Before Case Keenum’s 61-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs on Sunday vaulted the Vikings into the NFC Championship Game, it appeared coach Mike Zimmer’s streak of years without being part of a playoff victory would have stretched to 21.
Zimmer had last been with a team that won a playoff game in 1996, when he was the defensive backs coach of a Dallas Cowboys team that beat the Vikings in the first round of the playoffs before losing to the Carolina Panthers in the NFC divisional round.
In his first two seasons in Dallas, the Cowboys went to the NFC Championship Game in 1994 and won the Super Bowl following the 1995 season, but the long drought after that helped Zimmer make the point to his players that they shouldn’t assume chances such as the one the Vikings have against the Eagles in Philadelphia on Sunday will come along often.
“[Zimmer] hasn’t been back since ,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said. “I think I was just out of diapers in ’95. That really kind of teaches us, and we can portray that message, especially to the young guys. This doesn’t happen all the time. We have such a great opportunity, and we should make the most of it.”
Safety Andrew Sendejo took part in individual drills during the Vikings’ first practice of the week, indicating he continues to progress through the NFL concussion protocol after sustaining a hit from Saints receiver Michael Thomas on Sunday.
“He’ll be fine,” Zimmer said.
Adam Thielen missed practice because of a lower-back injury. Thielen played 77 of the team’s 81 offensive snaps Sunday, and still went through stretching and jogging with the wide receivers at the start of practice.
Nose tackle Shamar Stephen, who was limited in two practices last week because of an ankle injury and played only four snaps Sunday before sustaining a knee injury, did not practice Wednesday.
Preparing for Philly
In addition to being the road team in front of Philadelphia’s notoriously boorish fans — as the Eagles try to win their first NFC title since 2004 — the Vikings will play on a Lincoln Financial Field surface where traction appeared to be an issue at critical times during Philadelphia’s NFC divisional playoff win over the Falcons on Saturday night.
“They’ve got some crazy fans, just like our fans,” defensive end Everson Griffen said. “They’re going to be loud, they’re probably going to be saying some harsh words, but that really doesn’t matter. How you quiet down the fans is scoring points, stopping the run and making it happen. With the cleat situation, you have to go out there, try the field out, wear seven studs [in your cleats] and see if that will help.”
Vikings center Pat Elflein was selected to the Pro Football Writers of America’s All-Rookie team, after starting 14 regular-season games for the Vikings’ much-improved offensive line.
Elflein, a third-round pick out of Ohio State, was the only Vikings player named to the team, which was selected by NFL reporters around the country. Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt and Saints running back Alvin Kamara — who both took predraft visits with the Vikings — were named co-offensive rookies of the year, while Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore was named the defensive rookie of the year.
Patience pays off
The Vikings re-signed tight end Nick Truesdell, a 6-6 burner, to the practice squad this week after waiving tight end Kyle Cater last week to make room for Sam Bradford on the active roster.
Truesdell, a Cincinnati native who escaped his checkered past to star in the Arena Football League before taking part in Vikings camp this summer, almost didn’t return to Minnesota. Now he’s part of a team vying for a Super Bowl berth.
“I was actually planning on signing with Calgary last week in the CFL,” Truesdell said. “And then I was like, no, let me wait one more week. It worked out.”