Loud and clear: Turner gets Vikings’ players attention, respect quickly
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — A voice rises loudly over the Minnesota Vikings practice fields, a new coach clearly audible, shouting — sometimes with colorful language — to get the attention of the players.
Only this coach isn’t Mike Zimmer, Minnesota’s new head coach known for his fiery personality.
No, the coach most noticeable during the Vikings’ summer practices has been Norv Turner, the longtime NFL veteran coach who seems so laid back off the field. He’s been anything but calm on the field during organized team activities.
"He’s very vocal," receiver Greg Jennings said. "That kind of threw me a little bit. But he is so laid back. I mean, one of the things you’ve got to love about him is he doesn’t care who it is, he’s going to jump on them and the next play he’s going to come up to you and be like, ‘Now, let’s go, let’s get it right.’"
Turner, in his 30th year in the NFL coaching, garnered immediate respect from his offensive players from his players. He’s only adding to the admiration he receives by his presence on the field.
Turner chides second-year receiver Rodney Smith during a drill and then might turn his attention to Jennings later. Turner vocalizes his displeasure with rookie running back Jerick McKinnon during practice for one play, and would do the same, if needed, with star Adrian Peterson.
"Coach Turner brings so much energy out there to practice every day," tight end Kyle Rudolph said. "The thing I respect most is it doesn’t matter if you’re the 53rd guy on the roster fighting for a spot to make the team or Adrian, who has been to more Pro Bowls than anybody and one of the best players at his position if not the best player at his position ever. It doesn’t matter which guy you are. He’s going to coach you up to make you the best player that you can be. Just loves coaching football and you can’t ask for more than that as a player."
Coaching has been an operative word for Turner, Zimmer and the rest of the Viking’s coaching staff in their first summer together. The work with players, both in groups and individually, is a constant.
Turner just happens to be the most vocal of the new coaches.
"He creates this intensity and this sense of urgency in practice that I haven’t seen throughout my 10 years," quarterback Matt Cassel said. "Which is great, because what I think it does is, it creates a sense of urgency so on game day you know when things are going 100 miles a minute that you’re prepared for that. I think that he’s meticulous in his details and he wants to push you during practice because that’s the only way you prepare for game day."
Zimmer was the new coach known for pushing his players by his words after his appearances on the show "Hard Knocks." Zimmer and Turner were separated by one season in their time in Dallas, so the head coach never got the chance to see how Turner was on the practice field.
The level of intensity from Turner even caught Zimmer by surprise.
"I love it," Zimmer said. "He’s coaching them hard, he’s demanding. He’s very similar to me in a lot of ways and it’s been great."
Zimmer later added: "Like there’s a reputation on me, I guess there’s a reputation on him as well. But it’s nothing like what I’ve anticipated. It’s really good."
Turner never needed to raise his voice to gain his team’s respect, though. His reputation as an offensive mind proceeded him. As coach or offensive coordinator, Turner’s offenses have ranked in the top five in points three times. His 2010 San Diego Chargers led the league in total offense.
On five occasions, Turner’s offense has produced the league’s leading rusher; twice, the leading receiver in yards. In 22 seasons as coordinator or coach, Turner has had 15 backs rush for more than 1,000 yards and 15 receivers top 1,000 yards.
"As an offensive guy, you look like, ‘man, he can take any player and any group of guys and they would thrive under his tutelage and under his offensive schemes,’" Jennings said. "I was excited personally because it was a new challenge. It was another step up in my learning curve and just going to push me to another level of excellence. I’m all for it. I’m excited about having him."
Turner had the players’ attention before they ever stepped on the field together.
"First meeting he was there, we knew that he knew what he was talking about," quarterback Christian Ponder said. "He had confidence in this offense. He explained to us that he’s tweaked this offense over the last couple decades and made it the best that it is. He said he’s still learning and fixing things. But he’s got a great reputation with us and we’re excited to see what’s going to happen this year."
And if they don’t do it right, Turner will let them know — loudly.
I like it, it brings a lot of intensity to the game," Ponder said. "He’s got very high expectations for our performance on the field and he makes sure we know it. He’s not going to accept a mistake and he’s going to get it corrected. So, it’s good for everybody."
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