The Minnesota Vikings were seen as an up-and-coming team last season, but things went south after Teddy Bridewater suffered a catastrophic knee injury in training camp, forcing a last-minute deal for Sam Bradford and an 8-8 season.
Bridgewater is reportedly on track to play this year, but this offseason just saw the Vikings lose another component of the organization at an odd time. This time it’s not a player, but it’s still an integral part of the team: strength and conditioning coach Brent Salazar. Moreover, the Vikings aren’t losing Salazar to another NFL team, or even a college program. They’re not losing him to football at all; rather, he’s heading to the United States Tennis Association.
Brent Salazar has left the organization to take a job with the U.S. Tennis Association, as ESPN’s Field Yates reported on Monday morning. Salazar, who had joined the Vikings before the 2016 season, had replaced Evan Marcus following a rash of pectoral injuries during Marcus’ two seasons with the team.
Assistant strength and conditioning coaches Derik Keyes and Chaz Mahle remain with the team, but the Vikings need their third head strength and conditioning coach in four seasons under head coach Mike Zimmer.
Salazar had come to the Vikings after nine years as the Kansas City Chiefs’ assistant strength and conditioning coach. He played tennis at the University of New Mexico from 1998-2003 before taking a strength and conditioning internship with the Denver Broncos.
The offseason is a key time for a strength coach, as players spend time rehabbing and preparing for the upcoming year. Plus, rookies and other young players continue to build up strength and adjust to a professional conditioning regime, which can be difficult. Salazar’s departure leaves the Vikings scrambling yet again, a pattern under coach Mike Zimmer. These could all be coincidental, of course; maybe Salazar just always loved tennis more.
But it’s also possible that this position is now the NFL’s Defense Against the Dark Arts job. (It needs a new one in the wake of Jay Cutler’s retirement.)