clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Vikings Training Camp News, Notes, and Interviews: Day 6

Daily Norseman gives the latest updates from Thursday's action at Minnesota Vikings Training Camp. Included: news, notes, observations, the press conferences from George Edwards, Teddy Bridgewater, and Mike Priefer, as well as quick interviews with Joe Berger and Trae Waynes.

Thad Chesley

The weather in Mankato was pretty dicey today but it cleared up for long enough to be fairly pleasant for both of the Minnesota Vikings practices on Thursday. The sun was shining on a rather soggy field at Blakeslee Stadium after rain had poured down for most of the morning, but the turf held up well throughout the day. As usual, the first practice of the day was sans pads and rather uneventful and most of the information I gleaned was from the afternoon session.

The best thing we gleaned from the afternoon session: lots and lots more pictures! Once again our resident Mankato photographer Thad Chesley absolutely killed it in capturing some great moments from practice. Scroll through and feel like you were there too!

And once again I hopped in with fellow Vikings writers to discuss camp. This time around I joined the Purple FTW! podcast with host Andy Carlson, Arif, and Cold Omaha's Sam Ekstrom between practices on Thursday. Click here to give it a listen.

Now that you have your daily audiovisual fix, here are the people, places, and things I observed from another busy day in Mankato:

  • The glorious return of Jerick McKinnon and Cordarrelle Patterson! Well, not really. Both players took reps in the morning practice for the first time this week, only to sit out the padded afternoon practice. (Insert sad trombone sound here)
  • It was Joe Berger’s day to take snaps as the first team center. He and John Sullivan have been rotating every day of camp thus far. The competition has been pretty close from what I’ve seen so far and I’ll be monitoring it over the next few days.
  • The defense ran a lot of the nickel package that included Danielle Hunter, Brian Robison, Tom Johnson, and Everson Griffen along the defensive line. Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks were the linebackers with the usual first team secondary, which of course included Captain Munnerlyn covering the slot. It looked like they were covering mainly blitz packages with that personnel. That group could be a scary combination in obvious passing downs.
  • David Morgan has continued to impress in the "Rhett Ellison" role while Ellison remains sidelined recovering from the torn patellar tendon he suffered last season. Morgan is moving people around in run blocking, which was what he was known for coming out of the University of Texas-San Antonio. But Morgan has also excelled as a receiver at times, making some pretty impressive catches so far.
  • The offensive personnel didn’t see many changes, but one aspect of the lineups might be worth noting. When the offense has gone with three wideouts in either daily practice, it has usually been Charles Johnson and Adam Thielen on the outside with Stefon Diggs in the slot. Jarius Wright has seen almost exclusively second team snaps over the past couple days. I'll be keeping an eye on it going forward.
  • Speaking of Johnson--I know we're only six days of practice in, and I don't want to dive into overreaction or hyperbole, but I think we could have 2014 Charles Johnson back. Before camp, many of us (myself included) were pondering whether Johnson would even make the final roster. Today, it would be more surprising if Johnson wasn't a starter. This definitely isn't a knock on the play of Laquon Treadwell and other receivers either. Johnson has simply had a great camp, running crisp routes to consistently get open and rekindling the rapport he had with Teddy Bridgewater down the stretch of the 2014 season.
  • It was a big day for Vikings celebrities at camp. Skolbadiah was in the house! (With Jon from the famous Purple Pimps.) And now you're going to have the "Hey Teddy" song in your head for the rest of the day. You're welcome.
Skolbadiah and the Purple Pimp Jon Herzig

Bob Lurtsema, aka "Benchwarmer Bob", also stopped by the media room this afternoon. Some of you will remember his old commercials—they were a memorable part of my formative years as a Vikings fan. It was my first time seeing him at camp, but apparently Lurtsema is around practices more often than not. Benchwarmer Bob greeted nearly every player as they walked onto the field like a family uncle. (Or maybe a crazy uncle. I couldn't be sure.)

Boone and Benchwarmer Bob Eric J. Thompson

  • Your daily #HowsTeddyLook update: Thursday's performance was decidedly a step back from Wednesday's crisp and efficient performance. Bridgewater missed a handful of throws that shouldn't have been incredibly difficult throughout the day, a few of which were picked off. The most notable error was a red zone pick from Xavier Rhodes that Teddy tried to force into Adam Thielen:

That said, it definitely wasn't all negative for our starting quarterback. Teddy continued to show off his new and improved deep ball, including a 40-yard bomb that caught Stefon Diggs in stride for a touchdown during 11-on-11. In fact, the highs were probably higher than they were Wednesday; it was just a less consistent performance overall from Bridgewater. Don't worry, he'll be just fine.

  • Blair Walsh was bombing field goals, nailing 40 yard kicks that sailed over the top of the goalposts (and yes, smart asses, between them too) and hit the elevated scissor lift that was at least ten yards behind. The leg strength, accuracy, and confidence seem to be A-OK for the Vikings kicker so far in camp.
  • The offensive line had a little better day overall. Matt Kalil had a good 2-minute drill series against Everson Griffen, the run blocking was pretty sound, and the second unit wasn't nearly as atrocious. The defensive line is still undeniably ahead though. Shaun Hill was visibly frustrated after being "sacked" on multiple occasions in 11-on-11 and the first team still made Teddy move off his spot often enough. But the slight uptick was nice to see.
  • This Vikings team is definitely a focused and disciplined bunch, but that doesn't mean they aren't having any fun out there. With the end zone area already full of media and VIP fans before practice started today, the players had to weave through traffic in order to take the field. Chad Greenway wedged himself by me, playfully joking "you guys mind getting the hell out of the way?" as he looked back and smiled.
  • Greenway's entrance had nothing on Griffen's though. Griff, a man who is never at a loss for words, was loudly chatting with Brian Robison as he stepped onto the field Thursday afternoon. And then...well, I'll let my tweet explain:

At first I sort of felt like I might have been telling tales out of school with the tweet. I'm not trying to provide bulletin board material for the Vikings' first home opponent of 2016. But when Griffen looked around, saw everyone, and loudly repeated himself twice, I figured it was fair game to share with everyone. (By the way: raise your hand if you like Everson Griffen even more after hearing this story.)

George Edwards press conference

The Vikings defensive coordinator took the podium right after the walkthrough and opened with talking about the emphasis on forcing turnovers.

The biggest thing we talk about with takeways, number one is we relentlessly have to run to the football. We go to the football with a purpose and try to get it out. Anytime you have those guys on defense in a passing situation, they'll turn and run to the football. The receivers will have are concerned about who's in front of them and then the other guys can come in and get the ball. That's one of the things we try to emphasize.

Edwards acknowledged that it's tricky to practice that in camp because they can't hit the quarterback or make full tackles in most of the drills. He is excited about what the defense can show during the Saturday night practice.

We want to be locked in, good calls, good communications, good alignments, guys understanding what we're trying to do...We want to be sharp mentally and fundamentally, and play with a lot of passion. We got a good group with a lot of competitors but we really want to show that passion.

One of the biggest aspects of the defense Edwards wants to improve in 2016 is the two-minute defense. He feels the team really took a step back in end-of-half situations and explained that they are putting a lot of focus on improving it in camp.

Edwards touched on a couple cornerbacks and illustrated how much of a difference a year can make. With Mackensie Alexander, Edwards said that the second round rookie is "still in a cognitive state of learning." Alexander needs to concentrate and focus in order to translate what he's learning into executing on the field. Meanwhile, Edwards claimed that Trae Waynes is leaps and bounds ahead of where he was at this time last year.

You can't even put a grade on it. He's not having to think about alignments as looked at him coming in [last year], it was totally different from what he did in college. And now all of the sudden he's asked to play a bit more zone and make different types of adjustments. Now he doesn't have to think about those things quite as much. He can line up and play and concentrate on the techniques and the fundamentals of each call.

Finally, I asked about the Hunter/Robison/Johnson/Griffen pass rusher combo platter and how much Edwards sees the team using that package going forward.

We worked on it throughout the offseason. We actually worked it some last year near the end of the season. We're just looking to try to get our best pass rushers on the field in certain situations and keep building on that as we keep working through it.

Teddy Bridgewater press conference

Before the Vikings QB1 took to the podium to deliver his Derek Jeter-esque platitudes to most of the questions he fielded, I had another fun had-to-be-there-in-person camp moment. As I was tweeting out my last quote from Edwards' presser, I felt a tap on my right shoulder. I glanced up. Sure enough, just over my left shoulder I found Bridgewater walking past me and chuckling. Yes, Teddy pulled the classic "tap you on the opposite shoulder to get you to look the wrong way" trick on me. All I could do is laugh. Ohhhh Teddy.

Bridgewater started by saying he was excited to travel to Cincinnati and face a different opponent and how the team is working every day to make themselves better. He emphasized that he wants the offense to keep the tempo that they have developed over the past four days of padded practices and put it on display in primetime during the Saturday night scrimmage.

Teddy praised his offensive line with its additions both old and new:

That group, they're healthy right now. That's what's most important. John Sullivan is back into the mix, and adding Andre Smith and Alex Boone. Those guys have been doing a great job of being physical and having that mentality to dominate these days. Those guys are pushing each other and we're going to continue to get better.

Having the familiar face of a healthy Charles Johnson in the wide receiver corps has been a welcome addition for Bridgewater as well. "He's been a complete pro...he's doing everything he can to make this a better football team."

When it comes to the inevitable scuffles that happen during Training Camp, Bridgewater views them as mostly positive:

I love it. I wish that I could get involved in it, but I can't with the red jersey on. It's great to see that guys have that mentality, that mindset, and that attitude. At the same time, we have to play as a disciplined long as it doesn't go any further than that, it brings attitude to the team...when something happens, once coach Zimmer steps in, it's over. That's the thing about this team. That stuff will happen, but once it's done it's time to get back to football. But sometimes you need that in practice to set the tone.

Mike Priefer press conference

The Vikings Special Teams Coordinator addressed the media for the final time in Mankato and had plenty to share about his charges. He began by explaining that the Saturday night practice and the preseason game against the Bengals will be big tests for the special teams unit. Next he talked about how the team will plan on bringing Cordarrelle Patterson back slowly from his injury, saying that he'll be eased back into the mix over the next couple weeks.

Our big focus with him is obviously ball security. Sometimes the ball will get away from him. He had the one we lost against Green Bay last year. That's unforgivable, but at the end of the day, that's his biggest deal. It's still working on some of the finer points of his return abilities and we're really emphasizing ball security.

Priefer realizes that the intra-squad scrimmages can get pretty heated and recalled a particularly memorable story from his days with the Giants:

We had Jeremy Shockey. Jeremy is a great guy, but he had a mouth on him. I think six DBs jumped him after one play. It was six DBs from the Jets against one Jeremy Shockey. It was wild. That's the one that stood out.

He praised the older players on the team pulling younger guys aside, citing the great locker room that Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer have built. "At any position, whether it's special teams, offense or defense, we've got older guys that take these younger guys under their wings and then teach them the finer points."

The longer extra point introduced last year caused some trouble for kickers but Priefer doesn't anticipate Blair Walsh having any this season. Priefer has made the middle of the field the spot for extra points instead of either hash mark this season and thinks the kicks should be "automatic" in the Vikings' new indoor digs.

If Moritz Böhringer has any chance to make the squad this season, it's likely on special teams. Priefer explained the German rookie's role:

He is obviously a gunner...He can be a halfback on our kickoff return team because he can block. He's strong. He's smart. He can return the ball if they do kick it to him or if they mishit the ball. He can play a little bit on punt return, either as an outside holdup guy or rushing off the edge or even holding up a wing. We can do lots of things with him. He's come a long way since the spring.

Without giving too much away, Priefer touched on how the team calls fake punts like the one they ran with Adam Thielen against the Packers last year. "Coach Zimmer is very aggressive, and that makes my job fun," Priefer explained.

After praising Troy Stoudermire's experience and coachability, Priefer discussed punter Jeff Locke. While Locke admittedly struggled the first day of camp, Priefer likes what he has seen from his punter since. He reemphasized that Saturday night would be a big night under the lights with a bit more pressure. "That'll be a big test for him to see where he's at."

Finally, Priefer discussed "the kick." Yes, that one.

I don't think I've gotten over it. I don't know if you ever get over something like that, but I've moved on from it...he knew the moment, and the moment's not too big for a guy like Blair Walsh. He has been in those moments before. But for me as a coach, I think I've got to be able to be smart enough and say "Hey, you know what Blair? Let's just relax, stay focused here," and he's going to go out and make that kick next time.

Joe Berger interview

The veteran interior lineman that was thrust into the starting center role last season (and acquitted himself quite well) is confident in his abilities but isn't sweating whether he'll have the same role this year.

The good thing is it's not my job to evaluate. I'm trying to get better; I think I've been improving every day. That's what camp's for and that's what I'm focused on.

Like most of the other players and coaches, Berger is excited to take on Cincinnati next week. "It's always great to see other players in a different color uniform across from you." Berger fielded several questions about his competition with John Sullivan but wasn't taking the bait when asked about trying to beat him out.

John's a great guy. Having him healthy is a benefit all around, no question...I don't know if I would use the words "something to prove." I've been in the league for 12 years. I think the coaches know what to expect of me, both good and bad. I just have to show that I'm ready to go to work.

Berger also cited Sullivan's locker room presence as something that has helped him improve. So while the battle for the starting center gig sounds like something both players really want, Berger and Sullivan are both going to try to show the coaches the best they have and then leave it up to them to make the final decision.

Trae Waynes interview

The second-year corner is still working toward becoming a shutdown corner on the field, but he's already fairly savvy at being a shutdown corner when it comes to talking to media. When the soft-spoken Waynes stopped to talk to a few of us after the afternoon practice, he was very courteous with his answers but very short with most of them as well.

Waynes' dad was in attendance on Thursday, but he explained that having family around wasn't a distraction at all. His father had some feedback, "but in the end it comes down to what the coaches say that counts." Speaking of coaches, I asked him about George Edwards saying how he looked so much more comfortable with the defense this season.

I'm still learning. I talk to players like Terence [Newman] every day, I still have a lot to learn from them. I am getting a little more comfortable because I'm coming into my second year. I'm getting a lot more comfortable with the playbook as well...The coaches have had a lot of feedback for me and I'm trying to work on certain things. I'm trying my best to take everything they say and then show it on the field.

He explained that he has been working on being more aggressive, especially at the top of routes. Waynes realizes that there will be contact on most plays but knows the rules well enough to prevent from getting called for many penalties. (In my opinion, it has definitely showed in camp so far. Waynes has been much more physical and has positioned himself very well on most of the routes run against him in camp.)

Waynes' final two answers were straight to the point.

When asked what he read on the interception he got during 11-on-11s, he responded with a smile and a one-word answer: "Pass."

And regarding rookie wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, who Waynes has been matched up against a lot in camp thus far, he offered six words: "He's a big physical, tough receiver."

Waynes is obviously the type of player that likes to let his play do the talking. And so far I like what I'm hearing this year.


I'll be back Friday with another round of camp goodness. For those of you asking about individual players, don't worry--I have been gathering notes on all 90 bodies in camp and plan on sharing my thoughts on all of them after my coverage wraps up Saturday night. I hope you're enjoying the coverage as much as I'm enjoying bringing it to you.