Zimmer had message before Vikings hiatus

The Vikings started a five-week break last weekend and new head coach Mike Zimmer had a message for his players before they left.

Adrian Peterson was headed back to Houston after a couple of stops around the country for charity events and speaking engagements.

Harrison Smith was going back to Tennessee, some of the Pac-12 rookies were likely headed back to the West Coast, and Cordarrelle Patterson was planning to find a beach.

As players headed out of Minnesota over the last week for a five-week hiatus seeking rest for the body and soul before training camp, the plans differed from player to player.

"The first week I'm going to kick my feet up a little. I didn't have a chance to enjoy that in the offseason," Patterson said. "I had to go back to school and take some classes. I'm going to take a little vacation with my family at a beach somewhere."

As 90 players on the Minnesota Vikings roster spread throughout the country, it can be a worrisome time for a head coach in the National Football League, maybe even more concerning for a first-year head coach hoping to avoid negative headlines for an incident largely out of his control.

"I gave them the message mostly this morning in the meeting, about these next five weeks and how important it is, about being together as a team and everybody counting on one another when they come back and do what they're supposed to do in the offseason here," rookie head coach Mike Zimmer said last week as the Vikings wrapped up minicamp. "I told them about my expectations. It was actually great, I think we had 13 former Vikings here and it was, as I said before, it's important to me that we as coaches and players honor these guys who have come before us."

Zimmer said he didn't tell the players he would miss them – "I probably won't," he quipped after spending about two months with them in various stages of the offseason program.

His plan includes a stop in Dallas, where he coached from 1994-2006, then a trip to see his parents in Naples, Fla., and heading to his farm in Kentucky where he will relax with some time on the tractor.

Then it's back to work in preparation for the start of training camp, with the first practice on July 25.

"We all kind of know the way the structure works, but we'll have plenty of time in training camp," Zimmer said. "I said the other day it was 20 practices and 20 walkthroughs before the first preseason game, so we'll be all right."

Before that point, however, player will have their time away and finding different ways to use that time. Some will have youth football camps operating under their names, others will hit the golf courses and others find some time away at beaches.

No matter the venue, however, Zimmer had a message for the players before they departed in search of relaxation prior to the grind of training camp.

"I told them that I want them to be professionals. I want to make sure that everybody understands that we've got a bunch of guys counting on one another," Zimmer said. "… We'll have a conditioning test (at the start of training camp) and the reason why is I want to make sure that everybody's accountable to one another. I've stated to them when I first got here what I expect of them off the field and what kind of citizens we want here and how we want to represent our fans and how we want to represent the NFL, and we've done a good job of that this offseason. I feel good about the direction of the people. But a lot of that goes back to Rick Spielman and the type of guys that he's drafted and brought in here, good people, so that helps a lot."

When the players return for training camp, they know what they'll face. They've had two months to acclimate to the new coaches and their styles of implementation.

"I think Coach Zimmer, he holds everybody accountable, and I think on both sides of the ball you can see that the intensity of practice is fierce," quarterback Matt Cassel said. "They want to create competition. They want to create a sense of urgency, which I think is all going to be great things for us once we get to the season."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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