Zimmer’s message to Vikings: Be ‘professionals’ during off time

After Minnesota wrapped up its offseason program on Thursday, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said he felt "very secure in everything that we've done to this point."

Ann Heisenfelt/AP

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Mike Zimmer’s first summer as a head coach has seemingly gone according to plan. The Minnesota Vikings finished up their offseason program Thursday and departed for five weeks away before reporting to training camp July 24.

"I feel very secure in everything that we’ve done to this point," Zimmer said after Minnesota’s mandatory minicamp finished. "I’m not in awe of any aspect that’s happened so far. I think the players have helped a lot in that way, and making it easier to step into a new situation. I told them I appreciated that. The coaches have done an outstanding job."

Zimmer plans to travel a bit during the time off, including heading to his ranch in Kentucky and heading to Dallas and Florida. But he likely won’t be able to stray his mind far from his team or the upcoming training camp.

He hopes his team does the same.

The time off for players between minicamp and training camp can be treacherous one. The time off worries some coaches. They wonder whether players are conducting themselves in a proper manner and staying out of trouble.

Zimmer isn’t any different in that respect. He gave his team the message before players departed.

"I told them that I want them to be professionals," Zimmer said. "I want to make sure that everybody understands that we’ve got a bunch of guys counting on one another. I told them basically what I told you all the other day, we’ll have a conditioning test and the reason why is I want to make sure that everybody’s accountable to one another.

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"I’ve stated to them when I first got here what I expect of them off the field and what kind of citizens we want here and how we want to represent our fans and how we want to represent the NFL, and we’ve done a good job of that this offseason. I feel good about the direction of the people. But a lot of that goes back to Rick Spielman and the type of guys that he’s drafted and brought in here, good people, so that helps a lot."

The conditioning test when the players return is something Zimmer took from his time in Cincinnati. Players need the rest during the break, but Zimmer hopes they don’t fall completely out of condition.

Players talked about continuing their work during the time off. Rookie Anthony Barr plans to resume the work he’s done the past month-plus while he was at UCLA finishing classes. Having missed the organized team activities, Barr will use the time to increase his knowledge of the defense.

Cornerback Josh Robinson wants to maintain his progression after an injury wiped out part of his OTAs. He was back working in team drills by the end of minicamp, but said he is still making up for lost time.

Many players will take a few days or a week before slowly ramping up their preparation again.

"I feel like we’re definitely headed in the right direction," running back Adrian Peterson said. "This is definitely the way I envisioned ending it. I’m sure the coaches are proud of the way we finished off as well. It’s all about guys taking advantage of the time we have now leading up to training camp, continuing to take care of the body, staying in the playbook and continuing that flow once we hit training camp."

Zimmer believes his players will follow the right path.

"I think these players understand that to be a great professional, this isn’t a six-month-a-year job," Zimmer said. "You’ve got to be prepared. And that’s by making your body prepared for the physicality of the season, being prepared for the length of the season and all the different scenarios. One of the things we want is guys with stamina, guys who can go 16 games and go 65 plays if they have to. They have to understand that this is part of it, too."

Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman visited the facilities at Minnesota State University in Mankato for training camp and came away pleased. Training camp will continue the work installed this summer.

"We still have some questions we’re trying to answer and things we’re trying to figure out," Zimmer said. "But I have a much better feel for the players as far as how to coach them, what they’re all about and how they respond in certain situations."

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