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New Vikings TE Chris Herndon Learning on the Fly

EAGAN, Minn. — Chris Herndon's to-do list has been a bit lengthy this past week.

He has spent the previous few days trying to get settled in town, including getting his car shipped to Minnesota and finding a place to live.

Oh yes, there's also a new playbook to learn and new teammates to meet, all of this with the Vikings season opener looming in just four days against the Bengals.

"It's been pretty hectic," Herndon said Wednesday after practice. "I'm just taking it day-by-day and learning every day."

Herndon was acquired by the Vikings on Aug. 31 in a trade with the Jets. Minnesota sent a 2022 fourth-round draft pick to New York in exchange for a 2022 sixth-round draft pick and the 25-year-old tight end.

View photos of Vikings players from practice on Sept. 8 at the TCO Performance Center.

Does Herndon himself expect to contribute in Week 1 against the Bengals?

"Right now, I'm just coming out here, working every day and enjoying getting better, enjoying my new teammates," Herndon said. "Whatever the team has for me, it's up to me to be ready – in shape and know as much as I can."

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer expects Herndon to be ready to go against the Bengals.

"I've seen him [in] one practice (on Monday)," Zimmer said before Wednesday's session. "I think he'll have a role — I know he'll have a role on Sunday, so we'll see how that goes."

The Vikings acquired Herndon after losing Irv Smith, Jr., to a meniscus injury. Top replacement option Tyler Conklin was limited in Wednesday's practice with a hamstring issue. Minnesota also has Brandon Dillon and Ben Ellefson on the 53-man roster.

Herndon said Conklin, the most experienced Vikings tight end at age 26, has been a big help early on.

"He's been a great leader for the room since I've been here," Herndon said. "Most of the time, he comes to me to make sure I know what I'm doing or if I have any questions. He'll ask me about route running. He's helped me out and has been great."

Herndon described himself as a hard worker and a very determined player, something that could show up in his blocking, which is a key trait for a Vikings tight end on a team that prefers to run the ball.

"I feel like I'm pretty confident blocking. I did it a lot in New York and in college, so it's always something I've taken personal," Herndon said. "Like I said, the unselfish part — the catches, the touchdowns … that's all fun — but blocking for your teammates and allowing other people to have success and get their touches, I feel like that's a big part of this franchise."

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins on Wednesday had praise for Herndon, who was a Jets 2018 fourth-round pick out of Miami.

"We need more time, but he's done a great job, like I said, picking up the offense," Cousins said. "That was really the first hurdle, so he has a good feel for what we're trying to do. We do need more time to just get the feel of how he's wired and what he does naturally well."

Herndon has made 25 career starts (12 as a rookie and 13 in 2020). He had 502 receiving yards and four scores as a rookie. But he played in just one game in 2019, when he was suspended the first four games of the season. He did not play until Nov. 10 and then suffered a season-ending injury.

He bounced back in 2020 with 31 catches for 287 yards and three scores and now gets a fresh start in Purple.

"In those types of moments, you just have to learn to adapt in a new environment, new people, new offense," Herndon said. "And like I said, I'm just doing my best to learn as fast as I can and get acclimated."

"Just different terminology," Herndon later added. "But just studying every day, asking questions and then actually getting the reps out here is helping things be a lot smoother on the field."