EAGAN, Minn. — Vikings draft picks, undrafted rookie free agents, select players with prior professional experience and hopefuls in town on a tryout basis are in the midst of 2019 Vikings Rookie Minicamp.
In mid-day sessions, Head Coach Mike Zimmer explained why this is his “favorite time of year,” Irv Smith, Jr., described his “cool” connection to No. 84. Alexander Mattison credited a blue-collar work ethic for helping him make it this far, and Jake Browning said he is glad to continue wearing purple.
After practice, another half-dozen participated in media sessions.
Here are highlights from those interviews:
Garrett Bradbury on the realization of a dream
Bradbury spoke to Twin Cities media members on Friday afternoon one week after his introductory press conference.
The first-round draft pick reflected on his first two days at rookie minicamp as a Minnesota Viking.
“I think once you put the helmet on and see it’s a different decal and it’s a different NFL helmet and you go out to practice, it’s starting to get a little more real,” Bradbury said. “I’m excited to get around the whole team. It’s still a little surreal, though. You’ve waited for it your whole life, and it’s finally here.”
Asked about what he hopes his first impression will be on the team, Bradbury said it’s important to “set the tone” but also stick with a routine you know.
“It’s just going about your business every day … just going out there and doing what you’ve been doing for a lot of years,” Bradbury said.
Dru Samia on boosting his size and strength
Samia, whom the Vikings traded up to draft in the fourth round, told reporters that he wants to prove to Minnesota’s coaching staff that he was the right choice.
“I want to prove them right as far as the things they saw on film in college that were positive,” Samia said. “And I want to show that the things they saw that I need to work on, that I have been working on through the pre-draft process and during the offseason.”
One of the areas he specified was his size and strength, which Samia said he’s made a focus.
“I came into this minicamp at 311 as compared to 297 coming out,” Samia said. “I wanted to show them that I’ve been hitting the weight room, getting a little bigger for this game.”
Cameron Smith on longtime rivalry with new teammate Browning
Cameron Smith and Browning have seen each other a time of two on the football field.
Both players grew up playing football in Northern California and went to rival high schools about 10 miles apart. The rivalry continued in the Pac-12.
But the two are now teammates, as Smith was a fifth-round pick at linebacker out of Southern California, and Browning is an undrafted free agent quarterback from Washington.
Smith revealed Friday that he received a text message from his high school and college rival after the draft ended Saturday evening.
“He texted me right when the draft finished and he signed with the Vikings,” Smith said. “He said, ‘I guess after 15 years of playing against each other, we’re going to be on the same team now.’
“I didn’t realize that until the next day because I had put my phone away because I wanted to enjoy it with my family. But you’d be surprised how pumped I am that he’s here,” Smith said. “It always makes it easier, going in, knowing somebody and having a relationship already built. I’m happy that he’s here, and hopefully we can continue it.”
Smith said the two caught up a bit Friday afternoon, with Smith reminding the quarterback of the interception he snagged in high school. Browning has bragging rights, however, considering his team [Folsom High School] earned a 63-0 win over Smith’s Granite Bay squad when the two were seniors in 2014.
Smith later offered up a scouting report on his former foe.
“He’s one of the more instinctual players that I’ve seen,” Smith said. “Even in high school, he had a great feel for when to deliver the ball. I’m not going to get all quarterback coachy, but he’s always been able to put the ball right where it needs to be.
“And he’s a winner,” Smith said of the quarterback who holds the Pac-12 record with 39 career wins. “He’s got a knack to win, and you saw that in high school and college. Someday, we’re going to see it in the NFL.”
Smith, a four-year starter for the Trojans, recorded 354 total tackles in 47 games in college. He tallied 26.5 tackles for loss with 3.5 sacks and four interceptions. He also forced a fumble and had three fumble recoveries.
Kris Boyd on his first impressions in Minnesota
Boyd’s selection in the seventh round a week ago meant he’d be able to connect with former Longhorns teammate Holton Hill and play under the tutelage of Vikings defensive backs coach Jerry Gray, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame for his success at Texas in the early 1980s.
“Oh man, I feel home. I’ve been following this team, not knowing this is where I was going to end up all because of Holton, and now I’m here,” Boyd said. “I’m just happy to be here. I’m embracing it all, back out here playing football. That’s what we all wanted. I’m glad to be out here and get my feet moving a little bit. I’m just enjoying it.”
Boyd said he was impressed by the amenities at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center, even placing a phone call to “Hollywood” (Hill) about the cafeteria.
“I’m like, ‘This ain’t nothing like the dining hall. I’m eating everything they’ve got out here.’ I enjoyed that, and the locker room, that’s crazy,” Boyd said. “We had a locker room at UT, and this one is even better. The whole thing, the facility, the fields, everything is nice. I’m glad to be here. I’m lucky to be here. It’s a blessing.”
Dillon Mitchell hopes hardwood background helps with Vikings
Dillon Mitchell had quite the junior season at Oregon, setting a single-season school record with 1,184 receiving yards in 2018. He also had 75 catches (third in school history) and added 10 touchdowns, which tied for second in a season in Ducks history.
But the seventh-round draft pick said that he hopes that his background in another sport helps him transition to the NFL.
“I’m definitely trying to get better in every area,” Mitchell said. “But with my basketball background, I can do a lot of things with my body that a lot of guys can’t do with body control.”
Mitchell was a standout on the hardwood as a teenager in Memphis, Tennessee, and he even committed to Oregon to play both sports, even if he only played football for the Ducks.
But he says the movements he learned from being a guard help him get off the line of scrimmage as a wide receiver.
“I would say with my releases, I’m able to get in and out of releases, or stops and starts, and stop on a dime easily,” Mitchell said. “With my releases, it’s not like I make up my own thing, but I work on so many things that most of the stuff is kind of basketball moves that I just kind of relayed over.”
Mitchell also picked up some professional wisdom along the way from former NBA guard Penny Hardaway, who played more than 700 games with the Magic, Suns, Knicks and Heat over a 14-year career.
Mitchell explained how he first met Hardaway.
“When I was younger, I played middle-school ball and I ended up making it to the state finals and he was there to watch. I started to know him from that point on. I played on his AAU team,” Mitchell said. “We came up to each other [after the game] and obviously I knew who he was. He came to me just to say that he liked my game. It was after a big game.
“If I’m not mistaken, I think I had 20-something points,” Mitchell added. “But I was like, 5-foot-3 at the time, so it looked more like 40 points in my eyes.”
Bisi Johnson already diving into playbook, looks forward to learning from Thielen & Diggs
Johnson, a receiver out of Colorado State, said he’s already enjoyed diving into the playbook, the same one that Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have.
Johnson said the receivers have impressed him from afar and he is excited to get to work with them.
“I like how Thielen was an underdog his whole life,” Johnson said. “Maybe it’s not part of his game, but it’s part of who he is as a person. I really like that, and Diggs, he’s a big finesse guy. He’s got incredible routes. He’s a fast guy. He’ll go run some nasty routes. I saw him run a post-corner one time, it was gross, turned the defender around and everything, so that’s really exciting.”
Johnson also watched Diggs’ effort on the Minneapolis Miracle.
“Of course I was watching. If you weren’t watching, you saw it on replay on Twitter or something,” Johnson said. “That was crazy, but hopefully we don’t need a miracle this year. Hopefully we just pull through and keep it going.”
Note: Johnson’s given name is Olabisi, but he said he prefers just Bisi. The Vikings equipment staff was already on it, making sure that a Bisi Johnson nameplate was above his locker at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.