NOTEBOOK: Maalouf Evaluating Vikings Returners of ‘All Shapes & Sizes’

EAGAN, Minn. – Several Vikings are getting reps as returners.

Throughout voluntary Organized Team Activity sessions and the first two days of Vikings minicamp, media members have seen a number of different jersey numbers in the backfield during the special teams portion of practice.

Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Marwan Maalouf, who joined the team this offseason, spoke with the media following Wednesday’s practice and said it’s important to see different players returning punts and kickoffs because he’s still “fitting the puzzle pieces” together.

“There’s a few guys [who] are injured who have had a history of [returning], so it’ll be exciting once those guys get back to speed and just kind of seeing how it all shakes out,” Maalouf said. “But the good thing is, there’s quite a few guys who are doing it.”

Maalouf was asked about receiver Chad Beebe, who has received significant work at punt returner. The coordinator said that Beebe tracks the ball well, “has the right mentality” for the role and looks natural in it.

“I think those are important factors, you know? Not all guys can catch punts,” Maalouf said.

Jordan Taylor did not practice Tuesday or Wednesday but previously also has gotten punt return reps. While Taylor stands at 6-foot-5, Beebe is listed at 5-10.

“The beauty about special teams is we take all shapes and sizes,” Maalouf said in response to an inquiry about body type. “It doesn’t matter if you’re 6-4 or 5-11 or 5-6, because each guy can do something well in his own right. So they both could have a role back there, it just depends on what the situation might be.”

During kickoff returns, second-year corner Holton Hill was utilized as one of three ready to receive the kick.

“He was the off returner,” Maalouf explained. “He’s an athletic guy, so it’s always good to have as many athletic guys in the backfield as possible that can block, catch kickoff – so he’s an option. That’s the best thing about it.

“C.J. [Ham] was back there, too, so it just depends on who’s back there, and we try to rep as many guys out,” Maalouf added. “Next time we do kickoff return, it might be three different guys. As long as they keep getting acclimated to the system, communication back there is key.”

Maalouf also addressed the kickoff return changes that have been in effect for a full season now.

He emphasized that “alignments are so key now” because teams now must have eight of 11 players in the “setup zone” with 15 yards of the ball.

“Just because the rules have changed, the fundamentals of kickoff return haven’t,” Maalouf said. “Timing and spacing on kickoff return are what’s key. If we have the right guys working together, if they all understand the distance of the kick, all those little nuances, we’ll be fine. It’s just a matter of getting all those reps and working the situations and making sure that the returners understand what happens if the ball bounces in the end zone. That’s the end of the play, so just those things are key. Everybody adapts. We’ll adapt, as well.”

Steve Jordan on evolution of Vikings facilities, Cam’s extension

Vikings Legend Steve Jordan, who was surprised Wednesday morning with the news that he will be inducted to the Vikings Ring of Honor in October, addressed Twin Cities media members following the team’s minicamp practice.

Jordan was asked about the Vikings evolution as a franchise. He spoke highly of U.S. Bank Stadium and Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center, comparing the team’s current facilities to those during his playing career (1982-94).

“My first year was in 1982, which was the first year of the Metrodome, thank God,” Jordan quipped. “If we were in the Old Met, I don’t know if they would have kept me around. Catching balls in zero degrees my first year, that would have been difficult.

“[The Metrodome] was state-of-the-art at the time, but the field left a lot to be desired, the old AstroTurf, and then you look at this, again – these fields are so manicured that I mentioned upstairs, ‘I feel like I should have golf clubs or something.’ ”

The former tight end’s family also has evolved since his time as a player. He and his family have three grown children, including their youngest, Saints defensive end Cam Jordan, who recently signed an extension with the team that drafted him 24th overall in 2011.

Jordan said that it was important to Cam to follow in his father’s footsteps as far as spending his entire career with one franchise.

“[The extension is] good for him, the team and that community, and I love that about it,” Jordan said. “The fact that I could stay my whole career at the Vikings, for different reasons because we didn’t have true free agency at the time, but it turned out to be a really wonderful thing that you can get invested in the community, get invested in the team, grow up with other teammates, have your kids grow up with your teammates’ kids.”

Boyd grateful for ‘a lot of good resources’ as a rookie

Cornerback Kris Boyd is still familiarizing himself with the Vikings playbook and a new locker room, but the rookie is grateful for the opportunity to learn from college connections at the NFL level.

Boyd played with Vikings cornerback Holton Hill at Texas, and the two are joined in the DBs room by another Texas corner, Duke Thomas, as well as coach Jerry Gray, who starred for the Longhorns three decades ago. Boyd called it a blessing to have been drafted by Minnesota and re-join Hill, who is entering his second season in Purple.

“I couldn’t ask for anything more. If I have any questions, he’s the first person I call,” Boyd said of Hill. “Also, Duke. Duke’s here, he’s from UT, so I pretty much just have a lot of good resources, and [Gray], he’s looking out to help me. Anything I need, I’ve got good resources. [Xavier Rhodes is] also looking out for me; he’ll line me up before I come out to practice and get me on my technique, get me whatever I need.”

Boyd, who had an interception in practice Wednesday, said he’s working to be the best teammate and best player possible.

Asked what kind of feedback he’s receiving from the Vikings coaching staff, Boyd said “some good and some bad” but that he welcomes any critiques that can help him elevate his game.

“I’ve been taking the coaching; I actually like it,” Boyd said. “They’re letting me know I’ve got a lot to work on, and I’m looking forward to it. Every time we’re watching film, I’m jotting down everything Coach says, coming out here before practice working on it. I’m just enjoying the process. I’m glad to be here.”

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