That, and an ideal preseason-opening opponent, led to Zimmer’s willingness to hold joint practices with the Cincinnati Bengals for two days prior to the two teams opening up the preseason against each other. They will practice against each other on Aug. 10 and 11 before they meet in their preseason opener on Aug. 12.
“Marvin and I have a great relationship. We talk a lot,” Zimmer said of his former boss, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. “The players there, I have a lot of respect for the players and I think they have a lot of respect for me so I think we’ll be able to practice the right way. There won’t be any issues that way because they know I’ll still get after them, too.”
Zimmer spent six seasons (2008-2013) as the defensive coordinator of the Bengals before the Vikings hired him as their head coach in 2014. The Bengals made the playoffs in four of Zimmer’s six seasons there and he maintains a good relationship with coaches and players there.
Zimmer has talked about the pros and cons of holding joint practices in the past, but in his first two training camps with the Vikings he has preferred to concentrate on installing his system without worrying about an opponent before getting to preseason games. In his third season in Minnesota, and with a familiar opponent, the timing was right.
“We’re similar, so it’s not like you really have to prepare that much, especially defensively,” Zimmer said of the Bengals. “The one good thing for me is I know their players pretty well so when our guys are going against their players I think I’ll be able to have a good evaluation. Quite a few of them are still there that are playing. The evaluation part for me will be big.”
The first practice will be fully padded and the second one – the day before the preseason opener – will be in shoulder pads without the rest of the pads.
The Vikings had several defensive starters relegated to observer status during organized team activities and minicamp over the last month – including Anthony Barr, Linval Joseph and Sharrif Floyd – but Zimmer said he anticipates close to full participation at the start of training camp.
“I anticipate that, yeah, but I don’t know. Lots of things happen between now and then,” he said. “I think they’ll all be pretty close.”