The Vikings 2014 roster hadn't met Mike Zimmer at this time a year ago.
With one season in the books, most of the players that will be with Minnesota in 2015 have met the head coach, but a "more demanding" supervisor could await players when they return to Winter Park this spring.
Zimmer, assistants and the Vikings personnel department are in Indianapolis this week for the annual NFL Scouting Combine to evaluate more than 300 top draft-eligible prospects. In addition to looking ahead, Zimmer has been retrospective and a tough self-critic.
He made the media rounds Thursday with beat reporters from the Twin Cities and made appearances on KFAN with Voice of the Vikings Paul Allen and Paul Charchian and at a podium session with national reporters.
"When I go back and evaluate a lot of this tape, I can see how we can play a lot harder, how we can be tougher, more physical in a lot of different ways," Zimmer said. "It's going to be a big emphasis for me going forward with the team and continuing to try to put my imprint on what I want this organization to look like."
Zimmer mentioned he had received compliments on how Minnesota performed through difficult circumstances to finish 7-9, but made it clear there is no place for complacency.
"It bothers me so much. We've got so much work to do, so many holes to fix, so many things I have to do better to get to where I want to be," Zimmer said. "I can't wait for our first meeting with the players so I can kind of set the record straight on all this because I know they're hearing the same thing I am."
Zimmer talked about putting the "hammer down" and players being in for a "shocker" when they return for offseason workouts in April.
One thing that should assist players with the new challenges Zimmer plans to issue is the fact that most will have played in the offensive and defensive systems for a year. Safety Harrison Smith recently mentioned that benefit when Vikings.com caught up with him at Arctic Blast.
"At least the language is the same now," Zimmer said. "They know what this means and what that means, so for us to compete in this division, with the teams that are in this division, we're going to have to be way better than what we are. We're not anywhere close, so I have to be able to push these guys to be a lot better."
SMITH DIDN'T MISS: As for Smith, Zimmer said he thought the 2012 first-round pick improved in a lot of ways. Favorite aspects of Smith, Zimmer said, are that he embodies the mold of a "tough, smart, passionate" player that Zimmer wants filling every slot on the Vikings roster.
"He's one of those guys that I don't think you can measure the heart part of things and competitiveness," Zimmer said. "He hurt his ankle against Green Bay. He got hurt and he had that high ankle sprain and probably should have missed maybe three or four weeks and didn't miss anything. The one thing I like about Harrison, he's pretty quiet, but when you talk to him and ask him to try this or that, he's trying it as hard as he can, so you appreciate that as a coach."
'GREAT LEADER': Veteran linebacker Chad Greenway told Allen during a segment Monday that talks with the Vikings about returning have been "nothing but good conversations." Greenway is under contract, but there's speculation that his deal might be re-worked to bring back the 2006 first-rounder for a 10th season.
"Chad is a great leader. He is great in the community. He's been a really good football player for a long time," Zimmer told Allen and Charchian. "Unfortunately, he got hurt this year, and that set him back quite a bit, but I think Chad still has the opportunity to have a role, the opportunity to play and he's still the best linebacker at his position that we have at this point at time. You can never have too many Greenways."
ANOTHER QB?: There may be a few teams with a little bit of envy toward the Vikings because of the successful season turned in by Teddy Bridgewater, who was picked 32nd overall last May after an exhaustive search. Bridgewater's play as a rookie has the Vikings believing he can be at the post for years to come.
That doesn't, however, mean the Vikings are closing the pipeline to prospects at the sport's most important position. The Vikings can take a look at the 15 QBs who were invited to the combine and consider using a late-round pick or designating a player as a priority free agent to pursue if that player goes undrafted.
"We're trying to improve the roster at every spot," Zimmer said. "It's important that we continually try to have a young quarterback that we can groom and develop. That's really what we're kind of looking for in this draft, someone that we feel like can make strides maybe not right away but down the road at some point."