Vikings offensive line coach Tony Sparano is knee-deep into his first Vikings Training Camp in Mankato.
The former head coach was signed by Minnesota in the offseason to develop the line, and he takes his role seriously – and appreciates it. Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press caught up with Sparano at camp to talk about his new position.
"I wake up every morning and say I'm the offensive line coach of the Minnesota Vikings," Sparano told Murphy Monday. "Who's got it better than me?
"The first thing that attracted me to the job was knowing the fan base," Sparano added. "I just think they're passionate about football here. I wanted to go to a place that was passionate about football. I've done this for enough years. I know how important that is."
Murphy said Sparano carries with him plenty of "battle scars" from his time with previous franchises: Cleveland, Washington, Jacksonville, Dallas, Miami, New York Jets, Oakland and San Francisco before joining Minnesota. Both Sparano and Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer shared valuable experiences with the Cowboys. Murphy wrote:
*Sparano and Zimmer are descendants of the Bill Parcells coaching tree. The patriarch who won a pair of Super Bowls with the New York Giants spawned a family of firebrands who preach hard truths with zero tolerance for pretense. *
*Competition for snaps is the fiercest it has been in Zimmer's three seasons in Minnesota. The acquisition of hard-nosed guard Alex Boone and tackle Andre Smith was as much about making an attitude adjustment as it was an upgrade in performance. *
*Zimmer wants maulers, and Sparano is eager to deliver. *
"I always believe that the players inherit the personalities their coaches give them," Sparano told Murphy. "I've been called a lot of things — old-school, tough, that type of thing. If that's what I'm being called, that's fine.
"I've got a lot of good guys in that room that like to be coached hard," Sparano continued. "They understand coaching them hard is just getting them where we need to be."
Tom Johnson embracing role with Vikings
Defensive tackle Tom Johnson has plenty of football experience, but his most successful time has come over the past two seasons with the Vikings.
Viking Update's Eric Oslund said the Vikings are "revitalizing" Johnson's NFL career.
*[Johnson's career] got an even bigger lift last season when he was responsible for starting in a career-high eight games due to injuries suffered by multiple interior defenders. *
He said that it was definitely the most snaps he has ever played in his career and he was able to record a career-high 36 tackles, while also adding 5.5 sacks and a pass defensed. He recorded a career-high in sacks the year prior with 6.5.
Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards addressed media following Monday morning's walk-through practice. Edwards said that Johnson has bought into Minnesota's defensive system and approach, and it's made a big difference in his performance.
"I think Tom came in and bought into what it is we were trying to teach," Edwards said. "Paid attention to the detail, understood what we're asking from him from a position standpoint, knowing what his abilities were. He comes out here every day to get the most out of his abilities.
"He's got in there at three-technique, probably not as big as some of the other three-techniques that we have," Edwards continued. "But with this technique and with his fundamentals, understanding what people are trying to do to him, he's got a good chance to go out there and be successful from snap to snap."