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Vikings coach Mike Zimmer walked off the field at TCF Bank Stadium during team warmups before his first preseason game, a 10-6 victory over Oakland on Friday night. Of his team’s performance, Zimmer said: “Before the game, some of the things that I talked about with the players were: I wanted to know who would play fast and smart. I think we did that for the most part.”

CARLOS GONZALEZ • cgonzalez@startribune.com,

Drake

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Barr

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Thielen

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Hartman: Zimmer mostly pleased with Vikings exhibition opener

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN
  • Star Tribune
  • August 10, 2014 - 12:11 AM

Considering the fact that Adrian Peterson didn’t play at all and most of the other starters saw no more than limited service on both sides of the ball, you would have to consider the performance of the Vikings in their first exhibition game under new coach Mike Zimmer more than satisfactory.

“Well, it was good to get a win,” Zimmer said after Friday night’s 10-6 victory over Oakland at TCF Bank Stadium. “The fans did a great job in the first half of the ballgame, especially with the crowd noise. I think they enjoyed being at the University of Minnesota here, and hopefully we continue to give them some good football to watch. Before the game, some of the things that I talked about with the players were: I wanted to know who would play fast and smart. I think we did that for the most part.

“I wanted to be great in execution, and right off the bat in the first drive we went down and we got, I think, two three-and-outs on defense, and so we did that, and the in-game communication was important for us as a staff, to be able to communicate, to handle all the situations, and actually that went excellent. And then lastly, I simply need to take care of the football, and we did a great job with that offensively tonight. We did have one turnover on defense, so all in all we still have a lot of work to do with the field position. We didn’t get a chance to flip the field position.”

Zimmer noted his team making some mistakes that need to be corrected, but he added: “I do like how this team works, I like how they concentrate on the sidelines, they were all into it, even when they were out of the game, but we have to develop the fortitude and the killer instinct at the end of the football game to not let it come down to one play, one situation here or there.”

Zimmer said he thought starting quarterback Matt Cassel did a great job, going 5-for-6 for 62 yards in one drive. Zimmer added that he thinks getting Peterson back in the lineup will only improve Cassel’s performance. Peterson has not carried the ball in the preseason since 2011.

“He played like a veteran,” Zimmer said of Cassel. “He had control in the huddle, the communication between [offensive coordinator] Norv [Turner] and [quarterbacks coach] Scott [Turner] and him was very, very good.”

Wide receiver Adam Thielen, an undrafted free agent from Minnesota State Mankato and Detroit Lakes who was on the practice squad last year, has been one of the pleasant surprises in camp.

Zimmer was asked about Thielen’s contributions, which included a 15-yard reception from Christian Ponder in the third quarter.

“Adam had a heck of a catch on third down, didn’t he one time?” Zimmer said. “Then he returned a nice punt, he went down and covered kicks. You know we got a saying here, ‘The more you can do.’ ”

Zimmer said he regretted trying a 53-yard field goal in the third quarter, a kick that Blair Walsh missed wide right. “We had good field position, we were playing good on defense and I got greedy, maybe,” he said. But overall, Zimmer said he was pleased with his team’s performance.

“It went fairly smooth as far as the decisions that I had to make, for the most part. Just trying to do your best,” he said.

Barr sacks in debut

Vikings first-round draft pick Anthony Barr got to see his first pro action and was credited with half a sack with Tom Johnson on the final play of the first quarter.

The UCLA product, who started at strong-side linebacker against the Raiders, was asked about making a big play in his first pro game.

“I think the coverage helped me out a little bit, and then I was able to redirect and come back inside and make the play,” he said, adding later, “Whatever I’m asked to do, I’m going to do. That was just one of the plays where I happened to just come off the edge, and there was a couple plays like that, so when I can do that I can be effective.”

Barr said the Vikings defense played a fairly limited version of its scheme. “Probably for a good reason,” he said, “but I think we executed it pretty well.”

Was it what he expected? “I don’t know, I think our goal was to make this as exact as possible, and I think we were able to do that for the most part,” he said. “It was a lot of fun, I had a great time out there.”

There’s no doubt that Barr is going to be a starter, and he did nothing to hurt his chances with his performance Friday.

Early test for Gophers

The Gophers football team will face Eastern Illinois in its season opener Aug. 28, and while the Panthers lost star quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the NFL draft (he was taken in the second round by the Patriots), they still have standout wide receiver Adam Drake.

Drake caught 85 passes as a sophomore last season and was named an FCS third-team All-America, helping Eastern Illinois to a 12-2 record. The 6-2 senior will be a nice early test for the well-regarded Gophers secondary.

Sid's Jottings

• Norwood Teague was at the Vikings’ preseason opener at TCF Bank Stadium wearing a Valhalla Golf Club shirt. The Gophers athletic director was at the PGA Championship in Louisville, Ky., on Thursday along with men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino, whose father, Louisville coach Rick Pitino, is a member at Valhalla.

It’s good news that Land O’Lakes and 3M recently posted good financial reports, since rumors have them as two of the contributors toward the $190 million that the University of Minnesota Athletic Department is trying to raise to improve facilities.

Randy Breuer, the two-time first-team All-Big Ten center from 1979 to ’83 before his 11-year NBA career, will be inducted into the Gophers basketball Hall of Fame this coming season, and his No. 45 will be the fifth one retired by the program.

• Alex Illikainen, the 6-9 basketball player from Grand Rapids, Minn., who will play his senior season at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire and Jarvis Johnson, the highly recruited DeLaSalle guard, will make their official visits to Minnesota this September, and the chances are good that both will commit to the Gophers eventually.

The NFL salary cap for 2014 is $133 million, and the Vikings payroll will stay at $126 million after they signed Kyle Rudolph to a five-year extension that starts next season.

• Former Vikings star Percy Harvin is expected to be the Seattle Seahawks’ No. 1 receiver, but he didn’t record any stats in the team’s opening 21-16 preseason loss to the Broncos. The Super Bowl champion Seahawks now have five former Vikings players on the roster in Harvin, Tarvaris Jackson, Heath Farwell and newcomers Kevin Williams and A.J. Jefferson, who had an interception against Denver. Sidney Rice has retired.

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