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Speedy Wallace Wants to Show Fast Learning

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Mike Wallace's speed is observable and undebatable.

Wallace's status as a burner wasn't in doubt when we listed our burning questions for the Vikings to answer over the course of their 10 organized team activity practices, but we did want to learn how the team would maximize his elite gift.

"Mike looks really fast," Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner told "Voice of the Vikings" Paul Allen during a broadcast of the 9 to Noon show from Winter Park Thursday. "I don't know if he needs a double move (to create separation from defenders). He's getting a feel for our offense. He's a very smart guy."

The team will break over the weekend before returning for three scheduled OTAs next week, and four the week after. The Vikings will cap the offseason workout program with a mandatory minicamp June 16-18.

Wallace ran the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds at the 2009 NFL Combine (second fastest by a receiver that year) and was drafted in the third round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. After four seasons there and two in Miami, Wallace joined Minnesota via a trade executed by the Vikings in March.

Wallace led the NFL with a per-catch average of 19.4 yards as a rookie, accounting for 14 pass plays of 20 or more yards and six catches of 40 or more yards in the vertical passing game of former Steelers coordinator Bruce Arians led by Ben Roethlisberger. The connection grew stronger in year two, with Wallace posting 60 catches for 1,257 yards (21.0 per catch) and 10 touchdowns, helping the Steelers appear in Super Bowl XLV.

NFL Network reporter Jeff Darlington, who makes his home in Miami, covered Wednesday's practice and spoke with Vikings.com's Mike Wobschall about multiple topics, including the fleet-footed receiver.

"I can tell you that the speed is the real deal," Darlington said. "This guy is as fast as advertised."

These weeks will be opportunities for Wallace to show he's also a fast learner. Turner is his fifth offensive coordinator in as many seasons. Arians departed after the 2011 season, and Todd Haley implemented a new offense in 2012. Wallace played for Mike Sherman in his first season with the Dolphins and Bill Lazor last season when nine of his 10 touchdown catches were less than 20 yards.

"I think it's more my first four years, more of a vertical offense than the short, West Coast offense," Wallace said. "We go down the field a lot more here, and it's more of what I'm accustomed to, so I'm excited about the opportunity."

The Vikings likely will capitalize on Wallace as a vertical threat on some plays but have also seen his production on shorter throws like the screen game. Darlington proposed that, because Teddy Bridgewater is "elusive and versatile outside the pocket," the quarterback may be able to extend plays and further capitalize on Wallace's speed, similar to the way Roethlisberger has extended plays in his career.

Wallace said he was already familiar with results of others in Turner's system like Vincent Jackson in San Diego and Josh Gordon's eye-popping 2013 season in Cleveland.

"Coach Turner is on us a lot," Wallace said. "He's a different guy when he's in the building from when he gets on the field. It's like a light switch. It's crazy how fast he can switch on you, but he is passionate and I love that. I've played with a lot of coaches that are passionate, so I'm excited about it. He's a legendary man, probably a future Hall of Famer, so I'm excited about it."

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