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Notebook: Latavius Murray 'Confident in my Progression'

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Latavius Murray said Monday that he's encouraged by his continued progress from an ankle injury that required surgery, but he doesn't know when he will be cleared for his first game action in a Vikings uniform.

The Vikings practiced indoors Monday, and offensive and defensive players zipped across the turf at Winter Park. Minnesota is scheduled to host San Francisco at 7 p.m. (CT) Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium on NBC's Sunday Night Football.

"I think we're flying around out here," Murray said. "We're playing at game speed, so it helps, me being out there and getting the live reps. It will prepare me for when I'm ready to play versus an opponent."

When asked if Murray could be cleared for Sunday's game, Head Coach Mike Zimmer told beat writers, "Maybe."

Vikings players have Tuesday off and return to practice Wednesday, finally allowing Minnesota to implement a traditional game-week schedule after playing its first preseason game on a Thursday and second one last Friday.

"I've been feeling good and just confident in my progression and where I'm at," Murray said. "I think as long as I put in the work on the field, and [Zimmer is] able to see my progress, then he can make the decision on when to cut me loose."

Building blocks: Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph has cemented himself as a top target in the passing game. Rudolph posted career highs of 83 receptions and 840 yards in 2016. Rudolph began that season with Pat Shurmur as his position coach and eventual interim offensive coordinator.

The Vikings made Shurmur the offensive coordinator and brought in Clancy Barone, who has previous experience coaching tight ends and offensive line, this offseason.

Rudolph said Barone's background is helping Vikings tight ends improve their blocking.

"You kind of refine your technique, and as you get more comfortable with your technique, you allow your athleticism and skill to take over in the run game," Rudolph said. "We made a lot of strides last year, and this year, the addition of Clancy Barone in our room, he's got an offensive line background and he's really helped us a lot in the run game."

Zimmer was asked about Rudolph's blocking and said the seven-year pro completed a homework assignment from Zimmer.

"Well, the great thing about Kyle is he's a really good person, he wants to do good for the team. And he's kind of taken it to heart," Zimmer said. "He's probably told you, I've talked to him many times about it and how it can help the running game. If we've got a tight end that can block, that helps a lot.

"I think he's done a good job so far in this preseason of working real hard on it and trying to stay on his blocks," Zimmer added. "I gave him an assignment one time to watch another guy that I respect that is kind of a receiving tight end but a decent blocker, so he did that, too."

Bucky back to back: Rookie tight end Eric Wilson caught back-to-back passes from Anthony Harris in Seattle on Friday that totaled 54 yards and included a 21-yard touchdown.

"He made two great catches at the end of the game last week, and Taylor made some pretty big throws, staying in there, hanging on him," Rudolph said. "That's why they drafted him, so it's good to see that."

Hodges was used more like a receiver than a tight end most times at Virginia Tech, so blocking is still an area for improvement for the sixth-round pick.

"Well, he's still a work in progress. He's still learning every day," Zimmer said. "I think he's cutting down on his mental mistakes.

"You know, the biggest difference for him when he was at Virginia Tech, he was basically a wide receiver," Zimmer added. "And now he's got to move in to learning how to block and play on the line of scrimmage and do those things. So that's been the biggest transition for him. He's working, you know, the thing I like about him is that for basically being a receiver, he goes in there and blocks and tries to block and tries to get dirty with those guys."

Depth of line: The Vikings have continued evaluating their offensive linemen in practices, working several players in for first-team reps as Riley Reiff and Pat Elflein, neither of whom played Friday, returned to the left side of the line. Minnesota also is continuing to evaluate Nick Easton and Pat Elflein at the starting center spot.

Rashod Hill has filled in for Reiff, and Easton started at left guard in place of Boone in Seattle.

The Vikings signed Reiff and Mike Remmers during free agency and drafted Elflein and guard Danny Isidora this offseason.

Zimmer was asked about depth on the offensive line and pointed out that the Vikings thought they were in good shape at the position this time a year ago, before using eight different combinations of starting fives and five players at left tackle.

"Yeah, but you know, last year I thought we were in pretty good shape, too," Zimmer said, "and then, you know, we hit … uhh… when the Titanic crashed."

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