Mike Zimmer’s preparation for his first NFL training camp as a head coach didn’t end, even when he fell asleep.
“It seems like every night I dream about football, even when I’m off,” the new Vikings coach said.
The Vikings report to Minnesota State University Mankato on Thursday to start camp. Since being named coach in January, Zimmer has spent pretty much every waking second — and apparently a lot of sleeping seconds — thinking about reviving a team that went 5-10-1 last season.
Zimmer talked last week about variety of topics, including top draft pick Anthony Barr, second-year speedster Cordarrelle Patterson, what excites him about these Vikings and, yes, that three-way competition at quarterback.
Here’s the Q & A with Zimmer.
Q This is your first training camp as an NFL head coach. What needs to happen for you to consider this successful?
A I have an idea of how we want to improve each day, and to be successful, really, there are three areas: We need to make sure we find the right starters, [find out] who the substituted guys are and continue to build depth. Obviously, we want to be disciplined and tough coming out of training camp. But there’s a fine line, and we need to make sure we get out of there healthy, too.
Q How much of your focus will be teaching and how much of it will be player evaluation and installing your schemes?
A All three will be the same. We’ll continue to teach every day. There are some things in the systems that we will have to continue to build on from where we were, just to get them introduced in case we decide to use them during the regular season. The other part is perfecting the things that we are doing.
Q You have trumpeted that there will be competition at pretty much every position. Are there any camp battles you are particularly looking forward to?
A I’m interested in seeing some of the guys that I didn’t see in the spring. At the safety position, [Andrew] Sendejo and [Jamarca] Sanford, I really don’t know much about them. That will be interesting, just to see where they are at and where they compare to other guys. And it will be interesting to see the young guys that we drafted and how they progress when we get the pads on. Football is a different game when you start playing with the pads instead of shorts. Some guys show up more, so the physicality part of the game will show up a lot, I believe, in the training camp part.
Q In the spring workouts the media was allowed to watch, Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater got the majority of the reps at quarterback. Does Christian Ponder have a real chance to start? And what are you looking to see from whoever wins the job?
A Actually, I think Christian has done a very good job in the time that we’ve had him and how much he has improved in that amount of time. We’re going to try to give everyone a fair shot, and preseason games will help determine it. We want someone who is going to take care of the football, lead the team in the right direction and when called upon be able to win football games. To me, the starting quarterback also comes down to what kind of team we have — the defense, how good we are there, and the offensive line. Those things are all important to understanding who the quarterback may be, as well.
Q When making that decision, how much does what they have done so far weigh into it, how much does what they do in camp weigh into it and how much does how they perform in the preseason games?
A I think all three. We’re not going to forget what they did in the spring. But we’re going to continue to evaluate them each day as we get going. The preseason games will probably be a little bit more of a judge, when we’re going against other people.
Q When would you like to have a starter in place?
A I have an idea in mind, but I’m going to keep that to myself right now.
Q Do you think Cordarrelle Patterson is ready to take a big step forward as a downfield receiver? What is the challenge of balancing an expanded role for him on offense with what he does as a returner?