There's a new NFC North coach in town who disagrees with the idea of going on a team-bonding excursion in lieu of a minicamp practice.
Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer told KFAN on Thursday that he won't forsake one of the three mandatory practice days teams are allowed under the collective bargaining agreement in favor of a non-football event like some other NFL teams, including the Green Bay Packers, have done in recent years.
"Everybody keeps coming up to me and saying 'Hey Coach, do you want to have some team-building? Are we going to have a team building day?'" Zimmer told the Minnesota-based station, via ESPNWisconsin.com. "I said 'No, we're going to work.' I said, 'We've got a lot of work to do. We need to get better. We're not into the team-building thing.'
"In my opinion, you don't get better by playing ping-pong. You get better by winning. And that's how we're going to team-build. We're going to win."
While Zimmer's comments don't appear to be in the same category as the direct shot former Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz took at Packers coach Mike McCarthy in 2012, the Vikings' second-year coach made his opinion clear.
He even doubled-down on the topic during his own news conference Thursday, adding without solicitation: "The thing I like about this team, not only do they work, but they have fun out here. We come out here and work. We could have team-building day and we could go play ping-pong, but we need to work and get better. Team-building by winning."
McCarthy has carried over the notion of team-bonding events from Mike Sherman's tenure as head coach. He cancelled practice on Wednesday to go clay shooting in nearby Little Suamico. The activities vary from year-to-year, but have ranged from dodge ball to bowling.
McCarthy was asked after Thursday's mini-camp practice if the criticisms bug him at all. He claims it doesn't, but agreed with Zimmer on one thing - ping-pong isn't a good team-building exercise.
"I don't think a football team would get better at team-building playing ping-pong. I agree with that," McCarthy said. "I mean, hell, only four guys can play. Football players, maybe only two.
"Hey, everybody goes about building their program and culturally doing things. Our program, we're in Year 10, so we've had a chance to do some things that we feel worked, and we've done some things that we wouldn't do again. I think that's part of growing your culture and growing your program."
The events have become a popular part of the offseason program that players seem to enjoy. McCarthy said the point of Wednesday's clay shooting was intended to give offensive and defensive players a chance to get to know each other on a more personal level. The groups, divided into four or five individuals, traveled from station-to-station in golf carts and ate a catered lunch together.
Packers quarterback Scott Tolzien has been a part of two offseason programs and believes the excursions serve their purpose.
"The thing that's really impressed me in my three years here have been how cohesive the team is and little things like that make a big difference, I think," Tolzien said. "A day like (Wednesday), a team-building event, gives you a chance to get to know someone, especially on the other side of the ball. It's interesting how with a football team, you're with the offense most of the time. With me, I'm with the quarterbacks. So a chance to go hang out with a defensive lineman I've really never gotten to know. It's an example right there, that's a big deal in the long run."
The Packers gave players with at least seven accrued seasons off during Thursday's final practice. That group included quarterback Aaron Rodgers, fullback John Kuhn, linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, guards T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton, receiver Jordy Nelson, and defensive linemen B.J. Raji and Letroy Guion.
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