Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowl linebacker Eric Kendricks dropped a bombshell on the epicenter of Monday’s firings of general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer.
Kendricks, touching on his personal relationship with Zimmer, revealed an uncertainty despite years of success that has followed Kendricks as one of the NFL’s premier middle linebackers.
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After a challenging morning that included a team meeting to address the future of the franchise, Kendricks, who was not at the team facility, revealed his relationship with Zimmer was far from perfect.
“I feel like there were some things left out there as far as our relationship,” Kendricks said in a January 10 press conference, later adding, “I don’t think a fear-based organization is the way to go.”
There’s evidence of Zimmer’s abrasive coaching style wearing on players, most notably former rookie kicker Daniel Carlson who was released just two games into the 2018 regular season after Zimmer played head games with the former fifth-round pick.
Kendricks attributed a healthy culture to having success show, saying, “winning games is a huge part of that culture because there’s a lot of stressors involved when you lose games and people’s emotions get tied into things.”
His idea of a healthy culture, framed by his past experience, involves strong communication.
“A culture where communication is put at the forefront. No matter your role on the staff, you having a voice and being able to communicate things that can help facilitate wins,” Kendricks said. “I think just having that voice, no matter how big your role is, is important, to listen up and take each other’s feelings into account. Having a voice and being able to communicate things you think could help facilitate wins,” Kendricks added.
Kendricks’ comment adds to a growing number of reports. CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reported that Zimmer had clashed with several offensive staff over the years. He had six different offensive coordinators in his final six years at the helm.
“Zimmer was nearly let go a few years back, and sources said there was a clear mandate from ownership to be a true contender in 2021; Minnesota got off to a slow start, has erratic results from week to week and never sustained any momentum on either side of the ball,” La Canfora wrote. “Zimmer was under fire for the construction of his staff and has repeatedly clashed with offensive staff over the years.”
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Kendricks Emotional After Barr’s Last Game
The Vikings and Anthony Barr restructured his deal last offseason, which would void the final two years of his contract, allowing the soon-to-be 30-year-old linebacker to reach free agency this offseason.
Barr, a four-time Pro Bowler, struggled with injury over the past two seasons, missing the entire 2021 season and six games in 2021, but had a resurgence in the final seven games of the season — tallying 58 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions.
It’s unclear where Barr will land this offseason, a potential reality that hit Kendricks hard during his press conference. He took a moment to recollect his thoughts and fought through tears to finish his answer.
Here’s a segment of his press conference addressing Barr’s future with the team.
I knew what the situation was. I never really thought about it until very, very recently. It’s been a crazy ride me and AB have had. Shoot. Crazy. I’m still processing it right now.
I think what was really cool this year — last year he was hurt that was upsetting. … He missed a lot. It hurt to see him hurt like that especially all the work he’s put in. The last remainder of the season, he played so strong. He proved he’s an elite player in the league it made me very happy.
Barr left his impression on the Vikings with a game-tilting sack against the Chicago Bears before the Vikings mounted a comeback 31-17 victory on Sunday.
Especially yesterday, with how he closed out — that’s my guy,” Kendricks said.