MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings are now less than a week from players returning to their facility in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, to begin the offseason workout program under new strength and conditioning coach Brent Salazar. In recent weeks, photos and status updates from the Vikings’ individual workouts have flickered across social media, as players dispersed across the country to their winter training havens.
Some of those players will have hired position-specific coaches or trainers for the offseason, to help them drill a few specific skills before they return to the Vikings’ headquarters. That approach is rooted in good intentions, but coach Mike Zimmer did attach a caveat to it at the NFL owners meetings.
“The difference now is, and the crazy thing is, all these guys, they go pay some trainer,” Zimmer said. “And they’re all working out — almost all of them — they’re working out, but they’re working on things that may not necessarily be what you do. It’s whatever the trainer has them do. Or if they’re a defensive back, that defensive back is telling them to do something, which I may be telling them the opposite. It’s good that they’re working out, but it may not be as beneficial to do some of the things that they’re doing.”
As particular as Zimmer is about technique for his defensive players, it’s no surprise he’s wary of the potential for communication static as players listen to a different voice in the offseason. The Vikings don’t send players into the offseason with many detailed assignments, and their offseason interaction with players is limited by the collective bargaining agreement.
“We talk to them generally about things,” Zimmer said. “One of the guys, we said, ‘Go play basketball — just go play basketball. Just so you’re doing stuff — hand-eye coordination, things like that.’ We don’t really give them football assignments.”
The offseason restrictions are baked into the CBA now, as the NFL Players Association sought to define some boundaries for players’ rest time. It’s a familiar lament from coaches, though, that they don’t get enough instruction time with young players in the new system, and Zimmer certainly would be in the group that would welcome more freedom in offseason communication.
“If they wanted to come in and meet with you and stuff like that, they could [in the old system]. Now, they can’t even do that,” Zimmer said. “Some of these young guys, they could use an awful lot of structure this time of year, especially.”