Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman and Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer know exactly the types of players they want on Minnesota's roster – both on and off the field.
While Spielman and the Vikings coaching staff recently wrapped up their on-field evaluation of players at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, a large amount of effort is also directed toward evaluating those athletes outside of stats and game performance.
"A lot of it is very clear on the type of players we're trying to bring in from a character standpoint," Spielman said of coaches meetings to evaluate prospective players.
The emphasis on high-character players is not a new one for Spielman, who assumed the general manager position in 2012 after serving as the vice president of player personnel since 2006. For both he and Zimmer, it's all about development. It's known throughout the league that Spielman tends to favor the draft over making a splash in free agency. According to him, that's the best way to find the types of players to build a team with for the long term.
"That's the number one thing for me," Spielman said. "If you draft them right, those are the guys that you should know, and if you know them the best, it's the safest and best way – I mean, you can't predict injuries, but you should know the warts they have if they have any warts."
When the Vikings drafted cornerback Trae Waynes in 2015, Spielman opened Waynes' introductory press conference with a story about Waynes not as an athlete but as a person. Spielman said the cornerback had recently visited a family in the hospital whose infant daughter had undergone surgery to repair a cleft palette.
"I know what he can do on the football field, I know what kind of family he comes from, and right now I know what kind of person he is," Spielman said.
The goal is to draft the right kind of players and help them transition by having the right kinds of veterans in the locker room, who in turn help build that foundation for the younger guys. It's a cycle Zimmer wants to keep going.
"I love the young players," Zimmer said. "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."
Zimmer, who finished his second season with the Vikings, said it's been an advantage to have veterans like linebacker Chad Greenway, defensive end Brian Robison and cornerback Terence Newman, who joined Minnesota in 2015, as positive influences.
"Those guys help when we're not around," Zimmer said. "We try to teach them the game of football and how to do things right, and they kind of teach [the younger players] the game of life and how to be a professional."
Spielman said the process of bringing in new players is made easier by a locker room built on high-character players.
"A lot of that is established by the veteran leadership and by Coach Zimmer," Spielman said. " 'This is the way we want to do things around here, and what happens in our locker room and how we handle our business.' When you layer that in, and those guys know the drill, they have a pretty strong influence on when the new guys come in and getting them aligned with how we want it down there."