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3 Observations: Harrison Smith Enters Fold, K.J. Osborn Strikes in Red Zone

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings were back on the grass Tuesday after an extended holiday weekend for their fourth Organized Team Activity practice of 2023.

OTAs are the third and final phase of NFL teams' voluntary offseason workouts before they can host mandatory minicamps.

This phase allows for the offensive and defensive players to line up against each other but has limitations on contact. Players are just in helmets and shorts, and the Vikings opted to keep some of the dials on a jog-through setting.

The session included position drills, 7-on-7 passing periods and 11-on-11 team reps.

Tuesday's practice was the fourth of the offseason and second open to media members. Teams can hold up to 10 sessions before a mandatory minicamp in mid-June.

View photos from the Vikings OTA practice which took place on May 30 at the TCO Performance Center.

Here are three observations from Tuesday's OTA practice resented by Minnesota Eye Consultants, the Proud LASIK Partner of the Minnesota Vikings:

1. Harrison Smith hits the field

Veteran safety Harrison Smith, who reworked his contract this offseason to remain with the Vikings and return for his 12th pro season, took some of his earliest steps in Minnesota's new defensive system being led by offseason hire Brian Flores.

Smith logged some work in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 passing drills.

The Vikings have used packages with two and three safeties in the two practices that have been open to media members.

Smith participated in a media interview after the session and smiled when describing the aggressive nature that he's already observed from Flores' defense.

2. Receivers in the red zone

Justin Jefferson has not been at the Vikings voluntary practices that have been open to media members, and first-round pick Jordan Addison has watched both sessions from the sideline.

Fourth-year pro K.J. Osborn was targeted multiple times when the offense was working 7-on-7 in the red zone. He caught multiple passes on the day from Kirk Cousins.

Nick Mullens connected with Jalen Reagor and found Trishton Jackson open after extending the play.

Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell said the Vikings are being "overly cautious" with Addison, who is dealing with "something that kind of popped up toward the tail end of rookie minicamp. Nothing serious at all."

"My big thing with him right now is there's just so much learning going on for him," O'Connell added. "We've got big plans for him, obviously, but want to make sure mentally he's in a good space and physically at his best when we allow him to truly go out there and turn it loose. And really, it's just a matter of what phase of the offseason we're in right now, where learning is at a premium, and we want to make sure he's getting every possible resource and avenue that we can, so when his time comes to activate him fully within our group, he's ready to roll."

O'Connell was asked about Osborn and said he's been a "real standout all spring."

"He's moving around, he's playing multiple spots, taking on a leadership role, which I expected him to do in that room, and it's just been a really cool process to see not only what his ownership of what his role was previously, but you can see it when he breaks the huddle," O'Connell said.

O'Connell also credited Jalen Nailor and Reagor for what they've been showing.

"One of the things that's been great about this spring is getting to see different combinations of guys in different spots and truly in real time, seeing who is exactly where in the lens of comfort in any position in our offense," O'Connell said.

As for Jefferson, the second-year coach said he's had some "great dialogue" throughout the offseason that he plans to keep between himself and the receiver.

"I just know he's getting work wherever he's spending his offseason, and I look forward to having him here when he decides to come up, and I know his teammates will be excited about that," O'Connell said.

3. See the ball, free the ball

The Vikings recorded 10 fumble recoveries in 2022, which tied for 10th with six other teams, including five that also made the playoffs (San Francisco, Philadelphia, L.A. Chargers, Buffalo and Tampa Bay). Detroit, which nearly made the postseason, was the other team.

The 10-spot was two more than Minnesota claimed in 2021 and three more than in 2020.

Throughout last season, players pointed to getting what was being emphasized.

That focus extended to Tuesday when defensive players went through several drills to refine their techniques of stripping footballs from teammates.