MINNEAPOLIS - There was plenty of time for Mike Zimmer and Minnesota Vikings players to do their own self-evaluations on a 1-5 start as they spent last week on their bye.
Zimmer also was reminded of the business side of the NFL, with Yannick Ngakoue being traded to the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for a third round pick and a conditional pick. The Vikings sent a second round pick in late August to Jacksonville for Ngakoue after Everson Griffen’s departure, and injury concerns with Danielle Hunter, who is now likely out for the season.
Ngakoue played just six games in Minnesota, and led the defense with five sacks. General Manager Rick Spielman said last week the move was both with the short-term and long-term goals of the Vikings in mind.
The Vikings' defense entered the season with several starters to replace from last season. Now Hunter and Anthony Barr are lost for the season, and Mike Hughes, Kris Boyd and Holton Hill are all dealing with injuries.
“We felt like this time was the best time from the organization overall, and we’ve lost a few good players this year. That part of it just is what it is, whether it be an injury or suspension or whatever,” Zimmer said Monday. “We just go out there and try and fight like crazy and try and get these guys better every day.”
The NFL trade deadline is Nov. 3, also Election Day. The Vikings may not be done making moves, with a shot at the playoffs all but over. Names that have come up as trade possibilities include Riley Reiff, Kyle Rudolph, Adam Thielen, Anthony Harris and even Harrison Smith.
Zimmer said Monday he’s in regular communication with assistant GM George Paton, Spielman and Rob Brzezinski, the team’s executive vice president of football operations, about the roster.
“We’re not looking to 2021. What we’re looking to do is what is the best thing for our football team this year and moving forward? It’s not necessarily ‘Ok we’re going to trade this guy, we want to do this,’ it doesn’t ever work that way,” Zimmer said. “It’s all about how do you see this thing? Where are we at here? Moving forward can this person help us? Can this person not help us? Then you kind of go from there.”
The reality for the Vikings is they’re last in the NFC North at 1-5, and currently have about a four percent chance to make the playoffs.
Thielen is a veteran in the Vikings’ locker room, and says trades are a part of life when you’re struggling to win games.
“You know it’s a business, you know things like that are going to happen throughout a season, especially with the start that we had. At the end of the day, we trust that the guys upstairs, on this coaching staff and that are involved in that are doing what’s best to help this team win games,” Thielen said.
Thielen insists the players are showing up to TCO Performance Center are showing up with the right mindset. They’re focused on having good practices, staying healthy and trying to find a way to win games and fight their way back into the playoff conversation.
The Vikings head to Green Bay this Sunday, then host the Detroit Lions and have their annual Soldier Field showdown against the Chicago Bears. That three-game stretch essentially determines their fate for the 2020 season, but there could be trades before that happens.
“We believe it in the locker room. We want to win games and we have a bunch of guys in this locker room that are doing everything they can to help this team win and are competitive and want it badly and worked their tail off through a crazy off-season. We believe in this locker room that everybody is in it to win it,” Thielen said.
“For me to sit here and say that we’re going to look at three games and then make a decision on what’s going on is really not, we’ve got too many competitive guys in this locker room and too many competitive coaches to say if we don’t win these three games, then we’re going to do whatever. Let’s just focus on Green Bay right now,” Zimmer said.
While they’re saying the right things, what the Vikings do between now and Nov. 3 will be telling.