After 11 years in the NFL, Chris Crocker wasn’t about to start all over … at least for anyone other than Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer.
Crocker spent the last six seasons of his career with Zimmer and the Cincinnati Bengals. Before that, they were together for a season with the Atlanta Falcons. Both times, Zimmer was the defensive coordinator and Crocker was the veteran safety.
More and more, Crocker got to know exactly what Zimmer was looking for.
“At this point in my career, I really didn’t want go anywhere else. I’m not starting over, so to come out here and play for a guy, he meant a lot to my career,” Crocker said Monday after signing with the Vikings and already taking part in their afternoon practice. “I’ll give him everything I have. Just empty the gas tank and see where it goes.”
The Vikings signed Crocker after injuries to a couple safeties left them short-handed and uncertain of who would start next to Harrison Smith. They’re still not sure of that part of the equation – Robert Blanton was the leader before he hurt his hamstring last Monday night – but they knew they needed to add a body, despite Andrew Sendejo starting to work his way onto the practice field after a lower back injury kept him out until Monday.
Crocker and Zimmer had texted a few times during the offseason, but things heated up over the weekend and they got a one-year, veteran-minimum deal done Monday. The reunion was a welcome one for both.
“It’s really big. I’ve been in this scheme pretty much my whole career. Just to come in with the same terminology, I know most of the staff,” Crocker said. “I played with or against a lot of these guys. Zimmer’s the ultimate (defensive backs) coach. I take my lead from him. It shouldn’t be tough.”
Most of the Vikings’ safeties are young, and all of them are inexperienced in Zimmer’s system, especially compared to Crocker.
“I’ll just do what I’ve done my whole career, not really try to be somebody I’m not. I’ll make plays, I’ll lead by example and I’ll help other guys,” he said.
“As long as we’re all on the same page and doing it 100 miles per hour, then we’ll be pretty good.”
In 151 career games, Crocker has 554 tackles, 14½ sacks, 60 passes defensed, 15 interceptions and seven forced fumbles. In 12 games last year, he had 37 tackles, 1½ sacks, seven passes defensed and two interceptions, returning one interception for a touchdown.
Vikings receiver Greg Jennings, who joked with Crocker about their old-man status on the team, said he remembered a shot Crocker gave him when Jennings was a rookie with the Green Bay Packers and Crocker was with the Falcons.
“I remember being a rookie coming down – I’m not going to say Brett (Favre) led me in on a slant but I went after it. I remember coming down and this guy with a Falcon on his helmet really hitting me kind of hard. Yeah, it hurt,” Jennings said. “That was the first introduction as far as being blessed into this NFL.”
Jennings said Crocker would have been fined for that kind of hit with the stricter rules to increase player safety these days.
Now both Jennings and Crocker are Vikings. The calling card for Crocker to Minnesota was his familiarity with Zimmer, his defense and even some in the defensive staff.
“I’ve given everything I have to him. I’ve been accountable. I think that’s the biggest thing. I’ve not only been accountable but I’ve been a playmaker for him,” Crocker said. “That’s all you can ask for as a player, and then from a coaching standpoint he’s just so honest. You really appreciate that. He’s going to tell you whether you’re good or whether you’re bad, but at the end of the day you’ll know where you stand. I’ve always played at the highest level playing for a guy like that.”
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Familiarity, honesty reunited Crocker, Zimmer
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