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3 Observations: Vikings Push Ball Down Field, Griffen Begins Grind

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings returned to action in full pads Monday at Twin Cities Orthopedics for a spirted session with temps in the high 80s.

Minnesota has a short week, with the team scheduled to travel to Kansas City Thursday and play the Chiefs at 7 p.m. (CT) Friday in the preseason finale for both teams.

The following Vikings did not participate in team drills: Sheldon Richardson, Adam Thielen, Xavier Woods, Alexander Mattison, Kene Nwangwu, Anthony Barr, Christian Darrisaw, Dru Samia, Tyler Conklin and James Lynch. Jake Bargas left the field via a cart at the end of practice.

The Vikings made a handful of roster moves just before practice that included the signings of Everson Griffen, returning the defensive end to the team he played for from 2010-19, and running back Ito Smith. Both participated.

Practice was halted for a moment because of a scrum between Garrett Bradbury and Jalyn Holmes. The center and defensive lineman went to the ground before teammates stopped the fracas. Bradbury continued practicing, and Holmes later returned to action.

Minnesota's roster is at 80 players, which will be the NFL maximum for all teams on Aug. 24. The reduction to 53 players is scheduled for Aug. 31.

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

1. Pushing the ball down the field

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer lamented earlier Monday that the Vikings hadn't pushed the ball down the field in the passing game on Saturday in a 12-10 loss to the Colts.

"We didn't get the ball down the field vertically," Zimmer said. "If you're going to throw 5-yard checkdowns all day long, it takes 20 of them, so. We'd like to get the ball down the field a little bit more."

The Vikings took some deep shots in 7-on-7 and full-team drills.

Kirk Cousins found K.J. Osborn down the left sideline for a gain of about 20 yards in a 7-on-7 drill. Osborn made a nice adjustment and secured the football against coverage by Patrick Peterson.

Cousins later opened the situational period at the end of practice (first down at the offense's 25-yard line with 12:00 on the clock) with a deep heave to Osborn, but the ball appeared a little short. Kris Boyd broke up the play.

That possession included a catch by Irv Smith, Jr., to convert a second-and-7 but it appeared Harrison Smith would have recorded a sack on a blitz.

The drive stalled shy of midfield and ended with what would have been a sack by Danielle Hunter and D.J. Wonnum.

Jake Browning then got five plays at quarterback and led the second-team offense to the defense's 44-yard line, thanks to a 17-yard pass awarded on a completion to Shane Zylstra, although Stephen Weatherly likely would have recorded a sack. Browning was ruled to have converted a third-and-6 from the 50 with a pass to Whop Philyor, but Troy Dye signaled fourth down, saying Philyor would have been tackled shy of the sticks.

Kellen Mond then took three snaps: a run play for A.J. Rose, Jr., that lost 2, and consecutive incompletions to Bargas and Philyor. Harrison Hand had a nice breakup on the throw to Philyor.

View photos of Vikings DE Everson Griffen at his first practice back with the team after he signed on Aug. 23.

2. Griffen begins grind

Griffen may not have been with a team this offseason, but he looks like he maintained his physical prowess that helped him record 74.5 sacks in Purple and make four Pro Bowls last decade.

He wasn't asked to go full-boar in his first practice of 2021, but he did work his way through position drills.

Griffen also participated in 2-on-2 reps in which a pair of defensive linemen were working on games against two offensive linemen. A combination of Griffen and Weatherly looked promising.

Later on, rookie Patrick Jones II was quick to soak up some tips regarding hand placement from Griffen, who said he believes he'll definitely be ready by Week 1 of the regular season for any role the Vikings have in mind.

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Jan. 5, 2022.

3. Red jersey to red jersey?

The Vikings offense on Monday wore white practice jerseys for the first time this preseason since Minnesota will be wearing white Friday as the road team against the Chiefs.

Minnesota's offense, except for quarterbacks in red, no-contact jerseys, had been wearing purple because of hosting consecutive home games.

Justin Jefferson isn't a quarterback (even though he has been spotted heaving footballs across the football field to equipment assistant Terrell Barnes during brief practice lulls), but he also donned a red jersey Monday.

The unique look served as a reminder to Minnesota's defensive players that Jefferson is working his way back from a shoulder injury. He made a couple of nice catches on the day, including a 6-yard reception that moved the chains on third-and-5 during the situational period for a rare red-jersey-to-red-jersey completion.