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Mike Zimmer, Matt Cassel discuss Sunday's game

Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer and QB Matt Cassel spoke with New Orleans media via conference call on Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Minnesota Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer
Conference Call With New Orleans Media
Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What's been the challenge of trying to get the rest of the team ready this week considering everything else surrounding the team?

"It's been a little bit of a challenge. I think the one thing that all of us as athletes and professional football players, when we get on the field and in the meeting rooms, it's all about focus. The biggest distraction when you are watching TV at home, or you got this or you have to talk to someone or whatever. I think we all understand how focused we have to be. Quite honestly the Saints have our ultimate attention."

How do you move on without Adrian Peterson on the field? I know the offense surrounds him.

"He didn't play any in the preseason so we were able to get a good look at a number of other things, what we do offensively. We do feel good about the backs we have. I feel like we have some other weapons in Kyle Rudolph and Cordarrelle Patterson and also Greg Jennings. So, obviously as coaches we are going to try to do our very best to figure out what the strengths of our guys are and mold the system to them. We'll continue to do that."

What's been the mood in the locker room? The players thought he would be back and now he's gone again.

"They're a little bit quiet at first. They come back up. The news hasn't been out that long, so it may be a little bit hard to judge at this point. Walk through was fine. We'll see how it goes with practice this afternoon."

Given the way that the league and teams have been reacting to some public response to some of these cases including Adrian Peterson's, when did you start preparing for the possibility that you would not have Adrian Peterson for your game plan?

"I guess we didn't really know until late last night."

Obviously him out of the lineup is a big blow. He's a talented player. How does this change maybe what your team wants to do on offense? Does it shift that a little bit?

"The one thing that I think we've tried to do with this football team is we rely on our core beliefs for everything we do. Obviously it's going to change some because of the personnel we have. I've always believed that you have to have a foundation you can start with and you can always fall back on that foundation for where you have to get to. In training camp we built the best foundation for what we had. You never prepare for your best player getting hurt, but you do prepare for a lot of scenarios."

Do you maybe insert yourself a little bit more than normal in the offensive meeting rooms this week just because of the sudden nature of his absence?

"I've been in there a little bit more maybe, but I'm a defensive coach. Sean (Payton) and Drew (Brees), (Jimmy) Graham and all these guys have a lot of my attention."

What are your impressions of this Saints team at 0-2, having lost two really tight games at the very end? What are your impressions of this team at this point?

"I think they're a very good team. I look at what I see on tape, not the scoreboard all the time. Obviously they're very, very explosive on offense. Defensively they have some guys who can rush the passer and some multiple fronts and they're definitely a handful. Obviously playing down there is going to be a tough task for us. When you lose two games real close, everybody can be woe is me and the world is ending. When I see them on tape, I see a real good football team."

What is your relationship with Sean Payton having been colleagues for three years? Do you guys keep in touch?

"We do. His kids and my kids were close. Our families when we were in Dallas together were close. He and I used to play golf together quite a bit. Sean's a good man and a great coach. I'm happy for the success that he's had."

Is this the most challenging situation that you have had to deal with in your coaching career as far as a player and the league and everything that's surrounded this situation regarding Adrian?

"It may be the most difficult as a head coach, but it's only been seven months. When you're in the league 20 years you see a lot of different things. Obviously there are some other situations that I've had to deal with, but none where I've had to be in the spotlight as much as this."

Did you feel well-prepared to handle this situation or can you be well-prepared?

"I think we all try to do just the very best job we can. You don't prepare for this happening. You don't anticipate it. I wish there was a manual on all these different situations that come up. Really, you just do what you think is right. You try to get your team ready to play the best they can and then you go out on Sundays, play as hard as you can and let the chips fall as they may."

I'm assuming you think it's the right move for Adrian to sit?

"Every time we have an organizational decision, I'm in on it. I always voice my opinion. We always come out of the room together whether it's Rick Spielman and the player personnel (department), management or anything else. I love Adrian Peterson. I feel for him that he's going through this because I think that he's one of my guys. I believe in this situation where everything is, this is the right way to go."

John Harbaugh talked about the team being in a bubble during the week? Has your team been able to get in that bubble or has it been a little bit more difficult?

"The bubble's been pretty big the last couple days. I'm sure we'll start bubbling down once we get out to practice and start getting into meetings a little bit more. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday so far has been pretty hectic with the media and everything else."

What went into the change of mindset from Monday until last night with Adrian?

"I think Monday we made the best decision with all the information. Our plan was on Sunday to deactivate him and then reassess the situation. As more things came out and more communication with everybody (took place), this was the decision we came to."

Has the complication of offenses in the NFL, made it more difficult for rookies to make it immediately once they get to the NFL?

"It's hard for me to say because I don't know all of what they're being taught in college. I just know that defenses in the NFL have become very complicated. The different things you can do to affect especially a young quarterback makes it tougher for him and there's different situations for everybody. Andrew Luck came in and played great as a rookie, many of them. But I do think there's a big learning curve for quarterbacks when they come in. Not so much because of the offense, but because of the defenses."

Minnesota Vikings Quarterback Matt Cassel
Conference Call With New Orleans Media
Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Can you talk about your journey from New England to Kansas City to Minnesota and as an established veteran your approach this week as quarterback while dealing with the situation with Adrian Peterson off the field?

"Obviously there is a lot going on right now. At the same time as a veteran guy I try to impress upon the guys that it's really important to use our energy to focus on the task at hand. When you go into games like this it's easy for certain guys or anyone to use that as an excuse. We can't do that.. The fact of the matter is that nobody on the Saints team is going to feel sorry for us or feel bad for us that we're going through some adversity right now. At the same time, we have to focus our energies when we're inside this building on football and get prepared for what I know is a real good team. I know that they're 0-2 right now, but at the same time they're playing good football and they have their first home game, so we have to get ready to go."

How much does not having Adrian on Sunday change what you do as a team and how does it make you recalibrate your offense?

"Like I said many times before, Adrian's a special player. We all know that and everybody else in the league knows that. We have a lot of respect and confidence in Matt Asiata and Jerick (McKinnon) and the guys behind them. They played a lot in the preseason. Asiata proved last week he could catch the ball out of the backfield. He stepped in for us last year and had a three touchdown game, so he's a very capable back. The fact of the matter was when I got my start in New England (when Tom Brady got hurt) and you brought that up before. That's how I got started. It was an opportunity where Tommy got hurt. Nobody thought we could do anything. We closed ranks so to speak and went on to an 11-5 season. Guys get opportunities in this league all the time. This is another opportunity for Matt Asiata and Jerick to go out and play and perform."

You had success against the Saints two years ago as a Chief. Can you talk about that and how that can benefit you this week?

"Our guys have to get ready for a loud environment. From playing there before it's as loud as any stadium I've played at. There's a lot of excitement. We need to be able to weather the storm early. We know that they are going to come out with a lot of excitement from their home crowd in their first home game of the year. At the same time, they have a defensive line that can rush the passer. We have to play good football and we know that. The mistakes that hurt us last week and the turnovers I had, I have to eliminate that. I have to get back to playing like I did in the first game and the preseason in protecting the football and putting ourselves in a better position to win the ballgame."

What has Mike Zimmer's advice to the team been in terms of dealing with the situation and trying to keep it from distracting them from the task of winning football games?

"Coach Zimmer does a great job of being honest with us about the situation. At the same time, he makes a great point that when we're inside this building it's all football and we can block out the noise on the outside and everything else going on. Everybody is going to be talking about it on the outside, but when we're here this is kind of our little safe haven. We have to concentrate on football, the task at hand and also a great Saints football team. We can't become distracted by everything else going on. We have to be professionals and go out there, learn the game plan and get ready against a good football team."

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