EAGAN, Minn. — All but one practice-worth of evidence has been presented on behalf of Vikings players hoping to make the 53-man roster.
Final cuts are scheduled for Saturday afternoon.
The Vikings roster is at 76 players (including Ben Gedeon, who is on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list) as of Friday, so 23 reductions loom.
Many of those players could wind up joining Minnesota's 16-member practice squad, which is scheduled to be announced Sunday.
Head Coach Mike Zimmer will make final decisions the without benefit of having seen newcomers in a preseason game.
"It's only difficult because you can't judge against other people, and they get to know the guys that they're going against, I guess would be the big reason," Zimmer said. "You try to put them in as many game situations as you can so you can kind of see how they think and how they react when coaches aren't on the field. But I think you get a feel for the player. Some players emerge in the games more so than in practice."
After six seasons as Minnesota's linebackers coach, Adam Zimmer on Thursday described the slight shift for him as co-defensive coordinator.
"Cut day is never a fun day because you have developed a relationship with all of these guys, and this year I have developed relationships with more than just the linebackers," Adam Zimmer said. "It's always tough to say goodbye to some of these guys. Like always, we're going to wish them the best and do anything we can to help them get on wherever we can, especially in an offseason like this where they don't have the game film that some of the guys in the past have had to show the team.
"It's a difficult day, and we're going to try to get through it as best as we can," he continued. "I am looking forward to getting our team together and getting our group to start meshing with the guys that are going to go to battle with us on Sundays."
Here are four other topics that Mike Zimmer covered during Friday's media session.
1. Practice squad expansion
The NFL initially planned on expanding the practice squad for each team from 10 to 12 players.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the NFL and NFL Players Association reached an agreement to boost the max number of players to 16. The increase is designed to offset potential impacts of players testing positive for coronavirus and will offer more opportunity for players who aren't quite there yet.
"Well, I think that helps. I think it gives some players an opportunity to improve," Zimmer said. "I think it gives them an opportunity to continue to get coached and work on some of the fundamentals and techniques so that they get to a point where they can help us."
View photos of Vikings players from Verizon Vikings Training Camp practice at TCO Performance Center.
2. Early assessment of Ngakoue
The big-time trade by the Vikings for Yannick Ngakoue has generated quite the buzz during the final week of the preseason.
The edge rusher who has totaled 37.5 sacks in four seasons with Jacksonville hit the Vikings practice field for the first time on Thursday in a session that was moved inside due to heavy winds.
Zimmer said the Vikings "kind of took it easy on him because we didn't know what kind of shape he would be in."
"He practices very hard," Zimmer said. "He seemed to catch on to the basic things pretty well. I think he'll fit in fine. He seems like he's a good guy, and I think he'll add something to do the defense."
View photos of Vikings DE Yannick Ngakoue who had his first practice with the team on Sept. 3.
3. Game ready?
Few might admit it, but everyone needs the preseason for one reason or another. Coaches, players, equipment staff, athletic training and medical staff all benefit from exposure to a game-day rhythm and scenario (even scribes for your favorite football team benefit from preseason — trust me!).
Zimmer has tried to create as many game-like scenarios as possible, and the approach has received acclaim from the likes of Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak, who scripted parts of practices and even the virtual walk-throughs over the summer, and Co-Defensive Coordinator Andre Patterson.
Zimmer keeps his unscripted game situations close to the vest because he wants to see how coaches and players react.
"I think we're good in that area. It's good to get practice in game situations when you don't know what the situation is going to be and it just comes up, and you have to make your calls and get your personnel in and things like that," Zimmer said. "I think it's a good refresher for coaches considering we don't have preseason games."
4. Closing with corners
The lack of game experience for Minnesota's cornerbacks has been a talker all offseason, which is to be expected since the whole group has nine combined starts in NFL games.
The virtually blank slate has provided an opportunity to teach newcomers the way the Vikings want the position played and build on what Mike Hughes, Holton Hill and Kris Boyd have learned since joining Minnesota. The group left a solid impression on many, including DB-guru Zimmer.
"I feel pretty good about it, really," Zimmer said. "I think these guys have done a nice job. All the corners have really shown strides. I think they've all improved. I think they're getting coached well. I think they're trying to do things the way we want them done."