MINNEAPOLIS -- Because the Minnesota Vikings -- and the other 31 teams in the NFL -- are limited mostly to strength and conditioning work during the first two weeks of their offseason workout program, it's hard to see many concrete differences at this point between new coach Mike Zimmer's regime and that of former coach Leslie Frazier. Those will become more obvious once Zimmer is able to get on the field with his players, but as the Vikings get back to work, there are a couple of noticeable changes around the team's facility already.
Zimmer had talked at the NFL scouting combine about wanting to build a meeting room big enough for the entire team, with stadium seating that would allow him to meet each player's eye level, rather than the traditional classroom setup the Vikings had before. That was a bit of a logistical challenge in the Vikings' cramped facilities, but operations and facilities director Chad Lundeen directed the effort to build the room, which is now finished in the southwest corner of the Vikings' field house where the team previously only held news conferences. The meeting room is big enough for 115 people, with desks for players to take notes and wi-fi so they can watch film on their iPads. It also includes a projection screen in the front, and is cordoned off from the Vikings' indoor practice field by a set of tall black curtains.
The team's weight room also has a new look, spurred by new strength and conditioning coach Evan Marcus' emphasis on a simpler weight program. The Vikings used to do most of their weight work on machines, but those have been switched out in favor of barbells and lifting platforms. As linebacker Chad Greenway pointed out, the program is more like what players did in college, working together on bench presses and power cleans, and the program as a whole is designed to put more of a focus on explosive movements, which Marcus believes will do a better job of giving players football-specific strength.
"With machines, there’s only so much power you can generate on a machine that’s basically -- you’re isolating a muscle," Marcus said. "We’re trying to do total body movements. A lot more ground-based stuff. Because they play on their feet, we’re doing things that they’re standing up and driving power into the ground."
Marcus, who was the Miami Dolphins' strength and conditioning coach from 2008-10 before spending the past three seasons at the University of Virginia, said he made a simple pitch to the Vikings during his job interview: If you hire me, you can expect your weight program to change from machines to free weights.
"I don’t think I would have been hired (if they didn't buy into that)," he said. "They came out and they knew when I interviewed, this is what we’re about. This is what they’d have to do if I was the guy they chose. To get this done, this is how we were going about doing this. ... We’re going to train dynamic, we’re going to be strong, we’re going to be physical. We’ll have the mindset that we’re going to be aggressive in attacking what we’re doing in the weight room. If this is what sounds good for where you want your program to go, this is going to be a good fit. If not, then you’re going to go in another direction."
By the time players returned to the team facility on April 7 for the start of offseason workouts, they'd already received a letter from Marcus telling them about the changes in the program. The early stages of it, he said, have been about making sure players are using proper technique on lifts they might not have done since college. From there, players can add more weight to their lifts.
"I loved (previous strength coach) Tom Kanavy and his program, what he did here," Greenway said. "I thought he was great for a lot of different reasons. Obviously moving forward with a new staff, a new regime coming in the weight room, its really a mentality, just buying in and just putting this new stuff that we’re doing to work. It’s not new to any of us. It’s just, some of us have done it more recently than others, but it’s a great program. It’s great for power, speed and quickness. Just a little bit different than what we were doing."