Joint practices have taken place twice in training camp during Mike Zimmer’s tenure with the Minnesota Vikings. He has his concerns about holding any more.
The Vikings have back-to-back road games in the preseason at Cincinnati and Cleveland. Zimmer said prior to the coronvairus pandemic forcing teams to alter their offseason program, the coach received interest from a couple of teams wanting to arrange practices together in the preseason.
But that’s a time when Zimmer wants to be focused on his team.
“I’ve thought about it a little bit,” Zimmer said Wednesday. “The problem I foresee with having the joint practices is you may not be able to get your guys up to speed fast enough for what they have to do as opposed to worrying about another player. If it gets down to it, I can see there might be depending on how much time we have during training camp and before the games.
“I can possibly see having a one-day practice against a team. I don’t know if I’d want to spend two or three days when we’re trying to get our football team ready to play.”
In 2018, Minnesota hosted the Jacksonville Jaguars. Two years prior, the Vikings traveled to Cincinnati, both leading up to preseason games, so Zimmer speaks from experience.
NFL facilities remain closed indefinitely with no concrete date set for reopening as stay-at-home orders vary from state to state. Zimmer and his son, Adam, the Vikings’ co-defensive coordinator, are spending their time quarantining together at the head coach’s ranch in Walton, Kentucky.
Zimmer was the defensive coordinator in Cincinnati during the 2011 lockout, the last time the NFL experienced anything close to what it’s currently dealing with amid the pandemic. The ambiguity teams face as far as when they can transition out of virtual OTAs into on-field work presents a unique set of challenges Zimmer and his staff navigate daily.
“It’s really about the uncertainty of everything,” Zimmer said. “I think during the lockout — I don’t remember exactly when we went back in — but there was plenty of time to get the season ready. I’m not really concerned about if they gave us five weeks or three weeks, whatever it is we will figure out how best to utilize those particular weeks.
“It’s fortunate for us because we have a lot of veterans offensively. I’ll be more concerned about working with technique of each and every player when they get here. That might take three weeks, who knows. Each player is a little bit different. That will be the biggest factor. You can’t just roll out the ball and play. You can’t just say: Here’s your playbook, now you go out there. It doesn’t work like that. They know what to do but they don’t know how to do it.”
Like other coaches, Zimmer participates in daily position meetings and rotates through offensive, special teams and defensive virtual meeting rooms. The rookies, he said, are receiving extra work to get up to speed for when the team is eventually able to take the field together.
Navigating the current climate has been difficult for Zimmer, who relishes the opportunity to get back to coaching his team in person.
“I really miss being around the players,” he said. “Talking to them on the computer, the iPad or whatever, is not the same, because I want to get out there. I want to coach and correct them, teach them, try to build the camaraderie that we need as a football team. But unfortunately, we’re not able to do that.
“But I guess I’m really fortunate that I’m here in Kentucky and I have 160 acres. In between meetings, I can go get on the four-wheeler, on the tractor, go fishing and shoot guns, or whatever I want to do. So it’s not like I’m totally quarantined — even though I am — but I really miss being around the players. They’re probably going to get an extra dose of me when they get back.”