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Zimmer eager to turn Vikings around

By Carlos "Big C" Holmes
INDIANAPOLIS — Former Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer had to wait what seemed like an eternity for his opportunity to become a head coach in the NFL. The Minnesota Vikings put an end to the wait last month when they hired the 20-year coordinator to lead their team.

During an interview at the scouting combine the well-respected coach started by expressing his gratitude for the city and team he left behind.

“I’m going to miss the fans a lot,” Zimmer said. “They treated me with great respect and I think they were proud of the way we played defense. I’m obviously going to miss Marvin (Lewis) and interacting with the players. They were instrumental in everything that has happened for me. The people in the organization were outstanding.”

Zimmer was instrumental in turning around an undisciplined and underachieving Bengals defense when he arrived in Cincinnati in 2008. He is expected to mimic the approach he took in Cincinnati in order to transform Minnesota’s 31 st -ranked defense.

“I want to get the players out on the practice field and get a feel for how they are and interact,” Zimmer said. “Then try to figure out where we go from that point. My expectations are always very high and I plan to raise the level of expectation with our team.

“When I first came to Cincinnati they didn’t have the reputation they have now, so to accomplish the things we did was extremely important. We hope to duplicate that in Minnesota.”

The Vikings defense was the gift that kept giving last season allowing the most points in the league.

Zimmer should bring a physical toughness and an intense atmosphere to the team on the field and in the locker room. There are some players on Cincinnati’s defense who would have thrown themselves in front of a moving bus to make plays for no-nonsense Coach Zim. They respected him that much.

Of course, creating the same type of environment up north would be beneficial, but Zimmer won’t push it. That’s something that should come naturally.

“You always want that to happen, but that’s not my goal to do those things,” he said. “My goal is to try and make them better football players each and every day. Hopefully, I can do that with my current players. It’s nice to see that the players have that kind of respect for me.”

That being said, it will be no surprise to see Minnesota pursue some of Zim’s protégés such as soon to be free agent defensive end Michael Johnson. When asked if he would look at some former Bengals to fill areas of need, he played it close to the vest.

“We’re going to take a look at the entire free-agent market,” Zimmer said. “Obviously, I have a little more knowledge of the guys in Cincinnati, but at the end of the day we’re looking for good players. We have a few holes on defense we need to fix and want to put the best possible product on the field. I don’t care if it’s a left tackle or defensive end, we want to get the best guy with talent.”