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Vikings Offseason Program a Chance to Benefit Young Players

During the season, NFL coaches and players sometimes spend more time together than they do with their own families. 

Once the offseason rolls around, however, there's plenty of down time.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer understands the need for players to get away from football and clear their minds.

But when Zimmer spoke last month at the Annual League Meeting in Florida, he said the limited contact might be a hindrance to players early on in their careers.

Zimmer said the extra time could allow younger players to develop the skills to help them stick on the roster.

"It makes it more difficult, especially for young guys," Zimmer said. "The young guys, they could use more time. This time of the year is the time to really work on perfecting technique and little things to help them be better football players.

"I think it just makes it tough for first, second or third-year players," Zimmer added. "It could give them a better opportunity to compete when they come back in." 

Vikings players are scheduled to return to Winter Park on Monday for the beginning of a nine-week, voluntary offseason program, which consists of three phases.

The first phase is two weeks long and is limited to weight lifting, conditioning and physical rehabilitation.

The second phase, which is three weeks long, includes individual player instruction but no live contact or team drills.

The third and final phase is four weeks in length and includes a maximum of 10 Organized Team Activity practices (OTAs). While no live contact is allowed, teams can partake in 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills.

The fourth week of the third phase is a mandatory mini-camp in June.

There is also a rookie mini-camp in early May for Minnesota's first-year players.

Shortly after the Vikings season ended with a Wild Card loss in the playoffs, Zimmer and his staff met individually with players.

While Zimmer didn't tell them to work on football-specific drills, he did encourage his players to stay in shape.

"We talk to them generally about things," Zimmer said. "One of the guys, we told him to just go play basketball so you're doing something. Hand-eye coordination, things like that.

"We don't really give them football assignments," Zimmer added.

Soon, however, Zimmer and his staff will be able to resume working with players and continuing to develop talent.

Of the 71 Vikings currently on the roster, 33 have three or fewer accrued seasons, and more young prospects will be selected April 28-30 during the 2016 NFL Draft.

The Vikings selected 10 players in last year's draft, and nine were on the active roster for at least part of the season.

"I love the young players," Zimmer said earlier this offseason. "The good thing about them is you can kind of mold them into what you're trying to get them to be, trying to get them to understand what it's like to be a professional."

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