The Vikings' three quarterbacks all knew of Norv Turner's reputation as a respected offensive mind before they ever started practices with the 30-year veteran of the NFL.
What Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder and Teddy Bridgewater didn't know was how vocal Turner is on the practice field.
"He creates this intensity and this sense of urgency that I haven't seen throughout my 10 years, which is great," said Cassel, who has worked with everyone from Bill Musgrave last year to Bill Belichick his first four years in the league. "What it does is it creates a sense of urgency so on game day, when things are going a hundred more miles a minute, you're prepared for that. He's meticulous in his details and he wants to push you in practice because that's the only way you prepare for game day."
Off the field, Turner comes across as a calm yet confident veteran of the NFL. He started gaining his NFL respect as the offensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys in 1991 and directed top-notch passing games at different points in his career as a coordinator and head coach.
His scheme can be complex to learn but has a proven track record. It's the way he approaches practices that has been the most surprising for players and observers alike.
"He is (vocal)," Ponder said. "A lot of the coaches are like that. On the field, they're one way. Off the field, they're nice. But I like it; it brings a lot of intensity to the game. He's got very high expectations for our performance on the field and he makes sure we know it. He's not going to accept a mistake and he's going to get it corrected. So, it's good for everybody."
While head coach Mike Zimmer came to the Vikings with a reputation for being an intense, boisterous leader of the defense in Cincinnati, based in part off his role in the HBO series "Hard Knocks," Turner has actually been more vocal during practice over the last few weeks. He has been holding offensive players accountable for learning and knowing the system and lets them know when they aren't applying it the way it was instructed in a recent, earlier film or classroom session.
Even Zimmer was a bit surprised by Turner's on-field intensity and focus.
"Like there's a reputation on me, I guess there's a reputation on him as well. But it's nothing like I anticipated. It's been good," Zimmer said.
"I love it. He's coaching them hard; he's demanding. He's very similar to me in a lot of ways and it's been great. We sit down almost every single day and talk about things. … He's been fantastic as far as not only on the field coaching but as a sounding board for me and some of the things that have come across his desk before."
Turner didn't discount the notion that he and Zimmer may actually have similar personalities on the practice field, but there is a reason for their intensity.
"I think we've been brought up the same way in football and have coached a long time," Turner said. "Everyone thinks that scheme is the answer, but players understanding what they're doing and playing at a high level is the answer. And then obviously the more things a player can do, the more opportunities he has to make plays and the more opportunities you have to do a lot of different things. But it's still about players being able to execute."
Turner said he has faced similar sentiments of surprise about his in-practice persona in previous coaching stops. Wherever he's been, he has entered with people have one perception of him and facing another practice-field reality.
"The guys who know me, it's funny, because whenever I've gone somewhere new I've had to answer the same questions and the perception and reality can be a little different," he said. "This time of year you have to be high-energy. You have to have a sense of urgency. You have to create an atmosphere for everybody that they know one play can make a difference. Right now, a sense of urgency, I think Coach Zimmer is doing a great job with it. We have to cover a lot of ground."
With only two weeks remaining in the offseason program – the final week of organized team activities this week and the mandatory minicamp next week – Turner said the participation and energy have provided "great enthusiasm" among the players. Progress in his offensive scheme continues, but he said the players are also understanding "how much better we have to get" before training camp and before the season.
By now, players are getting used to Turner's practice-time demeanor, but even the most veteran of offensive players was taken aback a little at the start of OTAs.
"I don't think anything is surprising so far for me, but at the same time I would have to say that when we first got out there, maybe I wasn't expecting it to the extent it was," Cassel said. "He coaches you up every single play."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Turner's intensity took many by surprise
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