Quarantined on 160 acres in Walton, Ky., Vikings co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Adam Zimmer can hit golf balls onto one of four greens, go fishing or skeet shooting, relax in a hot tub or cook ribs in the BBQ smoker.
It’s a posh setup, but everything isn’t glamorous: Zimmer’s boss works upstairs, and brusque requests for IT help are only a text message away.
“Number one, he can help me get all this stuff organized. If I can’t get it figured out, I can text him and say, ‘Come up here and fix this,’ ” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Wednesday on a video conference with reporters. “But like at night, after dinner or something, we’ll sit down and have some crazy idea and we’ll say, ‘OK, we can talk about it tomorrow with the rest of the defensive coaches.’ It’s been good.”
The NFL’s move to conduct a virtual offseason program in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic has meant extra family time for Zimmer, who is sheltered at his ranch with two of his three children. The fact that one of them — his son Adam — helps coordinate the Vikings’ defense means father/son time at home can double as a business meeting.
“It reminds me, honestly, of college when we had five defensive starters graduate and you’ve got young guys come in and you’ve got redshirt freshmen and you’ve got to get them ready to play.”
“Today, I woke up, I got a skid steer [loader], I went in the back, and did some work way back there,” Mike Zimmer said. “Then I came back, we had a defensive staff meeting, offensive meetings with the players, and then I took a break, that was this afternoon after the defensive meetings.
“I got on the tractor and got the fields ready to plant and then I came up here for a defensive staff meeting. And then in the evenings we just kind of hang out, build a fire, get takeout. Adam loves smoking stuff on the smoker. He’ll go jump in the hot tub, and I’ll watch some “Chicago P.D.” or something.”
It’s an unexpected perk of an unpredictable offseason, but at whatever point the Zimmers are able to resume in-person work with a defense that will have four new starters in 2020, they’ll take all the time they can get.
The Vikings are making the best of their virtual offseason program through video conferences and position-specific workout drills for players to perform on their own, but the adaptations can only provide a facsimile of the real thing.
“We can talk to them about getting lined up, being in the right formation, plays and all that, running the right route,” Zimmer said. “But having the timing with [quarterback] Kirk [Cousins], hearing the cadence and all those different things when you get ready to play, snap the ball, defensively it’s a lot about reactions. If you’re by yourself, it’s kind of hard to play a block when you’re not being blocked, you don’t have somebody in front of you. I would say there’s difficulties in every position.”
The NFL’s virtual offseason program was scheduled to end May 15, but the league reportedly extended it through the end of May on Wednesday. Whenever the Vikings are able to return to work, Zimmer said, they’ll be helped by the fact they have plenty of veterans on offense. It will be on defense where they’ll face a new challenge after decisions to move on from players such as Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Linval Joseph, Everson Griffen and Mackensie Alexander.
“It reminds me, honestly, of college when we had five defensive starters graduate and you’ve got young guys come in and you’ve got redshirt freshmen and you’ve got to get them ready to play,” Zimmer said.
“That part kind of energizes us as coaches as far as, ‘OK, let’s figure out what this guy can do, how fast he can do it, and then how can we teach him the best way to be prepared to get out there and play?’ ”
Many players have gyms in their houses, Zimmer said, and the league agreed to a deal with the NFL Players Association where teams can give players $1,500 stipends for home workout equipment.
Mark Uyeyama, the team’s director of competition development, designed workouts for each position group and gets plenty of video of players doing everything from lifting weights to punching speed bags or pushing cars.
The Vikings, Zimmer said, are “planning on the season being normal as best we can,” though he conceded no one knows if things will start on time.
“I’m not really concerned about if they gave us five weeks or three weeks,” he said. “Whatever it is, we will figure out how best to utilize those particular weeks. It’s fortunate for us because we have a lot of veterans offensively.
“I’ll be more concerned about working with the technique of each and every player when they get here. That might take three weeks — who knows? Each player is a little bit different. That will be the biggest factor. You can’t just roll out the ball and play. You can’t just say, ‘Here’s your playbook; now you go out there.’ It doesn’t work like that. They know what to do, but they don’t know how to do it.”