Vikings' Zimmer learning how to coach players in virtual world of COVID-19

Mike Zimmer addressed the media for the first time after the draft on Wednesday.
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Mike Zimmer

As the Minnesota Vikings continue to adjust to an offseason without on-field activities, head coach Mike Zimmer spoke to the media on Wednesday and gave a glimpse into how the Vikings have run their offseason.

While Zimmer commended the job the team has done using virtual meetings to help acclimate his players, he also admitted that he misses some of the parts of the usual offseason grind.

"I really miss being around the players," Zimmer said. "Talking to them on the computer…it’s not the same because I want to get out there coach them, correct them, teach them and try to build the camaraderie we want to have with the football team."

While Zimmer can't work with players in a hands-on sense, the Vikings are still preparing as if the upcoming season will start on time. That's included a workout program that was approved by the NFLPA and players staying in shape by using their home gyms.

Zimmer also noted that the biggest challenge with the meetings is the correction of technique. While his players have sent him video of their personal workouts, there are some things that can't be simulated.

"We try to make it a little more position-specific on how we try to get them ready," Zimmer explained. "The unfortunate thing is if they’re doing it wrong, we can’t correct them if they don’t videotape it.”

Despite the challenges and uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season and admitting that some of his rookies will be behind, Zimmer drew back on his experience during the 2011 season when OTAs and minicamp were canceled due to a lockout.

"There was plenty of time to get the season ready," Zimmer said. "I’m not really concerned if they give us five weeks or three weeks whatever it is, we’ll find out how to best utilize those number of weeks."

Vikings welcome defensive overhaul

The additional challenge of the offseason will be getting a defense up to speed that lost five starters. While Zimmer mentioned that it's not ideal to lose that many players, he said that it was refreshing for his coaching staff.

"It reminds me of when you're in college and we had five defensive starters graduate," Zimmer said. "You got guys come in and they're redshirt freshmen so we had to get them ready to play. That part energizes us as coaches as far as let’s figure out what this guy can do, how fast he can do it and how can we teach him the best way to be prepared to get out there and play."

To help acclimate the rookies, Zimmer will be leaning on a group of defensive leaders including Danielle Hunter, Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks and Harrison Smith to help make up for the loss of veterans Xavier Rhodes, Linval Joseph and Everson Griffen.

"We have plenty of good leaders," Zimmer said. "We just need to get guys to go out there to understand their role and how they can help us win.”

Vikings could hold joint practices

Zimmer also said that several teams had contacted the Vikings about holding joint practices ahead of the 2020 season prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

While things have changed, Zimmer's stance suggests that any joint practice would be a one-day affair rather than multiple practices.

"The problem I foresee in having the joint practices is you may not get your guys up to speed in what they have to do rather than worry about another player," Zimmer said. "If it gets down to it, I could see having a one day practice against a team. I don’t think I’d want to spend two or three days.”

Zimmer making the most of quarantine

While the Vikings have been busy with meetings, Zimmer has also been in and out on all three phases, but he's still dealing with the same quarantine that everyone else has dealt with.

When he's not jumping in on meetings, Zimmer has been spending his downtime utilizing his 160-acre ranch in Kentucky.

"I can go get on the four-wheeler or tractor, go fishing, shoot guns…so it’s not like I'm totally quarantined even though I am."

Even more interesting is that co-defensive coordinator Adam Zimmer is also residing at his father's ranch. While Mike runs his operations upstairs, Adam is in the basement with Mike jumping in on occasion.

"It’s been good," Zimmer said of living with his son. "He can help me get all this stuff organized and if I can’t figure it out I can text him and say come up and fix this."

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