EAGAN, Minn. – The Vikings and Jaguars will participate in joint practices today and tomorrow in preparation for their preseason game that will kick off at noon on Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer spoke to media members following Minnesota’s walk-through session and discussed various reasons for hosting the co-practice sessions as well as what he hopes the team will get out of them.
According to Zimmer, the Vikings and Jaguars coaching staffs met Tuesday evening, and approximately 12 players from each team will get together prior to Wednesday’s practice.
“[They’re going] to talk about respecting each other and doing this thing the right way,” Zimmer said. “We’re trying to get a lot of good work done against a really, really good football team.
Added Zimmer: “I have a group of guys that I typically meet with, and we just happened yesterday to meet, and one of them suggested it, and I thought it was a good idea.”
He emphasized that it’s important to both organizations to avoid any skirmishes between opposing players during practice.
“I talked to [Jacksonville’s coaches] and they’re going to get their guys together,” Zimmer said. “We really, you know, Jacksonville’s [Head Coach Doug Maronne] and myself, the rest of our team, we really don’t want to end up being on TV like some of these other things that are going on. We just want to get out here and get some work done and try to get each of us better.”
Zimmer and the Vikings traveled to Cincinnati in 2016 to hold joint practices with the Bengals prior to their preseason contest, but the team’s previous headquarters at Winter Park didn’t allow the space for hosting a second team. At Twin Cities Orthopedics Center, the teams can utilize two fields for the Vikings offense/Jaguars defense and vice versa, and they still will have two additional fields free for 1-on-1 work, special teams, etc.
The Vikings regularly practice game situations and will go through the same scenarios with Jacksonville. Zimmer said he’s received feedback from players that, when they get into similar situations in actual games, they feel comfortable with having already practiced them.
Wednesday and Thursday’s practices will offer Zimmer and his players a chance to see something new and respond to it.
“At some point, you’ve been going against yourself for 12 days now or something, and it starts to get a little bit stale. You’ve got the same routine,” Zimmer said. “And I think the intensity level will be up a little bit because guys are going against each other. But we’re not trying to prove who’s the toughest guys, and I’m sure they’re not, either. We’re going to see different techniques than we’ve seen, we’re going to see different plays, how we react, the plays that we haven’t prepared for really, blitzes we may not be prepared for, and see if our rules hold up to those things.”
Zimmer is looking forward to facing the Jaguars, whose defense ranked No. 2 behind the Vikings last season. He pointed out that their defense is similar to “a lot of teams” on Minnesota’s schedule this season, and he specifically mentioned the Seahawks – whom the Vikings will play in preseason and the regular season – and the 49ers, Minnesota’s Week 1 opponent.
One area in which the Jaguars outperformed the Vikings in 2017 was in turnovers – Jacksonville snagged 21 interceptions and forced 17 fumbles in comparison to Minnesota’s 14 and eight, respectively.
When asked if this is a situation where the Vikings can glean some takeaways from the AFC team, Zimmer said that he’s “definitely going to pay attention to what they’re doing and how they’re doing things.”
“We can always figure out a better way to do stuff,” Zimmer said. “That’s really what the whole offseason’s for – you’re going to study other teams, and they’re going to study you.”
Added Zimmer with a smile: “We’re not above stealing [ideas].”
The joint practices will also give players a change of pace. Zimmer was asked specifically on how the increased intensity could be beneficial for second-year running back Dalvin Cook, who is making his return after a Week 4 ACL year last season.
“I don’t think it’s quite game-like speed, but it will be up-tempo,” said Zimmer, who later added that he doesn’t know yet if Cook will play in Saturday’s preseason game. “The only thing we’re trying to do [with him] is, each day we’re trying to stack on a few more plays, a few more days in a row. That’s really what we’re really trying to do, is trying to get him in game-ready shape.”
As to whether or not the Vikings will continue to plan joint practices in future seasons, Zimmer isn’t yet sure.
“We’ll see how it goes. I like preparing like we prepare usually, but this might be a good [change up] of how we’re doing this,” Zimmer said. “If it is and people act the right way and do the right things, then it might be a really good thing, and we might continue doing it.”