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Around the Horns: Mike Zimmer: 'I honestly don't like going against my friends'

Welcome to Around the Horns, our daily look at what's happening on the Vikings beat:

Ten months ago, Mike Zimmer and Jay Gruden were preparing to coach what would turn out to be their final game together with the Cincinnati Bengals, a wild-card loss to the San Diego Chargers that would mark the Bengals' third postseason appearance in as many years with both men serving as coordinators for head coach Marvin Lewis. The Bengals' success had made Zimmer and Gruden two of the league's most sought-after coaching candidates, and the defensive and offensive coordinator would inevitably be linked to some of the same jobs -- including the Minnesota Vikings' opening.

The Washington Redskins hired Gruden before he could make it to an interview with the Vikings, and six days later, Zimmer would be hired as the Vikings' next coach. Now, after three seasons coaching together, they're preparing to face each other on Sunday.

Zimmer spoke warmly of Gruden on Wednesday, downplaying how much value there is in his knowledge of Gruden's system because the coach is "pretty familiar with me as well." And then Zimmer said how little he enjoys reunion games like these.

"I honestly don’t like going against my friends, just because at the end of the day, one of us is going to be upset," Zimmer said. "It is what it is and so I’m sure he’ll have his team ready to play. Hopefully I’ll have mine ready to play."

Zimmer said he and Gruden talked "in passing" about all the different jobs they were pursuing, but added "it wasn't real serious -- just joking around about this or that." In the end, the Redskins hired Gruden to mold Robert Griffin III, while the Vikings brought in Zimmer to fix a defense that gave up more points than any in the league in 2013.

"Jay is a good football coach. Certain places look for certain things -- offensive coaches, defensive coaches, this personality, that personality," Zimmer said. "It really wasn’t about that. I’m sure he tried to do the very best job he could and I tried to do the very best job I could."

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