Mike Zimmer checked in with a group of reporters from his Kentucky ranch on Wednesday afternoon, May 13, touching on everything from how he’s spending his days to how he’s handling a virtual offseason for the first time in his coaching career.
A typical day in the life features Zimmer popping in and out of virtual meetings, and when things wrap up for the day he might go for a spin on his four-wheeler, go hunting on his 160 acres of land, or go golfing on the course he and his son Adam built that features a few tee boxes and a green.
“You can hit driver,” Zimmer said. “It’s like a driving range, too.”
But the 63-year-old football lifer can’t escape the grind for too long. His heart won’t let him.
“I really miss being around the players,” Zimmer said. “Talking to them on the computer, or the iPad or whatever, is not the same, because I want to get out there. I want to coach and correct them, and teach them, and try to build the camaraderie that we need as a football team. Unfortunately, we’re not able to do that.
“They are probably going to get an extra dose of me when they get back.”
As for the roster itself, Zimmer said he thinks the team is in “good shape” coming out of what’s been a tumultuous offseason in which the Vikings traded wide receiver Stefon Diggs, let cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes walk away in free agency, and parted ways with veteran defensive end Everson Griffen.
Despite the seemingly constant changes over the past couple of months, Zimmer likes the veteran group on offense led by quarterback Kirk Cousins, running back Dalvin Cook, and wide receiver Adam Thielen, and is excited to work with a younger group on defense.
“I think it’s kind of refreshing to get a chance to work with some younger guys,” Zimmer said. “Unfortunately, we’re not able to work with them right now other than virtually.”
That’s the biggest change so far and something Zimmer is still trying to adapt to.
Instead of having his whole team at TCO Performance Center in Eagan, everyone is scattered about the country, learning as much as they can from the confines of their own home.
That consists of various things, including the coaching staff sending out tape on how to do a specific drill, and the players conducting the drill on their own. There are also some conditioning drills added in to help players stay in shape the best they can.
“We are trying to make it a little more position specific on how we try to get them ready,” Zimmer said. “I think the unfortunate part is if they’re doing it wrong, we can’t correct them unless they video it.”
It’s not perfect by any means and the lack of in-person instruction affects the rookies more than anyone. That could be further exacerbated in the secondary with rookie cornerbacks Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler likely to take on big roles within the defense.
“I think the defensive backs have a lot of stuff to do,” Zimmer said. “I’ve always had the opinion that they get better at covering when they’re covering somebody. It’s like playing basketball. If I play basketball every day, I’m going to get better at it. It’s really hard when they’re by themselves and not able to work on the skill of covering a wide receiver.”
That’s why Zimmer is most looking forward to reconvening in Eagan. Whenever that may be.
“We are planning on the season being normal, as best we can,” Zimmer said. “It’s not any different other than we have an assumption of when we might get back and we will adjust to it when it happens.”