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Zimmer looks to notch first win

MINNEAPOLIS -- After the Vikings won their preseason opener, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd scoffed when it was suggested first-year coach Mike Zimmer might get a game ball.

Coach Zimmer
Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer walks off the field after defeating the Tennessee Titans 19-3 at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS - After the Vikings won their preseason opener, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd scoffed when it was suggested first-year coach Mike Zimmer might get a game ball.
“It doesn’t count right now,” said Floyd.
When it does, Floyd added, Zimmer will receive a game ball for his first NFL head coaching victory.
Now it counts.
Zimmer will serve as a head coach for the first time at any level in a game that matters in Sunday’s regular-season opener at St. Louis, and the Vikings want to get their coach that game ball immediately.
“That’s the plan,” fullback Jerome Felton said.
Zimmer admitted he was a “little nervous” before his first preseason game, a 10-6 win over Oakland on Aug. 8 at TCF Bank Stadium. When he steps on the field Sunday, may he again have some jitters?
“I was nervous every game as a defensive coordinator, so I’m sure that won’t change,” said Zimmer, an NFL assistant the previous 20 years.
What might have changed a bit recently, though, are expectations. The Vikings went 4-0 in exhibition games, outscoring foes 89-49 with star running back Adrian Peterson sitting out precautionary reasons.
True, it was the preseason; but this is a team some prognosticators have picked to win just four games the entire regular season.
“We did play pretty well in the preseason, and guys really made a lot of plays in the preseason,” Felton said. “The quarterbacks played well. I’m sure there will be some raised expectations.”
Zimmer doesn’t necessarily agree; he already had high hopes for his team.
“I think we’ve gained confidence in the techniques that we’re teaching, and maybe the coaches and what we’re going (to do) offensively and defensively,” Zimmer said. “But if our expectations weren’t very high to begin with, then we probably wouldn’t be a very good football team anyway.”
Zimmer hasn’t projected any win totals or offered any playoff boasts, but he is letting Vikings fans know they should enjoy this season.
“I think the fans are going to like watching this team,” Zimmer said. “I think they are going to like watching the things we do offensively, and hopefully we will do some good things on defense, too.”
There wasn’t a lot for fans to like last year. The Vikings were out of the playoff race early, starting 1-7 before finishing 5-10-1. It didn’t take long for the real intrigue to take start taking place off the field. Among the sideshows: a three-man quarterback controversey, the signing (and one start) of Tampa castoff Josh Freeman and season-ending injuries for Peterson.
With all the negativity in 2013, it certainly didn’t hurt that Minnesota had an undefeated 2014 preseason for the seventh time in its 54-year history. If it means anything, the Vikings won their opener after four of the previous six undefeated preseasons.
“When it’s time to go out there against the St. Louis Rams, we got to put it all together like we did in the previous four preseason games,” said defensive end Everson Griffen. “We’ve just got to carry it over.”
If the Vikings can do that, a game ball will be waiting for Zimmer.
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with the Forum News Service

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