Murphy: Zimmer wants his Vikings playing right, thinking big

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Thunderbolts and lightning rumbled across the western skyline Tuesday morning at Winter Park when Mike Zimmer ended the first practice of minicamp 15 minutes early and marched the Vikings to locker-room shelter.

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Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer watches practice at minicamp on Wednesday. (Photo by Brad Rempel / USA TODAY Sports)

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Thunderbolts and lightning rumbled across the western skyline Tuesday morning at Winter Park when Mike Zimmer ended the first practice of minicamp 15 minutes early and marched the Vikings to locker-room shelter.

Bet the ranch that Minnesota’s third-year coach will play his lost time trump card later this week or at training camp lest any suckers think Zimmer is cheating 2016 table stakes.

Creeping complacency can be as threatening as an approaching storm when it is June and the pads remain in storage and players are running around in jerseys and “underwear,” as Zimmer calls their athletic shorts.

Starting lineups will be forged in the heat of Mankato, identities formed during the weekly triumphs and tribulations of the regular season. But this is no time for the Vikings to sleep on 2015 performance standards, attitude and work ethic that produced 11 victories and a division championship.

Upgrades at offensive line, wide receiver and the defensive backfield make Minnesota a chic pick, not only to retain its NFC North crown, but drive deeper into the postseason after January’s frost-bitten wild-card loss to Seattle.


Tough, smart and accountable are Zimmer’s bedrock principles, and the Vikings have shown they have those players in spades. Keeping them motivated in pursuit of a championship is a yearlong challenge shared by the old-school coach and his unsatisfied students.

“His best quote is, ‘Good is the enemy of great,’ ” said defensive end Everson Griffen. “You don’t want to be just good. You want to be great. Guys want to come in here and work for him. He’s the best head coach I’ve had. I love him.”

And there’s Zimmer tough love.

During spring workouts, he regularly has praised the team’s focus and competition level, its pace and discipline.

“There’s not a lot of jacking around,” he said.

But when defensive backs went rogue and took one too many shots at receivers or the cartoon trash-talking escalated, Zimmer halted practice, preached humility and reminded the Vikings they had not earned their cockiness.

“Something happened last week I didn’t like and I told them about it,” he said. “When you have good guys, you have smart guys, you have guys that care … you don’t have to do that a lot.

“But if they ever get out of line, they know that daddy’s mad.”


The mutual admiration society will get prime time treatment Wednesday on the NFL Network, which will debut a new series - “NFL 360” - that includes taped interviews with Chad Greenway, Adrian Peterson and Teddy Bridgewater about the Vikings’ zest for all things Zimmer.

“It’s a team that has the mind-set of a coach that wants them to be tough,” Bridgewater said during his Tuesday news conference.

Zimmer and Bridgewater are attached at the hip and will be judged like all NFL head coaches and their franchise quarterback. They also share timelines that put both on the clock.

The duo joined the Vikings three months apart in 2014. The heavily scrutinized college passer joining the five-times-passed-over defensive coordinator on a mission to bite back at skeptics.

There was Zimmer wrestling down a question about the leap Bridgewater must take in his third season to become an elite quarterback.

“I still go back to great quarterbacks win. That’s the thing that this guy does. He’s a winner. Can you look up his record for me?” Zimmer asked his public relations staff.

Like presidential aides, they scurried, typed furiously and crunched out the talking point: 17 wins, 11 losses with Bridgewater at quarterback.

On a franchise that has deployed 54 quarterbacks over 56 seasons, only hall of famer Warren Moon and 2016 hall of famer Brett Favre won as many games in their first two seasons in Minnesota.


“To me, that’s the most important thing,” Zimmer said about winning. “There’s a lot more to playing quarterback than just throwing the ball through the wall.”

And there’s a roster full of Vikings players who will run through a wall for Zimmer.

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