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3 Observations: Zimmer Gives 7 Vikings 'Vet Day' as Youngsters Step Up

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings held a full-padded practice for almost two hours Friday afternoon at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.

The session was a prelude for one of the most exciting nights of the year, as the team will hold its annual night practice from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Saturday evening at TCO Stadium.

Of the 87 players who do not have a Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) or Non-Football Injury (NFI) designation, only defensive tackle Curtis Cothran, defensive end Ade Aruna and tackle Aviante Collins did not practice due to injuries.

Shamar Stephen, who was moved off the Non-Football Injury list on Friday morning, participated in his first training camp practice of 2019.

View images from Vikings Training Camp practice on August 2 at the TCO Performance Center.

Here are three observations from Thursday's session:

1. Vet day!

With the halfway point of training camp set for Saturday, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer took it easy on his veterans Friday.

Zimmer gave seven players the day off: Harrison Smith, Everson Griffen, Xavier Rhodes, Adam Thielen, Kyle Rudolph, Riley Reiff and Josh Kline observed practice but were not in pads.

Zimmer said he was just taking care of his players, something Rudolph appreciated.

"In my opinion, I think Coach Zimmer has really made a concerted effort this training camp to take care of us," Rudolph said. "I know me personally, I've thanked him a couple times for taking care of us from a schedule standpoint — we're getting out of here earlier at night, we don't have as much downtime over the course of the day … the first two practices we had walk-through periods.

"He's doing things to take care of us," Rudolph added. "We all know his rule: If we take care of him, then he'll take care of us."

The rest day for the veterans gave plenty of other players the chance to step up.

Stephen Weatherly and Ifeadi Odenigbo took reps in place of Griffen, and Jayron Kearse filled in for Smith. Mackensie Alexander, Kris Boyd and Holton Hill all saw time at outside cornerback in place of Rhodes.

Offensively, the combination of Tyler Conklin, Irv Smith, Jr., and Cole Hikutini practiced in place of Rudolph, while Thielen was replaced by a handful of wide receivers, including Chad Beebe, Jordan Taylor, Brandon Zylstra, Laquon Treadwell and Bisi Johnson.

Rashod Hill and Storm Norton filled in for Reiff. Dakota Dozier and Danny Isidora rotated at Kline's spot at right guard.

2. Brothers shows off his hands

Kentrell Brothers made perhaps the defensive play of the day Friday as the Vikings worked near the goal line.

The linebacker scooted out into the flat to cover fullback C.J. Ham before stepping in front of him and intercepting a pass from Kyle Sloter.

With nothing but green grass in front of him, Brothers took off about 20 yards or so down the field. If he had gone the distance for a pick-six, it would have been a 98-yard return.

Safety Isaiah Wharton later had an interception off a deflected pass in a team drill inside the 5-yard line near the end zone.

3. Mayday, Mayday!

Dan Bailey was cool under pressure Friday, nailing two kicks as time expired on the clock.

Zimmer threw his team into a pressure situation where the offense ran a play with 22 seconds remaining, leaving the field goal unit to rush on the field as time ticked away.

Bailey was good from 37 and 41 yards in the drill, with Kevin McDermott and Austin Cutting each getting a rep at long snapper.

The Vikings kicker made six of eight total field goals on the day, including those two.

With Cutting snapping and Matt Wile holding, Bailey was good from 38 and 42 yards but was wide left from 50 yards.

McDermott got three snaps later, all of them to Beebe at holder. Bailey was true from 33 and 44 yards but sent his 39-yard try to the right.