- Associated Press - Thursday, July 28, 2016

MANKATO, Minn. (AP) - The Minnesota Vikings trickled into the residence hall for their two-week training camp stay, toting the usual duffel bags, electronic gadgets and mattress pads.

Coach Mike Zimmer came with a contract extension.

The Vikings announced Thursday they’ve added to Zimmer’s deal, rewarding their revered coach well before his contract status ever became a headline and further galvanizing an organization already buzzing with anticipation of the season and the future.

General manager Rick Spielman declined to disclose the terms of the deal, revealed when the Vikings reported to Minnesota State University, but Zimmer’s original contract was not close to expiring. Zimmer even said he saw no rush to address it, entering his third season on the job.

“They really didn’t have to. There was nothing that was pushing this deal,” Zimmer said. “But I feel very, very fortunate to be the coach of the Vikings. It’s a great organization, a lot of great people.”

Talks took place over the past month between Spielman and Zimmer’s agent, Marvin Demoff.

“Our ownership, myself, the entire organization felt very strongly about getting something done with coach Zimmer,” Spielman said.

“We have so much excitement building up with the new facility, the new practice facility, and I know how strongly we feel about coach Zimmer in leading this football team in the future.”

The ribbon has been cut at U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis. Next week, they’ll break ground on new suburban headquarters. Coming off an 11-5 regular-season finish that earned them the NFC North title, the team has plenty of momentum. Now the power structure has even more stability.

“I can tell you, in my 26 years in the NFL, I have not had the experience and the cohesiveness with a head coach as I do with coach Zimmer,” Spielman said.

Zimmer, a long-time defensive coordinator for Dallas and Cincinnati who got his first opportunity to be a head coach with Minnesota at age 57.

He’s 18-14, with one loss in the playoffs. Only Dennis Green, with 20, had more wins in his first two seasons as coach of the Vikings.

“I don’t want to oversimplify it because I think he’s done a lot of things,” safety Harrison Smith said, finally settling on a favorite: “Really, just the get-it-done attitude. There’s no excuses for anything. It’s either you got it done or you didn’t get it done, and guys really enjoy that. Because it’s just straightforward, and you know where you stand, and that allows you to get better.”

Both sons of football coaches, Spielman and Zimmer have been in step from the beginning. Spielman is the boss, but Zimmer said they’ve hardly had any disagreements about decisions regarding the roster.

“We’re kind of like the odd couple. He’s messy, and I’m the clean one,” Zimmer said, before his tone turned serious. “It’s been a real good relationship, and I’m looking forward to more.”

Zimmer is the kind of coach who can keep a team carrying high expectations appropriately grounded. Supplementing his own brand of defiance, fueled by all those head coach positions he interviewed for but didn’t get, Zimmer has rarely missed an opportunity to prod his players by slapping the doubt card down on the table.

Deep passing and the kicking game are the biggest questions surrounding this team, not the danger of complacency.

“When you have a lot of good people, guys who work hard, all the things that I’ve been saying about this team, I think it’s easy,” Zimmer said.

Throughout his first two seasons, Zimmer often said half-jokingly in response to queries about the future that he wasn’t sure whether he’d be around for it. He once dismissed a question from a team official about the color of the wood in the new stadium locker room: “I said, ‘Heck, I don’t know if I’m going to be here for the new stadium.’”

Here he is, with the Aug. 28 exhibition opener against San Diego a month away.

“That’s what pushes me, that someone else can come and take my job or we don’t play as good as we can play or proving people wrong,” the 60-year-old Zimmer said. “That’s just my mentality.”



AP NFL website: https://www.pro32.ap.org and AP NFL Twitter feed: https://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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