After a few weeks away on vacation, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer will return back to his comfort zone – the practice field.
The walkthrough and practice on Friday will be Zimmer’s first as a head coach, where he will be assessing players and himself.
“It’s what I love to do,” Zimmer said on Thursday as players reported to Mankato. “I love to teach. I love to coach. Once I get out there I won’t have any time to think about anything else. I’ll be going full speed.”
Zimmer has already set an aggressive tone during the minicamps and OTAs to give the team a better understanding of how training camp will run, but he said it’s a fine line on how hard he can push the players without beating them up. Friday’s afternoon practice will be the first one this offseason with pads.
“We’re going to try and be smart about it,” Zimmer said. “We’re going to have contact because that’s football. But as far as live contact, we’ll have some early in camp and then we’ll see where we’re at. I believe to be a good defensive team you’ve got to be a good tackling team so we’re going to have to work on that.”
One of the biggest challenges for Zimmer when he became a head coach was scheduling the offseason. He said he has texted Hall of Fame head coach Bill Parcells and Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, who worked with Zimmer for the past six years, for advice and how to construct practices at training camp. Zimmer said he wanted to focus on situations, which he learned from Parcells when he served as the Cowboys defensive coordinator from 2003-06. Zimmer also took input from offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who has head coaching experience with the Chargers, Redskins and the Raiders.
“I think over time you get a chance to say, ‘Well, I’d do this a lot different,’” Zimmer said. “We may change things as I continue to look at the football team, where we’re at and where we might need to adjust the camp. I think that’s a part of coaching and teaching is adjusting to the players you have.”
The environment will be different for the players, and even fans watching, at training camp with Zimmer at the helm. Players have already noticed the change on their first day in Mankato. Unlike last season, every player went through a conditioning test consisting of timed runs.
Whether the aggressive atmosphere is for better or for worse remains to be seen, but running back Adrian Peterson has been impressed with Zimmer and the coaching staff so far.
“To be honest with you, [they’re] ahead of the curve,” Peterson said comparing to previous coaching staffs he’s had with the Vikings. “That’s comes from just having guys that are buying into to what they are presenting to us and having great coaches surrounding us as well. Just the atmosphere, there’s a lot more energy in the air, in the building there’s a lot more energy from the players.”