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Latavius Murray Relishes Vikings Preseason Debut

MINNEAPOLIS — A few minutes into the second quarter, Latavius Murray hauled in a short pass, made a juke move to his left and was tackled after an 8-yard reception.

The play didn't pick up a first down or wow the crowd, but the Vikings running back likely had a smile on his face when he returned to the huddle. 

Murray, who signed with Minnesota as a free agent this spring, made his Vikings preseason debut Sunday night against San Francisco. He was held out of the first two preseason games but admitted after a 32-31 win that it actually felt good to get tackled.

"It did," Murray said with a laugh. "You get that first hit, and it's like, 'OK, let's play a little bit.'

"It felt good to be back out there again," Murray said. "I was like a kid in a candy store."

Murray had four offensive touches for 16 yards against the 49ers. In addition to his first reception, he had another one for two yards.

The former Pro Bowl running back also had a pair of carries, both of them coming on second-and-2. Each time, Murray plowed ahead for three yards and a first down, a welcome sight for a Vikings offense that struggled to run the ball in short-yardage situations in 2016.

Murray said he hopes he can bring a physical mentality to the Vikings running game.

"With my frame, if they put me in in those situations, my mentality is to get the first (down)," Murray said. "That's just how I look at it every time I'm in there. (Short-yardage) situations, you have to get the first (down) at all costs."

Although Murray had the least amount of touches between himself, Dalvin Cook and Jerick McKinnon, the running back's counterparts said they were happy their teammate was able to get in some action on Sunday night.

"Our running backs are tight," McKinnon said. "It was good to see Latavius back out there tonight getting some reps and getting comfortable with the offense tonight."

Added Cook: "To see him go out and compete and do what he loves to do, I'm excited for him."

Murray spent time with a first-team offense that produced nine first downs and 134 yards of offense in the first half but just three points. Minnesota was also just 1 of 6 on third downs.

The running back said that the unit has had multiple moving parts of late with injuries and personnel changes,

"Obviously that's our job, to go out there and put points on the board," Murray said. "It's frustrating that the first team hasn't been able to do that. We want to light up the scoreboard, and I think we have the talent in the room to do that.

"It's just finding ways to put the ball in the end zone," Murray added. "We've been beating ourselves a lot, setting ourselves back."

Murray included himself in the areas that need to improve. The running back could have had a sizable gain on a reception Sunday but stepped out of bounds before catching the pass, resulting in an illegal touching penalty that set Minnesota back five yards.

"We had a big play, but I stepped out of bounds … that could have been one," Murray said. "It's a long season ahead of us, we just need to continue to work and get better."

Murray and the Vikings have 14 days before their season opener against New Orleans on Monday Night Football at U.S. Bank Stadium.

After a reasonable solid debut, Murray said he's looking forward to continuing to get better before the season kicks off, especially now that his Purple debut is over and done with.

"It felt good to be back out there," Murray added. "I felt like a little kid."

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