Zimmer defends Kalil, anticipates rebound

Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer pointed out the dangers in blaming Matt Kalil for every sack he was credited with outside the organization and said he is assuming Kalil will be “really good this year.”

Matt Kalil was one of the most maligned Minnesota Vikings last year, but head coach Mike Zimmer came to Kalil’s defense Wednesday, both in an hour-plus film session with the media and an on-the-record interview following.

Zimmer stressed how hard it is for people outside the organization to assign blame on missed assignments without knowing how the protection or coverage is called on certain plays – both on offense and defense – but he made it clear in the film session that some missed blocks can be attributed to more than Kalil, even when it appeared at times to be his issue.

“I get frustrated when people assume they know when there are so many little intricacies that happen – maybe he’s right and maybe he’s wrong,” Zimmer said. “A lot of times we have to talk about it as coaches and things that happen because not everything is perfectly black and white. I guess maybe I was just kind of defending the players a little bit.”

Kalil’s injured knees were also a concern that came to light at the end of the season, but Kalil dealt with knee issues throughout the season, more than most knew at the time. Treatment helped some and Kalil played better at the end of the season before having offseason surgery in January that Zimmer called “minor” last week.

At this point, Kalil is feeling better than he has since his rookie season, according to Zimmer, but that wasn’t the case last year.

“One of the things about Matt, there was one week that I didn’t know if he would make it. He’s never missed anything. He always shows up, tries to fight as hard as he can for the guys,” Zimmer said. “I don’t want to talk about his injury, but personality-wise he understands that he needs to play better, but there was never a time that he let down any of his teammates by not coming out and showing. I think he missed two practices the whole year.”

Kalil was a regular in the training room as he tried to get through the season without missing time and that sort of effort helped lead the Vikings to picking up Kalil’s fifth-year option for 2016 (that portion of his contract isn’t guaranteed for anything except for injury).

“I’m assuming that he’s going to play really good this year and I told him that after we picked up the option,” Zimmer said.

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