EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Vikings rookies stepped onto the Winter Park practice fields for the first time Friday.
The 10-member draft class was joined by 10 undrafted free agents as well as players that had been invited to Minnesota on a tryout basis. After guiding the newcomers through their first walkthrough, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer held a press conference before leading a full-fledged practice.
Here are main points from pressers that featured Zimmer, first-round pick Trae Waynes, second-round pick Eric Kendricks and fourth-round pick T.J. Clemmings.
CHARACTERISTICS OF CORNERS:
Waynes, whose 11th overall selection is higher than any corner in franchise history, was a hot topic on a crisp, 52-degree day. Zimmer was asked if Waynes "mild-mannered" nature is a contrast to more "brash" players who have played the position.
"Corners don't have to be brash," Zimmer said. "All they have to do is be able to cover and be tough. I've had a lot of good corners that weren't brash, I guess is the best word, and they were good players. Leon Hall was a fantastic kid, you would never think anything bad about him. Terence Newman is a great kid, so I think everybody's personality is different."
Zimmer said coaches kept the schemes simple to focus on techniques they want to see players use and said Waynes, a psychology major at Michigan State, was a quick study.
"For a young guy and trying to teach the technique we're doing, he caught on probably faster than I've ever had a guy on the first day," Zimmer said.
Waynes said there are elements that are similar to what he was asked to do for the Spartans and said both staffs are passionate about football. Waynes' coaches at Michigan State included former Vikings DB Harlon Barnett. He said Zimmer's words were a "huge compliment."
"I'm just trying to do my best to pick up what they're saying and learn as quickly as possible," Waynes said. "It's a little different, not too much different. A lot is similar, but I've still got a lot to learn and I look forward to understanding it to their expectations."
KENDRICKS BEGINS AT "MIKE" LB:
Zimmer said second-round pick Eric Kendricks will begin his pro career at middle or "Mike" linebacker, but might become the weakside or "Will" linebacker "down the road." Zimmer said he liked what he saw from Kendricks at the spot that is often tasked with aligning the defense.
"Kendricks is a very instinctive playmaker," Zimmer said. "He makes a lot of plays and is very intelligent. You could tell that today in meetings and when he was out here making the calls and getting things set up."
Kendricks said he transitioned from weakside linebacker to play more middle in college because of an injury to another player, but he considers the switch was the "best thing" that could have happened to him because it helped him focus on the whole defense. He said former UCLA teammate and Vikings strongside "Sam" linebacker Anthony Barr and he called defenses for the Bruins.
CLEMMINGS HAS A FUNNY BONE:
The Vikings feel they got a potential talent above the fourth round when T.J. Clemmings was still on the board at 110th overall. Clemmings participated in the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine, where a foot injury that he didn't know about was discovered. He never missed a game or practice at Pittsburgh, but media reports indicate the discovery may have dropped his draft stock.
The two-year starter at right tackle said he paid attention to projections a couple days before the draft and responded with a nice dose of humor when asked when he became aware his stock might be dropping.
"After Round 2, I would say, and then after Round 3 was gone," said Clemmings with a laugh.
In seriousness, though, Clemmings said he is grateful to have participated in the draft and thinks he landed at the right spot, although his role is yet to be determined. The Vikings plan to evaluate Clemmings at tackle and guard, a position he's never played.