Mike Zimmer turned 58 on Thursday, and said the best gift he could receive is a good practice.
“I’m trying to go backwards in age now,” the new Vikings coach said.
So, did Thursday’s Organized Team Activity session fulfill his standards of a good practice?
“Mmmm, no; we’ve got a ways to go,” Zimmer said.
The Vikings worked on red zone and two-minute situations for the first time, and Zimmer felt there was room for improvement. He wasn’t particularly pleased with the red zone defense.
“It wasn’t very good; we’ve got to get a lot better there,” Zimmer said. “And then offensively we did a really nice job.”
Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater had his first opportunity to work with the first team, and finished practice with the first unit during the two-minute drill against the second team defense. Matt Cassel continued to receive the majority of the first team reps, and Bridgewater said he’s studying the 10-year veteran.
“I notice the things that he’s doing when he’s in the huddle,” Bridgewater said. “I’m taking notes from him and Christian [Ponder] also. Those guys have had past success. Those guys have made it to the playoffs and led teams to the playoffs, so it’s very interesting to learn from those guys.”
Wootton full go
Defensive end Corey Wootton has been a full participant at OTAs this week after recovering from arthroscopic hip surgery in the offseason. The procedure occurred before Wootton signed with the Vikings from the Bears, where he spent his first four seasons.
“I’m feeling great,” Wootton said. “I haven’t had any issues with it. I’m doing everything in practice, and I’m excited.”
Wootton received first team reps at defensive end for Everson Griffen, who was out as a precaution because of a strained back. Zimmer said Wootton has been rusty in his return but, at 6-6 and 270 pounds, Wootton gives the Vikings a huge presence at defensive end.
“A guy that’s very conscientious; very smart, and really, he listens to everything you say,” Zimmer said. “Those are all good attributes.”
Getting a shot
Undrafted free agent offensive tackle Antonio “Tiny” Richardson got an opportunity to split first-team reps with Kevin Murphy at left tackle because starter Matt Kalil is recovering from knee surgery.
Richardson has remained strictly at left tackle, but Zimmer said he’ll eventually receive reps at right tackle.
“He’s a very talented guy,” Zimmer said. “Obviously he’s got great size and length. He catches on pretty good as far as the scheme. We’re excited about him, and we think he has a chance to be a good player.”
Richardson, projected as a possible Day 2 talent, went undrafted because he wasn’t medically cleared by a number of NFL teams. Richardson had knee surgery following his sophomore year at Tennessee.
Former Vikings coach Jerry Burns spoke to the team after practice. He touched on football, his philosophy and even got a laugh from the players.
“I knew he was coming out here today, so I talked to the team about him this morning because a lot of these younger guys don’t know who some of these guys are that we talk about,” Zimmer said. “He’s in the Ring of Honor, head coach at Iowa, head coach here, six Super Bowls — a lot of those things. … He was very good. He’s a good guy, funny guy.”