INDIANAPOLIS —- Head coach Mike Zimmer just sat down with us in the lobby of the team’s hotel here in Indianapolis and within a minute was playfully heckled by a passerby for being stuck talking to a group of local reporters. Needless to say, offensive coordinator Norv Turner doesn’t miss all the extra media responsibilities that came with being a head coach.
Zimmer was in a relaxed mood, cracking some jokes of his own, too, and sharing a couple of colorful stories that we are unable to share with you. This year’s scouting combine is a little less stressful for him now that he is settled in as head coach and since he won’t have to spend the next two months jetting all over the country in search of a starting quarterback (it’s safe to say the Wilfs aren’t going to hook him up with a private jet to go scout defensive tackles or cornerbacks).
No, Zimmer is happy to have Teddy Bridgewater, the winner of the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year award. Of course, Zimmer couldn’t resist rattling the quarterback’s cage for winning the fan award.
“I texted him something like, ‘Hey, congratulations, Teddy. Now let’s see if we can win a championship, unless you just want to be a celebrity quarterback,’” Zimmer said. “He texted me back and said, ‘Thanks, Coach. But I’ve never cared about individual awards and all I ever care about is the team and winning football games.’ The stuff he says is so perfect anyway.”
About the team and the business of winning football games…
Zimmer was a little more forthcoming about the team’s offseason plans, especially at the running back situation, than General Manager Rick Spielman was yesterday.
Zimmer said it’s not a big deal that suspended superstar Adrian Peterson won’t be eligible for reinstatement until a month after the start of free agency.
“We’re not going to look for a running back in free agency anyway,” Zimmer said.
It is his preference — and the organization’s likely path — to improve the team through the draft.
“I’d much rather go through the draft to find players than free agency,” Zimmer said. “If you don’t know the guy and you haven’t coached him or somebody else hasn’t coached him … I think you make a lot of mistakes there. You use free agency to plug in a couple of holes, but I don’t believe that we’re going to go out and pay some guy a whole bunch of money. When I was in Cincinnati and a lot of places, we would kind of go for the lower-end free agents and coach them up and hope they fit in our scheme.”
Zimmer has mostly focused on defensive draft prospects after the 2014 season ended. The depth at linebacker, one area of need, isn’t as deep as he would like. Same deal at cornerback. But his opinion could change a little bit after he sees some of these players in person.
There are a couple of more Zimmer tidbits I’ll share before getting to work on tomorrow’s story.
Zimmer talked about the addition of former Packers tight end Brandon Bostick, whom the Vikings claimed off waivers yesterday. Zimmer said Bostick is a good athlete who will come in and compete with the guys on the roster. He also said he is a solid special teams player, though he couldn’t resist making a joke when asked about Bostick botching that onside kick in the NFC title game.
“We’ll try not to put him on the onside kick team,” Zimmer said.
Finally, a little something on wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. I thought we might get through the week without a comment from Zimmer or Spielman about Patterson, whose struggles last season let to the spilling of tons of digital ink. Alas, Zimmer was asked about Patterson, but at least he had some new, interesting things to say about Patterson’s lost 2014 season.
“I think one of the biggest problems Cordarrelle had last year was he was going to have this breakout year and he was going to be this,” he said. “I think all those things maybe affected him a little bit, and he thought how easy this game would be and how easy it was going to go. And it didn’t quite go that way. So let’s just keep our heads down and work and not worry about whatever.”
Patterson has been in touch with Receiver X, the mysterious former NFL receiver whom Zimmer has asked Patterson to work with. Zimmer is still not revealing the identity of said mentor.
Asked if Patterson has mentality to follow through by putting in the work, Zimmer hesitated.
“He’s going to have to have that mentality,” Zimmer said. “I know he likes the limelight and all that stuff, but if you’re not playing, that stuff’s going to fade away fast.”