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Presser Points: Zimmer Directs Vikings Sole Focus Toward Jaguars

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings are taking their push for the playoffs one game at a time, and they aren't even mentioning the postseason as the calendar has turned to December.

Minnesota has won four of its past five games and sits at 5-6 with five games to go. Arizona is currently in the final NFC Wild Card spot at 6-5.

But Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said Wednesday in a video conference with the Twin Cities media that Minnesota's sole focus is on getting a win Sunday at home against Jacksonville.

"We don't really talk about playoff things or anything like that. We're just trying to get better each week," Zimmer said. "And part of it is the mentality of this football team since I've been here has always been smart and tough and physical, and so I continue to try to preach that message.

"We've won a few out of our last five now. We've just got to keep progressing," Zimmer added. "We dug ourselves a hole and the only way we can get out of it is by fighting."

The Jaguars, who will be playing their first regular-season game at U.S. Bank Stadium, are 1-10 and have lost 10 games in a row.

Zimmer said Doug Marrone's squad is much better than its record.

"We're going to have our hands full," Zimmer said. "It should be a good contest."

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of January 4, 2021.

Here are four other topics Zimmer discussed Wednesday:

1. A change at long snapper

The Vikings made a handful of roster moves Tuesday, one of which was the release of long snapper Austin Cutting.

Cutting, a 2019 seventh-round pick out of the Air Force Academy, was inactive for the past two games.

Andrew DePaola will be Minnesota's long snapper going forward after being active for the past two games. The Vikings have hit all six extra points and both field goal tries with DePaola snapping, as the veteran hasn't had any noticeable issues on punt snaps, either.

"He's just done a nice job with the snaps," Zimmer said of DePaola. "We were having trouble, especially with the short snaps, and he's done a nice job.

"I think [kicker Dan] Bailey feels confident with him, along with [punter Britton] Colquitt," Zimmer added.

DePaola spent 2014-16 with Tampa Bay, and was with Chicago in 2017. He played one game for the Raiders in 2018 and did not play in the league in 2019.

The Vikings added DePaola to the 53-man roster on Wednesday morning.

2. Updates on Cook, Thielen

Zimmer was asked about the status of two key offensive players ahead of Sunday's home game against the Jaguars.

Vikings running back Dalvin Cook left the Panthers game with an ankle injury, but later returned. He had 18 carries for 61 yards, while Alexander Mattison had a pair of carries for six yards.

"Well, his health is fine, so we'll just keep going and try to be smart about how we use him," Zimmer said. "Every game's a different game, so we'll figure that out as we go."

Cook has 145 total touches (including 127 rushes) over the past five games. He has tallied 832 total yards from scrimmage in that span and scored seven total touchdowns.

Mattison has five combined carries in Minnesota's past three games.

Zimmer also commented on that status of wide receiver Adam Thielen, who missed Sunday's win while on the COVID-19/Reserve list.

"I think he'll be ready to go," Zimmer said of Thielen's chances to play against Jacksonville.

Sure enough, Thielen was activated off the COVID-19/Reserve list about 20 minutes after Zimmer's press conference ended.

Thielen is tied for second the league with 11 touchdown catches, and he has 49 catches for 646 yards.

3. Vikings back in the building

The Vikings returned to Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center on Wednesday morning to get started on the work week for the Jaguars.

The NFL mandated that all team facilities be closed Monday and Tuesday for COVID-19 related purposes, forcing Zimmer and his coaching staff to game-plan for Jacksonville from their homes on Tuesday.

Zimmer addressed working from home right away in his opening statement.

"OK, back in the building today after a couple days of quarantining, I guess is the best way to say it," Zimmer said. "Getting ready for Jacksonville."

Zimmer noted that he and his staff were able to get the work done they needed, even if it was all virtual.

"Yeah, it was just different," Zimmer said. "It's not as much fun when you're not game-planning with other coaches [in person]."

4. Redbird pride!

A handful of people with ties to Illinois State will play a key role in Sunday's game.

One of them is Zimmer, who is a proud alum and graduated in 1979. Zimmer played quarterback for the Redbirds as a freshman in 1974, but redshirted the following season. He switched to linebacker in 1976 but soon had to retire due to an injury.

Zimmer made sure to give his school a shoutout in his opening statement when he brought up Jaguars running back James Robinson.

"They've got a really hard runner from Illinois State," said Zimmer, who later noted another Jaguars player who played for the Redbirds.

"And the tight end, too," Zimmer said. "[James] O'Shaughnessy's from Illinois State, as well."

Robinson, an undrafted rookie, has rushed for 890 yards and six scores in 2020. He has recorded four 100-yard rushing performances.

O'Shaughnessy has 18 catches for 173 yards this season.