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Vikings coach Mike Zimmer praises new Giants tight end Rhett Ellison

Minnesota Vikings tight end Rhett Ellison scores on

Minnesota Vikings tight end Rhett Ellison scores on a touchdown reception against Oakland Raiders cornerback David Amerson during the first half  in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.  Credit: AP / Beck Diefenbach

PHOENIX — Rhett Ellison’s previous head coach thinks the Giants are getting a very good player.

“Rhett is a great kid, number one,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said on Wednesday at the NFL’s annual meeting in Arizona. “He’s a great competitor. He’s tough. I walked up to him one day during the season last year and I said: ‘Rhett, I want to tell you how much I appreciate how you go about your work, the things you do, the kind of person that you are.’ He’s going to fight and do everything he possibly can to help the team.”

The feeling may not be mutual. Earlier this month Ellison’s father, Riki, who played for the 49ers, was unimpressed with the culture of the Vikings.

“Exodus of their draft picks out of the Minnesota Vikings in free agency — with a new stadium, new facility — statement on toxic leadership,” Riki Ellison said in a since-deleted Tweet after Rhett, a free-agent tight end, signed with the Giants.

Riki Ellison also spoke to the St. Paul Pioneer Press on the record about that sentiment.

“Do think this program is going in the right direction and a Super Bowl contender or are they in a position to be another start-up, starting up from scratch?” he is quoted as asking. “That’s why you see your veterans are leaving because they have to look at the future. They should be able to retain anybody they want… There is something going on, from my perspective. Why would people be leaving a brand-new facility? They got the best facility in the world… That’s just not a normal thing to happen.”

On Wednesday, Zimmer said he spoke with Rhett Ellison about those comments. “It’s kind of water over the dam now,” he said.

Whatever Ellison’s reasons for leaving Minnesota, he’s with the Giants now. And from a football perspective, he should help the team’s blocking both in the running game and in pass protection.

“He can block defensive ends,” Zimmer said of Ellison, a trait that not all tight ends (and not all Giants offensive tackles) can boast. “And he’s a good guy in the locker room. He’s quiet, but he’s a good guy in the locker room.”

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