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Presser Points: Zimmer Explains Tough Roster Decisions, Safety Depth

EAGAN, Minn. – It's the first Monday of the 2020 regular season, and the Vikings currently have 53 players on their roster.

But Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said that group might be tweaked as the week rolls along.

"I would anticipate some, yeah," Zimmer said when asked about making any additional roster moves.

The Vikings will open the 2020 season Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium against the Packers. Kickoff is at noon (CT).

Minnesota trimmed its roster over the weekend to get to 53 players and then made an additional move Sunday by adding linebacker Ryan Connelly, who is a native of Eden Prairie.

Zimmer expanded on the roster moves, saying the toughest choices were at wide receiver and the offensive line. Minnesota kept nine offensive linemen, along with seven wide receivers, the most on its initial 53-man roster since Zimmer arrived in 2014.

"I think we had some good receivers and some of the offensive linemen, those areas were tough," Zimmer said. "Probably those two positions specifically."

Zimmer was later asked about wide receiver Alexander Hollins, who is one of 13 players on the practice squad.

"Yeah, I think Hollins did a nice job. I think he's improved," Zimmer said. "Just because he's not on the 53 now doesn't mean he's not going to play."

Practice squad maximums were initially set to expand to 12 players from 10 under the Collective Bargaining Agreement reached between the NFL and NFL Players Association in March. That limit was increased to 16 in an effort to add depth within a team's organization in case players test positive before games.

Zimmer noted that the expanded size and tweaked regulations will help the Vikings in 2020.

"I do think it helps. Technically, you can have four guys active on the game-day roster," Zimmer said. "You can only do it twice for each player. It does give you some flexibility and I think it's a good thing."

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

Here are four other topics Zimmer discussed Monday:

1. Depth at safety

The Vikings have just two safeties listed on the 53-man roster. And while those two players are Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris, Zimmer said the Vikings could add to that position going forward.

"We'll have a plan moving forward," Zimmer said.

He also noted that some cornerbacks on the roster could slide over and play safety if needed. In recent years, former Viking Terence Newman filled that role.

"That's a possibility. We've done it in the past with some guys. Terence Newman's done it," Zimmer said. "When I was in Cincinnati, we had another player do it. That's part of it. The roster is still flexible, though. We'll move things around."

2. Impact of no fans

The Vikings recently announced they will not have fans for their first two home games in September against the Packers and Titans, respectively.

Zimmer said that while the team will miss the energy and excitement from the 66,000-plus at U.S. Bank Stadium, it will be up to players and coaches to still find a way to get the job done on Sunday.

"Well, I do think not having our fans there is hard. All these other teams that don't have fans there, it'll be hard for them, too," Zimmer said. "We are one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL, so it adds to how we've played at home because of them.

"At the end of the day, it's going to be strange, it's going to be odd. But we have to go out — you know, it's like going out for a practice [with no fans]," Zimmer added. "You've got to go out and do your best, perform your best and execute the best."

View photos of the Vikings 2020 schedule in photos including all opponents for the regular season.

3. An update on the defensive ends

The Vikings might boast the league's top duo at defensive end, as Minnesota features a pair of Pro Bowlers in Danielle Hunter and Yannick Ngakoue.

Zimmer provided an update on each of them Monday, beginning with Hunter, who missed almost the entirety of training camp.

"Yeah, I expect so. We'll just have to see," Zimmer said when asked if Hunter will practice and play this week against Green Bay.

Hunter has recorded 5.5 career sacks against the Packers.

Ngakoue, meanwhile, has been a Viking for a week after coming over in a trade with the Jaguars.

Zimmer said the 25-year-old with 37.5 career sacks is doing all he can to get ready for his first game in Purple.

"He's been very, very receptive," Zimmer said. "He's been staying long at night trying to catch up on all the different calls and defensive plays and things like that. He's been really good."

4. Advice for young corners vs. Rodgers

The opposing quarterback in Sunday's game has 174 career starts, going 113-60-1 in those contests. He has also thrown for 46,964 yards with 364 touchdowns and 84 interceptions, and has a Super Bowl title to go along with a pair of NFL MVP awards and eight Pro Bowls.

Yeah, Aaron Rodgers is legit.

Minnesota's cornerbacks will have their hands full Sunday, as a talented but inexperienced group takes the field.

The Vikings have six cornerbacks on the roster in Mike Hughes, Holton Hill, Jeff Gladney, Cameron Dantzler, Kris Boyd and Harrison Hand.

That group has 44 combined starts and three combined interceptions, and every player is 23 years old or younger. Gladney, Dantzler and Hand are rookies.

Zimmer was asked what advice he would offer that group against a future Hall of Famer.

"Well, we've showed them a few plays where he's made some unbelievable, incredible throws," Zimmer said. "If you're not tight on this guy, you're looking to make a tackle as opposed to getting the ball out."