EAGAN, Minn. – Weather put a little bit of a speedbump in practice, but Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer rolled with the punches and was positive overall about the way training camp wrapped up in its inaugural summer at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.
The Vikings started joint practice with the Jaguars outside before lightning prompted a move to the Indoor Practice Facility. After running a few periods inside, the teams were able to resume outside despite light rain.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer spoke to beat reporters after practice and said, “We like to be on the grass as much as we can, so that was good.”
“I feel bad for the fans who had to leave – they’ve been outstanding this whole camp,” Zimmer added. “We appreciate them.”
Zimmer was pleased with co-practices with Wednesday and Thursday and said he “would consider” utilizing a similar format during a future preseason.
“I think it depends on the team and things like that,” Zimmer said. “Both teams were very respectful of one another – there was really no fighting or anything like that. Really no trash talking. It went really smooth.”
The Vikings and Jaguars, who fell in the NFC and AFC Championship Games, respectively, will meet again Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium in the second preseason game for each team.
When asked if it was important to host joint practices with a team the Vikings won’t see in the regular season, Zimmer confirmed the assumption.
“You can get a lot of intel, you know?” Zimmer said. “So it was really good [to practice against Jacksonville]. I think what we’ll do now is, I’ll watch the film and sit back and kind of evaluate where we are, how we need to address things, what was good … sometimes you go against your own guys and you don’t know the strengths and weaknesses of everybody [until] you’re playing someone else.”
Zimmer on Thursday primarily observed Minnesota’s defense against Jacksonville’s offense. He was asked, however, if the Vikings offense is where he expected at this point in the preseason. In true Zimmer fashion, he emphasized that all phases can continue to improve.
“Well, there’s some things in yesterday’s practice and today that we have to get better at, for sure. You know, we did some good things but, and it’s not just the offense – we’ve got a lot of work to do on both sides of the ball, special teams,” Zimmer said. “That’s part of the evaluation process. Kind of find out where we’re at. Seeing a different defense that they haven’t seen in a long time.”
Cook ‘ready to go’ when number is called
Dalvin Cook is raring and ready to go.
The running back got off to a hot start in 2017, but his rookie campaign was cut short by a Week 4, season-ending knee injury. Cook spent the remainder of the season, spring and summer rehabbing and getting back to the field, and Minnesota’s joint practices with Jacksonville brought him one step closer to playing in a game.
“In regular practice it is a different reaction. Your guys take care of you,” Cook said. “But with those guys (Jaguars) coming in, you have to react a little different. You have to cut, you have to do things differently. We take care of those guys, but there is just a little different vibe to it.
“You have to have a little pep in your step, and you have to make those cuts more precise,” Cook added. “So it’s different.”
Zimmer said that he has made a decision on whether or not Cook will play, but he opted against sharing that decision with media.
Cook said he’s not concerned with whether or not he plays Saturday because he trusts the coaches and their plan for his return.
“I know everybody wants to see me out on the field and all that, but the coaches know what’s really going on, and they know I’m going to be ready to go once they call my number. I don’t get into the whole debate game of me playing or not,” Cook said. “They pull my jersey, I don’t play, I just sit it out and cheer my teammates on. When my number does get called to go out there, they know I’ll be ready to go.”
If his number doesn’t get called during the preseason, though, Cook said he’s more than comfortable making his comeback to U.S. Bank Stadium against the 49ers in Week 1.
“I’m ready to go. Ball is ball, and when that ball rolls out, I’m going to go 100 percent, I’m going to fly around, I’m going to do me,” Cook said. “Like I said before, my knee is ready to go, I’m ready to play, and it’s just football now.”
Rhodes on rookie Mike Hughes’ progress
During his session with media members Thursday, Xavier Rhodes talked about first-round pick Mike Hughes’ progress and recalled his own experience as a rookie.
Rhodes said he remembered the challenge of being patient coming in out of college.
“Coming from college and being the number one guy to being drafted in the first round, the first thing that comes to your mind is that you’re going to get immediate playing time. ‘They trusted in me, they drafted me in the first round,’ so that’s what you think,” Rhodes said. “Then when you get in, it’s the total opposite, so you’ve got to wrap your head around that and learn from the guys in front of you and humble yourself. Then, when your time comes, you just always have to be prepared.”
Hughes has been committed to learning the playbook and earning trust of the coaches, and it’s paid off – he’s received reps with the first-team defense this week, both inside and outside.
When asked how Hughes is doing in the slot, Rhodes said the rookie is “picking it up well.”
“[He has] fast-twitch muscles. Once the receiver commits to a route, he’s on it. He broke up a pass in 1-on-1s yesterday,” Rhodes said. “The receiver ran a great route, and Mike was still there. His twitch muscles are there. He’s coming out of his breaks well. He’s always low on his breaks. He locates the ball when it is in the air. He’s doing great.”
Play of the day
The Vikings second-team defense had quite the day against Jacksonville and would have even put points on the board.
The highlight of the day came from safety Jayron Kearse.
The second-year player stepped in front of a pass from Jaguars quarterback Cody Kessler and raced the other way. Kearse would have returned the interception 40 yards for a touchdown.