MANKATO, Minn. -- On their last day at training camp last year, the Minnesota Vikings had practice halted early with a punitive lap around the field for the players after coach Mike Zimmer was angered by a lack of effort and focus.
This time, the final workout on campus at Minnesota State University wrapped up about an hour ahead of schedule following a fight between linemen and prior to the arrival of a severe thunderstorm.
Hey, that's progress.
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"There are always a lot more things you want to do, but I think we hit all the situations that we need to hit," Zimmer said. "It's nice having a veteran team."
The collective age of the roster is still on the young side, even by NFL standards, but Zimmer was referring more to the benefit of this being the third season under the guidance of him and his staff. The assignments, concepts and techniques on both sides of the ball are coming along much more efficiently and naturally than before.
Emboldened by their hold on the NFC North title but bothered by the one-point loss to Seattle at home in the playoffs, the Vikings have spoken often this year of the strength of their chemistry, the tussle on Tuesday between nose tackle Linval Joseph and right guard Brandon Fusco notwithstanding.
The hunger to advance further in the postseason has been palpable around the team, with the extra excitement of opening a new stadium.
"These guys, man, they're hard workers. Each and every individual," said linebacker Emmanuel Lamur, who signed with the Vikings this year.
"Most of the veterans, the guys that played 10 years in the league here, they're still busting their butt. They don't take days off. That says a lot about their character and just about their integrity. It motivates the younger guys to push as hard."
Zimmer was in a grumpier mood on Monday, even pulling a folded piece of paper out of his pocket to cite the list of transgressions his players committed, a sign of his demanding nature and of the reality that there's still a long way to go for the Vikings to reach the elite of the league.
"We fumbled the snaps. We jumped offside. Receivers jumped offside. We had a hurt guy who didn't come to treatment. A running back went the wrong way twice. We screwed up a fourth-and-20. What else do you want to know?" Zimmer said after that unsatisfactory practice, during which he ordered the entire team to drop for 10 push-ups.
There were eight players not participating Tuesday, beyond those (tight end Rhett Ellison, right guard Mike Harris and quarterback Taylor Heinicke) who have been unable to practice at all since camp began: defensive tackles Scott Crichton and Sharrif Floyd, left tackle Matt Kalil, middle linebacker Eric Kendricks, cornerback Terence Newman, outside linebackers Edmond Robinson and Brandon Watts and wide receiver Jarius Wright.
The Vikings haven't revealed the nature of any of their injuries, but Kalil had a sleeve on his left knee and Newman wore a wrap on his right ankle. Zimmer declined to speculate about whether any of them would take part in the joint practices with Cincinnati on Wednesday and Thursday or the exhibition game on Friday against the Bengals.
One player who has been healthy is center John Sullivan, who has returned from the back injury that kept him out of the entire 2015 season.
While Andre Smith has put himself in position to be the right tackle, Sullivan remains in a competition with Joe Berger for the other open starting spot on an improved offensive line. Zimmer said he's eager to see Sullivan block stalwart nose tackle Domata Peko, who has started his 11th season with the Bengals.
"Everybody has good days and bad days," Zimmer said. "That's why it'll be a good test."
With that, the Vikings were on to Cincinnati.