ST. PAUL — Mike Zimmer considers himself fortunate during these trying times.
Not only does the 63-year-old Vikings coach get to sequester across 160 acres at his Kentucky ranch, he gets to do so with a couple of his kids, including 36-year-old son Adam, who also happens to be his co-defensive coordinator.
That’s made strategy sessions fairly easy as both coaches try to prepare the Vikings for next season amid a sea of unknowns. Zimmer conducts his business from upstairs, his son does his thing downstairs.
“It’s been good,” Zimmer said Wednesday. “He can help me get (virtual meetings) organized, and if I can’t get it figured out, I can text him and say, ‘Come up here and fix this.’ Then 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.’”
That type of communication could prove key for the Vikings, who like every NFL team are trying to navigate a virtual offseason for the first time. A coach can only do so much without in-person instruction.
“I’ll be more concerned about working with the technique of each and every player when they get back,” Zimmer said. “That will be the biggest factor. You can’t just roll out the ball and play. You can’t just say, ‘Here’s the playbook. Now go out there.’ It doesn’t work like that. They know what to do, but they don’t know how to do it.”
Still, Zimmer isn’t fretting about what to expect when he returns to TCO Performance Center in Eagan. Right now he’s trying to soak up as much quality time as he can with his son. They recently built a small golf course that both make good use of, and they spend time together every night.
“We just kind of hang out,” Zimmer said. “We might build a fire or get takeout. He loves smoking stuff on the smoker. Or he’ll go jump in the hot tub and I’ll watch some ‘Chicago PD’ or something.”
While the Vikings have conducted joint practices with another NFL team twice during Zimmer’s tenure, it’s unclear whether they will do so again this offseason. His hesitation is rooted in the fact that it will already be a condensed offseason.
But he confirmed that a couple of teams reached out to him before the coronavirus pandemic started to spread across the country.
“If it gets down to it, I can see there might be depending on how much time we have during training camp and before the games,” Zimmer said. “I can possibly see having a one-day practice against a team. I don’t know I’d want to spend two days or three days when we’re trying to get our football team ready to play.”
It’s no secret that Zimmer loves his cornerbacks, and after the departure of Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackenzie Alexander this offseason, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Vikings targeted potential replacements during the draft.
Now the biggest hurdle for rookies Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler is the lack of in-person instruction. As attentive as they’ve been in the virtual meetings, Zimmer said, the real test will come when they get on the field.
“I think these guys are talented guys,” the coach said. “You have to have some guys who can cover.”