Eager camper: A Q&A with Vikings coach Mike Zimmer

  • Article by: MATT VENSEL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 24, 2014 - 12:27 PM

New Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is ready to take on the challenges of his first training camp.

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?

A We want our best players to get their hands on the ball as much as possible. We’re not going to keep him from returning kicks because he is such a dangerous weapon there. He’s been a very hard worker, he has improved his route running since we’ve been here and things are going to change for these guys in training camp when we are able to start playing bump-and-run. For him to take the next step, we’re going to have to see how he gets off a jam and the things that people will try to do to take him away.

Q Are defensive linemen Sharrif Floyd and Everson Griffen ready to step into bigger roles?

A They’ve both had good springs. Again, I think it’s going to come down to how they look in pads and how they perform in those situations and what kind of stamina they have, how many plays they can play during a game. And a lot of the time when you’re dealing with young guys, how do they have process information during the course of a game? Sharrif has a lot of ability. Right now, he’s trying so hard to be perfect on every single snap. He just needs to relax and let it free-flow a little bit more.

Q How much are you looking forward to seeing what first-round pick Anthony Barr is ready to do? He wasn’t around in the spring very much due to NFL rules.

A Yeah, obviously a lot because we only had him for four or five days. So that part, how much he can progress within the system, how much he can handle without us overloading him mentally? But it should be exciting to watch him, and [David] Yankey and [Scott] Crichton also.

Q Is Chad Greenway a realistic option to start at middle linebacker?

A It’s a possibility. We keep working him in there. We’re just trying to find the best 11 players we can and then figure out where the rest of the guys are going to fit. It’s not out of the question, but time will tell a little bit more on that.

Q What about the battles for the third cornerback spot and, as you mentioned, the other safety spot alongside Harrison Smith? What do you covet most in the secondary?

A Consistency. They’re going to have to be mentally tough. They’re going to have to contest balls; we’re going to have to be closer in coverage than we have been. And then we’ve got to tackle. Typically, the worst defensive teams are the ones that tackle the worst. So we’re going to have to be good tacklers on the back end. I don’t think we’ll make a lot of mistakes mentally because we’re fairly simple in what we try to get accomplished, so I don’t worry much about that. But they do have to be in the right position, be able to tackle and contest balls.

Q What excites you most about this year’s team?

A I think that maybe everyone is underestimating us. I love to prove people wrong, and hopefully our team will want to be the same way. It’s easy to sell the guys on proving people wrong. Saying that, we can’t talk about it. We’ve got to go out there and do it.

Q What makes you think this team can get back to the playoffs this season or that you can at least get these guys heading in that direction?

A They work hard. I think they’re hungry. I think they’re paying attention. They’ve been intent on trying to do things right, in meeting rooms and at [Organized Team Activities]. They’ve been trying to please with everything we’ve asked them to do. That’s exciting for a new coach. It’s also easy for players when things change to want to try this or try that. I’m sure there will be some rocky times, but we’re going to work through it.

Q Is the team still actively looking at avenues to improve the roster — whether it is through a trade or free agency — before Week 1 rolls around?

A Every day. Every day. There is not a day when we don’t try to improve the roster. And [General Manager] Rick Spielman does a great job of that. He’s on top of it all the time, and we talk frequently. But we’ve had discussions about that already going into training camp.

Q How much are you looking forward to getting your first season as an NFL head coach officially underway?

A It seems like every night I dream about football, even when I’m off. It will be fun to get going again and try to figure out how to win with the team that we have and what strengths we have and how we can accentuate them. I’m excited about our coaching staff. I think they did a great job in the spring. And we’ll continue to coach our rear ends off to try to get better every day. And I think the players are excited, too.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cleveland 11/23/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta
Tennessee 11/23/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Detroit 11/23/14 12:00 PM
New England
Green Bay 11/23/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Jacksonville 11/23/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Cincinnati 11/23/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Tampa Bay 11/23/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Arizona 11/23/14 3:05 PM
Seattle
St. Louis 11/23/14 3:05 PM
San Diego
Miami 11/23/14 3:25 PM
Denver
Washington 11/23/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
Dallas 11/23/14 7:30 PM
NY Giants
NY Jets 11/24/14 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Baltimore 11/24/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 11/27/14 11:30 AM
Detroit
Philadelphia 11/27/14 3:30 PM
Dallas
Seattle 11/27/14 7:30 PM
San Francisco
Phoenix 6:00 PM
Indiana
Miami 6:00 PM
Orlando
Philadelphia 6:30 PM
New York
Toronto 6:30 PM
Cleveland
Dallas 7:00 PM
Houston
Sacramento 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Brooklyn 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Washington 7:30 PM
Milwaukee
New Orleans 8:00 PM
Utah
St. Louis 2:00 PM
Ottawa
Montreal 6:00 PM
Boston
Detroit 6:00 PM
Toronto
Minnesota 6:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Pittsburgh 6:00 PM
NY Islanders
Columbus 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Buffalo 6:00 PM
Washington
Florida 7:00 PM
Nashville
Los Angeles 7:00 PM
Dallas
Carolina 8:00 PM
Colorado
New Jersey 9:00 PM
Calgary
Chicago 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Arizona 9:30 PM
San Jose
Incarnate Word 59 2nd Half 6:18
Princeton 54
Robert Morris 16 1st Half 7:40
Georgetown 21
Notre Dame 15 1st Half 7:45
Massachusetts 24
Saint Peters 11:30 AM
La Salle
Ball State 12:00 PM
IUPUI
Utah State 12:00 PM
Miss State
High Point 12:00 PM
Richmond
Appalachian St 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Drake 12:00 PM
Western Mich
Samford 1:00 PM
CS-Northridge
Colgate 1:00 PM
Campbell
North Carolina 1:00 PM
Davidson
North Florida 1:00 PM
Northern Iowa
UMass Lowell 1:00 PM
NJIT
Nebraska Omaha 1:30 PM
Marquette
Clemson 1:30 PM
Nevada
Florida State 1:30 PM
Providence
South Alabama 2:00 PM
Detroit
Texas State 2:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Trinity Christian 2:05 PM
Chicago State
Liberty 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Western State 3:00 PM
Air Force
Elon 3:00 PM
Northwestern
Canisius 3:00 PM
St Bonaventure
MD-Eastern Shore 3:00 PM
St Francis-PA
Cleveland State 3:00 PM
Savannah State
SE Missouri St 3:00 PM
Central Arkansas
UMKC 3:30 PM
Ark-Little Rock
Southern U 3:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
Longwood 3:30 PM
Youngstown St
Towson 4:00 PM
Bethune-Cookman
Loyola-Maryland 4:00 PM
Butler
San Jose St 4:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Texas Southern 4:00 PM
Norfolk State
Yale 4:00 PM
Southern Ill
LSU 4:00 PM
Weber State
South Dakota 4:00 PM
Wofford
Duquesne 4:00 PM
Abilene Christian
Wright State 4:30 PM
Char Southern
Miles 4:30 PM
Jacksonville St
Binghamton 4:30 PM
Manhattan
Alcorn State 4:30 PM
Kennesaw St
Bob Jones Univ 5:00 PM
Citadel
Piedmont Coll 5:00 PM
Coastal Carolina
Johnson University 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
Brown 5:00 PM
Indiana State
Colorado 5:00 PM
Wyoming
Quinnipiac 6:00 PM
Albany
Mount St Marys 6:00 PM
Bucknell
Master's College 6:00 PM
UC Santa Barbara
UNC-Asheville 6:00 PM
East Tenn St
Clermont College 6:00 PM
Eastern Ky
UNC Greensboro 6:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Sam Houston St 6:00 PM
Fairfield
American Univ 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Army 6:00 PM
Marist
Hartford 6:00 PM
Niagara
Lafayette 6:00 PM
Penn
Nebraska 6:00 PM
Rhode Island
Vermont 6:00 PM
Saint Josephs
Eastern Wash 6:00 PM
SMU
UNLV 6:00 PM
Temple
Chattanooga 6:00 PM
Tenn Tech
UNC-Wilmington 6:00 PM
Va Military
Ohio Midwestern 6:00 PM
Northern Ky
UC Davis 6:30 PM
Furman
Ill-Chicago 6:30 PM
Kent State
Transylvania 6:30 PM
Lipscomb
Central Conn St 6:30 PM
Monmouth
Oakwood 7:00 PM
Alabama A&M
Morgan State 7:00 PM
Houston
Lamar 7:00 PM
Indiana
Northeastern 7:00 PM
Navy
William & Mary 7:00 PM
Rice
Missouri State 7:00 PM
Texas Tech
TX A&M-Kingsville 7:00 PM
TX-Pan American
Southern-New Orleans 7:00 PM
Tulane
SE Louisiana 7:00 PM
Western Ill
Belmont 7:00 PM
Western Ky
Hampton 7:00 PM
North Dakota St
UMBC 7:30 PM
Minnesota
Houston Baptist 7:30 PM
Texas-Arlington
St Thomas Aquinas 8:00 PM
Gonzaga
Utah Valley U 8:00 PM
Southern Utah
New Mexico St 8:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Stanford 8:30 PM
Duke
Morehead State 8:30 PM
Presbyterian
SIU Edwardsville 9:00 PM
Portland
Boise State 9:00 PM
Wisconsin
Valparaiso 11/23/14 8:30 AM
Maine
(12) Kansas State 26 FINAL
West Virginia 20
North Carolina 45 FINAL
(25) Duke 20
Arkansas State 27 FINAL
Texas State 45
Kent State 0 Cancelled
Buffalo 0
Texas-El Paso 13 FINAL
Rice 31
Air Force 14 FINAL
San Diego St 30
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Utah State 41
Char Southern 0 1st Qtr 5:18
(9) Georgia 21
South Alabama 3 1st Qtr 3:10
So Carolina 3
Rutgers 0 1st Qtr 3:54
(10) Michigan State 7
Minnesota 7 1st Qtr 4:31
(21) Nebraska 7
Northwestern 7 1st Qtr 0:35
Purdue 0
(18) Marshall 0 1st Qtr 5:40
UAB 3
Kansas 0 Delayed
(23) Oklahoma 0
Indiana 7 1st Qtr 4:46
(7) Ohio State 14
Penn State 7 1st Qtr 0:05
Illinois 0
(14) Eastern Ky 0 1st Qtr 3:36
Florida 10
TX-San Antonio 0 1st Qtr 5:22
Western Ky 7
SMU 0 1st Qtr 4:22
UCF 13
Virginia Tech 0 1st Qtr 13:00
Wake Forest 0
Washington St 12:00 PM
(13) Arizona State
Louisiana Tech 12:00 PM
Old Dominion
Western Mich 12:00 PM
Central Mich
New Mexico 12:30 PM
(22) Colorado State
Eastern Mich 1:00 PM
Ball State
Appalachian St 1:00 PM
Louisiana
Tulsa 2:00 PM
Houston
(15) Arizona 2:30 PM
(20) Utah
FIU 2:30 PM
North Texas
(8) Ole Miss 2:30 PM
Arkansas
Louisville 2:30 PM
Notre Dame
Maryland 2:30 PM
Michigan
Texas Tech 2:30 PM
Iowa State
(14) Wisconsin 2:30 PM
Iowa
Syracuse 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Boston College 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
Georgia State 2:30 PM
Clemson
Tulane 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Stanford 3:00 PM
California
Western Carolina 3:00 PM
(2) Alabama
ULM 3:00 PM
New Mexico St
So Florida 3:00 PM
Memphis
Colorado 3:30 PM
(3) Oregon
Fla Atlantic 6:00 PM
Middle Tennessee
Samford 6:00 PM
(16) Auburn
Miami-Florida 6:00 PM
Virginia
Vanderbilt 6:30 PM
(4) Miss State
(19) Missouri 6:30 PM
Tennessee
Oklahoma State 6:30 PM
(6) Baylor
(24) USC 7:00 PM
(11) UCLA
Cincinnati 7:00 PM
Connecticut
Boise State 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9:30 PM
Washington
Fresno State 9:30 PM
Nevada
UNLV 10:00 PM
Hawaii
Ohio U 11/25/14 6:00 PM
Miami-Ohio
LSU 11/27/14 6:30 PM
Texas A&M
(5) TCU 11/27/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Northern Ill 11/28/14 10:00 AM
Western Mich
(21) Nebraska 11/28/14 11:00 AM
Iowa
Western Ky 11/28/14 11:00 AM
(18) Marshall
UCF 11/28/14 11:00 AM
So Florida
Houston 11/28/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Akron 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Kent State
Ball State 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Bowling Green
Buffalo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Massachusetts
Toledo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Arkansas 11/28/14 1:30 PM
(19) Missouri
Navy 11/28/14 2:00 PM
South Alabama
(13) Arizona State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(15) Arizona
Stanford 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(11) UCLA
(22) Colorado State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 11/28/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
East Carolina 11/28/14 7:30 PM
Tulsa
BYU 11/29/14 2:00 AM
California
(20) Utah 11/29/14 2:00 AM
Colorado
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 2:00 AM
Oregon State
Kentucky 11/29/14 2:00 AM
Louisville
Notre Dame 11/29/14 2:00 AM
(24) USC
So Carolina 11/29/14 2:00 AM
Clemson
Florida 11/29/14 2:00 AM
(1) Florida State
Wake Forest 11/29/14 2:00 AM
(25) Duke
Pittsburgh 11/29/14 2:00 AM
Miami-Florida
Montreal 11/23/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 11/23/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
TBA 11/30/14 5:00 PM
TBA
Grand Canyon 27 1st Half 7:12
Austin Peay 28
Bowling Green 7 1st Half 7:43
Milwaukee 9
St Bonaventure 11:30 AM
Detroit
Illinois-Chicago 12:00 PM
Miami-Ohio
Louisiana Tech 12:00 PM
Louisiana
MD-Eastern Shore 12:00 PM
Marshall
Butler 12:00 PM
Fairfield
Central Conn St 1:00 PM
UMass Lowell
Bucknell 1:00 PM
Fairleigh Dickinson
St Marys-CA 1:00 PM
UC Davis
UNC-Asheville 1:00 PM
South Florida
Colgate 1:00 PM
Drexel
Niagara 1:00 PM
Buffalo
Vermont 1:00 PM
Boston U
Marist 1:00 PM
Northeastern
UNC-Wilmington 1:00 PM
Appalachian St
Duquesne 1:00 PM
Green Bay
Saint Josephs 1:00 PM
Liberty
Army 1:00 PM
Manhattan
Eastern Michigan 1:00 PM
TX-Pan American
Southern Ill 1:00 PM
Wright State
Youngstown St 1:00 PM
Radford
Stetson 1:30 PM
Indiana State
Rockhurst 2:00 PM
UMKC
Ark-Little Rock 2:00 PM
Rice
(23) Syracuse 2:00 PM
Jacksonville
NC Central 2:00 PM
Gardner-Webb
New Orleans 2:00 PM
Jacksonville St
(22) Rutgers 2:00 PM
LSU
Missouri State 2:00 PM
(21) Oklahoma St
Eastern Washington 2:00 PM
SMU
Houston Baptist 2:00 PM
Texas State
TX-Arlington 2:05 PM
Wichita State
(9) Maryland 2:30 PM
George Washington
Presbyterian 2:30 PM
Western Carolina
St Francis-NY 3:00 PM
Rider
Central Arkansas 3:00 PM
Jackson State
Kennesaw St 3:00 PM
Georgia Southern
Loyola-Chicago 3:00 PM
Northern Ky
Howard 3:00 PM
La Salle
San Jose St 4:00 PM
Cal-Irvine
Tennessee St 4:00 PM
Lipscomb
San Francisco 4:00 PM
UC-Riverside
Temple 4:00 PM
Kansas
San Diego 4:00 PM
Idaho
Concordia (OR) 4:00 PM
(20) Oregon State
Corban 4:00 PM
Portland State
Charleston Southern 5:00 PM
Wofford
UT Martin 5:00 PM
Pepperdine
Eastern Kentucky 5:00 PM
Mercer
Weber State 5:00 PM
Utah Valley U
North Dakota 5:30 PM
Towson
Seton Hall 6:00 PM
Penn State
LSU-Shreveport 6:00 PM
Grambling
Brown 6:00 PM
New Hampshire
Penn 6:00 PM
Navy
Xavier 6:00 PM
Binghamton
Georgetown 6:30 PM
Alabama
(13) Kentucky 7:00 PM
Central Michigan
Texas Southern 7:00 PM
TCU
South Dakota St 7:00 PM
(18) DePaul
Talladega 7:00 PM
Ark-Pine Bluff
Arkansas State 7:00 PM
Colorado
Alcorn State 7:00 PM
UAB
Tenn Tech 7:05 PM
Valparaiso
Dayton 7:30 PM
(19) Iowa
Nevada 8:30 PM
BYU
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Gophers and Vikings do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close