attack the coverages that we see each way. I think weíve developed more things that we can do than when I was there. We just have to make sure we get the plays called at the right time. I donít know how different offenses are. Everybodyís got curl flat, and four verticals, lock them up, take shots. Everybody runs the ball to the right, to the left, inside, outside, everybody tosses the ball. I donít know, I guess I donít think too much about that.
Q: Is their ability to run the ball of a particular concern when they get it going, in light of the injuries that youíve had on defense?
A: Absolutely. Thatís primary to playing this game. If a team can come out early in the game and establish running the football, then what happens is their passing game and their play action game is much more believable and they can stick with it longer. Weíve all seen where teams just start from the first snap on, just start dropping back and throwing. Pass rushers on every team are too good. So, that really is a good formula for everybody to play with. Run the ball, play action, boots, nakeds, move the launch point of the quarterback, deal with tricky little things that give you a quick completion. Then that gives the quarterback confidence, too. Itís not unique to how I anticipate they are going to play against us, but it really is a way that if youíre going to win a lot of games over a long period of time, itís kind of a good way to be.
Q: You guys gave up something like 90 points in the first 10 quarters of the season, and six (points) in the last six (quarters). Is there something you can point to, simplifying anything or something that makes it such a stark turnaround defensively?
A: No, I think as we get going, there are a lot of things running parallel, not just with our defense, with our team. Weíve got a lot of young players and they are doing things for the first time. There is a lot of learning that comes between the first and second time you play, then that third time, then the fourth time. Then there is the coordination of everybody together. As Iím on record saying, we did a few tweaks to help us in last weekís game. Then you have to practice. I felt like last week, we practiced with a purpose, trying to improve on the things that we didnít do well. The biggest thing we did, we had 13 big plays against us in Tampa. It looks like they did the same thing moving forward last week. But we had 13 big plays (against us), and last week we cut it down to three. Whatever happened there, thatís a good thing and it helped us win the game.
Q: You guys have said the practices have been more focused or have drawn more attention to detail. I donít know from the players side or the coaching side, but was there some change that was made in the last two weeks in the practice schedule or in the team?
A: No, I think that just runs parallel with winning a couple games. I feel like theyíve always practiced with a purpose. Itís easier to talk about when you win a couple games. I do like our new schedule. I believe in it, and I wish I wouldíve thought of this sooner. Like today, this is a Wednesday after a hard-fought game. They are sore, and they are out there, but they are in pads. They are practicing at a time of day when their energy level is the highest, so they have a better chance to push through it, which they did. I thought today was a really good practice, but early on it was a little haggard. As that day went on, they practiced better and better.
Q: Is there anything you want Daniel (Jones) to be on high-alert for this week going against a defense like this? For a rookie quarterback, do you say, Ďlook, this is going to be a little different than what youíve faced so farí?
A: Well, I donít know how different it is. We all watched the games, weíve played against some really good defenses so far. I donít want to minimize what weíve played against, because Tampa has an outstanding front. Theyíve got a guy whoís knocking the league out in pass rushing. This team is going to be as good of a front as weíre going to face, but weíve already played against some good fronts. The important thing is to make good, quick decisions, (and) get the ball out of your hands. Weíve got to do what we can to help minimize the effect that (Everson) Griffen, (Danielle) Hunter and those guys have on the passer. (Stephen) Weatherly, theyíve got a lot of guys.
Q: Yesterday you let go of Bennie (Fowler) and TJ Jones. What made you let go of two receivers? Obviously, you had to make moves, but letting go of two guys at the same position after losing Russell Shepard last week?
A: Well, itís a full roster shaping. We had injuries at linebacker and we had Golden Tate coming back. Iím better at English than math, but you can only have 53 guys, so youíve got to make some decisions. They are hard decisions because we cut some guys who are our kind of guys. Bennie and TJ are terrific people, great teammates, (and) outstanding players, but we had to make some decisions to put the roster together. I think thatís what goes into it this time of year. Then youíre always looking for guys who can help bolster a piece of your team, no pun intended. Thatís why (Chris) Peace is here (laughter).