While the current Vikings are in Mankato making final preparations for this Sunday night's preseason debut in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, a former Viking is already in the cradle of pro football. Mick Tingelhoff is there, a place he can now call home.
Tingelhoff, who played 17 seasons and started 240 consecutive regular season games for the Vikings, is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2015 and will be enshrined along with seven other members this weekend. While the actual enshrinement will take place on Saturday night, it is on Thursday night of each year's Hall of Fame weekend where one of the greatest traditions in all of sports take place – the Gold Jacket Dinner.
Each year, scores of living Hall of Famers return to Canton to welcome in a new class. They are introduced to the crowd inside the Canton Civic Center and eventually form a gantlet on each side of the stage as the current class of Hall of Famers are introduced. It all leads up to a moment most of the Hall of Famers say they could never even dream of – being presented with their own Gold Jacket.
In introducing Tingelhoff to the crowd, event emcee Rich Eisen said: "It is time. The long wait is over, sir. Let's give a big Canton congratulations to Mick Tingelhoff, Pro Football Hall of Famer!"
Tingelhoff was then presented the jacket by his son, Mike Tingelhoff. It was a moment for which the Tingelhoff family, the Vikings organization and many of Tingelhoff's supporters in the Hall of Fame community have been waiting for more than 30 years. Tingelhoff and the rest of the Class of 2015 will be enshrined on Saturday evening before the Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers kickoff the NFL's preseason in the annual Hall of Fame Game on Sunday night.
PETERS: ZIMMER, NEWMAN AS TOUR GUIDES
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has coached in the Hall of Fame Game two previous times (with Dallas in 1999 and with Cincinnati in 2010, when he faced the Cowboys and Terence Newman in the preseason opener.
The entire Vikings team will be visiting the Hall of Fame shortly after they arrive in Canton on Saturday.
"I just thought with the team that we have and the youth that we have, I thought it was important that they see some things that gave them the opportunity to do the things that they're doing right now," Zimmer said. "Making the money, the prestige and how this game grew from really a lot of these past great players. A lot of guys don't know who some of these older players are.
"I showed the team a short video on Mick Tingelhoff last night, so they have a better understanding of who he is because it was the 1960s when he was playing," Zimmer continued. "Those things are important to me that we all understand that we're privileged to do this, especially with all those guys playing and making $5,000 dollars a year and stuff like that, they were getting summer jobs. It's really a testament to how this league has grown through a lot of these players that are in the Hall of Fame and all of the players, too."
Newman said it was a great learning experience the first time and one that he looks forward to enjoying again.
"It's kind of cool to see all the guys that are in the Hall of Fame," Newman said. "For DBs, we'll see some guys from our position and learn some things about the guys that are in there, look up some names on your phone while you're in there, Google them and see exactly what they've done and how they've contributed.
"All those guys have paved the way for what we do today, so it's nothing but respect for those guys that have made it," Newman added. "They've put in the work and are great players, great coaches, so it's amazing to get there and be able to honor them because you're playing in that game."
PETERS: ZIMMER'S GAMEDAY WISH LIST
Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was excused from Friday's walk-through for a family matter but plans to rejoin the team in Ohio, the Vikings announced on their official Twitter account Friday:
With Bridgewater out, Shaun Hill took reps with the first team and was followed by four-year veteran Mike Kafka and rookie Taylor Heinicke, who has taken a few more snaps than Kafka during camp. Zimmer said the Vikings have a plan for the reserve quarterbacks in Sunday's game, but didn't announce it.
As for other things he wants to see from his team, Zimmer said:
"We want to look crisp, we want to look sharp and I want to see the things that we have been practicing being taken to the game field," Zimmer said. "Whether it is techniques or alignments, certain things against people that you really haven't prepared for and how they react to certain things that they're not prepared for. Obviously, it is evaluation of a lot of different players going against other players."
Vikings coaches said they are more interested in evaluating player performance at this point of the preseason than schematics. Zimmer said he thinks the defense is playing faster and "seeing things quicker" than they were a year ago.
"Like I said, I don't know how good we will be, but it will be good to get against somebody that we really haven't practiced a lot of their plays and things like that," Zimmer said. "Really, they have a great offense. They move the ball up and down the field so it'll be good. They've got some really speedy receivers. I have played against them for so many years with [Ben] Roethlisberger and the back [LeVeon Bell] is a good back and the tight end [Heath Miller] is a good player. I have a lot of respect for them."