Mike Zimmer has been to the Hall of Fame Game before, but this time he’s using the trip to make an impression on his Minnesota Vikings in his first trip as a head coach.
The Vikings play the Pittsburgh Steelers in Canton, Ohio in the first NFL preseason game of the year. Former Vikings center Mick Tingelhoff will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday, as will former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis.
Zimmer wants to use the examples of players of the past as inspiration and education for his young team. The Vikings leave for Canton on Saturday.
“I just thought with the team that we have and the youth that we have, I thought it was important that they see some things that gave them the opportunity to do the things that they’re doing right now – making the money, the prestige and how this game grew from really a lot of these past great players,” Zimmer said. “A lot of guys don’t know who some of these older players are.”
Tingelhoff played 17 seasons (1962-78) for the Vikings, starting 240 consecutive games and never missing a start. He was named All-Pro seven consecutive seasons, played in six straight Pro Bowls and all four of the Vikings’ Super Bowl appearances.
“I showed the team a short video on Mick Tingelhoff last night, so they have a better understanding of who he is because it was the 1960s when he was playing,” Zimmer said. “Those things are important to me that we all understand that we’re privileged to do this, especially with all those guys playing and making $5,000 dollars a year and stuff like that; they were getting summer jobs. It’s really a testament to how this league has grown through a lot of these players that are in the Hall of Fame and all of the players, too.”
Zimmer, who has often stressed toughness in his football players, said he made sure to point out Tingelhoff’s track record of consecutive starts.
“I thought yesterday practice we started a little slow, but when we got into the competitive part of things it picked up. That was good to see,” he said. “Usually the first day when you’re going on (play) cards, it’s a little bit not as crisp because you’re trying to get the right looks from the other side and it takes a little longer, the tempo is slower. I have not seen a lull to this point. I think it’s kind of good that about this time you’re playing somebody, just because it kind of juices things up again.”