MANKATO, Minn. — The practice fields at Mankato State University, Mankato will be filled with fresh faces the next three days.
While the group that arrived Sunday, three days ahead of most veterans, is predominantly rookies, the offense will have the benefit of some snaps led by veteran quarterback Case Keenum, who signed with Minnesota this offseason as a free agent.
Keenum first entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with Houston in 2012. He spent all of that season on the Texans practice squad before making eight starts in 2013. Keenum started a pair of games for Houston in 2014 before joining the Rams in 2015. In two seasons with the Rams, Keenum started 14 of the 16 games he played.
"It's great to be back at work, great to be here with these guys," Keenum said after the Vikings first walk-through. "I think it's an exciting time of year."
Keenum is 454-of-777 passing for 5,224 yards with 24 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. The other two Vikings quarterbacks who arrived Sunday — 2015 undrafted free agent Taylor Heinicke and 2017 undrafted free agent Wes Lunt — have yet to attempt a pass.
Despite the experience, Keenum said he's always looking for reps.
"Anytime you can get extra reps in this league, it's a good thing," Keenum said. "Reps don't come often, especially at the quarterback position, because only one is in there at a time. Anytime you can get extra reps behind the play, watching other guys go is a really good thing."
The receivers and tight ends currently in camp are still dreaming of their first NFL receptions, but Keenum said it is valuable to prepare with everyone because "you never know who is going to be in at what time."
"The more reps you can get with the more guys and the more knowledge you have and the more chemistry you have with different guys, it's nothing but a good thing," Keenum said.
Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur said he appreciates Keenum's experience and quick adjustment to this offense as the Vikings coaches focus on teaching young players.
"I think he's done a really good job for us, in terms of he's a pro, he's a veteran," Shurmur said. "He's been through this more than once, and you can see the way he operates out there that he's got a veteran level to his game, from the cadence to making sure guys are lined up right to calling the play. It's pretty obvious that he's played the game a long time."
Shurmur said Vikings coaches "really haven't backed off of anything" for the quarterbacks.
"We want them to be able to execute efficiently," Shurmur said. "For them also, it's going to help them because they're going to get a chance to get their footwork down and get their sea legs under them before the veterans come."
Keenum said he can tell that Shurmur's fingerprints have been applied to the Vikings offense.
"I wasn't here last year, so I don't know what it was before, but I definitely see Pat's signature on it," Keenum said. "He does a great job of communicating it and teaching to us, which is a big part of this league, being able to take it from the meeting room to the field. I really appreciate that, and I've learned a lot from him in that way.
"It's a good offense. I really enjoy it," Keenum added. "I think we've got some great guys in it that are doing some really great things. As far as picking it up, it's really repetition. You've got to go through reps in your head, on the field and continue to get better each day."