MANKATO, Minn. –Audie Cole is chomping at the bit to get back in on the game-day action.
After missing the final eight games of the 2015 season, Cole has enjoyed being back at training camp and preparing for a 2016 run – especially since the pads went on Sunday.
"A long year, sitting off, everyone's ready to go," Cole said earlier this week. "We've just been flying around, hitting each other."
Cole emphasized that he and his teammates are intentional to play smart even with the heightened energy level on the practice field.
"We're out here playing against each other, but we're not really playing against each other," Cole said. "We hit each other and we take each other on, but we just try to not do anything dumb and try to keep everyone healthy."
Cole said being back in Mankato has given him a chance to find his groove again, and the linebacker has made a couple of nice plays on defense over the week. Reflecting the mentality that Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer instills in his team, however, Cole isn't satisfied.
"There are quite a few things that I want to clean up," Cole said. "We're not ready yet, so we have to get some things ironed out […] I think sometimes you're just out there and thinking too much or overthink yourself – that's kind of a problem that you have early in the season. You're thinking things, and you just kind of have to play what you see and not use your head so much.
"But overall, I think we have a good thing going right now," he added.
There's been talk about the level of the current Vikings linebacker corps and its strengths, and Cole said he'd like to think they're one of the most athletic units in the league.
"I believe in us, and I know the team does," Cole said. "We just have to put it all together and put it on the field."
Minnesota's defense as a whole had success last season, and all the team's starters have returned. Cole said one thing that's been extremely helpful for his position group is the proficiency of the defensive line.
View images from the Friday, August 5 practice at Verizon Vikings Training Camp.
"I think we have a strong group of D-linemen, and they help out the linebackers immensely," Cole said. "They're what makes our job easy. They hold up the [offensive] linemen, and they keep them off us. They've been doing a great job so far, and I assume they're going to just keep getting better, as we all are."
Entering his fifth season in the league, Cole – or "Diesel," as his teammates call him – has been utilized by the Vikings on defense and as a regular weapon on special teams. Now back to full health, Cole is looking forward to helping his team in whatever way necessary to be successful.
"We just want to be good," Cole said. "We have to play good defense, we have to keep offenses [at bay], shut them all down, keep the yards down and the scoring down. We need to improve on last year. I thought we had a pretty good year last year, but it wasn't good enough. We need to do better.
"We want to win," he added. "That's it."