EAGAN, Minn. – There are no preseason games this year, but the Vikings got a little time at U.S. Bank Stadium under their belt Friday.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer held practice at the state-of-the-art venue to give players – particularly rookies and new additions – the opportunity to get their feet wet, per se, at the stadium before Minnesota's season opener against Green Bay on Sept. 13.
Zimmer spoke with Twin Cities media members on Sunday and said it was good to "get a feel" for the piped-in, artificial crowd noise, being that the Vikings will play at least their first two home games without fans.
Zimmer said he "didn't really notice" the crowd noise at all.
"One quarter we had the offense as the home team, and one quarter it was the defense," he explained. "They play a little bit of music in between plays, but then once they break the huddle, it's normal. So it's not very good, really."
Zimmer appreciated getting a look at different team phases in the stadium setting.
"I think it was good to get some of the special teams looked at where they're running full speed down the field," he said. "Also, a lot of these young kids have never been to the stadium before, so I thought that was all good.
"Overall, we've still got a lot of work to do," Zimmer added. "I was mostly interested in doing it to find out what kind of conditioning we were in, see where we had to go conditioning-wise moving forward."
Here are four other things Zimmer talked about during his media availability:
1. Not yet pivoting to Packers
The Vikings are now two weeks away from hosting the Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Zimmer said he isn't rushing into game-planning for Green Bay, though. Rather, he wants to make sure the team is as well-oiled internally as possible.
"We're not focusing on Green Bay yet," Zimmer said. "We've still been working on technique, working on little tweaks here and there as far as adjustments and coverage rules and offensive alignments and things like that.
"But probably in a week we'll start getting closer to it," he continued. "We don't want to get there too early and guys get stale about it. That's what we've always done."
View photos of Vikings players from Verizon Vikings Training Camp practice at U.S. Bank Stadium.
2. 'Rightfully' cautious with Hunter
A trade report surfaced Sunday regarding the Vikings acquiring a new defensive end via trade, but Zimmer specified early on that he's "not allowed to comment on it until the trade's official."
He did respond to a question about the way offenses approach a team with talented defensive ends bookending the line, a scenario he's well-familiar with after Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter have combined for four Pro Bowls since 2017.
So far this offseason, Ifeadi Odenigbo has been filling in admirably for Griffen, who recently signed with the Cowboys in free agency.
"Well typically, if you've got two guys, they try to chip with two guys – one on each side," Zimmer said. "Every team is going to game-plan for your best players, and that won't be any different than what it's been in the past."
Hunter hasn't practiced since Aug. 14.
"It won't take him long to get ready to play football," Zimmer said. "Even if we just put him in on third downs or pass rush situations, he's been in great shape, he looks great. I don't think it'll take long. We're being cautious with him, which, rightfully so."
3. Young CBs catching on well
Zimmer was asked if he's had to dial down coverage assignments in the secondary because of how young the cornerbacks group is.
"No, not really," he said. "They've caught on pretty well. If they weren't understanding things better, we might change things around, but with the two safeties (Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris) we have, we haven't had to change anything from what we've done in the past or anything moving forward."
4. Backup QB battle continues
There's no question about who Minnesota's starting quarterback will be, but it will be interesting to see how the position shakes out behind him.
The Vikings currently have four QBs on their roster. Thus far through training camp, veteran Sean Mannion has mostly been practicing with the 2s. Jake Browning, who was an undrafted rookie in 2019, and seventh-round draft pick Nate Stanley have shared reps with the 3s.
But without preseason games, it's a little tougher to evaluate the position in game-day scenarios.
"I think they've all had good days. I think Nate Stanley shows a lot of promise," Zimmer said. "I think he's got a big arm, he's instinctive. There was one play where the defense blitzed, and he kind of rolled away from the blitz and hit the receiver in the flat.
"I thought Jake Browning did well," Zimmer added. "And I think Sean's had a good camp."