EAGAN, Minn. — The preparation is about to get even more serious but not before a break.
The Vikings wrapped up their offseason program on Thursday, as Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer’s bunch checked out after 10 Organized Team Activity sessions and this week’s trio of minicamp practices.
With more than a month off before training camp starts, what was Zimmer’s assessment of how the final stages of the 2018 offseason program?
“Good. We pretty much stayed healthy, which was good,” Zimmer said. “I think the guys did a nice job of taking care of each other, understanding how we’re playing. We got a lot of situation work in.
“We got a lot of areas where we’re going to look at things both offensively and defensively and special teams,” Zimmer added. “I think all those things were good, and we’ll evaluate this summer. The ones we like, we’ll keep going, and the ones we don’t, we’ll throw them out.”
Zimmer huddled his team for a lengthy post-practice speech, part of which included recognizing a handful of Vikings alumni that were on hand.
But Zimmer also took the time to convey his thoughts to his players about being ready to hit the ground at full speed when training camp begins in late July.
“Just pretty much the same thing I always tell them this time of year – keep working, make sure they come back in not just jogging shape, but in shape to plant, drive and break and get in and out of stances and things like that,” Zimmer said. “Make sure the good citizens take care of each other. Typical goodbye speech.”
Here are three other takeaways from Zimmer’s podium session Tuesday:
1. Peeking ahead at 2018
It’s clear that Zimmer has put Minnesota’s strong 2017 season in the rearview mirror.
He was asked Thursday is there would be any sense of urgency at the start of training camp knowing the Vikings went 13-3 and were one win away from the Super Bowl this past season.
Zimmer said his focus was on navigating a tough 2018 slate.
“I don’t know. It’s still early,” Zimmer said. “Again, we can’t start at 13-3. We have to start at 0-0.
“Obviously, it’s a tough schedule. We’re playing both coasts. We’re playing Thursday night in L.A,” Zimmer added. “There are a lot of things we are going to have to overcome. We are going to have to be a good football team in order to do what we want to do.”
The Vikings will play on the road against both Super Bowl LII participants — Philadelphia and New England — and will also face the NFC West champion Rams on Thursday Night Football in Week 4.
Minnesota’s schedule also includes the usual six games against division foes, plus a road matchup at Seattle and the home opener against San Francisco.
2. Barr’s bigger role?
Anthony Barr has 10.5 sacks in four seasons, but could get a chance to rush the passer more in 2018.
The Vikings linebacker has spent some time this spring working on pass rush drills with Minnesota’s defensive linemen.
Zimmer said the Vikings are simply trying to expand Barr’s skill set.
“We are trying to get him where he is more comfortable rushing against linemen,” Zimmer said. “That was part of our plan this spring.”
3. Meeting of the minds
Jerry Burns was among the Vikings alumni who showed up Thursday to Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.
It wasn’t the first time Burns has been around Zimmer, but the Vikings current head coach told the media how much he enjoys picking the brain of the former offensive coordinator (1968-85) and head coach (1986-91).
“I think Coach Burns and I have the same language most of the time,” Zimmer said. “With all of the coaches that have come before me, when I see them I always tell them, ‘You are more than welcome to come out here and come to practice and come look at the new facility.’
“Same thing with the alumni, if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here either,” Zimmer added. “But Coach Burns is really a special, special guy. I’ve gotten to know him and Coach [Bud] Grant really well. It’s good for me to sit down and talk a little bit about football and a little bit about life.”