Vikings training camp in Mankato, Minnesota, is one of the happiest times of the year for fans of the team. It obviously means Vikings football is back, but there's something cool about training camp in Southern Minnesota. Mankato is a charming little college town*, and it's the one time of the year when fans can really get up close and personal with the players.
*No, really, it is. I love it there. I always have a blast. You really need to make the trip down there before the Eagan complex is built.
Players sign autographs, get their pictures taken with fans, and even socialize a bit at the restaurants around town. You can literally bump into Chad Greenway walking out of the bathroom at Tav on the Ave (2014), or literally almost run over Donovan McNabb and his bike while leaving the media parking lot one afternoon after practice (2011).
But when you're Mike Zimmer, you don't do 'happy' when you're in Mankato. For you are a modern day blacksmith*, and the practice fields of
Mankato Minnesota State University are your forge**, where you set your players on fire, and form them into a razor sharp blade***, a weapon of destruction you will use to cut through the NFL.
*He really isn't. Or if he is, he's the highest paid blacksmith in the world, probably.
**And by 'forge', I mean swamp-assy 1-AA college football practice field, where players and plays will be hyper-overanalyzed for the next couple weeks.
***So hope that metaphor is the most accurate one I ever write. Emphasis on 'metaphor'.
Because you are Zim Tzu: First Of His Name, High Septon Of Mankato, Lord Of The Iron Range And Twin Cities, Usurper Of The Green, Disembowler of Giants, He Who Makes Bears Extinct, Grounder Of The Falcon, Vanquisher of the Raider Tribe, Hunter of the Ram, Eradicator Of Lions, Conqueror Of Chiefs, Controller Of Electricity, and Warden Of The North.
So when you take to the podium, your words must strike like a sledgehammer*, and turn that raw steel into a merciless killing machine.**
*Still using metaphors. Words are not, in fact, sledgehammers. Sledgehammers are actual sledgehammers, and really hurt if you get hit in the face. So don't do that.
**'By merciless killing machine', I mean 'team that wins a lot of football games'. But if Alex Boone wants to punch Clay Matthews in the face, I'm down with that. With a sledgehammer*
*51% of me would SO NOT condone that. 49% of me SO WOULD condone that...
So there's no bullshitting around when you speak, and that's where we come in.* Because Mike can't say what he really means** we interpret it for you, take his words, and add the hidden message behind what he's saying.***
* We really have nothing to do with any official team activities. At all. And after articles like these, I'm quite certain we probably never will. And by 'we', I mean 'me'.
**Mike Zimmer can do what he wants when he wants, because Mike ZImmer is a bad ass human being.
***And by 'hidden message', we mean 'just make stupid shit up that has no meaning to what was said in a crass attempt to get you to laugh.'
As always, what Zim Tzu says in real live press conferences will be presented in block quotes, and the hidden meaning immediately follows.*
*Seriously, no hidden meaning. Just me, making jokes. Not real. At all.
Q: How good is it to see your two interior defensive linemen back out there and healthy and ready to go?
What Zim Tzu said: It's nice. Those two guys are good guys, good players. They've really hard to get back and ready. I think Linval (Joseph) is really excited about getting going with the season, and so it should be fun. It's nice to have all the players.
What Zim Tzu meant: Meh, I can take it or leave it. LOL DUDE ARE YOU KIDDING ME? When Linval Joseph was out last year, our interior lines got pushed around more than showroom floor furniture. And when I say 'it's going to be fun', I mean 'opposing quarterbacks are going to literally shit themselves when Joseph and Floyd are healthy, and we have Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks crowding the A gaps showing blitz. Literally shit themselves, brosef.
Q: The five guys you had starting on the offensive line today, at least in the walk through, if they do the job, could this be your give, or do you think you're going to still rotate some guys?
What Zim Tzu said: The five guys we have will probably change, No. 1, and No. 2, I've talked about having competition this whole time, and I'm not going to divvy up five guys after a walk through. So, we've still got a lot of time to figure it out, and until we get in pads, I won't make any decisions on anything.
What Zim Tzu meant: Number one, slow your roll there, Edward R Murrow, it's practice one on day one. Number 2, I'm going to put out the five best guys that will keep Teddy from getting killed.
Q: Is there a timetable, though, where you hope to, on offensive line, choose your five guys so they can get game reps together?
What Zim Tzu said: Yes, as soon as possible, but it may be this week, it may be next week. I don't know. It's really about when we've made the decision that this is how we want it to go. We still have some combinations we want to look at. That is not the set line up by any chance or imagination, but yes, to your question, it's as soon as possible.
What Zim Tzu meant: THIS FUCKIN' GUY WITH THE OFFENSIVE LINE QUESTIONS. How about when I'm goddamn good and ready to give you a starting five? Will that work for you? It works for me. Ask me again tomorrow, I double dog dare you.
Q: With all the shuffling parts on offense, offensive line and wide receiver positions, what do you want this group to accomplish these next couple of weeks for you to feel confident where this group is at?
What Zim Tzu said: I gave them all a list of things that I wanted to work on in this camp. Things we need to get better at, things we need to do. I think we have a decent amount of talent here and I want to be able to use that talent. I don't want to have some guy that can help us standing on the sideline. The more we can get everybody involved and try to figure out different ways of how we can use these players, in other words, if I've got a real good blitzer I'm going to blitz, so if I've got a guy that can do some things, I want to use him the best we possibly can, and that goes throughout, whether that be tight ends, receivers, running backs, (Jerick) McKinnon maybe an extra lineman as a tight end, so I'm going to try and do as much of that as I can. I think it's important that all the guys we have on the team feel like they have an opportunity to compete and go out and play. They bust their rear ends each week and I want to be able to reward them, as long as it helps us win.
What Zim Tzu meant: Not suck. Score touchdowns.
Q: With T.J. Clemmings, do you want to see him on the right side competing for that job or do you want to see him as a swing tackle?
What Zim Tzu said: We're going to move him on both sides. It's really left and right to be honest with you.
What Zim Tzu meant: Yeah, we're gonna move T.J. from the left to the right so often we're gonna call him Donald Clinton. Or Hillary Trump. Yeah, Hillary Trump.
Q: You hear a lot about Teddy wanting to take the next step, if you guys make that kick last year, would there be a different perception of him?
What Zim Tzu said: I don't know. I don't really worry about the perception too much and what it is. I'm glad he's my guy. Each week we set up a way of how to try to win that particular game, and he executes it to the best of his ability. There's guys out there that throw the ball all over the place and then in the fourth quarter they throw an interception and lose the ball game, and he doesn't do those things. He does the things we're asking him to do to continue to win and I do believe that you're going to continue to see another jump for him. We have to play a certain way in order to win games, and I'm not going to apologize for doing that. Teddy is going to be an extremely good player. He's got too many other things going for him. I hear about the deep balls, and I hear all these things, and we're going to keep working on them, but the most important thing is to move the sticks, convert on third downs, score touchdowns in the red zone and make good decisions. Decision making is as big a thing with the quarterback position that there is.
What Zim Tzu meant: Step...kick...I fuckin' see what you did, don't think I didn't. Also, no, there wouldn't. But there would be for Blair Walsh, AMIRITE? Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuucccccccccccccck why did you bring up that play again?
Q: Along those lines a little bit, you aren't the underdog anymore. You're the defending division champions. Teams are gunning for you. How does that change things for you, and what do you tell the players in that regard?
What Zim Tzu said: We're gunning for them. It's all about perception and expectations, and I've talked to the team about that, too. It doesn't really matter whether they're gunning for us or we're gunning for them. If we play better than they do on Sunday, we're going to win. That's really what it's all about, and I'm not going to apologize for winning the division last year, either. We're just going to go out and we're going to try to get better each week and try to be good.
What Zim Tzu meant: Giddy up, we're comin'. And we're gonna kick your ass. Again.
Q: As a veteran with about 15 years of experience, what does Shaun Hill bring to your roster?
What Zim Tzu said: He has seen a lot of things. For instance, there's was a two minute drill in the last year in the spring or something like that, and we were talking and we didn't have any timeouts left. He said, ‘Do you want an incompletion, or should I take a sack in this situation?' I don't remember exactly what it was. Things like that make me think, too. He has seen so many things. He catches on quick, he understands the offense and he's a good guy.
What Zim Tzu meant: He brings to our roster 15 years of miracles and disappointment. I mean, it's a miracle a guy that looked that bad last year is still with us, but if you need a guy that is a champion at taking a sack or throwing a really bad incomplete pass, for the life of me I can't think of anyone I'd rather go into battle with than Shaun Hill.
Q: What was your initial reaction when you heard of Taylor Heinicke's injury?
What Zim Tzu said: ‘Darn it.' Something like that.
What Zim Tzu meant: Darn it. Something like that.
Q: Along those lines, Joel Stave, what have you seen that you like about him, and describe the opportunity he has now, getting more reps, obviously?
What Zim Tzu said: Yeah, he'll get some more reps. He throws the ball good. He's still learning. You got to see when people are around him. You got to see how fast he thinks. Like I was saying with Teddy (Bridgewater), it's all the same thing. But he throws the ball good. He has got a nice arm. He's a good athlete, got good size.
What Zim Tzu meant: Nothing. Joel kinda sucks. And by kinda sucks I mean we could give him all the reps, and he might get to shitty. He'll look good in Green and Gold next year.
Q: Any desire to bring in another quarterback?
What Zim Tzu said: I don't know; we'll see. I don't know. At this particular time today, we've talked about these things but no, not today. I don't know if a week from now we change our minds or something, but this time, no.
What Zim Tzu meant: Oh fuck yeah we are. I mean behind Teddy i have 14 years of disappointment, followed by a guy who got his ass kicked by his own apartment door, and because of that my current third string quarterback is the Zika virus in shoulder pads. Seriously, this backup plan is coming together about as well as the Rio Olympics, and if I'm not careful and Teddy gets hurt, this team will be treading water in literal shit. Deuces, I gotta go get Nick Foles' agent on the line.