EAGAN, Minn. – More than one Vikings defensive back got the chance to make a play on the ball in Wednesday’s joint practices with the Jaguars at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.
Terence Newman, who now is the oldest active defender in the league, picked off Blake Bortles during a team drill. When Harrison Smith was asked about the interception after practice, he said it’s par for the course from the veteran cornerback.
“Terence, he could play forever,” Smith said. “He’s still going to make plays. It’s what he does. It’s what he’s been doing for, what, 16 years?
“Plus his Thorpe Award before that,” Smith deadpanned. “And I’m sure he was [making plays] in pee-wees.”
Smith disrupted Bortles himself, but what could have been two interceptions ended up as pass breakups.
“I should have caught two balls. [Vikings defensive backs coach Jerry Gray] made me do some pushups,” Smith said. “So I just have to practice that a little more.”
Gray prodded Smith from the sideline, reminding him that the debt was 20 instead of 10.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer even got in on the act, jokingly placing his foot on the back of the Pro Bowler.
A media member expressed surprise that the All-Pro safety would still be punished via pushups, but Smith said you “don’t outgrow” the penalty for dropping balls.
“Whether it’s individual or team period or whatever, you’ve gotta give 10,” Smith said.
Newman and Smith, who are entering their 16th and seventh NFL season, respectively, were each asked about some of the younger players in the Vikings secondary.
Newman said that Mackensie Alexander has been “playing amazing” in the slot.
“He’s just turned a whole ’nother level,” Newman said of the third-year corner that he’s mentored. “I mean, he’s consistently out there battling receivers, and he’s always great in coverage. It’s just fun to watch.”
First-round draft pick Mike Hughes has also been catching more eyes as of late, including those of his older teammate.
“I think he’s doing great. He’s picking up the defense, he’s smart, he’s tough,” Newman said. “He’s going to be another good one. The sky’s the limit for him, as well.”
Jaguars HC Marrone on sharing practice field with Vikings
Earlier in the day Wednesday, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer explained reasons for hosting the Jaguars for two joint practices and also goals for how the teams hoped to benefit.
Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone addressed media prior to the afternoon practice, and he expressed similar sentiments.
“Really, our goal is to treat this just like we’re one team that’s just trying to get better, you know, on both sides of it,” Marrone said. “I think everybody understands the goal, what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Marrone later said he believes the Vikings are an excellent football team.
“They’re well-disciplined, they’re well-coached, they have good coaches,” Marrone said. “And those are the types of teams that you want to come and practice against.”
The Jaguars head coach also called it an “unfortunate bond” that the two teams have over the sudden and tragic passing of Vikings offensive line coach Tony Sparano on July 22. Sparano’s son, Tony Jr., is Jacksonville’s assistant offensive line coach.
“It’s a difficult situation, really, for both sides,” Marrone said. “To be able to come up here … and see his wife, pay my respects. And for Tony [Jr.] to come up here, I think it’s very emotional.
“Tony was obviously a line coach. I was an ex-line coach,” Marrone added. “I had the utmost respect for him. I knew him when I was at Northeastern and he was at Boston University, so that goes way back. I’ve always watched the way his players play, and I’ve always appreciated it and [have aspired] to have my players play the same way or play for me like they played for him.”
Hunter holds back from hitting
A period designated for team runs included a couple of play-action passes — and a show of restraint by Danielle Hunter.
The Vikings defensive end was not fooled by Bortles’ fake handoff and quickly made his way into the backfield. Hunter was well within arms’ reach of the Jaguars quarterback but didn’t lay a hand on him.
Hunter said he and the Vikings appreciated the opportunity to practice against the Jaguars for the first of two sessions.
“It’s just a good feeling, going against somebody else other than your own guys, just practicing game situations and changing the game plan on what you need to do to get better at your technique,” Hunter said.
Vikings Take on Jaguars for Joint Practice Day 1
View images as the Vikings held the first of two joint practices with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Wednesday, August 15 at the TCO Performance Center.
Play of the day
Even two defenders couldn’t deny Kendall Wright this touchdown.
The Vikings were up against the Jaguars defense in a 7-on-7 drill in the red zone when the Minnesota wide receiver slid to catch a touchdown from Kirk Cousins.
Wright, a free agent signing this offseason, was being covered by two Jacksonville defenders on the 11-yard score.