What’s your priority when you start looking at the Vikings?
“Today’s an early-down focus so I think getting ourselves right and knowing what we have to do first and foremost is always where you want to start.”
You said that you suspected back in 2014 that maybe the Browns might be one of the teams that were interested in you. Did you ever think that the Vikings and that team was a possible destination?
“For a little bit, yeah. They ended up taking [New Orleans Saints QB] Teddy [Bridgewater] I think it was. We did a bunch of meetings and everything, they came and worked me out, but yeah things didn’t work out that way.”
How hard was it to lose RB Jerick McKinnon?
“It was tough, especially in that situation. It was, I don’t know, second or third play of practice really and my back was to it so I didn’t see it really, but yeah it sucks. For a guy who works as hard as he does and puts as much as he puts into this team, it’s tough. But, you know we’ve got to move on. Injuries happen in this league. That’s kind of part of it.”
What’s your confidence level in working with RB Matt Breida and RB Alfred Morris?
“It’s always been good. These guys are hard workers. Me and Matt have been going since last year together. It’s good to have him back full-speed now. Yeah, we’ve still got a good group back there.”
What’s the key to dealing with a hostile road environment?
“I think having the communication down early in the week and getting the silence cadence going and all of that stuff and just making sure the communication from coach to player is as good as it could be. It’s tough to simulate that noise, but hopefully [administrative assistant to the head coach Nick] D.J. Kray helps us out with that today.”
You’ve had success on the road before. Is it something that you thrive off of, playing in that environment?
“It’s exciting, yeah. It definitely is. It’s kind of a ‘you against the world’ environment that you’re in. These guys, I’ve never played there before, but I’ve heard good things about the stadium. So, it’ll be a good, fun environment.”
Do you draw on the game in Arizona that you guys played?
“As far as what?”
In New England, as far as first game of the season, road game, that sort of thing?
“I like to think I’m a much different player than I was back then, that was my first start and everything. But, all of the game experience that you gain from over your career, you can always use.”
How much did you know about T Joe Staley before he was your teammate and what has it been like to have him protecting your blindside?
“He’s been awesome, in the locker room, on the field, all of that stuff. He’s a pleasure to work with. He’ll keep you level headed and keep you humble for sure. He’ll keep you in check. But, you need a guy like that. The older, veteran experience that he brings to not only that group, but our entire locker room, it’s invaluable.”
Have you ever faced a defense like Minnesota’s and what type of unique problems do they present?
“Well, they’re talented across the board. Those guys have been playing together for a while, just about all of them. So, they’re comfortable in their scheme. They play to their strengths and try to expose your weaknesses. It’s going to be a chess match, really. Just a ‘who has the chalk last’ type of thing.”
Talking about being a different quarterback then you were that first start in Arizona, how different are you from where you were at the end of last year?
“I like to think I’ve made some progress having the entire offseason and everything to get with [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan], get with [quarterbacks coach] Rich [Scangarello] and just be able to know the ins and outs of the offense, the ‘whys’ and how everything ties together.”
Some of the guys have talked about what they do off the field in building friendships and those bonds away from the facility has led to having more trust on the field, between the lines. Have you noticed that and how important was that aspect of your transition last year and now throughout the offseason?
“Yeah, I’ve definitely noticed it. Last year I was in a tough situation because I really didn’t have any extra time to go out and hang out with the guys. I was trying to learn as quickly as possible. So, this offseason we’ve had a lot more time to do things together away from football and kind of get to know each other on a more personal level.”
You mentioned the Vikings defense has been playing together for a while. How does that come through to you? Is it the way they can check to different defenses or is it noticeable on film?
“Yeah, it’s kind of one of those things that wherever the ball is, they’re all reacting at the same time and in the same way. Good defenses have that. They’re a talented group, they are. It’s going to be a challenge for us, but it will be fun.”