EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — By the time Laquon Treadwell headed toward the locker room Tuesday afternoon, you only needed one hand to count the number of players left on the practice field.
Helmet in hand, the wide receiver flashed a smile as he wrapped up another day of work during Organized Team Activities.
As the 2016 first-round pick readies for his second season with the Vikings, it appears almost nobody is enjoying practice more — even on a cold and windy day in May.
"I'm having a lot of fun just being back and doing the thing I love and doing it every day," Treadwell said. "It's a blessing to be out there with the team and the starters.
"I'm helping the younger guys out from my experience last year … It was a blessing in disguise," Treadwell added. "Helping them with the playbook, I actually know what I'm talking about. It allows you to play faster and have fun."
Treadwell hasn't forgotten about his frustrating rookie season, one that saw him battling nagging injuries and record just one reception for 15 yards.
Instead, he returned to Winter Park in April with a fresh outlook but the same intense work ethic.
"Guys were saying last year that your first year is you swimming and trying to figure it all out," Treadwell said. "Then your second year it slows down, and each year after that, it slows down even more.
"It's slowed down a lot," Treadwell added. "I wouldn't say I'm comfortable but I'm more in tune with what's going on and how to play and how to get open in the league."
Both Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer and Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur have noticed a change in Treadwell from a year ago.
Zimmer, who has been watching film from his Kentucky ranch while focusing on his health, noted Treadwell and quarterback Sam Bradford connected on a deep ball last week during OTAs.
"He's been running routes good, and he's caught the ball well," Zimmer said. "Even in these first few days, Bradford made a nice deep throw to him that he caught and adjusted well.
"He's catching the ball really well, and he's running good routes. I think he's developing a trust with the quarterback, and the most important thing is that quarterback trusts the receivers to be at the right place," Zimmer added. "He's looked much different than he did a year ago."
Said Shurmur: "He came back and he was really on point with what he's supposed to be doing mentally. He's been out here competing and doing a nice job running routes and catching the ball. Understanding where he fits in the running game and who to block. To this point, we've been really pleased with his progress based on a year ago."
Treadwell, the 23rd overall pick in 2016, pointed to a number of factors on why his comfort level has skyrocketed so far this spring.
"It's a little bit of everything," Treadwell said. "Health, system, mentality. Understanding more.
"Once you put time into something, it's only going to get better," Treadwell said. "I've put a lot of time and a lot of work into it."
Treadwell's mind and motor never stop, as evident by Tuesday's session. During a break in team drills, the 21-year-old spent time with defensive ends Brian Robison and Everson Griffen and Vikings assistant defensive line coach Robert Rodriguez.
Rodriguez wore boxing mitts as the three players worked on hand quickness and fending off potential offensive linemen or cornerbacks.
"Just some special work," Treadwell said. "We do a lot of hand-fighting as receivers so I thought it'd could improve my game … it could help me win my routes and my 1-on-1 (battles)."
It's tough to miss Treadwell at practice these days. The wide receiver hustles from one drill to the next, eager to prove that he can be a dependable option for the Vikings offense.
It's all part of his steady approach, one that has Treadwell embracing the daily grind as the 2017 season inches closer.
"I try to stay one step ahead every day," Treadwell said. "The results are showing but I want to keep that up."