The “feel-good” part of Moritz Böhringer’s NFL journey is definitely over. That feel-good chapter was something Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer wanted to make a short one, forcing the pages to turn quickly to the professional development section of Böhringer’s biography.
Böhringer gained fame when the Vikings made him the first European player to be selected in the NFL draft without playing college football. The draft-weekend drama played out on NFL Network when analyst Mike Mayock called for the Vikings to select Böhringer with a pitch on TV and Zimmer followed up with a phone call to Mayock … and then did select the Germany sensation.
But just weeks later Zimmer also called for that part of the story to quickly fade, urging Böhringer to concentrate on football. The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder from Aalen, Germany was obedient, even turning down media requests for fear it would put him in a bad light with Zimmer.
But on the final day of minicamp, Böhringer decided to take some questions on camera and then conduct a side session, admitting that the mental part of the game has been a bigger adjustment for him than the size or speed of the NFL players.
“I would definitely say the mental and that slows you down on the field. The physical is not a problem right now,” he said after going through four weeks of practices with the Vikings.
Both the physical and the mental parts seemed like a shocked to Böhringer’s system in the first days of organized team activities. While observers could see his feet moving, it’s impossible to tell just how hard the wheels were grinding in his head as he tried to absorb the concepts in the Vikings’ sometimes complex offense.
Böhringer is fluent enough in English to understand the calls, but processing it all in the seconds between the quarterback calling the play in the huddle and lining up to execute it could be overwhelming.
“In the first few days, it was definitely like that, but in the last days I was pretty comfortable with the play calls and I would always try to get the plays when I wasn’t on the field and just think in my head where I have to be, what route I have to run and stuff like that.”
Although the processing speed was an issue at first, receivers coach George Stewart says there never was a language barrier for Böhringer.
“It’s not an issue … because he’s smart. He’s an engineer. He can tear down a Mercedes and put it back together. He builds cars. That’s what he does. He’s an engineer,” Stewart said. “He’s a guy that picks up things extremely well. It’s not a problem from a learning standpoint. He can learn anything … he is highly intelligent.”
Stewart may have been stretching the accolades a little far. Böhringer was an engineer student, but ask about his ability to tear down and rebuild a Mercedes, he called that story “overcooked.”
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Engineering proved he could learn a lot, he said, but admitted it is not close to the same subject matter the Vikings are teaching him.
He does know three languages. In order, it’s German, English and “a big space and then French … I’m not really good at (French). I just learned it in school.”
However, his food interests may be in inverse order. He doesn’t like the typical German food, so he has little concern about finding a good German restaurant in Minnesota. Instead, he’s more of a pizza and pasta guy.
He may need the pasta between now and training camp to keep a high energy level as he continues to consume the playbook. Sure, he had a playbook with his German team, the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns, but he had longer to digest it and it wasn’t as voluminous and detailed.
“We had more time to learn or a longer time because we had six months or something of offseason and we had more time to learn it,” he said. “I would say (the Vikings version) is maybe four to five times as much as we had in Germany.”
Between the new team, bigger playbook and challenges of implementing it between the huddle and the snap of the ball, Böhringer certainly has his challenges.
“He’s raw and you’d expect that. He only played football a couple years in Germany and played football based on what he saw on YouTube,” Stewart said. “He’s raw, but he does have physical gifts. He’s going to be a work in progress. I look forward to it because he’s a willing worker. He’s very, very, very, very intelligent. He picks up things extremely well for this to be a new game to him. He’s a big mold of clay. A big piece of clay and you’ve got the chance to develop that clay. He’s a willing worker and he’s got the tools for it.”