Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer is enjoying a final stretch of R&R.
Zimmer has been enjoying time at his home, Zimmer Ridge Ranch, in Northern Kentucky before returning to Minnesota for Verizon Vikings Training Camp, which will kick off at Twin Cities Orthopedics Center next week.
Zimmer welcomed a handful of Vikings visitors to the ranch this week, including Vikings.com's Mike Wobschall and "Voice of the Vikings" Paul Allen, who co-hosted KFAN's 9 to Noon from Zimmer's house.
Allen spoke with Zimmer about the 2018 Vikings but also veered off into some off-topic content. Throughout the show, Allen had "surprise guests" close to Zimmer call in, including Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis, three-time Super Bowl champion Darren Woodson and Zimmer's mother, Ann.
Here are seven highlights from 9 to Noon on location at Zimmer Ridge Ranch:
1. 'Moving parts' on offense
While the Vikings defense has remained almost entirely intact, the offense will look a bit different under new coordinator John DeFilippo and behind quarterback Kirk Cousins, who signed with Minnesota in March.
Zimmer said there's "a few moving parts" on offense and that it's important to get everybody on the same page. He's happy, however, with the returning players' performances and excited about the new additions.
He talked about Mike Remmers, who primarily played tackle in 2017 but shifted to guard when injuries hit. Zimmer said Remmers will "probably" end up playing guard this season.
"Mike's really smart," Zimmer said, adding that he didn't think it was "a big deal" for Remmers to slide inside to right guard against Chicago in the 2017 regular-season finale and to left guard in the postseason.
"You know, footwork-wise and technique-wise it's a little different, things happen a little faster, you're not setting as far back on your pass protections," Zimmer said. "[But] I think Mike is a very, very aware player. He can see the combination blocks and come off on the linebacker very quickly and understand those things, so I thought that was a good part of his game, and hopefully it will continue."
2. Ribbing from Woodson
Zimmer was thrilled to receive a call-in from Woodson, who played under him with the Cowboys for 10 seasons.
"He was a great player, but he was an even better person," Zimmer said of Woodson.
Zimmer recalled an interception by Woodson in 1994, when the safety snagged a pick and returned it 94 yards for a touchdown.
"Yeah, I remember getting to the sidelines and you were like, 'Boy, you're slow,' " laughed Woodson. "I can tell you this, Paul. I could have 20 tackles, two interceptions, I could have a 95-yard return, and [Zimmer] would never give me Defensive Player of the Game. Ever.
"I remember one time he said, 'Hey, you had a pretty good game,' and I knew I had a good game. But he said, 'You know what?' I expect that of you,' " Woodson continued. "And I was like, [dang], at least give me a ball. At least throw me a bone every once in a while."
In response to the ribbing by his former player, Zimmer laughed.
"I'm going to send you a ball to make you feel better," Zimmer quipped.
3. 'I'm bleeding Purple, as well'
Woodson played his entire career in Dallas and in 2015 was inducted into the Cowboys Ring of Honor.
But he's found another team to root for, as well.
"Look, I'm a Cowboy, but I'm bleeding Purple, as well," Woodson said. "Because I'm watching the team play, and I've gotten to know Harrison [Smith] and some of the guys on that football team.
"The things that they're doing … defensively are some of the things that we did," Woodson added, "So you sort of know what's going on. Terence Newman, he's a great friend of mine. You watch these guys and you think, 'OK, I remember this blitz. I remember this little wrinkle they added,' and this and that."
4. Lewis on Zimmer as a coach
When Lewis called in to the show, Zimmer right away recognized his good friend.
Their friendship dates back to the '80s, but Zimmer and Lewis worked together as NFL coaches from 2008-13, during which Zimmer served as the Bengals defensive coordinator.
Lewis talked about what made Zimmer a successful coach both in Cincinnati and now at the helm in Minnesota:
"You want to have people on your staff who are just completely an expert at what they do, and with Mike, from the left defensive end to the right cornerback, every step, every movement, everything each player does, he understands what he wants, how he wants it done, and he's going to critique it each and every time," Lewis said. "And I think that keeps everybody accountable – both the players and the coaches underneath him. That's what's so impressive about him – his ability to be demanding on the players, pull the very, very best out of them and get them to play at a very high level."
Lewis later added: "It's a lot of fun to go to battle with people like that day-in and day-out."
5. Lewis on prepping for the Vikings defense
Zimmer credited Lewis for helping build the defensive system that Zimmer now has continued to develop in Minnesota, including the Double-A gap approach he's become known for.
And while he did have a hand in the system while Zimmer was in Cincinnati, Lewis knows firsthand just how hard it is to prepare for a Zimmer-led defense. The Vikings clinched the NFC North title last season after defeating the Bengals 34-7 on Dec. 17.
"I think the thing that was impressive last year was just their secondary guys and the tight coverage they played," Lewis said. "Every time you put on the tape … it was a great job they did with the perimeter players and the matchups and so forth.
"And if you held the ball, they were able to create pressure, and they created turnovers and pressure on the football," Lewis continued. "They were very stingy against the run, didn't give up much running yardage on early downs, and then they got you into third downs and let their guys in the back end do a great job."
6. A proud mother moment
When Zimmer's mother, Ann, called in to the show, he initially didn't recognize her voice – guessing instead that it was his sister – and got a little scolding.
"That doesn't sound like her," Zimmer said.
"He never calls me," Ann quipped with a chuckle.
But she went on to talk about the pride she has in Zimmer, telling people "everywhere I go" that he's her son.
When asked about Zimmer's aspirations as a young boy, Ann said she wasn't surprised at the coaching path he took.
"His father was a coach, and I know he always was interested in what Bill did and watched him all the time, at every practice," Ann said of Zimmer's late father. "I really felt that he would be a coach someday. I had no idea that it would be an NFL head coach, but I'm very proud of him. He works very hard, and he takes very good care of his mother."
7. Thank you, Mom
Zimmer is grateful to have been raised by "great parents" and said both his mother and father had an impact on where he is now.
"My dad was a big part of everything in sports and the things that we did, but my mom, she was at every game, every baseball game, every football game," Zimmer said.
Ann chimed in: "Very quiet, too. I never yelled."
Zimmer laughed and said that wasn't quite the truth.
"She still thinks she knows what plays to call and when," he quipped before adding, "She was always there for us and always took good care of us."
When asked by Allen about her outlook on the 2018 Vikings season, Ann didn't hesitate.
"I think we're going to the Super Bowl for sure," Zimmer's mother said. "I wanted to go to Minnesota last year, but you need to get some experience, and this is Mike and his team's year, I think."
To listen to the full "9 to Noon" segments, click here.
Tickets are still available for 2018 Verizon Vikings Training Camp at the TCO Performance Center for select dates. Click here to access more information.