Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is expecting a good turnout from the Purple when the NFL's offseason program moves into Phase 2 with on-field instruction starting Monday.
"It's voluntary, so guys, if they don't show up, they don't show up," Zimmer said Saturday during rookie minicamp. "But I don't think that's going to be the case. The communication that I've had and heard through the guys, I think they like being here, they like being around each other, they like coming to work and trying to get better. But if they don't show up, we coach the guys who are here. That's what we do."
Before Phase 1 began last month, Vikings players joined peers from 19 other teams when they released a statement through the NFL Players Association saying many of them would not attend in-person, voluntary workouts. They cited "the ongoing threat of COVID-19 and the inadequate safety procedures recommended by the NFL" as the reason.
Phase 1, which was extended from two weeks to four, included strength and conditioning, virtual meetings and physical rehabilitation only. The Vikings told players it was OK for them to do Phase 1 virtually. Some, but not a lot, showed up.
Phase 2 has been shortened from three weeks to one. It includes on-field individual instruction, drills and plays conducted with offensive players lining up across from offensive players and defensive players lining up across from defensive players. No contact is allowed.
Phase 3 begins May 24 and runs through June 18. A total of 10 days of organized team activities are allowed. No live contact is permitted, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills are allowed.
Giving up on Hughes
Zimmer doesn't seem too broken up about moving on from cornerback Mike Hughes, the 2018 first-round draft pick who was traded along with a 2022 seventh-round pick to Kansas City for a 2022 sixth-round pick.
"Mike is a terrific kid, but he's been injured an awful lot," Zimmer said.
A torn knee ligament his rookie year and neck injuries the last two years have limited Hughes to 24 games and only seven starts.
"We were fortunate to get a couple corners last year in the draft, we signed Patrick Peterson in free agency, so I think that gave us an opportunity to make the trade," Zimmer said. "But as far as our corner depth, honestly you guys laugh at me, but you can never have too many good corners. They just get hurt."
The Vikings also are dealing with cornerback Jeff Gladney's legal issues. He is facing felony assault charges after an arrest last month.
"We're just letting it all play out," Zimmer said. "I really can't say what I know, so I'll just leave it at that."
Zimmer said he will miss talking football with Jerry Burns, the former Vikings coach who died Thursday at age 94.
"We talked a lot about the difference of the NFL now to when he was here," Zimmer said. "We talked a lot about route concepts and game management, a lot of those things. He was just a great guy to talk to. And he might be the only guy who has worse language than me."
Zimmer laughed and made reference to "Burnsie's" famous and colorfully worded defense of offensive coordinator Bob Schnelker during a news conference in 1989.
"I showed his press conference to the team one year," Zimmer said. "I said, 'You guys think I'm bad, watch this.'"
Fully vaccinated NFL employees no longer have to wear masks to work. Hooray, says Zimmer.
"It's been great," he said. "You come in there, you can actually talk to people. A couple of our coaches still have to wear masks, though, so I always have to have them repeat what they say because I can't understand them, but they can understand what I'm saying pretty good right now, so it's been good.
Zimmer said he hopes all the players get vaccinated so they too can put the masks and daily testing behind them.
"I'm not going to get into the politics," Zimmer said, "but I think this country is ready to get rid of these masks."
Fourth-round draft pick Kene Nwangu has signed his rookie contract. He will be given a chance to win the kick return job and fill the role of No. 3 running back.