EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Head Coach Mike Zimmer is taking the next step running his team through plays at minicamp this week.
Minnesota opened up their first practice of mandatory minicamp on Tuesday morning at Winter Park.
In the final phase of the offseason program, Zimmer held the practice for "a little longer" than the average OTA practice and said this week that he and his staff are focusing on preparing the team for game-like situations.
"I think they are in a good place right now," Zimmer said. "Sometimes you get out here and you're just running plays, but you're not learning how to play the game. So far we've progressed to the part now where we are trying to learn how to play games. We are trying to learn how to play at the end of games, to play with the clock, without the clock, with the ball, without the ball. I think that is going to be important as we come down here until we start getting into the real stuff."
Zimmer said he's stressing the importance of getting better every day.
While it is still just June, the head coach noted the importance of evaluating every aspect of the team every day and even continuing to evaluate himself.
"I think it is important that the players know that they are being evaluated every day," Zimmer said. "Maybe not to the point where this guy is going to jump ahead of that guy or vice versa, but that is why we come out here every day. We watch some and evaluate, and not only just schemes and what we are doing as coaches, but what they are doing as players and how we try to get them to be better.
"You do not want to be an instant evaluator and say, 'This is our guy,' and get the pads on, and it's a totally different deal," Zimmer said. "But, my opinion every single day, 'Well I come out here, I am being evaluated, they are being evaluated, and everybody out here should be evaluated.' "
Here are three other topics that Zimmer discussed:
Zimmer said he's been impressed with center Pat Elflein, the Vikings third-round pick in April, so far. The center position is tasked with more protection calls in Minnesota than Elflein was at Ohio State.
"He's done some things really natural," Zimmer said. "You know there's been a couple times where he might have his block taken care of and then he sees another guy and he's able to move to get to the next thing. I think he's moved in space well to get to some of the perimeter players on the screen (passes). I think he's done a nice job in the protection part of trying to control things. There's obviously still a lot of things to work on be he has been very impressive."
Danny Isidora, kick-returning ability
Vikings fifth round draft pick WR Rodney Adams is expected to do more than just run routes.
Adams has been returning punts and kicks and will compete to win each of those roles.
"You know he makes a lot of plays," Zimmer said. "He catches the ball good, (he) runs good routes, and (he's) got good quickness in and out of breaks. He doesn't seem to be making very many mistakes. I think Darrell Hazell is doing a nice job teaching him the different things on the routes and getting in and out of breaks. Those are some of the things he needs to continue to work on."
The Vikings found success turning a rookie into a star on special teams when the team drafted Cordarrelle Patterson. Patterson returned two kickoffs for touchdowns on 43 attempts in 2013.
"Yeah, I mean again, everybody is different, but I know Cordarrelle Patterson did when he was a rookie, right," Zimmer said. "A lot of times, that is a rookie's job, you know unless you have a great, great one there."
View images from the first of three minicamp practices at Winter Park Tuesday morning.
Clemmings adjusting to right guard
In Anthony Harris' third season, the Vikings are trying out the offensive lineman at a new position.
The former fourth-round draft pick started 20 games in the past two seasons at either right or left tackle on the outside of the offensive line.
Zimmer has used minicamp to test Clemmings at right guard.
"It's a little bit of a work in progress but I felt like the best place for him is where it's a little bit more condensed," Zimmer said. "T.J. is a great kid. He's going to give you his best every day. He's going to come out here and work. He doesn't really care where he plays. Obviously he'd like to be comfortable somewhere, but I think this might be a good spot for him. If you're not starting you have to play more than one spot anyway, but this is something we wanted to look at this spring."