But, overall, Zimmer knows there is a balance to be struck between working players hard and saving their legs for the grueling three-week work in progress that is training camp.
“It will be a lot like (organized team activities), but a little bit more physical, I think,” Zimmer said of his first training camp as a head coach. “We’re trying to make sure we’re precise in everything we do. We want to be disciplined. We want to be tough. We want to play fast. We want to play physical. We want to continually improve each and every day. And then we want to try to find the players and fit them into the right places so we can take advantage of their abilities.”
Zimmer has consulted with a couple of the head coaches he worked under, Bill Parcells with the Dallas Cowboys and Marvin Lewis with the Cincinnati Bengals, about how to handle training camp. He’s also leaned on offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who has 15 years of experience as a head coach in the NFL.
“I expect it to be tough. He’s a hard-headed guy and he expects the best from us,” said star running back Adrian Peterson. “I definitely expect the intensity to be a little higher than normal, a little more contact than normal, and just off the field what I have of Coach Zimmer and what I felt like what he would expect out of training camp. Me personally, I know I’m all in for that.”
But Zimmer cautioned that too much physical work can be counterproductive to getting players ready for the grind of the regular season.
“It’s really a fine line,” Zimmer said. “… We’re going to try and be smart about it. We’re going to have contact because that’s football. But as far as live contact, we’ll have some early in camp and then we’ll see where we’re at. I believe to be a good defensive team you’ve got to be a good tackling team so we’re going to have to work on that. That’s the reason you’ve got four preseason games, too. We’re just going to try to figure out what’s best for us.”
Players have already gone through veteran and rookie minicamps, 10 organized team activities and then a mandatory minicamp in June, so they know some of what to expect from Zimmer. Those early offseason practices started to focus on technique and then moved into incorporating more of the team concepts.
Like Zimmer, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman is the son of a coach and has been almost giddy about what Zimmer has brought to the organization since being hired in January.
“I can’t wait. I’m very excited to see him get on the field,” Spielman said of Zimmer. “You know, you get excited about watching your players and you see the new guys coming in, the new (free agents), the draft picks, but you see them out there in shorts. Now, we actually get into the football side of it. A lot of the guys that have worked extremely hard, not only during that OTA and minicamp phase, but what they did this offseason with a new strength and conditioning program, and how hard they attacked that. So, this is where you start to build that chemistry, as well, and start to really grow as a football team down here because you actually get the chance to start hitting people.”
In keeping with NFL rules, the Vikings won’t start the full-pads portion of training camp until Sunday, but Zimmer plans to be flexible on how he handles things. He is reserving the right to make changes to his practice regimen on the fly.
“We may change things as I continue to look at the football team and where we’re at and where we might need to adjust the camp,” Zimmer said. “I think that’s a part of coaching and teaching is adjusting to the players you have.”
Peterson has no doubt he’s ready, expecting that Thursday’s conditioning test would be a breeze compared to his legendary offseason workouts on his own.
Still, Peterson said despite Zimmer being a rookie head coach, he believes the coaching staff is “ahead of the curve.”
“That comes from just having guys that are buying into to what they are presenting to us and having great coaches surrounding us as well,” Peterson said. “Just the atmosphere, there’s a lot more energy in the air, in the building there’s a lot more energy from the players. I know that has a lot to do with the coaches and having that confidence in what they have prepared for us. As a defense and offensively, I think we’re ahead of the curve.”
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.