If there was one overlying message in Mike Zimmer's Thursday morning press conference, it was that there are a lot of things still to be decided when it comes to his team.
The Vikings Head Coach was excited for next week's game against the Oakland Raiders, but the specific preparation won't come until Tuesday of next week. For now, it's all about focusing on the guys he has in camp and installing his team's offense, defense, and special teams. "Things are going...OK," Zimmer said with a smile. "I don't wanna say good yet."
He explained that the team will keep installing their new systems until about two weeks before the team's Week 1 season opener against the St. Louis Rams. Zimmer said that even though it sounds like the league will be taking a closer look at illegal contact, it won't change how he coaches the defense. "I don't really have to change anything because I teach within the rules all the way anyway...I'm not saying we won't commit penalties, but we don't teach penalties." (Zimmer did smirk when asked whether he'd change any of the rules to help benefit the defense, which is obviously his favored side of the ball.)
I noted in the morning walkthrough notes that the corps of linebackers seemed to be in flux, and Zimmer confirmed that observation by saying he doesn't know when the LB rotation will be set. "I don't know [when it will be set]. When I feel good about it I guess...we're just going to let it play out, keep going and keep giving these guys reps to try and figure out the best way we can and where we're gonna go from there."
Zimmer noted that he still doesn't know how long Robert Blanton will be out with the injury he suffered. At the moment Mistral Raymond is taking first team snaps but he reiterated that it's very fluid. "It'll all play out just like the linebacker situation." In positive injury news, Zimmer thinks Captain Munnerlyn should participate in this afternoon's team drills just like Cordarrelle Patterson rejoined them on Wednesday.
Coach was pleased about the progress of Anthony Barr. He acknowledged that Barr is taking tons of notes and is incredibly eager to learn but still has a way to go in learning the defense. On the other hand, Zimmer was quick to point out that just about everyone outside of the special teams has to learn just about everything from scratch. Overall he was very pleased with Barr's progress.
Zimmer didn't seemed to be worried about Chad Greenway, even if his veteran linebacker is moving all over the field. He explained that he knows what Greenway can do, so lining him up in different places allows the team to try different people in different packages in order to find who the best eleven players are on the field for each situation.
When asked about players he thought have stood out in camp thus far, he named Jabari Price right away, which explains why he saw Price rotating in the first team on nickel this morning. He also named Rodney Smith, who "started out slow" but has improved a lot. He also named Antonio Richardson and Zach Line by name for their positive work on the offense.
For those of you coming down to watch the scrimmage on Saturday night, don't expect a ton of of "live" football. Zimmer intends to use Saturday for lots of situational plays. Because right now it's not about being the most entertaining--it's about improving to be the best when the games count.
I keep saying this a million times and I'll keep saying it. I want our fans when they watch us play on Sundays, when they turn the TV off or they leave the stadium, I want them to say, "Wow I can't wait to watch these guys next week...they play real hard. They play with a passion. They do things right. They play the game the right way." That's really what we're trying to do, just get better each and every day.