EAGAN, Minn. – The Vikings energy is amplified this week.
Week 1 of the NFL season is upon us, which means rosters are (mostly) set and scores start counting.
Vikings players enjoyed a weekend off, which most of them spent rooting for their alma maters in NCAA matchups. But now all attention turns to their own slate of games.
Minnesota is readying for its first of back-to-back road games, kicking off the 2021 campaign with a Sunday matchup against the Bengals in Cincinnati. Kickoff is set for noon (CT).
"Excited to start preparation for Cincinnati," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer told media members Monday. "Excited to get the season kicked off, excited about the team."
He added: "I feel like we've got a chance to be a good football team. Now we've got to go out and prove it."
It seems each step of the offseason programming generates more momentum.
First, players welcomed an in-person training camp – with fans – at Twin Cities Orthopedics Center after a 2020 summer dramatically altered by the COVID-19 pandemic. The return of preseason games this year also elevated energy, giving players a taste of game day.
But there's no denying the extra spark when Week 1 rolls around.
"It ramps up. Obviously, you're excited for preseason games, you're excited to get back out there; you're excited for training camp," Vikings receiver Adam Thielen said. "But there's just nothing like regular-season football."
And as difficult as roster cutdown day is, there's some sense of stability when the roster has been largely finalized.
"A lot of times, it's hard when you don't have the team set and there are still unknowns about who's going to be on the [roster]," Zimmer said. "So once you settle down and start doing that, then you can focus on your opponent."
Thielen also spoke to the concept of settling into the season's team.
"When you get those cutdowns and then you come in here [Monday] with meetings and you're with the group that's going to be 'our group,' it makes you excited," Thielen said. "You're just excited about the guys in that room, the guys on this team, the coaches. You're excited about what we've put in as far as work. Now we've got to go out there and prove it."
Rashod Hill, who will start at left tackle for Minnesota on Sunday, told reporters he's been watching film on the Bengals since Thursday.
"I'm pretty excited. Ready to get this game going," Hill said. "And I'm glad the fans are coming back. They're going to be great [at home games] this year."
Ready or not, the rubber hits the road on Sunday.
"Guys understand now that we're going for real," Zimmer said.
Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Bengals.