EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings held the first of three rookie minicamp practices Friday afternoon at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.
Dozens of rookies strapped on Vikings helmets for the first time, as they wore those, jerseys (white for the offense and purple for the defense) and shorts in breezy but sunny weather.
The group of draft picks, undrafted free agents and those here on a rookie tryout basis will have another practice session Saturday before wrapping up rookie minicamp on Sunday.
Here are three observations from Friday afternoon’s session:
1. Rookie linemen look the part
The Vikings spent two of their first four picks in the 2019 NFL Draft on offensive linemen, snagging center Garrett Bradbury in the first round and guard Dru Samia in the fourth round.
The duo lined up next to each other at the majority of practice Friday, with Bradbury at center and Samia to his right. Both players impressed in solo drills and as a tandem.
Bradbury showed quickness and athleticism off the ball, and moved well in practicing Minnesota’s zone-blocking scheme. At one point, Vikings offensive line coach Rick Dennison exclaimed, ‘That’s it!’ to Bradbury after the rookie finished off a block.
Samia, meanwhile, showed power on many blocks and worked well with his fellow rookie.
2. Skill players shine
Seventh-round wide receiver Bisi Johnson stood out in 1-on-1 drills, using quick and fluid movements to get open against defensive backs.
He then had a big play in team drills when he caught a deep crossing pattern from quarterback Jake Browning that went for a gain of 20-plus yards.
Running back Alex Mattison, a third-round pick, looked shifty coming out of the backfield on Friday.
View images from the first rookie minicamp practice at the TCO Performance Center on May 3.
3. Douglas does his thing
Those on a rookie tryout are trying to secure a spot to stick around after this weekend, and defensive tackle Bryce Douglas helped his cause.
The Northern Iowa product stood out on multiple plays in the session, getting in the backfield on what would have likely been a tackle for loss on a run play. He also pressured the quarterback while not biting on a play-action fake.
*Berger Bonus: Former linemen meets Bradbury
Former Vikings offensive lineman Joe Berger was in attendance Friday in Eagan.
The reliable and versatile offensive lineman who played 107 games and made 64 starts for Minnesota from 2011-17 was back in the area from his home state of Michigan.
Berger’s reasons for the trip were multifold. He was here because a former babysitter is getting married this weekend in Rochester, and he now works for Eckhart, putting his mechanical engineering degree to good use.
Eckhart recently acquired PRI Robotics out in Plymouth, so Berger visited the branch Friday morning and texted Director of Public Relations Tom West.
Bradbury said in his post-practice press conference that it was a thrill to meet the former center/guard.
“It’s awesome to see former great players and talk to them,” Bradbury said. “He gave me some advice, and it will be cool to continue to meet players who have done what I’m trying to do for a lot of years.”
What words of wisdom did Berger pass along?
“Listen to the older guys,” Bradbury said. “He actually told me, ‘Don’t listen to the older guys,’ but I knew he was joking.”
Berger laughed when told of Bradbury’s comments but confirmed he said them.
“I said to just not listen to anything Riley [Reiff] says,” Berger quipped.
But Berger did say how much he enjoyed meeting the 18th overall pick and that he looks forward to seeing how his rookie season plays out.
“It’s good to see the young guys coming in. You guys, the Vikings organization, thinks of him pretty highly based on where he was drafted. I look forward, from the fan side, seeing what he can do this year.”