EAGAN, Minn. – On Friday, the Vikings will step foot in U.S. Bank Stadium for the first time in 2020.
Minnesota's season opener against Green Bay is still two-plus weeks away, but Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer is taking the team to the state-of-the-art venue for training camp practice.
Zimmer detailed more of his plans when he spoke with Twin Cities media members on Monday.
"[On] Friday we're going down to the stadium and we're going to go through [the process], because a lot of these young guys haven't seen the locker room, the stadium, the field," he explained.
The Vikings announced Tuesday morning that they will host the first two games at U.S. Bank Stadium without fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Friday's practice will give the team a feel for the game-day environment as well as various protocols put in-place.
"What we're going to do is play one quarter as a home team and one quarter as a visiting team so we can kind of get a little feel at least on both sides of the ball with just the way the crowd noise is," Zimmer said. "Apparently, what I'm understanding now, if you're the home team, between plays you can play music and all of the rah-rah stuff, and if you're the visitor — I don't know, it's probably still a work in progress.
"I'll probably hear more about it as we move forward," he added. "I'm just trying to get the team ready to play football right now."
1. Moving forward with no fans
As part of their statement about the Packers and Titans games, the Vikings emphasized they will "continue to work with the appropriate officials on plans with the hope of bringing fans back in a safe manner later this season."
"Well, I've always like felt like we've got great fans and we hope to get them back, but it is what it is, so we'll go out and we'll play and get ready to go," Zimmer said. "Hopefully they get back again sometime this year."
Zimmer was asked if the NFL had any type of discussion about keeping the decision about fans uniform across all 32 teams, being that some stadiums will have fans in attendance and others will not.
"I think what they're doing is leaving it up to the local, state and city governments, and we unfortunately can only have 250 people, and so it wasn't worth the cost to open it up for that few of fans," he said.
View photos of Vikings players from Verizon Vikings Training Camp practice at TCO Performance Center.
2. 'Pleased' with progress on defense
The Vikings experienced a lot of turnover on defense this spring, but Zimmer is content at this point of training camp about how the unit looks and the way veterans are leading the group.
"I'm pleased right now," Zimmer said. "Obviously, we haven't played anybody yet, just against our offense. But we're very, very fortunate that we have two really smart safeties, three really smart linebackers, we've got a couple smart defensive linemen … so these guys can make adjustments, checks, adjustments on plays.
"[Anthony] Barr and Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris, they've been around us for numbers of years now," he added. "Seven, some of them. Honestly, I feel pretty good about where we're at."
3. Successful surgery for Cam Smith
Zimmer shared that linebacker Cam Smith underwent successful heart surgery in Philadelphia Monday to repair a bicuspid aortic valve.
"We were happy about that," Zimmer said. "They were able to repair the heart, so he's in good shape."
The congenital heart defect that Smith was born with went undetected until earlier this month. The condition was discovered during an additional exam that followed Smith's testing positive for COVID-19.
Zimmer explained that Smith will remain in Philadelphia "for a while" while recovering before returning to Minnesota.
"He talked before he left about trying to help out in any way possible — coming to meetings, he'll draw cards, help with the scout teams, anything," Zimmer said. "We're hopeful he's able to come back and play football, but more importantly, he looks like he's going to be great in health."
4. Update on Gedeon
Zimmer also provided an update on linebacker Ben Gedeon, who hasn't been practicing with the team. He played the first eight games of the 2019 season and was added to Injured Reserve with a concussion on Dec. 2.
"He's going to see the doctor, tomorrow, I believe. We'll know more then." Zimmer said.
Asked specifically if Gedeon is still dealing with a concussion, he responded, "Well, you know, I don't talk about those things (injuries), but he's working through it."
"I love Ben," he added. "Ben is a really good football player, a great person, so I hope that he gets the clearance tomorrow."