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Presser Points: Zimmer Splits Squad for Final Week of Preseason Practices

EAGAN, Minn. — So much of a football team's offseason is spent trying to bring individuals together because of the importance of teamwork in the sport.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, however, has a good reason for splitting the squad this week.

The coach, who is completing his sixth preseason in Minnesota, has opted to have select players (i.e. starters for Week 1 that are not likely to play Thursday in Buffalo) practice in morning sessions and other players practice in the afternoon.

Zimmer was asked about implementing the approach.

"My thinking is that I want to work them real hard with the things that we need to work on and then give them some time off to recuperate mentally before we start getting into the grind of the season," Zimmer said.

Zimmer said that the starters are "actually going to get a lot of practice."

The split sessions will allow Zimmer and the coaches to focus on details that he said need to be fixed from Saturday's game/turn their focus on preparing for the Falcons, who will visit the Vikings in less than two weeks.

It also allows the players who are likely to play a considerable amount against the Bills to put their best foot forward during a short week.

Here are four other topics that Zimmer covered Monday:

1. Focus on the details

The final score on Saturday was Vikings 20, Cardinals 9, but there were issues that Zimmer wants to see fixed by his team this week on the practice fields.

"There's still quite a bit. We had a lot of details that we didn't get done the other night, so, [I want to] find out if they can come back when we get out here and practice, detail the work that we have to get done," Zimmer said. "It's by every position. They've all got to be more detailed in carrying out their assignment and knowing where the other people are going to be."

2. After watching the tape

The first-team defense played seven series this preseason and did not surrender a touchdown.

Zimmer voiced disappointment with Saturday's showing against Arizona after the game, but he said Minnesota's defense "actually played pretty well."

"We had some situations, a couple third downs that we weren't tight enough on receivers in there, and then we misfit the screen one time," Zimmer said. "We had a miscommunication on one deep ball. We've got to play better on the backend, but as far as guys knowing what to do and playing the right plays and playing the run, things like that, it was pretty darn good."

3. Comprehensive assessment

With the offensive and defensive starters for the Vikings essentially set, reserves will try to jockey for position by performing well one more time under the lights.

Zimmer said the fourth preseason game can play a role in roster evaluations as the team narrows from the preseason max of 90 to the 53-man limit (all teams must reach this limit on Saturday), but he prefers a more comprehensive assessment.

"I think you have to look at the whole preseason, training camp, all those different areas. I don't think you can base it on just one particular game," Zimmer said. "If there's two guys that you're trying to decide between 50, 51, 52, 53, that could decide it — if one of them played good last week and then they play good this next week."

4. To practice squad or not?

When the team reduces to 53 players on Saturday, it also will be signing up to 10 players on the Vikings practice squad.

There's no shortage of Vikings who have worked their way up from the practice squad. The most famous current Viking to do so is Pro Bowl receiver Adam Thielen.

C.J. Ham and Chad Beebe are two others who have ascended in recent years. Ifeadi Odenigbo spent parts of the past two seasons on Minnesota's practice squad.

The risk of placing a player on a practice squad is that they can be enticed to sign elsewhere if another team has a spot on its active roster. Odenigbo was signed by Cleveland last September after not making the Vikings 53-man roster. He then landed in Arizona before returning to Minnesota.

Zimmer was asked about the decision-making process for the practice squad.

"A lot of the times, it's if we see some future development in those guys," Zimmer said. "Obviously, [they] have to be talented enough.

"Sometimes it takes a while for them to learn the systems, learn the techniques, all that. But it's really a vital part of professional football," Zimmer continued. "You see a lot of these guys that aren't ready until year two-and-a-half or three sometimes, but they get better and better. If they're dedicated and they work hard and they're smart, then they have a chance. They start understanding the system; I think that's part of it as well."

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