EAGAN, Minn. – The Vikings know full well they'll be facing some heat in Florida Sunday – in more ways than one.
Sunday's forecast for Tampa Bay is 76 degrees with humidity levels above 75 percent, and the players already are ramping up their water intake; but their biggest focus will be prepping against six-time Super Bowl champ Tom Brady.
He may be wearing different colors, but Brady still is capable of all the same things he accomplished in New England over the past two decades.
Brady so far with the Bucs is 307-of-474 passing for 28 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a passer rating of 95.1. Four of his teammates have more than 400 yards receiving, led by Mike Evans with 613.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer spoke with media members on Wednesday and emphasized that Minnesota's defense will need to be on its Ps and Qs this weekend.
"He looks good to me," Zimmer said of the 14-time Pro Bowler. "He moves well in the pocket … Very accurate, really good arm strength, good velocity. Sees things really well, obviously. He's been doing this forever. Yeah, he looks like the same old guy to me."
Considering the expected learning curve of a new team and locker room, coupled with the 2020 offseason altered by the COVID-19 pandemic, Brady has transitioned well and progressed throughout the season.
Zimmer pointed out that Brady's personnel has changed some since Week 1.
"They've had some flux with some of their receivers a little bit. They've got Antonio Brown in there now, and I think they're just getting more comfortable with each other," Zimmer said. "[Rob] Gronkowski, it looks like he's real comfortable with him anyway. But Mike Evans is a terrific receiver. [Chris] Godwin and [tight end Cameron] Brate – I mean, they've got terrific players.
"Each game's different, like [it is for all of us]. I think he's just getting more familiar with guys," he added.
Here are four other topics Zimmer covered during his media session:
1. Hopeful for Kendricks return
A huge help on defense would be getting Eric Kendricks back in the lineup.
The All-Pro linebacker was on last week's Injury Report with a calf injury and appeared to tweak it again during pregame warmups Sunday, sidelining him for the Jaguars game.
Zimmer said he "hopes" that Kendricks will be able to return to practice this week, potentially even Wednesday.
"I saw him in the hallway [at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center] today. We'll see how it goes. We didn't talk much," Zimmer said. "We've got a few more days to get ready."
The head coach was also asked if Kendricks is his "favorite" player. Zimmer won't pick favorites from his team, but he did make an interesting note about a Hall of Famer with an affinity for Kendricks.
"I love Eric Kendricks as a football player, as a competitor. I wouldn't say he's my favorite – I've got lots of favorites. All the guys that have played for me I have a fondness for. But I love how Eric plays the game," Zimmer said. "I know [Bill] Parcells told me he's his favorite player, so how's that?"
2. Cousins' resiliency
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has demonstrated the ability to bounce back.
He seems unshaken by an interception or other mistake and generally is able to "make it up," per se, on ensuing drives.
"Well, for Kirk it's all about … trying to figure out what went wrong and then go on to the next play," Zimmer said. "He's a good athlete, he's tough-minded, and I think those are the keys to any great player."
3. Expecting the blitzing Bucs
And speaking of Cousins, he's also showed resiliency in the face of pressure over the past two weeks.
The Panthers and Jaguars both brought plenty of pass rush, and this week is sure to be similar. Tampa Bay has recorded 34 sacks this season, led by defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (8.5).
"[Kirk is] going to get blitzed this week, for sure. They like to bring the pressure – a lot of different types of pressure," Zimmer said. "They've got two really good edge rushers, three inside guys over the guards – they'll line up over the guards quite a bit – bring the safeties.
"He's going to have to be on it – and not only him, but all of our guys – the backs, the tight ends, the offensive line," Zimmer added. "We're all going to have to be on point and make sure we're able to get [the blitzes] picked up. And when we have a free runner, we need to make sure we get the ball out."
Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Buccaneers.
4. Working with Boyd
Zimmer was asked about "teaching points" with second-year cornerback Kris Boyd.
The former Texas standout has made some big plays in the secondary this season but also has committed some costly miscues, particularly on special teams.
Zimmer said the first point of emphasis is "don't get a penalty on special teams – don't push a guy in the back – so that would be one."
He added that discipline with the details is most important for Boyd.
"He got to last week a little bit more zone turn-ish when he was playing man-to-man. So I think that would be the big thing," Zimmer said. "Kris loves to compete. He's tough, he sees things, he's a good tackler. We've just got to continue to work on being a little bit more disciplined.
"One thing I do like about Kris is, I've gotten after him a few times this year, and it hasn't fazed him," he continued. "He just comes right back, and it's kind of like water off a duck's back. 'Get back in there, and let's go to work.' "
Under Center with Kirk Cousins
Vikings QB Kirk Cousins is back again to team up with legendary sports anchor Mark Rosen to deliver unique content via "Under Center with Kirk Cousins." The series features conversations with current Vikings players, prominent Minnesotans and guests with personal connections to Kirk. Other segments will focus on game reaction with sound from press conferences and the locker room. Cousins and Rosen will also look ahead to the next week's matchup.