The Minnesota Vikings wrapped up their shortest stint in Mankato ever Tuesday, leaving after just 10 practices to start a new preseason experiment – practicing with a fellow NFL team they’re going to play Friday night.
The Vikings are currently in the Queen City of Cincinnati ready to practice in enemy territory. Head coach Mike Zimmer was a comrade in arms when the Bengals started their ascent into AFC relevance.
As they head into the belly of the beast, would Zimmer rather have guys in purple jerseys banging up guys in white and purple jerseys? Would he have rather stayed in Mankato?
“No,” Zimmer said “I wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t Marvin Lewis and them, and they’re a good football team. I think at this time of camp, it’s about time to start going against (someone else). You saw we had a little fight out there (Tuesday). Guys start getting on each other’s nerve a little bit, so it’s nice to go against someone else, and the competition will be good. They’re a really good football team. They’ve been in the playoffs the last six or seven years – I don’t know. But they’re a good team; they’ve got a lot of good talent.”
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Defensive coordinator George Edwards is ready to let his dogs loose. Unfortunately, to date, it has only been against one another. He’s looking for the element of surprise his players can show against those who haven’t banged heads 100 times already.
“As we practice against each other, they kind of know the personnel,” Edwards said. “They know the abilities of the people across from them. They know schematically. It has been kind of a progression as we’ve gone through camp, and now we’re going to go and get ready against a team that we really haven’t seen every day. So, they’re going to have to recall that information, play their base roles, concentrate on their fundamentals and techniques, and we want to see them be able to do those things in practice, and then we play them there on that Friday at the end of the week. We’re excited about the opportunity to get a chance to go up there and compete, because this is going to be a continuous competition all the way through the preseason.”
The same is true for the offensive side of the ball.
Norv Turner is no stranger to the dog days of August training camp. This may be a new trick for an old dog, but the repetition of the offseason program and the truncated training camp schedule has been just about enough for offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
“To me, the biggest thing is you get to go against different personnel,” Turner said. “We’ve had nine practices, or whatever it is, and you’ve been practicing all spring against each other, and you get to know each other pretty well. You get to know how a guy runs a route or rushes a passer, or whatever those things are. It’s not a pure game experience, but it gives you a feeling of different players and how they play.”
For a collection of players that have never experienced going head-to-head with an NFL opponent, Turner is open to the prospect of shaking things up in a regimented business when winning and losing doesn’t count.
In the regular season, a break from routine is a problem. At this time of year, it’s refreshing, especially for those who have never experienced such an experiment.
“It’s another experience for all the players, but particularly the young players,” Turner said. “In practice, you’re able to do things that you’ve been working on, that you don’t really want to run in the preseason. There are some things we have that we like, and you run them against a team in practice, and people shouldn’t be scouting you and people shouldn’t find out what you’re doing, so it gives you a chance to get some full-speed work in that area. I think it’s valuable for your quarterback, particularly your starting quarterback, because you can give him a lot of reps without the concern of getting him hit or banged up in the preseason.”
It’s not a game yet and the routine will be similar to a training camp practice (no tackling to the ground), but Wednesday is the first day the Vikings get to go against another opponent for the 2016 season.