Minnesota Vikings Training Camp kicked off Saturday at Minnesota State University in Mankato, and lots of interviews took place with coaches and players alike. Head coach Mike Zimmer, entering his second season at the helm of the Viking ship, addressed the media in the afternoon.
Zimmer echoed plenty of fans’ sentiments by expressing his excitement to have the players back together and getting ready for the 2015 season.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Zimmer said, with his always-business-like demeanor. “We have a tough schedule. Hopefully we can come together as a team and accomplish some things that we want to get done.”
The sophomore coach acknowledged the benefit of having one year under his belt and an increased level of comfort not only with being a head coach but also with communication and understanding between himself and general manager Rick Spielman.
Naturally, one of the first questions directed toward Zimmer surrounded running back Adrian Peterson and his feelings on being back with the team. Zimmer met the questions with a faint air of impatience, which isn’t surprising considering the drawn-out situation.
You’d have to ask [Adrian] those questions yourself,” Zimmer said, “but as far as myself, I think it’s great for both sides. I think we’ve both expressed our opinions on everything, and like I’ve said a million times, Adrian’s always been great with me, and that’s all I care about—trying to do the best for him, and I think he feels the same way about me.
Zimmer continued to say that of course the situation with Peterson has been difficult for everyone, but that they all had the same end goal in mind, and all parties came together to work everything out through Peterson’s newly restructured deal.
The presser didn’t revolve entirely around Peterson, though.
One question that remains heading into training camp revolves around the offensive line. Currently, Brandon Fusco is slated to move over to left guard, and Zimmer said the formation will remain that way until the players’ day off, when the lineup will be reassessed.
“We want guys to start feeling comfortable and not being worried about ‘I’m a right guard this play and then a left guard this play,” Zimmer explained.
In regard to defense, Zimmer first talked about the improvements he saw in 2014, including “buying in” to his system, and being able to stop big plays. As far as things to look at this season, the head coach said the team played just “okay” in the red zone and on third downs. Zimmer also said the defense needs to step up its rushing game.
“We need to rush the quarterback the right way,” he said. “We let guys get out of pocket way too many times, which allowed the quarterback to hold the ball and move around in the pocket.”
When addressing the cornerback situation specifically, uncertainty still revolves around which guys will fill which roles. Considering Josh Robinson’s injury and Jabari Price’s recent suspension, the position is even more foggy. Xavier Rhodes will certainly return as one starter, but other options include 2015 Draft pick Trae Waynes and veteran Terrence Newman, who played for Zimmer in Cincinnati.
Zimmer talked positively about Newman and the assets he brings to the team:
[Terrence] is a first-class individual, very intelligent […] he’s always had great speed, athletic ability, tremendous heart, and tremendous courage. I’ve always had a great deal of respect for him. Every place he’s ever played for me—knock on wood—he’s always played very well.
As the press conference wrapped up, Zimmer acknowledged the expectations surrounding the Vikings but also the difficult year ahead of them. He offered his matter-of-fact outlook on the situation, saying that the team needs to show up every Sunday being smarter and tougher than its opponents.
“It’s nice to have people say nice things about the team,” Zimmer said, “but at the end of the day, if we don’t go out there and [work hard], then they’ll be saying the exact opposite thing very quickly.”