The Vikings wrapped up their 10th and final organized team activity practice Thursday and have a minicamp next week. Head Coach Mike Zimmer told reporters his team is "starting to catch on to a lot of the concepts that we're trying to teach."
"I like this football team, they work hard, they concentrate, they study and they seem to have pretty good chemistry, Zimmer said. "We've still got tons and tons of work to do, but I feel like we are heading in the right direction and I'm excited, really, to get going into training camp."
The Vikings are scheduled to report to training camp July 25 for their 50th straight season of prep work in Mankato. Until then, here are four main points from Zimmer's press conference on Thursday:
Fast pace, quick decisions
A good indicator that the Vikings players are grasping concepts is the pace of practice. It seemed like Wednesday's practice was the fastest of the 10, but Thursday's wasn't in quicksand by any means.
"I think our players really understand what we want, we get through practice really quickly, get a lot of work done," Zimmer said. "We go at a quick, good pace. It keeps everybody into it, so they've got to think quickly off of their feet and get moving, and we've had a lot of good situations throughout these OTAs and I think the coaches have done a great job of trying to teach a lot of situational football. We've been meeting as a team on a lot of situations and then hit quite a few today."
'Much better' depth
Zimmer was asked about how the competition is shaping up at linebacker, a position that's had some players, including 2014 first-round pick Anthony Barr, Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti — miss time. Free agent signee Casey Matthews also has not participated in OTAs because of an injury. Hodges returned to action this week. Zimmer noted that Barr is "over the hump" and might do more next week.
"I think the competition level throughout the whole football team is much better," Zimmer said. "The depth of the football team is better. You have got to credit (General Manager) Rick (Spielman) and the scouts for adding a lot of good, quality football players. It's been good."
A player that's generated a lot of justifiable buzz is Mike Wallace because of the dynamics that the veteran receiver can add to the offense. He's been a frequent target of Teddy Bridgewater at multiple spots of the field, has let Zimmer know he plans to challenge the defense in practices and put in extra work each day after the final horn has sounded.
"I like Mike Wallace, he's got some fire and he comes up to me all of the time and says, 'You can't stop me today,' and stuff like that," Zimmer said. "Hey, I like those guys that are competitors. He works extremely hard. I think he's developing a good relationship with everybody on the football team and not just Teddy (Bridgewater)."
'Rock of salt'
Zimmer was asked if he evaluates OTAs with a "grain of salt" because they are non-contact and have padless players wearing helmets, shorts and the occasional helmet-cam. Zimmer said there's other information to glean from OTAs but admitted some evaluation will need to wait until training camp.
"No, it's pretty much a rock of salt, I guess," Zimmer said. "I mean, we evaluate really hard, it's just that we understand that there's some things that we can't do at this time of year without pads on. There's a good chance that whatever we're evaluating now could change when the physicality of the game starts to come back."