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Darren Woodson Rooting For Zimmer, Vikings in 2018

EAGAN, Minn. — For a split second on Tuesday afternoon, Darren Woodson must have felt like he was back in Dallas.

The four-time All-Pro safety was out at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center to check in on Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, who was Woodson's position coach and defensive coordinator with the Cowboys during a 10-year stretch from 1994-2003.

Zimmer wanted to introduce Woodson to his current team before practice, so Woodson strolled onto the field shortly after 2:45 p.m.

Zimmer was having none of Woodson's casual nature, so he colorfully encouraged his former player to hurry up so the Vikings could get practice underway.

"Just like old times, it never changes," Woodson said with a laugh. "Our relationship has always been that way where he's been brutally honest with me."

After practice, Zimmer had a big smile on his face when asked about Woodson's presence.

"It was great seeing Darren. He was a tremendous football player," Zimmer said. "I always tell everybody that he was a great football player, but he was an even better person.

"He could do so many things on the field, and he was doing things back then that safeties do now," Zimmer added. "He was an unbelievable player."

Zimmer's current star safety noticed an improved mood in the coach when his former star safety came to town.

"You can tell how happy Zim' was, just that [Woodson] was even here," said Vikings safety Harrison Smith. "That doesn't happen a lot, so it kind of speaks for itself."

Woodson was one of the NFL's top defensive backs in the 1990s, making five straight Pro Bowl appearances. He is the Cowboys all-time leading tackler with 1,350 career stops, and helped Dallas win three Super Bowl championships.

Woodson spent part of his day in Eagan watching film with Smith, who has made three straight Pro Bowls. Woodson said he views the 2017 All-Pro selection as the top player in the league at his position.

"He's a heck of a playmaker, man. You're starting to see him make plays, closing out games like in Chicago last year," Woodson said. "I think that's starting to separate him from everyone.

"When the game is on the line and you need to count on that guy, he's become that guy," Woodson added. "I think that's why you see the respect that he's getting. I wish I could have played with him."

Woodson also caught up with cornerback Terence Newman, who was a rookie in 2003, Woodson's final season in the NFL.

"To see a guy at what, 40 years old now, to play a skill position like that … it's incredible," Woodson said. "It speaks volumes to how he takes care of himself in the offseason."

But perhaps his favorite part of Tuesday was shooting the breeze with Zimmer in his office for an hour.

Woodson was inducted into the Cowboys Ring of Honor in 2015 but said he holds a special place in his heart for perhaps his favorite coach he ever played for.

"This doesn't surprise me that he built a good team," said Woodson, who is now an analyst for ESPN. "It's not surprising they got to the NFC Championship Game last year and now the expectation is for even more. He wants to win this thing.

"I'm a Cowboy in my heart and have been a Cowboy for a long time, but the guy I bleed for is [Zimmer]," Woodson later added. "[I told them,] 'I want to see you guys not only win week-in and week-out, but I want to see this group win a Super Bowl.' I said that flat out, and people in Dallas feel the same way. This is a different deal."