Zimmer's first 'productive' Vikings' camp in Mankato comes to a close

  • Article by: MATT VENSEL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 15, 2014 - 7:16 AM

The Vikings coach liked his team’s focus in Mankato.

– As the Vikings trickled off the practice field at Minnesota State Mankato and biked back to Sears Hall one final time to pack up their things and head back up Hwy. 169 to the Twin Cities, there didn’t seem to be much sadness about coach Mike Zimmer’s first training camp coming to a close.

That’s not to say the players didn’t appreciate the hospitality, the catered meals in the dorms and the sunburned, autograph-seeking fans (they did).

Or that Zimmer overworked them (he didn’t).

It’s just that the conclusion of camp puts them one step closer to the regular season and a new chapter of Vikings football.

And, well, it allows them to sleep in their plush, king-size beds again.

Zimmer described his first training camp as an NFL head coach as “productive,” and he accomplished many of the things on his checklist, answered a number of pressing questions and climbed into his truck knowing that his team departed Mankato relatively healthy.

“Hopefully I learned something every day about this team, but they haven’t disappointed me. They have been very willing to do whatever,” Zimmer said. “I like this team; they are good guys and they work real hard. As long as we play together as a team, we play real hard, we do the things that we are trying to coach them to do, then we have a chance to be a good football team.”

No, Zimmer’s first camp wasn’t anything out of Van Brocklin’s playbook or a Hollywood script. There were no grueling two-a-days. No devastating collisions. No practicing until players puked. Sure, the collective bargaining agreement played a major role in that. But as it turns out, the gruff guy we thought we saw on “Hard Knocks” a few years back is much more compassionate — and much savvier — than given credit for.

“We’re starting to get an identity,” safety Harrison Smith said. “There’s still a lot of work to be done. But as far as kind of getting our mind-set and knowing what Coach wants from us, we’ve made a lot of progress.”

Zimmer wants his players to be fast and physical. But above all else, he wants them to be smart, which is why so much of this camp was spent teaching technique and drilling them on situational football so that nothing will surprise them.

That this was indeed a training camp and not a boot camp surely contributed to the Vikings suffering no major injuries during training camp. And outside of a rash of tweaked hamstrings that ravaged Zimmer’s unsettled group of defensive backs, the team remains healthy and fresh.

“So far, it seems like he has done a great job of managing us,” Smith said. “That’s not to say making it easy. Just making it productive. It seems like he has a good hold on that.”

As for a few key spots on his team, Zimmer is still grasping for answers as Week 1 nears.

The second starting safety spot is even more muddied than it was when the team arrived in Mankato. Because of injuries, Zimmer hasn’t been able to evaluate anyone next to Smith for an extended period of time. And Zimmer bringing in his old buddy Chris Crocker suggests he wasn’t pleased with what he was seeing from the guys who were healthy enough to be out there.

Beyond that, one would assume that Zimmer still is trying to figure out whether to start Jasper Brinkley or Audie Cole at middle linebacker, who will be his third cornerback and which bubble boys pack enough punch on special teams to warrant a roster spot.

The oh-so critical quarterback situation appears to have played itself out naturally, though.

Rookie Teddy Bridgewater has experienced growing pains over the past week, leading to questions about his confidence level. Meanwhile, Matt Cassel has hardly wavered and with another sharp performance against the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday night can lock down the starting job — if he hasn’t already.

Sure, these grueling — but not too grueling — days in the Mankato sun are done, but there is a lot of hard work left for Zimmer and the Vikings to do in the next three weeks before boarding a plane to St. Louis for the season opener.

“It was a tough, hard training camp, and I think we accomplished a lot and we got better as a football team,” Cassel said. “Now that’s got to carry over when we get back to the training facility back in Eden Prairie.”

 

Matt Vensel • matt.vensel@startribune.com

 

  • VIKINGS VS. ARIZONA (EXHIBition)

    7:30 p.m. Saturday • TCF Bank Stadium • TV: Ch. 11 (100.3-FM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

San Francisco - WP: M. Bumgarner 7 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Shields 1
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Houston 85 FINAL
Miami 90
Indiana 89 FINAL
Minnesota 107
Utah 105 FINAL
Oklahoma City 91
Portland 93 FINAL
Denver 75
Phoenix 114 FINAL
LA Lakers 108
LA Clippers 107 FINAL
Golden State 125
San Jose 3 FINAL
Boston 5
NY Rangers 4 FINAL(OT)
New Jersey 3
Toronto 5 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Detroit 1 FINAL(OT)
Montreal 2
Arizona 3 FINAL(SO)
Nashville 4
Carolina 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 3
Philadelphia 0 FINAL
Chicago 4
Vancouver 3 FINAL
Dallas 6
Florida 4 FINAL(OT)
Colorado 3
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL(OT)
Calgary 1
Arkansas State 40 FINAL
Louisiana 55
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
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 Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
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: Grade the Vikings offense

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close