The Minnesota Vikings returned to practice Monday with the players and coaches looking to restart a season that has gotten off to a 5-0 start and being rated by many analysts as the best team in the NFL.
Head coach Mike Zimmer was anxious to get back to practice because he had plenty of film to look at and plenty of little things that can be improved, often the difference between a good team and a great team.
“We got a chance to look into a five-game self-scout and things we feel like we need to get better, things we need to improve and what we’re doing good,” Zimmer said. “I think it was productive, hopefully.”
As the players returned from the first real down time since July, Zimmer was looking for two things – whether they were picking back up where they left off and whether they would come back with the same aggressive swagger they were showing prior to the bye week.
“A little bit of both – how they came back,” Zimmer said. “I talked to them about making sure when you come back that you don’t come out here and pull muscles, get some workouts in, watch some tape. They did a good job in meetings today. For the most part, they did a good job in practice as far as being on point with things. There were a couple things I had to mention to them that we need to do better (on Monday), but I think overall these guys are pretty focused most of the time.”
A veteran who came in along with Zimmer when he came to the Vikings in 2014, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn he has seen mixed results coming out of the first practice following a bye or a long weekend as the result of a Thursday game.
He came off the first day back saying that the team didn’t miss a step – living up to the high expectations Zimmer was expecting.
“I think that’s what he expects out of us,” Munnerlyn said. “I was just talking to a couple guys, I was like, man, this might have been one of the best practices that I’ve ever had in the NFL coming off a bye. Normally you feel a little sluggish, guys are not moving around, and you forget little things and make crazy mistakes. But (on Monday) we were locked in, focused and flying around, having fun.”
The Vikings’ apparent attention to detail could be the result of the perfect start the team has produced. When things are going great, the little aches and pains that are part of a season don’t seem to hurt as much and the team is ready to dive into the detail work that is part of the installation of a new game plan.
Munnerlyn felt the strong practice the Vikings had Monday was likely the rest of the players wanting to get the momentum ball back rolling.
“It’s probably got a lot to do with it,” Munnerlyn said. “It’s probably got a lot to do with everybody just getting excited to get back on the field and getting back to work. We know we’re 5-0, but at the same time this is a new season for us. This is a new season. The only thing on our mind is going 1-0 now.”
Zimmer was wary of how the players would respond to coming back from down time. It hasn’t always been the best in his experiences. While no team deserved a little R&R more than the Vikings did coming off their impressive start to the season, Zimmer’s recollection of previous returns to action after having some time off hasn’t been the best.
What he was looking for was a recalled work ethic they had going into the bye, which wasn’t always the case when his young team got a chance relax both mind and body.
“To me, today was important to see these guys come out here and where they were,” Zimmer said on Monday. “My first year, when I’d give them some time off they’d come back and forget everything they had learned. Today it wasn’t like that. Now there was some things that I saw that we had to correct quickly. Their recall right now is so much better than what it was. That was the important thing to me, to see what kind of recall we had with the things that we do.”
[FOR RECENT PODCASTS, CLICK HERE]
From all accounts, the team responded well and will be ready to hit the ground running Wednesday when the Eagles game plan starts to be implemented on the practice field.
The players have the right attitude about their jobs and aren’t looking at the return to action as picking up from their 5-0 start. That part of the season is over. Now they’re looking at playing the first game of the 11-game regular season that remains.
“This is a reset,” Munnerlyn said. “After a bye, it feels like a reset. We haven’t won a football game, so we’re trying to go 1-0 on Sunday and get this thing back rolling.”