MANKATO, Minn. –Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer is a football guy.
The no-nonsense leader has never been much for on-field celebrations, but this offseason he's delivering a little bit of a different message.
Zimmer recently nudged Kyle Rudolph to be more expressive, and Bradford's execution of the request resulted in **more than a nudge to Zimmer**. While the accidental collision was comical, Zimmer's point to the quarterback – and the team as a whole – remains the same.
"Sam is a pretty flat-line guy," Zimmer told media members after Thursday's walk-through practice session. "I think part of it is being a leader of this football team, so I've been talking to him about taking charge and trying to do those things.
"The other part is the offense having some confidence when they have success," Zimmer continued. "You know, it's still going out here and having fun. I've just been talking to Sam about showing a little bit more emotion is all."
A number of players also spoke about the emotional aspect of the game.
Trae Waynes, entering his 15th season in the NFL, said players on both sides of the ball often feed off the quarterback's energy.
"I remember last year, Sam came off [the field], the offense had done something great, and he head-butted me pretty dang hard," Newman said. "I was like, 'Wow,' but I got pretty fired up because he was so fired up."
Jarius Wright chuckled when he recalled Bradford's enthusiasm that knocked Zimmer to the ground. He said it was fun for the team to their normally even-keeled quarterback show that much excitement after a big play.
Wright said he appreciates knowing that Zimmer is giving the thumbs-up to celebrations at the appropriate times.
"There's no bigger [thrill] than getting the chance to celebrate with the offensive line who just blocked it up so you could get a chance to score or make a play," Wright said. "It's good to know the coach wants you to celebrate."
Added Wright: "Football can be an emotional sport."
Defensive end Brian Robison isn't used to this type of approach from Zimmer, but he's on board. He believes Zimmer is encouraging more emotion from his players because of it's infectious.
Robison said that the attitude should go beyond just scoring plays.
"It's just coming out here on the field, being excited about your job, being excited about the opportunity to be able to step on the field and play in the NFL," Robison said. "You know, when you bring excitement to the game, it's contagious.
"That's what your teammates feed off of, that's what the fans feed off of – that's what it's all about, creating excitement," Robison added. "So that when we go into U.S. Bank Stadium, it's an atmosphere that nobody wants to come play us in."
A great neighbor
Austin Shepherd is focused on Vikings training camp, but he's also keeping an eye on Canton this weekend.
The Cowboys and Cardinals are kicking off Hall of Fame Weekend in the first preseason game of 2017, but another kicker's role in the weekend has piqued Shepherd's interest.
Shepherd has been neighbors with kicker Morten Andersen since the offensive lineman was 5 years old, growing up in the Atlanta area. Andersen, who played the 2004 season with the Vikings, is a member of this year's Hall of Fame class, and Shepherd said it's "pretty surreal" to see Andersen enshrined.
"I wish I could be there, but obviously, I've got to take care of my business," Shepherd said. "My family is there to support him, though."
Andersen scored an NFL-record 2,544 points in regular-season games during his 25-season career with the Saints, Falcons, Giants, Chiefs, Vikings and Falcons again. He made 565 of 709 field goals and 849 of 859 extra points.
In addition to all of the 3-pointers, Andersen has doled out some pointers to Shepherd over the years, and continues to mentor the third-year pro.
"He's one of my biggest mentors because he's been through it," Shepherd said. "He played for 25 years, so whenever I have a question or how to handle this lifestyle, I kind of go to him. He still mentors me to this day, so we talk all of the time. He tells me to keep going, and it will happen."
Shepherd was a member of the 2015 Vikings draft class that got to participate directly in Hall of Fame Weekend against the Steelers and visit the museum.
Bradford handles windy practice with a breeze
The Vikings practiced in mid-80s and sunshine Wednesday afternoon. But Thursday, the clouds had rolled in and temps dropped nearly 30 degrees.
Zimmer, dressed in a gray hooded sweatshirt, said the weather would be a sort of experiment for the team.
"Things are going to come up where we don't expect it," Zimmer said. "Today's the first test to see how they go out and respond to different change in weather."
At least one player passed the test with flying colors.
Bradford didn't seem phased by the strong winds whipping across the practice field, throwing a number of nice passes despite the weather.
"Sam throws a great ball in the wind," Wright said. "He's been doing it for a long time, but he knows how to make the ball cut through the wind. We had a pretty good day."
Wright also commented on the adjustment for younger players.
"The wind was blowing extremely hard, and sometimes that can make the ball go here or there," Wright said. "I think they handled it really well. It was a different day for them."
Another skill of Newman's
The longevity of Newman is a frequent topic. The cornerback will turn 39 years old on Sept. 4, and he is preparing for his 15th pro season.
Asked about his secret, Newman said, "I'm a Hall of Fame nap taker. When I leave here, I'm going to grab some lunch and take a nap."