EAGAN, Minn. — The message was simple and effective.
As talented as players can be, the team will always matter more.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer withheld Stefon Diggs and Xavier Rhodes from practice Wednesday after the receiver and cornerback let their competitive fires cause them to bubble up at each other.
The day before, Diggs had caught a deep pass for a touchdown against Rhodes and threw the ball into the stands in celebration. Rhodes wanted another rep, but instead the pair had some verbal exchanges that continued into Wednesday. Both players were back at the walk-through session Thursday.
“I feel like that competitive nature and that everyday passion to want to be great, two people who want to be great and are not going to settle for anything less [was the cause],” Diggs said. “We’ve just got to channel that the right way. Sometimes brothers fight. Anybody who has siblings, we go at it, but at the end of the day we still love each other. We still want to do what’s always best for the team.”
Zimmer on Thursday used the phrase “juvenile” but didn’t say much more in his session with media members.
“There was no timeout,” Zimmer said. “I just decided to do what I did, and everything’s good.”
Diggs and Rhodes said they understood Zimmer’s decision — and more importantly — his point.
“No, I wasn’t surprised. Coach Zim’ is a team guy, and he believes in things done in a certain kind of way,” Diggs said. “Was I surprised? No. Was I hurt? Of course. I love practice, so he knew how to hit you where it hurt.”
Rhodes said: “I appreciate everything Coach Zimmer does because Zim’ is a great coach. He handled everything the way it needed to be handled. No matter how he handles it, it’s always in a correct manner.
“He doesn’t want anyone to feel like they’re above anything, above the team, above the logo,” Rhodes said. “That was his thing, let us know this is still a family at the end of the day.”
In addition to equating the dispute to a fight between siblings, Diggs and Rhodes emphasized that families overcome disagreements.
“We’re competitors. We compete each and every day, but foremost, we’re family here,” Rhodes said. “It’s a brotherhood, and sometimes, we’re just going to go through it. In the end, we came together as a team and knew what we did wrong.
“We’re accountable for it,” he added. “They’re holding us accountable for it because we’re leaders of our team, and it’s something we went through, a rough patch, but it’s good now. It’s over and done with. We’re still going to compete each and every day.”
Diggs shared Rhodes’ sentiments.
“If anybody who has siblings ever got into it with your siblings over the last cookie, it’s always fine afterwards,” Diggs said. “For me, going out today, I’m excited to practice, and I’m pretty sure [Xavier] is. We are just excited to be back, that’s all.”
Diggs was scheduled to sign autographs on Wednesday with the wide receivers. He opened his session with reporters by apologizing to the fans.
“First and foremost, I want to apologize to the fans,” Diggs said. “A lot of guys came out yesterday, a lot of kids, and I’m going to make it a priority and my business if anybody didn’t get an autograph, I’m going to make sure they get one.”