CINCINNATI —It's rare for someone to look so comfortable in the rain.
Much less the head coach of an NFL team, standing on the practice field of an opponent, but there stood Mike Zimmer, looking right at home.* *
The Vikings head coach walked back and forth from the offense to the defense during Wednesday's walk-through on the Bengals practice fields. Zimmer has walked these fields in the shadow (if there's morning sun) of Paul Brown Stadium plenty of times.
He was Cincinnati's defensive coordinator from 2008-13 for Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis until finally receiving the opportunity to be a head coach in Minnesota in 2014.
With Friday's preseason opener approaching, the Vikings and Bengals will practice Wednesday in full pads and Thursday in shoulder pads, capitalizing on the relationship between Zimmer and Lewis.
"It brings back a lot of good memories," Zimmer said. "We had a good run when I was here, and there's a lot of good people — the administration, Mike Brown was always really good to me, obviously Marvin, a lot of players that I coached — so it'll be fun bringing my team in here and trying to compete with them."
Zimmer, who led the Vikings to 11 wins and the NFC North title, and Lewis who guided the Bengals to a 12-4 mark and the AFC North title, wouldn't have scheduled the practices if they didn't expect them to help their teams.
There should be plenty of reps for first teamers from both squads during practices before a game in which starters don't play a long time.
Tight end Kyle Rudolph, a Cincinnati native who was recovering from a broken foot in 2013 when the teams last met here, is looking forward to the practices and any snaps in the game.
View behind the scenes images as the Vikings traveled to Cincinnati to practice against the Bengals the next two days, following by Friday's preseason opener.
"I think we'll get a lot accomplished. It's rare that you get the opportunity to go against someone else in a controlled environment," Rudolph said. "It's not a live preseason game where guys are piling on running backs or quarterbacks are taking live hits. For us, it's a great opportunity to go against somebody besides ourselves. We've been hitting purple guys for 10 days."
Charles Johnson, whose hometown of Erlanger, Kentucky, is about 15 minutes south of the stadium said Vikings players want to make an impression on Zimmer's former team.
"We've got to represent his team well and show them what we're about," Johnson said. "We're going to go out there and try to represent his team well and try to do the things he coaches us to do every day, show that he's a great coach and we love him."
Added Zimmer: "Obviously, they're a good football team, and I have a great relationship with Marvin and the Browns. I knew the respect factor for both teams would be here and I anticipate that we'll get a lot of good work."
Notes from Zimmer's session with media members:
Zimmer was asked about several players not making the trip and turned to humor after first saying he wanted them to focus on their rehab work.
"I just didn't want to bring them," Zimmer said. "They're hurt and can get better treatment up there. I was in a bad mood when they asked me."
One exception on the travel roster was Rhett Ellison, who is currently on the physically unable to perform list. Zimmer said earlier this week that Ellison could return by the start of the regular season.
"He's doing mostly field work, and we thought it would be better for him to get field work here as opposed to up there," Zimmer said.
Asked about younger linebackers getting an opportunity to play this week, Zimmer said, "They're going to get a chance to play a lot – (Kentrell) Brothers, Audie Cole, all those guys will get a chance and get a lot of reps. So it will be fun. [Brothers] is physical and instinctive. He just has to keep getting better with the scheme."