Last week the Minnesota Vikings traveled south to take on the Atlanta Falcons. Their first-year head coach Dan Quinn is the former coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks and is now trying to create a tough, physical defense in Atlanta, just like the one he had during his time in Seattle.
It was a tough, grind-it-out kind of win for the Vikings and perhaps no one felt it more than their offensive linemen. On Thursday, Vikings right guard Mike Harris said he is still recovering from that game.
This Sunday, the Vikings have the chance to go up against the Seahawks, the model the Falcons are going off. Head coach Mike Zimmer knows that it is going to be another hard-fought game so he decided to change the schedule a bit this week, as a way to help give his players some extra rest.
“I’m just trying to keep our guys fresh,” Zimmer said. “We’re getting late in the season and I think it’s important that we recover, get their legs back. We’ve got a good, tough stretch here that we need to play good in and Sunday will be a tough one.”
No one is happier about this new schedule than the offensive linemen. Every game they are the ones taking a beating in the trenches. It’s not limited to games, though, even in practice they take a lot of contact, so none of them are complaining about the easier week.
“Much appreciated,” Harris said. “Coach is giving us time to just go home, relax, but at the same time we know we have a big game plan and I’m going to spend this time to study. Watch some extra film and just stay off my feet because I know Sunday is going to be a battle for us.”
With an important stretch of games coming up that will determine whether or not the Vikings make the playoffs, Harris knows he can’t take any time off. Even though he will not be on the practice field as much, he knows that he needs to fill in that extra time with more film work.
If they want to keep this new schedule that allows more time for rest they need to continue to win games. If they begin to lose, or slip up, Zimmer will likely decide to turn things up a notch.
Each NFL team is allowed 14 padded practices in the regular season and Zimmer still has two left. Since it is late in the season, he will probably be less inclined to use them to help keep players fresh, but it’s always nice for him to know he has them to lean on if he needs to kick his team into shape.
“Some weeks, depending on the week, I might take them off,” Zimmer said of the padded practice. “But at the end of the year, it’s really just my feeling on who we’re playing, how we play, are we beat up? Different things like that.’’
Harris, and likely a majority of the team, is of the mindset where he does not want to participate in any more padded practices this season. He would rather take it easy and give his body time to rest this late in the season, but to do that he knows the team has to play well and win.
“Oh man, I hope we’re done with shoulder pads, but hopefully we get this win and keep on winning and Coach Zimmer will be generous,” Harris said. “I’m happy about today and we get to freshen up our bodies a little bit.”
Practice ran longer than it normally does on Thursday, but that was because Zimmer was taking things slow with his players. There were a lot more walk-through plays than there normally are on Thursdays and that just played more into the fact that he wants to make sure his team is fresh.
It is a fine balance between resting his players and making sure they are ready, especially against a physical team like the Seahawks. Zimmer could be taking a risk taking it easy this week, but his players sure appreciate it.
“I’m going to use this time to rest,” Harris said. “That’s what it’s for. I’m not going to be out on the streets or anything, or walking around. Just go home, run my errands I need to do, but I need to be a professional and use this time to prepare for Sunday.”