Plenty of veterans are expected to be on hand when the Vikings on Monday begin full-squad voluntary on-field offseason workouts.
Vikings players released a statement April 19 saying “many of us” will skip such workouts this spring due to the coronavirus pandemic, but wide receiver Justin Jefferson said last Tuesday that “most of the guys are attending.” On Saturday, Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer offered further indication that will be the case.
“It’s voluntary, so if guys don’t show up, they don’t show up, but I don’t think that’s going to be the case,’’ Zimmer said. “The communication that I’ve had and heard through the guys, I think they like being here and they like being around each other, they like coming to work and trying to get better. If they don’t show up, we’ll coach the guys that are here,’’
The Vikings on Saturday at the TCO Performance Center held the second day of a three-day rookie minicamp that will conclude Sunday.
The NFL is now allowing vaccinated individuals to not have to wear masks at team facilities. That has been welcome news to Zimmer.
“Most of our guys have been vaccinated,’’ Zimmer said. “I think there’s a few of them that have had the second dose but it hasn’t been 14 days, but it’s been great. You come in there, you can actually talk to people.’’
Zimmer said “a couple of our coaches have to wear masks,’’ but Zimmer isn’t wearing one now, and he said that has greatly helped communication.
“Obviously we’re just trying to keep everybody safe and healthy,’’ Zimmer said. “I’m not going to get into the politics, but I think this country is ready to get rid of these masks.:
Zimmer on Saturday rolled out his favorite line about cornerbacks.
“As far as our corner depth, honestly you guys laugh at me, but you can never have too many good corners,’’ Zimmer said. “They just get hurt.”
Nevertheless, the Vikings at least felt good enough about their cornerback depth to have Thursday traded Mike Hughes to Kansas City. After being taken with the No. 30 pick in 2018, Hughes played in just 24 of 48 possible games in his first three seasons.
“Mike is a terrific kid, but he’s been injured an awful lot,’’ Zimmer said. “With the way everything is now, we were fortunate to get a couple corners last year in the draft, we signed Patrick Peterson in free agency, so I think that gave us an opportunity to make the trade.”
The Vikings signed Peterson and cornerback Mackensie Alexander in March. In 2020, they drafted cornerbacks Jeff Gladney, Cameron Dantzler and Harrison Hand. Gladney was arrested April 5 in Dallas on a charge of third-degree felony family violence assault from an alleged incident on April 2 involving a woman.
“We’re just letting it all play out,’’ Zimmer said of Gladney’s situation. “I really can’t say what I know, so I’ll just leave it at that.”
- On rookie Kellen Mond, Zimmer said, “We brought him in here as a talented, athletic quarterback and I just want him to be himself.’’ Zimmer stressed, though, that there is plenty he can learn from starter Kirk Cousins, including “the way he handles the games” and how “he goes about his business in the classroom.”
- Third-round pick Wyatt Davis at the minicamp is playing right guard, his position at Ohio State, but Zimmer stressed “it’s still very early” in the process. “That won’t be the last place he lines up in (spring drills),’’ he said.
- The Vikings will have position battles at kicker, punter, long snapper and in the return game. “We have to improve a lot of special teams,’’ Zimmer said. “We’re weren’t very good last year.’’
- Zimmer was “sorry to hear about the passing” of Jerry Burns, the former Minnesota coach who died Wednesday at age 94. Zimmer called Burns “a good friend and a good coach.’’ Zimmer said Burns was “the only guy who has worse language than me,” and said he once showed his players a famous clip of Burns swearing plenty after a 1989 game.