Eric Nordquist - @ericnordoKFAN
Today’s Minnesota Vikings practice was a highly anticipated one to see head coach Mike Zimmer’s reactions to Friday night’s preseason victory over the Oakland Raiders. The players were in full pads and appeared ready for a physical afternoon. But then the rain started falling.
Practice was less than half-complete when it was called off due to weather in Mankato today, so there wasn’t a ton of action on the field. I was still able to compile a fair amount of notes, though, so here are some nuggets:
Linval Joseph –
The Vikings’ newly acquired DT was an innocent bystander during a shooting at 400 Soundbar on Friday night/Saturday morning in downtown Minneapolis. He suffered a minor injury when a stray bullet struck his calf, requiring medical attention. Joseph was treated and released from the hospital that same night.
Earlier today, Mike Zimmer was asked about what was going through his head when he heard about the incident –> “’Oh my god,” and “Thank god he is okay.” He’s a terrific young man. He is a good, good kid and we have a lot of good kids on this football team. Rick (Spielman) has done a really good job bringing high quality, high character players in here…This was an unfortunate incident that happened.”
At this stage, there is no specific timeline for his return to practice, although he has been seen walking around on the injured leg without issue and attending meetings. General Manager Rick Spielman said today that they expect Linval to be ready for the season opener in St Louis.
Defensive Adjustments –
Of the drills that the team performed prior to ending practice, I saw a focus on the defensive line. Now, taking the Linval Joseph situation out of the equation, Zimmer stated earlier today that he felt the D-Line was effective against the run, but had to be better on the pass rush –> “At the end of the ballgame, we did not rush smart, we let the quarterback out of the pocket and they had a chance to throw the ball downfield…we have to know where our rush lanes are. Those are all things about being a smart football team.”
So, albeit late in the game where some things broke down defensively, Zimmer made that a focus today. He had all D-Lineman matched up against the O-Liners practicing different pass rush techniques at full-speed.
Also on defense, several players dealing with hamstring issues right now. Robert Blanton, who looks to be atop the list of safeties vying to start opposite Harrison Smith, is out with a strained hammy. CBs Josh Robinson and Marcus Sherels are also. While none of them are serious, it’s allowed us to look at other players getting extra reps. Safety Kurt Coleman, for instance, looked very solid and productive on Friday night, starting for the injured Blanton. He was back with the 2nd team again today, though, as recently signed veteran Chris Crocker played with the starters. Captain Munnerlyn has been playing at left CB while Robinson gets healthy.
Interim Special Teams coach –
The Vikings hired Joe Marciano to assist with Special Teams coverage while coach Mike Priefer serves his 3-game suspension levied by the team after the conclusion of the investigation into alleged comments he made to former punter Chris Kluwe.
Here’s portion of Mike Zimmer’s statement on the Marciano hiring –> “Joe has been a special teams coordinator for 27 years in the NFL with Tampa Bay, Houston and New Orleans…he is a great guy, very, very knowledgeable. We felt like, in our thinking that it would be good to get someone in here to go through these next three weeks of camp, get a feel exactly of how we are doing things…where we can continue to speak the same language…Mike (Priefer), Joe and Ryan (Ficken, assistant ST coach) are going to work very, very closely together.”
New Player Signing –
Undrafted rookie Tight End AC Leonard was released by the team last week, and today the Vikings brought in a new TE prospect. Kory Sperry joins the Vikings as a free agent signing. A six-year NFL veteran, Sperry played the 2013 season with the Arizona Cardinals. In 40 career games, he has caught 9 passes for 152 receiving yards and one touchdown. Sperry played under Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner in San Diego from 2010-2012 and spent time on the team’s practice squad in 2009. Sperry entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Colorado State in 2009.