MANKATO, Minn. –Jerick McKinnon returned to the field for individual drills Friday afternoon, including a new ladder drill introduced to the position group by running backs coach Kevin Stefanski.
McKinnon and his teammates ran through the ladder by stepping their right foot into the left column and vice versa.
"He's come up with a couple of different drills we haven't done in the past two years," McKinnon said of Stefanski. "Just working on footwork […]. Things that he teaches us are [game-related]. He has his theory that you can only coach running backs so much, and then the rest of it is up to us."
McKinnon sat out most of the week after tweaking his lower back Monday. He said most of the decision has been precautionary, and he enjoyed getting back in for partial action.
"It felt good. I got moving around a little bit – that's what it was really about," McKinnon said after practice. "I'm just taking it a day at a time and not rushing back. Like I said, it's nice to be back out there with the teammates, moving around a little bit in individuals."
McKinnon, who missed the final five games of the 2014 season due to a back injury, said the current issue isn't at all similar.
"I'm very thankful that it's different than that," McKinnon said. "Things happen, and you have to go from there. My main objective right now is to be patient but keep working and find a way to get back out there 100 percent."
The third-year running back keeps his head in the game, even if his legs aren't.
"I'm taking my mental reps – somehow find a way to put myself in the game-type scenario in my head while I'm in the back watching," McKinnon said. "I'm still working, just not getting the physical reps.
"It's like a video game," he added, laughing.
A Frank(en) discussion
U.S. Senator Al Franken made it back for another year of Vikings Training Camp at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
Franken rode with Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman during the Vikings walk-through session and was greeted by veteran linebacker Chad Greenway.
"Chad and I have a running thing, which is, I get here, he sees me and asks me, he basically says, 'Don't raise my taxes,' " Franken said during a quick informal session with media members. "And that just gives him more determination to raise taxes on people in his salary range. It's a great relationship. No, he's fabulous, and I think he's meant a lot to the Vikings."
"He seems like a Republican," the former political satirist and member of the DFL said. "I said, 'This is my last year to raise your taxes,' and I meant that he's only got one year left. He thought it meant that I was leaving the Senate or something and he said, 'No, no, I'll vote for you next time.' "
Franken's family moved to Minnesota when he was a child, and he's been a big fan over the years.
"This is a very exciting team. This is the most optimistic I've allowed myself to be in a long time," Franken said. "I'm not counting on going all the way. No Vikings fan ever is, but I think Minnesotans are very excited about this team."
Play of the day
Vikings rookie Moritz Böhringer turned in his best catch of camp and the play of the day when he fully extended to corral a pass near the sideline by Shaun Hill. Böhringer took advantage of his 6-foot-4 length and controlled the ball all the way to the ground.
The German-born rookie had his hands full after practice as well, carrying four sets of pads, a rite of passage for rookies, back to the locker room. He stacked pads of Charles Johnson, Adam Thielen and Isaac Fruechte with his own, yet still stopped to sign autographs for fans for a few minutes.
Böhringer also has been working on special teams as a gunner, where his size and speed can help him get down the field quickly.
Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer said this week that Böhringer is capable of multiple positions.
"He can be a halfback on our kickoff return team because he can block. He's strong. He's smart," Priefer said. "He can return the ball if they do kick it to him or if they mishit the ball. He can play a little bit on punt return, either as an outside holdup guy or a rushing off the edge or even holding up a wing.
"We can do a lot of things with him," Priefer continued. "He's come a long way since the spring. He's very smart, and I think just learning the game of football, how we play it at this level, it's going to take him some time, but he has come a long way since when he first got here."
From Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer on the careers of Brett Favre (Vikings QB, 2009-10) and Tony Dungy (Vikings defensive coordinator, 1992-95), who are being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend:
"I hated playing against Brett Favre because he was amazing. I had a lot of fun watching him and his enthusiasm for the game and great arm. Great competitor. I had the chance to play him when I was in Dallas. We played him a lot in the playoffs. It seemed like every year they were down there playing us but he was always a handful. Coach Dungy, I've gotten to know him a bit the last couple of years. It took him a long time to become a head coach, and then he took advantage of it and had an unbelievable career, and he's really a first-class man.
The attendance Friday between the morning walk-through and the afternoon practice totaled 8,726 fans, the most ever for a non-night practice, topping a mark of 7,802 on Sunday.