MANKATO, Minn. –Vikings coaches noticed the way Shamar Stephen worked his way back from an injury, and now he's making an impression with the job he's doing on the field.
"I think he's done a great job [this offseason]," Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards said Monday. "I mean, Shamar has a great work ethic – he was in the building every single day getting ready. He really worked hard to get to the point where he is right now."
A seventh-round draft pick in 2014, Stephen impressed coaches early on as a rookie and played in all 16 games. He was only able to play in the first five games of his second season, however, before suffering a toe injury and being placed on injured reserve. Now, he's spent the offseason preparing for game action. Stephen zeroed in on the little details – hand placement and footwork – during minicamp and organized team activities, and it's carried over into training camp.
"I'm still bringing it along," Stephen said. "It's always important just to focus on those little things so you can play faster when it comes full speed."
Stephen got a sample of almost-full speed during Saturday night's practice. Playing under the lights electrified the entire team, including Stephen, who took first-team reps in place of a dinged-up Sharrif Floyd.
"It was exciting," Stephen said. "We're coming in here, fighting and playing, just going after it every day. Once you're on the field, you have to perform and do your job."
Stephen is a work horse, and Edwards said it's paid off in dividends.
"Fundamentally and technique-wise, he's as sharp a guy as you want up there on the front," Edwards said. "It's money in the bank – he's going to give you exactly what you ask for or attempt to do it with the best of effort."
One area where Edwards believes Stephen can improve a bit is on his inside pass rush. Edwards said the coaches are happy with his work there over the offseason and want to see him continue developing those fundamentals.
While Stephen played in place of Floyd Saturday, he's also been with the second team behind Linval Joseph at nose tackle.
"He's solid as a run player, and we have repped him in there some," Edwards said. "He does a good job whether he's at the nose or the 3-technique and with certain adjustments at the tight end, both of those guys have to be able to play both positions anyway."
When it comes down to it, Stephen isn't concerned about the position or the limelight. Reflecting the team mentality defensive line coach Andre Patterson preaches to his players, Stephen just hopes to contribute every day he's on the clock.
"If they want me to play the [3-technique], the nose, whatever," Stephen said. "I'm just going to come here and play within the system how they me to play and do my job.
"Doing [my] job and being one cohesive group," he added. "So as we play as a group, we can just build and build as the season goes on – and win games."