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3 Observations: Morning Practice Includes Picks and Touchdowns

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings ended the week of practices with a lighter day at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center on Thursday.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer opted for more of a traditional Friday-before-a-Sunday game schedule, moving the session to 11 a.m. instead of the 2:15 p.m. start time that has been implemented this preseason.

Minnesota was not in pads for the final practice before the Vikings host the Indianapolis Colts at 7 p.m. Saturday.

"These guys had a good, hard week this week and did a nice job of coming out, so I thought we'd get done a little bit early today and get ready for the game on Saturday," Zimmer said.

Patrick Peterson and Xavier Woods appeared like they were granted vet days, while Justin Jefferson was limited and did not participate in full team drills.

Anthony Barr, Nick Vigil, Kene Nwangwu, Dru Samia, Patrick Jones II, Tyler Conklin, Christian Darrisaw, Nate Stanley and James Lynch did not practice.

Linebacker Cam Smith announced his retirement from the NFL on Wednesday evening.

Here are three observations from Thursday's session presented by Minnesota Eye Consultants, the Proud Ophthalmology Partner of the Minnesota Vikings:

1. Cousins has roller-coaster day

Zimmer said after practice that Minnesota's starters will likely see some playing time Saturday. That could be a chance for Kirk Cousins to bounce back from an up-and-down practice.

Cousins' first pass of the day was picked off by Mackensie Alexander as the quarterback was looking for Chad Beebe on a whip route.

A few minutes later, Michael Pierce nearly intercepted Cousins on a screen pass that was well-read by the mammoth defensive tackle.

Cousins soon shook off the miscues by hitting Adam Thielen for a 35-yard pass, and connected with Irv Smith, Jr., for 15-plus yards over the middle on third-and-7.

Cousins' best throw of the day was a 50-yard touchdown to K.J. Osborn down the middle of the field with Kris Boyd in coverage.

But the fourth-year Vikings starter ended his practice on a sour note, as Parry Nickerson picked him off while Cousins was looking for Thielen down the left sideline. Thielen went to reach back for the pass but Nickerson ripped it away and maintained possession before stepping out of bounds.

2. Westbrook practices in full

Dede Westbrook made progress yet again Thursday, as he participated in full-team offensive drills for the first time since signing with the Vikings on July 26.

Westbrook lined up as a receiver in a half-team passing drill, and later saw the field in 11-on-11 drills. He also fielded punts at the end of practice, as he has done in recent weeks.

Westbook missed nearly all of the 2020 season because of a torn ACL, finishing with one catch for a 4-yard gain, but he was productive in the three seasons prior to the injury.

He had 159 catches for 1,716 yards and nine scores in those three years. His best season came in 2018 when he had 66 catches for 717 yards and five touchdowns.

3. Odds and ends

Minnesota spent most of Thursday's session with the starters going against the third-team units on the other side of the ball.

This meant the Vikings first-team offense went against the defensive backups, and that Minnesota's starting defense faced off against the third-team offense.

D.J. Wonnum made the defensive play of that day in that scenario, as he retreated 15 yards downfield to intercept quarterback Danny Etling. With key starters such as Peterson, Woods and Barr not practicing, that meant a chance for younger players such as Boyd, Camryn Bynum and Troy Dye to get some run with the starters.

Offensively, it was also worth noting that backup Jake Browning took some first-team reps with the starting offensive line and skill players while Cousins took a breather.