EAGAN, Minn. – The atmosphere in the Vikings locker room has switched to regular-season mode.
Gone are the days of working against one another in training camp practices and putting preseason performances on tape. Now, attention has turned to game-planning for the contests that count.
Receiver Stefon Diggs appreciates getting back into a routine and prepping for a new opponent.
"You get tired of going against your own guys. And people say preseason matters, but it doesn't count for anything," Diggs told Twin Cities media members. "It's a fresh start. We get to go against a good group of guys. So, I'm excited."
The Vikings will host the Falcons at U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday in the season opener for both teams.
Diggs, entering his fifth season in Minnesota, said he approaches the start of a new season a little differently than when he was a youngster in the league.
"I would say in my younger years, it's very exciting, a lot of emotion," Diggs said. "The biggest thing probably now, where I'm at, is honing in on your craft. You're really just taking it one play at a time.
"I'm excited football is back and all, but just really taking it one play at a time and really starting fast," he added.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins also acknowledged the importance of getting off to a strong start.
"Here we go," Cousins said. "It's now the real thing. Week 1, you just feel that sense of urgency, and I'm excited to get here. All of our work, even going back to April and all of the offseason workouts and things we do are all for right now, so it's important to put our best foot forward and get started the right way at home."
The quarterback pointed out that one year ago, he had yet to start a game at U.S. Bank Stadium.
He referenced his "second time around the block," the fact that he's "a year wiser" not only in the NFL but in Minnesota.
"But if you don't go out and play well, it doesn't count for much," Cousins added.
The Vikings mindset in Week 1 seems to be one of focus and intentionality. Excitement, yes, but there's a level-headedness also present.
Cousins and Head Coach Mike Zimmer emphasized the importance of backing up words with actions.
"I think we can be good, but that's all talk. It doesn't mean anything," Cousins said when asked about the Vikings outlook. "Let's go out and play. I don't know if I've ever entered a season and said, 'Woe is us, we're going to be terrible.' I expect us to play well, to put on a good showing, to compete in every game and put the work in and prepare and make sure that in close games, we make the plays at the end to come out on top."
Zimmer pointed out that projections and positive metrics during the preseason don't mean anything.
"We have potential to be pretty good, yes. But it's potential, so you've got to go out and do it," Zimmer said. "You've got to perform each and every week, and you've got to play good. You can have all the potential in the world and not play good."
So, then, what will it take for Minnesota to reach its goals this season, starting with Atlanta on Sunday?
"I think if we go out and we play really smart football, we don't beat ourselves, we control the explosive plays in the game on both sides of the ball – we have them and they don't – the time of possession, and I think if we are effective in the last 10 minutes of the fourth quarter in ball games, I think we'll be good," Zimmer said.