Football is officially back. If move-in day, the first walk-through and a couple of days of OTA-style practices didn't pull you from the NFL abyss, Sunday's practice surely did the trick. The team was in full pads for the first time of 2014 Verizon Vikings Training Camp and the action that transpired was the closest thing to real football we've seen since the end of last season.
As expected from a Mike Zimmer-led outfit, the first padded practice was not a "dip your toe in the water" affair. After a "play hard, go to the whistle, take care of each other, be smart"-type of pre-practice message from Zimmer, the Vikings opened practice with, and maintained, a high level of competitiveness and intensity, working for roughly two hours despite a few small patches of showers coming through the Minnesota State University, Mankato campus.
Here are a few highlights from Sunday's action…
Barr's big dayUsually rookies are the ones being shown "welcome to the NFL, rookie" moments, but not in the case of rookie linebacker Anthony Barr – at least not on Sunday. Several times during practice, Barr blew up a play or did something that elicited praise from coaches and/or cheers from the crowd.
During an individual period later in practice, Barr worked with the defensive ends as they practiced hand and foot technique. Then during the next team period, which focused on 3rd downs, Barr worked at defensive end and was regularly in the backfield causing disruption.
Defense impressive for consecutive dayAdrian Peterson used a sharp jump cut a couple of times early in practice to evade would-be tacklers and sprint to the outside for long gains. But outside of those two cuts, the Vikings first team defense played well during team periods that focused on the running game. Barr and Corey Wootton combined for a nice play to end one of the periods, and then Brian Robison also made a play that elicited praise from defensive coaches to close a different period.
It was the offense that got the last laugh of the second team period, though, as rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater executed a perfect play action fake and found Adam Thielen as he ran a quick slant route. The Bridgewater-to-Thielen connection was met with a big ovation from the crowd.
Josh jumps up, Asiata steps upIt was also a good day for cornerback Josh Robinson. He jumped a route and grabbed an interception during one-on-one drills, and then later in practice he was perfectly positioned to break up a back-shoulder fade pass from Matt Cassel to Thielen.
On the play after the Robinson pass break up, running back Matt Asiata stepped up into a blitz and picked up a rushing Michael Mauti. It wouldn't be a surprise if Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner or running backs coach Kirby Wilson cut that play out and show it as a perfect illustration of how to pick up a blitzing linebacker.