Zimmer staying focused amid controversy

Mike Zimmer is charged with keeping his team focused on football during the Adrian Peterson legal proceedings.

At Monday’s press conference in between the questioning from political reporters and national media types, head coach Mike Zimmer really had no place in the discussion.

It wasn’t his decision to deactivate Adrian Peterson. It wasn’t his decision to reactivate A.P. He was consulted, but it wasn’t his call.

At Monday’s press conference, Zimmer was forced to tap dance through the mine field and not take a misstep.

To say the least, it was awkward. To say the most, the press conference should have included at least one Wilf and perhaps someone with the legal background to make sense of the complicated issues involved.

Instead, the rookie head coach was following up a heated Rick Spielman press conference. The difference is that Zimmer is a 58-year-old rookie. It’s not his first rodeo. When asked if he was struggling with the whirlwind surrounding him after just his first game as head coach, Zimmer explained this crisis was two decades in the making.

“I’ve been in the NFL for 21 years,” Zimmer said. “I’ve seen a lot of things. We just go about our business and keep working as hard as we can and try to get the football team better each day.”

With questions flying that were relevant to his position as head coach, Zimmer was asked whether he knew what he was going to get when he agreed to become head coach and he acknowledged that unexpected media attention is part of the job description.

“You sign up for everything when you become the head coach,” Zimmer said. “You sign up for the good days and the bad days, the days where you get beat whatever the score was yesterday, 30-7, and the 34-6 wins. It’s not my most favorite time, but that’s the way it is.”

In the past, when incidents blew up that put his Bengals team under the microscope, Zimmer was at Ground Zero, but he wasn’t the face of the organization. He admitted his role has changed as head coach, but, again, it was nothing that he hadn’t experienced before.

“It’s obviously different just because Marvin (Lewis) handled a lot of those things when I was in Cincinnati,” Zimmer said. “We’re going to work extremely hard to get the guys to understand what kind of people that our fans want them to be like, what kind of team we want to have and what kind of individuals we want to have. We did that when I was in Cincinnati and we will continue to do that here.”

Zimmer was a bit uncomfortable in his role as team spokesman, but he was quick to point out that adversity is what makes you stronger and he sent that message to his players, saying that the measure of coaches, players and an organization is defined by how they handle the hard times.

“My dad, when he was coaching me when I was growing up, said, ‘Tough times don’t last, but tough people do,’” Zimmer said. “It’s time to get back to work, put our nose to the grindstone, get on the tape, start focusing on the New Orleans Saints. That’s what we do, we get back to work.”

For the moment, Minnesota is the center of the NFL world of controversy. Zimmer didn’t ask for it, but it’s part of the role of being a head coach. He is trying to avoid the Peterson matter from becoming a distraction for the other 52 players on the roster. He and his coaching staff have goals and this latest unwanted spotlight isn’t going to derail the franchise. It will merely be a detour on the ultimate destination.

“The same thing that I’ve said all along, we just get to work,” Zimmer said. “My focus is on trying to get this football team better and play the Saints and how we can improve each day. There’s obviously a lot of things that we have to keep working through, but this team has been very, very focused in everything that we’ve done since I have walked in the door. I want to continue to try to do that.”

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for 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.

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