Vikings coach Mike Zimmer issued a well-planned challenge to his veteran defenders Thursday morning, calling them complacent, lacking in grit equal to the offense and telling them they better regain their competitive swagger in practice.

Asked how he intended to motivate them to do so, he smiled.

“Hope they watch this news conference,” he said after the morning walk-through. “What is it, ‘Hashtag that?’ That’s a new one. ‘Tweet that? Hashtag that?’”

The whole thing started when Zimmer was asked how safety Anthony Harris was looking in camp. Zimmer steered seamlessly into a message for his perennial top-five defensive unit.

“We got to play better on defense than we are right now,” he said. “We need to play a lot better. Our offense has got a lot of grit and fight and I haven’t seen much out of the defense yet. That’s where my main concern is at this point.”

Zimmer said he didn’t think it was a matter of poor attitudes.

“As I’ve told a few of them, they’ve been together for a while now,” Zimmer said. “They think they’re pretty good. So maybe we just go out and practice and not with the intensity level that we need to do or whatever.

“They’re not making mistakes because they’ve been in the same defense for six years now so it’s a little bit of maybe complacency. ‘Hey, we’re in the top five in defense every year and blah, blah, blah.’”

In other words, if you’re heading to practice anytime soon, look for the defense to look a little angrier.

“I just think they need to get more competitive,” Zimmer said. “We need to come out here and compete every day. All the situations, the offense has won every time. So, if they want to be great on defense they got to play with a chip on their shoulder. I haven’t really seen it yet.”

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