EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –Nothing beats getting back on the field.
Players were all smiles on the first day of organized team activities Tuesday, including defensive tackle Shamar Stephen.
"It feels really good to be back on the field," Stephen said. "I'm just trying to get back into it, get into the groove. I'm working with all the guys out here to really become cohesive, build that chemistry and get ready to play."
Joining the Vikings as a seventh-round draft pick in 2014, Stephen made an impression on coaches and played all 16 games as a rookie. In 2015, he saw action in the first five games before suffering a toe injury and being placed on season-ending injured reserve. Now back in full health, Stephen said he's excited to get back to the grind for his third NFL season.
"I feel great," Stephen said. "I'm just focusing on my overall technique – continuing to work it, dial into it."
Stephen said he appreciates the fresh start of being back at OTAs and practicing with his teammates. One of 15 defensive linemen on the current 90-man roster, he said it's a cohesive group.
Stephen saw a number of reps with the defense Tuesday.
"We're all starting from the same point, so we have to get back into our fundamentals and technique and work our craft – just keep getting better," Stephen said. "And then the speed will pick up, and we'll be able to play faster and faster as the OTAs go on."
The Vikings defensive line wreaked havoc on opposing offenses in 2015. With all of last season's linemen returning this year, learning and absorbing all he can from the veteran players is a daily goal for Stephen. He referred to Brian Robison and Linval Joseph as "technicians" who help him narrow in and develop his craft.
"I'm working on little things like hand placement, angles, my steps and footwork," Stephen said. "Honing in on those little techniques – it's key."
Stephen played both student and teacher on day one of OTAs. Following practice, he remained on the field for roughly 20 minutes, going over different techniques with tackle Travis Raciti, whom the Vikings signed Monday.
"You come into a group of a bunch of guys, and you're competing for the same job, but they're still willing to help you," Raciti said. "You don't see that in many places. I appreciated it."
View images from the first of ten OTA practices.
"[Shamar] was kind enough to help me," Raciti added. "We came and worked on some footwork and some hand placement. He helped me a lot."
Stephen said he remembers being the new face in the locker room and enjoyed working with Raciti to help him up to speed.
A handful of different lineups were seen at defensive line Tuesday. Vikings defensive line coach Andre Patterson put a few different combinations on the field, watching intently to see the unit's chemistry.
Stephen said the defensive line's success can be largely attributed to Patterson, who is able to work with and continue developing players – from rookie seventh-rounder Stephen Weatherly to Robison, who's entering his 10th season.
"He's a great coach," Stephen said. "He focuses on our technique. He wants us to play together and build that chemistry with each other. That way, we know how to play together and just take over a game when we have to."