Coach Childress: We're kicking off the free agency today. A lot of people have worked very hard. We're got a lot of talented people involved in this thing. The first guy I'd like to introduce you to is Ryan Longwell. Obviously he has great knowledge of the Minnesota Vikings. He's had a few game winners here in the Metrodome. His being the all-time leading scorer in the history of the Green Bay Packers kind of speaks for itself. To have experience in this division, the NFC North, for us is huge. To know what the wind is like in Lambeau Field and Soldier Field is a big thing in terms of being a kicker. Let me introduce you to Ryan Longwell.
Longwell: Thanks. Sarah and I are extremely honored to come here and be Minnesota Vikings. It's been a lot of fun in Green Bay for the past nine years, but we are as excited as we've ever been to start this new facet of our lives and this new chapter of our lives. We're excited with the direction that Coach Childress and the Vikings are headed and we're just as pleased as can be to be a part of it. We thank everybody involved. It's been a very exciting day for both of us and we're excited to get started.
Q: What made you comfortable with this decision?
A: Obviously I was very comfortable with kicking in this division as I have. But, people make the difference in organizations. The thing about Green Bay was that there was good people there. When I started to get acquainted with the people here today in this organization they're incredible. From the head coach to the special teams coach to the owner to everybody involved, they're just great people that this organization has in there. We were honored that they wanted us to come and be a part of it and be a part of the transition. We expect good things pretty quick here.
Q: You've had a good percentage even with kicking at Lambeau, did playing in a dome factor into your decision?
A: It absolutely factored in. I've braved the winds and the field and the cold in Lambeau for a long time. There's always been an appeal to me to see what I could do in a neutral environment. I've had good games here in the past and I expect to continue on that. Certainly it was a factor to be able to play in a controlled environment. It's not an intimidation to go to Lambeau or Soldier Field and kick there. I'm very comfortable kicking there. I do think we're at an advantage in playing in this division, which is huge. You've gotta win the division to get in the playoffs.
Q: Will you adjust to being on the other side of the Packers-Vikings rivalry?
A: Darren Sharper and I were rookies together in Green Bay and he did a lot of great things with us with the Packers in the past and when he came back he got booed out of the stadium. I don't expect to be welcomed back, but I'm very proud of what I accomplished in Green Bay. I know the Vikings-Packers rivalry is about as heated as it gets. I'm happy to be wearing purple and to be on this side of the battle for the next bunch of years.
Q: Is it going to be fun for you going to an NFC North city and already be known to the home fans?
A: I think it is. I've always had very high standards for myself and what I expect out of myself on the field. Because the Vikings fans know me and know what I've done over the years there won't be a break-in period to get to know what we expect. We expect to make our kicks and have a very, very high percentage. It's good that they know me and they should be comfortable with me. Certainly getting one of the "bad guys" so to speak is never a bad thing.
Q: Did the Packers make a push to keep you?
A: We have talked over the past months since the season, but those conversations really ended about a week ago. It was time to move on. We kind of felt that from their end. We knew where they were at. Sarah and I kind of felt that with all the transition going on over there it would be a good time, so we began thinking it would be elsewhere.
Q: Was it easier or more difficult to come to a team that's in a transition like the Vikings are?
A: No, I think that one of the big highlights is the fact that everybody is kind of getting a fresh start. I can work with the players and the coaches alike to build this thing up from ground zero, so I'm very excited about that.
Q: Is the transition and a new start as important as the dollars?
A: In this game the dollars are always a factor. Last year, with everything that happened, you know, it was time for a fresh start. With the transition there, there's a new staff and everything. The second we got here this morning it just kinda felt like the right place to be. The more people we met and the more people we came in contact with, the more and more comfortable it felt. It just felt like this was the place to be. To be a piece of that puzzle was something that we wanted to be. Then we just had to make it work.
Q: The Bucs were interested too, why the Vikings?
A: There were some teams that made some pretty big announcements that they were going to get a kicker in free agency. But once we got up here this morning it was pretty obvious that we wanted to be Minnesota Vikings. We're very, very happy to be here, very happy to be part of this and excited to get started.
Linebacker Ben Leber
Coach Childress: Ben Leber came from the San Diego Chargers. We got a chance to compete against Ben first-hand last year. He's a very good outside linebacker. He can play either side; he can play in the middle. I know Mike (Tomlin) has plans for him all over the field. He played at Kansas State. I know his work ethic; I know his toughness. He's from South Dakota so he's no foreigner to cold weather, although he had a little respite for the past four years. We have to toughen him back up to the elements here. Let me introduce Ben Leber.
Leber: Thank you. I just want to take this opportunity to tell you how much I appreciate you guys coming out and being here today. I know it's a tough weekend for Minneapolis and all the Twins fans and all the Vikings fans, so thanks guys for taking the time to talk to us. Just to let you know, we're extremely excited. We have three guys, including myself, who are extremely proud and excited to be a part of this family. I look forward to taking any questions.
Q: What do you like about the Vikings?
A: They have a tremendous team, a great group of roots set down here in a division that is very competitive. They finished 9-7 after a pretty rocky public relations situation last year, and I think that's a tribute to the players and the organization they have here that they can do that.
Q: How much did Fran Foley play a part in your coming here?
A: I think maybe a little bit. Obviously Fran is a familiar face to me, but it was very much just a working relationship we had in San Diego. I'm just excited to have the opportunity to work with him again.
Q: How familiar are you with this defense and the players here?
A: I had the opportunity to play in this style of defense in my first two years in San Diego, so I'm familiar with the schemes. I think everyone is very familiar with the Tampa 2 coverage and that whole scheme. So I've had two years of experience with it, and I think I will fit in pretty well.
A: When I was in San Diego, I was a strong-side guy, but I think all the linebackers are going to learn every position. I think that's the best way for everybody as a group to collectively learn the defense and know what each other is doing.
Q: Is the injury behind you now?
A: Yeah, it's pretty much behind me now. I'm still rehabbing; I'm three months post-surgery, so I'm not quite 100% but definitely right up there. It's going to continue to get better.
Q: Was it easier or more difficult to come to a team that's in a transition like the Vikings are?
A: No, I think that's one of the big highlights is the fact that everybody is kind of getting a fresh start. I can work with the players and the coaches alike to build this thing up from ground zero, so I'm very excited about that.
Q: Talk about your regional roots.
A: Yeah, I'm from Vermillion, South Dakota, so this is pretty much home. As Midwesterners see it, if you're within 8 or 10 hours, you're pretty much home, so I'm excited to have a lot of support here. I have a sister that lives in town; my parents are just a drive away, and I have a lot of friends from high school and through the years that are in or around the area.
Q: Did you grow up a Vikings fan?
A: No, I really didn't, but I definitely got to hear all the people talk either up or down on Monday morning, so I was around it.
Q: What appeals to you most about the Tampa 2?
A: I think it's a very efficient defense. It seems very simple; they want to keep it simple and let you go out and make plays without having to think about what you have to do. They keep it simple, and that's really the basic fundamental part of it.
Running Back Chester Taylor
Coach Childress: Next person I want to introduce to you is Chester Taylor. He is a free agent and played for the Baltimore Ravens. He also played at the University of Toledo; he had an outstanding career there. Had a chance to follow him through his college escapades, and I guess my recollection of him is playing Marshall with Chad Pennington and being 23 points down at halftime. I was talking to his college coach yesterday and he said, "We are going to get you the ball anyway we can. I want you to win this game for us." And he did. He had three touchdowns in the second half. Anyway, that catapults him into the NFL. Another recollection was of him running by me on the sidelines in a preseason game and I knew some of their running backs, and I was like, "Who in the (heck) is that guy," as he ran up the sideline, I think we were at the Lincoln. He's a good running back. He has multiple skills, can run between the tackles, can circle the defense, and has very good hands. Although he can catch passes thrown to him too. He can catch the football. So I'm going to introduce Chester Taylor.
Taylor: Hey everyone. I am really excited about this opportunity I have been given. I played behind Jamal Lewis for four years and standing on the sideline was just killing me a little bit but I did what I had to do.
Q: What are your thoughts on becoming a Viking?
A: I mean I enjoyed being with the Ravens. I'm glad they gave me the opportunity, but I felt like I wanted a fresh start so Minnesota is a great place for me right now. I'm just ready to get it started right now.
Q: Describe yourself as a running back?
A: I can catch the ball really well. Run out of the backfield, try to get the defense to mismatch up. I can also run well between the tackles. Like Coach Childress said, I can run outside as well, so I'm kind of versatile in that aspect.
Q: Is this offense good for you?
A: Yes, I believe I can run a good west coast offense. You have mismatches for the defense and try to bring something special to the table for the offense.
Q: Do you envision yourself doing the same as Bryan Westbrook.
A: Yeah I believe I could do the same thing Westbrook did. He caught a lot of passes out of the backfield. He lined up outside as a receiver as well. I can do that. Whatever I can do to make this team win, that's what I'm going to do.
Q: Did you learn from Jamal Lewis?
A: I learned a lot from Jamal, especially the one year he had 2,000 yards. I learned a lot like when to hit the hole, when to be patient. Blocking as well, I'm a much better blocker than when I came into the league, so my blocking got a lot better. I just try to improve myself every year.
Q: Do you feel like you could have gotten 2,000 yards?
A: I could if I had the opportunity. Luckily, I get the opportunity when I come here to see what I can do.
Q: Opportunity the mean reason?
A: Just getting out there and seeing what I can do. Being the go-to guy and being the right man. Going out there and taking it independently on me. I want the ball in my hands when it comes down to it.
Q: Is it nice to know you can move up the charts?
A: Knowing they had the same equal chance is great. With Jamal, I kind of figured they would keep him as a starter. Coming in here I get the opportunity like everybody else to get the starting job.
Q: Ever been in Minnesota?
A: I have never been in Minnesota but I heard it can get cold up here. But I'm used to that I'm from Detroit.
Coach Brad Childress
Q: Did you sign Chester Taylor with the idea he would get significant playing time?
A: Well I think we signed him with that in mind, but you always compete. Obviously I think we'll get his talents on the field. We were looking for a guy that we felt could be a higher-carries back, and I think he can do that.
Q: Will you continue to be aggressive in free agency?
A: Well we have a few different things we're looking at, but we wanted to jump out here today with these guys. We were very aggressive with these guys. We still have a couple more things that we're looking at.
Q: This is the most activity on the first day of free agency for this team in a long time. Are you sending a message that this is the direction the organization is going?
A: Well I just think that our philosophy in free agency will always be to supplement places where we have needs. One thing about all these guys is that they're good people. They're good players, first of all, or they wouldn't be standing up here, but they're good people, and that's going to be important as we go along here. We know exactly what we're getting from a character standpoint. Good players that are good people have a chance to win a lot of games.
Q: Your approach to free agency was similar to Zygi's approach to hiring you. Is that going to be the mentality of this organization, to be more aggressive?
A: Well, first of all, we have to thank Zygi because he's giving us the wherewithal to be able to do this. Rob (Brzezinski) has done a great job of managing the cap. It's Zygi's money, and we wanted to make sure we were careful on how we spent it and that we spent it on the right people. But through Fran (Foley) and Rob and Dave (Blando), there are so many people that put this weekend together and put this assault on these guys together. I'm grateful for all their hard work. A lot of the times those guys behind the scenes are doing a lot of the footwork.
Q: Can you share at all who might be coming in next?
A: I'd rather not because things can happen that are crazy. They happened crazy throughout the day today. People make last-minute runs at people. If we have anybody else to introduce to you, we'll get them down in front of the microphone and go back to work.
Q: When do you expect to have the Daunte (Culpepper) situation cleared up?
A: It's ongoing. We've had a little bit of dialogue, but I'd kind of much rather prefer, as you can imagine, to focus on these guys that we added today. We're dealing with the other situation, and it will clear itself up.
Q: Is there a timetable for that?
A: Sometime before next season.
Q: Does that become a factor in recruiting players like Chester Taylor or other offensive players?
A: For a guy like Chester Taylor, I think it's how many times does he get to put his hands on the football? It's really more about someone that can hand it to him.
Q: Are you looking to bring in a quarterback in free agency?
A: At this point you don't rule anything out. There are good players left out there, and whether we bring people in and physical them and get to know them, there are a lot of different things we can glean, a lot of different information we can get whether we bring people in and sign them immediately or whether we bring them in and physical them and do something at a later date. If they're good players and we have an interest, we're probably going to get them in here.
Q: How is Ryan Longwell on kickoffs?
A: Ryan Longwell on kickoffs? He's not bad; he's not bad. He'll be a lot better inside a climate-controlled environment. That's a very difficult thing to do both and to do both well. The other thing he's done is he's punted the football. If you need an emergency guy who can put a foot on the ball, he can do that. That's something that he continues to work on, and obviously he'll be much more effective with no wind.
Q: Do you prefer that rather than having a kickoff specialist?
A: Yeah, what ends up happening is that you don't have an infinite number of spots, so you kind of match and move around. It's kind of like a game of checkers. At some point could we? Maybe we would, but you're taking away a linebacker position or defensive back position or offensive line position, and usually that's more of a luxury than anything else.
Q: How much has the Daunte situation been a drain on you?
A: It's just part of the job description; it really is. You just can't run from those things. You just have to look them down and deal with them.
Q: Where do you envision Ben Leber lining up?
A: Well I could use letter names, whether it's an "S" or a "W," but we kind of go backwards in that defensive room. Those guys look at plays upside down; we look at them right-side up. He can play on either side. Whether I say to you a "Will," which means something to us and something different to the defense, or a "Sam," he can play either outside linebacker position, and in a pinch he can play in the "Mike."
Q: Do you feel like the linebacker position is one you could still pursue?
A: It could be; it could be, but we got a good one there, so we're happy with that get today.
some of my thoughts:
--I don't think we should sign a kicker because he is in the division. yes its important to know the other teams, but he's a kicker!
--its good how versitle Leber is
--Personally, I think Taylor was signed to carry the load with Moore. Childress kinda put this idea down by saying that he thinks carry the load, but then he said that he will compete with Moore...
-- it looks like we are going to try to sign another linebacker by his final sentence
Make love to the present, fuck the past