Mike Zimmer sat back in a chair inside his new office at Winter Park last week and rattled off all the things on his to-do list since the Vikings hired him in January.
In three busy months, he hired a coaching staff, helped develop a plan for free agency, built playbooks, overhauled the weight room, racked up frequent-flier miles scouting college prospects and huddled with the Super Bowl bid committee. He even pushed for a smoothie bar to be added in the cafeteria, though he has yet to treat himself to one.
The ninth thing Zimmer listed — and the task that gets him the most excited — was getting on the field with his new players, something he hadn’t done yet, which says more about the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement than all the extra responsibilities that come with being the head ball coach.
The CBA will allow Zimmer to get a thorough firsthand look at his players on the practice field Tuesday through Thursday when the Vikings hold their first minicamp at Winter Park. Getting this extra minicamp, albeit a voluntary one, during the offseason program is one of the perks of being a newly hired head coach.
Three days doesn’t seem like much time, but what Zimmer sees could alter the team’s draft plans.
“I told the coaches [last Monday] that obviously you’re trying to get your system [installed], but what I want to do is to get these players on the field and put them in positions to find out how good they are,” Zimmer said. “Because quite honestly, I’m hoping we find some surprises.”
Zimmer was pleased with the turnout in the first phase of the offseason program, when players were allowed only to work out in the weight room and do on-field exercises under the watch of the strength and conditioning coaches. Players could, however, receive off-the-field instruction from the new coaching staff.
“It’s been good,” Zimmer said. “From the meetings, the way they pay attention and they’re trying to learn the system, and do everything in the weight room, from what I’m being told by the strength coaches, and the way they work together as a team.”
Participation, while not required, is expected to be even higher for the minicamp. For one, running back Adrian Peterson got back into town last week. But newcomers such as Captain Munnerlyn and Linval Joseph will get a chance to line up next to new teammates and returning Vikings will have to prove themselves all over again to a new coaching staff.
This week, Zimmer will dust off his whistle and roll out the footballs for actual football drills. No live contact is permitted at the minicamp, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills are allowed, and that’s enough activity to make an impression.
“To me that’s the most exciting part right now, to go out on the field with them for three days and then once we have another meeting and we’ll say, ‘Wow, we really need this’ or ‘We don’t need this as badly,’ ” Zimmer said. “We may rearrange things a little bit [on the draft board].”