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Quotes (6/4): Shurmur, Collins, Ellison

Head Coach Pat Shurmur

Opening Statement: Another productive day. I think the OTAs have gone well. You saw today we had a move the ball period, which we did one last week as well where the guys are calling it – offense, defense, personnel is getting in and out and it’s really the key part of playing the game because it’s the most like a game at this point. I think they handled it well. You saw there was some good, competitive play – for the most part we stayed up, got a lot accomplished and we’ll try to do a little bit more of that. Unfortunately, you won’t be here to see it, but we’ll do a little bit more of that as we go the next three days. So with that, I’ll take your questions.

Q: Is Landon Collins’ status changed because the jersey wasn’t red?

A: He’s getting better. Well, I wouldn’t say it has changed. I would just say that we’re going to be a little bit cautious because it’s a break that’s healed. We’re trying to get him in as much as we can, but a little bit at a time. But he looks good. He’s getting his extra running, he’s getting everything he needs mentally and I’ve been very pleased with his progress in all areas.

Q: Even though this is a non-contact exercise, are you giving them an idea of how you might be able to deploy offense and defense? Is it becoming a little bit clearer to you now?

A: Yes and really the physical nature of practice – a lot of times, even though this is non-contact there is blocking and guys fitting up blocks, so you try to minimize any kind of contact that you have. But really once the season gets going there is many, many practices where we don’t have pads on and so you practice the same way and so you just have to be really fast, you have to talk about body position, you have to talk about moving their feet and we can still see all of that.

Q: How much will the offensive line evaluation change once camp rolls around and you have the pads on?

A: It will be the final evaluation, certainly. In terms of the movement skills, their ability to learn, their ability to work together – all of those things, we can start to draw conclusions about who our best guys are. But you hold the final analysis, really, on all football players until you’re playing true football and I think that’s where the competitive situations in pads can give us the last piece to the puzzle.

Q: Do you think your third receiver will be a traditional receiver? Or because you have a pass catching tight end and Saquon Barkley, maybe the third receiver won’t be a traditional type of guy?

A: No, I think whether you are one, two or three; I think every player has a role. I try not to talk about the first, the second or the third receivers. I think that’s something that when people start stacking up rosters and really depth charts outside the building. So we’re going to put the players in there and use them to the best of their ability and try to get them the ball. The fact that we have a pass catching tight end is something that is very valuable to a team because now a defense has to decide when you have two tight ends and him being one of them, him being Evan (Engram), that are they going to stay base or play nickel? And then the chess game begins from there.

Q: You used the fullback quite a bit in Minnesota. Do you imagine that you will be doing that again here with Shane Smith?

A: Yeah, I like the use of a fullback. I think there are ways that you can use him strategically, whether it is the grouping that he is involved in or how you get him the ball. I think when you have a fullback in there you always have the element of seven-man protection, which is good for the quarterback.

Q: You overhauled the offensive line here. What were your prerequisites when you were looking at offensive linemen?

A: I think they have to be physical, I think they have to be smart and then once they have the basic kind of traits that you’re looking for in the player, then I like guys that have power and can move their feet. You just try to find the best in all of those areas.

Q: A week ago, you told us that Odell Beckham was being pretty close to being fully cleared. By pretty close, are you maybe talking about in time for next week’s mini camp or more towards training camp?

A: Yeah, possibly. We will have to see when we cross that bridge.

Q: When he comes back, what does he have to show you in order to get back on the field?

A: He just has to get out there. Obviously we will visit on how he is doing and again, we talk frequently. We’ll visit how he is doing and put him out there and give him a little bit more as we go.

Q: Are you expecting both Odell and Damon Harrison to be here next week?

A: Yeah, absolutely.

Q: I know you can’t tell much with the offensive line without the pads on, but with that said, Jon Halapio has been getting a lot of first team reps. Can you talk about what he brings at center and why you like him at that spot?

A: Yeah, he has done a very good job. Pio is very smart, he’s got good instincts – he snaps the ball well, which is a really refreshing thing for a center. That was supposed to be humorous (laughs). But no, he does all of those things well and he’s very competitive and he knows how to play the game. I think (Brett) Jonesey is doing the same thing. They’re just in there competing. I wouldn’t overevaluate who is getting the first team reps, but I think if you’re talking about Pio specifically, he has really sort of opened his eyes that he has a chance to play.

Q: With the explosive pieces that you have that we can all see, how much time do you spend being creative and figuring out ways that they can be used on Sundays?

A: Well, we think about that often. I just told the players that it’s not about the plays, it’s about the players. So we have to constantly look for the best ways to get them the ball. We did a couple of things creatively today, we saw a couple of matchups that we wanted where on defense they made good plays against us on the other side of the ball as well. So yeah, we’re always thinking about that. I think that’s the key to our game, it’s not just putting the players out there, but using them well and then the ones that warrant giving them the ball, you give them the ball and I think that’s what we try to do.

Q: You signed Garrett Dickerson today. You had said back at rookie mini camp that even if he wasn’t signed the next day, he would be right back in the mix. What did you like about him and why did you bring him back?

A: We thought that in really a short period of time he showed us that he was smart and he had instincts, runs around well, he catches the ball and we’re just trying to keep reshaping the 90-man roster as we get ready for training camp. We felt like it was a good time to bring in these guys to kind of give them a two weeks head start into the summer and then certainly training camp. So we liked what we saw in a short exposure, so we’re going to bring him in and try to learn more.

Q: Eli Apple made a nice play today.

A: Yeah, that was a good play. Then we saw Jackrabbit make a nice interception in the back of the end zone. The ball was thrown well, everyone was in a good position and he made a nice play on it. That’s a good thing. But then earlier on, Sterling (Shepard) made a couple nice plays, so that’s where when you look at it or point to a play or two, but within a practice you see them kind of getting after each other and we don’t tally the score at this point. We’re just looking for guys to compete and work hard against one another so that we can all get better.

Q: I noticed you gave a lot of young guys a lot more reps today that we’ve seen in the last few weeks. What is your reasoning for that today?

A: We had a real big personnel meeting last Thursday where we kind of just sat down and just talked organizationally about all of the players. I just felt like it was time to get a real good look at what we have with some of the younger players as we move forward. We were kind of at the halfway point at OTAs. We’re seeing a lot good things from our front line guys, but we felt like today was a good day to see what some of the younger, fresher legged guys could do and then we gave them 14 plays there and we did it in a setting where it was basically a scrimmage so we could see how they would function getting in and out of the huddle, how they would line up on plays that weren’t scripted, and it will be a good tool for us to evaluate some of the young guys.

Q: Why did you give Aldrick Rosas a do-over after he missed at the end of practice?

A: I just wanted to see him make one and he had made every kick until the last one and it’s just like shooting baskets, you don’t want to leave the court on a miss. That’s all.

Safety Landon Collins

Q: Are you ahead of schedule in returning from injury, or would you say you are right on schedule?

A: I feel like we are on schedule. We kind of just kept it to ourselves about the whole process and stuff like that. We always knew it was going to take about four weeks, to be safe, six to eight. But it took about four weeks with the proper equipment that we needed.

Q: How important was it for you to be here for the mental part of the game?

A: For myself, it was very important mentally because I’ve got to learn a new defense. We’ve got new guys here, new faces, we’ve got new personalities. So, we’ve all got to get together and understand each other and be on one page, so we can be a great defense and a great team overall.

Q: What do you see from the different players getting first-team reps at the other safety position alongside you?

A: They’re playing great ball out there. They’re getting an understanding, the guys they’re playing next to, they’re on a tight rope, so they’re understanding which person got this and making the right call, so the defense has the right call and [they are] playing fast.

Q: What do you like most about this defense so far?

A: Everybody can make plays, literally. It’s not to where it’s keyed on one person making the play. It’s overall, anybody can make the play. And we all can play fast. It’s not very complex and we have everything set in stone. You just play fast.

Q: So, do players have more flexibility to make a play if it is there?

A: Correct. It’s more flexibility. You see something, go get it. We play ball, we just play fast.

Q: How close are you to being 100% again?

A: I check with the doctors sometime this week, or next week. I’m very close. Just right now, we’re just taking the precautions, not putting me into the team things, getting my arm caught or anything. We’re right around the corner from the season, so we’re not about to risk anything.

Q: Do you feel like you could be cleared for mandatory minicamp next week?

A: I could be, but at the same time, at the end of the day we still won’t take any risks. It’s minicamp, we’re not playing for anything right now.

Q: Do you have any worry about the injury not properly healing?

A: Right now, no, no worries right now. None at all. 

Q: Why did doctors say you had to have surgery again? Did something go wrong?

A: Nothing went wrong, we did everything, had my second opinion from other doctors, everything was great. I was just in that 20 percentile where it didn’t heal correctly.

Q: What is the biggest different around the building from last season?

A: The attitude. Everybody is hungrier. People wanting to play and the new staff is in here. They’re asking a lot more from players.

Q: What do you mean the staff is asking more from players?

A: Just asking to come out here and practice and play hard and earn your position.

Q: Do you mean the staff is asking to get more hours out of the players?

A: Oh no, not more hours.  

Q: What do you mean, ‘earn your position’?

A: Just put in more work. Don’t be lackadaisical, basically. As we were kind of last year, everybody was kind of set in stone, everybody knew who was going to be playing. We ‘re looking for, like you say, accountability and knowing what you’re supposed to do, how you’re supposed to do it and when you’re supposed to do it. And come out here and play each and every down. And I know you all saw the practice today, everybody is still flying around and I don’t know how many practices we’ve had so far, but we’re getting close to the end and we’re still flying.

Q: With the new coaching staff and front office, do you have to prove something to a whole new group now?

A: Correct. Yeah, definitely. I’ve got to come in and say that I can learn this defense, even though I’m not on the field, and put it to the test. And when I get my opportunity to show that I can do it, that me not being on the field is not slowing me down.

Q: Is Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher communicating more with players about what they want the defense to look like?

A: No, not right now. We haven’t gotten that far yet, we’re just kind of learning the defense, taking it step by step and making things work. If it doesn’t work, he’ll take a note to it and we’ll go from there. But he hasn’t asked any of the players that I know of, anything about what they like about the defense yet. 

Q: What do you make of Bettcher?

A: He’s a cool guy. He’s a great coach, he’s very stern, he loves what he does. And he loves his players and wants us to all play great. 

Q: How would you describe Bettcher’s defense?

A: If I were to describe it, I would say, like what I came from in college, honestly. When he came in and he started coaching, it was like I’m back to kind of my grounds and stuff like that. Still quarters, still stuff like that, but back to my grounds from what I had learned in college. It’s kind of second nature.

Q: Do the players have a ‘clean slate’ attitude after last season?

A: Yeah, we put all of that behind us. It’s a clean season, new coaching staff, new team, new players, it’s a clean slate. We just put all of that behind us. What happened then, it happened, we learned from it and now it’s time to move on.

Q: Is cornerback Eli Apple’s natural ability and playmaking ability the best he can bring to this team?

A: Yes. Eli, he’s comfortable now. He’s got a lot of stress off his shoulders and you can see it. He’s proven that when he comes out at the practices. I know you all have only seen a few (practices), but he’s just out here making plays. And that’s not the only play he made. So, he’s doing his thing and I’m happy for him. He’s growing up, he’s doing his thing and playing great ball.

Q: What was your trip to Puerto Rico like and what did you take away from it?

A: My trip to Puerto Rico was eye-opening. And what I took away from it was that people are still out there grieving and need help. But at the same time, people going out there to even help as much as they can, even if roads are closed, buildings slid down, they are still trying to get there some kind of way. Walking through rivers and stuff like that, just trying to get people what they need to help and survive. So, it was big.

Q: Was it shocking to you and did you take away a different perspective for what you have here?

A: Shocking, I wouldn’t say that because I went through it already. So, at the same time, I know what those people are going through. I lost my home, I’ve been without power, I’ve been displaced. Is it shocking? No, because I’ve been through it. But seeing what they’re going through, I feel it and I know their hearts sting and I know what they’re going through. So, as much as I can help, I will try my best to help.

Q: When you say you’ve been through it before, are you talking about Hurricane Katrina?

A: Correct. Correct.

Q: Was that the tough part of being in Puerto Rico, bringing back some tough memories for you?

A: It wasn’t tough because I made it out. But just thinking about it, yes, it was tough. Just seeing those people, just seeing what they’re going through, the struggle, not being able to travel, sometimes not having food. Yeah, it was tough seeing it. But just to see the smiles on their faces when they saw us walking through with packages, food, open arms just to give them a hug. It was great.

Q: Are you going to have to wear anything this season to protect your arm?

A: I don’t plan on it. They probably plan on it, but knowing myself, I’m not going to wear it but we’ll see from there.

Q: Has the piece you’re wearing on your arm affected you at all while out here?

A: No, actually the little piece I’m wearing is pretty light, so I don’t actually feel it. It’s carbon fiber, so it’s kind of light, so I was like, ‘Alright, cool’. But at the same time, it’s going to mess up my swag, so I’ve got to look good, you know?

Q: It would be like a weapon though, right?

A: I don’t need a weapon. My weapon, I’ve got my shoulders for that.

Q: Have you had a chance to digest the new leading with the helmet rules the NFL has put in place?

A: Yeah, we discussed it and as a team, we’re still going over the rules, still looking at plays and still looking at what could be a helmet-to-helmet, what couldn’t be. But at the end of the day, just learn how to tackle, learn to lead with your shoulder. If you don’t lead with your feet, you’re not leading with your head. So if you don’t leave your feet, (you) don’t lead with your head. If you stay on your feet, you’re going to constantly lead with your shoulder. I mean, that’s just how it was coached back in college. So, it’s kind of second nature for me to tackle correctly.

Tight End Rhett Ellison

Q: Is this offense what you remember from your days in Minnesota?​

A: Yeah, there’s definitely some similarities, and there’s been some tweaks. So, this offseason period has been good to kind of get back into what I used to know, and also what [Head Coach Pat] Shurmur put in when I wasn’t there. So, it’s been fun. 

Q: Is Shurmur using you differently now than how you were used in Minnesota?​

A: Yeah, it’s really way too early to tell exactly how he’s going to utilize me and the tight ends and the position groups and stuff like that. Right now we’re just trying to get this offense running.

Q: Is this a balanced offense, or is it more pass-heavy?

A: Like I said, it’s too early to tell exactly what this offense is going to look like. It’s, what, week three of OTAs, so we’re just getting the playbook in, we’re trying to do a little more move the ball and see where we’re at. But yeah, its still just too early to tell what’s going on.

Q: How different is Shurmur as a head coach than when you had him as an offensive coordinator in Minnesota?

A: Shurmur, he is what you’re going to get, like that’s who he is. He doesn’t change around different people or in different positions, he is who he is. He’s real, he’s a great communicator and he’s a great teacher. The speed that we’re picking up this offense is really awesome and that’s a credit to him and the coaches that he hired. 

Q: Why do you think the team is able to pick up the offense so quickly?

A: Some coaches are really good at teaching the system. He keeps it simple, he kind of has a good way of explaining it and he has coaches that all know the system very well. Like bringing in [Offensive Coordinator Mike] Shula, who’s been in this system and stuff like that. So, there’s just a lot of years, a lot of experience teaching this system. 

Q: How would you describe this offensive system?

​A: Yeah, when I’m talking [about] system, it’s really just the language of how the plays are called because obviously football is football and it’s the game situations that are going to decide what plays you’re running. But as far as the system, it’s more number-based, but also concept-based. A lot of the systems are word-based and some systems are numbers, so it’s just a combination of that. So, yeah, that’s what I mean when I say different system. 

Q: Is Shurmur counting on you more to help your teammates with the system, since you already kind of know the language?

​A: It’s just, since I’ve been in this system, I can help, I can answer questions to my group. But also, like I said, the coaches that he brought in, they are doing an outstanding job of teaching the system. So yeah, it helps that I know the system, but I’m not per se teaching, that’s what the coaches are for.

Q: Is it an easy offensive system to learn?

​A: I just depends. Because I’m familiar with it, it seems easier to me, but you’ve got to ask another guy that wasn’t in this system to see what he thinks of it. 

Q: You did have to learn the system at one time though, right?

​A: Yeah, I had to learn it one time. So yeah, I remember that it was very different than what I was used to. Because with [former Minnesota Offensive Coordinator] Norv [Turner], it was like, strictly number-based. Like I said, Shurmur has found a balance of numbers and words. So yeah, for me, it was very difficult at first because I had come from college systems where it’s just word concepts, and then this idea of routes equal numbers and stuff like that and protections. So, it took me a little bit to develop in it. It took our team, the Minnesota Vikings, it took us awhile to really get comfortable in it and like said, Shurmur and the coaches that he hired, they are great teachers and you’re seeing it translate to the field very quickly.

Q: Shurmur and General Manager Dave Gettleman have repeatedly talked about a ‘clean slate’. Does the team put last year’s disappointment behind them and completely forget about it?

A: Yeah, I mean, you have to look yourself in the mirror, you have to look at why we were 3-13 individually. And then that’s what the offseason is. You’re building on that, you’re trying to get better at your weaknesses, strengthen your strengths, make the corrections and just changing the culture. Because you obviously don’t want that 3-13 culture to carry over into this season. So, I think it’s just like any mistake you make, you just look at it and you make the correction and you move on. 

Q: What has been most impressive about running back Saquon Barkley?

A: He’s a humble guy. He just comes in and he works. Anytime you have a rookie, especially a first round pick like that, and they come in just ready to work with their head down, that’s the best you can ask for. Obviously, it’s hard to tell when you’re playing in underwear to see the physicality of the game. But I’d say his work ethic and just his humility is pretty cool.

Q: How is it lining up next to left tackle Nate Solder?

A: It’s awesome. He’s a great dude and yeah, I think the o-line is coming together really nice, especially with him there. Yeah, he’s a great dude.

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