EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings took off the pads Thursday, opting for a less physical practice just past the midway point of camp at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.
A handful of veterans also appeared to get the day off, as Harrison Smith, Adam Thielen, Patrick Peterson and Dakota Dozier watched from the sideline.
Hercules Mata'afa again didn't practice after leaving Wednesday's session early, but a handful of players returned to action. That list included Anthony Barr, Tyler Conklin and Cole Cabral, plus kicker Riley Patterson, who was removed from the Active/Physically Unable to Perform List earlier Thursday.
View photos of Vikings players during training camp practice on August 5 at the TCO Performance Center.
Here are three observations from Thursday's session presented by Minnesota Eye Consultants, the Proud Ophthalmology Partner of the Minnesota Vikings:
1. Dantzler shines at cornerback, records 2 INTs
Cameron Dantzler chatted with the Twin Cities media Thursday afternoon and said his game has grown by leaps and bounds since a year ago.
The second-year cornerback then turned in one of his most impressive practices to date, recording a pair of interceptions off Kirk Cousins on the day.
The first pick came in a passing drill that wasn't with the full team, as Dantzler hauled in an underthrown pass from Cousins intended for Justin Jefferson.
Dantzler was later in the right place at the right time, as another Cousins pass went through Jefferson's hands and deflected right to the corner.
Dantzler led all Vikings cornerbacks with two interceptions in 2020 and appears to be primed for a solid second season.
"Really, just my IQ, knowing where my help is and knowing the defense a little better than I did my rookie year," Dantzler said earlier Thursday. "I feel like having veteran guys to teach me how to study film, and they've been doing a great job with that, so really just my IQ and knowing where to be at the right time."
Jefferson, for what it's worth, didn't have his best day on the practice field. He had a few dropped passes but put in the extra time after practice working on his release off the line of scrimmage with Dantzler, Kris Boyd and K.J. Osborn.
Mackensie Alexander also recorded a pick, but his came when Eric Kendricks deflected a Nate Stanley pass over the middle in the half-team passing drill.
2. Pierce participates in full-team drills
The Vikings spent most of Thursday's session working on their nickel defenses, which consists of four linemen, two linebackers and five defensive backs.
But there was a welcome sight up front as defensive tackle Michael Pierce participated in full-team drills for the first time in camp. He rotated in for a handful of snaps here and there, but it was progress from recent days.
And with Smith held out at safety, Myles Dorn and rookie Camryn Bynum split reps with the first unit at Smith's spot.
3. Block out the noise
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer put some pressure on his offense for the final two periods of practice, backing them up inside their own 10-yard line to work on the situation of trying to get away from that shadow.
And if that wasn't enough, Zimmer also had four large speakers brought over near the field that pumped in loud crowd noise.
The offense responded with mixed results, but it was also good practice for what the team will see more often than not this season.
The Vikings won't endure that situation at home at U.S. Bank Stadium, but they'll most likely face that challenge on the road, beginning with a Week 1 matchup in Cincinnati.