EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) Mike Zimmer gathered his Minnesota Vikings players on Thursday morning before what was scheduled to be the last mandatory minicamp practice before everyone takes the next month off.
When the no-nonsense Zimmer told them he was canceling the final day of work, a quizzical look washed over their faces.
''They didn't believe me at first,'' Zimmer said. ''A bunch of them said, `Did he say go practice or no practice?'
''So they sat up there for a little while. They weren't sure and felt like it was a joke or a trick, but I felt like I've seen what I needed to see.''
The Vikings concluded their three-day practice session with a cookout at the team headquarters. They will enter training camp in August coming off an NFC North championship and with expectations to take another step in 2016 as they open a shiny new stadium.
''I just like the way this team works. I told them that today that I appreciate the way they go about their business,'' Zimmer said. ''They're dedicated to being a good football team.''
After five weeks of rest and recuperation, the team will report to training camp in Mankato, Minnesota on July 28 and practice for the first time the next day. They also have scheduled two days of joint practices with the Cincinnati Bengals on Aug. 10-11 leading into their preseason opener at Cincinnati on Aug. 12.
Zimmer was the defensive coordinator in Cincinnati from 2008-2013 before being hired to coach the Vikings. He remains close with Bengals coach Marvin Lewis and said he still has a good feel for the team's roster, which includes many holdovers from his time there.
''Marvin and I have a great relationship. We talk a lot,'' Zimmer said. ''The players there, I have a lot of respect for them and I believe they have respect for me. So I think we'll be able to practice the right way.''
Joint practices are often ripe for conflicts between teams, especially late in training camp after they have tired of hitting their teammates for two weeks. But Zimmer said he doesn't worry about any fights with the Bengals players.
''There won't be any issues that way because they know I'll still get after them, too,'' he said with a grin.
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