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3 Observations: Hunter, Richardson in Attendance; Jefferson Finds End Zone

EAGAN, Minn. — Mandatory minicamp has arrived.

The Vikings kicked off three days of important practice time Tuesday morning, going for a little more than an hour on a picturesque morning at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.

Minnesota had 86 of 90 players on the roster in attendance for the voluntary session. Cornerbacks Jeff Gladney, Kris Boyd and Tye Smith were not present, and kicker Riley Patterson also wasn't spotted.

Defensive end Danielle Hunter, cornerback Cameron Dantzler and linebacker Chazz Surratt were present but did not go through any drills.

Sheldon Richardson, who was signed Tuesday, did not partake in team drills.

The Vikings are scheduled to hold minicamp practices on Wednesday and Thursday. Players and coaches will then get a break before training camp begins in late July.

Here are three observations from Tuesday's session presented by Minnesota Eye Consultants, the Proud Ophthalmology Partner of the Minnesota Vikings:

1. Jefferson & Beebe find the end zone

The Vikings spent the final portion of practice working on late-game situations, and it was the starting offense that came through in the clutch.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer put the pressure on his team by giving the offense the ball 16 yards from the end zone. The unit trailed 23-17 and had no timeouts with just 26 seconds on the clock.

Justin Jefferson didn't take long to make a splash, catching a pass from Kirk Cousins on an in-breaking route and motoring in for a score on the first play for the potential go-ahead score.

Jefferson, of course, then broke out "The Griddy" to celebrate.

Cousins stayed hot later in the session for another scoring pass. This one started on a snap with just six seconds left on the clock. The offense trailed 18-12 and had the ball at the 10-yard line.

The quarterback broke the pocket and scrambled to his right before finding Chad Beebe for the score. The receiver had taken advantage of the broken play to get just enough separation from Mackensie Alexander.

2. Browning steps up

Backup quarterback Jake Browning continued the work he did in open OTA practices with the second-team offense on Tuesday.

And much like Cousins, Browning also delivered late in a game-like situation. The offense trailed 19-13 and had the ball near midfield with 100 seconds left, putting the onus on Browning to lead a scoring drive.

It wasn't a perfect drive, as the third-year QB had to convert twice on fourth down — once on a pass to Dan Chisena and another time on a QB sneak. But he eventually moved the ball into the red zone with the ball at the 15-yard line with 10 seconds left.

Browning then made some magic happen, buying some time while rolling around before lofting a pass into a crowd in the end zone. The ball landed in the outstretched hands of a leaping Brandon Dillon, who was mobbed my teammates with no time left on the scoreboard.

Browning also made another notable throw in a 7-on-7 red-zone drill, zipping a pass to Bisi Johnson for a score.

The former undrafted free agent has had a strong spring so far and is competing with 2020 seventh-rounder Nate Stanley and 2021 third-rounder Kellen Mond for the backup job behind Cousins. Training camp and preseason games will be important for each QB.

3. A handful of PBUs on defense

While the offense delivered in the clutch Tuesday, the defense still made plenty of notable plays throughout the session.

Harrison Smith had an interception on a tipped pass, and Eric Kendricks was in tight coverage against Tyler Conklin on a pass from Cousins that initially looked like a score in the red zone.

A handful of young cornerbacks also made noteworthy plays.

Harrison Hand continued his progression by denying Irv Smith, Jr., on a score with a pass breakup in the end zone.

And even though Browning led the probable go-ahead drive mentioned above, Parry Nickerson and Dylan Mabin made it tough on him. Both players had pass breakups on the drive, which led to extra work for the offense.

Nickerson batted away a pass intended for Johnson, while Mabin jumped to deflect a pass attempt away from rookie Ihmir Smith-Marsette.