EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — An undrafted free agent, Minnesota native Marcus Sherels has carved out a role as an important special teams player since joining the Vikings in 2010.
The 28-year-old is one of the league's most reliable punt returners, and he was one of nine players to take a punt back for a touchdown last season. Sherels' 65-yard score against the Bears last season helped the Vikings get their first win at Soldier Field since 2007.
He also averaged 9.1 yards per return last season, one of nine players to have an average of 9.0 yards or better.
But for all of Sherels' special teams skills, he's listed on the Vikings roster as a cornerback.
Sherels had three pass breakups during team drills, including one in which he broke up a potential touchdown against wide receiver Jarius Wright in the corner of the end zone.
"(Cornerback) is my other position," Sherels said with a smile. "Every opportunity I get, I try to make the best of it.
"Whatever that is, whether it's nickel or outside corner, I'm ready to go," he added. "Each year, each day, you try to get better and learn from your mistakes."
Even with his standout day, Sherels wasn't about to heap praise on himself.
"We'll see how I did on film," said Sherels, who has one career interception and three career punt returns for touchdowns.
The former University of Minnesota standout said he constantly chats with fellow defensive backs Captain Munnerlyn, Terence Newman, Michael Griffin, Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo to find ways to improve his coverage skills.
"I'm just taking it day by day," Sherels said. "Just learning from the vets and taking coaching, just trying to improve.
"The guys are great, and everyone helps each other out," he added.
With the Vikings halfway through OTA practices, Sherels will still get his reps on special teams. Just don't forget he can play cornerback, too.
"Guys are loving it out here," Sherels said. "We're back to competing and getting better each day.
"We're just trying to fly around and make plays and make each other better," he added.
Barr misses practice
Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr did not participate Wednesday.
Barr told members of the media that he's been "taking it easy" after recently putting in plenty of hard work during voluntary offseason workouts.
"It's been great, very successful," Barr said. "I was glad to participate in workouts for the first time for those four or five weeks.
"I got stronger and stronger and I'm hoping to continue that as we go forward."
Barr made his first Pro Bowl last season after compiling 80 total tackles and 3.5 sacks.
Running back Adrian Peterson, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, guard Mike Harris, tackle Austin Shepherd, tight end Rhett Ellison, cornerback Mackensie Alexander and linebacker Travis Lewis also did not participate.
View images from the fifth of ten OTA practices.
In the presence of greatness
Former Vikings defensive tackle and Pro Football Hall of Famer John Randle was on hand to watch Wednesday's practice.
Randle was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010 and is tied with Richard Dent for the seventh-most career sacks in NFL history with 137.5.
Vikings defensive ends Everson Griffen and Brian Robison chatted with Randle, as did defensive line coach Andre Patterson and assistant defensive line coach Robert Rodriguez.
Patterson coached Randle in 1998 and 1999 with the Vikings.
Former Vikings quarterback Brooks Bollinger also attended.
Wednesday's top plays
Cornerback Terence Newman will turn 38 years old in September, making him the oldest defensive player in the NFL.
But the savvy veteran can still play, as evident by his highlight reel display Wednesday.
With Newman covering wide receiver Adam Thielen, the 13-year veteran sprawled out to make a diving play on a pass from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Here are other top plays from Wednesday's session:
— Running back Matt Asiata made a one-handed catch out of the backfield. Wide receiver Charles Johnson later snagged a tough catch in between multiple defenders.
— Rookie linebacker Jake Ganus picked off quarterback Shaun Hill in the flat during team drills.
— Rookie wide receiver Marken Michel hauled in 20-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Taylor Heinicke during red zone drills. Heinicke later had a pass batted down at the line of scrimmage by linebacker Edmond Robinson.