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Notebook: Healthy Laquon Treadwell Practicing with 'A Mental Freedom'

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —Laquon Treadwell listened to the question and looked skyward.

"Up there," the second-year receiver said in response to a question about his confidence level.

The sun began peeking through a blanket of clouds on a dripping muggy morning at Winter Park Tuesday when the Vikings opened their mandatory minicamp.

Treadwell had an impressive catch over the middle during the session, made several other plays and ran well. There was also a near miss on a nice deep route against Xavier Rhodes.

On his final day as a 21-year-old, the 2016 first-round pick described playing with "a mental freedom" that comes with being healthy and another year removed from a significant leg injury in 2014 as a sophomore at Mississippi.

This year, he's stayed healthy in the offseason program and has taken substantial reps with the first team when the Vikings use a three receiver set.

"It helps you relax mentally when you know you're all the way healthy and able to take some of those hits on your legs," Treadwell said. "That was a big thing for me even in college. I got hits on my legs and was able to bounce back. It's a mental freedom.

"It's just playing ball now and making plays," Treadwell added.

Treadwell's rookie season wasn't quite what he expected. He appeared in nine games and finished with one catch for 15 yards after catching two or more passes in every college game he played.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said earlier this offseason that last season's results didn't stem from a lack of work by Treadwell. Zimmer said "maybe he works too hard."

Vikings.com's Eric Smith tracked the work that Treadwell was doing after training camp practices last season, counting 277 post-practice catches of passes launched at him by a machine.

Zimmer also said that Treadwell has "looked much different than he did a year ago."

"Yeah, I think he looks good," Zimmer said. "He's stopping and starting. Some of the routes that he's been running as far as when he has to plant and comeback, I thought he's done pretty well. He's run some good routes to accelerate over the middle. … So, I think he just feels so much more comfortable now."  

Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur said he's seen progress in the receiver who led the SEC with 11 touchdown receptions and 1,153 yards in 2015.

"He came back, and he was really on point with what he's supposed to be doing mentally," Shurmur said. "He's been out here competing and doing a nice job running routes and catching the ball. Understanding where he fits in the running game and who to block. To this point, we've been really pleased with his progress based on a year ago."

The Vikings have two more days of minicamp before wrapping their offseason program. The team will then break before reporting to training camp next month.

It's safe to say that Treadwell won't be looking too far ahead of the break.

"We've got to come out here and get to work," Treadwell said. "I've just got to continue to do it and find my role in this offense and help the team win some ball games."

View images from the tenth and final 2017 OTA practice at Winter Park.

Encouraged by Bridgewater

As mentioned, Treadwell suffered a fractured tibia and dislocated left ankle in a game on Nov. 1, 2014, so he's no stranger to bouncing back from a major injury.

The recovery efforts of another teammate, quarterback Stefon Diggs, have impressed Treadwell and others.

Bridgewater suffered a dislocated knee during a practice last August and has been doing rehab work since. Part of Bridgewater's rehab work includes dropping back and throwing the football, but he has not been cleared to practice with the team.

"He looks great, really great, like he was never hurt," Treadwell said. "That's God-given talent, and he's a worker. He's a fighter. He's shown us a lot off the small time that we've seen him, and for him to bounce back so fast, that's been a blessing.

"With anybody who takes an injury like that, it will take a couple of hits to overcome it," Treadwell added. "He's strong-minded and he's just ready to overcome that obstacle."

Valuable time

Injuries ravaged the Vikings offensive line last season, causing Minnesota to use eight different combinations of starters and five different players at left tackle.

The Vikings brought in tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers early in free agency. Reiff has been at left tackle since arriving, and Remmers has been the other bookend. In between, the brunt of first-team reps have gone to Pat Elflein at left guard, Nick Easton at center and Nick Easton at right guard.

Remmers said the offensive linemen have appreciated the opportunity to work together and build cohesion during the offseason program so that they will be better prepared for camp and the preseason.

"This time of year is absolutely critical," Remmers said. "You're getting little things down, communication, technique, footwork and everything. This time is critical so when we go into August we're all in a groove together and continue to grow from there."

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