EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –Jerick McKinnon has put on weight without losing the wheels.
In addition to studying the playbook and putting in work on the field, McKinnon focused this offseason on bulking up without sacrificing speed.
The running back said he's concentrated on eating lean food but more of it.
"No junk food," McKinnon said. "Just doubling up my portions […] making sure that I don't get lazy. It's hard when you get tired and really don't want to eat, but you just have to make yourself eat to keep the weight."
McKinnon, who said his playing weight hovered around 201 pounds last season, told Twin Cities media members that he weighed in at 212 on Monday.
He said the desire to make some physical changes came after feeling the repercussions of a long season.
"Just getting dinged up, and as the season goes along, 17 weeks, it's just hard on the body," McKinnon said. "I'm just trying to keep it on for that purpose.
"I'm just trying to keep it on and stay comfortable," McKinnon said. "Stay mobile, not get too tight, stuff like that."
McKinnon said he feels stronger than he ever has but hasn't compromised his quickness.
In addition to being intentional through workouts and diet, McKinnon has been working under the guidance of Vikings strength and conditioning coach Brent Salazar.
"Coach Brent in the weight room, he's on me every day about moving the weight fast, making sure I got that pop to be explosive," McKinnon said. "They're on me hard, the coaches, so for me, it feels good to get out here before the season."
The Vikings running back room has a different look this year.
After three weeks of Organized Team Activity practices and kicking off minicamp this week, McKinnon said he's clicked well with rookie Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray, whom the Vikings signed as a free agent.
Although Murray hasn't yet been cleared for practice after undergoing a procedure on his ankle, he hasn't taken a break from working.
"I know it's tough for Latavius not to be out there, but he's still in the playbook," McKinnon said. "He's asking questions and everything – he's making the mental reps, and I like that about him. I'm looking forward to working with him and Dalvin."
McKinnon, 25, said he's excited to learn from Murray, who's been in the league for two more seasons than his younger teammate and had a Pro Bowl season with the Raiders. But Murray is learning himself in a new offensive system.
"He's doing good. He's understanding the concepts," McKinnon said. "The thing about Latavius is that he's still learning, too, he's still growing."
Added McKinnon: "Anytime I see that from a guy, that's something that I like because that's how I see myself."
When McKinnon, Murray and Cook hit the practice field, they're essentially all vying for the starting running back position.
It's a competitive camaraderie that pushes each player to work his hardest while also supporting each other as teammates.
"We get along pretty good, actually. I look at those guys like brothers […] they're down-to-earth guys," said McKinnon. "There's some good vibes, and we're trying to make each other better."
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer consistently stresses a team-first mentality, and the Vikings running backs have taken the same approach.
Playing selflessly is key.
"I think that's the great thing about our room in general – there's no selfish guys," McKinnon said. "We know there's only going to be one starter. But in the grand scheme of things, all of us might touch the ball in the game. So it's just about working with each other, competing, and then we'll go from there."
McKinnon emphasized that his focus right now isn't on whether he'll start but instead on how he can improve as a player each and every day.
"I don't know what my role will be," McKinnon said. "But whatever it is, I'll take it on, a hundred percent."
Heading into his fourth season in Purple, McKinnon still looks to glean as much information – and ask as many questions – as possible. But he's also the longest-tenured Viking in the position group.
While McKinnon's on-field role hasn't been determined for 2017, he's more than willing to accept the leadership responsibility.
"I embrace it," he said. "I love working with those guys."
"It does [feel weird]," McKinnon added with a laugh. "I'm not even old."