Head coach Mike SmithInjury report:
"We had two players that were not full participants in practice today. Roddy White was a limited participant, and Prince Shembo was a limited participant. He left practice early with cramps in his lower leg. We anticipate that we'll have those guys out participating in practice either limited or full tomorrow. Shembo will probably be back. He was cramping, so we had to take him off the field."
On the nuisances the Vikings present:
"The rookie quarterback can extend plans. He's a guy that can run the football when the integrity breaks down. He's a good scrambler. He's a first round draft pick, and it's just a matter of time before he was going to move into that role that he's in now. I think they have a very explosive guy in Cordarrelle Patterson that can run and they try to get him the ball and put the ball in his hands as many times as possible. Greg Jennings on the other side is a good wide receiver as well, experienced. On the defensive side, I think the strength of their defense is up front. I think they have a very good rotation in my mind. They got three guys that play inside. They have three guys when they get into their sub-package that they can bring off the edge. It'll be a big challenge. Then, on special teams they've got two outstanding returns. 35 (Marcus Sherels) and 84 (Patterson). 84 on kickoffs. 35 took one back to the house last year and had three or four explosive returns as well. I was very impressed by the way that they played on opening day, and went on the road and had a very impressive win."
On his thoughts on the run game:
"We are excited about the way that we've run the football in the first three games prior to about the last 18 or 19 minutes of our last game. We didn't run the ball very well at all when we were in our four minute mode. Prior to that, when we've run the ball we've run it efficiently for the most part, but not at the end of the game last week. Steven's done a very good job as a tone setter for our football team, and then there's three other guys that deserve opportunities and have earned them to touch the football. I think they've done a good job with the opportunities that's been presented to them."
On rookie Anthony Barr:
"He's playing off the line of scrimmage in their base defense on the opposite side. He plays what we call their WILL linebacker. He's not playing their SAM. When they get into third down he puts his hand into the ground and he goes. He's as advertised. Top 10 pick. He can come off the edge. I've been impressed watching him play linebacker in their coverage schemes, and what they're asking him to do. He's a very athletic player."
On Matt Ryan and Devin Hester being awarded players of the week:
"I don't know if had within the first three weeks, I've had four players. Those are great individuals honors, and as I told the guys this morning, it's an individual honor, but everybody contributed to it. This is a team game. The offensive line, the wide receivers, the running backs contributed to it. Then, in the return game, the guys that were blocking for Devin. We're happy for them, but we also want to recognize the other guys that were a part of it on the return team and the offensive side."
On anything he sees different about Matt Ryan that has helped him progress even further:
"I think he's got a really good understanding of what people are trying to do and how they're trying to take it away. The pre-snap read is so important. Then you've got that first second once the ball snap where you have to be able to process what's going on because people are going to try to disguise their coverages, and I think he's got a very good understanding of how people are trying to defend us. Matt, and I've said it from the very beginning, Matt is an elite quarterback in the NFL. Thus far, he's played like one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL."
Quarterback Matt RyanOn winning the NFC player of the week award:
"It's a nice honor, anytime you get recognized, but we talk about it all the time, I think it's a collective group effort when anybody gets an honor. We've been playing pretty well the first couple of weeks on offense. We need to continue that moving forward."
On helping the offense be more consistent:
"Third down conversions in my opinion. The first week and the third week we were really efficient converting third downs, and on the road versus Cincinnati we were not. I think that's got to be a point of emphasis for us this week, we've got to be efficient on third down. We got to make first downs on our first and second downs as well, and keep drives going. But for me, that's probably the biggest difference in the three weeks."
On the Vikings front seven:
"They're a very good front seven. Physical at the point of attack in the front four. Good linebackers. Chad Greenway is a guy that's played for a long time and as good as a player as there is. We've got to bring it. We got to be up to the challenge. Up for the physical play, and I think our offensive line will be, but it's going to be important for us to go on the road and play well up front."
On getting off to fast starts:
"Fast starts obviously a good thing for us to keep momentum going. In each of those two games where we did start fast we converted third downs early in the game. It's going to be important for us. We've got to play on the road. We've got to be efficient on first and second downs; try to get some first downs on first and second down. Also, keep ourselves in third and short. If we can do that I feel like that gives us our best chance."
On Bridgewater making his first start and what his thoughts were on his first start:
"It's been a while, but obviously everybody's different, and everybody has different emotions. For me I think it's nervous, excited, anxious, but it's a lifelong dream to play and to start in this League. It's a really special day. It's one that you'll never forget. I think Teddy will do a great job. He's a talented player; had an unbelievable college career. He's going to be excited this week, but once you get in and settle down it's going to be the same game that you've always played."
On the running game improvements:
"I think it's huge for us offensively to be able to do whatever we want. Whether it's run the football or throw the football. If you can keep a defense off balance, obviously it makes us tougher to defend. I think our offensive line has done a great job through three weeks both in the run game and in pass protection. I think we've got a really good group of running backs that are physical, can run between the tackles and also have speed to be explosive. I think it's a good combination for us."
On whether or not it's hard for teams to defend the different styles of the running game:
"I think it's a good thing for us that we have backs with different skill-sets. Guys that can do things a little bit differently when they come in. It makes a defense defend a little bit more. Each of those guys are a little bit unique in their own way, but at the same time all of them are physical, and that's huge for us especially in those third and shorts. Last week, I think second or third drive of the game, we had third and one in the red zone and Steven (Jackson) was able to pound it through. Those kind of things are huge, in terms of scoring points. I really like where our run game is at. We can still improve. We can still be a lot better than we've been up until this point. We talk about it all the time that we're leaving yards out there, we need to be better. Hopefully, that's something that we can continue to improve at throughout the year."
On facing a Mike Zimmer defense and the similarities to the Bengals defense:
"I think it's a very similar scheme to Cincinnati. Obviously, Mike Zimmer was the defensive coordinator there last year. Lot of carry over, lot of similarities between the two. Personnel's always a little bit different. You got different guys that you're going against. I think personnel always creates different issues for you, but as far as scheme-wise Cincinnati had a lot of success against us defensively and I'm sure that Minnesota is going to look at that film and know exactly what Cincinnati was doing, and probably use a lot of the stuff we saw in that game. We'll have to be prepared for some of the stuff we saw a couple of weeks ago."
On if they're better prepared to face some of the schemes they saw against Cincinnati:
"I hope we learned something. I hope we learned something from that game a couple of weeks ago. Hopefully, we'll be better off going up to Minnesota, our second game on the road and go out execute our plan better than we did a couple of weeks ago."
On when he was able to go back and look at film from the Cincinnati game:
"Early on. Even in that short week I think it's important to take a peek at what you're doing. I watched that game Sunday night, and went through it and had a good feel for some of things we didn't do well. We'll make our notes, talk about the things that we wished we would've done. This is a week where you can go back and review those things because you're going against a similar scheme."
On being effective against the blitz:
"Different teams have different pressure packages. I think it's different. You can't say, 'Hey, we did this better.' Different teams have different blitzes and different pressure packages. I think one of the things that we did against the Bucs was identifying fronts and identifying personnel groupings and where guys where lined up. That's going to be important for us again. Minnesota, one of the things that they like to do is give you a lot of different looks and move some of their defensive lineman around to put a stress on their identification in pass protection, so I think that's going to be key for us.
On strength and conditioning and his fast start:
"I think those things help, there's no doubt about it. If not you wouldn't do them. I think the hard work that you put in during the offseason pays dividends; I've always felt that way. I feel like really for the last two or three years I've gotten a feel for what it takes to get yourself ready to go. I feel like I've made really good strides. I don't think it's any one thing in particular. I think it's kind of the combination of all those things and being consistent year in and year out. I think I'm at a good place physically, and I feel really good when I go out there on Sunday."
One particular moment in career where he realized what he needed to do to get to next level:
"I think it's after season. I think after every season you have to critically evaluate yourself and say, 'You know what? I'm in a spot right now; I want to be better than that. How can I do that?' You have to be honest with yourself. I think I've been good about that. I've trusted the guys that work here from the coaching staff and from our strength and conditioning program. I think that's paid off."
On road woes and how they bother him:
"It's one of those things where it is what it is. At this point we haven't been as good as we need to be this season, but at different points throughout or career we've been good. We've been up; we've been down. It's tough. Going on the road in this League is tough, especially when you're playing against good football teams I think the biggest thing for us has got to be when we're on that road it's 53 guys together. That's all we've got, and we've got to be locked in and understand our plan really, really well. I think if we take that heighten focus up there we'll execute better than we did two weeks ago."