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Notebook: Zimmer Plans to Coach Sunday in Jacksonville

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said Friday that he will travel to Jacksonville for this Sunday's game against the Jaguars.

Zimmer, who missed last Thursday's game against the Cowboys after undergoing emergency eye surgery for a detached retina, was asked by the Twin Cities media if he would make the trip.

Minnesota's third-year head coach nodded before providing a laugh with his response: "We're not talking about injuries."

Zimmer, who is 24-19 with the Vikings, had a follow up procedure last Friday on his right eye. He said he was unsure if he would coach from the sideline or in the coaches' box on Sunday.

"I don't know. I'm not going to worry about it," Zimmer said. "The doctor just doesn't want me to get hit. That's all. So, we'll be OK."

View the top contributors for the Jacksonville Jaguars on offense, defense and special teams before the Vikings Sunday matchup at EverBank Field.

Cornerbacks' Seminoles connection

Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes will see a few familiar faces Sunday at EverBank Field in Jacksonville.

The Jaguars have three players from Florida State, Rhodes' alma mater, on their roster. One of them is rookie cornerback Jalen Ramsey, the fifth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

"He went to Florida State, and we talked when he was coming out," Rhodes said of Ramsey. "Now, I see he's doing pretty good at Jacksonville. There's a lot of guys on that team that I know."

Zimmer also had praise for Ramsey, who has started all of Jacksonville's 12 games this season.

"Jalen Ramsey is a good football player," Zimmer said. "He's big, long, fast, very strong, strong-handed guy.

"Good in and out of the breaks, very competitive," he added. "I think he's got a chance to be a very, very special corner."

Ramsey is still looking for his first career interception, but Zimmer said there's more to his game than what shows up in the stat book.

"One of the things that probably doesn't show up as much with the naked eye is what kind of competitor is, he and he looks like an unbelievable competitor," Zimmer said. "A guy that has long arms like he does, great size. He doesn't get mismatched against the bigger, taller receivers.

"I think those two things really set him apart," he added. "He's got obviously outstanding speed and acceleration in and out of the cut, but those two things I think allow him to maybe be an elite corner." 

Rhodes, meanwhile, has a career-high four interceptions, one of which he returned 100 yards for a score.

Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said he knew who Rhodes was in college and has been impressed with how he has evolved under Zimmer and the Vikings defensive coaching staff.

 "He's the style of corner that we look for: the height, the length, the size, the aggressiveness, so it's not surprising that he's doing very well, especially in that system," Bradley said. "I think they've done a great job of developing him.

"I think when you look at his whole game, he's not only aggressive in his techniques but also as a tackler. Sometimes that's hard to find," he added. "Corners that are willing tacklers are very good tacklers. I think he's developed his coverage traits and his tackling and physical traits as well."

Rhodes, a Miami native, will be playing his second career game in his home state.

A trip down memory lane

Sunday's game at Jacksonville will be a kind of homecoming for Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer, but rest assured he doesn't have warm and fuzzy feelings toward the opposition.

During Priefer's time as a Navy helicopter pilot, he was stationed at Naval Air Station Jacksonville.

"[That was] prior to the Jaguars even having a team. So, it was a long time ago," Priefer quipped during his podium session with Twin Cities media members Thursday.

Priefer recalled he and his wife renting their first apartment in Jacksonville as well as his oldest daughter being born there in 1993.

"And then my very first NFL job was with Coach [Tom] Coughlin with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2002," Priefer said. "So, a lot of good memories. Hopefully we can [have] some more good memories after this Sunday."

Coughlin kept Priefer on staff with him for the Giants from 2003-05, as well, and Priefer said the elder coach taught him the ropes of the league.

To this day, Priefer identifies Coughlin as one of his mentors.

"I didn't know anything about the game when I first got [to Jacksonville]," Priefer said. "So, hopefully I've learned a little bit over the years. But Coach Coughlin, I owe him a lot. He got me in the league, and then he kept me in the league when he came to New York."

Priefer said his experiences under Coughlin translated and helped him become successful in the league. The special teams coordinator is grateful for what he learned under Coughlin and each and every opportunity since then from which he's been able to grow as a coach.

One such opportunity was serving as interim head coach against the Cowboys.

"I learned a lot," Priefer said, acknowledging the temporary coaching substitution was under difficult circumstances with Zimmer's emergency eye surgery Wednesday. "I was honored to be asked to do that, first all, especially to lead a team – even if it was only for 24 hours – to lead a team like we have."

Priefer credited the strong staff around him with the Vikings.

"The rest of the coaches were great; the players were phenomenal," Priefer said. "I just wish we could have played better on special teams, and I think we would have had a chance to win that game."

Added Priefer: "It's one I'll never forget."

Thielen makes his mark 

With four games to go, Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen has already set career highs in catches (52), yards (657) and touchdowns (three).

That's quite an uptick from the previous two seasons, when Thielen caught a combined 20 passes for 281 yards and a score.

Zimmer said Friday that the 26-year-old has taken advantage of increased playing time in 2016.

"He has gotten way more opportunities, obviously," Zimmer said. "He goes in there and makes plays when he gets a chance. The more plays you make, the more opportunities you get."

Zimmer noted that Thielen's ability to deliver on third down and in the clutch have only helped propel his breakout season.

"I think it started in training camp but he also made a great catch in Tennessee the first game, a couple great catches. He's made some great catches," Zimmer said.

The injury report

The Vikings and Jaguars released their final injury reports of the week Friday afternoon. They can be found here.

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