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Kevin Stefanski says his successful debut as Vikings offensive coordinator was a group effort

December 22, 2018

EAGAN, Minn. — In his first public comments since a near-flawless debut as an NFL play-caller, Vikings interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski made sure to share the credit with players, coaches and the boss, Mike Zimmer.

“I had a lot of confidence because of the players and the coaches that were helping me,” he said Thursday, four days after the Vikings ran for a season-high 220 yards in a 41-17 rout of Miami.

“I had never [called plays]. It was different, but once I got through that first series and figured out you press a button to talk to the quarterback, it was, I don’t want to say, easy. I told Zimmer if I can’t figure that out, we have some problems. After the first drive I felt pretty comfortable.”

Tom Baker for Star TribuneVideoVideo (04:33): Coming off his first win in the offensive coordinator role, Kevin Stefanski says he’s adapting well and is taking advantage of a full week to prepare schemes for playing Detroit.

Stefanski said his comfort level was helped by a tip Zimmer gave him while watching film of the Dolphins during the game-planning process.

“It’s something that he has done for a long time,” Stefanski said. “Basically, you run the play and you say what you may have called there. Then you watch the play and you say, ‘Would that play had been good or not?’

“It’s just taking yourself through the rhythm of a game and how you are going to call it, both in the run and the pass.”

Monday, Zimmer praised Stefanski for running one play 10 times with 10 different pre-snap looks. The challenge, of course, increases as teams get more film on Stefanski’s tendencies.

“We try to know ourselves as well as the opponent does,” Stefanski said. “That informs us in our decisions and in our scheming and in our game-planning.”

Stefanski also gave a nod of respect to the offensive line, joking that he couldn’t talk too much about the Miami game because it violates his “24-hour rule” and puts him in danger of being fined by the big guys up front.

“You just have to be careful with the offensive line,” he said. “They’ll fine you for just about anything.”

Zimmer on Zimmer

During his conference call with Detroit media on Wednesday, Zimmer made a point to clarify that Norv Turner was not fired but instead quit as Vikings offensive coordinator during the 2016 season.

Asked Thursday if he was “annoyed” that some have said he has fired two offensive coordinators in three seasons, Zimmer said, “Well, I haven’t. So it doesn’t annoy me.”

Pushed on the issue, he said, “There’s a reputation that I’m hard to deal with. That’s not the case. I don’t want people to think I’m trying to run guys out of here.”

Asked if he’d like to detail Turner’s exit, Zimmer declined and joked, “Maybe in my book.”

Injury sidelines Joseph

Nose tackle Linval Joseph, who wasn’t on the injury report Wednesday, did not practice Thursday because of a knee injury.

Meanwhile, linebacker Eric Kendricks (hamstring) didn’t practice for the second straight day. Limited again were right guard Mike Remmers (low back), tight end David Morgan (knee) and receiver Chad Beebe (hamstring).

Big difference in Lions run ‘D’

Zimmer was being asked about the size of the holes the offensive line created against Miami when he interrupted long enough to say, “They won’t be that big this week” at Detroit.

The Lions allow 115.4 yards rushing per game, good for 16th in the NFL. They gave up 128 to the Vikings in a 24-9 loss on Nov. 4.

The Dolphins rank 31st (145.2).

“[Detroit is] a lot better,” Zimmer said. “They’re going to cover up the guards a lot. They got five guys on the line of scrimmage. They’re not playing the wide-9 technique that [Miami] did. There’s going to be a lot of single-high looks where they have the [other] safety down. The linebackers are more downhill, vertical guys.”

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