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NOTEBOOK: Blake Bell a Quick Learner of Vikings Offense

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –Vikings tight end Blake Bell and quarterback Kyle Rudolph have shared a locker room for less than a week, but they have a few things in common.

The pair of Sooners products have both had to learn the Vikings offense in a hurry.

Bell was waived by San Francisco and claimed by Minnesota on Sept. 4, one year and a day after Bradford joined the Vikings via trade in 2016.

"Me and Sam both went to Oklahoma, and I kind of know him from there," said Bell, who played for the Sooners from 2011-14 after Bradford was already in the NFL. "Sam's a guy who's always going to help, and I've talked to him. He's a guy that's going to do whatever he can to help you learn the offense."

Bell is joining a position group led by Kyle Rudolph and said the tight end room has been equally helpful in his quick transition.

"The guys have been very welcoming," Bell said. "They've done a great job of helping me since I've been here. You've gotta love that [as] a new guy coming into a place like this. I'm just going to keep getting better, and those guys will continue to help."

Bell will hope for the opportunity to work into the offense and catch passes from Bradford, but it wasn't too long ago that he was a play caller himself.

He actually started as a quarterback for Oklahoma, recording 36 touchdowns over his first three seasons. Bell was often utilized in goal-line and short-yardage situations, scoring 24 of the touchdowns on rushes himself and garnering the nickname "Belldozer."

As a senior, Bell switched to tight end, the position at which he was drafted 117th overall in 2015.

"The first year was a little different just because I have to get down into the 3-point stance and block some big D-ends and kind of figure that out," Bell said. "But it was a good transition … and I feel like I've gotten better each year."

Bell has played in 27 games and made five starts in the past two seasons. He totaled 15 receptions for 186 yards as a rookie and added four catches for 85 yards last season while playing in his second offensive system in as many years.

Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur said Bell has been a fast learner since arriving in Minnesota.

"We've been impressed with what he's been able to do," Shurmur told Twin Cities media members Friday. "Now that we don't have a full offense that we're teaching conceptually, and we're kind of zeroing in on what we intend to do this week, he'll be ready."

Bell credited his experience under three coaches in as many years with the 49ers with learning how to catch on quick.

"I've been under a couple staffs and different offenses, so just getting in here and really, just memorization, really getting it down and staying in it," Bell said. "[Tight ends coach Clancy Barone] has done a great job of helping me, and really all the coaches, of kind of leading me and showing me how it's done here."

Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer has also spent "several hours" with Bell and feels positive about what he can contribute when called upon. Priefer said he liked what he saw from Bell's tape.

"He's smart, he's tough, loved him on film – he was a great athlete," Priefer said. "We watched a lot of his plays in San Francisco, and he did a lot of good things. He's a big guy that can run, and you can't coach that part.

"In terms of schematically, we're going to teach him what we can – our techniques, our schemes," Priefer added. "Right now he'll be a backup, and he could be there Monday night. Maybe we won't need him, but at the end of the day, he'll be ready."

Following his third walk-through session in Purple, Bell echoed Priefer's thoughts.

"This week I've been just learning as much as I can," Bell said. "Whatever I can do to help the team – so whatever that is, I don't know, but I'm going to be ready to play."

Rudolph, Vikings 'ready to roll' for the regular season

Kyle Rudolph and the Vikings offense are ready for real games and the bright lights of prime-time football.

The Vikings first-team offense tallied three points in 12 preseason possessions, but Minnesota's tight end said the entire unit is pumped up for a fresh start Monday against New Orleans.

"The excitement level is extremely high," Rudolph said. "We've been going at each other for quite a few months, and now it's an opportunity to go out … everything we've done since April when we got back together is for Sundays and in this case, Monday night. It'll be fun to go out there and lay it on the line and put our preparation to work."

"I feel like we're ready to roll. We made it through the preseason with no real injuries, and guys feel good," Rudolph later added. "We're excited to get out there and unleash our offense. We have a ton of playmakers, a ton of guys that can help us win football games. It'll be a lot of fun; I'm looking forward to seeing all of those guys out there together."

Rudolph said a multitude of factors went into why the Vikings first-team offense couldn't find the end zone in preseason play.

"There's a number of things you can look at," Rudolph said. "In the first game, we stalled on third down, and the second game, we went right down the field [before getting a field goal].

"And the third game, we beat ourselves," Rudolph added. "It's nothing anyone did to us, it's all things we can correct and things we've worked on, so for us it's translating what we've been doing in practice to the games."

Rudolph had career highs in 2016 with 83 catches for 840 yards, and he also added seven touchdown receptions.

The former Notre Dame standout said the Vikings will be looking for more chunk plays in the passing game this season but noted that it all starts with a strong running game.

"In order for us to improve the downfield passing game, we have to run the ball," Rudolph said. "That's always a focus of ours, and we're going to try to run the ball better than we did last year."

Brock learning on the fly with Vikings

Tramaine Brock hasn't yet been in Minnesota a week, but he's already pinpointed what he's trying to learn about the Vikings defense.

"The whole playbook," Brock quipped.

The cornerback started 80 games the last seven seasons with San Francisco before joining Seattle in August. The Vikings then traded for him last weekend.

Much like Bradford did a year ago and Bell is doing now, Brock is adjusting on the fly with a new team.

"I've really never been in this situation," Brock said. "I was always with the 49ers, so I've got to get used to it."

Brock was on the field for 1,102 defensive snaps in 2016 for the 49ers, which ranked second on the team.

He said he's willing to play as an outside cornerback or in the slot in Minnesota's defense and brings a toughness to the secondary.

"They have some solid guys here. I'm a good teammate, so I'm here to help this team win," Brock said. "Whatever I can do to be put in the scheme and do that, I'm going to do it."

"I know I can press all game long. Man-to-man, that's what we did last year. That's what I bring to the table," Brock added. "I'm going to be physical at the line and try to disrupt the timing."

View photos from Friday's practice at Winter Park as the Vikings prepare for the New Orleans Saints.

Injury reports

For the Vikings: G Danny Isidora (knee), Brock (groin) and DE Brian Robison (groin) were limited. CB/PR Marcus Sherels (foot) and S Anthony Harris (quadriceps) were full participants.

For the Saints: DE Trey Hendrickson (illness), T Terron Armstead (shoulder), LB Nate Stupar (hamstring) and LS Jon Dorenbos (illness) did not participate. LB Stephone Anthony (ankle) was limited, and QB Chase Daniel (ankle) fully participated.

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