When the Minnesota Vikings announced their 2016 training camp schedule, one thing that jumped out – especially in light of the announcement that the final day of minicamp would be cancelled Thursday – is that it is such a departure from the first two years of the Mike Zimmer administration.
Training camp technically isn’t going to be that much shorter, but it’s only going to include nine days of practice in Mankato – down from 14 last year.
For the players, it must clearly be as stunning as the initial reaction was to Zimmer’s announcement that the third day of mandatory minicamp would get called off.
Why? It was such a departure from what everyone has been used to.
In Zimmer’s first season with the Vikings, he benefited from a league rule that says that offseason activities could open sooner for teams with new head coaches, and there would be other additional practice perks that come with a new regime getting as knowledgeable as possible about the team that they’re taking over.
When a new coach comes in, non-mandatory activities become a bit more pressing/mandatory. Zimmer likely took a look at his roster and, before setting foot at Winter Park, probably knew half of it. He could work with the talent. It wasn’t like the cupboard was bare.
By the time the Vikings broke training camp in 2014, Zim had a pretty good idea of who would stay and who would go – in no small part due to having some extra one-on-one time with them.
Last year, the Vikings drew the short straw when it came to being one of the two teams that have to play in the Hall of Fame Game. You would have thought getting saddled with an early-season London game in 2013 should have given both of them a pass from not having to do either the Hall of Fame Game or “Hard Knocks.”
The result was that those two teams headed to training camp a week before everyone else and camp was as close to a new-CBA camp could be compared to a Bataan Death March. Zimmer was still formulating the players that would end up on the roster – more and more players were being identified as “Zimmer guys.”
The elimination of the last minicamp day and a truncated training camp in Mankato are the result of Zimmer effectively knowing who his team and knowing what spots are up for debate.
Unlike his first two years, Zimmer would appear to have had enough time to make evaluations on those players he knows will be on the team and those positions that will be in full-on competition. This time around, Zimmer and his staff would seem confident that they have a handle on the skeleton of the 2016 roster – all that needs to be determined are the appendages.
What a difference Year 3 can make.