Q: What do you see from the Patriots when you started to study up on them and game planning for this game? **
MZ: The Patriots, they are obviously a really, really good football team. They haven't changed much as far as from what I remember them in the past. They are solid defensively, they've got some very, very good special teams players, and offensively they can really move the ball and score points.
Q: To follow up Mike, defensively, I'm curious from what you saw from them, and I know it might be different from the view of the head coach versus last year as a defensive coordinator, what do you see they're trying to do defensively based on that season open in terms of scheme?
MZ: I don't know that I can comment on that part about it. I think they look very similar to what they had in the past as far as they're a 3-4 team, what they have been for years and years. I just think they are very, very sound fundamentally. They've got some good rushers, I think they are much improved in the back end, and they have always done a great job. Being with [Bill] Parcells, I've studied New England for many, many years.
Q: Obviously Matt Cassel was there before you got there and I was just wondering what the transition has been like in terms of getting to know him and what you saw in him in training camp in week one that has impressed you?
MZ: Matt, he's really come in and very, very good offseason, at training camp he was phenomenal. I think Norv Turner and Scott Turner do a great job of coaching him. Matt is a fiery guy, he's a pretty smart guy as far as knowing as what needs to get done. He's taken care of the football the entire preseason; he took care of the ball last week. I think he's done a very, very good job and his personality, he's got a little bit of intensity to him at times but I think he really came in this offseason and thought about where his career was and what he needed to do to continue playing in the NFL.
Q: I'm just wondering, watching some of the film maybe from this past Sunday of the Patriots, what you saw from Miami's defense in terms of slowing the New England offense down, how did you feel they were able to have some success there?
MZ: You know it's never an easy thing, I know [Miami] played better in the second half, but the first half, New England did a good job. In the second half, [Miami] just made some plays. Against New England you have to make some plays from time to time in order to get them off the field. You have to be good on third downs. I don't know exactly what Miami was trying to do defensively, I know obviously Kevin Coyle is a very good friend of mine but we have not talked about the game. We kind of know each other's systems well. It's hard for me to know exactly what Miami was doing.
Q: About your pressure defense, obviously you have a reputation for bringing different, not only pressure, not only blitzes, but different pressures from different areas. Are you continuing that kind of philosophy with Minnesota and do you think that you have a good personnel base to execute what you would like to do against New England?
MZ: I don't know so much about against New England but it's always a work in progress with us. We're always trying to figure out what our guys can do each and every week as far as how we can use our guys to our advantage. We are still kind of in the infancy stages of this defense as far as putting it in and where we're going and really learning about the players. New England is a tough team to pressure. [Tom] Brady does a great job of getting the ball out, they do a good job in protection of knowing who to block, their backs do a great job in protection. They've got the screens that they use so often and the receivers [Julian Edelman] and [Rob] Gronkowski, they know where to get to on the [inaudible] and hots. They do a great job. I'm not sure that when we played New England in Cincinnati that we really pressured them all that well. I think they do a great job.
Q: You waited a long time for the opportunity to become a head coach. What has surprised you about being a head coach and what has been like you anticipated?
MZ: Some things caught me off guard I guess. The amount of different schedule things you have to do, dealing with some of the player discipline, obviously a little bit more media than what I've had to do. Honestly, it's gone fairly smooth with everything as far as trying to get everything under control. I know there's going to be more hiccups. Honestly, I expect to make some mistakes. I expect to try to learn from them and try to get better, just like I did as a defensive coordinator. Some days it's better than others, as with all jobs.
Q: Do you see any links between Cordarrelle Patterson and A.J. Green?
MZ: I think they're different guys. Cordarrelle is a little bit thicker body. They've both good guys, they both practice real hard, they both run good. They're both fine receivers and I'm glad we have Cordarrelle on our team. He's a good kid. Not that I wouldn't want A.J. too but Cordarrelle has been very, very good for us. The fact that he comes into work every day, he's got a smile on his face, he's loves to go out and compete and so you love to have those kind of guys, no matter what position.
Q: I'm assuming he has the green light to take that ball out on the kickoff returns, whether it's nine yards deep or seven yards deep. Is that the case and if so, can you explain how that manifests itself? A lot of times you see players taking a knee that deep in the end zone.
MZ: He is one of our playmakers. We give him some leeway in that. I did communicate to him after the second one last week that there are situations where we give him the green light and let him take it out and there are situations where we won't. He's been an excellent kick returner in his two seasons so anytime we have the opportunity to get a guy that has a chance to take it to the house with the ball in his hands, we like that.
Q: What are your thoughts on Anthony Barr? Obviously you're throwing him right into the mix in terms of playing right off the bat. What does he do well and does he remind you of anyone you've coached in the past?
MZ: First of all, he's very unique in his size for a linebacker. He's 6-5 and 255 and runs real fast. He's got good strength. Most of the linebackers that I've had in the past have not been this kind of guy, at least in the 4-3 defense. But he's very smart, he's very fluid, he works real hard. He's got some rush ability that we can use him in different ways. He's been good in coverage. We've been extremely happy with Anthony and I think his ceiling is very, very high.
Q: You have a couple assistant coaches on your staff who have been in New England in past years – Jeff Davidson and Kirby Wilson. What have been your thoughts on working with those guys?
MZ: They've been great, both of them. They're good guys. They're very, very hard working, they're smart. It's always good to get coaches that have been in New England because they do such a great job in preparation, the way they work, the way they get their guys ready. They're very technique oriented guys. It's always good to get good coaches from good systems and good head coaching trees, I've always felt.