Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said after the end of the 2016 season that he heard from some of the team’s players about what he could do to be a better coach and said Friday that he also met with “a number of head coaches” to discuss the same topic.
Zimmer didn’t delve into everything he heard during his listening tour, but he did lay out one thing that he will be doing differently this season.
“Going into last season, part of my whole goal was, I thought we had a pretty good football team and I wanted to make sure we got to the first game healthy,” Zimmer said, via Ben Goessling of ESPN.com. “And so maybe I was a little bit cautious in some of the things. We’re going to get back to being the Vikings. We’re going to be blue-collar, and we’re going to do the things that got us to be, where we played teams, that they respected the way we played.”
Zimmer’s 2016 approach didn’t really work out for the Vikings as they lost several players to season-ending injuries early in the season and he was criticized by former Vikings tight end Rhett Ellison’s father Riki, a former 49ers linebacker, for the “mentality of physical practices that continued to hurt players on the offensive line and burn out the desire of the defense to play hard when it counted most.”
Zimmer, who said he tried and failed to speak with Ellison about those comments, said that the team is going to practice “until I feel good about it” while discussing how he plans to implement that mindset. There are limits to how much the Vikings can practice under league rules, of course, but the implication that Zimmer is looking for a tougher team and he said he doesn’t expect push back from players as a result.
Their parents may be a different story, though.