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Lunch Break, 8/20: Winding Roads to Roster Spots

View images from a chilly practice at Winter Park on Wednesday, August 19.

The road to a roster spot in the NFL can take multiple turns and have multiple speed bumps.

Twin Cities media members on spotlighted three different journeys, including one that appears to have concluded at the summit, and two that are still winding.

Chris Tomasson, of the Pioneer Press, recapped the career of Tom Johnson that included stops in NFL Europe, the Arena Football League and the Canadian Football League before he made it to the Saints in 2011. The journeyman who will turn 31 this month joined the Vikings on a one-year deal in 2014 and posted 6.5 sacks, earning a multi-year contract in Minnesota.

Johnson told Tomasson he visited former teammates in Calgary between the end of the Vikings offseason program and training camp.

"Everybody (in Canada) was just congratulating me," Johnson told Tomasson. "They were saying how proud they are of me. You don't want to let those people down."

Tomasson noted that the new deal hasn't caused complacency in Johnson, who rotates in at defensive tackle primarily as a rush specialist in the Vikings nickel package:

*With that in mind, don't expect Johnson to let up in the slightest despite his newfound NFL security. Johnson was second on the team last season with 6.5 sacks and has set a goal of getting at least eight this year. *

"I still have that mentality that tomorrow is never promised," Johnson told Tomasson. "I use everything as motivation. From what I've been through, I use my background to continue to motivate me."

Meanwhile, Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune, took a look at the experiences of Leon Mackey, who has been working primarily at third-string defensive end and has a deep appreciation for every snap. Vensel noted that 26-year-old Mackey endured failed tryouts and spent time in the Indoor Football League, where he was compensated with paychecks of $125, along with eggs, chicken and peanut butter.

There was also, Vensel wrote, that humbling, two-month stint at a funeral home during which he was responsible for picking up the departed and hauling them away in a hearse.

Mackey did well enough (in the indoor league) to get an offer from the AFL's Arizona Rattlers late in the 2014 season. As far as Mackey was concerned at that point, that was like hitting the jackpot. The Rattlers provided him with housing, $300 game checks and $50 meal cards. More importantly, they gave Mackey a chance to get on the radar of NFL teams again.

Offseason signee DeMarcus Van Dyke, meanwhile, is with his fourth NFL team in as many seasons. Viking Update's Eric Oslund wrote about the former third-round pick* *of the Raiders, who will visit the Vikings at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Van Dyke spent the 2014 season out of football, but the 6-foot-1 corner was signed when the Vikings added size and depth to their cornerback position. Van Dyke told Oslund that he was interested in Minnesota because of the expertise that Head Coach Mike Zimmer has at working with cornerbacks and thinks the learning experience is paying off.

"At first I was a little shaky with the technique, but now coach Zim is working me after practice, during practice, to make sure my technique is on point so I think I'm getting there," Van Dyke told Oslund.

Quick Hitter

ESPN's Ben Goessling on Zimmer's opinions of Hard Knocks.

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