Vikings fans flexed some of their football intelligence muscles Tuesday when the loudest cheer of the afternoon practice applauded coach Mike Zimmer’s decision to make every player on the field and the sideline drop to the ground and do pushups after a string of offsides penalties.
It wasn’t a terribly sloppy practice, but the team clearly isn’t as sharp as it was at the start of camp. Part of that is the natural progression of training camp. Part of it is the daily installation of new portions of the offensive and defensive schemes. And part of it is, well, it’s just time to play a darn game.
Zimmer was asked if he thought about dropping to the ground and joining his players in what looked to be 10 or 20 pushups.
“I probably should have,” he said.
Asked if that’s something he pre-planned, Zimmer said, “It wasn’t pre-planned. It was spur of the moment.”
The pushup punishment came after defensive end Everson Griffen jumped offsides.
“The period before, a couple of guys jumped offsides,” Zimmer said. “So I got tired of it.”
And the fans who suffered through the sloppiness of last year's 5-10-1 season cheered loudly.
SETTING THE SCENE: The weather has been consistently nice, but it appears the concentration level is wavering a bit. But it’s nothing to be alarmed about. The third-team units got more action today because most of them will be playing most, if not all, of the second half of Friday’s preseason opener. Also, multiple front-line players were rested while backups stepped into unfamiliar territory. The team also is putting more and more of its systems into place, so there’s going to be a natural ebb and flow in a camp with new coaches.
YOUR DAILY QUARTERBACK SMORGASBORG: Ponder and the third-teamers got more work Monday and today, presumably because they’ll be playing the bulk of the second half, if not the entire second half. Ponder remains a distant No. 3 and still looked tentative on some throws. The ball looks like it needs to come out quicker. Matt Cassel looks like the most consistent quarterback, but certainly not out of reach from Teddy Bridgewater. Cassel made a nice throw on a deep out that Cordarrelle Patterson snagged by reaching over the head of cornerback Kendall James. Based on how James was playing the route, Cassel made the ideal throw. Bridgewater continues to look a little hesitant. He threw late over the middle to Greg Jennings on one play. The hesitation allowed safety Andrew Sendejo to reach in and swat the ball away.
REST FOR THE AGED: Unlike the first camp of most new head coaches, Camp Zimmer hasn’t been one of those over-the-top boot camps where the new guy tries to prove to everybody that he’s a tough guy. Zimmer is firm with his players, but he’s not beating them up. Part of that is the fact the new collective bargaining agreement won’t allow things to get out of hand. But Zimmer also seems to be comfortable keeping the same personality that he had while making a name for himself as a defensive coordinator. He’s hands on when teaching, but he also knows when to back off. Practices usually end early and veterans get some days off here and there. Today, Zimmer rested defensive end Brian Robison, left guard Charlie Johnson, center John Sullivan and right tackle Phil Loadholt. “Just trying to take care of their bodies a bit,” Zimmer said. “And it doesn’t hurt for some of the younger guys to get a few more plays.”
ANOTHER FLASH PLAY FOR COX: Cornerback Derek Cox is third at right cornerback behind Xavier Rhodes and rookie Jabari Price on the team’s first depth chart of the season, which was released today. Price has been one of the top surprises of camp in that he’s progressed so quickly. But don’t count out Cox. He was a good player in Jacksonville before he was a bad player in San Diego. After a couple of recent interceptions on back-to-back days in camp, he had a nice breakup of a ball thrown from Bridgewater to receiver Rodney Smith today. The positioning and timing of the breakup was ideal.
JASPER DOES EXTRA PUSHUPS: Jasper Brinkley probably will win the middle linebacker job in the base defense, although one shouldn’t bet against Audie Cole, who has been moved back to the middle after auditioning at the weak-side spot. Brinkley was working with the backups in a team portion of practice when Ponder threw an ill-advised ball right to Brinkley. Brinkley dropped the ball for an incompletion and then hit the ground to punish himself with pushups.
INJURY REPORT: Tight end AC Leonard remained sidelined as he undergoes further testing for the headache he reported last week. Cornerback Josh Robinson missed another day because of his hamstring pull. Tight end Chase Ford is out of his walking boot, but isn’t close to returning from surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left foot. Safety Robert Blanton also missed another day because of his hamstring injury. And, finally, backup left tackle Tiny Richardson returned to practice. He missed a portion of Monday’s practice after another played rolled up on his left leg.