MANKATO, Minn. –Rashod Hill went from the Vikings practice squad to playing in an NFL game in less than two months. Now, he's using his experience from both while taking first-team reps at training camp.
Hill has been filling in at left tackle since Riley Reiff left Thursday afternoon's practice with an injury.
While Hill's big-league debut against the Bears was nearly eight months ago, he said that getting a taste of game-day speed has carried over to better prepare him.
And now each day at practice, Hill has his hands full with defensive ends Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter.
"I have long arms, I'm strong, [but] I just have to get my feet back quicker with [Hunter] because I know Danielle, he has some good hands. Griff' has both, too, he has speed and hands.
"If you don't get back, they'll embarrass you," Hill continued. "That's one thing I don't like – I don't like being embarrassed. So I have to do what I have to do. I try to get off when they do and get my hands on them."
Hill credited offensive line coach Tony Sparano for improved hand placement and footwork.
"If both are working at the same time, then you know you have a fighting chance," Hill said.
He's only been with the Vikings since Nov. 15, but Hill said the rest of the offensive linemen have treated him like family since he arrived.
Alex Boone, who plays alongside Hill at the left guard position, was the first one to take the younger lineman under his wing.
"I got here in November, [and] Boone invited me to his house for Thanksgiving," Hill said. "Jeremiah [Sirles], [Joe Berger], all the older guys. Even Nick [Easton], though, Nick isn't an older guy.
"When I'm out there [in practice] I get attention right away. 'Get back a little bit more,' or 'Get your hands on him,' 'Good job today,' " Hill added. "They're like my older brothers a little bit, I look at them like that. If I need anything, they're always there."
Boone said he tries to play "the best football I can" for Hill and his other comrades on the line.
"I think Rashod and I are doing really well together," Boone said. "We're kind of learning from each other a little bit."
After Hill spent minicamp in June with the second-team offense, stepping in for Reiff was an adjustment.
He snapped his fingers fast, three times in a row, illustrating the up-tempo pace of playing with the ones.
"They're moving just like that. So you hesitate for a step, and you're already beat," Hill said. "So going with them, I have to step my game up, know my assignments [better]. In the second unit you know your assignment, but you have to be faster with the first unit."
The New Year's Day game in Week 17 against Chicago boosted Hill's confidence. And while his performance wasn't perfect, it gave him a benchmark to build off of.
"I got the job done, but I could have made better steps," Hill said. "I'm the first one to critique myself before anybody can say anything."
Added Hill: "I'll write down everything I need to do [and then] come out the next day and do two things off that list."
Hill knows that he'll likely return to a reserve role when Reiff is back on the field, but he's taking advantage of all the reps he can get.
"I go in there and they're on me. They tell me what I need to do, where my mistakes are," Hill said. "This experience is really helping me out a lot, and it's showing me that, 'OK, if I get my stuff together out there, I have a chance to play in this league.' "
Murray focused on rehab process
Latavius Murray has worn his jersey every day since arriving for training camp, but the running back has yet to take the field for practice.
Murray has instead been working off to the side and in the training room, trying to rehab an ankle injury that required surgery this spring.
"No timetable," Murray said. "Right now, I'm just taking it day by day.
"You have good days, you have bad, so I'm trying to have more of the good right now," Murray added. "I'm going to continue to work and get back as soon as I can."
Murray, who rushed for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns with Oakland in 2016, said he is practicing patience.
"It's very frustrating. My main thing is getting healthy because I'm no good if I'm not healthy," Murray said. "I'm just trying to do that every single day.
"If I'm healthy, I can go out there and help this team regardless of what role that is," Murray later added. "I have to get healthy first so be off to the side rehabbing is how I can help this team."
Cook knew it was good
It's third-and-1, and a high draft pick is on the field at running back. What will the offense do?
On Saturday, Sam Bradford faked a handoff to rookie Dalvin Cook, and took a deep shot to Kyle Rudolph.
The Vikings Entertainment Network crew captured the shot beautifully, including Cook's celebratory reaction before the ball landed right in Rudolph's hands as the tight end kept stride. Cook was asked about knowing it was going to be successful before the completion.
"That's the confidence I've got in my guys, man," Cook said. "Being around these guys for a couple of months, I'm confident in these guys from being in the locker room and earning their trust out there. I'm confident, and when we're winning and having fun, I like to have a lot of fun."
The Vikings want to improve their run game this season for multiple reasons. The first is obvious: to gain more yards on the ground after being limited to just 1,205 in 2016. Another reason would be to force defenses to respect the threat of runs more and free up receiving targets from double teams.
Cook mentioned the Atlanta Falcons, the defending NFC Champs as an example of the run game helping the pass game.
"They opened up the passing game, opened the vertical game up," Cook said, "so I think rushing in today's game is very important because if you can't run the ball, a team is going to double a receiver. If you can run the ball, they can't do that, so it's very important for us to run the football this year."
Newman doesn't want Super Bowl trophy to be 'girl who got away'
Terence Newman will turn 39 years old exactly one week before the Vikings kick off the 2017 regular season on *Monday Night Football. *
While many players from his draft class have long since walked away from the field, Newman told media members that he doesn't think much about retirement.
He hasn't yet achieved his ultimate goal.
"It's like, I [saw] some hot babes in college, right? And you make eye contact, you might get a smile, and then you never hear from her again, right?" Newman said. "So I'm chasing this hot babe known as the Lombardi Trophy. I got a couple looks at one point in time, distant glances, but no smiles yet. And I'm trying to get up close and personal to that babe."