Zimmer called in different voices for players

Mike Zimmer brought in a couple of respected NFL voices to help the Vikings last week.

Mike Zimmer isn’t reading much into performances without pads, but the final week of organized team activities last week provided a good opportunity for Zimmer to introduce his players to a couple of respected voices in NFL circles.

Hudson Houck, now in his 70s, visited with Minnesota Vikings players last week. Houck is believed to have coached more Pro Bowl offensive linemen in NFL history than any other coach, according to ESPN.

He began coaching in the NFL in 1983 with the Los Angeles Rams, and Hall of Fame lineman Jackie Slater credited Houck for helping develop him.

Houck coached the offensive line with the Dallas Cowboys from 1993-2001 and 2008-2011, with much of that time spent while Zimmer was with the Cowboys (1994-2006).

Zimmer also called upon former defensive end Greg Ellis, who played 12 NFL seasons, 11 of them with the Cowboys.

“He’s a guy that I’ve coached for a long time and we also had Hudson Houck come in, who was a veteran offensive line coach who coached with a lot of guys. Just get another set of eyes, see who can help these guys,” Zimmer said.

Zimmer said Ellis’ strength as a player was his ability to study tape and pick up tips on opposing players. Ellis finished his career with 84 sacks, 50th in NFL history since sacks became an official statistic in 1982.

“I think it’s good to have a different message, coming from a different source,” Zimmer said. “Greg, he’s 50th (in sacks) in the NFL. As soon as that happens, there’s a little bit of, ‘Oh yeah, I know this guy.’”

  • Linebacker Anthony Barr returned to practice but didn’t participate in full-team drills. Barr had been sitting out during organized team activities, but Zimmer said earlier it wasn’t the issue isn’t the same knee that ended Barr’s rookie season early last year.

    “I think it’s important for him and for us. He’s got to get back,” Zimmer said. “He hasn’t really done football in a long time. It’s good for him to get back out here and start moving around and get with the calls. I don’t anticipate any problems, but it’s good for his mindset and good for ours as well.”

  • Defensive end Brian Robison, who suffered a pectoral injury early last month, was also held out of individual drills. Like Barr, he participated in some of the individual work.

    “Brian’s getting a lot of work done; it’s just not live work,” Zimmer said. “We’d obviously love to have everybody out here practicing all the time, but it’s just not possible at this point.”
  • Others not participating in practice included CB Josh Robinson, who was rehabbing an unspecified injury inside during the outdoor practice, CB Captain Munnerlyn (foot), CB DeMarcus Van Dyke (unspecified), LB Michael Mauti (unspecified) and LB Casey Matthews (unspecified).

  • Zimmer declined to go into specifics about the release of safety Taylor Mays, saying only, “It wasn’t working out. … It just wan’t working out.”

  • Safety Robert Blanton continued to get most of the first-team safety reps opposite Harrison Smith, but Zimmer said the position isn’t decided.

    “It doesn’t mean anything right now. It really doesn’t,” Zimmer said. “We’ve got five preseason games. No one is in pads. It really doesn’t mean anything to me right now. It’s just guys lined up there.”

  • Matt Kalil continued to take the first-team reps at left tackle with no apparent issues after undergoing minor surgery to his knees in January.

    “I think he’s been doing better. Again, the proof of the pudding will come out when we get the pads on,” Zimmer said. “But his sets have been better. He looks much more confident. He looks much better doing the things we’re trying to get him to do.”

  • Zimmer elected to not have walk-through practices as part of minicamp this year, saying most of the real evaluation doesn’t happen until pads are put on during training camp and the preseason.

    “The checks happen faster. The different types of plays happen faster. I would not read too much into who is where right at this particular point, unless it’s Teddy (Bridgewater) or Adrian (Peterson) probably.”

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