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Defense Dials It Up; Notes From Monday’s Practice

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 6, 2012 – 5:19 pm

There is a natural ebb and flow to training camp practices – some days the offense is better, some days the defense stands out. The Vikings offense got off to a fast start at 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp and capped off a good first 10 days with a sound showing in Saturday night’s practice.

Come Monday, though, the defense jumped up. After a day off on Sunday, the Vikings returned to the practice fields for their customary morning walk-thru followed by an afternoon practice, working under hot and windy conditions that did nothing to help the offense’s cause.

DE Brian Robison was a standout performer for the defense, providing a steady pass rush off the edge in the base 4-3 defense and then sliding inside on occasion to play DT in the nickel package. Robison teamed up with a fellow lineman twice during a drill versus the offensive linemen to execute an effective stunt. On the first play, Robison lined up on the outside and stunted inside, with Kevin Williams looping outside. The maneuver was enough for Robison to slip inside past a pair of offensive linemen. On the second play, Robison used a similar stunt in tandem with fellow DE D’Aundre Reed to create a pressure.

During the team’s live goal line period, LB Chad Greenway and DT Letroy Guion teamed up to halt the first-team offense on the initial snap, and second-team middle LB Tyrone McKenzie also burst through the line later in the period to make a splash play. McKenzie was another player who stood out during Monday’s practice. He takes care of a leadership role on the Vikings second-team defense and also possesses the athleticism to be a productive linebacker in nickel packages.

LB Marvin Mitchell and S Mistral Raymond each tallied INTs at various points in the practice as well. Mitchell has run with McKenzie at times in the second-team nickel package while Raymond has spent most of his time with the first team and second team at safety.

A few other notes…

Childs has knee surgery Monday
The road to recovery for Greg Childs after he tore the patellar tendon in both knees Saturday night has begun. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said Childs was to undergo surgery on Monday.

“So, we don’t know what the long-term prognosis is, but we are all hoping for the best,” Frazier said. “But our players, it was hard for them, obviously it is hard for Greg and his family. We’re all pulling for him through this situation.”

Gerhart looks good
Toby Gerhart is the Vikings starting RB and Frazier says the third-year pro has looked good so far in camp. Gerhart will likely get the start in Friday’s preseason game at San Francisco, but don’t expect him to get too many carries.

“He’s been looking well,” Frazier said. “He’s practicing well, has great confidence in what we’re doing, what we’re asking of him. He doesn’t seem like a guy who is ready to settle for being a backup running back, which is a good thing.”

Who will handle return duties?
At this point in training camp, charting the guys who are included in the kickoff and punt return rotation is nearly a full-time job. On Monday, I saw WR Stephen Burton, CB Chris Carr, DB Reggie Jones, CB Josh Robinson, CB Marcus Sherels, WR Kerry Taylor, WR Bryan Walters and WR Jarius Wright all take turns in the punt return rotation.

“We are going to make sure that we use the right guys and the guys that we think have the best chance,” Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer said. “If a guy is on the bubble, will he make it (the roster) because he is a good punt returner or kickoff returner? That will be key Friday night (preseason game vs. San Francisco). Hopefully we can make them punt a few times and we’ll go out there and get some reps for our guys.”


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Frazier Says CB Robinson Back Soon, TE Carlson Has Knee Sprain

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 1, 2012 – 11:20 am

The Vikings conducted their customary morning walk-thru on Wednesday at 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp and head coach Leslie Frazier met with reporters afterward to give an update on his team through the first half-week of work. We’ll post the video in on-demand format soon, but until then I’ll go over a few notes I took from the press conference.

– Frazier said the new practice schedule of walk-thrus in the morning and practices in the afternoon is working well for the team so far. In year’s past, the Vikings conducted their practice in the morning and then a walk-thru in the afternoon. But being able to watch the walk-thru prior to practice to learn which mistakes to correct during the padded practice has been an advantage for the team, Frazier explained.

– TE John Carlson injured his knee on Tuesday and Frazier confirmed that the injury is a Grade 2 MCL sprain that will sideline the Minnesota native for 1-2 weeks. The good news on the injury front, though, is that CB Josh Robinson is expected to take a step forward in his recovery from a hamstring injury today. Frazier said that Robinson might begin working out on the side during practice with the training staff.

– Frazier spoke in glowing terms about rookie TE Rhett Ellison. The Vikings selected Ellison in the 5th round and based on early observations it looks like Rick Spielman and Co. found a good deal. Ellison will likely fulfill multiple roles in the Vikings offense and is the kind of player that will remind Vikings fans of Jim Kleinsasser. Frazier said Ellison’s maturity is notable, and he also said that the rookie has great preparation habits, attention to detail and a work ethic you don’t typically see from a first-year player.

– Antoine Winfield looked to be in tip-top form during the offseason program, and that form appears to have carried into training camp. Frazier said that the coaching staff discussed on Tuesday night the fact that Winfield looks “invigorated” on the field and is showing no signs of slowing down. Frazier noted that is very good news on a number of fronts, not the least of which being that Winfield is a good mentor for the team’s young secondary.

– Frazier was asked about S Jamarca Sanford, who started 15 games for the defense last year and is in the middle of a competition for playing time this year. The area of Sanford’s game that the team is looking to improve is his ability to make plays on the ball down the field. Sanford is built compactly and is an excellent tackler, Frazier said, but now the team is looking for an improvement in his pass coverage. Frazier called Sanford one of the NFL’s premier special teams players, and credited his strength, speed and passion for the game as reasons why he excels in that area of the game.

– On Tuesday Vikings Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams spoke about his philosophy of wanting a “hockey lineup” along the defensive line, drawing an analogy to one of Minnesota’s past times in order to illustrate the point that he wants to rotate the defensive line as much as possible to keep players fresh throughout games and the season. Frazier said that he subscribes to his new coordinator’s theory and is pleased with the depth they have along the line.

– Everson Griffen has made the switch from DE to LB in camp, but Frazier noted that there may be certain situations where they ask Griffen to move back to DE. The focus is still on getting Griffen rote at outside LB to improve that position, but the goal is to make the entire defense better and the team can do that by getting Griffen on the field more frequently.

– For the first time in a long time, E.J. Henderson is not playing middle LB for the Vikings. It’s Jasper Brinkley’s job now, and some are concerned about Brinkley’s injury history. Frazier noted that Brinkley has done well so far in camp, has not been to the training room and made a bit hit in practice on Tuesday. “So far, so good,” Frazier said about Brinkley.


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Notes From Friday Walk-Thru And Practice; Solid Start For Offense

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 27, 2012 – 5:19 pm

The first walk-thru and practice of 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp is in the books, as the Vikings conducted their one-hour walk-thru this morning and then worked for roughly two hours and 15 minutes in the afternoon. Coaches and players were available to reporters after both workouts, and Head Coach Leslie Frazier also met with reporters via press conference after the walk-thru.

There are a number of topics to touch on following Friday’s action, so let’s be brief with several topics rather than long-winded with just a few…

Peterson to Active/PUP; Burton, Shuler on NFI
Frazier announced during his press conference that RB Adrian Peterson will begin camp on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, which simply means that he won’t take part in the walk-thrus or practices and will instead work on the side with the training and strength staffs. This is not an unexpected development. The Vikings can remove Peterson from the PUP list at any time. Two other players – WR Stephen Burton (toe) and TE Mickey Shuler (heel) – were both placed on the Active/Non-Football Injury list. Frazier both would be day-to-day because neither injury is considered serious.

Solid first practice for offense
The offense was slow-to-go in their first practice of Organized Team Activities (OTAs), but eventually hit their stride and showed great improvement. It was a much different start for the offense in training camp. For a first practice of camp, Friday’s workout went well for the offense. I saw a number of players make diving catches (John Carlson, Percy Harvin, Jerome Simpson), LB Chad Greenway was as vocal as I’ve heard him, OL coach Jeff Davidson was pleased with the way his offensive line worked during individual drills, etc. QB Christian Ponder told me while walking off the field after practice that Friday’s workout was probably better than any of the OTA practices they held during the offseason. Obviously there’s a ways to go, but Friday was a solid start.

Griffen focusing on LB
There was a lot of talk this offseason about the possibility of Everson Griffen transitioning from DE to LB. The talk is over now because it’s actually happening. Griffen worked with the LBs during Friday’s practice and Frazier said that’s where he wants Griffen to focus his undivided attention.

“He’s an outstanding athlete, was a great special teams player for us a year ago,” Frazier said. “Played in multiple positions for us a year ago at linebacker and then at defensive end. With his athletic ability, we want to try to find a way to get him on the field a little bit more.”

Griffen shed 18 pounds this offseason to get within the team’s ideal range for a player at his position, and Frazier described Griffen as extremely motivated to show what he can do at LB.

Competition at RG
Brandon Fusco opened camp with the first team at RG, an expected development. The position will be one to watch this camp and preseason as the Vikings look to solidify an offensive line that is poised to take a big step forward in 2012. Frazier indicated the competition would include Fusco, Chris DeGeare and Geoff Schwartz, and that ideally the team would name a starter by the third preseason game (at home vs. San Diego).

“We’ll let those guys compete and battle it out,” Frazier said, “and hopefully we’ll be a better team with whichever one ends up winning the job.”

Many competing for punt return duties
Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer said this offseason that he’s pleased with the number of players on the Vikings roster who have the ability to cleanly field kicks. He said he’s been to teams where they struggled to find one player who could consistently do it. This year in Minnesota, Priefer has a bevy of players competing for opportunities. On Friday the following players took turns fielding punts from Chris Kluwe: CB Bobby Felder, DB Reggie Jones, CB Josh Robinson, CB Marcus Sherels, WR Kerry Taylor, CB Nick Taylor, WR Bryan Walters and WR Jarius Wright.

Robinson is fast
Speaking of Robinson, there was a moment early in practice on Friday where he put his quick burst on display. It happened during a special teams period of practice where Robinson was in the rotation to field punts. A punt heading his way got caught up in the wind and tumbled down to the ground well short of where Robinson was positioned. It’s a cardinal sin for punt returners to let the ball hit the ground, and it only compounds the problem when a returner lets the ball hit the ground and then tries to pick it up after more than one bounce. In an effort to not let the ball bounce more than once, Robinson turned on the jets and covered six yards as fast as I’ve ever seen, getting his hands under the ball at the last second before it bounced a second time.

Later in practice, Robinson pulled up with what appeared to be a leg injury of some kind. No word on what kind of injury it is or how serious.


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Roster Rundown: Cornerbacks

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 18, 2012 – 6:38 am

Last week we started our “Roster Rundown” series by taking a look at the wide receivers. Today the series continues with a look at the guys who will guard the wide receivers during training camp – the cornerbacks.

The Vikings ranked 26th in total passing defense (yards allowed) and allowed the most passing TDs in 2011, causing the club to make significant additions and changes to the secondary. Before we get to the new players, though, keep in mind that the secondary will see an immediate boost with the return of Antoine Winfield and Chris Cook. They are the two best CBs on the Vikings roster, and together they played in just 11 games last year. Their return bolsters the Vikings pass defense and sets the stage for other CBs on the roster to fill in the voids.

There are two other returning veterans on the Vikings 2012 training camp roster. Marcus Sherels made last year’s roster as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Minnesota. Aside from carving out a role on the defense, Sherels increased his value by becoming the club’s part-time kickoff returner and full-time punt returner. Brandon Burton, a 5th-round pick from last year, will also return to the club for training camp. Burton played in 10 games with 1 start in 2011.

The Vikings used both the draft and free agency to add talent to the CB position. In free agency, the club signed Chris Carr and Zack Bowman to add a veteran presence to what is otherwise a young position group. Carr began his career as a special teams ace in Tennessee and then became a regular in the Baltimore Ravens defense. He’s the early leader to be the team’s third CB, but there is plenty of competition for that spot as well. Bowman has some position flexibility to him and trained at both CB and safety during his time with the Chicago Bears.

In the draft, the Vikings used a 3rd-round selection to beef up the CB position by selecting the speedy Josh Robinson. The fastest man at the Combine (clocked a 4.29 in the 40-yard dash), Robinson’s speed will help him recover from natural coverage miscues as a rookie, and his 5-10, 192-pound frame will allow him to battle receivers on the outside. If he performs well in training camp, Robinson could earn himself a significant role on the defense immediately.

Others who will come to Vikings training camp looking to compete for a roster spot include Bobby Felder, Corey Gatewood and Nick Taylor. Felder was a standout over the Vikings final two days of the offseason program, Taylor is a former basketball player from Florida International University who is looking to transfer his hoops skills to the gridiron, and Gatewood was signed by the Vikings late in the offseason program (on June 4).


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Notes From Tuesday’s Minicamp Practice

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 20, 2012 – 6:28 am

The Vikings opened their mandatory minicamp on Tuesday at Winter Park, but conditions during their afternoon practice made it feel like training camp down in Mankato. The temperature was around 90 degrees and the humidity felt like it was at 90%, and when you add in winds that were gusting up to 15-20 mph with no cloud cover, it was a hot mess on the outdoor practice fields.

But the Vikings worked well in the conditions, completing a sharp practice and moving one step closer to the end of their offseason program. The Vikings have two days and two practices remaining in their offseason program, and will go through the same schedule on Wednesday that they went through on Tuesday.

Before we get to what will happen today, let’s go over a few quick notes and observations from Tuesday’s practice…

– Jasper Brinkley was not able to practice, a notable development because he sat out a bit last week in the hopes of being ready to go for this week’s minicamp. Slated to be a first-year starter at middle LB, Brinkley is itching to get back out on the field and the Vikings are surely anxious to get a look at him. Hopefully he’ll be back on the field today. Tyrone McKenzie filled in for Brinkley on the team’s base defense.

– Speaking of the Vikings LBs, it was great to see Chad Greenway back with the team and on the field. Fellow outside LB Erin Henderson also looked good, and will be the guest on this week’s Wobcast, which will be posted on vikings.com and available on iTunes later today.

– Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier brought some calm to a situation regarding WR Percy Harvin, who made comments early on Tuesday indicating he wasn’t happy with the team. “It’s not something that can’t be handled and not something we can’t talk through,” Frazier said. “Not alarmed. Not alarmed at all.”He went on to say: “I really feel like when he and I sit down and talk in depth, whatever is in his heart or on his mind, we’ll get through it.”

– Contact is still prohibited and the team does not practice in pads, so it’s hard to get an accurate gauge on many areas of the team, especially the defensive and offensive lines. With that being said, LT Matt Kalil has had a good offseason program and there was a moment in practice that really stood out to me. We often think of LTs as pillars of the offense who remain stationary and secure the QBs blindside against edge-rushing defenders. But I’ve seen great movement skills from Kalil, including a play on Tuesday where Kalil moved quickly to the second level and covered up a LB who was in great position to make a play.

– Antoine Winfield grabbed an INT during a team offense vs. team defense period of practice. Winfield was playing out of the slot and was sitting in what appeared to be a zone in the middle of the field. A pass was lofted his way, and Winfield quickly jumped in front of a route and grabbed the pass. Winfield was one of the most impressive players early during OTAs, and seeing him make plays like the one he made on Tuesday is a great site after he played in just 5 games last season. Great to have him back on the field; he’ll make a big difference for the Vikings defense in 2012.

– The highlight of the day for the Vikings offense came near the end of practice during a two-minute/hurry-up period. QB Christian Ponder, who appeared to have a sharp practice and did a nice job of driving the offense down the field, threaded the needle on a pass to TE John Carlson. The Ponder-to-Carlson connection occurred right on the goal line, as Ponder rifled a pass to Carlson in between both Greenway and Henderson. Carlson, a mild-mannered and soft-spoken guy around the locker room, came down with the pass in the end zone and gave an emphatic dunk of the ball over the crossbar.

– Adrian Peterson spent time during practice working with certified head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman on the side. You’ve probably seen the photos of him already, but if you haven’t you need to check them out. As I wrote earlier, it’s easy to believe in Peterson, and he remains confident he can be ready to play in the Vikings season opener. In comments on Tuesday morning, Frazier also remained optimistic in Peterson’s chances, saying the RB has remained on pace during his rehab. Whether Peterson will be ready for Week 1 or not remains to be seen, but it’s great to see him working so hard on the side during practice.

– Rookie CB Josh Robinson, who was originally issue jersey #31, has switched to jersey #21.


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Special Teams Sets Tone For Practice; OTA #7 Observations

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 11, 2012 – 2:51 pm

The Vikings opened up their final week of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) at Winter Park on Monday under partly cloudy skies, warm temperatures and a brisk wind. After near-perfect weather a week ago, the windy conditions for OTA #7 added a challenging element for many phases of practice.

The first phase to deal with the wind was the Vikings special teams group, specifically the punt returners. Catching punts is difficult enough, but add in winds that gusted from 15-20 mph and the task becomes increasingly difficult. It didn’t faze the Vikings returners, though, as CB Josh Robinson, CB Marcus Sherels, WR Bryan Walters and WR Jarius Wright fielded kicks gracefully.

The special teams’ performance in the first period of practice was an indication of what was to come, as the Vikings conducted a crisp and clean approximately 90-minute practice. The special teams setting a positive example for the rest of practice is something in which Mike Priefer, entering his second season as the Vikings special teams coordinator, takes pride.

“I’m very fortunate to work for a head coach like Coach Frazier,” Priefer told Radio Voice of the Vikings Paul Allen and yours truly during last week’s episode of Vikings Tonight on the Vikings Radio Network. “He gives me meeting time, he gives me practice time, he gives me individual time with guys. I like the fact that we start practice with special teams because, to me, we set the tone for the rest of the practice. We’re a high energy, high motor type period. We get a lot done in a fifteen- or twenty-minute period of time that we have. The fact that we get to start practice and get to set the tone for the rest of the day is exciting for me.”

A few other observations from OTA #7…

Who can, not who can’t
There have been no shortage of punt returners during OTAs. The four who caught punts on Monday are listed above, but several others have also been in the mix over the past two weeks. While fans are curious to know who will win the job after the position battle, Priefer and assistant special teams coach Chris White are still figuring out who will be in that position battle.

“We have eight or nine guys catching punts right now and you have to pull them out of a hat,” Priefer said on last week’s Vikings Tonight. “But the great thing is we have a lot of competition there. I’ve been at places where we have one guy, maybe two, that can even catch a punt. Here we have seven or eight guys who can catch punts.”

Sherels stands out
It was a good day of practice for CB Marcus Sherels, the former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher who made last year’s Vikings squad as an undrafted free agent. If Sherels has more days like he had on Monday, he’ll once again be on the Vikings roster and in position to make an impact.

Sherels tallied a pair of pass breakups (PBUs) against what’s been one of the best QB-WR combinations during OTAs – Christian Ponder and Jerome Simpson. The first PBU came during a team offense vs. team defense period when Sherels jumped in front of Simpson on a short curl route, and the second PBU came during a 7-on-7 period of practice on a deep pass down the left sideline. On each play, Ponder placed the ball well and Simpson ran a good route, but Sherels was just able to make a great play on the ball.

Living on the edge
Ponder and fellow QB Joe Webb put their athleticism on display during a team offense vs. defense period. Both plays were similar in that the QBs were sprinting right to avoid a pursuing defender. DE Brian Robison was chasing Ponder, and the QB was able to buy just enough time to find WR Stephen Burton along the right sideline for a tip-toe completion before falling out of bounds. Moments later, Webb executed a similar play, sprinting right to avoid DE Eric Lattimore and completing a pass to TE Kyle Rudolph. The pass was thrown slightly behind Rudolph, but the second-year TE was able to reach back and make the catch before turning upfield to complete the play.

Good hands Griffen
Defensive linemen such as Everson Griffen spend much of their time rushing the passer. On Monday, though, Griffen showed off his pass-catching skills, grabbing a tipped pass to tally an INT.


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Vikings Sign Rhett Ellison, Now Have 7 Picks Under Contract

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 23, 2012 – 8:21 am

On Tuesday the Vikings announced the signing of six of their draft picks, and on Wednesday morning the club made official another draft pick signing.

Rhett Ellison, the team’s 4th-round (#128 overall) selection in last month’s draft, is now under contract.

The Vikings now have only three unsigned draft picks – LT Matt Kalil, S Harrison Smith and CB Josh Robinson.


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Vikings Get 6 Draft Picks Under Contract

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 22, 2012 – 1:31 pm

NFL teams have begun the process of signing their draft picks over the past few weeks and the Vikings have jumped into the mix as well. On Tuesday the team made official the signing of 6 selections from last month’s NFL Draft.

The players who’ve signed contracts are: 4th-round WRs Greg Childs and Jarius Wright, 5th-round DB Robert Blanton, 6th-round K Blair Walsh, 7th-round LB Audie Cole and 7th-round DT Trevor Guyton.

Signing this year’s draft class is a tall task because, for the second consecutive year, the Vikings have 10 selections. Tuesday’s news that six are now under contract leaves four players who’ve yet to sign their deals. They are: 1st-round LT Matt Kalil, 1st-round S Harrison Smith, 3rd-round CB Josh Robinson and 4th-round TE Rhett Ellison.

Click here to read more about the Vikings 2012 draft class.


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9 Players Who Stood Out On First Day Of Rookie Minicamp

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 4, 2012 – 4:37 pm

There isn’t much need for an introduction here. The title sums up what you’re about to read. After two practices of rookie minicamp at Winter Park, here are 9 (actually, 10) players who’ve stood out…

DT Chase Baker (rookie free agent – Boise State): A feisty interior defensive lineman, Baker may be undersized but I also like his motor and effort.

QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson (pre-draft signee – Sacramento State): One of three QBs in camp, there is no doubt he has the best – and an NFL-caliber – arm.

S Robert Blanton (5th round – Notre Dame): Practiced with energy, good size, instincts seem solid. I will also say his running mate – 1st-round pick Harrison Smith – also impressed on the first day.

RB Derrick Coleman (rookie free agent – UCLA): Runs hard and violent it appears (practices are no contact) and I saw him make a terrific shoe-string catch in the morning.

LB Soloman Elimimian (pre-draft signee – Hawaii): Size and length might work against him, but the guy plays like an animal and I can’t wait to see him practice in pads.

TE Rhett Ellison (4th round – USC):  Sold to me as a bruising, blocking type, but I think he’s a fluid route runner and pass catcher who also knows how to mix it up in the trenches.

WR Kamar Jorden (rookie free agent – Bowling Green): Made two impressive catches Friday, with one coming on a vertical route down the right sideline and the other on a crossing route where he achieved a great release off the line and ran away from his defender.

B Josh Robinson (3rd round – Central Florida): Speed is as impressive as advertised and it looks like he can cover.

CB Nick Taylor (pre-draft signee – Florida International): For a basketball player, he looked good in the morning practice. Actually, he looked good in the morning practice, period. Might have some cover skills.


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Kalil, Blanton Stand Out In First Practice; Other Observations

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 4, 2012 – 1:33 pm

The Vikings 10-player draft class plus 61 other players trying out for the club joined Vikings coaches and scouts on the field Friday morning for the first of five scheduled practices at this year’s rookie minicamp. Conditions were perfect, with the coaches and players working under sunny skies, moderate temperatures and a slight breeze.

The group of 71 players is comprised of the 10 draft picks from last weekend, 15 rookie free agents, 7 pre-draft signees and 39 players present on a tryout basis. The players were in helmets, jerseys and shorts with no pads, with the individual and team drill work similar to a full-squad minicamp practice; they are non-contact practices, however.

There will be another practice this afternoon at 2:55 p.m., two more on Saturday and then one final practice on Sunday. Here are a few thoughts from this morning’s practice…

– Although it’s presumed he’ll be the starter at LT from Day 1, #4 overall pick Matt Kalil doesn’t have an entitled attitude. Speaking with reporters after practice, Kalil acknowledged he has plenty of learning to do and he said playing next to a veteran such as Charlie Johnson – who will likely play LG in 2012 – will be an advantage.

– Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier came away impressed with Kalil after the first practice. “You can see why we have high hopes for him,” Frazier said. “He was excellent today.” Frazier was also asked about CB Josh Robison, whom the Vikings selected in the 3rd round, and Frazier said he noticed Robinson had an impressive burst while fielding kicks/punts.

– When asked what he’s looking for out of the rookies and tryout players in attendance this weekend, Frazier noted that standout plays are what catch coaches’ attention. Keep in mind, during the season and even training camp, coaches want to see playmakers but they also emphasize consistency and making routine plays. At this minicamp, though, a premium is being placed on making splash plays.

– Several Vikings veterans, who are not permitted to participate in this weekend’s minicamp, observed the morning practice from the sidelines. The players I noticed watching practice were: QBs Christian Ponder and Joe Webb, TEs John Carlson and Kyle Rudolph, OL Brandon Fusco, Charlie Johnson, Phil Loadholt, DeMarcus Love and John Sullivan, DL Everson Griffen, WR Manny Arceneaux and RB Jordan Todman.

– Last year during training camp I made mention of players who passed the “eye test” during practice. Today’s eye test winners were Kalil and S Robert Blanton. I already explained that Frazier was impressed with Kalil, but what I liked about Blanton was the way he carried himself on the field and added energy to the defense. He appears to be an intelligent player with a passion for the game. That observation is off of one practice, admittedly, but it was obvious this morning that Blanton enjoyed being on the field.

– K Blair Walsh met with a group of reporters after practice and said it was an honor to be on the roster with a player of Ryan Longwell’s stature and accomplishment. Asked if his best trait was his strong leg, Walsh acknowledged that many people credit him with a strong leg, but he also noted that all NFL kickers have strong legs and that he isn’t distinguished among them. Walsh also said that a player has to earn his place in the NFL, regardless of whether he was selected in the NFL draft or not.

– There are five former University of Minnesota Golden Gophers in camp this weekend. They are: WR Da’Jon McKnight, TEs Tiree Eure and Nick Tow-Arnett, DE Anthony Jacobs and DT Brandon Kirksey. McKnight met with a fairly large group of reporters after practice and called it a “blessing” to be in camp with the Vikings. He dealt with a knee injury last season, but says the knee is completely healed now.

– Two other under the radar players who stood out today were CB Bret Lockett and WR Josh Philpart.

– There are three QBs in camp this weekend. They are: Blake Bolles (NW Missouri State), McLeod Bethel-Thompson (Sacramento St.) and Spencer Ohm (Concordia – St. Paul).


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